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The Great Suburban Mushroom Hunt


morels mushrooms hunting“Hey Wookiee,” Randy hailed me from across the office, “I was thinking we might go mushroom hunting Friday after work. We’ll see if we can get Galen to come, too.”

“AWESOME! That would really boost my Mo-REL.”

Randy had just been mushroom hunting a few days before and bagged several tasty morels out at his old hunting grounds in the country. He’d been mushroom hunting since he was knee high to a grasshopper, as had a few other coworkers, but until about 3 years ago I didn’t know it was a thing.

Though I’d lived in Nebraska 20 years, I hadn’t really been tight with any old-school Nebraska natives or known the strange ways of the country folk until one day I overheard Randy and Dave whispering about the hunt in reverently excited tones (which would have sounded cooler with Irish/Amish accents). Read the rest of this entry »

How I’m Not Really Related To Ben Franklin (But It Turns Out I’m Swiss!)

Jon (Benny Lava) Perry

It’s genealogy time in the bachelor cave.  It came up in conversation a month ago with Jeff, one of the main dudes at my office.  After a heated discussion on Nietzsche (not really) we somehow got into world travel or genealogy where I learned that, as a result of his genealogical research on, Jeff would be traveling next year to a small town in the Czech Republic with his dad to see where their ancestors had lived.  Awesome!  Jeff raved about how easy it was to track family information on the site.  I mentioned how much I’ve wanted to do genealogical research to, among other things, discover my alleged family connection to Benjamin Franklin, rock star of the American Revolution and all-around genius-type.  My brothers and I grew up with the fairly unverifiable legend that Franklin is a shirttail relative.  And nailing my genealogy is on my lengthy bucket list (see the list here).  To my surprise, Jeff, wrote down his account name and password and graciously offered to let me use his account for the remaining weeks that were paid up on the site.  Going online, I took a crack at my family’s information and was surprised by what I found.

My mom’s genealogy is fairly sorted.  We have 2 large red genealogy volumes of the Hinkle side of the family that follow Lutheran missionaries from Germany to America in the 1600s and continue up through the twentieth century.  Also, a couple years back I sat down with my grandma and taped an oral history, learning a great deal about the Gottschalls in the process.  So, I started researching my dad’s side which is less known to most of the family and from where come stories of a Chippewa (aka Ojibwe/Anishinaabe) Indian chief as well as the aforementioned Ben Franklin.  Right away I hit a dead end with my dad’s dad’s branch, the Perrys, the branch with the chief, though I was able to see a 1920 census document from Chicago with names of relatives scrawled out in that old timey handwriting.

James & Amos Van Gundy. No clue who's who. Put online by a relative I don't know.

Instead, I had much better luck tracking through my dad’s mom’s side of the family.  The Van Gundys.  Amazingly, within a few hours I’d gotten as far back as the 1500s in Switzerland (not actually Van Gundys, but several lines of their ancestors).  It was incredible!  500 years!  I had no clue we had Swiss blood.  From both sides of my family I’d known about a few of our German lines, as well as Chippewa, Cherokee, likely Welsh and Dutch, but not about the Swiss.  I feel like slicing up some Swiss cheese with my Swiss Army knife and chomping down some Swiss chocolate while listening to yodeling and alpenhorn music as I ski the alps near those mountain goats and cows with the bells.  (Needs more cowbell!)  Besides all the Swiss family Robinson (there were no Robinsons), I found a few branches from the Alsace-Lorraine region of Germany.  The region has changed hands numerous times between France & Germany over the centuries.  So, through all this, we may even have French ancestry.  French!  Do the French make good Swiss chocolate?   Oui.

In the records I saw an alternate spelling for Van Gundy as Von Gundy and Von indicates nobility, but that could just be a misspelling, so I iced my excitement (especially since I’d come to a dead end on that line).  I discovered indirect relatives born in China about 200 years ago, but they had Western names and I suspect they might have been family of missionaries or statesmen or merchants or whatever weird job put Europeans in China back then.  There was one direct family line with 3 or 4 brothers who fought in the American Revolution after coming over from Switzerland.  Pretty cool.

