Monthly Archives: September 2016


I really don’t want this site to become mired in politics. Perhaps ‘mired’ is too strong a word. Let’s put it this way: I’m going to post a link that has political implications. As always, I invite comments. I’m not sure if I want to glorify this with a category. I’ll see how I feel when I’m  done.

Two weeks ago I was at Mom & Dad’s just visiting. Dad has a subscription to The Economist and I usually glance at the back issues laying around. Dad subscribed to Newsweek for many years and sometime in the last ten years or so switched to The Economist. I know I asked him why but I don’t remember now. It doesn’t matter.

I remember feeling that The Economist was generally more conservative than Newsweek which surprised me since Dad has been a reliable liberal for his whole life. I haven’t really done a careful comparison (nor am I going to).

One of my hobby horses is that the Main Stream Media (MSM) is basically quite conservative. In the inimitable phrase of Eric Alterman, alson known as the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM). Interested readers can do their own homework. Eric Alterman probably has a book but I read him in his occasional column in The Nation. (Thank you Teresa for the gift subscription you have maintained for many years!)

Anyway, the September 10th issue has a cover with the headline, ‘Art of the Lie, Post-truth politics in the age of social media.’  One of the ideas I keep coming back to in the political debates I’ve had in the last few years is trying to get all parties to agree on what the facts are. I always thought it was interesting that even those who denigrate the government rely on government statistics to make a point.

I’ll stop now. I found this article worthwhile. Perhaps it is because it confirms my own biases. I invite you to check it out.

I can’t let this go without a shout out to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). They put out a weekly email with examples of the MSM playing fast and loose with facts.

Jeremy speaks

Jeremy sent me an email today and asked me to put this up on the blog. Here it is:

I’m having a tough day. It sounds disingenuous to say that I’m thinking about Zach today — I think of him every day, and I know lots of other people who love him do as well — but this week has been especially difficult.

Ashley, Rosalie and I were fortunate to travel to Michigan to celebrate my mother’s 65th birthday and my grandfather’s 90th. It was a nice (and too short) weekend spent in many places with many people familiar to Zach and filled with memories of him. Late in the day Sunday, as the festivities at camp wound down, I walked to the Outback by myself. Dad wrote a few days ago about how my relationship with Zach deepened in our teenage years and included a picture of the two of us standing by Stony Lake. After much discussion, I’ve figured out that the picture was taken in August of 2001 (the telltale sign is that ridiculous James Hetfield-style goatee I had at the time, which I remember trying to bleach that summer and sported for a few weeks as a freshman at college before cutting it off. Don’t act like you never made any bad grooming decisions at 18.)

Back to the Outback. I signed on to be a counselor in that particular teen camp program in the summer of 2002 after two successful years in the youth camp program. Zach made plans that summer to do a venture out trip at Storer that summer, but they fell through for some reason (possibly he wasn’t old enough to qualify for the trip??) so becoming an Outbacker was the fallback option. It was there that we truly grew close, bonded by the sharing of the program’s tremendous experience. He would return to the Outback the following summer, which would prove to be the final one at Storer for both of us. Last Sunday, I went out there alone thinking it would be a perfect time of reflection on my relationship with Zach and how much I miss him. It was weird…I sat in the fire circle, surrounded by the empty spaces where the hogans used to be, and all I could think about was my own experience at camp…the campers, the counselors, the trips, the laughs, the tears. After 15 minutes or so, I started the walk back to Ashley and Rosalie, feeling guilty because I didn’t spend the time intensely thinking of Zach. Am I moving on?

Fast-forward to Tuesday morning. I’m back at work at the fire station, and the first call of the day is a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. I’ll spare the gory details, but the only thing our crew could do for the victim was cover him with a sheet while police shut down Moreland Avenue for an investigation. It was way too familiar, right down to the pattern of the damage to the front of the pickup truck that hit him. This is the third time since Zach was killed that I’ve responded to a person struck by a vehicle, and it’s not getting easier. I keep my head down and work through it — I love my job, and emergencies don’t stop so I can recover from a personal tragedy. But I’ve spent the 24-odd hours since seeing that particular dead body in a state of numbness.


I remember a random conversation with Zach from one of the last times he came to visit us in Georgia. A song by The Airborne Toxic Event was playing on the radio, and he got really excited about the fact that the band name was a reference to a Don Delillo novel.
I brushed it off at the time, because I’d never heard of Don Delillo. Looking back, it’s one of many signs of how well-read and intelligent he was that I kind of ignored because we were too busy watching football or figuring out ways to integrate booze into cooking. It’s something I feel rather ashamed of.

