Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Balance. What is that?

As kids we worked and worked, skinned our knees and punished our resilient little bodies until that instant when we got balance. It was magical. It opened up a new world to us. The bicycle seemed to stand up on its own having granted us absolution through the self inflicted scrapes and bruises. We sailed effortlessly into new realms and had access to new sets of friends and experiences. You either had it or you didn't. It was black and white. But it was the thing itself that we wanted and all that it provided.

Today, as adults, we speak of balance. We get that misty look in our eye and speak of achieving it in the same way we experienced it as children. But it is less of the "thing" that we desire. It is more of an avoidance of the pain of not having it that is the allure. The balance we seek as "grown ups" is more nebulous. It is all too obvious when it is absent, and more taken for granted and ignored when it is present. And, it is never black and white - you never get it and never have to worry about whether it is present or not. It required constant vigilance... at least that is true for me.

It has been 6 months or so since the State burned down our house. I don't say that with a sneer or venom. It is simply fact, and one I don't want people to forget. And in the "balance", they have done very little to even the scales. So, we work and work at what amounts to another full time job trying to set our lives straight again. Recently, many things have gone well for us and we may actually have a place to live and call our own. It is in sight. But we are tapped out, our knees are skinned and we are bruised. If we relied on the illusive balance to achieve the things we have to this point, I am afraid we would not be nearly as far along as we are. Maybe to us balance is that position on the razors' edge between sanity and a clean slice away from it. Maybe there is no such thing and it is some fantasy destination that is far less tangible than riding a bike.

For me, as I sit here writing this in Seattle on this project that has been the most challenging and stressful thing I have ever undertaken, I realize that if this did not push me out of "balance" there would be no growth. I suppose the edge of exhaustion is not good either, but who is to say. Do I rely on some nebulous destination called "balance" to tell me or do I just go for it and achieve what I can until I don't want to any more. I am fairly certain I will never arrive and start sailing along effortlessly. I am even more sure that there is no such thing as "balance" in the way we use the word as adults. It is only some fantasy of arrival that we have created that can never really be achieved. We should create new language for what it is that we really want. Call it rest, or a time out, or being lazy or being highly motivated.... You name it. But balance as we use the word literally does not exist in reality.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Scorching sun tempered only by the breeze and the cool water. The cicadas drone in homage to the unrelenting heat. Water so clear and blue against the pinkish white sand that it pulls at the center of one's being in an invitation to immerse in its briny tonic.  It is at once soothing and haunting. There is a quality just out of view of the directly observed beauty that is a reminder of the unforgiving and unattached nature of this place. The sand dollar bleached white, the conch shell beached at low tide, the teak on the deck of my boat, weathered and grey under the torment of the sun, even the tide itself is a reminder - nothing is permanent. I can feel the starkness of the place wresting from my pale knuckles the very idea of myself. I see the grey of my hair in the weathered teak, and the frailness of my physical being in the broken shells strewn about as I sit waiting for the morning stiffness to pass with the incoming tide. Just as I would have preferred to freeze my advance in age at a more youthful point, I wish I could hold the vastness of this place at once in my mind. But it defies me each time and is relegated to the impermanence of memory, dull and misshapen. Like the cloud of stars that appears each night, a number of those that we see ceased to exist millions of years ago, but the remaining light is just reaching us. We too burn bright for a time and become attached to the idea that the light will continue to burn after we are gone. To what end?

The point is that there is no point. There never has been and never will be. So, restore the grey weathered wood to a bright new oiled condition. Scrub the rust from the "stainless" steel to restore the shine.  And on the change of tide, do it again, not because you should, but because you can.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Break

A day like any other...? Hardly. I am sitting on the 9:00am flight from Denver to Orlando. This is the first leg of a journey well deserved. It is hard to put into words how important this trip is and how close we came to NOT booking return tickets. It seems like we waited forever for this and now that it's here I can hardly believe that it is "already" happening. Since our house burned I have not taken more than 3 days off in a row and that only happened the day after the fire. Went right back to work and kept going. Now, I am not saying that this is good or bad, it is just what I did. I have not had a real opportunity to have a break to digest what has happened in the last 4 months.

We went right into action creating a place to live. My wife found an Airstream trailer for us to live in and what seemed to be the kindest couple in the world that really understood our situation. Chris and I drove to New Mexico to pick it up. On the way home, we stopped at a rest stop and I went inside to retrieve some inconsequential thing. The stink was so bad that I called the previous owner to ask what I had done wrong to cause this. He responded that he surely didn't know anything about it and could offer no advice. Long story short, 3 months and a few thousand dollars more and we had the rear end of 'Flame' dismantled to find years of rot from a failed septic tank. Thanks for that. Sweet, but completely slimy and dishonest. It boggles the mind.

Meanwhile we had bought a Ford Excursion from Fordland in Denver. Assured that this beast was solid and sound, we had it checked at our mechanics and they said it looked good. But playing over and over in my mind was the repeated statements of the salesman, "now remember, this warranty does not cover seals, right?" It should have been a sign. But another $3K later after replacing the seals in the front differential and other non-warranty items, and I am still wondering when this kind of crap will end. I suppose the fact that the 'repaired' reverse camera that was screwed through the license plate holder into the bumper was just an honest mistake.

So, the kindness of friends landed us in the basement of their home in Denver. And after my wife lost an entire days worth of writing to a faulty computer or Dropbox or voodoo, we are very ready for a fucking break. Thank God for these folks. They are watching our precious dogs while we head for a more favorable climate where wild fire is not likely while surround by warm, blue water.

