My Year of Family, Freud & Frommer’s

Texas book

It’s been quite the year for new old things, including family history, travel publishing history, and European history.

  • Last June, I went to London to a family reunion and to Vienna to see the unveiling of a Freud statue that was supposed to have been installed in 1936.
  • Last August, I went to San Antonio to research the Frommer’s EasyGuide to San Antonio and Austin, a new version of the guidebook I first wrote in 1995.
  • Last October, I went to Vienna to gave a talk about my family, who were forced out of Austria in 1938; and to Austin to research the second half of the aforementioned guidebook.
  • This past March, I gave the talk about Freud and my family at the JCC in Tucson.
  • This past May, I gave the talk about Freud and my family to the Southern Arizona Jewish Genealogy Society and celebrated the publication of the Frommer’s guide.

I’m exhausted even thinking about it, much less writing about it. But if a writer writes in the woods (or desert) and no one hears about it, marketing mavens say it didn’t really happen.

A bit more detail…

The London Family Reunion & The Freud Statue

The Schmerling/Selwyn family and friends

There is a strong connection between the June reunion in London and the dedication ceremony for the Freud statue in Vienna a few days later, though it’s a bit complicated to explain. Suffice it to say that, in 2012, I created a Jewish genealogy blog called Freud’s Butcher. Among the many people who entered my life as a result of that blog were members of the Schmerling family, several of whom are pictured above; and Lady Aurelia Young, whose father, Oscar Nemon, sculpted the Freud statue.

Not that my London family reunion doesn’t deserve widespread attention, but I wrote quite a bit more about Freud and his statue on my blog, Freud’s World: The Man and the Myths.

Oscar Nemon sculpting Freud in 1931, with Freud’s chow supervising. Freud told Nemon, “You’d really do much better to model the dog, not me; you would have a very fine example of graciousness and dignity.” Courtesy of the Estate of Oscar Nemon

Return to Texas

It seems that everything in my life is a long, complicated story, but I’ll try to summarize again. In 1994, I was commissioned to write a Frommer’s guide to San Antonio and Austin, published a year later. I updated it five times, and then I adopted my first dog, Frankie, a sweet terrier mix who didn’t like to travel and who developed diabetes.

Also, I was burnt out on guidebook writing.

Evolution of the covers of the Frommer’s San Antonio and Austin guides. Now the Alamo and the River Walk are out, colorful guitars are in!

I stayed home and wrote a guide to dogs. Someone else took over the Texas travel guide. Then all the Frommer’s guides were put on hold when they were bought by Google, and then Arthur Frommer bought the rights to his name back.

In 2018, I was approached to do another version of the book. I now have a dog who is both a good traveler and easy for pet sitters to care for — an understatement. I’ve headed out on trips to see Madeleine nestled happily in a pet sitter’s lap, a “see ya when I see ya” expression on her face.

I said yes.

I’ve been back to both cities — which I love equally so don’t ask — in the interim years, but it was great to get the in-depth look that researching a travel guide requires. Here’s a link to the finished book, Frommer’s Easy Guide to San Antonio & Austin.

Return to 19 Berggasse, Literally and Metaphorically

Back to my Jewish genealogy blog, It was inspired by the discovery that the butcher shop of my great uncle Siegmund Kornmehl shared a famous address with Sigmund Freud for 44 years. Aided by the extensive historical record of Freud and friends, I set out to research the life and times of the relatives who also lived in Vienna before 1938. Their lives, not their deaths and deportations.

But I couldn’t ignore the terrible things that happened to them. At some point in my research, I grew dissatisfied with just documenting my family history at a distance. I wanted to bring the Kornmehls’ story back to Austria, to confront the country that downplayed its deep sympathy for — and collaboration with — the Nazis with its anti-semitic past.

Revenge genealogy. It’s a thing.

Persistence, pushiness, and the help of a high-placed friend finally paid off. In the summer of 2018, Vienna’s Sigmund Freud Museum, where the butcher shop is now an art gallery, agreed to host a lecture. Freud’s Butcher: A Jewish Family Returns to Berggasse 19 was scheduled for October 2018, 80 years after my great uncle was forced to sign over the shop and all his other real estate holdings to Aryans — and pay through the nose for the privilege of doing so.

