Monday, January 30, 2012

The History of Falling Trees

2012 note: thought I lost this old post but finally found it on Myspace. What follows is the story of how global warming LITERALLY hit me on the head and tried to kill me. Every so often I like to read it to remind myself how thankful I am to be alive.

Current mood:bouncy (2012 Note: oh Myspace, you're so cute.)
So I figure this is as good a place as any to post the story of how I got hit by a tree and lived to tell the tale. Picture this...Estes Park, 2005...

Just sittin' around the river, having a chat. That's me in the middle ironically chatting with the young girl next to me, who had just graduated from college and was worried because she had no health insurance. I was (once again, literally) telling her that she needed something—just basic 'hit by a bus' insurance—so that if something catastrophic happened, her parents wouldn't lose their home saving her life. Irony's funny like that.
AUGUST 26th, 2005 (the first email out to my friends and family after the accident)
Hi everyone,
sorry for the mass email, but wanted to let you know what's going on. As many of you know I was in colorado this week for a conference on living simply. Ironically, as a group of us were outside sitting by a river relaxing and talking, a strong wind picked up and blew over a dead 40 ft pine tree, whose path i was sitting in. (the EMT told me they have a name for these trees: "Widowmakers") After a trip to the Estes Park emergency room i came away with a varied selection of injuries: a scalp laceration (but no head or neck injury thank god) fixed with staples, an avulsion on my hand (if you don't know what that is, it;s for the best.) fixed with stitches, several broken fingers on my dominant hand splinted, and a puncture wound in my leg the size of a gunshot wound left open just to make sure there isn't still a piece of pine tree in there. All in all, my spirits are really good, I'm able to laugh about it because it truly is incredulous, I'm more shocked that this true "freak of nature" actually happened and grateful that my injuries were not more severe. Now my biggest problem is how to get me and my manual transmission automobile back to LA...
- Casey
Immediately after a tree falls in the woods.
AUGUST 27th-29th
Spent a few days in a Motel 6 down by the Denver Airport, watching the levees break in New Orleans. Hard to feel sorry for yourself when an entire city is in ruins.

Annemarie flies to Denver to help me drive back to LA. Thank god for friends like that. Despite my skittishness of letting someone else drive, we make it to Vegas in less than a day to pick up Adventure Kitty, and then back to LA by midday.
Annemarie takes a picture of me in Vail, and I pretend to be the laughing monkey.

No rest for the wicked, back to work on Don Cornelius' Lady of Soul Awards immediately. If I can survive this show, under these conditions, I'm pretty sure I can do absolutely anything.

Sept passes pretty uneventfully, my leg holes and my palm start to close up, I become less concerned that there's still a piece of tree in there. I continue to believe that my finger is just a bone chip and keep it immobilized.

OCT 5th
Finally think it's time to see a doctor about my finger. My primary doc takes one look at it and says "See an orthopedic surgeon NOW." Ut oh. First ortho surgeon takes X-Rays and says, "Hmmm, I'm going to refer you to a specialist." Second surgeon, (to be forever known from now on as "Doc Cranky Pants") says, "Surgery, NOW." So, apparantly I waited 5 weeks too long to see him. Apparantly it is not just a bone chip, but a volar plate fracture & dislocation. (That's essentially a broken bone in your knuckle and one of the worst possible ways to break a finger) Surgery is scheduled.

OCT 19th
Surgery day. While they did not actually have to cut my finger open, they did insert 2 two inch stainless steel pins into my finger to keep it in place. There are what appear to be 2 baby blue thumb tacks sticking out. I am introduced to the wonders of vicodin.

Physical therapy. Two, sometimes 3 times a week. Pick the handful of rice out of one bowl, put it in the other. Scrunch the paper. Somedays therapy is akin to torture. Others not so bad.

OCT 31st
Halloween: I wanted to do something to encorporate the thumbtacks sticking out of my finger, so I eventually came up with "Lil Miss Staples Catalogue" (see my pic right there) The idea was basically one of those old time sponsored beauty queens (like Marilyn Monroe was something like Miss Calif Artichoke Queen) but this time I would be sponsored by an office supply company, hence, Lil Miss Staples Catalogue...The dress was made by sewing While You Were Out Message squares to an old pillow case, the crown was binder clips in varying sizes clipped to a headband, the scepter was highlighters topped with a rubber band ball (not pictured), the earrings were mini Sharpies. Painted my fingernails with white-out and called it a day!
Halloween, 2005

More therapy. and then some more therapy.

After spending months trying to get a lawyer to listen to my case, I finally gave up and called the Y as a last ditch effort. Shock of all shocks, they forwarded me immediately to the safety director, who forwarded me to the insurance company. After only 2 conversations with my new best friend Mike Eberst, they agreed to pay out up to $10,000
of my medical bills. Here's hoping we stay under that limit.

MAR '06
My knuckle finally bends to 90ยบ after A LOT stretching. A mini party breaks out in therapy room.

