Tag Archives: Zach

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.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

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.

numbers

This past week I was going to write a post on numbers: 3, for years since Zach died. 53, for speed of the truck that killed him. I still want to write to the DA and try to get the case reopened. Every time I stand on a sidewalk and watch traffic speeding by I think of how fast they are going. Sometimes I estimate they are going about 50 and I think how it would feel to be slammed against their windshield.

53 is pretty fucking fast for a city street and it’s no wonder Zach was killed instantly. When I went back to Baton Rouge last January, very few cars were going that fast along that little stretch. I think both drivers were driving recklessly and should be cited appropriately.

But I haven’t written that yet. Sepi reminded me that I had told her last summer I was going to let it go. I don’t remember that. I just remember that i want to try one more time.

Meanwhile, Dad was out last Wednesday with Mom and fell when she wasn’t looking. 911 was called and they spent the afternoon in the ER. Blood tests and X-rays showed no serious damage to his bones but revealed a mass in his lung. The doctor say she’s 99% sure it is cancer. Te be sure involves a biopsy and the consensus is to not do that.

Coincidentally, Tim came to visit Thursday so we were able to get 4 of the 6 of us in the same room as Mom and Dad to discuss what to do. Dad didn’t say much of anything. We’re not sure how much he understands but he really doesn’t want to spend another afternoon like Wednesday.

The doctor talked of hospice which evidently can be triggered by a six month time frame. Now we’re all coming to terms with the likelihood that, instead of wasting slowly away from Alzheimers, Dad will be dead much sooner.

Everyone was pretty calm Friday when were all discussing this but I feel sure that we are all in some kind of denial.

We will all gather again on Thanksgiving. We will rejoice in what we have and what we have had.

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.

today

When I got up this morning I thought I might write a post riffing on something Zach wrote on this date. His entries for this date didn’t inspire me so I’ll just do a newsy post.

Today is my second date this year playing bass with Tom’s band Loose Gravel. We talked earlier in the week about tunes in the set. He wants me to sing Big Boss Man. The last time I tried it while playing bass I crapped all over it. It’s the Grateful Dead version so I hear Phil’s bass which is all over the place. I need to simplify.

One of the problems I have with Tom’s band is not trusting the drummer. The bass and drums need to lock in and the drummer, Dr Watson, is still a bit of a mystery to me. I feel, as the bass player who hasn’t rehearsed with the band and doesn’t really know the songs that well, that I need to really concentrate on playing my part perfectly. This lets out doing vocals.

Actually, ‘loose’ is a good metaphor for this band so I should just relax and enjoy it. Mostly I do.

Sepi will be going with me. She likes the burgers at the Valencia Club. Check it out from last time:

This time, we’re going to share our french fries.

As is her wont, Sepi took loads of pictures last time. Here’s one of me playing Franco‘s bass:

It’s a long day. I’ll be leaving my apartment at 10 am and likely getting home around 9 pm. I got paid $60 last time. It’s a labor of love. I do appreciate Sepi coming with me.

9:30. Time to go load the car!

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.

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.

the Fourth of July

I stayed in Pacifica last night. I had to work until 2 yesterday afternoon and got lazy after I got home. I had talked to Mom and Dad about coming down but finked out. Unlike prior years, Pacifica had been fairly quiet in the previous week.

Although it wasn’t fully dark until 9:30, the bombs and skyrockets started in earnest about 8 pm. The back of my apartment complex faces the backs of some houses which all have decks. In almost eight years of living here I’ve seen people on those decks maybe 4 or 5 times. Last night was one of them.

There were a dozen or so people including kids. I could see beer bottles and cigarettes. I was hoping their deck did not go all the way to the house because they were shooting off big fountains and skyrockets right there in the back yard. The airbursts were out of my sight from my kitchen window but I could hear them. The fountains splashed sparks on their roof and their neighbor’s roof. The neighbor’s house was dark so I assume they weren’t at home. Maybe they were on the deck.

Out the bedroom window looking towards the beach we could see several large displays. About 9 pm a police car sped down Linda Mar with its lights on but no siren. A minute or so later came another, then the fire truck from the station up the street. The fire truck put its siren on. There was smoke all over.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen (or heard) police and fire presence on the Fourth of July in Pacifica.

I went to bed around ten. The explosions continued for at least another half hour. I believe I fell asleep about then so I don’t know how late it all went. If there were big explosions later they didn’t wake me up. I am thankful for that. I remember in years past huge bombs at one in the morning.

Also in years past there were big signs posted along Highway 1 in the run up to the Fourth saying that Pacifica had ‘zero tolerance’ for illegal fireworks. The fine was publicized as $1000. I didn’t see those signs this year, perhaps because there is work going on upgrading the highway. Maybe instead of ineffectual signs, the city has decided to actually prosecute the scofflaws.

My favorite guitar forum, TDPRI, had a discussion on fireworks with predictable comments from some about restrictions on ‘freedom’. Another common theme was how communities have banned fireworks but people get them and shoot them off anyway. Sepi says Brisbane enforces their fireworks ban more closely, perhaps because they are right up against San Bruno Mountain, which is covered in dry grass.

I suppose in the big picture of where our country is going, this is a small thing. OK, rant over. Tomorrow we are heading up to Lake Tahoe for a group camp out in honor of Zach. I think I’ll do another whole post on that happy subject.