Monthly Archives: November 2016


It’s rare that I play a CD in its entirety over and over but I’ve been doing that the last couple of days with a new CD I got by Mariachi Flor de Toloache. This morning the song Besame Mucho from the CD has been stuck in my head. I spent some time looking up the history of the song and some other versions on YouTube. I was of course familiar with The Beatles version but this is my new favorite.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache was the opening band in the Symphony’s Dia de los Muertos concert a couple of weeks ago. I thought I had given them a shout out in this blog but I couldn’t find it. They were awesome! Nice people and great music. It’s in the mariachi tradition but different. The lead singer, Shae Fiol, has an amazing instrument that I happened to get an up close taste of during rehearsal when I had to go out to adjust a mic stand. Check them out: 170x170bbThe headliner was a band from LA called La Santa Cecelia. They were good too but they didn’t grab me the same way. I bought a couple of their CDs but haven’t given them the full listening treatment yet. They seem to be more from the Tex-Mex tradition with the accordion and electric bass.

my week

I’m going to try to just describe my week.

Last Sunday morning I was still in Georgia. In the afternoon, we had Rosalie’s party. All of the Hall’s except for Lauren were there along with three of Rosalie’s chums from school. 2year old Parker Hall was another little one. The party started conventionally enough with people arriving and setting gifts on the hearth. Ashley and Rosalie had spent a lot of time preparing fairy houses which were set outside so soon we were all out in the back yard. The little plastic ball – perfect for kicking around the yard – and the swing set, however, proved to be more of a draw than fairy houses. It was cool and windy so sitting quietly outside was not optimal.

After a while we were back inside and Ashley brought out the strawberry and carrot cake cupcakes for everyone. Rosalie chose a strawberry one for her candles. The room became very quiet as the eating of the cupcakes proceeded.

Then it was out to the living room and the opening of presents. Rosalie went into full Christmas morning mode, ripping presents open and turning immediately to another one. I’m sure she’ll appreciate them eventually! Soon the balloons for all beckoned and before long the children were chasing each other in a circle through the dining room, the kitchen and the living room shrieking. This went on for at least 20 minutes (I wasn’t watching a clock). One balloon popped and another was lost (it later turned up behind the toilet in the bathroom) but no one was hurt or even had hurt feelings.

After everyone left, we cleaned up and went out to Ted’s for dinner.

Back at home, I explained to Rosalie at bedtime that I had to leave early in the morning to go home. We sang one more song with the guitar and she went to sleep. In the morning I went into her room and said goodbye again but she wasn’t really awake. Jeremy took me to the airport and we had some good talk on the way. His dream of moving back out west is very close. I told him I would be available to help him do the move if it happens.

Air travel. It’s like democracy: it’s terrible but the alternatives are worse. I’d love to be able to relax on a bus or a train across country but that would be time better spent with Rosalie so I fly.

At home Monday afternoon I tried to rest and then went to jazz band in the evening. Before leaving, I had told JJ that I was available for the Berlin Philharmonic Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He sent me an email confirming that along with the request that I come in for maintenance projects on both days. Oh well, I just had a week off and I have 5 days off following that. But those were long days: 9 am to 10:30 the first day and 9 am to midnight the second.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and the Woods were to gather in Santa Clara as is our tradition. It was also my birthday so Rose came over early with a birthday gift. We got down to Santa Clara a little before noon and set out food and started to eat. The day was fine and low key. Happy birthday was sung after dinner but otherwise there were no references to aging. I really pooped out about 8 and was back on my way home by 9.

Friday was laundry day and then a return to Santa Clara. Several people were there from out of town and were leaving Saturday so I made the effort to spend more time with them. Sarah had stayed there and wanted to go to The Starving Musician to look at violins. She asked me if I wanted to go with her.

Now, I had been to this music store many times. It’s a guitar shop in my mind. They have guitars, basses, amplifiers, keyboards, and drums in the main showroom pretty much like any other music store. I had noticed the little room for band instruments in the back before but Sarah told me she had been in there a couple of years earlier and seen some violins. She remembered one of them was pretty good and she wanted to see if it was still there. She needed an inexpensive instrument to teach with as her main fiddle had gotten damaged recently by a careless student.