APR '06
So it's been 8 months since the tree fell and broke my finger and I still feel like I'm no where near being done with therapy. Had a visit to Doc Cranky Pants yesterday and he was equally unimpressed as to my progress as well. His suggestion, more surgery that may or may not work, will hurt more than the first one, and will probably blow through the remainder of the amount the YMCA's insurance company is giving me. Not to mention that now that this summer show is starting up (2012 note: that show was AGT!), I wouldn't have time to do it anyway. So I made a pact with myself, kick my therapy into high gear. I admit I've been babying the finger for a few months now, but now I know that I can't get away with that anymore. I've spent the last 8 months working around the fact that I can't (or probably will never) be able to make a fist again and I believe it is only because of my adaptable and simplified nature that I have been able to do so. So now I'm on the campaign to wear my splint 5 or 6 hours a day instead of just 1.
Me turning over a new leaf to wear my hand splint more often, and David Hasselhoff signing that splint, days after he acquired his own hand splint in a less climate-related accident.

And a few more pix that tell the story:
Tree from another angle.

base of the tree.

Close up of the base of the tree, where you can really see the damage pine beetles have caused

only one slightly gross pic, I promise. If you have to get hit on the head with a tree in a ravine, it helps to have a wilderness survival guide amongst your companions. EMTs weren't too happy they moved me, but I still feel confident my group made the right decision. I'm also really glad someone took pictures for me.

Ow! Pointy!

 I was seated on the rock in the foreground. Everyone around me managed to dive out of the way, but when I heard the crack, I literally thought: "that's not going to hit me, I'm the star of my own movie." Look, no one ever said I suffered from low self-esteem. I'm blaming the high altitude.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Doc Review: If A Tree Falls (2011)

It’s no secret I’m a doc junkie (I think I’m up to 4 viewings this week alone) and ‘tis awards season, so it’s time to review the candidates for Best Documentary Feature for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. First up “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.” I think this is the first film to take an inside look of the ELF. They interviewed members and victims, showed plans and manifestos, included a lot of never before seen footage and followed one member (Daniel McGowan) as he dealt the repercussions of his actions, awaiting his trial. It’s a bold concept (and a perfect title for the film): if corporate polluters can get away with no jail time for destroying our planet, why are people who try to stop those polluters (mostly with arson) labeled terrorists and threatened with hundreds of years of jail time? We’ve all been there (and no, I will never burn down a ranger station to get attention): believing in something so strongly and feeling like no one is listening. ELF took bold action by targeting (but confirming first) empty structures with spectacular “top-of-the-six-o’clock news” fires. When 2 fires they coordinated for the same night both turned out to be based on incorrect information, McGowan decided to get out of the game. The film follows the investigators as they build a case to bring the perpetrators to justice.

It was an interesting look behind the curtain of the ELF but it felt a little uneven. We only really got McGowan’s story: the epilogue gave little information about “where they are now” only listing McGowan, his ex-girlfriend and the purported ring leader of ELF, nothing about the other 10 involved in the crimes or the victims. (That’s always one of my favorite parts of the documentary: what’s everybody up to after the camera stops rolling) The narrative was a little too non-linear for my tastes and I wish they were able to get a little more emotion and reaction from those on the other side of the issue. I wanted to be sympathetic to the lumber company owner, but he came off as too milquetoast for me to care about him.

I feel great sympathy that they shouldn’t be labeled eco-terrorists (Timothy McVeigh=terrorist, someone who burns down an SUV dealership?=arsonist.) But what we as environmentalists are doing is not enough. Bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, changing your light bulbs, driving a hybrid. It’s not enough. Civil disobedience is not enough. It’s a very sad state of the world where burning a building to the ground is the only way to get any attention.
Narrative: 7/10
Topic: 9/10
Visual Style: 8/10
Overall: 8

Monday, January 23, 2012


Join me at http://www.350.orgI’ve had a few days to think over the Bill McKibben lecture last week. I wondered what I was going to say that hasn’t been said before, what was I going to take away from this experience that I didn’t already know. McKibben preached to the choir for about 2 hours on Friday night (it’s fair to assume James Inhofe wasn’t in the audience…[sidebar: why does “McKibben show up as being spelled incorrectly in Microsoft Word, but “Inhofe” does not?]) I mean I’m egotistical enough to think if everyone in America lived as I do, we wouldn’t have a problem with climate change. What else can I possibly do to make a difference? As someone who literally got hit over the head by global warming (and yes, I mean literally) I nodded appreciatively when McKibben talked about how Vermont, one of the greenest states (it’s right there in the name, people!) was devastated by rains and flooding from last year’s Hurricane Irene, and how there should be a whole lot more believers out there now. Is that what it’s going to take? A personalized hurricane for every James Inhofe out there? Frustrated at dire statistics and feeling like all I do is just to offset someone else’s emissions, I tried to dig deeper into this lecture and find the kernel that was going to move me from my own apathy into a new level of activism.

