family


23
Jun 20

We’re going (eventually) to the circus in this post

Hey hey, it’s Tuesday. (Right? Tuesday? Still a day? Still named after the Old Germanic and English god of war? Yeah? Yeah.) Tuesday! How’s your Tuesday!

I kid, of course. The days of the week are still easy to maintain. I’m solid on the month. No idea of the date, and, sometimes, I’m having brief mental lapses about the weather. Lunch seems to come later and later.

Tyr, the old god of war, wouldn’t care for that. He once ate an entire ox by himself. He was with Thor at the time. Thor ate two.

Struggling with the time of day for a PB&J, can go directly to the proper Nordic poem. That, apparently, is where I am today. Some literature professor somewhere should be very proud.

Tyr gets short shrift. Loki basically emasculated him. He lost an arm in a symbolic sacrifice and that’s one of his two most notable (and known to modern scholars) achievements. The other is his last battle, where he and the opponent both died. That’s a Tuesday.

I was looking through old newspapers for some family names, just to see what would turn up. There are a lot of simple farmers in my family, so the mentions, particularly among the branch I was searching last night, are a bit thin. But the advertisements around them are kind of interesting. Shall we?

We shall.

We’ll start in 1952. It’s page 11 of the local newspaper, one of the community sections. You’d call it the society pages, but that’s putting airs on too many people. Anyway, I was searching one of my great-grandfather’s names, and there’s a brief mention where his son has returned home for a visit from the service.

It was July, and Sherwin Williams wants you to know that wallpaper is very much in. (Was it ever out?) It’s glamour, glorious, glorious glamour, for those who care. And, to be honest, it’s that last part that led to this brief little collection. For those who care. The rest of you, stick with your wood paneling or your flat drywall or whatever clapboard, newspaper covered shanty you’re rocking at home. For those who care …

It looked like Dwight Eisenhower might earn the Republican presidential nomination. (He would.) There were some pictures from the remains of the Peary march to the North Pole. The month prior Air Force officers got there in a fraction of the time it took the navy man in 1909.

There’s an Asian grocery store at that street address now. That would have surely seemed improbably to readers of this ad, again, in 1952. We ate one block away from there last year over the holidays. It’s a small world in small towns.

This is the same paper, but in 1959. My great-grandfather, or a man who shares his name, gets mentioned he got hit by a bolt of lightning while out in his field. He was not seriously hurt. In 1959, you could have “the cable.”

My great-grandfather never had cable. His daughter, my grandmother, got it … eventually. I remember going out to manually turn the antennae in the yard to get a signal from that station, which still exists today, though operating under different call letters. Cable, in 1959. I’m sure that wasn’t like what we think of today, if anyone thought of cable anymore.

Just above the OWL TV ad there’s an all-text advertisement. It says “Obey that impulse.” It’s urging you to make a long-distance phone call. Says “It’s twice as fast to call by number.” We’re, perhaps, a lot farther away from the 1950s than we realize.

Anyway, that’s July 1959, and there’s a column on the front page set aside for late news. One item is that Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey has declared he’s running for president. (Spoiler alert: Nope.) Also, there was a steel strike on, and all of the economy, bemoans the front page, was under threat. (There was a brief mention of a steel strike in 1952, which was no nearer ending. It was called disastrous.)

There’s also a nice little front page story about a study for a proposed scenic highway. They built it. Did a lovely job. It’s beautiful, and has held that reputation since it was opened. Senator Al Gore, of Tennessee (not him, his father) is mentioned in the story. At the bottom, there’s a mention of a going transportation concern. “Progress on the ultra-modern Interstate Highway System has been good in the rural areas but slow in the large urban areas. When finished there will be 878 mies of four-lane, limited access Interstate Highways in Alabama. A total of 199 miles is now under construction … ”

Some 25 or 30 years later they got there. It’s still marvelous in all of the places that aren’t desperate for expansion.

And from that 1959 television advertisement we drop back to 1944. Still searching on the same great-grandfather’s name. Now, he died, at age 70, before I turned three. I don’t have a recollection of him, I’m sorry to say, and in my mind I can only conjure up the images of him in his old man studio portraits. So it’s pretty wild, to me, to think about him in this way, but his name shows up in a Friday edition of an April 1944 paper as having his name called by the draft board. He’ll soon be 35, but first he has to report to the courthouse. I don’t think he was enlisted.

There were two draft boards working the area. And there’s a front page brief that says victory gardens were badly needed. Also, there’s a mention of a local man who was lost after bailing out of his bomber over Germany. It’d been three weeks, so who knows, and his brother, meanwhile, had been listed as a POW in the Pacific since the fall of Bataan. Their poor family, you think, having to lose them both.

I googled them both. Both men came home and lived long lives.

Anyway, there was a fine little ad floating around all of that, and that’s what we’re here for today. Here’s the fun part of it.

The text helpfully tells you that “just a little care will save your tire,” and, “every turn of the wheel means that much added wear.”