Here’s a song and video that makes me think of him, not only in the lyrics but the words of singer Mikel Jollett on their inspiration:

“I feel very tied to this place and very resistant to its cliches. The SNL skit on Californians is funny and I wonder sometimes if that’s what the rest of the world thinks of us: dithering, spoiled people obsessed with their appearance. I understand it because most of what California exports (besides food) is the culture of white people who moved to Hollywood to get into films and yes many of those people are dithering, spoiled and obsessed with their appearance. But outside of maybe 10 square miles in the heart of Los Angeles, you don’t find many people like that here.”

By the way, if anyone has the time and skills to re-cut that video with scenes from the NorCal, that would be awesome.

Zach loved the state he grew up in, as did I. We talked a lot about how fortunate we were to grow up in Grass Valley; how that realization grew more and more stark as we built our adult lives in southern cities that we didn’t like.

TATE has become one of my favorite bands. I try to read more, to understand the world from an advanced perspective the way Zach did. I still have no idea who the hell Don Delillo is. But nothing makes me think of him and cry like these songs.

“i’ll write your name in stars across the sky/ And we’ll meet somewhere someday and I’ll ask you why…”

Sarah’s quartet

I went to Sarahs’ quartet concert last Friday night. I had spoken to her a couple of times about it beforehand but hadn’t made any big promises about coming. She indicated the program was daunting and implied they weren’t ready for performance.

None of that really registered to me. I go to her concerts when I can and don’t worry about what’s on the program. In my mind it’s not about what they are playing, I’m just supporting my daughter.

It’s not that I expect it to be terrible, just the opposite. I know Sarah has the highest standards and the people in her quartet are all quality players. (Actually I don’t know if it fair to refer to it as ‘her’ quartet. She plays first violin but I believe it is a cooperative venture.)

So the program was all about David Ryther’s transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for string quartet. ‘The Sound and the Fury’ The first piece was a Debussy quartet that was nice but rather dark. I remember thinking that with the Stravinsky on the second half, it was already a pretty heavy program.

At intermission, David and Omid brought out some percussion stuff including a kick drum! Oddly, although I had heard the Rite of Spring a couple of times live and had at least one recording of it, I didn’t feel like I had familiarity with it.

In fact, it was like hearing it for the first time. And in the back of my head, I must have retained the feeling I got from Sarah that they were not completely secure with it. The combination had me on the edge of my seat and they ripped it up. Just grabbed it by the throat and ran with it. It was awesome! Omid on the kick drum! David on the tam tam!

For all that, my main reaction was not to the music per se. I kept thinking about how all the people in the quartet were friends with Zach. My feeling of pride in Sarah got all tied up with that and I choked up a couple of times. It wasn’t until afterwards when I saw Lynn Oakley that I really lost it. Lynn was Sarah’s first teacher back when Sarah was 4 years old. She taught Zach too, for many years.

Not many know, outside the Villa circle, that Zach was a really good violinist. He started, like Sarah, at a very young age. He played with Villa Sinfonia many times and went on at least one tour with them. I believe he had perfect pitch. I also believe that the violin came to symbolize his mother and he refused to play any more after he was about 14. I always hoped he would come back to it later in life.

Afterward the concert I held Sarah and said, somewhat hopefully, into her ear. ‘Didn’t I cry at your concerts before?’ She said, ‘Not as much.’

the guy downstairs

Ah, apartment living! No lawn to mow, no leaks to fix. Just jerks downstairs that bash and crash in the kitchen then turn their TV up loud in the middle of the night.

Rather than get in an altercation that could result in ugliness, my usual M. O. is to turn over and remain calm so I can get back to sleep. Tonight was worse than usual so now I’m up with my blog after I wrote the landlady an email about it. Three hours from now I have to be leaving for work. I’m going to try again to get to sleep.


Zach’s middle name is Clark. It’s the name of his maternal grandfather, Clark Ewing.

Clark Ewing ran a YMCA camp in Jackson, Michigan for many years. Actually, it is at Stony Lake near Napoleon. Both Jeremy and Zach spent almost every summer there as youths but more importantly, they were counselors there as teenagers. Clark’s influence spread throughout the whole world of YMCA camping so there are many people who were improved by him but for Zach he was Grandpa Clark too. He learned at the feet of the master.

I’m told that when the news of Zach’s death was given to Clark, he was silent for about a minute then he said, “Zach is gone and what he would have accomplished will not happen so the rest of us need to pick up the slack for Zach.”

I’ve been thinking of Clark today because next week is his 90th birthday and I wrote him a card. There’ll be a party amongst the Ewings and others in Michigan. I can’t be there so I thought it would be nice to give him a shout out in this space as well.

Happy Birthday Clark! You are a giant among men.


