Day 189, grief, shopping, annoying news

Sunday, 6/8/2019

For perhaps the last time I walked our old route to the Palo Alto Cafe for coffee. On impulse I decided to return the way Marian and I sometimes did. From the cafe we’d turn left on Middlefield for a couple of blocks, then  up a little pedestrian alley and through Hoover Park, a nice green space with a playground, a Little League ballfields, and trees. This decision gave me some discomfort today, because as I passed the little playground it came back to me very strongly how Marian would often stop here and swing on the swings for a few minutes. It meant something to her, some recollection of girlhood; and one of the few times she indulged in play. This memory had me sniffling and blinking all the way home (and a bit now).

Well. At 10 I headed out in the car to take care of a couple of shopping errands. First to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a better blanket for my new “Full” size bed. The one I bought a few weeks ago is really not satisfactory, although I’ll take it along for backup. Also I bought a pillow, as the one I’m using now is several years (at least) old. Back home I tested out the one I bought; it is quite satisfactory. So those two items went on the pile of things to be loaded in the moving van next Saturday.

Second stop on the shopping trip was at Lowes home store. Here I needed to buy a vent cover for the furnace outlet in the kitchen. A couple of weeks back, I broke the existing one by leaning back in my chair with one chair leg on the vent. It looks bad, and I thought I’d replace it for the new owner. More importantly, I needed to buy cabinet pulls for the new cabinets in Apt. 621. I selected some nice-shaped brushed-nickel handles.

At 5pm I drove to Channing House. First stop was Angela’s office in the basement to drop off the door pulls. She was at her desk, and glad to see me because she was just about to write me an email. There’s been a snag in the scheduling. The two counter-tops, one for the remodeled kitchenette and one for the bathroom vanity counter, have been back-ordered. She’s been promised them for sometime between the 10th and the 17th, and just maybe one of them might be installed before I move in on the 15th. But if they are both still missing, I won’t have any kind of basin for washing hands or spitting toothpaste. Toilet, shower, closets, all OK, but no basin. We joked about how I could brush my teeth in the shower.

She had reserved one of their guest apartments for me to sleep in, if I don’t want to complete the move, but I said I’d tough it out. Worst case, I can come back and sleep at 2340 Tasso for a couple of nights, although I don’t expect to. It’s annoying but I can’t get angry about this; I’ve lived through construction projects and know how they can go. Angela does an amazing job coordinating a dozen or more projects simultaneously and I’m not going to grump at her.

Her second annoying news came when I told her that I’d be on my way to Greece on September 6th, which is the last day of the move-out period for the 6th floor. So, could she please schedule my move to temporary quarters for earlier in that week?

Well, actually, no, we can’t. We always do it from the end furthest from the freight elevator toward it. And #621 is the last apartment right next to the freight elevator. So probably mine would be the last or penultimate move. OK, I said, as long as you can do it without me. Yes, no problem. We’ll work with you to plan the move, we’ll know where everything goes, and you don’t need to be here for the actual move.

So there we are. Moving in with possibly no sinks, and when I come back from my cruise, I’ll see my temporary unit for the first time.

Day 175, coffee, shoggoths, supper

Sunday, 5/26/2019

Out for coffee as usual. This weekly ritual continues to be a focus of grief. I haven’t written much about grief lately, partly because it hits less and less often. But it does come, and not only when walking to coffee. Today I was thinking about the irony that Marian wasn’t even that fond of the Sunday morning walk to coffee. It was me that wanted it as a definite break, doing something unlike the other mornings to mark the end of one week and the start of the next. She’d have been happy, I think, to stay home and have the same coffee as usual. So it’s a bit ironic that it is on just these walks that I remember her most poignantly.

