Friday, May 28, 2010

A Mystery

I had a trying day yesterday.

Last summer, one of our storage tanks at work, a 4,000 gallon container designed to hold sodium hypochlorite, sprung a leak.  Despite the best efforts of our repair technicians, who nursed it along through the winter, the leak turned into a split, and the tank needed replacement.

This is a photo of our site seven years ago, when it was under construction.  Imagine a roof over the tanks, and you get a feel for what we were dealing with.
These tanks are huge: their diameter is about eight and a half feet, and they stand fifteen or sixteen feet tall.  They're heavy, too, several hundred pounds of specially treated, UV light resistant plastic.  Each tank is positioned on a plastic covered concrete pedestal, inside a walled containment area surrounded by bollards and covered by a steel canopy.  Remember that board game, "Operation"?  Imagine playing "Operation", only instead of using tweezers to extract a little plastic thigh bone, you're using a rented forklift to maneuver 800 pound chlorine tanks.  And instead of hearing a little buzz if you mess up, you ruin a $4,500 investment and potentially knock over a $10,000 canopy.

I am a lily-livered man, a man of many fears and a weak constitution.  I once got so nervous on ride at Knott's Berry Farm, that I hyperventilated nearly to the point of passing out, saying, over and over (to the great consternation of my fellow riders), "It's too steep!  It's too steep!  We're going to tip over! WE'RE GOING TO TIP OVER!"  The ride was the log flume, advertised, as I recall, as "Fun for all ages!"  Being placed in the middle seat on an airplane, squished between two passengers who are certain to suffocate me, provokes a panic attack.  I can't mount a three-step ladder without falling into something like the DTs, all shakes and sweat and blurry vision.  Suffice to say that all the forklifting and maneuvering and climbing around made for a nerve-wracking day, and had it not been for my friend and colleague Joel coming over to lend a hand and some calming words, and for my co-worker Mo providing both his good spirits and his formidable Island muscle, it would have been a much worse day, indeed.
Splash Mountain, Walter Disney's World, August 2009.  Row One: Joyful excitement.  Row Two and Row Three, Right: Cheerful bonhomie.  Row Three, Left: Fear and Loathing in Orlando.  My thoughts at this moment are as follows: 1.  If my family loves me, why are they trying to kill me?  2. This water is crawling with bacteria. 3. I hope Walt Disney melts (playing into the Urban Legend that he is cyrogenically frozen in a secret chamber under Cinderella's Castle). 4. If I lose my hat, I will be sad. 5. If I lose my glasses, I will be in big trouble (in a crisis, people who wear glasses always release their inner nine year old). 6.  Whatever you do, man, do not pee!  Do not pee! 7. I AM GOING TO DIE!!!!  Row Four is two people I don't know, who are a little too excited to be on  a thrill ride.  Probably drunks.

Which brings me to my mystery.

I have been searching for my Siedlecki kin.  I have four tangible pieces of evidence: first, Walter Siedlecki did indeed muster into Haller's Blue Army, a American unit comprised of Polish immigrants, who fought against the Soviet Union in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919 - 1923 (more on this later -- this war is lost between the first defeat of Germany and the rise of Nazism, but had Marshall Jozef Pilsudski and his men not held fast against Lenin's armies, the Soviets control may well have extended all the way to France); second, the 1930 U.S. Census, showing Valentin Siedlecki and his family living on Third Avenue in North Tonawanda; third, a headstone in a Tonawanda cemetery, the resting place of my great-grandmother, Jozefina Siedlecka (the headstone is poignantly inscribed, in Polish, "Our Mama"; and fourth, my grandfather himself.

Other than that, bupkis.

My grandfather says he was born in June 1912, in Medina, New York.  There is no record of it.  I have found birth records for an Anthony Siedlecki in Hennepin County, Minnesota, in 1918, and for an Anthony Siedlecki, born in Ohio in 1909, but nothing for New York.

Tony's  father's was Valentyn Siedlecki.  There is no record of a Valentin or Valentyn Siedlecki ever arriving in America, not at Ellis Island, not at the ports in Boston or Philadelphia, not via the immigration points along the US - Canada border.  Prior to 1930, he does not appear on a Census list.  I can find no record of Valentin's death, either, although some family members think he died before 1945.  I think I may have found Joszefa, or Josephine's name on a manifest, but I can't verify it.

There is an Anthony Siedlecki on Facebook.  He calls himself "Papa Nazzty" and in the identifying photo, he has words tattooed on his forearms, wears one of those Peruvian skullcaps with the tassels that hang down over the ears, and he's using the antenna from his cell phone to pick his nose.  I am praying that we are not related.

So that's the mystery.  (No, not how does someone who picks his nose with a cell phone conjure up enough brain energy to create a Facebook page; from what I've seen, if he's got some free time and really wants to connect with old pals, a sea urchin could create his own Facebook page.)  Where did the Siedleckis come from, and where did they go?  I'm stumped.  I'm stymied.  I'm disoriented and a little discouraged.  It's the middle of the eighth, and my arm feels like hamburger meat.  I need help.  Is there anyone out there who can help out?  Is there anyone who could be my Mariano Rivera (at this point, I'd take a Jonathan Papelbon, or even a LaTroy Hawkins.  Maybe even Ryne Duren)?

(For those who don't much care about baseball players, those fellows above are all relief pitchers.  Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is generally considered to be the Greatest Reliever Ever.  Jonathan Papelbon was briefly excellent for the Boston Red Sox; he's not lived up to his rookie season hype.  LaTroy Hawkins is mediocre.  Ryne Duren played for the Yankees in the Fifties.  He wore Coke bottle glasses and threw about 105 miles an hour, but he had no control whatsoever.  Batters were terrified of him.  He was famous for asking umpires, after pitches had been called for balls, "Where was it?" implying that he did not see well enough to see the pitch trajectory.  Scary, when you're throwing hard enough to kill a man.)

The Great Rivera

Papa Nazzty need not apply.

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