Zach speaks

Three posts in one day, wow! Well this isn’t really me, except for this intro. Jeremy called this afternoon and we had a nice Skype session. Rosalie was in high spirits, twirling around half undressed after a chocolate treat. At one point he mentioned the pictures in my first post of today and expanded on the North Carolina story. It struck me that the date was within the time frame of Zach’s diaries. After we finished our conversation, I looked up the September 2012 file and found this description of their holiday:

September 16, peaceful detachment

Yes, it has been a little while since I’ve been here but this time, I have a decent reason.  Last weekend, I took my vacation to visit Jeremy, and it feels very very long ago.  But I’m going to recap as best I can:
Thursday I got up very early and drove to the ATL.  The only real highlight of the trip was taking the wrong exit and going through NOLA instead of bypassing the city.  When I got there Thurs Jeremy and I played catch out front, watched TV, and then went up to Ted’s where he works and had extreme milkshakes.  Basically, we just sat at the bar and discussed different milkshakes and booze combinations and then asked the bartender to blend them for us.  They were fantastic and although I don’t think the booze added much, it was still pretty damn good.  I would make the argument that they tasted so good because of the heavy cream included, LOL.
Friday, we got up and drove up about an hour and a half towards the South Carolina/GA border and rafted Section IV of the Chattooga; the river had been running pretty low and it was billed to have some class V rapids along with a lot of III and IV rapids.  It was pretty damn fun, although the lack of water made it so that it wasn’t as heart pounding pulse thumping as it could have been.  Jeremy made a good point that enjoyed big water more than technical rapids and I have to agree with him.  But, with that in mind, it was a banner day: brilliant weather, water that felt good, hardly any actual paddling, and it was just me and him and couple guides in the boat so the conversation was much better than it would have been if we had any gringos.  So that was nice.  After rafting, we got back on the road for Greenville, with plans to meet Greg for dinner and to crash at his place.  As we were driving, we realized we had some time to kill and we were driving right through Clemson, so we stopped for a little while and checked out the campus.  It was gorgeous; a small town pretty much with nothing else except the university going on and it just felt peaceful, even with the buzz of a football game that was scheduled for the next day.  I immediately loved it.  After Clemson, we got into Greenville, met Greg, went out to Thai food and then pretty much passed out.
We got up the next morning (Saturday) with plans to meet Kevin Lausch and go to camp and Brevard.  We ate at the Golden Corral breakfast buffet (heavy) and then drove up to Kevin’s camp, which is outside Traveler’s Rest.  It was fantastic to see him and randomly Turbo was there as well, so it was a mini-camp reunion.  Randomly, Katie Sidman texted me the night before, which was the first time we had talked in probably 2-3 years.  After chatting with Kevin for a bit, we hugged him goodbye and went up to camp, where we spent a little while at Pretty Place paying our respects.  When we were there, it was overcast so the views weren’t exactly tremendous but it was still a powerful experience to revisit a place that is so deeply entrenched in my heart.  After Pretty Place, we drove down into Brevard and had lunch at Pescados, which Jeremy loves but I find pretty average.  After Pescados, we drove out into Pisgah to Big East fork, where, for the first time in over five years, we hiked the same trail that I took campers backpacking on during that magical summer.  We did the same exact route too and got up onto Shining Rock Ledge where the views are enormous and powerful.  The mountain forest is as beautiful as ever.  It was an intense hike when it was all said and done: about 7 miles and around 3,000 feet in elevation gain; I was sore.  After Pisgah, we were trying to connect with Kelley Clifford and we didn’t really have any definite plans.  We elected to go back into Brevard (rather than go towards Asheville) and made the decisions to buffet at Twin Dragons, since we were both ravenous after the hike.  At this point, our day had pretty much gone according to plan and I was quite pleased.  Then, Kelley decided to meet us in Brevard and got us an in to sleep at the Dill’s in Hendersonville, which was a huge upgrade over our plans to camp somewhere on the side of the road.  So we crushed some Twin Dragons (as epic as ever) and then met Kelley at Dollies (a slightly overrated ice cream place but still deep in my heart) and then went out to the Dill’s, where Kelley also was staying.  At the Dill’s we stayed up late and drank good IPA’s that Jeremy had brought and had big conversations with Mike Dill and Kelley.  I was exhausted and looking forward to the big bed they had prepared but we still stayed up late and loved the conversation.  As I write this now, I recall something else: when talking with Mike and Kelley: a feeling of kinship.  I found myself saying the words: what we all do professionally, thus implying that we have similar missions.  And we do!  We are in the business of making people’s lives better.  It was a cool moment and it made me realize the inter-connectedness of my camp connections and my rec sports connections.
Saturday was heavy and Sunday we got up, Kelley cooked us breakfast, and then we were on our way to Gorges State Park and Turtleback falls.  We found it with a little difficulty, hiked the 1.5 miles down to the falls, and then spent a little while sunning ourselves on the rocks before taking some time to do the water slide over the falls.  I hadn’t been there in over 4 years, when Jeremy and Ashley and I had all met there for a 4th of July weekend (that was transcendent in its own right.  Also was the last time I had seen Kelley).  Anyways, the sun was out, we were the ONLY ones there and it felt very special, as though were an exalted being for enjoying the majesty of those hidden waterfalls.  After doing the slide 5 or 6 times, we hiked back out and got back to the car, where we then drove back to Atlanta.  At this point, Jeremy and I were doggone tired but we had planned another Epic Mealtime fest for that evening, involving Tequila and mexican food.  The problem, however, was that it didn’t flow as nicely as it did when we did it at xmas and Jeremy invited a bunch of really annoying work friends over and they pretty quickly put me out…so after he and I cooked, I basically hid away from the party and chatted with Ashley, who was also pretty annoyed.  So it didn’t exactly go as epically as the first time but was still pretty damn fun, overall.  It helped that the giants were on TV that night and beat the dodgers, so my mood was improved.  I slept in the next morning and then left ATL around 930 and drove back to BR, where reality awaited.
It was an intense 4 days, which is how I like it.  Although taking vacations like that don’t exactly make you rested, it was crammed full of good memories and happiness and we didn’t waste much time sleeping.  My axiom of the short but crammed vacation still proves true.
One thing about this trip, perhaps above all else: the beauty of that region is still amazing.  Although Jeremy is a big proponent of the West, where everything is bigger and more savage and in many cases, just as beautiful, there is something so magical to me about the forests and the waterfalls and the feeling that I’m in the middle of the jungle.  And the air!  The cold crisp mountain air, even at the beginning of September, just felt right.


