Category Archives: Work

more about the new job

It’s really a drag that this is more on my mind than my visit with Jeremy’s family today. The Symphony hired me for the job of Stage Manager over an individual who was doing the job on an interim basis. He has been cooperative with me but another crew member seems to be quite resentful – he thinks the Symphony should have promoted from within – and has been less cooperative.

They are all off on their vacations now and meanwhile I am going to work every day, learning the computer systems, trying to plan for the Gala opening in a month and doing necessary maintenance. This is all important stuff, but now I am having to have meetings with management and HR about how to respond to this intransigence.

More importantly for me, I am losing sleep thinking about all this stupid stuff. This person doesn’t seem to understand or care that the Symphony is not going to change their minds and hire the other guy instead. The only thing he can hope for is that I will decide that I don’t need the headache and bail out. Indeed, I’ve talked to some other people who were asked to apply and did not because of this very reason. I was aware of the issues going in and I’m not going to bail but there is a cost and that makes me resentful. As a leader, I have to put that aside which I can do while at work. At night, the demons come, though.

Today and tomorrow, I am not working, but driving up to Grass Valley where Jeremy will be coming with his family to Tom’s house. Yay for a Rosalie day!

new job

Sepi posted this on Facebook. Now I’m getting around to posting here. I have a new job.

It’s a strange thing for a stagehand to say, because we typically have new jobs all the time. When I was working a lot out of the hiring hall, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 25 W-2s at the end of the year. 25 different employers, some for jobs that only lasted one day.

In the last few years that number has gone down. I have recently been working primarily in one location, Davies Symphony Hall, but, depending on the circumstance, only three employers. Now it will be one only: the San Francisco Symphony.

The Symphony has chosen me to be their Stage Manager. My primary responsibility is to see that the stage is set up properly for the orchestra and to get them on and off stage for performances. In the transition from three to one, I worked 9 straight days ending Saturday. Starting today, I have 4 weeks of relative calm before the next season starts. The orchestra and the crew who have been working all season are off on vacation. As a new hire, I don’t have vacation yet . . .

Now I’m off to work!

interviews

I did an interview today. It was weird. Up until a couple of months ago, I thought I was on the glide path to retirement, putting in time at Davies Hall as the relief house electrician. Decent pay, not too much responsibility, what’s not to like?

Then the news came that the Stage Manager for the Symphony resigned unexpectedly.

And a strange thing happened to me. I found that I was interested in that job. It was more hours and much more responsibility but the pay was higher than I had been getting and it had 6 weeks of paid vacation. And it would be working on stage with the orchestra, which I had really missed the past three years.

So, I dusted off my resume and sent it in and today was my first interview.

It was with people I have worked with a lot over the past 7+ years so there wasn’t much new to me. I got to talk some about my career trajectory with an emphasis on my supervisory experience. They asked me to tell them something about myself that they didn’t already know and it turned out that they hadn’t heard the story of Noah. You can read it here. It brought some tears to my eyes which probably isn’t too common in job interviews.  Noah is 10 now. Wow.

Arno

Arno is retiring. He and I have shared the bulk of the relief work for the Davies Hall house Stage Electrician (JJ) for the last couple of years. He is not even 65 yet, although he will be next month.

I hate him.

Not really. I envy him, though. He’s planned it carefully and now he is executing his plan. He is an inspiration.

We are working together on the SF Gay Men’s Chorus show tonight and we will likely be working together one or two days next weekend but that will be it. I gave him a card and wrote that I hope the next time I see him after that will be at our home instead of back at the Hall. He’s a great guy and has been an asset to the operation.

When I started in the house electric job at Davies, I felt a lot of confidence. I had 40+ years experience in the business and had been a house man in other venues before. Davies turned out to be much more complicated than I had expected and the first few months I had trouble remembering all of the many details. JJ gave good directions but Arno was usually the one out there with me in the field trying to get the job done. He was unfailingly patient and understanding with me. He had been there for a couple years at that point.

For the last year or so, we’ve become the old salts that are showing the newer people where things are, etc. Only last Tuesday I was leading a crew to clean the canopy dishes and I had to gather all the equipment. I found myself wishing Arno was there too so I could check my plans with him.

It’s a feeling that I will have again, I’m sure.

Thanks for the mentoring, Arno. Enjoy your retirement!

24

My mother was about two weeks short of her 24th birthday on the day I was born. My father was about a month from his 25th. Whenever I’ve compared my age to theirs, it’s always been 24 years that I’ve used.

Now Dad is dead. The age comparison, facile as it is, surfaces again. What will my next 24 years be like? I made a bucket list once but I don’t remember where it got to. Should I do another one?

Mom is in relatively good heath. It seems likely that she will survive beyond the next year. What then for my facile comparisons?

I have the daytime off today but must go to work in a couple of hours. I had some ideas this morning of what I could do today but almost none of them have gotten done. I see parallels.

Sepi and I have been talking about taking a trip to Colorado to see Abe and May. I only met them at the wedding and thought they were very nice people. I would like to get to know them better.

It’s possible Mom may come with us and we would all go up to Denver to inter Dad’s ashes there. Sepi and I want to go visit Jeremy and Ashley at their new house. That might be a separate trip or it could be a big circle. The big circle implies two weeks on the road. Do any other sibs want to be in Denver for the interment? When can they get away? Does Mom want to go with us to Washington? Do Jeremy and Ashley want to have such a mob?

