Canuck rules

Let’s get one thing out of the way right at the top.

Canuck walked his talk.

Not only did he spank us, he broke 1:30 driving the Camaro. He had a 1:29:6xx or something. Nobody was even close. Ceegar was second in his TransAm Mustang with a new personal best of 1:31:6xx, but that was two full seconds behind Canuck.

In this game, a two second gap is huge, even though a lap takes just over minute and a half. Or less than a minute and a half, if you’re Canuck. Let’s give credit where credit’s due. He was leading the pack.

That was on Friday, and the only cars that could have come close, the three big block Corvettes, were all broken. Beater busted his transmission in the morning qualifying session. His mechanic took the blame, he’d put it together. But had another one installed by dinner time and Beater will run on Saturday.

Cowboy came off the track early. There was a vibration he didn’t like, and it persisted in the pits when he revved the motor. It didn’t take long before Mule, his mechanic, had the valve covers off and found the problem. The rocker for the intake valve on the number 7 cylinder was lying on its side on the head casing. Both bolts holding it in place had come out and were lying by valves nearby.

“I torqued every one of those!” Mule said. A torque wrench was found and all the other bolts checked out. Mule went looking for an underlying problem.

Merlin was bent over my engine. In the morning session the motor backfired, lost power, gained a little power, backfired again. It wasn’t happy. After leaning out the carb and putting in a missing rivet for the exhaust pipe, Merlin said to run it and ignore the backfire. Jakester, my crew chief, even reminded me on pregrid that Merlin said to ignore the backfire.

So I did,  I ran it as hard as I could until I just couldn’t stand it any more. She was still mostly willing, but I knew something was wrong. The backfires weren’t clearing up and if anything, were getting worse. She felt like she was walking in sand, not dancing light and eager as she usually does.  I came off the track.

If you want to find fault with me for personifying a machine, go ahead. I was told more than once by a woman I dated for a while that my romantic point of view bordered on the delusional. She was convinced her cynicism contained far fewer illusions. I said reality, as she viewed it, was highly overrated.

Of course, she thought that was a perfect example of why she was right and I was wrong. I said something about a self-fulfilling fallacy and walked out the door.

Merlin found water in the distributor cap. After determining there was no water in the oil, and no oil in the water, and that the motor still had compression, he traced it to a pinhole leak in the gasket between the intake manifold and the head. He immediately took the blame.

He pulled the intake off and found a gasket either in my parts box or his (he usually orders two to have spares), cuts parts out of my old gasket to make a better seal, and put it all back together again.

While he was working, he overheard Mule and Cowboy talking about having no compression in the cylinder where the rocker had come off. Major damage. Cowboy was getting ready to pack up and go home.

I was saying something not too important when Merlin interrupted me and called over to Cowboy and Mule: “If the rocker is off you won’t have any compression. The valve can’t open to let air into the cylinder to be compressed.”

“Sheesh, he’s right. I never thought about that,” said Mule.

A little more back and forth, Merlin looked at the push rod they’d pulled and said they could turn it over and maybe drill out the oil port where it had gotten a little crushed.

“I’d run it,” he said. A little more discussion, and Merlin told Cowboy he’d go back to his shop after he was done with me and look for a push rod and some bolts to replace the ones that had backed out.

Cowboy was going to trailer up and drive back to Madras, Oregon, where he would pull a lesser engine out of one car to put in this car to run at Road America in two weeks. Instead, he’s racing tomorrow.

When we needed a timing light, Cowboy brought his over.

“I can lend you a timing light,” he told me, “since you lent me your mechanic.”

Merlin had been all over the paddock this day. Not only working on my car and looking at Cowboy’s, he’d come down to primarily support Ceegar. He’d fixed the jetting on a Lotus, the shift linkage on a Porsche, consulted a few others.

“It all pays off in the end,” he said.

Which was true. I’d shipped my car to Merlin in Seattle from MiddleofnowhereOregon because two years before I couldn’t get it running at the big race in Portland. It took Merlin five minutes to determine I’d been given the wrong carburetor gasket by the parts store when Shade Tree wanted to make a last minute change in the dark of my trailer when we both were in a hurry. Merlin had the right gasket somewhere, even though he wasn’t woring on big Chevy motors.

