Stay tuned (patiently) as we occasionally throw updates on here about what steps we're taking to get to our end goals, DIY tricks and life-hacks, child-rearing tactics (strategery), etc.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Infamous In-N-Out

While I was in Phoenix, we decided to grab lunch ay the west coast institution, In-N-Out Burger. Last time I went, I was disappointed with their tiny menu. But then I did the research, and apparently, the definition of In-N-Out is a secret menu. I found I could get a three meat, three cheese burger (3x3p and get my fries smothered in a thousand island-style "spread" with relish, carmelized onions, and cheese (Animal Style). I rounded it out with a large Coke. Life was good. DO THE RESEARCH, KIDS!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Tibby Tree

When my son Tibbs passed away in 2006, the Lujans planted this sapling tree. It's so nice to see it flourishing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Homecoming

It's weird that no matter how much a place has changed since childhood, you're still able to identify the familiar and find the comfort in that. It's always a trip for me to visit my parents in Salida and see the house I grew up in, the town that's changing so quickly yet staying do much like it was 10 or 20 years ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Capitol City Will Be Missed

I stand outside on a cool and bright morning, a morning which should have given us snow and didn't, but that's the way of things these days. I use the brightness to take pictures of the city I will miss when I find myself in Alaska in a month's time. I won't miss the traffic or the politics or the poor social systems a city "provides", but I will miss the food, the lights, the pomp and circumstance that makes a city such as Denver so great.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Morning Thoughts

I'm awake early again this morning. My son, Malcolm is a morning person, apparently. I do enjoy this time, though, as it allows me to collect my thoughts.

Yesterday, my brother visited me and got a tattoo commemorating the loss of my older son, Tiberius James. I didn't really process it at the time, but later it really struck me as something meaningful. I spent my morning pondering life, what we lose and what we gain.

I feel it's important to remember those things we have lost and honor those memories by appreciating what we still have and what will have in the future. I know it's cliche, but life is too short to spend what we have dwelling on what we no longer enjoy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fall Sunset In Denver

My wife said the sunset might be a pretty one this evening, but I don't think she could have been more correct. This is just stunning.

A Cold Denver Morning

Back in the groove of things with my new mobile smart phone, I'm excited to get back into blogging more regularly. This morning, it's 19° here in the capitol city. Malcolm is enjoying the morning as usual, and his uncle Bart is sleeping on the couch. So far, the day's got potential.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Smokey Mountain rain keeps on falling... at least it could be when I get there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I sit here outside in this cold, calm, simple fall night and created a quote: Be thankful for warm beds to lay in or noble causes to shiver for.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's sunny and calm, but the autumn chill has settled over the Mile High City.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's a wonderful, sunny, windy, fall afternoon in Denver.

Big Questions

Life's full of challenges, questions that rattle your own perception of yourself, your integrity.

Recently, I posted a blog and a reader posted a comment that asked me some hard questions. I would like to bear my soul, so to speak, on this computer and share some of the answers with you.

Where do I see myself? To be honest, to be fair, I see myself as stagnant, in need of a good adventure. I lived honestly in a van for over a year, climbed rocks in Utah, stayed at a beach cabin in Alaska, and now I watch television in an apartment in Denver. I am in need of some self-made opportunities, and I haven't given myself the chance to do that in the recent past, something I've really been struggling with.

Do I regret anything in my life? Who doesn't? I suppose we all have regrets, and I would be lying if I said I have none. Really looking into it, I have to consider the mistakes I've made, the opportunities I've missed, to be lessons learned. However, that's easier, at least for me, in theory, and more difficult in practice.

Do I ever want a family of my own someday? In a way, I already have. In a way, I have one now. In a way, I'd like to give it a shot in the future. Four years ago, I had a wife and a son, a son who passed away, taken by S.I.D.S. It was hard, and I went through years of soul-searching, a journey that led me to start this blog. Now, I find myself with the same woman, a different son from a different man, and it's a big, complicated, confusing time for me. I really enjoy my lot in life, and I do feel like I have a family, but in honesty, every once in a while, I feel like it's not mine, and I feel disconnected. Maybe one day, I'll either come to terms with what I am involved in completely, moreso than I have. But I must say that I am really content with who I'm sharing my life with, and I'm thrilled at the idea of raising a little one, a boy who I love and enjoy seeing smile.

Do I ever feel like I'm missing out on something? I have to concede that I have more lately than in the past. I really loathe watching television, and that seems to be all I have done lately. It's incredibly dull. Like I said earlier, I need an adventure.

Do I know what I'm searching for? Never. And I probably never will. All I know with certainty is that I must keep looking. The journey must never end.

Thanks to the Anonymous person for asking me. In a way, I hope you're inspiring me, whoever you are, to keep going.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Delays and Insanity

I know it's been a while since I've blogged, partly because I haven't really had an adventure big enough to warrant a quality blog, and partly because of the course my life has taken in the past weeks.

I've found myself in a nuclear family unit, a very special significant other in my life, and a baby boy, who, for all intents and purposes, is my own son, Malcolm Reynold. (If you're a geek and you get the reference, bonus points for you.) With this development, I've been trying unsuccessfully to plot out some sort of plan for this nuclear family unit... and I'm finding the task to be very challenging.

