I've been scanning in my old photo album. This is one of my favorites, my dad and I on a public beach on St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) where my family lived for a year.
Quote of the Moment
"How many times must I tell you? Queens consume nectars and ambrosia, not hot dogs."
--King Tut on the old Batman series
SALAMANCA, NY -- Captain and Mrs. James Israel were adopted into the Seneca Nation of Indians recently. Mrs. Israel was adopted by George Heron of the "Hawk Clan" and Captain Israel was adopted by Mrs. Harriet Pierce of the "Bear Clan." Pictured are Mr. Heron, Mrs. Captain Israel, Kirk Logan Israel, Mrs. Helen Harris, representing the Hawk Clan Mother; Mrs. Pierce; and Captain Israel
--The War Cry, March 27, 1982. The War Cry is the periodical of the Salvation Army...I remember making a nest of blankets in the back of the Station Wagon as my parents drove around doing the "Tavern Route", selling "War Cry"s. This clipping was unearthed by my cousin Scott Bedio, who is a Salvation Army historian. I've always tried to figure out if this makes me an adoptive member of the Seneca tribe or not...
Funny of the Moment
"All I'm saying is that people who say 'irregardless' are TOTAL CRETINS!"
"LOTS of people say 'irregardless.'"
"That's exactly my point! 'LOTS' of people ARE cretins!!!"
"Look: just because a person doesn't have "BOOK SMARTS" doesn't mean he or she is STUPID! That newscaster might have a lot of EMOTIONAL intelligence!"
"May I inject one teensy-weensy thought?"
"Emotional Intelligence is CRAP!!!"
--Roz Chast, New Yorker back page.
Late this winter my Aunt Ruth was cleaning out the house she and my grandmother had shared, and in the cabinet she found a collection of clippings about me that Grandma had saved...some old newspaper articles for the most part. The most interesting thing to me was the birth announcement my parents had sent them. It was in remarkably pristine condition 28 years later. It was really cool to see, and nice to have. My mom had this to say on it:
You may have already known, but just in case not, your dad made those birth announcements. He carved the rattle design in a block, and using a breyer, printed them all. He chose green and yellow, because this was in the days before the common use of pre-natal sonograms and we didn't know whether you'd be a boy or a girl ahead of time. He wanted them done before you were actually born. I can still see them spread out all over our office floor in our apartment at Ivy House in Philadelphia as the paint dried.
[Ivy House was a home for disadvantaged youth my parent's were in charge of for a while.]
You'll note we said you were "23 inches tall" - that's because Dad thought any newborn so close to two feet at birth deserved 'tall' rather than the traditional description of 'long'.
Actually, I hadn't realized that it wasn't professionally made. Oddly, the gene to make such neat handcrafted pieces has skipped me entirely, and made it to my wife, who made our wedding invitations, among other things.
(PS: Snow?? On the ground?)
Image of a Previous Moment
This is me with my Mom and Dad singing "On The Good Ship Lollipop" for a talent show, way back when. I think we were a big hit.
My mom is doing a 20 minute presentation about her life, but she doesn't have most of her photos there with her in England, so she asked if I had any photos that would help tell our family story. (Also, if I had a better scan of this War Cry / Seneca picture, which I don't, alas.)
So I thought this would be as good a time as any to post the scans I made of my photo album, 427 images in 9 sections. They possibly aren't of terribly large interest to anyone outside my immediate family and friends, and maybe not even them... if you're in a hurry, you can see the 26 photos I picked out for my mom, in case she didn't have time to go through the huge batch. (Those 26 include 2 not in the album, one of her being dedicated (The Salvation Army's version of a baptism) and one of my mom as a young Salvation Army officer or cadet.)
(For me the calculation is a little weirder than that, since I have this odd theory that I wasn't fundamentally who I am now until sometime during middle school. It's a self-serving rule of thumb, makes me feel less close to "middle aged" than I am.)
He was sick for 14 months before his death (though, tellingly, I first estimated it at 2-3 years)...Spinal Meningitis that knocked his nervous system, made him half blind and left him with extremely poor coordination and difficult speech. (It also took out his sense of smell...and having been trained as a nurse, his first professional diagnosis was "huh, when you get spinal meningitis, your farts don't smell!") He had been on a road of slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk, relearning how to read, when treatment for a tumor on his left gave him a setback from which he couldn't recover. The saddest moment I know of, my own personal "what to think about if I need quick tears for a stage role", came a few weeks before his death. Word of my grandmother Eva's death had arrived that morning (and, historically, they had not always been on super friendly terms, ever since he managed to polish the anniversary numbers off of her silver--) and I had just gotten up and walked by his bedroom (he was bedridden again) and he was there weeping and weeping. Weeping for Eva, and with a likely foreknowledge of his own passing. Trying to put myself in his place there gives me a sense of horror and foreboding that's hard to comprehend.
He was generous too. He thought it was important for a guy to have a little "scratch" money on him, and would often slip a little something into letters to some of his nephews. Another sad and horrific yet somehow beautiful thing I remember is when he had first gotten ill, had suffered these grand mal seizures, was in the hospital bed, he urged my mom to give me a little money, a five or something. Because of his slurred speech it took a while to understand what he was saying, about how what's supposed to happen is a son goes up to his father, says he needs a little money, and the father takes it out of his wallet and gives it to him. And it took me even longer to get a deeper understanding of what he meant by it.
|Favorite Photo Pose|
I guess some of my biggest regrets are not being able to interact with him after I grew out of my graceless adolescent phases. So much of what I'm proud of in life (getting my act together in school, going to a good college, pulling off neat technological tricks, things I've written and websites I've started, finding and wooing Mo, stumbling into a decent career, settling into my sense of humor, such as it is) have happened since early freshman year in high school... (this ties into that "life begins at 13" theory of mine.) And who knows, maybe if he had been around, I might've been a bit more culturally attuned, not quite the barbarian I am now.