Great-Great Grandpa Winston Van Gundy

After I’d done all this research, I spoke to my dad about what I’d found and was told that he’d learned from great-grandma Van Gundy, shortly before she died, that the Ben Franklin connection was more indirect and roundabout than we’d grown up believing.  It turns out that my great-grandma’s sister’s daughter married a Franklin and the connection is through that.  Disappointing.  I’d hoped there was some genius Franklin gene floating around that was stuck in my head just waiting to pop out and usefully manifest itself in the near future, but no.  I also learned from my dad that through marriage we’re related to a wrestler called Wild Red Berry, who wrestled in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.  I even found video footage of his wrestling matches on Youtube.  That was kind of cool and weird.  Weirder still, in the 90s we lived in the same small Kansas town this where this guy had served as mayor and head of the parks department.  My brother Chris even played little league baseball in a field named after him.  We’d had no idea.

Researching my ancestors made me really feel connected to them (I mean, besides the genetic disorders).  I may not learn much about them, but I’ll see names, dates of birth and death, places and even an occasional story or 2.  I’d like to go through each name (there are a few hundred so far) and Google to see what stories I can scrounge.  I’ve found a few already.  I want to discover what they were like.  I’ve seen photos of now dead great-great-grandparents I never met put up online by relatives I don’t know.  What can I learn about these people who lived scores or hundreds of years ago?  They each had their unique characteristics.  Their lives had meaning and in a way, when I think about, talk about, or research them, they kind of live again, if only for me.

I may not be directly related to Ben Franklin, but I have many interesting people in my family history, many still living.  I’ll have to harass more of them for stories.  They may not be famous, but they’re still pretty nifty.  I got a few new leads from my dad, so I’ll have to track those down.  I still have mom’s side to fully discover and that should be interesting (I need to read those big red Hinkle books).  Besides, family legend has it that great-grandpa Seitz left Germany and came to America just before WWI leaving behind a family castle along the Rhine River.  Oh, and there are 2 NBA basketball coaches named Van Gundy and maybe we’re cousins.  There’s enough to keep me busy for awhile.  Perhaps one day I’ll take an exploratory trip to Switzerland and see if I can round up some swell Swiss family tales.  Maybe buy an alpenhorn.  And lots of Swiss chocolate.

The secret word is alpenhorn

Semi-Related Links:

Bachelors In History

A Photographic Memory

Christmas Rituals

Being An Uncle

Children, Braid Your Nosehairs

Dating Advice From The Family

Family Advice: A Reversal (Sort Of)

Will Your Siblings Use Up The Good Names?

Men Without Cats

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    by Jonathan Bismuth Perry

    I’m quite disappointed this Nativity Creche isn’t mine. Click to enlarge.

    Before the season is too far gone, I wanted to share my family’s swell Christmas traditions with you in order to engender your deepest sympathies.  One day I hope to have my own family and will then be forced to carry on many of these highly specific holiday rituals I’ve grown to love (minus the Golden Insulin Needle Award).  Until then, it just so happens I’ve written about these traditions in my unpublished book, The Gentle Art Of Starting A Cult: A Do-It-Yourself Guide, in the chapter “Developing Rituals“, excerpted here for your mockery.  So take this holiday greeting card of love and stick it where the sun don’t shine (Iceland) from December to March.  But mostly in December.

    Our family, like the legions of mankind, is blighted with tradition and has some long established Christmas rituals it returns to year after year because of habit and not at all by force. Christmas Eve finds us gathered anticipatorily in the living room near the Christmas tree where we place wagers on when the dry stick will go up in a glorious fireball of holiday sacrifice. Then we sing through an ancient hymnal of carols like good Whovillagers and execute a small family talent show wherein various members juggle, mime the Nutcracker Suite, or a pianist playing Handel accompanies a castrato or a nose flautist. As we bask in the glow of the pagan tree (pre-fire or post, if Jay wins), we might read the Christmas story from the Bible or Charles Dickens.

