Monumental: Part I

Once upon a time, in a galaxy quite nearby, I started a project. It was Fall 2012, and I really anticipated I would wrap it up in fewer than 6 1/4 years. Alas.

If you haven’t read the old post, it contains photos of the graves of my maternal great-grandparents, and a few great-aunts and uncles. At some point, I made a list of the aforementioned, as well as the rest of my maternal ‘greats,’ and decided to bike to all the sites.

Since the initial visits to Zion Hill and F.D. Oates Ave. in Hartford, I have pedaled to The Emmanuel Synagogue’s cemetery in Wethersfield, Beth El’s cemetery in Avon, Veterans Cemetery in Windsor, and finally, today, to Rose Hill in Rocky Hill. A couple of years ago I also threw in a visit to Beth Jacob Cemetery (extra bonus points if you know where that one is before I talk about it below).

Rose Hill proved the most difficult. When I first researched it, I couldn’t find any indication online as to where the specific graves would be. This didn’t really phase me, and one day last year I rode over to see if I could locate them. What I had not taken into consideration, on that fine March day, was there was more snow on the ground at that spot in Rocky Hill than in my yard in West Hartford. Further complicating the matter, all the graves in that cemetery are flat. Pancake flat, and under said snow. I’m willing to visit cemeteries, but I choose to keep my digging metaphorical.

I felt confident today that the ground would be clear. And in my research this morning, I found a new (or new-to-me) Rose Hill website providing the section and plot numbers! It was like finding a clearly marked treasure map. It was a nice, sunny, warm day, and since Sundays are for relaxing, I decided to go on an almost 22 mile ride.

(Turns out 32° was not warm enough, at all, for a ride of this length, and it was hard work defrosting my toes when I got home. A little more than three hours after returning, I’m starting to feel warm again.)

Mission accomplished! There they were, my mom’s aunts/my grandfather’s sisters, Marion, Minnie, and Julia.

 

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Group shot

The family lived for many years on Wayland Street, in the south end of Hartford (landmark: Modern Pastry is on the corner…so hard not to stop for a baked good). I rode by as I made my way home. I believe it had a front porch in its early years, but otherwise, still there.

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“The house on Wayland Street”

I was also able to ride by the Dwight School, where Minnie was a teacher.

My plan back in 2012 was to put all the photos together, family tree style. Look for that post in the next week to 6 1/4 years 😂. The most amazing part is that I have managed to locate all of the photos I’ve taken. The cobbler’s child goes without shoes, and the archivist’s personal digital files go without metadata…

Regarding Beth Jacob Cemetery…somehow I found out that my great-grandmother/my grandmother’s mother had a brother, who had a few children. These folks are buried in Beth Jacob. If you did a Google Maps search, it most likely came up fruitless. In West Hartford, if you stand in the parking lot of the Shield Street Post Office, and look across the road, there’s a small parcel of land where you will find the forever-stamps of my cousins (I think they’re cousins…) Bernard, Henry, and William Glaubman; their father, Isadore; and his second wife, Rose (his first wife, well, read all about it 😳).

 

Perhaps some day I will go back and take photos with the sunlight at a better angle. In the meantime, I’m very excited to have finally visited all the locations on my list, and to have all the photographs. After more than six years, three smartphones, and two hybrid bikes, I have one more post to go before I put this project to rest.

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A Good Year

For many people, 2016 was, to quote from social media, “a dumpster fire.” Between what feels like an incredibly large number of celebrity deaths, and the events of November 8, it certainly had its moments. For me, though, it has been one of the best years in quite a while.

The atmosphere at work changed from the very first day of the year. We started a new chapter (excuse the pun), which led to my getting a promotion. The job I have now is not anything I ever imagined I would do. However, I enjoy it. I’m good at it. And most importantly, my work is respected.

I dated. For many of you, this is no big deal. It was huge for me. Maybe I’m too particular (this did not involve any commercial web sites), maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Whatever. For a few hours this summer, I was able to put that all aside and hang out with a guy.

My best friend from high school and I started our birthday celebrations a couple months early this year. We spent a weekend in New York, having splurged on tickets to Hamilton. The show was (as you’ve probably heard once or twice) amazing. Getting to spend hours walking around the city, on beautiful, sunny days, talking about everything and anything, was equally wonderful.

