Category Archives: Zach Stories

Zach’s journals

I had this idea the other day that I could go through Zach’s journals and make list of all the dates he wrote in them. Then on a particular date, I could put his writing for that day on the blog. I was feeling that perhaps enough time has passed that I could read them somewhat dispassionately.

I forgot how much he wrote.

I just spent almost two hours going through two years of journals – his so-called Statistical Appendices from 2012 and 2013. He had another set of journals under a folder called Corleone. I believe the Corleone files are more work related while the SAs are more personal. basically, all I did tonight was go through each month’s file and make notes of the dates he wrote. I wasn’t trying to read but a few things caught my attention and I did read them.

My current thinking is that if I do something like this, I will only publish excerpts. There are two reasons. One is the sheer volume of material. It’s not uncommon for him to write 3 or 4 pages on a particular day. I’ve done my best to keep the original files unchanged in case someone, someday wants to get a look at Zach unfiltered but for the purposes of this blog I’ll probably do a lot of cutting.

The other reason is that he’s pretty unsparing of feelings. He’s not writing for publication, he’s writing to, well, I don’t know if he even knows. I did see some comments about why he writes as I was blasting through tonight but my goal was to collect dates, not to read critically.

I have two more years of SAs that I will try to get to this week. Then I will compile all the dates into one list. Then, one day when I am thinking about writing, I may look up his entry for that day and work on that instead. I will still write about other things that are on my mind that may or may not be about Zach.

As luck would have it, neither the 2012 nor the 2013 journals have any entries for the 10th or 11th of September. I’ll wait until I’m done then review.

new header

I’m trying out this new header image. I can’t figure out how to crop it better. I’ve had it in my mind for a while. It’s from our trip moving him from Oregon to Baton Rouge.

Here’s the original:

I think I might have a couple more of him with his arms outstretched like this in front of spectacular scenes. Something to look forward to . . .

The Pianist

When I got divorced, I let go of many things from my married life. One of those things was having a lot of books near at hand. Moving from a house to an apartment involved a lot f downsizing and I realized that books could be had at the local library. It wasn’t the same as having them in my living room, but it was good enough.

I kept my science fiction books, my Apollo books, some baseball books and a few music books. Among my music books was a water-damaged copy of The Pianist by Wladislaw Szpilman. Some may remember this book from seeing the movie of the same name. In fact, we only got it after seeing the excellent movie.

I actually got it out before I left, but I didn’t open it until Saturday. I’m not sure why I had it in with the music books. It really has very little to do with making music. It is the story of a musician, though. A Jewish pianist, caught in Warsaw when the Germans came in 1939.

I’m including this as a Zach story because I associate this book with Zach. I don’t remember where I was when I saw the movie, or who was with me, or where we got the book, but I remember Zach telling me he had read it and at the time it surprised me. The printing is 2003 so Zach would have been a freshman or sophomore in high school. I believe he even had it in his room although I don’t remember that for sure either.

So somehow I associate it with Zach and I was thinking of him when I picked it up. He was moved enough by the story to keep it near him. Perhaps he even read it more than once. If he kept journals in those days, I haven’t seen them.

Reading it myself now, I am struck by the thought that evil is everywhere. Here in America we tend to have the belief that we are morally superior to everyone else in the world. When someone does something odious in the political world, we often brand him or her with the epithet of Hitler. I try to remember that Hitler didn’t kill all those people by himself; many people did his bidding. Szpilman’s story is told in simple, unemotional prose. The most horrific things happen. They are done by Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, even Jews.

They could be done by Americans. It could happen here.

work weekend

Well, we had it last weekend. The work weekend, where we picked up the slack for Zach. Quite a few people came: family members, LSU people, Greenville YMCA people. All in all there were over 25 people involved.

I took the red-eye out of SFO Thursday night, arriving in Atlanta around 7 in the morning having slept only a couple of hours at most. Sarah had come in the night before, so she was there. A group from Baton Rouge led by Micah and Julie came about noon. Ashley got home from work about 3:30 and by 4 we were on the road to South Carolina.

Despite promises being made, no one was at the camp when we arrived. The cabins were open and the lights worked but otherwise it was deserted. There was no cell service up on the mountain so reaching people was tough.

Jeremy persevered, though, and after about an hour he got through to someone who told us the director had a family emergency and had to leave. We got the info on where to sleep so we got settled before dark. Ally arrived about 9 with Noah, having done all the driving from Cincinnati. He came into the kids cabin just in time to interrupt Rosalie from getting to sleep. They were glad to see each other.

After that, Jeremy got a campfire started and more people I didn’t know started showing up in the darkness. Soon, stories of Zach were being told. I had the foresight of bringing my little hand held recorder and I let it run for a solid 45 minutes while stories were told around the campfire.I gave up around midnight. There were a few hardy souls still there.

