Posts Tagged ‘death’

Michael Jackson

June 25, 2009

is dead.  And it is crazy.  Not breaking any big news, here, just commemorating this insane event.

The+Girl+Is+Mine+(USA+7''+SIngle)

For some reason, my favorite pictures are of Paul McCartney and MJ together.  Yeah, I know about everything that happened after this, but I don’t care, ok.

MJ & Paul McCartney 2_jpg

Genealogy

May 29, 2009

One of my freelance jobs these days is very complicated.  I was only able to explain it succinctly after I had to write a composition about what I do for my beginning French class.  I wrote:  Je travaille pour un homme qui veut ecrirer un livre a la histoire de sa famille.  I am working for a man who wants to write a book about his family.  Parse que il n’ecrit pas, et j’ecris beacoup, j’escris son livre.  Because he does not write, and I do a lot of writing, I am writing his book.

It is also a science fiction novel set on Mars in the future, containing a great deal of magic realism, including several characters who are reincarnated again and again through time.  But all that part is for another post.  For now, what I am working on is genealogy.  For the past few days, I’ve been making a chart of all these ancestors — my employer’s ancestors — the 100 or so who lived in some part of Vermont from about 1750 to 1850. We’re making the chart so we can create a narrative and some locations for characters out of their stories.

Last night, in the rain, I went to see the sax player and all around artist Matana Roberts at the Firehouse.  She performed part of her “Coin Coin Project,” which is named after an ancestor of hers who was called Coin Coin.  Part of the project involved a slideshow of her grandmother’s family pictures, and she also talked about what learning about her family history, and family history in general, teaches you.

pic from her website

pic from her website

Now there are lot of differences between the genealogy she is working with, and the one I am working with.

Two big ones:

She is working with her own family; I am working with someone else’s family.

Her ancestors were slaves and she has their bills of sale; I am working with possibly the WASPiest genealogy I have ever encountered.

However, as she pointed out, there are some universal aspects of working with this sort of thing.

One of them is tragedy. Life is tragic, and history is tragic, and it is all tragedy getting into the present so that you could exist.  It is miraculous, that after all that hardship, you exist!  You too, will experience that inevitable tragedy!  That tragedy is there in her slides, and it is in the excel spreadsheet I have been making.

Let me give you an example from the chart:

Timothy, son of Eli and Abi.  b.1771.  d.1775.

Polly, daughter of Eli and Abi. b.1774.  d.1777.

Eli Jr, son of Eli and Abi.  b.1780.  d.1785.

Unnamed twins, sons of Eli and Abi.  b.1782.  d.1782.

Unnamed boy, son of Eli and Abi.  b.1783.  d.1784.

The most universal thing that genealogy can tell you is that you will die.  Matana pointed this out last night at her performance.

Here is a picture of someone as a baby.  They died.

Here is someone playing baseball, at a wedding, at home, in front of the house, graduating from college.  They died.

You look at hundreds of people, hundreds of stories.  All of their stories end with death.  Some of them had six children who died before they were five years old, and some of them had twelve children who all outlived them, but they all died, and then all their children who outlived them died too, and then you are at the bottom of the chart, you are on the chart, and you are going to die too.

I don’t mean this in a gloomy way.  This is what life is!  Isn’t it amazing to be alive?