Thursday, August 17, 2017

On Seeing A Photo of My Mother's Father For the First Time

Until a few days ago, I had never seen a photo of my grandfather Lawrence -- the Black Sheep of the Family and of several counties, indeed of several states. My mother's father had always been a mystery figure to her and to me. He was killed when she was only five years old in 1916; years before, he'd left his family in Indianapolis and moved to St. Louis where he started another family with another wife and daughter.

My mother said she had few memories of him, but I've long thought she didn't have any at all. He was gone from Indianapolis by the end of 1913 at the latest. She would have been barely two. If my mother had any memories of her father Lawrence, it would be a miracle. But the picture I found online -- taken in November, 1915, in Indianapolis -- leads me to question my assumption that she couldn't have had any memories of her father.

On the other hand, she may have remembered her mother's older brother Ralph and confused him with her father. Ralph lived with the "household of women," as my mother described their home in Indianapolis. The household included, in addition to my mother and her mother, her mother's adult brother, her grandmother, two widowed aunts, and the teenaged son of one of those aunts.

My thought is their original home burned down sometime around 1913. It seems to have been a large old farm house, two stories, big porch, drafty, rickety, built on the edge of town before electricity and much modern convenience at all. The fire may have started in a shorted-out electric line since I understand that electric lights had recently been installed. The household moved next door to a more modern and somewhat smaller house, built in 1898, and already equipped with indoor plumbing, electricity and gas.

The new house resembled one featured in the first season of "Good Bones" on HGTV. The episode is called "An Old Victorian House Gets a New Facelift" for anyone who's interested. The show is about rehabs in Indianapolis, though not in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood where my mother's family lived. Ida, my mother's grandmother and matriarch of the household, apparently owned quite a bit of property in Indianapolis, perhaps inherited from her murdered husband or from her father who was a carpenter, and later she would move to another, nearly identical house the next street over to live with her sister. She would die there in 1935.

It's also possible that my mother remembered George, Lawrence's younger brother. George was employed at the same bank in town where my mother's mother, Edna, worked as a telephone operator.

Whatever the case, I thought she didn't have any real memories of her father. The picture makes me wonder.

I've been in periodic contact with Pam, a descendant of Lawrence through liaison he had with a 16 year old girl named Julia. Julia's son by Lawrence, Virgil, was Pam's grandfather.

She's been researching her ancestors longer than I have and she has assembled quite a bit of information about her ancestors in Indianapolis, but she said she had never found a picture of her great grandfather Lawrence and she wondered if I had one.

No. I did not. Until a few days ago, I'd never seen one.

And then, wonder of wonders, as I was following a thread of information Pam had provided me -- a brief family history written by one of Lawrence's nephews provided by one of Lawrence's grandsons -- I found a website maintained by the son of the nephew, a photographer in Indianapolis.

Among contemporary photos taken by David R, the photographer, were excerpts from his great grandfather David H's Civil War diaries.

Among the excerpts was a family portrait taken in 1915 on the 50th wedding anniversary of David H and Caroline L, Lawrence's parents. The portrait includes David H, Caroline L, and their five surviving sons, Frank, Harold, Edgar, LAWRENCE, and George. Their sixth son, Leo Clyde had been killed in a hunting accident some years before.

So. There he was.

I will post his picture here, though I may have to take it down as I haven't contacted David R on whose website I found it.


If he looks rather cranky, I think he had his reasons.

His parents' 50th wedding anniversary was November 21, 1915. He'd have come to Indianapolis from St. Louis with his brother Harold who had moved to St. Louis around 1890. Lawrence had a wife and one year old daughter in St. Louis. He had a wife and four year old daughter in Indianapolis (my grandmother and mother). He also had a four year old son, Virgil, in Indianapolis whose mother, Julia, had not been married to Lawrence. And he had two other sons and a daughter living in Indianapolis. The sons were living with his parents while his daughter Florence was living with his brother Frank.

Got it? It's complicated.

Even more so, his first wife Maud had (apparently) married his older brother Harold after her divorce from Lawrence around 1907-08.

What fun? Nah.

With more than a century's distance from these people, I can be somewhat dispassionate about them and the stories I've found, but still, it's jarring.

When I first saw the family portrait, I initially identified the wrong brother as my mother's father. I picked out Lawrence's older brother Edgar as my grandfather because he had a look very similar to one I was familiar with from my mother.


 
She would often show this more or less exasperated expression, and the features of Edgar's lower face are very similar to my mother's features when she was about the age of Edgar in the picture (45).

So the family resemblance is there among the offspring, but Lawrence's appearance doesn't remind me of my mother at all.

Here's one theory of why he looks so annoyed, and why my mother might have had a reason to remember him.

