Of bicycles and archives

(and many other topics)

Leave a comment

Moving – this time without boxes

This time it’s just my blog that is moving. For several years now I have had my professional website in one location, and my blog here. I won’t bore you with the details, but I am combining the two over at http://cyclingarchivist.com. I haven’t really decided yet whether I will leave the blog up for posterity. Regardless, I have copied all the content over to the new site. I wish I could promise that there will be exciting, regular updates on the new site, but my life (at least the parts I can post on the internet) is just not that interesting. Hope you will stop by from time to time, though, to see what is there.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment


We are four days away from the opening of the 18th annual Hartford Jewish Film Festival. It is once again a great selection of films, and I hope to see many of you there. Every one of us on the film fest committee has our favorites. I have managed to narrow my list down to five full length films, and one short. Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant has written about a couple more that are also quite worthy, including 50 Children – The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus and Next Year Jerusalem.

Visit the Festival web site for information about showtimes, costs, and more complete descriptions. The links below will take you to each movie’s trailer.

Judging by the ticket sales, one that is proving very popular is The Jewish Cardinal. This is the story of Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris and the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. There are many of us in the area who are interfaith, and it raises some interesting issues. 

Interested in photography? Life in Stills is for you. There are other twists and turns, as you might imagine with a family business, but this documentary focuses on a photography store that has been in business since the beginning of the modern Jewish state. It blends art, history, city planning, and more.

Ordinarily I would not sit through a film described as a “gripping spy thriller.” But as those of us on the film fest committee screen all of the selections, I can now recommend Bethlehem. The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the focus, and the viewer gets a sense of the emotions on both sides.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are looking for something light and cheery with a happy ending, check out Cupcakes. It is a spoof on the Eurovision contest and just generally cute.

Several of the films, including Cupcakes, are preceded by shorts. There will be four opportunities to see GentleDog. I’m not saying it’s worth buying a ticket just to see the short, but if you are choosing between a film that screens with GentleDog and one that doesn’t, go with the dog.

Sometimes fiction strikes a nerve, and such was the case when Aftermath was released in Poland. It is not an easy film to watch, but the issues it raises are worth being aware of.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. See you at the theater!



Homeownership: Off with a Bang

Or at least with the results of a bang.

Though, if a radiator bursts in a house and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

On May 6, I put in a bid on a house. The next day the offer was accepted. It was a short sale (the seller owed more than the house was worth), and we knew it was going to take longer than usual because the seller’s banks (yes, plural in this case) had to approve the deal. Thirty-two weeks to the day after the offer was accepted, we closed.

The only thing short about this sale was my temper by the time we reached December. May through August was fine, all things considered. Hoping for the Luck of the ‘Gate, I originally chose August 13 as my closing date. That is when the extensions began. I’ve lost track as to how many there were. Finally, at the end of October, I got the call. We would close November 26. However, there were questions I could not answer while I was in Israel. At this point I could still handle a delay of a day or two.

What I could not handle was the next phone call, advising me that I needed to bring an additional $6000 to the closing because one of the seller’s banks was demanding cash, and who better to bring it than me? I’m not sure the word “livid” adequately describes how I felt. Of course I had an extra $6000! And of course, throwing it at a bank is so much better of an idea than repairing the roof. Why didn’t I think of this myself?

I don’t even want to recall the final week. I’m convinced we had further delays because the short sale negotiator had to attend the office Christmas party.

The day arrived, complete with a snow storm. My realtor and I went to the house for the final walk through.

There were a few more phone calls, and I received some compensation at closing for the damage. I left my attorney’s office with a set of house keys. My first official duty as a homeowner was to shovel the sidewalk.

The furnace is on and the pipes are defrosting. When the new radiators have been installed, I will move in. Eventually there will be a “The Nightmare is Over” party, to which many of you will be invited. In the meantime, I have started moving some of the essentials.

My first road bike in front of my first house!

My first road bike in front of my first house!


Israel Trip: A Look Back

I was asked to speak tonight about the trip at the Federation’s board meeting. Though I spent time considering what I would say, it didn’t quite come out how I hoped. I decided I’d give it another try here.

