The Thawing of All the Things

I recently looked up the definition for thaw. The word has been on my mind recently.

You see, I live in Maine now and I have time and the scenery to think about these things more easily. I love it here. This is my third time living in Maine, but first time living through a winter or waking with the sun rising on the sea – often frozen sea.

This winter has been a record one for snow. Oldtimers tell me it is one of the worst they’ve experienced – or best, depending on your outlook. I have grown to embrace the snow, the solitude and the seasons.

Yesterday, I was having a picnic on a floating barge in the harbor. The sun was hot – hot! – something I hadn’t felt on my face since November. The ducks were dancing and the birds were singing spring. It was lovely and picturesque.

It was there and then, while bobbing in the harbor and eating a donut, that my mind returned to the importance of thawing.

A few weeks before I was on that same barge moving side-to-side in order to break the frozen sea apart so I could hear the crackle of the saltwater. Spring felt forever away.

The thaw is all around me now, but it is also within me. I will not try to crystallize how I’ve been feeling about the project and what these past few months have been like as I’ve re-listened to all of the gracious, thoughtful men I had interviewed and my own audio diaries, but I will say: the seasons have been within me as well.

When I stared this project, I wanted to break some of the ice around my own heart and get into the dark places that I had avoided. I have. I am.

As I listen back to these heart-expanding interviews, I’m reminded of how tentative and nervous I was. I knew I needed to embark on this journey, but I had no idea what it would yield. As I rode more miles, met more men and made my way west, I could feel the shifts within me. They were tectonic at times and often threw me for emotional loops. They have all been for the best, but certainly not always easy.

As part of the thawing around me, the buds on the trees are making their presence known. The streams are making their way to rivers. The sap is flowing. The seeds are being gathered and plots prepared.

As part of the thawing within me, I’m editing all of the interviews with these courageous voices and starting to fine-tune my own. Some days are good, and some are exhausting. This is how all good things come to be, I’m reminding myself. This is what it takes. You gotta till the soil to get the goods.

Enough with the metaphors, but damn: I love them.

I wanted to give an update and and say thanks for all of your continued support. Many of you have reached out to check-in and see how I’m doing and asking about the project and how it and I am coming along.

I’ve edited eleven interviews and I am still hoping to do more. My plan is to launch a podcast for the project. I’m debating on the name; so, if you have suggestions, please send them!

Each episode will feature one of the men I’ve had the privilege to interview, their story and some of my reflections. I also plan to interweave stories from the road – both across the country and along my own interstate of grief and loss.

I will launch the first few episodes on Fathers Day. It will be a year after I launched the Kickstarter project that so many of you shared and generously supported.

Moving forward, I will work to write more updates. For now, I’m going to keep working on the project and taking these picnic breaks in the sun to listen to and appreciate what I’m calling, ‘the thaw of 2015.’

Happy thawing and springing,


Miraculously, We Made It to the Bay - Celebrate With Me

What's your favorite invention?

This is a question I have often asked over the past decade while facilitating workshops or gatherings for human rights activists. My answer always varied based upon my mood, but ultimately steered towards coffee production as an homage to my elixir of choice. But after yesterday, I think I will always choose duct tape.

During my last 300 miles, my burgeoning MacGyver skills, a few tiny wires and shreds of duct tape were holding my clutch cable together. Not a good scenario, and admittingly, not the wisest of moves. Before I set out, I debated between being land-locked in rural California waiting for a part to ship, or pushing forward for the last stretch and trusting in my bike, the Gods and Goddesses of the open road and all the guardians who seem to be helping me along this journey. I thought about it, and I decided to go for it. Fortunately, and somewhat miraculously, I'm happy to report that it worked out. Yesterday, as light rain helped coat this drought-ridden Californian soil, I pulled safely into the Bay Area and into the arms of a few of my dearest friends.

These past few weeks have been incredibly rewarding, trying and inspiring. This short update is to let you know that we've crossed a significant milestone: My bike and I made it across the United States! I feel a bit like this:

Good to be back amongst the giants

Good to be back amongst the giants

As I type, I'm writing-out the long list-out of 'to-do's' and starting the logistic dance that will be my next few weeks and months. (Good news for everyone nearby, I'm starting with laundry.)

However, for now, I'm feeling fantastic and full of gratitude for everyone that has helped ensure this project could get off the ground and my bike and I moved safely across the winding black slab of concrete that webs its way through our exceptional country.