I just watched "Burn After Reading", and like the report to the CIA officer, I'll be sure to let you all know when any of this... makes sense...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Cricket Serenade

Lyss and Malcolm and I went to a friends house for dinner tonight. We had a good, hearty meal of meatloaf, mashed taters, and a salad. After dinner, I stepped outside into the dark, warm, evening air and found my head swimming in a nice melody of the cricket symphony. I forgot how much I loved being outside in the summer evenings.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Partly-Cloudy Afternoon

Looking south on Lincoln Street with a girl and a very little baby sleeping in the apartment upstairs, I do as I rarely do and bask in the warm weather. Normally, I loathe the heat. However, there is a nice calmness in the afternoon sunlight. The clouds south of Denver look spectacular.

Caged Light

The morning sun reflects off the shoddy picnic table where many a peon has gathered for breaks from their less-than-comfortable work days. As I stand here, I see it as a symbol of better things to come, better days ahead. I see it as a stepping stone for future good deeds, and I adjust my mindset accordingly.

Bike Rides to Work are Glorious

I rode the easy two and a half miles to work today. I think I got it in 15 minutes, which is good for my fat and out-of-shape self. I got to work a half hour early, parked the bike, and snapped this shot of the clouds.

The Dark Sidewalk

I figured this morning, as I sit outside in the cool air for a few minutes before work, that I'd replace the time I spend playing Solitaire with blogging and taking pictures of where I am, what I'm doing. So here's the sidewalk in front of the HomeBase in Denver. I thought it was a neat picture in its simplicity.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Star Trek and "John Elway Syndrome"

I grew up in Colorado. I'm a native, not a local. I was born in Denver at the old St. Luke's hospital, and I lived in a town of 5,000 people at 7,000 feet above sea level, nestled in the Sawatch Mountains. Being a native, I have come to be a die-hard fan of the Denver Broncos, a team in the western division of the American Football Conference of the National Football League. When I was a kid, we lived and died by the Broncos, or, more specifically, by John Elway. He was a god. It was a running joke that, although they were the winning-est team in the league during the regular season, they always choked at the end, having dropped three Super Bowls, the worst of which was to the San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV, where Joe Montana led the Niners to a 55-10 stomping. I was 8. I don't even remember watching the game. I just remembered that whenever I'd travel outside the state, or meet someone that wasn't a fan, THAT was the game they held over my head.

Finally, though, in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, the Broncos, led by John Elway and Terrell Davis, got back to back victories against Green Bay and Atlanta respectively. XXXII was an intense game, where John Elway made his infamous run for the endzone, being thirty-seven years old, and getting hit in mid-air, spinning his old body around 180 degrees... for us in Bronco Country, this was epic. He wanted it. We wanted it with him. We edged by. It was amazing. XXXIII was even more vindicating as the victory, a 34-19 landslide against Atlanta, came against former Broncos coach Dan Reeves, a man who many blamed for the Broncos choking in the post-season.

Then John Elway retired. He retired on top. He held a press conference, saying he just couldn't do it anymore. He teared up. I teared up. I still get misty eyed thinking about it. It was a bittersweet day. The good old days of Bronco football seemed to have retired with him. Since then, the Broncos have been lackluster, going through quarterbacks like a racecar going through tires. We had Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, and most recently, Kyle Orton and now Tim Tebow. While some of these guys were royally abysmal players, some of them were actually pretty consistent. Jake Plummer, as long as he didn't get flustered, had one of the highest passer ratings in the league and Kyle Orton, while not having many quality people to throw the ball to, still managed a pretty good start his first season with the Broncos, especially when you consider they started a new coach, Josh McDaniels, a very young coach by any standard.

But the variable here is the so-called twelfth man, the Bronco fans. After Elway, we simply couldn't accept a quarterback that wasn't equally spectacular. We had high hopes for everyone in the pre-season, but by the time the middle of the regular season rolled around, every single thing that was wrong with the team was because the new quarterback, whoever he may have been, simply wasn't as good as John Elway. And at the end of the season, we called for their heads, thinking that they never were going to be as good as Elway, and therefor, never going to be good for the Broncos or amount to anything else at all. Period. That's how it was. That's how it is.

Now that I've gone ultra macho and manly with my sports knowledge, I'm going to geek out and say that Star Trek has largely had the same problem.

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and later Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. I remember once a week, I would rush home and watch DS9's new episodes, especially when their story arc with the Dominion Wars started up in earnest. It was excellent TV. It was brilliant story-telling. The writing and production staff, people like Ron Moore and Ira Stephen Behr were amazing. The acting, especially by Avery Brooks, by Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Armin Shimmerman... I won't bore you, but it was a great, solid, dark, realistic, un-Star Trek show, and that's what made it the best trek series ever.

Then Enterprise came out. Enterprise was a radical departure, a prequel series to the original Star Trek show, set 100 years before Kirk and Spock, and 150 years after present day. We Trekkies felt like this show had amazing potential, but we knew even before it started that it wasn't going to be as good as Next Gen, DS9, the original series, or even Voyager. It ran for four seasons and got cancelled. I've recently had the opportunity to watch more of the later seasons, and, like every other Trek series, was finally getting it's footing. The stories were gelling better. The crew were more personable and more like strong characters than simple dossiers of what they were supposed to be.

Star Trek, it seems, was effected by the same problem as the Denver Broncos... people didn't give change a fair shake. They were so bent on honoring the days of old that they didn't give the new anything more than a passing glance and a ton of judgement. Both have been limping along since their respective "endings", and both have somehow managed to get by, perhaps Star Trek more than the Broncos with the release of the J.J. Abrams movie Star Trek last summer.

