Monthly Archives: January 2013




My only surviving sibling, my half-brother John is 87 now. He is my favorite of all those discovered family members. He is the one I have turned to in times of distress, a fatherly element in my life.

John is also one of my proudest “accomplishments”: I personally turned him from a die-hard Republican into a ticked off Republican who turned Democrat. To the extent that he really wanted Hillary Clinton as President.

But it was not easy. I’m not a political activist other than participating in a few demonstrations here and there for things I feel are very important, but the administration of George Bush #43 got my attention: it was clear that other interests were running the Bush White House.

I believe oil was his reason to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. I won’t go into the transcripts of the Downing Street Memos other than to say PM Tony Blair was his chief back-up man. It can all be found online or in the many and profitable books explaining it all.

For me the screeching in the back of my brain began the evening Colin Powell, a great and good man, stood before the American public and said weapons of mass destruction were being manufactured and stored in Iraq. He just didn’t walk his talk. I became frightened, for I knew we would attack eventually. And so we did.

I was greatly disappointed when George W. Bush took office, and alarmed when he was voted in for a second term. I knew I had to get off my duff, so I protested, I wrote letters, yelled at my congress reps. And I called my old Bro John frequently, and when he answered his phone with his customary “Hullo” I always responded with “Well, are you scared yet?”

John just laughed and said “Awww, Sis, you know I’m a straight ticket Republican just like my old man !” Then we would both laugh and go on to our sharing of non-political gossip.

For three years our conversations were like that. I was “fogging” him deliberately, no arguing, no insisting, no questions, just ask and move on. After a couple years of such phone calls I suppose he got off his duff and investigated what I was hinting at. The day came when I asked if he was scared yet and there was heavy silence. And then he let it rip: he finally realized that Eye-Rack war was a trumped up……and so on.

He told me he re-registered as Democrat and he thought Hillary Clinton would be the best candidate for President. And he converted all his friends and extended family who lived in the tough farmland of the California Central Valley, told them they must watch what goes on in political and corporate America much more carefully now.

I’m certain they understood the timing of the financial collapse of the world and America’s part in it, and quite probably they helped President Obama get his second term.

The “fogging” technique is something I learned from my therapist years ago. It works very well over extended periods, a quick and light hit at the subject then move on. Combative persuasion rarely works, but piquing curiosity on an issue invariably works if one is willing to spend the time.

Fogging is exactly what commercials on media do. It’s what Hitler recommended when he said:

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”



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The Pyramids at Giza

I’m not wanting to go back to The Tree today. I got a little overwhelmed yesterday with family questions that I desperately want answered. I have a shirt tail cousin who was adopted as an infant, then in her adult years found she belonged to one of my tribes. She has the same experience as I – sometimes we feel like we are walking on bombs.

And, today Bes’ Gopher sent me a link for newspaper searches. I then found I’m kind of afraid to dig deeper. I decided that like my good friend Scarlett, I shall think about that tomorrow!


I decided to have my new blog speak for me to decorate it a little, find something to share. I was delighted with the synchronicity of finding this photo. It symbolizes a wonderful friendship with our taxi driver, Muhammad, who was shot badly in his leg and captured by Israelis in the Seven Days War.

According to Muhammad, his wounds were too severe to treat: he needed an amputation which the Israeli doctors were sure he would not survive. They bandaged him up, gave him a supply of food and water then put him on a camel to head across the Sinai to his home. Obviously he reached Cairo and his family, but his story of making his “last” visit to the family tombs is mind boggling. He is an honest man and there is no reason for him to fabricate a story. His story is mind bending, deserving of it’s own post.

Cairo, in 1983 was one of our first holidays abroad and we decided the best way to celebrate The Sahara was to ride on horseback from the stables in Giza up through the sand dunes to watch a spectacular event: the sunrise over the pyramids.

Steven was nearly 4, so they put him on a gentle, broad old mare, Rebecca, six years old got a pony and Larry, their dad got a rather spirited mare. Then my husband of fourteen years announced that he never rode a horse before. I learned to ride bareback on Old Red as a kid, so we switched horses were very happy with this change.

Larry, as man of the family, headed up our little troop, followed by 5 year old Rebecca with her streaming chestnut curls. I brought up the rear, behind towhead Steven, whose little legs were too short to reach both stirrups, so he stood on the left stirrup and rested his right leg on the saddle and his right hand on the saddle horn and no reins. He rode at a 45 degree angle and in the dark of dawn and his blonde hair he looked like a little yellow thistle sticking out of the old mares side. Our guide rode behind me on camel back.