Sigh. More than sigh.
James Edward Israel, 9/9/1949 - 10/10/1988.
Everyone knew that young Abe Scheinfeldt was destined to find a vocation in religious work. Many thought he would become a cantor at the temple in his native Boston. His parents held a secret hope that he would become a rabbi.
But then, at 17, Abe encountered a street preacher who led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
For the next five years he sailed the world as a freight deckhand, reading the Bible and growing in faith, even though he had no human mentor to guide him.
When his ship finally returned to Boston, Abe chanced upon a Salvation Army open-air meeting. Almost immediately he decide to join the "salvation war." Within a year he became a cadet at the Army's School for Officer Training in New York, and in November 1901, he was commissioned as an officer and appointed to the Men's Social Service Department.
Following service in New York and New England, Captain Scheinfeldt was transferred to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he met and married another officer, newly commissioned Lieutenant Inez Witherington.
Less than six months later, when they were serving in Bloomington, Ind., the young couple's zeal put them at the center of a full-blown riot. The Bloomington Journal of Sept. 7, 1914, reported that Captain Abe was arrested for "holding a religious service on the streets of Bloomington."
"The police used their clubs on the heads of both men and women," the newspaper reported. Some 500 townspeople protested, but the authorities were adamant.
Three citizens posted bond for the captain, and he was released. Immediately he returned to his troops and began preaching again, only to be arrested once more. "By this time," the paper reported, "the crowd had swelled to at least 1,000 people and most of these followed him back to the jail."
Again local citizens posted bond, but this time Scheinfeldt, on advice of legal counsel, went into a nearby drugstore for refreshments while the crowd outside grew to "at least 1,500 to 2,000 people." The newspaper reported, "Every man, woman, and child in the crowd was protesting against the action of Mayor Harris and the police and deploring the arrest and disturbance of the Salvation Army leader when he was attempting to hold an outdoor religious service."
Abe Scheinfeldt's promising career was cut short by his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1927. His wife passed away in 1961, but the legacy of these two stalwart soldiers lives on in the lives of their daughter, Mrs. Brigadier Mary Moody, and a granddaughter, Major Betty Israel, now serving at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London, England.
--Last page of the Spring 2003 edition of Priority!, a print publication of the Eastern Territory of the Salvation Army. (Though check out that site, it's interesting how modeled it seems to be on People magazine.) Abe Scheinfeldt was my great-grandfather.
Anecdote of the Moment
"Had a funny incident too, that I think Dad would have enjoyed. I had my friend Wendy over for dinner last Saturday, and mentioned about Friday being the 15th anniversary of Dad's death. Wendy and I sit usually sit with a group of about eight for lunch in the canteen. On Friday the subject of October birthdays had come up, and Wendy just looked across the table at me, and in a very kind voice said, 'I really did mean to get you a card.' I knew what she was talking about, but the rest of the group immediately started wishing me 'Happy Birthday!'. Wendy look horrified for a moment, and then the two of us just burst out laughing. We did explain it once we got our breath back."
--Heheheh. That e-mailed anecdote from my mom is just a lovely bit of macabre humor.
On Strawberries and the Paths Taken
I walk down the dark path at my great uncle's farm with Dad. The path is deeply ridged with tractor treads and covered with armies of rocks. There is a storage building hugging a hill, and on the hill side the roof is so low I can climb to the top and survey the strawberry fields. I don't, though. Dad and I come to a small brook and cross the wooden bridge. A sign here reads "CAUTION - STEEP BANKS, DEEP WATER". Dad warns me not to get too close. We turn right and walk past the storage house, next to the now brown fields. We pause in the chilly November night and look west. An airplane is rising, though all we can see are the three lights on the bottom. To my hyperactive eight-year-old imagination, it's a UFO riding into the inky cold of space. I tell Dad that. We laugh, hug, and slowly walk back to the welcoming farmhouse.
I walked down the sterile path of the hospital corridor with m mom. She had prepared me for what was to come. Dad had experienced seizures, and he had been diagnosed as having spinal meningitis. My mom said we were lucky; it hadn't touched his mind. However, he had lost almost all of his hand-eye coordination. He couldn't even feed himself. He was almost blind. He couldn't really see me, or my mom, but he knew our voices. His speech was slurred, almost incomprehensible. We both struggled so that I could understand him. The shock of seeing him this way banged against my mind. I really didn't feel that this was my dad, this unshaven man who needed assistance in completing the most essential tasks of life.
When my dad's seizures had first started, I had visited him in the hospital, and he was still basically well. Then, reassured that everything was going to be right, I took my planned trip to New York to visit friends. But then, after the grand-mail seizures, I did not know how to act. I hugged him stiffly, and he hugged me back, as best he could. We began to cry. I did not know how to act. What he missed most, he explained through half-spoken words and rough hand motions, were the kinds of things his father had done for him that he wanted to do for me, like giving me money out of his wallet when I needed it, with no assistance. Only now do I realize what he meant. He felt so helpless, and I was so unable to do anything to make it better. After this first visit, I went to the waiting room, trying to forget and ignore.
