All posts by Chris

Zach's Dad

time change

Why are we still doing time changes in America? Supposedly it was something to do with saving electricity after WWII. Honestly, I haven’t done any research on this. Except, I know it wreaks havoc on my biorhythms for several days every spring and fall. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I believe there is one state, Arizona, that makes do with the same time all year long. Arizona has many problems, but I believe none of them are related to their not changing their time twice a year.

I think it was only last year I read about a bill in the California legislature to repeal the time change. I actually thought it had a chance of passage, then I heard nothing more. Who killed it? Why? Who is gaining economically by continuing to do this?

It makes no sense to me.

Zach’s room

This image came up in my screensaver rotation a moment ago. It is what Zach’s room looked like when we got there the day after he died. I had just a few minutes ago cleaned the same dresser top where I now keep some of Zach’s things in my bedroom. I have the dresser now but nothing else in this photo. I’m actually amazed that I can look at it – and I did look at it carefully – without bursting into tears. For a long time I couldn’t leave my apartment without thinking about what people would think about me and my living space if I never came back. Sometimes I would tidy things up just a little extra.

If it weren’t for Zach’s death, no one would have taken pictures like this. I don’t have any pictures of my apartment like this.

Rose revised

I wrote a post on Monday about Rose. I thought it celebrated her and my relationship with her. Rose felt otherwise. In fact, Rose was furious with me. Although she was very angry, she told me not to take it off the blog. So I left it. I thought she might leave a comment but she has not. After hearing from other family members that the post was not what I thought it was, I have now removed it.

So everything I thought I knew on Monday is in question. The solid relationship I thought I had with Rose is in tatters. My whole concept of this blog is in disarray. What can I write about? My thoughts?I think about other people. Other people are part of my life and thus my thoughts.

I wrote a post last week based on Zach’s journals. I quoted extensively from his writing. Zach almost certainly never intended his journals to be distributed. Am I trespassing on his rights?

I had a good talk with Sarah today about some of this. She told me she keeps a journal but does not expect anyone else to ever read it. She has asked me before to not be included in this blog. I’ve told her I don’t think that is possible. She is an even bigger part of my life than Rose. How can I not write about her? I certainly would not betray any confidences. I try to be discreet, with Sarah especially but also everyone else I’ve written about. Maybe I should have been more discreet writing about Rose. Everything I thought I knew is in question.

Why am I writing this blog? For me? For Zach? For Rosalie or Noah? For their children or grandchildren? For someone I might meet someday? I told Sarah that I have had great pleasure reading letters and journals of our ancestors and I thought my descendants might enjoy doing the same. Yes, I want to be remembered. I think the only way for humans to continue to survive is to share their experiences with other humans. It’s kind of cool to write and have the potential for a large audience but the same potential can be frightening. There are literally no restrictions on who might read these words. And, although I put a copyright notice at the bottom of every page, the reality is that these words would be ridiculously easy to copy and re-purpose.

I’ve kept a journal sporadically for many years. I have writing from my high school days. Perhaps I should look it over with an eye towards posting it here. Perhaps it would drive the few readers I have away. I thought when I started this blog that I might engender some discussions. That has not happened. I’ve gotten some good comments and other feedback but no discussions. No one has ever gotten angry with me about a post like Rose has.

I have a few days off work. I will be thinking on all this. Everything I thought I knew is in question.

Zach’s journal for today

I decided I would do an entry today from Zach’s journal. The first thing I noticed when I went to open the PDF file was that there was a work journal that covered spring 2012. These have not been catalogued as carefully by me as the personal journals so I took a look.

41 pages, covering from January to May 2012! Digging further, I find that on this date in 2012, Zach wrote 2,957 words in his work journal. Wow! It is all job related and not of much interest to me right now so I moved on to the personal journal.

