Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Metallica James Hetfield and Absent Fathers

Glen Ellen, California

 You may have noticed a bump in the number of blog posts I've been logging. The fact is I'm on a three week break from school, seriously freeing up my time. However, more importantly for some reason I seem to be in some kind of creative groove and simply have a lot to say. Part of my productivity has to do with living in my house, and having a quite environment with my iMac, desk and all the things I need. Virginia Wolf wrote an essay covering this very topic called A Room of One's Own. In turn I wrote an essay on her essay. You can read my essay by clicking here. Onward.

James Hetfield compliments of Google Images
James and the Family

I have been a gigantic Metallica fan since 1984 when their second album Ride the Lightening was released during my 10th grade year in high school. I remember my buddy Jeff Britton and I saw Metallica play at the Spectrum in Philly in 1986 when they were on their Master of Puppets tour. It was so loud, heavy and just plain crazy. I loved it!

In 1997 while the XO of U.S. Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe, one of my seaman and fellow Metallica enthusiast were doing something close to nothing when we noticed a pretty blond chick backing a phat cigarette type boat down the launch ramp. Then out pops this heavily tattooed fellow, kisses the girl, jumps in the boat and takes off. You see James Hetfield ownes a house on the west shore. Well Willy and I were just beside ourselves. The rest of my tour at Lake Tahoe I was always on the look out for James while on patrol. Sadly, I would have used my Federal authority to stop him just so I could meet him. 

Fast forward to present day. Allaire is still a huge Metallica fan, but even more so my admiration and respect for James Hetfield is hitting an all time high. Metallica HQ is the bands recording studio and all around base of operations. It is located in a warehouse in San Rafael CA, in an obscure industrial section of town. Recall San Rafael is where I keep Christa and go to school at Dominican University of California. This past April I was walking along the docks of Christa's marina, which sits adjacent a strip mall when James Hetfield jumps out of a black BMW. His gait and neck tattoos so distinct. He's tough to miss. Then that same pretty blond from 1997 exited the passenger side with 3 blond kids exited with great fanfare. He was taking his kids to Karate class. They all kind of milled around the outside door, James hugging his kids and giving them encouragement while his wife fielded a cell call. I admit I was star stuck again! I nearly yelled out his name and starting running toward him. However, I didn't move. I then locked eyes with the man briefly, he recognizing that I recognized him. I smiled and nodded my head and he did the same. I am so happy that I exercised some self-discipline and didn't interrupt his family time like some chump. This gratitude became even more sharp this morning when I learned about the documentary film called ABSENT.

I've not seen the documentary yet. But, the movie chronicles the incredible wound that absentee fathers are leaving on this world. James Hetfield is a prominent feature in this movie as he describes the personal destruction that occurred when his father walked out the door leaving a note, not even for him when he was 13 years old. This is why I was so stoked that I did not do a rookie knucklehead move and interrupt his family time. I witnessed a mega rock star, incredible song writer, yet regular guy engaged in his top priority. That is what that quick nod from his was all about. A quick signal of thank you. Here is the trailer and an interview he did on Fox & Friends.

I have such great respect for my buddy John who I witnessed make very difficult choices creating serious personal turmoil for himself, all to position himself to father his daughter. The result is a gem of a young women. I also recognize how lucky I am to still have a very engaged father in my own life, even as he is engaged in his fathers life while my grandfathers heads into his late 80's. My niece also has a very engaged father and her love for him is strong. A critical component in her continued success in navigating the tumult of the teenage years. 

I think now at 44 years old, I'm ready to become a father. Weird huh? Any takers?

Capt Chris

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I've Faced Off with Breaking Surf....Just Not in a Sailboat

Glen Ellen, California

I used to be a U.S. Coast Guard Coxswain and proudly adorned the below badge upon my uniform to prove it.

Symbolism is huge in the military. What adorns the military members uniform is a walking resume, and if your hip to the culture you can read said resume. Above you can see in the center of the Coxwains Pin the Compass Rose with breaking surf Port and Starboard with crossed oars. The oars are an acknowledgment of the services origins in the U.S. Life Saving Service and or old motto of "Row or Die."Here is an old photo scooped up from the Internet of a crew ready to row or die.

The history of the U.S. Coast Guard and her predecessors is so deep and rich. Back in the day, in terms of Motor Life Boats I became a qualified coxswain on two platforms, the 44 Foot Motor Life Boat and the 30 Foot Surf Rescue Boat.

30FT Surf Rescue Boat

Below is my favorite picture of a 44 footer. I used to have a big framed poster of the this picture but lost it in one of my many moves. Shot from a helo at the National Motor Life Boat School at the mouth of the Columbia River. I graduated from the school in 1991 after a full month of bashing through surf daily.

44FT Motor Life Boat

All these memories of surf were triggered by the below sailboat. What a great video! I have to give it up for the Captain, as he squared up for each successive set of breaker. That's the only reason they survived without being rolled!

Capt Chris

PS: August 12th, 2011. The video below is one of the best video that would depict a day in the life of being in a sea going rescue service. Not to mention the sound track on the video, Home From the Sea is awesome. Please note about 3/4 the way through the video you'll see the Motor Life Boat hook up the tow. Not an easy move and a maneuver that I've practiced literally hundreds of times. Imagine doing the same move at night on a fishing vessel with all its rigging and blinding sodium deck lights. So much can go wrong but rarely does simply due to constant training. Also not the the large orange ship up swell positioned beam to the sea in an attempt to knock down the sea while the towline is hooked up. Love this video!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Environmentalism and Conservation. When Does it Go Overboard?