Part of grief, part of the loss of a partnership, is the lack of anyone to share what you see. Anything you notice, anything unusual, any change in the neighborhood or the weather, what’s your first impulse? Well, mine was, and still is, to point it out to Marian. An observation shared is more real. If only I see that there’s an unusual bloom on a bush, or somebody walking along with a cute dog or an unusual hat, or a new construction fence to herald imminent demolition of another house — if only I see that event, is it real? Pointing at it, hearing, “Huh, yeah,” back from your partner: then it’s real. Real-er anyway. Real in a different way, not only because somebody else verified that you saw something, but that they concur with your interest or concern, and so validate that.

Living without a partner to share and validate your experiences is a different life. What’s  a constructive response? Well, journaling is one. Hence at least one reason for this blog.

At 12:30 I left for Redwood City. I have a ticket for Shoggoths on the Veldt, a production at the Dragon Theater, one of several local theatres I sometimes attend. Today’s play is a Victorian fantasy. From the program, “When famed Victorian explorer Melford Pumbleshire is torn to pieces by something horrible and unseen while on safari in deepest, darkest Africa, his redoubtable fiancé Euphonia Riggstone must lead an expedition to put his unquiet spirit to rest.” She hires a supposedly rugged adventurer who turns out to be seasick and gun-shy; along the way they meet a refined Victorian lady who turns out to be the high priestess of the Black Temple; there are not one but two woman-on-woman knife fights, and a fairly clever twist ending. I would love to edit the script, which I am sure could be trimmed by ten minutes at least, and I think a couple of important plot points were lost when the background music obscured some dialog, but still it was a lot of fun.

For a cannabis trial tonight I’m going to take more THC than I have before, trying to find out at what level I get a perceptible “buzz”. Three squares of chocolate, 15mg CBD, 15mg THC, at 8:15pm.

Later, nearing 10pm, I may feel a little bit dizzy. I’ll go to bed and continue in the morning.


Day 150.1 grief bits

Just a bit of finishing up on this day. I mentioned I went to the pharmacy. When I said, “There should be a prescription ready for me,” John, the regular clerk who knows me by name, said, “For you, or for Mrs. Cortesi?” and I realized they didn’t know.

Thing was, I was in there picking up something for Marian, it seemed like every single week from May to December last year. Well, maybe not quite that often, but her prescriptions were many. Cancer is like that. Anyway, I realized that John didn’t know she was gone. So I said, “You ought to know, she passed away, in December.” And damned if my throat didn’t close up on me. I still can’t say that sentence out loud to another person without my voice breaking. Not like it’s fresh news.


Day 124, finances, docent, cleanup

Friday, 4/6/2019

Began with a run, which makes this the first week in a long time when I’ve actually run three times, M-W-F, which is my nominal goal. I cut the route a little short because of impending rain, but still, over 30 minutes of jogging.

Spent a little more time going through the box of old notes and files from my career as a free-lancer in the 1980s. Most significant were the notes and other items from my attendance at Clarion West, a six-week residential science fiction writer’s workshop. I took some very nice pictures of my classmates, who I now barely remember. I had saved notes from talks by several visiting lecturers, established authors like Norman Spinrad and Suzy McKee Charnas. The primary thing I now remember from that intense six-week immersion in writing and critiquing is that it ruined me for reading for enjoyment for a long time. It was more than a decade before I could pick up a science fiction book, or any fiction book really, and just read it. Well, it also taught me that I didn’t have what it takes to write fiction, although that didn’t stop me trying (and hasn’t yet).

Next up, I sat down with my laptop and updated the Portfolio spreadsheet I created on Day 31. This meant opening the Schwab month-end statements for the four remaining accounts (two accounts for Marian’s IRA now having been merged into mine), and copying figures from them into the spreadsheet.

This was the final thing that I had been using Marian’s iMac for. I have demonstrated that I can use Godot to open all financial websites and update the portfolio info, so the machine on Marian’s desk is now superfluous. The obvious next steps are to format its disk, and  put it into the nice Apple return box that’s waiting on the floor by the desk. I stuck the Mac OS boot USB stick into a USB port on the back of it and then stopped. I was starting to cry, and damn it I have to go and do a Docent tour in an hour.

