Category Archives: Zach Stories

Noah at Devil’s Slide

Zach would ‘pose’ for photos in scenic locations usually by assuming a mock amazed look often with his arms stretched out. The picture on the front page of this blog is a perfect example. In this one he doesn’t have his arms stretched out but it is one of my favorites from his last visit to California in 2014.

I wanted to take Noah’s family to Devil’s Slide not because I wanted to stage a similar photo but just because it’s an awesome place. Actually, although I had my camera, I wasn’t even thinking about it.

Then I saw Noah standing in the exact same place. OMG! I had to scramble to get my camera out. Noah doesn’t stay in any one place for very long. He wasn’t looking out to sea, but reading the sign there. About five seconds after I snapped this, he bolted to something else.

Zach’s room

This image came up in my screensaver rotation a moment ago. It is what Zach’s room looked like when we got there the day after he died. I had just a few minutes ago cleaned the same dresser top where I now keep some of Zach’s things in my bedroom. I have the dresser now but nothing else in this photo. I’m actually amazed that I can look at it – and I did look at it carefully – without bursting into tears. For a long time I couldn’t leave my apartment without thinking about what people would think about me and my living space if I never came back. Sometimes I would tidy things up just a little extra.

If it weren’t for Zach’s death, no one would have taken pictures like this. I don’t have any pictures of my apartment like this.

Zach’s journal for today

I decided I would do an entry today from Zach’s journal. The first thing I noticed when I went to open the PDF file was that there was a work journal that covered spring 2012. These have not been catalogued as carefully by me as the personal journals so I took a look.

41 pages, covering from January to May 2012! Digging further, I find that on this date in 2012, Zach wrote 2,957 words in his work journal. Wow! It is all job related and not of much interest to me right now so I moved on to the personal journal.

His February 21 entry starts like this:

2/21, blasphemy
It is in inexcusable that I have been away from this for 17 days.  I am filling my weekends with nothing-ness and I’m really ticked at myself for it.  Today is Fat Tuesday and continuing in the perplexing logic that is the state of Louisiana, I have the day off from work.  This all ties together quite nicely, actually, as we will see in the following…
First, though: Mardi Gras.  The background of Mardi Gras, as far as I can tell, is for the Catholics to get all of their sinning out before Lent (Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday).  I couldn’t find any other reason for why Mardi Gras exists.  Are we serious?  We spend weeks and weeks and tons of resources on a “holiday” that is predicated on debauchery so the dirty human can then spend 40 days sans some trivial comfort, and then feel good about themselves and think they are closer to a deity.  Wow.  And I wonder how many of the idiots getting wasted on Bourbon Street today know the background of this whole “holiday.”
So with that out of the way…the LSU students had yesterday, today, and half of tomorrow off school (nevermind the fact that they also get a week off in April for basically a second Spring Break).  So most everything in these parts is pretty shut down, with professionals taking a few days off, students going home, etc.  Which explains why I’m sitting on my bed at 930AM on a Tuesday morning drinking tea (which is flipping awesome).

He then goes on to say how he’s been busy with work. ‘ . . . but not so busy that I couldn’t take time to write in here . . .’ Then he talks about progress he’s made in preparing to finish his Masters and he meanders around a bit about doing things for Mardi Gras with his friends.

Then this:

And coming back, is the insincere asshole moment.  I do like Lauren and I want to be there for her and we do get along great and playing basketball is awesome with her.  I want to be a strong figure in her life; I embrace that.  I just don’t know if I want to be a boyfriend, because I’m not very good at being a boyfriend and still conquering the other aspects of my life.  And, unfortunately for her, my life is more important.  My work is more important.  My ambition, right now, is more important.  I don’t know how to have that conversation with her, nor do I think she would understand, nor do I think we can come to a happy medium.  I’m slightly haunted by what I wrote last September or October…something along the lines of : “I want Lauren to love me but I don’t want the responsibility of loving her back.”  Well, I guess that isn’t exactly true; I want that responsibility, just not as a boyfriend.  I don’t think…

He’s pissed at himself for spending so much time with Lauren to the exclusion of other friends that he values just as much. then he talks about watching too much ‘crap shit awfulness’ TV, especially The Big Bang Theory which he thinks is better. He identifies with Sheldon, ‘a physicist genius with no people skills and a gigantic ego,’ who is happier spending his time alone.

