Tuesday through Sunday, I ride BART to the Civic Center station in the heart of downtown San Francisco from the Colma station, a few miles south of the City. It is only a seven-minute drive from our RV park in Pacifica.

The train ride usually takes sixteen minutes. You can practically count on it.

This lulls me into a false sense of complacency; the train schedule is regular enough to make me assume that it will always get me to work punctually.

But of course this is not true 100% of the time. There are occasional problems on the tracks: obstructions, fires or malfunctions, or problems with the brakes on the cars — or more rarely, “situations” with disruptive citizenry in the train stations.

It is amazing, actually, that BART provides as consistent service as it does.

Last night’s ride into work was a different experience, as though I was living in a subtly altered reality. It was not a dramatic departure from the usual routine, but just “off” enough for me to notice.

I arrived at the Colma station to the sound of a train pulling in. I didn’t know which direction it was coming from but I wanted to make sure to catch the train if it was going into the City.

I started to jog towards the escalator leading down to the tracks, but a station manager was standing nearby to wave me apologetically down the stairs, as the escalator was out-of-service.

Difference #1.

The train turned out to be coming from the City, disgorging a huge number of commuters after their long day at work. There were so many of them that they completely took over the stairs on their ascent, leaving me little space to walk down. I squeezed along the extreme righthand side of the stairwell, hugging the bannister as I inched my way through the surge of humanity coming up.

I felt like a salmon fighting my way against an inexorable current which was in danger of sweeping me along in its wake.

I probably should have turned around and gone back UP the stairs and waited for this rush of humanity to pass before trying to go down, but I was in the middle of the staircase when they had suddenly appeared. Besides that, I am stubborn. Committed!

Most of the commuters didn’t even LOOK up to see if anyone might be trying to descend the stairs. Perhaps they assumed that no-one would be going into the City during rush hour; what are you, crazy? What do you mean, you work a night job? This is not normal!

One man in particular was on a collision course with me. He kept his gaze studiously down on the steps he was climbing up, one by one, and I was being pulled into the middle of the current of humanity directly in front of him. He finally saw my feet appearing on the step just above him and he changed course at the last possible moment before disaster struck.

Difference #2.

I waited a few moments for the inbound train, which arrived on schedule. Everything ran smoothly until just after the 24th St./Mission station. The train was moving more slowly than usual and then it came to a full stop in the middle of the tunnel. Not once, not twice, but three times. I heard a faint click of the intercom in our car, then a brief rasping crackle of static on the speaker indicating that the train operator was making some sort of announcement — but the audio system wasn’t working in this particular car.

I briefly considered going to another car where the intercom worked — the knowledge of what was going on would somehow be reassuring, even if it didn’t make my arrival any faster — but in a few seconds the train slowly crawled into Civic Center station.

After a series of jerky stops and starts, it finally positioned itself along the tracks to let out the masses.

I was so anxious to get OUT of there that I didn’t notice the train had stopped in a completely different place than usual. The escalators weren’t working at this station, either. I saw what I thought was the staircase I usually used and went up it (I don’t ride the escalators most of the time, anyway), only to find that it was a different staircase which put me onto Market St. farther away from the theatre, and ten minutes later than usual.

Differences #3, #4 and #5.

This commute felt like one of those dreams when everything is a bit off, an altered atmosphere, almost like being in a parallel universe. Do any of you ever feel like that?

It seems that the “Creatures of Habit” theme is continuing in my life, with the reminder to maintain flexibility if at all possible!

Ever since Tuesday’s record-breaking rainstorm, it has been unusually mild and humid in the Bay area.

It almost feels like the East coast in the Fall BEFORE it snows (I’ve heard that it’s snowing out there today).

I am amazed at what a difference a few degrees make here. It’s usually in the upper 50s by the beach and a few degrees warmer in the City. But this week it is five degrees warmer, and I can actually feel the change.

The climate here is very temperate, without too many extremes. So I suppose that any variation seems more dramatic.

Now I understand it when local residents complain that 70 degrees is a “heat wave” and that 50 degrees is a cold-snap.

One thing I have not seen around here are Fall colors. The only indication that the season has changed is that the air is slightly more crisp — at least until this week — and the profusion of Halloween decorations.

