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    Rearview Mirror

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversation–

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    I never dreamed that one day I would see San Francisco in my rearview mirror without a return planned. But we all know life has its own plans and we don’t always get what we want—or at least our 1st choice of dreams. As retirement economics became a reality, it became clear I needed to find a different place to live, at least temporarily.

    A few weeks ago, I packed the car, grabbed Tater Tot and headed north. There were certainly things to look forward to up ahead … new adventures, new city, retirement. But, at that moment, they were seriously outweighed by the things I love so very much diminishing from sight as I headed up Highway 80. Note to self: Leave later next time for s stop in Vacaville for the much-touted Jelly Belly Self-Guided Factory Tour that doesn’t open until 9 am. I missed it. It’s apparently an elevated walk above the factory to see all the healthy things they are making. (An aside: They have the same kind of tour where I’m headed: the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The same, but different. Just sayin’.)

    My next article is going to be about the trip north and what I found upon arrival. This article is my final “Thank You” tour. Of course, such things are dangerous. You’re always going to leave someone out. So, if you are reading this, whoever and wherever you are, “Thank you.” There, I’ve now thanked everyone in the known world; I can get down to specifics.

    My last couple of weeks in San Francisco were not exactly what I had hoped they would be—much like the last 2 years! Just when we thought we were over the hump, BA.5 arrived causing an upsurge in cases. The chorus (San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus) Medical Team made a very strong suggestion that I isolate as much as humanly possible. No one is irreplaceable. However, an entire concert planned as a farewell to a single human makes things really awkward if that human has to stay home with COVID. So, I literally cancelled my farewell tour of (free) brunches, lunches, cocktails, and dinners. I stayed in.

    With those serious precautions, COVID was kept at bay through the festivities. And none of them became super spreaders, thank goodness. The chorus all tested for rehearsal and the performance and all were vaxated (I know it’s not a word, I just love it) and boosted. The audience wore masks. I am very sad to say that we had 2 or 3 singers forced to drop out each day in the week leading up to the performance. It’s heartbreaking to put all that work into music and choreography and your only option is performing it for your cat at home! They are totally unappreciative. 

    The hugest thank you of all, of course, goes to the chorus. It’s our family. They stepped forward to show me their love by the way they performed with the San Francisco Symphony. It’s always easy to say it was perfection when there is no “official” video of the event. There might be a few bootlegged videos on the YouTubes.

    I couldn’t be prouder of the final concert of a 35-year run. It was glorious. Thank you to every singer in the chorus now—and every singer who has been in the chorus who helped it along its way to the amazing artistic and activist organization it is today. And family. Thanks to the incredible staff—paid and non-paid—who worked tirelessly to make it all it could be. And further thanks to the alumni who joined for the final two songs as did the Greenville Gay Men’s Chorus who travelled all the way from South Carolina to join us and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir to celebrate the upcoming 5th Anniversary of our tour to the south in 2017.

    One of the joys of retiring is that I got to plan the concert just the way I wanted it. I made it clear early on there were to be no long speeches. I actually said no speeches, but that wasn’t going to work. They were limited to four during the evening! Here they are.

    First up was Mayor London Breed. She was a surprise in the first half of the concert. She spoke with her usual off-the-cuff warmth and depth of knowledge. She does love the chorus and what it represents. And, lo and behold, she, along with the city supervisors, proclaimed July 13 “Tim Seelig Day” in San Francisco. You can always remember it and roll it into your celebration of Bastille Day on the 14th. I’m not sure I am supposed to share this, but backstage, she gifted me with a pair of beautiful cufflinks bearing the seal of San Francisco and signed by Mayor Breed on the back. WOW!

    Next came the brilliant and entertaining Michael Tate, President of the Board of GALA Choruses (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses). Michael is also a former Chairperson of the SFGMC Board and the person who hired me 12 years ago. He brought thoughtful gratitude on behalf of GALA and a spray of roses befitting the Rose Bowl Parade Queen. There was no actual award because, as he stated, I had been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, at which time there was a lovely crystal award I still cherish.

    A few songs later, we were back to speechifying. Dr. Glenn DeSandre, Chair of the SFGMC Board, honored me with the title Conductor Laureate. This is a title held by only two other SFGMC conductors: Dr. Kathleen McGuire and Dr. Stan Hill. I am so grateful to be honored in this way. I am also grateful to the board of directors who, for 11 1/2 years, said “yes” to my/our bodacious dreams! Glenn has been an incredible support as board chair.

    Finally, and definitely the most exciting of all, came Executive Director Chris Verdugo. It was his job to introduce and welcome the next Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Jake Stensberg. Since being named my successor in April, Jake and I have had the opportunity to get to know each other on many occasions. I took him to the beach in Pacifica and toasted his arrival with champagne and Cheeto’s. It has been wonderful in every way. I was so excited to bestow upon him an official SFGMC t-shirt and fan. He wowed the crowd with his fan snap! He’s in!

    At the reception after the concert, Betty Sullivan and Jennifer Viegas presented me with a stunning framed reproduction of my final article in the San Francisco Bay Times. That was obviously the final one as Artistic Director of the chorus. Here you are reading the next installment already. The framed piece, which takes up 3 whole pages, is stunning! Can’t wait to hang it (no, the movers are not here yet). If you haven’t read it, you can always find any of the previous 76 articles by going to the San Francisco Bay Times online ( https://sfbaytimes.com/ ), typing Tim Seelig in the search bar, and settling in!

    The night after the concert, there was more. We had a “Hug Tim Goodbye” going away and cast party at Zeitgeist. There was plenty of beer, burgers, and an official drink, the “Curtain Call.” Once again, I was surprised. I was overwhelmed by the going away gift the members of the chorus gave me. And then, as if that were not enough, Senator Scott Weiner showed up with a huge framed proclamation from the State of California co-authored by Assembly Members Matt Haney and Philip Y. Ting. It was a remarkable string of Whereas’s.

    The final thank yous are to my family—chosen and biological—who came from all over the world to help send me off into retirement. I’m leaving one of my Grandgirls, Clara, behind in San Francisco. She’s about to turn 12 and busy, busy. I’ll probably see her more on trips there and her trips here than living across town.

    Thank you, San Francisco, for everything. Just because you faded from sight in my car’s rearview mirror, you are far from gone in the mirror of my heart. You changed me in so many ways. You taught me to celebrate Tim and all the rights thereunto appertaining. I’ll be back. Early September is already on the calendar, if I can wait that long.

    There will be much more from the retiree in the rocking chair down by the riverside in Portland.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. http://www.timseelig.com/

    Published on August 11, 2022