This shit is not getting easier with time and practice. Bleagh.

I went to the museum and led the noon tour. Attendance was light and my tour group had just four people!

On return I spent some time reading more of my writing from that mid-80s period when I tried to be a science fiction writer. I did some good thinking then, and came up with some interesting ideas. What I didn’t produce was any good characters or plots. Nor do I like the prose style I was using to describe my ideas, stuffy, pseudo-academic.

Driving to and from the museum I was recalling how Marian would have felt about my sentimental regard for her computer. I believe she would have said, “That’s pretty silly.” So, channeling her pragmatic personality, I booted the iMac from an install USB stick and formatted its drive. Then I packed it up. The Apple return program provides very nicely designed packaging with a clear instruction sheet. It took five minutes to have the machine securely boxed up and ready to go.

I got an email from Channing House: my walk-through and meeting with Angela, the manager for upgrades, will happen at 10am Tuesday. After that I should know for sure when I can start moving in.

I planned to go to a Stanford Baseball game starting at 6pm, leaving at 5:15. To pass the time I read the first three chapters of On the Road and for fun, read it aloud, which suits Kerouac’s prose. Then I left, stopping at the FedEx office to drop off the iMac.

I stayed at the game to the seventh-inning stretch, but the Candlestick-like chill had me shivering and yawning so I left with Stanford ahead 1-0, listening to the game on KZSU going home and at home. The rubberized drawer liner I ordered was on the porch, so I lined the drawers of the new toolbox while Stanford got ahead 2-0, and then UCLA tied the game in the top of the ninth. Now it’s after 9pm, and the bottom of the ninth, and I’m so glad I left early… ok, it’s a tie game, bottom of the ninth, two on, two out, full count. Here’s your live play by play: foul… ball four. Bases loaded, winning run at third. Ball. Ball. 2-0 count, hit into left, it drops! Stanford wins, 3-2.

Still glad I left.

Day 123, trash, Yosemite, trash

Thursday, 4/4/2019

In the hour before it was time to leave for a day at the Yosemite warehouse, I completed clearing those two shelves from the shop. Carted 50 copies of Secular Wholeness to the blue bin along with some other books, and wheeled it to the curb. That book was my first effort at self-publishing, and I ordered 50 copies. I had some notion that I’d be asked to give talks and could sell books at those talks. I did give one talk and sold a couple of copies. That was it; and the rest sat on the shelf for fifteen years.

Also cleared out about 50 CD-ROMs of old pictures. In the years after 2004 or so, when our photography was fully digital, I’d load the images on my computer. Then we’d cull them jointly, on the screen. Marian, always practical, assumed that the rejected pictures would be dragged to the trash can. Me, I was always worried I’d want to go back and recover something. So after the group of images was all organized into a folder, I would burn all the rejected image files onto a CD-ROM and save it in the shop. All those discs of rejected images went in the black can. I saved the jewel cases, thinking a pile of jewel cases might sell in the estate sale.

After I dragged the roller cans to the curb for pickup tomorrow morning, I went in the house and had a few minutes of emotion. Actual crying, sobs and sniffles and all. Crying over “shards of the old life, going away,” in the phrase I came up with back on Day 15.

All those saved checks, saved pay stubs, saved books, saved image files — records that we never once referred to over the years — what was the point of curating that collection? I think now we were (unconsciously) trying to make a monument to our lives, something that proved we were here, we were competent, we behaved in a laudable way. That nonverbal message was the only possible value for that stuff.

Now, throwing it all away, I was grieving for a life that is over. Not Marian’s life, although her death precipitated this clean-out, but the comfortable, stable, quiet, mediocre life that we crafted for ourselves for forty-odd years. The life’s gone, and the evidence of it, that we had so carefully organized and hoarded, is on the way to the landfill. And that reveals just how pathetically sad and futile it was to save it in the first place, which is another good reason for crying.