The next morning after breakfast, everyone headed out to ‘Zeke’s Place’ to see what we were up against. Here’s what we found:

Before we started work, Jeremy got everyone in a circle and we all spoke briefly of our relationship to Zach. Ashley used her lovely phrase, ‘Brother-in-love,’ to refer to Zach. One of the Greenville people – I don’t remember who, but male – said they had a crush on Zach. That was after one of the women said the same thing, to knowing nods all around.

Then, to work. Noah jumped in and helped as much as he could.

We broke for lunch and returned to an afternoon of rain showers but the work continued steadily. We weren’t quite done when it was time to go to dinner, but some elves left quickly after dinner and went back to finish the roof before the light faded.

The next morning, almost everyone reconvened at the site for a celebratory picture. I never heard who Zeke was but heretofore, it will be known as ‘Zach and Zeke’s Place.’

Before that, on Saturday, there was an important other celebration to have. It was Noah’s birthday! Ashley had made a cake and someone – I never found out who – went into Brevard for Dolly’s ice cream. Gifts were given and songs were sung; cake and ice cream was eaten.

YMCA Camp Greenville has a chapel called ‘Pretty Place’. It’s where Jeremy and Ashley had gotten married nearly ten years ago. I never felt that ‘pretty’ was the best word for the spot. It’s much better than pretty. Anyway, Jeremy had encouraged everyone to come out to Pretty Place for the sunrise Sunday. I had heard 6:45 but when I got there about that time, the sun was already up and many people were already there. After the rain the day before, Sunday had dawned clear and warm, but pockets of fog were in the valleys below.

After snapping a couple of pictures, I sat down next to Sarah and took in the fabulous view and thought of the wonderful people that were there with me, giving some extra for Zach. I completely broke down.

Zach and Sarah

I’ve made much of the special relationship between Zach and Jeremy. His relationship with Sarah was no less special. It was strained in recent years because of their divergent opinions on what kind of relationship they each should have with their mother but the deep love never went away.

Even at an early age, Sarah showed that she had a talent for leadership. I remember noting once that when she got Jeremy to try cutting her hair it was Jeremy who had to shoulder the blame. He was, after all, older and should have known better. He might have been 5 and she was 3.

With Zach it was more of a traditional older/younger relationship. Sarah was brimming with ideas and Zach was happy to be included in the fun. Sometimes it was with one or more of Sarah’s friends but most often it was just the two of them doing drawings, writing plays, or goofing around with the cassette recorder.

Here are a few fun pix from the archives:

In 2014, Zach made what was to be his last trip to California. I don’t remember for sure, but I think both he and Sarah stayed at my apartment for a couple of days. One morning they sat at the breakfast table for a couple of hours and just talked quietly. I stayed out of the way but I did take this one picture.


Zach did a lot of reading. When he read something that he thought was worthwhile, he made a note of the quote. A year ago I could have told you where his quote files were but now I’d have to look around a bit.

I do have a sheet of paper on my wall with some quotes on it. I don’t remember how it came to be printed. Was it in his effects or did I find it in a file and print it here? It doesn’t have his name on it but I know it came from him. In front of the paper, tacked on the wall, are two photos, taken on the same day. Here is one:

To see the other one you’ll have to go here.

Anyway, here are the quotes. Only one is attributed.

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.
— Goethe

We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

We’re not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television and let its pandering idiocy liquify our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery – it recharges by running . . . A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you’ll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Zach’s music

Rose mentioned to me the other day that she was still listening to The Airborne Toxic Event song that Jeremy had posted about last fall. I vaguely remembered it. There’s a link to a video of the song in the post.

I don’t like music videos, even of tunes I like, so I didn’t watch it. Also, the emotional overhead was too much.

But Rose’s comment started me thinking about music that Zach liked. He had a stack of home-brew CDs in his car which I inherited. I remembered them. I had gone through them while we were driving from Baton Rouge to Jeremy’s house during what would be his last summer. Most of them didn’t interest me. In fact, I had a hard time picking out anything I wanted to listen to. Zach was cool, though. He didn’t press anything on me or complain when I found a mash up of Eagles songs to put on the player

I went through them a year ago. I kept a couple. Some were mixes I copied onto my hard drive. A couple were mixes with people’s names on them so I sent them back. The bulk of them I sent on to Jeremy. I did copy some of them and they come up every once in a while on my random playlist.

It’s funny, despite having many thousands of tunes on my hard drive, it’s rare that one comes up that I don’t recognize. When I check, it most often is from that group of Zach’s CDs. Even though the music usually doesn’t move me, it’s a good feeling to have a little connection with Zach through his music.

I bought the Airborne Toxic album with that tune on it this morning. I think I’ll listen to it now.

weekend in Portland

Now it can be told . . .

Actually, I was laughing about it yesterday. I love Mike, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read this blog. Nevertheless, I was studiously avoiding saying anything about going to Portland because it was to be for a surprise retirement party for him.

