Night of the Avalanche

I begin this post speaking directly to you; not through some scene from my life, or reflection of a thought, or roundabout story. It’s straight from me to you, and here’s my message: This is the one. This post sits at the apex of the blog “story arc.” [You can pretty much stop reading any posts that come after this one.] If you’ve been with me since the beginning, fantastic! If you’ve stumbled onto this post and none previous, what a great stroke of serendipity this could be, because….

This is the night of the avalanche! 

That’s what it was like one special night in April when a chain of clear and enlightened thoughts tumbled from my head with all the force and weight of an avalanche. 

More than a few times within this post I’ll include words or lines that are references to one or more of my previous 18 posts. I will not pause to point these moments out, because there will be a lot of them, but I will include links on occasion. This post (and this night) is where everything that’s gone before it “links” together like pieces of a puzzle.  

To get us from here to the pay-off, come into my house, come into my head, Tuesday evening, April 21, 2020. Live this evening with me. Many big life-lessons depend the axiom, you have to live it to get it. What stories are capable of doing is connecting us to the lives of others so that we can still learn by living within stories that are not our own. The life-changing conclusions I had arrived as the avalanche ended are revealed to you in this post. Perhaps it’s a longshot, but my hope would be for you to capture something from my story that becomes a piece in your own life’s puzzle.

By the way, every word that I write are my thoughts, [obvi], but when I use the italics, I’ll typically be signaling to you, “this is what I’m thinking.”

Are you ready? Here goes! Right now I am thinking, the avalanche is about to begin.


Cleared For An Edible

I like having a roommate. Simply sharing the space with someone else (provided you get along as well as Derek and I do), adds just enough human connection without being too much. Especially, when you and your roommate have opposite schedules. ;-). Derek is working tonight and out of the house until past midnight. I love it when I have the entire evening to myself.

It’s a Tuesday. I’ve made one of my deluxe veggie sandwiches for dinner. So good. I think it’s the arugula that makes it. Been thinking a lot about the new therapy I started. Sure seems like some freaky-ass voodoo to me, yet I’m still feeling excited to be taking it on. Last night was only my second session with the therapist so there’s nothing much to report so far. Sandwiches are nice sometimes for dinner… so long as they’re hearty enough. The cheese and avocado pack the hearty. 

Clean-up is relatively easy after a sandwich. I put the cutting board and knives into the sink to be washed later. Honestly, I love that Derek sometimes leaves his dishes in the sink; gives me permission to do the same.  It’s almost 7:30, that’s when I’ll eat one 10 mg square of my cannabis-infused dark chocolate. On the nights that are clear for an edible, like tonight, 7:30 always seemed like a good time to take it. I don’t have great reasons for believing this, but I figure I can enjoy my evening and then once it mostly wears off, it will be bedtime. 

One Hour and Counting

An hour and a half later I’m in the basement, moving laundry from the washer to the dryer. So annoying that the doors open in exactly the opposite direction you need them to for making the transfer of clothes easy. I can feel the edible. It kicked in slowly about 20 mins ago. Maybe it’ll be slightly more intense since I had avocado on my sandwich. They say the THC binds better with fatty foods which might make its effects slightly more intense. Who knows? I’m feeling its effects now and just hope I don’t forget my clothes in the dryer because I’m all lost in thought. “Hey Siri, countdown one hour,” I say towards my wrist. “One hour and counting,” she responds dutifully.

My mind has been so busy lately and my stomach upside down. All that stuff with Marianne has been a heavy load. I even thought about not doing the edible tonight because maybe I wasn’t in a good frame of mind for it. 

Last week it worked out okay. I did the same amount, one square, and ended up with an unexpectedly useful result. That’s when the straight and clear answer came to me saying I should sell my house in Austin. Man, if I sell that house, then what? I should really think about that. I grab my little bluetooth speaker from the kitchen and carry it with me. I’d been listening to the rest of The Young Turks while making my sandwich. Now, with the house all to myself, I am ready for some music. The portable speaker is all black and about the size of a 40 oz “tall boy.” Quite often it’s a “Pogo mix” on YouTube that feels right. 

The spring evening is cool in Denver. The front door is open to let in the magic hour’s light; the screen door keeps out the moths, though they always seem to find their way in anyway. I walk to the living room, set the speaker down on the big trunk topped with doilies we use as a coffee table. I then plunk myself onto the couch. I bet I could walk away with at least $350K from it. 

I keep thinking about what that Civilized to Death book had said about how our pre-”civilized” ancestors only worked about 3-4 hours a day. Not even work, really. Hanging out with their friends, cracking jokes, while gathering up some food from the trees or doing other basic tasks. I wonder how having this money could get me closer to that kind of lifestyle. Not the gathering my own food part, but just in general. I do think I would like to have a little garden, however

Do The Math

I look around the living room. Everything is old. I was once sitting in the living room while on a Skype call with my friend Boris, probably in the same spot where I sit now. He saw the decor behind me- old, darkened wood-grain, with thick drapery on the windows -and asked if I was traveling on the Orient Express. That guy sure has an eye for the obscure-but-true observations. What if I use the money to buy my own house. Do I even want to buy another house? If I did, I’d want it to have everything I want.

