Monthly Archives: June 2017

goals and striving

I’ve been thinking hard on all this. Today I think of ‘goals’ as associated with ‘striving’. I put them in quotes because they seem to have somewhat pejorative meanings.

I’ve long felt that the writings of the Chinese philosophers, in particular Chuang Tzu, represent how I like to look at the world and my life. Chaung Tzu speaks often of ‘striving’ in this pejorative sense, so when I think of ‘striving’ as a means to a ‘goal’, I have negative feelings.

Surely some goals are worthy, and therefore striving, or working, towards them is not a bad thing.

What are my goals?, Linda asked yesterday. I had some wordy answers, some of which I posted here. Today I’m thinking I want to live, as long as my health is reasonably good. That can be the basis for many things.

To be continued . . .

goals

I had a session today with a ‘Life Coach’. Linda is a person I met at the Compassionate Friends meeting. She lost her 4 year old daughter 11 years ago. I had complained to her that I was often feeling directionless especially since my therapist, Dr Perry, had left the area. I’ve tried other therapists but none seem to fit as well as Dr Perry had.

Her emphasis on looking forward rather than behind seemed to me to be a good approach. Bottom line after our long talk is that I need to decide what my goals are and whether I’m willing to work to achieve them. Her role would be to help me with that work so for the time being I’m on my own.

So, what are my goals? I said I wanted to be able to spend time with my children and grandchildren – to the extent that they would have me. I mentioned playing music; I mentioned photography; I mentioned riding my bike; I mentioned travel. When it came right down to the idea of working towards those ‘goals’, I foundered. What does that mean exactly? When I have the day off and nothing scheduled, why do I (often) do none of those things?

I told her that in my non-work life, I’ve always followed the path that interested me at the moment without regard to longer-term ‘goals’. That approach led to a bad marriage but also three fine children. How should my goals have been different? How could I, at age 25, made a life goal with any reasonable expectation of it coming to pass? The idea of doing that now is a big adjustment. I told her Zach had goals, lots of them, and now they’re ashes.

I tried to get her to give me an example of what she meant by ‘working’ on my goals but she dodged. She had already told me that until I was willing to work on my goals there was nothing she could help me with. That stung a little.

I promised her I would think seriously about goals and my relationship to them and we will talk again in a couple of months. I set up a new category here so I hope to revisit this subject often.

Noah’s Dad

Jeremy posted this on FaceBook yesterday (Fathers’ Day):

Fathers Day is a good time to reflect not just on the amazing dads who’ve been a part of my life, but on a guy who rose to an extraordinary challenge — loving and raising my nephew as if Noah was his own — and has been more supportive, open and friendly in the aftermath of Zach’s horrible tragedy than anyone in our extended family had a right to expect. Hope you enjoyed your day, Daddy Dave Richer. You’re an awesome dude and Noah and Myles are blessed to have you as a dad.

As a father, I couldn’t be prouder to have raised a son who can think this way.

I want to add my own story about Dave.

In the aftermath of the tragedy Saturday night in Baton Rouge, by Tuesday the whole family was gathered down there. Wednesday we discovered the existence of Noah, and by Wednesday night Ashley had established contact with Ally. Zach’s friends and colleagues at the school arranged to have a memorial there on the Friday afternoon. As someone with graphics experience, I was called on to help with the program. I was in a daze, though.

Sometime Friday – I think – Jeremy told me we were all getting on an airplane Saturday morning to fly to Michigan for another celebration. I had no cold weather gear; I hadn’t spoken to anyone on that side of the family since our divorce four years earlier. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t say no. They all loved Zach too.

So we flew to Detroit, where it was snowing. Everyone there was welcoming and sympathetic to me but I was still in shock. At the celebration on Sunday, I couldn’t speak. As soon as I could I went to a corner and sat mostly by myself. Eventually I noticed that people were starting to leave and I remembered something Sarah had said to me. She had said Ally was bringing Noah to the celebration with her husband Dave. They were driving up from Cincinnati in the snow!

Sarah was walking by so I called to her, ‘Didn’t you tell me Ally and Dave were coming up with Noah?’

