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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 43,731

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Two weeks ago, I took a Genealogical Tour

I returned to middle Pennsylvania, where my father's side of the family started their American journey.

Both grandparents were Lithuanian Jews. They settled in Dubois and Altoona.

Dubois. I first spent hours in the public library, furiously reviewing the city's Directories, starting at 1918. I tracked the five residences that my grandfather lived in until 1933 and the store he ran. Then I got in my car with my GPS and went to each site in chronological order. Many buildings (homes and businesses) were constructed more than a century ago. I walked up and down sidewalks and took photos, imagining that my grandparents and their family looked at the same things. Even the sidewalks.

Altoona. After years of locating my great grandparents (3 out of 4) on http://www.findagrave, I went to their cemetery to pay respects to them. My literal ancestors. They were buried in the same area. (How convenient). The only things that prevented me from staying longer was the area was on a very very steep hill. (Think 45 degrees.) And it was 88 degrees. And of course, I had no idea of their location. Maybe 900 gravestones on a steep hill. One wrong move and I would have tumbled badly. And I had to go to the ends of each row as the gravestones were maybe one inch apart. But there they were. And I found their siblings and some of their children.

Again, hours in the public library, reviewing Altoona directories that went back to 1893. Car and GPS. I went to their homes and gazed and dreamed. One great uncle was a big deal downtown. He had a grand department store, across the street from the Post Office. It's now an art gallery.

Vintondale. Where my uncle was born. Only later did I realize that I was there the day before his 110th birthday. The town has maybe 300+ residents. And it looks abandoned. I read that FDR's uncle (Sarah Delano's brother) founded this woeful place. I didn't see a single business.

I'm home now. I had to go. I had to look. I had to know.
Posted by no_hypocrisy | Tue Sep 5, 2023, 06:34 AM (4 replies)

I finally shared a secret that has been a burden for more than 30 years.

My father and I weren't especially close, but for some inexplicable reason, he decided to share a secret with me and made me swear never to tell anyone. And I promised with sincerity.

In the small city in central Pennsylvania where he grew up, was a childhood friend. They kept in touch and my father always looked him up when he came to visit. His friend became a successful physician/surgeon.

Around 1985, his friend returned to his home and found his (second) wife murdered, brutally shot. And the secret was this friend's son from his first marriage had killed her. And I shouldn't tell anyone. (Not that I knew anyone who would have the most remote connection . . . . )

So, last week, I was "in town" while doing genealogical research. I couldn't remember the name of my father's friend. Fortunately, I recognized it in the front of one of the city's directories.

And while walking around the city's business district, I made a decision. I made an impromptu, cold call to the Police. I mean, what the hell. My father was dead. The friend was dead. It might be a cold case. And I had information.

I was warmly received by a detective. I showed him my identification and a copy of a 1922 City Directory to show my connection to the City and my relevance. I told him the second-tier hearsay that my father told me.

To my relief, the detective knew all about my narrative. He even filled in the blanks. Turns out the son drove to the woods of another town where he shot himself. The police have a video of the investigating officer going through the house after the murder.

The case was decidedly closed. And I felt much better, having the opportunity to unburden myself of this information.

A comparison of Trump supporters being reluctant to give up on him.

Until August 31, 2001, there was a very progressive and independent radio station in NYC whose airwaves reached NJ and CT, WEVD. WEVD was created in memory of socialist Eugene V. Debs, hence the acronym.

The last few years of its existence, the first show of Mon to Fri was Bill Mazer, starting at 5:00 until 9:00 a.m. Yup, that Bill Mazer, the former sports broadcaster of Channel 5, WNEW. He had a great show with "amazing" interviews with journalists (Sidney Zion, Lars Erik Nelson, Wayne Barrett), local/regional/state/federal officeholders, and celebrities. And Mazer and his producer really did their homework: penetrating questions with follow-ups.

However, there were two subjects that Bill Mazer doggedly supported no matter how you challenged him: Israel . . . and Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of NYC at the time. Mazer admitted part of his loyalty, perhaps devotion, to Giuliani was connected to Mazer's late wife, "Dutch" (Dora).

