All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

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.

Dad’s hangers

I guess it was about a month ago that Mom invited me back to her and Dad’s bedroom to pick out what shirts I wanted from his closet. We wore the same size.

They’ve been coming up in the rotation for the last week or so and I noticed that the hangers they were on were built like tanks. Nowadays if you take your clothes to the cleaners, they come back on wire hangers inside their plastic bags. It wasn’t until I felt Dad’s hangers that I realized how much these simple little things have changed.

No picture, because they look exactly the same. Well, not exactly, because Dad’s old hangers have some kind of black coating on them. The newer ones are a brass metal color and can be bent rather easily. Dad’s black ones weigh about 50% more and are much tougher.

Someone probably did a study and found that clothes hangers didn’t need to be so strong. Kind of like modern cars compared to cars from the ’50s and ’60s. My Corolla has dents that my old 1964 Valiant would laugh at.

At our house we are using mostly the new plastic hangers. I like how they give the shirts a little more area to sit on.I’m going to keep Dad’s real steel hangers, though. Like the shirts themselves, they are a reminder of him.

Dad’s story

I don’t remember exactly how this came up. It was probably related to all the contact with relations that Sepi had on Nowrooz.

She was aware of my cousins in Germany. I had told her of my trip there in 2017 and I had said that any trip we would take to Europe would have to include a visit with them.

Just the other day, she was asking what was the exact relationship that I had with these people so I told her about how Zacharias Hangauer had left Germany and came to America in 1869, married and had a family that included my grandmother. This led naturally to questions about how I knew of the German relatives.

I was astounded that I hadn’t told her the story before. It is one of my all-time favorites.

I present it here in full.

My Search For Unknown Kin
by Bernard J. Wood

How it Came About

In September 1975, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on surface science held at the University in Namur, Belgium. Nancy and I had often talked about visiting Europe, and this seemed to be the time to make our oft-discussed visit a reality. A three-week visit was reasonable, within the constraints of our family responsibilities and our financial resource. The conference in Namur occupied two weeks, so we had one full week to do sightseeing on our own in Western Europe.

When we looked at the travel guides and maps we realized that 52 weeks would hardly be enough to visit every place we wanted to see! We had to make the hard decision to limit our excursion to a few places. The principal limitation became geography; we didn’t want to spend all of our time traveling, so we chose three places that were reasonably close together, yet had some special meaning for us.

We selected Amsterdam, because two friends live there; one is a young woman, Johanna (Honny) M., who was an exchange student in our community a number of years ago; the second is Rutger van S. (and his family) who spent a year at SRI as a visiting scientist.

We chose Paris for the same reason: George A. is an old friend from SRI, and Mike and Trish C. and their family moved away from our parish in the middle ‘60’s. And besides, everyone wants to see Paris!

Our third choise was somewhat off-beat and very personal. The twin towns of Berkastel-Kues, located on the Mosel River in Germany, were the home of my ancestors in my mother’s family. I knew from conversations with my late Aunt Elizabeth that my grandfather Hangauer had emigrated from Bernkastel-Kues sometime around the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, Elizaceth had given me and old souvenir book of the Mosel Valley which showed photographs of Bernkastel-Kues. We had no inkling that any living kin resided in this region at the present time, for noe of my aunts in the American Hangauer line, whom I had know, had ever mentioned the existence of living relatives in Germany. Nevertheless, the reasonably convenient location of Bernkastel-Kues and its connection with my ancestors compelled us to include it in our itinerary.

The Journey to Bernkastel-Kues

On Tuesday morning, September 16, we boarded the Lorelei Express in Amsterdam and commenced a four-hour rail journey into Germany to Koblenz, where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. There we transferred to a Paris-bound train that took us west to the town of Wengerohr, where we again changed trains, this time to an inter-urban type of local that terminated its run in Bernkastel-Kues.

