Archive for September 2008

September 16th, 2008

Flicking, the Switch

I’d been thinking recently that I needed to take a cue from my photo-sharing family and friends and get some of my pictures posted online. For real this time. Not like when I got that one Flickr account — the one I updated exactly three times in the span of two years. I appreciate it when other people keep their photo collections current, and I do take a lot of photos….

Thus my new and improved Flickr account is up and running. The few of you who knew about my old Flickr account: Forget about it. Leave it behind. “rwitch” is dead to us. (Literally. I canceled the account.) “rwitch80” is our future. So far it’s looking bright.

http://flickr.com/photos/rwitch80/

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September 12th, 2008

Last But Not Least

My grandma passed away last week, which — I’ve gotten used to telling people — was sad, but not unexpected or tragic. My Grandma Witchger suffered from Alzheimer’s, which confined her to a state of dementia for the closing of her life. She’s in a better place now.

Grandma spent her final years outside of Pittsburg with my Aunt Anne Marie and her family. Right after she passed away, though, she was transported back to Saginaw, Michigan, the place where she met and married her husband, gave birth to 13 children, raised 7 boys and 4 girls, and laid two children and my grandpa to rest. My dad headed up to Saginaw early last week to help with the funeral arrangements. Kevin, Mom, Steph, and I followed later in the week. The two 14-hour stints in the car aside, it was a good trip.

I was born in Saginaw, Michigan and lived the first eight years of my life there. I’ve been back three times prior to this recent visit, but all of the ventures have been so quick that I’ve never formed a lasting impression of the place. This excursion was short too, lasting about 24 hours, so my memories are probably on their way out now, but before they go, allow me to tell you: the place is bleak.

At least the portion of Saginaw where my immediate family lived is. One of the few constants I can recall from each journey up north is, as we drive by some dilapidated church or shopping center near our old house, with a drug exchange clearly occurring in the entry way, my mother saying: “You see this! Aren’t you grateful we moved you to North Carolina?!?” Each time her words come out more emphatically, and each time the blight seems worse.

It’s a darn shame, because this is the place where my grandparent’s life of prayer and charity and never-ending patience with their 11 children were so firmly established. It’s the place that determined who my dad, his 10 siblings, and, later, my mom, became as they grew up.

Also, it’s the one place I know of where the last name “Witchger” is not consistently met with suspicion or confusion. I guess some Saginaw citizens either recognize it as a name with deep roots in their city, or it’s simply accepted as one of the many obscure German surnames common in that pocket of the country. (As examples, take the names of my kindergarten and elementary schools, both of which honored local residents: “Schlukbier” (“shh-luck-beer”) and “Schrah” (“shh-rah”), respectively. The school names in Cary — “Farmington Woods,” “Briarcliff,” “Cary” — always seemed so boring to me. I guess this explains why.)

The first syllable of “Witchger” is easy enough for people. My mom has decided it’s the “unexpected g” (which is so my rap-name if I ever decide to switch careers) that throws everyone off. And I think she’s right. There are almost as many interpretations of that “g” as stars in the sky. Some of the most common are:

  • Assuming it’s silent and saying “Witch-er”
  • Pronouncing it like an “n” for some reason and saying “Witch-ner”
  • Pronouncing it like a “z” for some reason and saying “Witch-zer”
  • Pronouncing it like a “j” and saying “Witch-jer.” I immediately like people who say my last name this way, because that’s really close. They are actually looking at the spelling and giving it a try.
  • Glancing at the jumble of letters, catching the “w,” “t” and “r” in there and saying “Whitaker.”

In a world of Smiths, Johnsons, and Joneses, “Witchger” elicits a deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression from the average person tasked with taking your name. That’s when you settle back for a second as they wrap their heads around it, and then attempt to repeat it back to you. One in every ten typically does so correctly on their first try. Most folks need to hear it a few more times. Then they need it spelled for them a time or three. And you patiently oblige, because it is a tough one.

What is somewhat trying is when people inform you that it is a tough one. You have, after all, spent some time with this name. A lot more than they have. Do they believe they are the first to bring this to your attention? Do they believe this is an issue you should be doing something about? It’s not like the assortment of Scrabble tiles causing these minor inconveniences was your idea.

Likewise, the questions about your ancestry (“what type of name is that?”, etc.) are not irritating. But the guessing is. I’m convinced it’s my last name that has occasionally prompted people to ask me — tall, light-haired, never-talks-with-his-hands me — if I am Jewish. Understand this one, I never have.

Then there’s the extra-rolly, hard-to-stab cherry on top of the slight frustration sundae: after the process of familiarizing someone with your last name, they look at the “W” “I” “T” “C” “H” “G,” “E,” and yes even the “R” and a what’s-so-hard-about-that? expression colors their faces. “Sounds just like it’s spelled,” the say.

As I sat in the church during my grandma’s funeral, I surveyed probably 75% of the people in the world who are accustomed to this routine. There were my parents, my brother, my wife, my aunts and my uncles, and 43 of my first cousins. Every relative who could possibly be there was, because, as was mentioned in each eulogy, nothing was more important to my grandma and grandpa than family. And in turn, this family has had an immeasurable influence on my life — and I’m not just talking a fondness for popcorn and a tendancy to talk louder and louder in public places. I’ve come to realize that, even though I don’t live in the same city, the same state, or even the same country as many of these people, they are the ones I count on and believe in.

We all have, or have a direct link to, this moniker that we must slowly spell out nearly every day. A combination of vowels and consonants that confounds and eludes the general population. A set of characters that many find strange and difficult to pronounce. An alphabetic enigma that — if the marrying off is working against you — lands you at the back of the class or the end of the line without fail. My grandparents must have done something right; I wouldn’t trade these eight letters for anything.

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September 7th, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel

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  • 1920×1200 (works at 1920×1200, 1680×1050, 1440×900, and 1280×800)
  • 1600×1200 (works at 1600×1200 and 1024×768)
  • 320×480 (works on the iPhone and iPod Touch)

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