His February 21 entry starts like this:

2/21, blasphemy
It is in inexcusable that I have been away from this for 17 days.  I am filling my weekends with nothing-ness and I’m really ticked at myself for it.  Today is Fat Tuesday and continuing in the perplexing logic that is the state of Louisiana, I have the day off from work.  This all ties together quite nicely, actually, as we will see in the following…
First, though: Mardi Gras.  The background of Mardi Gras, as far as I can tell, is for the Catholics to get all of their sinning out before Lent (Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday).  I couldn’t find any other reason for why Mardi Gras exists.  Are we serious?  We spend weeks and weeks and tons of resources on a “holiday” that is predicated on debauchery so the dirty human can then spend 40 days sans some trivial comfort, and then feel good about themselves and think they are closer to a deity.  Wow.  And I wonder how many of the idiots getting wasted on Bourbon Street today know the background of this whole “holiday.”
So with that out of the way…the LSU students had yesterday, today, and half of tomorrow off school (nevermind the fact that they also get a week off in April for basically a second Spring Break).  So most everything in these parts is pretty shut down, with professionals taking a few days off, students going home, etc.  Which explains why I’m sitting on my bed at 930AM on a Tuesday morning drinking tea (which is flipping awesome).

He then goes on to say how he’s been busy with work. ‘ . . . but not so busy that I couldn’t take time to write in here . . .’ Then he talks about progress he’s made in preparing to finish his Masters and he meanders around a bit about doing things for Mardi Gras with his friends.

Then this:

And coming back, is the insincere asshole moment.  I do like Lauren and I want to be there for her and we do get along great and playing basketball is awesome with her.  I want to be a strong figure in her life; I embrace that.  I just don’t know if I want to be a boyfriend, because I’m not very good at being a boyfriend and still conquering the other aspects of my life.  And, unfortunately for her, my life is more important.  My work is more important.  My ambition, right now, is more important.  I don’t know how to have that conversation with her, nor do I think she would understand, nor do I think we can come to a happy medium.  I’m slightly haunted by what I wrote last September or October…something along the lines of : “I want Lauren to love me but I don’t want the responsibility of loving her back.”  Well, I guess that isn’t exactly true; I want that responsibility, just not as a boyfriend.  I don’t think…

He’s pissed at himself for spending so much time with Lauren to the exclusion of other friends that he values just as much. then he talks about watching too much ‘crap shit awfulness’ TV, especially The Big Bang Theory which he thinks is better. He identifies with Sheldon, ‘a physicist genius with no people skills and a gigantic ego,’ who is happier spending his time alone.

But one last thing, which again was manifest yesterday…I embraced being alone and away from people, which is all well and good, but only to a point.  I always remember Rabbi Kamrass telling me to nurture the soul and to not try to take everything alone, and I firmly believe that we as humans are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with…and to that end, yesterday really made me miss Troy and Josh and my life in Corvallis…for its simplicity and for the support system that was that group.  I don’t want to become a complete outcast and only spend isolated time with Lauren…

So, 2,500 words later, what else has happened in the last 17 days?  Not much.  I mentioned playing bball.  I haven’t read a lick (ugh that pisses me off).  Haven’t watched any noteworthy movies ( I did see The Debt, which was good but not amazing).  Haha, after all this writing about seclusion, we did have a Geaux Lead reunion Friday night which was awesome; we talked about a lot of things that interest me and I feel like I learned and became a better person.  But in other news…haven’t done much–wrote some notes to Annie and Patsy, trying to stay connected to Josh Molly and Troy, had a phone convo with Dave (which was difficult but still good).  Haven’t really made any inroads in my other endeavors, including the car insurance question, the savings bond work, and going to the Mac store to see if my dvd drive can be fixed.  At least I made some strides on the Master’s.  And this morning I had the relatively cathartic experience of purging about 60-75 friends from my FB list, which is always an interesting sociological experience.  Half-heartedly advancing on my personal goals but obviously, as detailed above, not going very fast.  LOL.

Then he goes on to detail some of the professional reading he’s been doing, with commentary, finally ending with this:

Not much else in the way of learning…I’ve been listening to NPR on the radio a lot and it’s actually annoying because most of it is silly little transitory jazz clips or someone talking about all their funding.  Kind of ironic actually.  Well, that’s all for now folks.  I’m going on an Adventure Trip this weekend as a second driver so I probably won’t be back for a little while but that’s okay.  I’ll manage.