What if on his return to Indianapolis for the first time in at least two years, he brought gifts for his wife and daughter Edna and Virginia and went to visit them while he was in town?

That shouldn't seem out of the question, and it was a fairly quick streetcar ride from his parents' house to my mother's and grandmother's place.

If he arrived unexpectedly, I can imagine things got tense very fast, especially if Edna wasn't there but came back while Lawrence was playing with Virginia on the floor.

All holy hell might have broken loose. And it probably did.

In another possible scenario, Edna learned that Lawrence was back in town from his brother George with whom she worked at American Fletcher bank. He might even have mentioned that Lawrence was in town to celebrate his parents anniversary. I can easily imagine Edna and Virginia marching over to the parents' house to confront Lawrence and the rest of the family.

There could be any number of other reasons for Lawrence's crabby look, as his life was "checkered" at best.

Maybe I should stop dicking around and dramatize it.

TV cries out for such family dramas, no? ;-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why the "Alt-Right" Is Not All Right

America, we have a problem. A growing problem of rising white rightist reactionaries. The so-called "Left" is in such disarray in this country that there is no effective counter to the organized ideological racist reactionary pressure of the white right/Nazis.

We've seen this before.

The problem is thatwhat passes for a "Left" wants to argue, sometimes even rationally argue, with these violent assholes, when their interests are not at all rational but are deeply seated emotional appeals. There is no effective rational counter to it.

Let me repeat that: There is no effective rational counter to it.

This is why so much of Europe and much of the rest of the world fell under the fascist/Nazi spell in the interwar period of the 20th Century. It was simply easier and more emotionally satisfying to go along with it than to fight it. Besides, fascists and Nazis generally protected corporate interests (so long as the corporations went along with the program) as opposed to what the dreaded Communists were doing.

So. Here we are again.

Even our neo-liberal overlords have no counter to the rise of the right. Some, of course, embrace them. What is better for effective looting and control of the masses than the endless theatrical spectacles the rightists engage in and scapegoating minorities for the losses the white underclasses inevitably endure? Works like a charm, and it works almost every time.

Until it doesn't.

And then it's all hell all the time.

I say stop it now, but the ruling class cannot and will not. They will accommodate themselves to it, just as we've seen increasing mainstream accommodation to Trump in the last six months. "As long as he doesn't go too far, what's to worry, right?"

Nothin' a-tall.

The mess will continue. Even if we get a respite for a while, once this Pandora's Box is opened, it's a bitch to close again.

Strap in or secure your bunker. This won't end soon, and it won't end well.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Butthurt Wypipo UPDATED




"YOU. WILL NOT. REPLACE US!!!!!"

Some wag posted on the Twitter Machine: "Jews will not replace us!"

Well, isn't that special.

They are, these butthurt Wypipo, marching in their torchlight multitudes, whining about their loss of privilege-- even though they haven't lost a damn thing -- and complaining about the removal of yet another Confederate hero's statue from the public square.

"YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!!!"

Yes, well. We'll see about that, won't we?

A great deal is being made about the various torchlight parades by the butthurt Wypipo called the alt-Right -- Steve Bannon's bros, Stephen Miller's compaes, the "Base" as it were-- primarily it seems to me to whip up fears of a Rising by US whites against the brown and black hordes of "Mud People" trying to submerge them in immigrant tides, yadda yadda. And it's all a load of codswallop.

All of it.

And so they march and try to cause a ruckus at the University of Virginia over the impending removal of the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee (genuflect). Oh well. Put it in museum, eh? Like the statues of Lenin.

It's interesting to me that these butthurt Wypipo have chosen to take their stand in the protected safe spaces of universities and colleges. How clever of them. Assured of lots of coverage. And assured they will be... safe.

Be not afraid of these cowards.

BE NOT AFRAID.

UPDATE:

Of course running down the protesters on a pedestrian mall was quite an escalation of the animosity and mutual anathemas between Antifa and the Nazis.

RebelutionaryZ was there and more or less captured it on his live feed (he was pretty rattled, no wonder, and the camerawork was not stable at crucial moments, but slack must be cut):

[RebZ apparently took down his video of the crash because it was being used without attribution or permission by CNN and others.]

So here's TMZ's video:

http://www.tmz.com/2017/08/13/charlottesville-car-attack-terrorist-white-supremacist-rally/

Nevertheless, BE NOT AFRAID.

STAND UP, FIGHT BACK.

As an antidote: DON'T BE A SUCKER

Thursday, August 10, 2017

No.

This must be stopped and it must be stopped now.

The entire mass media is gearing up to cheer on nuclear annihilation -- doesn't matter who gets it -- as a late summer diversion from whatever important thing is going on.

This sickens me.

