Tag Archives: Davies

end of the MTT run

Saturday was the last night of MTT’s fall time with the Symphony. He conducted the season opening gala, the Metallica concerts, a Mahler 6th, a new John Adams piece, and a bunch of other pieces that I can’ t think of right now. It’s been a blur of rehearsals and concerts for just over 4 weeks. Seemingly everything we did had massive percussion or huge orchestras – or both – so packing the musicians into the stage at Davies was a constant challenge.

There were a couple of hiccups but on the whole, the orchestra and MTT was forgiving of my foibles. There is a massive amount of detail to remember when putting the orchestra on stage. At one time I had it all under my fingers but working the house electric job for the past three years has overwritten some of it. My crew has been helpful in keeping me off the worst off the rocks.

One story. When performing programs of unusual music, MTT will often talk to the audience at the top of the show to give some personal insight into the music. Last week, we had three Stravinsky pieces on the program so MTT set the stage with some stories of his time as a teenager playing piano at Stravinsky’s house in LA. Of course, he uses a wireless microphone which I set on his stand ahead of time.

Except the last night, Saturday. I just forgot, plain and simple. Some things happened and I dealt with them and they pushed the microphone task out of my head.

Until about two seconds after I sent MTT and the two soloists out onto the stage to start the show. Then I remembered!

I tore off my headset and ran to the office where the microphone was stored, switched it on, and came back to the door to the stage and looked out. MTT was standing out there on the podium waiting for me! Gulp!

So, I went on out there with the microphone. MTT was smiling at me when I handed it to him. I apologized. He may have said something but I don’t remember. I do remember that he reached out to shake my hand before I turned and fled offstage. All I could think about was that I had to make sure that the sound system was properly turned on.

It was.

At the end of the evening, many people came backstage to talk to MTT. I waited a half hour or so for the crush to subside and went into his office. Mostly I wanted to thank him for putting up with me for the month but I also wanted to apologize again for forgetting the microphone. He smiled again when he saw me. He said, ‘Some people will do anything for a curtain call!’

He’ll be back in January.

anniversary

I’ll bet if you looked up ‘anniversary’ in the tag cloud, all you’d find would be rather gloomy posts. Finally there was a happy anniversary for me. Sepi and I achieved one year of marriage 2 weeks ago. Yay!

Amazingly, I had the night off so we went out to dinner. We had drinks and a glass of wine with our food. Perhaps not the best of ideas when you’re really tired, but we got through it.

It’s been hard for Sepi to hear all my stories of my work difficulties. It’s all she can do to not go down to Davies and knock heads. She’s gone through may similar situations so she’s given me much practical advice. Most importantly, she’s kept me grounded with the long view.

Sepi is also my most consistent reader and commenter on this blog. Hi Sepi! I love you!

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!

Claudia

Claudia works as an usher at Davies. She is from Italy so her name is pronounced cla-OO-dee-a.

I try to get to know the ushers a little bit. We work together in the front of the house. When there are problems, it helps for us to know one another.

Claudia has always been friendly enough although somewhat reserved. She’s there to do a job not prattle.

Last week, however, I saw her and she had a stony expression on her face. The phrase ‘thousand yard stare’ came to my mind. I don’t know her well enough to have asked directly if something was wrong so I went to the head usher.

He told me Claudia’s son had just died. OMFG. He was in his thirties, living in Italy and had a heart attack.

The house wasn’t open yet, so I was able to go to Claudia and talk to her for a minute or two. In my clumsy attempt to console her, I said that I had lost my son three years ago. She said she knew about Zach. She told me she had brought her son’s ashes back to the US with her. We swapped a couple of stories about spreading ashes.

I felt better for having gone to her. We are work colleagues but humans too.

a new year

Well. Since the beginning of September, I find I have written only 5 posts on this blog. That’s four months, for those of you scoring at home. I will do better this year.

I think about writing often, though. Usually, it’s while driving to work. Since moving to Brisbane I’ve been taking a SAMTRANS bus into town some of the time. I get off at Mission and Ninth and walk the four blocks to Davies. At Van Ness, I usually have to wait for the light to cross. Cars and trucks whiz past seemingly at only an arm’s length away.

How fast are they going?, I think. 40 miles an hour? 50 miles an hour? 53? Sometimes I think about how it would feel if one of them swerved and hit me. I usually stand behind the traffic light pole just in case. The sidewalk is not very wide at that particular spot. I look at the drivers’ faces as the speed past. Often they are hunched over the steering wheels. Their tension is evident. Where are they going in such a hurry? Work, mostly, I think.

I am fortunate in that there would be no bad consequences if I was late to work – once in a while. Like once or twice a year. I generally allow enough time to get to work calmly. No work is important enough to have an accident.

RIP Dennis

Dennis D. died yesterday. He was 65. Dennis was a member of the Symphony stage crew for more than 25 years until his retirement in July 2016. Here’s a picture of all of us at the end of the load out on his last day. Dennis is sitting at the piano.

I first got to know Dennis when I worked with him at the Opera House in the 1980s. He was on the Props crew. I didn’t see him again until he came with the Symphony to the Mondavi Center at UC Davis around 2006 when I was the Local 50 Business Agent. The Symphony always hired a Union crew there. We had dinner together and had a good time reminiscing.

