Six months later (42 years today), he’d be dead. I miss you, Dad.
When you’re a couple for a long time, there are certain stories you tell again and again. There are aspects of each other you always tell people about. This is one she tells about me.
It was Christmas, 1987. I had just started a relationship with a woman whose folks lived in San Jose, while we both lived in LA. She’d gone up to celebrate Christmas with her folks and I, in a buzzy fit of romanticism, followed.
On Christmas Day, we decided to take the drive along Route 9 from Campbell to Santa Cruz. Sure, it was the “long” way, but it’s a cute drive, running through the forest. We talked endlessly in the car, and she pointed out places she’d been to with her parents.
It gets to be dinner time, and she says, “I think I’m getting hungry.” And I say, “Hang on, I think I just saw a place.” I pull a U-turn, and go up the driveway to what was then the Tyrolean Inn & Cottages. Whereupon we find, there among the trees, that the main house was serving a Christmas dinner, which included duck à l’orange and venison.
On Christmas Day.
In the middle of the forest.
We’ve been together 25 years now — married for 21 of them — and have spent a lot of time as a couple finding unexpectedly good food in hidden places throughout the US and Europe.
But that was the first time, and it set the pattern.
“Hang on, I think I just saw a place.”
If this SEC document can be relied on, and this page at Google Finance, my second cousin Will Glaser made $4.8 million in cash today when Pandora went public, and has about $47 million worth of shares outstanding. Mazeltov!
Pandora’s main idea — playing music you like — relies on the Music Genome Project, which Will and Tim Westergren developed in late 1999, and for which were issued US Patent 7,003,515. Wikipedia has an article about it.
Our common ancestors are our great-grandparents Edward Thompson and Ruby Alice Side. Will’s mother, Bonnie, edited Ruby’s journals and had them published as Ruby: An Ordinary Woman. Another cousin, Vicki, is blogging Ruby’s unpublished World War II journals.
Kottke points to a June 1989 article by Michael Lewis, “How a Tokyo Earthquake Could Devastate Wall Street and the World Economy.”
The thing is, I recognize that article. I must’ve read it at the time. For some reason, I thought it was in The Atlantic, not Manhattan, Inc., but I remember this passage in particular:
“Moving from the buildings to their contents, consider the state of earthquake preparedness of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The TSE computer is housed in a Tokyo neighborhood that was completely destroyed in 1923. I asked a panel of four TSE officials what would happen if their computer were lost in a major earthquake. “Ha,” said the spokesman for the group, as if he had caught me flat-footed, “we have a backup computer.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Next to the main computer.”
Sure enough, as easy as it would be to store a spare copy of TSE records outside of Tokyo, there are no official records of ownership outside of that one building.”
This being 1989, 1990, or so, and Japan being very much a topic at the time, at a family get-together I related this to my uncles. Usually a contentious bunch, they scoffed at the very idea. “Do you think that would be a bad idea?”
“Would you do your backups differently?”
“Then the Japanese must have thought of the problem. This can’t possibly be true.”
I wasn’t able to remember my exact source, at the time. I’m reassured it was Lewis, who has done some remarkable work since then. (I’m currently reading and enjoying his The Big Short.)
I wonder if the TSE has moved their backups out of the building in the intervening 22 years.
I won’t be doing this at the top of the hour, but at least I’ll make it during the hour.
Anyway… I have two relatives who I know fought in The Great War.
Up there is my paternal grandfather, Harold Bruce O’Brien. Written on the original photo is: “Harry O’Brien in Phillipines, 1915.”
Which raises an interesting point. See, I have two extant birthdays for Harry. One is from his later records at the Boston PD, for whom he worked for decades after The War. That’s Dec 4, 1896, which would make him 18, perhaps 19 in this picture. But then there’s this record, which purports to be a copy of a birth certificate, which states him as having been born Harry Raymond O’Brien, on Dec 4, 1899. Which would make him 15, perhaps 16, in this picture.
I suspect Harry changed his name and birthday to get into the Army, and then stuck with it the rest of his life.
The other relative is my maternal great-grandfather, Addison Bright Evans. He joined the Canadian Army — Service Battalion, CDF, 48th Highlanders.
He joined on August 5, 1917. Which is strange in a bunch of ways. He was naturalized as a US citizen on July 5, 1917. The US entered the war April 6, 1917. So… was he waiting for his naturalization papers to clear? Why did he join in Canada? Why did he give his birthplace as Canada when up until then he’d been saying England, which he’d also say later?