Bernkastel-Kues are twin towns situated on opposite banks of the Mosel, and connected by a bridge. Both are nestled into the hillsides that rise rather steeply from the river’s edge. The vineyards that cover the hills reveal the principal industry of these towns; winemaking. The second industry is tourism. Bernkastel-Kues is a resort area where people come to hike, breathe the fresh air and relax in the sun. the towns have the appearance of classic Alsatian villages, with narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lined with gabled houses constructed of wood and masonry. The village square in Bernkastel looks as if it might have been designed and built by Walt Disney; a perfect stereotype and perfectly charming!

We stayed in a hotel in Bernkastel called Doktor-Weinstuben. The name had nothing to do with the medial arts; it referred to a tavern wherein the famous Bernkasteler-Doktor wine was kept and served!

The Search

We spent the evening exploring the town and the shops. Next morning we inquired of the hotel clerk about the name Hangauer. He indicated there were people with that name in town, but he didn’t know whether they had been around very long, or if they had any connection with Hangauers in America. He suggested we visit a famous historical library in Kues, called the Cusanus Stift, where we might obtain some genealogical information. Unfortunately, the Cusanus Stift was not open until 3:00 p.p., so we had to pursue our inquiry through another channel.

Examination of the street map of the town revealed a number of churches with adjacent graveyards. We walked to the nearest one and looked for the name Hangauer on the grave markers. But we drew a blank. So we walked a few blocks to the next churchyard, St. Briktius, and repeated our scan. Here we found a simple wooden cross with the inscription “Hans Jos. Hangauer”.

The pastor’s house was the next logical place to visit, but the location wasn’t obvious. There was no indication of the priest’s residence in the vestibule of the church. We stepped out onto the street and looked about. Houses and small stores, but no sign or symbol that would identify a parsonage was in view. A woman, however, was leaning out a first stroey window of a nearby house. I approached her. “Guten morgan, meine Frau. Bitte, wo ist das Hause auf der Pastor?”, I said in my rudimentary German. The woman understood me, however, and spewed-out directions in a cascade of words, only a few of which I understood. “Langsam, langsam”, I pleaded, and she repeated her directions more slowly, pausing at strategic points to make sure I understood. “ Auf den Strasse, lenks . . . , richt, . . . ober den Eisenbahn . . .”

It was several blocks distant, and after we had come to the vicinity of the house, we were still unable to identify it. A young mother with two children in tow, approached us on the street. I repeated my inquiry to her. She nodded, then directed her smaller child to take us to the pastor’s house, which turned out to be just a half-block away. We rewarded the young guide with a coin, then rang the bell. The priest came to the door. “Sprechen Sie Anglais?” “Nicht.”

Ach! So I launched into my inquiry with what surely was quite vulgar German: “Meine Name ist Bernard Wood. Ich auf Amerika gekommt. Die Name auf meine Mutter ‘Hangauer’ war, und ihr Vater auf Bernkastel-Kues in achtzehn-hundert-sechzig or siebenzig getreben . . .” The pastor listened patiently, then invited us in. He went to a file and removed a few cards. Then he explained that although he had several Hangauers in his parish, he had no idea whether they were related to a person who emigrated to America in the mid-nineteenth century. However, there were tow sisters, unmarried, who were born around the turn of the century and would surely be able to remember if an uncle had emigrated to the USA. He gave us their names, Anna and Cilli Hangauer, and directed us to their home, just a few blocks away. We thanked him and proceeded directly to Goethestrasse 24.