I wish I could contact each of you directly, but please accept this brief update and gratitude note as a consolation for now. Specifically, a huge thanks to all of the donors who've invested generously in this project, those who've spread the word and all of your thoughtful emails and notes of support. A massive appreciation for all of the exceptionally thoughtful friends who've hosted me over the past three months. Without you, this period would of been much more trying and exhausting and a whole lot more boring - and much more expensive (over the past three months, I've only paid for two nights in a motel and one depressing night in an RV Park).

Most importantly, a huge thanks to the men I've had the pleasure to speak with and learn from. I'm looking forward to sharing their stories, insights and perspectives with you. I've learned so much from them and continue to grow in ways I wasn't able to foresee, and I believe once you hear them, you will as well.

To be clear, the project is far from complete - I am looking forward to doing two more interviews while I'm here in the Bay Area, and I will be heading back East to do some work and conduct a few more interviews there as well. Currently, I'm planning on doing more outreach over the Fall and working my way through the South in the Winter to meet with more men and further expand the project's diversity of voices and insights.

Though, today - right now - this is a noteworthy moment!

This is a great milestone and one that inspires pause and reflection...and celebration. Please take a moment to mark this great start to this project and a safe, adventure-rich and inspiring journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific and over the 12,000-foot Independence Pass in Colorado, down below sea level into Death Valley and then rising-up through it to the trunks of the largest trees in the world. My emotions and mind have had an equally rich series of twists, turns and ups and downs.

I look forward to sharing more details on what's happened and what my plans are for the project, but for now: A big thanks, a hug and a high five.

Oh, and though I'm in the Bay amongst the sea of orange and black, Go Royals! If you're here as well, come on by Amnesia on Valencia at 19th street tonight after the game to hear my favorite Bay Area band, Gaucho, and find me for a hug and a dance.

Aspens in Aspen seem apt to share.

Aspens in Aspen seem apt to share.

Visiting Where My Father Grew Up and Where He Took His Life

Though I love being from Kansas and strongly identify as a Kansan, it has been a while since I've been back. Over the past week, I've been reconnecting with my former hometown, Lawrence, and my dear, old friends and surrogate families who are still in the region. It has been glorious - lovely reunions, home-cooked meals, late-night talks of love, life and what it is like to embrace the edges of both. 

However, I wasn't planning on being here yet. As I was mapping out my route, I was hoping to head North through the Dakotas and into Montana and come-back through Kansas after I had done more of the project; after I had talked to more men and felt 'more prepared' to go to Wichita. 

Throughout my life, I have experienced a wide range of personal ups and downs in Wichita. My parents' life and love started here; therefore, I did. It is where I played with my cousins and got to know my family. It is where my father killed himself.  It is where I fell head over heels over a woman who both expanded and broke my heart. Let's just say, it is a loaded zip code for me and one that has been delicate for me to revisit. I always want it to be 'the right time' and never feel it is.

Well, sometimes you choose timing, and sometimes it chooses you. With the mechanical headaches of late, it became apparent I couldn't go North as I had hoped. It became increasingly clear that now was the time to return to my homeland. For better or worse, winter was making its presence known in the mountains and so it was time to head South and to explore how I would answer some of the questions I ask of the men who participate in this project.

As I type, I'm in an old haunt that I used to visit here with my uncle and godfather. Aptly named 'The Vagabond,' it seems appropriate that I take my first stab at sharing what the past 48 hours have yielded for me. I hope to edit this down and make it more cogent when my heart and mind are less jumbled, but ultimately I just need to capture some of the rawness of what I feel before it escapes me. 

Brace yourself, dear reader: Some of what I'll get into in the following lines may be troubling for you.

You see, my mom always told me how my father died, and I'm grateful for that. From three years old, I spoke of how he took his life when people asked. Ever since then, I've been trying to understand why, what happened and what the details - the facts - were. I've also been trying to learn about who he was as a person, how he grew up and who he was trying to become.

Often when my mom and I would visit Wichita, some three hours away from where I grew up, we would stop at three key spots: Her parents' house, my uncle's house and my father's grave. As I got older, we went less and less to the grave. Not intentionally or to hide who was interned there or memories, but because, for me, it didn't seem necessary. Most pointedly for me, I really dislike being there - his ashes reside in a poorly-lit, stale mausoleum across from Wichita State University's football stadium. Not the most inviting place for me to pause, reflect and do whatever else I'm supposed to do there.

It wasn't until I was in high school that I recall my mom and I talking about where he died. Over the years she would give me more details of my father, his greatness and his shortcomings. She would share age-appropriate information. Eventually, we talked of exactly where he died and she drove me to my father's family's house and pointed-out the room he killed himself in.

From then on, this became an essential stop for me on my Wichita trip. I would often go alone and not tell anyone. I would park across the street and stare, knowing his father was inside and maybe some relatives. My kin, if you will. (I won't go into that tumultuous relationship here.)

When I was 25 or so, I met his father, my biological grandfather, and my aunt. It was a fall day and my uncle drove me to their house and dropped me off. That visit was our only meeting and it wasn't pretty. We fumbled through attempts at pleasantries and they didn't land well. I opted to just go to the room where he died and tried to 'connect' with him there. I was so flustered by the conversation I had with his father in the living room moments before that I couldn't shake my anger. What I hoped to be a moment of deep resonance, of profound love and clarity of some kind, was a big fat dud. I left with a sour taste in my mouth and felt more disconnected and confused than ever. 

Ten or so years later, my grandfather has since passed and there is a new family in their house. It is located in a historic area of Wichita - full of expansive homes with a noteworthy breadth of architecture. I thought of the house and realized it must of changed ownership as I rode through Kansas. Somewhere in the gorgeous Flint Hills of Kansas, I made a commitment to myself to do all I could to get into the house - try to return to the room where my father took his last breath.

So, yesterday I went by the house and saw a woman in the backyard raking up leaves. While I turned-off my bike, I turned-on my charm and approached the fence with an ear-to-ear grin. I harnessed all of my Kansan, good 'ol boy-self and the manners my mom instilled to connect with the current tenant. We made small talk and I told her that I had played as a kid at the house and would appreciate the chance to look around. Miraculously, she loved the idea and invited me in. 

She gave me the overview of her remodeling efforts and how the weeds and poison ivy attacked her skin as she worked to expand her garden. The conversation turned to the history of the house and over the next 20 minutes I played Bob Villa, asking thoughtful, open-ended questions as best I could. She generously answered and would happily elaborate. 

As she gave me a tour, I bifurcated my experience. My analytical self was placating the conversation as needed. Populating appropriate questions with dashes of charm to keep her going. Meanwhile, my heart was getting heavier swiftly sinking. The lump was raising in my throat. I walked slowly, forcing us to move gently, methodically through the house. I took a few photos and commented on what seemed like nice, new enhancements. 

Throughout, I had one room in mind: The furthest Northeast bedroom. 

As we climbed the stairs, we turned down the hall and though cluttered, something sunk in me. I began to realize how this was the hall that my father went up and down, searching for a gun in the house the night before he took his life. I shuffled my feet through this hallway, thinking of my father's state of mind. What he must of been thinking as he checked from room to room to find the gun he knew his sister had recently got. A treasure hunt that would yield his death.

The room where my father took his life. So surreal to type that...

The room where my father took his life. So surreal to type that...

Once we got to the end of the hall, I knew I was in the room. Though the carpet was gone and the furniture was different, I knew this was it. My body started feeling heavier and heavier. My eyes itched. My heart raced. My palms got sweaty. I could feel the cold sweat on my spine. This is shit that I don't feel, even when speaking in front of thousands of people. This was new for me. This was scary for me. 

My guide talked of tearing down walls and expanding this and that. I nodded and smiled. "Just keep her going," I thought to myself.

She did and I went further inward. I took a deep breath and imagined my father there through the night. When did he find the gun? Was it loaded? Did he load it? Did he hold it through the night? Hide it under his pillow? Did he sleep? Did he try pulling the trigger without bullets in it? Did he put it to his head? In his mouth? How long did he hold it there? How many times? Was he wishing we were there so he could take us with him as he had originally planned?

I knew what he ultimately did, but what the fuck was he thinking?! What was his process and how close did he come to faltering? Did he come close to throwing the gun out the window or the ammo down the drain?

"Well, we're thinking of painting this wall here," she said. I jolted back to reality. I was breathing heavily and felt like a blob - I thought of morphing into a gross, green, slimy blob like Chet from the movie, Weird Science.

My mind was all over the place and then I got lucid. It happened when I looked out the windows.

I asked her again about the garden. As she gave me a play-by-play of her hopes for tomatoes, I realized that these four walls, this ceiling, this floor were likely my father's last view. I wasn't sure which one it was and then I looked out of the East-facing window. I hoped that was his last view. On a September morning 33 years ago, he took his life and right there. I was standing in the room where he last stood.

Standing as his offspring, who is often told that I look like him, I reflected on how I have explored this earth longer and much more than he did. There I was, standing looking East and hoping 33 years ago he was watching the sunrise when he pulled the trigger. Hoping he had some brightness to help illuminate the darkest of dark places that anyone can go.