Well. That’s a lot of navel-gazing for 8:30am. Off to Yosemite for a day of cataloging and other museum scut-work. On the way home I detoured to Lowes in Sunnyvale, because last night I found they carried a toolbox that is about 30% bigger than the one I have now. Brought that home,unboxed it, looked at it. It’s ok but the metal drawers need lining. Ordered rubberized drawer liner from Amazon Prime, to be delivered tomorrow. We live in a wonderful world in some ways.

Then I started going through a big old box of files from my days as a free-lance writer in the 1980s. Found some reviews of, and ads for, my early books. I tucked those under the covers of the single copies of the books that I set aside yesterday.

I found a program that I’d designed, coded, and documented in 1978, while working in England. That was a fun read.


Day 121, life is just packed

Tuesday, 4/2/2019

I am four months along as a widower. Yesterday I had a mailing from Pathways, the company that handled Marian’s Hospice period. They have sent several supportive post-mortem mailings over the months. This one had a particularly accurate section, headed “Grief Bursts”:

Grief bursts strike like a lightening bolt. You are driving, listening to the radio when a song comes on that you both liked, grief grips your heart, tears sting your eyes, and you wonder what hit you. Grief bursts may be more disorienting to those who have gone back to their normal round of activities and who feel “okay” some of the time… By acknowledging these feelings as normal you can recognize the progress you have made…

Case in point: Today was walking back from the gym and for no particular reason started deleting unwanted photos from my phone as I walked along. Lots of casual pointless pics over the past few months, delete, delete, … and then I hit the last couple I took of Marian, and choked up. And a few minutes later I walked in the front door and noticed the big box that is the Apple return box for her iMac.

Yesterday I carefully used Godot to visit the sites that I’ve been using her iMac to visit these past months: Chase credit card, Schwab, and the credit union. It’s been very convenient to just go to her desk and use her machine which “knew” all the passwords and filled them in. But now I’ve got all the passwords on LastPass on Godot, and have verified Godot to those sites (they all wanted two-factor authentication for a visit from an unfamiliar machine). That makes the iMac now superfluous. I can box it up and send it back and soon will receive an Apple gift card worth $250.

Between those two things, seeing those last pictures, and the prospect of disposing of her iMac, I am now an emotional wreck, quivering lip, sniffles, the works.

I’ll be fine. Onward.

Got an email from designer


she can’t join me Friday to look over the C.H. unit, which is probably just as well because I wasn’t positive I could make that happen anyway. Replied asking if she would have time next week.

Got an email from Chuck; his retired office manager has recommended a woman,


who might be willing to manage an estate sale for me. I called Debra’s number and had to leave a message.

Got a reply from

the Attorney,

who didn’t seem to have read the details attached to my message, just asked “who is your accountant” and what number to call me on. Since she has received (1) an email from my accountant and (2) an email from me mentioning said accountant and including the text of their first email, I kind of wonder at her reading skills. But anyway, I replied politely with my phone number.

All this before 11am, such a life I lead.

Suli arrived about 12:30 and we talked about how she will probably come one more time, maybe two. Then I packed up two laptops in the Apple return boxes (but not the iMac yet) and headed out for a round of errands. Errand one was to drop off the two MacBooks at FedEx.

Errand two was to stop at the local hardware store and see what they had in the way of

tool chests.

I need a somewhat bigger tool chest. I have a small three-drawer chest that I’ve owned for decades, which holds the essential fixing stuff; I schlep it to the Repair Cafe sessions. But there are some more tools that won’t fit into it. For The Transition to Smaller Quarters (does that work as an acronym? TTSQ?) I want to, one, triage my tools, and two, fit them into one portable chest. The current chest, which is 19x9x8, is just too small, as well as having a broken latch. So I spent time on Amazon last night shopping. Finally thought I’d see what the one remaining local hardware store has (damn, but I miss Orchard Supply). They had basically nothing, some cheap plastic thing. So back to the internet for that.

Errand three was to run down to

Jean’s place

and drop off a thumb drive with a selection of the pictures from the recent slide-scanning orgy, pictures that I thought she’d want in her collection. Her news was that she’d received the printed and bound copies of volume 3 of the history of St. Joseph’s Parish in Mountain View. This is the church she and Bill attended for decades. Bill initiated the project of producing a parish history back in 2006 and did the first two volumes. He had a lot of material toward the third at his death in 2016. Jean’s been working on it ever since, and is very happy and proud to have it finished and done with.

Back home another email arrived: congratulations, you have been

officially approved

for residence at Channing House! Please make an appointment to walk through unit 621 with our Renovation Coordinator, Angela. All right! I reply promptly with my availability,  which is tomorrow and Friday.

I think I’ll close this entry now; that’s quite enough news for one day.


Day 116, Yosemite, laundry, music

Thursday, 3/28/2019

Started a load of laundry and then headed out to do museum work at the Yosemite drive warehouse. I spent the day with Steve, cataloging the parts of a donation of a Data General file server from the mid-90s. There was a “deskside” server, a box about a the size of an ottoman and weighing a couple hundred pounds, full of big circuit boards, with its associated terminal and keyboard; and a RAID array of twenty plug-in disk modules, and a heap of spare parts, extra disk modules, extra power supply modules, circuit boards, cables. Over a 6-hour day we cataloged 24 items, with another 15 to go when next the volunteers hit Yosemite, in two weeks.

Back home I ate and continued the laundry process, and then had to go out to a Voices of Music concert. This is a local organization that puts on Baroque and other classical works. The musicians are skilled and I find some the music very enjoyable. Some, kind of boring.

Voices of Music was Marian’s discovery; she found their concerts a couple of years back and signed us up as season subscribers immediately. I considered not going to this, the final concert of their season, mainly because the prospect was causing uncomfortable emotions. I just have to get used to the fact that thinking about anything that she enjoyed is going to cause prickly eyes and constricted throat. That doesn’t seem to be changing with time. If I were an actor and needed to cry on stage, I could do it easily by thinking about her favorite azalea plant. Or in this case, her favorite concert series.

But the music would be good and I have an on-going goal of getting the heck out of the house and to performances. So, go. (And, note to self, sign up for their next season. Their usual venue, the Episcopal church at 550 Waverley, is about four blocks from C.H.)

This was a selection of works by Handel and by Bach, and like most of their concerts in my experience, some pieces were snoozers and some were wows. Most of the wow this time came from the vocal performances of Amanda Forsythe, a soprano.

Here she is with a group very similar to Voices of Music doing a similar Handel number: youtube link. Brava! It felt like a privilege to be in the same room as that voice. The thought occurred to me during some of her twiddly bits, “How come there are no sopranos in jazz?” Because what she’s doing is not that far from scat, except Ella et. al. did their scatting in a much lower register.

So that was good. Back home to fold the laundry and crash.

Day 113, jewelry, FOPAL, basketball

Monday, 3/25/2019

Began the week with a run, 40 minutes of my 4.5mph pace, felt just fine. I had a list of things to get done. One was that Louise was coming with the jewelry she’d taken for appraisal, at 10:30. Two were online, so I did them while waiting. One was to review my museum schedule and sign up for docent tours for the month of April.

The other was to go to Apple’s trade-in page, and arrange to trade in three Macs for apple store credit. The process is simple; you enter the serial number of the device and answer a few questions about its condition. Then their recycling vendor sends you an email to confirm, and later a custom box to return the device. When it is received, you get a gift card in the amount. I’m returning Marian’s old Air, which was made in 2006, I learned after entering the serial number. Got lots of good use out of that one! The other two are my old 2011 MacBook Pro, and Marian’s 2017 iMac which sits on her desk. (It was a recent replacement for a Mac mini that served her a long time; and it was preceded by a Cube — remember the Apple Cube?)

I realized from the email that the return offer is only good for 21 days. I’m not sure I’ll be ready to send off the iMac in 21 days. I use it for all financial stuff, bank statements, reviewing brokerage accounts, credit card bills. Just because the Chrome browser in that system knows all the passwords for those accounts and fills them in. Silly! I have the passwords; there’s no danger of getting locked out. I can do that work equally well from laptop Godot or my big iMac.

Louise texted she’d be an hour late, so I zipped out in the car to take care of two more items. One was to go to the Stanford ticket office and make sure that my WBB season ticket account was alright. Yup, it turns out I had indeed unsubscribed from emails from them (while shutting down all Marian’s email subscriptions). That’s why I never had a chance to buy a good seat for this weekend’s games. Fixed now.

The other job was to return some fluorescent bulbs to the hardware store for recycling.  Back home, I had an email from Canopy about the memorial tree planting for Marian, now with a time and other info. So I composed an email to the people who wanted to attend. While I was working on that, Louise showed up. So I answered the door sniffling and had to go blow my nose before talking to her. She’s done a marvelous job documenting Marian’s bling. We talked about how to sell some of it, and she will get back to me with more info.

After she’d gone, I headed out, first to Office Depot because I wanted to see what kind of office furniture they had. For the new place, I want some kind of cabinet to set the printer on, with space for printer stationery and hopefully a file drawer. And I looked at desks, because initially I’d been thinking I’d keep Marian’s desk, but now I’m inclined to want something a little lighter, more open. Office Depot stuff didn’t attract me. Ikea’s desks are better.

From there I stopped at FOPAL to check on the Computer section. There were several boxes waiting, so I culled them and priced the keepers. Two hours logged in the book. I learned something today about the bargain room, where I send the unsaleable Computer books. But time presses, I’ll record it later.

Had a few hours to relax and eat some supper; then it’s out to the Stanford second-round game against BYU. I’ll report on that tomorrow.

Day 112, stuff, and baseball

Sunday, 3/24/2019

Another Sunday morning. Walked to the coffee shop for a cappuccino and to read Sunday paper and do the big crossword puzzle. On return, went to brush my teeth and noticed that the Braun electric toothbrush head was looking distinctly worn. Well, I know where we keep spare ones; and in looking found another trove of


There’s a stack of little drawers — part of the custom cabinetry that was made for our 1974 bathroom remodel — between the toilet and the shower. Toothbrush heads are in one of those. So I started opening them, and was immediately reminded that here was another goddam set of drawers that needs to be cleaned out. So I went and got a plastic trash bag and discarded years-old cough and cold meds, bottles and tubes of sunblock and bug spray, stuff Marian used on her nails, etc. Down in the last drawer there were a couple of spare Braun toothbrush heads. I kept those, and some of the fresher cold remedies.

Now I was on a roll. I gathered up a pile that I had been dithering over for days. This was a collection of Stanford Women’s Basketball Media Guides from 1996 through 2015. Marian had gotten a Media Guide (a glossy magazine with player bios, team stats, records, all the deets) each year since we became season ticket holders. I had thought there would be a continuous run, but when I looked through them last week, I was surprised to find the run stopped with the 2015-16 season. Had it been complete with the last two (2016-17 and 17-18), I would have felt really obligated to find a new home for the collection. (Although I have been dithering for days over how to advertise such a set to fans, how to find the one fan who would want it.) Now I know it isn’t complete, so… Right. Today’s a good day for clean-out. I dropped the stack into the blue recycle bin. End of that dither.

There was column in today’s paper about the problems faced by children when a parent dies and leaves them with the dilemma of a house full of stuff to dispose of. I can well believe it! I’ve been tossing stuff for weeks and am strongly aware of several pools of stuff still lurking and looming and daring me to come at them. I can sympathize with any elderly, feeble person who shirks the task of de-cluttering right to the end.