Last night immediately after the show, I was struck by how it is human nature to have certain habits and routines.

The pit musicians have a space downstairs in the Golden Gate Theatre to store instruments and change clothes. We call it “The Bandroom”.

There are three separate spaces: the smallest room has cubbyholes and shelves to store the instruments. The middle space is the largest, where people usually congregate, eat or relax. This is where the main entrance to the bandroom is located. The third space on the opposite also has its own entrance, and is midway in size between the other two rooms.

As this run of South Pacific has progressed, each musician has designated his or her own “territory”, so to speak. I always put my knapsack, hat and coat in the same spot, on a high bass stool nearest the clothes rack in the largest, middle room.

Then I put my horn case in the smallest room with the cubbyholes, and have taken over a certain one which is big enough to store my particular instrument.

The third space is currently being used as the women’s dressing room, as the 25 musicians are evently divided between the sexes. The other two spaces have been taken over by the men.

Last night after the show, I was packing up my horn in the instrument storage room as usual, and was just about to store the case in the cubbyhole I’ve always used — when the flute player quickly shoved her case in it!

She must have sensed my faint annoyance because she asked, “Oh, did I take your spot?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’m sorry,” she said, on her way out of the room.

“No you’re NOT,” I rejoined, and we both laughed — as she continued to walk away.

So we tend to be creatures of habit, but can be adaptable when routines are disrupted.

I was in this frame of mind when I arrived at the BART station a few moments later.

I always catch the same train, so I have come to recognize a few of the regular riders who have a similar work schedule to mine.

One man always stands at the same black tile strip where the train doors open; there is a series of them along the track. I always stand at the adjacent strip next to him, because this particular door of the train opens immediately opposite the staircase at my destination.

Another man always waits for his train (a later one than mine; he never gets on when I do) at the foot of the nearby stairway which has a bannister made of stainless steel, which is wide enough to serve as a counter. He reads or plays with his PDA there.

I’ve also figured out that the Staircase Man is an usher for one of the theatres. He always wears black slacks, white shirt with a long black tie. The other night, he had two narrow, tall empty cardboard boxes marked “PLAYBILL” (the name of the show programs used in all the theatres around the country). So this made me realize that he’s an usher.

One night, my train was about to emerge from the tunnel at the end of the station. There is always a high wind which the trains push ahead of them, marking their imminent arrival. This wind is so strong that I have to hang onto my hat. It was also strong enough to blow those empty cardboard boxes marked “PLAYBILL” away from Staircase Man and rapidly towards me, standing right by the tracks.

I had to react quickly to save the boxes from tumbling down onto the tracks, recessed nearly five feet below me. I grabbed them and handed them back to Staircase Man, who smiled and thanked me. I didn’t have time to ask him which theatre he ushers — it’s either the Orpheum where a long-running production of “Wicked” is playing, or at the Golden Gate where “South Pacific” has a six-week run — because I had to get on my train.

It was interesting that the theme of “creatures of habit” came to me so vividly last night. But there are always variations, such as the flute player taking my cubbyhole and Staircase Man’s boxes blowing away.

James and I just arrived back at our Airstream parked at the beach in Pacifica. We drove through a very heavy rainstorm with high winds which has hit the entire region.

The road was often obscured by rain and there were large puddles which cars ploughed through, sending huge jets of spray in all directions. Most drivers were cautious and we were lucky not to be caught in any slowdowns, although there were a couple of accidents in the opposite direction, heading east on Highway 80.

It started raining early this morning in The Woods and intensified as noon approached, and got worse the further we headed west towards San Francisco.

The power has been out here since noon throughout the Bay area. Our big elementary-school style electric clock on the Airstream kitchen wall stopped at twelve on the nose.

My computer is running on battery power and we are lucky to have a “Mi-Fi” 3G card to get on the internet. The card can run for a while if it’s charged up — thankfully, it is at the moment.

I’ll make this short for now in order to save power. The storm is still raging now at 3:30 p.m.; sheets of rain are pelting the stainless steel trailer and the high winds are rocking it gently to and fro.

I haven’t heard anything about the show possibly being cancelled tonight. Apparently BART is running. There are probably areas of downtown San Francisco which do have power; hopefully the Golden Gate Theatre is in one of them!

