Fred Langworthy and Susan O’Leary: Cultural Exiles

IMG_2437Since I wrote about an ancestor on my father’s side (one of his side’s anyway) from the 1920s, I thought the next story to introduce should be from someone on my mother’s side, from roughly the same time period.

But one generation later. And with a theme of religious intolerance. And possibly related to 19th century Irish-American history. Continue reading

An ex-Domer Forever: What on Earthside was I thinking?

It’s the end of the spring term (finally) at my university in Kyoto, which means I’ll be getting ready for my yearlong sabbatical in Montreal soon. From September I’ll be back at a North American university for the first time since 1997.

Ah, Notre Dame. Mixed lapsed Catholic-cum-agnostic memories. Continue reading

Half-finished, half-destroyed, hybrid? Syncretic culture

During the first week of May my family and I had a chance to explore ancient Greece.

Well, OK, modern Greece. With some ruins thrown in.

In addition to the museums of Byzantine culture, early Christian churches, old Turkish baths, reconstructed tombs of Phillip II of Macedon and all that, we also wandered around downtown Thessaloniki (Thessalonika) quite a bit. I was struck by the prevalence of half-destroyed, half-rebuilt buildings in various states of disrepair/renewal/disusage/usage. Continue reading

Winter: A Time to Read

Since becoming sick this past November (first a momentary, sudden illness in the pit of my stomach…), I’ve found it difficult to stay 100% healthy as winter has well and truly set in. It’s not terribly cold where I live (the middle of Honshu, the main island of Japan), but the up-and-down irregular temperature pattern this year has made it easier to catch colds, influenza, and other upper respiratory sicknesses.

So while down in the dumps with the mumps (which I contracted over New Year’s from my two children, despite having been vaccinated against it as a child…different strain here, perhaps), I’ve tackled a reading book list compiled from last summer. Even managed to finish one or two! Continue reading

Thoughts on the eve of tomorrow

As I sit here in front of my computer late at night, on the verge of the 2016 US presidential election, I’m struck by the choice I had to make. Two different versions of a future US society: one that invites multidiversity and multiethnicity in all their chaotic, unpredictable combinations, and one that shuts the door and preserves a traditional us vs them, insider vs outsider mentality.

By all rights, I should support the latter. I’m from a small town of less than 3,000 inhabitants, close to 99.99% white, deep in the heart of Upstate New York. I grew up surrounded by people who basically looked like me, enjoyed camping and hiking, canoeing and fishing, playing baseball and football and video games. Driving. A lot. I did yard work when I was old enough to get my working papers (back then, you didn’t get your social security number until you applied for it after age 14). In the spring, I helped my father in the garden. In the summer I mowed lawns. In the fall I raked leaves. In the winter I shoveled driveways. In high school, I had a part-time at a local pizza place, then at McDonald’s, then washed dishes in a nearby town. All our customers were white. All of them spoke English. It was all just fine, everybody looking the same and acting the same. Everybody just like me. Continue reading