All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

RIP Dennis

Dennis D. died yesterday. He was 65. Dennis was a member of the Symphony stage crew for more than 25 years until his retirement in July 2016. Here’s a picture of all of us at the end of the load out on his last day. Dennis is sitting at the piano.

I first got to know Dennis when I worked with him at the Opera House in the 1980s. He was on the Props crew. I didn’t see him again until he came with the Symphony to the Mondavi Center at UC Davis around 2006 when I was the Local 50 Business Agent. The Symphony always hired a Union crew there. We had dinner together and had a good time reminiscing.

After I came back to San Francisco, I eventually started working more regularly with the Symphony at Davies Hall and was glad to see Dennis again. Despite my many years of stagehand experience, I was uneducated in the ways of the Symphony. Dennis helped me both directly by instruction and indirectly by example. There are a million details in dealing with a Symphony orchestra and Dennis knew all of them. I noticed that all the other stagehands would come to Dennis whenever they were stuck and couldn’t remember how to do some odd thing that hadn’t been done for a long time. Dennis always had the answer.

Even though Dennis was a life long smoker, he always had plenty of energy and seemed in good health. Two months ago, he went to the doctor with pain in his hip. It turned out to be a large cancerous mass and there were others throughout his body. He was determined to live until his daughter’s wedding, scheduled for New Years’ Eve, but it was not to be.

Our friend and colleague Arno was bereft last night. ‘Why do the good ones die young?’, he asked. I had no answer for him. All I could think of was Zach, but it would do no good to mention that.

Dennis, like Zach, lived life to the fullest. We should honor their memory by doing the same.

numbers

This past week I was going to write a post on numbers: 3, for years since Zach died. 53, for speed of the truck that killed him. I still want to write to the DA and try to get the case reopened. Every time I stand on a sidewalk and watch traffic speeding by I think of how fast they are going. Sometimes I estimate they are going about 50 and I think how it would feel to be slammed against their windshield.

53 is pretty fucking fast for a city street and it’s no wonder Zach was killed instantly. When I went back to Baton Rouge last January, very few cars were going that fast along that little stretch. I think both drivers were driving recklessly and should be cited appropriately.

But I haven’t written that yet. Sepi reminded me that I had told her last summer I was going to let it go. I don’t remember that. I just remember that i want to try one more time.

Meanwhile, Dad was out last Wednesday with Mom and fell when she wasn’t looking. 911 was called and they spent the afternoon in the ER. Blood tests and X-rays showed no serious damage to his bones but revealed a mass in his lung. The doctor say she’s 99% sure it is cancer. Te be sure involves a biopsy and the consensus is to not do that.

Coincidentally, Tim came to visit Thursday so we were able to get 4 of the 6 of us in the same room as Mom and Dad to discuss what to do. Dad didn’t say much of anything. We’re not sure how much he understands but he really doesn’t want to spend another afternoon like Wednesday.

The doctor talked of hospice which evidently can be triggered by a six month time frame. Now we’re all coming to terms with the likelihood that, instead of wasting slowly away from Alzheimers, Dad will be dead much sooner.

Everyone was pretty calm Friday when were all discussing this but I feel sure that we are all in some kind of denial.

We will all gather again on Thanksgiving. We will rejoice in what we have and what we have had.

politics

I was upset enough about the way the Supreme Court nomination hearings were going. I shouldn’t be surprised at how brazen the Republican Senators are in hijacking our democracy but I guess I still am. Bush v Gore was nearly 20 years ago now. I keep coming back to the thought of how people in other countries left to come to America when their home was going crazy. The most obvious is Jews in Germany in the 1930s but there are many other examples.

What if I had to do it? Could I give up my family, my livelihood, my friends, the land that I love? Where would I go? These thoughts run through my head when I get too deep into the political news.

So I went to FaceBook and saw this at the top of my timeline:

He was a classmate and known gang member. It was during 8th grade homeroom when the assault happened. The teacher had only been gone a few seconds. Some of my friends laughed as they witnessed it. I had trust issues and became quite withdrawn for a long time after that. I was ashamed and embarrassed and scared of retaliation.

#whyididntreport

Ashley wrote that! My own daughter-in-law. Daughter-in-love. OMFG!

Since her marriage to Jeremy, Ashley has shown me again and again what a high quality person she is. As I’ve gotten to know her better over the years, my respect and love for her has grown by leaps and bounds.

And now I discover that she has been carrying this. OMFG! The sweetest, purest person I know had this happen to her??

