Thursday, May 21, 2009

A trip back home to Corning

As you know, I went "home" to Corning for Aunt Teresa's funeral over the weekend. Of course, I never really lived there, other than a short period when we lived in an apartment somewhere on Pulteney Street when I was in nursery school. But it doesn't matter; Corning is still home. No matter where we lived, we always went back there for visits once or twice a year, and when we did, here's where we went:

That's 321 West First Street in Corning. I'll get to more pictures from last weekend in a moment, but first, bear with me for a bit of family history. The house was built 106 years ago by my great-grandfather Sebastian Frey, who left Barenbach, in Salach, Germany, as a teenager in order to avoid an arranged marriage. (Years later some of my aunts and uncles and cousins went back to Barenbach, where they found Freys who still remember about Sebastian. They are still farmers, and they are still ticked off at Sebastian for leaving Barenbach instead of expanding the Frey family's farm holdings by marrying the neighbor's daughter as he was supposed to. ) He never went back to Germany and never saw his family again. I'm not sure exactly how he got to Corning -- that will have to wait for another post. But when he got there, he and his wife built a house and raised their family at 321 West First Street, where people with the last name Frey have lived ever since.

Sebastian met Mary Doyle, who was born in Ireland in 1865, in Rochester, New York, and married her. They had two daughters, my great-aunts Teresa and Bay (whose real name was Mary - I don't know why she was called Bay, but it suited her), and, I think, three sons. One of the sons was my grandfather Sebastian Justin Frey, born in Corning in 1892.  The younger Sebastian married Catherine McCarthy, known all her life and even afterward (it's on her gravestone) as Rena. She was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in 1895.

Rena McCarthy's parents were Richard McCarthy and Rose Geary McCarthy. Richard's parents, John and Catherine, came from County Cork and County Wexford in Ireland. John McCarthy came over from Ireland with his father in the 1830s to work on the Erie Canal. [Edit: Actually, the Erie Canal had been finished by then, so family history has this wrong. Maybe they came earlier or maybe they worked on some other canal.] Rose was the daughter of Mary Straney and Lawrence Geary, both also born in Ireland. Shortly after Lawrence Geary arrived from Ireland in the 1840s, both he and John McCarthy helped to build the Starrucca Viaduct in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, an engineering marvel of its time that is still in use today.

The granddaughter of Mary Straney and Lawrence Geary was Rena, who married Sebastian.  They had 10 children: Mary, Jack, Teresa, James, Richard, Marjorie, Rosanne, Thomas, Kathryn, and Geraldine. Sebastian was the only one of his brothers and sisters to marry. The siblings figured that Sebastian needed the house more than they did, so that's where he and my grandmother raised their kids. The house had one small bedroom for the parents, one for the six girls and one for the four boys, each one smaller than the bedrooms in our house. The only bathroom was in the basement until long after all the kids grew up, when one was added on the second floor. (If you look at the picture up above, you can see where it was added, over the front door, on top of what used to be a little front porch.)

Marjorie died as a toddler, and Teresa and Jim never married. The other seven, among them, produced 34 grandchildren for Sebastian and Rena, almost all of whom showed up for Aunt Teresa's funeral last weekend. There are a whole heck of a lot of great-grandchildren now -- Aunt Teresa would have known exactly how many, but I don't -- and one great-great-grandchild. Grandpa died in 1959; I have just one memory of him, sitting in an armchair in the living room at 321 West First Street with a dalmatian at his feet. Grandma died in 1981. Aunt Teresa lived at 321 West First Street for her whole life. Now, it will be sold.

The house is on Irish Hill in Corning, which drops sharply down from a high wooded ridge to the Chemung River. You have to walk down steep wooden steps from the street to get to the front door. The steps used to be painted green, and as my cousin Mary Claire points out, when you arrived for a visit, you could slide down the railing without getting splinters in your rear. You could also roll down the grass onto the sidewalk, or, if it was winter, slide down on the snow.

The hill drops away behind the house even more sharply than in front. Off the kitchen at the back of the house, there's a porch with a view of the river and downtown Corning that I used to think was the most romantic prospect in the world, especially at night. The trees have grown up now, but you used to be able to see a sweeping view of the whole valley, downtown Corning, Painted Post in the distance, lights on the river, cars and trains going by, the lit-up tower at the Glass Works with the silhouetted glassblower. You can still see glimpses of the city and the valley. Here's how it looks now:

I only took one picture inside. Here's the living room, with cousins:
It was always pale green, and it still is. Come to think of it, my other grandmother's living room on the other side of the river in Painted Post was always pale green, too, both when she lived on Water Street and later when she lived on Reservoir Road. Also, they both had the same print in their green living rooms -- the one that's in my bedroom now of the little girl in a green dress communing with a bird. The one I have came from my Grandma Ober's house. The one at Grandma Frey's house is still on the wall, just over Cousin Bill's left shoulder out of sight beyond the right margin of the picture. In every other way, my two grandmothers could not have been more different. Huh.