It’s a false memory, I’m sure, but I want to say I remember that. Maybe there was a sign, or an old ghost ad, but all of this is well before my time. There are two offices listed in that 1944 advertisement. One of them is downtown in a place where this sort of building makes no sense. The other is in a town I never go to, but looking at it on the maps, I think that might be the place.

One of the owners testified before Congress about a tax that was going to hurt his, and similarly rubber re-treading businesses. You can read the entire thing in the 1956 congressional record. It was a brief presentation for what was surely a long trip. He was, in 1995, inducted into the Tire Industry Association’s Hall of Fame as someone who “brought lasting fame to the tire, rubber and transportation industries.” I bet he bragged on that to his friends.

Let’s go way back, to 1904. I’ve found a brief mention of a great-great-grandfather getting married. He was 33. His wife, my great-great-grandmother, was 23. It’s a simple one sentence mention. The two names who were “united in marriage.”

This is the top half of one of the ads in that same issue.

I was going to go with the summer rashes advertisement, but there’s just something about “The Highest Class Circus in the World,” and the words around it. Not one so original. Not one so modern. Not one so different. Not one so popular.

There’s a little rhetorical problem with the original-different construction, but that popularity claim is accurate. Apparently The Great Wallace Shows was the second biggest show in the country.

If you saw this show up in the windows of the shops around you, wouldn’t you want to go?

Oh, the wonders that must have stirred in young minds when they saw prints like that. The parents would sigh. Only if we get all the chores done. There were always chores.

I wonder if my great-great-grandparents, the newlyweds, saw the circus when it came through their town.


22
Jun 20

Mondays always have the worst titles, don’t they?

It’s Monday again, and welcome back to the part of the week in which we work on things. We’re still doing that. The emails are flying, the Slack channels are a-flurry. The video chats continue apace.

I had a two-hour student chat on Friday, and what’s more, the students are the one that asked for the meeting.

Hanging out with students is always fun, even when they are work meetings. Some students, when everyone was still living under a more restrictive lockdown, invited me to a few social video chats. That was kind of them. They are thoughtful and fun. And it was great to hear from them, see how they were doing, and to make them laugh. I became the butt of a lot jokes in those chats. It was worth it. Anyway, the video chats on Friday were about work. And going forward there will be more of those as we try to implement the things that will be our normal routines for the fall.

Normal. Routine. Aren’t those some concepts?

I suppose some people have routines that won’t change over much. And all of us will get used to the new rigors and routines soon enough. I’ve had the good fortune to be in my share of meetings to discuss what the new routines will be. The long and the short of it is that it will be odd getting there, weird getting used to it, and then a slow inconvenience we’ll work through.

But that’s what you do. You work through it. We’ll all have it to work through, all of us, in some way or another. We may as well do it with a smile. A smile that no one can see beneath a mask. Better learn to smile with your eyes.

Did you know you can smile with your whole body? When I used to do costume character work, in high school and college, you couldn’t help but to smile for pictures under that big helmet. Pretty quickly you noticed. After some time you manage to stop smiling under the headgear. But then you realized, or if you’re like me, you had to be told, to smile anyway. It comes through in the photos, in your posture, in your attitude. So you may as well smile.

By the way, when I smile, my eyes get small. So if you see me squinting, just know.

Here’s a routine, the cats!

Phoebe has a ‘You shall not pass!’ mentality in the hallway. It’s an effect roadblock. She slows you down by her cuteness, and you’re thrown off your game by a sudden urge to rub that belly.

It’s an even more effective obstacle when she does it on the stair landing. You’ve got to turn to the right, maybe you want to avoid a step, but there’s also this furry little thing.

I’m not clear at all how that’s comfortable, but that’s a cat’s posture for you.

Poseidon got interested in the camera lens.

And he’s always interested in this stovetop cover. I built this to keep the cats off the stove. Now they just sit on this thing. And, apparently, they’ll sit on it anywhere.

I’d moved the cover to another part of the countertop to clean the actual stovetop, and he’ll apparently sit on it wherever. So that was, one supposes, a good Saturday project.

Speaking of Saturday, we went for a walk through the woods, and we ran across a spotted fawn that was completely unconcerned by us. Mom was off looking for a snack and then she came back, saw us and we all stayed a respectful distance from one another.

Saturday was our anniversary, too. We spent most of the day reading through old tweets that our friends wrote that established the precise timeline of events. We looked at the menu for our wedding dinner, the eye is still drawn directly to the typo all these years later, and looked through our wedding photos and the honeymoon book. We made ourselves a crab dinner to celebrate, since we aren’t going out to eat. We listened to Sam Cooke and Al Green while we cracked shells. For a day, it was delightful.

This was right after the ceremony. We got married outdoors, under a canopy, in one of the hottest places in the country on the hottest day of the year. The heat index was 127. I was wearing summer wool. There is no such thing as summer wool. My bride looked beautiful:

(Still does!) After the ceremony was complete and we walked back up the aisle we walked inside a building. The first things she said as we began our marriage were “Oh thank goodness, air conditioning!”

For an anniversary, it should have been a more elaborate day. But, for an anniversary, revisiting the day was also perfect.


