Deadly Nightshade

So Many Foods I Love Are Related to Deadly Nightshade

On several occasions, I have been warned by good friends to beware of foods that are related to deadly nightshade (a.k.a. belladonna). Unfortunately, these include some of my favorites, including:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Chile peppers
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Paprika

It is not unusual to find foods that have unsavory relatives. Perhaps most common of these is common table salt, which is made up of two poisonous elements, sodium and chlorine. Despite all the bad press that salt has received from many in the medical profession, it is indisputable that the human body cannot exist without it, especially in hot climates.

Despite what some of my more health-food conscious friends may say, I have no intention in cutting back on members of the family Solanaceae. In fact, I believe that the foods in the above list are positively good for me. If anything, I will eat more of them in future. For instance, I cannot imagine living my life without chile peppers.

 

 

 

 

Caught Between the Warring Twins

Emil, Margit, and Elek Paris

The following post appeared on my Multiply.Com blog site on January 16, 2011.

It’s been a while since I revisited my past. This time, I’m going back into the period before my birth. The above picture was taken at some point in the 1930s and shows the Paris twins, Elek (Alex) and Emil, and their sister Margit.

Can I tell which one of the men is my father? Probably, it is the one on the right, because my father Elek was always better tanned and more athletic but not so well dressed as Emil. Even later in life, I sometimes had to wait for them to start talking before I recognized them, because they had very distinctive voices.

Elek and Emil could never live far apart from each other. When Emil bought a condominium in Hollywood, Florida, my Dad followed—in the same Carriage Hills condo complex. My father died in October 1985; and Emil died a few months later, of pretty much the same combination of diabetes and heart failure. At my Dad’s funeral, Emil was visibly shaken, as if his world had been taken away from him.

All their lives, the two twins competed through their children. Dad had the two sons, my brother Dan and myself; Uncle Emil had a son and daughter, Emil Jr. and Peggy. At times, the competition got bitter, especially when my cousins faltered in school and in their personal lives. Dan and I, however, always liked our cousins and regretted any bad blood between the brothers. They were just that way.

Margit was a different case: She never married. I don’t even know whether she dated very much or even wanted to marry eventually. Some years after this photo was taken, she opened May’s Bridal Shop in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and lived on the premises spending her time sewing bridal gowns. My job when visiting there was to pick up fallen pins with a magnet. I would also look with admiration at all her old calendars with Currier & Ives illustrations.

I don’t remember when Margit (whom we called Nana) closed the shop and retired to Florence, South Carolina, but I think it was in the early 1970s. She didn’t last very long because, shortly after I returned from Hungary in 1977, I got a call that Margit had died suddenly. The timing was unfortunate, as my parents were still in Hungary visiting. So I notified my brother and the two of us attended the funeral—after sending a telegram to Dad in Hungary. He was very broken-up that he couldn’t make the funeral in time, but was grateful that Dan and I went.

Whatever the competitiveness between the frequently warring twins, I always felt that my Uncle, my cousins, and my Aunt loved us for what we were. Although Margit was closer to her brother Emil than to Elek, that never impacted on the next generation. I did feel, however, that my Dad had never said certain unkind things about my cousins that I wish he hadn’t. Cousin Emil was always good-hearted and frequently protected me from neighborhood bullies when I was a little shrimp of a kid; and Cousin Peggy was, I always thought, incredibly cute.

A life is always strange when one looks at it all of a piece. I cannot help but feel that I have grossly oversimplified the complex web of interrelationships that existed among us. The important thing is that I accepted the few bad things because they were more than made up for with kindness and love. Elek, Emil, and Margit now exist inside of me; and all the conflicts have been resolved.

 

“This Be the Verse”

Is This Why the Poet Never Married?

I can’t believe that I’ve ignored Philip Larkin’s poetry for so long. I guess that’s what happens when you have too many damned books. This is one of my favorites by Larkin. It’s called:

This Be the Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Apparently, the poet took these words to heart, as he never married or had children.

Tarnmoor’s ABCs: Zsófi, Elek and the Two Boys

Our Family Around 1962

Our Family Around 1962

All the blog posts in this series are based on Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him.

My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland, Patagonia, Quebec, Scotland, Yucatán), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, Borges, and Shakespeare); locales associated with my past life (Cleveland, Dartmouth College, and UCLA), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), foods I love (Olives and Tea), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This is my last entry in the series, having gone through the entire alphabet from A to Z, including even the difficult letters like J, Q, and X.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, which you can review by hitting the tag ABC’s at the bottom of this post.

Above you can see a picture of our little family taken around 1962. I was about to enter college, while my brother was in the 6th grade at Saint Henry School on Harvard Avenue in Cleveland, from which I graduated in 1958. My mother is Sophie—Zsófi in Hungarian—and my father is Alex—Elek in Slovak and Hungarian.

This was a difficult time for the family, as my father was under suspicion of conducting an extramarital affair with a married woman. With the tense atmosphere at home, I was eager to attend college in New Hampshire, some 600 miles east, where I would be out of the fray. Although there were some bad times around then, my mother and father stayed together. They loved Dan and me, and in the end that kept them together.