Jeremy and Zach

Writing the last post started me thinking more about Jeremy and Zach together. I was originally thinking about the photo from Michigan along with the North Carolina one. I was a little surprised to find that it dated from 2002 because I the process got me thinking about our trip to London in 2000.

Neither boy was very happy about being in London where we spent way too much time going to museums. They were troopers, though, and didn’t complain much. They took solace in each other, I think. My enduring memory is of the two of them walking down the street ramming shoulders into each other. I don’t have any pictures of that but I do have this one:


At the end of the two weeks in London, Jeremy got on a plane for Michigan and his senior year in high school while the rest of us went back to California.

a special bond

While looking for the picture of Rosalie on my phone yesterday, I came across this one. It had no title or other indication of when and where it was taken. I emailed Jeremy and he filled me in.

He said: ‘Picture was taken in the Shining Rock Wilderness in NC. Zach and I went up to the mountains to go rafting, visit Greg McKee and some of our haunts in the Brevard area. September 2012.’


I sense some pain in Jeremy’s response. He and Zach had a special bond as brothers. Now there is a special kind of pain to think about times past with Zach. While they did all the usual things brothers do growing up, I don’t think I really recognized the special bond they had until I saw this picture, taken on the shore of Stony Lake in 2002:


Jeremy was almost 19 and Zach was 13. It was the first indication to me of the adult relationship they had developed. As with the North Carolina picture, they are relaxed and happy to be in each others presence.

It’s kind of not my place to represent the relationship between Jeremy and Zach so I will stop here. I just wanted to share these pictures.


Last Monday was Labor Day and as I was in Alameda for a haircut I stopped into the Labor Day picnic there afterwards. The Rosie the Riveter Museum had a table there with stuff to buy. I remembered hearing that Rosalie had gone there in July. I hadn’t heard or seen about any souvenirs so I bought a small ‘We Can Do It!’ shopping bag and a refrigerator magnet and sent them to Rosalie.

Also in the back of my mind was a comment that Ashley had posted on FB to the effect that Rosalie noticed there were no women in the pharmacy and wondered why.

It all became priceless when she sent me this picture:



Thoughts. Running through my brain all the time. Much of the time nowadays they are in the form of posts on this blog but in truth they aren’t much different from the kind of thoughts I’ve had for years.

My visit with Mom & Dad last Sunday. Labor Day in Alameda. Crappy drivers. Weird goings on at the Symphony. How I’m thinking these days about Zach. What I’m thinking these days about Jeremy and Sarah. Rosalie. Teresa wrote me a long response to my last post and I haven’t been able to digest it yet. Jane responded here. I want to respond to both of those. There’s more . . .

Any one of these could be an interesting post. Right at the moment I still have laundry running so I’m distracted. I decided I would just dash off this quick one and hope I can do a better one later. I have to work tonight so that deadline is looming. Unlike blog posts or exercise, that can’t be put off.