Archive for March, 2011

Coffee with Bill

Memory is such a strange and elusive thing. It is much more than mere knowledge, awareness, or the impressions that a person retains – be it a person, an event, a period, or subject. Memory is a celebration of those experiences. It is the realization of our past, our history, our whole life.

Bill Brunner was one of my closest friends growing up. He lived conveniently just around the corner and we were the same age we had the same toys, the same interests and quite possibly the same dreams. Bill was more than a bunch of great memories, Bill was my early childhood. Going to school together, watching TV, sports, playing games for hours. We got into everything and anything. Chemistry, geology, astronomy , swimming, racing, bikes, football, baseball the list is endless. He was the punter, running back, lineman of our football team. The only football team with real uniforms and painted helmets. Sidestreet baseball home-run hitter. Engineer of some incredibly swift paper planes. Hot wheels racer enthusiast. Tough competitor and all around typical American kid from around the block.

We threw back coffees in our little meeting spot, up there in the north west corner of New Jersey – a Pannora Bread – late one freezing week night. In my estimation, we had to fill in the gap of at least THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!

After thirty-five years, best friends find each other on the Internet.


Bill has been married over twenty years and is currently raising two preteens and we all know that is more than a full time job. If you want to reconnect with him like some of our family has already done, you can find him as one of my friends on Facebook.
Bill hasn’t changed much, except of corse in only the wiseness that life slowly unwraps for you as you become a husband, a father and a person. He was very genuine, kind and funny.

The thing that I always enjoy when I frolic in the past with old friends or family is that their memory always has a lot more than you could have ever remembered. I thought I knew it all. I thought I remembered it all. Bill kept bringing up times and memories that I thought I had long forgotten! There are so many events that connect together in your childhood, that it is impossible to keep them all.

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a MAJOR heritage Hartman BREAKthru

In my on and off extensive search for our heritage I have found out some very cool and very important information. Only because of our sister Barbs brave dig into our great aunts sisterhood on Menham NJ, (a letter mailed about 4 years ago) was I able to obtain the complete list of our Grandpa’s 12 brothers and sisters. With this information, I may have contact with someone who has access to even more information and even more exciting some photos of our great grandparents and their 12 children.
We already knew there were 13 children and that one had died in infancy but now it has been uncovered that two had indeed very sadly passed away before their first birthday. (this was actually a pretty common thing back then and the life span of most adults back then rarely went past 50)

So here it is, In order of their births:

1. Gertrude b:1888 d:1973 (In 1913 became an nun “Sister Clarella.”)
2. Fred b:1889 m:1920 (Married Lydia Marklein) d:1941
3. Clara Mathilde b:1890 m:1914 (Married J.Van Duzer) d:1932 (Relatives
located on this side of family.)
4. Emmy b:1892 d:1892 died as infant
5. Frieda b:1894 d:1973 became a nun “Sister Richardis”
6. Charles Richard b:1895 d:1895 died as infant
7. Katherine b:1896 m:1918 (Married Henry Jager) d:1969
8. George Joseph b:1898 m:1917 (Married Florence Swaine) m: 2nd time in 1929 (Alice Anderson) d:1970
9. Margaret Helen b:1899 m:1919 (Married Frank Robarge) d:1971
10. Clara b:1901 m:1927 (Married Henry Ulrich) d:1962
11. Rose Anna b:1903 m:1925 (Married William Ross) d:1974
12. Alfred b:1906 m: 1933 d: unknown?
13. Marie Elizabeth b:1909 (never married) d: unknown ?

#8 – George Joseph is our Grandfather . Also very new information is that he was married twice and his second wife – Alice Anderson our Grandmother, was the mother of our father George Charles. It is important to note here that in the 1950’s which was shortly after World War II and the holocaust, our Grandfather knocked off a ‘N’ on our last name. I remember our mother telling me it was a business decision based on the name Hartman (one ‘N’ Jewish) and Hartmann (2 ‘N’s’ being German). Since most salesmen in America in the 1950’s were Jewish, it was said that they merely avoided any contacts with German people.

