Monday, June 11, 2012


It’s not every day that you almost, or do in fact get evacuated from your home because of a raging fire in the hood. No, wait, it happens to me all the time.  To me, that is. Yeah, that’s right. I have been where I am currently for 12 years. The chimney on top of my house was blown up/exploded by lightning not long after we moved in, maybe a welcome shot perfectly aimed, and then several fires have come within striking range over those dirty, dozen years. One time we were in fact evacuated, later investigated, and also given breakfast burritos at the local fire station. It was a very suspicious ignition on that one, but not really much of a fire even if my ‘interview’ did make 9 (4?) news in Denver. By the way, if I had wanted to burn my house down for the insurance $, I would have done plenty better than that. Evacuating my clan is no small chore either. Lots of loose ends on my land.


However, as I sit here and type this now, I say that all of my other, earlier and previous fire experiences all ‘pale’ in comparison with this one we have had here over the last few days in Northern Colorado, and that would even include the huge Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara in 1990 that took a whole lot of homes down to the ground right near me, and it almost got my house. My wife (then) could see the flames from our bungalow in Santa Barbara, and, jerk that I was (am), I was off playing lacrosse, in Vail Colorado of all places, at the time. Meanwhile Donna (wife) was living the West Coast Horror show flambe’ and she was out there spraying water on the roof with a garden hose. Yeah, that’ll help. NOT! I’m not sure she ever forgave me for not being there for that one.


If this all is not enough evidence that my karma or lack thereof, attracts fires and other large scale disasters like a magnet attracts refrigerator doors, I point only to the floodslides in California back in ’95 when I was living the ‘life is a beach’ life in California. Oh, that would be 1995 by the way. The whole side of the hill my house was built on just slid on down and on top of my neighbor’s house below, like he didn’t hate me enough already. My house was left teetering at the top of a hill that no longer had a bottom. My 4-Runner was stranded for a month in front of my garage before I could get a crane to come and get close enough to lower it down so I would be able to actually drive around town and stuff. I had no driveway anymore you see, but I did have this swimming pool that had a motor powered retractable snug-fitting cover as and it vacuumed itself daily with a time-activated, rolling vacuum cleaner, though, so I had that going on. I could swim and take hot tubs. I could check out, but, man, I could never leave.

I had FEMA agents and government inspectors crawling around my place for a year after those ‘El Nino’ storms were done doing their damage that winter.

HACE MUCHO VIENTO (killer winds)

I now live on top of a ridge overlooking Fort Collins. The views are great, spectacular one might say, and in this case last evening, so was my vision of the raging uncontained inferno coming down and headed for us from somewhere higher up in the mountains. Could I see the flames? No, not exactly, but the ‘bottom’ of the sky looked like it was totally on fire and not very far to the north of my homestead either. There was this one gigantic, billowy, white smoke cloud that was moving slowly as a single mass with its flaming underbelly, and meanwhile the winds were audibly howling up here on ‘Naumburg’s Mountain’. If the ‘breezes’ would have decided to take a small right turn and head ever so slightly south, we’d have been screwed. The sun setting at the time seemed to almost make the firelight appear even brighter as darkness began to settle over the plains. Somehow it (fireball cloud) never did come right toward us, but every single residence of any kind that is west of my house here in Fort Collins was evacuated last night, and we were at the ready, too.  This wildfire, by all recent reports, still is not contained at all, and you have to pass a state patrol checkpoint to get to my house right now, late Monday afternoon.


I got the ‘ready to get ready’ (evacuate) call from a neighbor while it was still light yesterday. Hellfire was upon us. It looked like Armageddon, but after the year I’ve had, nothing seemed that urgent or undoable. I didn’t feel those feelings that accompany fear because I had none. My young sons were right next to me and that was all that really mattered. Anyway, everything sort of just froze for me at that point and for a while. People were calling me, curious and or offering help, but since my phone ‘broke’ the other day I am pretty much clueless as to who was behind the caller ID on my new cell (same number) because I don’t have them (people I know) in my new iphone 3 yet, so I am there last night answering text messages with something like, “who the hell is this?” or whatever. I do now know, but until recently I did not even have number knowledge of current wife Ada’s phone. It was always just a button to push if I wanted to pursue the endeavor to hear the sound of her voice.


My family members started to make a pile of stuff in ‘the lobby’ of our house. Verbal family agreements were constructed concerning prioritizing anything breathing, from chi weenie dog to chickens, and the tortoises, too. Personally the rooster can rot in you know where for all I care, but I suppose he would have come, too. As for Jordan, the go-cart was the only thing that mattered, but at 12 I was not about to let him drive away from a domestic inferno in a go cart. One jumps, then we all jump, together. That’s what families do.

