November 22, 1963: A Seventh Grader’s Loss of Innocence

  Saturday was to be the day that my Mom and I would move out of the house my family had lived in for eight of my 12 years. The large three-story home which had held within its walls a family of eight and all that that entails had grown too large.   Dad was gone and gradually the family had dispersed as families do. Now it was just me and my Mom. She had rented the bottom of a house across from the University of Detroit. She worked there managing the bookstore so the location made sense. The local Catholic school was Gesu and run by the Jesuits who also ran the University of Detroit. I had been attending school since the first grade at Precious Blood, a  middle class parish with several thousand families within its boundaries.  I was in the 7th grade when mom decided to move. … Read More…

The Fading Power of Handwriting: My Dad and Journaling in Northern Michigan

D-Day was just three months away, but my dad’s Uncle Walt was instead worrying about the folks back home, specifically his sister Laura and her husband. I didn’t know my grandparents had a rocky marriage, or that they were even separated, until I’d read this folded letter in my grandma’s shoebox. Sixty years later,  I attended the funeral of Walt and Laura’s youngest brother Jerry in Florida, I had a chance to give the letter to Walt’s children, whom I had never met.   Walt had died thirty-four years earlier and they had never seen their father’s handwriting from a young hand–smooth, and confident.  They had only known their father’s shakey hand. When they had held the letter and seen the writing, the tears began. The afternoon of my own father’s death sixteen years ago this Thursday–before I could accept that he had left me completely, I needed to sense… Read More…

Jimmy Kimmel’s Flaming Yoga Pants or Syria: What Climbs Your Firewall?

Thanks to my teenage son and a gaming site, I spent five hours last Saturday removing a virus from our computer.  “Conduit,” was a crazy search-engine device that refused to leave, breezing past my security software.  The kid had let the intruder in disguised as an update of Adobe Flash that was “required” on my computer. A good friend was startled to see a scary warning of a virus on his computer–so he clicked the large red “Remove Virus” button and thus began infecting his hard drive. With “tears in my eyes” and begging for money from a US Embassy in London,  a modern Odysseus, disguised as me, wrote to hundreds of my contacts.  Most didn’t fall for the scam but a few did write back asking for more details where to send the cashier’s check.  It started two weeks earlier as a fake Yahoo informed me that I needed… Read More…

Yom Kippur: Judaism’s All-Star Break

I don’t really consider myself a very religious person, but I do celebrate the Jewish holidays and participate as much as I can because, while I may not be religious, I frequently find myself digging spiritual concepts and spiritual philosophy, and I use Judaism, sports, film and music as avenues to tap into that vague spirituality. It could be The Muppets or Maimonides. Everything from “There is no spoon” to “Luminous beings are we” to “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Or, even baseball.  That’s why I love Judaism. I find that—perhaps more than other religions—Judaism is celebrated and practiced in so many different ways, that there’s something for everyone. Especially given the religion’s history and what its people have been through, Judaism has transformed into a variety of vehicles traveling down the same road. In my case, I’m constantly trying to find new ways to experience… Read More…

From Russia With Hate: Not Tuning-In 2014 Winter Olympics

The following was originally posted on Joe’s blog at this link. If you follow my blog you know that I rarely comment on current events and mostly am guilty of reminiscent wool gathering. I have also stated that I am not content just writing about the timeline of our marriage. But, what is going on in Russia needs to be addressed now and regularly until the Winter Games and beyond. The persecution of LGBT people in Russia is horrifyingly similar to the gradual evolution of the Jewish holocaust led by Vladimir Putin an ex-KGB thug.  He knows what he is doing. Find a group of already disenfranchised people and make them the enemy. It starts slowly. Rights are incrementally removed. In this case they are using the old favorite of our own anti gay crowd. ” We must protect the children.” Who will protect the gay children? You are going… Read More…

Death of a Whistleblower: Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Edward Snowden and Jerry Buckley

*Updated on 3/24/14 with video of hotel implosion courtesy of Laurie Rutzel Lessard. 50,000 people is a considerable crowd at a ballpark, but a graveside service is pretty remarkable–particularly in a thunderstorm. Two recent news events have merged for me to remember the 1930 Detroit gangland assassination of a man with a questionable past that was compared to half of Mount Rushmore’s occupants… Quite a quote from the one-year anniversary memorial service on Belle Isle honoring a martyred radio announcer–even elaborated upon by none other than  Fr. Caughlin, the controversial radio-priest who would soon be baiting FDR after his New Deal proposals started taking root when President Hoover did not win re-election in another 18 months. For Detroit, it was not the first in a long series of black-eyes celebrated most recently in last week’s Time, which made our city the “Or Else” for even Chinese concerns. We’re the ugly… Read More…

Duck and Cover: Educational Fallout Shelters for a Sputnik Moment

I’d only been through this doorway a few hundred times in my life–and never noticed it.  There, on the top left. I certainly hadn’t noticed that there was a faded “capacity” circle.  I wonder who had to enforce that one? And who knew that the Department of Defense, while protecting us from Cold War nuclear fallout, was also eagerly pursuing copyright infringing pranksters who would try to divert the unknowing to faux-shelters? In 1958, Kimball High School became the second high school in Royal Oak.  It was the height of modern architecture, rebelling against all that was pleasant and pleasing to the eye.  It was a time of practicality; no one had time for cornices, trim or even placing the pretty side of the building outward. A year before, the unthinkable happened.  We dropped out of first. “Are you glad, mad, sad or afraid?” a psychologist once asked me.  “Because… Read More…

ID Those Old Snapshots! The Orson Starr House and “Lots of Love, Lois”

You don’t meet that many women named Lois–perhaps Superman was kryptonite to that name after the 1940s.  But today I met one and was immediately reminded of another–someone I’d never met but I’m sure I’d like her. As a family historian, I’ve always been grateful to the long-gone folks who took 30 seconds to identify people on the backs of their snapshots.  In the large shoebox of Brownie pictures I inherited from my grandmother, most with no notations (since it was obvious to her who they were!) I enjoy this note the most. 89 years ago, Lois even took the time to double-over the ink to be sure it came through clearly.  She seems fun and perhaps a bit scattered–not everyone’s slashes go in two directions and not all dates have a period, but the flip side of the picture seems to bear out my armchair pschoanalysis… A middle of leaf-covered yard is… Read More…

Building a Mansion to Last Forever–or at least 8 years

This oddball-house that was torn down forty years ago keeps popping up–two years ago in a box of china and yesterday in an e-mail. The certain things in life that Benjamin Franklin mentions, death and taxes, can also include another item–that certainty is anything but certain.   In 1923 my great-grandfather Henry Kelly moved his law firm and large family to Detroit from Ottawa, Illinois where his Irish immigrant grandfather James had settled after helping build the Erie and Illinois canal systems as a mason.   James had left Ireland with a conviction that he was going to the right place with the right job.  His son, Martin, decided to become a farmer.  At the risk of invoking Gone With the Wind’s Gerald O’Hara, “Why land’s the only thing that matters.  The only thing that lasts.”  For Martin, the chance to finally own land and not be a tenant like his… Read More…