Making like a Boy Scout


I'm safely back in Los Angeles after a harrowing drive from Portland, and I do not jest about the harrowing part, we were down to one lane in the mountains below Ashford, with blowing snow and about 20 feet of visibility.

And this, on the heels of a good four and a half hours of sheeting rain and/or crap visibility, which dogged me all the way from Portland to well below Redding, CA, the following day.

I grew up driving in snow and on ice; huge portions of the Midwest are covered in it for huge portions of the year. But I've gotten out of the habit after 17 years in sunny Southern California and my eyes are far worse than they were in my 20s. Add to that driving a lightweight car without 4-wheel drive or snow tires, and you have a disaster waiting to happen (and a nervous wreck even without the other kind.)

I take complete responsibility for being That Asshole from California, the one that gives all of you good people from CA a bad name. I'm sorry, and I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again. Really, I blame the excellent weather I got used to on my last visit to the PacNW, and the idiotic notion that things get warmer as you head south. Generally, of course, they do, but at 4,000 feet? You need a monstrously warm climate to counteract the chill effect.*

I put myself in great physical danger because I was ill-prepared. There's really no excuse for such lunacy at my age, but there you have it.

On the other hand, things ended up going quite well at Ignite: Portland because I prepared my ass off. I did a some arithmetic over the weekend and figured out that between writing and rehearsing my little speech, I burned through roughly 24 solid hours. And that doesn't include the time I took to think up my speech topic and post my proposal on the website.

It was well worth it, I think. In addition to being one of the few women (what's up with that, anyway?) and even fewer out-of-state people allowed to speak at the Portland event (L.A., represent!), this was also by far the largest audience I'd ever spoken in front of (600, or so they say) and on the topic I probably feel more passionate about than any other: fear, and the addressing of it. These are the kinds of speeches I want to give a lot more of, and those are the sizes of crowds I want to give them to.

It's tough and humbling to be staring at these twin things, this huge "win" and this even more colossal embarrassment. In a way, I think it's indicative of the way I treat things in general: I'm ever so careful to take my time with and devote lots of energy to matters of the mind and spirit, and utterly disgraceful in the disregard with which I treat my body. I full well understand the delicious irony of a lady who hits Jack in the Box and McDonald's, thrice, after showing a picture of her bloody insides to 600 strangers.

I'm pretty sure we all are working on something, and I'm even more sure that for 2010 and beyond, I need to take a cold, hard look at this. I've taken good care of myself before, and I know I can do it again. I must do it again, and probably for the rest of my life, given my age and the reduction in margin for error.

More on this, and how I'll address it, as I figure things out. But for now, this observation: much like a drug addict or a drunk, I need to watch out for when I'm hungry, angry, lonely or tired. And I need to be wildly vigilant when I'm any of those things in combination.

And now, for them of you who weren't at the Bagdad on that fateful and glorious night (and couldn't watch the live stream, which took a crapper during a few of the talks, mine included), here's the video of my talk:

Thanks to A.J., aka @linuxaid, for the video. You're my total hero! (If you're looking at this in a feed reader and the video doesn't show, My Bloody Epiphany is viewable on

And thank you for reading and listening and not judging. Or, if you are judging, for keeping it to yourself. I do appreciate it, and am going to do my best to fold some of that into the new and improved Colleen of 2010, too.


*This is how much of a sheltered dumbass city motherf*cker I've become: I took the southernmost road through the Willamette National Forest on my way to Bend because, no, seriously, I thought it would be warmer and drier than going the Mt. Hood route.

Image by reidab via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.