A death in the neighborhood

wayne's trailer

An RV caught fire in our neighborhood Sunday morning around 3:30, killing the occupant. The trailer was part of a small group of people camped out along the park across the street. The fire investigator says it looks accidental on its face, and the occupant died trying to get out.

This particular block has had RV and car camping for a while now. There are a few regulars who come and go, spacing out their visits. This trailer and its owner, Wayne, were a pretty regular feature for months.

Wayne had a couple of webcams on improvised masts, and some of the folks sleeping in cars and vans around his rig said it helped them feel safer because everyone knew someone was watching. I get the impression he was something of a local resource: People came to him when they were in distress and he’d briefly put them up or support them. We think he may have been involved in a scuffle with an abuser when he got between the guy and his wife. My son saw the abuser handcuffed on the sidewalk in front of the house while my wife and I were away yesterday, and the incident fueled (unsubstantiated) rumors that someone had firebombed the trailer.

I only talked to him twice. He came over to tell me he’d spotted people scoping out the trailer I’ve got in my driveway and had confronted them. One time, when someone had come through with a huge load of trashy stuff he reassured me they were going to be moving on soon (and they were gone that night). My wife and son talked to him a few times more. He recently told us he had a stroke, and when I saw him outside his trailer his arm was dangling and he was limping.

My wife woke me up last night about 3:30 after hearing a group of teenagers pounding on doors to alert neighbors of the fire, and we stood watching the trailer burn. Flames went 10 or 15 feet into the air. I thought briefly about going over, but had seen propane tanks around his trailer in the past, and it was engulfed by the time I knew what was going on. The fire department arrived and it took a while to put it out. The flames kept popping back up. After an hour or so, they went into the trailer and found Wayne, who’d been trying to get out when they found him. My wife watched them carry his body away.

Sunday morning, first thing, the vultures turned up. We could hear people cutting up Wayne’s two cars for their catalytic converters. We saw people trying to jimmy the doors, then heard an alarm go off when they succeeded. One person told us Wayne had sold him the cars so it was fine for him to cut them to bits on the street. The police told us they couldn’t do anything since “technically there’s not an owner now,” even though one of the folks camped in the area said he has a daughter. They’ve performed similarly convenient readings of the law around the noise ordinance, which goes down great after sitting on the non-emergency line on hold for 75 minutes.

As the day progressed, a sense of agitation and tension grew. Someone spray-painted the burned out trailer, and more people were around picking through things, and stripping the cars for parts. What had been a relatively quiet situation has flipped over to even more strangers coming around.

A neighbor from around the block came over later in the morning. She told us about how she and her husband had asked some RV campers to move on because their generator was too loud to bear, and ran day and night. Those folks drove around the corner and had parked in front of our house for a while, agreeing to stop running the generator after 10 p.m. when my wife asked, and then leaving when she told them it was just too loud. They left a non-operating car they’re wrenching on late into the evening, now.

Our neighbor says other folks are beginning to get impatient, so we’ll probably get together with people who have spoken up with each other and talk things through. One of our other neighbors is apparently losing his shit and shouting at people who sleep in the park. Others are talking about moving because, while the park itself is free of camping, the streets around it are home to a constantly changing crew of RVs, vans, cars, and occasionally tents pitched right against them.

When we’ve talked about the situation, we’ve almost felt lucky: The people parking on our block have been relatively quiet. There was some high drama earlier in the year, but the people who brought that were run off by the more permanent RV/car residents … shouted down the street and out of the neighborhood at two in the morning. One other guy took a leak on the street in front of my wife, and he was gone the next day. The people we’ve talked to have kept to themselves, some coming and going two and three days at a time, maybe on a rotation to keep from wearing out their welcome. We haven’t had the needle or feces dumps I’ve heard about elsewhere.

Today PBOT came out and wrapped Wayne’s burned out trailer in cellophane and said they’ll be moving it. They’re also sending a street response team, since some of the folks who were camped out around Wayne’s trailer are saying they want help getting off the streets. Al is going to talk to the DV victim Wayne was helping to see if she can help her find shelter of some kind.

I have a lot more thoughts, but not a lot of interest in writing them down right now.

I just remember watching Wayne’s trailer burn, and a photographer (I’m guessing from the Oregonian) come and go, then reading the “coverage,” then watching the things Wayne left behind picked over and carried off by thieves, and I thought that unlike every other story I’ve read about camp fires or deaths, I knew a thing about this person and what he was to the people around him, so I could write it down, and have.

Cool Alone


I just finished reading Pema Chödrön’s _When Things Fall Apart_ and recommend it to people who think about mindful acceptance.

I love this sentiment, which echoes a book about Enneagram I’ve been working through that talks a lot about the personality as an overlay on our essential self:

As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.

One of the core ideas of When Things Fall Apart is that of how to be alone. She talks about “cool” and “hot” loneliness in this excerpt:

Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

maintain 5:30 a.m. waking time on a Sunday ✅
remember to use Libby and reserve ebooks I briefly considered buying ✅
fix Ben’s toilet ✅
fix Ben’s bathroom door ✅
put a motion detector in the bathroom where everyone leaves the lights on ✅
put the front porch lights on dusk/dawn sensor ✅
get rid of the terrible smart lock on the front door, replace with dumb keypad ✅
fiiiiinally replace that burned out oven hood light ✅

… and Al goes back to work tomorrow after seven months off.

