Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Bucketed List

Yes, 'Bucketed', not Bucket.
As with most creative endeavors, I got this idea from one of my children. Instead of going on and on with a list of what I haven't done, let's list the things that I have done that I'm glad I did. The list of things I've done that I'm not glad I did would be way too long. So I searched my rapidly declining memory for those things that were worthy of being on such a list. I apologize in advance to those events I've forgotten or underplayed, but I had to limit the list to the top forty.

Top Forty Bucketed List Items

1. I have been married to my first wife, Deb, a very tolerant woman, for forty-one years.

2. I have seen my children grow up into beautiful, decent, respectable and successful adults.

3. I have looked into the eyes of my grandchildren and I liked what I saw.

4. I have traced each of my four major genealogy lines back at least five generations, in some cases much more.

5. I have stood at the graves of my father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather.

6. I have used my bizarre and twisted humor in creative and sometimes even positive ways.

7. I have discovered that my immense flaws are also my greatest assets.

8. I have slept on the fantail of a Destroyer under a sky so filled with stars you would imagine you could read by their light.

9. I have communicated with Kleyleins all around the world although for years I believed my family was the only ones.

10. I have walked around
Stonehenge and stood on the moors in the wind and rain.

11. I have dipped my hand into the Mediterranean Sea.

12. I did not fall into a life of crime unless you call management a crime - which is kind of a gray area.

13. I have retained many of my teeth long after my parents had lost most of theirs.

14. I have walked in the Parthenon.

15. I have visited Unterrodach, the town in Bavaria where all the Kleyleins come from.

16. I have walked the same stones in Ephesus where Anthony and Cleopatra walked and John the Baptist preached.

17. I graduated from college. This is noted because there is no record of anyone in my family doing so before me. I've seen my daughters graduate as well.

18. I have spent time doing basic electrical work, mechanical work, carpentry, concrete work, roofing and most other such trades.

19. I have walked on the Great Wall of China.

20. I have climbed trees, dug holes and written on sidewalks with chalk.

21. I think I have a pretty good relationship with my brother, Dave. At least it's much improved from all the fighting we did as children.

22. I have been to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and most other destinations in the Caribbean.

23. I have been very, very hot and very, very cold. Sometimes even just right.

24. I have swum in the turquoise water of a motu in Bora Bora.

25. I have ridden a train between Miami, Florida and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

26. I have been on a submarine under da sea.

27. I have traveled the Chunnel several times.

28. I have been to London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Munich, Athens, Stockholm, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangalore, etc. and even Silver Lake, Minnesota.

29. I have ridden on a bullet train in China at 431 km/hour.

30. I climbed the
steps to the top of the Washington Monument and then took the elevator down just to be contrary.

31. I scanned my mother's photographs from the 1930's and 1940's, studied them, tracked down the original locations and rephotographed the scene 60 or 70 years later.

32. I have had as many as 700 people working for me.

33. I have been to the top of the Empire State Building.

34. I have a degree in Computer Science but am only a couple credits short of a second degree in Math.

35. I have been able to locate many of my long-lost high school friends by means of social networking.

36. I was able to parlay my ability to recognize patterns into a pretty good career.

37. I have seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, the Redwoods, the St. Louis Arch, the Golden Gate Bridge, Niagara Falls, the Everglades, the Black Hills, Diamond Head, the Great Salt Lake, Skyline Drive, the bayou, the forest, the desert, the plain, the swamp, the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes.

38. I have worked for a lot of different employers in a lot of different fields in a lot of different occupations.

39. I have had a number of ex-employees tell me that the best time in their careers was when we worked together. Hah!

40. I have never taken, ingested, smoked, chewed, smeared on, snorted, huffed, shot up or otherwise imbibed any illegal or illicit drug. I probably should have.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Photographic Record

We've been talking recently (well, actually, it's just been me, the gentle reader has been quiet) about photographs and their value. In my mind, I drew a comparison between the photographs my parents took of me and those my daughter Heather takes of her children. Until I was about twelve or thirteen when I got my first camera, there are maybe a few dozen photos of me. That's OK, really, so there's a few gaps of a few years each - deal with it! I should be glad there are any at all!

Here's one taken of my
Brother Dave and I when he was four and I was thirteen months.

He seems captivated by the fact I am choking the daylights out of a little clown doll. He's probably wondering if I plan to do the same to him. Yeah, you look a little scared, buddy! Pick at that grass all you want, it won't help! Hah!

You may recall I wrote a year ago about how I tracked down where these photos were taken by 'Lake' Ward. This is what that strip of grass looks like now.

There were few enough photos that I could do such tracking. Nowadays, of course, with the advent of digital (practically free) photography, Heather takes a few dozen photos of my grandchildren, Jack and Grace, EVERY HOUR OF THEIR LIVES. I can't be certain, but they may be the most photographed children EVER.

I even have photographs
of them before they were born. Here's Jack, for example, while he was still a lump. I see the family resemblance, even in this blurry ultrasound.

Boy, talk about detailing kid's lives! They will never have to wonder what they looked like when they were seven. At this point, they can know what they looked like at any given hour on any given day of their choice. And we won't even go into the videos memorizing every movement they've ever made.

With such a documented record, there's at least one part of the mystery of growing up they'll never have to suffer through.

So, here's Jack and Grace, startlingly beautiful grandchildren, thank goodness other genes were involved!

See that tiara? Oh, yeah, she's a princess!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Keener Observation

With a hundred thousand photographs at my disposal, I could probably spend a lot of time analyzing
each one of them and picking the details out for close examination. But, then, the gentle reader would get bored (as if you aren't already!) and lose interest.

So, I'll just do a couple more. But I should point out that I don't get 'bored'. There's always something to do or to think about or to plan. Are you telling me that bored people just blank out and have nothing to think about? Huh? So, if you get 'bored', your brain ceases to perform and you dissolve into a kind of mindless blob? Oh, come on!

I can go off on limitless tangents at the drop of a hat. For example, I was driving back from my brother's house a few weeks ago and while getting gas, I noticed an empty can in the trash. It was an empty can of Budwiser and Clamato. Together. In one can. That someone drank! Clamato is clam juice and tomato juice which is bad enough by itself, but all three together? Holy crap! I looked around for the hidden camera, but there was nothing in sight!

I was busy for hours thinking about this. Someone manufactured this mess and someone else drank it! After a while, I had convinced myself that I had hallucinated and that nothing such existed in this dimension.

But I checked... and it does!
Furthermore, there is a Bud Light version! Apparently it is for those discerning consumers who are concerned with their caloric intake. After all, one wouldn't wish to feel overly full after downing a six pack of beer, clam juice, tomato juice, salt and lime! It's my guess they added the salt and lime to try to cover up the actual taste of the $#!+ they just choked out of that can. They probably had to hold a gun on the can to keep it from retching while they inflicted that hash of debris into it's unsuspecting gullet. Can abuse!

But how could anyone be bored while there are things like this to think about?

So, let's look
at some photographs. Here's a photograph of my grandfather Roman Pawlak. He's about 50 years old here in 1930. Roman was a farmer all his life in Silver Lake, Minnesota and later Somerset, Wisconsin and he had diary cows right up to when he died at age 85.

There's something about how he's looking at us that makes me think this may have been a mug shot. He's got that hat at such a rakish angle and that's not so much a smile as a smirk. If Silver Lake had a bar, they probably knew him there, maybe they called his name out when he walked in: ROMAN! 'Oh, good, Roman's here, now we'll have a good time.'

He was the third of twelve children born to John Pawlak and Branislawa Lewandowski. The children were known in the area as the dirty dozen. I haven't found out why, yet, and I get a little chill when I think about it. I'm sure it was completely harmless. !!!