It turned out there was a whole violin showroom – small, but nicely finished – upstairs in the back! Sarah spent a happy couple of hours going through the 50 or so instruments and chatting with the owner/luthier about arcane details of each one. We left with two on evaluation. She will take them back in a week or so. Depending on the opinions of various friends who know things, she may buy one.

That evening at dinner, Jane led the conversation by asking our Aunt Kathleen lots of questions about her journey into the sisterhood. I like to call her Kathleen but she really prefers Pieta. Technically she is Sister Pieta but she’s still our Aunt Kathleen. Pieta is 89 and my mother’s older sister. She’s been out in California since the 15th. We younger ones learned a lot about her life from 1945, when she graduated high school and went into an Army nursing program, until 1950 when she went into the nunnery. There was much more, of course, all very interesting. Pieta’s choice of name is very apt: she is deeply religious and serene but also down to earth so talking with her is always easy.

At the end of the evening, Sarah asked me if she could come stay at my house that night. Of course I said yes. We got the futon set up and then ended up talking Chinese philosophy for an hour or so. She had a copy of the Tao te Ching that she had gotten for Zach originally. I had brought up Chuang Tzu at the dinner table when Dad had spoken of his visit to the Abbey of Gethsemane while he was in college. Thomas Merton was famously in residence there at the time. I commented that Merton wrote a book of Chuang Tzu stories set as poetry which I had in my library. I read a couple of them to Sarah. We talked about the pros and cons of setting goals and striving for them and whether I was happy with my life choices.

In the morning, we were slow to get up but eventually we got out for breakfast at the Chit Chat where we ate and drank our tea watching rain squalls over the mighty Pacific Ocean out the window. I still didn’t have the energy for anything outdoors so we settled on going to a movie for the afternoon. We saw Arrival, which I thought was very interesting. As with any science fiction, one needs a willing suspension of disbelief but the story hung together reasonably well. It is based, so the credits say, on The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. I had actually noted that when I saw the trailer a month or so ago so I’ve really got to do it now.

Sarah headed home after the movie and I did the same. There were a lot of cut up vegetables left over from Thursday so I did a stir fry and Rose joined me for dinner and glass of wine. Her ribs are still bothering her so we parted with a gentle hug and I went straight to bed.

Today I have another trip to Santa Clara for lunch with Charlie Centofante after which I will again go to see Mom and Dad and say goodbye to Aunt Kathleen.

writing this blog

I think about writing in this blog all the time. Pretty much any time I have a few minutes to think, I think in terms of what I might write here. I believe I’ve commented before about what percentage of what I’m thinking shows up here. It’s pretty small.

Today I want to write but first I have to get my laundry done. I can’t concentrate on writing while I’m back and forth to the laundry room. I’ve pretty much promised family members in Santa Clara that I’d go back down there today to visit. Most people will be leaving tomorrow.

The orchestra (and the stage crew) came back from their Far East tour Tuesday and production people are facing up to the reality of the December schedule. It’s going to be difficult. I’ve tried to set myself up in a niche that won’t be quite as crazy but the prevailing mood is one of dread. Perhaps some of that has rubbed off on me. I’ve still got four more days off so I will write more tomorrow or the next day. There’s much to tell . . .

Rosalie’s signature

After the birthday party Sunday I took the family out to dinner at Ted’s. We were just getting ready to go when Ashley said something about Rosalie writing her name. I grabbed the ticket and turned it over. This is what Rosalie wrote:


The better formed ‘e’s on the left and the upright ‘R’ is Ashley. Everything else was Rosalie. I particularly love the ‘s’.

The aquarium

Well, we had a fine day yesterday. Jeremy had to be at work at 3 so we were going to spend the earlier part of the day in Atlanta. Rosalie had the choice of what to do and she chose the aquarium. We all drove into Atlanta and went to the Georgia Aquarium.

We saw sea lions, river otters, turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, penguins, sea dragons, jellies, clownfish, piranhas, sea stars, moray eels and many other denizens of the deep. Just as we got inside, the attendants were encouraging to get in to the dolphin show which was about to begin. Rosalie declined, saying she wanted to see the starfish instead. It took a while, but we did eventually see the star fish. In fact, she got to touch a star fish, along with an anemone!