We are all fans of our own lives, in a certain point of view. We have things we really enjoy, and we don't like it when those things don't happen. We get especially down when those things end completely, when people die or move away, or when we lose our job, or crash our van and have to sell it off. From that point on, no matter how good our new job may be, how sweet our new van may be, it's never good enough to replace the old one. We have John Elway Syndrome.

For God's sake, John Elway, I'm a blogger, not a doctor. I have no right to actually name what I theorize to be an illness. I simply have a theory about the way things are with some people, myself included. I theorize that we are resistant to change, that we don't like being outside of our comfort zone. I see it in friends and family members, and in serious cases, it leads to serious addictions or depression.it

The point is that we can't be resistant to change, no matter how overwhelming it feels. We need to accept it, and not suffer from John Elway Syndrome. We need to accept that things inevitably change, grow, morph into things that are new, exciting, fun, and beautiful if we'd just give them a shot. We need to give things room to come into their own and support to do so.

Maybe it would help if we thought of every new experience like our own, first child. Say you lose your job. Here you have a newborn opportunity for something grand. Your unemployment is your infant, needing constant attention and love and encouragement. Then you find a new job, and your infant has become a toddler. It's starting to become more self sufficient, getting it's footing, as you are in your new job. If you've given that opportunity all of the love and joy and hope that you have, then it will come back to you with a raise or a bonus or words of encouragement from a good friend/manager/co-worker/boss-type person in your life. However, if you let the symptoms of your John Elway Syndrome prevail, you'll be miserable, as this job will never be the same as your old one. You'll be unsatisfied. You'll be sad. You'll feel lost.

We all have points in our lives where we can't see how there are positives in change. We have the choice to accept it and move on, to set the proverbial baggage down and move on uninhibited, or to compare everything to what was, dragging around everything with us like dead weight, just so we can show people what was instead of letting them show us what is.

Don't be resistant to change. Resistance is futile. Embrace it. Shed the curse of Denver Bronco quarterbacks and Star Trek spin-offs. Become the new Star Trek movie. Enjoy life to the fullest at every opportunity. John Elway Syndrome doesn't have to control our lives.

And with that, I wish you well. Live long and prosper. Get to the Super Bowl and win it. Feel free to leave comments!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Glenwood Springs

This weekend, I went to Glenwood Springs, Colorado with my girl and the boy. We caught up with her family, aunts, uncles, and grandmother, a fellow German. The area is beautiful, and the time was well spent. Here's to many more adventures.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Revising the Status Quo

In recent weeks, I'm going through a tremendous period of self-discovery and exploration. While not necessarily on purpose, it's been re-organizing the perspective I've had, both for myself and for others.

I moved away from Ketchikan, Alaska, into what I was (and still am, although differently) perceiving as a crisis of sorts. The details of said crisis need not be publicly discussed, but the effects it's had on me, I don't mind sharing. I panicked for a number of reasons, got on the first plane I could, left the BW3 there, and just came back to Colorado.

I got off the plane in Denver, and I found myself stepping into a world nearly as strange to me as the world I met when I first landed in Ketchikan. Compared to my last few months, Colorado brought with it epic expanses of sky, miles of mountains and sunsets behind them that could make one all but weep out of joy. The city of Denver offers a plethora of food and culture, nice and friendly people, albeit many, many of them. The temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees hotter here during the day, and that has left me too sweaty, too often.

The feelings, though, were more complex than I've felt in a long time. They shook me to my core. I've felt so lost for so long, drifting from place to place in my mind, not really being present for just over four years. I've felt like a shell. Hollow. Empty. Comfortable in the fact that for me, someday, this will end as easily as it started. (Apply that last statement how you will; it has many layers.) But when I left Ketchikan, I felt genuine sadness, anxiety, anticipation, and excitement. While these emotions seemed hidden in a cloud, as though I were feeling them after staying awake for two or three days in a row, they were still there, and I was grateful.

I've found, however, that expectations can be as damning as they can be productive. I had expected to come home and see everyone and everything in a certain light, a certain way, to do my certain part, and to be treated in a certain fashion. From the moment I stepped off the airplane, all of that got turned upside down. Nothing was as it seemed.

Now I'm sitting here. It's been two weeks. My ideas, my goals, my "realities" as I knew them, as I built them, are inverted, and the moral compass that has been roughly guiding me has been spinning out of control, not showing me direction in the fog that shrouds the life I will experience from here.

I suppose the best thing to do at this point would be to take one careful step at a time, taking care not to step on anything or off of anything that could devastate my reality any more than it has wound up changing on its own. I can meditate and journal to remind my mind to be at peace with these things, and act gently and thoughtfully, remembering my recent post about the mantra "May everything be exactly as it is." I guess I should remind myself of that when I feel so lost, remind myself that I'm only lost if I stop looking, and that until that point, I'm still seeking the answers.

It's not easy to revise your status quo.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

May Everything Be Exactly As It Is

I'm continually surprised by how quickly in life things change. Maybe it's not the things in life that actually change, but it's how quickly my perceptions change. At any rate, it always catches me off guard when something I thought was reality not but a couple of weeks ago is drastically turned around in moments.

I started writing this yesterday, but I wasn't able to focus on it. Maybe it's just the dry Colorado weather, the altitude, the heat... who knows. Salida, Denver, and Ketchikan are all very different places. I find myself getting a low-level dosage of culture shock when I step into a new environment, and sometimes it takes me a second to catch my breath. (I'm sure the altitude doesn't exactly help.)

