Monthly Archives: August 2016

The 3 Times I Was Drawn On

I will confess from the outset: I am a Leadfoot. For those of you who have not heard this term it is a person who drives too fast. Being always late and broke does not help in this regard. Growing up in California the urge to drive faster than the other guy is rampant. On the freeway, especially in the left lane, it always seems like you are an obstacle, standing in the way of the person driving the car behind you, preventing that person from realizing the ultimate purpose of their life: passing you. This mentality is pathological and contagious.

The first time I had a gun pulled on me it was during a particularly desperate time of my life working for an outfit called Mad Science. I was a post modern science clown performing at children’s birthday parties, doing workshops at schools and driving all over the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area. It was a weekday and I had an INSANE schedule, driving all over the east side and making a final trip all the way from North East Redmond to South Seattle. The morning workshops and parties were hectic but I made them with very tight margins left for timing and it was the last demonstration. The drive from Redmond to Seattle can be beset by traffic and though it is worse now back then it seemed to be one of those days where you are in a hurry and the world decides to dial it back a notch and throw every obstacle in your way. Furthermore I had to stop and buy dry ice before doing the workshop at Zion Prep! As luck would have it, there was a QFC just a mile from the school and I had less than 15 minutes to do the 20 minute drive. So what did I do? I dropped my foot to the floor and did my best Mario Andretti impersonation. I was passing cars on the left and the right going 20 mph over the speed limit at times. I zipped, zigged and zagged trying not to piss anyone off too much and apologizing. After a few minutes of this I noticed a gold Prius keeping up with me. Then it was in front of me and clearly trying to slow me down, but my California bat-out-of-hell driving skills allowed me a way around him here and there. I exited at Rainier Ave and headed south to the QFC. The gold Prius followed me into the parking lot. My heart was pounding, but I needed that fucking dry ice for the workshop. I jumped out of my car and opened the back hatch to grab the dry ice bucket. I heard a voice say, “step away from the car.” I turned and beheld a man with a badge and his gun pointed at me. “What is going on here?”

I said, “Hey! I’m sorry. I really need to get this thing filled with dry ice for the workshop I’m teaching and I’m already late. You can write me a ticket, here are my keys.” I gave him my license, registration, insurance and the keys to my car. “I’ll be right back.” And I walked toward the QFC.

“I’m calling for back up.” He said. I walked into the store bought the dry ice walked back to the car, petrified at what was about to take place. When I got to the man he told me he was a homicide detective, that no one was responding to his back-up requests and that he didn’t have a ticket writing pad. I pleaded with him that I was just a stressed out wanna be science teacher trying to work with an impossible schedule, that I was already late, that I was really trying to be careful with my speeding… He eventually relented, much to my surprise and gave me his card. I drove to the workshop covered in sweat and probably scarred the young students for life with my scraping the bottom of the barrel enthusiasm and desperation. It could have been worse.

2016 was the bumper year of people pulling guns on me though. The homicide detective was very cautious, unstressed and steady. These next two lug nuts were anything but. I had just made about 87.5% of the trip from Seattle to Westport and was just leaving Aberdeen. I was speeding, about 15 mph over the limit when the sirens and lights popped up behind me. I pulled into a large mostly empty parking lot and the officer approached the car. I had seen the cop and immediately slowed down but didn’t know if he’d managed to capture my speed on his lidar. I rolled down the window, “How can I help you officer.”

“You were going 47 in a 35. And you your brake light is out.”

“My brake light is out?” I cried out with disapointment. “Awe man, which one?”

“Driver’s side.”

“Are you sure? Let me check.”

“Stay in the car.” He said but I had already opened the door and was out by the time he finished saying it. He had taken several steps back and was speaking in a very stressed out voice. “Get back in the car. GET BACK IN THE CAR.” My back was to him and I ignored him, went to the back hatch pulled opened it and grabbed a long wooden 1 by 1 that I’d been using to prop open the hatch since the strut had broken. I walked back to the driver seat without looking at the cop, I just totally ignored him and, from the tone of his voice, he was livid. I turned the power on without starting the car and wedged the wooden stick between the brake pedal and the drivers seat. Then I walked to the back to check the brake light because I really didn’t believe that my brake light was out. Sure enough, it was out.

“DAMN. I didn’t realize the brake light was out.” I looked at the cop for the first time since I had exited the vehicle. He was out of sorts and had both hands on his gun pointed at me. “damn” I said again and walked back to the font seat, took out the wooden stick and returned it to the back of the wagon. I then got back in the car and waited for him to write me the ticket. His hands were shaking when he handed me the ticket. I got soaked for about $180. The waves were shitty that day, too. I should have never gotten out of bed that day.