Perhaps equally unsettling is the thought that many, maybe even most, other women are carrying similar burdens. Sarah doesn’t like to talk to me abut such things, but she has had similar experiences over the years. Sepi has told me of some things that happened to her as an adult. Men power tripping with sex.

None of these, as far as I can tell, were actual rapes, but where do you draw the line? There are some incidents in my past where I went across the line for an inappropriate touch or a kiss (I realized later). I have tried to reach out to those women in recent years to apologize and take responsibility.

Dear Ashley, thank you for having the courage to speak out. Love, Dad.

things

I made some reference in my last post about my things – memorabilia, books, clothes – that we moved last week from my apartment. I’m still busy trying to finish the floor, but boxes of my things are all over the house. I’ve found that the context has changed how I look at them. Next week the floor will be done and we will crack the garage and Sepi’s things – mostly furniture – will come out and go upstairs. There will then be lots of storage room for all of my boxes.

But now I think I will be letting go of much of it. I’ve had some discussions with friends about their experiences going through their parents’ house after their deaths. Much had to be thrown away. I’ve known for a long time that the same will be true when Mom and Dad pass on. Most of these things are interesting, up to a point. Taken in total, it’s too much.

Well, that day is not yet upon us, but my day is. We have a huge dumpster in front of our house and it must be returned by the end of the month. Many of my things will be in it.

a dose of reality

I knew I hadn’t posted in a very long time. Tonight I looked back at my last post. I said I figured by the third week of September I could relax and look out the window.

Didn’t happen.

Tonight is Wednesday, six weeks since my marriage and three weeks since my last post. I guess three weeks is my thing nowadays . . .

What happened? Saturday the 1st we got possession of the house after the tenants left. We had agreed the carpet had to go and had bought some bamboo flooring. It was supposed to be delivered that day. The delivery people were supposed to call me the night before and tell me when I could expect them. Didn’t happen. In the morning I started calling the store. No answer. Are they closed for Labor Day?? Eventually Sepi got through to someone on the corporate help line but they couldn’t get through to the store either.

Meanwhile, I pressed ahead with the removal of the old carpet. About 5 o’clock, a truck pulled up with the flooring. They had had to make a delivery in Sacramento, they said. It was ok as now I had some bare floor for them to put it on.

Well, not really bare as we discovered. Staples from 2 iterations of carpet pad were everywhere. Some of the floor leveling was still there and usable but much more had to be done. At first I was trying to leave the baseboard attached to the wall but eventually I realized I was going to have to have it off to put the floor in.

The next day, Sunday, I could barely move. In fact, beginning that day I’ve been beating my body up almost every day. Knees, back, shoulders, hands. Everything hurts. The days I went to work instead of working on the house I had to run conduit in the Davies attic. More kneeling and clambering over things. The wood had to ‘acclimate’ in the house for a week before I could start laying it.

When I started to lay it out, I immediately discovered that the long wall was not perfectly straight. I got hung up on worrying about some fractions of inches in a couple of spots. I thought maybe I should start on the other side of the room. I laid planks down across the room to see where the came out. I called the guy at the store who had said he would come over and give me some pointers. Now he’s too busy . . . All the videos I had watched showed the planks being cut with a chop saw so I went out and rented one. The rental place didn’t help me get the saw blade on so I broke it turning the mounting bolt the wrong way. No manual was supplied.

I thrashed around like this for two days. Finally, one of Sepi’s friends, a contractor, came by and offered to loan me a small power hand saw. He said to not worry about the accuracy of the cuts as they were going to be under the baseboards. He also told me to not stress over a few gaps. He also said he thought it was a ‘4 or 5 day’ job. I had thought one or two! The next morning, Chris E came over. She reminded me that, ‘Perfect is the enemy of the good,’ and suggested I get going.

So I did.

I got the big room and the front bedroom mostly done by Friday the 14th. I had originally wanted to have the whole thing finished by the 11th or 12th leaving plenty of time to finish packing my apartment and move carefully. Nope. It was another Saturday blitz.