But one last thing, which again was manifest yesterday…I embraced being alone and away from people, which is all well and good, but only to a point.  I always remember Rabbi Kamrass telling me to nurture the soul and to not try to take everything alone, and I firmly believe that we as humans are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with…and to that end, yesterday really made me miss Troy and Josh and my life in Corvallis…for its simplicity and for the support system that was that group.  I don’t want to become a complete outcast and only spend isolated time with Lauren…

So, 2,500 words later, what else has happened in the last 17 days?  Not much.  I mentioned playing bball.  I haven’t read a lick (ugh that pisses me off).  Haven’t watched any noteworthy movies ( I did see The Debt, which was good but not amazing).  Haha, after all this writing about seclusion, we did have a Geaux Lead reunion Friday night which was awesome; we talked about a lot of things that interest me and I feel like I learned and became a better person.  But in other news…haven’t done much–wrote some notes to Annie and Patsy, trying to stay connected to Josh Molly and Troy, had a phone convo with Dave (which was difficult but still good).  Haven’t really made any inroads in my other endeavors, including the car insurance question, the savings bond work, and going to the Mac store to see if my dvd drive can be fixed.  At least I made some strides on the Master’s.  And this morning I had the relatively cathartic experience of purging about 60-75 friends from my FB list, which is always an interesting sociological experience.  Half-heartedly advancing on my personal goals but obviously, as detailed above, not going very fast.  LOL.

Then he goes on to detail some of the professional reading he’s been doing, with commentary, finally ending with this:

Not much else in the way of learning…I’ve been listening to NPR on the radio a lot and it’s actually annoying because most of it is silly little transitory jazz clips or someone talking about all their funding.  Kind of ironic actually.  Well, that’s all for now folks.  I’m going on an Adventure Trip this weekend as a second driver so I probably won’t be back for a little while but that’s okay.  I’ll manage.

3,399 words in this, personal, journal to go with the 2,957 words in his work journal. Thank you, Zach, for giving us so much to remember you by.

Zach quotes

I have a bunch of spiral notebooks. Some of them have writing in them. Some are waiting for writing to come to them. I’ll hazard a guess and say that none of them are particularly new. One or two are from my college days which are 45+ years ago. I picked out one the other day that I wasn’t sure about. It’s huge: 5 sections of perhaps 50 pages in each section. As I was putting it away tonight I saw some writing on the back cover. Really tiny writing, like Zach’s.

I think it’s a notebook from his Xavier days. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I took my glasses off and got really close and could read most of the words. Here is what I read:

  • I’m not the guy who creates w/new ideas every second. I’m the guy who pushes talented people to say their ideas out loud.
  • Great leaders are not necessarily great strategists.
  • Genius is simply patience carried to the extreme.
  • Men were changing behavior through petty[?]/programs, etc., more until 10 [?] inventory their specific values and identify their constraints, both real and imagined.

Zach wrote down quotes from other people all the time so the likelihood is that these are not original to him. Nevertheless, I felt that it was worth sharing.

now it can be told

A bit melodramatic, our title is, but the whole thing seems a bit melodramatic sometimes. Nothing will bring Zach back but I still have questions about the night he died.

To that end, I traveled back to Baton Rouge on Tuesday. I never wanted to go back, but I did. I only told one person where I was going because I didn’t want to have to justify it ahead of time. I’ve been calling it my ‘white whale’ because it sometimes seems like an ill-fated obsession.

Well, I’m home safe now, so ‘ill-fated’ it wasn’t. My apologies to Micah and Julie for not letting you know I was in town. I had to maintain my focus and I only had a short time there. I also didn’t (don’t) want to drag them through that experience for my benefit. It’s my obsession, dammit, and I’m keeping it to myself.

