Tag Archives: Zach

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.

moving

It’s official. Sepi and I will be moving into her house in Brisbane in September. Despite my efforts to not accumulate ‘stuff’ there is a lot of ‘stuff’ in this apartment that I do not need.

I have three boxes of Zach’s ‘stuff’ that I have already decided I can let go of. He had looked at it all in 2014 and said he didn’t want any of it. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away then and I hadn’t even thought about it at all until very recently. I’ve reached out to his siblings and to Ally but there is no interest. It’s possible his mother may want them. That inquiry is pending.

I sent out a message this morning to relatives about my furniture that I will not be needing in a couple of months. Perhaps in the coming weeks I will host visits where they can look through my things for ‘stuff’ they want. Meanwhile I will be accumulating boxes to put things in.

From 2004 to 2010 I moved three times. It doesn’t sound like much but I had been in the Grass Valley house with a family for ten years. There was a lot of ‘stuff’! Also, there was a lot of shuffling of ‘stuff’ back and forth between two houses for a while culminating in the foreclosures. Some things I thought had value I just left in the house for the new owners. I had no room for them where I was going.

I learned that I didn’t need most of that ‘stuff’ in my little apartment. There is a hardware store down the street that sells screws and things by the piece. I don’t try to work on my own car any more. Pacifica has a library.

Sepi’s house is comparatively big but we are both committed to downsizing in the long run. Ultimately our expectations are that we will move to a condo with a pool and an exercise room with shops nearby. Then we will have to downsize still more.

separating children

Lots of words have been written about the policy of our current President regarding refugees trying to enter the United States with children. I did not originally intend to add to them but I just ran across an extraordinary testimonial that touches on the issues of immigration and children.

Here it is: link (PDF)

It struck me that there are similarities between my family’s loss of Zach and these family’s loss of their children. There are important differences, of course. Most importantly is that these children are not dead, but the separation is like a death. As Dr Krell illustrates, the change is profound in their lives.

I think we are like these children, ripped from our loved one by forces we do not understand. I at least had a chance to say goodbye to Zach’s body. I don’t remember crying much that day while we were at the funeral home, but that night in the shower where I thought no one could hear me, I wailed.

Zach’s room

This image came up in my screensaver rotation a moment ago. It is what Zach’s room looked like when we got there the day after he died. I had just a few minutes ago cleaned the same dresser top where I now keep some of Zach’s things in my bedroom. I have the dresser now but nothing else in this photo. I’m actually amazed that I can look at it – and I did look at it carefully – without bursting into tears. For a long time I couldn’t leave my apartment without thinking about what people would think about me and my living space if I never came back. Sometimes I would tidy things up just a little extra.

If it weren’t for Zach’s death, no one would have taken pictures like this. I don’t have any pictures of my apartment like this.

Zach’s journal for today

I decided I would do an entry today from Zach’s journal. The first thing I noticed when I went to open the PDF file was that there was a work journal that covered spring 2012. These have not been catalogued as carefully by me as the personal journals so I took a look.

41 pages, covering from January to May 2012! Digging further, I find that on this date in 2012, Zach wrote 2,957 words in his work journal. Wow! It is all job related and not of much interest to me right now so I moved on to the personal journal.

His February 21 entry starts like this:

2/21, blasphemy
It is in inexcusable that I have been away from this for 17 days.  I am filling my weekends with nothing-ness and I’m really ticked at myself for it.  Today is Fat Tuesday and continuing in the perplexing logic that is the state of Louisiana, I have the day off from work.  This all ties together quite nicely, actually, as we will see in the following…
First, though: Mardi Gras.  The background of Mardi Gras, as far as I can tell, is for the Catholics to get all of their sinning out before Lent (Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday).  I couldn’t find any other reason for why Mardi Gras exists.  Are we serious?  We spend weeks and weeks and tons of resources on a “holiday” that is predicated on debauchery so the dirty human can then spend 40 days sans some trivial comfort, and then feel good about themselves and think they are closer to a deity.  Wow.  And I wonder how many of the idiots getting wasted on Bourbon Street today know the background of this whole “holiday.”
So with that out of the way…the LSU students had yesterday, today, and half of tomorrow off school (nevermind the fact that they also get a week off in April for basically a second Spring Break).  So most everything in these parts is pretty shut down, with professionals taking a few days off, students going home, etc.  Which explains why I’m sitting on my bed at 930AM on a Tuesday morning drinking tea (which is flipping awesome).

He then goes on to say how he’s been busy with work. ‘ . . . but not so busy that I couldn’t take time to write in here . . .’ Then he talks about progress he’s made in preparing to finish his Masters and he meanders around a bit about doing things for Mardi Gras with his friends.

