Saturday, January 11, 2014


This post may not be appropriate for youngn's.  For others it may just be TMI.

In the heart of last summer Doom and I punted work and went on a paddling roadtrip.

It was my first real experience with chasing runoff, and I still have a lot to learn.  Our initial objective was the Chetco, but the flows fell out days before we could get there.  We shuffled the deck and came up with the Jarbidge/Bruneau, but flows dropped out there too.  An evening of motivated gauge-checking and mapquesting revealed that almost everywhere within reasonable driving distance was drying out or already done.

We rallied and came up with plan D-and-a-half: Straight Canyon in The Swell, Northgate Canyon in Wyotucky, and the Poudre near Fort Collins.  Along the way we poked our noses into a handful of other Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado creeks, only to find them either too low or too choked with wood to bother blowing up for.

We executed our trip dirtbag style, eating out of a cooler and camping on public lands for the week+ we were out.  Traveling with only one vehicle meant that we ran our shuttles by hiking and/or biking them.

Since it was the height of summer, we couldn't step out of a boat, onto a bank, or even out of a sleeping bag without being accosted by riotous, colorful, fragrant flora.  Daytime temps were in the low 80's, nighttime in the low 40's.  The Colorado Plateau is hard to beat in June.

All in all, there is nothing remarkable about the above story, it was just a great week spent with a great friend boating, testing boats, and learning about both as we went.

The story becomes remarkable, at least to me, on our last night out.  We found a campsite on national forest, started to unpack cook gear and wound up, seconds later, face to face with an irrational, implacable, gun-pointing human.  He wasn't stoned, wasn't drunk, merely (so it seems with months of hindsight) wanted someone to vent his confusion, anger, and frustration onto.  And maybe someone to put him out of his misery.  Ever heard of 'suicide by cop'?  My $.06 is that he chose Doom and I, at random, to put him out of his misery.  Suicide by dude.

That didn't happen.  After a blindingly tense 5 (10? 30?) minutes, he left the way he'd come, seemingly disappointed that no one was going to kill, or be killed.  Those moments were inarguably the most intense of my lifetime thus far.  There was nothing casual about staring at a loaded .45 and listening to the man pointing it confabulate so as to make, at best, partial sense.  I confess that once I understood there was no reasoning with this person I was beyond scared.  I was frozen.  Not being the one in control of a horrible situation tends to have that result.  I've never done well under pressure.

In the end he was arrested that night, charged with and convicted of a felony, and months later received a slap on the wrist in the form of community-service-as-sentence.  He never acknowledged any wrongdoing, denied having accosted us, refused to admit that the .45, found in his vehicle during the arrest and positively ID'ed by Doom and I, was his.

I can't speak for Doom, but I didn't get off so easily.  The term 'my life flashed before my eyes' doesn't describe what happened in my brain while frozen with fear that night, but I do remember thinking that this, as they say, was probably 'it'.  I couldn't see any way out, until somehow our assailant lost interest and left of his own volition.

Our trip ended the next day with Doom and I returning to our everyday lives.

In the wake of that night I found myself questioning every aspect of my life, where I was in it, with whom I was spending my time, what the general direction seemed to be.  When my then-spouse returned from her vacation days later and heard the story, she understood on some level that I was shaken and uncertain.  When she pressed for details I could only repeat that I was questioning pretty much everything.  After a very short pause she said that she understood.  Oh, and would I mind living somewhere else while I 'figured things out'?

That I did.  A cursory reading of what I've written in this space the last few months might be enough for most people to fill in the blanks of what has happened since.  Moved out.  Brooded.  Asked hard questions.  Waited for answers.  Asked more questions.  Actively searched for those answers.  Over and over.

The space in my life, head, heart made vacant by the dissolution of that relationship made possible the beginning of a new one.  I cannot think of words (am not entirely sure that such words exist) to adequately express how fortunate I am to have Jeny in my life.  I may well be the luckiest man alive.

Looking back on those tenuous few months this summer isn't easy.  I had to admit and accept that I didn't like where I was in my life, whom I was with, nor where we were heading.  Above all I didn't like that we'd been stuck there for years, neither doing anything concrete to improve the situation.  It is easy to see, now, that we'd reached an impasse and there was simply nowhere left for us to go together.

I am grateful that Doom and I received our reckoning where, when, and how we did.  A few minutes of terror seems a small price to pay to gain the perspective that life is too short to live an unhappy compromise that pleases no one.  I don't believe that jail time would help our assailant in the least--I merely wish him some measure of mental health, stability if you will.

The photos embedded within this post may seem inappropriate to or disconnected from the summation I've written here.  Ditto with the video below.  I get that--from your perspective.  There is no way for me to separate any of it out--even the lyrics to the song are inextricably entwined with the emotions surrounding the events of that night, and the way my life has unfolded since.

Thanks for checking in.