16
Jun 20

An early Father’s Day post, of sorts

When we moved into this house a few years ago we discovered some unfinished attic space above the garage. We wanted to use that space for storage. When the folks came up the first time my step-father offered to help. So we picked up some lumber and he bought me some extra tools and we spent a day telling ourselves “This is an attic, no one will ever see it but us. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It merely needed to be functional. We needed some walking and storage space.

We set about cutting plywood to fit all of the interesting angles of an attic and sweated and installed it all. When it was done I climbed out of the attic and passed the first thing back inside it to my step-father. It felt right that he should put the first thing into the space. He made it usable, after all.

The attic is valuable storage. More valuable for this, which I saw again the other day when I was putting something away in there, because we’d also asked him to sign his handiwork.

I’m glad we did that. When I’m prowling around in the attic, as I was tonight to store an extra window screen, I see that right away, and it always makes me smile. I’m grateful that he takes the time to do these sorts of things every now and again. There’s always something new to learn, always some valuable experience to gain, some time worth spending on it.

It’s a great space, but more space would allow me to organize it. So I wonder if I should put in more flooring. And what we were doing with all of this stuff in the first month or two in the house before we had this extra space.

Maybe in the fall. One summer sweat in the attic those years ago was enough.


28
Dec 19

The rare weekend post

On our tramping about town today, a day in which we tramped, we visited a local running store. This is a place where my mother-in-law picks us up nice things like, this year, a new blinkie for bikes and a couple of nice pairs of running socks. They were, today, having a sale.

I did not buy an aero helmet. But it looks pretty cool, right?

Or is this more my speed?

That one is probably more my speed. My speed being: slow, but fashionable.

Except on today’s run. I was fast! Well, for me. I guess? At this stage? It was fast? Ish? Question mark? I ran four-and-a-half miles, last run of the trip, and was about to get down into a respectable speed for a 5K when … a car pulled out without regard to looking left or, in my case, right, and almost hit me. I gave him A Look, which is different from The Look, because there were cars behind him, and if he’d received The Look those other cars would have been trapped behind the car with the lifeless body in the driver’s seat.

And somehow that nonverbal exchange cost me about 15 seconds, which kept me from getting the first 5K in recent-record time.

Or that’s the story I’m telling the sports historians anyway.

Here’s a look at Gray’s Creek, a gut where the fishing is apparently good, but not much else is said about it on the web. On one side is a short municipal golf course. On the other side of Gray’s is Hall Island, which is not really an island, but actually a spit:

There are 31 gorgeous houses and at least 12 pools on the non-island, which seems a pleasant place of residential bliss where nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened.

And here’s one last look of the Long Island Sound, from Compo Cove. It was a great week to run here:

Old neighbors came to visit. There were many laughs and complaints about the new Star Wars movie. We’ll go watch it soon, but first, this strawberry shortcake:

Tonight’s dessert, and the gag gifts that went with it, mark our last Christmas celebration of the year. You want them to continue. You want them to end gracefully and well. Dessert is a good way to do that.


27
Dec 19

Good pace, pizza and pucks

The holidays are over, the holidays continue. Christmas has a way about it, doesn’t it? So much build up, so much frantic build up in these shorter holidays years, and then you hit all of the parties and family fun and then … there’s that paper pile, your presents and the now empty tree. Good thing we’ve come to think of all of this time as being about the people, then. Good thing we’ve had the time to spend.

We are fortunate that way. It’s back home and back to work for most people, but we are able to enjoy an early start and a delayed ending to the holidays. So the holidays continue.

Nice run this morning. I ran around the park where The Yankee played as a child, where we took our engagement pictures in a nor’easter 11 years ago last week. It’s much warmer today, thanks. Also, the roads have been freshly paved.

We went to Pepe’s for pizza salad. They make the best salad pizza you can find anywhere.

Truly great stuff. And my in-laws were nice enough to bring us, and to share. They’re kind people that way.

Here’s Frank Pepe. He opened his first restaurant in 1925, after he ‘d come to the U.S., returned hom to fight in the Great War and then returned to America and found his way into the restaurant business. We’re dining at the third one, which opened decades after he died. The guy in this photo has no idea there are going to be a dozen stores bearing his name.

He started out making two pies and selling them off his head. And now here we are. The server did not bring out our pizzas on her head, which was a bit of a disappointment, but that was the only disappointment.

After dinner, a dilemma! We went to a minor league hockey game. The Wolf Pack at the Sound Tigers, in a battle of compound nicknames. The Sound Tigers are the home team, and a part of the Islanders organization. The visitors are in the Rangers farm system. You’d cheer for the home team, because they’re the home team. But this is a Rangers family. So this was a confusing time. A confusing time mollified by my new favorite past time.

Who knew they needed a go kart on ice? They ran this guy out in between segments of play and he was purely a stall. The promo was watching two guys race across the ice putting on a fire fighter’s turnouts. They were too fast, so this guy got to do his laps.

The Sound Tigers won 5-1. Also, it was teddy bear toss night, which was great fun to see. After the first goal people toss their new stuffed friends onto the cold, cold ice as part of a toy drive.

If only we’d known, we could have continued the giving. It should never end, after all.