The Discovery

The bell brought a white-haired woman to the door. I began again my spiel, prefacing my inquiry with Pastor Störmer’s name to lend some kind of respectability to my presence at her door. The woman was not impressed, and with a puzzled look protested that she knew of no relatives living in America. I had decided that my inquiry was futile, that there was no connection between these Hangauers and my grandfather. But before leaving I made a final effort to clarify when and where my grandfather emigrated to the USA. “Aber, meine Grossvater nach Amerika in achtzehn hunderd-siebenzig, in dem Stadt Buffalo in New York getreben!” Just as I was speaking this sentence, the other sister appeared in the front hall. At the word “Buffalo” her face lit up and she rushed to the door. “Buffalo, New York. Ja, ja! Zacharias Hangauer. Ja, ja! Kommen Sie in das Haus!” Then she ran back into the house and up the stairs. Her sister seemed rather bewildered, but led us into the parlor. In a moment, the second sister was back with a box of old letters and photographs. She held up a tintype-like portrait of an old man with a beard. I had seen the very same picture many times before – it was Grandfather Hangauer! Another photo came out of the box: young woman in a white dress. It was my mother, Rose Hangauer, and the picture was a duplicate of a portrait we keep in our own family archives! “Ja, meine Mutter!” I was so excited I could hardly believe the experience was real. I looked at Nancy to verify that we were awake and not dreaming. The Hangauer sisters were likewise excited. Anna spoke rapidly with great animation, and I had to beg her repeatedly to speak slowly. After a short time we settled down to a more calm demeanor, and spoke of many things: about our own family; about the other Hangauer descendants now living in America, and those presently living in various places in Germany; about the beautiful Mosel Valley; about the war (W.W. II) and how it affected the residents of Bernkastel-Kues; about the house in which Cilli and Anna lived, which had been built by their Grandfather Andreas.

Andreas and Zacharias Hangauer were brothers. Andreas’s son, also named Andreas, was born in the same year that Zacharias emigrated to America, 1869. the younger Andreas had 11 children, several of whom still live in various places in West Germany. Four of these children, Hans, Karl, Anna and Cilli, remained in Bernkastel-Kues.

Anna an Cilli served us a luncheon of schwarzbrot, cheese and wine, then showed us their home and garden. We departed from them to take a hike to the castle, Berg Landshut, after promising to return in the evening for supper.

The walk to Burg Landshut on top of the hill above the town was glorious. The day was warm and sunny. The vineyards were in full fruit, as the grape harvest had not yet taken place. And the view of the town and the valley from the castle was magnificent. The ruins of the castle were occupied by a restaurant, so we drank a glass of beer to quench the thirst we had developed during the climb, then returned to the town.

We rang the bell at Goethestrasse 24 about 6:30 p.m. Anna ushered us to their studio dining room and we enjoyed a hearty German meal. Shortly after dinner, Hans Hangauer and his wife, Helena (called Leni), arrived, and we spent a couple of hours looking at old photographs and talking about the Hangauer clan. Hans had cataloged a great deal of information about our ancestors, but he had few facts about the descendants of the American emigre. I was able to supply some information to him. He presented me with copies of letters that Zacharias Hangauer had sent from America to his relatives in Bernkastel-Kues. One of them was written on the day he arrived in New York; a second many years later when he traveled by train to the West Coast.

We then left the home of Anna and Cilli, and walked to Hans’ home. Here we met the youngest son of Hans and Leni: Franz. Franz is a student in his last year at the gymnasium (grade 13 by comparison with U.S. schools), and he spoke English quite fluently. Hans brought out the fine Mosel wine, and we imbibed freely while telling about our children, our experiences and our plans. Franz would like to visit America when he completes his studies next Spring, and we encouraged him to come. We offered him the hospitality of our own home in Northern California, and we suggested that Hangauer descendants located in Buffalo, Denver, and Southern California might be willing to be hosts to him also.

Hans is a civil servant and before we left he presented us with a bottle of fine Kardinalsburg wine to take home. As the hour grew late, we bade goodnight to the Hangauers and thanked them for their kind hospitality. Hans walked with us to our own hotel and pointed out a number of places of interest in the town. Filled with fine wine and warm with gemütlichkeit, we slept soundly.

Our Departure

Our schedule called for us to arrive in Paris the next day, so on Thursday morning we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and went to the bus stop to meet and board the bus to Luxembourg, where we would transfer to an express train to Paris. Before the bus came, I walked to the post office to mail some post cards, and enroute was intercepted by Cilli. She greeted me and presented me with a small package to take home. The package contained a small basket, a hand-made linen doily, a piece of home-baked bread, and a picture of Grandfather Hangauer. We said good-bye, and I felt sad that our encounter had been so short, yet grateful that we had met at all under such improbable circumstances.