Here's the little girl in the green dress. It turns out it's called "Spring Song" by a German artist called Simon Glucklich. The girl in the picture listening to the bird is his daughter, who was blind. Apparently the print was popular in the 1920s, which would have been when both my grandmothers were young brides setting up their new homes.

OK, that's probably as much family history as you can bear. Here are some relations. .
That's cousin Bill talking to my Aunt Kay and my uncle Jim Clancy.

Bill has apparently said something off-color, and Aunt Rosanne is telling him to cut it out. It can't have been too bad, though, because Aunt Kay is laughing. Behind them are cousins Ann (she's a librarian, with six sons) and Mary (she's an engineer -- I'm sorry to say I've lost track of how many kids she has.) .
Cousins Jim and Matt (who does theater lighting. His wife is a playwright. They have two kids.) You know who that other guy is.
Another guy you know, with cousins Mary-Claire and Martha (who lives in Michigan.)

All of Aunt Teresa's living siblings (Jack, Dick, Rosanne, Tommy, Kay) made it to her funeral. Here are three of them at the party after the wake: Aunt Rosanne, Grandpa Frey, and Uncle Dick.
Here they are again.
Cousins Caker and Kate.
Uncle Dick and cousin Mary-Claire, studying a picture.
Somebody asked Aunt Kay (Kathryn) how many of her nieces were named Catherine or Kathryn after Grandma Rena (Catherine) Frey and her grandmother Catherine McCarthy and her mother Catherine Fitzgerald, back in Ireland.  She looked around and there were four of us right there in the kitchen. So here's a picture: Caker, Kay, Kate, me (the firstborn female granddaughter -- named and spelled Catherine after those who came before me -- and also, coincidentally, named after my mother from the other side of the river, Anne Catherine Ober, whose Catherine was after HER grandmother Catherine Wickham Lowe), and Caye.

More bud-nipping

Three of my faves:

1) "Just between you and I."
"They gave it to my wife and I."
(Worse) "They gave it to he and I."

It's me. Me. Me. Me.
And him. Not he.

2) "These type of things."

I hear this from sportscasters all the time. It's types. These types. Of things.

3) Listen for this one. You will hear it more often than not.

"The fact of the matter is, is ..."
"The problem is, is ..."

The subject has become not just "The fact of the matter", but "The fact of the matter is." The "is" gets said twice. Listen. You will hear it often.

This isn't grammatical esoterica. It's pretty basic.

So don't call me a snob.


It really was sweet to see him hit last night. Watching the night before, I was struck by how much he is loved in Boston. Standing Os at every at bat. Wow. Could you imagine what it would be like in New York if A-Rod went 40 games without a home run? Would they stand and cheer him on or would they boo him unmercifully?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Goodbye, Aunt Teresa

I'm sad to say that my father's sister Teresa died on Thursday. She was 80 years old and still lived in the house on West First Street in Corning where Grandpa Frey grew up. Here is a link to her obituary and here is a link to a lovely video tribute with many, many Frey family pictures going back through the decades.

I'll be in Corning for her wake and funeral today and tomorrow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Watch This!

The muscles this kid must have. The scrapes. The bruises. I'd like to know more about his bike. It's not fixed-gear, as he coasts sometimes. But it also appears that he pedals himself backwards at times. There must be some way that he shifts between freewheeling and fixed-gear. Hat tip: Scott.

Go Solar!

At only $1100 per square foot. I want a bumper sticker that says, "Thuck the Earf!" I'll put it alongside the one that says, "DYLSEXIES UNTIE!"

And one that says, "Redistribute This."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad's birthday present is a Yamaha CP300 digital stage piano. It's a good one. We took the old piano to Grandma Frey's on Sunday, where it is now set up under the west windows in the living room. He's getting lobster for dinner, too.

