Sunday, July 24, 2005

I Have a Request for You...

Dear readers,

I have had a short hiatis from writing as we have been supporting our friends and their daughter (who has taken a turn for the better in the last few days, but is still in intensive care) and coaching my daughter's softball team to third place finish in their league (WAY TO GO YANKEES!).

I will be writing again, but I'd like to know what questions you have that you would like me to address. I do plan to finish writing about the New York trip and get back to telling more of my story. However, I would like to know what kind of issues or questions you would like me to address. I have read some good topic starters on some other sites where people have discussed my story, but I would also like to know what you think.

Leave a comment on this post on things you would like to know, and I will address some of those things in future posts. I may want to write a book about this journey someday, and this would help me immensely.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 18, 2005

Update on the Accident

I won't be going into details out of respect for the parents of these kids. Renee remains in Intensive Care in critical condition. Katie's condition has improved somewhat and is no longer in the ICU. I believe that the other remaining passenger that was still hospitalized has been released.

Please continue your prayers for our dear friends- Renee and her family. Also for Katie and her family.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Personal Request for Readers of This Site

EDITOR'S NOTE- Please let others know about this and ask them to say a prayer for our young friend and her family.

Laura, the kids, and I are very close friends with another family in our neighborhood- Jose and Julia and their children. In fact, they are our closest friends. They have a daughter Aly's age and a son GT's age plus two teenagers. We spend many a weekend on the patio at each others' homes grillin,' talkin,' and laughin'.

Very early Tuesday morning, July 5th, Julia's fifteen year old daughter, Renee was spending the night at a friend's house when some other teens from a few doors down needed to drive some other friends home. We don't know how Renee ended up in the car.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote this story:

Unlicensed teen was apparent driver in SUV crash, police say

by Jim Adams and Matt McKinney, Star Tribune

A 15-year-old girl with only a driver's permit is believed to have been the driver of a sport-utility vehicle that rolled over on Galaxie Avenue in Apple Valley, sending five teens to the hospital, police said. Three other teenagers were not injured.

The apparent driver, Renee Marty, and passenger Kaitlyn Phillippi, 15, both of Eagan, remained in critical condition Wednesday evening at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. Marty, who does not have a driver's license, was thrown from the vehicle and pinned beneath it when it rolled over, according to Apple Valley police.

Bryan Denzer, 16, of Apple Valley; Amanda Decker, 14, of Eagan, and Gregory Reimer, 15, of Eagan, were released Wednesday from Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

The three uninjured teens were George Spartak Awada, 16, of Eagan; Alexander Jeffrey Gould, 15, of Apple Valley, and Danielle Paige Lajamba, 15.

The crash remains under investigation, said Apple Valley police Capt. Jon Rechtzigel. The crash reports will be forwarded to the Dakota County attorney's office for possible charges, he added.

A driver using an instruction permit can drive only under the supervision of a licensed driver 21 years or older sitting in the front passenger seat, according to state law. All passengers under age 18 in a vehicle driven by someone with an instruction permit must wear seat belts.

The crash involved several factors that experts say are among the deadliest on the road when combined: an inexperienced driver apparently speeding in a sport-utility vehicle at night, with several unbelted teenage passengers.

State police Lt. Bob Meyerson said those factors make safe driving difficult, even for kids who are otherwise responsible.

"Even the good kids, the responsible kids, you give them enough of the ingredients and it adds up to bad things," he said..

It has been a very difficult several days for our dear friends and their daughter, and this will be a long slow process. Please say a prayer for Renee and her family, and also for Katie and her family.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Barbecue in New York City

More on the New York City trip CONTINUED FROM HERE...

We had been up very late the night before and here it was going on 8:00 when we got to the restaurant Jason had chosen. While we were en route, my sister Mei-Lee called from JFK Airport to let me know that her plane had landed and she and Frances (my other sister from California) were going to try and find our mother. They hadn't taken the same flight but were arriving in New York about the same time at different gates. They would drop their things off at hotel and meet us at the restaurant later.