Dutch worked at City Hall with Giuliani, and tragically died while serving. Giuliani apparently made quite the eulogy for which Mazer was eternally grateful.

So, there were many controversies during Giuliani's tenure and Mazer glanced at them but stayed away from even the hint of condemnation. The listener of his program got the feeling that Mazer was personally disappointed, but yet reluctant to say anything on record that criticized Giuliani.

So, my point: Perhaps (just perhaps) there is a good chunk of Trump supporters who are like Bill Mazer. Minimally offended, disappointed that their hero is a fake, but remain devoted because of the past good feelings he gave them. They owe him.

As an aside, if Bill Mazer were still alive, I wonder how devoted he would be to Giuliani, considering all his shenanigans with Trump and the Insurrection -- and condemning Jews solely due to his misconception of the size of (or lack thereof) their non-gentile penises.

Consider this:

You're a student (white, African-American, Asian, etc.) in a middle school in Florida. The "new standards" for the curriculum in history are now applied. Your teacher, your textbook, classroom discussion not only suppress the truth about American slavery, but also extol the virtues of this institution.

You protest in classroom. You tell the class it's a lie and attempt to override the discussion with what you already know. Result: You get sent to the Principal's Office. Maybe suspended for disrupting the class.

Or you're actually given a written test on these "facts." You give answers that accurately reflect what actually happened. The history teacher marks your answers as wrong. Maybe you fail the test while students who regurgitate the contents of the lesson pass, perhaps get "A's".

Maybe you go on to college. You're in an American History class. The discussion is about American slavery. You're the only one in class who's insisting that slavery was good for both slave owners and slaves. Perhaps it should be restored. The rest of your class jumps on you with facts. Wonder what your final grade's going to be.

It's more than promulgating ignorance. It's punishment for knowing the truth.


Better late than never.

I had a revelation last week-end: my sister is a narcissist, possibly a malignant narcissist.

I don't know how I've missed this. 64 years and in front of me and I didn't make the connection.

Both our parents were narcissists. My therapist opined that my stories reflected that our parents were narcissists.

I started watching a variety of youtubes about narcissists and I was practically yelling and pointing at the screen.

This is what the precipitating event was: My sister was irrationally enraged (again). She had planned to have our brother and me join her at her home in the Hamptons for her birthday. But it was more than her birthday. We haven't been together since the Thanksgiving the same year our father passed, nine years. Plus it's about the time our mother passed 20 years ago. So the get-together was significant. My sister insisted that I demand that our cousin who posted on my FB post (my page) delete his post. His post said in essence our family was dysfunctional, and it was and still is. I refused to accede to her demand, and confirmed his opinion was spot on. She then un-invited me for that week-end. And immediately called our brother, looking for support.

I stopped responding to her texts that evening, remaining detached and not engaging with her. I realized that I just had had enough. The AA thing of when you're sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I made a list this morning and there is a decided pattern. She's sabotaged two of my graduations. She's hyped up my parents who then turned on me. I was literally routed out of my childhood home on my 30th birthday, celebrating the same.

Oh, there's more.

She's left me a voicemail, "apologizing," but it's not really an apology as she believes she did the right thing.

When you choose peace, it comes with a lot of goodbyes.

I don't need this. I never did.

There's a strong chance that for my own peace, I don't have further contact with her. I can't change her and she's just . . . . toxic.

OK, so the house was sold yesterday.

I'm more OK than I thought I would be.

But the day ended with my sister un-inviting me to her home for an upcoming visit with our brother. It would have been the first time we've been together since 2014, nine years.

My transgression: I'm "woke" (so to speak) concerning our dysfunctional family.

Please follow me. I posted in FB about selling my childhood home yesterday. My loyal cousin wished me, by commenting that he hoped that I could walk away from the "malignant" family memories. My sister read it, took umbrage, and demanded that I tell our cousin to delete it. I refused, partially because it's true and partially because I don't censor anyone who posts on my page. (BTW, it wasn't a public page, just my FB friends.) And she un-invited me and called our brother to tell him.

