Zach speaks

I woke up this morning with an idea of publishing Zach’s journals. Not publishing like a book, just posting here on this blog. Piecemeal, like I’ve done before. I haven’t looked up how I treated it before but today I think I will not comment.

Here is his entry from this date in 2015:

4/18, Saturday morning

The week back to the normalcy was not excellent. I always say no bad days but this week really put that mantra to a test. It started with Sunday, where I was only marginally productive and didn’t really do a whole lot, but planned to go bed early and get a good nights sleep, then get up on Monday morning and kick ass. As always, this didn’t work…I couldn’t fall asleep for shit that night and ended up staying up until I don’t know how late and reading a 500 page Michael Crichton book. Which was entertaining but ultimately a bit redundant. So I slept like shit, got up Monday and was immediately annoyed by the cats, the rain, and the dirtiness of the house. All petty little things that are somewhat within my control and I just let it mentally derail me. So Monday was a day spent trying to not get too wet from the rain, making adjustments to golf class, and get too annoyed by how dirty the house became from Jake being gone and the cats being in our house for ten days. Then stats was useless that evening (shockingly) and I had to go make copies and print stuff out that evening, which basically crushed any chances of exercise for the day.

Tuesday was where the car really ran off the road. It rained a shit ton more Monday night add as I was getting ready to get dressed for the high school and everything, I realized that I had a serious issue of mold in my room, including on a lot of my nice clothes. So I was pretty annoyed, but at that point I didn’t realize the extent of it. But I did when I got home…it was everywhere, and had started growing on my dressers and on about 50% of the clothes and other items in my closets. So needless to say, I was pretty wonked…I spent a couple hours in the afternoon working on it before Kwame’s class, went to class, then came back home and stayed up until about 1am cleaning stuff and figuring out how bad it all was. Jake had finally gotten home and he came and calmed me down, which helped. And I think everything is taken care of, although some of it has already come back in the days since…and I’m also getting rid of a shit ton of stuff…clothes I don’t wear anymore, that big suitcase that I never use, some of my old NU bags, and other shit. So that was kind of liberating.

But it also meant I didn’t really get anything done Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, and Thursday was also a clunker of a day, so it was not a banner week. I think I’ve got it out of my system but it was rough on my working out (which I had attacked with so much zeal but closed the week with a whimper), as well as me getting good work done (which isn’t a huge huge deal, although I have one assignment I’ve officially procrastinated far too long).

I started trying to write longhand each morning for a few minutes and sort of like it, but sort of dislike it. It’s mostly just me bitching and then trying to get my head wrapped around what I want to accomplish for the day. So it’s not very pure. But I think there’s some value to it, although I’m not quite certain what it is yet.

The other thing hanging over this week was the mysterious absence of Garn, which isn’t a huge deal except I also had some research questions hanging over my head and some confusing WAP directions that he gave me. So each day I was dwelling on all that stuff and uncertain when he would be back for me to talk with him. I eventually got the research stuff under control, at least partially, and the WAP is also settled down. The upshot of this week is that it, 100% hammered home the realization that I really can’t put too much trust in Garn for anything outside of research (and even that I need to trust my own instincts). If he’s going to go MIA, which he did for four days this week, then I really can’t expect to get much from him. The teaching and the work responsibilities are what really bug me; I got an email from Dee this week stating that I wasn’t teaching this summer (per Dr. Solmon) and I brought it up to Garn and he assumed that I was applying for a research award. And I told him I wasn’t because I wanted to take classes, and although we hashed out the conversation, it all makes me very uneasy. I can see a scenario where I’ll get left out to dry for the summer as far as income, just because the only affirmation I have about it is an ambiguous email from Dee and Garn’s word, which is proven to not be trustworthy in matters like this.

In his defense, he’s continued to give me feedback (sort of) on my manuscript and he continues to be exceedingly complimentary. He also nominated me for a national writing award through the AKA, which I received, and I appreciate. I don’t quite know the context of it (like is it really a big deal or no?) and he was really pumped up about it. So he isn’t useless, but I just need to condition myself to be a little more self-reliant in preparing myself for the future.