All last fall, Sepi and I talked about a honeymoon to Europe in the spring. That would be a minimum two weeks but a month would be better. When can we actually do that? Can we really afford it?

At a certain point, this is all rationalization. Seize the day!

Yes, but in reality we aren’t going anywhere for at least a couple of months. Work tonight, then a couple of days off. Band Monday, dentist Tuesday. The drumbeat of life goes on.

Work this week has been preparing for SoundBox. We opened last night. It was a fairly easy show for sound so I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing there. There are some reasons to give it up but there probably wouldn’t be backsies if I did. It can be freaking awesome. Denise floated an idea the other day that would change my role yet still keep me involved. I’m not sure if, a) I want to do it, b) the symphony would go along, or c) it would work even if the first two conditions were met.

Things to think about.

work

I turned down work Sunday night. The circumstances were a little different from usual so I feel a need for some explanation. After Zach was killed, I really pulled my head in as far as the type of work I was doing. Prior to that, I was doing a lot of sound jobs. They were mostly at the Symphony but also around town in hotels. I enjoyed the challenges.

When I came back from Baton Rouge, I had a Soundbox right away but I also did a substitute day for one of the holiday pops shows in the main room at Davies.

I made it through Soundbox without any major problems but during the other job I made some mistakes that would have been uncharacteristic before. My response to this was to reduce the number of jobs I did on sound and concentrate on the substitute house electric job instead. The house electric job required much less initiative and was much more clearly defined.

About a year into this I realized that the spark that I had had for many years in the theater was gone. The desire for knowledge and to provide the best for my employers just wasn’t there any more. This is not to say that I suddenly was doing bad work. Except for the change in emphasis, no one really noticed.

But I did. And all the talk about retirement meant more to me than finding a better way to prepare for a graduation, for example.

So, while I kept in touch with the sound part of my business, I started letting all of that go. I stopped doing jobs on Hal’s crew (although I still work with him as house electrician). I gave up the Soundbox head job to Denise. I settled in to being JJ’s loyal lieutenant, working generally two or three days a week.

Now, the other part of all this is how I get my jobs. Back in, say, 2014 or 2015, I worked a lot at Davies Hall and I would essentially be hired directly by Jim or Rob or Hal. The Union office would sometimes be made aware of those hirings but they played no role in getting me those jobs. When I had holes in my schedule I would make myself available to the Local 16 office and they would often call me with work.

After Zach was killed, that all ended. Once in a while I would get a call, but I was usually already busy so I was able to avoid going to other places. Davies Hall was safe and a known quantity for me. Sometimes I felt bad about doing this because I wanted to support the Local by filling the jobs they needed to fill. But I remembered the mistakes I had made before due to lack of concentration and I didn’t want to jeopardize any more jobs that way. And the spark was gone.

So when the office called me Sunday night for a job today, I said I couldn’t do it. I had already committed to going down to Santa Clara to see Mom and Dad. In years past, I would have changed that. The other issue was operating a big digital sound mixer. I’m out of practice and I said so. If I had the spark, I would have pulled it off. Now, I just don’t want to.

The Local stood by me when I came back to San Francisco and I will be eternally grateful for that. But I have to be cognizant of my own health. I can’t do every job.

Hal

I’m never quite sure how to handle writing about other people in these days of identity stealing. I’m following my general rule of no last names. Hal is a colleague of mine and a friend. He’s been the primary SF Symphony sound man since Davies Hall opened in 1980. I had worked on his crew for Symphony Pops at the Civic Auditorium in the late ’80s as well as some other jobs around town. When I came back to San Francisco ten years ago and got sent to a call at Davies, it was good to see him again.

In 2012, my involvement with the Symphony grew and I found myself working with Hal much more. Our birthdays are only about a week apart and our professional paths have some similarities. Neither of us had family or neighborhood contacts to help us get started in the business. We were driven by an intense interest in sound reinforcement and became successful by determination and hard work.

Our experiences coming of age in the ’60s was another commonality. The San Francisco music scene then was world class. We’ve had a lot of fun in the last few years talking about arcana from those days. He grew up in the City and I was on the Peninsula so he had more opportunity to see the various venues but I knew the names of who was in the bands, what instruments they played, and on what albums.

My first day back at work after Zach died was helping to put in the PA at Davies for Hal. (That was before we got the permanent one we have now.) When I asked to leave early he defended me to others who did not understand my grief as well. Over the next few months he showed me constant compassion and understanding for my grief.

After Sepi agreed to marry me, I started to think about the wedding and realized I needed a best man. Hal was an easy choice and he did not hesitate to say yes.

Last week I talked to him about some details of the wedding day and he told me he would take care of them because that was part of the deal. My nature is not to ask for help but, as he did before, he stepped up because he knew it was the right thing to do.

As of a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy was able to get his work to release him so he will be standing with me as well but Hal is still the best man. Sarah will be up there too. I am proud to be supported by such fine people.

the Symphony

I work at Davies Symphony Hall and ‘hear’ the San Francisco Symphony a lot. I put ‘hear’ in quotes because I usually ‘hear’ them from inside the lighting booth through one microphone hanging above the stage and some inexpensive speakers.

Today I went into the hall for some minor maintenance reason while the rehearsal was going on. OMG, what a sound!

I’ll tell you, live music on real instruments. There’s nothing like it!

BTW, MTT was conducting Mahler in what’s called the antiphonal setup. That is when the first and second violins are on opposite sides of the stage. No surround sound system can duplicate this!

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.

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.