We walked in Blue Smoke and found Jason and Jordan waiting for us. It was good to know that we would just be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy some good food and good company.

We ordered some drinks and some fresh BBQ Chips with Blue Cheese dipping sauce and their Three-Sausage Sampler for appetizers, plus the waiters gave the kids some unbaked cookie dough cut into shapes and some baking decorations. While we were eating, the chefs would bake their creations for eating with dessert. (Quite the cool idea!) We knew that it would be a while before my mother and sisters would be at the restaurant, so we went ahead and ordered.

I, being a rib guy, ordered the Memphis style baby back ribs while Laura ordered the pan- roasted halibut with some kind of sherry-bacon vinaigrette and served with smokey mashed potatoes. My kids both ordered the same thing- a kid sized order of ribs (GT went Memphis style, Aly did Kansas City style) and macaroni and cheese. I didn't really hear what Jason and Jordan ordered, but I was more concerned with how long it would it take for our late arrivals to get to the restaurant and thinking that I hope get there it o.k.

While I am no restaruant critic, I must say that the food was fabulous. I was a bit skeptical when I found out we were going to a BBQ joint, but getting a taste of those Memphis style baby backs gave me complete respect for the state of New York barbecue. They were seasoned perfectly with no sauce, and were very tender coming right off the bone. A lot of restaurants tend to cook ribs too fast at too high a temperature, which make them tough and too chewy. Not at Blue Smoke. They were as good as if I had made them myself.

Laura was also extremely pleased with her Halibut, and the smokey mashed potatoes (which I tried) were outstanding. My kids weren't as pleased with thier choices- neither really liked the macaroni and cheese (but then again, to them- Kraft is the standard) and while they ate all their ribs, they both said that they were just "O.K."

We spent dinner getting too know more about Jordan and talking about the trip both to Nigeria and New York. Jordan had done the fact checking for the story in GQ, so he knew as much as anyone different aspects of my adventure. It was as if he made the trip with us.

When we were halfway through our main course, I got a call from Mei-Lee who let me know that they had made it to the hotel and would be leaving for the restaurant soon. They arrived just as we we getting done. I was really glad the see them. I hadn't seen my sisters in person for almost two years. Plus, it had been over a year since I had seen my mother. They looked great for people who just got off a six hour flight.

We all made it to "Blue Smoke." (Photo by Laura, of course)

We got in our hugs and they ordered their food. Lots of conversation. Lots of laughs. It was great. A few shared desserts. Then we caught cabs and went back to the hotel. It had been a long day for all of us, and we had an early day scheduled. We had to be at the studio at 7:00 and in make-up by 7:20 to be on Good Morning America.

To Be Continued...

Our Other Local Paper Jumps In

You may have already seen the Minneapolis Star Tribune story from a few years ago. Now the Saint Paul Pioneer Press is in the mix. (Yes- there is a registration, but it's free.)

I'm glad the Saint Paul paper had taken an interest, because I was born and baptized in Saint Paul. (Plus, there seems to be only one minor error which is really a misplaced word in my opinion. My father had already given me an Igbo name- it's a title I'll have to wait for until my family goes to Nigeria.)

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Telephone Effect

For the most part I have been pleased with what different outlets have written regarding my big journey, even though some have made a few minor factual errors in the story they put out.

I think this comes from what I call the "telephone effect." Have you ever played the game when you line up five to ten kids and whisper a sentence to the first kid in line. Then that child whispers the sentence to the next child and so on until the last child hears the sentence. Then that child states the sentence for everbody to hear. Usually the last child's sentence is very different from the original.

This is because regardless of what is said, everybody hears things a little differently based on their own perspective.

I think that happens in media too. Sometimes articles are based on what a prior article says about a subject. I believe that to be the case in the In Touch Weekly story. They got most of their story from previous stories in GQ Magazine, Good Morning America, and the Associated Press. And, while they didn't get every fact exactly right, they wrote a very nice artcle and I appreciate their interest in my story.

