All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

day 18

This is day 18 of our personal shelter in place. The actual order from the Bay Area health authorities came a couple of days later.

Whatever. We’re all in the same boat now, although it’s been interesting reading about the terrible conditions in the New York hospitals, the grocery and delivery workers attempts to get more respect and the places where denial is in power, while we eat our meals, nap, check FaceBook, read emails etc etc.

We’ve gone out for a couple of walks but cautiously. People have been out on the street walking. Some are in groups that may be families. Others perhaps not. I ordered some things online but kept the packages downstairs for a day before opening. Sepi is unhappy that I didn’t wipe them down first, but I did wash my hands immediately and was very careful about not touching my face while handling the boxes.

A friend of Sepi’s was at the grocery store last week and generously called us to offer to pick up what we needed. When she came by we had her leave everything at the bottom of the stairs. I started the cars the other day to make sure they still ran but they haven’t been driven since day 0.

Our pace is slow, but some things are getting done. I’ve long suspected our bathroom fan of not being hooked up right so yesterday I finally fixed it. It has a heating element that hadn’t been used. After I rewired it, I turned it on and it started to smoke. It wasn’t as clean as I thought! I took it apart again and spent a half hour cleaning it with tweezers and compressed air. All told it was a 2+ hour job. Hey, I’ve got nothing but time! Best of all, I didn’t have to go to the hardware store.

community

I don’t have a plan today. I have time to write. Lots of it, although I did say I wanted to get out and take a walk before the rain starts. It’s cloudy and blustery right now, but patches of blue are still showing through.

Teresa’s birthday is tomorrow. Jane has set up a Zoom meeting for all of us to join virtually to celebrate. I gather Zoom is an app like Skype but oriented more around groups.

So I am thinking about community. Sepi and I are spending a lot of time on FaceBook. Why? Because we crave community. I believe it is hard wired into the human animal. That is why slowing the spread of this disease is so difficult.

In my case, my course of action was pretty straightforward. First it was no groups of 1000, then 500, then 100, then 10. Now in Germany, no groups of more than 2 – 2 people! – are allowed to gather in public. The Symphony at one point was going to do a radio broadcast of a concert with no audience but then the number was changed down to 100. It takes 10 or 15 people to put the orchestra on stage and the band is about 100 so . . . no radio broadcast. In fact, no nothing. We’ve all been sent home.

My craft, my industry is dead in the water because the whole thing is predicated on people gathering. It seemed to simple and foolproof only a few weeks ago.

Maybe at some point, concerts will be redefined as essential services and allowed to go on. Although as my friend Kim said in another context a couple of years ago, ‘Without your health, you have nothing. Nothing!’ We were talking about someone who was wealthy but got sick and died. Now there is a politician in Texas suggesting that old people should allow themselves to die so the economy can do better. As someone commented on FB, how is it that so many psychopaths have gotten themselves in positions of power?

When I put in the tag for community, I thought surely I had used it before. It’s a word that Dad used a lot and I thought I had written about it. He consistently referred to the Sunday Church service that he and Mom went to as the ’10 am community’.

I remember years ago when we used to have Mass in odd places like the lawn at Maryknoll, Dad would bring up Jesus’ comment that ‘whenever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am.’ His point was that it didn’t have to be a dedicated structure to find the presence of God.

But it does have to be a human gathering, and that is in short supply right now.

In the US Congress, there are rules in place requiring physical presence in the chamber for voting. There is talk now about relaxing those rules. However that plays out, despite Zoom and Skype and Teams whatever other software is out there for getting people together, humans will always need to gather. Community is too important to leave to the machines.

day 7

It’s getting more and more surreal. Today is day 7 for Sepi’s and my self isolation. The order to shelter in place was effective Tuesday, three days ago. Nevertheless, the water main replacement work continues. Thankfully they are not in front of our house now, although it wouldn’t really matter since we aren’t going anywhere. People go by the house occasionally walking kids or dogs.

Or in groups . . . are you kidding me? Social distancing, people! If not your lives, then the lives of your loved ones or your neighbors depend on it.

When Sepi commented on a group she saw yesterday, I suggested that perhaps they were a family unit. She said, no, she knew them. They were just friends out for a walk, talking together, just like it’s a normal day.

