Tag Archives: music

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.


In recent years, when people have asked me about what I might do with my time when I retire, one of the answers I usually give is, ‘Play music.’

For those who don’t know, I was consumed by music as a teenager. I learned to play guitar and played in a band in high school. My local JC, DeAnza College, had a very good jazz program and, rather by accident, I ended up there for three years. My last year was primarily to take advantage of the opportunity I had to play bass with the #1 band. It was a hot band and I was stretched to the max. Many of the musicians in that band went on to careers in music but I decided to work in the theatre and have the freedom to ‘play’ music when and where I wanted.

As it worked out, I played very little music for the ensuing 25 years. Work and family took precedence.

About a dozen years ago I started to come out again, mostly playing rock and roll with Tom Kent and his bands. When I got back to the Bay Area, I enrolled in the jazz band at the local JC, Skyline College. I played bass for two years then guitar the third year.

Then . . . then I had jobs keep coming up on Monday nights so I quit. But last fall I started again. On guitar, on the theory that a missing guitar player in a big band is no loss whereas a missing bass player is more serious.

I needn’t have worried. They had three bass players and another guitar player; they hardly noticed when I’m there.

Actually, everyone was very nice and welcomed me back. Many of the current band members were there for my first go ’round but my contributions this time were minimal.

But what I noticed was that I wasn’t practicing the material. I looked at it and worked at it long enough to get through it, but I didn’t work it to get any better. In fact, the second half of last semester I don’t think I picked up the guitar at all except on Monday night for rehearsal.

I decided to write about this when today, with no need to go to work, I got up and did my laundry and the dishes, then wrote a nice blog post, then  . . . farted around the house: read some, tried to take a nap, ate lunch, read some more, did a crossword, had a cup of tea.

Now I’m writing this. Why don’t I play the guitar? Or the bass? They’re all here, hanging on the wall, begging to be played. I don’t know.I’ve got tons of resources: books, music, backing tracks. It’s making me reassess my stated retirement plans. And wonder about all my motivations.

Well, I signed up for another semester of band so I’ll keep trying. It starts in a couple of weeks.

grief cues

The weirdest things snag me sometimes. Some music came up on my rotation and even though I didn’t recognize it, something told me before I even looked that it had something to do with Zach.

He was a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie music. That’s what it was.

my week

I’m going to try to just describe my week.

Last Sunday morning I was still in Georgia. In the afternoon, we had Rosalie’s party. All of the Hall’s except for Lauren were there along with three of Rosalie’s chums from school. 2year old Parker Hall was another little one. The party started conventionally enough with people arriving and setting gifts on the hearth. Ashley and Rosalie had spent a lot of time preparing fairy houses which were set outside so soon we were all out in the back yard. The little plastic ball – perfect for kicking around the yard – and the swing set, however, proved to be more of a draw than fairy houses. It was cool and windy so sitting quietly outside was not optimal.

After a while we were back inside and Ashley brought out the strawberry and carrot cake cupcakes for everyone. Rosalie chose a strawberry one for her candles. The room became very quiet as the eating of the cupcakes proceeded.

Then it was out to the living room and the opening of presents. Rosalie went into full Christmas morning mode, ripping presents open and turning immediately to another one. I’m sure she’ll appreciate them eventually! Soon the balloons for all beckoned and before long the children were chasing each other in a circle through the dining room, the kitchen and the living room shrieking. This went on for at least 20 minutes (I wasn’t watching a clock). One balloon popped and another was lost (it later turned up behind the toilet in the bathroom) but no one was hurt or even had hurt feelings.

After everyone left, we cleaned up and went out to Ted’s for dinner.

Back at home, I explained to Rosalie at bedtime that I had to leave early in the morning to go home. We sang one more song with the guitar and she went to sleep. In the morning I went into her room and said goodbye again but she wasn’t really awake. Jeremy took me to the airport and we had some good talk on the way. His dream of moving back out west is very close. I told him I would be available to help him do the move if it happens.

Air travel. It’s like democracy: it’s terrible but the alternatives are worse. I’d love to be able to relax on a bus or a train across country but that would be time better spent with Rosalie so I fly.

At home Monday afternoon I tried to rest and then went to jazz band in the evening. Before leaving, I had told JJ that I was available for the Berlin Philharmonic Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He sent me an email confirming that along with the request that I come in for maintenance projects on both days. Oh well, I just had a week off and I have 5 days off following that. But those were long days: 9 am to 10:30 the first day and 9 am to midnight the second.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and the Woods were to gather in Santa Clara as is our tradition. It was also my birthday so Rose came over early with a birthday gift. We got down to Santa Clara a little before noon and set out food and started to eat. The day was fine and low key. Happy birthday was sung after dinner but otherwise there were no references to aging. I really pooped out about 8 and was back on my way home by 9.