Steering this quick, disjointed blog in a serious direction for a second, I must note that I've found myself in a few situations simultaneously where I'm struggling to find the answers to the question of what the right course of action is. This being said, I remembered the mantra "May everything be exactly as it is." There are things in all of our lives that we cannot control. Friends and loved ones pass away. Jobs are lost. Vehicles are crashed. Babies are born. Lotteries are won. It's so easy to hope for a random, uncontrollable good thing to happen, but we shudder when a random and uncontrollable bad thing happens. We find ourselves seemingly dropped into a life where things seem to be spiraling out of control, and for whatever reason, we just can't get any bearings. Then we become angry that we were treated unfairly or sad because we feel helpless. But the mantra implies that everything is, simply, what it is. I know that saying is cliche, almost annoying at times, but I am pushing the deeper meaning. You lose your job. Maybe you're supposed to find a better opportunity. Maybe you're supposed to learn how to tighten your belt and empty your refrigerator. Maybe you're needing to sell your big house and get into a smaller one? And then, down the line, you're happier in a new line of work, you're in better shape, and you have a lower rent or mortgage payment. It sounds suddenly like losing your job was the best thing that happened to you, yes?

We have things we care about, but more importantly, we have loved ones, family, with or without bonds of genetics, that we must care for, must fight to ensure their happiness. We can't do it if we aren't happy ourselves, and we certainly can't do it if we're resenting them for making us work hard for them. What we can do is work hard, be the best we can be, the happiest we can be, and when we have the time, to share that happiness, that joy with them. There is joy to be found in every nook and cranny, from the bottom of the nastiest dumpster to the middle of every seedy, corrupt organization.

While the struggle in searching for this joy feels to most of us as it is never-ending, the search itself can be a positive, life-changing thing. Keeping your eyes on the prize, as it were, proves to ourselves that we know that the suffering and struggle along the way is sharpening our souls and lighting a fire under the motivation we need to keep going.

I'm going to assume you all know a little about poker as I write my closing remarks. I would hope that anyone reading this would take a second to look at the cards they've been dealt. Really look at them. Look at your job, your family, your wife or husband, your children, your parents, your grandparents, your friends, your car, your dog, your cat, your neighbors -I can go on and on, but the point is that, no matter what cards you're holding, you can play your hand. And while you may not be holding a royal flush, I can guarantee you that you're holding at least a pair, and probably a full house. Don't fold. Play the hand, and look forward to the next round of cards you'll be dealt. Assume you're playing with good friends. Someone at your table will be a winner every time, guaranteed, and be happy for them when they do, because when it's your turn, they will share that sentiment.

May everything be exactly as it is.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Bittersweet reunion with SeaTac

I flew in from Ketchikan this morning to a sunny/cloudy Seattle. While my reasons for making this journey back home are for me alone, leaving Ketchikan this morning was bittersweet. It was foggy and rainy, but as soon as I broke through the clouds, it was sunny and bright.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 2, 2010

YouTube Justice!



You asked for it. Now you've done it. Throw in a Wilhelm Scream, and here we go!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One more day in the books.
Just spent lunch exploring Gravina Island with iTrevor.
The work day is moving right along. Some installs in the sunshine sounds lovely.

Thoughts on Depression and Appreciation

I thought I was tired enough to fall asleep earlier, but then, like an idiot, I thought I'd check my facebook one last time before I went to sleep and happened across a Buddhist monk's lecture on depression. It was an hour and a twelve minutes long. I only listened to twenty-six minutes of it it before I felt compelled to turn my music on and start thinking to myself about the things in life I appreciated, the positives, the accomplishments, the good things in life.

What spawned all of this was a story the monk told. He's based in Perth, Australia. When he first got there, the group he was in had no money. They owed money for the land they had purchased, and had no buildings for their monastery. This meant that he, an ex physicist of some sort, had to build things himself, get his hands dirty and do the work. He was a perfectionist, the type of guy that was tormented if he didn't get things exactly correct at the end of a project.

His first task was to build a brick wall. He would lay it, brick by brick. If the corner of a brick was sticking up, he'd gently tap it down. If that knocked the opposite corner up, he'd tap that one down. If that knocked the brick out of line, he'd straighten it. If that knocked a corner up... the process would continue. At any rate, he built this entire wall, and at the end, he stepped back, looking upon this brick wall with pride when he noticed that two bricks, -two- bricks, were crooked. As you could imagine, this destroyed him.

For three months, he had nightmares about the failure of the wall. He would volunteer to show people around the grounds so he could save them from seeing his mistake. He would walk by it in the middle of other jobs and audibly sigh, stuff up, and once almost cried.

Then a visitor came and asked to be shown around. He looked at this wall, and he told the monk it was a damn fine wall. The monk asked the visitor if he was visually impaired. Of course, he wasn't. The monk was beside himself. "Don't you see the two crooked bricks?" The visitor replied, "Yes, I do. But I also see nine hundred and ninety-eight perfectly straight bricks all around them."

The difficulties and negatives we face seem to be only a small portion of the lives we live, and yet, we seem to focus on those imperfections, not appreciating the good things we've done or seen or experienced to some degree.