Hey… Who’s asking, you know?
My family. Obviously I come by it honestly, from both sides.
As my great-grandmother Ruby Side Thompson once said, “This is my twentieth beginning of a journal. All the other beginnings are in limbo.”
Then she kept one for 50+ years. Go figure.
We’ll see how it goes.
I was looking at Slate, and saw an article on “Sweden’s bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve.” I turned to akirlu and said, “Is this real?”
“Surely you’ve heard me talk about how Swedish television only ran cartoons once a year when I was a kid.”
“Kalle Anka was that program. So yes.”
Such is the world we live in that I then went out among the torrents and found a downloadable copy from 2006. 30 minutes of downloading and a burned CD later, and we’ve been able to watch Swedish-dubbed Disney cartoons for Christmas, in the fine Swedish tradition. Which means Ulrika has been able to watch cartoons the right way for the first time since childhood.
Dorothy Barclay, known to her family as Dot, was born March 12, 1918, also in New York, to George Barclay and the former Edith Roblin. George was a longtime writer for the Business section of The New York Times; Edith, a music teacher. Dot had one older sister, Charlotte Barclay, who died in 1998.
Dot attended New York City schools, and moved with her family to Florida in 1931 when her father left The Times. She went to high school in Miami, and graduated from Florida State University in 1938. While at Florida State, she was named Managing Editor of the student newspaper, The Florida Flambeau, for the 1937-38 academic year.
After work on other Florida newspapers, she joined the women’s news department of The New York Times in 1942. In 1949, she was made Parent and Child Editor of The Times. She had at least two syndicated features during the 1950s, “Shopper’s Corner” and “In the Family,” which ran as far afield as Bingen, WA and Kendrick, ID.
She married my grandfather, Stephen G. Thompson, in 1950. The article in The Times which announced this ran on July 2, and was headlined, “Miss Barclay Married” — as if regular readers of The Times would instantly recognize who “Miss Barclay” was. My grandfather was Realty Editor of The New York Herald-Tribune at the time, so one could say it was a mixed marriage.
At roughly this time, Dot served as a member of the Home Economics Council of the Board of Regents, University of the State of New York.
In 1964 she was given an Honorary Doctorate by her alma mater, Florida State.
The “Guide to Job Placement of the Mentally Restored,” a 41 page booklet written by Dot and published by The President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, was published in 1965.
In 1965 my grandfather became VP for Public Relations at the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, which is based in Chicago. Dot left The Times and turned freelance, with writing credits in glossies such as Vogue. After he died in 1973, Dot returned to NY, living at the Barbizon Hotel.
She continues to be cited up to the present day. A search on “dorothy barclay” “new york times” on Google Scholar yields five pages of results, primarily because many researchers looking into contemporary accounts of 1950s attitudes on parenting and children consult The Times, and run squarely across her work.
She died of complications due to pneumonia. She is survived by her seven stepchildren and their own many children, myself among them.
OK, that’s the official-ish obit.
My own memories:
* I had gone with my parents, who were high school teachers, to Expo 67 on a large multi-day field trip the school had arranged. In the summer of 1968 we went back, and the fair had wound down to only the limited exhibition, “Man and His World.” Dad didn’t think too much of that, and with the summer before us, he decided to take us car camping on a circle route around the Great Lakes. One highlight of that trip was visiting Grandpa and Dot at their apartment in Chicago, which was near Lake Michigan between the John Hancock Center and Lincoln Park. I remember being able to walk north to the park, across Lake Shore Dr to the beach, etc.
* During those years in Chicago, Grandpa and Dot traveled a lot, to places like the Alaska Panhandle and Moscow. Here you see a whale tooth carving Dot brought me from one of those trips. I remember a lot of pictures of them on Red Square, in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, etc.
* It must’ve been 1971 that Grandpa arranged to fly my mother and me out to California for Christmas. Even though I knew something was in the works, Mom had managed to keep our destination from me, mostly by use of Poe’s “Purloined Letter” technique: She told me we were going to California. Dad had just died and I knew things were tight, so this was obvious nonsense. When we got off the plane at SFO, Grandpa and Dot were there to meet us. There used to be a picture, taken in black and white, of a small me looking at the photographer mouth agape, because while I may have recognized them that part had been kept as a surprise.
