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.


Day 16, Takin’ care of bidness

Monday 12/17/2018

I suppose “takin’ care of bidness” could be the default title of a lot of these posts. Went for a run and was pleased it went well, 35 minutes of my gentle jog (4.5mph when on a treadmill) without stopping except for a couple of traffic lights, and felt good.

After a shower I spent a couple hours continuing to tidy and organize and discard stuff from the various file drawers. I’ve a 6-inch pile of Schwab monthly brokerage statements, and some other categories of paper financial records, all from the era 1997 (when we set up our trust and managed accounts) through about 2002 when it seems Marian decided it wasn’t worth it to save them any more. But I broke out some sub-categories, like the documents that show the history of how our respective IRAs rolled from company to company, or the documents that establish when we each bought IBM shares, and how much they sold for. I wrote an email to our financial advisors’ office listing these groups of records and asking if I can recycle them. I’m guessing all this stuff is dead history, but I haven’t heard back yet. (Later: yes; recycle the lot.)

I set up a wide pendaflex in which to collect everything related to getting Marian officially deceased, bureaucratically speaking. The Neptune Society docs, the notes from different banks, and so on. One section that looms a bit ominously is the inch-thick pile of Medicare EOBs dating back to spring when her illness began. So many services rendered by PAMF and by Stanford Health, each specified as “provider billed” (huge sum), “medicare approved” (1/4 that), “you may be billed” (a pittance). But the pittances add up, and so far as I know, I’ve yet to see any kind of bill from either PAMF or Stanford. So the thick wad of EOBs is the bulk of that pendaflex. I’d love to see it go in the recycle bin.

Spent an hour sanding the tops of the other two little tables, then put them away. Tomorrow looks pretty busy; I’ll try to paint them Wednesday, maybe.

Eduardo’s Gutter Cleaner crew indeed merit their 5-star rating on Yelp. They pulled up 15 minutes ahead of schedule and were gone an hour later. All the leaves are off my roof, my downspouts are sluiced clean, and the house looks tidy from the street. Good.

Got a head start on tomorrow by stripping the bed and washing the linens. This something I normally would do on “Suli day,” the day the cleaning lady comes, which is tomorrow. This was also the scheduled quarterly day to rotate the mattress, five minutes of heaving and hauling, and something I will continue to do (once more? twice?) as only one side is getting used anymore.

Emotionally a pretty tranquil day, which is welcome after yesterday.

Day 12: SSA, FOPAL, incidental drama

Thursday 12/13/18

First order of business today was to drive to the Neptune Society in San Jose to collect the five official copies of Marian’s death certificate that I’d ordered. I’ve been advised I could need up to eight, but so far I actually haven’t needed one.

Before I could do that I got to throw a

Hissy Fit

Honey-Do Handyman were supposed to clean the leaves from my gutters last Friday; as I noted then they didn’t show and didn’t tell me until I called them that day. Same deal today: I left a message last night asking to be told when the guys would show up. No response. I called this morning and left a message at 8am. No call back. At 9am Michelle answered the phone and gave me the same apologetic song and dance, big job in San Francisco, tried to make it work but just couldn’t, blah blah. I confess I yelled at her. “Extraordinarily busy? You’ve been extraordinarily bad a communicating! Forget it, I’m gonna get somebody else.”

You know what? You can’t bang down a cell phone. Stabbing the little red icon extra hard doesn’t have the same effect.

So I called the top-rated gutter cleaning service on Yelp. Then off to San Jose and from there to

Government Bureaucracy

I went to the Social Security office in Mountain View. I wasn’t sure how long this would take, but figured it couldn’t be any worse than the DMV. Actually it pretty nearly is. The waiting area has seats for maybe 30 people. So when they are filled, the security guy at the door won’t let you in. There was a line of about eight when I arrived, and I got in after about ten minutes. (When I left, the line outside was over 20.)

Inside, you check in at a screen and get a number, then wait to be called to one of 15 windows. I was Z937. I swear they called all 9 other Z93x numbers before me, as well as lots of other numbers. But after almost exactly two hours I was called. And could not complete the process because, in order to properly adjust my Social Security status, the very friendly and apologetic agent had to see not only Marian’s death certificate, but our marriage certificate. Which I didn’t have with me.

So I got an appointment for a call-back on 8 January. At least, no waiting that time.

Next up was to drive up to Ace Hardware for more painting supplies for refinishing the tabletops. But along the way I encountered

More Drama

Driving north on Alma in downtown Palo Alto, approaching Addison, I saw the big SUV ahead of me side-swipe a parked Prius. Audible thump, both cars bounce. SUV slows down, continues to the next corner, Channing, turns right. So do I, as I’m going to Ace Hardware right there. I park right outside the store and watch the SUV across the street as it pauses. I note the license, and go into the store.