Finally, my dad, though still essentially bed-ridden, was able to come back home. We moved his bed into the dining room, next to the kitchen. It was my habit to pick a path downstairs to the kitchen in the dark before school every morning. One morning, as I hunted for breakfast, my dad, a very light sleeper, asked me to make him a bologna sandwich (by this time his speech had become clearer and we had become more adept at understanding him). It was a simple task. Just toast the bread and get a piece of bologna out of the fridge. Dad, although he was now able to walk with a walker, still was not able to do this himself. So every morning for a few weeks, I would offer him a bologna sandwich, a favorite of his ever since he was a boy. And then, for a reason that I cannot fully remember, I stopped. I would try to be very quiet when making my breakfast and would not offer to make his. If he asked me to make his sandwich, I would, of course, but only if he asked. Maybe I was just so stupidly lazy that I thought I couldn't wait for the time it took to make the toast. Or maybe I didn't like the constant reminder of his vulnerability, and therefore my own. I wonder if he noticed the change.
It has been eight years since we walked down the path at my great uncle's farm and two years since my dad's death. I think back to the year of slow recovery. He learned to walk with a walker, then a cane, and then unassisted. His speech was understandable, and his phone with the giant push-buttons was a prized possession. Near the end, he had relearned to read via large-print books and supermagnifying glasses. But then, tumor treatments plus pneumonia proved to be too much for him. Maybe it was too much for my mom and me, too.
At the farm, the dangerous brooks is still there. On my way down to it, I see the storage building with the low roof. Now I feel that I'm much too mature for climbing buildings. An interesting rock catches my attention. I dust it and put it in my pocket. After the bridge, I turn right instead of left and follow the brook to its other end, a small pond with ducks. Then I retrace the path we took that night eight years ago, and I squint at the setting sun. A lone strawberry lies waiting in the twilight covered path for me. On my way back, I'll throw it into the brook as a sacrifice for me and for Dad.
--An essay that I wrote during eleventh grade in high school, for Mrs. McLaughlin's class. (Later it was part of what got me recognition in the NCTE writing competition.) The writing seems clumsy to me now, but at least it is pretty forthright about what sometimes strikes me as one my bigger moral failings.
"Evolution is supported by the entire scientific community; Intelligent Design is supported by guys in line to see The Dukes of Hazzard. No. Stupidity isn't a form of knowing things ... 'Babies come from storks' is not a competing school of thought in medical school. We shouldn't teach both and if Thomas Jefferson knew we were blurring the line this much between church and state, he would turn over in his slave."
Gadget of the Moment
The Japanese Segway has no handlebars, just a little handheld controller. (Glad it's not a remote control, I'd hate to see that thing hacked.) Just lean and go... as the article points out, it makes it a lot more stowable at the office.
Photo of the Moment
--My Dad as Superman, or at least in a Superman T-shirt. I believe this is at the Salvation Army's "School for Officer Training" (SFOT, their seminary) and this is a bit of a prank, the T-shirt there to get people to think he's gone off the deep end and might just jump.
It's 2am, the wee small hours of the day after the day of my wedding, a thousand things to be done before I can go to my honeymoon in Mexico. The wedding was roundabout the happiest day of my life, despite or because of its flurry of lost rings and thunderstorms, but it was tempered by Grandma not being there bodywise, although we knew her thoughts and prayers were with us.
Grandma was the cornerstone of our family, a center we could always return to. And would always return to, and not just for the meatloaf! (I think anyone who's had Grandma's meatloaf, preferably for lunch the day after it had been made for dinner, with white bread and ketchup will understand how the confusion can be made.)
I tried to be faithful in writing letters to Grandma. Like my dad before me, I realized typing gave me my best, or only, chance of legibility. And I was often able, through some tricks of the computer, to include a photo of myself, or maybe some part of the world around me. I think it helped make sure my letters were interesting to look at even when the writing may have been same-old, same-old. I was surprised when I found out that Grandma especially liked that I addressed those letters "Grandma Israel". I mean, what else could her name be? Of course I addressed them to "Grandma".
What else will I remember about Grandma? Her and grandpa sitting me down and making me learn to TIE THOSE SHOELACES after getting away with pennyloafers for far too long. The red and white peppermint before church. I remember her big tupperware jug of iced-tea, and how happy I was at college when I found out that Lipton's bottled iced-tea, sweetened, no lemon, could do a passable imitation of Grandma's...not quite the same but good enough for a guy living off of college food for 4 years. I remember the amazing selection of cereals Grandma would have, a cornucopia of sweet breakfast goodness in the shelf underneath the oven.
You know, a lot of these memories do seem to be revolving around food and drink. Grandma always fed "her boys" right, whether you were talking food, or socially, or spiritually. I remember her settling fights between my cousins and me, and if I concentrate I can just faintly recollect the rush to the emergency room when Brian and I tipped way back in Grandpa's chair and I got a plant-stand to the head for my troubles. I still have a little scar from that time. I think the scar made from Grandma's passing may be a little deeper than that.
True confession time.
There are times when I'm worried that the Simpsons' "Ned Flanders" is overwriting memories of my dad.
It's mostly a cosmetic issue, glasses and mustaches. (I don't think the Pious Ned / Preacher Dad parallel enters into it so much.) But still. My memories of a hale and hearty dad end after sixth grade, when I'm about twelve or so, and it looks like Ned made his first appearance December 17, 1989, 18-odd years ago. And childhood memories aren't the most solid stuff. I suppose the movies theme of "Flanders being a better dad to Bart than Homer" didn't help.
Article of the Moment
"I hope everyone enjoys the new, resizeable, 'sweeper' program. And if when Vista finally comes out you see that it was renamed 'Microsoft Windows Vista Logic-based Hidden Item Seeking Game 2006 with Skins!', you will know why."
