Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I was thankful for my friends.
I have the best circle possible. Brilliant, creative, thoughtful, empathetic, generous. I’ve done little to deserve such friends, so all I can do is be grateful for the stroke of blinding good luck that brought me into their orbit.
I have failed at much in life, but the friends category I win going away.
Today is Black Friday, so let me share what I’m ungrateful for.
Most in my circle (not quite all, mercifully) live a thousand miles away or more, and I never get to see them, enjoy a dinner, have a beer, talk. I’m not there to help when they’re in crisis, nor are they here when, as now, I am. Some I’ve never even met face to face.
Our mobile society has made it possible for me to achieve so much more than I ever could have back in NC. I’m an exile, but have finally found my place, my home, here in Colorado, and am happy beyond words for it. And digital communication allows me to stay in touch across the miles. It’s not the same as being together physically, but it’s far better than nothing. There are wonderful, life changing developments.
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1980. That’s a bunch of years, dozens of characters, lots of GMs, and more adventures than I can recall. (I’ve also played other RPGs, including Twilight 2000, Vampire, Shadowrun, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, there’s a TMNT game, and it’s beyond fun.)
Like any other seasoned gamer, I have war stories. I have war stories for days, and I was recently trying to decide which is my favorite. What was my greatest gaming moment ever (to date, anyway – I still play, and you never know, right)?
Let’s begin with an unhappy admission: I am not a pretty man.
There was a sort of lean, athletic okayness when I was young and had hair, I guess. I had pretty girlfriends, and they certainly couldn’t have been hanging around for my car (1967 Dodge Non-Chickmagnet GT), money (none), prospects (none), personality (“intense” was the euphemism, as I recall), and I forgot where I was going with this.
But as I’ve aged … Unhappy admission #2: I have what the kids call “resting bitch face.” Per Wikipedia, RBF:
Looking back, there were early signs (despite the hair and lean athletical thing).
Flash back to 1984. I’m bartending (Darryl’s 1913, Northpoint Blvd. in Winston-Salem). It’s earlyish in my shift when my buddy and fraternity brother Jim, who’s a waiter, picks up an order at the bar and asks “why are you being so pissy?”
“Everybody is talking about what an asshole you’re being.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I had just come in and started working like I did every other shift. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t sad. Not a cross word to anyone. I was just … neutral. And yet, my foul mood was the talk of the wait staff.
I can’t say how many times since I’ve had people ask what was wrong with me when nothing was wrong with me. Let’s go with “many.”
Fast-forward to last week. I’ve started a new job, and I am being pulled into the usual number of Zoom meetings. Obviously, the new guy wants to make a good impression, right? So, I was paying attention to the speaker and looking at the document being shared on screen, and then I happened to notice myself in the audience window to the side.
Great googley moogley.
Seriously – just being me, neutral, approachable, engaging, etc. Nobody said anything. Maybe they have low expectations. Maybe they were afraid. Regardless, I can’t go around looking like the old drunk sucking a PBR and shaking a rake at the neighborhood kids, no matter how cool and non-judgy the culture is.
So for the first time in my life I’m making an effort. This was taken on my last call.
I know, my pretty days are behind me. But if nobody calls the police we’ll call it a win.
If you were watching TV on December 30, you may have seen this:
If you checked back the next morning you could have seen this:
The Marshall fire, driven by Category 2 hurricane-force winds, burned more than 6,000 acres, destroyed 1,000+ buildings (homes + commercial), cost well over a half-billion dollars in damages, and – miraculously – only killed two people.
Yesterday, finally, I drove up to look around. Here, in no particular order, are some observations.
1: Close to home. We often use the phrase. In this case, though…
See that little blue house icon the green number one is pointing to? I lived there for a year when I moved back to Colorado in 2007 or so. It’s untouched. But the red to the right shows the burned homes between it and the Home Depot. The one next door is where my landlord Tom lived.
This was the biggest shock of the day. Based on what I had seen and heard, I thought all the houses along that road were okay.
I don’t know if Tom sold everything or if these were still his properties. He was a nice guy, and I hope he’s okay.
2: Rock Creek. I know wildfires can be capricious, and as you can tell by looking at this map, this one was no exception. The big blue area noted by the number two is a huge residential subdivision. My good friend Anders and his family used to live in there, and for a while our company offices were in the basement. When I look at how the fire was behaving, I have no idea how it avoided that section.
3: Davidson Mesa. I used to take my dog walking in the park on Davidson Mesa every morning. It’s hard to see that all those houses down the hill on the west side are gone. Likewise, everything across McCaslin to the east and along the northern side of Centennial Parkway…
I remember watching the fire coverage on TV and trying to visualize where some of this activity was taking place. But I haven’t lived there in a while, and almost none of the reporters had any clue where they were or what they were looking at. So yesterday was the first chance I had to really get the map straight in my mind.
4: By the skin of our teeth. I think one of my biggest surprises yesterday was realizing how much didn’t burn. I’m sure the people who own houses further east along Via Appia were terrified. Had the wind not died down there was a lot more waiting to be burned. And had it jumped S. Boulder Rd. to the north…
5: Old Superior. The fire was disaster for … well, just about everybody. But it was great news for the developers who have been trying to buy out the old Superior neighborhood for years. There was a core of old, run-down historic homes owned by people who liked it that way and who were. Not. Gonna. Sell. Meanwhile, progress built up around them.
6: WTF? No, seriously. Look towards the bottom where the number six is. Look at that small line of fires along Coalton Road. Then look at all the real estate to the north that’s untouched. I’m not a fire expert or a weather expert. I know these things behave strangely.
(My first thought was that I could imagine a suspicious fire marshall looking at the map, scratching his head, and going out to the west end of that line and snooping around for signs of opportunistic arson.)
