Monthly Archives: February 2018

Zach’s journal for today

I decided I would do an entry today from Zach’s journal. The first thing I noticed when I went to open the PDF file was that there was a work journal that covered spring 2012. These have not been catalogued as carefully by me as the personal journals so I took a look.

41 pages, covering from January to May 2012! Digging further, I find that on this date in 2012, Zach wrote 2,957 words in his work journal. Wow! It is all job related and not of much interest to me right now so I moved on to the personal journal.

His February 21 entry starts like this:

2/21, blasphemy
It is in inexcusable that I have been away from this for 17 days.  I am filling my weekends with nothing-ness and I’m really ticked at myself for it.  Today is Fat Tuesday and continuing in the perplexing logic that is the state of Louisiana, I have the day off from work.  This all ties together quite nicely, actually, as we will see in the following…
First, though: Mardi Gras.  The background of Mardi Gras, as far as I can tell, is for the Catholics to get all of their sinning out before Lent (Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday).  I couldn’t find any other reason for why Mardi Gras exists.  Are we serious?  We spend weeks and weeks and tons of resources on a “holiday” that is predicated on debauchery so the dirty human can then spend 40 days sans some trivial comfort, and then feel good about themselves and think they are closer to a deity.  Wow.  And I wonder how many of the idiots getting wasted on Bourbon Street today know the background of this whole “holiday.”
So with that out of the way…the LSU students had yesterday, today, and half of tomorrow off school (nevermind the fact that they also get a week off in April for basically a second Spring Break).  So most everything in these parts is pretty shut down, with professionals taking a few days off, students going home, etc.  Which explains why I’m sitting on my bed at 930AM on a Tuesday morning drinking tea (which is flipping awesome).

He then goes on to say how he’s been busy with work. ‘ . . . but not so busy that I couldn’t take time to write in here . . .’ Then he talks about progress he’s made in preparing to finish his Masters and he meanders around a bit about doing things for Mardi Gras with his friends.

Then this:

And coming back, is the insincere asshole moment.  I do like Lauren and I want to be there for her and we do get along great and playing basketball is awesome with her.  I want to be a strong figure in her life; I embrace that.  I just don’t know if I want to be a boyfriend, because I’m not very good at being a boyfriend and still conquering the other aspects of my life.  And, unfortunately for her, my life is more important.  My work is more important.  My ambition, right now, is more important.  I don’t know how to have that conversation with her, nor do I think she would understand, nor do I think we can come to a happy medium.  I’m slightly haunted by what I wrote last September or October…something along the lines of : “I want Lauren to love me but I don’t want the responsibility of loving her back.”  Well, I guess that isn’t exactly true; I want that responsibility, just not as a boyfriend.  I don’t think…

He’s pissed at himself for spending so much time with Lauren to the exclusion of other friends that he values just as much. then he talks about watching too much ‘crap shit awfulness’ TV, especially The Big Bang Theory which he thinks is better. He identifies with Sheldon, ‘a physicist genius with no people skills and a gigantic ego,’ who is happier spending his time alone.

But one last thing, which again was manifest yesterday…I embraced being alone and away from people, which is all well and good, but only to a point.  I always remember Rabbi Kamrass telling me to nurture the soul and to not try to take everything alone, and I firmly believe that we as humans are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with…and to that end, yesterday really made me miss Troy and Josh and my life in Corvallis…for its simplicity and for the support system that was that group.  I don’t want to become a complete outcast and only spend isolated time with Lauren…

So, 2,500 words later, what else has happened in the last 17 days?  Not much.  I mentioned playing bball.  I haven’t read a lick (ugh that pisses me off).  Haven’t watched any noteworthy movies ( I did see The Debt, which was good but not amazing).  Haha, after all this writing about seclusion, we did have a Geaux Lead reunion Friday night which was awesome; we talked about a lot of things that interest me and I feel like I learned and became a better person.  But in other news…haven’t done much–wrote some notes to Annie and Patsy, trying to stay connected to Josh Molly and Troy, had a phone convo with Dave (which was difficult but still good).  Haven’t really made any inroads in my other endeavors, including the car insurance question, the savings bond work, and going to the Mac store to see if my dvd drive can be fixed.  At least I made some strides on the Master’s.  And this morning I had the relatively cathartic experience of purging about 60-75 friends from my FB list, which is always an interesting sociological experience.  Half-heartedly advancing on my personal goals but obviously, as detailed above, not going very fast.  LOL.

