Category Archives: Family

just smoke

The day after my ‘heat and smoke’ post, the weather turned cooler but the smoke descended down to the ground and stayed there. Today is now the 5th day of AQIs in the high 100s.

I’ve become an expert in calling up the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website and checking the AQI map and data. Just now I see that we’re right around 200.

I went in to work on Friday but other than that, I’ve stayed in the house except for brief – really brief – forays outside to water the plants. I wear the N95 mask for that.

I’m beginning to feel like the inside of the house is starting to smell. Last night around dinner time, I noticed that the breeze was blowing for the first time in days. I thought that we’d have improvement by morning.

Nope.

Meanwhile, Ashley’s sister and her family have had to evacuate their home near Portland and are staying with Ashley in Washington. Their air is about the same AQI as ours but the forest around them isn’t on fire.

The TV weather people are making noises that there will be improvement by Wednesday but others are saying it will be weeks before it is better. When I go outside, the mask helps my nose and throat but it’s my eyes that are stinging when I come in.

Just like with the startup to the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m having to come to terms with the fact that I’m in a vulnerable group now.

family

This is really Sepi’s story but she doesn’t have a blog and I think it’s really cool so I’m going to tell it. The best part, anyway.

Sepi came to the US in her early 20s. Growing up in Tehran, she had always wanted to be here and she did it despite the fears of the family for her safety. They helped her out but, especially after the revolution, communication became very difficult. After Sepi got elected to the City Council it was even dangerous. She only went back twice in over 30 years. Two of her brothers live in Southern California and she kept in touch with them but not the other siblings in Iran.

She knew one sister had emigrated a couple of years ago to Canada. Toronto, she thought. Her niece went too, but to another city, maybe Quebec. She wasn’t sure. And there were some other cousins in Sweden.

Another sister and another brother were still in Tehran. Eleven and a half time zones away.

Last year, we heard about a messaging app called Telegram. It was supposed to be super secure and used by many people in Iran because of that. We signed on and had some nice text conversations with her brother and sister and their kids. But one cousin was always posting links to pop songs and long diatribes in Farsi so we opted out.

Then, one day in April, Sepi’s phone rang. Somewhere along the line she had installed another messaging app called WhatsApp and her sister in Canada was calling her using it.

It was a video call! And her other sister in Tehran was on it too! I happened to be right beside her when this all happened. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying but I could hear the joy in their voices and I could see the tears in their eyes. They chattered back and forth for quite a while, at least 15 minutes, before regretfully signing off.

The best part is that Farideh kept calling. Sometimes the brother in Tehran was on, sometimes the brothers in Southern California came on. There were (at different times) nieces and nephews and cousins on these wonderful cacophonous conversations across thousands of miles. They all got a good look at me and decided I was OK.

Sepi calls me Christopher most of the time and that seemed to be a name that confused the Farsi speakers so I got to choose a Persian name. Someone suggested Cyrus so I thought of Persian kings and decided I liked Darius better. I especially like the Persian pronunciation, Dar-YOOSH.

Now we have long conversations several times a week. We’ve clarified a lot of family ancestor information. We’ve gone for a virtual walk around Farideh’s neighborhood in Montreal (not Toronto). We got to talk to a cousin yesterday who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. That was sad, but talking to Sepi made her happy. Some of these people hadn’t seen her since she was a teenager.

I listen carefully and am becoming able to pick out a few words here and there. Sepi sometimes translates as we go. Otherwise she fills me in after the call is over.

The calls make me happy every time!

two deaths

Whenever there are two deaths, I always seem to hear people say these things happen in threes, who will be next. I don’t buy that. Things happen. Period. Humans being the supreme rationalizers that they (we) are, look for patterns in everything. Most of the time we find them. Are they really there? No comment.

The brother of a friend was found dead a couple of days ago. My friend asked that I not tell anyone just yet so I am camouflaging his identity. I’m also pretty sure that no one who might know them reads this blog. Anyway, the death was not related to Covid-19, as far as I know. I think alcohol was the main culprit but I may be rationalizing.

Both deaths were men in their 70s. I could argue that they both had lived decent lives and thus neither death is a tragedy. When my friend called me with the news he was pretty upset. I told him that even when we can see something coming, it can still be a shock when it actually happens.

Bud Oakley had had some serious health problems over the past few years. I hadn’t been as close to him as I had been in the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s when Sarah and Zach were most active in Villa Sinfonia, the violin studio he ran with his wife, Lynn. Over the years, there were rehearsals and concerts and trips to Europe. For a while I created the concert programs for them. I never went on any of the tours but I did go to the summer workshop at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe several times.

View from conference center

Other times Bud and Lynn let us stay in their house in South Lake Tahoe for weekend getaways. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones they were so generous to.

It is a cliché that an organization is like a family. I heard a lot of this rhetoric from Symphony leadership this past three months. I was not convinced. Bud and Lynn’s organization was like a family. They did a lot of smart things from a business perspective but it was all grounded in a love for music and teaching. I always felt that the growth of the studio was due not to some hard nosed business plan but from the organic needs of the people they served.

Bud was a demanding leader but he gave of himself without reserve.

This picture is from a Christmas concert at Ghirardelli Square in 1995. It was a regular thing for a few years. Bud was surely thinking about the music that they were about to play but there were probably kids not yet there he was thinking about. A good man. He will be missed.

styptic pencil

Mom had given me Dad’s overnight kit several months ago. At the time, I was getting ready for my Europe trip and thought I might use it instead of the one I had already. It languished in a corner until the other day, when I finally took it out and looked through it.