I am not nearly as good as Dad is at posting romantic truths on this blog, especially when I'm trying to do it at work. However, he deserves the best birthday presents and the happiest birthday ever. Tellingly, he has already spent part of his birthday trying to figure out what to do about MY computer and MY cell phone, both of which need replacement. He spends too much of his time trying to figure out how to help the rest of us out of various predicaments, technical, automotive, financial, and otherwise. I don't tell him enough how important that is and how much I count on him to be there, never having to question whether he will be because, of course, he always is. I need to tell him more. So here's once, anyway: thanks, honey, for all you do, all you put up with, and even more, for all you are. Life with you is lots of fun and has been ever since I bumped into you on a dining hall porch late on a Sunday evening in Chappaqua, New York almost 33 years ago. Would I have guessed back then that you'd still be making me laugh now that we're, um, no longer as young as we used to be? Maybe not -- but I'm so glad we both took the gamble. Happy, happy birthday, dear, and may there be many more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Visiting Grandma Murphy

Dad and I went to visit Grandma Murphy on Mother's Day. She's here, just off Route 9 in Hadley. Pat and Art were there, too, and Claire and Rob were due to arrive later. It's a nice place with sunny windows, a lot going on, and a couple of fat cats wandering in and out of the rooms. There's also a piano.

Grandma is SO much better than last time we saw her. She's alert and interested in everything and on the ball. She's happy.

She sang a bunch of songs with Dad. She remembered the words to some of them and read the words to some more in a popular-songs book that Claire gave her.

While we were there, she got visitors from her church-- a mother and daughter who had come to bring her some gifts: some flowers, a potted marigold, and a Mother's Day card handmade by the daughter.

They also brought her a certificate for an award she'd been given by the church's Friendship Circle. She is one of their "Distinguished Women of the Year."

She was pretty thrilled. And I think she's pretty doggoned distinguished, too. Let's hope we can all be this resilient and positive when we reach her stage of life. Grandchildren, if and when you are anywhere near Hadley, go for a visit. Bring your friends and/or significant others. And if you want a gift suggestion bring her a recent photograph of yourself. She has a bulletin board full of pictures of her grandchildren, hung so she can see it from her bed. She has a picture of the Earlville Murphies, but it's pretty far out of date. New ones would be great.

Friday, May 08, 2009

One may land here!

h/t: Lileks


What? No post radio? I listened all day to XM 175. Great stuff. I was sure someone would pull a thread on our internets about it. And more on Remy NESN, Eck, REd Sox. I think it has been the most interesting bb season in a couple years. I'll write more later when I don't have to go to the barn.

(Joke) How do you make Mom happy? Take her to a minor league game and feed her. Mom LOVED the Chiefs/RS game. I mean everything about it. We had two italian sausages, a helmet full of popcorn, the kind of cheese and chips that aren't yours, and french fries. Mom loved the sky, the planes, the trains, the jet trails. We saw Daniel Bard pitch. Mom likes guys with cameras.

If someone had told me thirty years ago that my wife would love going to baseball games and want to go to all the stadiums I'd have said, yeah right.

ON XM yesterday, of all the excellent stuff, Reggie Jackson was the best. Who knew?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hey, Luke, are you out there?

Your family wants to know what you're up to. At least, some of us do. Report, please!

p.s. I apologize for not posting pictures of the Syracuse Chiefs/Pawsox game Dad and I went to the other day. My computer really did die -- it got another devastating virus or something from somewhere (nothing to do with that racehorse post, I'm sure -- that's just when it started to get out of control-- but there had been a few other signs earlier.) . I'm using Dad's old laptop while I decide what to do. Waah.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Watch this horse win this race

Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby yesterday -- a $9,500 horse whose trainer, a former rodeo rider who's on crutches after breaking his leg in a motorcycle accident, drove to the race in his pickup truck with the horse in a trailer hitched behind. (Other horses were owned by such luminaries as, for instance, the ruler of Dubai.) Here's a screen shot of the beginning of the race. Mine That Bird is the horse in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen -- dead last, far behind the rest.

He stays there until the last 25 seconds of the two-minute race. Watch the whole thing. At about the moment the announcer says the name "Chocolate Candy," R2-D2 apparently reactivates the hyperdrive. Mine That Bird zips from the back right through the field and sneaks through an absurdly narrow space on the rail into the lead. ("I had enough room," explains the jockey, Calvin Borel. "He's a small horse.") He's already a couple of lengths beyond the rest by the time the announcer blinks and says belatedly, as the horse pounds effortlessly toward the finish line, "That's, uhhh, Mine that Bird taking the lead..."

The ultimate underdog story! Here's the whole race:

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I wish Jerry Remy a speedy and complete recovery.

But...I don't miss him. At all. Buck Martinez isn't my favorite, but I like him. Best of all, though, is that I don't have to listen to Remy read any more promos. Orsillo reads them now and does it in a normal unaltered tone of voice. I don't even notice them. Remy likes to ramp his voice up for the promos and I find that THAT is the source of my annoyance with them, more so than the music that accompanies them.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Underground Grammarian

Mom, have you seen this? If not, then you need to, I think you'll really enjoy it.