The one thing I didn’t get figured out this weekend is getting a smart switch installed for the living room. We’ve got a three-switch panel, with one of the switches turning an outlet on and off (I’m guessing that’s for a lamp), but we don’t touch it because there’s a Hue switch next to it. I found a cool “build your own panel” kit that would let me mix and match faders and switches, and just put a blank in place for that needless switch, but they were missing the color I needed.

Next weekend.

Early riser tips skimmed from a collection of articles

  1. Consistent rising time is more important than consistent bedtime, which sorts itself out.
  2. More protein, fewer carbs for breakfast.
  3. Bright lights right away.
  4. Build in time doing something you want to do right away in the morning.
  5. Naps kill.
  6. Smart alarm apps like Sleep Cycle work better than snooze buttons.
  7. Consider changing your rising time in 15 minute increments.

Anyone else have favorite techniques?

“When you’re looking inward, don’t ask yourself ‘Why?’ Ask yourself ‘What?’”


9, 23, 25, 26, 29, 33, 35, 39 & 46

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. — Psalm 90:10

There is no safety in the threefold world; it is like a burning house, replete with a multitude of sufferings, truly to be feared, constantly beset with the griefs and pains of birth, old age, sickness and death, which are like fires raging fiercely and without cease. — The Lotus Sutra


When I was nine years old, I borrowed a collection of Star Trek stories from my dad. It included this one, wherein William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly all end up in the 23rd century owing to some sort of freak transporter accident.

That was a pretty exciting premise to me. Since I knew that I was living in the 20th century and that Star Trek was happening in the 23rd century, I could do the math to figure out how long I had to wait to see it all for myself.

23rd century - 20th century = 3 centuries, pretty much.

So if it was 1977, then I was looking at having to wait around until 2277. I grabbed dad’s Commodore calculator (it looked like this) to help with the next part:

2277 - 1968 = 309 years.

So, dad being in seminary at the time and our family being church-going anyhow, I had some idea that some people lasted a pretty long time. Methuselah had a pretty good run. Hadn’t Noah made it to 900? Needed to check with mom, though.

Yes, she explained, people in the Bible lived a long time, “but we get threescore and ten years now.”

I knew how much a score was because Abraham Lincoln was my hero.

So …

1968 + (20 * 3) + 10 = 2038

and 2277 - 2038 = not even close, really.

Further away from now than last year’s bicentennial had been from the first Independence Day.

I just wasn’t going to make it.


My favorite grandfather is dying of a brain tumor. Mom goes down to Texas, hoping to make things right, but all she does is get in the way of the t.v.


I don’t think what I experienced was a “death trip,” exactly. I just remember that things got pretty morbid some time around dawn. I was in the tv room at the house in Indianapolis, looking out at the parking lot behind the back yard. Cody and Kevin and Bill were riding bikes in the morning fog, gliding in and out of view.


Hudson was so stupid and inept. They made him my buddy and told me if he didn’t make it out of basic, it’d be my fault.

The last week, we were out in the field under a tree. It was raining and Hudson had fucked something up and all he could do was cry. All I could do was put my arm around him and tell him it’d be fine.


Jump school seemed like a good idea. It never really occurred to me to feel frightened during the day, but every night I dreamed of falling and falling with no parachute. My subconscious mixed it up by letting me ride a mattress into the dirt one night.


The team’s up on the Richmond site outside of Taejon. It’s an old building behind a gate. We’ve put up the mast and we’re on the network. The team chief asks us what we’d do if the balloon went up. Oh … I know this one:

“We take our defensive positions and the one on radio watch burns the SOI and takes an axe to the COMSEC gear, then we all defend the site.”

The team chief says, “you do that. I’m gonna run my ass down the hill before it gets shot off. They won’t bother with soldiers anyhow. They’ll just dial us in and light us up.”


I arrive at Ft. Bragg the week a major in my brigade had a bad landing, broke his leg and the bone severed an artery. He bled out on the drop zone before anyone could find him and help him. I don’t know if he knew what was happening.


That last nine months I was on jump status, I was pretty sure each jump was going to kill me. If you could be on jump status, though, you were supposed to be on jump status. That’s how it was. The sergeant major would cut your wings off your chest in front of everybody otherwise.


They aspirated a lump in my throat on a Wednesday, the doctor fucked off on vacation before the labs came back on Thursday, and nobody would tell me anything until the next Tuesday.

It was fine.


Ben. He stirs some things up.


“I mean,” says my friend, “FORTY. Aren’t you freaking out?”

“I just don’t, I guess.”

It wasn’t a question for me though, was it? In retrospect, I regret the answer.


Here we are.

I still don’t.

Some days, I feel naive or clueless and I think to myself that I might be wrong, and that I might be giving the wrong answer on a cosmic test.

Some days I think, “you’ve taken advantage of a number of opportunities to consider it.”

Mostly I think we’re born in a house that’s on fire, and there’ll be a moment between flame and ash.

We’ll need to have been kind.