Category Archives: Life as we know it

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.

heat and smoke

I think it was about three weeks ago when I was awake in the early hours and witnessed a lightning storm unlike anything I have ever seen outside of the Midwest. At the time, I thought it was really cool: huge forked lightning bolts I could see stretching from the clouds to the ground, bright flashes and huge booms of thunder. the only thing missing was the torrential rain.

There was rain, but only a little, and I should have known that the lightning would be a big problem for the forests in the state. Within a couple of days, news reports started coming in about fires around the Bay Area: one in Napa, one in Santa Cruz County and another in south Santa Clara Valley. They were all given names related to the lightning, and called ‘complexes’ because they were many smaller fires all started by the lightning.

Soon, it was 2018 all over again. San Francisco was covered in a thick cloud of smoke. Any outside projects that I had been considering went on the shelf. Going outside required an N95 mask and it still burned my eyes. I only went out briefly.

Last week it got a little better and I did some work trimming the tree in the front of the house. The summer pattern had resumed with cool ocean breezes and it wasn’t as smoky.

But over Labor Day weekend it got hot. Really hot. Saturday, Sunday and Monday we kept the shades and windows closed and wore as little clothing as we could. We couldn’t cool the house down at night so it stayed in the 80’s for three days. Outside . . .  take a look:

Besides being hot, the smoke had returned.

This is hard to see, but there is a gray cloud over downtown SF and Oakland. There was no wind.

Then later on Monday the sea breeze finally showed up. The smoke got pushed further into the East Bay and the temperatures fell by 20 degrees.

But something odd was happening. We awoke yesterday to what seemed to be a typical marine layer except the sun seen through the murk was red. As the day went on, the clouds never went away. In the afternoon I noticed that there was fog coming in over the Daly City hills but the sky above the fog was not gray so much as yellow. The temperatures were cool and the air did not smell smoky but something wasn’t right. It turns out that there is another fire started by lightning, in Mendocino, that is sending smoke to the Bay Area but the smoke is above the inversion layer.

Then, this morning, we are in some kind of science fiction movie.I took some pictures but they don’t convey how creepy it is. Everything outside is suffused in a dark red glow. Eating my breakfast at 8 o’clock, I had to turn the dining room lights on to see what I was doing.

I went outside briefly and rinsed the soot off of the cars. It’s on everything but for now I only did the cars. No outside projects today . . .

numbers

Just stuff in my head this morning:

66 years old.

94 days of shelter in place if I don’t count the one day I worked, now 17 days ago.

188 lbs.

Jane arranged a Zoom call for the family yesterday and put together a trivia game. My favorite was, how many descendants do Bernard and Nancy Wood have? 24!

20. Dollars I paid for an on-line guitar lesson. What do you call it when it’s not a one on one lesson but it’s not a class either? Kind of an automated class with videos. But I’m annoyed at some of the terminology so I haven’t finished it.

One. Banana with my one (so far) cup of tea this morning. It would be great if I could make this my breakfast, but I will almost certainly go up and have a bowl of cereal as soon as I’m done with this post. I’ve been trying to keep it smaller (the bowl of cereal not the post).

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!

Tschotskes

‘A small bauble or miscellaneous item‘ says Wikipedia. Websters has ‘knickknack, trinket’. The word always had a connotation to me of ‘worthless except to one person’.

I did some cleaning in the garage the other day and unearthed a box filled with stuff that I had had on display on my apartment. There really isn’t a place for it here but I brought the box up to look through carefully. It’s mostly pictures in frames, which I am loath to get rid of. Sepi has lots of paintings, many of which are still in the garage, but paintings and guitars, not family pictures, are our principal wall adornments.

The other things in the box I would definitely call tschotsckes. A little clay wind chime that wouldn’t survive being put out of doors here. Little souvenirs from Germany, Zanesville, Paraguay and other places: plates, ashtrays, trivets.

And some things that remind me of Zach: a button with the picture from his first year in Little League. A ceramic hand print labelled December 1991 when he would have just turned 3. A ‘Panik 12′ button, referring to the Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik, that was on his backpack. A ceramic ‘Z’ that Rosalie made a couple of years ago.

And something I picked up on the side of the street across from his house less than 36 hours after his death:

It’s the lens from his sunglasses that he was wearing that day.

It caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. I suppose I would see it occasionally on the table as I went in and out of my apartment. Realistically, I should just toss it. I’ve got all the pictures. I even went back and watched the video I made that day walking along the street with the cars zipping by only about ten feet from me at 40 or 50 miles an hour. In the video, I see the lens in the grass alongside the road and bend down to pick it up. I was not sure it was his, but it all hangs together and I choose to think that it was his.

The ‘Z’ is now up on my dresser where I will see it every day along with Hobbes. I will offer the hand print to other members of the family. The buttons . . .  I’ll guess I’ll ask if anyone else wants them. I don’t expect anyone will. Jeremy might want the Panik button.

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.

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.

day 36. ‘Thank you for your service.’

I’ve written about this idea before. The idea that only our military is performing a service that is worthy of special thanks has always rankled me. Now, in the time of COVID-19, we are discovering that there are others who serve that are equally, if not more, important.

Someone commented on FaceBook, right after the restrictions went into place and the stock market lost 20% of its value, ‘Maybe it’s the workers who are providing value after all!’

Grocery workers, delivery people including those who bring food to the grocery stores, and of course medical people are being appreciated more now than ever before. Does that mean they’re being paid better? In some cases, yes, but in others, no.

Amazon, owned by the richest man on the planet – and by the way getting richer by the minute – has fired workers who have tried to get better working conditions.

In my business, there is a growing realization that large gatherings such as Davies Hall concerts and big conventions may be months away, not weeks. The one thing that I always thought was most basic, the need for humans to gather in groups, has been blown up. I’m starting to see come comments that indicate awareness of the psychological shoals we are swimming in. There was a story today in the news about how liquor and pot stores are doing very well. Online gambling is surging.

Some are expressing hope that some kind of new order will emerge from all this. Will we humans learn to respect the earth and strive less? Honestly, I am skeptical.

But hopeful.

Day 36. The existing shelter in place order here in the Bay Are ends on May 3rd. That would be day 50.

But if the venue can’t reopen, I don’t have a job to go back to.

As I said early on, I have a roof over my head, the electricity, water and Internet are working, Sepi has a lot of food in the freezers here. I am thankful for all of that and more. No one in my family has gotten sick. If the worst we have to cope with is being stir crazy sometimes, I’ll take it.

I’m hopeful.

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.