For the next twenty years, Mom had few good words to say about Dad. Except, when Alex died in 1985 at the age of of 74, he became a saint. I went along with that, because all my life I tried to please him.

Dad never understood where I was going in life. I wanted to be a professor of film history in criticism at the university level. One day, I made the mistake of calling the profession “cinematology.” Ever afterward, Dad pronounced it as if I had said “cosmetology.”

Although Dan was more like Dad in being an athlete, Dad was harder on him. When Dan was at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, he took some time off to travel around Europe and North Africa, thus delaying getting his college diploma. (He did eventually, but Dad kept riding him for his gap year.)

I like the above picture. It shows a normal family in which all the stresses are carefully kept hidden. But the fold lines over time come out as if they were fault lines along which our family could fracture.

Fortunately, it never did.

 

Heart’s Desire

My Father’s Side of the Family Around 1918

My Father’s Side of the Family Around 1918

When I visited my brother a week and a half ago, he brought out two boxes of old pictures and papers relating to my past—except it was his past, too. From left to right, the pictures are of:

  • My Uncle Emil (twin of Alex)
  • “Mama” or my paternal grandmother Margit
  • Margitka, my Aunt Margit
  • Stará (Old) M., clearly a member of the family, possibly the same as my Father’s kindly Aunt Valera
  • My Father, various called Ellek, Elek, or Alex (twin of Emil)

Shortly after this picture was taken, Grandma Margit and her husband Emil Sr. abandoned their children in Prešov-Solivar while they went off to the United States. Little Emil, Elek, and Margitka were cared for by Valera. My father tells me stories of picking mushrooms in the Tatra Mountains and hunting for frog legs to feed his brother, sister, and aunt. All three children made it to Cleveland some ten years later.

As a result of fending for himself in the mountains of Slovakia during the postwar famine, my father always had an insatiable craving for meat. When he came to America, he and his brother indulged in that craving—and that’s what killed them. Sometimes it’s best NOT to have your heart’s desire.

I visited Czechoslovakia with my parents in 1977 and met Valera. She was the only Slovak in the family who could still speak Hungarian, so I was able to communicate with her. I would like to think she was the pleasant looking Stará M. in the above photo.

 

Seeing the Latest Paris

The Area Around Palm Springs

The Area Around Palm Springs

I’ll be taking a four-day weekend beginning tomorrow to visit my brother, nieces, and nephew in the Palm Springs area. Most particularly I’ll be meeting young Oliver Moorman (pictured below), who is the latest addition to the Paris family. Names don’t matter: It’s the blood that counts.

Oliver Moorman

Oliver Moorman

The little lad is the son of my niece Hilary and her husband Joseph Moorman, who live in West Seattle. In addition, Jennifer and Daniel will be driving from San Diego and L.A. respectively to join in the festivities.

My next posting will probably be on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

 

Christmas in Cleveland

Me at the Age of Ten (or Thereabouts)

Double Trouble

Here I am at the age of ten or thereabouts. At the time, I was a student at St. Henry’s School on Harvard Avenue in Cleveland. My enjoyment of Christmas at the time depended on whether the people buying me gifts wanted to please my parents—or whether they wanted to please me. I remember asking my Mom’s friend Edith Antal to buy me comic books instead of clothes, which she graciously (and I think gratefully because of the price) did. Some people, such as my maiden Aunt Margaret—we called her Nana—bought me clothes all the time. Best of all was my Uncle Emil, who would give me a twenty-dollar bill. After being sworn to buy something useful, like clothes, I would gleefully buy something I wanted instead.

We would spend every Christmas Eve at my Uncle’s house in Novelty, Ohio. My Dad and my uncle, being identical twins, were inseparable. It was a long ride down Kinsman Road to Route 306 in Geauga County, where we would take a left and then a right on Marden Drive. There my Uncle Emil had a ranch house which he designed himself. I remember a long dark corridor leading to the bedrooms. There we all were: My Mom and Dad, Uncle Emil, Aunt Annabelle, Nana, and my cousins Peggy and Butch. While the adults talked about things that were of little interest to me, my cousins and I would shoot pool in the basement.

Ohio Route 306

Ohio Route 306

Then we would go up for dinner, which was never as good as what we got at home: Aunt Annabelle always preferred convenience to quality. Then we would exchange gifts in the living room. As long as I got my twenty, I was happy. When the gifts were all clothing, I was miserable. In any case, I was usually in pain by that time because of my allergies. My uncle had a cat and dog to which I reacted violently. I would sneeze and develop an asthmatic wheeze, while my eyes itched and watered.

This whole thing was re-enacted so often that I never really had any great expectations of Christmas as a holiday. My Uncle never came over to our house on East 176th Street because he was the wealthier of the two brothers, being the owner of the Metal Craft Spinning Company in the Flats downtown, and rather liked playing the baronial lord and master. It was all right, because I liked my uncle. He was often funny, while my Dad took things too seriously. The sad thing was that, being twins, they died within months of each other in 1985-86 of the same medical conditions.