Day 202, docent, washing machine, dinner

Saturday, 6/22/2019

On the way down to breakfast about 8am I ran into Craig, who pointed out that my painting was now properly hung opposite the lounge door. Later I wrote to Dean Linsky and sent this picture. He wrote back later, appreciative of the note and that the painting wouldn’t be sold.


Today I am scheduled to lead the noon tour at the museum. I put on my red shirt and head out at 10:30. I stop at the post office, but it isn’t open for receiving packages on Saturday, so I can’t mail the DVR.

Scott showed up to take my tour. We started with over 20 people. At least 5 wandered away, but the rest seemed to enjoy it. Just after I finished up, Deborah called to say someone wanted to see the washing machine and dryer, could I show it at 3pm? Oh, yeah, sure. I drove back to C.H., changed clothes, picked up the house key, and drove to Tasso street. A very charming couple showed up; they are moving into a rental that, they think, doesn’t have a washer/dryer. They approve of mine, and went away to talk to their landlady. Later in the evening, Deborah texts that they won’t be taking the machines after all.

At this point it was 3:30. In the morning I’d used Google Maps to make a list of all the local furniture stores. I’m determined to find a pleasing, open bookcase to display some objects and my few books. I can exactly picture what, in college, I would have built out of glass blocks and planks. Now I decide to drive to the southernmost of my list, Cost Plus. I remember visiting Cost Plus with Marian several times, although I don’t recall what specifically we ever bought there.

55782_XXX_v1This time, they have one that is almost exactly what I want. The only problem with it is the shelves are only about 10 inches high, and my taller books won’t fit. They could be on top, held by a heavy pair of bookends I have, but I am going to keep looking.

I headed back to C.H. where I’d been invited to join Patti and Craig for dinner. We sat for over an hour chatting, that was nice.


Day 75, Esthetic Education

Wednesday, 2/13/2019

My plan was to drive to Alameda on the other side of the Bay to attend the free appraisal event at Michaan’s Auctions. Bring up to five items for free verbal appraisals, anytime between 10am and 1pm. This turned into a bit of an adventure because of the weather. A “pineapple express” rainstorm blew in. I heard heavy rain several times in the night, and wondered if I wanted to make the long drive in traffic, in the rain. Instead of departing at 8:30 as I’d originally planned, to arrive at the 10am opening time, I left at 10 in hopes of easier traffic. It was a slog but only really slow for a couple of miles in Oakland, and I arrived at 11:30. The auction house is a classy-looking place with lots of impressive antiques and cases of pretty things around the floor. About ten people were ahead of me.

The guy with the pink tie is Frank, the appraiser I dealt with. Frank by name, frank by nature, too.

Two older women were seated near me. One was called out to talk to the jewelry appraiser who worked in a different room. When she came back she told her friend, “She said it’s all costume jewelry.”

You could bring pictures or objects. I took a good print-out of my oil painting of Yosemite — have I included that before? Well, here it is again. Besides that I took a picture of an elegant 4337722_origceramic piece we bought in England and brought along two Eskimo soapstone carvings.

Taking these in reverse order, the soapstone carvings, despite being esthetically pleasing, nicely made, and by identifiable native artists, would likely bring $25-$40 dollars each.

The ceramic piece was signed by the artist, Sandra Eastwood, and I had done the research so I could tell Frank when she worked and the kind of things she did in London in the 70s and 80s. However, he was only interested in one thing: could he find auction records of sales of Eastwood ceramics? No. None at any of the sources he could check. So although he agreed the piece was charming, he doubted it would bring more than $20.

OK, quick check. When I google “Sandra Eastwood” indeed nothing turns up. But when I search on “Sandra Eastwood ceramics” I find references to her and her work. She was a teacher of pottery in the 70s and had a studio in Teddington (just down the road from where we lived in Twickenham, so very possibly the piece I have was bought there!) until 2012. However: no auction records or sales info at all. So nothing that would change the appraiser’s mind.

And the painting, for which I had rather high hopes. Here again the problem is that the artist, Dean Linsky, has only a few traceable auction sales, and they were all in the low hundreds of dollars. Very low, like $200. That was for a smaller painting than mine, but still, that was … a disappointment. (Like finding out your family heirloom necklace was costume jewelry.)

What to do next? Well, as to the carvings and ceramics: they will go in the estate sale. This is the sale I anticipate will happen around the time the sale of the house closes. And some people will get some very nice bits of decorative art for not very much money.

The painting? Well, I’m of two minds there; no, three. I could offer it back to the artist. In his email he mentioned he’d buy it back if he “were in a position to do so”. I wonder if he’d give me $500 for it? Two, I can try an eBay sale, with, say, a $500 reserve price.