James picked me up from the theatre immediately after yesterday’s matinee ended at five o’clock, and we made the four-hour drive back home to The Woods for my single day off today.

It took about forty-five minutes to get out of San Francisco and over the Bay Bridge; there was lots of traffic late Sunday afternoon. Hordes of people were leaving two major events, a baseball game and an air show put on by the Blue Angels.

One of my colleagues in the pit of South Pacific advised me to ‘put on my patience hat, there’s gonna be a LOT of traffic this afternoon!’ so I took her words to heart, and felt more relaxed about the stop/start aspect of our crawl out of the City because I was mentally prepared for it.

We arrived home to pitch black darkness at 9:30, and crisp cool temperatures in the 40s. It’s always such a shock to be drenched in such silence after being in an intense urban area. My mind seemed to race even more, against the backdrop of this contrast.

We couldn’t have picked two more different environments in which to live!

We needed to come home once more before we hit the road with Phantom, so that James could winterize the water pipes leading out from the well.

Fall has definitely come to The Woods. Splashes of yellow adorn the deciduous trees, and there are patches of golden pine needles sprinkled throughout the evergreens. The meadow grass is brown and crackly. The sound of birds is curiously absent; perhaps they have already migrated South.

This is the time of year just before the rains and snows set in. A time of waiting for the transition to Winter.

It will be interesting to see if we can bring the Airstream trailer back home in mid-January; it is entirely possible that the mile-long, steep, rutted dirt road will be impassable with ice and snow. It usually snows in early January, as much as two feet in a single storm.

When we get back to California sometime the second week of January, we will call the town postmaster — who is also one of our nearest neighbors — to ask about the road conditions. If it’s bad, then we’ll probably park the Airstream in my brother’s driveway in Sacramento for a week or so, before venturing up to The Woods. We did this last year, and had a lovely visit with the family.

So we are enjoying our brief time at home now, and will drive back to our City Life bright and early tomorrow morning. Back to work!

There are two weeks remaining of the run of South Pacific in San Francisco. I am already waxing nostalgic about it; this has been a wonderful production to be involved with. I will miss playing in this excellent orchestra. It’s very unusual to have twenty-five musicians (with NO synthesizers) in the pit for shows these days. I’m so glad that this full-scale revival of a Broadway classic is being done now!

I am continually amazed at the variety of climates going on in the San Francisco Bay area all at the same time.

This phenomenon is due to the fact that this area is bounded by the ocean on the west and by hills on the east, with combinations of both elements inland in various directions. It’s a complex physical environment which results in many different micro-climates. It can be cool and foggy on one side of a hill and hot and sunny on the other side.

Here at the beach in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco, it is usually foggy and cool. The temperature usually stays in the 50s when the fog layer comes in.

James drives me over a rather steep hill to the north when he drops me off at the BART station to go to work. When there is fog in Pacifica, it is usually at its thickest at the top of this hill. Then we go over the crest and downhill towards the intersection of highways 1 and 280. Suddenly the hills to the east and the City to the north come into view, in blazing sunshine.

This does not always happen, but often enough to be a pattern.

Sometimes the fog stretches northward past Balboa Park. When I ride the train, I’m not sure where the fog ends exactly because BART is underground after that station. But it is frequently sunny in downtown San Francisco when I emerge to street level at 7th & Market.

The fog creates changeable weather conditions very quickly. James told me the other day that there were at least three short periods of sunshine yesterday at the beach, none of which lasted more than an hour, and usually much shorter.

So if you don’t like the weather, stick around a minute!

I was amazed this past summer at the variations of temperature around the Bay area, even when it was sunny everywhere. It would be 60 degrees at the beach and over 90 degrees a few miles inland.

My friend R.A. lives in Lafayette, at the extreme eastern portion of the Bay area. You have to go through the Caldicot Tunnel, which cuts through a major range of hills separating Oakland from the rest of the East Bay, to get to Lafayette. The western side of the tunnel would be 70 degrees and the eastern side twenty degrees warmer. Then it escalates quickly as you proceed further east.

There is often a 50-degree difference between San Francisco and Sacramento (90 miles inland) in the summer.