3,399 words in this, personal, journal to go with the 2,957 words in his work journal. Thank you, Zach, for giving us so much to remember you by.

charged words






These I put on a list a couple of days ago. But I’ve been mulling this idea for a long time. I don’t think I have any grand conclusions, though. Try these out:

my wife

my car

my father

my house

my dog

my job

my son

that chair is mine

those papers are mine

be mine

My brother has two children

My mother has a piano

My aunt has cancer

My neighbor has a television

I have a girlfriend

I have a guitar

I have a sister

I have a book

I love Mozart

I love Seinfeld

I love potato chips

I love you

at Mom and Dad’s

I only spent about 24 hours there from yesterday to today which included a night’s sleep. Actually about half a night, but that’s another story.

Yesterday was Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary. They allowed me to join them for dinner out last night. We went to Fish Market in Sunnyvale. Mom kept saying it had been several years since they had been there last. The dinner prices were a little higher than they’d gotten used to paying at Marie Callendar’s or Mimi’s. I tried to pick up the tab but they very firmly (both of them) told me no, I was their guest.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is a big day in the restaurant business and the place was jammed. Mom had made a reservation, though, and we got to a table pretty quickly. There were no booths and the table we got was right in the middle of the action: waiters and waitresses flying by with plates of food, and groups of patrons often with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. One couple had not only a large bouquet, but an even larger heart-shaped silver balloon. I don’t know what he did with it when he sat down. The cooks were only about 10 or 15 feet away so that added to the show.

It was noisy too. Dad doesn’t say much in the best of situations so he really didn’t say much at the restaurant. Mom sat next to him and leaned over every once in a while to say something to him which he responded to. Until the food came, he watched the hubbub very carefully. He applied himself to the food: salmon and potatoes au gratin, coleslaw, a glass of wine. Oh, and bread with butter before. He took a while but he ate everything.

For some perverse reason, I ordered California rolls from the sushi bar at the same time I ordered dinner. It was too much but I ate about half of them. Mom, after eyeing them distrustfully for most of the dinner, finally tried one, complete with ginger and horseradish. Honestly, they weren’t very good.

We got home in time to watch a Nova program about the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. It should have been interesting after having seen the Churchill movie but I fell asleep while it was droning on. When I woke up, there was a guy rhapsodizing about some project involving the islands in Dubai. Dad had had a nap in the afternoon so, despite his huge dinner, he was awake. Mom was out. I went to bed.

Zach quotes

I have a bunch of spiral notebooks. Some of them have writing in them. Some are waiting for writing to come to them. I’ll hazard a guess and say that none of them are particularly new. One or two are from my college days which are 45+ years ago. I picked out one the other day that I wasn’t sure about. It’s huge: 5 sections of perhaps 50 pages in each section. As I was putting it away tonight I saw some writing on the back cover. Really tiny writing, like Zach’s.

I think it’s a notebook from his Xavier days. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I took my glasses off and got really close and could read most of the words. Here is what I read:

  • I’m not the guy who creates w/new ideas every second. I’m the guy who pushes talented people to say their ideas out loud.
  • Great leaders are not necessarily great strategists.
  • Genius is simply patience carried to the extreme.
  • Men were changing behavior through petty[?]/programs, etc., more until 10 [?] inventory their specific values and identify their constraints, both real and imagined.

Zach wrote down quotes from other people all the time so the likelihood is that these are not original to him. Nevertheless, I felt that it was worth sharing.

Darkest Hour

Rose and I went to see the move Darkest Hour yesterday afternoon. I seem to remember Sarah telling me she had seen it a couple of weeks ago. I told her then of Herman Wouk’s paragraph about Winston Churchill in his book The Winds of War.

I have a few quibbles about the actual history the movie depicts, but of course the essential story is true and I enjoyed the retelling.