I usually don't write while I am "In the Middle" of something. I like to have it worked out and resolved so I can share some transformative lesson. I am sorry, but I don't have it worked out. And if you are expecting some growth oriented woo as the conclusion to this rant you should sign off now. I am at once blown away by the kindness of people and at the same time disgusted by the human capacity for being petty, shitty and greedy. But that is what it is. It always has been that way and likely, it always will be. I suppose the source of my dissappointment is the fairy tale that I hold on to wherein everyone gets a good look at themselves and what is really important and stops behaving like a bunch of  cave dwelling savages. I'll let you know when I get there. 

Until then, we have friends that we choose to trust, we have our boat, we have our dogs and I have a business that enables us to have a great life. Fuck with it and I will club you wth my Mastadon femur bone. Oh wait. That burned up in the fire. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The dingy, brown, tile steps he sat on were still warm from the day’s sun. But that probably didn’t matter much. He was staring at his feet and swaying almost imperceptibly as if the ground itself were moving underneath him. The equally dingy white shorts he was wearing defiantly blended into his surroundings as we walked past him on our way to dine at the 5 star restaurant upstairs. No one looked or even broke stride as we stepped around him. He was invisible.

What don’t we see on a daily, moment by moment basis? What is in our field of view by choice or by design? For those that “have” the less fortunate are often invisible. What don’t we want to see? I have noticed that I have become invisible to a certain age group. I am not sure when this happened or even what the qualification is for being noticed. It just happened. I was noticing this morning that I was not noticed by a young person on my walk to the office. I then noticed quite by surprise that an elderly woman next to me at the same intersection was nearly completely hidden from my view. I guess I don’t want to acknowledge the inevitable.

What about the deformed or disabled? I find that they are often equally invisible. It’s not that the wheel chair or the affectation is easy to miss. We just choose to miss it. It’s as if the acknowledgment of a human being in that predicament would somehow make it contagious or make us responsible in some way.

And in time, all of us that have lost nearly everything the recent fires will become as invisible as the folks that lost nearly everything in the Four Mile Canyon fire. What fire? Exactly. We close off our field of view with statements like, “Well at least you…(fill in the blank)”, or “Well your insurance will cover that, right?” God forbid we actually get in touch with anything that might make us feel something other than video game excitement or the protected numbness that we have come to loath and cherish simultaneously.

What would we have to deal with in ourselves to be willing to bring everything into view? Would I have to speak the young man on the steps? Would I have to show kindness to someone I would rather ignore? Does it take away from me to make that effort? Does it really take that much effort? Is it fear or simply disdain and resignation?

On our way down the steps the young man was sprawled out in a positional dare for us to take notice. His non-verbal challenge was palpable as we threaded our steps past his hands and feet. But he was invisible.

Monday, June 18, 2012


“First things first. Where’s your shitter?...” –Fat Bastard. 
Indeed. Where is my shitter? As I sit on my flight to Seattle, I contemplate the weekend, and my morning. I notice the people sitting around me. It is likely they know where their shitter is. The woman in front of me has what I will call a “poodle over”. This fine doo consists of all straight hair combed up toward the top of the head culminating in a frisky yet frozen wad of curly poodlized coif. This is punctuated with a part down the back of the head in what can only be described as the poodle’s ass. I bet even she knows where her shitter is.

We took Flame the Airstream trailer to John Martin Reservoir State Park for Father’s Day weekend. Before we left, we once again dealt with the stench of outhouse permeating our shiny silver dwelling. So, I went about emptying the shit tank, which is a process that rivals a root canal in its inevitable joviality. It inspires things like giggles and smiles and words like “wow, shucks and golly.” Everyone, meaning me and Kristen, was instructed not to use it. Instead, we would use the portable outhouse we had delivered for just such an occasion. Alas, this was not to be. Kristen, not wanting to suffer the embarrassment of adjourning to the comfort of said port-o-shitter in front of the crew of workers milling about our scorched yet greening property, decided that one little poo couldn’t hurt (who could blame her?) That is until we arrived at John Martin with a pack of overeager flies trailing behind us following what must have been a very promising stench. So, we emptied the tank once again and were not allowed to use it at all for the remainder of our time in the park. We had a pretty relaxing weekend boating and fishing with Chris, Dusty and the girls then turned much too soon to return “home”.

I guess we hadn’t relaxed quite enough because Kristen and I had a scorching brawl in the “car” in the final leg of the ride “home”. It is truly amazing how small a Ford Excursion can become when the occupants are not speaking. Golly. I seem to have a case of periodic temporary amnesia or some such thing. It is amazing how quickly I can forget that I am responsible for my own experience, opinions and how the world looks to me, especially when Kristen is just plain WRONG! Such is relationship. Suffice it to say, we made it “home.”

Any time I use the term “home” now I must quote it. That is because, “home” is this trailer, which can be taken with us, which is nice, but is that a home? And, “home” is this land that remains after all else was torched and destroyed. And, ultimately, doesn’t a home have a shitter? So, when we returned, “home” to our property, we set the trailer back up on her little spot and lit a candle, some incense, an essential oil diffuser and danced a jig around the trailer praying all the while to the gods of stink to relieve us of our burden. 

Then, I wanted to see how bad the little crack was in the drain line from the sink. I had noticed it about a week ago but thought that if I ignored it that the vintage ’67 PVC would simply heal itself. Not so much, really. Well, it’s bad. I had Kristen run the water in the sink while I observed through a port in the outside of Flame. The sudden gush of tea colored water and coffee grinds spewing from the crack in the line caught me by surprise. I couldn’t contain my glee and began exclaiming, “wow, shucks and golly” once again. This is so much fun. So, we are washing dishes in the “bath tub”/bird bath. Shucks! Washing dishes and breathing in the faint aroma of evening outhouse while sun sets behind the pastels caused by more fiery destruction in Fort Collins. Golly! More hapless unfortunates who have lost their shitters.