OK, I didn't lose sleep over it, but it wasn't the ideal way to end yesterday under the circumstances.

My sister is a bit of a narcissist* and can only see how I've besmirched the family's reputation, IOW, keeping up an illusion. The parents are dead; nobody cares that we're not a perfect family.

She thinks she's hurting me. I'm not engaging with her.

* This is the same person 30 years ago, who insisted that I go to an appointment for a fitting for a bridesmaid dress on the day before my last exam for law school. I refused and told her why. She got on the horn to our father, who in turn called me to yell at me for saying "no" to the dress fitting. Which made no sense as graduating law school was not a given and you'd think he'd want to see his investment paid off. I took the exam, graduated, had the fitting, etc. The same person also was morose at my graduation from law school until the family focused on her and her wedding (in five months). This is a trivial story compared to what I could tell you.

He had self-hatred as an African American man.

That's what racism does.

And to "succeed" by his terms, he had to be accepted by rich white men.

My father was Jewish and had similar sentiments. All he wanted to become was a country club, rich WASP.

Just popped a lemon-flavored L-Theanine tab.


Wednesday is the date of closing.

Selling the family house.

Was conceived in it. Brought home from the hospital to live in it.

Childhood joys and traumas. Moved out 40 years ago.

Father and two dogs died in it.

No evidence inside to show my family and I lived there.

No, can't keep it. 14 rooms and a basement and an attic. Just me with no family. Plus, too many "ghosts" and memories.

Getting the right price, but that's no consolation.

As of Wednesday morning, I can no longer walk onto the property.

The cord will have been cut.

THIS is how you negotiate with bare knuckles:

Indulge me, please. This is a true, personal story.

In 1989, I was stymied insofar as my life, my job. I had been working in my father's doctor's office for nearly 15 years as a file clerk where I also developed x-rays and took electrocardiograms. I knew I was smart and could do more.

So I decided to apply to law school. I attained acceptable scores for my LSATS. I was accepted into a nearby law school.

And I was poor enough to be eligible for a scholarship. But my father explicitly told me not to get the scholarship, that he'd pay for my three years' tuition. (I would continue to pay for my rent, my necessities, my vehicle, etc.) Back in the day, each year was $11,000.

So, three weeks before law school orientation, just when I was getting ready to leave the doctor's office, this happened: another employee was creating controversy because she spent a majority of her time at the office on the phone, arranging for her son's bar mitzvah. And words were spoken and the office split into two camps, pro and con. I wanted to stay out of it, but I did sympathize with those who complained that this woman was getting paid for services not rendered while others picked up her work.

My father inadvertently got involved as this woman had a nurse as her "protector". And this protector told my father that if his medical partner fired this worker, she'd quit and nobody would be available to process insurance and Medicare billing. My father panicked and wasn't thinking rationally.

Instead of settling this internally, he went after me. I was the reason his medical practice was about to fall apart. (I know, I know. He could have let both go and hired two new employees. But that's LOGIC.)

That could have been the end of it, but it wasn't.

My father demanded (not invited, not insisted) that I meet him for dinner one Friday after work. Just him. I tried to get out of it because I kind of knew there was going to be a showdown -- publicly. And I wanted no part of it.

But with the tuition not having been paid yet, I showed up at the restaurant. Dad was in one of the foulest moods I had ever seen. Everything seemed to piss him off. Example: He ordered broiled shrimp with lime sauce and then bitched about it being "Fairy Food".

Finally, he got around to the primary purpose of hauling my ass to dinner. Mind you, I was 32 years old, not a kid. He started out with a narrative about this debacle with the lazy/idle worker (with whom he had an inexplicable dedication). She was crushed that all the office was against her (except for her "protector" ) and was ready to quit. But the "protector" was ready to follow her out the door. And because both were certain to leave (bluffing), he'd be forced to unexpectedly retire early. And that meant almost immediately. (Bluffing again) And that meant he wouldn't have the revenue to pay for my law school . . . . .