Well, not really, because I’m writing about it here. Here’s what I did: I got up early and took a non stop flight to New Orleans, arriving in the early afternoon. I rented a car and drove to Baton Rouge and got a room. I then headed over to the stretch of Lee drive between Perkins Road and the site of Zach’s death. I had a camera, my voice recorder, a laser rangefinder, a notebook. It was about 5 pm and rush hour (I can only assume) was in full swing. Cars were pouring through that intersection without letup for the whole two hours I was there. Actually, by the end I thought it might have lessened somewhat but I also thought perhaps I was just getting used to it.

With the rangefinder I measured the distances all along Lee Drive. I had bought one of those rangefinders designed to be used for hunting that was good for up to 600 yards because I thought I might want to measure the whole distance all at once. In the event, I used the telephone poles along the street that were only about 25 to 50 yards apart. The accuracy of the rangefinder is 1 yard so it wasn’t civil engineering. Actually, the whole thing was pretty ad hoc but I’m not displeased with the results.

I drew a simple map of the street showing the side streets and the distances along Lee. I took pictures and video of the cars surging down Lee with special attention to how and where they merged and where exactly the pavement was no longer two cars wide. I spoke my impressions into my voice recorder.

Oh, and I brought one more thing, a stopwatch. The old fashioned kind that has three buttons on top. Actually, the old fashioned kind only had two buttons. This one is digital and had a clock mode, hence the third button. I wanted this style so I could watch the cars go by a certain point and time them along a known distance. I didn’t want to be fussing around with ‘buttons’ on my smart phone.

It worked great. I stood by one of the telephone poles and timed cars going by at the point near to where I believe Zach was hit. When I got back to the hotel room, I calculated their speeds and tabulated it all in a spreadsheet.

(I will omit a long digression where I first forgot how to calculate rates, then found that I had measured a critical distance wrong. So that last part actually took quite a while.)

I’m going to save the details for another post which will be based on a letter I will write to the Baton Rouge District Attorney asking him/her to reopen the case and file more significant charges against the driver, Shawn Allen. I also think the driver of the other vehicle, Reginald Herzog, Jr, has culpability as well as I believe the two drivers were racing each other and not paying proper attention to the road. My information is that criminal charges can be filed up to 4 years after the incident.

In the morning, after a restless night, I went back to the vicinity and made a video driving through the Perkins intersection from College onto Lee so times could be extracted from that although I did not have a camera on the speedometer.

I took some more photos, particularly of the bike, which is still there. The post accident story of the bike is here.

After that, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was still early, but there was nothing else in Baton Rouge for me. I drove slowly back to the New Orleans airport on back roads and flew home.

Zach after Zero Dark Thirty

Zach has an entry for this date, January 21, in 2013. It was MLK Monday that year. He has some angst about his job, but then he tells of going to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty on the previous Saturday. It didn’t make his ‘list’ but he did say it was engrossing.

Then he goes on with this:

What can’t be argued, however, is how it made me felt…I know this isn’t exactly the greatest example, but it made me feel, as I have many times before, insignificant and wanting to be a part of something greater in my life.  Watching a team of navy seals and the intense training and preparation they show…I’m envious.  Watching a recreation of a meeting of CIA and national security personnel…I’m envious.  Hell, in a weird, horribly perverse way, I’m envious of watching a group of analysts sit around at a conference table.  It’s the feeling that I want to be a part of something bigger, something greater than what I currently am.  To be around intense individuals who want something bigger in their life.  This feeling moved me to go back and read a long passage I wrote when I was coming home from Colorado last summer that nicely captured this same feeling.  It’s still there, and at a greater level than it was last summer, as my dissatisfaction with my job and work environment has amplified.  Even today, while I was at work, I had a short risk/reward calculation in my brain of not doing certain tasks and whether I could get away with not doing them.  How horrible is that?  In the same light, I just literally texted someone how I wished I could be in a professional position where someone would just tell me what to do because I was sick of trying to make decisions on what was important at work.  I don’t feel inadequate; I KNOW I am inadequate, with what I am doing with my life.  Maybe that’s an overstatement.  What I do know, however, is that I just spent 15 minutes looking over jobs at the CIA wondering if I should apply to certain programs… I just feel like I’m soft at life.

