Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family Ties

Sorry for the radio silence, internet. I've been having a crazy month. I have been too emotionally tired (and physically tired!) these last few days to blog, and there hasn't been a whole lot to report, either, or maybe I'm just feeling too much like retreating into my shell for sharing. This happens sometimes. It's OK.

I guess I'll be annoying and do a bulleted list ... paragraphs are for losers:
  • One weird thing happened yesterday that I want to share here, though I seem to be having trouble finding the words (a common problem the last few days). It all started when I was trying, yet again, to find out more about my mother's side of the family, since they have always been very hush-hush about it. I guess they're ashamed because my maternal grandmother's side of the family was pretty much 100% totally crazy, in a "wow, its really quite remarkable you & your mom turned out remotely sane, Amber" kind of way. 
My great-uncle definitely takes the cake: he was, um, a convicted murderer. Yup. I mean, what do I even say about that? It's very weird. I never met the guy, but mom visited
Dragnet meets real life
him in prison when she was a kid (she did not have great things to say about that experience, if I recall). Anyway, until yesterday I knew nothing more than that, but holy cow, the internet is amazing, because what I found yesterday when googling his name blew my mind. First of all, I got to know some of the details of the case: he was 34 years old when he killed his landlord in Los Angeles, and he went on trial, was convicted & lived the rest of his life in prison. The most powerful stuff, though, were the truly incredible photographs associated with the (apparently pretty extensive) media coverage of the event by the L.A. Examiner. For the first time I realized  that this must have been much worse for my family than I realized (not to mention the victim's family, of course). I am, of course, very into photographs, but that aside, at least one of the photographs included in the USC Doheny Collection (there are several, available online for free!) is an incredible piece of photojournalism. I find myself staring at my great-uncle, this man connected to me, at least a little, by blood ... but is still a complete stranger, with no family resemblance I can see. It's weird to think that someone in my family did something so awful. I guess I can understand why no one wanted to talk about this & said it was better left in the past.
Anyway, if you're into this sort of thing (macabre shit, or just old photographs), please feel free to look at the images I found. The first set is here, but the one I got stuck on ... a haunting portrait of a broken man, can be found here. I think it's a powerful photograph, and its also the first image I ever saw of my infamous great-uncle. Weird, isn't it? It feels surreal to me. Also weird is that he's smoking in the courtroom ... I guess it was 1958 & all, but still. 
  • Now that I've written that down, I'm feeling exposed & can't remember the second bullet point. I guess I'll just let that be and instead ask you to share in my weird feelings about my extended family. Do you have any family members who did bad things and ended up in jail, or worse, on the local news? Tell me about them! 

3 comments:

  1. I also have a lot of bad, crazy, messed up family members. One uncle spent a few years in prison while I was in high school. That uncle committed suicide and his eldest son did as well just a few years later. His youngest son, my cousin, just spent many months in prison and just today had an appearance in court that almost saw him doing more jail time, but instead was told to leave Philadelphia and never return or risk arrest.
    On the other side of the family, my grandfather was neglectful to his kids to the point of abuse and so neglectful to his wife that he refused to bring her to the doctor when she needed it and she died of a curable disease. Much farther back on that side of the family, we're related to the lunatics who accused women of being witches and of sending birds to peck at them, bees to sting them, and other magic curses that were probably a mixture of psychosis and hallucinogens. So that isn't local news so much as a historical trial that there's plays, movies, and historical discourse about......
    Yikes.
    It's amazing I only have minor depression and struggled with suicidal thoughts through puberty.

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  2. I do have a relatively immediate family member who did something very, very awful and spent some time in prison for it (though not enough in my opinion). While I'm fine discussing it in person (I find it cathartic a little bit), I have reservations discussing it online. Maybe we'll have story time sometime, Amber.

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    Replies
    1. Totally understood. I have other things I could share with you, too, that I don't want to discuss online. It felt weird even sharing this!

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