lunedì 24 febbraio 2014

Keep Her for a Pet

Over the past few years I have been sporadically, yet semi-obsessively, researching my family history.  The internet has been an invaluable assistant in fueling this obsession.  To be fair I have a clearer, if somewhat still hazy, impression of where my grandparents came from, and what their lives must have been like, so it isn't just squandered hours developing carpel tunnel.  I've convinced myself it is all part of my educational training, and my decision to study history.

There are so many amazing resources at your fingertips, and a lot of it is free.  I've been able to scan through the Hungarian archives, and have even started to make family trees for people I'm not even related to.  Well, this is largely because I somehow ended up with photographs of folks that were friends of my great grandmother, some of then which she labelled.  Others are sadly anonymous.  I keep hoping that I will magically discover just who they are, and why she kept the photos.  Some of the discoveries I've made about the people in the photos are amazing.  Their steamy personal lives are there to discover and speculate upon hidden in innocuous public records.   

One resource that is now available through is access to City Directories from all over the US.  City directories are wonderful ways to find out where someone lived, who they worked for, and who their neighbors were.  I've tracked the progress of my grandfather's family across greater Providence.  Through the magic of Google Maps I can even discover that most of them are now empty lots and gas stations.  You used to have to go to public libraries state to state to get this information.  Now I can look at Manchester, Connecticut from my living room in Oxfordshire, England.  You can't beat that with a stick.

Now to the point of the photo.  I found this advertisement in the pages of the Manchester, Connecticut City Directory.  The horrible record keeper that I am forgot to record the year, but I think it was from the 1910's.  With any luck I could probably find it again.  It is the one for Rogers Home Lunch.  Enjoy.

martedì 10 gennaio 2012


Babonich_0014 by kterkan
Babonich_0014, a photo by kterkan on Flickr.

This is a wonderful set of pictures of my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Heim Babonich.  She is probably about 60 in these photos, and obviously concerned about getting the tone right for the photo.  I can almost imagine her sitting in the photo booth planning each of the very different poses.  My favorite is the one on the bottom right.  I think it captures what was probably her inner personality, but alas I only know of her through the memories of those she lived around.
For a long time I despaired of knowing more about this branch of my family.  However thanks to the miracle of the internet and the ease of international travel, I have discovered more than I thought possible.  I've decided to dedicate a special page about her and the family from Hungary.

venerdì 18 marzo 2011

Threats of Violence

I seem to be following a theme here responding to the dubious content of my email. Well at least it gets me to write.
I received another chain email today. The internet has provided us with wonderful ways to carry on this time-honored tradition. I remember receiving one once in the mail when I was a child. I think that whatever "friend" of mine had sent it must have tried to disguise their handwriting as it was one I didn't recognize. I've completely forgotten the content, but I'm sure that the threat of death or death by accident was somehow involved. What terrible, bullying things we do to each other. The one thing about the email version is that it is difficult to keep the anonymity that the postal service can provide.
Back to today's missive. Apparently God is vengeful. Although, I've always thought that this was the point of Christianity that God was not vengeful. Perhaps I'll be struck dead for saying that at the email indicated God punishes those that mock Him. Perhaps not, because in fact I am not mocking. The list included famous and anonymous people who allegedly mocked God and/or Jesus, and sometime later (from the space of hours or years) met with brutal untimely ends. I'm not sure if my lack of sending it on counts against me. However, I think Jesus would advise me not to intentionally harm others.

martedì 22 febbraio 2011

Thomas Kinkade Performs Miracles

I received an email today with a copy of a Thomas Kinkade painting, complete with animated rain, that allegedly performs miracles. What are the chances? I suppose if you look at his career you could say that he has been miraculously successful, but is it possible to pass that success on in a chain email. The picture was tacked on to the tail end of a glurge with pithy sayings that unintentionally wise children have uttered, with general references to religion. I think you have the hat trick of forwarding content -- children, religion, and miracles. Does that mean that Thomas Kinkade is the icing on the cake?