--David Vronay, on the politically correct remake of Minesweeper for Windows Vista. In short, there are parts of the world where landmines are a damn serious issue, and along with a visual makeover, the coders had to work to find a balance between what users were used to and humanistic concerns.
6 years ago (six! wow, what a number - college plus half of high school! The speeding raceway of time reminds me why I was so anxious to start dropping these daily bread crumbs for later leisurely perusal!) I had noted I had lived as many days with him as without him, and wrote a kind of tribute that I probably shouldn't try to top here. In 4 years, May Day 2013 (assuming the 2012 doomsayers prove as wrong as every date-based doomsayer has been thus far) I will be as old as he was when he died. I guess I should get over it some time? Or maybe parents are just that kind of thing you never have to get over - maybe especially if you haven't had kids of your own.
(Again, you can calculate your own happy or sad little milestones with that date toy tool I threw together in 2001.)
I've tended to express my regret in terms of be being a graceless adolescent when he died, that so much of the becoming I've done, that I'm most proud of because of its deliberate nature -- I think before you're a teen, you kind of just are -- happened after he passed. But now, coming up to the ages I have memories of him being at, I can think too about how many interesting paths could have been before him... I listed a bunch of things he'd done in that essay, and sometimes I'm still in a bit in awe.
Heh, it's another dumb little milestone today - the tenth anniversary of the 9/9/99 release date of the Dreamcast, a video game system beloved in the hearts of fanboys, but ultimately walloped by the DVD-playing, somewhat-more-powerful Playstation 2. I wonder what my dad would have thought of me and video games - not that it's such a big, time-consuming thing for me these days, but over the years I've sunk a lot of dollars and a lot of hours into them - but they were pretty primitive back when he was watching my early fascination with them. Lately I've been pleased by one thought though... here's a (pooorly photographed) example of some of his cross stitch (an inuit design I believe)
Man, what is cross stitch and needlepoint if not a crazy kind of folksy pixel art? So our interests maybe weren't as far apart as all that. (Hell, we might've collaborated on some of this stuff, I'm sure modern stitchers use all sorts of scanning and conversion high tech tools, rather than being solely reliant on the type of pattern books my dad had (and I remember being kind of fascinated by as a kid.))
Sigh. Guess today I'll fire up the old Dreamcast and... I dunno, try to have some place that cooks hot dogs in beer or something, like I think my Dad said they did in Ohio...
Miss you, Dad, Happy Birthday.
I think what I like most are some of the little anecdotes and catchphrases that become part of one family's lore. I worry that they might not seem to have such comedic legs to outsiders (which is part of the point, kind of) but I guess the one that comes to mind is this:I also added one I've mentioned once here before:
In the late 70s or early 80s or so, we were living in a house that had a laundry chute down the basement. My mom got down there only to find she had forgotten my coat that needed washing. My dad was taking a bath when he heard the voice from the chute: "toss down Kirk's coat!"
His stentorian response "I DON'T TALK TO NO WALLS" is a family shibboleth to this day...
And another one is from my toddlerhood, when my mom purposefully moved a bowl of grapes to the center of a big piano to keep it away from me - she came back to find me having made the piano climbing expedition to get to the bowl, and my quick witted, nervous grin cover story to appease her irritation was "gapes... I *yike* gapes"Mom, feel free to correct any of the details...
Even now, my mom and I yike gapes.
Fight Fred Phelps with Fire or something... great counter-posters.
iPad Stickering Phase 1 Complete - it kinda reflects my personality and hopefully making it look a bit ghetto will make it less steal-worthy...
Big fat lima beans,
Long thing string beans--
Those are just a few.
Big fat kidney beans,
Red hot chili beans,
Jumping beans too.
Don't forget shelly beans.
Last of all, best of all,
I like jelly beans!
--Lucia and James L. Hymes, Jr.
My dad and I had that memorized when I was a kid.
A lot more class than "beans beans the musical fruit"!
Rumors that future iDevices might lose the physical home button-that sounds really dumb; 4 finger swipes too difficult in too many edge cases
"The B in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stands for Benoit B. Mandelbrot."
- A typical response to me asking "Have you seen my shoes?" was "Well, the last time I wore them..." At one point I thought I would out clever him and ask "Yes? Yes? What did you do with them?" but he was disarmingly quick to respond with a "Well I put them right back where I found them."
- Another favorite to almost any semi-rhetorial query like "Where's my book?" was (in a certain sing-songy voice) "Ok, I'll play your silly little game, where is your book?"
- Finally, this exchange:
Him: "Lets do a knock-knock joke!"
Him: "Great, you start!"
Me: "Knock knock!"
Him: "Who's there?"
"The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he'll fight and die for it. The way real science goes is that you come up with lots of ideas, and most of them will be wrong."
--Francis Crick in this amazing New Yorker piece on the Mind and the perception of Time
"'We’re stuck in time like fish in water,' Eagleman said, oblivious of its currents until a bubble floats by."
--My mom recently found my father's old typewriter... it predates him, coming from the late 1930s. I brought it to the Cambridge Typewriter Co. during their "Type-Out" event, and left it their to be cleaned up. It looks great! Such a funky piece of machinery, like having a small print shop on your desk. (The tab stop setting and using is especially retrocool.) Some quirks to the typing (I think pretty common for machines of the era) like where you use a lower case "l" for a 1, and ' and . to make an exclamation point.
I sort of enjoy how the Fox News website makes a "Four More Years" headline sound like a threat when to me it's a promise.
