Category Archives: Zach Stories

Zach recipe

One more thing from the box. Zach had given me a recipe for a ‘breakfast casserole’ once. I had written it on a scrap of paper.

Here’s what I wrote:

  • baking dish 3″ x 14 x 8
  • frozen hashbrowns
  • turkey sausage/chorizo
  • yellow onions
  • 12-8 eggs – scramble
  • garlic & spices
  • cheese (cheddar) bag + 1/2
  • layer
  • 325° 1 hr 10′
  • remove foil cover
  • return to oven 10-15 mins to brown

I ate it once at his house but, sad to say, I never made it myself.

Tschotskes

‘A small bauble or miscellaneous item‘ says Wikipedia. Websters has ‘knickknack, trinket’. The word always had a connotation to me of ‘worthless except to one person’.

I did some cleaning in the garage the other day and unearthed a box filled with stuff that I had had on display on my apartment. There really isn’t a place for it here but I brought the box up to look through carefully. It’s mostly pictures in frames, which I am loath to get rid of. Sepi has lots of paintings, many of which are still in the garage, but paintings and guitars, not family pictures, are our principal wall adornments.

The other things in the box I would definitely call tschotsckes. A little clay wind chime that wouldn’t survive being put out of doors here. Little souvenirs from Germany, Zanesville, Paraguay and other places: plates, ashtrays, trivets.

And some things that remind me of Zach: a button with the picture from his first year in Little League. A ceramic hand print labelled December 1991 when he would have just turned 3. A ‘Panik 12′ button, referring to the Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik, that was on his backpack. A ceramic ‘Z’ that Rosalie made a couple of years ago.

And something I picked up on the side of the street across from his house less than 36 hours after his death:

It’s the lens from his sunglasses that he was wearing that day.

It caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. I suppose I would see it occasionally on the table as I went in and out of my apartment. Realistically, I should just toss it. I’ve got all the pictures. I even went back and watched the video I made that day walking along the street with the cars zipping by only about ten feet from me at 40 or 50 miles an hour. In the video, I see the lens in the grass alongside the road and bend down to pick it up. I was not sure it was his, but it all hangs together and I choose to think that it was his.

The ‘Z’ is now up on my dresser where I will see it every day along with Hobbes. I will offer the hand print to other members of the family. The buttons . . .  I’ll guess I’ll ask if anyone else wants them. I don’t expect anyone will. Jeremy might want the Panik button.

the last time I saw Zach

I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning thinking about the last time I saw Zach. It wasn’t really Zach at that point. It was just his body.

We were at the funeral home on the Tuesday afternoon of that week in Baton Rouge. For some reason, I don’t remember Sarah but I remember Jeremy being there. Zach was lying up at the front of the little chapel and there was a railing with a kneeler in front of it. I didn’t kneel, but I touched Zach’s lower leg and I remember thinking that it felt like him: solid and muscular. I don’t know anything about rigor mortis and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it then. Maybe it was just rigor mortis.

Of course, I looked at his face and I thought it was odd that they had put a bunch of pancake makeup on him. It was much later that I saw the police photos of the accident scene and I realized how horrific the injury to his head had been.

I didn’t feel any need to pray over his body or ‘say goodbye’ or anything like that. I wanted to touch him to convince myself it was all real. Emily was towards the back of the chapel with her mother and sisters. We would have been meeting in California in about a month’s time but I went back there and introduced myself and we all talked quietly.

At one point, I remember looking up to the front and saw Jeremy kneeling there and I thought maybe I should go and do that too. But I didn’t want to interrupt him and later people starting moving to leave. I don’t remember where we were going. We certainly weren’t rushed by the funeral home but a consensus seemed to develop that we were done.

The next day we went back and got the ashes.

I had them at my apartment for a long time. I believe I wrote about that. It wasn’t Zach – neither was the body – but it was the closest I had. Now ‘he’ is here:

In the end it’s all memories, which is why I write here. Our oral tradition is pretty much gone unless you count videos. There’s a chance these memories will survive for Rosalie and Noah and maybe their children to read and know a little bit about their ancestors. I know I would have eagerly read stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents. Eventually, their world recedes but their personalities would have shone through, I believe.

 

memories

Day 54 yesterday. Sepi and I went to Santa Clara yesterday. We saw Mom for the first time since early March. No touching, but we sat in the patio and chatted for a while. I brought some salt for the water softener.

After we got home I was spinning through FaceBook and saw that it was Noah’s birthday . . .

11 years old and he’s still the spitting image of Zach, at least to my eyes.

And once again, I am so pleased that he has a stable home environment to grow up in. Ally and Dave are terrific parents.

Well, the whole thing prompted some pillow talk with Sepi. She didn’t remember the story of how we found out about Noah and how Ally and Dave brought him up to Michigan to meet the family. What a tremendous thing that was! I believe I’ve documented here how difficult it was for me to accept him for what he was.

I still love Dave’s simple comment: ‘I’m the Dad.’

So this morning the power went out and I couldn’t work on the big computer as I had been planning so I picked up the iPad. This is the one that had belonged to Zach and still has some foibles related to his ownership. It still has access to his Google Drive even though I do not have the password.