Later in the summer I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the Hartford Jewish Film Fest (March 16-26, 2017…see you there!). I’ve been on the committee for a few years now, but this is my first leadership role with the Hartford Jewish community. The film fest falls into the category of ‘lots of fun and lots of hard work,’ and I’m looking forward to being more involved than I have been.

img_4893The next step in my birthday celebration was a week in Wisconsin with my family. We
stayed at a lake where my grandparents used to have a house. I was able to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years, introduce my niece and nephew to some very dangerous (but incredibly beloved) playground equipment, and spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Swimming in the lake is one of my favorite activities, and I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I used to. Even the morning it was 48°, I was in for a dip before breakfast!

img_5152When my actual birthday arrived, I celebrated with a bike ride from West Hartford to Old Saybrook. It was another warm, sunny day, and perfect for the 54 mile trip. By mid-September, the water in Long Island Sound has reached a perfect temperature. It was incredibly refreshing after spending four hours on the bike. My mother met me at the beach, we had lunch, did some shopping, and then she drove me home. Later that day a friend and I went to Mozzicato’s, where I had just the right amount of cake.

Though I have branded myself as Cycling Archivist, over the past few years I have done increasingly more of the former and less of the latter. This fall I had the opportunity to process a collection for the Watkinson Library at Trinity College. It’s a small collection (less than three linear feet), but I welcomed the opportunity to get back in the game. Working full time at one job, and trying to fit in another four or five hours a week at a second job, is tough. There are some interesting pieces, though, and I’m glad I got to work with them (I wrote five blog entries between October 28 and December 14 about the collection. Search for ‘Wells’).

Cycling. It has continued to be a huge part of my life. On the last day of July I realized I was a mere 35 miles away from hitting 500 for the month on my road bike (I don’t keep track of distance on my hybrid). I couldn’t let that milestone slip by. My pace for the ride ended up being my fastest ever. Most Saturdays I have a friend to ride with, which is wonderful. One Sunday I went out with some racers. It was fast, and I couldn’t really keep up, but I gave myself points for going on a group ride (I’m a slow rider and generally avoid group rides because of the frustration they bring). My biggest cycling accomplishment of the year, though, is my new personal best record for biking to work. As of this writing, I haven’t missed a day commuting since February 23. That includes the day in April when it snowed, which I admit was a

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Commuting in December’s single degree temps.

mistake. Excluding weekends, holidays, and vacations, I have ridden to work 191 days in a row. For the year, I have 218 commutes. Yes, there have been days I’ve switched vehicles at lunch. But I still got in the bike ride. Who knows what Mother Nature has in store, but I am trying to get as close to February 23, 2017 as I can!

One of the best holiday gifts I got was the weather in Atlanta during my recent trip there. I was able to ride my sister’s bike each day, including Christmas Day, when it was 75°!

Don’t worry, the year wasn’t perfect. Amid all these high points, were certainly were some low ones. But the first time in a while, the highs were more numerous. A lot of this was luck, and things I won’t necessarily be able to replicate next year. Friends have had marriages end in 2016, and have lost family members and close friends. Certainly for them, this was not the best year. I hope everyone else, though, can look beyond the top headlines, and see that there were many good things that happened in 2016.

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!

Local character

(I think this clip explains why older seasons of Sesame Street are now rated PG!)

I live across the street from an elementary school, which means that Monday through Friday, crossing guards are stationed at both ends of the road.  While working at Job, The Previous, my commute took me to the northern end of the street. The same guard has been there the entire time I’ve lived here. We’ve never really interacted.

The commute for Job, The Current takes me to the southern end of the street. A new guard came on duty sometime during the last school year. He’s always pleasant, and goes out of his way to stop traffic so that I may safely make the left-hand turn. Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same rules as motorists, so the guard really shouldn’t be helping me out. Quite often, though, I’m very grateful! I made a point of welcoming him back at the beginning of the school year.