Then he goes on to detail some of the professional reading he’s been doing, with commentary, finally ending with this:

Not much else in the way of learning…I’ve been listening to NPR on the radio a lot and it’s actually annoying because most of it is silly little transitory jazz clips or someone talking about all their funding.  Kind of ironic actually.  Well, that’s all for now folks.  I’m going on an Adventure Trip this weekend as a second driver so I probably won’t be back for a little while but that’s okay.  I’ll manage.

3,399 words in this, personal, journal to go with the 2,957 words in his work journal. Thank you, Zach, for giving us so much to remember you by.

charged words






These I put on a list a couple of days ago. But I’ve been mulling this idea for a long time. I don’t think I have any grand conclusions, though. Try these out:

my wife

my car

my father

my house

my dog

my job

my son

that chair is mine

those papers are mine

be mine

My brother has two children

My mother has a piano

My aunt has cancer

My neighbor has a television

I have a girlfriend

I have a guitar

I have a sister

I have a book

I love Mozart

I love Seinfeld

I love potato chips

I love you

at Mom and Dad’s

I only spent about 24 hours there from yesterday to today which included a night’s sleep. Actually about half a night, but that’s another story.

Yesterday was Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary. They allowed me to join them for dinner out last night. We went to Fish Market in Sunnyvale. Mom kept saying it had been several years since they had been there last. The dinner prices were a little higher than they’d gotten used to paying at Marie Callendar’s or Mimi’s. I tried to pick up the tab but they very firmly (both of them) told me no, I was their guest.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is a big day in the restaurant business and the place was jammed. Mom had made a reservation, though, and we got to a table pretty quickly. There were no booths and the table we got was right in the middle of the action: waiters and waitresses flying by with plates of food, and groups of patrons often with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. One couple had not only a large bouquet, but an even larger heart-shaped silver balloon. I don’t know what he did with it when he sat down. The cooks were only about 10 or 15 feet away so that added to the show.

It was noisy too. Dad doesn’t say much in the best of situations so he really didn’t say much at the restaurant. Mom sat next to him and leaned over every once in a while to say something to him which he responded to. Until the food came, he watched the hubbub very carefully. He applied himself to the food: salmon and potatoes au gratin, coleslaw, a glass of wine. Oh, and bread with butter before. He took a while but he ate everything.

For some perverse reason, I ordered California rolls from the sushi bar at the same time I ordered dinner. It was too much but I ate about half of them. Mom, after eyeing them distrustfully for most of the dinner, finally tried one, complete with ginger and horseradish. Honestly, they weren’t very good.

We got home in time to watch a Nova program about the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. It should have been interesting after having seen the Churchill movie but I fell asleep while it was droning on. When I woke up, there was a guy rhapsodizing about some project involving the islands in Dubai. Dad had had a nap in the afternoon so, despite his huge dinner, he was awake. Mom was out. I went to bed.

Zach quotes

I have a bunch of spiral notebooks. Some of them have writing in them. Some are waiting for writing to come to them. I’ll hazard a guess and say that none of them are particularly new. One or two are from my college days which are 45+ years ago. I picked out one the other day that I wasn’t sure about. It’s huge: 5 sections of perhaps 50 pages in each section. As I was putting it away tonight I saw some writing on the back cover. Really tiny writing, like Zach’s.

I think it’s a notebook from his Xavier days. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I took my glasses off and got really close and could read most of the words. Here is what I read:

  • I’m not the guy who creates w/new ideas every second. I’m the guy who pushes talented people to say their ideas out loud.
  • Great leaders are not necessarily great strategists.
  • Genius is simply patience carried to the extreme.
  • Men were changing behavior through petty[?]/programs, etc., more until 10 [?] inventory their specific values and identify their constraints, both real and imagined.

Zach wrote down quotes from other people all the time so the likelihood is that these are not original to him. Nevertheless, I felt that it was worth sharing.

Darkest Hour

Rose and I went to see the move Darkest Hour yesterday afternoon. I seem to remember Sarah telling me she had seen it a couple of weeks ago. I told her then of Herman Wouk’s paragraph about Winston Churchill in his book The Winds of War.

I have a few quibbles about the actual history the movie depicts, but of course the essential story is true and I enjoyed the retelling.