It isn’t his regular Google Drive account. I got all the stuff off of that early on. This one – I think – was for his research into gender roles in intramural sports. It has videos of some IM flag football games. When I looked at them this morning I thought, these have no value to anyone any more. I deleted a couple, then noticed the date: November 10. Aiee!

Now I’m not sure – still, after all this time! – that I should be deleting anything. Then, when I went to crop the photo, I noticed that the dates were 2014. You probably can’t tell on this tiny photo but they’re all October and November 2014. Oh well. I haven’t heard from his thesis advisor since about six months after Zach’s death. He was going through some pretty serious changes then. I’m going to go ahead and delete them.

It’s even possible that I already sent this stuff to Alex and I don’t even remember doing it.

The only other thing of interest is Zach’s account name. He actually made two of them, both named Tom Brady with emails of woodrowreasearch and woodrowreasearch1@gmail.com. I haven’t tried to get into those accounts. I spent a lot of time in the first year going through Zach’s real emails and cleaning up things there. Whatever is in that inbox is way out of date. If someone else knows how to get into it and finds something of value, please let me know.

Or not.

Day 55.

Shakespeare Notes

I haven’t written about Zach in a long time. Today I was cleaning up my Google Drive and looked at this file called ‘Shakespeare Notes’. I knew it was Zach’s but I didn’t know why I was saving this one file. Maybe it was so I could write this post! Actually, I had two others but they are little video files that I will not share at this time. They are not really significant but poignant. Jake, if you ever read this, you are in them with Zach!

Zach, if I haven’t mentioned this before, used misdirection in many of his file names, particularly those which were personal. I knew the content had nothing to do with old Will but I couldn’t remember what was in there or why I was saving it there. I’ve had a folder on my desktop computer with all my Zach related stuff for a long time. Not just stuff related to the aftermath of his death but everything I could get off of his computer, iPad and phone. Voice mails, texts, pictures. It’s a lot of stuff.

I don’t have a lot to say about the ‘Shakespeare’ file. The system date is December 4, 2015, which means I modified it slightly a couple of weeks after Zach died.There is no internal date but his one reference to getting his Masters puts it in the 2013-2014 time frame.

Here’s the whole thing:

January 1- May/Juneish (or longer?)

        • Physical/Health

          • Tighten up body. Maintain a body weight in the 190-200 range, but focus on cutting body fat.

          • Create a balance between core workouts and cardio. Indulge in basketball but don’t default.

          • Diet: Maintain what I’m doing.

            • Focus on salads and vegetables where possible

        • Personal Development

          • Make my reading list more visible and not out of sight out of mind.

            • Balance the intellectual books with pleasure reading. Don’t forget how much fun it is to read a book.

          • Focus on current events and news, if not religiously.

            • Don’t act arrogant about the world around you just because you think you have some of the systems figured out.

            • Listen to NPR podcasts once a day

            • Keep reading and writing on what is happening around you

            • Check Facebook max three times/day

          • Less thinking and more doing. Don’t feel good just because you mentally processed something. Take knowledge to the next level.

          • Conversely, don’t default to critical. Take time to think and process before being arrogant, especially in social situations.

        • Emotional Sustenance

          • 1 meaningful phone conversation or letter a week. Just a quick note goes a long way. Do not backburner, considering it only takes 5-10 minutes.

            • Relationships always need nurturing.

          • Take advantage of time away from work to forget about work. Whether it is short vacations or enhanced personal retreats, don’t let work consume your thoughts or give you a fresh perspective. Remember how beneficial this is.

          • Remember a lot of people look up to you or believe in you and want you to succeed.

July 1-December 31

          • Physical/Health:

            • Lose the gut.  Focus on consistent core workouts as well as general exercise, to strengthen the lower back, heart, and abdominal region. Explore yoga options(ADD MORE DEVELOPMENT)

            • Focus on posture, sitting up straight and walking with shoulders pushed back

            • Diet: reduced sweets.  No alcohol.  Portion control (make the appetite smaller).  

              • Focus on salads/vegetables, diversify entrees.  

              • Look into blender (for fruits) and George Foreman (for chicken mainly).  Smaller appetite means money saved.  

              • No red meat except special occasions.

              • At least 90 oz. water a day.  No Gatorade except with exercise.

              • Vitamins?  Consider later once budget is more stable

          • Personal Development:

            • Make a visible reading list ( a la the queue).  15 minutes of a book/magazine a day (or 3 hours a week).  Dedicate time to reading

            • Current events—either at work or at home, must stay up on what is going on—focus on the morning coffee.  Spend an equal amount of time on the coffee as I do with ESPN/FB.

            • 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

            • Once settled, starting making connections on my options for masters programs at LSU and begin to develop my plan and vision for the future as they relate to those options.

            • Eye on the prize: University President.  The time has come for me to become who I say I am.

          • Emotional Sustenance

            • Be very intentional by staying in contact—utilize emails and Facebook, send out the form letters at proper times.  Remember that people love you and there can never be too much dialogue—especially focus on Troy, Dave, Josh, Molly—look at their development on both personal and professional.  Second tier: Deb/Karl, Amy, Rae, the bros, Joey, Ola, more

              • Write one meaningful letter/note each week

            • Explore the culture, keep making close connections but don’t force it

            • Remember to take vacations and take advantage of being in 20’s—Atlanta, Midwest, East Coast.  Getting away for a day or two can be very valuable.

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

 

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.