One day this year I was in a particularly bad place – in my head. I was really upset about stuff and I hated my life. I was also possibly in the midst of a manic episode replete with racing thoughts and grandiosity. It was in this condition that I tried to cross the notoriously worst road within the city limits of Seattle. The road is Rainier Ave South and this was before the recent rechannelization that has made it much safer. This was back when it had 4 lanes, two in either direction. It used to be called “The Rainier Dash” because of the lack of crosswalks in this particular section. That too is a thing of the past. Anyway, in my bad head space I tried to cross this road and in a spectacularly bad decision I decided to just walk the fuck across it without giving any head to the traffic. Fortunately there were no cars on half the road and only one car heading south as I walked westward. I made it across three lanes and the one car, a red 4 door of Asian make, passed by me very closely. I had heard the engine rev as it approached me, speeding up. Reflexively and impulsively, even though the car was just behind me, I KICKED THE CAR as it passed. I was giving no fucks that day and certainly not thinking clearly. The car then went around the block so that as I made it to the side walk corner, the man stopped. I walked to the open driver’s side window.

“What the fuck you doing?” The old man asked. “Why did you kick the car, asshole?”

“Why did you almost fucking run me over?” I looked down at the seated driver, he had his hand on a gun in his lap. It was resting on a handkerchief and looked like a .38 pointed at his door and thus at me.

“I didn’t run you over, asshole.”

“Oh, I see. You have a gun. Go ahead mother fucker. Shoot me. Go on, pull the fucking trigger. C’mon, I’m not afraid to die. Do it. Shoot me.” I yelled something to that effect. He looked at me like I was crazy and drove away. Psychotic episodes are no fun for anyone.

Falling from a Great Height

Desperation or Desire? Which is the great motivator of our times? Fear or Apathy? Which the most common human characteristic?

Whichever it might have been that drove me to drive myself the few hours from Santa Cruz to Hopland, California at the turn of the millennium succeeded in giving me purpose beyond what I had hoped for and opportunity more than I had prepared for and another near death experience the likes of which could only be popular in a brief 1970’s police procedural scene, just to break the monotony.

The class was on the basics of photovoltaic system installation.  Very simply installing the solar panels connecting to an inverter and tying into the grid. There was also material on battery backup systems and the all important first step of assessing your electrical consumption. The class was worth far more to me than the paltry workshop fee. The instructor, Michael Hacklemann was both wide and deep in his knowledge of all things electrical. His particular expertise was in wind machines especially the old Jacobsen wind machines from the turn of the last century that he had scoured the midwest for back in the day. He had fascinating stories and useful insight. After the workshop I waited until the other students were finished asking him questions and I walked with him out to his truck, that he had borrowed from a friend. We spoke of the raw deal that Nikolai Tesla had received at the hands of Edison. I asked if he had any connections in Santa Cruz and he gave me a lead which lead to my next job installing pv systems in residential homes.

The battery was dead in his borrowed truck so I helped him with a jump start and off he went. I was ELATED with the prospect of a connection to someone where I lived installing PV systems, I was on the proverbial cloud 9. Hopping back in my 90s Subaru legacy I sped south on the winding road. I had been driving for less than an hour when in a particularly curvy section of the road something happened. I was in the left lane doing about 65 or 70 mph. There was a car in front of me in the right lane and a truck pulling a half-truck or truck-bed trailer in the right lane behind me. The road curved to the right and as we came around the curve – suddenly – there was a large conglomeration of objects in my lane. It was an enormous florescent neoprene covered truck tire inner tube type thing that gets pulled behind a speed boat for recreational purposes and two bicycles all roped together. Well I made a very sudden turn to the right and hit the fucker with my left front tire, got sideways on the two right tires (the two left tires were now off the ground), turned the wheel a touch and went back on the ground into a 4 wheel slide. I managed to float between the two vehicles in the right lane and bounce once off of the guard rail before coming to a stop. I got out of the car, very shaken. Both cars in the right lane had pulled over and the guy in the truck with the truck-bed trailer got out of his car and walked toward me quickly slapping his hand on his heart. He said, “Oh my God! I thought for sure you were going to flip over. Holy Shit, man! You were completely sideways! I saw the whole thing.” I was shaking while collecting the contact information of the two cars. The inner-tube/bicycle wreckage was back less than a quarter mile. I pulled some plastic shielding from the bottom of the car and the only serious dammage was to the right headlight and tail light. The car started and seemed to run, there was no leaking fluids. I did some roadside maintenance to ensure that nothing was going to fall off. The other cars left and I walked back up 101 to fetch the remains of the bicycles and inner tube. When I reached them I decided to leave the inner tube and take the bikes. Maybe I could sell them for parts, it didn’t occur to me to use them to track down the owner. So i dragged the stuff off of the highway, left the inner tube on the shoulder and brought the bikes, or what was left of them, back to my wagon. I opened the back hatch and was stuffing the bikes into my car when a truck pulled up behind me. A man and a woman got out and I asked them, “Did you, perchance, lose a couple of bikes and an inner tube because they damn near killed me?”