"Obama raised the bar for how bad an economy you can get reelected with. But future historians will scoff, 'That was in the Tea Party era.'"
You are right. He would never have wanted to live incapacitated after the stroke. He would have hated being dependent on others to take care of him. He always insisted on being independent--to go where and when he wanted to, to choose his own activities, and I think even more importantly to read what and when he wanted to. According to what I read in the emails, he would have lost all or most of his autonomy, at least in the short term, after the stroke and that would have made him unhappy.
As for the Alzheimer's, I saw that in March when I visited. He had forgotten how much time he and I had spent together talking about books and politics, going to the movies and dinner, and going to the bookstore. I had to remind him of these things, and I had to tell him, not that I minded, how much I love and admire him. He seemed surprised to hear that, but I know that before I moved to Japan in 2004, he knew that because we spent a lot of time together. It was almost like he forgot that when his mother died, he called me to go out for dinner and to a movie (this was before I moved in), and that when I lived there we spent hours together talking about literature and history and politics and watched a few PBS series together. I am glad that I saw him in March and that I got the chance to remind him of all that he meant to me and that he showed me how to be a great husband and friend.
When I think of the definition of a spiritual, religious, and righteous man, it is always Bill that comes to mind right away. If I were asked to name whom I think lived by Christian ideals, as I said to Susan a number of years ago, Bill is that person.
You are so fortunate to have had him as your uncle and to have spent your life with him. He's such a fount of love, knowledge, enthusiasm, and devotion. One of things that I noticed about you is how much of Bill is in you. When you and I hung out in Japan, I really was reminded of Bill in many ways. Of course, you are a wonderful guy and wholly by your own individuality, but I really felt that you had internalized Bill's quests for knowledge and his devotion to family and friends. I know that talking with him all those years ago,he really loves and admires you. He really looked up to you and admired everything that you have become.
I am sure that for the rest of my life, whenever you and I meet, I will be searching for Bill in you. Amber is really lucky to have you because you have inherited Bill's capacity for love and devotion. I am lucky, too, for your friendship.
Bill's legacy will live on through you, Kirk, and you should know that you are worthy of it and that you have become an amazing person in all aspects of your life. I am sure that Susan, too, sees how much you take after Bill and that you're being so close to her will comfort her and be a constant reminder of how good of man Bill was and you have become.
For the ceremony, my mom assembled a bunch of photos, picked some music, and Amber used that beastly iMovie program to assemble a terrific slideshow:
(You might need Chrome or Safari to see; Firefox is angry about the video format, and IE is terrible. Sorry for any inconvenience but Chrome is easy to get)
I was asked to come up with the "Word from the Family" speech for the thing. Here's what I came up with, it has a lot of family anecdotes and describes life for an "OK" (Officer's Kid) in The Salvation Army. Some of the jokes are a little forced or corny but over all it was well-received.
I noticed the program lists this as "A Word from the Family" and lists me as "Kirk Logan Israel" and at first that gave me pause, because- growing up, when my mom busted out all three names, "KIRK LOGAN ISRAEL"- I knew someone was in hot water, and that that someone was me. But back to the names thing in a second.
As many of you know first hand, Officership is a family affair. Like you saw on the slide show, I came on the scene when my folks were stationed in Philadelphia, the city of brother love. I'm sure I enjoyed many of their famous cheese steaks before being whisked away to Cleveland at the tender age of 3 months.
Cleveland! The Land of Cleves. My folks were stationed at the Booth Memorial Hospital there. My mom tells me it was convenient being a new parent working at a maternity hospital! She got to borrow a bassinet and I became a fixture in the gift shop where my mom was doing some supervising, so Baby Kirk was a kind of a coming attraction feature for the pregnant folk there.
Our quarters were very near the hospital... this came in handy one night in particular -- I had been sleeping between my folks, and somehow I had rolled onto the floor and I banged my head-- I still have a scar over my eyebrow from that night. My dad threw on a jump suit (hey it was the 70s), my mom threw on a zip up nightgown and that's how they ran over to the hospital.
so the doctors did their thing, but on the way home, my mom was concerned... it was kind of a suspicious looking blow, and my parents had no idea how I managed to roll all the way over my mom to get it to happen... what should they say if Child Services came knocking?
My dad thought a moment, and announced there were three possible tactics they could use:
1. Indigation: "HOW DARE you accuse us of doing this to our child??"
2. Explanation: calmly describe the circumstances as they understood them, and hope for the best.
3. Or, he said, we can bring 'em to the basement and show them where we buried the other ones.
This kind of humor is about par for my family's course.
Our next appointment was our most interesting -- not to mention the warmest. St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas had more than its fair share of wildlife, like these little lizards ---- that our cat would hunt.... And catch..... And put in our shoes. Thank you cat!
There were also flying cockroaches. Island kids would make little cages for them and sell them to tourists as quote "mahogany birds". These tourists would then wonder why they couldn't bring their new cockroach pet back through customs... the first night my parents were on the island, in fact, one of those cockroaches flew into my dad's t-shirt. My mom always said that if it had landed in her nightgown, they would have been on the boat back to Puerto Rico that very night.
[I learned to talk there, and had a calypso accent for a number of years... they tell me my first words to my grandfather were a phone call, "Heyee, Pop-pa Samm". They talked really fast there, so if I'm talking fast during this speech, that's my excuse.]
After St. Thomas, it was back to Ohio: Cincinnati this time. Cincinnati had its own wildlife too-- tiny peeper frogs. I would catch these little frogs and carry them around everywhere in old kool-whip containers with holes in the lid. one family story is the time my mom was driving, with me napping in the back. My mom figured I was napping pretty soundly til about 20 minutes later I piped up with "Got 'Em All Back Now, mom!" -- looks like I had been studiously REcapturing my little minions the entire trip.