Another local resident walks his dog every morning, about the time I am leaving for work. When school is in session, he always stops and chats with the guard. In the past couple of months, I’ve started waving hello to him, too, if we pass each other somewhere other than the intersection. He always makes a comment about the weather and how it relates to my bike ride.

“Not as cold today.”

“A little cold in the morning, but I bet the afternoon is perfect.”

My guess is that this man is retired, and spends copious amounts of time watching television weather reports. This morning he explained to me that the front split yesterday, which is why we didn’t get any rain. Then, as he always does, he wished me a good ride.

I don’t know the names of any of these men, but they are the people in my neighborhood. And the opportunity to interact with people like this adds to the enjoyment of bike commuting.

My Review of #NEAfall12 (and archivist conferences in general)

I tend to be a harsh critic of the New England Archivist (NEA) meetings. This is primarily because I have never lived, worked, or studied in Boston or at Simmons College. To me, the meetings always have the air of a Simmons reunion, and that is not what I need from my regional conference. I usually attend because I feel that I should, not because I am actually excited about it. So to attend yesterday (schedule), and to be glad I did, was a welcome surprise.

The Conference and Twitter

At conferences I use Twitter to connect with other attendees, to take notes, and to share information with other archivists. The NEA sessions do not (at least this time) have individual session numbers. With three concurrent sessions, the result on Twitter can be confusing. This meeting’s theme was proactive archivists, and my contribution was to give each of the sessions an identifier. I saw that at least one other tweeter used the list, which is enough success for me.  An incredibly generous and trusting friend let me borrow her iPad,  significantly aiding my ability to live tweet. Reviewing my tweets this morning, I can see room for improvement. One of the best parts, however, was noticing the tweets that were re-tweeted or marked as favorites by non-archivists who follow me. A MIT alum, for example, re-tweeted one of my notes from the session on the Edgerton project.

My favorite aspect of the conference was the way in which the presenters approached their subjects with humor. It is difficult to convey this, but it was most notable in the session on “Things They Didn’t Teach me in Library School.” Janaya Kizzie, Archivist at RBS Citizens Financial Group (Citizens Bank), couldn’t show us any images, as that might have been in violation of federal law. Instead, she brought her literal archivist’s toolkit. A large messenger bag, it contained all the tools she routinely brought with her on site visits. Many of these tools, such as a headlamp, double as hurricane supplies, so she was all set for last week’s storm. Also among the items Janaya had with her was a copy of the movie National Treasure. She said she uses it to explain her job to people! Overall, the most important thing corporate life has taught Janaya is to have her elevator speech at the ready.

Following Janaya was Sam Smallidge, from the Converse archives. Yes, Converse as in Chucks. He provided a history of the archives, including an incident that sent shoes flying through a window and out into the flooded street below. Employees also seem to have stored items from the archives in their own desks, for safe keeping. Slowly, items such as those are being returned. Sam is also filling in holes in the collection by buying from eBay.

Also in this session, Marta Crilly, City of Boston Archives, described social media outreach. Having been involved with Twitter and Facebook at my previous job, I appreciated many of her comments, particularly that you never know what your audience is going to enjoy. For that reason, post a variety of items, even if you think they are boring. It turns out people in Boston enjoy images from the 1970s…because they remember whatever it was!

An unusual component to the program, yet highly worthwhile, was the informational session about NEA Roundtables. I would guess that the majority of the attendees were in the room, as nothing else was scheduled for that time. Paige Roberts, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, Elizabeth Slomba, and Kari Smith each spoke about aspects of Roundtables and their benefit to NEA and SAA members. The NEA roundtables are being structured in the same way as SAA’s. Gregor gave an overview of how they work, and how they benefit both members and SAA leadership. In essence, roundtables will focus on issues that can not be discussed in depth at the biannual meetings. Elizabeth gave the example of informational sessions about rare books. Once established, the hope is that some of these smaller groups will be able to advise NEA leadership as necessary. Kari Smith has already taken the initiative to start a digital archivists roundtable. Though the guidelines say 30 signatures are required to form a group, don’t let that stop you. Be proactive! If there is interest, a roundtable can be formed.