Friday was laundry day and then a return to Santa Clara. Several people were there from out of town and were leaving Saturday so I made the effort to spend more time with them. Sarah had stayed there and wanted to go to The Starving Musician to look at violins. She asked me if I wanted to go with her.

Now, I had been to this music store many times. It’s a guitar shop in my mind. They have guitars, basses, amplifiers, keyboards, and drums in the main showroom pretty much like any other music store. I had noticed the little room for band instruments in the back before but Sarah told me she had been in there a couple of years earlier and seen some violins. She remembered one of them was pretty good and she wanted to see if it was still there. She needed an inexpensive instrument to teach with as her main fiddle had gotten damaged recently by a careless student.

It turned out there was a whole violin showroom – small, but nicely finished – upstairs in the back! Sarah spent a happy couple of hours going through the 50 or so instruments and chatting with the owner/luthier about arcane details of each one. We left with two on evaluation. She will take them back in a week or so. Depending on the opinions of various friends who know things, she may buy one.

That evening at dinner, Jane led the conversation by asking our Aunt Kathleen lots of questions about her journey into the sisterhood. I like to call her Kathleen but she really prefers Pieta. Technically she is Sister Pieta but she’s still our Aunt Kathleen. Pieta is 89 and my mother’s older sister. She’s been out in California since the 15th. We younger ones learned a lot about her life from 1945, when she graduated high school and went into an Army nursing program, until 1950 when she went into the nunnery. There was much more, of course, all very interesting. Pieta’s choice of name is very apt: she is deeply religious and serene but also down to earth so talking with her is always easy.

At the end of the evening, Sarah asked me if she could come stay at my house that night. Of course I said yes. We got the futon set up and then ended up talking Chinese philosophy for an hour or so. She had a copy of the Tao te Ching that she had gotten for Zach originally. I had brought up Chuang Tzu at the dinner table when Dad had spoken of his visit to the Abbey of Gethsemane while he was in college. Thomas Merton was famously in residence there at the time. I commented that Merton wrote a book of Chuang Tzu stories set as poetry which I had in my library. I read a couple of them to Sarah. We talked about the pros and cons of setting goals and striving for them and whether I was happy with my life choices.

In the morning, we were slow to get up but eventually we got out for breakfast at the Chit Chat where we ate and drank our tea watching rain squalls over the mighty Pacific Ocean out the window. I still didn’t have the energy for anything outdoors so we settled on going to a movie for the afternoon. We saw Arrival, which I thought was very interesting. As with any science fiction, one needs a willing suspension of disbelief but the story hung together reasonably well. It is based, so the credits say, on The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. I had actually noted that when I saw the trailer a month or so ago so I’ve really got to do it now.

Sarah headed home after the movie and I did the same. There were a lot of cut up vegetables left over from Thursday so I did a stir fry and Rose joined me for dinner and glass of wine. Her ribs are still bothering her so we parted with a gentle hug and I went straight to bed.

Today I have another trip to Santa Clara for lunch with Charlie Centofante after which I will again go to see Mom and Dad and say goodbye to Aunt Kathleen.


I mentioned Tom Kent in these pages not too long ago. Tom is very gregarious and when he moved back to Northern California from New Mexico, it wasn’t long before he had found people to play music with. For the most part I have been content to tag along and sit in with Tom’s band when I could. Starting around the same time, Tom & I got together with our old band mates from the ’70s about once a year.

Even though I had played guitar in that band, I had played more bass in the intervening years so I was usually the bass player.

The bass player in Tom’s band was a crusty guy just a little older than me named Franco. I say crusty – he was friendly enough but perhaps a little suspicious in those early days of Tom’s old friend showing up at jobs. He was in his element at bars and seemed to know everybody. I remember one time early in our relationship when I had come down to the Valencia Club in Penryn to hear and perhaps sit in with the band, Franco was slow getting back to the bandstand after their first set. After they called several times and he didn’t appear, I plugged in my bass and started playing with the rest of the band. That got him back out there right away. He was nice but firm: ‘I’m the bass player.’

As the years went by I hung out with the band a few times a year, less often at jobs than at rehearsals at Vince’s house in Loomis. There we could relax when not playing and chat without the distraction of bar patrons and we became friends. I had made it clear that I wasn’t trying to get into the band permanently on either instrument. The band, especially in the early 2000s, was pretty busy, playing 3 or 4 times a month around the Gold Country. I was still getting my feet back under me musically.

Franco was not a flashy player, but he had been playing professionally for a long time, mostly in country bands. He knew what sounded right and how to do it. I always enjoyed watching him work with Tom and the band on parts of songs. He was not the leader – Tom was – but when something wasn’t right, he demanded that it get fixed, and stuck with it until it was.