And then it dawned on me: McKibben, (who has been a hero of mine since seeing a Dateline interview with him in the 90s about Curitiba Brazil and his book Hope, Human and Wild—a catalyst that made me want to be a writer and an activist) is not by nature an outgoing person. He’s a writer, a college professor, he lives in a small town in Vermont, but by his passion for getting people to believe and act on climate change, he has become a powerful advocate and activist. And that’s what I need to do, what we all need to do. We need to set aside our apathy and move from our comfort zones. We need to stop saying it’s not going to get better—because it WILL NOT get better unless we do something about it and do it now. I see a glimmer of hope with the small but major activism victories of the last year: Occupy Wallstreeters braving winter, stopping SOPA, the President not caving to pressure to green light the Keystone XL pipeline. These are small victories, but they should be celebrated. They should be seen as momentum.

So McKibben’s next action with his grassroots organization, is to blow the whistle on Congress and the amount of money they receive from the petroleum industry. A good percentage of Americans do believe in climate change but feel powerless to do something about it because the people in charge of legislation are caught in a cycle of too much money. So January 24, is heading to Washington DC to call out the Senators and Representatives and how much each of them are receiving from Big Oil. And from here on out, I am going to make it my personal mission to get 500 people to join And maybe those 500 won’t march in Washington the first week or call their Congressman but maybe they’ll sign an online petition and maybe they’ll think twice about driving somewhere they could easily walk to. And maybe they’ll look closer at their elected official and maybe, just maybe we can keep the momentum of change going. If you've made it to the end of this blog post and it led you to, let me know and I'll add you to my tally. Even better, pass it on and let's go viral. We're going to start slow, but I'm not going to rest until I hit 500 converts.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I Didn't Buy A New Car Yesterday

(also known as "Why I Paid $4000 for a New Battery Instead".)

I’ve had my hybrid for almost 8 years now, driven it almost 150,000 miles and most of that was long range cross country driving (at least 10-15 trips). But when the good ole check engine light went on accompanied by the IMA battery light, I knew I was in for the day every hybrid owner dreads from the day you are first handed your keys. For those of you who don’t know there are 2 batteries in a hybrid, 1 is the usual car battery that all cars have, (that turns the car on, powers your radio, and can be easily restarted by flagging down a neighbor with a pair of jumper cables). The IMA (or Integrated Motor Assist) battery is what helps make a hybrid a hybrid. It’s what transfers the energy caused by braking to recharge the battery and adds additional power from the electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. But when the IMA battery is set to crap out, that’s when the tree-huggin’, reusable bag totin’, organic market-shoppin’ hybrid owner threatens a fatwa on Honda Motor Corp.

I previously had one of my IMA batteries replaced, but a dealer thought I could still be eligible for the 10 year/150,000 warranty that California had extended. No dice. After some fine begging by Gail of Lundgren Honda of Auburn, MA, we were told even though the car was bought and operated in California for most of ownership, since it was now registered in Maine, warranty: null. I could however pay to have the car shipped back to California, have it re-registered there and then they’d honor it… but doing the math, it seemed this would just end up costing me just as much (and the ecological impact of that seemed ludicrous).

So out came the credit card (actually several, since I had to pay for the battery and shipping in full before it was ordered) and now we wait for it to arrive from somewhere far off magical land (most likely Japan).

Some might think it’s crazy to shell out $4000 for a car that’s already 8 years old, but there is method to my madness. New car manufacturing is an unbelievable resource hog. And I have made a promise that my next car will get better gas mileage than the one I have now. When my 8 year old car still regularly gets 45-50 mpg, I think it’s safe to say, I’m not going to find a used car with that kind of mileage for around $4K. And the battery replacement fits into my ethos of “use it up, make it do, or do without”. Another teaching lesson here, is discovering a forum of fellow 2003 HCH owners, ( which may or may not turn me into one of those “My Car is Better Than Your Car” aficionados. This community shows me that HCH owners are getting upwards of 200K miles and still going… my goal drive my little ‘brid till they take it out of my cold dead hands!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Water, Water, (redux)

I often get a lot of flak for not having a toilet tank at my house in Maine. Last year the water in it froze and it cracked the porcelain. The bowl remained intact, but the tank was unsalvageable. So thinking I was lucky that I had a toilet that was 2 pieces and it was a popular and prolific brand (American Standard), I figured finding a replacement for the tank wouldn’t be too difficult to do. But alas, despite web searches and even calling American Standard, they were unable to match up the model numbers on my toilet to anything in their system. So it’s been a year of me having to manually flush my toilet (for those of you squeamish out there: it’s called fill up a bucket, dump it into the bowl quickly, gravity does the rest. I think this is a skill that everyone should have in their back pocket, it will make losing power for those with electric water pumps slightly less obnoxious).

But it seems like the more crap (no pun intended) I get from friends and family, the less I want to actually have this issue fixed. It’s not a hassle for me personally, and well it is my house, right? But there are other reasons: it’s a silent protest against products created to have interchangeable parts, but when one of those parts is impossible to find, it defeats the purpose of having interchangeable parts.

And what I feel is most important, that filling that bucket of water every time is a conscious reminder of the fact that 3 BILLION people on this planet don’t have clean or safe drinking water. I pause and say a little thank you for what I have. I take a moment and remind myself to not take for granted the water that comes out of the tap….that I don’t have to walk 3 miles to get that gallon of water….that wars are not fought so I can drink it…that I don’t have to boil it to make it clean.