    After that, we painfully delay the gift unwrapping a little longer to consume special high fat Christmas party foods: mom’s fudge, sugar cookies decorated like Menorah (breaks apart with those little candlesticks), English Toffee, Russian Tea Cakes, Iraqi Chocolate Chip Cookies, eggnog (virgin), fruitcake (virgin), and cheeseballs (Uncle Dan).  Apparently, there are also sandwiches and a veggie tray in a pretense of a balanced meal.

    A senior member of the family is then designated as Santa, though not forced into a red jumpsuit or Grizzly Adams hirsuteness, and removes gifts from under the tree, distributing one gift per round to each member of the family, until it is discovered that one lucky person has received many more presents than the other members of the family (gift equality is an important part of any communist gifting system). We explain this oversight by pointing out that this person isn’t really the family favorite, but that some of the numerous gifts were less expensive than the few gifts. This fools no one.  Still, a good time is had by all/most, and we unwrap and enjoy our grand gifts by breaking them (except when the gifts can break other things) and appreciate the wonderful and colorful Christmas decorations, like the Nativity Creche (not Koresh) with the three elves and white Gandalf action figure, until the wee hours of the morning.

    On Christmas morning, after at least 2 hours of sleep, during which time the senior family members secretly filled the stockings with exciting and high calorie content trinkets, we descend as happy vultures onto the stockings at the mantelpiece and, with the festively shaped chocolate or candy canes hidden inside, recreate the buzz of the sugar high from the night before. It’s at about this time that the family presents its Diabetic of the Year with the Golden Insulin Needle Award(which immediately comes in handy).  We call it the GINA.  Someone very clever and naughty might try to rename it the Virtually Annual Golden Insulin Needle Award.  It would also make the award shape ironic.  We wouldn’t stand for that, though.

    In Christmas seasons past, especially when my brothers and I were kids, we would go caroling with family, friends, and members of our church around to homes in randomly selected neighborhoods without neighborhood watch signs. We would sing hearty Christmas carols in multi-part harmony with our pre-pubescent voices and collect money for the poor (I never saw a penny of it) in spite of grumps with rifles and strict non-solicitation laws. Then, when we were done for the night, we would go back to a central location for hot chocolate and cookies. And insulin.  All highly specific rituals. Mostly sugar focused. Quite memorable. Things like these make me feel a part of a family. Reminds me that I don’t do much of this stuff anymore and really should consider seeking some sort of therapy for depression (or, maybe, start a cult.  Or a family.).

    Um, Merry Christmas.  We don’t all have Diabetes.  What are your Christmas traditions?  What would you add to your traditions if you could?

    The secret (made-up sounding) word is hirsuteness

    Christmas Reads:

    My 11 Favorite Christmas Albums

    Holiday Chocolate-For Independence Day?

    11 Steps To Becoming A Domesticated Bachelors: #s 8 & 9. Proper Socialization/Throw Parties

    Holiday Hosting Survival Guide

    Unrelated Groovy Reading:

    Sound Of Music Death Match!! Liesl v Maria

    Depeche Mode and High School Girls

    Google-Stalking The Ex

    Which is Your Type?  A Pseudo-Cosmo Quiz

    Will Your Siblings Use Up the Good Names?

    Kitten of Evil

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    Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

    Domesticated Bachelor RESOLUTIONS For 2010

    Happy New Year and junk! 2008 and 2009 were great years for me.  I made swell strides in personal improvement:  bought a house, changed jobs for the first time in 9 years, lost almost 40 pounds, finished writing a book, started this blog, and dated a few good-looking and fascinating (if unhappy) women.  2010 is promising and I hope to take a hearty chunk out of its hopeful offerings.  Here’s my (public) list of resolutions for the new year (the private list may or may not include shameful notions like ‘Online Dating’,  ‘Invisalign’, and job advancement.  Yes, the public list is shameful, too.).