Archives Conferences in General

Morning Ride in Chicago, August 2011

What I have learned over the past few years is that you have to make a conference – regional or national – work for you. It will surprise few readers that two things which have made conferences work for me over the past several years are bicycles and Twitter. As I prepared to travel to Chicago for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting in 2011, I commented on Twitter that the cost of renting a bike in the city was going to be higher than I would have preferred. One tweet led to another, and the next thing I knew I was able to get up before sessions and pedal a bike, borrowed from a fellow archivist, along the Lake Michigan trail. Bicycling and meeting someone new, in one fell swoop. My helmet also became a conversation starter as I carried it around the NEA Spring 2012 meeting at Wesleyan University. With the conference less than 20 miles away, I had no excuse not to attend. Unwilling to give up a Saturday ride, I decided to combine the two. Yes, it meant I arrived late and missed a highly regarded plenary, but it was what I needed. Not only was the helmet a conversation starter then, but when I encountered an archivist yesterday who had ridden to Simmons, it was common ground for a chat between sessions. Of course, I neglected to introduce myself and have no idea what her name is, but it’s still progress.

I recognize that Twitter is not for everyone, but it has been an invaluable resource for me. One of the major reasons I decided to attend NEA yesterday was that two friends, who I originally met through Twitter, were members of the program committee. I wanted to support their efforts by attending. Once I arrived at Simmons, I took a cue from other groups and conferences (particularly the SNAP Roundtable at SAA) and used Twitter to find a lunch buddy. I introduced myself to my lunch buddy at the end of the first session. At the same time, I met the person she had been sitting with. One lunch buddy tweet and I met two new people. Now I will have even more people to look for at the next conference.

Hubway bikeshare on the Fenway, November 2012

No one conference can be everything for everyone. But as I have found, if you find a ways to personalize them for yourself, they will be much more enjoyable in the long run.

Bike-n-hike (or, A Really Mediocre Photoessay)

“Enjoy the freedom.” Since I left the CHS, I have found this to be the most popular thing people say to those without full time jobs. However, freedom needs to come with a rather large infusion of cash. So while I really wanted to head to Ikea today, I once again chose to go for a bike ride. Though this did nothing to increase the shelf space in my apartment, it did get me to a state park I’d never been to.

You can’t work for four years in the playroom-turned-ballroom of Curtis Veeder‘s mansion without gaining an appreciation for the guy. And having gone three weeks without my daily fix of Veeder engineering, it seemed like the perfect time to visit his property atop Simsbury Mountain.

Entrance to the trails (click to enlarge)

My plan was to take a slow, leisurely ride to the park, hike the trails, enjoy my sandwich with a view, and eventually head back home. The ride there was in fact slow and leisurely. It seems, though, that the state park donated by the inventor of the cyclometer does not have a bike rack or any decent bicycle parking (I was on my hybrid, which has actually lacked a cyclometer for the past few years). This immediately brought the hiking to a minimum. The road around the property is passable by bike (some of it is closed to cars), so I continued my journey on wheels.

I have to say, I was not impressed. There were no maps available at the entrance, but I knew I could, and did, download one from the DE(E)P‘s website. Thank goodness for smartphones. I still was only marginally sure of where I was, most of the time. I made it to Lake Louise, but decided not to eat my lunch there because while it was pretty, I wanted the view. Especially with a bicycle, the view was a little difficult to attain. There is an easier way and a hard way, and I inadvertently took the hard way. This involved a .3 mile hike on the yellow path. Finally I was there.

View from Cedar Ridge Overlook

So were a couple of 20-somethings, smoking a substance I am too naive to recognize (thin cigars?). Whatever it was, I was regretting passing up the picnic tables down at Lake Louise. I also only got photos from the sides of the ridge, because the two were sitting right in the prime spot.

Another view from Cedar Ridge Overlook

Disappointed and hungry, I found the easier path back down to the road, and ended up eating my sandwich back at the Veeder Rock. On a positive note, I had planned the bike ride rather well, and the journey home was almost entirely downhill. When I got home and re-read my friend Steve’s post about Penwood, I realized I had also managed to miss all the good stuff – building ruins and such. I think I may have to go back someday soon; approaching in vehicle.

Same as the first view from Cedar Ridge, but with the zoom