But there you are.

The depravity of our rulers and their handmaidens is boundless.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Immigration Thing



Yet another summer Shark and Missing White Woman story to distract from what's really going on.

Damn.

And they trot out that little would-be Nazi -- probably drugged up and excited as hell -- to sell the latest scheme to Make America White Again. Here we go.

Now they say there's not a chance in hell this regime proposal will be passed by Congress, not that that matters in the vast eternal scheme. That's not the point of it. The point is to control the conversation about the dreaded incomers, and to force the other side into a defensive (and losing) posture.

Successfully playing to the base while making immigration advocates scramble to defend the incomers on a non-ideological basis. That's been a problem with this immigration thing -- going back many many years -- all along. The reasons why we've had so much immigration over the entire history of the United States and why it's desirable (and for whom)  are never articulated, whereas those who seek to restrict immigration know and can say why (though their arguments might be filled with lies and distortions -- as the little Nazi's arguments clearly were.)

Relying on anecdotes and the Emma Lazarus poem to justify large scale immigration doesn't really work. I don't really know why my ancestors left England, Ireland and Germany when time was, but they did, and they came to the US, made new lives for themselves, and here I am. I wouldn't be here without that. On the other hand, I wouldn't be here without the kindness and forbearance ofthe Native Americans who saved my life, quite literally.

So how should I feel, personally, about immigration?

Personally, I'm relatively neutral about more immigrants coming in. It's neither a good thing nor a bad thing in and of itself. Most of the objections to immigration have to do with who comes and how many and where they wind up. This goes right back to the beginning of Euro-conquest and immigration to North America. The struggle over it is never-ending.

Most of the defense of immigration has to do with a whole bunch of unknown wonders that might accrue. You never know. Right?

I think most Americans have no idea how the current immigration system works or doesn't work. It's a mess by any objective measure, and the regime proposals won't fix that. The problem is that the system isn't set up to handle large numbers of applicants; so millions wait, some of them for many years, while the various steps toward getting a Green Card are undertaken -- or not. It's crazy.

The Emma Lazarus system at Ellis Island was more efficient and comprehensible.

So. What should be done? For the time being, nothing. And that looks like what will happen.

Until immigration advocates get their act together and go on the offense, the notion that anyone can fix what's wrong with the system is silly.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cowboy: "Punch a hole in the Sky."

Sam Shepard died last week. ALS. I didn't know -- didn't even suspect he was sick. Just old-ish. A bit rough around the edges perhaps from life and drugs and alcohol.

I won't go into a long memorial post about him and his work, some of which had a profound affect on me when time was. He was the only playwright I know of who could accurately capture the spirit and the feeling of life in the hills and valleys east of Los Angeles before the end of the world that it once had been.

Until recently, I didn't know much about his personal life. Didn't care, really. He was a writer, an actor, an artist, and a presence who could -- somehow -- capture the essence of a particular time and place and the people who tried to survive in it, the times and places and people I knew, had lived with, perhaps had been and still was.

When I found out he'd been brought up on an avocado ranch in Duarte, California, in the '40s and '50s, of course it was obvious. This was the why and the how of his ability to capture the essence of what I knew to be true about... that part of the West.

Duarte is less than 10 miles from where I lived from 1954-1959. While Duarte is hard up against the San Gabriel Mountains and I lived on the flatland below, I could see the mountains rising proudly out my living room window, and sometimes I would sit on my back fence and watch them burn as they did practically every year when the weather was hot and the wind was high.

In 1954, the land north of our house, across the concrete drainage ditch that has once been an intermittent stream used by the vanished Gabrielenos Indians, were acres and acres of orange groves protected from the infrequent frosts by strategically placed smoky smudgepots. The avocado trees up in Duarte needed similar protection, though I don't recall Shepard ever writing about it directly.

While I tend to focus on material memories of what it was like back there and then, he was focused on the spirit of the time and place, and its effect. For me, listening, reading, watching and participating in his works when I could -- infrequently, true, but often enough -- was exhilarating and sometimes scary. How did he know?

Unlike many of those posting comments on his NYT obit, I never met him though I was told he came to a rehearsal of "True West" I was working on. For whatever reason, I wasn't there that time.

He was called "Cowboy" -- not that he was a cowboy, just that he knew. We call our next door neighbor "Cowboy," though he's not one, not now anyway, and his name is Kevin. But he reminds me a bit of Shepard, and though we don't have a lot in common, there's enough...

It seems too soon for Shepard to be gone, but not really. He was only a few years older than me, but he clearly had a greater ability to share his inside and insight than I do. Those who sing his praises now that he is gone probably don't quite know what he was really doing. I sometimes wonder if he did.

Vaya con dios, amigo.