Another story he told was a lady who caught her husband lying once and was asking him if they should be divorced. She said she couldn't trust him anymore. He asked them how long they had been married. Three years. Then, being good at math (a former physicist, remember?), he said, three years is roughly one thousand days. He said that if, on average, he made twenty statements to her every day. That turns out being twenty thousand statements. He lied once. That means there's twenty thousand to one odds that he wouldn't lie to her again. I guess this happened a number of years ago. They're still married.

Perspective. Generally, we lack it. We don't see the big picture. We only see the glaring flaws. We see an old man flipping burgers, and he's a loser. We don't know that he's the best burger chef in the country. We see a young woman with two kids and no husband. We don't know that she has been abused or raped or a widow of a soldier or a cop, and that those two kids were still spelling PALEONTOLOGIST by the time they were three despite that.

In my life, I have faced difficult times, yes, but who hasn't? Who hasn't lost someone that meant the world to them? Who hasn't been broke or couch surfed or lived in a trailer or an old apartment? Who hasn't been fired or laid off or rejected or dumped or even just plain let down?

What is harder for me to see is what I've seen and done that is enough for me to die a happy and successful man. It's harder for me to see that I have somehow wound up with people in my life who are or have gone on to be actresses, pilots, fathers, mothers, own two Corvettes, built their own cabins, started their own businesses, fallen so completely in love with the sweetest and kindest people, taught children morals, math, and reading... the list goes on. I can name names, but you know who you are. You're in my life. And whether you've been in my life since I was born or you're the person who sat next to me on an airplane ten years ago, you should consider yourself to be a part of this amazing spread of incredible people.

Now is not the time to think about how difficult life is or is bound to get. It's the time to start thinking about what is good, what we have, what we are capable of. There is so much awesome stuff, and I mean awesome in the full-of-awe sense that the word is intended for, so much good about this place we're fortunate enough to reside on.

That's my two cents for the evening. I think, now that it's off my chest, I'll try to get some sleep now. I appreciate you reading this, too. ;-)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Testing the new email address...

I reset my phone to use my blogging email address to upload MMS and email directly to my blog. (I was using a separate address before.) I hope this works.

It appears I've figured out how to text directly to my blog... the shortcut of all shortcuts!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sweet Home Alaska B-Dub...

...if you say that instead of Alabama, you're good to go. I'm thinking of parting ways with the beloved BattleWagon in favor of some tent-living/money-saving while the summer is still somewhat decent. In the past 48 hours, we've had 43 raning, and after the past few weeks of decent sunshine, I figure I better do this before Alaska gets the best of me.

"Gagging Order"

I heard a song by Radiohead tonight called "Gagging Order". I don't know if it's the 26 hours of rain we've had here, or a combination of other factors, but it just struck me as very deep, very sad, very melancholy, but at the same time, very beautiful, simple, and eloquent. I hope you can pull it up on YouTube or last.fm and give it a listen.

As I said, 26 hours of rain, and the forecast doesn't give any signs of sunlight for a while. These are the times when I miss Colorado the most, the times when it was amazing to walk outside and just let the warmth wash over you, as if the sun were taking you into its arms and holding you, protecting you, letting you know that you're loved.  The rain, while a beautiful antithesis to that, is not as calming in the same way.

Maybe it should be this way: the sun is the mother of nature and the rain is the father. The sun loves you, keeps you warm, makes you feel happy, encourages you to go out and play, always makes you feel like a kid at heart. The rain guards you, protects you, helps you to be stronger on your own, encourages you to grow in mind and spirit, and washes away your sins, forgiving them with each drop.

It's funny to me that an entry about a Radiohead song sparked all of this, but if you've ever listened to Radiohead, I think you'll get it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Overlook

I found a new place to camp in town. Well, I didn't find it. I was told by the fellow vagabonders I met a few days ago. At any rate, it overlooks "New Town" Ketchikan, called as such because it's built on the north side of this really steep ridge that used to make travelling from north to south very difficult. Now there's a tunnel and a road built on pilings around the side of it.

The view was grand. Enjoy this solstice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Silence Lends a Face to the Soul"

This morning, I was going through some pictures and listening to some tunes on the party shuffle. A song by Saxon Shore came on called "Silence Lends A Face To The Soul". I turned it up real loud and just let the melody just drown me in all of the emotions that I feel annually on certain days, such as Fathers Day. I wish all fathers out there to have a day that reminds them of how lucky they are, how noble they must be, how generous, kind, yet stern and smart they learn through necessity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Ketchikan Vagabond Community

Tonight I was approached by a couple, Gary and Debbie, who are vagabonding or boondocking like myself. They're friends of Earl, who, with his big dog "Hunter", lives in his camper here and over on Prince of Wales Island. I met him a few days ago. All were very kind. Gary said he and Debbie were harassed by someone at a public lot down by the laundromat here in town. It appears that I've been drafted as a part of a community watch, sharing stories and tips with fellow vagabonders. It's exciting! I wish I had a community like this when I was in Denver. What a great time, nonetheless. It's wonderful to feel free.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blurred by Rain

As the light shines through the blurry windshield of my parked van, I look down and notice that my shirt seems to be melting away. While coincidentally complimentary to my contemplation, it stands as independently fascinating. The light from the nearby tower gently glows, and the steady, unhindered rain falls with a certain care that seems to nudge everyone into their cozy homes or homes away from home. I look up at the light and then out toward the trees, whose branches are still, heavier with the weight of the water that has fallen. At this late hour of ten o'clock, the darkness has yet to completely hide the clouds lingering over the all but distant mountains.