After I came back to San Francisco, I eventually started working more regularly with the Symphony at Davies Hall and was glad to see Dennis again. Despite my many years of stagehand experience, I was uneducated in the ways of the Symphony. Dennis helped me both directly by instruction and indirectly by example. There are a million details in dealing with a Symphony orchestra and Dennis knew all of them. I noticed that all the other stagehands would come to Dennis whenever they were stuck and couldn’t remember how to do some odd thing that hadn’t been done for a long time. Dennis always had the answer.

Even though Dennis was a life long smoker, he always had plenty of energy and seemed in good health. Two months ago, he went to the doctor with pain in his hip. It turned out to be a large cancerous mass and there were others throughout his body. He was determined to live until his daughter’s wedding, scheduled for New Years’ Eve, but it was not to be.

Our friend and colleague Arno was bereft last night. ‘Why do the good ones die young?’, he asked. I had no answer for him. All I could think of was Zach, but it would do no good to mention that.

Dennis, like Zach, lived life to the fullest. We should honor their memory by doing the same.

3 weeks

3 weeks ago today I got married. Looking back in my calendar I see a few holes in my schedule but it doesn’t feel like there were any. I had some days where I had to go to work at night but none absolutely empty. I’ve been trying to go to physical therapy appointments in some of the holes but they were starting to depress me. I’ve lost weight (down to 198 this morning!) but I been a complete failure at doing the stretching and exercises the therapists have recommended.

So Monday I cancelled the two remaining appointments. One was for later in the day. I told the office that if they had to bill me to just go ahead; I didn’t feel that talking to a therapist about exercises I wasn’t doing was worthwhile.

But now I had a day to recoup a little. I still had jazz band in the evening. Today was the other appointment. I had a lunch scheduled with an old friend in Daly City and cancelling the PT appointment meant I didn’t have to get up early and drive to San Mateo, then turn around and get up to Daly City by noon. It was always do-able but it meant rushing around. I need to cut back on rushing around!

There were other days free in the last two weeks but this is the maintenance period at Davies and JJ needs experienced people to work on the projects there. It’s part of the reason we chose to not go away on honeymoon, but I didn’t expect to be hauled in every day. The money is nice . . .

I have two more days of maintenance and then Saturday is the first orchestra rehearsal. I asked for that day off because it is the first day we have access to the upstairs at Sepi’s. The tenants will be gone as of Friday night. There won’t be much actual moving of stuff right away because we are replacing the carpet with bamboo flooring in the living room and bedrooms. Cleaning and painting will be our primary activities for a couple of days after removing the old carpet. The bamboo has to sit in the space where it will be used to ‘acclimate’, so it looks like there will be a lull for several days.

At Davies it’s only the opening Gala on Wednesday. Next door, the Opera is opening on Friday.

Once the floor is done – I am hoping it goes smoothly; it’s DIY time – serious moving starts. I’ll be leaving my apartment of 8 years. I’ve been giving away things I won’t need. The couch went Monday.

Hopefully by the third week of September I can settle into the furniture and look out the window for a while.

the best moment

Last night as she was about to leave the reception, Ashley asked me what was the best moment of my day. I really couldn’t think of just one. It was all fantastic – in every sense of the word. In the past couple of weeks, I had used the analogy of the roller coaster ratcheting up the incline before the first drop. Well, yesterday was the drop.

And, like a roller coaster ride, it seemed like it was over before I knew it.

I told her the moment when she and Jeremy pulled into the parking lot at Davies Hall was big. It meant that they were safely there. They were the last of my posse to arrive.

But there were so many more: standing under that dome on that staircase, looking into the soulful eyes of Willie Brown as he spoke those solemn words of commitment; having Ashley tell me that the song the band was playing was the song that she and Zach sang at her wedding reception using kitchen utensils as microphones; hearing the trio start as we were still down at the bottom of the stairs taking pictures; having so many people come up to me to say how happy I looked an how happy they were for me; it was all great.

(Thanks to Lolly Lewis for this photo.)

This morning I remembered a moment that I could honestly say was the best. At the reception, it was pretty chaotic. People came in bit by bit and there was a lot of milling around while they found their seats. And of course everyone wanted to talk to us. We hadn’t set up a reception line. Then I started to hear people say they were hungry and when was the food coming out. This was near to 7:30 and the food was just then starting to come out.

I went and started filling a plate for Dad but Sepi came to me and said, wait, there must be a toast. then there followed several minutes of confusion while we looked for the champagne, the best man, the band. I got a little grumpy about then because I just wanted to let people eat.

Finally it was decided that we could do the best man toast later. All I had to do was welcome everyone and say that the food was ready. I can do that.

So I tapped on the glasses and the room started to settle down. I don’t remember if I spoke first to welcome everyone but there was cheering and I raised my arms and pointed to the ring on my finger and the cheering intensified.

That was the moment.

I spoke a little bit and Sepi said some nice things, but soon everyone was digging in to the excellent food and the party moved into high gear.