All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

Zach’s spot

I visited Zach’s spot Wednesday. It doesn’t sound right to say it but I don’t know what else to call it. It’s where his earthly remains are. It’s not his gravesite but it’s something like that.

Three years ago, a group of us gathered there early on a July morning and distributed his ashes in and around Eagle Creek Falls above Emerald Bay. This year, Sepi and I had driven up to Grass Valley to catch Jeremy and his family at Tom’s house. That was a wonderful visit but I had to get back to work by Thursday. Jeremy was going on to Yosemite and we were going back to the Bay Area.

I decided I wanted to go back through Lake Tahoe, though, to stop at this place and remember Zach. Sarah is gathering people at a campsite up there again as I write this so others will do as I did soon.

It was early afternoon and the area was packed with people. We found a parking place quickly, though, and I decided that I would not go to the falls, where I had left my portion, but up the hill, where others had. Fewer folks up there.

I took a few moments to think of that day and Zach, then took a quick panorama, then headed back down the hill. the less said about the drive home the better.

It sure is a beautiful spot, Zach! I love you, son.

more about the new job

It’s really a drag that this is more on my mind than my visit with Jeremy’s family today. The Symphony hired me for the job of Stage Manager over an individual who was doing the job on an interim basis. He has been cooperative with me but another crew member seems to be quite resentful – he thinks the Symphony should have promoted from within – and has been less cooperative.

They are all off on their vacations now and meanwhile I am going to work every day, learning the computer systems, trying to plan for the Gala opening in a month and doing necessary maintenance. This is all important stuff, but now I am having to have meetings with management and HR about how to respond to this intransigence.

More importantly for me, I am losing sleep thinking about all this stupid stuff. This person doesn’t seem to understand or care that the Symphony is not going to change their minds and hire the other guy instead. The only thing he can hope for is that I will decide that I don’t need the headache and bail out. Indeed, I’ve talked to some other people who were asked to apply and did not because of this very reason. I was aware of the issues going in and I’m not going to bail but there is a cost and that makes me resentful. As a leader, I have to put that aside which I can do while at work. At night, the demons come, though.

Today and tomorrow, I am not working, but driving up to Grass Valley where Jeremy will be coming with his family to Tom’s house. Yay for a Rosalie day!

new job

Sepi posted this on Facebook. Now I’m getting around to posting here. I have a new job.

It’s a strange thing for a stagehand to say, because we typically have new jobs all the time. When I was working a lot out of the hiring hall, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 25 W-2s at the end of the year. 25 different employers, some for jobs that only lasted one day.

In the last few years that number has gone down. I have recently been working primarily in one location, Davies Symphony Hall, but, depending on the circumstance, only three employers. Now it will be one only: the San Francisco Symphony.

The Symphony has chosen me to be their Stage Manager. My primary responsibility is to see that the stage is set up properly for the orchestra and to get them on and off stage for performances. In the transition from three to one, I worked 9 straight days ending Saturday. Starting today, I have 4 weeks of relative calm before the next season starts. The orchestra and the crew who have been working all season are off on vacation. As a new hire, I don’t have vacation yet . . .

Now I’m off to work!

4th of July

Yesterday was my first Fourth of July in Brisbane. It’s a little misleading to say that since I was at work for the early part of the day, then down in Santa Clara at Mom’s for dinner.

But we left Mom’s at about 8:15 and by the time we were driving through San Bruno 45 minutes later, the booms and starbursts could be seen and felt from the car. It was plenty dark, thanks in part to the thick fog pouring over the ridge.

At our house, there was no fog and we had our usual view of Brisbane and San Francisco. I heard the booms again as soon as I stopped the car. Looking out the windows from upstairs, we could see flashes and sparkles in the air in several places. Nothing in Brisbane, as far as I could tell. It wasn’t very interesting, to be honest, from such a distance, so we went about our business getting ready for sleep. Sepi went out pretty fast, but I couldn’t get comfortable. The booms weren’t bothering me but I could hear them and they didn’t stop.

At first I thought, ‘That’s cool. It’s quite a show out there.’ 45 minutes, an hour, still going on. I think I dozed. I got up at around 11:30 and they were still going. Not sporadic booms, but continuously every two or three seconds. Really? Who is doing this? These aren’t civic displays; these are private individuals spending their own money and time to blow up stuff. Does this happen in other countries on national holidays?

Many years ago, I was in Germany on New Years’ Eve, called Sylvestre there. There was a fireworks show put on by the town but it was pretty basic. Twenty minutes or a half hour, then it was over. I don’t recall any lingering flashes or bombs from other sources then.