He married Wanda Marie Pokornoski, daughter of John Pokornoski (sometimes spelled Pokornowski) and Pelagia Kautz. Here's Wanda, fourth from the left on the top row in 1902 when she was fifteen.

I feel compelled to name the rest of the family, I think it's because the girls are all wearing the same blouse. I'd love to hear that story!

Top Row: Rose 20, Elizabeth 18, Helen 17, Wanda 15, Tekla 13.

Bottom Row: Joseph 8, John 46, Natalie 3,
Katarzyna Peizynski 74 - mother of Pelagia, Pelagia 5, Pelagia Kautz 38, Anton 11.

This was an amazingly regular production of children 20, 18, 17, 15, 13, 11, 8, 5 and 3. And when they were done, they decided to take a photograph and I'm so glad they did, because here they all are! And I have proof that my grandmother was very pretty and doesn't look a bit bored. Mom, Dad, Grandma and ten children... no boring allowed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


In my last post, I droned on
for a while about how much genealogical data can be gleaned (I love that word) from photographs. And while I was thinking about that, certain photos popped into my head, so I thought I'd better document them before they pop right back out again. That happens with astonishing regularity lately. Something (an image, an invention, a lucrative business venture, my first telephone number, etc.) is right there fully formed and then POOF, it's outta there. Perhaps my synapses are all rusted and clogged up, I understand gin is like WD-40 for your brain. I'm experimenting with that now, so I'll report back when I have viable data.

Wrestling myself back on topic, there's a photo down below of my father, Leon Kleylein and his younger brother Stanford Kleylein who I knew as Uncle Tanny. They're standing on the marble steps of a Baltimore rowhouse in 1909. In those days, the condition of your marble steps was a direct indicator of the quality and status of your household. Whole families would be out front every morning scrubbing them down with a scrub brush until they gleamed in the sun.

The first question I have about this photo is, 'What the hell are they wearing?' Your question was probably about the haircuts, but we'll get to that in a minute. Whatever these things are I don't recognize them. They appear to be one-sies made out of either linen or sackcloth with a built-in belt that has one button. ??? I wonder if this was a popular fashion of the day. Is this what Dagwood Bumstead wore when he was a child?

How do you get into the thing, is the whole back open like a hospital gown? If you double click on the image, it will resolve larger for you and you can see Uncle Tanny's kerfloggit seems to be coming apart in the back. That would have been dangerous in Baltimore even a hundred years ago.

And why are my father's sleeves so short? Did he have to wear it for five years? Was it made of canvas, then? If you look carefully, it appears the bottom part of my father's kerfloggit is wet! Was he stamping barefoot in the open sewers of Baltimore? Or perhaps he just finished scrubbing those marble steps. There are no shoes in sight, so I'm hoping is was summer, but you never know.

Perhaps he wasn't wearing shoes because of what they did to his feet. Man, those toes look like they hurt. A lot. But you can see he was applying a lot of pressure on Uncle Tanny to keep him from floating away. Shoes would have anchored him down a little.

The other interesting tidbit was that my father was wearing a gold (?) ring on the middle finger of his left hand. What's up with that? Is he engaged already?

Which brings us to the hair. It looks a bit like something Moe Howard wore but with a cut out in the front. Ahh, this was my clue. During this era, there was a popular cartoon character named Buster Brown, shown here with his dog Tiege, who went on to shill kids shoes (and apparently cigars).

Buster became so
popular, parents began dressing their children like him and having their hair cut similarly. So, my guess is that that this kerfloggit is a cheap Buster Brown knockoff and the haircut is an at-home, soup-bowl BB cut.

That still doesn't explain who he's engaged to, however. I wonder if my Mom ever knew.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snapshots From the Brink

All this yammering about airport security scans has reminded me how much we owe to the art and science of photography.