I have a theory why Pacifica is such a laid-back, unpretentious community. It may be totally off the mark but it entertains me to think that it’s because the area is so foggy. If it were brilliantly sunny here by the beach all the time, it would attract wealthy people wanting to build fancy homes overlooking the ocean.

Obviously, Pacifica residents don’t mind the fog. James and I can tolerate it for a few days in a row, but it gets kind of old after two straight weeks, which happened in mid-July. It was maddening to be stuck in fog all day and then drive over the northern hill to find blazing sunshine, barely two miles away.

So I suppose the remedy is to get OUT of the house and take the train to more sunny environments. In the San Francisco Bay area, you usually have not far to go!

On this foggy Saturday morning by the beach in Pacifica, I am prying my eyes open with a Japanese thermos full of hot black tea. I have time to noodle around on the computer for a couple of hours, then take the train into San Francisco to play the matinee of “South Pacific”.

The show schedule is intense with eight performances a week. This is the standard across the country, but most theatres do single evening shows Tuesday through Friday, then double shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Mondays are almost always off. (In theatre lingo, this is called “dark”.)

The show schedule for the San Francisco theatres is different than venues in the rest of the country. We’ve got double shows on Wednesday, and then only a matinee on Sunday.

This is both good and bad. The “bad” news first: there are only two consecutive evenings with single performances. The good news is that we get off work early enough on Sunday afternoon to actually have the semblance of a normal life; there is time to go out to dinner or a movie, or veg at home during prime-time TV.

In my case, getting off work on Sunday afternoon at around five o’clock gives James and me enough time to drive back home to The Woods, which takes about four hours from downtown San Francisco.

We usually arrive at 9 p.m. If there were an evening show, we wouldn’t get home until two in the morning. So the Sunday schedule works well.

We’ve been able to go home only once during this six-week run of South Pacific, a couple of Sundays ago. It was so nice to touch base, even though the visit was so brief; we had to drive back to the City on Tuesday morning.

We drive home again this Sunday for the last time before hitting the road in earnest. James needs to winterize the various water pipes (PVC) and the fittings near the well, since we won’t be back in The Woods until mid-January.

Today (Saturday) is a double show day. South Pacific is a three-hour show, so I don’t have time to take the train “home” to the beach to eat dinner and take a nap before the evening performance. A home-cooked dinner and nap is my usual routine whenever I play Phantom, which is twenty minutes shorter. It’s amazing that twenty minutes can make such a difference, but it does!

So James has been coming into the City to meet me for dinner between shows, which is a nice break for both of us. We’ve found three favorite restaurants not far from the theatre which are good and inexpensive: Indian, Middle-Eastern and Thai. We usually end up at the Indian restaurant, which is the most consistent, flavorful and overall best value. It’s also closest to the theatre.

We’ve been there often enough to be instantly recognized by the staff when we walk in. The one waitress always greets us with a smile.

Perhaps tonight we may try a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that’s next door to the Thai restaurant we’ve been to on several occasions. It’s been highly recommended by the three trumpet players who are on this show — they take their eating VERY seriously!

James will drive me to the Colma train station at about 12:20 this afternoon (only a seven-minute trip over the hill from the beach), and I won’t see the inside of our little Airstream home again until nearly midnight.

Both Wednesdays and Saturdays are very long days when I can’t come home in-between shows, but somehow I make it through.

In fact, I do feel very fortunate to be employed these days, challenging as the show schedule can be at times.

“You must WRITE more”, a little but persistent voice whispered to me over and over as I tossed and turned in bed last night.

Little Voice added, “You must also curtail playing games on Facebook — it’s a huge waste of time!”

My husband James reiterated this last sentiment to me only a few moments ago. So I know that I need to pay attention.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so blocked writing in this blog, for months now. What’s going on with me?

Well…part of me wants to avoid the tendency to become mundane, which can happen in blogs. But people seem to like the day-to-day musings and ramblings of Life, even if they seem trite at times. Bloggers often refer to their posts being mundane, yet their readers always assure them that the posts are interesting.

Hmmm. So maybe I should just GO for it, and run the risk of being mundane.

The definition of “mundane” is indeed illuminating:

mun⋅dane [muhn-deyn, muhn-deyn]
of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.
common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.
of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.

So in other words, people are interested in feelings and events having to do with the world in which we live. And that’s exactly what a blog is.

