All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

end of the MTT run

Saturday was the last night of MTT’s fall time with the Symphony. He conducted the season opening gala, the Metallica concerts, a Mahler 6th, a new John Adams piece, and a bunch of other pieces that I can’ t think of right now. It’s been a blur of rehearsals and concerts for just over 4 weeks. Seemingly everything we did had massive percussion or huge orchestras – or both – so packing the musicians into the stage at Davies was a constant challenge.

There were a couple of hiccups but on the whole, the orchestra and MTT was forgiving of my foibles. There is a massive amount of detail to remember when putting the orchestra on stage. At one time I had it all under my fingers but working the house electric job for the past three years has overwritten some of it. My crew has been helpful in keeping me off the worst off the rocks.

One story. When performing programs of unusual music, MTT will often talk to the audience at the top of the show to give some personal insight into the music. Last week, we had three Stravinsky pieces on the program so MTT set the stage with some stories of his time as a teenager playing piano at Stravinsky’s house in LA. Of course, he uses a wireless microphone which I set on his stand ahead of time.

Except the last night, Saturday. I just forgot, plain and simple. Some things happened and I dealt with them and they pushed the microphone task out of my head.

Until about two seconds after I sent MTT and the two soloists out onto the stage to start the show. Then I remembered!

I tore off my headset and ran to the office where the microphone was stored, switched it on, and came back to the door to the stage and looked out. MTT was standing out there on the podium waiting for me! Gulp!

So, I went on out there with the microphone. MTT was smiling at me when I handed it to him. I apologized. He may have said something but I don’t remember. I do remember that he reached out to shake my hand before I turned and fled offstage. All I could think about was that I had to make sure that the sound system was properly turned on.

It was.

At the end of the evening, many people came backstage to talk to MTT. I waited a half hour or so for the crush to subside and went into his office. Mostly I wanted to thank him for putting up with me for the month but I also wanted to apologize again for forgetting the microphone. He smiled again when he saw me. He said, ‘Some people will do anything for a curtain call!’

He’ll be back in January.

anniversary

I’ll bet if you looked up ‘anniversary’ in the tag cloud, all you’d find would be rather gloomy posts. Finally there was a happy anniversary for me. Sepi and I achieved one year of marriage 2 weeks ago. Yay!

Amazingly, I had the night off so we went out to dinner. We had drinks and a glass of wine with our food. Perhaps not the best of ideas when you’re really tired, but we got through it.

It’s been hard for Sepi to hear all my stories of my work difficulties. It’s all she can do to not go down to Davies and knock heads. She’s gone through may similar situations so she’s given me much practical advice. Most importantly, she’s kept me grounded with the long view.

Sepi is also my most consistent reader and commenter on this blog. Hi Sepi! I love you!

“smoke ’em inside”

I’ve talked to Jeremy and Sarah, too, about my job travails. Sarah has been conventionally supportive. The last week of the Symphony season in July she was in the orchestra while I was running the last three shows. She gave me good, practical advice on some technical things but also a lovely text which I will not quote here. She stopped by my post at the stage manager’s desk often with a quick smile.

Jeremy I only talked to once or twice. His advice was more metaphorical. We had only a couple weeks before noted the death of Jim Bouton, author of the seminal baseball memoir, Ball Four. Jeremy reminded me of Bouton’s mantra as he struggled to revive his baseball pitching career in Seattle: “Smoke ’em inside.”

view from my bed

It’s been a hectic month. Almost six weeks, in fact, since I was offered the Symphony stage manager job. Incredibly, I officially started less than a week later. Partly because of that accelerated schedule, I had leftover commitments to JJ so I worked several nights and weekends for him after that.

At the Symphony, during the regular work week, I had personnel issues, new computers, new computer systems, new (to me) software. I had to plan for six orchestra moves in the first ten days of the season. Almost like being on tour!

I haven’t toured with the Symphony yet so that’s a little cheeky to say. At least I’ll be sleeping in my own bed each night.

Speaking of bed, I slept in this morning, seemingly for the first time in weeks. As I was waking up, I saw this view:

For months I had kept Hobbes in a box, along with many other personal things that there just wasn’t room for in the new house. One day a couple of months ago I happened to see him and thought that this little spot behind the lamp would be good for him. To be completely honest, I hadn’t noticed him or thought about him very much but today I did.

I have thought of Zach a lot during this past month of stress. He would have given me valuable insight into strategies for organizations and people. I’ve been thinking of the 4th anniversary of his death upcoming this fall. That seems important because it is supposedly the end of the statute of limitations on criminal charges surrounding his death. For a long time I wanted to beat on the Baton Rouge DA to reopen the case and charge Shawn Allen with vehicular manslaughter. Or something more than speeding. Or implicate the other driver, who I believe was complicit in the whole thing and got away with nothing. This post tells more about my feelings.

Anyway, I think I’ve let go of the whole idea. As I’ve said before, nothing will bring Zach back and the Baton Rouge authorities are not interested. My plate is full with this new job so I’ll just go on hoping Mr Allen still has nightmares and try to think of good things.

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.