It’s not that Merlin doesn’t make mistakes. He’d failed to reset his timing light to zero a week before this race, and pretty much toasted a motor of a Mustang on the dyno. But what makes him Merlin is that last Saturday, a machine shop cleaned up the cylinders for him, parts arrived during the week and everything was back together and was ready when race day came around.

“You just take care of it,” Merlin told me. “I learned a long time ago, if you can step up for a customer and take care of things like that, you pretty much own them for life.”

Because he’s Merlin, he also pulled the plugs of my car. And that’s when we found what may have been the real problem, not that water in the distributor isn’t problem enough. Electrodes of three spark plugs on the driver’s side of the motor had been hammered nearly closed by the pistons beneath. All four of the plugs on the passenger side were fine.

“Did you take this over 7,000 rpm?” he asked me. I told him I didn’t think I did, even on my third to first shifts. So at about 8 p.m. as the sun slid behind tall Douglas Firs that surround Pacific Raceways, Merlin regapped the plugs, then indexed them, turning them just right so the pistons would leave them alone.

When we started her up, she was smoother than she’d been since I’d come to get her in Seattle.

“I could have caused the problem on the dyno, or it could have happened when you decelerated here at the track, ” he said. Pistons wobble, forces while racing are different, and we’d reduced a lot of clearances looking for more compression.

That’s what he was saying. But what I heard was a motor happier than it had been any time this weekend.

“Tomorrow we’ll tighten the half-shaft bolts,” Merlin said in the restaurant where I took him to dinner after we got done, since his wife had already made something at home. When called to tell her he was going to have a bite with me and then go to the shop to look for a pushrod  for Cowboy, she said his dog Jed was pretty freaked out by the fireworks, since Merlin wasn’t home to provide reassurance.

Fear of Goodbye

Fear so often keeps us pinned inside lives we wish were different. So often, that fear is irrational, only an echo that sets wiring of brains vibrating, certain we will be set upon by wolves if we leave the ring of firelight.

How do we not fear pain? How do we not fear loss? How do we not fear being unloved, or not-now loved, by someone we love? How do we not fear that, back in the ring of firelight, they laugh and sing and did not notice we were gone?

Fear is hard-wired into the code of who we needed to become when we descended naked and defenseless from the trees. Fear is fed to us with mother’s milk, perhaps tainted by her abandonment, maybe spoiled by angry harsh words from her own father, or corrupted by neglect from the man she married. What’s to do with it now?

Sitting, watching a rising sun paint mountains pink then gold, I see goodbye for what it wants to be, an ogre too large when wrapped in a cloak of fear, instead of what really is, just a good bye. I miss you. That’s a good thing, not to be feared.

You need to cry

When was the last time you cried? From loss, joy, relief, fear, gratitude? When was the last time you let yourself be that vulnerable?

Well, I’ll recommend it, especially on Thanksgiving. Because, I think, there is no way to really, truly give thanks without shedding a tear. Otherwise, you’re holding back. Not nearly thankful enough.

Yesterday a friend gave me a book, and I’m recommending it to you. There’s a couple of them, in fact. But first, know that these books will make you cry tears from being embraced by someone who knows, who cares, who has seen every thing you’ve been  through, and can see through you, as well. They will bring tears back to your eyes from things you’ve been hiding from yourself. That’s good.

Each was written by someone twice as smart as I ever thought I was, and twice as wise as I will ever be. Each was written by someone who may, just may, have a bit of the antidote for the toxic, inauthentic, self-absorbed yet indifferent world some of us can’t seem to find our way through. Each was written by a woman with strength that would intimidate a roomful of warriors.

Warning: these books are at times explicit, but always honest, human, literate; they will make you cry because of what the writers are not afraid to look at, not afraid to see, not afraid to feel. These books are emotional fire storms.

They will give you reason to say thanks.

“tiny beautiful things,” by Cheryl Strayed.

“Bluets,” by Maggie Nelson.


In writing Chalice, and now again researching It’s Nobody’s Fault, I stumbled across the idea of “who” we think we are. This “sense of self” actually has a home in the left hemisphere of our brain, and it basically integrates all sorts of inputs.

Dr. Michael Gazzaniga has called it the “Interpreter.” I call it “Weaver.” Three quick thoughts, then I’ll leave it alone, for now.

First, it is important to know that one of Weaver’s primary jobs is to give reasons for what is happening in our world. Weaver is constantly weaving yarns of various colors into cause and effect, weaving them to make up our “reality.” That’s what Weaver does. Weaver explains. Always. Constantly.

Secondly, the fabric Weaver creates out of all these inputs is only as good as what Weaver gets by way of information. Some of that information is bogus. Not only external information, but internal, as well. My amygdala may fire a flash of fear through the circuits, and Weaver won’t know it’s a false alarm. Weaver will know only that there has been a signal of fear. Weaver will find an explanation for that signal, usually external, because Weaver explains. Always. Constantly.

This has been called “Tigers in the grass.” We evolved to run from tigers, so we run when the grass moves, even when it is only the wind.

Finally, it is possible to catch Weaver in the act. It’s a two-step process for me. First, I recognize that my unnatural calm may be the result of the chamomile tea, nervousness might be the coffee, the twinge is from seeing a car like one driven by someone I used to know, getting up to do something may not be because it needed to be done five minutes ago, but the result of a memory that just drifted through I did not want to face.

In other words, what I think is happening, even with my own emotions, is not necessarily what is happening. It feels real, Weaver says it is real, but it might not be.

Then I sit and watch Weaver work. That gives me space. It takes a few minutes now, it used to take longer, to put Weaver in his place. He doesn’t stop weaving or explaining, because Weaver explains. Always. Constantly. But, after a few minutes, “I” am no longer being yanked around at the end of his leash.

On hearing “no.”

In hearing “no,” I think we also succumb to “what if.”
What if he/she/they had said “yes?”
Then I would be rich/validated/happy.
And would not have to feel the pain of “no” anymore.

You’re right. Those very things often go through my head. Finding happiness ourselves is easier said than done…

Easier said than done, because we’ve been taught to look in the wrong places.

“This moment” is woven, on a loom of evolved wiring, from strands of bird song, thanking me for the seed, tragic news of a typhoon and a shooting, from the zing of this morning’s coffee and lull of last night’s chamomile, the slight pain of a sprain from yesterday’s run, echos of childhood loss, all etc.

Our brain does this weaving, always, but often with yarn that is too thin, of the wrong dye, sometimes of the wrong wool. But weave it does, constantly, because it is Weaver, and the cloth is “me.”

To protect us, Weaver learned to double the knots of fear and pain, to twice the count of hoped-for gain, even when loss is of something only imagined. So “NOs,” when they come, pack twice the wallop as the “Maybe?” pushed across the table by Weaver, with a shy smile.

The trick?  You’ve said it so many times: Be real, let go of the knots, be kind, breathe, do what you love and for the right reasons, be honest, have faith. Repeat. It’s not easy getting past Weaver to the barrels of yarn. In fact, it’s damn hard, because Weaver weaves even that effort into patterns it already knows. But, it can be done.

The new book

Some progress has been made on the new book. But, oh boy, is it slow.

Some of the difficulty is what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance,” a force field of repellant energy pushing me away from my computer, from the books I need to do research, from the task at hand. It is powerful, and incessant. And some of the difficulty is because “It’s Nobody’s Fault” is hard work. Period.

There are four parts in this book. Yesterday I roughed in key information for the third part that looks at the science of attachment disorders, from about 1940 to today. “Science” requires both a theory, and evidence for that theory that is reproducible.

Bringing science to psychology has not been easy, because the evidence is hard to sift. Minds are not brains, and behaviors are not neurons. But they are all related, and nailing down those relationships is difficult. Not only are some things hard to observe, but, like quarks, their existence has to be inferred, because they can not be seen, at least not with the eyes we use to look at the dog, or the computer screen.

When we look at the computer screen, what do we see? Are we seeing glass and plastic and aluminum? Are we seeing pixels turning on and off? Are we seeing words and images? Are we seeing psychology and philosophy?

Are we seeing all of these at the same time? And if so, what system of language can we use to describe the entire vision?

This, you see, is why it is slow going.


Living inside it

The research for “It’s Nobody’s Fault” kicks over a lot of rocks. While I really dislike it when somebody says with the best of intent, “It sounds like you are working through a lot of issues,” there is truth to that. Still, most of my life has been intensely private. It is horribly uncomfortable putting any of this out there.