For now, I am in Ketchikan, Alaska, just outside the largest National Forest in the United States, the Tongass, where people have resided or passed through for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. A team discovered remains on nearby Prince of Wales island that shared DNA markers with people of Chilean, Argentenian, and Peruvian descent, as well as one individual from mainland China. What a sight this area must have been when the waters were lower and the Bering Strait was a land bridge, when people migrated, walking miles and miles looking for a new home.

I hope that whatever I am doing in this BattleWagon, with these Chronicles, I am respecting and sharing in that same spirit, that I am looking for... something. The difference for me is that I will always have a home in a beautiful mountain valley with an angel looking over all of it's residents. I am not looking for that place. I am looking for stories to bring back with me. I am looking for adventure. I am looking for answers of a divine nature. I hope and also fear that this search will never end.

For now, however, I am content.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

KetchiKlouds

I was driving north on Tongass, the main road here in Ketchikan, after a nice visit with the house parent at the local Methodist Youth Hostel. I noticed some spectacular clouds (still light at 9:30 PM), so I had to snag a picture.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The 6 A.M. Cruise Ship

Here we have the Zaandam, a ship of the Holland America Line. It looks to be the first ship here this morning. It's huge, but not the finest ship that's been here. Still, when a huge ship comes in, it is always something of awe to me, the guy who's grew up land-locked and never seen anything that big that moves.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Significance of the Raven

In Ketchikan, a raven's feather is as important as an eagles. I'd imagine it's like this in other parts of the world, too. Here I learned of the significance. Apparently, ravens are lost souls. They are people who have died and not been able to find their way to the afterlife. To mess with a raven is to inherit some of the sorrow the raven is facing in their attempt to break free. The details are absent from me right now, but the story is nice. The ravens here are almost as big as the bald eagles, and only slightly more numerous. What an amazing place to be.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Rain, The Blur

I sit here today, not knowing what to do with my time. I have relegated myself to a self-imposed solitude of reading and watching my surroundings. The rain has been coming in waves, not in coordination with the sun, who seems to be shining while the rain falls now. It's fifty-five degrees here, and I let the rain touch me, feeling as though I am subject to it's all-consuming reach.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Rainy Alaskan Morning

It's not pouring rain, and I wouldn't even call it a drizzle. At this point, it's maybe spitting? It's trying? Whatever you call it, this is more the norm that all of the sunshine here in Ketchikan, a place that averages between 152 and 180 inches of precipitation a year. It's so much easier to sleep with the rain gently tapping on the roof of the BattleWagon. It drowns out all of the potentially corrupiting noises of the outside world. I would guess it's like being in the womb.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Beach

I sent this picture to a friend back home, and I figured I'd share it with everyone. This is a local beach near town. The beaches here aren't sandy like they are down south. They're gravelly and rocky. It's cool all the same, a good feeling of isolation and resignation to the higher powers in place. Just you, the ocean, some trees, distant boats and planes... pretty nice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Like Steve Miller Said...

Fly like an eagle... here is a juvenile bald eagle. The one in my last long post was also a baldie. I didn't know that the bald eagles who weren't mature were all brown with light spots. Crazy. These juveniles are as big as the adults, too! They're loud when they fly over!

So I finally got some wifi back, and that means that this post will be catching you all up on some pictures, since I'm a few days behind. Here goes...

This is a shot of Carlanna Lake, a quick, five-minute hike from Ketchikan. A popular fishing spot, it has a very well-built trail around the entire south side of it. It's an old reservoir, and the trail starts at the dam and ends at the inlet creek. This quick walk takes you through a thick, old-growth forest and has very nice bridges and edging throughout, including three docks out on the lake itself for fishing. Next to the trail, there's a few of these big, fallen trees, the bottoms of which are 10-15 feet all and covered in moss. This is a rainforest, and it doesn't take nature long to virtually swallow everything that's out of place.
Last weekend, my new boss took me out fishing on his boat. I didn't actually fish, though. I didn't buy a lisence or anything. I just went along for the pictures. I got one looking out the back of his skiff, and I took a picture of Guard Island, where the local lighthouse is. We didn't get really close to Guard Island, but we did see some humpback whales right off the bat, which justified the experience altogether. I didn't get any pictures, but we saw them dive, complete with tails out of the water and everything. That was pretty spectacular.

Here's another excellent sunset, this one from my second journey to the secret cabin. This time around, there were a few more bugs, but I fared just fine. We skipped the fire this time and just cooked on a little Coleman stove, which was plenty for what we did, cooking brats for dinner and frying bacon and eggs in the morning. Waking up in that place is always an amazing experience. I could live forever in a small place like that.
Last, but not least, I grabbed this shot of a couple little baldies on my way in to shower this morning. They were just hanging out right outside. I guess they're like crows or chickens up here. It's awesome to just hang around with them.

"Who's Scruffy Lookin'?"

I figured this would be a good time to catch you all up on what life looks like without a consistent place to shave. I'm even letting the mustache go this time around. I've met several people with a full face of hair, and it looks like I'll be in good company. Oh, how I wish I had a new Sportsmobile...

Anyway, the weather here is fine this morning. It's 52 degrees and cool. There are four ships docked here today, including two Mercury-class ships operated by the Celebrity X cruise lines. They're big ships. One can only imagine how big the Nimitz or the Enterprise is after one of these ships. Considering the crew and guest compliment, it's almost as big as my home town, good old Salida.

