Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lost in Translation

The internet is a wonderful and amazing tool. From all over the globe, people of every race, religion and creed, are connected instantly through the use of the World Wide Web. For example; In the past few days, I discovered that “Derailed” has been getting several hits (visits) from Russia. After a little investigating, I discovered that my new Russian friends are being directed here from this website:

Here, a Russian blogger named Mat Art wrote this post:

про...традицииЧасто в фильмах показывают, что при рождении ребенка, счастливый родитель угощает знакомых и родственников сигарой. Откуда пошел такой обычай, и что он означает?Искал в сообществе, результатов нет.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Those crazy Russians… they really crack me up.

Okay…I really didn’t know what it said, but I was bound and determined to find out, so like a CIA operative (Oops...bad analogy), I cut and pasted the above paragraph onto a Russian to English online translator site.
Here’s the result:

About... Traditions it is frequent in films show, that at a birth of the child, the happy parent treats friends and relatives with a cigar. Such custom whence has gone, and what it means? Searched in community, results are not present.

Obviously something was lost in the translation, but I got the gist. I still wondered, however, what this post had to do with my humble, little blog, so I decided to translate several more sentences from the “comments section.”

It turns out that my new Russian friends are totally perplexed about the American custom of handing out cigars after the birth of a child. For the life of them, they can’t seem figure out what a long, wrapped, tobacco leaf tube has to do with childbirth. One guy went so far as to suggest that cigars are phallic, and represent fertility.

Mat Art thought that perhaps the cigar is for the stork when he delivers the baby. Or according to the translator:

Type at the out of breath stork a smoke break after delivery?

Someone answered this question with another, hoping to shed a little more light on this curious custom:

Only when the son so do.. why so?

Mat Art then basically gives up and says:

Yes?? Sorry, concept then I have no especially

Finally, one of the readers shares some information he learned from an American blog called "Derailed":

It is the American custom. Earlier in Staffs, as well as everywhere, women gave birth to houses. If the child was born before term - it put in a box from under cigars, and then transferred on kitchen, is closer to an oven that at it was more chances to survive. The father to released a box from under cigars and distributed them. And it was led. It is possible to esteem here, for example: http: // //2006/10/smoke-in-wood-pile.html

Now I understood what the connection was. This comment is referring to a post I wrote last October. It was called “Smoke In The Wood Pile.” It was a story my mother once told me about the birth of her twin baby brothers. She said that the boys were both pre-term and were, of course, very small. They could barely breathe, so in an attempt to keep them alive, a quick thinking midwife (an early MacGyver), placed the babies in cigar boxes near the kitchen stove. The heat from the oven turned the cigar boxes into make-shift incubators, and saved one of the babies' lives. Somewhere in this story I kiddingly suggested that the custom of fathers handing out cigars, stemmed from a midwife needing an empty cigar box. It was a joke, but I guess it got lost in their translation.

Still, I do like to think of my mother's "half baked" story making its way around Russia. I think she'd be proud.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sandi Kahn Shelton

Now that school is back is session, I can’t get near my computer. It seems that just when one daughter gets off the computer chair, the other daughter sits down. If this keeps up, I may not be able to write a lengthy post till Christmas vacation. In the meantime, may I recommend that you visit Sandi Kahn Sheltons’ blog.

Several years back, Sandi wrote a regular column in The New Haven Register. It was a humorous look at motherhood, and the trials and tribulations of raising a family. She told funny stories about her husband and children, and life in suburbia…similar to Erma Bombeck…but funnier. When Sandi’s children reached their teen years, they began to take umbrage to their mother making their private lives public and they basically told her to cease and desist. To her credit, she retired the popular column and turned her attention to writing novels.

Sandi was on my train last week, (I recognized her from one of her book covers.) When I collected her ticket, I introduced myself as “The Conductor to the Stars.” The funny thing is, she instantly recognized the name. You see, her husband- Jim Shelton- was the author of the, “Yes, celebrities do ride the train” article that ran in last December’s New Haven Register.

I spoke with Sandi as we walked down the platform in Grand Central. I told her how much I enjoyed her work and how talented she is. I then gave her the address to this blog and asked her to visit. She, in turn, gave me her blog address, and suggested that we “link up” with one another’s sites.

I think you’ll find Sandi’s blog quite entertaining (be sure to take the “Yankee or Dixie” quiz.) I wish I could visit it again, but my daughter has to decipher an Elizabethan Sonnet and she’s pushing me off of the computer chair…again.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Eight years ago this month, my wife and I moved our family 25 miles east of the town we grew up in. The real estate market was just starting to heat up, and we had a tough time finding a suitable home. We visited one open house that was “For Sale By Owner.” The homeowner (an athletic, handsome man, around 40) led us around his cute, yellow Cape Cod style home. The man’s wife (a slender, blonde, soccer mom) tended to their two small children, as her husband opened closets and told us all about the home’s mechanics.

As he led us through his home, I asked him why they were moving. He said that he worked for a clothing manufacturer and was being transferred to Massachusetts. He said that his wife was a flight attendant for American Airlines and could easily transfer from Bradley Airport in Hartford to either Green Airport in Providence or Logan Airport in Boston.

My wife and I really liked the house, but it basically had no backyard and we weren't crazy about the street location either. We thanked the man and his wife for their time, and moved on to the next open house.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, our local ABC affiliate ran a story about the many Connecticut people who had died in the terrorist attacks. One story was about a flight attendant who had recently moved from the Connecticut shoreline to southeastern Massachusetts. A chill went down my spine when they showed her was the woman from the open house. She was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the Trade Centers.

When it was learned that the terrorists had slit the throats of the flight crew, the same news station rushed back to the flight attendant's sister's home to get her reaction to the news. I still remember how the cameraman zoomed in on her tear-streaked face, a face consumed in grief. As they say in journalism..."If it bleeds, it leads."

I often wonder: If her husband hadn't been transferred, would she still be alive today?

Was this her destiny? Was it fate?

Steve, a fellow conductor, told me that his wife worked in The Trade Centers in Tower Two. When the first plane hit Tower One, she and her co-workers were ordered to evacuate. They were half way down the stairs when the "all clear" was sounded and an announcement was made to return to their offices. One of Steve's wife's coworkers grabbed her by the arm and said ,"Bullshit! I was here for the bombing in '93 and I'm not going back up there." They made it outside just in time to see the second plane hit their offices.


Another coworker of mine lived in a tight-knit neighborhood in Brooklyn. His next door neighbors were an elderly couple whose granddaughter died that day in the Trade Center. The day after the attacks, the wind shifted and the smoke and debris that filled the city skyline blew into their neighborhood. A lone piece of paper fluttered through the air and landed on this elderly couple's front porch. The paper was a memo from Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm where the granddaughter worked.

Fate? Destiny? Coincidence?

Who knows.

For more on 9/11, please read last year's post: