Category Archives: Life as we know it

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.

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.

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.

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!

‘Christopher’

A year ago when Sepi and I were new to each other, she told me she already had a friend named Chris so I couldn’t be Chris to her. This other Chris was a woman so she was actually Christine, but no one called her by that name.

After a little discussion, it was determined that Christopher was a good name and I would have to be referred to that way. It was a little weird because I have always gone by Chris as well.

Sepi stuck to it. She calls me Christopher all the time, not just when we’re around Chris or talking about her. She does it in a loving way which is nice. I suspect most people who have nicknames think, as I did, that the only time they hear their original names is when they were younger and their mother was mad at them.

Now I’ve noticed recently that I have been introducing myself to people as Christopher not Chris. I like the sound of it! It’s a bit clunky for all the time use, though. Actually, I like that Sepi is still about the only one to use it regularly. Even the other Chris calls me Chris most of the time. We get a chuckle out of it. If someone were to call ‘Christopher’ across a room I was in, my first reaction would be to expect my mother to be that person and that I had done something wrong.

I guess I’ve been good lately, because Mom’s been calling me Chris.

Claudia

Claudia works as an usher at Davies. She is from Italy so her name is pronounced cla-OO-dee-a.

I try to get to know the ushers a little bit. We work together in the front of the house. When there are problems, it helps for us to know one another.

Claudia has always been friendly enough although somewhat reserved. She’s there to do a job not prattle.

Last week, however, I saw her and she had a stony expression on her face. The phrase ‘thousand yard stare’ came to my mind. I don’t know her well enough to have asked directly if something was wrong so I went to the head usher.

He told me Claudia’s son had just died. OMFG. He was in his thirties, living in Italy and had a heart attack.

The house wasn’t open yet, so I was able to go to Claudia and talk to her for a minute or two. In my clumsy attempt to console her, I said that I had lost my son three years ago. She said she knew about Zach. She told me she had brought her son’s ashes back to the US with her. We swapped a couple of stories about spreading ashes.

I felt better for having gone to her. We are work colleagues but humans too.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Norm

I met a lot of new people last spring as Sepi and I were beginning our life together. One of them was Norm. Norm was married to a woman who had been City Manager when Sepi was Mayor.

Norm’s posture was quite stooped over in a way that reminded me of Dad so I started to talk to him about it. Unlike Dad’s, his condition had come up rather suddenly the previous fall. As recently as a year previous, he had been in robust health and was quite active.

I don’t remember if he knew at the time what it was. More likely he just didn’t tell me that it was ALS.

Norm died last week.

I only saw Norm one other time. It was at a birthday party a few weeks later. In that short time he had deteriorated markedly. He was having great difficulty holding his head up and speaking. In that first conversation, though, we bonded in a mysterious way. When Sepi shared the news of Norm’s death with me, I got choked up in a way that I didn’t with Dad.

Sepi talked to Robin yesterday. She said Robin told her how Norm had read my blog regularly and how much he had enjoyed it.

Thank you, Norm! Your friendship was brief but brilliant. Rest in Peace.