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Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Bookman photo mystery

From Dissent the Blog:

     I was in Bookman yesterday, the marvelous used bookstore in Orange—right next door to Pepperland Music, and three doors down from Brandi and Jarrod's crummy thrift store ("as seen on TV"). Been goin' to Bookman for many, many years. 

     Among the store's charms is the array of cool old photos, newspaper clips, and posters stapled randomly on the bookcases—if so elevated a word as "bookcase" may be used for Bookman's rustic shelving. Well, yesterday, as I walked past some of the postings at the end of one bookcase, an old German postcard caught my eye. It's the one at the top of this post. 

Brandi and Jarrod say "Hi"
     I asked one of the wacky Goth Girls who work there if I could buy it. "I don't see why not!", she said. She destapled it for me. I think I paid 50 cents for it.
     The photo caught my eye because, as you know, I'm the Bauer family archivist, and I've come across (and scanned) many photos that look just like this one, especially among the often mysterious pics from my dad's side of the family. The Bauers hail from a little town in the Black Forest near Stuttgart, Germany. (Böblingen.)
     On the back of the card is written, "Erinnerung an das Plätzchen im Dreisbachtal 1925." It means, "In memory of this spot in Dreisbachtal, 1925." 
     Today, I showed the card to my folks, who thereupon pondered, as is their custom. "I found this yesterday," I said.
     "This is one of Opa's pictures," said mom.
     "Opa" refers to my grandfather—my father's father, Otto Bauer—who lived from 1907 until 1998. At the time of the photograph, he would have been about 18 years old.
     One of the reasons I was interested in the photograph is that one or two of the young men in it seemed to resemble my grandfather, Otto. 
     Here's a photo of Otto taken in perhaps the late 20s:

Otto, hangin' with his Commie friends
     Ottoand the woman who became his wife, Louise, my paternal grandmotherwere die-hard members of a nature organization called Naturfreunde ("friends of nature"). (See also here.) The Bookman mystery photo is very much like a picture of a Naturfreunde gatheringwhat with the flags, the natural setting, etc.
      "No," I said. "This is not one of Opa's pictures. I found it yesterday on a wall at Bookman in Orange."
      My folks stared at me, seemingly stunned.
      "I bought the photo because it really reminded me of some of Opa's old photos. Plus one or two of the men in the photo look a bit look Opa."
      Yesterday, when I first saw the photo, I thought that the Mandolin Man at left resembled Opa. Opa owned and played a mandolin that looked very much like the mandolin shown here. (We've still got the dang thing.)
      But when I got home and took a better look, I could see that the Mandolin Man didn't look like Opa at all. On the other hand, the guy crouching a few feet to his left (see below) did look like him.

         On the other hand, maybe not. Here's another shot of Opa/Otto:

      This last photo was likely taken a bit later than 1925. Same guy? Dunno.
      Here's another shot of Opa/Otto, sitting on a plane built by his boss and friend, the celebrated Hans Klemm:

     It's hard to say when this photo (it's actually an extreme closeup of a much larger photo) was taken. Probably in the 20s.
      Dreisbachtal (in German, "tal" is often a suffix meaning something like "dale" or "vale") may well refer to the town of Dreisbach, which is in Germany's Western Forest, about 150 miles to the north of Böblingen. Opa did a lot of "wandering," as per the custom at the time, especially when he was about 18, and so he might easily have been to Dreisbach. Who knows.
     I've encountered other "Erinnerung" ("Remembering") postcards among Opa's old things. For instance, here's a postcard, depicting people known by either Otto or Louise or both (I've found some of these people on other photos depicting Otto or Louise), from 1919 (when Opa would have been twelve years old):

     Kälberbronn is in a forest to the southwest of Böblingen.
     It's not likely, I guess, that my Otto is the guy in the Mystery Photo.
     I still have a couple of leads. We'll see.