Each piece of stuff has no intrinsic value, is worth zero, zilch, nada, to you or to anyone else — yet each piece has associations that tug on you. Marian referred to those media guides when she updated the alumnae section of the fan website, or checked on prior records when a player seemed to be approaching some kind of team landmark for scoring or blocks or whatever. The pile of media guides was of no use to me, in fact it had negative value because I don’t want to spend the mental energy to figure out where to store them or how to preserve them in the future. Their highest and best use is to be pulped in the recycler and to become new grocery bags. But throwing them out somehow suggests I am denigrating the use Marian made of them, denying her diligence in documenting the team. Which is really stupid; and indeed I can imagine her disdain of any such sentimentality.

Continuing the roll, I cleared a couple shelves of one of the big brown steel cabinets in the shop. Two big roasting pans into the recycle. When was the last time we roasted anything large? A couple of the slides I scanned last week were from a Christmas dinner we hosted in 1992. That may have been when that roaster was last in an oven. But there it was, carefully laid away in the shop for the next time we needed it. Doing these discards and thinking about the care, the practicality, and the ultimate futility of it all, caused enough emotion that I recorded a symptom on the app for the Zio patch I’ve been wearing (and which I can finally take off in two days). Time:10:30 to 11, symptom: skipped/irregular beats, activity: strong emotion/grief.

Well, off to a

baseball game.

This was my first visit to Sunken Diamond in a couple of years, and my first sight of the seat I selected when I bought my season ticket. Sunken Diamond is a very nice place to watch baseball. Here’s the view from my seat.


Also this was the first time I’ve watched a baseball game in several years. I’d forgotten how slow a game it is. Stanford had a two-run lead after seven and I decided to do something else and left early, following the rest of the game on the car radio on KZSU.

What I wanted to do before 5pm was to hand off one of the four (4!)


that are cluttering the place up. There’s Marian’s old MacBook Air, it’s at least 6 years old, I think older. It was getting flaky, the keyboard and track pad not acting right, so about this time last year I got her a new one. After that I installed Ubuntu Linux on the old one and it actually runs fine that way. My MacBook Pro of 2013 was also showing age so as noted in these pages I replaced it with the slow-arriving Godot, that I’m using now. So, too many laptops. Apple has a buy-back program that I need to start using. (Putting that on my to-do list for tomorrow right now.)

In the meantime, I offered Marian’s newer Air to her sister Jean, but Jean wasn’t interested. So instead I offered it to Diane, a long-time friend of Jean’s who I’ve met a few times. She wanted it, so I took it down to her this afternoon.

Stopped at the Westwinds Nursery on Middlefield on the way home, looking for plant hangers and stuff. I’m thinking ahead about that big deck on my C.H. unit. I plan to take 5 or 6 plants, 4 for the deck and at least one of two similar ones to hang indoors. I don’t really need to get any hardware now; I just had a notion to remind myself what’s available.

In the email, finally a response from Chris’s niece Tyra, the decorator. She’s really busy she says, but is curious to know what I am looking for. I’m thinking she doesn’t listen well, because I was standing there when Chris left her a phone message describing me and what I was looking for. But whatever. I replied with a sentence or two, and left it open that if she was really busy, perhaps it wouldn’t work out.

It’s a bit awkward because I also asked Chuck to tell his designer Amy that I wanted design help. We’ll see who’s more interested.

Day 107, money money

Tuesday, 3/19/2019

Had the annual talk with the

Financial Advisors.

The firm is Sullivan and Serwitz, and for several years, we’ve met with only Bob Sullivan, but today his partner Marshall Serwitz sat in as well.

Bottom line, I’m financially fine. According to their conservative model, I can spend money at a generous annual rate (almost surely more than I’ll actually spend) and I still won’t be able to keep up with my principal’s growth, even at a conservative projected growth rate. So I will almost unavoidably die richer than I am now. Yay me; or rather, yay us, because it was the money we earned as DINKs, conserved by our naturally modest desires, that was the foundation.