Friday night was a camping-lite trip to the secret cabin. Yesterday, for breakfast, we made scrambled eggs in bacon grease. It's one of those things that hurts so good.

The local Ketchikan King Salmon Derby started yesterday, and I've noticed the town get a little quieter as the fisherman, both amateur and pro, have gone out full force to win the trophy this year. I took the opportunity to walk around town, including a stint on Water Street, an elevated concourse with houses built into the hillside. The street itself is built on scaffolding and pilings. It's a pretty spectacular view from up there, although I imagine the real estate prices reflect that.

Meanwhile, from my perch here and now, I'm watching float-planes come and go, a big ferry depart for the south, bald eagles and ravens flying around, and a seal poke its head above the surface occasionally. It's not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, all in all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Place, Old Thoughts

Since I have come to Alaska, I've seen lots of new and exciting new things. I've experienced things that I never imagined i'd have the opportunity to be a part of. I've also learned things about myself that either i'd never realized before or simply had been denying.

It took a huge leap of faith for me to come to Ketchikan. It wasn't a big risk for me to live in a van in Colorado. I had friends and family and got to travel a little bit more than I would have otherwise. This, however, offered me no safeguards, no fallback. I stepped out of the airport with two backpacks and a sachel (Indiana Jones had one). I really wanted to push myself into facing some things I hadn't before.

I've learned, as a result, that there is a part of me that is, well, me, my own. There are aspects of my thoughts that can travel thousands of miles and not change. I'm figuring out that memories aren't things you take with you. Memories are things you create every day, things you collect and dust off when you want to share them with someone. When all you do is drag them around with you, you're denying yourself the opportunity to create more.

I've also learned that I'm capable of more than I thought possible. In the span of a month, starting out with next to no money, I've made friends, bought a van, been invited on adventures that I will be able to tell the next generation.

I'm thankful for this new place, for dusting off the old thoughts and helping me to remember the good excitement of youth and innocense.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Good Day for Sailing

Today, I snagged a picture of a sailboat, one on dozens in the Narrows today. It is a beautiful day here on Revilla Island (Revilla is short for Revillagigedo, but the locals don't mention gigedo (pr: gi-GAY-doh)). The sun is out. It's almost 60. A slight breeze. It's pretty spectacular.

Last night, a friend from work invited me to camp out. I grabbed my bag, and we hiked about a half mile to this beach, just farther up than where we'd gone last weekend. We brought tents, but didn't use them. We just slept out under the trees and the clouds. I woke up and took in a deep breath. It seems to be a reminder as to while I'm here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shavano

I found a dog on Sunday, and I need to dedicate a whole blog to her, because she's an amazing dog. Today, I called the animal control officers and officially reported her, which means her real family could claim her any time. While this would be great for her, I'd be sad, and I'd miss her. She's loyal, smart, sweet, and chill. The only issue that I've had so far is that she doesn't get along with my boss's dog.

Now that I've reported her, I'm obligated to take her in to the authorities if nobody claims her. After 72 hours, I can offically adopt her, and then the courts are on my side. However, they need to check with my landlord or inspect my residence to make sure it's suitable for a dog. I live in a van. I don't think they'll see that as suitable. The officer sounded like it would be cool to keep things on the sly if I don't hear anything from her owners, and that would be great. But, just in case, I am writing this tribute to the dog I've had for four days and three nights, the dog that gets excited to see me, the dog that buries her muzzle under my neck while I sleep, the dog that likes hiking and plays fetch and comes when I call her.

She's named after Mount Shavano in Chaffee County, Colorado. The mountain has a prominent "angel" that forms from snow every winter. The legend goes something like how the angel looks over the valley, and every spring, as she melts, she "sheds her tears", fertilizing the valley below for the people to grow food and be healthy.

I always thought Shavano would be a great name for a dog. I just never thought I'd own a Heeler mix. I wanted to, eventually, get a Saint Bernard. Then again, a month and a half ago, I didn't even see myself living in Alaska.

So anyway, Shavano, this blog's for you. Whatever's in your future, I wish you the best. You are proof that not only do all dogs GO to heaven, they come from some place similar, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trunk33 on the Misty Panhandle

Warning, what follows could be construed as a shameless advertisement for me and a good friend of mine:

I had packed up some essentials, two backpacks worth, destined for a new frontier. I'd be leaving behind my life, my friends and family, my job, and my cozy apartment, trading it all for a new life and a new way of living it. My only code was to continue my BattleWagon Chronicles, to explore the human and the natural realms, to see new places, and to push myself beyond my small and limited box of existence. The things I carried for luck included my watch and my pocketknife, both of which my dad gave me... and my Trunk33 charm, hand crafted and personalized for me in honor of another epic adventure I shared with a good friend.

As I explored, I made new friends, in spite of the homesickness I felt. I saw sights that I couldn't even conjure up in my vivid imagination. I felt the spiritual world of nature work its way into my soul, and into the soul of those who had helped me get where I am. My new BattleWagon is a beast, a behemoth with ample space and a cozy, if not the most attractive place for me to contemplate these thoughts, and hanging from the rear-view, to protect me from the bad and to guide me towards a bright future, is my Trunk33 charm.

This evening, it's 52 degrees. The clouds are gently covering the mountaintops like a blanket. The mist has a serene and insulating feel. The rain taps gently on the roof, as if mother nature is telling me it's okay to sleep. I look forward from my roost, and I see these things. I see friends, family, love, home, and an amazing place that so few people are lucky enough to see. I focus on the foreground, and I see my Trunk33 on the Misty Panhandle.

