All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

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.

today

When I got up this morning I thought I might write a post riffing on something Zach wrote on this date. His entries for this date didn’t inspire me so I’ll just do a newsy post.

Today is my second date this year playing bass with Tom’s band Loose Gravel. We talked earlier in the week about tunes in the set. He wants me to sing Big Boss Man. The last time I tried it while playing bass I crapped all over it. It’s the Grateful Dead version so I hear Phil’s bass which is all over the place. I need to simplify.

One of the problems I have with Tom’s band is not trusting the drummer. The bass and drums need to lock in and the drummer, Dr Watson, is still a bit of a mystery to me. I feel, as the bass player who hasn’t rehearsed with the band and doesn’t really know the songs that well, that I need to really concentrate on playing my part perfectly. This lets out doing vocals.

Actually, ‘loose’ is a good metaphor for this band so I should just relax and enjoy it. Mostly I do.

Sepi will be going with me. She likes the burgers at the Valencia Club. Check it out from last time:

This time, we’re going to share our french fries.

As is her wont, Sepi took loads of pictures last time. Here’s one of me playing Franco‘s bass:

It’s a long day. I’ll be leaving my apartment at 10 am and likely getting home around 9 pm. I got paid $60 last time. It’s a labor of love. I do appreciate Sepi coming with me.

9:30. Time to go load the car!

4 years ago

I have my screen saver on my main computer set to show random pictures from my pictures folders. When I walk back to that machine after I’ve been gone a few minutes, the screen saver is playing old pictures. Sometimes I watch them scroll by for a bit. Sometimes I even hit the cursor key to scroll back one or two.

Today there was a picture that I want to share. One of the things I always look forward to when visiting Rosalie is tickling. Ashley has gotten some good pictures more recently of us laughing uproariously.

Here’s one from last November:

The one that came up on the screen saver today was this one, from Rosalie’s visit to California in July of 2014. I was keeping my hair short then, but the rest was much the same:

The pictures from my camera are numbered sequentially so I know this came from my camera. Who took the picture, then? Ashley never uses my camera. Then I saw another picture from the same day and remembered that Sarah was there that day. She took the picture!

Here’s how I know. This is still one of my all-time favorites, taken on the swing in Teresa’s backyard July 4th, 2014.

 

work

I turned down work Sunday night. The circumstances were a little different from usual so I feel a need for some explanation. After Zach was killed, I really pulled my head in as far as the type of work I was doing. Prior to that, I was doing a lot of sound jobs. They were mostly at the Symphony but also around town in hotels. I enjoyed the challenges.

When I came back from Baton Rouge, I had a Soundbox right away but I also did a substitute day for one of the holiday pops shows in the main room at Davies.

I made it through Soundbox without any major problems but during the other job I made some mistakes that would have been uncharacteristic before. My response to this was to reduce the number of jobs I did on sound and concentrate on the substitute house electric job instead. The house electric job required much less initiative and was much more clearly defined.

About a year into this I realized that the spark that I had had for many years in the theater was gone. The desire for knowledge and to provide the best for my employers just wasn’t there any more. This is not to say that I suddenly was doing bad work. Except for the change in emphasis, no one really noticed.

But I did. And all the talk about retirement meant more to me than finding a better way to prepare for a graduation, for example.

So, while I kept in touch with the sound part of my business, I started letting all of that go. I stopped doing jobs on Hal’s crew (although I still work with him as house electrician). I gave up the Soundbox head job to Denise. I settled in to being JJ’s loyal lieutenant, working generally two or three days a week.

Now, the other part of all this is how I get my jobs. Back in, say, 2014 or 2015, I worked a lot at Davies Hall and I would essentially be hired directly by Jim or Rob or Hal. The Union office would sometimes be made aware of those hirings but they played no role in getting me those jobs. When I had holes in my schedule I would make myself available to the Local 16 office and they would often call me with work.

After Zach was killed, that all ended. Once in a while I would get a call, but I was usually already busy so I was able to avoid going to other places. Davies Hall was safe and a known quantity for me. Sometimes I felt bad about doing this because I wanted to support the Local by filling the jobs they needed to fill. But I remembered the mistakes I had made before due to lack of concentration and I didn’t want to jeopardize any more jobs that way. And the spark was gone.

So when the office called me Sunday night for a job today, I said I couldn’t do it. I had already committed to going down to Santa Clara to see Mom and Dad. In years past, I would have changed that. The other issue was operating a big digital sound mixer. I’m out of practice and I said so. If I had the spark, I would have pulled it off. Now, I just don’t want to.