We finally settled down to watch our new addiction, The United States of Tara. Tara, in response to some unknown trauma in her childhood, has a “fragmented” set of personalities that tend to show up at the most inopportune times in an attempt to protect her from herself. Sounds reasonable… and enviable. Gangaji, our current source of spiritual teachings, would say, “welcome the experience and go deeply into it. It is there that you will discover that nothing but pure awareness is true. Everything else is a story.” Awesome. But all I really want to know is, where’s the fucking shitter?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Seattle has been an interesting journey. Today was much like every other day I have spent there. It was cold and rained as I walked the 7 tenths of a mile to the office. I huddled under the protection of my umbrella and could feel the weight of my pants as my pant legs darkened with moisture. Pandora is the vehicle I choose to get me there. It provides me with my own theme music as I move along in the cocoon of my jacket. An occasional smell passes by that seems familiar in some way and leaves me grasping for a feeling that seems just out of reach as I stare at my shoes and watch the small rivers of rain water pass under my feet.

Ladros coffee shop is at the end of my walk just before the PSE office. The best espresso I have found in Seattle. I always look forward to this stop. This morning I bought a bag of coffee so I can make my own espresso with my little stove top Bialetti espresso “machine”. Coffee is life. The last bastion of addiction and I have no intention of giving it up. I sat in the PSE office and dreamed of making myself a latte this weekend as the fragrance of the freshly ground coffee gently reminded me of its presence.

But the fun just never ends. Looks like the shitter in our trailer is still leaking even after fixing the toilet seal. Shirley Septic delivered a Porto-o-Potty so we have a place to go. Squatting over a hole in the ground is highly over rated and the romance of the camping life style is fast wearing off. Then last night we had a torrential downpour. Much of the scorched hillside washed away. It’s a good thing the fire wasn’t “bad enough” to warrant any assistance from the Jefferson Conservation Board. I guess as long as the Denver Water Board is taken care of, we can suck-it. By the way, they funded the “controlled” burn that started this whole debacle. So, this is what I am coming home to. I have no energy to be angry any more. And I don’t have the energy to deal with this crap either. I feel like I would like to just disappear somewhere and never come back. I don’t see the end of this and I need to. It’s like a dark hallway that is full of low hanging obstacles that I keep hitting my head on. Then, just when I think I have made it out, I crack my shin on the ACME anvil.

So, I sit on the plane now returning home while the man next to me spews vile clouds of gas into the tight confines of the cabin. In disgust I reach for the air vent and notice everyone around me making faces and doing the same. But it doesn’t really help. It’s like trying to clean up a spill with a cloth that has zero absorbent qualities – it just pushes the stink around. Two hours of this. Really? But descending into Denver is simply amazing. We live in a beautiful place. The magically suspended clouds are bright white, unlike the clouds emanating from asshole next me. Will I be welcomed home? What awaits? I am, as the phrase I have adopted says, “cautiously optimistic.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gratitude Part II

Ah, Seattle. The bane and source of my existence these days. I have to say I was looking forward to arriving on Wednesday. I woke up at 5:30 AM and started to take a "shower". To be clear, taking a shower in Flame amounts to squatting in an over sized sink, wetting yourself while trying not to soak the rest of the room, then rinsing off. It's cold and awkward.... and on this particular morning, I ran out of water. Awesome! So, I dressed and went about the task that I should have completed the day before. I went out and dragged the "new" used 5000 Watt generator down to the well head. I grabbed all the gear I had purchased to wire the 240 V ("220. 221. Whatever it takes" -Michael Keaton) well head so I could run it off of this generator, plugged it in and fired it up for the first time. She fired on the first pull just as the previous owner had promised. I threw the switch, the pump engaged and water began to mercifully flow from the connected hose. I filled the tank on flame. It is one thing for me to be without water, but it is entirely another for my wife to deal with it.

I grabbed my bags and left for the airport feeling dirty and half-in-the-bag. I kept looking at my watch and trying to deal with the fact that the time was just not adding up. I finally realized that I had intended to leave the house 3 hrs before the flight, not wake up 3 hrs before the flight. Jesus, I was just not firing on all 8. Then I couldn't find a fucking parking place. I arrived at the gate just as my boarding group was getting on. Suffice it say, I made it and got my isle seat, which is mandatory for me as much as I am traveling these days. I took a deep breath and sat there staring into the blackness of my own mind.

When I arrived at my little hotel in Bellevue, Andrea greeted me with a smile. She is a fixture at this place and without her I am certain no reservation would ever be successfully made. She asked how things were going and I responded with something about being excited to take a standup shower. She smiled but it was more of a grimace. I suppose she was putting herself in Kristen's shoes with the prospect of squatting in a large sink and taking a "bird bath", as we call it. I can hardly blame her.

The shower was exquisite! I ironed my clothes and headed off into the irony of my life; traveling to Seattle and living in a hotel is the most normal thing I've got going. And I have to say, this project has been the most challenging and demanding bit of work I have ever done. You can set your fucking watch by Murphy's Law on this project. We were supposed to have all development finished by COB Friday and I was leaving at 1:00 to catch my flight. Everything was going well and it looked like we were actually going to make it. Right on schedule, Murphy showed up. At 12:30 the goddam wheels came off and literally everything fell apart. I simply had to laugh. What else was I going to do? I sat and observed my physical reaction to it without engaging in the inevitable panic that was to follow. This is the gift of choice at work. I just smiled and sent a text to Kristen. I got up at 1:00, grabbed my shit and trusted that the incredible team I have around me would sort things out.