I nutted up and sent Kwame an email inquiring about TAing for him this summer for Sport in Society and he quickly and positively affirmed that. I think with him I just need to keep pushing slowly, since I don’t think he’s the type to volunteer assistance per se; but if I go to home with specific questions or asking his opinion, he seems willing to help. I need to cultivate that relationship, even if he might be leaving LSU soon. But that’s one area where I just need to go and do it on my own, to help my future.

I also spent a few minutes perusing the job boards looking at what’s out there and it was a sobering reminder that my job search will not be easy…especially because my area is kind of gray, in terms of specialty. I don’t really fit into sport management but I also don’t fit into “Kinesiology”, for the most part. So I need to do more now of trying find or create more specific niches and roles for myself. The problem is, again, that I’m doing this on my own, and I can’t really depend on Garn to help. I’m wondering more and more if I’m going to have to do a post-doc or some sort of shorter job out of school just because I won’t have quite the depth of experience…

At the end of the day, I just want to get out of LSU. Garn, for all his positives, is really being weighed down by his negatives, and I’ve kind of come full circle. I stayed at LSU because I thought it would be a consistent, more comfortable, family type environment with people who supported me and would nurture me and that I could trust. And from what I can tell…that’s not exactly the case. I misread the situation, and hopefully the next two years don’t make me regret it. I don’t regret it now, but I don’t want to hate being here either, and I’m having more and more days where I do…

But here’s the good: since I last wrote, Emily and I have made plans for three visits. I’m going up for two weeks in May, and we’ll spend part of that in AA plus Jimmy and Andrew are coming up from Cincy. That all coming together is a huge relief, because I wanted to spend a lot of time there but didn’t want to just be sitting around her parents house the whole time. She’s also made plans to come down here again in June/July and we’ll spend most of that trip going to Atlanta, which will be awesome. And then I made flights and plans to go to AA for the wedding in August too. So that’s a lot of great things to look forward to, and that makes everything easier. And she and I are as chipper as ever. It’s a good status quo and I hope we keep progressing.

The bad: the Giants are terrible. Not a fun start to the season. But I’ve started re-reading Ball Four, and it’s utterly incredible. I’m a better reader now than I have in the past, and it’s such a wonderful joy to experience it.

Bruce revisited

Bruce Johnson is dead. I just found out through a series of coincidences. Today in the mail I received a letter inviting me to a high school class reunion. My class had a reunion last year and had so much fun they decided to do it again this year.

Included with the letter were some links to video of last years reunion and some photos but also a power point memorializing those classmates now passed on. As I watched the presentation, about half the names were known to me. Not that they had died, but I remembered the people. A couple of them I was close to and knew about: Ken Hood and Karen Gudat. Ken was a neighborhood guy that I hung with for a while. His sister and my sister are close so I had heard of his death. I may write about Karen one day.

The presentation went on for a while. Most had pictures from the high school yearbook so they were easy to recognize. There must have been 30 or 40 pictures and as it went on I started thinking about Bruce and wondering if he would be in there.

He was. At the very end.

It makes me think of the times in PE when we were picked last for the teams – usually flag football, in my recollection. He called it ‘little or no ego satisfaction.’ Another nod to Frank Zappa.

it also makes me think of how he was not valued by the teachers and leadership at Cupertino High School. They saw him as a lazy under achiever, a dope smoker who would never amount to anything. Whatever Bruce turned out to be in conventional terms, he was a huge influence to the good for me and I loved him.

Bruce Johnson

It’s an ordinary name, not unlike Chris Wood. Put it in a search window and you get a lot of hits. Too many. How do I find the Bruce Johnson who was my best friend in high school? I suppose I could try going through classmates.com or some such. I don’t think Bruce is – I hope he still ‘is’ – that kind of guy. I mean, the kind of guy who would register with his old high school alumni group.