She didn’t say anything. She just grabbed me and pulled me to go with her outside. It was still snowing and all I had on was a sweater! She pulled me anyway. Noah was outside playing in the snow. She introduced me to Ally. I don’t even remember what i said to her but I remember what I said to Dave, ‘You must be the step father.’

Dave shook his head. ‘No, I’m the Dad.’

procrastination

Yeah, wanting to write but not being able to bring myself to it. It happens every so often. I’d guess about half the time there’s a gap of more than 2 or 3 days that’s the reason. (The other times I’m busy with work . . .)

For a moment yesterday I thought I’d gotten myself into working every night this week. Then we (Arno and I) looked again at the schedule and figured out that he could still work tonight and Wednesday nights. I’m covering him on Friday and I’m still going to try to get out of Saturday night.

My flight to Atlanta is leaving at 6 am Sunday. Jeremy will be arriving from Seattle about the same time as me. We will proceed to his house and start loading the truck for the big move. Actually the big move starts for them tomorrow with their flight west.

They have a house rental lined up, Ashley has a job, but Jeremy does not. He’s set himself up as a volunteer with the local fire district and – weirdly, to me – he’s getting some training from them starting Thursday the 29th. That means we’re going to be leaving Georgia Monday morning (probably) and trying to get to the Seattle environs by noon on Thursday. It’s do-able but just barely, especially with only two drivers driving a 26′ bobtail towing an SUV.

We’ll see a lot of Interstate Highway but not much else, I’m afraid. Jeremy tried to apologize to me a couple of weeks ago when this training thing came up. I said, no way. I’m just happy to be part of the party. I never had any plans to sightsee on this trip anyway.

I hope to do some, at least, updates from the road next week.

Zach memorial fund

I checked around and I was surprised to find that I hadn’t mentioned this fund here before. I guess it was kind of passé by the time I started writing here.

In the larger sense, this all begs the question of memorials to Zach. This blog is a memorial. His Hobbes in my bedroom is a memorial. Etc.

Anyway, I happened to think of this fund the other day and today I wrote a check to it. I never saw any accounting of the donations so I hope it’s all legit. Actually, YMCA Storer Camps is legit and so are the people running it so I have no real worries.

The fund honors not only Zach but also his grandfather Clark. It provides money for kids to go to camp (‘camperships’) who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Storer, and Clark Ewing, were huge reasons why Zach was the great person he was.

So if you’re looking for a charity to send money to, consider this one.

Make out checks to: YMCA Storer Camps. Send to Z. Clark/Clark E. Campership Fund, c/o Director Becky Spencer, YMCA Storer Camps, 6941 Stony Lake Road, Jackson, MI 49201

county fair

I went to the San Mateo County Fair this morning. Rose wanted to go because she had entered her oatmeal cookies and wanted to see how they were judged.

The fair opened at 10, but Rose likes to be early so we were there a little after 9:30. Free admission for the first hour! Quite a few people had the same idea, so there was a clot of a couple of hundred people at the gate. Many had young children. One little girl next to us was posturing dance moves and looking at the results in her shadow. The weather was perfect.

It struck me that this crowd represented the best of America. It had people of many cultures and ethnicities. And there were children of couples that were clearly from different ethnicities. The little girl we had been watching was joined by a friend whose skin was a different color. They were still obviously best of buds. Everyone in the crowd was respectful of each other.

About the time we walked up, someone started talking from a stage nearer to the gate. It was a county supervisor, who introduced the sheriff, who brought out the color guard and led everyone in the Pledge Of Allegiance. Our local State Senate representative was next as he spoke on ‘Emergency Preparedness Day’ which was the theme of the day. It was all over in about ten minutes and the gate soon opened and we all poured in. Free admission for the first hour!

In the exhibition hall were many of the typical fair booths: various county services, things for sale. We stopped at a booth for a farm to table venture run by local farmers. Rose signed up for a trial. The young man who talked to us said he was going to have a hard time all day ignoring the smell of the cinnamon roll booth about 20 feet away.

Just past the cinnamon rolls were the food entries: beautifully decorated cakes, breads, brownies, beers and wines, … and cookies! They were all mixed up in glass cases so we had to go around to all of them. Finally there was one oatmeal cookie that had won first place. I was disappointed, but Rose kept looking and nearby were her cookies.

