Following up on comments yesterday:

I know “gypped” is considered a slur, but I didn’t know “gypsy” was, too. I know it’s a casual term for Romany people, but getting back to first principles, i.e. clarity, I’ll continue to use it as a synonym for “nomadic,” in various forms. But as I rarely write about Romany people, I doubt it’ll come up there.

Speaking of nomadic populations that are often associated with grifting, what about Irish travelers? Every summer in Fort Wayne there’d be a warning story from the police about traveler scams, usually involving home repairs; a couple of men would find a house in need of painting, quote an insanely low price, and the paint would come off the first time it rained. Or, in measuring the house for another job, one would gain entry somehow — “we need inside measurements as well” was usually the excuse offered — and then “head to Lowe’s to pick up supplies.” They’d never return, and the homeowner would find one or more small valuables missing.

I think the women busied themselves with shoplifting and returning goods for cash.

Haven’t heard much about those folks since we moved to Michigan. Must not be on the route.

Here’s an interesting story about the traveler community in South Carolina. As so often is the case, the members of the group claim it comes down to discrimination. And some other factors:

History teaches us that to survive all cultures must evolve with an ever-changing world. For some, change comes slowly and often at great sacrifice requiring the loss of old-world traditions in favor of acceptance. Irish-American Travellers because of their reluctance to change have become people at odds with society. We are a people that belong more in the past than in the present. Arranged marriages, the need to find safety within our small community, and refusal to accept change all bring into question our longevity.

Wise words, those.

OK then. We’re sliding into the weekend, again, and I’m thinking about devoting at least some time this weekend to serious meal prep for the week ahead. I was down to having only four pandemic pounds to lose and am now back to 10, and it’s going to be in the high 80s today. This can’t go on, so I’m gonna stop it. Or at least try.

Enjoy your own, wherever it may be.

Posted at 7:58 am in Same ol' same ol' |

18 responses to “Travelers.”

  1. basset said on May 21, 2021 at 9:21 am

    Nashville is a gathering point for the Travelers as well:

    Someone on our neighborhood Nextdoor mentioned a scam last week that sure sounded like them… driveway sealing, quoted one price then demanded another, cash only, gotta have it right this minute.

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  2. Deborah said on May 21, 2021 at 9:40 am

    That Irish Traveler link is fascinating, I had never heard of Irish Travelers.

    In college I worked summers at a department store in Miami, every once in a while some very colorfully dressed women would come in, they were very petite, olive complected. Their clothing was flowing and had interesting colorful patterns. The manager I worked with called them Gypsies, she said they lived in an encampment somewhere and she told me to watch them like a hawk, she said they shoplifted constantly and that they were very good at it. I worked in the baby department, I always watched them partly because I was so interested in their way of dressing etc. I never saw them steal anything and the manager always prowled around checking everything to make sure it was all still there after they left. To my knowledge nothing was ever missing.

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  3. LAMary said on May 21, 2021 at 10:05 am

    My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding is somewhat enlightening about Romany or Romney folks. I say somewhat because it’s clear the producers manipulate situations in a downmarket Real Housewives sort of way. It’s a cheesy show and I haven’t watched it often but aside from learning that Romney is a name for “gypsies” from Wales(Mitt’s family is from there) there are things like marrying off your daughter at 15 or buying huge hideous dresses for the bride from a specific store in Boston that specializes in gypsy weddings. It’s never clear what jobs the men have but they mostly drive large pickup trucks.

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  4. AnnieH said on May 21, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    Ah yes. The famous Chicago-area case of the Bogdanov family. Without using any descriptive adjectives, this says it all, “The Bogdanov family’s roots go back to Eastern Europe, although neither Branko or Lela is a citizen of any particular country.” People often grow up in the family business and if you come from a clan of expert shoplifters, that may be your destiny as well.

    When I was in college, the book The Gypsies, by Jan Yoors, a Belgian teenager who went to live with a family horse trading family, was very popular. I suppose that started my interest, which was furthered when I ended up living close to Forest Home Cemetery, outside Chicago. It has a section described as “gypsy graves,” generally very elaborate and often decorated with recent offerings. Here’s one photo I took where there was an offering of coffee instead of the more customary strong drink. To my delight, you can see that it drew a comment from a granddaughter, confirming that they were a non-drinking family.

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  5. Deborah said on May 21, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Well it was too good to be true, the guy I hired the other day to work on extricating the vine from the chain link fence was supposed to come back this morning at nine but he didn’t show up. So LB and I started doing it ourselves again. This time we borrowed a sharp hatchet from the guy upstairs, that worked so much better we went to the hardware store and bought another sharp hatchet so we could both work more efficiently. We also got another saw, this one is short and pointed works much better getting in between the chain link areas. Some of the vine pieces we are trying to get off of the fence are as big around as my thigh, also very woody. It’s been quite a procedure. I will be so happy when this project is done. It was so nice when that area was all green and shady, why didn’t that landscaping (butchering) crew just leave well enough alone.

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  6. alex said on May 21, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    So the word “gypsy” was coined in the mistaken belief that the Romany hailed from Egypt, but today it’s well established that India was their place of origin.

    If you’ve never seen Latcho Drom, it’s an art film/documentary from the 1990s that captures the music and dress and folkways of various Romany all over Europe. Amazing how some things remain constant and some evolve. I remember enjoying it. Here’s a trailer:

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  7. Nancy F said on May 21, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    There was a short-lived dramatic series on American TV about Irish Travellers: “The Riches.” It starred Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard as the titular con artists, and in my memory they and the show were terrific. Canceled after two seasons, alas, but it’s available now on Hulu.

    And as Alex says, “Latcho Drom” is also worth seeking out.