Jack and Julian had already helped with the carpet staples. They were ready for the big move but Julian hurt his shoulder. Jack’s friend Dante came through for the morning along with the the Solano family van. Because the floor wasn’t done, we hadn’t been able to touch Sepi’s stuff in the garage because there was nowhere to put her things. I had to be very creative about where I put my things. We had some – mostly civil – discussions about what memorabilia were appropriate to keep. I promised I would review everything critically but for now I had to move it. People who had said they would come and get my old bed didn’t show up. Sepi and I had both thought we could get done by early afternoon. We closed out the apartment at 9 pm by putting the bed by the dumpster with a free sign on it. I sent messages to everyone who had expressed interest to come and get it. Some things that in other circumstances would have gone to Goodwill went into the dumpster. My car was full and it was dark and I wasn’t going to make another trip.

Sunday we just vegged. We talked at one point about going to a movie but neither of us really wanted to leave the house. Monday I had to go back to work and Monday night was jazz band. Yesterday some things happened at work and I had to stay a couple hours overtime unexpectedly. I collapsed into bed about 9. Tonight, Sepi’s contractor friend agreed to loan me his pin stapler so I could start putting baseboards back on. I got the bedroom about 90% done. I got the bookcase in from the deck and hung the closet doors. The is not as high as the carpet was so the old baseboard shows some of my board ends. I’m not sure now how I will deal with that.

Actually, I decided to let it ride until daylight and write this post. I have some pictures but I can’t remember where I put them. Another time.

 

3 weeks

3 weeks ago today I got married. Looking back in my calendar I see a few holes in my schedule but it doesn’t feel like there were any. I had some days where I had to go to work at night but none absolutely empty. I’ve been trying to go to physical therapy appointments in some of the holes but they were starting to depress me. I’ve lost weight (down to 198 this morning!) but I been a complete failure at doing the stretching and exercises the therapists have recommended.

So Monday I cancelled the two remaining appointments. One was for later in the day. I told the office that if they had to bill me to just go ahead; I didn’t feel that talking to a therapist about exercises I wasn’t doing was worthwhile.

But now I had a day to recoup a little. I still had jazz band in the evening. Today was the other appointment. I had a lunch scheduled with an old friend in Daly City and cancelling the PT appointment meant I didn’t have to get up early and drive to San Mateo, then turn around and get up to Daly City by noon. It was always do-able but it meant rushing around. I need to cut back on rushing around!

There were other days free in the last two weeks but this is the maintenance period at Davies and JJ needs experienced people to work on the projects there. It’s part of the reason we chose to not go away on honeymoon, but I didn’t expect to be hauled in every day. The money is nice . . .

I have two more days of maintenance and then Saturday is the first orchestra rehearsal. I asked for that day off because it is the first day we have access to the upstairs at Sepi’s. The tenants will be gone as of Friday night. There won’t be much actual moving of stuff right away because we are replacing the carpet with bamboo flooring in the living room and bedrooms. Cleaning and painting will be our primary activities for a couple of days after removing the old carpet. The bamboo has to sit in the space where it will be used to ‘acclimate’, so it looks like there will be a lull for several days.

At Davies it’s only the opening Gala on Wednesday. Next door, the Opera is opening on Friday.

Once the floor is done – I am hoping it goes smoothly; it’s DIY time – serious moving starts. I’ll be leaving my apartment of 8 years. I’ve been giving away things I won’t need. The couch went Monday.

Hopefully by the third week of September I can settle into the furniture and look out the window for a while.

vows

I made a solemn vow on Wednesday. Actually, I did it twice. I’ll tell why in a moment. But there was going to more until there wasn’t. That’s my main story.

Sepi and I had written a text for the ceremony and given it to Mayor Brown on Monday. He did his part perfectly with one small exception. He actually improved it with a short introduction that noted the history of City Hall as the people’s place and also that this was the first time a Mayor was performing a marriage of another Mayor there.

As he spoke the beginning words of the ceremony, I was locked onto his face. He looked up at the end of each line and it seemed like he looked at me every time. I felt like I could drown in his eyes.

But I also remembered that Sepi had told me she forgot her vows at the apartment. As it happened, I had brought mine to City Hall but hadn’t put it into my suit jacket. These ‘vows’, by the way, were more like personal statements that we each were going to make to each other in the presence of all the witnesses. I had written mine a few days earlier but Sepi didn’t write hers until Tuesday night. We kept them secret from each other.

The plan was to read these statements as we placed the rings on each others fingers. The actual vows were before that.

Here’s how it came down. Mayor Brown said to me, ‘Do you, Christopher, take Sepi to be your lawful wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish for as long as you both shall live?

But he paused and looked at me after the first question so I said, ‘I do’, as loud as I could. Then he went on. Oops! So after he asked the second question, I responded again with ‘I do’.