I’m more mainstream than him and I haven’t registered with anyone. I did go to the 30th reunion of my graduating class. (This is quite a few years ago now.) Bruce wasn’t there, of course. There were a few people there who I remembered and wanted to talk to. An even smaller number remembered Bruce but no one knew how to get in touch with him.

We lived in the same neighborhood. Like a lot of us, he hung out at the park across the street from my house. I imagine that’s where I met him. We didn’t share any classes at school. He was most definitely not taking the college prep curriculum. On the contrary, Bruce was sort of defiant about the arc of his life. And, in a way, that was what interested me. He had no interest in becoming highly educated although he was plenty smart. He turned me on to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. He had a copy of their first album, which had a list of names of people that had influenced Frank. We pored over those names and tried to figure out who they were. About half we had no idea.

I still have the album. I don’t remember how it ended up with me. On it, I can still see the little ink dots Bruce put beside the names that he recognized. We pooled our meager knowledge but for the most part we were equally ignorant of the people Frank Zappa thought were important.

Frank was famously anti-school (‘Brown shoes / don’t make it! / Quit school / Don’t fake it!’) but not anti-education. While I was dutifully following the math and science path set out for me, Bruce was looking to further his education on his own terms. To that end, we went in together on a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. We each paid half and the deal was that I got to keep the four books that were premiums and he got to keep the back issues. We both read everything. I remember the first issue we got had an advertisement for something called an Aquarian Music Faire in Woodstock, New York, with a lineup of bands that was staggering. We would have gone in a heartbeat if it wasn’t 3000 miles away!

We also listened to music incessantly. We were both trying to learn to play the guitar and the paradigm was to learn by listening. No guitar lessons for us! Eric Clapton never took lessons! Jerry Garcia never took lessons! So we thought.

Bruce had a knack for coming up with albums by bands I had never heard of who were really good.

I had a morning paper route and he had an afternoon one so every afternoon after school, I would go over to his house and sit with him while he folded his papers in his front yard. I don’t remember going around on his route with him but I may have. We rode bikes everywhere. The neighborhood was compact so it was no burden on me. I don’t remember ever having trouble doing homework and it certainly wasn’t anything Bruce was ever worried about.

He hung with a different crowd at school, of course, and brought back things that I never would have thought about. One time I remember him telling me that a girl he knew in our class was glad because her period came. It had never crossed my mind that people I knew in high school were having sex.

Bruce never got very good at the guitar. He played the harp (harmonica) pretty well. He sold me his Gibson Melody Maker which I played for a year or so until I started playing jazz at college.

This isn’t exactly the same kind of guitar but close. The picture is me at Norman’s Rare Guitars in LA in 2018.

Speaking of college, after we graduated, I went away to college but not far enough. I stayed in the band I already had and came home frequently to practice and play gigs. It certainly contributed to my quitting school after only six months. I also had the luxury of a high draft number which Bruce did not. He would have been drafted and sent to Vietnam except he took the option of enlisting. The deal was that if you enlisted, you got to have some say in where you went. And it was for three years instead of two.

It sounded like a million years to me and it probably did for Bruce as well but he took it and went to Germany in the Army. We exchanged a few letters but our relationship petered out.

A few years later I heard he was back in the area living with a girl named Gloria but we never got together again. There were no email addresses or cell phone numbers to go to. His parents had moved or perhaps I didn’t want to go through them. I don’t remember.

I like to think it was Bruce’s influence that I strayed from the straight and narrow science education path into music and theatre.

Thanks, Bruce! I hope you still have all those Rolling Stones.

(I went and dug out the album. There are a lot fewer dots than I remember. And interesting for who we didn’t know! Also note Frank’s comment for the first tune.)

Birthdays of dead people

Dad would have been 92 yesterday. I marked the day but didn’t think of making a post about it until too late in the day. His loss has receded into the general noise of the past.

I suppose it happens to everyone. It happened with Zach, too. The date of Zach’s death passed me by completely this year. I literally didn’t think about it at all until a day or two later. That’s a first. I did have an idea for a post on Zach’s birthday but the day slipped away from me. He would’ve been 33.

With Dad, I’ve been better able to recall the earlier times when he was his real, dynamic self. The last two years of his decline are what we have (mostly) forgotten.

The other day, Mom had me get out a walker that had been purchased for him. She wants to have it nearby for herself now. It led to some talk about Dad’s last days but in a fairly dispassionate tone. Maybe elegiac or wistful might describe it better. We talked about her and Mary getting him to Christmas Mass in the rain. It turned out to be his last time out.

Mom had told me she got emotional on Zach’s death date this year but the thought of Dad’s passing doesn’t have the raw emotion attached to it. His death date is coming up in about three weeks, tho’ . . .

I’m glad I’ve been able to change my focus to birthdays rather than death days. It’s part of looking forward, I believe.

So, Happy Birthday Dad and Zach! I miss you but I am working on bringing my memories of you to bear in a positive way.

I survived Christmas

Last year didn’t count. The vaccine had just been announced and no one was having any kind of gatherings. Two years ago, though, Christmas was not a very fin time for me. A large group of family were all at Mom’s house in Santa Clara. When the gift giving started, it quickly devolved into a frenzy of packages being passed back and forth around the living room and everyone seemingly talking at once.

I found it bewildering and confusing. I felt old. I didn’t want to have to experience that again.

This year, gatherings are more acceptable. Everyone who was going to be at Mom’s has been vaccinated. Most if not all have had the booster. Most tested before setting out so once we were there, we could relax without distancing or mask requirements. Of course, omicron, with its ability to ride on vaccinated people, is lurking.

But we set it all aside yesterday and had a good time: an even dozen of us. The gift giving was spread out a little due to Sarah and Mary arriving late in the day so it wasn’t so hectic.

I survived.

Today we’re back at home. It’s still raining. I’d like to get out a little but it’s unlikely with the rain. I don’t have work for a few days. There is a rumor that the New Years Eve show might be canceled. And I’ve written just my second post in nearly a year.

The dream

The dream came again tonight. That’s the fourth time in about two weeks. It’s usually in the morning but tonight it is late. I decided to wrote about it instead of chewing it over while trying to find untroubled sleep.

It’s pretty much the same every time: the viewpoint is right along the truck as Zach’s head hits the windshield and his body – for i hope it’s his body already and he’s not conscious any more because the next thing is his body flies through the air and hits the ground in front of the truck as it’s slowing but it hasn’t slowed enough so the right front wheel rolls over Zach, completing the job.

I don’t see Zach’s face; even the body is sort of a blur. I don’t see the bike or the other truck or the people in the trucks. It’s probably over in about the time it actually happened: 15 or 20 seconds from the first thud to silence. I know there was Micah’s running steps and the driver saying, ‘You can’t pin this on me!’ But that’s not part of the dream.

it’s not the anniversary, nothing obvious has happened to me on the road lately. They’re just coming.

We took a walk today with a friend of ours who recently lost her husband of over 40 years very suddenly. Like Zach, he went from seemingly perfectly healthy to dead within seconds. She’s completely bereft and I tried to comfort her today by talking about losing Zach. I don’t think it helped as much as just getting out and getting some exercise.

vistas

We have a nice view from our house on the north side of San Bruno Mountain. Actually, ‘nice’ is relative. When I was living in Pacifica, one of my near-daily treasures was looking out over the Pacific Ocean, usually on my way home from work when I went over the hill from Daly City on Highway 1. I liked to call it ‘the mighty Pacific Ocean’. I did a calculation once about how much of the Pacific a person could see from the coast on a clear day. It seemed like a lot but it was only something like one tenth of one percent. It’s a big ocean!