When I arrived back in Denver and caught the Wally Park shuttle back to my car, I had a chance to unwind, as I always do upon arriving. It becomes difficult to keep my eyes open on that short ride. On this trip, it was still light outside and the sweet smell of Colorado summer hung thick in the air. The familiar blackness started to settle in. WTF!? This is the human condition, "why, it's all fucked, it always has been fucked, it's fucked right now and it will always be fucked." At least that's my brand of it. A line from a Jane's addiction tune played in my head, "there ain't no wrong, there ain't no right.... there's only pleasure and pain..." Really? Do I really believe that?

I started to inquire into the blackness. I heard the quote, "There is no wrong or right, only thinking makes it so..." or some variation of that. But still it persisted. Up until now, this had been all the automatic stuff, the wiring we are born with, the survival code that is programmed into our brains. It is the "us" that most of us refer to when we say things like, "I don't feel like it," or "you really pissed me off when you..." It requires nothing from the actual US and does not even require that WE be present in the conversation. The real WE arises when we observe that reaction and begin to ponder a different one. It takes work and everything in us will scream at us to accept the status quo. It's what we know.

So, I chose to start making a mental list of all the things I was grateful for. I have to tell you, this really took some effort. I was calling bullshit on everything I came up with. "Well, I am alive and living in Colorado, I've got that going for me." And I would retort, "Horse shit. Get real. Quit trying to put lipstick on a pig." But I kept going. I listed my wife, who loves me, my dogs, my friends, our awesome little trailer on our lot, my 10 fingers and toes, my ability to listen to and enjoy music, to speak and feel connected through language... on and on. Pretty soon, the world was a sweeter place. Just taking, as Kristen would say, a simple action led to extraordinary results.

And when I arrived home, Kristen had cleaned the trailer, there was space to breathe. We had my new "man cave" placed on the pad of my burned up shed (a 20 x 8 steel shipping container). We lost nearly everything and I have the experience of having it all. I happily settled into Flames comfortable, albeit small, interior and waited for my wife to come home. We talked and snacked on the abundance of food we have packed into our small fridge. I slept until 9:00 am on this rainy Saturday and sit here drinking our fantastic coffee and sharing this process with all of you. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cautious Optimism

It seems that all the hard work and keeping this in front of the media has paid off. If not for the tireless efforts of the media and some legislators that took up our cause, we might not be here today. But, we are and I am optimistic. We had a meeting with Governor Hickenlooper last week. He has rallied the troops around a new bill that would remove the cap and immunity from instances of wildfires that were caused by the State during controlled burns. This benefits everyone that lives in Colorado, not just us. And it is a completely bipartisan bill that is supported all the way up to the Governors office and greatly reduces the bar for proving negligence. We are cautiously optimistic.

I must say that I don't care how this came about, be it political pressure, media or whatever. The Governor seems to have stepped up to do the right thing. Time will tell how this plays out, but for now my hat is off to the Governor. This is not the time to be cynical. It is time to rebuild, and that means different things to different people affected by this tragedy.

For us, rebuilding has started with total destruction. There is nary a trace of the place we used to call home. The foundation has been removed, several trees cut down and the landscape has a foreign look to it. The green grass that is juxtaposed against the charred tree trunks has a certain beauty to it, and I have started to get a bit excited about the prospect of rebuilding.

Yesterday we put our Airstream trailer, "Flame" on the lot. The schizophrenic weather cleared just long enough to accomplish the task and we were totally psyched to stay there for the first time last night. That was not to be, however. After attending the semi-sometimes-annual-or-sometime belly dancing show at the local high school, we stepped out into pouring rain. The prospect of dealing with muddy dogs that had not yet been trained to navigate the single step into the unknown was overwhelming (yes, they are pussys). So, back to Jessica's we went.

As grateful as we are to have a place to crash, it is still not our place. We had gotten somewhat used to staying at Lynn's log palace. It had taken the edge off of reality. With two big dogs to deal with, living out of our car and once again on the move, I have to say, reality has returned with a vengeance. Back to the insomnia-esc sleeping pattern... up at 3:30 am; lying in bed feeling breathless while my heart pounds out of my chest, out of bed at 4:00 am. This can stop any time. Really, I am done.

The current studies on brain science tell us that our brain is up before we are making decisions for us before we are ever aware it is happening. And we think we are self deterministic creatures. That's funny. Mostly we are like a thick fart on the wind. The best chance we have is to alter the way the world occurs for us, which is an interesting process. We have to replace the brain's current focus of survival with something else. Give it something else to work on, kind of like a dog with a bone. Our dog Tigger is a great example. We will see him with something in his mouth that his intent on destroying. Our work is to be vigilant and quickly substitute the slimy mess with something we would rather see slobbered on and destroyed.... much like our thinking.

For now, we are focusing on the two bundles of joy that are Jessica's little girls. I read Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs to Cassidy this morning. Her joy with this fairy tale was tangible. It will be the foundation for her disappointment with the reality of relationships and she won't even know why she has the expectation that some metro-sexual prince will swoop to "make her happy". Steve made us breakfast, which was such a treat. He is one of the best, most patient fathers I have ever seen and a very generous host. We could not ask for more. But we will and we are. I just want a place to call my own. I am seriously exhausted and tired of being a gypsy.