We had been hearing booms on and off for the last several days in Brisbane but it was nothing like being in Pacifica. Jane was with us at Mom’s and when we left, she forgot for a moment that I don’t live there any more. She said, ‘Are you sure you want to leave now and be back in Pacifica when all the bombs are going off?’ She and Joe were staying in Santa Clara as long as they could to avoid all that.

Based on past years’ experience, the bombs there were likely still going off into the wee hours.

Happy Independence Day!

. . . and another thing . . .

Ralph is here today working on the stairs again. He took last week off to do another job, then came back Monday with an assistant to sand the finish down and start over. He’s been here every day this week. Sepi has been extremely patient, IMO. ‘He’s such a nice guy!,’ she says.

I said sure he’s a nice guy but he’s been trying for six weeks to finish the job correctly. It was originally supposed to be 4 or 5 days. Maybe he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. I was in favor of calling it good enough a couple of weeks ago and being resigned to hiring someone else to finish it properly but Sepi held firm.

He’s doing it for a fixed fee so I shouldn’t complain. I just want to be able to go up and down my front stairs again!

Yesterday, he said that he would finish that day and then come back today for the final inspection. Then an hour or so later he said it was going to need another coat of varnish. OK, dude, whatever.

fecund

Fecund.

That’s the word that kept coming into my mind earlier this week. Up the hill behind our house is an area that Sepi had planted with fruit trees and some smaller stuff. There was an irrigation system but it hadn’t been turned on for at least a couple of years. There were broken plastic pipes all over the place. We had done some pruning last fall but, in general nature had had its way for quite a while.

Last month we got the notice from the local fire agency that we had to clear flammables from our property. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I got it together to go out and rent a weed whacker and have at it. That’s when the word started lodging in my mind.

We had an unusually wet winter this year and the grasses were 4′ high. I had to sweep the trimmer through the tops of a section first before going after the base. Otherwise, the long grasses would clog the device. And, because I left the job so late, the tops of the grasses were bulging with seed pods.

Naturally, they scattered all over when I cut them. They’ll be back!

Our friend Chris, who is a real biologist, told me that she recommended pulling the weeds by hand. I couldn’t face it. Maybe next year when I start earlier. We’ll see . . .

In any case, after three hours of weed whacking, I had 50 feet of hillside cleared. I really should have gone up another 30 but the machine was out of gas and my hands and shoulders were aching.

Wednesday I went through the lower area with the shovel, digging out the fennel that had run wild. They were in clumps with some of the stalks an inch in diameter and very tough to dig out. Then, Sepi wanted to trim the apple and fig trees. Some viny ground cover had moved up into the branches so I spent a couple of hours cutting those out and pruning dead limbs and carrying the leftovers down to the green waste can by the street.

Satisfying, but boy was I spent after that. And all I could think of was the fecundity of nature.

Oh, and today (Friday) I am just beginning to be able to grip with my right hand. I had to use my left hand to drink a glass of water yesterday.

Edit to add photos:

The fruit trees.

The tenacious fennel stalks. Note bits of irrigation tubing and landscape lighting.

interviews

I did an interview today. It was weird. Up until a couple of months ago, I thought I was on the glide path to retirement, putting in time at Davies Hall as the relief house electrician. Decent pay, not too much responsibility, what’s not to like?

Then the news came that the Stage Manager for the Symphony resigned unexpectedly.

And a strange thing happened to me. I found that I was interested in that job. It was more hours and much more responsibility but the pay was higher than I had been getting and it had 6 weeks of paid vacation. And it would be working on stage with the orchestra, which I had really missed the past three years.

So, I dusted off my resume and sent it in and today was my first interview.

It was with people I have worked with a lot over the past 7+ years so there wasn’t much new to me. I got to talk some about my career trajectory with an emphasis on my supervisory experience. They asked me to tell them something about myself that they didn’t already know and it turned out that they hadn’t heard the story of Noah. You can read it here. It brought some tears to my eyes which probably isn’t too common in job interviews.  Noah is 10 now. Wow.

stairs

Last fall, on the first day after Sepi’s tenants moved out of her house, I took out all the carpeting, including the stairs.

Over the next several weeks, I put in the new bamboo flooring in the upstairs living area and we moved furniture in.

Our intention was to do the stairs with the same material but it developed that there was a problem. The bottom four steps of the staircase widened out and had a curved edge. The bamboo nosers sold by the flooring company were not available curved.

Not only that, but using the floor pieces for the riser facing was problematic for the same reason: they couldn’t be bent.

After going around and around with installers from the flooring company, we decided to take another path.

We found a man whose specialty was stairs and he agreed to do the job.

About this time, the water supply on our refrigerator leaked and thus began a nearly two month saga of repairs on our house. The stairs were put on hold during all this.

