Not long ago, I sent some of my DNA to the National Geographic Society. I wanted to know how our family got from a small African tribe 150,000 years ago to my Uncle Lenny's off-color jokes and Grandma Martha's flatulence problems.
Searching out my ancestry scares me because, given the relatives I already know, the results don’t look promising.
I thought participating in The Genographic Project would help. The National Geographic Society hopes to collect more than 100,000 DNA samples and trace the human race back to Adam.
That sounded a little daunting, so I’ve started working on a more modest work entitled “Shakes.”
“Shakes” will trace my handshakes back through the years and across continents. Where tracing roots sounds a trifle aristocratic, tracing handshakes has a common touch, so to speak.
To begin with, I recently shook hands with Washington’s long-time Secretary of State, Ralph Munro. Before that, I shook the hand of noted Seattle trial attorney Paul Luvera and both Gov. Chris Gregoire and The Olympian’s editorial page editor, Mike Oakland.
Many years ago, I shook hands with former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
These were all what I call “interactive primary handshakes” as opposed to “nominal primary,” when you merely touch hands with a political candidate working the crowd.
By participating in these primary handshakes, I can immediately trace my shakes to everyone with whom they have shaken hands.
Because Ralph Munro has shaken hands with former President Richard Nixon, this puts me on a secondary handshake basis with Nikita Kruschev, astronaut Neil Armstrong and former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Because Trudeau obviously shook hands with his wife, Margaret, who, at one time, ran off with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, I feel pretty well-connected in the music industry, too.
You see how it works? If Luvera also shook hands with Nixon, it provides me with a double secondary handshake relationship with the president who was not a crook. Luvera also shook the hand of former President Bill Clinton who has shaken hands with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and that gives me a tactile connection to Saddam Hussein and other scoundrels, like the folks at Enron and BP.
That would also give me a strong secondary, once-removed handshake tie to Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, a pleasant thought.
Having recently shaken hands with Fox Island author Sidney Rittenberg, I have a direct handshaking link to Mao Tse-Tung and Zhou Enlai.
From this list, you can immediately credit me with secondary twice-removed handshakes with Woodrow Wilson, King George V, Nikolai Lenin and Albert Schweitzer, and at least one of your grandparents.
In other words, I shook the hand that shook the hand of presidents, who in turn shook the hand that shook the hand of George V, who shook the hand (or at least touched the little finger) of Queen Victoria (the real one, not Judi Dench).
So, you see how it goes. I have acquired tertiary thrice-removed shakes with Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln William V of Orange and Haile Selassie’s grandmother, who was said to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
I am pretty sure of a link to Beethoven and Mozart, too, although probably not through any of The Rolling Stones.
The beauty of tracing handshakes is two-fold: it’s more democratic than root tracing; and, frankly, you might uncover a better class of people.
The America’s Classic Jazz Festival will start swinging June 24-27 at St. Martin’s University. Details at www.olyjazz.com … The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has awarded 24 scholarships to graduating seniors from 11 local high schools … Olympian Joe Ford says, “If June is here, can spring be far behind?” … The Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason counties is having a financial crisis of its own. It may run out of money and they could mean closing its doors. To help, Dr. Jennifer Shannon is coordinating a fundraiser with Dockside Bistro for June 21 … With six candidates running for the 3rd Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, it’s a confusing race. The Olympian and the League of Women Voters have planned a candidate’s forum for Thursday, July 1 at the Olympia Center.