Sepi read me part of a news story from yesterday, commenting on how San Franciscans don’t seem to be taking the orders seriously. People were shown on the Embarcadero walking and skating in groups. Grocery stores with crowds of people, if not stock. Are we blasé, resigned to our fates? Do we believe it’s all fake news?

OTOH, the news media loves to paint SF as a city full of lunatics. What’s LA like? Chicago? New York, where T was supposedly sending the Navy hospital ship. (Except the Navy said it was still undergoing maintenance and wasn’t ready.)

The thermostat and camera is supposed to get here today. We’ll see. That’s a little job I can do. I tried yesterday to get Sepi to go out just for a few minutes’ walk without success. She said she would go with me today. I know she’s terrified. I am too, but I can’t stay in the house for days on end. I’ve gone out for a couple of walks but stay far away from anyone else I see out there.

phone

We’re isolated but I’m not calling people (family, friends) on the phone. Why not? I’ve got the time. They probably do too. The phone is working. We’ve got power to recharge it. There is no emergency (requiring phone calls, anyway).

I’ve checked in on FaceBook probably twice a day since the lockdown. But I don’t pick up the phone. I’m sorry folks. I’ll keep trying.

shelter in place

Shelter in place. That phrase came up yesterday in the San Francisco Mayor’s order attempting to stem the tide of coronavirus infections in the Bay Area.

Technically, we are not under the authority of the SF Mayor here in San Mateo County but she got the health authorities of all the Bay Area counties to sign on. Kudos to Mayor London Breed for leading the charge.

I’ve been trying to remember the circumstances that I’ve heard that phrase before. People involved in mass shootings? People in the path of a tornado? A Tsunami?

Here in California we live under constant threat of earthquakes and wildfires. For some reason, ‘shelter in place’ doesn’t seem to apply to those. We prepare for an earthquake but when it happens, it’s over in a minute or so. Your shelter is either there or it isn’t. Similarly wildfires can be prepared for but when it happens there is no shelter.

But all of these things are relatively fast moving. The coronavirus infections are harder to see. There are numbers on the news, of course, and web sites with graphs to go to, but no wall of flame in the back yard, no 100 mile per hour wind banging on the front door. Metaphorically, of course, that is exactly what is happening. Hang on to your hats!

Well, we were staying home already anyway. We think we have plenty of food, although the order has exceptions allowing people to go out to the grocery store. The power is on, the phones are working, the Internet is on, we have gas in our cars. We have a generator, although the wiring to the house has not been completed. That might be a project in a week or so.

 

dystopias

When I went to put The Sheep Look Up back in the bookshelf, I saw a couple of other books there that might qualify as dystopias.

I need to say that I’ve been reading science fiction since I was about 12 years old. That’s more than 50 years, kids! I used to have a large collection but gave away many in my last couple of moves. In my opinion, the ones I have left are the best of the best. Certain authors are well represented: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, Joe Haldeman from the 1950’s through 1970’s. Others have only one.

Alas, Babylon is the only book by Pat Frank in my collection. Actually, I can’t remember even reading anything else by him. It’s not really dystopian. It’s the story of a small community in Florida after a nuclear exchange. Just looking at the book spine today triggered a thought that that was similar to the Brunner stories.

The other one that seemed similar in my mind was the Larry Niven novel about a comet hitting the earth, Lucifer’s Hammer. That’s not really a dystopia either.

John Varley’s Titan trilogy would qualify as dystopian even though the bulk of the action takes place away from earth. In it, the madness of humans destroying their home planet drives the story.

Since the basic technique of science fiction is to imagine a future world and build a story around it, it shouldn’t be surprising that most are rather dark.

Younger authors that I like a lot have written about dystopias. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and the early William Gibson novels, beginning with Neuromancer, are clearly dystopian.

The more I write that word, the less I like it. Maybe I’ll do a list of the SF novels in my library – not that many, less than 50 – and do a quick description/review. Some are hopeful . . .

The Sheep Look Up

The Sheep Look Up is a title of a John Brunner novel from the early 1970’s. In my mind it always went along with his earlier novel Stand On Zanzibar in its dystopian view of the world. I read them when they came out and still have my original (paperback) copies. After the events of the last couple of weeks, I dug out my copy of The Sheep Look Up.

It’s pretty strident. Brunner’s anger shows through on every page. Reading it again made me think about what we all thought about pollution in those days and what we did about it.

