Thursday, November 20, 2008

Megan Marjorie Breitenbach

Born 11:16 am, November 19th. 8 pounds, 21 inches. Welcome to the world little baby girl!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What We Do When We're Waiting For Our Little Sister

Wine For Later

Took a walk yesterday afternoon to help coax the baby along. Didn't work, though Abby fell asleep. We stopped at In Fine Spirits and Cathy, whose been dry for the better part of the last year for obvious reasons, chose 5 bottles of wine. We're looking forward to sampling them over the holidays. Cathy won't be able to drink much given her breastfeeding responsibilities but I've promised to pick up the slack.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lou Lou's House of Christmas

My Mom took part in the Bay Village "Homes For the Holidays" tour yesterday. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's last daily, ran a nice story on the tour earlier this week, focusing on my parents house. That's my Mom sitting in our living room. You can read the article here.

This is our dining room. My Mom and Christmas have a long and fascinatingly complex history. Entire rooms in the basement of this house are filled with holiday decorations. I used to warn my Mom that come the following Christmas I would be discreetly placing price-tags on each of these decorations, taking out an ad in the paper and working a cash register in our kitchen as I opened the house for retail sales.

That's our house. Well, my parents house. They moved there a few months shy of my second birthday in 1973 which means they've lived there for close to 35 years now. I haven't lived there since the summer of '93 or '94.. But I love the house deeply. My interest in family folklore, in the idea of place and in first wave suburbs (built after WWI and before WWII) all stems from this house. In fact, my very idea of home, or the one I'm trying to create with Cathy and Abby, finds its roots in this home.

I'm the second caroler from the left.

Here's my favorite quote from the Plain Dealer article:

Mary Lou is not the only one with a hobby that will be evident to tour-goers. There's the little matter in the living room of the 7-foot-high, 7-foot-wide 1916 Wurlitzer band organ, acquired about 12 months ago by Art Breitenbach, a collector of such musical instruments.

Band organs most often were found in the center of carousels, providing the musical accompaniment to carnivals and amusement parks.

"There's no volume control," said Mary Lou, a tad dryly. Art, sitting near the meticulously restored organ, just smiled.

Disciple of Sun Ra

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election Day

I'm hoping to roll out a lot more of these more personal mini-documentaries over the course of the next year. This one, this awesome slice of history, was too good to pass up. And while its dedicated to Abby and Sean, its impetus was the passing of Studs Terkel, whose spirit was right there in the streets of Chicago with us.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


The Breitenbach family draws names each Christmas. It works like this: around autumn somebody will be inspired to rip up several small scraps of paper, write the various names of the Breitenbach Family Singers on them, hastily fold them and finally ask a volunteer to step forward and choose names for the rest of us. You're then responsible for providing a Christmas gift for that relative. A lot of families do this. There inevitably comes a point when things like leaving home, graduating from college, moving and starting a family all conspire to make the purchasing of gifts for each member of your birth family and their progeny (to say nothing of your own offspring) completely infeasible. Us Breitenbach's have gone from 6 to 15 (soon 16!) in less then 15 years.

So one buyer, one receiver. We keep the price to what seems an appropriately modest cap of $75. My Dad drew my name this year. When he and my Mom came to visit a couple weeks ago I told him exactly what I want. About 20 years ago my Dad borrowed a film splicer, combed through his grocery bag of 30 or so reels of Super-8 family films he shot from the late 60's through the early 80's, and combined some of what he thought was the best footage into a couple larger reels. I want him to digitize those suckers! Film stock is notorious for giving itself over to the ravages of time-- it decomposes, its picture begins to fade, it threatens to crumble. Given my love of the grainy poetic texture and glimpses of family folklore Super-8 films reveal, I'm worried about the state of these reels.

Besides that, I have no idea what's on these films. We had a projector and screen. I remember my brothers, fleeting amateur Super-8 auteur's themselves, playing these films down in our basement in the late 70's. But it's been over 25 years.

Freedom From Fear

I began David M. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 the other night. In a queasy parallel with our own economic woes, it begins on the cusp of the stock market crash of 1929, an event that ushered in the Great Depression and all its consequent hardships. This massive economic disruption, Kennedy points out, also came to symbolize the end of an era of massive and prolonged industrial expansion.

The old adage, "may you live in interesting times," seems particularly apt in describing the tectonic social and economic shifts that occurred during the first one third of the twentieth century. Kennedy describes a study commissioned by the Hoover Administration, Recent Social Trends, that sought to detail the many aspects of American life at this time. This included, according to Kennedy:

the Great War, mass immigration, race riots, rapid urbanization, the rise of giant industrial combines like U.S. Steel, Ford, and General Motors, new technologies like electrical power, automobiles, radios, and motion pictures, novel social experiments like Prohibition, daring campaigns for birth control, a new frankness about sex, woman's suffrage, the advent of mass-market advertising and consumer financing. "These," the researchers declared, "are but a few of the many happenings which have marked one of the most eventful periods of our history."

Astounding, to say the least.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can Can Can!

That's what I'm talkin' about. So, so sweet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


We voted this morning. We're feeling very good about it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween 2008

After the trick or treating, Abby was allowed to pick two pieces of candy. She prolonged her sugar buzz by choosing a couple suckers.