Glen Ellen, California,

 A couple of weeks ago I finished up an internship at the Mill Valley Library in Mill Valley California. You would think that I spent the majority of my time shelving books and what not. Oh no, this is not the case in the least. Mill Valley Library is a special place, and has a significant number of special events in the pipeline and going on. Mill Valley is an affluent community with excellent funding. I spent my internship working with the staff in planning First Friday events. The events are a celebration of all things narrative. Anything that can be construed as a narrative is open game for clearing the library on a Friday evening, supplying wine and food, then having an interesting presentation. The events usually attract from 90 to 200 local folks. Please check out the past First Friday Events by clicking here. As a Humanities student, I just love this kind of thing. The library staff is super dedicated to giving back to the taxpayers who fund the library by coordinating interesting intellectual topics. People love it!

Trip Jennings

So meet Trip Jennings. He presented a slide show and talk about the things that move him. He's 28 and pretty passionate about saving the environment. He was a National Geographic Adventurer of the year, a professional kayaker and currently is a documentary film maker. His gig is Conservation through Exploration. To save pristine wilderness areas he sets out with the best photographers in the world to capture footage and images that are so compelling, that the images themselves tell the story as to why a given area should be off limits for any type of resource extraction.

His latest film is called SPOIL, and it chronicles his successful (so far) attempt to prevent a pipeline from being built through a truly incredible rainforest in British Columbia. The pipeline would be fed by the controversial Tar Sands extracted from Alberta. A large Ocean Terminal would have to be built to move the oil to refineries around the world. Apparently Tar Sands is some pretty dirty oil, creating substantial comparative pollution released into the air during the refining process. Of course I'm not a scientist, and can't back this up. Sounds pretty dirty though.

I suppose I am an environmentalist. I've enjoyed the ocean and all her creatures. I've gone diving on tropical reefs unharmed that were nothing short of breath taking. Conversely, I've gone diving on reefs destroyed by ships anchors, water temperature changes, and just plain ole nasty harbor wash type conditions. I've backpacked through Glacier National Park and Yosemite. In short, I love all wilderness, including an urban wilderness like New York City.

I just am confused as to exactly where I come down on a person like Trip Jennings. Watching the SPOIL documentary is really inspiring. The footage and photography, the mountains, critters, animals, trees and water, are all over the top beautiful. I simply do not want to risk screwing up such a place. However, and this is huge, Trip Jennings advocates almost zero use of resources at all. His premise is that no matter what, humans will destroy the environment period. This position is untenable. He speaks with pride about how he and others like him have been successful in stopping the coal industry in its tracks. British Petroleum is the devil, they must be because they deal in oil and gas with a profit motive, another dirty word.

Trip was challenged in a Q &A regarding the telling of his story as one sided. He acknowledged that the use of petroleum and natural resources has propelled millions upon millions to lead better lives, and has pulled untold numbers out of poverty. He acknowledged he drove a car to the presentation. He simply believes his side of the story is not well documented. There is some truth to that.

The government is strangling the energy industry with practical impacts that must be acknowledged. Recently in Alabama, a state that has 30 plus percent of its population on food stamps, an owner of a coal fired power plant sat for an hour while the community lambasted him for numerous complaints, mostly environmental concerns. Likely legitimate concerns, I don't know. At the end, the owner simply said Ok, I give up. 150 people lost their jobs, and the tiny community was crushed after loosing the electricity rates they enjoyed and worse, the millions in tax revenue. When EPA forced policies make upgrades to coal fired electricity plants not worth the upgrade, the plant shuts down. Pretty straight forward. America sits on the largest coal reserves in the world. Coal plants are now mining said coal, and shipping the coal overseas to places like China. Much to Trip's chagrin a ocean tanker shipping terminal is being built literally in his back yard, on the banks of the Columbia River for this very purpose. The laws of cause and effect are right in his face, and the belching coal will still be released into the atmosphere, just in another country.

American will be suffering greatly due to policies designed to change behavior all in the name of conservation and environmentalism. The question becomes is the suffering worth it? Is it possible to find the mean between environmental protection and an individuals right to consume as much energy as they can pay for? As I stated above, I am pretty conflicted about all this. There is something so powerful about a wilderness. The same can be said for some American who can't feed his family because the job he held is gone based upon a premise that oil will spill and destroy everything, it just is a matter of time. We must have energy or were all screwed. 

What is the solution?

Much of the politics swirling around environmentalism clashes mightily with my politics, causing real intellectual turmoil for me. When asked why study the humanities, I can point to the above as a perfect example. The humanities provides such a broad spectrum of intellectual inquiry that when it comes to the decision point the issues has been analyzed in a robust fashion. Being correct is important, but not everything from the individual standpoint. When things go awry I gain substantial solace by pointing to a responsible grappling with the issue prior to. I become agitated when things go bad, and my lack of inadequite analysis contributes. Weird ah?

Here is the Documentary. The quality is top notch.

Capt Chris