Or three, I can keep it. At every ILF I’ve visited, the halls are decorated with art and photos belonging to the residents. I can see it hanging in Channing or Webster House for others to enjoy. Or hanging in my own unit at one of those places.

Got home, ate a sandwich, tossed three boxes of books in the car and went off to sort at FOPAL. Home and tired to eat blog and relax.


Day 73, waiting for Godot

Monday, 2/11/2019

As I expected, when I checked at 8am, the FedEx tracking for my new laptop said “end of the day Monday”. So I need to be home, ready to sign the package, until the white truck arrives. At 8am, the package was “On FedEx vehicle for delivery” out of Newark, just across the Bay. So it might arrive any minute, or 9 or 10 — right? Ergo, I couldn’t go for a run at my usual 9am, because sure as eggs is eggs, once I am out of sight of my front door, the truck will come.

I put a bright yellow post-it on the door-post with an arrow pointing to the doorbell button, and the text “I am home!”. Then I began filling time doing things I had mentally scheduled for later, Tuesday or Wednesday. I patched together some beat-up cardboard boxes I had picked up at FOPAL so I could bring three boxes down there on Wednesday. I filled the boxes with books.

Painting etc.

I took down the big painting of Yosemite, took it outside and posed it in good, but indirect, light, and took a good picture of it. I also took a picture of one of the tchotchkes I had inventoried back on Day 32. The reason for these photos is that I have decided to attend an Appraisal Event at a local auction house . One can bring up to 5 objects or pictures, and they will give an opinion on the likely auction yield.

I see I mentioned on Day 68 that, after two fine-art galleries had stiffed me on a consignment sale of the painting of Yosemite valley, I had resolved to contact the artist himself. But I see I did not mention the result: Dean Linsky replied very promptly but not with good news. He agreed that galleries are always reluctant to deal in consignment sales, but he couldn’t offer any help with that. He recommended I look at auction sales, even eBay, provided I set a good reserve price. That set me looking for local fine-art auction houses, and found the one linked above, in Alameda, with the offer of free appraisals.

I need to get those pics into Photoshop, then print them. But that would be in the office at the back of the house and I want to stay in the front so I can spot the FedEx truck. (Not trusting them to actually push the doorbell button even though I flagged it.) So now I got out slide boxes and reviewed about 10 groups of slides, capturing another dozen socko images for scanning. Then I listened to some podcasts, and ate lunch. Then I took a nap.


About 3pm I decided that when the new laptop arrives, its system name on the network is going to be Godot, because I have done nothing but wait for it. It is now 4pm, and I am still waiting.

Oh geez

At 4:30 the FedEx truck rolled up, I signed, I happily opened the nice box and found… not a Macbook Pro, but a Macbook Air. I already own two Airs, the one Marian wore out and the one we bought to replace it. I had fully intended to order a refurbished 2016 Macbook Pro, but apparently after having a dozen of them open in different browser tabs, I finally clicked on and bought… an Air.

I seriously wonder about myself. Am I losing it? Anyway, messaged the seller, who is a dealer with dozens of refurbs for sale, asking if I can exchange it. Gosh I feel pretty bad.

Day 68, a damn good day’s work

Couldn’t exercise this morning because the car-detailing crew showed up promptly at 8 to start on the Prius. So I settled in to gettin’ shit done in the APR. First up, a few financial details. Brokerage statements are in for the various accounts, so I could update the portfolio spreadsheet that I had created, following Marian’s design on Day 31. The news is good; the total is about 7% up from year-end 2018.

Next I tackled a heap of my personal memorabilia that had accumulated in a binder and a big plastic envelope for years. I really didn’t know what I would find. There were a few keepers.

IBM History

One was a letter I had written to my mother from San Francisco at the end of 1966. At the time I was working for the phone company, and I detailed how in the new year I was to start a “ten-week course” to become a full-fledged “inside wireman”. What I hadn’t known then was that the ten-week course would be the most boring, leaden, plodding thing imaginable, taught by a crusty old guy who was marking time to his retirement and who had no real insight into the complicated systems he was supposed to teach. Before two weeks had passed I was looking for new work, and stumbled hopefully into the local IBM branch office. Because IBM was just in transition from older systems to the new 360 line, they needed people, and hired me.