lunedì 16 marzo 2009

The Bus Stops Here

I’ve been working a temporary job in London, and I have a really long commute. So embarrassingly long that I am not even going to admit just how long it is. Although it eats up a good chunk of my day there are rewards.
The first being that since I am taking public transportation, I don’t have to pay attention to the road, and can relax and enjoy the countryside. The bus has electrical outlet and internet access, which like most things in life is not quite as advertised. Sometimes the electricity doesn’t work, and the internet is unavailable for a good part of the journey, usually when we are rolling through the lovely countryside. One of the funniest sights along the way are the sheep out in the fields. As you are passing in a bus they appear to be rooted, motionless little wool bushes. I had never given much consideration to the activity of sheep, but I guess grazing doesn’t require much observable movement, especially when you are passing at a good clip. Truthfully, I would probably just be sitting at home doing the same thing I am doing here (except the observing the sheep part), so I can’t complain too much.
The job itself is also rewarding. I’m working with a small group digitizing documents at an archive. It is really just data entry, but it’s well paid and somewhat interesting. I’m learning how to decipher early 19th century handwriting, discovering hitherto unknown abbreviations for male first names, and familiarizing myself with the geography of the British Isles. The project ends in a few weeks and I am already feeling a bit misty. In the few weeks I’ve been doing this, I’ve become accustomed to the people I’m working with, and the thought of not seeing them everyday is a bit sad. It has been a while since I worked a temp job, and I had forgotten about the melancholy side of the experience. At least I know the end is near. I have worked some jobs where they tell you on Wednesday that Friday will be your last day. It is always a shock to be dismissed so easily, and in such an offhand manner. It’s sort of like a casual boyfriend breaking up with you – you know there isn’t a future, but when the end comes you’re still left feeling somewhat empty.
The other reward is that people you encounter along the way. I generally don’t like talking to people on public transport. On an airplane, I usually avoid conversation until the last few minutes before we land. Sometimes you have a chatty neighbor and it is impossible not to chat, and I really don’t mind too much. However, the longer you have to talk to someone, the more likely it is that they will confess things to you that don’t want to know about, or tell you about their personal relationship with God. While I respect people’s religious convictions, I feel it is a personal relationship that you shouldn’t share with strangers. I once sat next to a fellow from Washington DC to Raleigh, North Carolina, who was eager to share his religious views with me. He was from the Caribbean, I think, and spoke to me at length about how the after-life enabled you to live forever. I was somewhat fascinated by his take on the whole process. The main gist was that you could live forever almost in a corporeal sense, not in the spiritual way that I always envisioned it. On another train ride, I had a retired man who lived in Las Vegas confess to me that he had blown his retirement funds in the casinos. Nice. I wonder how he broke it to his wife.
On my way back and forth between Oxford I’ve met some interesting people. The other day as I made my jog from the tube station to the bus stop (I decided that in order to get some “exercise” in my day I would jog the easy downhill slope to the bus stop. It’s not much, but it’s something.), I noticed a woman at my side who apparently had been running too. She was a South Asian woman in her 50’s. She looked a bit tired, but had a sweet, sympathetic smile. I guess my running might had given her the idea that there was a need to hurry. We waited several minutes for the bus to appear and after the two people in front of us got on the driver said, “we’re all full up.” He then turned his head and noticed that there were at least two seats and let us on. It turned out there were plenty of seats and the five or so people behind us in line also got on.
While were waiting for the bus, this lovely woman told me how she was going to Oxford to visit her daughter and infant granddaughter. She is a librarian and afraid of losing her job, and a mother afraid that her daughter has too much responsibility. She got a little teary talking to me about her family. When we got on the bus we had to sit in different seats, so our conversation ended there, at the door, wondering if we’d be let on the bus. When we stopped in Oxford, she got off several stops ahead of me. On her way out the door she shook my hand and said it was nice meeting me. She had soft warm hands, and it was if this gentle gesture transferred the warmth of her personality.

lunedì 29 dicembre 2008

The Easy Jet

When I was in the process of leaving Italy at the end of November, I had this great idea to fly with my bicycle. I only had to pay en extra 25€ to fly with the bike and thought it would be much easier than strapping it to the back of a car.