Here is Wouk’s paragraph:

Winston Churchill, today an idealized hero of history, was in his time variously considered a bombastic blunderer, an unstable politician, an intermittently inspired orator, a reckless self-dramatizer, a voluminous able writer in an old-fashioned vein, and a warmongering drunkard. Through most of his long life he cut an antic, brilliant, occasionally absurd figure in British affairs. He never won the trust of the people until 1940, when he was sixty-six years old, and before the war ended they dismissed him. But in his hour he grasped the nature of Hitler, and sensed the way to beat him: that is, by holding fast and pushing him to the assault of the whole world . . . He read his man and he read the strategic situation, and with the words of his mouth he inspired the British people to share his vision. . . . [He] acted toughly, wisely, and ungallantly; and he turned the course of the war to the course that ended five long years later, when Hitler killed himself and Nazi Germany fell apart. This deed put Winston Churchill in the company of the rare saviors of countries and perhaps of civilizations.


The cycles of emotion are strange. I know I’m more likely to get weepy when I’m tired but it still comes on me at times when I do not expect it.

Friday morning I came into Davies Hall to go to work. Past the guard station and down the hallway by the orchestra managers’ offices are the bulletin boards with the lists of who is playing what in the weeks to come. I almost always stop and look to see if Sarah’s name is on the lists. I knew she was playing this week.

Her name was on for the next two sets and as I walked alone down the backstage hallway I found I was tearing up. Why now? She’s been working pretty regularly so it’s not really a huge surprise. It just happened.

Sometimes when I’m talking with Jeremy and he tells me about how busy he is trying to establish himself in a new home and still be a good husband and father I get choked up. Not all the time, just sometimes. Strange are the cycles of emotion.

The SoundBox set last week included a group of short compositions that were pretty unstructured. For the dress rehearsal Friday, the last piece had the 20 or so orchestra members scattered around the SoundBox space. There were a few moments of silence and then they started to play slowly, each musician listening to the space around them and contributing their feelings in sound. For no reason I could identify, I began crying. Although I was sitting off to the side I wondered if people were looking at me. I didn’t move but I tried not to make a sound. I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh, Zach. Oh, my Z.’ over and over. I wanted to let the emotions flow but I was also a professional on the clock. The ethereal music went on for three or four minutes then morphed into a louder, more rhythmic pattern. By the time it ended, I was still teary but under control and I went back to work. No one said anything to me about it.

sea change

‘Sea change.’ That’s the phrase that kept coming to me last week. Now that I put it down in black and white, I find I’m thinking about what it really means. I’ve been in boats but I’m not a sailor. I live by the ocean and every time I drive by the beach I look at the waves and think about what it must be like out there. Some days it’s flat and some days it’s wild.

But to imply that the difference between flat and wild signifies something important is kind of a stretch. The ocean is changeable. End of story.

But to me, the phrase means an important change and I feel that an important change has happened in me over the last few weeks. Part of it was my trip to Louisiana. Even though I haven’t done anything yet to follow up on my data gathering, I’ve found myself more able to look forward in a positive way. It’s hard to explain.

SoundBox was a professional opportunity that came my way in 2014. It was a tremendous challenge and has been on the whole tremendously satisfying. I’ve always thought of my career as being in live theatre. A live performance – music, drama, dance – has for me a power like no other art form. And, although we as stagehands are rarely visible, it’s a communal effort that has great meaning to me.

My colleague and friend Denise has been working with me in SoundBox as my assistant for over two years now. She ran the floor, moved the microphones and speakers around, kept track of the myriad details of every show. She’s taken classes and studied and for last week’s production she was in the ‘hot seat’. My original intention was just to let her gain more experience by participating in the pre-production meetings along with actually running the show, which she had done before but as I started the week as her assistant, I found that I was happy in my role. Far from being jealous of her position, I found that I was relieved that someone was there who could handle everything.

Although I had imagined telling her this in a serious heart to heart talk, in the event, it happened on our way out Saturday night in a rather casual way. I told her that I wanted her to continue in the ‘hot seat’ for the April set and furthermore, I wanted her to think about finding someone else to train in the system so that I could step aside completely.

This is my ‘sea change.’ That I have a challenging and exciting job in theatre and I’m ready to walk away from it. The prospect of playing music more, of having more time to help Mom and Dad, of being able to visit new (and old) places is beckoning stronger and stronger. I know it’s called retirement and many people do these things but it always seemed unrealistic. Now it seems less so.

post SoundBox post

I had a lot of ideas for posts last week as I was working SoundBox. My schedule wasn’t even that onerous. I had every night off except Friday and Saturday and Saturday I had the day free. Wednesday night I had a union meeting so I got home late.