As time went by, Franco let me sit in on bass every once in while. Usually I was the third guitar player. By then I knew most of the songs the band played so there wasn’t a huge let down in quality.

It was about this time 5 years ago that I sat in for Franco for the last time. Of course I didn’t know it then. The band was playing at a pizza restaurant in Cool. Just before the second set he said he wasn’t feeling so good and would I mind playing. No! I had gone outside during the first set and I remember marveling at the strong and clear bass sound that carried well out past the parking lot.

I don’t remember how the evening ended; whether I played bass for the whole rest of the evening or Franco came back. There was no indication that anything serious was wrong but it was only a little over a month later when Tom called me with the news that Franco had died.

I was honored to play through his rig with the band at the memorial. Later I bought it from his nephew and treasure it still. Franco wasn’t married and had no children so the nephew was the closest relative he had. The band has had a few bass players since but none to match Franco.

Rest in Peace, Franco Giovannoni. The heavenly band is better for your presence!

Zach on my mind

Seemingly out of nowhere, Zach has been back at the front of my attention. I think it’s because I’ve been on the roads a lot in the last couple of days. Actually, everything has been pretty nominal except for yesterday.

Yesterday was Tom Kent‘s CD release party in Roseville. I was going to go anyway – I had arranged for the day off – but he called me in the morning and said he wanted me to play on two of his tunes from the CD and to please bring a guitar and bass. I had played on those tunes for the CD but had missed the rehearsals for the live show. When that happened I told Tom I would just show up to the party to support him but wouldn’t play.

Anyway, that’s another story. What is germane is that I drove 280 miles yesterday including a significant portion on two lane roads. Today I just drove to work at Davies and coming home a few minutes ago I got to witness several drivers driving faster than they needed to: quick lane changes, tailgating etc.

How do I know they were going faster than they needed to? In almost every case I caught up to them at the next light and they were sitting calmly waiting for the light. All I could think of was, why are you risking the life of an innocent pedestrian or bicyclist for that 10% of the time when you get through the next light. And then what? You’re 30 seconds ahead of where you would otherwise be.

With the anniversary of Zach’s death coming up I have been thinking about some posts I want to do. One will be titled ‘that awful night’ and describe my experiences that night. Some others will be the statements made to the police by the drivers and witnesses. The last several months I have let the whole thing go but I am not finished with the legal system. I am gathering my strength to read those statements again and analyze them carefully. I have an idea what they will show but I will not say now. It may be that it will be different from what I expect. There is a 4 year statute of limitations on criminal charges.


The Laura Nyro song ‘And When I Die’ came up on my rotation the other day. Her version is so poignant because she died before her time. (I thought she was younger, but she was almost 50 when she died in 1997.)

For some reason I thought of Ally and Noah when I heard it. I was driving and my first thought was to send it to her but later I thought it might be more appropriate here. Noah’s last name will never appear in this forum so all I will say is that he is Zach’s natural child, Ally is the mother – a remarkable woman – and he now has the last name of his Dad, Ally’s husband and a remarkable man. Zach cooperated with Noah’s adoption by them in 2014.

Zach had not told anyone in his family of Noah’s existence for reasons that I can only speculate on. His discovery by us is a story for another time. As you might imagine, it was quite a shock coming only a few days after the shock of Zach’s death. It was only due to Ally’s quiet determination for Noah to know his blood relatives that I was able to finally come to accept the fact – as quite a few people said to me -that we have a little part of Zach still on this earth.

Which brings me to the lyric that hit me between the eyes: ‘And when I die, And when I’m dead and gone, There’ll be one child born, And a world to carry on, carry on.’

I met Noah at a celebration a week after Zach died but I was so wrecked I wasn’t very coherent. After some weeks passed, I was able to write him a letter (on paper, and put in the mail!) and we have developed a relationship that way. Someday I will meet him in person again.

Here’s the whole lyric, copied from Laura Nyro’s web site http://www.lauranyro.com/

I’m not scared of dyin’
And I don’t really care
If it’s peace you find in dyin’
Well then let the time be near
Just bundle up my coffin
‘Cause its cold way down there
And when I die
And when I’m gone
There’ll be one child born
And a world to carry on

My troubles are many
They’re deep as a well
I swear there ain’t no heaven
And I pray there ain’t no hell
But I’ll never know by livin’
Only my dyin’ will tell
And when I die
And when I’m gone
There’ll be one child born
And a world to carry on

Give me my freedom
For as long as I be
All I ask of livin’
Is to have no chains on me
All I ask of livin’
Is to have no chains on me
And all I ask of dyin’
Is to go naturally
And when I die
And when I’m gone
There’ll be one child born
And a world to carry on