Opa's mandolin
Making the "scene," at Bookman

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bugsy, the ping-pong cat

     Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve mentioned Bugsy, the SuperKitten. Not sure why that is, ‘cause I see him all the time. We’ve become pals.
     My old folks have seriously bonded with the little guy, and that’s great. He sleeps with ‘em, leaves ‘em little gifts (ping-pong balls, finger puppets, kibble, etc.) in bed, and generally plays around them all day, like a monkey in a wax museum, when he isn’t snoozing or observing the birds outside, and there are lots of those out here in the wilds of the Santa Ana Mountains.
     Bugsy approached me warily at first, mostly because I’m large, I suppose (6’3”). (He's small; under 1 foot.) But I knew he’d come to accept me if I played with him enough. I know cats.
     At some point, I bought the little guy some goofy pink, ping-pong-ballesque cat toy that lit up upon being touched, and he seemed to like it, so, after a while, I just skipped the bells and whistles and just got ‘im plain, white ping-pong balls, which come cheap, in packages of six, at Walmart.
      It’s amazing how a home absorbs balls. At this point, I’ve bought maybe 24 pp balls, and they’ve all been deployed in efforts to entertain young Bugsy, but only 8 or 9 of ‘em are left, so there’s, like 13 balls hidden somewhere, I know not where. Some day, I’ll stumble across the Bauer ping-pong ball depository, and it will be a grand ping-pong day.
     At first, Bugsy would happily chase after these balls, but, pretty soon, that didn’t do it for him; he’d just sit and watch ‘em bounce, doing nothing. I could see his point.
     I had to improvise. I discovered that he went wild (usually) for balls that came to be physically near him but behind something—a chair or table leg, a wall, a container of cat grass, etc. That'll make sense to students of cat psychology. It’s the old feline “freak oblique.”
     Not long ago, our “ping-pong wars” evolved to this: I’d bounce ping-pong balls gently toward Bugsy as he hid behind his cat grass container. Bugsy would then respond alternately as though he were protecting his grass from these dastardly, mouse-like spheres or as though the grass were a shield to protect him from said hideous white vermin-orbs. Go figure. Cats are different.
     The Bugster has quickly developed his ball volleying skills. Half of the time, he'll smack a ball straight back at me, like Arthur Ashe. But I'm accustomed to cat prodigies. I'll let you know when he starts doing my taxes.
     You know cats. Once in a while, Bugsy'll get all excited and furiously smack a ball all over the house, with lightening-quick moves, until the dang thing comes to rest somewhere, whereupon he regards it with complete indifference and abandons it. I'm not surprised by such lunacy, but my folks, who've never really been cat people, stare agog. "He's some kind of genius!" they exclaim. "Vee should call ze TV people!"
     Yeah. The TV people.
     Occasionally, I manage to plop a ball smack dab into the grass container, and this, evidently, is an event of great moment in the Mind of Bugsy. He’ll get excited and then struggle to remove the ball from the container, managing only to shove it more deeply inside the tangle of grass and roots. (He’s still a kitten, and his “intuitive physics” is spotty.) I’ve given him some suggestions, ball-removal-wise, but, his manifest intelligence to the contrary notwithstanding, thus far, it ain’t happenin’, and he struggles. But he seems to like that.
     Today, during our play, he suddenly moved the game venue away from his famous cat-grass corner and over to my old dad’s Frankenstein boots, which were sitting on the floor—massive, black, silent—near the dining room table. OK, so I gathered handfuls of balls and I started bouncing 'em toward the boots. Success! Bugsy loved it.

Bugsy: mad skills
     I’m getting pretty good aiming these pp balls, and, about every tenth ball—which is launched into a gentle bounce from a distance of about ten feet—would plunk inside a boot. This, too, is a phenomenon of great moment to the Bugsian Mind; he would stare momentarily, then pounce on the boot, diving inside it, energetically attempting to retrieve the ball, but with little success. (These Frankenstein boots are deep.) Eventually, I’d help the little guy out, instructively pouring out the ball ("See?"), but such displays are plainly unsatisfactory to him. It is as though he were observing a magic trick, unfathomable. WTF!
     These games are great fun and Bugsy looks forward to them, as do I. What can I say. We’ve got a good thing going. Where will it go from here? Pinball? Jai alai? Arm wrestling?
     Ma told me that Bugsy occasionally leaves these ping-pong balls in their bed as “gifts.” I said, “How is that possible? Ping-pong balls are smooth; there’s nothing for his little teeth to grab onto!”
     “He gets the balls up there somehow,” she said, annoyed. "Maybe with his hands." Well sure.
     A week or so ago, I witnessed the feat with my own eyes. Based on my brief observation, it seems that the young fellow employs his entire mouth, trapping a ball in his jaw, thereby obviating friction and grabbage. That's some technique. My guess is that, occasionally, a ball gets stuck there, and he spends some tense moments attempting to dislodge it. Oh, the humanity—er, felinity!
     What on Earth, or beyond it, could be better than a Bugsy?
     Freakin' nothin’. That’s what.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The "church mall" episode (movie)

When? About 1987. Possibly a bit later.
The image above is the cover of a DVD I put together years later, using stills from these "movies."

We "filmed" (using one of the original home video camcorders, maybe an RCA, borrowed from Richard P) at a kind of church mall on Harvard near University (in Irvine). I didn't even get to know Jan until the fall of '86 or early '87 (at IVC), so I would guess that we did this in about 1987, when Kathie and I were living at UCI's Verano Place. Ron would have been about 21 years old at the time, going to Berkeley or UCI.
The camera looked a bit like this, I guess.

Jan used my hat.

Ron's "Father Tranquility" was a standout, though we all did well that day, I think

This image was made years later. Pretty ugly. The "Gun-O-Rama" sequence was filmed in our apartment in Verano Place, UCI

Ron and I had purchased a Tascam 4-track recorder at about that time for home recordings. Hence the microphone. I still have all that stuff, but not the mike.