Tag Archives: Davies

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.

wedding day

Today’s the day. I have a lot to do, but I can’t start for an hour or so. The flowers won’t be ready until 11. I’m already showered and dressed. Hal checked in to see if I needed anything and we talked a little about the earlier part of the afternoon. I’ve got my wedding suit in my suit bag to change into later. I don’t expect to be able to get back to my apartment after taking the flowers to the restaurant so I’ll likely go into Davies and change just before going over to City Hall.

Sepi and I went to the restaurant yesterday and set up the decorations. Luckily, the tables were already setup. We had lengthy discussions over small details. Candles, flowers, seating arrangements, cakes. We’re getting a bunch of smaller cakes instead of a traditional tiered cake. This allowed us to get several varieties. That’ll be fun (I hope). Sepi wanted the Princess cake. That’ll be the one we’ll do the ceremonial cut on.

Jeremy’s probably on the plane already in Seattle. Others are coming in from Colorado and various parts of Southern California.

It’s time to get going.

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!