‘2nd place!!’ She nearly screamed. She was so happy. It was at the bottom of one of the cases so she had to squat down to take a picture. The card had gotten bent wrong so her name was barely visible but she was delighted. ‘2nd place!’ she kept saying, over and over. She spent the next ten minutes texting and emailing the picture to everyone she could think of. She was pumped!

After a bit, we went outside and looked at the midway and had a corn dog and crappy ‘lemonade’. A band started playing at a stage nearby and we smiled at another little girl who was moving to the music. Then she wanted to go in and look at the cookies again. I swear, she was floating!

On the other side of the food entries was the fine arts pavilion. We went over and looked at the paintings, drawings, photographs, poems, quilts until we were tired. ‘2nd place!’ she kept saying. What a great morning we had.

stats

One year ago today I made my first post on this blog. Today my tally stands at 157 posts with 109 comments. A little less than half of the comments are my responses so the actual number of real comments is maybe 60 from a very small number of actual people, perhaps ten.

I would say that’s my only disappointment. I had hoped that my posts would generate some dialogs a lá an online forum but so far that has not materialized. So I just think about the therapeutic aspect of writing and let the other part go.

So over the course of a year, I’ve averaged a post every two or three days. Not too bad. In reality they come in bursts, with dry spells lasting sometimes a week or more. I think about writing for this blog constantly, which is good. usually the thoughts are better written than what actually gets out here. I suspect that’s common. I don’t have any schedule or quotas. Sometimes I wonder if that would be better but mostly I’m ok with the blog being a mirror of who I am: unplanned!

Well, that’s all. I have no intention of stopping. I thank everyone who reads. I will trust that there are readers out there who will ponder upon what I write even when they don’t comment. If not now, then perhaps in times to come. That’s good enough for me.

Burt Bacharach

Yesterday we had what we call an outside event at Davies. Davies ‘Symphony Hall’ was of course built for the San Francisco Symphony but other entities use it when they can. It’s a beautiful hall and prestigious. In the last six weeks, we’ve had our usual spring spate of graduation ceremonies squeezed in amongst the symphony rehearsals and concerts.

Last night’s outside event was Burt Bacharach. We last had Burt a couple of years ago when he appeared with the Symphony accompanying him. This concert was promoted by SF Jazz and was Burt with his band only. Burt is particularly interesting because Hal toured with him for 12 years and talks often about the great education he got from it.

When I say squeezed in, I really mean it. Yesterday the orchestra was on stage rehearsing Rite of Spring until 12:30. Large orchestra with lots of percussion. As soon as they were released, the hands fell on the stage removing stands and chairs and rearranging risers while the sound crew unloaded their truck and began to install the PA. Actually, we have an in-house PA now that is good so there was no rolling in of large speaker boxes and tedious stacking and raising them on motors.That’s all permanent now. What Hal and his guys did have to do was bring in the mixing consoles, Front Of House and monitor, run the snakes, connect everything, build the mic stands and wire the stage: mics, monitors, keyboards. All in 2 hours.

Instead of being on the sound crew as I have many times in the past, I’ve recently moved up to Head Carpenter/Stage Manager for most of these outside events. I was wrestling risers, bringing in and setting up the backline. Besides the grand piano for Burt, the band had a drummer, a bass player, a violinist, a sax guy and a trumpet guy, three singers, and three keyboard players (five keyboards). The keyboards too the most time.

So I was busy too. A little later in the afternoon, after the sound check was underway, the production manager came to me and asked who was on the crew that could do stage moves. Well, that would be me. So, she says, one of the singers plays acoustic guitar for two of the numbers on the show. They didn’t want the guitar sitting on stage so I was the one to bring it on, along with a stool, at the proper time – twice.

That’s all really normal stuff. As they (the PM and the singer) were finishing up telling me all this, they said, can you tune the guitar? They had an electronic tuner so I said sure. They didn’t ask me if I was a musician or knew anything about guitars or anything, just, can you tune it. OK. When the sound check was done, I took the guitar offstage and tuned it up.