(Lightbulb turns on.)

Perhaps what is ‘common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative’ to some people is not to others.

I was thinking the other day — always a dangerous enterprise — that blog-writing seems to be an all-or-nothing thing. Either post every day (or at least every other day) or don’t do it at all!

I believe that my many three faithful readers enjoy reading my very occasional postings. But there could be much more of a sense of continuity in my blog, a consistency, a regular “checking in” which has been absent thus far.

Well, we shall see.

So what am I thinking about, today?

Yesterday, I discovered a new place to hang out near the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. Occasionally I am able to catch an earlier train to work than I had planned to, which gives me enough time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write in my journal before heading to the theatre. I’ve done this at Starbuck’s on a few occasions, but it’s in the opposite direction from the theatre and I usually don’t have enough time to go there.

Yesterday I had an extra service-call which involved videotaping the entire cast in costume and orchestra in tuxes. We taped the most popular numbers from “South Pacific” for advertisement purposes. The call was from 1:30 to 5, followed by our usual show at 8. Busy day!

I emerged from BART onto Market St. and walked the two blocks towards the theatre. I took a slightly different route this time; usually I take a short-cut on Jones St., wending my way around the homeless lying on the sidewalk. But I stayed on Market St. in order to look for some place nearby to have a cup of coffee, since I had an extra half-hour.

There was a “donut”/coffee shop on the corner of Market and Golden Gate which I had never noticed before. It had about fifteen tables and picture windows giving out onto both streets, affording an excellent view of the colorful passerby.

For the life of me I don’t know why I hadn’t see this place before. It was as though it suddenly materialized out of thin air just when I needed it. I suppose that’s the way it is with many things; we tend not to see them until we look for them.

I went into the bright and airy room and walked up to the large glass counter containing many different kinds of doughnuts and pastries. I was reassured to see an espresso machine, so I could have a “specialized” coffee rather than just a cup of regular joe.

I ordered a capuccino and a butter croissant. The coffee was better than average and the croissant was pretty much just a big roll with a slight butter glaze, not at all like what I envision a croissant to be — flaky and buttery — but it was passable and accompanied the coffee nicely.

I found a tiny round table by the plate-glass window overlooking Market St. I could see the Golden Gate Theatre a half block beyond. I took a sip of cappuccino and a bite of the croissant and brought out my journal and pen from my knapsack.

Several working-class black men were talking in loud voices at the adjoining tables. They really didn’t have to speak at such a high volume; there wasn’t much ambient noise and the tables were close together, but this is the nature of people everywhere. I am often amazed at how unncessarily loudly most folks speak.

It’s as though they want an audience. But these men were in the middle of a conversation about one of their cronies, which I wouldn’t have been able to follow or relate to anyway.

One of the men left and the remaining two immediately started talking about him. “He’s juss like his biological father,” one of the guys stated. The other one responded emphatically, “Sho’ is!” Then the first one went into great detail about the father’s physical characteristics and tendencies to womanize, a bit more sotto voce. But I got the gist in spite of myself.

I wrote a few lines in my journal, took more sips of cappuccino and bites from the doughy roll. I looked out onto the Market St. sidewalk, where a parade of interesting characters ambled by. One middle-aged man, with greased-back dirty blond hair and attired in plaid shorts and clashing print shirt open to expose his fish-white Buddha belly, staggered up to a trash can and dug for treasure. Then he approached the plate-glass window with me on the other side and gestured at me…for something…maybe money? I contemplated giving him the rest of my croissant, but then the man abruptly staggered away from the window and ran across the street.

A group of German tourists arrived and sat down at a table, not realizing that they needed to go to the counter first to order. They sat there for the longest time before realization set in, whereupon one woman, serving as spokesperson and interpreter, got up and placed their order in a thick Teutonic accent. The man behind the counter responded in an equally thick Asian accent.

That’s what I love about San Francisco — the rich variety of people from all over the world. It’s truly a melting-pot; quite different from the almost exclusively white (and American) population of Nevada County where I usually call home.

As I got up from the table to go to the theatre, the more verbose of the black men nearby said with a smile, “Have a good day” and I responded, “And the same to you, sir”.

