Category Archives: Travelogue

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Driving west on I-40 towards Albuquerque  on my way back to Portland for THE FAMILY LAKE documentary, I saw smoke on the horizon and as I approached and passed I saw the flames.

It looked like maybe someone had thrown a cigarette from a car.

After a quick call to 911, I turned around to see if I could help.

A couple in a truck stopped in the median and pulled out a shovel to beat back the flames.  Bob and Barbara were the only other people to stop and it seemed a little odd that two vehicles with out of state plates were the only ones to start.

I stomped on the flames in my flip-flops — which are much better for driving than stomping out flames.

After emptying all the fluids I had in my car and body onto the flames, I grabbed my camera for quick snaps while I waited for my feet to cool down some more (proper shoes packed deep in back of car).

After about 30 minutes or so, we had the flames out and were chasing down smoldering spots when a couple of young men in a truck pulled up from the field with heavy blankets and helped us smother the hot spots.  Bits of shredded truck tire were the hardest bits to put out and keep out, but we got them.

Fire fighters finally arrived to check and confirm that the fire was out.

This was a little scary after driving through Fort Collins, CO last month and seeing the wildfires there.

Oh my aching feet!  Trust me, looks much worse than it hurts.


Here’s the raw, unedited footage I took before (literally) jumping back into the fire.

An unexpected detour

June 6, 2012

This afternoon, I drove north on a coastal road I hadn’t been on in over twentyfive years. I had somewhere to be, but no particular time I had to be there. As I drove, my satellite radio started playing an oddly nostalgic, to me, series of songs.

Before I had even realized it, I had taken an exit and looped back towards the water. I instantly recognized where I was and where I was going. I was headed to the place where my true life began, to a seaside village on the central coast.

Because our photo albums were lost by military movers decades ago, I haven’t even seen pictures of this place, twice my home, since I had last left.

My true life began there. It is where I found my only love and to where I fled from my former life.

I opened all the windows and the glass top of my car and let the cool bay breeze wash over me. I was flooded with emotional memories of meeting my best friend and making her my wife. I drove past the place where we had our first kiss and past the place we first did other stuff. I drove past where we had gotten married, on a hillside overlooking the bay.

I maneuvered to these places without the help of my GPS or even bothering to look at the street signs. I wondered why the way was so easy for me, after all these years and then I realized this was the geography of my dreams.

When I have my happy, fairytale dreams, they happen in a fictionalized version of this seaside village on a hill.

I drove down the street we used to walk before we managed to buy our first piece-of-shit used car. The street we walked down to the Dream Theater and Cannery Row.

I saw these places through the wistful lens of my memory, recalling the framing of the pictures I took. Pictures of places where we laughed, pictures of the place my friend worked when he came to visit us, pictures of the place where I would take my rolls of film to be developed – mentally checking the boxes on the white envelope I stuffed them in.

I drove to these places with an SUV full of film equipment. I told myself I would make an incredible home movie about the places that had evolved and those that had impossibly stayed the same. I wanted to memorialize the intense reaction I was having to being back… home.

But, as I stopped and started to extract my gear from the mass of cases that held them, I realized that I didn’t want to. I remembered my old Arabic instructor here telling me how the Bedouins believed that a photo stole their soul.

I put my equipment away and as I stepped around my car, I saw that I had stopped at a little place that deserved to have its picture taken. It is not a beautiful looking place, it is certainly no tourist attraction. But it is a place that means something to me and to the most important person in my life.

I took a quick snap of the place and felt very much at peace.

I left the seaside village and continued north – to the place where my first son was born. And further north where my younger son began.

Destiny is not an inevitability; it is a series of opportunities to act. We have had many opportunities to act in the last year and I’m glad we haven’t hesitated to do so.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back here again. And that’s okay.