We moved back into our house – we had been 5 weeks in a local hotel – just before New Years’. Our stair guy came over and went over his plans with us. To match the bamboo with wood that could be more easily worked, Ben suggested that we use white oak, quartersawn. He knew a guy who he said was a master of staining and could match the bamboo color on the white oak.

Then, weeks went by with a word from Ben. When we finally called his work number, we heard a message that said he had gone into the hospital and was not going to be able to work for two more weeks. This happened several more times. He did finally call us back but the time frame for his return to work kept stretching out. It did not seem to occur to him to take a couple of minutes to call his clients and tell them what was going on.

So, long story short, he finally started on April 30th. The work was good, although he made a couple of decisions that I felt were poorly considered. One was that he put on the bamboo noser at the top of the stairs with glue, screws and nails leaving huge divots in the wood. He said Ralph, the stain guy, could fix it. Ralph had to replace it.

The other issue was at the bottom of the stairs where the rounding was. The original curves had been cut rather sloppily. As it was then covered by carpet, it wasn’t such a big problem. When it became bare wood, it was. Ben seemed a bit puzzled when I asked him to fix it. It still isn’t right, but it’s better.

Most of the time, no one will notice it. To be fair to Ben, I think he got a little too caught up in the weeds of matching the original curves to step back and look at the big picture.

So, now Ben is done and Ralph is staining. He started last Monday. At this writing, he’s not done yet. First, he didn’t make it dark enough. Then, he complained that he couldn’t get the proper pigment at the paint supply. I suggested that he look at art supply stores. This proved to be a success. Ralph, at least, has been good about keeping us informed of what he’s doing, even telling us all about his aunt who had to go in the hospital last weekend. Today he went to pick up some more pigment for the putty but the stuff that they brought was wrong (at the flooring supply). Tomorrow they are supposed to have the right stuff.

He has put one coat of finish on it so he says it’s ok to walk on. For three days, we had to enter the house by going up the side and around the back to the kitchen deck. It’s actually worse than it sounds. Of course it was raining.

Patty

I had an idea earlier today for a post and time this afternoon to write it, but meanwhile the news came of my cousin Patty’s death. I call her Patty but for most people she’s been Patricia for many years now. I can’ t help it. We were closest when we were kids and she was still called Patty by everyone. By the time she was an adult named Patricia we didn’t see each other very often.

She wasn’t much for traveling. She came out to California once that I can remember. I went through Denver every few years but never as a destination. Unlike many of us, she never lost her staunch Catholic faith. She was active in her church and in her retirement I believe she attended Mass daily.

Still, after many years of declining health, when the news came last week that she would not live much longer, we also were told that she feared death.

I talked to Mom about it last night. (Mom is my chief conduit to the Denver relatives.) I saw parallels between Dad’s final days and Patty’s. Patty was 20 years younger but the long decline was similar as were the mixed feelings I had when death was clearly imminent. Do we wish for a return to health? Of course, but often, as in these cases, we know it’s not going to happen. Mom was pretty tough about it. She said the best thing was for Patty to die. Her ‘life’ was just pain and agony now.

There had been some discussion a few weeks ago of her going back to Patty’s funeral. We don’t know when that will be but Mom already decided she will not be going. She had already made plans to go to Denver in June to put Dad’s ashes in the ground there. She will pay respects at Patty’s grave then.

I believe Patty is in heaven. She led a good life.

day off

I had a day off today. I didn’t go to work. I didn’t go to the doctor. I didn’t go to the grocery store. I didn’t go to Mom’s. I didn’t do any chores around the house. Well, I did a couple of small things that needed doing.

Actually, looking back over the day, I can’t remember exactly what I did do. I worked on the checkbook this morning. Oh, I cleaned the windows in our living room. I got up this morning and had my usual cereal but then went back to bed and worked jigsaw puzzles on the ipad. I was going to take a shower but that never happened. Sepi and I were going to go to Costco but decided it could wait. Mañana!

We got up and had a big lunch. I was tired and she suggested I could take a nap. After I was on the bed for about 10 minutes, she came in and laid next to me. We were both fully dressed but she put a light cover over us. Eventually I fell asleep. When I awoke, she was sleeping soundly. That was very unusual for her. She likes to stay in bed as long as possible but once up doesn’t stop. I get up and want to do things early but want a nap later.

When I looked at the clock beside our bed, I was surprised to see 3:54 pm. Hadn’t we had lunch around 1? Wow, a two hour plus nap! Awesome!

The down side, of course, is trying to wake up. We both stumbled around for a while. I eventually went outside for a bit but it wasn’t until 6 or so that we could do anything even marginally useful. After our huge lunch, neither of us feel like eating dinner. We are snacking on cheese and fruit. At nearly 8 pm I am writing my first blog post of the month that is half over.