Then he had the same exchange with Sepi. She responded with ‘I do’ twice just like I did. Then Willie went on to the ring ceremony. He spoke the words we had written about the rings after which it was going to be my turn to speak. I was trying to remember what I had written and how I was going to improvise something similar. But I also had been thinking I was going to have a handheld microphone to speak into. There was none in sight, just the little lapel mic on Willie. Compared to Willie’s beautiful baritone, my ‘I dos’ had sounded small and weak. How was I going to make my statement sound good?

Then Willie said to me, ‘Christopher, repeat after me. Sepi, I give you this ring.’ That was supposed to be at the end of my statement! He’s skipping my statement!

What could I do? I said, ‘Sepi, I give you this ring’, as loud as I could.  And we continued to the end when I said, ‘With this ring, I thee wed.’ He was rolling, it sounded great, and he went on to Sepi who put the ring on my finger and said the same words.

Then he turned back to the audience and said, ‘By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner, I now pronounce you husband and wife!’

It was perfect.

the best moment

Last night as she was about to leave the reception, Ashley asked me what was the best moment of my day. I really couldn’t think of just one. It was all fantastic – in every sense of the word. In the past couple of weeks, I had used the analogy of the roller coaster ratcheting up the incline before the first drop. Well, yesterday was the drop.

And, like a roller coaster ride, it seemed like it was over before I knew it.

I told her the moment when she and Jeremy pulled into the parking lot at Davies Hall was big. It meant that they were safely there. They were the last of my posse to arrive.

But there were so many more: standing under that dome on that staircase, looking into the soulful eyes of Willie Brown as he spoke those solemn words of commitment; having Ashley tell me that the song the band was playing was the song that she and Zach sang at her wedding reception using kitchen utensils as microphones; hearing the trio start as we were still down at the bottom of the stairs taking pictures; having so many people come up to me to say how happy I looked an how happy they were for me; it was all great.

(Thanks to Lolly Lewis for this photo.)

This morning I remembered a moment that I could honestly say was the best. At the reception, it was pretty chaotic. People came in bit by bit and there was a lot of milling around while they found their seats. And of course everyone wanted to talk to us. We hadn’t set up a reception line. Then I started to hear people say they were hungry and when was the food coming out. This was near to 7:30 and the food was just then starting to come out.

I went and started filling a plate for Dad but Sepi came to me and said, wait, there must be a toast. then there followed several minutes of confusion while we looked for the champagne, the best man, the band. I got a little grumpy about then because I just wanted to let people eat.

Finally it was decided that we could do the best man toast later. All I had to do was welcome everyone and say that the food was ready. I can do that.

So I tapped on the glasses and the room started to settle down. I don’t remember if I spoke first to welcome everyone but there was cheering and I raised my arms and pointed to the ring on my finger and the cheering intensified.

That was the moment.

I spoke a little bit and Sepi said some nice things, but soon everyone was digging in to the excellent food and the party moved into high gear.

wedding day

Today’s the day. I have a lot to do, but I can’t start for an hour or so. The flowers won’t be ready until 11. I’m already showered and dressed. Hal checked in to see if I needed anything and we talked a little about the earlier part of the afternoon. I’ve got my wedding suit in my suit bag to change into later. I don’t expect to be able to get back to my apartment after taking the flowers to the restaurant so I’ll likely go into Davies and change just before going over to City Hall.

Sepi and I went to the restaurant yesterday and set up the decorations. Luckily, the tables were already setup. We had lengthy discussions over small details. Candles, flowers, seating arrangements, cakes. We’re getting a bunch of smaller cakes instead of a traditional tiered cake. This allowed us to get several varieties. That’ll be fun (I hope). Sepi wanted the Princess cake. That’ll be the one we’ll do the ceremonial cut on.

Jeremy’s probably on the plane already in Seattle. Others are coming in from Colorado and various parts of Southern California.

It’s time to get going.

1976

I applied for Medicare today. Woo hoo! My 65th birthday is 3 months away.

As long as I’m working and covered by a health care plan, nothing will change. So I’m told by those who should know.

I will keep my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I have to send the Social Security Administration a copy of my birth certificate. While digging through my file of important papers, I found this picture of me in 1976:

My hair was quite long and usually kept in a pony tail. I was working at a department store in the stock room when I was given the opportunity to go to Europe for a month with The Blue Saints. Ergo this picture for my passport. Someday I’ll write up the story of the Blue Saints and me. Not today.