Having the requisite skills of extrapolation, I figured out quickly that he was threatening me financially. I had relied on him to pay and had not applied for a scholarship. And plus, I had no employment. He knew that. And he threw this at me at a public restaurant where raw emotions could not be readily displayed.

He sat there, smug, with "How'd you like THEM apples?" hanging in the air.

Reminder: This was MY FATHER. My father!!

And this was all bullshit. And on the surface, it looked that all my work to get into law school was for naught. Gone.

Thinking quickly, assessing correctly, I responded. I took a deliberate sip of red wine, swallowed slowly, kept my eyes locked on him, and leaned back in my chair. And I simply stated, "Well, I guess that's entirely up to you . . . . "

My punch landed on his chin. He looked stunned. He was hoping for histrionics and a good scene where I'd break into tears and beg for the money. He didn't get it. All he could do was sputter, "Damned right . . . . "

Having shot his wad, there was no reason to stay much longer. I excused myself, left the restaurant, got in my car, drove home -- and promptly downed two consecutive shots of bourbon.

Epilogue: I told my mother what happened and she was shocked. I waited in silence. About three days before my orientation was about to start, my father called me and told me to pick up his check for tuition.

It was all a bluff.

My takeaway is that this was a horrible thing to do, but what happened was entirely up to me. I could have caved, but I didn't. And let's say he DID NOT give me the tuition money. I was ready to find another job and apply for a scholarship and re-apply to law school. My father would not determine my future.

And my father tried and succeeded with a similar MO when he died: He owned 50% of a house/property of which I owned the other 50%. Instead of leaving me his half, he "gave" me a "life estate" with the future ownership going to four (yes, four!) charities.

I'm about to sell this house. The four charities get half of the sales proceeds. Up to now, I have solely carried the expenses, which have been massive.

My point: You don't negotiate with people who essentially want to harm you. You hold your position. You can try to talk to them, but don't expect anything meaningful.

Sometimes you have to trust your integrity.

This "town hall" with Kaitlan Collins, and subsequent "critique" by Anderson Cooper reminds me of my first years as a practicing attorney.

I was good at "traffic law," like speeding, red lights, careless driving, etc. I got hired by a city firm that sent their attorneys all over the region to various municipal courts for traffic violations. Guaranteed work, good exposure with prosecutors and judges, more experience.

One case "smelled" and the information packet seemed rather useless if I was going to cut a deal (plea bargain) with the prosecutor, the cop, and the court. I asked for the client's violation history with the DMV, several times actually. I was refused and told I didn't need it. I knew better from personal experience and yet, I went to court.

I met my client for the first time and my radar went up. I asked him when was the last time he got a ticket(s) and what was it for. He swore no tickets/convictions except for a minor situation six months ago.

So, we go up before the judge. The prosecutor didn't want to discuss merging any of the three tickets and perhaps downgrading the third. I'm telling the judge that my client didn't have any violations save for that one he revealed to me. The prosecutor asked for a quick adjournment and called me over. He showed me a three-page traffic rap sheet for my client. It went back five years and was just awful. I would have known about this had my employer given me the requested history and my client had lied to me. I was now on the record having lied to the Court. Not my fault, but still, not good.

Needless to say, my client and I didn't do well in court that day.

I immediately drove back to "the office," where I literally yelled at my employer and told him that he put me in a dangerous situation of lying to the Court, That he made me look like a fool, that I couldn't show my face in that courtroom for at least a decade, and that I quit.

My point: Maybe Christopher Licht made the singular or combined jobs of Kaitlin Collins and/or Anderson Cooper a pure horror a few nights ago. In any case, both their credibility and professionalism as journalists are now in question. I can't believe each one performed that badly by their own initiative.

They both likely have binding contracts. If I were either, I would have run with my contract to my attorney to find an "out clause" that would have allowed him/her/them to quit CNN for the sake of integrity, protection of their reputations, if not for the sake of the tradition of journalism.

I quit, never looked back, and gone forward with representing clients who can't afford Justice.

It can be done.
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