Do your inner energy nerd a favor and buy, read, click, review or whatnot Michael Hackleman’s books at

Powells Bookstore


My Brother and the Bull Elk

When a quad of city boys, suburban hands, of an age within two and a half to three and a half decades, gather together at a campsite just outside of shelter cove drinking whiskey and pondering the universe, their locus in it; When this happens, they begin to take turns composing the tale of Whiskey Dick – the dumpster diving, dive bar frequenting, freight train jumping, down on his luck, anti-antihero, cantankerous lech and all around good-ole-boy.

Three were brothers, Mucky, Lucky, and Jolly. The fourth, Brunt, was a good friend. That they did, passing around the journal upon which each took a turn crafting a tale so far fetched and unbelievable that it’s origin’s must be in the truth. The whiskey bottle was passed also, though in the opposite direction. The tale was spun by turns, replete with laughter, and lost to the vagaries of time. The next morning they stopped by the visitor’s center to listen to the sage advice of the docent. “This is Elke mating season. You will probably come across lone male elk, there’s about one in each ravine. When two of these Elke come in contact, they will fight – charge each other and butt heads. Give them lots of space and do not look them in the eyes. If you look into their eyes, they will take that as a challenge and may charge you. Remember, this is their home and you are just visiting, please give them space and be careful.” Well it turns out one of the boys missed the docent’s sage wisdom because he was taking a piss.

The Sinkyone Wilderness, south of Shelter cove climbs from sea level to 2000 feet over and over again as these rugged mountains dive into the mighty Pacific. It is no wonder that this place is called the Lost Coast. The main highway skirts eastward around the Humbolt Redwoods State Park, various private properties and King Range National Conservation Area (home to innumerable heavily armed dope growers). Another warning from the docent was to not head north into the King Range unless you were fixin’ to get shot by a pot farmer or die on the high tide, stuck beneath the cliffs as a few tourists do every year.

They headed south, their main objective: visit Sally Bell Grove to give thanks and remembrance to the indigenous heroine of the Lost Coast, of the Sinkyone Wilderness. They planned to walk south and then head back north again. They gave themselves 3 nights to find the center of the protected old growth, relic of thousands of years, testament to human destruction and remnant of what could have been. On the first night they set up camp very near the beach at Bear Harbor. Brunt and Mucky went up stream a ways to filter some water for cooking their dinner. About a quarter of a mile up the trail they encountered two bull elke on either side of the trail. The two elk squared off and charged each other smacking head and antler in a cosmic collision. Brunt and Mucky stopped and marveled at the two elke, carefully heading the docent’s advice. They waited. A few minutes passed and the elk collided again. The site of the collision was right in the middle of the trail. The two water fetchers were perplexed. The stream was further up the trail and without wading through stinging nettle and poison oak there was no access except where the trail crossed up ahead. So they waited and marveled at this fantastic sight. The bull elk bugled and foraged, still on either side of the trail. The rut was on and would be for at least another month. Brunt and Mucky waited; silent, observant and fearful. Jolly came loping up the trail, saw the two waiting and asked, “What’s up guys.” They explained the situation. “What?!” Jolly said, incredulous, “We need to get dinner started.” He picked up some stones and started throwing them at the Elk. He also started yelling at them to move along the trail. They looked up and for a moment, just a fraction of a moment really, Brunt and Mucky were certain the elk were going to charge and skewer the youngest brother. The elk raised their heads and directed their gaze at the loud, obnoxious bellowing human throwing stones which landed not on them but near them. The stones were carefully aimed. The tense moment passed and the two elk sauntered off into the forest away from the trail. Human bravado, stupidity, innocent meanness and impatience can never be underestimated. After all, what was the hurry? Regardless of what could have been they were able to get to the stream and filter the tainted water that had been poisoned by years of deforestation and underground fuel storage. Brunt and Mucky felt a mixture of WTF? and Why Didn’t We Just Do That? Jolly had made them look both foolish and patient. Jolly had missed the docent’s talk and had little regard for them sovereignty of the Elke. He thought he was helping and yet…

The next day they made a couple of 2000 ft. ascents and descents. They made a break from the costal trail in search of Sally Bell Grove, were assaulted by poison oak and stinging nettle (navigation was all done with USGS topo-maps, so long ago was it). When they found the grove they noticed tiny colorful bags of tobacco hanging from the old growth redwoods. They sang some rounds inside of a tree and felt relief at achieving their purpose.