I took photos out of the windows and will cherish them forever. Regardless of where he ultimately pulled the trigger and died, I will carry-forward the hope he had the sunrise to go out to.  I just wish he had more strength or capacity to watch and marvel in it, not go towards it.

Likely my father's last view.

Likely my father's last view.

Before I knew it, she was showing me the bathroom and I was outside meeting her husband and five dogs. Everything after that room was a blur, but a necessary experience. I feel so fortunate for the opportunity and I hope they never know about my father and his death. I hope they paint those four walls radiant of shades and grow copious amounts of tomatoes. I hope children are conceived in that room. That an opus is recorded there. That miracles happen there. I hope that there is nothing but light there, because my dad isn't there and my memory of him and what I will carry forward isn't either. I'm grateful for the clarity that our serendipitous tour enabled. 

When were were outside, I asked her husband to snap a picture of me in front of the house. I wanted to it to be a hypothetical one of me and my father, as if I were returning there with him to have a pleasant stroll down memory lane with him and afterwards we were taking a happy, father-son photo.

He would be 65 now. Maybe a fantastic father. Maybe a miserable bastard. Maybe retired. Maybe my business partner. Maybe we would have just worked out some of these damn kinks in my motorcycle. 

All I've lived with since he took his life is a never-ending series of questions and 'maybes.' Something about being there, in the room he died in, and having that experience further quiets all of the the 'maybes' and helps me embrace the realities.

While I'm on the topic of reality checks, I just went to the Sedgwick County Clerk's Office and retrieved my father's autopsy report. I've been in some surreal bureaucratic experiences, but waiting for your father's autopsy to clarify how many times he shot himself certainly tops my list. 

After a 20-minute wait starring at the American flag, the clerk found it on an old microfiche slide. She printed me a copy. I payed $2.75 and learned that my father shot himself three times, not five, in the chest. The first shot was on his right side, away from the heart. His second shots went straight through the heart - 42 and 43 centimeters from his heel.

I've now have seven certified pages of facts on the ins and outs of how my father died. For a moment, I wished there were other offices I could visit to capture clarity to other questions I have. Then I didn't. 

There are no more answers I'm going to get from anyone else. The only answers I'm going to get - and should focus on - is how I want to more fully embrace my own life. 

I tucked the autopsy report in my jacket, started up my bike and gave thanks to my father for giving me life and said to him via the ether that I'm sorry he got to the place where he felt the only option was to take his own. 

Then I headed West to get a better view of an exceptional Great Plains' sunset.



Riding Back to Kansas in Style

While here in Columbus, Ohio with my friend Todd and his wife Genevieve, I've eaten exceptionally well, slept in a proper bed with those crisp linens that make you feel like royalty when you get in them and played with power tools. A great trifecta. 

After my muffler cracked off Lake Erie in Canada, I got to Detroit and found worse roads then I had experienced then when I rode through Southern India on my Royal Enfield, Mingus. One of the hundreds of fierce, aggressive potholes in Detroit took an important plastic cover off my bike with it and left my fuse box exposed. Not wanting to blow another fuse or deal with more wiring issues from rain or snow, I turned to Todd for help.

I was in the right place. Todd is a woodworker who knows his way with the grain. He has a big workshop, leftover wood and the all-mighty Dremel Tool. We traced-out my two favorite creatures and spirit animals of sorts: The Kansas Jayhawk and the Seahorse. Throughout my life I've found joy in solace in both. 

Being a fan of the Jayhawk was inevitable growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, the birthplace and home of The University of Kansas and its mythical mascot. As a kid I would give high-fives to the life-size Jayhawk at games, who must of been a Freshman on the verge of heat stroke most of the time, and wear it proudly. 

Here is a great overview of the evolution of the Jayhawk. Don't worry, I won't go too much longer on my shoebox of love for the Jayhawk, but take a look. I'm partial to the 1912, dapper-J who's got some sweet shoes and cute grin. The Depression-Era Hawk is looking rough, but the 1941 Jayhawk, the WW2, "Don't F*CK With Me" Hawk juxtaposed with the post-war, happy Hawk is pretty interesting to me. Seeing how the zeitgeist was embodied in the design of a mascot. 

Anyhow, we got the wood and power tools out, mapped-out new covers for my bike and clamped them on with some dense foam behind to keep the wood from rattling and also help keep that pesky rain and dampness from getting to my fuse box. On the right-side of my bike, you'll see this


On the left-side of the bike, and then one that I approach to get on, I put my spirit-animal of sorts, the Seahorse. I've always loved the grace and agility of the seahorse and have spent many hours transfixed in front of aquariums admiring them. Over the years, and I'm not sure when or how this developed, I began shift my mind to the floating seahorse with its itsy-bitsy fins on its back, gliding through the sea when I was stressed or needed to recalibrate my thoughts. 