What’s hilarious about all this?  The federal government and the CIA is rarely known for its ability to do things really well or for having a strong, effective, efficient work environment.  LOL.  

Zach speaks

I’ve used this title before and I’ll probably use it again. It’s a good title for when I quote from his journals, methinks.

So I looked in my little database tonight and I saw that Zach had a journal entry for today’s date, January 13, in 2013. Going to my folder with all the journal files, the first thing I saw was a filename with today’s date on it. Something called The Wayland Living Room.

Perhaps I should explain something first. What I’ve done with Zach’s journals is to save each file as a PDF with a name that indicates the date range of that file. In this case, Zach had a .doc file on his computer named The Wayland Living Room. I looked inside it for a date and then put the date at the front end of the new PDF file I created from it. In theory, nothing is changed except PDF files are harder to edit if someday I choose to release them. For the date format, I use yyyymmdd. Again, in this case, the file was dated January 13, 2013 so the new file name is 20130113 The Wayland Living Room. This way, they all sort out in the order they were created and it’s easy to find something by a particular date.

OK. So The Wayland Living Room is a document detailing rules for a fantasy sports league. There is nothing in it specific to any particular sport. It defines a Fantasy Leadership Council (FLC) responsible for ‘Maintaining the continuity and integrity of all Wayland Living Room (WLR) fantasy leagues.’

It goes on for five pages and is not my subject of choice. The FLC is comprised of four individuals: Zach and three others. If any of the other three individuals – who I am not going to name here – wish to have a copy of this, please contact me privately. I will be happy to share it with you. It is not of interest to me tonight.

Now, looking further in my list of file names – remember, I know the entry I want is from January 2013 – I see 20130108 – 20130519 Corleone Spring 2013. Uh oh. Corleone is Zach code for work related musings. These are often heavy with bullet pointed plans for situations at work and criticism of colleagues. (He’s plenty critical of himself too.) As I look through this document, I realize that my wonderful database which took me months to complete is not complete. I never went through the Corleone documents. Aieee!

The Corleone file has entries for January 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 15th (and more), but no 13th. We’ll set those aside for now, although I did get them into the database.

Is there another 201301xx file? Yes, there is! And it has an entry for this date in 2013! It starts out with:

It feels like eternity since I last wrote in here, mainly because I was only in Atlanta a week ago (crazy) and because this past week of work was relatively busy and my mind was pretty engaged with it all week, and there was a lot of mental energy expanded.  That’s a long way of saying it was a relatively satisfying week of work.

His previous entry was January 6th, a week earlier.

After some talk about exercise, basketball, finances, Rosalie, and movies, he has this to say:

I’m not sure where I found this article but it was talking about STEAM curriculum, which is a play on the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math, but adds Arts.  I did a little research and it seems like the STEAM concept is being promoted by a faction from UCSD and the surrounding area that is mainly some ph.d’s and a few other education individuals.  Their website talks about how STEM curriculum is myopically focused on one side of the brain and the workforce needs to have more balanced individuals.  It’s a simple concept really and basically the antithesis of the STEM movement but it’s the first time I’ve ever come across any organized usage of the concept or things related to its practical implementation.  Will be interesting to monitor its growth…

An article that I read over the break from Forbes that compiled the “top 10 brain science and psychology stories from 2012” which discussed several interesting concepts: receiving a compliment is like receiving a cash gift, with regards to how our brains respond and two people working on an issue may not be better than one because with two, it breeds overconfidence.

Happy New Year

New Years’ Day. A cause for celebrating amongst certain people in Pacifica. I was on the highway heading home last night when the dark hillside in front of me suddenly flashed like a huge strobe light. I was confused for a moment but then I remembered where I was. Pacifica likes nothing more than to blow things up and it had just turned midnight into the new year.

Five minutes later as I pulled up to my apartment, there were skyrockets all over the place, some kind of super bright sparkly thing right on Linda Mar Blvd, and several just plain old explosions. Unlike 4th of July, it was all over in only ten or fifteen minutes. I had a glass of orange juice and a piece of chocolate and went to bed.