It's not all bad though, because one of the remaining possessions we have is our sailboat in the Bahamas. And we will be spending the month of August learning how to relax again in Pixies comfortable quarters. So, in a world where the most normal thing I have going is to travel to Seattle and work 12 hour days, I am ready for a nice extended time on our boat and to learn how to relax again. I am cautiously optimistic.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Last Saturday was about the best day I had had since the fire. We did not sift and we did not lament. We had a little bit of fun. We started out by going back to Rocky Top to meet with the Fire Marshall and some county officials. We had expected to hear that due to required road improvements, we would need to spend some insane amount of money to improve our jeep trail and make it into a super highway. Instead, we heard, "You folks have been through enough. We are not requiring anything but we will make recommendations." They are also going to try and simplify the permitting process, etc. Talk about relief... I don't know if it was political or media pressure and I don't really care. Someone finally stepped up and did the right thing.

In the process, Kristen got to take a ride in a fire truck. On the way down to our "house" (I will call it a lot from now on) she spotted smoke. And the fireman got out, located an underground fire, dug it up, and let Kristen hose it down. Folks, this is a MONTH later and there are still spot fires burning up there. I am not sure what anyone was thinking doing a controlled burn that was consuming 6" logs (masticated fuel) and expecting to be able to control that. But I digress...

So, today, I do not have a pit in my stomach and the world is not that dark a place. If that is just today, I will take that and I will be right here in this place today. When tragedy strikes, there is something physical that happens to us. I don't mean tragedy like, our favorite frozen yogurt flavor was discontinued. I mean tragedy like your neighborhood burns down and 3 people are killed. The physical stuff has to be dealt with. It gets into the wiring and needs to be dislodged. The rest is what WE bring to it, which brings me to the point of this post.

I have heard it said that "context is decisive." And that we create the context for our lives whether we are aware of, or responsible for that or not. It is a choice. So, what the hell am I going on about? Well, let me give you a little context.

There are many things that we hold dear and many things that simply hold us. Now that our "things" are in very short supply I have discovered something interesting. It was in the pursuit of the things that I mostly found the excitement. The pursuit of stuff and the pursuit of the life we built. When that is gone it is interesting to notice what is left. I did not cease to exist. I am not less of a person. I am not a lesser version of me. But what I thought was important and what matters has fundamentally altered.

I feel like I am staring at a puzzle. And the background picture is still there. But when I try to put the pieces together they no longer fit. In other words, the context in which my life has occurred up until now, has been shattered and what I am left with is this...

I no longer find all of the things important that I used to. And I no longer wish to waste time on things that I say are not important. I am also not interested in "pussy-footing" around with people that act with disregard to the community that surrounds them. I am creating for myself a new life framework or model for how the world works. Instead of throwing out data that does not fit my model of the world, it is time to create a new model to explain the data I have received.

Now, this implies that the data I receive is in some way "pure" and objective, which is impossible because I am a human being and EVERYTHING is already being filtered to some extent by an existing model, context or belief system. So, let's look at that first.

Belief Systems


I was talking with someone the other day and I mentioned that I felt compelled to be angry. It was like an emotional magnet that kept drawing me back to that. I was aware that I was doing it and that it was taking a toll on me physically but I kept going back to it. Here is what I discovered.

First of all, I was looping like a tape recorder (for those of us old enough to get that analogy). Every time I told the story again, I replayed the tape, got all worked up and had all the same physical reactions that I did when all this went down - adrenaline, tightness in my chest and throat and feeling like I was going be sick. And every time I did that, it made the mental path back to that stuff a little easier to get to.

Now, I am not advocating for denial, but it does not do any good for me to continually relive the experience. It actually makes it a lot harder to move past it. "But I don't want to move past it and I don't want to stop being angry." Therein lies the betrayal of the belief system. The context was one of victimization.

I discovered that I really believe that if I am not angry then the people who did this will have won and that I will be letting them off the hook. And if I let them off the hook it will minimize what has happened to all of my community and dishonor the people who died. Just that simple. I even have some rational attachment to that idea but now that I see IT I have to decide what I am going to do with IT. For me, it is unhealthy and is eating me alive. I am eating the poison hoping the rats will die. Not very productive.

So, my mission is to let go of that belief and create a new "context" for how I am going to move forward. I am not going to tell the story over and over again. I was talking with someone yesterday who I had not spoken with since the fire. He asked me how I was doing and what had happened. I said I was doing well and that I was not interested in telling the story one more time because it was causing a lot of unneeded distress every time I did. He shared with me something positive that has come out of this and what a great job Hickenlooper was doing.

This was my queue! I was on and it was time to lay waste to the Governor, the State and everyone attached to this event. But I didn't. I took a couple of deep breaths. In that couple of seconds I became aware of profound disappointment, sadness and some disgust. However, I did not need to become angry and go on a rant.

I said to him how glad I was that something positive had arisen and, in so many words, respectfully disagreed with his point on the Governor. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today is one of those Colorado days that simply defies description. The sun will cook your skin without remorse but the shade will make you shiver in winters final attempt to assert itself. Yesterday was the same and we had yet another crew out to the "site" to sift through the burnt bones of our home in hopes of finding any remaining treasure. But the main objective was to shake loose more of the hidden memories of "stuff" so it could be recorded as an entry in the growing inventory of casualties. We have mercifully declared the sifting done. The process is one of reliving the loss over and over again and I have frankly had enough.

I was headed up the road yesterday and encountered someone coming down the other way. I did not recognize the white Bronco and did not recognize the driver until he re-introduced himself. "Hi Dave, Scott Appel," he said. I shuddered and I could feel the blood rapidly leaving my face. The sudden recognition of this man and the equally sudden comprehension of the reality of recent events left me stunned. Scott's wife died in that fire. I reached through my open drivers side window to meet Scott's hand and heard some words leave my lips that said, "Scott.... SO sorry for your loss." I instantly felt inadequate in my greeting because the words clearly did not communicate my feelings nor could they come close to summarizing the magnitude of what this man must be dealing with. We lost all our stuff but.....

I got out and talked with Scott. We spent no more than 5 minutes together but the impact was such that I will never forget it. It was like being cut with a razor sharp knife. The site of the blood indicates that something has happened but the odd numb feeling does not betray the depth of the cut. I reached for something to quell the bleeding and braced myself for the immanent pain that was to follow. An acrid cocktail of anger, sadness and general impotence in the face of what Scott must certainly be dealing with washed over me. And all that has happened finally became real.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


And from the ashes will rise the Pheonix in all its glory...

Nope, not yet. Can't quite stomach the "Woo" yet. I must admit that I have seen some beauty in this but it has mostly been in the form of the people in our community, our family and our dear friends who have not left our side for a moment in the face of some pretty confusion human emotions.

I have never had such a disconnected feeling of angst. It is fairly easy to generate anger. But it is much more difficult to pinpoint the source of the underlying feelings. I described it last night like I was just hanging on to anything in fear that pieces of me would start falling off. I don't want to let go of the anger because that would somehow mean that all of this was not important. But I cannot keep this up because it is exhausting and leaves me with a taste in my mouth like I have been sucking on pennies - dirty, bloody, unsatisfying and a little sick to my stomach. But when I really get in touch with the sadness, it seems disembodied like some spirit blowing through the trees that I can't quite make out. It doesn't make sense.

I have markers for the change of seasons. My favorite time of year is spring and early summer. I long for the markers. First, it is usually the sound of the first humming bird speeding by on its way to some singular flower that it has discovered among the early sprouts of green. Then, the smell of lilacs and most poignantly for me, the sound of frogs emerging from their slumber.

This year, the frogs were first as if the heat of the fire roused them early from their sleep. The sound is disjointed and out of place like my feelings about what has happened. What was the beautiful, much anticipated croaking is to me tinny and sterile with no connection to anything. It is lost like ringing in my ears or a cell phone on speaker. There is no depth or connection. I have no markers to mark the changing of this season. I am lost and making my way through the ash with nothing to show me the way but the smell of smoke and a bit of anger to point me in some direction. I hope its the right one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Everything Humanly Possible...

That was the message from the governor's representative, Mike King, last night at the Conifer Town Hall meeting. "We will do everything humanly possible to prevent this from happening again." Everything except say..... oh I don't know, removing immunity from government officials and holding someone to account. I suppose that is beyond human reach.

We also discovered last night that, "In the future, there will be one person accountable and that person will answer directly to the governor." 'Wait a minute', you say. 'Are you telling me that isn't the case now?!' Yes, that's exactly what I am telling you. Not only are these idiots immune to prosecution, but they are accountable to no one, at least not the governor.

The whole thing was a bunch of fluff, hand waving and reassurances that the lessons learned would benefit others in the future. Well, isn't that nice. I am so glad they learned some lessons. That really should help. For those that lost their lives, lost loved ones and/or lost homes, I am sure they will sleep better. I for one could really give a good God damn if they learned their lessons, "we paid the tuition", as one man said.

Coe Meyer, my neighbor who also lost his home, said in an interview with WKOA that "the operation was successful but the patient died." Well said, Coe. How many operations does it take to realize they are killing the patient. Apparently, in this case, at least two.

So, let's look at the facts...

In the burn plan review, and from the governor's office, in October of last year they were performing a test burn under very similar conditions in the exact same location. Guess what? The fire got away from them and they had to scramble to put it out and barely averted a wild fire. Are you kidding me!? This taught them nothing. I suppose since there was no one really watching, it didn't count.

Also, according to the review, and in direct violation of the burn plan, no one was monitoring the burn. I watched the fire smolder from Thursday to Sunday before I left for business trip in Seattle. It said in the report that they dropped in and noticed the fire was still burning, did exactly nothing, and left again. Now, I want to back up for just a second. The report also stated the need for better, more high tech weather forecasting. I have a little app on my smart phone called Weather Bug that had been sending me Fire Weather warnings all through March. And, it had forecasted high winds starting several days prior to the 26th. If I have access to that information, what the hell are they talking about? I think what they really need is a transfusion of common sense. Any idiot knows that if you have tinder box conditions and winds forecasted, you don't start a fire much less walk away from one you already started.

So, a fire weather watch, meaning high winds, was issued on the 24th. That was predicted to be upgraded to a Red Flag warning on the 25th and on the 26th was upgraded to a Red Flag (meaning, "Jesus Fucking Christ, you better not have an open fire or you Fucked!!"... sorry, I digress.) So, they sent the ICT4 (Incident Comander) and two firemen in a pickup truck to check it out. By then the wind was gusting up to 60 mph, they put out two spot fires before the third one got away from them. Brilliant! They must have been busier than a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. And I don't mean to disparage our fire fighters, they do one helluva job. But the folks running this operation should be dealt with like any other criminally negligent tool.

Finally, I was told last night by Mike King, the governor's representative, that the person in charge of the burn is dealing with a terminally ill family member and "his head really isn't in the game." First of all, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy. I can imagine how distracting and heart wrenching that must be. I can imagine that because I just lost nearly everything I owned and almost lost my wife in that fire. So, I can guess at how that could impact someones judgment. In my case, I have had to ask people to cover for me on days when I cannot think straight because I am aware that I am not functioning at full capacity. That is because, it does not matter how I feel about it or what my intentions are, if I do not perform, I am ultimately responsible.

I wish we could all be judged on our intentions. Then I could do whatever I wanted and not be held responsible, because "I didn't mean to do it." By extension of that logic, the woman that started the Hayman fire should be released of all responsibility because she was feeling jilted. The CIA agents involved in the prostitution scandal should not be held to a higher standard because if they had known they were going to get caught, they wouldn't have hired those prostitutes and they didn't mean to give the CIA a black eye. The alcoholic who kills a family while driving in a black-out should be released from prison because they swear they learned their lesson and will never do THAT again.

Seriously, this is criminal negligence. And no amount of good intentions is going to change the fact that they did not follow their own plan, they burned 4100 acres, 21 homes (27 structures) and killed 3 people.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We're the Government. We're Here to Help...

"The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private
affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble,
through the rivalry of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain
official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will
lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much
of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or
German [Greek or Chinese...] who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him
when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die,
and, in time, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the
tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to
paradise." ~ Mark Twain.
Every time I talk to someone about the fire, they say, "well, you were insured, right?" To which I respond, "Yes." Then they say something about the obvious culpability of the Forest Service. It is then that I must explain what the reality is. Our government looks out for itself and not the people that is serves. They are immune from prosecution and they have placed caps on compensation for this kind of incursion if you are skilled enough at navigating the tangled web of intentionally obfuscated paperwork. In this case, $600,000 per event and $150,00 per person. When I explain this, most are absolutely appalled and look at me in total disbelieve as if I had just explained to them that their mother had two heads. And I am sure that when I walk away many of them will tell themselves that I am just angry and I must have my facts wrong. After all, we live in America! How could this be?
"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
~ Thomas Jefferson
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are the things that government does when we are not looking. This is not some paranoid diatribe. It is a statement on human nature. Our founding fathers understood and feared this, which is why they created the government the way they did.
"Political power is the game of playing God. It changes a person and makes him different from the rest of us. He begins to believe he has some kind of right to interfere in the lives of others. He may even believe he has the right to choose who lives and who dies."
~ Richard Maybury
 The question is, what are we, as "people of good conscience", going to do? We have incredibly short attention spans. A year from now while we are still dealing with this many will have forgotten and the urgency to reform the "laws" that enabled this tragedy will have evaporated like gasoline on a hot day.

I am guilty of this myself. I rarely think of the tragedy that is the conflict in Afghanistan while our fellow countrymen and women continue to die. But that is what we do. How can we improve our collective memory and commit ourselves to kind of action that is necessary to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rush

I was talking with someone at work on Monday. He said he had heard Rush Limbaugh talking about the recent fires. He was laughing about the fact that Rush said something to the affect of, "You see, you just can't trust the government" and proceeded to roll his eyes.

Now I have to qualify what I am about to say with the following: I have listened to Rush's show. In my view it is often intentionally inflammatory if not misleading. After all, he is showman first and news second. But when your right your right (no pun intended). Nail on the frigging head.

When our officials manage to negotiate, outside of public view, total immunity for themselves and their actions, all trust should be revoked. They are clearly acting in the interest of government and not in the interest of the people who put them in office (even if it is an appointed position which I am not sure about). Fortunately, we live in a country where we can remove them from office. But will we?

Here is where I start to say some things that may offend. So be it. WE are responsible for the state of government. Call it apathy or resignation, but we simply don't care enough to take the actions necessary to alter the status quot. Most people when asked or told about this singularly tragic event, and how it came about, will simply sigh and say something like, "yeah, well what can you do?..." like it wasn't partially their vote, or lack of it, that created the situation in the first place.

Folks, a vote and a voice are the tools at our disposal. We HAVE to use them. Three people died and 27 homes were lost because there is no reasonable threat of criminal responsibility for the idiots that signed off on this fiasco. What are WE going to do about that?


People continually ask me, "how are you doing?" or "how can you be working?" or some variation on those themes. My response is always, "What's the alternative?" I suppose I could sit around and feel sorry for myself and immerse myself in a steaming vat of self righteous anger while my business collapsed around me. And who could blame me? After all, wasn't this done TO me? But, to waht end? It serves no one. That is not to say that I am not dealing with real symptoms of PTSD, shock and waves of searing anger. But I ultimately get to choose how I respond and how I show up in the world.

I arrived in Seattle last night (Sunday). On the flight in, I started experiencing waves of panic. I was leaving my massively supportive community and heading back into the work environment. As I walked across the sky bridge to the taxi station, the air was warm and full of the smells of Spring time. The feelings of dread I was having was so out of sync with my surroundings that it left me confused and longing to turn around and go home. But this is what is in front of me. It is what is needed and what is to be done. If I spent all of my time honoring how I felt about things instead of dealing with my commitments, I would be curled up in a corner somewhere right now. Again, this is not to minimize the physical reactions people have when dealing severely stressful situations. But as I said, to the degree that I can choose, I will.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Yesterday we began the cleanup operation at our property. We were not sure how we would feel about it and as we approached the site and saw a small crowd loading sheets of twisted metal roofing panels into the back of a pickup truck, our emotions were mixed. Kristen expressed to me that for her, even though it was destroyed, it was all we had left and didn't want to dismantle it further. I was not sure that the people there would be at all connected to the pain we were feeling, which left me feeling odd because I would not really want anyone to actually experience that. As all those feelings settled out, they were quickly replaced by gratitude.