Thank you In Touch Weekly!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The "In Touch Weekly" Magazine Story

The following is the article exactly as written in the July 11 issue of In Touch Weekly in a section called "People in the News- Who's Making Headlines This Week."

NOTE: This article was written mostly from information from other articles and has a few errors. For the most accurate version of this story, read the article from the June 2005 GQ Magazine.

Adopted man finds his royal roots!

One Day, Marty pictured here with his son GT) and his family was
living paycheck to paycheck. The next, they found out that they're
part of a Nigerian dynasty.

When Minnesota mortgage banker Marty Johnson touched down in Aboh, Nigeria, villagers craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the long-limbed American. Children in the village crowed in the streets, "Obiala!" or "He has come!" Upon his arrival, Marty's feet were ceremoniously washed and he was sprayed with champagne by the area's reigning elder.

"It was so emotional when I met
my birth father," explains Marty.
"It made the circle of my life

It was a reception fit for a prince, which, it turns out, Marty is- the long lost son of the village chief, John Ogike. Given up by his unwed mother at birth, Marty, now 41, never knew anything about his biological parents, nor did he think much about being adopted until he late in his teens. "My dad and mom are 5'7" and 5'3", says Marty. "I'm 6'4". Needless to say, the question that popped up whenever people would see my parents was:'How did you get so tall?'"

"Welcome to the Ogike Dynasty." -Marty's long lost father

The mystery began to unfold in 2001, when his birth mother tracked him down. Kathleen O'Connor Wang told Marty she met his father in 1963 while he was a graduate student at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls. But when she became pregnant, her parents encouraged her to put the baby up for adoption. Since then, she hadn't had any contact with his dad and didn't even know if he was alive.

Thanks to a chance reading of an online posting on his father's old university's message board, Marty eventually heard from his father's realtives. Not only was his dad alive, a newfound sibling revealed thie news to him: "Because of our father's position, you're a prince."

Marty, a father of two in Eagan, Minn., struggling to make ends meet, soon began to embrace his birthright. He took to wearing traditional caftans his relatives sent over as gifts and dreamed of meeting his father and seeing his ancestral home- a wish that came true after his wife Laura, secretly rounded up donations from friends and family.

While Marty loves spending time with his new family, they have not
taken the place of his adoptive parents. "I had a great life growing
up," he says. "My parents are my heroes."

It was a life-altering trip. He and his father both wept upon seeing each other- and since his emotional visit, Marty's been dreaming even bigger. He wants to build a new life in Nigeria- where his father re-christened him Chinenye, or "God gives." He might even start his own import-export business. Marty tell's In Touch with a laugh, "[My wife] always said she wanted to retire someplace warm."

Why They Call Me "Marty"

I went back through the comments section of some of my old posts today and found this great note from my mother on how I got the name Marty:

Dear Martin,

When I was pregnant with you I had already named you Martin after St Martin De Porres. John knew I picked that name and so did my Mom, Dad and 2 sisters who knew about my pregnancy.

I called you Martin throughout my pregnancy in letters I wrote to family and some close friends who knew about you. My Mom saved all my letters and I just looked at one from December 1963.

I wrote that at one of my exams "they found Martin's heartbeat." I was so sure you were going to be a boy. It absolutely never occured to me you wouldn't be a boy.

When I wrote to John about finding you I used the name Martin because I knew he would know what I was talking about. I don't know if he ever saw the letter I wrote to him after I found you. When you were born I added John's name to your name. That is how you became John Martin O'Connor.

When I found you again it meant a lot to me you still had the name I called you while I was able to be your mother- those 9 months before you were born.

Mom O'Connor Wang
And I'm glad that you are getting a chance to call me anything! Thanks for finding me!

Related posts:
What's in a Name? and What's in a Name, Part II, and Marty's Big Journey Part I- The Real Beginning