This was something I had already put a little bit of thought into. I’d want a four bedroom house, with the fourth bedroom set up with its own entrance so I could run an Airbnb like how I’d done it with my house in Austin. The master bedroom would be for me, duh….but the other one, or even two, would be for my roommate. Also on my wish list is a large “extra” room with tall windows all along one wall that faces the patio/garden. I would use the space for meditation or yoga or whatever else I wanted to use it for. Maybe I’d just play my music and dance.

If I sell the house and walk away with $350K, together with my other savings I’d be sitting on a total of about a half-million dollars. Man, that sounds like a lot. I wonder if I could just stop working now. I bet maybe I could. Wait, could I really? Don’t they say you need a million dollars to retire? I know I’ve heard that, or maybe it’s two million now. If I don’t have enough now…how much longer do I need to work until I have enough? Until I’m 65? Really….?! 

A sense of excitement starts to percolate inside my head. My thoughts begin rolling. I stand up to move around. Do I really have to work until I’m 65? Why do I think that? Oh my God! My arms rise up and my hands run half-way through my hair. It’s just like the 8 hour workday thing. I’m only assuming I need to work ‘til I’m 65, but who said that?! Jesus Christ! What am I working FOR, anyway?! I don’t even know. I’m just working. I’m working because that’s what we do? It’s expected. It’s “normal.” Work ‘til 65 or 66 or 70 and then retire. 

This realization is hitting me with unexpected force. How come I’ve never thought about this? Again I think, What am I working FOR!? I have my hands clasped behind my head now, my head is tilted back, mouth open, eyes wide, an expression of disbelief and shock. My eyes get a flush of moisture and start to blink more quickly. I have a feeling that I am emerging from the Truman Show, out from under the dome and into the real light of day. What am I doing here?! Is this why people talk to financial planners and junk? Why have I never done the math? WHY HAVE I NEVER DONE THE MATH?!!!

I’m getting that last one to the party feeling. I feel like a fool. Do other people think about this stuff? My gut tells me most people are just working working working because that’s what we’ve all been programmed to do. That’s been true of me. Maybe I need to check myself here. This feels big! I start wondering if maybe I am inside some cannabis-induced thought-vortex. All these rushing thoughts have me reeling. I pause the music.

Let me run through this again. I try to make all the same mental links. Civilization has handed us a way of life that in many ways is a bill of goods. The 8 hr workday was handed to us. Vacation time off per year- 2 weeks,handed to us. Where is my say-so? These are all pre-negotiated rules of society I had nothing to do with. How can I live on MY terms? Maybe I can; I’ve never done the math. Again, I think about working ‘till I’m 65 and how blindly I’ve accepted this as a stone-cold truth. After this second time through, I think, Oh man, I can see it in my mind. It’s real! 

Confident I am “on the right track,” I mentally race ahead. So if I leave my job, would I have enough money to live on? For how long? If I buy a house, have a roommate, and run an Airbnb, I wouldn’t need that much, right? Here’s the thing about me, I just want what I want. Being able to do what I want when I want to do it, makes me feel good. It’s my thing. Call me selfish, but it’s what I like. And the best news of all is that my wants just aren’t that grand, I don’t think. For example, it’s not like I need money to buy a boat or join a country club- I don’t even like golf and quite frankly find that whole scene off-putting (to put it gently). And if I can get away with not even owning a car, I will. 

What I want is an electric scooter, a quality set of cookware, and chopped pecans on my cereal in the morning. Yes, chopped pecans are kind of expensive. I know, I buy them all the time. But here’s how I think about it… Is my buying chopped pecans going to make a difference in my ability to afford living the life I want? That IS the life I want! Chopped pecans are not going to break me.

I walk from the living room back into the kitchen. I look around and imagine a different kitchen, MY kitchen. I told you about the living room being old and dark? Well, this kitchen hasn’t been up-dated in years. I go into the fridge for a passion fruit flavored La Croix.

The question I am zeroing in on, and the one I should have been asking all along is… how much money do I need for me to have the life I want- a four bedroom house, an electric scooter, quality cookware, and pecans for my cereal…. and still have enough to live on? Will half-a-million dollars do it? My gut says maybe. A feeling jabs my ego that I’ve been a fool for not ever mentally going down this road before. OMG! I’m still incredulous. I’ve never done the math! I’VE NEVER DONE THE FREAKING MATH! 

I Have Options

Ping…Ping….Ping… The alert on my watch goes off. The clothes should be dry. 

I open the door to the dryer and warmth spills out into the basement. Very much still in the elevated state of my cannabis high, it occurs to me how easy it would be to remove the clothes from the dryer all at once, if….. squatting down low, I put my left arm into the bottom of the dryer drum, but to the right of the pile of clothes, I insert my right arm also into the mouth of the dryer, also on the right side, but a little higher up on the drum. Then with my elbows I rotate the drum causing the clothes to tumble into my waiting arms for me to scoop. Whoa! That totally worked! I just invented a new way to get clothes out of a dryer.  

