Tag Archives: Sarah

Ear wax

I remember clearly the first time I saw my own ear wax. The first great California drought I experienced was in 1977 and 1978. Like a good citizen I cut down on my showers. One day I noticed that one of my ears was plugged up to the extent that I couldn’t hear at all on that side.

At the doctor’s office, they put some stuff in my ears and had me sit in the waiting room for a while. I remember it as quite a while, perhaps half an hour, after which I was brought back into the examining room. They had me hold up a cup-like thing to my ear and took a thing like a 409 bottle and stuck it in my ear and commenced to squirt.

Shortly they were done and I could hear again! Miraculous!

Then the doctor showed me what was in the cup. Aiee! It was a huge black, greasy-looking cylindrical thing about a half inch long!

‘That came out of my ear?’ I was dumbfounded. I had no idea such things existed. Then they did the other ear and another greasy black thing, not quite so large, came out of that one.

Over the years since, I’ve come to realize that my ears generate wax and must be cleaned out periodically. Recently, I’ve mostly gotten it  done along with my annual physical. I thought I had it done in January but I can’t remember for sure.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I felt that familiar sensation of my ear plugging up. I didn’t want to go to the doctor now just for that so I looked into what was available OTC. Sarah told me about a squirt system she had used that sounded like the one the doctors used so I got one.

Today I got it out and got everything ready. After I had left the drops in for a while, I got Sepi to come over and run the squirt bottle. She was almost to the end of the water when the big plug came out. She was dumbfounded! She had no idea such things existed!

Sepi is very worldly so when I show here something she’s never seen before, it’s worth mentioning. My astonishment from 40+ years ago was somewhat validated.

Now she wants her ears cleaned out!

two deaths

Whenever there are two deaths, I always seem to hear people say these things happen in threes, who will be next. I don’t buy that. Things happen. Period. Humans being the supreme rationalizers that they (we) are, look for patterns in everything. Most of the time we find them. Are they really there? No comment.

The brother of a friend was found dead a couple of days ago. My friend asked that I not tell anyone just yet so I am camouflaging his identity. I’m also pretty sure that no one who might know them reads this blog. Anyway, the death was not related to Covid-19, as far as I know. I think alcohol was the main culprit but I may be rationalizing.

Both deaths were men in their 70s. I could argue that they both had lived decent lives and thus neither death is a tragedy. When my friend called me with the news he was pretty upset. I told him that even when we can see something coming, it can still be a shock when it actually happens.

Bud Oakley had had some serious health problems over the past few years. I hadn’t been as close to him as I had been in the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s when Sarah and Zach were most active in Villa Sinfonia, the violin studio he ran with his wife, Lynn. Over the years, there were rehearsals and concerts and trips to Europe. For a while I created the concert programs for them. I never went on any of the tours but I did go to the summer workshop at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe several times.

View from conference center

Other times Bud and Lynn let us stay in their house in South Lake Tahoe for weekend getaways. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones they were so generous to.

It is a cliché that an organization is like a family. I heard a lot of this rhetoric from Symphony leadership this past three months. I was not convinced. Bud and Lynn’s organization was like a family. They did a lot of smart things from a business perspective but it was all grounded in a love for music and teaching. I always felt that the growth of the studio was due not to some hard nosed business plan but from the organic needs of the people they served.

Bud was a demanding leader but he gave of himself without reserve.

This picture is from a Christmas concert at Ghirardelli Square in 1995. It was a regular thing for a few years. Bud was surely thinking about the music that they were about to play but there were probably kids not yet there he was thinking about. A good man. He will be missed.

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.

 

“smoke ’em inside”

I’ve talked to Jeremy and Sarah, too, about my job travails. Sarah has been conventionally supportive. The last week of the Symphony season in July she was in the orchestra while I was running the last three shows. She gave me good, practical advice on some technical things but also a lovely text which I will not quote here. She stopped by my post at the stage manager’s desk often with a quick smile.

Jeremy I only talked to once or twice. His advice was more metaphorical. We had only a couple weeks before noted the death of Jim Bouton, author of the seminal baseball memoir, Ball Four. Jeremy reminded me of Bouton’s mantra as he struggled to revive his baseball pitching career in Seattle: “Smoke ’em inside.”

Zach’s spot

I visited Zach’s spot Wednesday. It doesn’t sound right to say it but I don’t know what else to call it. It’s where his earthly remains are. It’s not his gravesite but it’s something like that.

Three years ago, a group of us gathered there early on a July morning and distributed his ashes in and around Eagle Creek Falls above Emerald Bay. This year, Sepi and I had driven up to Grass Valley to catch Jeremy and his family at Tom’s house. That was a wonderful visit but I had to get back to work by Thursday. Jeremy was going on to Yosemite and we were going back to the Bay Area.

I decided I wanted to go back through Lake Tahoe, though, to stop at this place and remember Zach. Sarah is gathering people at a campsite up there again as I write this so others will do as I did soon.

It was early afternoon and the area was packed with people. We found a parking place quickly, though, and I decided that I would not go to the falls, where I had left my portion, but up the hill, where others had. Fewer folks up there.

I took a few moments to think of that day and Zach, then took a quick panorama, then headed back down the hill. the less said about the drive home the better.

It sure is a beautiful spot, Zach! I love you, son.

Clark is gone

Clark Ewing, the other grandfather of my children, died this morning. It ‘s been a tough couple of months for Jeremy and Sarah. I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between the two men.

Clark was three years older and started his family sooner, so he had had his fourth child before I was born. Both men worked hard establishing themselves and their families in the 1950’s and were firmly established in the suburban middle class by the end of the decade. Both came from rather conservative Christian backgrounds and moved to more liberal interpretations as they got older.