As for what I had seen as a vexed question: In the event that C.H. offers a unit before the house is sold, how to finance the entry fee without incurring big capital gains and/or paying high interest? Not an issue at all! First, thanks to my being a recent widower, all of our investments have a new “basis” — not just the house, which is a huge benefit, but even the mutual funds that we bought into back in the 80s. So I can sell any amount of those shares, should I want to, and pay no capital gains. But, they pointed out, it would be equally simple to get a standard home loan through e.g. Quicken Loans, secured by the house. Almost surely at a lower rate than the 10% annual that C.H. offered.

Or, the advisors’ suggestion was to ignore C.H.’s timing; go ahead and sell the house as quickly as possible so as to have the liquid cash in hand whenever C.H. is ready to offer a unit. Well, that means moving twice, say I, like moving into another ILF with a monthly rate.

Not necessarily, they said. Look, you don’t want to keep much of your furniture anyway, right? True, I agree, about 5 or 6 pieces all told, and a few boxes worth of other stuff. OK, you put those in storage. Storage units are cheap. You pack your clothes and move into a long-stay hotel, or a vacation home rental. It would be cheaper than moving into any ILF.

This turns out to be true. They referred me to “Vacation Rentals by Owner”, (the link is a search for Palo Alto at under $150/night) and there are lots of cottages and apartments I can rent for extended periods around $100/night, which comes to $3000/month, which is substantially less than any local month-to-month ILF; the difference being, no food service. OK, given a kitchen I can feed myself for not much, just as I do now.

So the picture they proposed is that I (1) move out to a rental, (2) take my time saving whatever possessions I want to keep into a storage unit, (3) sell the house, (4) wait comfortably for the unit I want. The local housing market is showing signs of turning down, they said, so the sooner you sell, the better.

I took all this under advisement. A critical time will come tomorrow at 11 when I sit down with Kim Krebs at C.H. and find out what the actual prospects are. If she says, you can have X unit next month, that’s one thing. If she waffles, indicates it may be weeks to months, then I may implement the advisors’ plan.

There were other points. The house and everything else is part of a family trust. With the death of one of the joint trustees, the trust documents need to be revised. They will set up an appointment with the attorney who drew up the trust, probably for May. So there will be that to do. Also I had to sign and notarize several documents related to changing the ownership of the various Schwab accounts to me as sole trustee.

From there I did some


Got the car washed, first time since it was waxed, poor thing. Bought some groceries (like, $30 worth, see above). Got some cash from the ATM. Then home to

throw out more

… I want to say shit, but that’s not fair. I cleaned up a couple of shelves of things, and most of the things on the shelves went into the black landfill box. There were collected CD-ROMs and manuals for software. Photoshop CS2? Really? (Current version is 7 or so.) Also two or three versions of Windows, which I ran (still can run) in a virtual machine on the Mac. I used to do that when I was maintaining an app that a few other people used, and I had to test new versions on Windows as well as Mac.

Then more serious stuff: a fat binder which has all the historical receipts for house maintenance. This has been often used. When the hot water heater goes out, as it did a month ago, it’s handy to be able to look back and see who installed it. That’s where I could look up how much we paid to fumigate in 2005, but I disdain to do that. Anyway that has some value going forward, if only for the curiosity of a buyer.

Next to it was a fat binder that set me sniffling for the next half hour: Marian’s medical records. She kept every test result, every procedure, going back forever. Organized, with tabs for easy lookup. Anytime a doctor wanted to know, when did you have this or that, she could tell them, oh that was in ’93, or ’07 or whenever. So I looked at it and debated with myself. Under what possible circumstance could I ever imagine me or anyone else wanting to refer to this? None! For any reason? Certainly not for nostalgia’s sake; illnesses and medical procedures are not what I want to remember her by. And yet… it really hurt to put that in the trash. Another shard, falling away.

It’s 5:30; I’m going to feed myself and then watch something stupid on TV. Naked and Afraid should do it.