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  8. Sherri said on May 21, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    As we’ve watched people apparently fall into the deep end of MAGAdom, the question is, is this who they always were, and if not, what happened to them?

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  9. A. Riley said on May 21, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    A thousand years ago I was an ad-taker for the Chicago Sun-Times classifieds (temember classified ads? money rolling in the door). Anyway. We used to get these guys placing small used-car ads. They were always pleasant and businesslike, always spoke midwestern-standard English, always gave an unmemorable average-white-American name like Gary Smith or something like that for billing, always gave an unmemorable Chicago address for billing. And there was always the sound of a bunch of little kids playing in the background. And they never paid. Billing phone number was fake, billing address was fake. My colleagues said these guys were gypsies, or Romany or Travellers. The cultural-historical trade in horses had evolved to cars. (Google “gypsy vanner horse” sometime. Oooh, pretty.)

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  10. alex said on May 22, 2021 at 8:31 am

    There’s a common misapprehension that gypsy = Hungarian, and I suspect this may be the result of American marketing of things Hungarian as “gypsy.” A case in point is an American record album of Hungarian folk music that my grandmother owned. The artists were billed as a “gypsy king” with a “gypsy band.”


    There was a traveller story in Fort Wayne that made the news back in the day when Nancy still lived here and she may recall it. In fact, I think she may have even written about it in the newspaper and mentioned it here at some point. Anyway, short story: A woman in the Wildwood Park subdivision hired some Irish travelers to paint her house. They did an execrable job. She demanded they make it right before receiving payment. They, in turn, painted swastikas and anti-semitic epithets all over the front of her house and turned it into a media spectacle and were arrested.

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  11. Deborah said on May 22, 2021 at 8:48 am

    I had to look up “execrable”.

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  12. Deborah said on May 22, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    This guy was the founder of the last architecture firm I worked for before I retired. He was a good, down to earth guy but I don’t like his idea that buildings should last 30 years and then disappear and start over. Buildings should last a long time but be flexible to take on new uses as times change IMHO.

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  13. ROGirl said on May 23, 2021 at 5:56 am

    My house usually stays pretty comfortable without running the a/c a lot in the summer because of all the trees, so I don’t have to use it until much later, but I finally switched it on last night because it’s been so hot and I couldn’t sleep. It’s not even June yet, and this is like August weather.

    Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the Romani people.

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  14. Julie Robinson said on May 23, 2021 at 7:43 am

    Our small community here at the senior apartments had a little gathering yesterday afternoon. Everyone is vaccinated and since it was outside we went maskless.

    The people here fought the pandemic by hibernating. Most had their groceries delivered by family members. All have been lonely. The vaccine has given them back their lives.

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  15. LAMary said on May 23, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    Deborah,our mutual friend Harry is still at Gensler and yesterday was his birthday. He’s 55! I’ve known him since he had just finished his undergrad degree. He joined my drawing group which became the drawing and drinking wine on Mary’s deck group.

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  16. beb said on May 23, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    Deborah, I’ve lived in this house for over 30 years. I’d hate to think it was time to tear down and build again. Of course he was talking about commercial buildings, I suppose. There can be a case made that some of those 30 year building are so lacking in handicap access, internet wiring and efficient HVAC that they need either a major refurbishing or a rebuild. As I drive around Detroit I see so many abandoned building that so cute, stylish, beautiful. The old architecture of the teens and twenties of the last century is so much more wonderful then today’s.

    About a half year ago the living room TV in our house gave up the ghost after 30-some years. We hadn’t replaced when my dad died. Back when his eyesight was merely poor he bought a large flat screen TV. After he died my sister offered it to us. I finally went down and picked it up. Now we an watch stuff again but the question becomes what to watch. One night recently I turned to Mega Deck builders. To me a deck is a small wooden platform to enjoy the weather. Their decks were $400,000 additions to a million dollar house that extended the deck several feet out, roofed over most of it, placed glass doors at the end of the roof so you have a vast mancave that looks at the wilderness but protects you from experiencing it. What kind of people have that kind of money to throw away. Why aren’t they paying more in taxes for being so stinking rich?

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  17. FDChief said on May 23, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    I was told that the Europeans who commonly interacted with the Roma were told (either by the Roma themselves or by others of their sessile countryfolks) that these wanderers were originally Egyptian – “egypsies” – and that was how the term got hung on them. The Roma are definitely persecuted in many parts of Europe – the Nazis murder a pack of them – and the term is pretty prejudicial there.

    When I moved to Oregon in the early 90s there was still a lot of the older logging culture around, and you heard the term “gyppo logger” to describe someone who worked for a small operation or as an independent (as opposed to a “company logger” working for Cavenham or Weyerhaeuser) because the small-timers would travel around looking for small woodlots to work, i.e. “like a gypsy”.

    According to Wikipedia the term originated in the Nineteen-teens and was considered demeaning, but I never heard it said that way; it was just a description. In fact, I never heard the term used as a slur (other than for the people who used to offer “driveway sealcoating” during the summer when I was a kid in the Chicago suburbs – the “sealcoat” turned out to be mostly waste oil and it did make your driveway look black and shiny until the next time it rained and it would run off and kill your grass; “Those goddamn gypsies fooled the Michaelsons again and now I gotta reseed the side yard, dammit!”). It was just that there were people who traveled around and they were “gypsies” just like the people who lived downstate were “farmers”.

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  18. Dorothy said on May 23, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    A blog entry you did years and years ago about Irish Travelers is what brought me to this site. I think there was something in the news about them and when I Googled it (or maybe just did an internet search) your page popped up. I’ve been hanging around here since then.

    This was dinner tonight. Had it for the first time about a month ago at our son’s house. It’s delicious and waaaay rich but I think it is worth the calories.

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