The first number was about a half hour into the show so we got started and I went over and checked the tuning but then I started thinking. The singer never said anything else to me after that initial orientation. As far as I know he never picked up the guitar to check the tuning before he went on stage. Wow! That seems really odd to me.

The handoffs went fine and the guitar was in tune. After the show I was working with one of the keyboard guys putting things away and I mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Yeah, last week we were in LA and the guitar came out all out of tune.’ He was kind of laughing about it but I was stunned. These guys are all really good musicians but evidently they have a blind spot on this. The numbers were basically solo pieces for the guitar. Pretty exposed.

Well, they’re gone now and tonight we have somebody named Ben Gribbard. It’s a similar deal: the orchestra is on stage until 3:30, then we come in and put in the show again. 8 o’clock start, I don’t know when the sound check is. Maybe 5 or 5:30. Hal was able to leave the mixers in so that part doesn’t need to be done again. It’ll still be a panic.

By the way, Burt Bacharach was born in 1928. He’s older than my father. He’s little guy and bent over but still going out there on stage, playing the piano, talking to the audience. I didn’t think to ask how much they’re touring but there’s no end date. Rumor is that the Symphony is having him back next year. He did two hours last night on stage without a break. Amazing. He told the audience there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.

deaths of children

I spend my Internet time on FaceBook, like everyone else. Just kidding. After I spent about three months last year avoiding it entirely, I came around to its usefulness. I had to prune mercilessly, though. Many people who I liked in person ended up being ‘unfollowed’ after too many food pictures, cat videos and/or political rants. Ashley and her pictures and posts of Rosalie were the most important factor in resuming. Thank you, Ashley! So I have ended up checking it almost every day but the family-to-post ratio is much higher and I can usually get through new posts in fifteen minutes.

That was all later in the year, though. The first three months after Zach’s death it was invaluable. I took great comfort in the many comments of support at the time.

I like to play guitar, so a guitar site is important. I’ve spent time on TalkBass (oddly, not about guitar at all, but bass) and recently on JazzGuitar, but my favorite is still TDPRI, the Telecaster forum. The Telecaster is a type of guitar, for those who don’t know, but the best discussions take place in the catch-all sub forum called The Bad Dog Cafe.

My other regular stop, especially now during the baseball season, is McCovey Chronicles, where Grant Brisbee is the best baseball writer of his generation. I believe Jeremy, who reads a much more varied diet of baseball writing, will agree with me. The crowd of regular commenters are mostly far younger than me and I have fun watching them tease each other and talk about things I don’t understand. When I started hanging around McCovey Chronicles in 2009, there was a commenter named Alex_Lewis who had a certain style and fostered a good repartee with other regulars.

One day there was a post by another regular that went in a completely different direction. Gallo del Cielo was another username that I had also become familiar with. It turned out – follow the link for the details – that he was Alex Lewis’ father and that Alex had died the night before in a sudden, tragic and senseless accident. Alex was 27.

Gallo still posts regularly on MCC with an inimitable style. Tonight he quietly noted that this day, June 5, was the date, and the day of the week even, that Alex had died 5 years ago. While I hadn’t forgotten Alex’s death, the details had receded in my memory. Surely not for Gallo.

Zach was not a contributor to MCC, nor was he a regular reader but occasionally I would send him a link to a particularly funny or trenchant post. He was of course a Giants fan. We had many good conversations started by MCC.

I mention TDPRI in this context because I have posted there a fair amount, sometimes referring to Zach’s death. In those conversations I have now ‘met’ three other men who have lost children as I have. Tomorrow night I will be going to my monthly meeting of The Compassionate Friends, which is devoted to parents who have had children die before them. We’re in an exclusive group, me and Gallo and Toto’s Dad and the others. One that all of us, I’m sure, would give anything to not be members of.

As a coda, I offer this tribute to Alex by Grant Brisbee: In Memory of Alex Lewis. The comments that follow it are filled with further tributes to the kind of man he was. They remind me of some of the things that were said about Zach that Friday in Baton Rouge and that Sunday in Jackson and that Saturday in San Francisco. Oh, my Z.