The only water in our view now is a bit of the San Francisco Bay. The view we notice is dominated by the San Francisco skyline which in turn is dominated by the SalesForce tower. I have to say that as weird as that building seemed when it was going up – the best sobriquet I heard was ‘the butt plug’ – it catches the light at sunrise and sunset in interesting ways. I started leaving my camera out so that I could snap a picture now and again to document the variety.

I’m going to include a few here with the warning that they might not look like much; they’re better splashed across a big computer screen. Nevertheless, here they are:

Yes, this one is shaken. I’ve got a tripod now.

And here’s a reference photo in normal daylight:

the lean-to

The humble lean-to. In many ways it’s the backbone of our operation at Davies Hall. No one really knows who made the first one. The name is goofy but apt. A platform just narrow enough to fit through doorways has about a 5′ high leaning structure on one side made out of 1X3s.

I believe the lean-tos were originally made to hold folding tables which they do very well. A bit of rubber matting on the base of the platform stabilizes the edge of the table so it can lean against the slats without sliding anywhere. 5 tables can be stacked side by side and 2 or, in a pinch 3, more can go on top of them. The lean-to is about 6′ long so they can hold 8′ tables easily.

There are no handles so moving them is a matter of grabbing the end of the top-most slat and pushing or pulling it in the direction desired. It’s usually a two person move, but, depending on the load, a single person can move them safely.

Because they’re so versatile, they get used for all kinds of things: medium sized percussion instruments, microphone stands, pipe and drape hardware. Pretty much anything that is larger than a hand carry is plopped on a lean-to and rolled to wherever it has to go. Lately a couple have been co-opted by the audio and video people for cable storage. They can be rolled out to near the action so as to reduce the total number of steps required.

James Gleick again

I’ve been trying to read James Gleick’s latest book Time Travel: A History. I say trying because I’ve had great difficulty in recent months focusing on books. (I’ve had great difficulty focusing on almost everything since the lockdown, but that’s another story. Pandemic brain.)

I take a book from the library and then don’t read it. Sometimes I read a few pages and put it down and never come back to it. I’ve done better with Gleick for some reason but I still haven’t finished it and I am afraid the library is going to repossess it soon.

One problem is that Gleick, like Stephenson, is such a deep thinker that he requires good concentration to extract value from the book.

Stephenson’s novels it’s a lot easier because there is a plot. Gleick is a science writer. One reason I liked his book Chaos so much was that it had a narrative. Time Travel, perhaps deliberately, does not.

Gleick shows that time is a concept that humans both understand and do not understand. Even the measurement of time, which we in Western civilization like to think is straightforward, is dependent on consciousness, which leads to memory, which for me today leads to Zach. Nowadays, I think of Zach as being in the past but his memory is with me in the present. In a way he is as alive in my memory as he ever was before when I was not in his presence.

The future we tend to take on faith. After Zach was killed I remember telling people in grief sessions that I had to rewrite my future without him. There was a hole where I had expected him to be. So the future we expect is not assured. This is hardly profound but Gleick presents it engagingly.

I haven’t finished the book yet but I think there is some humor in reviewing a book about time before finishing it. Gleick even comments on how books are time machines themselves in that the reader can go back and forth through the pages if s/he desires.

Of course, the memory of Zach is not the same as having Zach alive in our now world. I can experience Zach by reading his journals and getting wisdom from them, but experiencing his living presence would generate different wisdom. So, I am sad to not be able to experience Zach’s different wisdom in my now. I take comfort in doing my little part in transmitting his now static wisdom into the future.

site maintenance

I don’t know why I decided to do some site maintenance today but I did. I used to be into all the nuts and bolts of computers and operating systems. Now . . . not so much.

Worrying about updating my PHP version and making sure I had HTTPS enabled . .  feh!

I did it all but it was difficult. There is so much you can do but, honestly, the site does what I need. I ran a backup and a couple of other things but that’s about it. Thanks to all those who read these posts.