Zach had one journal entry on a January 1st, in 2012. It’s long, over 2,000 words. Almost half of that is a bulleted list headed ‘Now, a reflection on personal goals: July 1-December 31.’ It’s structured like a template that he constructed previously with current comments but I can’t find the original.

Here are some excerpts:

    • Maintain reflection/journal, make notes on a daily basis and weekly put 30-60 minutes aside for a “things I learned this week.”  Stay focused and don’t let yourself get caught on little tangents
      • Obviously a strength here.  I’m not sure why I didn’t want to let myself get caught on little tangents, since I think a lot of the value of reflection happens there.  I want to continue what I’m doing in this respect.

. . .

    • Eye on the prize: University President.  The time has come for me to become who I say I am.
      • With both the above two…definitely done a lot of the prep work and now is a matter of actually moving forward and doing it, which is a running theme in my life.

and finally:

    • Keep updating or maintaining a bucket list and Socratic appendices.  A little materialism can sometimes make a big impact.
      • Yup.

revisiting Zach’s journals

I got back into Zach’s journals today. I had catalogued them from 2012 through 2014 a few months ago but quailed at the thought of doing it for his last years’ of writing.

Well, today I did it. I now have a spreadsheet with a year entered on whatever date he wrote. I mean, I can look in the spreadsheet for a particular date and see in what year he wrote on that date. For example, there were no entries for this date but there was one on December 23rd in 2013. Once again I make no promises about how often or how much I will republish but I have been able to think about it more recently.

I was just wrapping up when I took one last look through the folder that has all the files. Wait a minute – there are a bunch from 2010 and 2011! So that was another hour. There’s a lot of stuff there. I’m pretty amazed that I’ve been able to look through it today without totally breaking down. I have a headache, but I’m pretty calm.

OK, here’s a paragraph from Zach’s December 23, 2013 entry:

I got up Saturday morning and got new tires on my car ($492); I had only been putting that off for 18 months.  It took quite awhile, despite me having a 730a appointment, but I ended up just sitting there and reading in the waiting room, which was pretty nice.  Time well spent.  I then went to Barnes and Noble, with two objectives–one, because Matt gave me a gift card and I had it in my mind that I would buy the new Gladwell book with it, and then have Matt borrow/read it after the new year.  I also wanted to read the third Divergent book, which came out earlier this fall.  Once I got there, I browsed around a bit, just to see what was there, which was always fun.  Then, I started reading the Divergent book and struggled with it, partially because I was uncomfortable reading it there in the story and partially because I couldn’t recall all the characters and the events of the second book, probably because I binge read it late at night over a weekend.  And then thirdly, the third book just wasn’t really grabbing me and was kind of frustrating, so I stopped after about 70 pages or so.  I’m sure I’ll eventually finish it but I couldn’t really get engrossed.  Then, I started over-thinking the purchase of a book–I felt weird buying a book, even with a gift card, and actually left the store and walked out to my car before going back in and buying the book.  I think I just felt weird about buying a book, and all I could think about was moving it when the time comes!  Crazy.

In-N-Out Burger

I can’t believe that In-N-Out isn’t a subject I’ve written about before. I don’t see it on my tag list, so I guess I haven’t.

In-N-Out Burger was one of Zach’s favorite places to eat in California. Every time he came to town it was the first place we went to, often even before going home. There is an In-N-Out in Millbrae not five minutes from the airport that became our regular first stop after I moved to Pacifica.

Rose likes In-N-Out too so we go there two or three times a year. Zach is always near to our minds at In-N-Out.

I got off work at five today and was headed home on BART when I started thinking about dinner. I wasn’t thinking specifically of Zach, but the idea of going to In-N-Out came to me and doing it on Zach’s birthday seemed appropriate. I texted Rose and she agreed.

Rose has a story about Zach at In-N-Out that I love but I never seem to get the details right. I don’t want to ruin it by telling it wrong here. I’ll get it from her again one of these days and write it down and tell it properly. Happy Birthday Zach!