"Got 'em all back now, mom!" became my family's catchphrase for situations where you don't find out about a problem until its been safely resolved.
Time to move again. My parents were told the Army needed them again as corps officers, this time in the city of Salamanca. Their first reaction: "Where's Salamanca?" That would be a small town in Western New York... the only town built from land leased from an Indian reservation. My parents developed a close relationship with the people of the Seneca tribe, even being adopted into it. They also had good working relationships with several of the other churches in the area, often filling in as guest ministers. The Catholic school, St. Patricks, was just down the street... my mom volunteered at the music program sometimes, and I was one of the few kids who got a "clergy discount" from a catholic school.
I think Salamanca was where I most clearly saw the interesting gender role balance of the Army. I like telling people that the famous song only goes halfway--- I'm not just a sweet talkin' son of a preacher man-- I'm the sweet talkin' son of a preacher woman! My mom remembers how I used this as material when I had to write about gender roles for an essay contest; it was an interesting symmetry! One week, my dad would preach, and my mom would be doing the dishes. The next week, my mom would have the pulpit and it would be my dad's turn at the sink- there was a balance to it. (Plus, this kind of scheduling led my dad to astonish his friends with an ability to count forward and backwards by 7s, so he'd always know what date was what.)
And then 9PM one winter evening, a call. Glens Falls, another Empire State town, needed us and fast- we were there 3 weeks later.
then Finally, it was time to go back to Cleveland. As a form of weird, pre-teen protest at all the moving I started going by my middle name, Logan. This made for some confusion, and even now some Army folk know me as Logan, but others call me Kirk. At the Cleveland Temple corps, then-Captain Shenk said "Aw just call him Butch", and it stuck, so my full church name was Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother. Maybe you had to be there.
My dad passed away during our time in Cleveland, and the support of the community there was a blessing. Once I finished high school and my mom got her masters in social work, she was tapped to go to New York City. Her quarters where at the Williams Residence. It was still my home, even though I was at college, and she asked for a small room for me... it turned out to be down the hall from her 3 or so rooms, and it had its own little bathroom. Looking back, I realize that at this point, I had my own New York city micro studio apartment that overlooked Broadway... the gas stations of Broadway, but Broadway none the less.
But I had come back to the family stomping grounds of Boston for college , and stayed for the hot dogs. Meanwhile, my mom got to London, back to her roots in Boston, and finally down to Virginia. But now she'll be at my my family's placein Ocean Grove New Jersey -- God's Square Mile, they say, and she'll be finally free to be the true (gasp) blue-state Democrat that the family has always been at heart.
Thank you and happy retirement mom!!!
Being an Officer family means you have to live pretty frugally. One Christmas my parents got me a "The Farmer Says" toy, where you pull the string and a voice says "The cow says... Moo!". Except the one they got me said things like "The dog says... Quack Quack!" "The turkey says.... Oink Oink!" While this amused my parents to no end, they took it back to the store to replace it with one that wouldn't mark me for life, animal recognition wise, and there wasn't cash on hand for both. When they played it for the clerk, well, it was a case of "The clerk says... 'Am I On Candid Camera'"?
It's weird to realize I still have the same model of dating ("commit", THEN date) that I developed in high school. On the one hand, it seems kind of natural, and conversely weird and unromantic to be juggling lots of dates with a set of people. On the other hand I think romance can and should be cultivated (not just found at first sight), and it should be ok to check things out and explore without too much fear of being morally wrong. How are grownups supposed to handle this?
If you're not always aiming at love for forever, are you doing it wrong?
"I've got 99 problems and being a decaying organism aware of it's own mortality in a society run by money that i can't escape is one of them"
I'm semi-seriously adopting a new mantra: "I Like It". I want to program myself to cultivate my knack for seeing the good side of things.
"The best way to know life is to love many things."
--Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Sep 9 1949
That was one of the first quotes I ever "collected"-- it was my .signature file for a while.
Last year, before I turned 38, it occurred to me I might be about as old as my dad was when he died. I wasn't positive of his birthdate, but I thought I knew the year, so I googled my site for 1949... this quote came up before my dad's birthday (which I thought, correctly, was there from a tribute I wrote when I was 29, and had lived as long without him as with.)
Somehow I had recorded the quote with a date, and never realized that the day Charlie Parker said that was also my dad's birthday. And according to my date toy, today is the day I was wondering about last year: I am as old as he was as he died.
I guess the guy lived it so it woulda came outta his horn, except that he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Played a mean timbrel (Salvation Army term for a tambourine) though, and wanted to start the James Edward Israel School for the Triangle.
All of the above I wrote last year.
I didn't really come up with a great way to commemorate the occasion, so I ordered a box of Payday bars (his personal favorite) and am passing them out at work and whatnot.
Now that the day is here, what does it mean? I think there's a time in late teenagehood, young-adulthood when a young man kind of takes on his father to help become his own man, and I'll never have a proper version of that. A milestone like this, where in every memory I have of my dad going forward he'll have been younger than I am at that moment, might help me grow up a bit. Maybe.
Still bummed he didn't get to see me grow up, still bummed he didn't get to see the world evolve a bit into something more connected and communication-oriented, still bummed for me and all the other people who loved him and have been deprived the pleasure of his humor and company.
"History teaches us nothing except that something will happen."
Here very first photo-- I love the light in this one.
Getting to hold her...
After a while she seemed a bit skeptical of all these photos...