But my goal is not personal. The goal is to provide a key for those with Adult Attachment Disorder, or those in a relationship with that person, to unlock the door or just create a window, so the oppressive neediness, the chaos of “crazy-making” is lessened,  the serenity of Jeff’s “it lasts as long as it lasts” visible, if not within reach. Because that makes all of life better.

“…because healthy functioning of the attachment system facilitates relaxed and confident engagement in non-attachment activities, it contributes to the broadening of a person’s perspectives and skills, as well as the actualization of his or her unique potentialities.” (Mikulincer, Mario (2007-05-14). Attachment in Adulthood (Kindle Locations 887-888). Guilford Press. Kindle Edition.)

The opposite is also true. My friend Greg would describe his unhealthy attachment system as causing anxiety, making it hard to engage in non-attachment activities, limiting his perspectives and skills, and difficult to actualize his unique potentialities.

I talked a day or so ago to a woman who is an Anxious, one of the first I have met since starting this project. She has had a very, very difficult time with serious consequences from her attachment behaviors.

AAD is not trivial, it impact is not limited to the realm of romantic relationships. It spreads like a stain through everything. But I have to be very careful not to look at too much through this lens, nor let this small project get out of control.

Stupid love songs

My friend Greg does not like it when I say relationships between certain types of people can be “toxic;” some people may never have the person of their “dreams;” there isn’t always enough time to “fix” something; it might not be worth the effort.

“I want to believe that with enough work, enough understanding, enough knowledge, we can overcome problems in any relationship if there is love,” he said.

I would like to believe that too. But I have come to accept that sometimes the effort is counterproductive. When my tendency is to chase and resolve, my partner may just want a damn break. It is her right to have that break. Even if she is avoiding. Even if avoiding makes me want to try harder. Which makes her want to run faster. Etc.

What I was trying to say was not that it is always hopeless, but trying harder at what has not worked (except temporarily) in the past is unlikely to get us where we want to be.

We can’t change the response pattern of our partner through an act of our own will. All we can do is communicate. If she doesn’t see a problem in the relationship except how I behave, she gets to feel that way, regardless of how it makes me feel. Even if she doesn’t want to talk about it. She isn’t “wrong.”

“ ‘This isn’t working for me’ is different than saying ‘You’re not doing your part,’ ” an acquaintance pointed out the other day.

I was also trying to say to Greg there is a woman out there who may be “accessible, responsive, and engaged.” A partner as he defines it. Wanting that is not wrong, either.

It might be we have to look for her rather than think we can, or have the right to, make the one we want to be with want to want us. We have to be realistic about how much we put into it, how much time we have, what we expect in return.

We have to stop doing things because we are afraid of losing what we are driving away.


The wind started blowing hard at about 2:30 a.m. My sleep is off anyway but the wind makes the steel barn groan; mountain-facing windows flex and distort reflection like disappointment of the self-absorbed; juniper and pine lean and twist to resist what feels like a threatening.

Can’t write. Too little sleep, current project too dry for the energy I can bring to the task, wind breaks flow of thought. Pay bills, I suppose, get taxes in the mail before I motor over the hill. Stop halfway at Rosie’s to get an oatmeal raisin cookie and refill the coffee. Daughter Sabitri made me stop at Rosie’s for the lemon poppy seed scone, daughter K.C. likes their hot chocolate and the macandcheese.

Portland if I can get a deal on a hotel, it’s the end of razor clam season at the coast and I’ll find a meal of them someplace downtown, then meander down to Powell’s for a browse.

Port Townsend to hunker down for a few days, real popcorn and digital projection with great sound at the small movie theater, stay at the lovingly restored Palace Hotel, see if I can get a solid draft done on the new project.

Should check movie schedules and music venues before I go but I just want to go, I’ve denned up here for too long, growling at the door. The week after would work too but I want to go, wanted to for some time.

The proprietor of Phoenix Rising Book Store in Port Townsend, flashbacks from San Francisco of decades ago, is back from India. Her large poodle Sumadhur is recently gone and I could hear sadness tussle with acceptance in even her written words, something of each we can share.

She is New York direct, she owns a bookstore, had offered to read my manuscript and is about halfway through. She does not know me nor owe me so I want to sit there for a couple of hours and find out what she thinks about it.