    1. Get below 200 pounds for the first time since just after college (Allow for muscle tone & abs.  If there’s good muscle tone and a nice 6 pack, then just over 200 pounds is fine and not bad for a 6 footer built like a linebacker.  Or me.).   I could totally do it by summer.  Maybe.
    2. Get more sleep.  Unless I’m hanging out with attractive women until the wee hours, there’s no reason I should exhaust myself and make my brain dull and eyes red (though bloodshot brings out the blue in my eyes).  This may mean more hopeful cocktails of Melatonin & Tylenol PM.  Of course insomnia is insomnia.
    3. Save more and invest more.  $$ x $$= $$$$$$
    4. Be more confident & fearless.  Don’t care what people think (like the unhappy, uber-critical, pretty good-looking girl-woman I was sorta kinda not dating for 6 months who teased me a few times for not being manly enough.  Man, I miss her.).  Also, don’t overshare feelings, especially with uber-critical women.
    5. Be more manly & rugged.  (ok, yeah.  So I’d like to be a bit more dude-ish, but not in an obvious, obnoxious, pandering to the critics sort of way).  I’ll still listen to the Pet Shop Boys.
    6. Do one major home project:  new siding, update a bathroom or the kitchen (by ‘do’, I mean pay someone skilled to ‘do’ this project).
    7. Do 2 minor home projects:  trim, doorway casing, paint stuff.
    8. Plant at least one new tree on my property.  Front yard 1st.  Maybe a Birch or Japanese Maple.  Maybe both.  Also an evergreen.  That sounds like 3.
    9. Do some landscaping.  Flagstone walkway.  Sunken garden in the low corner of the backyard.  Junk like that.
    10. Learn a manly skill or 2, like wiring a new light fixture or building a built-in bookcase.  Or join a fantasy football league.  It shouldn’t be as exhausting as the daily fantasy baseball league I was in for 2 years.
    11. Do more cool adventurous sorts of things:  whitewater rafting, backpacking, large hill climbing, long trail hiking.  Canoeing the boundary waters (if there are showers).
    12. Be more sociable & less reclusive.  More Jay Gatsby, less Ted Kaczynski.  Also, make friends.
    13. Date more frequently & less stressfully.  More irons in the fire reduce the chance that a single iron will burn you.  Or something dumb.
    14. Finish writing one of the books I’ve been puttering around in.  I’ve been chipping away at 3 or 4 books, but get distracted easily.  One project has 22 pages of notes, but only 7 pages of written product.  What’s up with that?
    15. Resume writing music.  Finish some songs.  Maybe learn to use the Pro Tools recording software I bought in ’08 right before I bought the house.  (If ever tempted to write a song for a girl again, sleep on it a few days first and be sure it’s finished and not incredibly dorky.  Or containing dark humor.  Dangit.)
    16. Waste less time.  This includes spending less pointless time online or wasting too much time on wishy-washy women, however much you dig them and can’t get over them.
    17. If all else fails, follow the 11 Steps To Becoming A Domesticated Bachelor.

    (Again, I am not actually a Domesticated Bachelor.  I just play one in my mind.)

    What resolutions do you goats have for 2010?

    Related Reading:

    11 Steps To Becoming A Domesticated Bachelor

    Unrelated Awesome Reads:

    Google-Stalking The Ex

    Logan’s Run & Population Control

    Valentine’s Day Shame

    World Of Warcraft…Dating?