With that, I decided to etch-in a Seahorse, but add a fun twist: A Unicorn's horn. This was my first attempt at the Dremel Tool and it got a bit rowdy, but here you'll see the great UniSeahorse!

And here's me and my great friend Todd, who is opening Acre, what will be a most exceptional Farm-to-Table-to-Go restaurant in Columbus. Please stop by, say hello and get nourished when you're in the area.

Thank You for a Monumental 72 Hours - Let's Keep it Going

Hello there,

I want to share a heartfelt thank you and an update with you all after this Fathers Day weekend. For you dynamo dads out there, I hope you had a great one.

Thank you so much for your generous investment and support of my project. In just 72 hours, you all have helped me reach my initial goal, and most importantly - you've helped me connect with other men who also want to talk and be part of this project!

It has been an overwhelming experience to go from pretty darn silent about the loss of my father and topic of suicide for decades to putting myself and this project out there with a heartfelt request for support. That vulnerability is not the most comfortable, but necessary and totally worth it. Especially auspicious to have this happen during Fathers Day weekend, which is something I have worked to avoid over the years.

We're Just Starting - Please Keep Sharing and Supporting 

The project has been shared over 275 times on Facebook and is being circulated by email. This is a great start!

These two vehicles are the best way for me to connect with other men. I'm hearing from men who want to participate, people who lost a loved one to suicide who want to help confront the stigma and shame around suicide and folks who see how this project hopes to help join the chorus of voices working to prevent suicide. Please keep doing all you can to spread the word.

Special Requests for Support

  • Share this with bereavement groups or gatherings of families affected by suicide;
  • Share this with your faith community and ask it to be included in their newsletter; and,
  • Share this with any mental health-related groups you may be part of. 

Lastly, Your Donations Still Make a Huge Difference

Though I've helped raise millions of dollars with the human rights groups I've worked with, this is the first time since little league baseball that I've asked for money for me. It's hard - or, I find it surprisingly difficult.

I saw Kickstarter as the best tool to help spread awareness about this project and meet other affected men - and that remains the main goal. However, fear of not reaching my goal ensured I put a low number instead of one that may be the most realistic without me 'swiping to suffice' on my credit card.

Know that each dollar donated will enable me to further fully invest in this project. Please help keep the generous investments and donations flowing - I promise to make the most of it.

Thank you so much and if you have any questions or ideas of how to enhance this project, please email me via Kickstarter or at

All the best,


Help Me Launch Fatherless by Suicide

[This was the first email I sent to friends and family asking support.]

Hi everyone,

I hope this finds you and yours doing well. I’m writing to ask for your support on an interview project that I just launched today on Kickstarter - Fatherless by Suicide.

For those of you who don’t know – and that’s likely most of you – my father took his own life when I was three. His name was also Chris. He was 32 years old. 

The story is complicated, but the autopsy yields the only hard facts I know - my took his life in his family’s home in Wichita, some 200 miles from my parent’s home.

His death isn’t the beginning of my story – that starts with my parents as high school sweethearts and respective heartthrobs; but, it is the part of my story that I haven’t shared much, nor allowed myself to explore.

After three decades of dancing around the topic of suicide and how my father’s suicide affects me, I’m planning to embrace my own story and invite other men who have lost their father to suicide to share their story and insights with me.

Frankly, I’m a whole mix of emotions that I rarely have – I'm scared, excited, nervous and damn curious. Though it is unique, uncomfortable territory for me, it’s exactly where I want to be. It is where I need to be. I’d like to have you in my corner.

If you’re interested in supporting me, here are some great ways:

1)   Share this project. The only way this project will exist is if you help me meet similarly affected men and encourage them to participate. Please share this email and Kickstarter Invitation for Support far and wide, and if you know a man who also lost his father to suicide, please share this with him directly and invite him to be in touch.

2)   Donate what you can. I got my first credit card this year and will ‘swipe to suffice’ my need to see this project through. However, your generosity will help me get the equipment I need and help cover my travel and expenses. I’m thrifty and will ensure your generosity is optimally leveraged.

3)   Host me. I will be zigzagging across the United States on my motorcycle to meet and interview fellow collaborators from July thru October. If you or your friends or family would be interested in reducing my Motel 6 or RV camping experience, please be in touch.

Thanks for any support and generosity you can invest to help me and this project.

Wishing a happy Fathers Day weekend to all you great papas out there - and those who are no longer with us.