Then this:

And coming back, is the insincere asshole moment.  I do like Lauren and I want to be there for her and we do get along great and playing basketball is awesome with her.  I want to be a strong figure in her life; I embrace that.  I just don’t know if I want to be a boyfriend, because I’m not very good at being a boyfriend and still conquering the other aspects of my life.  And, unfortunately for her, my life is more important.  My work is more important.  My ambition, right now, is more important.  I don’t know how to have that conversation with her, nor do I think she would understand, nor do I think we can come to a happy medium.  I’m slightly haunted by what I wrote last September or October…something along the lines of : “I want Lauren to love me but I don’t want the responsibility of loving her back.”  Well, I guess that isn’t exactly true; I want that responsibility, just not as a boyfriend.  I don’t think…

He’s pissed at himself for spending so much time with Lauren to the exclusion of other friends that he values just as much. then he talks about watching too much ‘crap shit awfulness’ TV, especially The Big Bang Theory which he thinks is better. He identifies with Sheldon, ‘a physicist genius with no people skills and a gigantic ego,’ who is happier spending his time alone.

But one last thing, which again was manifest yesterday…I embraced being alone and away from people, which is all well and good, but only to a point.  I always remember Rabbi Kamrass telling me to nurture the soul and to not try to take everything alone, and I firmly believe that we as humans are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with…and to that end, yesterday really made me miss Troy and Josh and my life in Corvallis…for its simplicity and for the support system that was that group.  I don’t want to become a complete outcast and only spend isolated time with Lauren…

So, 2,500 words later, what else has happened in the last 17 days?  Not much.  I mentioned playing bball.  I haven’t read a lick (ugh that pisses me off).  Haven’t watched any noteworthy movies ( I did see The Debt, which was good but not amazing).  Haha, after all this writing about seclusion, we did have a Geaux Lead reunion Friday night which was awesome; we talked about a lot of things that interest me and I feel like I learned and became a better person.  But in other news…haven’t done much–wrote some notes to Annie and Patsy, trying to stay connected to Josh Molly and Troy, had a phone convo with Dave (which was difficult but still good).  Haven’t really made any inroads in my other endeavors, including the car insurance question, the savings bond work, and going to the Mac store to see if my dvd drive can be fixed.  At least I made some strides on the Master’s.  And this morning I had the relatively cathartic experience of purging about 60-75 friends from my FB list, which is always an interesting sociological experience.  Half-heartedly advancing on my personal goals but obviously, as detailed above, not going very fast.  LOL.

Then he goes on to detail some of the professional reading he’s been doing, with commentary, finally ending with this:

Not much else in the way of learning…I’ve been listening to NPR on the radio a lot and it’s actually annoying because most of it is silly little transitory jazz clips or someone talking about all their funding.  Kind of ironic actually.  Well, that’s all for now folks.  I’m going on an Adventure Trip this weekend as a second driver so I probably won’t be back for a little while but that’s okay.  I’ll manage.

3,399 words in this, personal, journal to go with the 2,957 words in his work journal. Thank you, Zach, for giving us so much to remember you by.

Zach quotes

I have a bunch of spiral notebooks. Some of them have writing in them. Some are waiting for writing to come to them. I’ll hazard a guess and say that none of them are particularly new. One or two are from my college days which are 45+ years ago. I picked out one the other day that I wasn’t sure about. It’s huge: 5 sections of perhaps 50 pages in each section. As I was putting it away tonight I saw some writing on the back cover. Really tiny writing, like Zach’s.

I think it’s a notebook from his Xavier days. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I took my glasses off and got really close and could read most of the words. Here is what I read:

  • I’m not the guy who creates w/new ideas every second. I’m the guy who pushes talented people to say their ideas out loud.
  • Great leaders are not necessarily great strategists.
  • Genius is simply patience carried to the extreme.
  • Men were changing behavior through petty[?]/programs, etc., more until 10 [?] inventory their specific values and identify their constraints, both real and imagined.

Zach wrote down quotes from other people all the time so the likelihood is that these are not original to him. Nevertheless, I felt that it was worth sharing.

emotions

The cycles of emotion are strange. I know I’m more likely to get weepy when I’m tired but it still comes on me at times when I do not expect it.

Friday morning I came into Davies Hall to go to work. Past the guard station and down the hallway by the orchestra managers’ offices are the bulletin boards with the lists of who is playing what in the weeks to come. I almost always stop and look to see if Sarah’s name is on the lists. I knew she was playing this week.

Her name was on for the next two sets and as I walked alone down the backstage hallway I found I was tearing up. Why now? She’s been working pretty regularly so it’s not really a huge surprise. It just happened.

Sometimes when I’m talking with Jeremy and he tells me about how busy he is trying to establish himself in a new home and still be a good husband and father I get choked up. Not all the time, just sometimes. Strange are the cycles of emotion.

The SoundBox set last week included a group of short compositions that were pretty unstructured. For the dress rehearsal Friday, the last piece had the 20 or so orchestra members scattered around the SoundBox space. There were a few moments of silence and then they started to play slowly, each musician listening to the space around them and contributing their feelings in sound. For no reason I could identify, I began crying. Although I was sitting off to the side I wondered if people were looking at me. I didn’t move but I tried not to make a sound. I kept saying to myself, ‘Oh, Zach. Oh, my Z.’ over and over. I wanted to let the emotions flow but I was also a professional on the clock. The ethereal music went on for three or four minutes then morphed into a louder, more rhythmic pattern. By the time it ended, I was still teary but under control and I went back to work. No one said anything to me about it.

now it can be told

A bit melodramatic, our title is, but the whole thing seems a bit melodramatic sometimes. Nothing will bring Zach back but I still have questions about the night he died.