Back up in the living room, I spread out all the clothes on the couch and start my folding routine. Lay out the shirts first. I reach for a gray cotton work shirt. Where could I buy a house like I’m thinking? There’s more avalanche coming. Disregarding money for a second, I wonder…..If I were able to not work, and lived in a 4 bedroom house with the roommate and the Airbnb, where would I really want to live? I like Denver, but I’ve travelled a bit and honestly would not consider Denver to be one of the “great cities of the world.” 

More lightbulbs start going off. 

Oh my God! I have my hands back up to my head. If a half a million is somehow enough for me to live on and I don’t have to work any more, I could live anywhere. I wouldn’t be tied to a job! I could live ANYWHERE!  The proverbial bolt of lightning is knocking my socks right off. I think, if I were starting from scratch. Where would I live? Like…what city? What country? My mind has gone full global tilt. I think about my experiences traveling the world and all of the cities I visited: Quito; Santiago; Auckland; Hangzhou; Istanbul; and a hundred cities more.  

The US is going down, I’m convinced of it. Government corruption is beyond repair and will not be stopped by Trump, Biden, me or anyone else. I swear I tried. Late-stage capitalism sets the rules, our media is complicit, money has taken over every branch of government. This is not the America I was born into. It’s just not. And it’s only going to get worse from here, at least for regular schmoes like me. If America ever recovers from this mess it won’t be in my lifetime. But I don’t have to live here, do I? I could totally live in another country.

With this money, I have options.

I’m Leaving You Baby

In the blink of an idea, the turn has been made. With the same rational and pragmatic certainty I felt when I knew I should sell my house in Austin, I suddenly know I am going to leave America. Excitement around what this means for my life has my body moving and stretching, as if I am warming up for a big game. I pretzel my arms in front of me and feel the stretch through my shoulders and back. Oh my God, this is big! I bend my body at the waist and go all the way to the floor, rising a moment later with my arms outstretched to the sides. I am expanding.  

What would it be like to live in another country? The impact of this idea quickly reverberates. I have a pretty good chunk of my life left to live, at least another 25 years. I lived 55 years here, could I not live the next 25 somewhere else? There’s nothing stopping me, right? I have no family, no relationship partner to negotiate with. I do have options. I speak English and my Spanish is not too shabby either. 

No longer am I marching down the corridor of civilization that had kept me compliant all my life…. I DO HAVE OPTIONS!! 

The Final Poetic Confluence

That was it! I’d thought it through and come out the other side; the avalanche has settled. But it’s sure stirred up a lot of dust. I didn’t know everything, but I knew on that night that I wanted to make a new life for myself outside of America. I knew I wanted to start living life on my own terms. 

The very next day, I called my friend Vanessa in a rush. Give me Tim’s number. What’s his number? I need to make an appointment with him as soon as possible. Tim is the financial planner Vanessa had been trying to get me to have a conversation with for a while. As soon as she shares with me his contact info, I place the call. He doesn’t pick up so I leave a message. I send him a text, too, for good measure. A few minutes after that I call my real estate agent friend in Austin. Mike, I want to sell the house. I’m ready. What do we need to do? 

I feel the rush and it doesn’t stop for days. In one night I have set myself on a trajectory where so many, many things would be new. New house, new city, new country, new neighbors, friends, furniture, food, parks, radio, street signs… it would ALL be new to me. Depending on where I end up, I could potentially even be surrounded by a new language- one that is not my native tongue.  

And what of all this course of therapy I have committed myself to? This is the coup de grace, the pièce de résistance, the ultimate in poetic confluence– The thought that I might also, in some very key way, be a new me, psychologically and emotionally “cleansed” of burdens I’d carried for a lifetime, was too pure a merging of events to dismiss without excitement. Things happen for a reason is back on the board.

Let’s go! Let’s GO! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!

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Gary is a Solar Technician and writer living in Boulder, CO, who loves to play Ultimate frisbee!!

8 thoughts on “Night of the Avalanche”

  1. This one really resonated with me. Government corruption and the US going down was part of it, of course, but also not blindly following the traditional workday. I could probably count on my hands and toes how many times I have worked an 8-hour day. Great read, Gary, as always.


  2. Hey, Gary. Have followed your story up til now and it’s been a real journey! This avalanche you had, of retiring “early” and having the life *you* want is often referred to as FIRE (financial independence/early retirement). If you want to hear other people’s stories, I suggest you start with a search in that direction. 🙂


    1. Up until the night of the avalanche that whole world of “FIRE” was a vague and distant concept. I’m still just barely getting my feet warmed up to it. Thanks for letting me know it’s actually has a term and everything!


  3. I know you can pull it off; I think about taking a leap everyday, but my commitment to my son keeps me getting up and going in. At least I stopped the madness of driving into the ATX – one victory at a time. I now work and live in the same town with a beautiful river.. It won’t be long, and I’ll be on fire too. Go for it!


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