We saw outines of shadow dunes in the pre-dawn lights. Stars sparkled in a soft midnight blue sky, while vague patterns of gently sloping dunes seemed to flicker and disappear. The stables of Giza were gone, the pyramids not yet visible, only endless dunes and endless time.

We rode in respectful silence. We gasped as first rays of sunrise back lit the pyramids making them dark silhouettes. As the sun rose higher, we silently rode toward toward the pyramids and back into endless time, sobered by ancient shapes and shadows.

I believe this is the only way to approach the pyramids: lose yourself in the desert and darkness and slowly allow them to be revealed by the sun. Some might call it a religious experience, but I remember feeling I became one with antiquity.

On the way back to the Hotel Jolieville we drove through The City of The Dead. Muhammad’s English was quite good, certainly better than the “Jive Talk” Arabic I’d picked up that made people laugh.

“So Muhammad, who lives in The City of The Dead?” From the back seat I saw Muhammad shoot him a funny look.


“No, I mean, look – these are beautiful homes and there are a lot of people walking around, do wealthy people live here?”

“No. Nobody lives here. They can’t because it is The City of The Dead.

“Why can’t they?”

It didn’t take too much longer before Muhammad came up with the clear reply.

“It is because the dead people cannot live.”

As an afterthought, he added, “Since you all now stink of horses, today would be the best day to go to Memphis where you can ride the camels.”

And so we did.

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This ancestor hunting is very weird. It’s a fascination for those of us with big noses who like to stay up at night, but some of the stuff that I found in my searching has left me very, very, perplexed because most of the shady activity happened between the last few years of the 19th Century and the first few months of the 20th Century. And so two and a half years ago I signed up for what I thought would be two weeks of fun with Ancestry.Com. I figured I was not going to get far because I knew I had virtually no family left.

That first night, the very first try brought me to a site all about my dad’s family which took be back to Ireland in about 1720. I found a family tree about Alcorns done by (cousin) genealogists who posted it for everyone to see on the Internet. It listed my father’s name, as well as my two brother’s and mine.

I was soon chuffed: I found Alcorn Revolutionary Soldiers; soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War! Less wonderful were the tales of starvation, pestilence, death not to mention the occasional kidnaping of children. The De Crocketagni (who originated in South France) married into the Alcorn Colonists as the Crocketts in the middle 1700s. My Great Grandfather brought Davy Crockett to California, to go bear hunting at Bear Creek. In the middle 1800s Bransford pioneered the area, now Hwy. 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His older son John Henry Alcorn built the first hotel and restaurant there, there are tons of descendants living there, and I recall walking down the street in Santa Cruz and seeing a news stand with a large article about the big Alcorn Family Reunion had hundreds of Alcorns picnicking and partying the day before. I never met anyone with my last name before and never dreamed that the founder was my relative.

For years I’ve wondered why so many people fled Europe to come out to the colonies and risking death by disease and/or starvation. Consider my (new-found) Swiss Bollinger forebears: Clewi and his son Conrad. They show as single names in the records, but I understand the name Bollinger comes from their location, an area called Bulling, near the Swiss border with Germany, near the River Rhine where those nasty Scandinavians, those tall, handsome and ornery Barbarians crossed the Rhine on New Years Eve in the year 401!

Those playful Scandahoovians partied like Barbarians from Northern Europe down through the British Isles. First Ancestor Clewi likely had Nordic Barbarian blood running through his veins in the 11th C, but it probably was not much of a match for plagues that wasted entire populations.

When my maternal great-grandparents left Zurich in the 18th Century their men walked away from hand-me-down jobs as ministers in the very best and most beautiful churches in the city.
It’s quite a trek from Zurich down to the Mediterranean then over to the British Isles to catch a ship to that unknown British colonial settlement. Some colonists started out with a wife and lost her and perhaps a baby on the way. It was a very expensive, dangerous endeavor and could take many months, with no guarantees, a real gamble. And you were not likely to see the family  left behind ever again.

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An Odyssey Unexpected


One of the things I noticed during my first years of under-employment were  free offers from a famous online genealogy site  I never had been interested in genealogy because I had no living family older that me.  Well, actually one of my nephews was born about 3 months before me.

Yep:  my older (and deceased) brother Bill and I were products of our parents new and wonderful 2nd marriage.  They each had  first marriages, with children born  in the 1920s;  then during WWII they found each other and created a new  life which ended up with an unplanned second family.   Surprise!

The magic of  family life  waned and Dad left when I was going on four.  Bill and I entered into a hand-to-mouth existence  as Mom in her new role of  Welfare recipient learned such skills as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.  It was a challenging time with hunger pangs, leaky roofs and frequent lack of utilities.  We moved sixteen times by the time I was twelve, often sneaking out in the middle of the night to our new abode.

My grades slid because I was constantly tired and hungry.  My brother became an Eagle Scout, straight A student, and captain of the baseball team.  He was allowed  to go to his friends homes  after school to have a meal  then study in warmth and light.  Mom didn’t feel it was appropriate for me as a young girl child to be out at night.

I lied to my teachers convincing them and myself that I didn’t really care about homework anyway and they reported to my mother that I didn’t apply myself, and Mom berated me asking why I didn’t at least try.   I reminded her only one time that we had no light, no heat, no food most of the time.  That might have been the first time she beat me.

Bill graduated and quickly  joined the Navy and went to college.  He really did become a “Rocket Scientist”.  During his post Naval career he worked on a number of space craft.

We were twelve and thirteen when our father passed away.  A bonus of his death was we no longer needed welfare, we were entitled to Social Security benefits that he’d worked hard for and paid for dammit!  Mom felt she could finally hold her head up in town, and she told my brother he now was the man of the house, to which I disagreed. What was she thinking?

In 1966 both our maternal  step-grandfather and our  Mom passed.  It was now just me and Bill, orphans people said   I was a legal a minor with no guardian and few resources while Bill was earning his engineering degree paid for by  the Navy.

I  could not figure out how I could stay in Junior College.  I had fallen in loe with Anthropology in the middle sixties; had visions of a degree in archaeology and working with the Drs. Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley.  Me, tanned and trim in khaki shorts  and hiking boots, with a pith helmet on my blonde head, clearing dust off bits of prehistoric antiquity.  Africa beckoned and I longed to go.  Oh well, I set those dreams aside and set about doing what needed done to survive: get a job.

Not surprisingly, within two years I was married and working in San Francisco at a bank with a promising career and putting a young husband through school.  He would be getting our degree, our money source, and happily ever after was on the way.

We had a spacious and comfortable studio apartment in Cow Hollow, and Larry went to school while I worked.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but if you were young in the 1960s in San Francisco there was plenty of free entertainment.

We got in with a group of international students who  came over from Europe periodically.  They crashed with us for a month or two, got jobs and paid their share, then returned to their homeland.  Larry and I began to dream of moving to France, and I gave up on Africa and the Leakeys.

One day I came home from work to find Larry siting on the bed with a puzzled look on his face.

“You never told me you had brothers and a sister.”  He waited for an answer looking like I had kept a big dark secret from him.

“Well, yah, I’ve heard about them but never met them.  They are from Mom’s first marriage and I’ve never seen them.  How did you find out anyway?”

“The phone rang a few hours ago.  It was a Private Detective named Anthony Poole.  He wants to talk to you and will be calling back at seven.”

I couldn’t imagine what was going on with a detective asking about half siblings that I’d never seen.   But Anthony Poole filled me in.  I took the call in the bedroom

He had been hired to settle an estate, a relative of Mom’s had died, an Aunt Clara.   I never heard of her.  I knew Mom had a sister, Aunt Helen, but no Aunt Clara.  Aunt Clara was a woman of means and had a lot of money.  An Uncle Cecil had shown up at the hearing and threw a monkey wrench into the settlement by saying “I lay claim to the estate on behalf of myself and my sister Dorothy and her five children.  Uncle Cecil?  My mother had an older brother.

“Have you talked with Moms other children,”  I was curious about them, wondering if I’d ever meet them.

“Yes, I’m pretty good friends with your big brother John, I met him a couple of years ago.  Robert, his brother is a kind of sour person, and your Uncle Cecil gets his  kicks out of annoying the rest of the family.   You know, it has taken me nearly four years to locate  all you kids.  I found your sister in New York, her brothers in Monterey County where they always lived, and your brother in the Navy. You didn’t leave real clear tracks with no DMV records, name change, and moving from Napa County to Hawaii, to San Francisco, four years and a lotta hours at the Shamrock drinking with John!”  He went off in a roar of laughter as I sat in a daze on my bed.

“I’d like to meet my brothers and sisters.  And Uncle Cecil, too.  Can I send you a letter of authorization to release my contact information?”  Then I wondered if they even wanted to meet me.

Pool thought it would be just fine and gave me his address  As a matter of fact, he was in Salinas as we spoke, at the Shamrock, waiting for my brother John to come down from his apartment upstairs.

I guessed they had some drinking to do.



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