When I came out it was gone. Just for curiosity I drove around the block, parked on Addison, and looked at the red Prius. Sure enough, a big paint bruise on the left quarter panel. And no note visible. So I wrote up a note describing what I saw and the license number, and my phone number, left it and went on because I had an appointment at


I joined Friends of the Palo Alto Library a decade ago, when we decided to fire Wells Fargo and go with a credit union. We had no direct connection to Stanford, but you can join Stanford Federal Credit Union if you are a member of FOPAL. So we joined. (Today I learned that more than 100 people a year join FOPAL for exactly that reason, to get an account at SFCU.)

Now I want FOPAL for its volunteer opportunities. Today I met with Janette Herceg, who is the volunteer coordinator (and FOPAL’s one and only full-time paid staff person). It’s an astonishing organization. Using mostly volunteers, they have a throughput of over 30,000 books a month; that many donations in and about that many out via their sales or to recycling.

So I’ve agreed to initially work as a sorter on Wednesdays, when they are short-handed. There are other jobs that I may graduate into, but there’s a lot to be learned.

This evening the Prius owner called, very grateful. We agreed she’d pass my info to her insurance agent and take the agent’s advice about contacting the police. Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony, but I don’t personally feel like pursuing that angle.


Day 11, city adventure

Losing a TV show

Last night I scrolled through the DVR list and sort of automatically started playing the latest episode of the cooking show, Cook’s Country. And quickly realized that I didn’t care about how Basque fried chicken is made!

Oh, this is so sad! Cook’s Country and its sister show America’s Test Kitchen were two shows that Marian and I could watch together and talk about. “We could make that.” “Nah, too many ingredients.” But now: I don’t expect to cook an actual entrée ever again. I don’t care about easy ways to make suppers. And there’s nobody to exchange snarky comments with about over-elaborate recipes. So this is the first TV show that I’m dropping because its main interest for me, was sharing it with Marian. Went through the DVR subscription list and dropped one other, Dancing with the Stars. The rest of them I have enough interest in to keep watching — even Top Chef , which is a whole different kind of cooking, a performance art, that I can admire without needing the personal connection.

Anyway, that was last night. Today (12/12/18) I went on

A City Adventure

The plan was to take Caltrain to the City, Lyft to the DeYoung museum, see an exhibit of works by Gaugin, and return the same way. But walking to the Caltrain station I was hit by lots of


I found myself again beset with formless anxiety—that feeling you might get when you realize there’s something undone, or overdue, or mistaken, but with no specific object or reason. I knew I was doing what I planned to do; knew it was a viable plan; knew I was ahead of schedule. Whence the fretting?

And realized that what was missing was Marian’s agreement in the plan! Here’s how it is with partners: One says “I think I’ll do thus-and-so Wednesday.” And the other, “We were going to such-and-such that day.” “Oh, well, maybe in the afternoon…” “When will you be back, I need the car by…” and so forth. Every activity gets cross-checked and tweaked to be sensible and efficient. Before, if I were to set off for the city for a day, it would be with the comfortable assurance that I’d shared the plan with Marian and her practical mind—the mind that had so often caught me in simple oversights—agreed that my plan made sense.

Don’t have that now! Rechecking all my intentions, I carried on with

the Adventure

Which all worked smoothly enough. I’d actually spent five minutes reading up on Gaugin before I left and learned more from the very nicely arranged and documented exhibit. But, meh. Not a fan of his paintings, except for one or two of the later ones, like Reclining Tahitian Women. But I kept wandering through the other galleries and quite enjoyed the room full of big landscapes, California and Hudson River School, and was quite amazed by some of the huge carvings in the collection from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Had a nice lunch in the café and started back. On the train home, Maria from the Neptune Society called to say that the death certificates will be ready tomorrow. So tomorrow I need to get them, then visit the Social Security office and make that notification official. According to Jean, when she reported Bill’s death, she was given the option of choosing which payment to continue receiving, his or hers, and obviously you pick the larger, which in my case, would be Marian’s.

I have also uncovered an ancient IBM Life Insurance policy that might or might not mean I have $5000 coming from them. Not clear, but I will also be notifying them tomorrow or Friday, once I have the certs. in hand.


Day 10, Lunch and handyman stuff

Tuesday 11/12/18

Walked to the Y for my little workout. On return, put all the leather cushions back in the couch and chairs. They look great. I might do another round, I have plenty of the goopy stuff. Then I pondered the table-nest project.

For years we’ve had and used a set of three small nesting tables. They are elegant, delicate, Danish Modern perhaps, though a bit of a Japanese curve to the edge of the largest of the three. That one has for a number of years supported a potted plant; the other two went anywhere we wanted a table for the moment.

The project part is, the largest has circular stains where the plant pots got wet, and the others have stains, and their glue joints have dried out and started to separate. Yesterday I used Gorilla Glue to repair the loose joints in two of them. But I mean to sand down and re-stain the top of at least the larger.

