Another Bleil in Our Midst 2/24/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

There are advantages to having an unusual name. For one thing, every time I get a call asking for “Bleel” I know it’s no anybody I know. In a line for a restaurant nobody else jumps up when they call for Bleil. It’s kind of cool, actually.

And all of the Bleils in America are related to each other in one way or the other. We all derive from the same town Erligheim in Germany. Our family historian estimates there are maybe 150 Bleil households in America. It’s just not common.

So when I was driving around with my friend because we’re not big on shopping and it’s too cold to walk, I was kind of surprised when she suddenly shouted out “BLEIL!” After all, we’ve been friends for a long time; usually she just calls me Dr. St. Father Sir Richard Edward Bleil. “Yes?” I asked. “No, I wasn’t calling for you, why would I do that?” she asked.

As it turns out, in this painfully small (but very cute) town she saw “Bleil” on a sign. Not believing her, I took a protracted U-turn around the block and lo, there it was. She was absolutely correct, but don’t tell her I said that. I almost have her trained.

So, I stopped. I figured that having a common last name gives me the right to interrupt him during his work hours to take time for a social visit with someone he’s never met before. What the heck. And as it turns out, he is a very nice guy. I’m glad I stopped.

Sometime around 1990 while I was in graduate school and in the very earliest days of the internet, just for fun I put “Bleil” into a search engine. As it turns out, there were many prestigious Bleils that came up, and as it turns out, he knew several of them. Along with yours truly, we have an artist Bleil that works in beads. We had a football player turned coach Bleil who apparently is still coaching to this day. We have an attorney turned judge named Bleil. We have (still in Germany) a geologist and prolific author of scholarly work named Bleil. And we have a Bleil who has a web site entitled “WHY I LIKE BIG TITS!” No, I didn’t visit the site. I guess there’s one in every family, though.

What DID surprise me, along with this random chance encounter of my rare name, was his telling of what happened when HE tried to pull this…well, crap I guess. Apparently, there are Bleils who are not so social just because of a common name. I would expect that with a more common name. “Hey, I’m a Smith, too?” What, you want a prize? But Bleil? There just aren’t many of us. To me, the odds of coming across another Bleil should be more than enough cause to stop and introduce ourselves and chat for a bit. I guess that’s obvious by this point in this post. But, apparently, not all Bleils would agree with this sentiment. How odd.

So apparently, in the area of this particular Bleil is a small nest of Bleils. Many, he tells me, are his own immediate family, but twice a year, he says, they have a Bleil family reunion. I sent an email to him today, so now he has my email address, and he tells me that I would be more than welcome at this summer’s reunion. This in and of itself is unusual. The last family reunion I was at came when a relative of mine died and somebody decided they were tired of the family only getting together at funerals. I was working at the time, after my bachelor’s degree but before my doctorate, and one of the rare times that I had a girlfriend. I was given an address which turned out to be a bar in a bad part of town. My then-girlfriend and I walked into the bar filled with some of the toughest, scariest most cut-throat looking bunch of people I’d ever seen. I asked the bartender if this was the Bleil family reunion. He said, “what?” I said, “reunion.” He said, “it’s in the back.” Well thank God. So I go into the backroom, and there was a group of even meaner looking criminals and oh look, there’s my uncle. As I looked around, I realized that, yes, this was the right place, filled with cousins and uncles and aunts. And I know my girlfriend had a good time since my uncle was hitting on her and gave her his phone number.

I wonder if they ever hooked up.

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