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Updates, and cholera

Things I have been doing, and am continuing to do, include posting my dinner each night at The 365 Dinner Project. Tonight I made a stew of venison seasoned with allspice and cinnamon, currants, and pistachios. Last night, we got pizza. It varies, but definitely more toward the venison end of things.

I'm also doing my genealogy stuff. I'm still concentrating on this very rich vein of material in Corleone's vital records, and working far enough back, now, that the method of scanning each page for a list of maybe a dozen names, is no longer a sufficient or efficient strategy. Though at one time, it worked for me, when I couldn't figure out which of the dozens of Leoluca and Francesco Cascios were my relatives, and how, if I want to trace all of my Sicilian ancestors back from what I know so far, I have to keep better track of their names. I've added a spreadsheet, am trying to use it as a kind of task list, with estimations of the years in which I might find their records, which also functions as a cheat sheet of my ancestors' names. I'm trying to remember them all, so that I can actually scan a document again, looking for them. I'm also, at the same time, looking for ancestors of Giuseppe Morello. I don't know why, exactly, but it will come to something.

Because I work at this for hours at a time, I make pretty steady progress through the records. Typically I get through two years' worth of records in a day, sometimes more. Baptisms, marriages, deaths. Yesterday I spent almost the entire day on the second half of 1837. Deaths. I Googled the first day of the book of records, 23 July 1837, and Sicily, to see if I could figure out what was going on. It was weird. Pages of deaths for a single day, where ordinarily, there might be no deaths on a given day, or one, or at most, a handful.

The summer of 1837 was when the first cholera epidemic in all of western Europe struck Sicily. It swept the entire island, and killed so many people, that the leaders and academics in Palermo thought people were being poisoned deliberately. In addition to the deaths from disease, the epidemic sparked riots, a rebellion against the Bourbons (which was put down), towns shutting their gates, supply lines cut, lynchings. There was a genetic bottleneck that is still visible in the record today, from the deaths that summer.

Cholera is something like typhoid fever---another disease I was lucky enough to know nothing about before reading about deaths from it in the records, had to study on Wikipedia---except without the fever. Massive quantities of watery diarrhea, until the patient dies of dehydration in about half of cases. And no one dying of it would have seen anything like it until there it was, killing dozens of people every day.

I've got a little cold today, but I'm overall more cheerful than I was last week. Holiday hangover. Now I have what people brought back from their travels. But I also have my friends back in town, routines that I crave. I'm putting on my crampons and taking the dog for long hikes in the woods. It's cold, so we have big family cuddles on the bed, Kevin and me and the dog and sometimes Nicky, the bolder of our two cats. The Christmas lights are still up. The landlord shoveled yesterday, surprising the hell out of me, in a good way. I'm sore enough today from the shoveling I've done, and I was happy to give it up and come inside. I trimmed my outrageous beard a little, not enough to lose any serious insulation, but tidier. I don't want to say anything prognosticatory and go fucking it up, but things are on a mild upswing.

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