Slugs!

They're almost three inches long, and they're disgusting. That's all. Never seen a slug this big!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Behind Walmart

This is one of the most spectacular "behind Walmarts" I've ever seen. When I was a kid, we loved going behind Walmart. That's where the big dirt half-pipe was, where all those tall cottonwoods grew, where the Little Arkansas ran by. It was an adventure. That was pretty, and this is, too. They carved out a nice cliff, and made a waterfall to boot! Yes, it's artificial, and yes, it probably could have been left alone, but still, it was neat to see! The kicker: before I left, I saw a three-inch long slug! I've never seen that before. Throw in the whales I saw yesterday... this place is so cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Carlanna Lake

Today, I took Shavano (the name of the dog I found) and walked out of Ketchikan to Carlanna Lake. I took the trail around the lake as far as it would go, taking in the scenery as I went. Shavano is very smart, and was excellent around the other dogs we met. It was a prett good day.

The Adventure Continues

The hits just keep on coming! The other day, I was parked at my favorite daytime spot, eating a cup of Pacific Clam Chowder (delicious, by the way). It was low tide. I sat in the new BattleWagon looking down onto the beach at low tide. There, I saw a new friend, an eagle. Not a bald eagle. Maybe a golden eagle? At any rate, I got a picture of it before it spread it's wings to their five foot width and took off. Crazy!

Friday, after work, some co-workers of mine took me camping in a top secret cabin owned by a friend of the family of another friend. That's as far as I can really go into it. We drove north on "the highway" here for a few miles, and pulled off into what looked like a simple parking spot on the side of the road. No posts. No mailboxes. Nothing that would indicate that it was anything more than a pull-off. We grabbed our gear, and walked through a thicket of salmon berry bushes. Once we got through, the world changed. The forest opened up and the ground dropped down. There were suddenly wooden stairs before us. We climbed down the stairs and across a series of wooden boardwalks, then down a path to the cabin, about a half mile from the road. From the deck of the cabin, this was the view: This was the postcard Alaska I was expecting. Holy crap! It was amazing! I'd never seen anything like it!

We stayed in this cabin Friday night, made a fire in the old cast-iron fireplace, and just took in the view. For my co-workers, this is the norm. For me, however, this is mind-blowing experience! You could see for miles, as far as the Cleveland Peninsula, including Back Island, which has a naval submarine base on it somewhere. The conspiracy theories started kicking up in my head!

The next day, we got up, hiked out in the rain, and went into town. We met up with our boss, who had scored us a zip-line tour in exchange for some vehicle graphics we'd done. The gear was similar to climbing gear, so I was already familiar with the locking caribiners and harnesses, etc. Still, this was very new to me. We all got in the back of a Unimog and were ferried up to the top of the course. They had platforms built on the trees. We were, on average, 100 feet off the forest floor. I felt like an Ewok in "Return of the Jedi". It was spectacular.

After the zip-line adventure, we stopped on the way back into town at Ketchikan's version of the Bucksnort, called the Hole in the Wall. Pretty cool place. Dollar bills tacked to the walls and pictures all over the place. It was very cozy, but it smelled horrid. However, we did see a seal in the water in the marina there. That was sweet.

After that, my boss and I stuffed our faces with some BBQ, and I went to bed, stuffed from food.

This morning, I got up, went for a short drive, and found a potential new best friend. He hopped right in the van, and unless I find out who lost him, I'll keep him around. I don't know his name yet. I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Random Picture

Thought the lushness would be cool to see. I had more stuff written up, but it got deleted along the way.  Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So Much To See, So Little Time...

I woke up Sunday morning after my first night in the new BattleWagon, and I drove down to one of my favorite spots, the spot where I can see all of the ships come in, the seaplanes come and go, the birds diving for little fish on the water. You can also see downtown Ketchikan from here, when it's not obscured by the massive ships that hog the view. Sunday morning, it was slightly foggy. I thought it would be a beautiful day for a hike, so I set off.

I went northwest on the island towards Ward Lake, where I stopped and walked up a trail for a while. Near Ward Lake is a place in the forest that I like to describe like someone opened a giant can of moss and poured it all over the forest floor. The trees are thick and the sun doesn't shine through it too much. After walking around there, I noticed that the moss was also poured all over the branches and stumps and fallen trees of the forest. It's a pretty spectacular rain forest up here. I also noticed that there was a very strong smell. I later found out this is skunk cabbage, and where it grows, it comes up in patches. The huge, single, yellow petals make the landscape look like something out of a Star Wars movie. It's very cool.

After that, I kept driving, further into the island. I followed the road until the pavement ended, and then kept going until the maintenence ended. I wound up driving as far as I felt comfortable on an old logging road, and it was amazing how much the landscape changed. Before I knew it, I was in country that almost looked familar. It almost looked like Colorado. I was stunned.

Then I drove back in town, and I took some pictures of the signs I've helped to install since I've been here. Some of them were really cool. The neat thing about working in a small town is that you really get to see the fruits of your labors. In Denver, I saw what I had made, but only to a small degree. Here, I see it all the time!

I also grabbed a good shot of the ship at the dock next to a bus. It really shows just how massive these cruise ships are. I'd much rather have a raft or a skiff or something. But then again, a raft doesn't come with room service.

Life so far is great here. I just wish everyone was here with me. Hence this blog is here for a reason.