Both were active in their respective churches but the nature of their activity reflected their personalities. Dad taught Sunday School and edited the newsletter. Clark led public campaigns.

Dad eventually branched out from the Church activities and became active in the Movie Club and some local charities. Clark was a member of Rotary Club and was prominent in the Toledo YMCA.

I believe Clark’s greatest achievement was his stewardship of the camp run by the Toledo Y in southern Michigan. I tend to refer to it as a ‘summer’ camp, but in reality it was a year ’round operation at the time I came into the family in 1981. Clark had been director for many years by that time. He was passionate about the place and had been instrumental in expanding into its current state. He was not shy about talking about where he thought it should go from there.

Where Dad was solid and careful; a craftsman, with hidden talents, Clark was ebullient and was the first to stand up and say ‘Follow me!’ Perhaps some might say he moved too fast, or reached farther than he could grasp, but he relished the challenge.

At Dad’s funeral, we had a hundred or so people attending. A dozen or so spoke afterwards and were highly complimentary. As word of Clark’s death goes out, there will be thousands of men and women who will reflect back on their experiences with Clark and know how he influenced them positively. Many will travel to Michigan, I predict, to participate in whatever memorial is planned.

Neither is better than the other. We all take our paths in life influenced by opportunity and our own personalities. Both are being mourned by their families and many others. I am the child of my father. He influenced me more than anyone else. Clark showed me another way, and influenced my children profoundly as well. I am happy to have known both men.

I found a little appreciation I wrote about Clark a couple of years ago. Here it is.

politics

I was upset enough about the way the Supreme Court nomination hearings were going. I shouldn’t be surprised at how brazen the Republican Senators are in hijacking our democracy but I guess I still am. Bush v Gore was nearly 20 years ago now. I keep coming back to the thought of how people in other countries left to come to America when their home was going crazy. The most obvious is Jews in Germany in the 1930s but there are many other examples.

What if I had to do it? Could I give up my family, my livelihood, my friends, the land that I love? Where would I go? These thoughts run through my head when I get too deep into the political news.

So I went to FaceBook and saw this at the top of my timeline:

He was a classmate and known gang member. It was during 8th grade homeroom when the assault happened. The teacher had only been gone a few seconds. Some of my friends laughed as they witnessed it. I had trust issues and became quite withdrawn for a long time after that. I was ashamed and embarrassed and scared of retaliation.

#whyididntreport

Ashley wrote that! My own daughter-in-law. Daughter-in-love. OMFG!

Since her marriage to Jeremy, Ashley has shown me again and again what a high quality person she is. As I’ve gotten to know her better over the years, my respect and love for her has grown by leaps and bounds.

And now I discover that she has been carrying this. OMFG! The sweetest, purest person I know had this happen to her??

Perhaps equally unsettling is the thought that many, maybe even most, other women are carrying similar burdens. Sarah doesn’t like to talk to me abut such things, but she has had similar experiences over the years. Sepi has told me of some things that happened to her as an adult. Men power tripping with sex.

None of these, as far as I can tell, were actual rapes, but where do you draw the line? There are some incidents in my past where I went across the line for an inappropriate touch or a kiss (I realized later). I have tried to reach out to those women in recent years to apologize and take responsibility.

Dear Ashley, thank you for having the courage to speak out. Love, Dad.

4 years ago

I have my screen saver on my main computer set to show random pictures from my pictures folders. When I walk back to that machine after I’ve been gone a few minutes, the screen saver is playing old pictures. Sometimes I watch them scroll by for a bit. Sometimes I even hit the cursor key to scroll back one or two.

Today there was a picture that I want to share. One of the things I always look forward to when visiting Rosalie is tickling. Ashley has gotten some good pictures more recently of us laughing uproariously.

Here’s one from last November:

The one that came up on the screen saver today was this one, from Rosalie’s visit to California in July of 2014. I was keeping my hair short then, but the rest was much the same:

The pictures from my camera are numbered sequentially so I know this came from my camera. Who took the picture, then? Ashley never uses my camera. Then I saw another picture from the same day and remembered that Sarah was there that day. She took the picture!

Here’s how I know. This is still one of my all-time favorites, taken on the swing in Teresa’s backyard July 4th, 2014.

 

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.

quote

Our last SoundBox for the season opened last night. Someone said to me, ‘Last of the year.’ and of course I had to correct her. Unlike this time last year, we do have a SoundBox scheduled for next December. This is an improvement.

For myself, I’m not sure if I will continue working SoundBox. I enjoy it tremendously but the thrill I’ve had for 45 years working in live theatre is diminishing and I have begun thinking seriously about my next chapter.

Sarah had been scheduled to play for the movie in the main hall but someone dropped out of the SoundBox orchestra and she got moved over. It was her first time playing in SoundBox. The music was difficult and there are only a few players so everyone’s playing is exposed. She handled it with grace and aplomb. Perhaps she was churning inside but I didn’t see it.

Aside from the fact of her continuing to get hired by the Symphony, the best thing about seeing her with this orchestra is seeing her interact with her fellow musicians in a friendly and relaxed way. They like her!

Now for my quote. This was posted about a friend of a friend of a friend on FaceBook but it caught my eye just before I deleted it. Credited to Daisaku Ikeda:

In the Buddhist view, the bonds that link people are not a matter of this lifetime alone. And because those who have died in a sense live on within us, our happiness is naturally shared with those who have passed away. So, the most important thing is for those of us who are alive at this moment to live with hope and strive to become happy. By becoming happy ourselves, we can send invisible ‘waves’ of happiness to those who have passed away.