The Kornmehl family reunion in Vienna

Knowing that I would soon accomplish this longstanding goal was gratifying, but the experience became even more meaningful, and in an unexpected way. Descendants of my immediate Viennese family and more distant relatives from all over the world — New York, Israel, London, and Amsterdam — wrote to accept my invitation to attend the lecture. And they became part of it.

I wrote about the experience here, and here’s a direct link to the talk itself.

Bringing It All Back Home

While giving speaking about my family in Vienna was a major goal accomplished, being able to share it with my Tucson friends and colleagues marked an important milestone too. My peeps would finally understand what I’d been droning on about for all those years since I started my blog.

I gave an interview to the local NPR affiliate station in advance, which helped draw a nice crowd, including several people who didn’t know me.

And on Mother’s Day — appropriate, since it’s my mother’s family that I honored — I presented the talk again for the Southern Arizona Jewish Genealogy Society. They created a wonderful promotional graphic for it out of a photograph by Edmund Engelman of the exterior of 19 Berggasse, where Freud lived. It was taken in May 1938, a few months after the anschluss, Nazi annexation of Austria. You can see the swastika above the door if you look carefully.

What’s Next?

That’s the million dollar question. I like writing articles, though not pitching them, but my preference is for working on editing gigs alongside BIG time-consuming writing projects with deadlines that I can procrastinate on properly.

Some possibilities:

  • Record an audiobook of my travel memoir, Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.
  • Learn how to write a screenplay, create one out of Getting Naked, and get it produced by Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Mindy Kaling, or any other humorist looking for new/old female talent (hey, there were doubters about my Kickstarter success too).
  • Write a book about my family history research journey, maybe titled Freud’s Butcher: An Adventure in Revenge Genealogy.
  • Write a book about mustard, past and present, possibly titled Cutting the Mustard. Did you know that Abraham served the angels who were dispatched to tell him to kill his son Isaac a meal of tongue with mustard? And that there is a (no doubt) related Dutch saying: Weten waar Abraham de mosterd halt, literally “Knowing where Abraham got his mustard” but meaning that you’re well informed about a subject? That many people in this country only put mustard on their burgers, never ketchup (which is in fact practically outlawed in Chicago)? I know this one it sounds like it’s from left field, but I’m a food writer, mustard goes well with deli (a favorite on Freud’s Butcher), and I’ve always had an inordinate fondness for this condiment.
  • Update Am I Boring My Dog, retitling it Will My Dog Hate Me. Because my publisher will not give me back copyright to the book (it’s still available in a Kindle version), I would have to change the content by 75% as well as the name. The plus side: A great many advances have been made in canine research in the decade since I wrote Am I Boring, so I’d want to make major changes anyway. Best of all, my dog book and my dog blog would finally have the same name.

All input welcome.

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

9 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Anna Redsand says:

    Whew! What a year! Makes me want to take a nap at 5:50 a.m. Truly impressive!

  2. Laura K says:

    Re: next projects, I vote for either the mustard book or the doggie book rewrite. I think the latter could be faster to finish and maybe easier to sell as self-published, since the title sells it! Plus you already have a going website. The mustard book would be fascinating to research, though, and I can imagine your interesting/funny blog posts. (-:

  3. Karyn Zoldan says:

    Wow! You were busy. I haven’t even cleaned up my office during that time. I think you should write a how-to do a successful kickstart campaign and sell it for $29.95 because you really worked the process. People have delusions of grandeur with those kinds of campaigns but are essentially lazy and clueless for how to be successful. You can guilt them into spending the money. You have to spend a little money to make big money.

    With your ambition, the kickstart how-to can just be a side thing, make money while you sleep.

  4. Rita Connelly says:

    My vote is for the mustard book. I have recipes….

  5. Gale Mitchell says:

    I vote for the screenplay. You would reach a whole new audience if a movie were made out of Getting Naked and would memorialize your contributions to and commentary on society. And since GN is a memoir you could include pieces of the Texas tours and the revenge genealogy. And in your spare time (haha?), the mustard book would be a kick to work on. Although I’d love to listen to your performance of GN, you’d need to determine whether the end result would produce enough revenue to be worthwhile.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Dogs. Always dogs.

  7. Amy says:

    Mmmmm, mustard. =)

  8. Kate says:

    Quite the year! And an intriguing list of possible new projects.

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