That means finding a stain to match the existing color. And, while handling the middle-size one, I realized that it has lost a screw, a rather large 4/20 with a conical head, not your standard item. So I tossed that table in the car and went off to lunch with Scott (Hi Scott!) at Michaels on Shoreline.

Coming out of Michaels, the phone rang. It was Maria at the Neptune Society, informing me that Marian’s cremation had taken place over the weekend, and her ashes were now back at the Neptune office in San Jose. I’d emailed her yesterday saying that we would not be using the family cruise option, but to go ahead with the standard service. She had called to let me know that Marian would be scattered on their next cruise, January third. I’ll receive an official scattering document signed by the boat captain after that. Meantime, the death certificates should be ready sometime this week.

I continued up 101 to Embarcadero and thence to Ace Hardware, my go-to hardware store now that Orchard Supply closed. There I found a stain/urethane paint that looked like it would match, and found a match to the missing screw. Back home I spent a half hour with the orbital sander getting the stains (mostly) out of the top of the bigger table, and coated it with the stain. It’s drying now. We’ll see.

Day 3

Tuesday 12/4/18

It seems incredible it has only been 2½ days since Marian stopped breathing. I’ve accomplished just a ton of stuff in that time, busy busy busy. But first, a few words about


It just comes on at unpredictable times, then passes off. Something reminds me of our life together — as when, yesterday morning, I passed the local ice-cream store and suddenly remembered she always ordered mocha almond fudge flavor — or it will be nothing at all, just a sudden uprush of pity and regret. And the eyes prickle, the throat constricts, the voice, if I’m talking, becomes thick and broken. A deep breath, a shake of the shoulders, and it passes off.

So these little fugues, every couple of hours or so, are the metronome to my days. But in between them, today I was

Making Arrangements

Walked to the Y on Ross Road, did my little round of exercises, walked back in plenty of time to strip the bed and put the linens in the washer. Then drove to San Jose, to the office of the Neptune Society, where Maria led me through reading and signing all the papers that have to be read and signed in order to get somebody cremated and scattered at sea, all proper and legal.

There’s a decision to be made: do I want to see the ashes scattered off the Marin coast near Angel Island? If so, I have to reserved a spot on a sailing of their “family” boat for $495. Or I can just let it happen anonymously on their standard scattering cruise where nobody witnesses the operation. That service is included in the fees we paid back in 1997 (Marian’s signature on the contract, from back before her handwriting deteriorated…)

I’m on the fence about this. Do I want the finality of this little ceremony? Marian is gone; the ashes won’t be her in any sense. I’ll consult with her sister, see if she wants in.


On return, Suli, our cleaning lady for many years, had arrived, and had already guessed from the rearranged furniture what had happened since her last visit two weeks ago. But we shared a bit of a cry. “Oh, I hoped I would see her one more time,” she said.

After Suli had finished and left, I sorted the rest of the laundry and got that going. And put the sheets back on the bed. And called a two of Marian’s insurance companies. Oddly, the drug benefit company said they would be informed by Medicare, and would process the termination then. The other, AARP medicare supplement, didn’t say that, and processed the change at once. Whatever.

Finally I reverted Marian’s phone, an iPhone 6s, to factory default and then installed Uber and Lyft apps on it with new accounts. The plan is for Marian’s sister Jean to use that. She’s not had a smart-phone; and I’ve offered to let her use this one, while keeping it on my T-Mobile family plan. It would probably cost me money to go back to a single line plan anyway.

Still plenty of time then, for


About 4 weeks ago, while I was sitting in the audience at the Pear Theater waiting for the play to start, I checked my email (as one does) and saw one from the Fox Theater in Redwood city announcing a concert by Jake Shimabukuro. Knowing he sells out quick, I managed to get two good seats before the lights went down in the theater. A week or so later it was clear that Marian’s strength had declined such that she wouldn’t be able to attend using her walker, but the theater assured me she could come in the wheelchair.

Well, that didn’t come to pass, and yesterday I contacted our friend Wally and asked if he’d like to come. I left early in order to get a quick supper at the Five Guys burgers next door to the Fox, which was fortunate since traffic was a mess. I know how traffic is, on a rainy evening at 6pm; yet it always comes as a surprise. Anyway I did manage a quick bite, met Wally, and attended the concert.

Jake is truly a master and for this tour he has teamed with two other virtuosi, Dave Preston on guitar and Nolan Verner on bass. Still, I thought the concert was a little bit long and repetitive. The absolute best moments where when Jake stood alone and played a standard, acoustic ukulele. His ability to pull sophisticated, complex counterpoint out of that tiny instrument is amazing.

So home to fold the last load of laundry — including Marian’s three favorite tops; another grief spasm — and write a blog post.