    Bachelors In History

    Sound Of Music Death Match!!! Liesl v Maria

    Kitten Of Evil

    Celebrity Crushes: The Girl Next Door

    Which Is Your Type? A Pseudo-Cosmo Quiz

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    11 Steps To Becoming A Domesticated Bachelor: #6. Be A Jack Of All Trades

    jeopardy_lby Jonathan B. Perry

    An important part of becoming a Domesticated Bachelor is being a Jack of All Trades.  Being a Jack of All Trades isn’t quite the same as being a know it all.  Or a jackass, though they can, and often do, overlap.  It means being able to function moderately in most broad areas of knowledge.  It’s being well rounded, knowing a fair amount about Russian literature, Biblical carpentry, snake oil sales, and Congolese kayak repair, but not being enough of an expert to really excel or do much with that knowledge.

    Being a Jack of All Trades still comes in handy because you’d know a little about most subjects and would be able to converse superficially about Congolese politics with your Congolese cleaning-lady before your cultured dinner party starts (she’s the exiled Congolese president‘s estranged goddaughter who’s cleaning your kitchen drain boards) or you could avoid major embarrassment if in a situation that requires minor skills, like changing a golf cart tire near the twelfth hole or planting a row of miniature fruit trees or naming your polo team after a Nabakov novel (the Hammered Lolitas!).  You can become a Jack of All Trades by dipping your toe a little in each subject.  This is best done by reading the first ten pages or so of several books.  Also, you could spend 6 or 7 years in college taking, or at least starting, many courses, perhaps changing your major several times along the way.  If you need real help doing any of this stuff in an actual skillful way you can always look up instructions online or buy one of those Dummies/Idiots books.  I suspect you might need several.jack-of-all-trades-king-gee

    Best of all, being the Jack of All Trades Dude that you are, you might make a decent Jeopardy! contestant because, even though your knowledge might not be very deep, it’s grown very broad.  Broad knowledge is key to excelling in multiple Jeopardy! categories and since there are 13 of them in each game you‘re well on your way.  Being on Jeopardy! is a major signifier of intelligence and will help cement your Bachelor Domestication, potentially acting as an aphrodisiac to at least a few disturbed women, especially the cute librarian types best depicted by Shirley Jones in The Music Man.  Then you might get to meet Alex Trebek, who’s grown back his mustache, and talk to him about the role of Congolese political art in Russian Orthodox literature while changing a golf shopping cart tire in the middle of your golf-course-dwarf-pomegranate-orchard-cemetery game, where the motto’s always been ‘Play through or die!’  Don’t be too long because the Hammered Lolitas play next.

    Read the first 5 steps:

    #5. Travel the World

    #4. Learn to Cook

    #3. Shape Up, Fatty

    #2. The Right Wardrobe


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    Tree Pruner or Medieval Weapon?

    treepruner2by Jonathan B. Perry

    Saturday night I went into Ace Hardware to use my $5 birthday gift card before it expired (I’m on their mailing list).  I dragged my car the 3 minutes through the snow and ice with the single purpose of buying a tree pruner, one of those telescoping tree pruners for high spots in your tree that you can’t reach with the regular clippers.  Now, in December I actually climbed one of my trees to trim it, but that didn‘t feel so safe and I was a bit lightheaded after coming down.  I’m not the monkey I used to be.  Ace has 3 telescoping pruner models and even though there was a big price gap between the 8 foot and the 12 foot models, I went with the more expensive 12 foot pruner and can’t wait for it to warm up just a little so I can pretty-up my trees.

    Taking my long pruner down from the display, it occurred to me how much this felt like a medieval weapon.  This was perhaps why I dawdled in the store a little longer, walking up and down the aisles, either feeling like a guard with a spear or a horseless jouster.  jousting2It was pretty excellent.  I even ran into an old friend who was shopping for a drill bit (I won’t say anything about tool size comparison).  The cashier asked a bit sarcastically if she could bag it up for me.  It felt great to finally get this excellent gardening tool-weapon to add to my arsenol of domestication.

    I remember using the telescoping pruner on my grandparents’ property in CA over the years.  They had walnut trees, oaks, and eucalyptus, mostly.  They’ve since sold the grand old acreage, much to everyone’s great sadness, but I bet they still have their tree pruner.  They still have trees.  They still like tools.  They’re still alive.