Thank GOODNESS for
photography! It is an historical record, a proof statement of what actually happened or what something or someone actually looked like. How would we know if an artist had filtered the image of their subject? 'Improved' it, perhaps, or altered reality to better suit the artist's sensibility. But with a photograph... there's the photograph, there it is, look at it! It will tell you a story if you know which questions to ask. And beside the historical and scientific uses, a good photo is a genealogist's treasure! Tips and leads can pop out of every corner.

Remarkably, photography has been around less that 200 years. Imagine if there were honest-to-goodness images of (insert chosen historical character here). I had always pictured (whomever) as blonde, or taller, or more dignified. Why, such facts could change the course of history. But that is not to be because the earliest known photograph is an eight hour exposure out the window of the Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. It may not be stirring, but that's what it looked like in 1826. Napoleon had only been dead for five years. Thomas Jefferson was still alive. And Abraham Lincoln was seventeen years old!

Now, Lincoln!
Lincoln, we've got! We have lots of photos of Lincoln. You couldn't CAST a better face to emote dignity and courage and honesty and forthrightness. Stephen Spielberg has been agonizing over casting Lincoln for more than ten years and everyone had thought he had settled on Liam Neeson, but NO, it's going to be Daniel Day Lewis!

Spielberg and Long Carbine! Now there's a movie I would go to see. Bill the Butcher is already in Illinois, scoping out history on Lincoln, probably immersing himself as he always does, building himself a log cabin. I can't wait to hear his chosen accent.

That does it, I've been toying with the idea of getting a bust of Lincoln for my office, I'd better hurry up and order it before Daniel Plainview orders them all for his research. I feel close to Lincoln, he married one of my relatives. Yes, he had failings, too.

Speaking of the things you learn from genealogically-oriented photos, check out this one of me when I was three years old. There's a lot to learn here. We were living in Miami and we were 'poor', shoes were still a few years away. But beside the idiotic grin on my face, check out my hands. Are they deformed? They appear larger than my feet, were they run over by a car or something? Are they flat? Perhaps that's a grimace on my face and not a grin.

Love the 'lawn', by the way, but that's my original premise coming back to visit. The lawn (and my fingers) look the way they do in the photograph because that's the way they actually looked.

Nowadays, I suppose I could use some fancy tools and cover up that patch in my overalls (hmm, I should GET some overalls, they look pretty comfy)
or put some shoes on my feet or make my hands look normal. But, nah! I wasn't normal then and that's the way I'm staying.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Part Deux

Haven't seen me for a while, have you? Hmm? No, I've been busy for the last year or so but all that's changed now. You wanna know why? 'Cause I'm OUT, OUT, I say! Out of the work force, stepped away, locomoted out, retired, free at last, free at last!

So, this is really Part Deux. Part Two. Part II. The part of my life that comes after work. If you've been reading this silly blog, you know I've been working full time since I was sixteen. At the last job I had (SAY! I like the sound of that!) I worked for Siemens/SMS for thirty-three years. Well, chronologically anyway, because if you count overtime, I worked there for forty-five work-years at least. There were some years that I worked a year and half, easy.

But that's what we did in those days, I really liked doing my job, it was satisfying and I felt as if I was doing something that mattered. My last job was running a great big data center that served about a thousand hospitals taking care of their data processing needs. I really hope I left the Information Systems Center in a better condition than when I found it. And sure, doing that job felt good, but it feels a lot better now!

So, as of the end of October, the stress began to fall away from my shoulders very much like the autumn leaves are falling from the trees outside. Not all at once, but gradually, gracefully.

Hopefully, once this process is completed, it won't leave a barren, dead, empty stump behind (you maybe guessed I'm not a Fall person) but instead will reveal something nice that was being hidden underneath. Much like what happens when you have a full body scan at your friendly, neighborhood airport nowadays.

Perhaps a normal person is under there somewhere, lurking. Frankly, I wouldn't count on it. By the way, you can invert those body scan images (create a 'negative') and they become quite lifelike. So we can get irradiated AND have the last vestiges of our privacy invaded in one easy step! Hmm, the 'pat-down' is sounding better all the time and I have time for it - I'm retired!