Stand On Zanzibar had a relatively upbeat ending, though, whereas The Sheep Look Up does not. Air, sea and land are poisoned so thoroughly worldwide that human survival is in question.

The last chapter is simply a quote from the John Milton poem Lycidas:

The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.

social distance

. . .  and self isolation.

Phrases that I didn’t expect to be using to describe myself until very recently. Two weeks ago I was buying travel supplies at the drugstore, getting a haircut, and getting serious about what clothes to take on the tour.

Then, just before the show on Friday the 6th came word that the SF Performing Arts complex was going to be closed to the public starting the next day. The Ballet had a show scheduled at the Opera House. Cancelled. The Symphony was scheduled to perform at UC Davis. That went on but our performances for the next week were not going to happen.

The original announcement only – now I say ‘only’! – was for a closure of two weeks, until the 20th. Tuesday morning the announcement was made to the orchestra that we weren’t going to Europe because several venues there had closed due to the virus. New York’s Carnegie Hall was still open, though, so we continued rehearsals. The ban on public assemblies in San Francisco was extended first one more week, then two more still.

Thursday morning’s rehearsal became an orchestra meeting. Everyone put away their instruments. The official word came: New York was closing too. We weren’t going anywhere. The entire Symphony administration was being told to work from home. Orchestra committees had hurried meetings with management about what to do. It was decided that we would all go on vacation for 4 weeks, until April 11. That’s when we would have come back from Europe. Rehearsals and performances were in the pipeline.

Vacation is not the right word for what we are doing now: social distancing, and self isolating. At first, I thought that Sepi and I could use the time to get in our car and drive to LA, or Colorado, or Washington where we could visit friends and family. After some reflection we realized what self isolation really meant: stay home!

I was all set (in my mind) to go down to Mom’s and hang with her for a couple of days but that was nixed. Mom’s in the most vulnerable group! We don’t know if we’ve been exposed!

In Seattle, the orchestra there is performing for an empty hall and streaming the music to the public. In San Francisco we can’t even do that because the ban is for assemblies of 100 or more. Maybe we could do Mozart . . .

And the ban is now extended to April 30th. We have no more ‘vacation’ left. Will we still get paid? Big conventions, which are the bread and butter for many of my Local 16 brothers and sisters, have disappeared. Those people have nothing. A few hundred dollars a week from unemployment.

I will try to write about more uplifting things in the days to come but that is the environment.

183

That’s been my pretty stable weight for a month or so now. Last fall beat me up. I was so busy at work, I often didn’t have time to eat properly and when I did, I often wasn’t hungry.

So, I lost weight. Normally that would be a good thing and in fact I feel better now. The stress has lessened a bit. It’s not the ideal way to get it done, but . . . it’s done. I hope I can keep it where it is.

I had my annual physical yesterday and my BP was good: 120/79. That’s more or less what it’s been for the past couple of years. The doctor’s weight numbers run a little high because I have clothes on but my records show that two years ago I came in at 210. Yesterday they showed me at 187. That’s a big win.

I didn’t get my blood work done before the doctor visit so that data is still to come.

2 months

I hate to write about how long it’s been since I’ve written, but that’s what coming out of my head right now. Life has been moving pretty fast the last few months. I got through the December madness: all the Holiday shows. I had a week off. Jeremy came to visit with Ashley and Rosalie. They stayed at my house. We did some nice things. We had Christmas at Mom’s with most of the California Woods.

When I got back to work, I promulgated a couple of new rules that has made my life a little easier. Not so much for the rules per se, but for the fact that I could feel ok about making rules. There are still some things in the works that I can’t talk about but developments there have been encouraging.

The last two weeks featured MTT conducting. One week included a new work by him. He can be amazing and annoying all in the same moment, it seems. He’s remarkable, there’s no doubt about that.

Starting today, we have three weeks of really simple orchestra setups which means I can look ahead without worrying too much about something immediate biting my ass.

The first thing to look ahead to is the Chinese New Year celebration. It seems to get bigger each year. There are lots of special events that need staffing and other planning.

After that is the tour. We’re leaving March 15th (or thereabouts) for just under a month in Europe. I’ve seen some itineraries but there are still many details to resolve. I did get approval to stay over for a few days and it turns out that Wilfried and Elisabeth will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary right after our last concert. I need to figure out how to get from Paris to some little town in the Schwarzwald that I’ve never heard of, then turn around and get to a major airport to fly home.

That’s enough for now.