It all worked out fine. Mike was surprised and everyone had a good time. I did allow that restriction get me somewhat twisted about writing posts over the last couple of weeks. I hope to catch up this week.

So, Rose’s brother Mike retired. Friday was his last day. He’s the same age as me so I hate him. No, not really, but nowadays I’m a bit jealous of people my age who are retired. I’ve started using the term ‘semi-retired’ to describe myself but it seems that it is more ‘semi’ than ‘retired’.

Well, that’s a post for another day. Rose and I left early Saturday. We had a 6:30 am flight so we were up and left the apartments at 4. Once in Portland, breakfast was a high priority. Rose suggested the biscuit place where we had eaten with Zach and his friend Chris B in 2014. Google eventually revealed that it was Pine State Biscuits so we went there.

The food was fine but being there brought back a flood of memories of Zach. He had come out to California in December then came up to Portland a few days after Christmas to visit Chris. He stayed with us and Mike’s family for a couple of days before going off with Chris. Actually, the breakfast at Pine State Biscuits was the transfer point.

It was my first time back in Portland since that visit so seemingly everything was fraught with memories of Zach. Sitting at those picnic style tables, I actually broke down for a minute. It was at the end of our meal and we shortly after that got up to leave. It wasn’t until I got to the car that I realized I had left my backpack in the restaurant net to the table. Kinda scattered, I was . . .

The back pack was still there and after retrieving it we headed out to visit Mike’s daughter Sarah. She lives on 5 acres just outside of Oregon City with her husband Mike C and their two lovely daughters. Also pigs, chickens, ducks and goats which we all went out to see. Sarah made us deviled eggs from her stock of literally dozens of fresh eggs. Mike and Sarah are not quite self sufficient but they’re close.

Soon other visitors arrived. Sarah’s aunts, Jean and Elaine, had driven down from Bellingham and came over. Then we heard that Mike H was coming. Rose and I hid in a bedroom until he got in the house, then stepped out to greet him. Somehow this was distinct from the surprise party. At this point I was just doing what I was told. Mike had done quite a bit of drinking the night before so he was hungover. He was glad to see us but not trying to hard to connect the dots. Mike and Rose’s brother Steve had come up the night before so I think the story was that there would be a family dinner that night.

After lunch, Rose and I left to check into our hotel and get some rest. The surprise party was at 7 and we were there on time. The bar was open and there was food – what could be better? There were about 40 people there when Mike was brought in by Steve on the pretext of the family dinner. He was gobsmacked so that was good. There were lots of Mike’s work friends there besides family.

The next morning, Rose and I breakfasted at the hotel then went to Mike’s club – he’s an avid golfer – for brunch. His other daughters Caitlyn and Keriann were there along with Caitlyn’s daughter Elliot. Also Sarah with Josephine and Devin so we had the kids corner. I was originally not intending to eat much but changed my mind. It was kind of a lunch. In fact, I didn’t have to eat again until we got to the airport.

Anyway, good food and good conversation. Afterwards we went back to Mike’s house where we mostly just sat around and watched the kids play in the front yard. Josephine set up an imaginary restaurant and went around taking orders from everyone then bringing them their gravel ‘food’. Just like Rosalie!

A good day but eventually it was 4 o’clock and we had to leave for the flight home. There was some problem at SFO so Alaska had to fly us to the San Jose airport then bus us to SFO. There were some silly moments but we got back to SFO about 9:30, about an hour and a half later than it would have been.

I was able to talk to some of the family members about Zach, which was good. I told the Bellingham people about Jeremy’s moving to Washington and promised I would try to get up to see them in July. My angst of the previous week was gone, which was best of all.

Zach on Powder by Jeremy

Jeremy wrote a lovely response to my last post but I want to elevate the meat of it to top billing. Here’s a partial quote:

Zach was quite the cynic when it came to animals. He was a guest in my home probably more often than anyone else in the lifespan of one Powder Lucifer Wood, the kitten I adopted (at Ashley’s behest) in 2006, right before she and I got engaged. Powder got his first name from his snow-white fur, but the middle name is an accurate reflection of his personality, and Zach had a couple of memorable one-liners about his enmity for my cat.
On one visit, when Powder was only a few months old, he was to sleep on a futon in the downstairs (this was prior to Ashley and I moving in together). I offered to take the futon, telling him that the cat sometimes liked to play at night and he said not to worry about it, it wouldn’t bother him.
Late in the afternoon the next day, he looked sideways at Powder, then looked at me and said flatly “You’re sleeping on the futon tonight.”

Another time a few years later, he arrived at our house on Laurel Haven. As Powder often does when strangers enter the house, he greeted Zach with his trademark hiss/growl combination. Zach grinned sardonically and, with perfect aplomb, put on his Sean Connery voice and said “Once again, we play our dangerous game, with our old adversary.” (That’s a line from The Hunt for Red October, one of his and my favorite movies). I went out of my skull with laughter.