Friday, February 5, 2016

Kids on the rocks

Get off that damn Bible, kid.  It’ll kill you.

If you’re a Babylonian, at any rate.  Or, I should imagine, anybody else who has pissed God off.  He’s got quite a temper.

Came across this image on Facebook this morning and I thought to myself, aw, isn’t that cute?   Maybe I ought to have a closer look.

Fascinating, the Bible is.  Started out as a history of the Hebrews, a tale told by Hebrew people writing with a heavy Hebrew slant, creating a God who loves them above all others.

Check out Isaiah 12, for example.  Beautiful inspiring words.  If you’re a Jew or a Christian who has assumed the Jewish tradition and are inclined to see America as some kind of “Zion on a hill,” Old Testament style, especially.

“…O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away and thou comfortedst me…”

Lovely, don’t you think?

But read on.  In the very next chapter, in which the writer turns to “the burden of Babylon,” we read:

“And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth…  Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate…”

Now here’s the part that jumps off the page at me:

“…I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity…Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes... Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.”

Now if you’re going to create an imaginary friend who lives in the sky and loves you, do you have to make him out to be somebody who blames babies for what their parents do?  Even supposing that pissing off the Hebrews deserves a death sentence, I mean?

This child brain bashing is spoken of not only in Isaiah.  They actually sing about it!

Psalms 137, Verse 9 reads, in the King James Version:

“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

The NET Bible puts this into modern language:

“How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies and smashes them on a rock.”

Wow.  Some serious stuff going on here.

Better not mess with Jehovah, looks like.

Glad I read my Bible.  I might have missed that.

Thanks Facebook.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Doris Kyburz

Doris Kyburz
I am writing this for those of you who knew our friend Doris Kyburz.  Doris died Thursday night and we are dealing with the shock of the loss.

With all the rains hitting the Bay Area, Doris had slipped and fallen on her deck and thought she had sprained her ankle.  She called the doctor but couldn’t get an appointment till the next day.  When she went in at 3 p.m. the next day, she got the ankle x-rayed and was sent home to wait yet another day for the results.  At some point, though, it turned out there was a break and a blood clot developed, which traveled to her heart.  She died in the ambulance on the way to Richmond hospital.

My office at Keio University was four doors down from the German Department, and Doris and I met back in the early 90s because nobody who ever saw Doris in those days missed an opportunity to get to know her.  In a world where learning German involved becoming dutiful and focused on which prepositions took the Dative and which the Accusative, Doris had her classes singing and dancing and acting out Grimm’s fairy tales.  I spotted her as a natural born teacher and we became friends immediately.

One of my favorite moments of all time was when she entered the faculty dining room, her hair dyed flaming red, covered head to toe in black leather.  The only way she could have garnered more attention would have been to ride her Harley Davidson onto the balcony.  I suggested it and she said she’d give it some serious consideration for her next entrance.

Taku and I had just met and while many of my friends were riding me about robbing the cradle, Doris decided we made a cute couple and became our most frequent dinner guest.  At some point the strict environment of the language department made her seek greener pastures and she decided she’d become a masseuse.  Taku and I had the benefit of being her first guinea pigs.  Next thing we knew she was taking photos of us in our underwear.  God knows what the neighbors would have thought who might have gotten wind of this.  Doris was single-mindedly concerned with demonstrating over time that she was not merely concerned with tight muscles.  She wanted to help us stand taller and straighter and live more healthy lives.

Because whatever Doris did she did earnestly, this new passion took her first to Massachusetts, then to Hawaii to learn from the best how to pummel strangers on a massage table.  By the end of the 90s Taku had moved to California and Doris joined us at some point and decided California was the place for her.  The passion for “whole body health” went the way of “German through laughter” and she found her way into the age of the internet.  Specifically designing software for toys for the German market.  She joined our chosen family by making a connection with Dov and Cathy Rosenfeld that has lasted to this day when she was still a regular at seders and Thanksgiving and other occasions.  Dov and Cathy like to tell the story about how when the daughter they were going to adopt was being born and they needed to run to the hospital to be there for her birth, it was Doris they called in the middle of the night to be with their other daughter.  “We need you, now,” Dov said.  “How soon?” Doris asked.  “Three centimeters,” they answered.  Doris was there in ten minutes.

Doris wasn’t much of a housekeeper.  Her kitchen was filled with screeching birds and her living room the playground for Moya, a huge German Shepherd and for Calhoun, the dog known as the crazy dog.  I can’t tell you how my heart aches as I imagine these wonderful creatures (not the birds – I never cared for the birds) sitting and waiting for her to return.  This image says all there is to say about the cruelty of death and the horror of loss.

At the moment we are working with Doris’s family in Switzerland as they face both the loss and the need to pick up the pieces that an unprepared-for death involves.

It’s too soon to be writing this.  The shock has not worn off.

But I write because I just don’t know what else to do.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Not just a pretty face

Ernst, if you could have seen the future!
Sometime in the 1860s, most likely, somewhere in Lower Saxony, in Northern Germany, a young man named Ernst met a young girl named Sophie and they started a family.  Not far away, a young man named Heinrich met a young girl named Johanne and did the same. Ernst and Sophie Gundelach’s son Paul married Heinrich and Johanne R├╝hmann’s daughter, also named Johanne. A few years after their son, also named Paul, was born and after they had adopted their niece, Clara, they boarded the good ship Bayern and made their way from Hamburg to New York City.  Warren Harding had just died and Coolidge was president, Oklahoma had just passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution, that famous Hollywood sign on the hills outside L.A. had just been inaugurated, Walt and Roy Disney had founded the Walt Disney company ten days earlier, and Charlton Heston was born two days before that.  Paul and Johanne Gundelach of Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, would soon come to be known far and wide as Mutti and Vati, proprieters of the Germania Singing Society of Torrington, Connecticut.  

It was Johanne’s sister Bertha who gave birth to my mother in 1915, right in the middle of World War I.  Bertha’s husband disappeared and because raising a new born as a single mother in war-torn Germany was more than she could handle, she gave my mother to her sister Johanne to raise. Johanne and Paul Gundelach were living on a farm in Braunschweig and had food to eat.  They had a month-old son of their own at the time, also named Paul (the family obviously has a propensity for recycling names), and in time, in America, they would have two more children, Carl and Rose.  And so it was that Paul, Carl and Rose, my mother’s biological cousins, became her siblings.  Once in America, they made it official and she took the name Gundelach.

Carl married Concettina Mollica and they had two red-haired children, one of whom, back in the 60s, thought Timothy Leary was peachy keen.   That was my cousin Jimmy.  Jimmy’s first marriage ended in divorce, but not before they had a son they named Sean.  Sean married Joanna (no h this time) and had two children, Austin and Lexa.

Lexa and I had lunch today at the Mt. Everest Nepalese Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue.  She did not know that by law she was my first cousin, twice removed and by blood my second cousin, twice removed, but we enjoyed the Tikka Masala anyway.

Her great great great grandfather, Ernst Gundelach, who gave both her and my mother his family name, would no doubt have commented, had he lived long enough to meet her, on how pretty she was.  I would have had to remind him that she is a student at the University of California at Berkeley, and that suggests she is more than just a pretty face.