To that end, I traveled back to Baton Rouge on Tuesday. I never wanted to go back, but I did. I only told one person where I was going because I didn’t want to have to justify it ahead of time. I’ve been calling it my ‘white whale’ because it sometimes seems like an ill-fated obsession.

Well, I’m home safe now, so ‘ill-fated’ it wasn’t. My apologies to Micah and Julie for not letting you know I was in town. I had to maintain my focus and I only had a short time there. I also didn’t (don’t) want to drag them through that experience for my benefit. It’s my obsession, dammit, and I’m keeping it to myself.

Well, not really, because I’m writing about it here. Here’s what I did: I got up early and took a non stop flight to New Orleans, arriving in the early afternoon. I rented a car and drove to Baton Rouge and got a room. I then headed over to the stretch of Lee drive between Perkins Road and the site of Zach’s death. I had a camera, my voice recorder, a laser rangefinder, a notebook. It was about 5 pm and rush hour (I can only assume) was in full swing. Cars were pouring through that intersection without letup for the whole two hours I was there. Actually, by the end I thought it might have lessened somewhat but I also thought perhaps I was just getting used to it.

With the rangefinder I measured the distances all along Lee Drive. I had bought one of those rangefinders designed to be used for hunting that was good for up to 600 yards because I thought I might want to measure the whole distance all at once. In the event, I used the telephone poles along the street that were only about 25 to 50 yards apart. The accuracy of the rangefinder is 1 yard so it wasn’t civil engineering. Actually, the whole thing was pretty ad hoc but I’m not displeased with the results.

I drew a simple map of the street showing the side streets and the distances along Lee. I took pictures and video of the cars surging down Lee with special attention to how and where they merged and where exactly the pavement was no longer two cars wide. I spoke my impressions into my voice recorder.

Oh, and I brought one more thing, a stopwatch. The old fashioned kind that has three buttons on top. Actually, the old fashioned kind only had two buttons. This one is digital and had a clock mode, hence the third button. I wanted this style so I could watch the cars go by a certain point and time them along a known distance. I didn’t want to be fussing around with ‘buttons’ on my smart phone.

It worked great. I stood by one of the telephone poles and timed cars going by at the point near to where I believe Zach was hit. When I got back to the hotel room, I calculated their speeds and tabulated it all in a spreadsheet.

(I will omit a long digression where I first forgot how to calculate rates, then found that I had measured a critical distance wrong. So that last part actually took quite a while.)

I’m going to save the details for another post which will be based on a letter I will write to the Baton Rouge District Attorney asking him/her to reopen the case and file more significant charges against the driver, Shawn Allen. I also think the driver of the other vehicle, Reginald Herzog, Jr, has culpability as well as I believe the two drivers were racing each other and not paying proper attention to the road. My information is that criminal charges can be filed up to 4 years after the incident.

In the morning, after a restless night, I went back to the vicinity and made a video driving through the Perkins intersection from College onto Lee so times could be extracted from that although I did not have a camera on the speedometer.

I took some more photos, particularly of the bike, which is still there. The post accident story of the bike is here.

After that, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was still early, but there was nothing else in Baton Rouge for me. I drove slowly back to the New Orleans airport on back roads and flew home.

Zach after Zero Dark Thirty

Zach has an entry for this date, January 21, in 2013. It was MLK Monday that year. He has some angst about his job, but then he tells of going to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty on the previous Saturday. It didn’t make his ‘list’ but he did say it was engrossing.

Then he goes on with this:

What can’t be argued, however, is how it made me felt…I know this isn’t exactly the greatest example, but it made me feel, as I have many times before, insignificant and wanting to be a part of something greater in my life.  Watching a team of navy seals and the intense training and preparation they show…I’m envious.  Watching a recreation of a meeting of CIA and national security personnel…I’m envious.  Hell, in a weird, horribly perverse way, I’m envious of watching a group of analysts sit around at a conference table.  It’s the feeling that I want to be a part of something bigger, something greater than what I currently am.  To be around intense individuals who want something bigger in their life.  This feeling moved me to go back and read a long passage I wrote when I was coming home from Colorado last summer that nicely captured this same feeling.  It’s still there, and at a greater level than it was last summer, as my dissatisfaction with my job and work environment has amplified.  Even today, while I was at work, I had a short risk/reward calculation in my brain of not doing certain tasks and whether I could get away with not doing them.  How horrible is that?  In the same light, I just literally texted someone how I wished I could be in a professional position where someone would just tell me what to do because I was sick of trying to make decisions on what was important at work.  I don’t feel inadequate; I KNOW I am inadequate, with what I am doing with my life.  Maybe that’s an overstatement.  What I do know, however, is that I just spent 15 minutes looking over jobs at the CIA wondering if I should apply to certain programs… I just feel like I’m soft at life.

What’s hilarious about all this?  The federal government and the CIA is rarely known for its ability to do things really well or for having a strong, effective, efficient work environment.  LOL.