The sent me to Rochester, Minnesota to be trained on the older electro-mechanical systems. Another keeper was a hand-written letter by me to my sister, dated April 24, 1967. (Of course in the present era, this would have been an email and probably lost forever.) In it I wrote in part,

We took a quiz on the 514-519 machines today after closing up the local night club the night before. (Shame on us.) I got a 90, top grade in the class. Also showed expertise in lab sessions, so should get a B. … Tomorrow begins 6 days instruction on another machine (085) followed by an 18-day course in tab machines…

When I give tours at the CHM, I point out those machines, the 085 sorter and the 403 “tabulator”, as historic, and try to explain how they were the essence of “business data processing” for fifty years.

Niece stuff

Most of the rest of the pile I discarded. However, I gave each letter a cursory glance, and noticed in several of them between 1961 and 1963, my mother mentioned my niece Laurel. She was living with my parents, her grandparents, during that time. Some of the mentions touched on things that were probably significant to her. So I set those letters aside, and put them in an envelope to mail on to her. I figure I can trash things about me that I don’t care to remember, but I didn’t want to make that call on her behalf. Not sure it’s really doing her any favor, as some of the topics may be painful memories. Hope it was the right thing to do.

Anyway at the end I had reduced a large pile to a wispy handful which I distributed into the pages of a family album, and there: done. All the Cortesi family history reduced to one smallish box.

I was on such a roll I tried to tie up more loose ends. I emailed my sister-in-law suggesting we meet to go over the pile of Lacrampe family history that I hope she’ll take over from me.

I called IBM benefits, the ones who wouldn’t talk to me about Marian’s account, even to say if it was closed, until I proved I was her executor. This time the phone rep didn’t have anything to say about that; either she didn’t know that rule or else the account had been marked for me as executor. Anyway, all is well there. That was the last loose end of red tape needing to be tied up. Marian is quits with the world.

Finally I followed up on that painting I discussed on Day 46. On Day 54 I mentioned my impatience with the one gallery who wouldn’t return my calls or emails, and said I would contact another. Well, two emails to them had gone unanswered now. So this time I emailed the artist himself, reminding him of the painting, how he had toured Yosemite valley with us before making it, and asking if he had any idea how I should go about consigning one of his works. Hopefully he will be able to light a fire under one gallery or the other.


The detail guys didn’t finish until 12:30. I decided that, since I didn’t have any boxes, and since it was just before the biweekly sale so FOPAL would be jammed with stuff, I wouldn’t take any books down this time. I’ll take 3 boxes next week, maybe. Anyway so I will go to FOPAL on foot, a 40 minute walk, then take a Lyft home.


Which I did. Sorted. Appropriated a couple of New York Times crossword puzzle books that came in. Had an early supper, then out again at 7:15 to a play at the Bus Barn in Los Altos. Review tomorrow.





Day 59, a button and a money rethink

Monday, 1/28/2019

Started with a run, which was ok. Then ran a string of errands: to DiMartini’s for some fruit; stop at Trader Joe’s; stop at JoAnne’s Crafts; Piazza for a few other groceries. Wait, crafts?

My favorite jacket has a broken button. I’ve been keeping the jacket alive for years; in 2017 the lining started to fall apart and I paid to have it relined, as the shell is fine. I’ve replaced buttons on it before, the buttons on the cuffs tend to snag on things. Just as I decided to do something about this broken one, I realized that our collection of spare buttons went off in the sewing box that, along with the sewing machine, I gave away yesterday. There was probably a match for this button in it, but now it’s gone. Well, it’s not an odd button, I’ll get another. And I did, going into the craft store near Trader Joe’s, 5 minutes looking through the button racks, there was a card with buttons close enough to the originals. I spent longer waiting in line to check out than I did finding the button.

Home, put away groceries, sewed on new button. Fortunately I did not give away all the sewing equipment. There was a separate drawer where the pincushion, scissors, a few spools of thread lived. I actually had the thought yesterday to gather those up and dump them in the sewing kit, but decided no, hang onto basic tools I might use. And the next day I used them.

Money money money

While driving along earlier I’d been mentally reviewing what I wanted to talk about with our financial advisors — excuse me, my financial advisors — when we meet in March as scheduled. The most pressing issue I thought of was to address the change in income. In round numbers, Marian and I had a combined income of about $6000/month. Her social security and IBM pension were both higher than mine. Now that she’s gone, my monthly income is about $2000. But my expenses are only slightly reduced. (Food a bit less, one less person wanting shoes and clothing and books, etc., but those don’t add up to $500 per month. Utilities, insurance, maintenance all continue virtually unchanged.)

I’d got that far in my thinking when I realized that for at least two decades we had been living on that combined income and it had been just right: money out was usually equal to money in. If we took a trip or made some other big purchase we’d move money in from one of the investment accounts. But we never moved money back to an investment account. Net cash flow pretty close to zero.