But no posts got written. Sorry about that. Now I have a week (mostly) off so I’m hoping to catch up here. At the moment the well is dry, however. I’ll be back shortly . . .


Lots to say, but little of it organized. I got my monthly email from The Compassionate Friends today. Their monthly meeting is tomorrow night. This week is SoundBox so it is not practical to fight rush hour traffic to go down to Santa Clara then come back to work the next morning. I went and looked back at what I’ve written about The Compassionate Friends before and I think it’s pretty good. While my need for grief support has lessened in the last year, I haven’t yet achieved the strength to attend with the rationale of supporting others.

I have a phone consultation this morning with a person from TIAA. Mom and Dad’s retirement funds are with TIAA and I’ve been trying to understand how they all work. With my own retirement looming, I’ve been more motivated to do this.

I spent some time last week looking over my own funds. My broker says they should be balanced in a certain way, different from how they’re balanced now. Should I make changes? Precisely how and when get very confusing very quickly. Is the stock market a bubble that will pop soon? Aiee!

Speaking of SoundBox and retirement, I’ve found myself thinking in the last couple of weeks about giving up SoundBox. I never thought I’d feel that way. Being involved in the SoundBox shows in the last 3+ years has been a thrilling experience. I’ve been stretched physically and intellectually in ways that are really good for a man in his 60s, but I find that my interest is turning to other things. My friend Denise has – at my request – taken on the lead position for this months’ show and has shown that SoundBox audio is in good hands.

Having said all that, I’m not walking away. Denise and I will talk later in the week about who will do what for the April set. Funding for SoundBox is rather precarious so no one knows if there will be shows again starting in December. (Remember that the space is in use by the Opera from May through November so there is only the five month window every year anyway.) Symphony management has a lot on their plate, not least of which is the upcoming retirement of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Planning for SoundBox is a bit further down the list.

Sarah’s quartet had a concert last Saturday night. The Symphony generously allowed me to borrow a few items from their sound inventory to support their performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains. I found myself worrying about technical things during the performance so I couldn’t relax into the music. The first half of the program, though, I found very moving, with narration about the composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s visit to Dresden after World War II.

The venue was The Hillside Club in Berkeley. I had been there before but hadn’t had the reason to work with the staff. Bruce and Araceli turned out to be very nice folks. I’m going to try to go back for some different concerts.

Tonight is jazz band. The confusion that bothered me last semester has been resolved and I’m having fun again. I’m still sharing bass duties with Steve M. who is good people. It’s a completely different head space compared to playing guitar. Guitar can be looser in big band so that’s a little more fun, but bass drives the bus and there’s nothing else like it. I have to concentrate more but that’s ok.

Next week Mom and Dad will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. Mom was talking the other day about doing something special but I haven’t heard any details. I’m planning to be down there.


Writing is mysterious and beautiful. Good writing is hard. From somewhere I remember a quote from a 18th Century writer of a letter. At the end of a 20+ page letter to a friend he apologized for going on so long. He said he didn’t have time to write a brief letter.

Or something like that. The point is that it takes a lot of time to arrange the chaotic ideas running through one’s head into organized sentences that someone else has a chance of understanding. In this blog, I try to think before writing, thus most of my entries are relatively brief. 20 page letters will not be read by 21st Century readers. Now in the forums sometimes I see ‘tl;dr’. Too long, didn’t read.

I found one previous reference in this blog to the American writer James Gleick. His book Chaos has been a long time favorite of mine. At Mom and Dad’s the other day, I spotted another Gleick book: Genius, The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, and filched it. I had read it before, some years ago, but I thought it was worth another reading.

This morning I opened it and almost immediately I was struck by the quality of the writing. In the Prologue, Gleick tells of a meeting in 1948 of the world’s best physicists:

In the annals of science it was the last time but one that these men would meet in such circumstances, without ceremony or publicity. They were indulging a fantasy, that their work could remain a small, personal, academic exercise, invisible to most of the public, as it had been a decade before, when a modest building in Copenhagen served as the hub of their science. They were not yet conscious of how effectively they had persuaded the public and the military to make physics a mission of high technology and expense.  . . . Next year most of these men would meet once more . . . but by then the modern era of physics had begun in earnest, science conducted on a scale the world had not seen, and never again would its chiefs come together privately, just to work.