FEED ME! (Man-eating Plant talking to Seymour in “The Little Shop of Horrors”)

We took all the photo albums and put them in plastic boxes stacked. After that it was interesting to see what ‘people’ (my family) choose to put in their arms as they run out of the proverbial burning building. No surprise at all that X-Box made the final kid cut. Me? I went right for all the CSU lacrosse ‘trophy’ case stuff, and there it all sits right now, together, as one, like a family, and ready for its next place I guess. Reinventing never stops I suppose, but all I know for sure and from experience is that infernos are very demanding creatures, and that a fire has its own life with its own agenda, and it can change things quite quickly in very powerful ways. That emergency call or ‘knock on the door’ has still not come. Birds are starting to return. I think we made it, this time.

BACK TO THE BU (turn the page)

By the way, I got in trouble and was ‘almost dismissed’? while coaching at Pepperdine for angrily hollering the words at the top of my lungs, “I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE”, etc. etc.  at the lacrosse team I was coaching because they (team) were perhaps not living up to my ‘expectations’ for that moment. Too funny. They probably could hear me all the way over in the San Fernando  Valley that day, but at any volume someone near to that 50-foot cross planted up there on the Pepperdine Hill heard it and was not too pleased. They couldn’t quite can me, at least partly because even though we were just a club, we Pepperdiners had just beaten UCLA in lacrosse for the first time in ‘history’, and around a campus that had only 2400 students, beating the much bigger UCLA Bruin clan at anything was huge. We got some love from Pepper people in general, and a local TV station did a feature on us as “The Little Team that Could”. Our victories grew in numbers, and one of my assistant coaches at the time seemingly had a Malibu pipeline thing going and he knew ‘everybody’ because they came in his little Cafe Malibu there on PCH. No kidding, it was the Cafe Malibu, and all the stars went there because the food was great and my friend made sure  that the little people didn’t bother or shoot for all the stars that dropped in to eat with no makeup on. By my just stopping there one day by happenstance sort of changed my lacrosse life at the time, but that is another story. That Hollywood element made things pretty much fun, too.  You know, all the really big Hollywood stars actually live there in Malibu, and people like me commute TO Malibu. We (all 12 of us or whatever that were Pepperdine Lacrosse:)) were on NBC’s (?) original ‘Entertainment Tonight’ (now known only as “ET”) with Mary Hart and John Tesh. We were on national television because the very famous NBC network prime time TV ‘Coach’ at the time, Craig T. Nelson donated $2500 to our budding lacrosse program and he came out to a practice and a game to fool around with us. Who knew at the time that Tesh could even play any kind of musical keyboard, but he was from Long Island and he let us know that he had seen lacrosse before. Oh, wow, a big LOL. Thanks Tom Campi, for all that, speaking of Long Island and Malibu in the same paragraph.

IT FELT LIKE WILL HIMSELF WOULD RETURN ANY MINUTE (even though he had been gone more than 60 years).

I was once paid way too much money and two very nice buffets to be “head Lacrosse Wrangler” for a Japanese production of some kind of Pepsi commercial they filmed at the Will Rogers Ranch/State Park in, you got it, Malibu. They wanted me to help these really tall and beautiful, young male and female Japanese models that were all dressed in totally white outfits to look lacrosse-like while ‘gayly’ running around with lacrosse sticks, which the Japanese production company, of course, provided. They gave me a check as I left. Are you kidding me?!

“YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!” (John McEnroe, more than once)

During the couple of years I was around Pepperdine, and you had to drive through a guarded checkpoint booth just to get on to the campus, I saw people like John McEnroe and Chris Evert practicing tennis on campus courts. The baseball team incredibly won the Division I National Championship (look it up) in spite of the fact that the College World Series was played in Omaha, Nebraska. We could watch them almost every day as we practiced lax on the next level above where they played. The home ‘baseball field’ at Pepperdine always reminded me of a junior-sized version of Dodger Stadium (Still one of my favorite MLB parks), only the one at Pepperdine has an unrestricted and panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.


The tennis teams were great, men and women, and they probably still are. What a rivalry that must be for those two So Cal schools (UCLA/Pep). The Pepperdine Men’s volleyball team was formidable at the time, too, and that was during the Karch Kiraly era of that sport when it (men’s volleyball) was pretty huge. I think the basketball team made the NCAA tournament ‘wave’ one of my two years there, too. The NBA has had players from Pepperdine.


At the time it amazed me that Pepperdine had so much going on with its seven total (at the time anyway) Division I sports, men and women, in a school basically no bigger than tiny Colorado College (my alma mater) and probably twice as expensive, but this was before Princeton started winning NCAA Lacrosse National Championships with almost monotonous regularity later in the 90’s and beyond, and now, as we know, nothing is impossible and impossible is nothing in terms of smaller schools doing really big things. It was still a handful of years before I even knew I actually wanted to become Bill Tierney.