Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's in a name?

When I was getting my citizenship in Philly, I had a chance to change my name. My father and mother both did. I took a pass and never regretted it. It's not that I hate America or that I don't like the sound of John Q. Smith as it whizzes by my ear. It's just that to change my name would have been to change myself, to shrug of my past and my roots. I didn't want to do that. And when I read this, I felt again that I made the right choice.

Especially when I read this part:

"Fritz and Otto excelled in their studies in Vienna. However, like other Jews, they suffered greatly from the anti-Semitism that prevailed in Europe at this time. As a result, both Kohn brothers abandoned their Jewish heritage and converted to Roman Catholicism.

In addition, in 1897, Otto decided to shed the Jewish-sounding name of Kohn. He chose a new name by dropping a pencil on a map. The pencil landed on Ireland's County Kerry. In 1901, Fritz followed his brother’s example and officially changed his name to Frederick Kerry.

Fred, who worked as an accountant at his uncle's shoe factory, married Ida Loewe, a Jewish musician from Budapest. Ida was a descendant of Sinai Loew, a brother of Rabbi Judah Loew, the famous Kabbalist, philosopher and Talmudist known as the "Maharal of Prague" who some say invented the character of the Golem. Two of Ida's siblings, Otto Loewe and Jenni Loewe, were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Fred, Ida and their first son Erich were all baptized as Catholics. And in 1905, the young family immigrated to America. After entering through Ellis Island, the family first lived in Chicago and then settled in Boston. Fred and Ida had two more children in America, Mildred (1910) and Richard (1915).

Fred and Ida and their three children lived in Brookline, where Fred became a prominent man in the shoe business and regularly attended Sunday Catholic church services. Fred did not tell and no one would have guessed that the family had Jewish roots.

In 1921, Fred Kerry, at age 48, entered a Boston hotel and shot himself in the head. Some say the suicide was due to financial stress or depression. Perhaps the transition from Czech Jew to American Catholic was too great and unsupported a spiritual, psychological and social change."

I have mentioned before that many, many and have I said...many here have been making not-so-subtle overtures to have me convert to the local flavor. When I tell them to pound dirt, I'm doing them a favor. Because the new and improved me wouldn't be me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bye bye Hill

Hi Hillary,

I feel for you. I really do. You have foresaken your own happiness in order to spend the prime of your adult life cleaning up the messes of an emotionally wrecked man-child. I get that. And I understand that your marriage was always a business proposition. No doubt, you felt, after 8 years of Bill and his girlfriends (well 30 years) that you deserved compensation. And since you had all the money in the world, you wanted that compensation to be more than that- you wanted respect and power.

So, after a period spent agonizing over whether you were a Cubs or a Yankees fan, you showed up in New York, waiting for your crown. Except that Lazio, that little schmuck from Long Island, actually wanted to have an election- a move that seemed so quaint in 2000 that I ponied up 50 bucks for his effort. It was touching.

You were offended. No doubt you figured that you deserved something. No doubt, you still feel this way, which is why you weren't going to spend your prime boomer years sitting on the Committee for Aging Ex First Ladies or something. No ma'am. You deserved better. Which is why, in a display of arrogance that seems second nature to you, you marched off to race to the white house as the presumed Democratic nominee. And they almost went along, which is why they are called the stupid party.

But then, out of nowhere, this young black guy from Chicago came along and actually campaigned. Against you. The nerve of some people. Didn't he know that your husband was the first black president? [I believe it was Toni Morrison who said that Bill was black because he grew up poor and liked fried chicken. By that standard I'm black too. Neat huh?)

So anyway, not only did he campaign, he started winning. True, he didn't say too much that was daring or original but he did have the singular virtue of not being you. Also, he was black but not Al Sharpton black so that helped. Nobody likes being told all the time how mean, greedy and evil they are and Obama didn't do that. [Off on a tangent, I met Al once. He struck me as the sort who would drown his mom for a nickel.] So that was nice, even if his pastor is a fruitcake. Meh. Given Black American history over the last 400 years he is entitled to be a fruitcake. To a point. [Not that being a fruitcake is something to aim for.]

Let's talk about you. See, the thing with you is, you are inspirational. You inspire people to hate you. Why? do I say this? Jon Stewart once called your face the place where boners go to die and that's part of it. But there is more to it. See, i know this Lady who is drop dead gorgeous- inside and out. Usually (not always) that's a package deal. I have known pretty women whom I wouldn't come near. Over time, that sort of prettiness usually fades. And after a point they become you. Everything about you says "I wanted to be president since I was five, I deserve to be president, and if I don't become president my life will lose all meaning." This is an unattractive quality you share with Al Gore. NOT a good thing. Plus, whether it's Hillary in tears or Hillary fighting terrorists or Hillary bowling and doing shots, there never was a real Hillary. Like your husband, you have no core. You are whatever you think people want you to be. Not a good thing.