I used the phrase earlier – close to home. The reason we were watching this portion of the area so closely is the the spot indicated by 6a. That’s where my girlfriend’s best friend lives. That the fire didn’t jump Coalton was a massive relief at my house (also hers, I imagine).
She can look out the back window and see ruins. She can see just how close the inferno got. And she’s grateful for the fire crews that lined their trucks up along the road and, in a scene a little bit like Gandalf facing down the Balrog, said to the fire you shall not pass.
I have now been a resident of Bend, OR for seven days.
Riverbend Park, which is adjacent to my office.
1: My apartment is nothing special. It’s okay – not terribly new, but in decent condition. It’s 150 sq. feet bigger than my last place, which is great, and has a huge ass closet. Which is good because the storage unit isn’t very large.
Recently I was e-mailed, via Match.com, by an attractive woman (to the extent that profile pictures can be trusted, anyway) named Kathleen. I love that name, and her profile made her sound like someone I’d be interested in talking to a bit more, so I replied. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and I was thinking that maybe I’d like to meet her in person.
Then she asked me if I liked skiing. I answered honestly. I love skiing, although I’m not great at it and I haven’t been on the hill since I annihilated my knees a few years back. I’d love to get back into it, though, but haven’t so far because I hate doing things alone.
I knew as I hit the send button that I’d never hear from her again. Read more
I think we’d all love to live every phase of our lives in happy accord with high moral and ethical principles. We’d love it if we were never confronted by logical contradictions and cognitive dissonance, by cases where our walk was at odds with our talk. But the truth is that we live in a society that’s complex, at best, and a cesspool of corruption at worst. It’s just about impossible to get through a day without compromise, and every time we compromise it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve failed a little.
Some people are better at dealing with the conflict than others, whether through denial or a well-developed, pragmatic knack for keeping things in perspective. Unfortunately, I don’t do denial at all and while I like to think of myself as having a strong pragmatic streak, in practice my principled side tends to dominate my decision-making in ways that occasionally deprive me of convenience and pleasure. Read more
Those who know me will attest to my taste for fine single malt and American microbrews. But my little secret is now out. I’m also a rum-lover. Always have been. And I’m a sucker for a good rum punch, especially in the summer or Hawaii.
So I’ve decided to share some of my favorites with the world. Because clearly the world needs a drink, you know.
When we were in Kauai a couple years ago their take on the classic Mai Tai – they call their top shelf version the Tai Chi – sort of insinuated itself into my psyche. Loved Kauai, and I found that when I thought about it, I always imagined a Mai Tai in my hand. Read more
If your fairy godmother appeared and offered to send you on a trip to any place humans have ever been at any moment that has occurred in your lifetime, what moment would you choose?
I posed this question to several dozen friends, colleagues, family members, and stray acquaintances. Their responses are below, and we’ll start with my own answer.
I guess there are probably several dozen good answers to this one, and as you’ll see from the answers of other contributors here, many of them are of the noble variety. I have a few of these, to be sure, but since it was a selfish moment that gave me the idea for this little project, I’m going to go with it.
If I could go back to one event that occurred in my lifetime, I’d set the dial on the time machine to June 5, 1983, and point it toward Morrison, Colorado, the site of U2’s famous Red Rocks concert. Read more
In my initial rant about airline security, I pondered the civil liberties trade-offs associated with a security clearance ID card for frequent air travelers. I still haven’t decided whether I’d opt into such a program or not – it’s bad policy, as a rule, to make decisions about your basic rights based on convenience issues, I think. I’m not the only one thinking about this question, as it turns out. An article in today’s NY Times (“ID Cards for ‘Trusted Travelers’ Run Into Some Thorny Questions”) looks at the idea, and in addition to considering the civil liberties implications, it also talks a great deal about the basic efficacy of such a program. It’s certainly worth a read, especially for anybody who has to travel.
But as I type this, a wonderful conspiracy theory presents itself. Say I’m somebody like John Ashcroft. And being a fascist, I want to know everything I possibly can about everybody in the world. But I’m also smart enough to know that overt intrusions upon people’s rights draw attention and resistance, so the sneakier I can be, the better. Read more
(Please, note sarcasm…) I traveled some more this week – Dallas and back Sunday and Monday, then to Kansas City on Tuesday and back today. So that’s four trips through the old airport security machine, and I only got yanked out for “random” secondary screening twice. Wow – that 50% clip for the week drags my yearly average all the way down to 72.2%.
According to a big, highly publicized audit a few days ago people actually get guns through these checkpoints about a third of the time. So, in principle, I could improve my rate of avoiding secondary checks by about 6% if I started packing heat.
Do I look like a terrorist? No, seriously – I’ve been told I look “intimidating,” and cameras all seem to hate me on sight – but if you saw me boarding a plane with you would you worry that I posed a threat to your safe and timely arrival at your chosen destination, especially if I were wearing a business suit?
I don’t know how you answered this question, but I must scare the mortal hell out of the good folks working airport security. How else can I explain the damned-near automatic frequency with which I’m “randomly” selected for secondary security checks whenever I attempt to board a flight?
Since the new year I’ve taken several trips – mostly business – flying to Las Vegas, Anaheim, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Toronto via Frontier, America West, and Air Canada. Early on I noticed I was getting yanked just about every time I hit security, so I started keeping count. Read more
What kind of place will the ground upon which we now stand be come January 1, 2101?
As we turn into a new millennium I imagine many people have pondered what the coming century holds for them, their children, and their grandchildren. Will the 2000s be a time of peace, of prosperity, an age of enlightenment and human achievement?
Or will humanity succumb to its darker instincts, engulfing the planet in war, environmental disaster, and economic inequity? Read more