I am trying very hard to get in touch with the woman that posted this information on the web. Her Grandmother was our Grandfather’s sister; Clara Mathilde. I have emailed her twice so far with no return. Of corse I will never stop trying.
Somewhere out there are photos of this family and I think she may have them. It would be amazing to look into the faces of a one-hundred year old family of fifteen and to see, perhaps, our own likeness’. You must understand that DNA and generation to generation chemistry is carried on and passed. We are what they were and although every individual that has ever visited this planet is entirely unique, but that families are in some spiritual and chemical way… are tied together for all eternity.
-more info to come-

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How I never met Madonna

This is it. It has been ALMOST ten years since our wonderful mother has passed. Seems like yesterday right? As I write this it is almost exactly ten years ago that she happened upon a paper and pen and wrote what is now the very front (index) page of the family web site.Also this week it has been two years since they took me in the office in New York at Apple Digital Graphics and told me “It was nice, but it’s over.” The most I remember of that was the very blurry and surreal ten block walk to the early (at least today it was) long bus ride home. “So…here I am again. Looking for work.” and I always think of those lucky bastards that always have a way to not punch the clock, yet they make it through life. Or the other lucky bastards that put in an application for ONE job. Get it. Then work it for twenty-thirty years and retire and go home. They never have any clue of what it is like to be standing in the cold begging for a job.

A very somber photo of a woman who had a tough life.

So in those two years since my NYC layoff I’m thinking-I don’t miss that art community at all-nor do I have any faith or love for any art community for that matter. They are all self-centered selfish jerks that are so totally absorbed in their own crap and are constantly fishing for compliments. Once I went into a Barnes and Noble Book store with an “artist” (many years ago” and I was excited to look at art magazines with this person to get ideas, inspiration etc etc. But this person, you see, refused. “I don’t look at other peoples art, I’m too involved with my own.” (buzzer sound) Guess what “artist”??? wrong fucking selfish answer!! I don’t know why I am constantly measuring time. And I measure time by years. And a year is alot. Ten years since my mother died. Ten years since I got fired at Lucent Technologies, two years since the Apple Digital Graphics layoff. Almost ten years since 9/11 terrorist attack. Ten years since my divorce. In the last two years all the disastrous dates, fumbled relationships, sleeping in my car, collecting unemployment, living in the woods in upstate NY somewhere, the interviews, the “under-the-table” weedwhacking job in the ninety degree Summer days. The bouts of severe depression, staying sober through it, feeling a million years from my children. Then the art teacher and another art community and her layoff . Throwing on a dress shirt in the parking lot of the Parsippany Hilton for yet ANOTHER job interview. By now, well versed and confident (I have been in this hot seat of questions way too many times to not be nervous anymore. The English guy called me the next day (while I was working at a sign design shop in New City New York, sleeping in my car) and told me that I got the job but I already knew that by the way he was eyeing me in the interview. I’m not afraid anymore after these two years. I’ve been through so much shit that I have become a very wise man. When I met Cat, I was Dog. I was still sunburned from cutting the lawns and weedwhacking in Central New Jersey. I was late for the first date. I was sleeping in my office. I was living one day at a time. A little while after that, the British guy told me to meet him at Ruths Chris Steak House for dinner and as I was chewing on a $50 dollar steak, my boss from New York called and wanted me back. I made a fool outta myself, the phone slipping out of my hands from the garlic butter and I couldn’t turn the ring tone off. The British guy gave me a 10 grand raise and a year later after that a $5,000 dollar after Christmas bonus. For what? For becoming a total extension of this new job. For living, eating and sleeping graphics. For pretty much performing miracles of 60-70 hour work weeks. In this time I met Mike who was married to Joanna who was my girlfriends sister. She quit a nice salaried job to go back to school at the Visual Arts in NYC by special invite. Mike is an extremely talented puppet creator who sides as a Saturday Nightmares convention maker. He ran into a little trouble making puppets on ebay with some sesame street copyright infringement bullshit but now has a way around it. Joanna was handed a brand new guitar on the first day of a second semester class (with 18 others) and was told to pretty much create something from it. Based on a musician and her/his charity. So I guess most famous people with alot of money have charity’s sincere or not-basically to make them feel less guilty for being richer than God and it always works nice as a TAX WRITE-OFF. So my girlfriends EX has a job where he builds floats for parades. I never knew that could be a real job, let alone a year-round full time job. I thought the puppet making job was pretty cool but building parade floats is right up there. Meanwhile down in Florida the property that is in my name is slowly deteriorating but my very talented wood-working brothers, Grant and Gary are going to fix it up and rent it out. I have fallen behind on the taxes and the property insurance has expired. The only neighbor that lives there, Tim (the same first name as my British boss) told my crafty brothers that he caught a man with a pick-up truck trying to steal my refrigerator from the property. This is a disturbing thing, when something 2,000 miles away from you is being taken. Talk about feeling helpless. I wasn’t even sure how old the refrigerator is so I asked my brothers and they said “pretty new” so now that pissed me off. If it was really old, maybe I wouldn’t care if he took it, the fucking thieving bastard. My girlfriend creates many different kinds of art