Here is Wouk’s paragraph:

Winston Churchill, today an idealized hero of history, was in his time variously considered a bombastic blunderer, an unstable politician, an intermittently inspired orator, a reckless self-dramatizer, a voluminous able writer in an old-fashioned vein, and a warmongering drunkard. Through most of his long life he cut an antic, brilliant, occasionally absurd figure in British affairs. He never won the trust of the people until 1940, when he was sixty-six years old, and before the war ended they dismissed him. But in his hour he grasped the nature of Hitler, and sensed the way to beat him: that is, by holding fast and pushing him to the assault of the whole world . . . He read his man and he read the strategic situation, and with the words of his mouth he inspired the British people to share his vision. . . . [He] acted toughly, wisely, and ungallantly; and he turned the course of the war to the course that ended five long years later, when Hitler killed himself and Nazi Germany fell apart. This deed put Winston Churchill in the company of the rare saviors of countries and perhaps of civilizations.


The cycles of emotion are strange. I know I’m more likely to get weepy when I’m tired but it still comes on me at times when I do not expect it.

Friday morning I came into Davies Hall to go to work. Past the guard station and down the hallway by the orchestra managers’ offices are the bulletin boards with the lists of who is playing what in the weeks to come. I almost always stop and look to see if Sarah’s name is on the lists. I knew she was playing this week.

Her name was on for the next two sets and as I walked alone down the backstage hallway I found I was tearing up. Why now? She’s been working pretty regularly so it’s not really a huge surprise. It just happened.

Sometimes when I’m talking with Jeremy and he tells me about how busy he is trying to establish himself in a new home and still be a good husband and father I get choked up. Not all the time, just sometimes. Strange are the cycles of emotion.

The SoundBox set last week included a group of short compositions that were pretty unstructured. For the dress rehearsal Friday, the last piece had the 20 or so orchestra members scattered around the SoundBox space. There were a few moments of silence and then they started to play slowly, each musician listening to the space around them and contributing their feelings in sound. For no reason I could identify, I began crying. Although I was sitting off to the side I wondered if people were looking at me. I didn’t move but I tried not to make a sound. I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh, Zach. Oh, my Z.’ over and over. I wanted to let the emotions flow but I was also a professional on the clock. The ethereal music went on for three or four minutes then morphed into a louder, more rhythmic pattern. By the time it ended, I was still teary but under control and I went back to work. No one said anything to me about it.

sea change

‘Sea change.’ That’s the phrase that kept coming to me last week. Now that I put it down in black and white, I find I’m thinking about what it really means. I’ve been in boats but I’m not a sailor. I live by the ocean and every time I drive by the beach I look at the waves and think about what it must be like out there. Some days it’s flat and some days it’s wild.

But to imply that the difference between flat and wild signifies something important is kind of a stretch. The ocean is changeable. End of story.

But to me, the phrase means an important change and I feel that an important change has happened in me over the last few weeks. Part of it was my trip to Louisiana. Even though I haven’t done anything yet to follow up on my data gathering, I’ve found myself more able to look forward in a positive way. It’s hard to explain.

SoundBox was a professional opportunity that came my way in 2014. It was a tremendous challenge and has been on the whole tremendously satisfying. I’ve always thought of my career as being in live theatre. A live performance – music, drama, dance – has for me a power like no other art form. And, although we as stagehands are rarely visible, it’s a communal effort that has great meaning to me.

My colleague and friend Denise has been working with me in SoundBox as my assistant for over two years now. She ran the floor, moved the microphones and speakers around, kept track of the myriad details of every show. She’s taken classes and studied and for last week’s production she was in the ‘hot seat’. My original intention was just to let her gain more experience by participating in the pre-production meetings along with actually running the show, which she had done before but as I started the week as her assistant, I found that I was happy in my role. Far from being jealous of her position, I found that I was relieved that someone was there who could handle everything.

Although I had imagined telling her this in a serious heart to heart talk, in the event, it happened on our way out Saturday night in a rather casual way. I told her that I wanted her to continue in the ‘hot seat’ for the April set and furthermore, I wanted her to think about finding someone else to train in the system so that I could step aside completely.

This is my ‘sea change.’ That I have a challenging and exciting job in theatre and I’m ready to walk away from it. The prospect of playing music more, of having more time to help Mom and Dad, of being able to visit new (and old) places is beckoning stronger and stronger. I know it’s called retirement and many people do these things but it always seemed unrealistic. Now it seems less so.