Also: that photo was right next to
which reminded me of another recent favorite
(of course she's about 2 years younger than I was, I think that's a promising sign)
"For love, it seems, is like the peacock's tail: blind, yet full of eyes."
--Rachel E. Gross, in this Slate piece on peacock tails and sexual selection
Years ago I posted a link to this article, and while the title leaves a to be desired, it really does make me think about how perfect some Game Boy sprites were...
My favorite Aunt Ruth story is this: her accountant mojo and attention to detail spilled over into many parts of her life, and when my dad and I visited her and her family near Washington DC, she had an itinerary all laid out for us, hour by hour, to see the coolest stuff in the Capital region had to offer. I overheard my dad describe her as "paydirt" for this kind of trip.
Now I didn't know the word "paydirt"- 7 year olds don't know from prospecting- but I DID know That *I* didn't like orders, so I figured it wasn't good, like getting paid with dirt.
Of course, now as 41 year old freaking out about plotting a simple trip to Montreal, I really wish I had some kind of a Quebecois Aunt Ruth...
(PS my mom proofread this and reminded me it was "nuclear" family not "atomic" in the first paragraph)
advent christmas day
Messing around with a new logotype for http://kirk.is/ - I think I like the third one best... am thinking about making the "graph paper" background stretch at top across whole screen and then putting logotype on it, line up with the "graph paper", but over the content which will probably be fixed-width + centered.
It's fun teaching a computer to do the kind of graph paper font work I'd tool around with in high school. (See also "trifontula" http://kirk.is/2007/07/20/ ) In this case it would have been a lot easier had I not wanted to let the "graph paper" shine through.
360 view from Game of Thrones opening credits Not bad! Though odd that it's painted on the inside of a globe, kind of like the Mapparium...
https://www.captionbot.ai/ - a Microsoft 'bot does a surprisingly good job captioning photos.
Random naive bike riding question: the other day I saw a fellow bike commuter whose rhythm was pedal, coast, pedal, coast. He didn't seem to be pedaling especially fast, but still making decent time. Is that a notably more efficient way of riding than my "pedal most of the time" style? (Then again since my bike commute is some of the little semi-daily exercise I reliably get, maybe energy efficiency isn't the number one goal anyway...)
Sometimes I wonder if over-eager code testing policies are a bit like excessive password complexity requirements and expiry; both sound great on paper and give certain types of administrative types warm fuzzies, but unless used properly just make things worse.
â€ª#â€ŽTBTâ€¬ Some shots from my Salamanca, NY Days courtesy Robert Smith - me rockin' red footie PJs and a bean bag chair, Shinola the Cat (As in the phrase "Can't tell S**t from Shinola", and my minister parents couldn't very well call him the former), a newspaper clip from Advent, and my mom behind the wheel, looking a bit sassy!
Blender of Love
This one I'm most struck by. The back says "7-23-76 From our balcony" which would be when we lived on St. Thomas. My Super Niece is now almost exactly the same I am in this photo.
Ahh, fashion. Makes me wonder when plastic cups became popular.
On Torbenson Road, where Cleveland's Booth Memorial Hospital was. And speaking of fashion! Candy stripe pants! And an amish beard. My dad was amazing.
Man. First time I glanced out the window this season and thought "dark already?" (quarter of eight)
Best part may be how you can see my dad's tie is a clip-on. Also his glasses may be, remarkably, more expansive than my own.
Jeezie Petes why are Clinton and Trump being interviewed on Monday Night Football? So much for escapism.
At least two of them have some footage of my dad. I think it's the only audio footage of my dad I know of, except there might video tape of him playing a elderly grandfather stuck in a rocking chair for a Christmas pageant (given how sick he was at that point, that part wasn't much of a stretch, alas)
(Love the shot of my mom Youtube picked to thumbnail it.)
The opening scene is a child on a distinctive kids chair, consisting of 3 slotting rectangles, made by my grandfather (there are two piece in all, and either can be stood as a chair, a rocking chair, or a desk)
Quiet scene of my dad at 0:20.
Then it's a Wittenberg and Israel kitchen scene, I suppose in our place in Cincinnati.
At around 0:54 is my dad, hiding behind his hands from the camera. At 1:06 the camera is on me, and I think my dad is talking about the mafia (a group he consistently despised, along with the movies that would glorify them.)
2:00 has my dad sticking his tongue out at the camera. Later there's some further goofing and some leg.
Around 3:13, it's a new recording. The scene changes to our over-the-church apartment in Salamanca NY. That's the first home I had recollections of, and could sketch out its layout. Now it's a surprisingly small grass field. My Aunt, Uncle, his son, and a Salvation Army cadet from Poland are also there besides my family the Wittenbergs.
I recognize a lot, like the mission chair, lamp and server from St. Thomas still in my mom's house, the record player behind my dad at 3:52, the umbrella plant "Kirk Tree" that was planted when I was born (finally died a few year ago). I guess as an "Officer Kid" who moved around a lot, it's those kind of objects that make a place for me... in almost any photo taken in an old apartment, I'm often as or more interested in what books are on my shelves then whoever is in the main subject of the shot.
Around 4:00 is probably the single biggest stretch of my dad's voice. Along with me in the background clowning for attention.
My Uncle at 4:50 and one of his infamous naps...
At around 5:15 my dad does a bit of deliberate pantomime with a pampers box, a stuffed koala bear, and a brush , kind of invoking the "Little Tramp" bit with the rolls from "The Gold Rush"
Finally the video ends with a quiet shot of an infant and a toddler, probably just using up the film.