Yesterday was one of those days in which it was easy to embrace the City life and not feel overwhelmed by it, as I sometimes am. On its best days, I am wonderfully stimulated. I think it has something to do with being able to go with the often intense flow, instead of resisting it.

The longer I go between writing posts, the more difficult it becomes to resume.

Part of me resists writing because the blog title “Living in The Woods” does not currently fit my life working in the San Francisco bay area.

Lame excuse, I know.

I keep telling myself that someday we WILL be back in The Woods permanently. But for now, financial necessity requires me to go far afield to make a living. I’m still not ready to retire from active professional horn playing, for personal as well as financial reasons.

I figure that I can continue playing horn at a high level for another five to ten years, if I choose to. But I’ve finally grown smart enough to avoid giving myself a deadline; who knows how I’ll feel in five years (or even two!), and what my life circumstances will be then?

For now, I am thankful to have show work in San Francisco a few times a year. The long-running show “Wicked” has created opportunities for more musicians to be hired to play other shows which come to the City. I have been lucky to play three shows since late November: Phantom, Spamalot and now South Pacific, for a total of nineteen weeks’ employment.

Along with this work is my occasional subbing with Phantom. After the six-week run of South Pacific is over in San Francisco on October 25th, I’ve got seven consecutive weeks of work lined up with Phantom in Tempe, Durham and Ft. Lauderdale. The last city is during Christmas week.

After that…who knows?

My first blog in 2005 was entitled “On The Road”. Should I rename this blog?

After this show closes, James and I will take the Airstream down to Arizona, where I will play the last two weeks of Phantom’s run in Tempe in mid-November.

Before I resume work, we will have two weeks to get our house ready to sell, in a certain small town in the extreme southeastern corner of Arizona. We left there over two years ago and the house has been vacant; we decided that it was too much of a hassle to be long-distance landlords.

We recently contacted a close friend who still lives in the area, to go over to the house and assess what needs to be done. Spiderwebs and dust need to be vacuumed, the fridge needs cleaning (someone turned off the breaker box at some point and the inside of the fridge is black with mold!) and of course the jungle of a yard needs to be hacked down. We’ll probably do at least some of this work ourselves.

We’re going to stay in the Airstream in an RV park on the edge of town while there. The house is livable but our little trailer is really our HOME — everything we need is already in place and we enjoy living in it.

I could write a lot about what’s been going on in my life since my last posting in mid-August — or very little. I’ll opt for the latter, since most of it is work-related, anyway.

James and I have been busy composing and arranging music for recorder ensemble, and have gotten together with a core group of four excellent players several times over the past few months. Our eventual goal is to sell our music online. Someday this will happen when we’re more settled.

The beach at Pacifica has been beautiful for nearly two weeks now; no fog! Autumn is the best season in the Bay area, I think.

We like our little spot in the back, in the corner of the RV park. It’s close to traffic but is actually quite private; most of the short-term tourists rent the spots in the rows closer to the ocean.

We arrived here on September 11th. Here’s a video of our drive from The Woods to The Beach:

Well, this isn’t the most exciting blog post in the world but it will have to do! 🙂

Thursday afternoon, James and I returned to The Woods from a two-day stint in the Bay area.

I played Principal horn in a backup orchestra for Canadian jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall, at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

It was one concert only, on Wednesday night. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the auditorium was packed, starting at $75 a seat. The audience was extremely enthusiastic and Ms. Krall put on a good show.

“WHAT recession?” I thought to myself.

It seems that Broadway-style shows and jazz/pop/rock entertainments aren’t as adversely affected by the current economic downturn as traditional symphony orchestras and opera companies are this year. People are still willing to pay for popular entertainment in challenging times, taking them away from their financial woes for a few hours.

The orchestra consisted of forty freelance musicians from around the Bay area. I had played with several of them in the recent production of “Spamalot” at the Golden Gate Theatre. In fact, the same contractor hired for both gigs.

The stage was set up in a series of risers in a horseshoe surrounding Diana Krall’s band, a trio of very fine musicians: drums, bass, and guitar joined by Ms. Krall’s piano.

I was on the second-highest riser on the right-hand side of the stage, as seen from the audience. In fact, I was on the edge of my riser closest to the people, with the rest of the French horn section further away to my right.