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Maybe I’ve been living a sheltered life, but man, was it expensive! Over $100 for two adults and a child! We knew going in that we were only going to spend a couple of hours but there is no option for a short stay. As often happens in that situation, you have to decide if you’re likely to come back within a year and thus spring for the membership. Two visits would cost more than the membership but Jeremy wasn’t sure they’d be coming back that soon.

At about the two hour mark, Rosalie started showing more interest in climbing on the faux rocks than looking at more sea creatures so we left to go find lunch. Jeremy took us to Fox Bros. Barbeque which was fine.


We had a little extra time after that so on the way to the station we went to Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand. Not for chicken sausage but for ‘cake shakes’ – sort of a milkshake made with a cupcake.

At the station we said hello to the other firemen and ate our cake shake, then said goodbye to Jeremy and went out into the traffic. Jeremy had said that every minute counted on Friday afternoons after 2 but I didn’t really take him that seriously. Big mistake.

Then I compounded that mistake with a bigger one. I mixed up I-75 and 85 and took the wrong one out of town. They both go north but 75 is more to the west whereas we should have gone on 85 which goes more towards the east (and Lawrencville). By the time I figured it out I had to go back on the ring road I-285 for 12 miles extra. It added probably 45 minutes to our trip which meant that from Jeremy’s station to home yesterday took two hours. As you might imagine, most of it was spent creeping along in a long line of cars and trucks. Lots of trucks, lots of big trucks especially. You’d think they’d find a way to travel through town at other times.

Finally at home, Ashley had dinner ready for us and we ate, read books, sang songs and went to bed. Big day!


Today I asked Ashley to take Rosalie to school. Jeremy was due home this morning and was going to need to sleep. He had an actual fire yesterday – very rare. Since Jeremy became a firefighter I’ve learned that the bulk of what they do are medical calls. Important, but not what they got into the business for.

Anyway, Jeremy got home and is sleeping now. We will go to get Rosalie when he wakes up. He has a game to referee tonight so he will miss dinner with us. I’ve chosen to not go since it is just a Jr. High game. I did get to see him ref the last half of his high school game Tuesday night.

Yesterday with just Rosalie and me was fun. She can play independently if she wants to. Yesterday she mostly didn’t want to. Having Grandpa around is something special evidently.

An odd thing happened though. I was nearly asleep on my feet at least twice during the day and yet after she went to bed around 8 and I did the same I couldn’t sleep. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to need a pill but after a couple of hours of tossing and turning I gave up and took one. This was one of the generic Unisoms that have kicked my ass before so I’ve started taking only half a pill. With half a pill I woke up to pee once about 2:30 then got right back to sleep. I have a dim memory of hearing Rosalie making noises about 6:45 and I remember hearing the garage door when they left but I couldn’t move. About 8 I woke up again and was able to get up but I was really loopy for another 45 minutes. I’m going to go real easy on those from now on.

The other style of sleeping pills I have is generic Benadryl. That has a hangover but not nearly so bad. Sometimes I take the ones with ibuprofen.

So Jeremy has another game tonight and will miss dinner with us. He had to take some time off for a referee association meeting Sunday and has to pay his substitute back tomorrow. That means going on duty at the fire station at 6 Friday night and working until 7 am Sunday morning. Hopefully there won’t be too many calls so he can sleep some. The first time all four of us will be together will be Sunday. I haven’t thought to ask what time but sometime that day all the Hall relatives will be over for a birthday party for Rosalie. Some of her school friends will be coming too.

Jeremy and Ashley are working hard to realize their dream of moving to the west coast, specifically Washington. So far Jeremy has been unsuccessful in convincing Washington fire departments of his quality. It may come down to a leap of faith. Stay tuned.


This is a test post from Georgia. I’m using my old iPad. I’ve gotten to spend the day with Rosalie – yay! She’s napping now, I hope. I was going to nap as well but the yard guy showed up with his noisy tools.

So I’m trying this. I brought along the admin password but didn’t think about the login address. It took a few tries but I finally figured it out.


Not even a week ago I put up a post with this same title. Today is the actual day and only a couple of hours after the time one year ago that Zach was killed. About this time on the west coast, phones were starting to ring with the unbelievable news. For me it was Jeremy who gave me the bald facts, then wailed, ‘My brother is dead!