A lot of feelings struck up with this, from some cringing at how attention seeking I was then (I know it's a fairly normal part of life especially that age but still) to some things that will never be fully resolved between father and son, to just a general feeling of bittersweet nostalgia.
"Sometimes, your parents just want to know you're just as proud of them as they are of you." --/u/runwildfree81
So, disconnected from any holiday or birthday, and know I'm to sure to miss or gloss over many admirable things my mom has done: I'm very proud of my mom.
As the nickname (bestowed early by her younger yet more worldly sister) "Betty the Good" suggests, she has led such a highly moraled and principled life, mostly obviously in the context of The Salvation Army.
I don't know that much about her early life, but some of it involves working her way through University with less financial aid than she deserved because her folks were shy of opening their finances to institutions. (And I know she made the decision to go to college rather than straight to The Salvation Army's "seminary", the School for Officer Training, on the advice of elders in the 'Army - a lesson in what it means to be a well-educated and informed person in the world)
And then she became a Salvation Army Officer! That's a life-long commitment, and a job that extends beyond the 9-to-5 - not to mentions insisting you give up deciding where you're going to live, and when you're going to move, and requires vast swaths of dedication to both God and your fellow Man.
Later my view switches to my partnership with my dad. Family lore is that achieving pregnancy took some effort, so obviously I'm grateful for that and proud of whatever persistence that took.
She and my dad had a neatly symmetrical relationship both in their ministry and in the domestic sphere, modeling a kind of feminism-friendly balance that has stuck with me even now. But even with assignments at some very challenging 'Army churches, she managed to find time for local musical theater, always a pleasure for her. And the way the two of them became fixtures in their communities - especially Salamanca - was striking.
Later, she displayed huge courage through my dad's illness and death. And then had the resiliency to go back to school for her master's degree, all while being a single mom. Of course, since I was such an angel in high school it wasn't quite enough challenge so through AFS she hosted *another* 18 year old boy, Marcos, through my senior year.
It was interesting that while I could beat my mom at almost any randomly selected Atari game, with the ones that caught her interest (Bugertime and Pengo come to mind) I couldn't touch her scores. A good lesson in focus and perseverance, there.
(Dang. There's so much past tense in this, it sounds like a eulogy! And it's not meant to sound that way - but it makes me think that the concept of singing someone's praises while they can still hear it shouldn't just be reserved for the elite getting "lifetime achievement" awards or whatnot.)
Back to The Salvation Army. While I think it's a great charitable and religious organization, living its Heart to God Hand to Man slogan (and, encouragingly, seems ahead of the curve on gender roles and racial equality) my mom's politics run reliably a bit to the left of its core, and I appreciate the grace she's shown in those circumstances - and how she's done that and learned to service in NYC, and London, and also many less glamorous places.
Or I think back to her helping me on move-in day at college, when my new hallmates flagged me over just say "Kirk, you know, we really love your mom!" That was typical. Mom seemed to love everyone and often the feeling was returned.
And so even now, my mom is at best able to achieve a semi-retirement, and is as continually active in church work as the regulations allow. I'm proud of that too! (Also, if it's not too impolite to point out, the success she and my aunt have had with sticking to their diet/eating/exercise programs is pretty amazing to see as well and I'm grateful 'cause it means they'll be around that much longer!)
I'm also proud of the room she has given me. I mean one thing I've learned is that parents generally try to avoid re-creating the problems they had with their own folks - and not to speak ill of my Nana, but I know she wasn't always the easiest to be with - exemplified by her application of the classic "look, you've got me so frustrated/worried that I've had to take up smoking again" guilt-trip.
So my mom made it her mission to steer clear of that kind of that kind of pitfall. And even when I shifted into being a bit more of a freethinker, where I went through the adolescent questioning of why on God's Green Earth where there so many religions, she was patient and kind through all of that and confident enough that my upbringing still taught me well and set me up to be safe and morally well-grounded.
Or the conversation we had once, when I confessed I felt, you know, guilty that my course wasn't one of being an uncle-figure and not a dad, and so not presenting her with a grandkid, her reassurance that yeah, while it was a bit of a bummer for her, it was also true that if I lacked the convictions to make family-making and dad-being that kind of number one goal and priority of my life, her strong preference was that I would have steered clear.
Anyway, so inspired on a random quote from social media, I just wanted to say all that.
(I also want to say I'm proud of my dad, but I've written about his achievements already - written when I was 28, on the day I was twice as old as I had been when he died. I'm also proud of my Aunt Susan, who is now the other "folk" I mean when I say I'm going to New Jersey to "be with my folks"... her journey in education from "Assistant to the Dean" to "Assistant Dean" is amazing.)
"French star Kylian Mbappe gives a member of Pussy Riot a high five" during a pitch invasion protest
At work I'm surprised that everyone uses laptops, and many people use external monitors, but I'm an outlier for using the laptop keyboard and trackpad- it's a lot more common to use an external keyboard and then a mouse or "magic trackpad". I understand preferring a mouse, but a trackpad off to the side seems weird to me, at least once you're used to having the trackpad RIGHT there. I guess with external keyboards you don't have to worry about heat if the laptop is running hard, and if you're using the laptop as a second or third monitor you can prop it to a more ergonomically friendly spot, but I still love the arrangement of a laptop with a larger monitor above it, in part because it minimizes the difference from using the laptop in standalone mode.
Any thoughts? Any external keyboard/trackpad/mice users know some other advantage I'm not thinking of?
Blender of Love
--My super niece, Meme by Meghann
Folks in Sydney in the early 60s, asked about life on other planets:
(via James Harvey)