The Local stood by me when I came back to San Francisco and I will be eternally grateful for that. But I have to be cognizant of my own health. I can’t do every job.

Hal

I’m never quite sure how to handle writing about other people in these days of identity stealing. I’m following my general rule of no last names. Hal is a colleague of mine and a friend. He’s been the primary SF Symphony sound man since Davies Hall opened in 1980. I had worked on his crew for Symphony Pops at the Civic Auditorium in the late ’80s as well as some other jobs around town. When I came back to San Francisco ten years ago and got sent to a call at Davies, it was good to see him again.

In 2012, my involvement with the Symphony grew and I found myself working with Hal much more. Our birthdays are only about a week apart and our professional paths have some similarities. Neither of us had family or neighborhood contacts to help us get started in the business. We were driven by an intense interest in sound reinforcement and became successful by determination and hard work.

Our experiences coming of age in the ’60s was another commonality. The San Francisco music scene then was world class. We’ve had a lot of fun in the last few years talking about arcana from those days. He grew up in the City and I was on the Peninsula so he had more opportunity to see the various venues but I knew the names of who was in the bands, what instruments they played, and on what albums.

My first day back at work after Zach died was helping to put in the PA at Davies for Hal. (That was before we got the permanent one we have now.) When I asked to leave early he defended me to others who did not understand my grief as well. Over the next few months he showed me constant compassion and understanding for my grief.

After Sepi agreed to marry me, I started to think about the wedding and realized I needed a best man. Hal was an easy choice and he did not hesitate to say yes.

Last week I talked to him about some details of the wedding day and he told me he would take care of them because that was part of the deal. My nature is not to ask for help but, as he did before, he stepped up because he knew it was the right thing to do.

As of a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy was able to get his work to release him so he will be standing with me as well but Hal is still the best man. Sarah will be up there too. I am proud to be supported by such fine people.

Noah at Devil’s Slide

Zach would ‘pose’ for photos in scenic locations usually by assuming a mock amazed look often with his arms stretched out. The picture on the front page of this blog is a perfect example. In this one he doesn’t have his arms stretched out but it is one of my favorites from his last visit to California in 2014.

I wanted to take Noah’s family to Devil’s Slide not because I wanted to stage a similar photo but just because it’s an awesome place. Actually, although I had my camera, I wasn’t even thinking about it.

Then I saw Noah standing in the exact same place. OMG! I had to scramble to get my camera out. Noah doesn’t stay in any one place for very long. He wasn’t looking out to sea, but reading the sign there. About five seconds after I snapped this, he bolted to something else.

Dave

A little over a year ago, I posted this story about Dave. Noah’s Dad. This past week, Dave has been in California along with the rest of his family. A group of us met in Lake Tahoe over the weekend for a couple of days of camping and fellowship. They’ve been down in the Bay Area since Sunday and left this morning.

They culminated their visit last night by coming down to Mom and Dad’s house in Santa Clara. They were flying out of San Jose and stayed overnight there. An even dozen of us had a very nice dinner on the patio. The kids played with the toys Mom keeps there, they went over to the park and played in the sand, and they picked lemons off the tree in the backyard and made lemonade for everyone.

During all this activity, Dave was just being Dad: carrying Myles on his shoulders, playing airplanes with Myles, talking with Noah about this thing or that that we were seeing. Just like his comment from 2 1/2 years ago, Dave was always calm and engaged with his children.

I don’t want to imply that Ally was absent in childcare duties. She was not. She did plenty of carrying and playing too. She’s a stay at home Mom now and I think she appreciated having a little break. I’m sure having Zach’s family around her for most of a week had some special stresses. Whether Dave is like this all the time or if he recognized those stresses doesn’t really matter. He was a great Dad this week. I’m pretty sure he’s a great Dad back home too. Yay Dave!

Language can be weird sometimes. I think I am Noah’s grandfather despite having no legal status as such. He has two more back in Ohio. Ally is the mother of this grandson but is not, nor was she ever, my daughter-in-law. Dave is just Noah’s Dad. Whatever else we call ourselves, I am proud to call these people ‘family’.

EDIT: Ally posted this photo on Facebook and I filched it. Maybe not so special in and of itself, but to me emblematic of Dave.

And just to be fair, here’s one of Ally at our Lake Tahoe campsite: