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Sep. 18th, 2009

Camping at Kalaloch, WA

Kalaloch is a very special place for me.  My trips there are points in a lifetime that I can measure the rest from.

Click here for more images of our camping trip to Kalaloch

J. and I finished off the summer this year by camping at Kalalock, WA. for four wonderful days.  Located on the coast, it's a magical place that is always changing yet remains exactly the same.

I have camped there several times in my lifetime, since my family went there when I was a little kid.  I can mark the chapters in my life by my trips to Kalaloch.  Running gleefullyinto the waves and playing in them as a child with my brothers.  The trip with my cousin's where we buried my uncle in the sand.  I can still hear his laughter from that trip.  Later on as a teenager, still going with my family, but treated more as an "adult".  I had all of the answers them, yet had not yet lived long enough to have all those answers proved wrong.

More family friends on other trips, watching the adults get tipsy on the wine that night.  Heartfelt talks with Mom, Dad always watching, making sure people were enjoying themselves, making sure people were safe.  Teaching me how to live, and how to enjoy some of that life.

This time, at 50 it was fun walking around the campground, pointing to the different sites I have camped at with the different people at different times in my life, and remembering.  There was the trip after graduation from high school and before the Army with my friends.  Couldn't remember which campsite that was.  In fact, I couldn't remember much at all about that trip, other than the fact that there was an awful lot of beer that was drank during it, and a vague memory of one or two encounters with the Park Rangers.

There was the site that I camped at with the four guys that I brought from my recovery group when I quit drinking, none of whom had ever camped before.  God, that was a long, long trip.  There was also the site we camped at where my toddler son ran over my foot with the van after he figured out how to put it in neutral on a hill.

Now, at a point in my life that I once heard described as the youth of old age, I added more wonderful, happy memories with J.

As I looked down the beach at Kalaloch at a scene I have seen over several decades now, I realized something.   I have lived a lifetime, a full lifetime, and I have finally found my happiness.  I have everything I really want right now, and it feels right.  I am happy.  I thought about the other times, I was never quite there before.  Yet even then, some of the happiest times in my life were spent here.

May. 18th, 2009

Happy Birthday to ME!!


Today, something inexplicable and kind of incredible has happened.  I am amused at how confounded I am over it.  Somehow, against all odds, I have actually managed to put enough life behind me to have turned 50 years old.   

I am confounded because I never, ever expected to get here.   I smoked, drank and drugged my way through a lot of years in amounts that stacked the odds highly against my seeing this May 18th come along.  My heart, liver or lungs would surely fail me before the half century mark came.  If not, some sort of horrible accident, overdose or altercation with any number of really bad crazy people I have been involved with over time would do me in.   

I was surprised to see 30 come and go.  40 kind of amazed me.  But 50?!? 

I honestly don’t know where to try to steer my life from here.  I like my life a lot right now, and certainly like where it seems to be going, but I never really made long term goals or thought about my possible future as a senior citizen because it just never occurred to me that I would get there.   

Years ago, I had a roommate who was in the living room of our apartment when my morning alarm went off.  I stumbled out of bed, walked past him to the fridge, and grabbed my regular morning breakfast.   A six pack of beer, my cigarettes, my pipe and some weed.  As I headed back to my room, he asked, “Why do you take a six pack back to your room every morning?”  I growled back, “Why get up 5 more times?”  An couple of hours later, I would be ready to get ready for work.  I lived like that for years. 

I thought about that today as I ate my oatmeal with honey and skim milk, and tried not to drink too much coffee.   

I have thought a lot about my life, who I was and who I am today over the past several weeks as my birthday neared. 

Who am I after living a half of a century?  In a lot of ways, I have become exactly the type man I swore I never would be.  In a lot of other ways, I have become someone completely different than I expected to become.  I am not someone that can say he has no regrets, I have plenty.  I am happy with my life now, and trying to live my life in a way that I won’t have any more regrets has a lot to do with that happiness.    

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs.  That’s not out of some moral character or stand.  It’s because I simply did all of those things right down to the very last second and limit that I could possibly get away with.  Now, I even eat healthy.  These days, I watch my cholesterol intake with the same intense concentration that I used to spend on monitoring the liquor supply at a party.   My son refers to me as “The New Daddy”.   

I have less answers, and more questions today than I did when I was 20.  Most of the answers I had back then have been proven wrong, anyway.  I have a lot more tolerance for idiots and ass-holes today than I did when I was younger.  However, these days I am much more inclined to explain in my own special way, how I feel about these people the instant they cross my tolerance line.

There have been many important people in my life that for one reason or another did not make it to see this day in their lives.  I have been thinking a lot about them recently too.   I hope that I live the rest of my life like they would have if they had a chance.  If I just do that, this next leg ought to be pretty damned good.

Apr. 21st, 2009


         Michael Garcia, 1961 - 2009

I have spent the last half hour trying to figure out what to write here that could possibly do justice to the tragically short life of my friend,  Michael Garcia.  He passed away in his sleep last Saturday, too soon to make any sense at all.  

Michael had more class, more grace, gave more of himself to others, and simply cared more than any other ten people I can think about right now.  He knew homelessness, he knew addiction, and he knew physical and mental health problems intimately, because he lived with them all at one time or another.  He battled them, came through to the other side, and immediately put what he had gone through in his life to work for other people's good.

He never got angry at the people who do not care, like I have.  I remember one time at a public meeting that we both spoke at.  I was so angry that night, I shook.  My message was not heard because of how I felt. 

Michael followed me.  In his quiet voice, he told the city officials that were responsible for the horrible treatment of homeless personal friends of his that he was simply embarrassed to be part of our community.  He then spoke of the pain of being homeless, and how their actions compounded that pain.  I felt it.  So did everyone listening.  When Michael spoke, he gave his heart, simply and eloquently, without anger or hate.  In this, he was my teacher.

He loved the ridiculous ironies created by the human experience. 

He seemed to have this unending gift of compassion and strength that he could give to others so easily.  During one of the camp-outs at City Hall that I helped organize, he stayed up with me all night to help make sure that the people involved were safe.  The next morning, all I had experienced overwhelmed me, and I had to get away from everyone because I did not want anyone to see my emotions come out.  Michael knew.  He followed me, and put his arm around me.  Then, in that quiet voice of his, he once again gave of himself,  healing and re-energizing me with that loving gift that he gave so often.  His truth and his spirit.

We are all cheated by his early death.  He was just coming into his own.  He was just finding peace, happiness, balance and harmony in his own life.  We lost a leader in how to live truly right.   I lost a brother, and I am just one of hundreds touched by Michael that has to be feeling the same way right now.

I am angry today, which is exactly one of those ridiculous human ironies Michael would have enjoyed pointing out to me. 


Feb. 28th, 2009

Southwest trip Chapter 6 - Anasazi

This was one of my most favorite days on our trip.  We covered an awful lot of ground, and saw some incredible scenery. 

It was on this day of the trip that I was introduced to some of the Anasazi ruins that I found out later are everywhere in this area.  Some of what we saw was in the more famous touristy sites, and other places we visited were very much off of the beaten path, hard to find and challenging to get to.  Our 20 year old Jeep did great for us on it all!

(You can click on the pictures to see a larger image)

The Jeep well off the beaten path, with Comb Ridge as a back drop and an impassable wash in front. 

Our trip started on a paved driving loop in Natural Bridges National Monument very near where we camped the night before.  Although it was kind of a "touristy" part of our trip, it was a beautiful and relaxing way to spend the late morning.  We stopped along the road to look at the various rock formations and the way that the morning sun and shadows painted them

(Click on images for larger picture)

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

It was at one of the lookouts on the road loop that we saw the first Anasazi ruins of the trip and the first ones that I had ever seen.  They were high on a cliff across a canyon on the other side, tucked in a recess in the wall.  It was an amazing feeling to imagine families living and working in this place hundreds of years ago.  At one point while we were marveling at the structures across from us, an eagle flew through the canyon, casting his shadow across the face of the rocks we were looking at.  It was all so still, so quiet.

Horsecollar Ruins, National Bridges Monument, Utah

Horsecollar Ruins, Natural Bridges Monument, Utah

The Anasazi lived in this area for hundreds and hundreds of years, up until around 1275, when all of a sudden they all kind of disappeared.  They started as nomadic bands that grouped together and began building community dwellings throughout the southwest desert area.  They are well known for the cliff dwellings they lived in such as this, and their beautiful baskets and pottery. 

Less known is that the Anasazi were comprised of many different sub groups that are distinguished by time, region and cultural practices. Or, that the cliff dwellings they are known for make up only a small sampling of where and how they lived.  Or, that their numbers at one time were in the tens of thousands, far exceeding the current populations that are in these areas today.  They were at first nomadic, then developed into sophisticated  farmers. 

Their history was handed down orally, not written.  Some modern cultures claim that they are descendants of the Anasazi.  Why the majority of the Anasazi all suddenly just left at once is a bit of a mystery, but there is evidence that points to a 25 year drought around that time. Other evidence suggests that the Anasazi may have had problems with nomadic raiding tribes, which would not be surprising if a drought made the Anasazi food stores more valuable to others.

These next pictures are close ups of the ruins in the pictures above.

Horsecollar Ruins, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Horsecollar Ruins, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Horsecollar Ruins, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

It was a great morning, but the best was by far yet to come......

After spending the morning at Natural Bridges National Monument, we headed out to another place in the Cedar Mesa area that J. had been in before, and wanted me to see.  One of the really great things about having J. as a tour guide is that she did not really set up where we were headed, she just guided us to places and then allowed me to be amazed at where she took us to without preamble.

She headed us down a dirt road that was at times pretty rough. We passed through areas that once again reminded me that this is still working land, as it has been for hundreds of years. 

(Click on pictures for larger images)

Cattle are allowed to "free range" this area.  These corrals dot the landscape.  So does the profuse amounts of cow poop!

More evidence of man's influence in this area.

Prehistoric man, Anasazi, nomadic tribes, European immigrants farming, ranching and hunting their way out west, miners and oilmen, this area has always been working land for humans.   

The diversity of plant life was astounding, ranging from the most fragile looking flowers which seemed oddly out of place in this desert environment, to the hardy cactus like plants one would expect.

Flowers in the desert 

Cactus, Cedar Mesa, Utah

The vast canyon vistas were not the only beauty to be enjoyed, as this picture of a recently watered wash shows.

Bottom of a wash which had recently had water running through it.

After several miles, we got as far as we could go in the Jeep, then got out and hiked for about a mile more.  J. led me around a corner to a view that caused my heart to skip a few beats.  We were at the lip of a canyon called Arch Canyon.  This for me was not just the most beautiful thing I saw on this trip, it was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life.

Arch Canyon, Utah

Arch Canyon, Utah

There really is no way to describe this canyon, and the effect it had on my being.  All I know is that this was a personal spiritual moment for me.  J. just led me up there, and then walked away a bit without saying a word.  There was a beautiful and complete silence that gave my ears peace.  The warmth seemed to invade deep inside of me, and I became a bit dizzy from the visual sensations which overwhelmed my senses.  I had to actually think about breathing.  

After several minutes, I walked over to where J. was sitting on a rock looking out.  As I was facing the view shown in the last picture above, J. simply said, "Now, look at those cliffs over there, and let your eyes kind of relax". 

I did as she said, and then saw them.  First one, then another, then many dotting the crevices in the cliffs.  More ruins!  The realization hit me, people lived their entire lives in this pocket of beauty!   

Anasazi Ruins, Arch Canyon, Utah

Anasazi Ruins, Arch Canyon, Utah

Anasazi Ruins, Arch Canyon, Utah

This place has changed me.  I felt as we left that I had left something inside of me there which is now a part of that canyon, and I had been given something from this place of great value in return.  Out of all of the places we visited during our trip, this canyon is the place that I want to return to. 

I did this short video clip to try to show the dimensions of the canyon compared to some of the ruins you see above. 

Our next stop was to see some petroglyphs that J. knew about which were on a cliff wall near Blanding, Utah.  My imagination went wild when looking at this "graffiti" as I wondered when it was put there and who did it.   Ancient artisians from the Anasazi people, or more modern pranksters?  Looking at the wall, it was easy to imagine a bit of both....

Petroglyphs near Blanding, Utah

As we drove out of the area, we got a great view of Comb Ridge.  From satellite pictures, Comb Ridge looks like  a giant white scratch in the land.  From the ground, a spectacular white mountain-like range that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Comb Ridge, Utah

As if this were not enough for the day, we decided to make one more stop as we drove to our next camping spot.  It was at a place called Butler Wash Ruins.  We hadn't planned on stopping there, but the trailhead to it was on the road we were on, and the hike didn't look too hard.  A sign said it was about a mile long.

That mile showed me just how fast the heat of the desert can get to you.  The ruin is in the white of Comb Ridge, uphill.  As the heat hit that white surface, it reflected upwards.  J. had a thermometer with her, which showed 115 degrees.  It drained us fast, and made me realize just how dangerous this area can be.

However, as we came to the lip of the canyon where the ruins were, the reward was worth the effort.   From the vista, one looked across a deep canyon at this-----

Butler Wash Ruins, Utah

Butler Wash Ruins, Utah

Butler Wash Ruins, Utah

Butler Wash Ruins, Utah

As the afternoon sun started to go down, we made a hasty drive to our next camp site, which actually brought us back to the dirt road leading into Arch Canyon.  About a mile into the road was a quiet little spot next to a wash that was simply made to camp in.  Secluded, quiet, and beautiful!   It was our intent to stay there for a couple of days.  As we drove in, the Jeep seemed to be missing a bit and running rough.  No problem, I thought.   I would take a look under the hood the next day as we relaxed in camp. 

I really wish I had not had that thought, as you will discover in Chapter 7.

Feb. 20th, 2009

Support Initiative 100 -

Yesterday morning, I attended an event which launched the I-100 campaign here in Seattle.  The short explanation of I-100 is this.  It calls for the city to study alternatives to it's planned jail and study the need for it.  More importantly, it calls for a public vote on this jail if the city intends to move forward with it.

The speakers were all just plain incredible.  It took me hours to come down off of the endorphin rush some of them created in me. 

I am not going to write out a long explanation here on why building this jail at this time is completely ludicrous.  

I am going to ask you to look into it, and at least give this issue  the fair hearing it deserves by finding and signing initiative 100 so that it can be put on ballot.  Why should you do this?  Yesterday during the launch, one question was brought up repeatedly by those speaking in their own way.

We know for a fact that when we provide an education to people, we provide a way out of poverty and a way out of risk of leading lives that result in incarceration.  Study after statistic after study after statistic has proven this without any shadow of a doubt.  Why then, at a time that our community is paying to tear down schools and our state is cutting off higher education enrollment, are we being asked to borrow money to build a new jail?

By the city's own estimations, the operating costs alone to house over 400 people accused of misdemeanors will run over $300.00 per bed per night!  (This figure does NOT include factoring in the money it will take to build this monster.) 

Much cheaper alternatives to incarceration for these low level crimes have proven to be far more successful at reducing recidivism rates,  and the money saved could pay for a hell of a lot of educating people instead of jailing them later.

What do you want to invest in?  Hope, nourishment, and futures, or failed attempts at controlling the result of not investing in these things?

Let's give this Initiative the airing it deserves.  The costs are simply too high not to get this one right.

Feb. 17th, 2009

Having fun with the puppy

I almost feel guilty for this next one

Jan. 23rd, 2009

(no subject)

Rest in Peace Fuzzy

 Our joy in having a new puppy in our lives was tempered yesterday and today with the passing of Fuzzy.  Fuzzy was one of the feral cats that adopted Jean around a decade ago.  He was the youngest and tamest of the four that hang around here, and there was a reason for that.  Fuzzy was born under Jean’s bed, where his wild and feral mother decided her litter would be the safest.   

Fuzzy was always the kitten of the group.  He had a mane that would have made any lion proud.  Not the brightest of cats, his antics were often more dog like than cat.  He provided us with copious amounts of entertainment and affection.  He needed to be able to make his rounds outside, and could become quite demanding if we did not respond to him by opening the door at his call.  Mr. Friendly, the leader of the cats, protected him and doted on him ever since he was a kitten. 

There were moments when Fuzzy was very lucky that he was able to move and hide fast.  Most notably in the middle of the night when he would purposefully jump from the top of a bookshelf directly onto my sleeping and relaxed stomach, making sure that all 14 pounds of him were felt deeply by me. 

Fuzzy became lethargic and a bit unbalanced the night before last.  By yesterday morning, it was clear that something was very wrong with him.  He spent the day at the vets, who could not identify what was happening to him fast enough to catch up with the increasing symptoms.  He came home with us last night, where we did what we could for him.  We took him to the emergency room in the middle of the night to be put down when it became clear that it was time.  His illness was mercifully short.

I have only known Fuzzy for a couple of years, Jean has cared for him since the day of his birth around 10 years ago.   Today is a lot emptier without him. 


Jan. 19th, 2009

More Puppy Pictures!

It has been one heck of  a couple of weeks for J. and I as we adjust our lives to living with our new puppy.  We have changed his name to Java, which fits us all really well. 

He has been very busy learning all about the world and growing big and strong very fast.  He has especially been learning the word "no" an awful lot, but seems very intent on wanting to learn where he is supposed to fit in and how he is supposed to act, so he doesn't seem to mind too much.  He is learning his doggie manners well and quickly, which is going to help out a lot when he is over 80 pounds of dog later on.

Most of all, he has been working very hard these past weeks doing his main job right now, which is to look cute as hell and give us smiles and laughs while he insures we will love him for a very very long time.

This picture was taken at about 10 weeks, right after we got him. 

These next two were at 11 weeks, taken by J. at the Horticulture Center, where he got his very first look at water birds.  He went straight into a pointer stance that would have made any hunter proud! 

This last one is at 12 weeks.  He is filling out quickly, and is getting quite muscular from all of the walks and exercise he is giving his humans!

This next one was taken today, when we took Java to the off leash dog park near our place.  It is HUGE, and there were dozens upon dozens of dogs of all sizes and dispositions there.  Java, J. and I were ALL a bit overwhelmed, and Java spent almost the entire hour just watching in my arms.  Then, just as we were getting ready to leave, Java spotted another puppy, just a couple weeks older than him, and he wanted down right now!  It did not take him long at all to figure out  fun at the doggie park!

All in all, he has been a total joy in spite of the costs, the sleepless nights, the hours of training and the chewing of everything in sight. 

God Bless America

Hope.  Dreams.  Obama!

While I am feeling characteristically patriotic as the unbelievable process of peaceful exchange of power happens once again in my country, my soul is doing an absolutely giddy happy dance over the man who that power is being transferred to. 


Up until now, I would have said that the most profound event in America that I witnessed was watching men walk on the moon for the first time.  Tomorrow, that moment will be topped for me.  I believe that having Obama stand up and take office is that big.   Americans will live in a new society tomorrow, one which is more accepting and inclusive for every face in the world.  

Obama O8. 

I think I am going to like being an American a bit more tomorrow.

Jan. 4th, 2009

Meet the newest member of our pack!

Meet Sampson!  Well, Sampson is the name that he came to us with, and so far we haven't come up with another more appropriate name, so Sampson it is, at least for now.  The first picture is within the first two minutes that J. had picked him up, the second was taken the first hour that we got him home.

Sampson adopted us a few hours ago.  Really.  That is what happened.

J. and I had decided quite awhile ago that we were going to end up getting a dog at some point.  We had our favorite breeds, and we had our requirements, most importantly that is was either an older dog brought up with cats or it was a puppy that the cats could train appropriately.  The last couple of weeks, the desire for a dog became stronger than usual. 

I stopped into our cat's vet and asked for a recommendation on where to look for  a puppy, and through that recommendation we ended up at the Puget Sound Goat and Dog Rescue home.  What a place.  Happy dogs everywhere!  Sampson was rescued from a shelter that was overflowing east of the mountains and was scheduled to be put down with his litter-mates until the rescue place picked them up.

This was the first stop we made, and we really did not intend on bringing home a dog today.  In fact, we were strongly leaning towards a three year old border collie spaniel mix living in Walla Walla.  However, it was all over when J. reached down and picked up Sampson.  He was in a pen with several other puppies who were all jumping and squirming and biting and being normal puppies.  When J. picked up Sampson, he just relaxed and settled into her, seeming to want to press as much of himself into her jacket as he could.   All that was moving was his little tail tip wagging back and forth under her arm.  

Every ounce of his body was just saying that he was ready.  He was ready to go, he was ready to be someone's dog.  We stepped outside with him for a bit, and I suggested to J. that we drive off so that we could talk about this.  She looked at me with a bit of amused, frustrated resignation and asked, "What is there to talk about?" 

I have wanted this for a very long time, and I am so happy that he is here.  I can tell J. is too.  (Duh!) 

We have spent the past few hours getting to know each other, and I think he is going to keep us!

(edit 1/5/08) - One more pic, after a very hectic 24 hours meeting and greeting many important beings, both human and not.  This one during a visit at my Aunt's place.

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