Since I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the Milan airport, I left my bike at the train station in Trento the day before and went to buy yards and yards of bubble wrap. After negotiating three train stations and catching a bus to the airport with the bike, a suitcase and hand luggage, I thought I was all set when I went to check in at the desk. There I encountered one of the rudest women that I had met the entire time I was in Italy. After assuring her that my tires were indeed deflated, she moved on to the next criticism to prevent me from checking in my bike. I was supposed to have removed the pedals and turned the handlebars so it was in a straight line with the frame. At this point I started to panic and asked what I could do, as I didn't have any tools with me. She basically told me to take a hike and that my problems were of no concern to her. I couldn't even get her to tell me who could possibly help me in the airport. She told me I had an hour and 40 minutes to figure it out. Lovely. When I was on the verge of tears, she had finally finished speaking with me, and said "next."

I have to say I was shaking and had no idea what I could possibly do. I couldn't leave the bike there, but I had no idea how I could find the tools I needed to get the bike in order. As I looked out the plate glass windows, the first thought I had was that men always had tools in their cars, and I asked the first taxi driver I could find if he had tools. At this point my Italian was breaking down a bit. I was having to ask for tools I didn't know the name of, and I was shaking with fear. Of course they didn't have anything, but they did seem willing to help me solve my problems. Two of them started asking around. At first it was just other drivers, then it was the carabinieri, and guys that vaguely looked like mechanics. Finally someone had a hex key and the handlebars were turned the proper direction. I started to feel slightly less anxious. I only had to get the pedals off. I was ready to consider breaking them off, but after another 10 to 15 minutes of searching, someone showed up with the right sized wrench. One of them came off, and I was almost euphoric. The other one was proving to be more stubborn. My assistants almost gave up hope but in the end they managed to loosen the other pedal too, and I was ecstatic. I was ready to go, and I still had plenty of time to check in before the flight was closed. I went to the other end of the counter and some nice young man helped me with no arguments.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The flight went well and the pilot was ludicrously cheerful. He kept going on about what a lovely day it was to fly, and giving us weather updates, in his cute Irish accent. I was so relieved that I had made it on to the plane that I bought some overpriced food from the attendants, and didn't even cringe.

When I picked up my poor bike at the baggage carousel, her handlebars had become completely unmoored and she looked a bit like a wilted flower. However, I still felt buoyant, and managed the somewhat daunting experience of driving on the wrong side of the road without too many problems. Of course this was just the first stage on my cross-Europe odyssey, and other delights awaited me in the following days.

martedì 4 novembre 2008

New Horizons?

Wow, I haven’t posted since August. I’m so unreliable.

Life is up in the air, again. Scott and I are moving, again. Actually, he’s already moved and I’m staying behind to pack and clean, again. Although, he’ll probably come back to help, but it’s easier to make yourself sound like a martyr this way.

We’re going to England. Oxfordshire to be exact. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I’m sure it will involve a horrible commute. It always does.

Listen to me moan. You would think that I don’t like moving, but we all know that this is not the case. I probably couldn’t stand it if I had to stay in one place for more than a few years. Even if I stayed in the same town, I’d probably have to find a new place every few years. I hate leaving Italy though. I’ve really come to love it here, and after almost three years I can talk to a store clerk without sweat forming on my brow. Well not really, but I’m not as nervous as I once was. I’m sure if I stayed another six months my Italian would be perfect, ha.

I am excited. I just wish I could twitch my nose and magically all my belongings would be in the new apartment.

Ta Ta