Now, I realize, my net cash flow is roughly negative $3500/month. I’m not worried by this; I have ample reserves to make up the difference for many years to come. The question for the advisors will be, what accounts to take it from, and at what intervals. However, this realization that we’d been spending just what we made at $6000/month cast a whole new light on the analysis I made on Day 43.

Staying, Going

Back on Day 43 I did a rough calculation of how much it cost me to live right here, and I came to a number of $25,000 per year. But that can’t be right! Because for the past two decades Marian and I have been living right here and spending $72,000 a year, the amount of our combined pensions. We are not known for riotous living, either. No big parties. And the major vacations, and the two cars we bought over that span, were paid for out of investment accounts, not by saving up. So when I figured my cost of living I was low by a factor of almost three. I had to have been! Where did I go wrong?

Well, never mind that; what about the sticker shock I got, when I thought about the monthly costs of ILFs? They looked so expensive in comparison; the least expensive charging double what I thought I could live on.

They don’t look so expensive now, do they? As a couple we were living modestly on $6000/month. As a bachelor, history says I would need only a bit less, say $5000/month.

What does a 1BR unit at Channing House cost? $4650/month.

Hmmmm. Not such a rip-off after all.

Pulling chains

Sent some emails to people to remind them I’m waiting. To my niece to see if she wanted the china set. (She quickly replied with an apology, and no, they can’t use it.) To a friend who had a friend who might be able to appraise Marian’s jewelry. To a friend who has a friend at Webster house.

And a second email to the gallery in Monterey that I contacted on Day 53. You send an email using their web form, and you get a cheerful automated reply, “We’ll get right back to you.” But they don’t. I’m really forming a bad opinion of the art gallery business.

Computer stuff

Spent some time working on the computer. I need to transfer my game to Windows and package it there. I run Windows in a virtual machine in my “big” Mac system. But it’s been months since I fired up the virtual machines, and of course now Windows wants to update itself with months of maintenance. After the usual amount of fiddle-faddle and rebooting I got the job done, a working game on Windows.



Day 53, Pasta and Chateau Cup.

Tuesday, 1/22/2019

A chilly morning by California standards, 42º at 8am, and I was pretty cold as I walked to the Y in my shorts and a light jacket. Did my round and walked back, not stopping at the coffee shop (for once).

Passed the time waiting for the cleaning lady to show, shopping for a dash cam for the Prius. This is in line with my decision of way back there, to keep the Prius indefinitely (it has 57K miles now, and I doubt very much I’ll ever see 100K; and many of these “gen 3” Prii go 150-200K before needing a battery). If I’m keeping it, I might as well upgrade it a bit. Hence the dash cam. Yelp seems to agree that the best shop for this is one in Belmont. Maybe Friday I’ll drive up there.

Once Suli arrived and started work, I headed out to do things. First a stop at Fedex on California to fax a signed paper requested by our broker. Then to a car wash to get the Prius cleaned up. And then down to Cupertino to do a drive-by of Chateau Cupertino, the low-price leader among the list Alan compiled for me. At $3500/month they are the least expensive of the month-to-month places. As such they deserve a look-see and maybe a proper tour if I like the outside.

Alas, I didn’t like the outside. They are pretty close to the corner of De Anza and Stevens Creek, in an area filled with fairly new, multi-story condos and offices. The building itself has no charm; while not ugly, it is not a place I’d be pleased to come home to or to bring a guest to. Although their website claims that “Residents enjoy local mall shopping and restaurants of every flavor” in fact it’s more than half a mile to the nearest restaurant (The Counter) or coffee shop (Philz). I drove around a bit but the ambience was not pleasant. It would be no fun to walk these streets, even the smaller ones, never mind 6-lane De Anza or Stevens Creek.

Back home, I refreshed the hummingbird feeders. The plastic flowers on the three feeders are getting tatty, petals falling off etc. If I was staying I’d buy new feeders, but ISMISEP.

Then I tackled the shelf full of canisters of assorted pastas and grains that I mentioned yesterday. The concept that I’ll probably never cook another meal is not one of the things I had realized before Marian’s death. I’d anticipated a lot of things, but that aspect came as a surprise. Yet it follows inexorably from being single. I am feeding myself properly (weight stable at 175, no beri-beri yet) but I spend at most ten minutes preparing food; that’s how long it takes to mix up a tuna salad, or to fry two strips of bacon and scramble an egg in the grease while peeling an orange. Or I go out. And of course in an ILF the food is made for you.