Before the bus arrived, Leni walked to the busstop. She had come downtown to do some shopping and stopped to say good-bye again to us. As the bus pulled away, we waved farewell. What a remarkable experience we had! Leaving Bernkastel-Kues was almost like awakening from a dream. Like Brigadoon, Bernkastel-Kues seemed like a place in a fantasy; something that came into existence just for us, and then disappeared forever into the mists.

Epilogue

Bernkastel-Kues and the Hangauers live! Shortly after we returned home, our cousin and neighbor, Mary S. (a great grand-daughter of Zacharias Hangauer) learned she would be sent to Stuttgart, Germany, for a business trip of about a month’s duration. She corresponded with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues, and they invited her to come to visit them. She is now in Germany, and she plans to spend Christmas holidays with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues.

Arno

Arno is retiring. He and I have shared the bulk of the relief work for the Davies Hall house Stage Electrician (JJ) for the last couple of years. He is not even 65 yet, although he will be next month.

I hate him.

Not really. I envy him, though. He’s planned it carefully and now he is executing his plan. He is an inspiration.

We are working together on the SF Gay Men’s Chorus show tonight and we will likely be working together one or two days next weekend but that will be it. I gave him a card and wrote that I hope the next time I see him after that will be at our home instead of back at the Hall. He’s a great guy and has been an asset to the operation.

When I started in the house electric job at Davies, I felt a lot of confidence. I had 40+ years experience in the business and had been a house man in other venues before. Davies turned out to be much more complicated than I had expected and the first few months I had trouble remembering all of the many details. JJ gave good directions but Arno was usually the one out there with me in the field trying to get the job done. He was unfailingly patient and understanding with me. He had been there for a couple years at that point.

For the last year or so, we’ve become the old salts that are showing the newer people where things are, etc. Only last Tuesday I was leading a crew to clean the canopy dishes and I had to gather all the equipment. I found myself wishing Arno was there too so I could check my plans with him.

It’s a feeling that I will have again, I’m sure.

Thanks for the mentoring, Arno. Enjoy your retirement!

Happy Nowrooz

Today is Nowrooz, Persian New Year. Happy Nowrooz!

Unlike New Years’ Day in the US, Nowrooz is celebrated over the course of many days . We have been getting joyful messages from various relatives and friends of Sepi the last couple of days. Sepi has spent much of this morning on the phone speaking her curious mixture of Farsi and English.

For myself, I got the idea that I should learn Farsi. It’s not a new idea, but my current plan is to sign up for some kind of class. I need to have someone to report to – not Sepi – for proper motivation.

Last year, Sepi and I went to a Nowrooz celebration in San Mateo. I believe it was my first time out with her in front of her friends. Everyone seemed very nice, but I had to confess afterwards that I worried that a couple of Persian tough guys would come to visit me if I treated Sepi badly. She thought that was pretty funny. In fact, all of the Persian people I’ve met in the last year have been lovely people. After all, they are friends of Sepi!

So Happy Nowrooz everyone! Kiss a Persian today! I did!

St. Patrick’s Day

I had forgotten that this year was the second time I had a band concert on St. Patrick’s Day. Sepi reminded me. She took pictures of me yesterday in my green tie – same one as last year – and my Irish cap. This year I wore a different coat. Also this year I was standing in front of the home that I share with my wife.

Here is the one from last year, taken in my apartment:

single and double quotes

I wrote my previous post with the title Christopher. I’ve been thinking about it and today I decided to go back and put quotes around the title to better indicate that it is a verbal quote. Now it is ‘Christopher’. With single quotes.

Why single quotes and not double? I don’t know, except that I’ve been using single quotes in my writing for a long time now. It’s Continental, or at least British, which seems classier.

I put little lines through my sevens, too, like the Germans, although I still draw a 1 with one straight line instead of two.

Looking for examples, I found this article. It shows the various ones but not the sevens. It made me remember that I write my threes and fours a little differently sometimes.

But it says nothing about quotes. Here is the entry on quotes.

TMI? Perhaps. You can choose.