The community that came together (as listed in my wife's blog) was extraordinary. We had an amazing team of folks from the Evergreen Home Depot along with the donations of equipment and tools. And there was our group of friends that never ceases to amaze me with their level of generosity. We were moved beyond words. The care that was evident in the way people approached this task was no less than the care and attention we used ourselves. They treated it as if it were their own home lying there in ashes. Who could ask for more?

Searching for my wedding ring...

I would say that it is a demonstration of the very best of what makes us human. It has renewed my faith in the ability of people to rise to any occasion and meet the challenge with love and a sense of community.

I also have a request for those who are not part of the active operations in the Keuhster area; stay home. This is not a time to serve the normal human curiosity that arises in the midst of a disaster. The traffic in the area has tripled and I am certain that our population up there has not tripled since the fire. Some folks living near us on Rocky Top, which is a private road, caught some people driving past there house. When they asked them what they were doing up there, they responded, "Like the sign says, we may pass by permission of owner." When informed that they were in fact speaking to the owner, they had no valid response and were escorted from the property. Folks, this is trespassing, and we will protect what we have left. The police are more than willing to help us out.

So, please, show the kind of respect and care that those in our community have so generously demonstrated. And, even though Keuhster is a public road, please stay out if you don't live up there and you have not been invited.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Final Frontier

Yesterday I awoke with the final holdout of hope that maybe not everything was lost in the fire. I had a fire safe with a lot of very valuable guns and other things like silver bullion and my grandfather's gold pocket watch that had belonged to his grandfather before that.

Centurion safe by Liberty Safe company

I went and picked up my truck from my friends house. It had a generator in back that I had borrowed. We would need that to run the cutoff tool that would be used to cut through the "fire" steel at the top of the safe. The steel was about 1/8" thick so the process was not all that quick. I watched, waited and hoped as the sparks flew.

We videoed the entire affair and hoped that in the end we would be able to post a glowing victory video and hold up the manufacturer of the Centurion Fire Safe as a model of what a fire safe should be. That didn't happen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forest Service Stupidity

I have this little app on my phone called WeatherBug. For pretty much the entire month of March it was sending me "Fire Weather" warnings. And I'm thinking to myself, "wow, this app has an incredible grasp of the obvious." Never underestimate the power of power to nullify an innate grasp of the obvious.

The week prior to the wild fire, the Colorado Forest Service (CFS) decided they needed do a "prescribed" burn or a "controlled" burn. Using the crew of supposedly "well trained" convicts from Jeffco jail, they proceeded to set the area above the North Fork alight. I watched from the deck in wonder. Why would they be doing this now, in the driest March I have experienced in Colorado since arriving here in 1996. But, they are the "authorities." They MUST know what they are doing. Apparently, I was mistaken. They stopped burning somewhere around Thursday but the burn continued to smoulder all weekend laying down a thin layer of smoke over the North Fork. Then the winds came.

I was in Seattle on business when I received a somewhat hysterical call from my wife Kristen. She could see the fire lighting up again (Taken from our deck starting at around 2:00 pm).

She called Inter Canyon fire department. The fire was not burning in their district so they had not been called in and did not have current information. We later found out that fire fighters living in our neighborhood had not been called to report for duty.

Fortunately for Kristen, she was able to see the fire and did not wait for a reverse 911 to tell her to get out, because that never came. I got a text on my cell at 4:10 pm in Seattle (5:10 pm Denver) telling me of mandatory evacuation. At this point, houses were already burning. Apparently a few people in Texas, Colorado Springs and Evergreen were also notified of the fire, which is useful.... not. Very few of the residents in our area actually got a 911 call, which is likely why 3 people are dead. Kristen probably got out about 30 minutes in front of the flames.

We later had a phone call with the Fire Chief that still seems surreal to me. He said that our home, our dream home that we had lived in for 9 years, was either a total loss or damaged beyond repair. I had a reaction that I can never recall having. The adrenaline was pumping so hard I thought my head would explode. I felt like I was under water. I could hear something going on around me, but I could not reconcile the fact that life continued to move as I felt frozen in time. Someone broke the spell and asked me what was wrong. I said very matter-of-factly that our home was gone. I was homeless.

I tried to get a flight out that night but was not able to find one. So, I stayed in Seattle. That was one of the longest nights I have ever spent, and not much of it was spent sleeping. I woke up with an adrenaline hangover that resulted in the worst headache I have ever had. Every move I made left me feeling like I would throw up. At 4:00, I was on my way to the airport. I arrived in Denver to a beautiful sunny day that seemed to mock me and the out of body experience I was having.

The CFS walked away from a fire they set and did not put out with high wind warnings announced for the weekend. Brilliant! But here is the part that really lights me on fire (get used to the puns, they will keep coming). Our CFS officials have managed to vote themselves into a position of immunity. They are immune to any criminal prosecution and there is a cap of $600,000 on any one event and $150,000 per person... if you can manage to navigate the convoluted legal process to actually get at the funds. This is our government at it's best. Make no mistake, this is ALL government, not just some outlying example. This is what I call "Government, by the government, for the government." They will do whatever they deem necessary without regard for the people they supposedly represent. If they have to create laws to protect themselves from their actions, maybe they should not be in the business of taking those actions. But instead, we are left to pay for CFS incompetence and irresponsibility with our property and our lives with absolutely no recourse.

Oh, but they did come out an apologize. That should fix it...