Which leaves me with a full set of cooking utensils and a big accumulation of ingredients. The dry foods shelf had a dozen canisters: barley, couscous, lentils, at least six kinds of pasta, dried potato flakes. Microwave popcorn. I cleaned it all out, dumped the food into green bio-bags and put them in the green bin. Put the canisters into the dishwasher and ran it. They’ll go in the Great Garage Sale that I anticipate will happen sometime later in the spring. There was some emotion at dropping yet another shard of the old life, but there was a kind of triumph in it, too. Cleaning out. Making space. Along the same lines, I think I’ll go pack up two boxes of books to take to FOPAL tomorrow.

Realized that it’s been more than a week since Day 46 when I spoke to the owner of the gallery in Carmel about selling my Linsky painting. And he hasn’t replied. I wonder how he stays in business? Because frankly, he behaves like a jerk. How could I trust somebody to handle the sale of (what I believe should be) a $6000 painting, when that person doesn’t reply to emails or return phone calls? So there is a second gallery mentioned on Linsky’s website. I check their site and see that one of the principals is named Simic. One supposes this is somehow connected to the now-departed Simic Gallery where we bought the painting in the first place. I emailed them.



Day 46, taxes and books and a painting

After yesterday’s writing, I packed up two boxes of books to take to FOPAL on Wednesday. This consisted mostly of bird books and birding-related books. I had no idea we had so many books about birds and birding. Marian had accumulated them over the years; I recognized only a couple. I’ve no intention of ever spotting another bird; that was her hobby that I supported but didn’t really enjoy. So losing those books is another shard of the prior life, but not one that caused much emotion. Well, a little — when I riffled the page of her most-used birding guide and saw all the check marks and notes in her handwriting of what species we’d seen and where.

Another half-box was the books by and about Arthur Ransome that I mentioned back on Day 35. I received the two additional, $1 books that I ordered then. Now I arrayed them all on the table and sat down with eBay to see what prices such books were getting. And quickly realized that my collection was still incomplete, there was one more novel and at least two more popular biographies that I didn’t have. So much for selling a complete bookshelf. I put the books in the box for FOPAL.

Except for one. Most of the books are paperback, but one is cloth-bound, and on looking inside I realized it was a first edition, or at least a first American printing, dated 1942. Similar Ransome hardbacks are on eBay for $50 and up, so I took some pictures and put it up on eBay. We’ll see.

Got an email from Craig wondering if I wanted to visit Channing house or not. Very timely, given how I’d just put my ILF decision back on track, so in a quick exchange we agreed to meet Saturday afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon, I added yet another feature to my program, and to my delight, the new feature worked exactly right first try. So that wrapped day 45 nicely.

Wednesday, 1/16/2019

Went for a run, it was OK. Back  home did some desk stuff. Paid a credit card bill. Created the folder to hold all the tax info for 2018, using the 2017 folder as a model. Key item here is to download the PDF copies of a total of eight form 1099-Rs, from all the various accounts we have that generate those (two Social Security, two pension, four brokerage). Made a checklist of all the tasks to do going forward with the taxes. That doesn’t really get busy until February.

Booked myself to attend the PAC-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, in Las Vegas March 7-10. Bought one reserved seat, booked a hotel room, booked the flights. This will be the first time I’ve traveled anywhere as a bachelor, and indeed the first flight since… I think since October 2017 when we returned from NYC. Hopefully the gummint shutdown will be over by March?

In the mail: the official document from the Neptune Society, stating that Marian was “respectfully delivered to the sea” on January 10th. I have to say, the Neptune Society has been a class act the whole way, supportive, responsive, professional. I’m glad we signed with them all those years ago.

One of the items I want to get rid of is this painting:4337722_orig

We commissioned this; it was actually painted for us; we met with Dean Linsky (click the link to see his website) in Yosemite Valley in 2004 and walked around with him pointing out features we liked. A couple of months later the painting arrived, and it has been on our wall ever since.

Looking forward I don’t want to try to house it in a small apartment. Linsky’s work is marketed mostly through New Masters Gallery in Carmel. I’d like to consign it there for sale, but I’ve been having a hard time getting any info out of them by email. So today I called up and spoke directly to the gallery owner, Bill Hill. I have to say, Bill’s telephone manners are abrupt. Although his gallery has been in business for years, he’s clearly not a salesman type. I emphasized how I would have to depend on his expertise to know what the painting would go for, and at his request sent a cell-phone shot of it again by email. Maybe this time he’ll look at it.

Anyway, off to FOPAL, taking two boxes of books. And home for a quiet evening.