And that, ultimately, is what's causing your meltdown, rambling on about how Obama can't win white voters like you can. This is probably true but he doesn't need your kind of white voters anyway. You won western pennsylvania counties by 70, 75%. Hill, I've been out there. No chance that those people will vote for a democrat in the fall. They're pro-life Catholics who hunt and eat lotsa pierogies. That's all good but those guys will NOT vote for a democrat. Ok? They voted for you because they are (ancestorally) registered democrats and because they don't like Obama's age, suits, fancy city talk or skin color, in that order. But McCain has them anyway because McCain can relate better to them than either of you two. So your argument is "I should be the nominee because I do better with voters who will never vote for me again." Kind of absurd, no?

Go home. Kiss your kid. Kick your husband. See a therapist. Look forward to doing something worthwhile in your twilight years. Bye.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Slowly grinding on

I finished a paper that actually turned out to be tons of fun (I know- geekazoid) on Chinese education in the 19th Century. It let me dig into all sorts of stuff (online at least) like letters to the editor from 1903 and court decisions from the late 1800s. A part of me wants to be an archeologist when I grow up. Linguist may work tho.

I have 2 (maybe more like 1.7) papers left to write. It's more drudgery at this point than anything. Some may have noticed that I tend to be the emotional sort, no matter how much I hide it (or try to). And honestly, this semester I have just been sleepwalking (emotionally) through it.

On the bright side, there are some signs that even this state may, possibly, show interest in complying with the law and giving me testing accomodations, like they were supposed to all along. Which would be neat and may make me expulsion proof.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

There is no forever

Young'ins, lend me your ears. As we speak, you may be tempted by words like always, forever, eternally, everlasting and so forth. The person speaking these words is likely a fetching young lady (early 20s or so) who has grown up on Cinderella and is IN LOVE. Not with you tho. She is in love with the idea of love as she saw it on tv. That has very little to do with real life. Love is easy when prince charming is behaving himself. When he is tall and slim and has nice clothes. Love, to be fair, is also easy as long as Cinderella has an hourglass figure and the mind to use it.

However, love starts getting very sticky when other, less savory, less idealized aspects of this happy couple creep in. Say Prince Charming is depressed or loses his job. Say Cinderella gains weight. Say the two find themselves eating out of take away boxes instead of dining at Bertulli's. This, my friends, is when love is a bitch.

Now, some say that's what true love is made of. You see a person at their worst and accept that as part of who they are because you love them unconditionally. This is nothing more than a self-serving fairy tale. The truth is, both you and your loved ones put on airs to appear a certain way. You wear hot clothes. He drives a nice car. Neither of you shares other, less ideal parts of yourselves, the parts that scare even you, because you know that they don't REALLY want to see that side to you no matter how much they insist. So you both go on, pretending that these parts don't exist.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

first time

Yes, even at my decrepit old age, I can have firsts and a few nights ago was my first visit to a hookah bar. Hidden away in the back of what I must summon all my generosity to call a pizza place, I gathered with a dorm mate and his friend over a bowl of sweet melon flavored stuff. And no, it wasn't wacky tobbacy. I'd never touch that since most of the high school elite back where I went to high school were stoned out of their minds and communicating with them was no fun. At all. Usually, the best I could get would be them raising their heads, sniffing loudly, looking at me with bloodshot eyes and then going back to sleep. In Poland, I saw many of my wasted classmates hunched over the equipment [pipes, lighters, tweezers, etc], tooling away like mad scientists, enveloped by the foul-sickly sweet stench of weed and two week old pirogies and wondered if weed makes you an idiot savant. So no weed. I have this fear that if I ever touch it, I will turn into a pot bellied, bald-headed forty-five year old eating pizza in his best friends' moms' basement.

I also never had any sort of tobacco before so I was actually getting slightly high (and sick) by the second bowl. Ahhh irresponsibility. Good bad times.


Yep, I'm off tomorrow. I had gotten 200 bucks from the student government but my hearing must not be what it once was since I distinctly heard three hundred at the meeting. If I were the ornery, unpleasant sort, which circumstances force me to be, I may just have to get a hold of the meeting minutes to check whether I need a cochlear implant or not.

In any case, Minneapolis promises to be a balmy 50 degrees. No crocs there. A friend tells me that St. Paul has a fun arty vibe so I'll see if I can check that out. Also, I may want to throw together a powerpoint for the presentation. Just a heads up to self.

I haven't spoken to the cousins yet and chances are, I probably wont. Somehow, stealing money from your grandmother while she is on her death bed strikes me as uber uncool. I have this tendency to basically cross people off- to decide "nah". Sometimes I even go out of my way to test their loyalty because to be honest, loyalty is in very short supply, especially loyalty without bounty. (Have you ever heard the phrase "I am invested in this relationship?" No? Good for you.) I know that's a naughty thing to do of course and I'd really rather relax and hold hands across the globe while singing kumbaya but usually when i get into those moods, I notice a pickpocket in the middle of the kumbaya circle.