The higher riser behind me contained the other members of the brass section: two trombones (one of whom doubled on tuba for several numbers) and three trumpets.

The riser below me had the six woodwind players, clarinets and flutes.

On the opposite side of the horseshoe were the strings, banked on all three tiers. It was very visually effective, all those pretty violinists (yes, mostly young women) bowing and swaying to the music together.

It was a glitzy Lawrence Welk moment. Or a Vegas one.

Neutral dark grey curtains served as a backdrop to the orchestra. Spotlights splashed through various colors and patterns onto the fabric to provide further visual interest.

Each musician had a light on his/her stand, which was essential for being able to read the music in the dimly-lit, mellow atmosphere of this jazz concert.

There was a pleasing variety of music, with Diana Krall’s occasional solo piano accompanying her sultry voice; several upbeat numbers with the jazz trio, and then the big orchestral numbers with us.

Our pieces were generally understated and muted, with very long, quiet notes. Nothing “fortissimo” except for a very occasional swelling of chords, but always lower in volume than Ms. Krall’s vocals.

The musicians’ performance attire was all-black. Along with black pants and shirt, I wore a black suit jacket and black tie. (Most of the other men wore jackets but no tie.) I’d never worn this particular combination in my “performance uniform” before, and I dare say that it was spiffy! I’ll probably do it again for special occasions in the show pit — which always calls for black — such as Opening Night or perhaps even on a Saturday night.

After several encores and standing ovations, Diana Krall and her band bowed one last time, acknowledged the orchestra by calling us ‘supremely talented artists’, and left the stage.

It was just after 10 p.m., and I wended my way backstage through a narrow, curved hallway lined with shelves, where the San Francisco Symphony violinists usually put their cases during the orchestra’s performances. In fact, it is called “The Violin Den”. During this concert, all of the musicians hired for the Krall gig put their instrument cases there.

After packing up my horn and strapping it to my back, I walked a few blocks down always-colorful Market St. to the BART station at Civic Center, where I caught a late night train to Lafayette in the East bay.

James and I stay at my friend R.A.’s house whenever we’re in the area for only a few days; it’s too much trouble to bring the Airstream down for only a one-day gig.

We’ve been back in The Woods for three days now. It’s a completely different world; peaceful, quiet and remote.

James has done several loads of laundry in the washer in the barn, and hung the clothes on the line to dry. The smell of sun-dried clothes is wonderful!

I noticed that most of our clothes and sheets go together; nearly everything is black or white or a combination of the two. I thought it would make an interesting picture. (Is your laundry this artistic?  😉  )

We wouldn’t be hanging up clothes today, however. The sky is covered with a thick haze of smoke from fires burning less than 60 miles due west of us. Apparently one of the several fires was caused by a “bird on a wire”, literally.

Notice the difference in the sky from the above pictures of the laundry and the fire below:

The air is too toxic to breathe today, so we are spending it indoors.

I am back to practicing horn on my own, without the benefit of keeping in shape by playing in an ensemble. It is much more challenging to keep up my chops, so to speak, by myself.

It is also a challenge to be unemployed. On one hand it’s nice to have a break, but I always feel more useful and productive when I’m playing the horn professionally.

Here in The Woods, I do not earn any money this way. So I feel rather disconnected from this area, this community. For me, it’s more of a vacation home at the moment.

I know that this will change in the future when I’m “retired” and won’t be schlepping to the Bay area for gigs, but that time has not arrived yet. I have a few more years of good playing left, and I intend to make the most of it. I am just now working my way into the freelance music scene in the San Francisco area — something I’ve always thought of doing — and now it’s actually happening! I’m gradually getting more employment as I make more musical connections. I’m learning how to deal with the ins and outs of the freelance scene, which requires tact and diplomacy, as well as a certain skill in wending one’s way through the minefields.

The day after we got back home, James wired a 30-amp RV plug into our breaker box so that we can run the air conditioning in the Airstream. Our first A/C in the Woods! I’m so proud of him.

We moved the trailer from the front of the barn to the back, where there is more privacy and shade in the afternoon, and a view of the meadow to the west. It feels right there.

My next gig in the Bay area is in the middle of September. Until then, we shall enjoy our time here in The Woods.

So James & I continue to live a double life. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but mostly it is good.