As I have previously mentioned, much of this trip was about making connections. Some of the connections were quite simple, a-ha moments. I knew of the Dead Sea, but reading about something like that, and actually swimming in it, are two completely different experiences. Similarly, when I was in third grade (regular school, not religious school) we did a social studies unit on kibbutzim. I recall pushing our desks together to represent the community. Certainly I knew that a kibbutz would be larger than for child-sized desks, but until I drove through kibbutzim and moshavim, I had no idea just how vast they are. I never considered that one might be on the Lebanon border and be staffed by numerous soldiers. These visits connected me with Israel, helping me to better understand why the US Jewish community actively supports it.

At the Lebanon border.

At the Lebanon border.

Much of what I have learned in the past two years about Israel, I learned from the films we have screened for the Hartford Jewish Film Festival. Our opening night film this year will be The Jewish Cardinal. It is based on the true story of a man, born Jewish, who converted to Christianity at age 14. After watching the film this fall, one aspect I did not contemplate was that there would be others like him. While listening to a speaker at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, I heard of a researcher at their archives who was born Jewish and later became a priest. This certainly isn’t a Nobel prize style discovery, but it helps me to see the bigger picture. Another film in the 2014 festival is Life in Stills. The subject of the film is the photo house opened by Rudi Weissenstein. Weissenstein was known for his photographs of the early days of Israel, including images of the signing of the Israeli declaration of independence. During my trip, I sat in the room where that happened. I know that when I watch the films again during the festival (these and many of the others that will be shown), I will have a stronger understanding of the issues presented.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.

Never before have I felt so connected to a group of people. Most of the others on the trip were strangers to me before we left West Hartford. We had such a wonderful time together and now I can truly call them my friends. Both in Israel and since we’ve been back, they have helped me learn, offered welcome advice, and even invited me to join a cycling group! These are all people I want to continue to get to know, which is a wonderful feeling.

About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.

About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.

Overall, this trip connected my past and present learning. It connected me with a country 5000 miles away, and a community in my backyard. The experience was not one I was looking for, but I am so incredibly glad I found.

1 Comment

My dear friends, some facts for you

Some things I haven’t discussed yet…

Breakfast – for family and friends who know the Wausaukee Club, breakfast was just about the same. Just missing the bacon. For the rest of you, it was a huge buffet at the hotel. Eggs, cheese, fruit, pancakes, yogurt, salads, breads, and more! Other meals were at restaurants. While there are McDonalds all around, native fast food is falafel. There has been a lot of eggplant and many salads. Yesterday we actually got hungry because we went about seven hours without eating!

Our bus – we have been riding in a very nice tour bus, with wifi, driven by a great guy named David. It did not have a restroom, so we constantly made bee lines from the bus to the rest rooms. The only other foreign country I have traveled in is Russia. The bathrooms here have been fit for royalty in comparison. Only one didn’t have toilet paper, and only one had a suggested fee (two Shekels).

Our tour guide – while on the bus, and for non-museum tours, we were led by Ron Sinai. Ron is an Israeli who knows his country like the back of his hand. Either that our he makes it up very convincingly. As we traveled, Ron always referred to us as his dear friends. He doesn’t mince words; we are quite aware of his opinions! We have also compiled a list of all the jobs he claims to have had.

Why we are here! – this is a mission trip run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. For about two thirds of us, this is our first trip. Most of the younger people were invited to participate for having completed the Federation’s Frank Stavis Leadership Forum. We are a varied group; singles, couples, and married people without their spouses. The youngest traveler is 30 and the oldest is a spry 86. One just converted a month ago, one is not Jewish and has not converted. Some are affiliated, others are not. For some, keeping kosher is a must. One of us admits to eating a turkey, cheese, and bacon sandwich while sitting at the El Al gate in New York. The purpose of the trip is to introduce us to the land of the Jewish people, encourage us to support the country, excite us to return, and continue to support Judaism in our own community.


Leave a comment

The final countdown


After our final buffet breakfast, our luggage was loaded into the bus. Before leaving Kibbutz Lavi, however we participated in a fabulous ritual, planting a tree. It is a gift for future generations, as we will not be able to enjoy them.