Seven chakra jewelry

and recently sold something to someone in Belgium. Now THAT is how powerful the WEB has become. I used to love my job but now, I don’t know. It has sucked all my creative energy into a ball and thrown it away. I have been on my hands and kness looking for it. Egypt is so far away, I don’t care. Since Tim has become my boss, slowly but surely, all my crazy bills have gotten paid off. I can buy books and magazines for myself again. I go out to eat in strange nice places. I have lived in the THREE New Jerseys in my life. South. Central and now this wild jungle called North Jersey. There are alot of nice neighborhoods up here. Here, in the shadows of New York. I have found myself in strongly -knit Poish communities, waiting in line for pork and bread. Listening for hours to Polocks speaking Polish. Thinking that maybe old school Communism is gonna be ok.

Garfield, little Poland as seen from Botany Villiage

Here in Botany Village the melting pot of the north Jersey. Here in the depths of the year 2011, on a rainy cold night in the beginnig of March. In between Winter and Spring, Easter and rolling black clouds. I miss my family, I miss dancing with my brothers in my bedroom to the Grateful Dead, I miss being alone, I miss someone “liking” what I took a photo of. I miss being heard, I’m a little tired of listening, to all my employees, to my two boys, to my close friends and all their new endeavors and the exciting things going on. If I keep listening long enough I will learn another language. I could weed whack the McMansions of the rich people using no hands. If that butterfly guitar that opens from Africa ever gets into the view of Madonna, there would be a slight chance that I could meet her. We could smoke cigarettes together and sip long glasses of brandy. Joanna the designer, Merick the contractor, Mke the puppet and convention creator, Halina the nurse and Jack the float builder, Krystina the art teacher, Charles the guitar player, Anna the singer, Josh and Jonathan, my long lost dad, my mother would all be there. My mom would be writing letters, half in the bag, scribbling memories of her short life, spent one third of it pregnant, watching John Wayne movies….and sleeping in the room downstairs that used to be our garage. You will walk through life and meet all kinds of people. We all do this….and enjoy your life, with Gods help we can all be together again. (great advice mom)
_The effects of the moon-

February's full moon-2011

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Over the river and thru the woods….

a letter written in 1918, tells me where the Hartmann's lived!

A letter received several years ago from Mendam NJ after an inquiry by our sister Barb about our two great aunts on our fathers side. Our grandfather came from a family of 12. Really, 13 but “he” died early in life. Health was a fragile thing in the beginning of the twentieth century. All you really need to do is walk through an old cemetery to see the short life spans and large number of young children.
SO this first large family of Hartmanns in the United States of America lived in Jersey City. When I first saw that address, I knew that one day, I had to go there.