Pretty much everything in there was unusable but it did give me a glimpse into Dad’s way of thinking. There were 35 mm film canisters with various pills (all OTC, cough drops and pain relievers, no prescriptions). A couple of razors, one electric shaver and one safety blade type. No shaving cream and no Old Spice. Band Aids. A little sewing kit. A shoehorn. And a styptic pencil.

I knew  what it was as soon as I saw it but I couldn’t believe that he still had one. More amazingly, I think it was the same one that he used with me when I was learning to shave! There were a lot of cuts in those early days.

Alum Sulphate, it says. Since, after 50 years, I thought I might have mis-remembered it, I did an Internet search and found that not only did I remember it right, they are still available! Wow! I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to actually use it, but I’ll keep it around for a while and see.

Dear old Dad!

oral traditions

Thinking about oral traditions in my last post, I remembered a thing that Mom used to do with her parents. They used to send cassette tapes back and forth to each other. Mom gave me a pile of them and I went through and converted them to digital files. They were cheap tapes to start with and a couple just fell apart when I played them back. Still, I got several hours’ worth of Grandma and Grandpa Mattingly talking to their daughter about the goings on in Zanesville from 1973 to 1980.

Memories . . .

Grandma was a great letter writer. I remember seeing her neatly typed letters many times as I grew up. Grandpa sometime appended a short handwritten note. I think Mom has many of those still. I seem to recall her telling me she went through them at one point and transcribed them somehow. Did she re-type them on the word processor? Or scan them? I’ll have to ask. Real documents are priceless but fragile. Digital documents are fragile in a different way. We do the best we can.

the last time I saw Zach

I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning thinking about the last time I saw Zach. It wasn’t really Zach at that point. It was just his body.

We were at the funeral home on the Tuesday afternoon of that week in Baton Rouge. For some reason, I don’t remember Sarah but I remember Jeremy being there. Zach was lying up at the front of the little chapel and there was a railing with a kneeler in front of it. I didn’t kneel, but I touched Zach’s lower leg and I remember thinking that it felt like him: solid and muscular. I don’t know anything about rigor mortis and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it then. Maybe it was just rigor mortis.

Of course, I looked at his face and I thought it was odd that they had put a bunch of pancake makeup on him. It was much later that I saw the police photos of the accident scene and I realized how horrific the injury to his head had been.

I didn’t feel any need to pray over his body or ‘say goodbye’ or anything like that. I wanted to touch him to convince myself it was all real. Emily was towards the back of the chapel with her mother and sisters. We would have been meeting in California in about a month’s time but I went back there and introduced myself and we all talked quietly.

At one point, I remember looking up to the front and saw Jeremy kneeling there and I thought maybe I should go and do that too. But I didn’t want to interrupt him and later people starting moving to leave. I don’t remember where we were going. We certainly weren’t rushed by the funeral home but a consensus seemed to develop that we were done.

The next day we went back and got the ashes.

I had them at my apartment for a long time. I believe I wrote about that. It wasn’t Zach – neither was the body – but it was the closest I had. Now ‘he’ is here:

In the end it’s all memories, which is why I write here. Our oral tradition is pretty much gone unless you count videos. There’s a chance these memories will survive for Rosalie and Noah and maybe their children to read and know a little bit about their ancestors. I know I would have eagerly read stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents. Eventually, their world recedes but their personalities would have shone through, I believe.

 

memories

Day 54 yesterday. Sepi and I went to Santa Clara yesterday. We saw Mom for the first time since early March. No touching, but we sat in the patio and chatted for a while. I brought some salt for the water softener.

After we got home I was spinning through FaceBook and saw that it was Noah’s birthday . . .

11 years old and he’s still the spitting image of Zach, at least to my eyes.

And once again, I am so pleased that he has a stable home environment to grow up in. Ally and Dave are terrific parents.

Well, the whole thing prompted some pillow talk with Sepi. She didn’t remember the story of how we found out about Noah and how Ally and Dave brought him up to Michigan to meet the family. What a tremendous thing that was! I believe I’ve documented here how difficult it was for me to accept him for what he was.

I still love Dave’s simple comment: ‘I’m the Dad.’

So this morning the power went out and I couldn’t work on the big computer as I had been planning so I picked up the iPad. This is the one that had belonged to Zach and still has some foibles related to his ownership. It still has access to his Google Drive even though I do not have the password.

It isn’t his regular Google Drive account. I got all the stuff off of that early on. This one – I think – was for his research into gender roles in intramural sports. It has videos of some IM flag football games. When I looked at them this morning I thought, these have no value to anyone any more. I deleted a couple, then noticed the date: November 10. Aiee!

Now I’m not sure – still, after all this time! – that I should be deleting anything. Then, when I went to crop the photo, I noticed that the dates were 2014. You probably can’t tell on this tiny photo but they’re all October and November 2014. Oh well. I haven’t heard from his thesis advisor since about six months after Zach’s death. He was going through some pretty serious changes then. I’m going to go ahead and delete them.

It’s even possible that I already sent this stuff to Alex and I don’t even remember doing it.

The only other thing of interest is Zach’s account name. He actually made two of them, both named Tom Brady with emails of woodrowreasearch and woodrowreasearch1@gmail.com. I haven’t tried to get into those accounts. I spent a lot of time in the first year going through Zach’s real emails and cleaning up things there. Whatever is in that inbox is way out of date. If someone else knows how to get into it and finds something of value, please let me know.

Or not.

Day 55.

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.

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.

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!