Back on the bus, we headed south toward Tel Aviv. Along the way we passed Armageddon! Our final museum visit of the trip was the Underground Amunition Factory, Machon Ayalon. Between 1945 and 1948, under a threat of being killed for making or possessing munitions, 46 kibbutz members secretly manufactured bullets for their cause. It’s a pretty nifty story.


A boxed lunch was waiting for us in a room at the museum. After we ate, we shared our thoughts and feelings about the trip. There was laughter and tears, but that is as detailed as I will get. What happens in the bullet factory, stays in the bullet factory.

We took one last group photo when we arrived in Tel Aviv and then had some time to relax. Dinner was at a nearby restaurant. Those continuing on to Petra ate and ran. After the rest of us finished our meal, we made our way to the airport.

Most of us have cleared security, etc. and we are waiting to board. Can’t believe the week has come to an end!

Leave a comment

Tour 6: Go north, young people

I received my first Bible as a fourth grader at the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury (yes, church, more here). I don’t remember that we had much in the way of a curriculum. Our Sunday school teachers were all volunteers, who I can not criticize as they took on a task I can’t imagine I ever would. I don’t recall learning much. There were maps in our classrooms, but I think they had been there since the wing was add to the church building in the 1960s. They didn’t seem real. The stories were just that, stories. In school you learn math, and then use it on a daily basis. But I found limited practical applications for Sunday school lessons. Last night I had dinner right near Nazareth. It’s a real place, with real people, who are all proud of their home. Frankly, it is also a lot easier to understand why Mary needed a room at the inn. That had to be one heck of a journey to Bethlehem.

We were on the bus by about 7:45 ready to embark on today’s adventure. Kibbutz Misgav-Am was our first destination, where we drove along the Lebanon border. The guide told us it was easy to tell where the border is. Israel has green trees, Lebanon is gray and brown. Israel has sophisticated farming, Lebanon grows drugs. He showed us the remains of buildings that were blown up. Hartford’s north end seems like a paradise compared to this place. We met soldiers, watched them practice target shooting, and climbed aboard tanks. A few of us sampled apples from their orchards. Evan had the honor of planting a kiwi tree. For show and tell the guide pulled out a Katusha missile lobbed over by Hezbollah seven years ago. Thankfully, it did not detonate (then or now).

After Kibbutz Misgav-Am we continued to Kibbutz Merom Golan, the first kibbutz established in the Golan Heights. Lebanon not being quite dangerous enough, we decided to take a peak at Syria. We did this aboard ATVs and similar vehicles. At a former hospital, built by the Soviets, we took a quick snack break. The vehicle I was driving didn’t quite handle as well as my car, but the breeze was great.

Lunch was at the Golan Heights Winery. The majority of our group seemed to prefer the Sauvignon blanc to the Chardonnay, but it was a tie between the Syrah and the Cabernet Sauvignon. The food got great marks, too. Rumor has it they sell the brand at Maximum Beverage in West Hartford. I figured that was a better gamble than putting red wine in my suitcase.

Leaving the Golan, we headed to Safed for a quick introduction to mysticism. We spent a few minutes in a 400 year old Sephardic synagogue and then moved on to another activity for the soul, shopping.

Few of us knew each other before we left West Hartford. Since riding the bus together for hours each day, we have found numerous connections among us. Duane works with some of my former co-workers. Amy and Al used to live on the same street. Lisa’s mother and Tracy’s mother used to be good friends. These discoveries always lead to smiles and laughter.

Dinner was held at…summer camp? Bat Ya’ar Ranch is a collection of log cabin buildings. It is a horse farm, so more than one of us wondered where the steak came from. After dinner we participated in a drum circle. At one point or another we all hit the dance floor, even Al, who at 86 wins the chronological age award on this trip. Eric pulled me onto the floor during the hora.

From kiwi and Katusha missiles to horses and hora, it was quite a day. Particularly the morning portion is something most of us never dreamed we would see. Most were in awe of the dangers the soldiers face daily to keep this beautiful country safe.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 660 other followers