* Dot was always supportive of my efforts at writing, both poetry and prose. There was something I wrote about my uncle Paul’s wedding, “Camouflage Pants,” that she thought was particularly successful.
I miss her a lot, and am very regretful I squandered my chances to talk to her more often.
UPDATED TO ADD: Turns out Dot knew Saint-Exupéry. From Saint-Exupéry: a biography by Stacy Schiff: “Barclay had earned Saint-Exupéry’s gratitude for having researched a question crucial to him in the writing of the book: How many stars were in the sky?” Dot called the Hayden Planetarium on his behalf.
Schiff includes in the book a photo of the inscription Saint-Exupéry made in Dot’s copy of Le Petit Prince:
The Prince says, in a balloon, “Il faut etre absolument fou pour avoir choisi cette planete-la! Elle n’est sympathique que la nuit, quand les habitants dorment.” (“You have to be absolutely crazy to have chosen that planet! It is nice at night when people are asleep.”)
Beneath the Prince it says, “Le Petit Prince avait tort. Il y a sur la terre des habitants dont la droiture, la gentillesse, la generosite de coeur consolent de l’avarice et de l’egoisme des autres. Par exemple Dorothy Barclay … Avec mon plus amical souvenir, Antoine de Saint Exupéry” (“The Little Prince was wrong. It is the land of people who have honesty, kindness, generosity of heart, and console one from the avarice and selfishness of others. For example, Dorothy Barclay … With my most friendly remembrance, Antoine de Saint Exupéry”)
Or so it says on the back of the photo. This is one of the pics I brought back home from my visit with my cousin Jarda, back in January.
That’s my half-sister. We’ve never met (to my knowledge). I still think she’s a cutie here, though.
Dad married his first wife, Jean, in May 1954 (per a note on the back of one photo). They had three children: John Francis O’Brien, Jr., Donald Muldowney O’Brien, and Elizabeth Susan O’Brien. Aka, Johnnie, Donnie, and Suzy.
I’m still working on tagging everything, but I’ve now scanned in all the physical photos Jarda was kind enough to let me have. They’re all in my “Family” set. In addition to the first time I’ve seen my half-sibs and their mother, they include a picture of my uncle Harold (whom I also don’t remember having ever seen), my grandfather Harry, my great-grandfather John, aunt Jaye, mom, dad, and from my mother’s side my uncle George and grandma Doris.
I also have digital pictures I took of many things Jarda kept. Those will be coming later.
All in all, quite the haul. Thank you, Jarda. I’m very grateful for your kindness, and also that Jaye was such a pack rat.
Back in 2001, I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Boston Police Department, asking for the personnel file of my grandfather. There was lots of material there from the course of his 37 year career as a patrolman, but one of the standouts was this.
This is the only image of my paternal grandfather, Harold Bruce O’Brien, that I have. What’s interesting to me is that the face doesn’t look too much like my Dad to me, but the profile really does.
Some of you who know me really well will realize that I’m my grandfather’s namesake.
Grandpa was born in 1896 in Roxbury, Mass. He was in the Army during WWI, from 1915 to 1919. Family legend has it that his unit marched from Vladivostok to Berlin during the Russian Revolution and Civil War. This was met with mild skepticism, until Mom one day ran into an elderly man while working in the Big Bear Lake, Calif. library, asking for a book on the Russian Revolution because, you guessed it, he’d marched from Vladivostok to Berlin. She asked if he’d known Grandpa. “Harry? You’re his daughter-in-law? Oh my god!” (The man in question was of the Barton family, for whom Barton Flats in the San Bernardino Mountains is named.)
After the war, Grandpa was in the Manila PD for two years, 1919-1921. He was known later to curse in Tagalog, Chinese, and any other language at hand.
In 2001, when we went to cluefairy_j‘s wedding in New Hampshire, we stopped off in Boston, so that, among other things, I could visit my Dad’s grave for the first time ever. (Recall that he died in 1970.) He’s buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Mattapan. When we were in the office, we asked where he was, and they dragged out this huge old ledger book. On the line giving the site of the plot, it also listed the purchaser – “Harold B. O’Brien”. While I knew, intellectually, that Grandpa and I shared a name, seeing my name as the owner of a grave site, in a record decades old, was a very spooky experience.
(Grandpa was the owner of the plot because Dad is buried with Grandma, neé Marjorie McIsaac. Oddly, I have no idea where Grandpa is buried.)