"Rosy" my navigator will guide me with sweet robot voice

SO here we go, over the river and thru the woods. I was pretty excited, almost like I felt as if the entire family of 15 was waiting for my arrival.

In our great aunt Gertrude’s original letter she stated that she was born in NYC on June 6 1888.
Between 1820 and 1880, thousands of German and Irish immigrants arrived in New York City as men, women and children left their homeland to escape civil unrest, persecution and the repeated failure of the potato crop. Initially, many of the Germans settled in what became known as Little Germany, a section of the city east of the Bowery and extending from Houston Street to 12th Street. She also states that her mother’s name was:
Clara M. Flanger and her fathers name was:
Charles R. Hartmann
The first American Hartmann family had FIFTEEN children!! One sister and one brother died early so there were 13. Of these 13 I only know the name three of them. My grandfather George Joseph and his two sisters Gertrude and Frieda who both became nuns and therefore our sister Barb has attained their records by writing a letter to their home sisterhood.
The church mentioned in Gertrud’s letter “Church of St Joseph Yorkville” at 408 East 87th Street still stands. It is there where I am going to attempt to get Baptismal records that may give me the remaining names, birthdates of the NINE girls and FOUR boys. I might also be able to discover exactly when they moved to 15 Cambridge Ave in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Gertrude also mentions that her father Charles was a printer…as am I!
The Journey
I don’t know the name of that bridge but I it got me into Jersey City.

It was a weird day. I felt very alone and tired. Wishing someone was here with me on this journey.
Before the bridge, passing the city of Newark. To me: a very depressing city with an even more depressing name. The only ties our family have there are that my aunt Carol and her husband Fred (Rebel) Dooley met there and married. Strange how a country boy from Alabama ended up as a parking lot attendant. I remember they owned a red VW punch-bug and me and my sister Barb rode in the back with the top down to go to their apartment that was on the top of a very large building there.

The "Red Light" beggar


This was one of the most remembered things of this journey. Waiting at the red light after the bridge…I’m in Jersey City. This beggar walks in between the cars with a paper cup. Looking for money. I gave him a handfull of change from my change jar that I keep in the car. He was very grateful. I watched in the rear view mirror behind me the dressed up fancy smancy couple, shake their heads, roll up their window and then roll their eyes.

Old time Jersey City New Jersey. Turn of the century. No cars. No cell phones. Blue crisp sky day. Buried in time.

“Rosy” my navigator was taking me through the streets of Jersey City 2011, where one hundred years earlier my great grandfather, mother and his kids played, shopped and worked. She took me down the very long main street, full of shops, cars and a melting pot of race, creed and color. Some things never change.
I was almost there now, according to “Rosy” 15 Cambridge. “Make the next left to arrive at destination.”
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but of corse I wasn’t expecting this.

When I turned the corner onto Emerson Street…I was expecting everything to maybe turn black and white. I was looking for Charles R. Hartmann’s kids to be playing on the street. I was looking for a sepia sky, trolly cars, horse carriages. I was looking for maybe Clara Hartmann to be coming down the steps pregnant.

These were the streets of my heritage. That in this space a family of 15 lived, struggled, had dinner together, celebrated holidays and never once thought that one century later the fathers son of one of their own would come here looking for them.

Of corse I was disappointed. It was obviously not the same house, it was not the same street and certainly wasn’t the same city. Everything had changed. There were no survivors. Nobody remembers “The Hartmann’s” … that big German family with the printer father. Everything was buried deeply in time. And in another hundred years, another hundred families will have been born and raised on these streets. That time and technology are interlocked into a giant machine that consumes the human spirit. All the laughter, tears, hopes and dreams of 15 Cambridge Street are gone. Not too long ago, they were the most important things in the world to the Hartmann’s. I just had to get out of the car and breath the air, walk the street, where once horse carriages trampled by. I looked around… and the wind blew some old newspapers down the street……….

15 Cambridge, Jersey City, New Jersey.

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