Category Archives: Life as we know it

timeliness

I’ve often wondered what would be the best frequency for posting here. It’s not a news site so daily is a bit much, although I toyed with the idea for a while. In my head, anyway. In fact, long time readers know that I rarely post two days in a row and I don’t think I’ve ever posted three days in a row.

Droughts are more common. I’ve often gone a week without making a post but most months have had at least a half dozen. I’m not going to go back and generate statistics. I’m making a point about the last two months. Well, since March 1st, about 7 weeks. Since then, I’ve only written five posts.

The March 1st post hints at the upheaval in my life that occurred that week. Since then, I have been re-evaluating everything and writing pithy commentary on my life just hasn’t been in the cards. Next week, I’ll be going up to Washington to visit Jeremy and his family. I’ll also be seeing Peter and Nanci in Spokane as well as my cousins Dan and Nettie. I don’t have any high expectations that I’ll be posting from up there but I have hopes of breaking the log jam and being able to post more often when I get back

quote

Our last SoundBox for the season opened last night. Someone said to me, ‘Last of the year.’ and of course I had to correct her. Unlike this time last year, we do have a SoundBox scheduled for next December. This is an improvement.

For myself, I’m not sure if I will continue working SoundBox. I enjoy it tremendously but the thrill I’ve had for 45 years working in live theatre is diminishing and I have begun thinking seriously about my next chapter.

Sarah had been scheduled to play for the movie in the main hall but someone dropped out of the SoundBox orchestra and she got moved over. It was her first time playing in SoundBox. The music was difficult and there are only a few players so everyone’s playing is exposed. She handled it with grace and aplomb. Perhaps she was churning inside but I didn’t see it.

Aside from the fact of her continuing to get hired by the Symphony, the best thing about seeing her with this orchestra is seeing her interact with her fellow musicians in a friendly and relaxed way. They like her!

Now for my quote. This was posted about a friend of a friend of a friend on FaceBook but it caught my eye just before I deleted it. Credited to Daisaku Ikeda:

In the Buddhist view, the bonds that link people are not a matter of this lifetime alone. And because those who have died in a sense live on within us, our happiness is naturally shared with those who have passed away. So, the most important thing is for those of us who are alive at this moment to live with hope and strive to become happy. By becoming happy ourselves, we can send invisible ‘waves’ of happiness to those who have passed away.

jigsaws no more

Well, never say never, I like to say, but the jigsaw puzzle setup I’ve had in my apartment for a couple of years now is gone. The table it had been sitting on belonged to my neighbor and former friend so I returned it.

I was working on a puzzle of a Van Gogh painting. It was really challenging and I enjoyed the time I spent working on it but I have no other place to put it. I also found that I was working on it less and less in the past few weeks so it may be that I’m moving into a more active mode than before (see my previous post). This is a good thing.

Maybe someday I’ll have a big house where I can dedicate a corner to keep a jigsaw puzzle going all the time. It doesn’t seem likely . . .

busy

I’ve been really busy lately. That’s partly why there haven’t been very many posts, but only partly. The negative reaction of the person I thought was my friend to a post I made has rocked me. Most of what she said in comments on this blog I did not allow to be published because they were raw personal attacks that did not leave room for discussion. Comments must be civil.

I thought about it, though. I take responsibility for my actions and don’t want to hide behind administrator privileges just to make me feel better. The post in question was only seen by three people that I know about (who reacted to it) before I removed it. Her reaction has been much stronger, I believe, because she has seen I have a new woman in my life.

I would like to talk about her but I am cautious after my experience writing about Rose. I will say her name is Sepi. I met her last fall and we’ve been spending a lot of time together for a couple of months now. My earlier post about charged words was inspired by our conversations. Are we ‘dating’? Are we ‘seeing’ each other? Do we ‘love’ each other or are we ‘in love’? Is she ‘mine’ or me ‘hers’? Words can be confusing, or misleading. Our conversations have been lengthy and are ongoing, I believe that is the best part of our relationship. Partly because of the upset around the blog post no subject is off limits. Early signs are encouraging that we have established a strong basis for a good relationship.

One of the most encouraging signs is being busy. Sepi has gotten me out doing new things, meeting new people. For years, my concept of busy was working a lot. Now I am able to do more things socially and it has been a revelation.

I am returning the favor the best I can. I took her to my jazz band concert and today she will be meeting Mom and Dad and other family members at Teresa’s birthday party. There is more to come on both sides.

Here’s a picture of me in my St. Patrick’s Day tie ready to head out for the jazz band concert:

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.

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.

emotions

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.

update

Lots to say, but little of it organized. I got my monthly email from The Compassionate Friends today. Their monthly meeting is tomorrow night. This week is SoundBox so it is not practical to fight rush hour traffic to go down to Santa Clara then come back to work the next morning. I went and looked back at what I’ve written about The Compassionate Friends before and I think it’s pretty good. While my need for grief support has lessened in the last year, I haven’t yet achieved the strength to attend with the rationale of supporting others.

I have a phone consultation this morning with a person from TIAA. Mom and Dad’s retirement funds are with TIAA and I’ve been trying to understand how they all work. With my own retirement looming, I’ve been more motivated to do this.

I spent some time last week looking over my own funds. My broker says they should be balanced in a certain way, different from how they’re balanced now. Should I make changes? Precisely how and when get very confusing very quickly. Is the stock market a bubble that will pop soon? Aiee!

Speaking of SoundBox and retirement, I’ve found myself thinking in the last couple of weeks about giving up SoundBox. I never thought I’d feel that way. Being involved in the SoundBox shows in the last 3+ years has been a thrilling experience. I’ve been stretched physically and intellectually in ways that are really good for a man in his 60s, but I find that my interest is turning to other things. My friend Denise has – at my request – taken on the lead position for this months’ show and has shown that SoundBox audio is in good hands.

Having said all that, I’m not walking away. Denise and I will talk later in the week about who will do what for the April set. Funding for SoundBox is rather precarious so no one knows if there will be shows again starting in December. (Remember that the space is in use by the Opera from May through November so there is only the five month window every year anyway.) Symphony management has a lot on their plate, not least of which is the upcoming retirement of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Planning for SoundBox is a bit further down the list.

Sarah’s quartet had a concert last Saturday night. The Symphony generously allowed me to borrow a few items from their sound inventory to support their performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains. I found myself worrying about technical things during the performance so I couldn’t relax into the music. The first half of the program, though, I found very moving, with narration about the composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s visit to Dresden after World War II.

The venue was The Hillside Club in Berkeley. I had been there before but hadn’t had the reason to work with the staff. Bruce and Araceli turned out to be very nice folks. I’m going to try to go back for some different concerts.

Tonight is jazz band. The confusion that bothered me last semester has been resolved and I’m having fun again. I’m still sharing bass duties with Steve M. who is good people. It’s a completely different head space compared to playing guitar. Guitar can be looser in big band so that’s a little more fun, but bass drives the bus and there’s nothing else like it. I have to concentrate more but that’s ok.

Next week Mom and Dad will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. Mom was talking the other day about doing something special but I haven’t heard any details. I’m planning to be down there.

NAMM

NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants. The other day when I said to Sarah that I had just gotten back from NAMM, she gave me a big cocked eyebrow. No, not Nam, NAMM.

Regrading Vietnam, I was lucky to get a high draft number in 1971. It was only the first or second year of the numbers and the troop levels were already being drawn down from their maximum. My friend Bruce had a low number – around 20 or 30, if I recall correctly. The options were to allow yourself to be drafted for two years, and likely go to Vietnam, or enlist for three years and have some control over where you were assigned. Both sounded like forever to my 18 year old self. Bruce enlisted and went to Germany and we lost touch with each other. I’ve been forever sorry for that.

I think the estimated highest number that was expected to be drafted that year was to be around 100 and my number was around 175 so I was clear. I had my CO papers ready though.

I first went to the NAMM show two years ago with my colleague Jack V. Neither of us are really the right type of person the show is designed for, but then neither are many other attendees. Originally intended for guitar, bass, keyboard and drum dealers, NAMM has morphed into a huge exhibition of all that plus all the accessories that are needed for today’s rock musicians: effects pedals, amplifiers, straps, picks, cables . . .

In addition to all that, the Audio Engineering Society has now piggy-backed onto NAMM and now there is a significant pro audio presence among the exhibitors. Jack and I were interested in that, of course, but we also wanted to see the guitars (Chris) and keyboards (Jack).

This year, Jack was supposed to go with me but he had some last minute work issues that could not be avoided so I went by myself. Luckily, our mutual friend Uwe W. was in Southern California to visit friends and was able to join me at the show.

Uwe and I had a grand time walking back and forth through the huge expo halls mostly just gawking at everything. Neither of us had any real interest in purchasing anything either for us or for our employers. Because I agreed to have my picture taken at one booth, I was given a T-shirt and later won a guitar cable. We saw a few people we knew, but only because we went to the booth of the company that employed them. Even getting the two of us together by texts and phone calls took almost a half hour.

It was a long day. I flew out of Oakland at 8:30 am which meant getting out of bed at 5:30 to make BART to go across the bay in time for security and all that. Going home, I left the show for the John Wayne Airport (JWA) at about 5:30 pm for a 9 pm flight. I had seen all I could and didn’t want to miss my flight due to transport issues. I ate dinner in the airport then had to wait another hour for my flight. BART and the drive home took until about 11:30 pm.

The show was interesting and fun but getting in and out of the convention center was very difficult. There were no shuttles from the airport to the show so everyone was trying to park their cars in the garage. There was no place for the taxis to drop people off. They had to wait in lines along the street with all the other cars to get close.

Maybe in two more years . . .