I saw many nice tributes on Facebook this evening. Zach is not forgotten by anyone who came into contact with him. His two handed handshake that I was told is known amongst his friends as ‘The Wood.’ He told me once he read that the second hand assured that the person would remember you so that’s why he did it. Little did I know how so many would have to remember him and why.

For myself, I’m kind of empty tonight. I’m tired from a tough day physically at work and I have to get up early for a plane flight tomorrow. Happily the plane flight is to Georgia where I will drink in the elixir that is Rosalie.  Sometime this week, Jeremy and I will hoist one for Zach. Maybe we’ll cry together or maybe we won’t but we will surely gather strength from each others presence.

On the Tuesday of that week, the Baton Rouge Police called us to say they were through gathering evidence from the bike and we could come and get it. Not really knowing what to expect, I went over there. The bike was completely trashed but I took it anyway because I didn’t know what else to do. The next day I set it out by the road in front of his car.


If you look carefully, you can see some of the marks on the road where the truck came to a stop with Zach underneath it. We left town somewhat hurriedly (I thought) that Saturday to get up to Michigan for a celebration there and I forgot to do anything about the bike. Today his roommate Micah posted this picture. He didn’t say and I can’t really tell, but it looks like it’s in their garage.


‘Thank you for your service.’

Veteran’s Day. I’ve been out on Facebook already this morning and seen this phrase, or variations of it, quite a few times. So I’ve got something to say about that and being that this is my blog, darn it, I’m going to say it.

Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are when this sentiment gets thrown around the most, but we see many other examples throughout the year of this. I think it was one or two Sundays ago that I noticed the NFL football games had some kind of ‘Thank you for your service’ theme. For the most part I just let it slide but today I’m going to rant about it.

What bugs me is that the implication of this phrase is that it is referring to the military performing some kind of ‘service’ that is worthy of this kind of adulation. We’ve been set up to think that this is a superior kind of service to our country. Yes, men and women in the military have sacrificed their lives and limbs in war. But we have to recognize that there are other forms of service that are just as valid. Is Jeremy performing less of a service to our country by being a firefighter and never having been in the military? Is Ashley or Jane performing less of a service to our country by teaching our children and never having been in the military? Is Teresa performing less of a service to our country by being a nurse and never having been in the military? No.

And there are many people who do time in the military who are never near the front lines and whose lives are never in any more danger than any other American. My uncle Pat was in the Army during World War II and he drove a supply truck behind the lines. My brother Tim served in the Army during the first Gulf War. He went to Iraq and was a guard at a prison compound. As far as I know, he never fired a shot in anger nor was he ever shot at by enemy troops. Tim, if I got this wrong, please tell me.

The point is that while the military is an organization designed to kill people for the state, the part that actually does the killing is relatively small. And nowadays we have soldiers sitting in air conditioned room playing video games (running drones) for their service – killing people for the state.

So I think we should talk about what service we really want to value in our country. I remember reading about the ancient Greek city states in school. Athens, where democracy reigned supreme, and warlike Sparta, where everyone was a soldier. My takeaway from that was that ultimately Sparta failed because democracy was good and war was bad. Now here in America we have a kind of democracy but we are also very war like. It pains me that we don’t value forms of service to our country that don’t involve killing people or blowing things up.

Jeremy, Ashley, Jane, Teresa, thank you for your service!


I went home through Half Moon Bay today on my way back from my therapist. It’s a little longer but I get to feel the ocean even if I don’t get to see it very well. Today was very warm and was still warm at the coast with an onshore breeze. (For those reading this not living near me, please know that ‘warm’ here means over 70° F!)

I wasn’t going to stop but at Montara I caught a glimpse of the big waves rolling in so when I got to the south end of Devil’s Slide I pulled into the parking lot. All I did was stand there overlooking Zach’s rock and that cool little cove and watch the 15 foot waves smash into it and bounce around the cove for about ten minutes, feeling the warm breeze at my back.

I need to do this more often! No pictures from today but here’s one from a couple of years ago on a much calmer day. Today this entire cove was foam. Zach’s rock is at the top corner.