Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Dear Spike:

I last saw Tim DeCristopher at the Salt Lake Hilton, where the Utah Democrats were holding their annual convention and he had just given a nominating speech for Bill McDonnell, a candidate for the vacant seat of the House district where our family lives.

Afterward, I pulled him aside.

"I guess Bill didn't mind the idea of being nominated by a convicted felon, eh?"

Tim looked down at his shoes. And I worried that my joke might have been ill-timed and insensitive.

"Nah," he said finally with a smile. "Funny thing is I've been asked to give two speeches today."

When we were done chatting, I shook his hand and — as I sometimes do — reached over with my free hand to squeeze his arm. I was surprised to feel his bicep bulging underneath his shirt and then, upon quick reflection, realized that it made perfect sense.

Tim has long said that he's prepared to go to prison for what he's done. He's also made it clear that he'd rather not. I'd be trying to bulk up, too, if I were in his shoes.

Of course, I'm not in his shoes. Couldn't fill them if I tried. I'd like to think that I'm a brave person, but I'm not that brave.

In recent weeks, some people have compared Tim to the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. I don't know if that's true or not. If it is, it's safe to say that you'll one day understand the context for all of this. If not, a little background:

It was back in December of 2008 that this all began. George W. Bush's eight-year presidency was coming to an end, and some environmentalists believed his administration was rushing to sell off oil and gas leases before the next president could order a more thorough legal and environmental review. It was in the midst of this that Tim walked into a U.S. Bureau of Land Management auction in Salt Lake City and began to bid for a few plots in an attempt to keep energy developers off the land for a few precious weeks.

He won one. Then another. And before suspicious BLM officials suspended the auction, Tim had the rights to 14 leases in eastern Utah — and no way to pay for the $1.8 million he'd bid to get them.

Our government was not amused. And although his supporters quickly raised the money to pay for the leases, Tim was charged with disrupting the federal auction. The case went to trial earlier this year. The judge wouldn't permit Tim to argue that his actions were a necessary step in the battle to prevent climate change. He was convicted on all counts, but permitted to remain free on bail until his sentencing.

That happened today. Tim was sentenced to spend the next two years in prison.

We're a nation of laws. And I've only known a few people in my life who would dispute that those laws aren't a vital part of what hold us together as a society.

That doesn't mean that every law is just — or that the law is always justly applied.

They aren't and it isn't.

But Tim knew that when he walked into that auction. And while he understood the consequences, he believed the stakes were much, much higher.

In a non-violent way, he raged against something he believed to be unjust.

I stand in awe.

Now, I should make something clear: I've always felt that as entrenched and corrupt as our system can be, there are still ways to effect change meaningfully within the system. That is, after all, what eventually brought the oil leases to a halt — a lawsuit was filed against the government, a judge issued a restraining order and President Obama's administration ultimately suspended the leases.

But Tim could not have know any of that was going to transpire. Seeing what he thought was his last, best opportunity to disrupt the sale, he acted.

Illegally? Yes.

And bravely, too.

Our actions often have consequences. And when you accept those consequences as a cost of doing what you believe is right, you're walking in the footsteps of some very amazing people.

My God, I'd hate to see you in those shoes. But I'd be very proud, too.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Dear Spike:

We're going to China.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


Dear Spike:

You're four. That makes you a little bit squirmy. And even though you love soccer, 90 minutes is a long time to sit, to watch, to wait, to wonder. The beautiful game gives us an opportunity to practice our patience. And sometimes it tests our patience.

It did today. The U.S. national team was up 1-0 over Brazil with 25 minutes to play in the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup when Marta — the most dominant player I've ever seen in any team sport — darted into the box, beating two U.S. defenders before Rachel Buehler caught up to her. Marta took a handful of Buehler's jersey. Buehler had a handful of Marta's. The referee called the American for the foul and gave Buehler a red card, to boot.

Penalty kick. Brilliant save. Jubilation. The Americans were down a player, but they were still up a goal. But the referee ruled that goalkeeper Hope Solo had left her line before the kick and ordered the shot retaken. The replays show otherwise, but what does it matter? Marta converts. One-one. Back down to earth we came.

Overtime. Marta again. Brilliant finish. Damn.

Your countrywomen spent the next 30 minutes knocking on Brazil's door. Were they still down a player? I couldn't tell. They were determined. They were ferocious.

And then, with seconds to go, it happened: Megan Rapinoe sends a cross to the six. Someday I'm going to teach you about this spot — the perfect spot — that forces a keeper to commit forward and pulls her dangerously off her line. The cross sails over Brazil's defenders. It sails past the outstretched fingers of the keeper. And it sails perfectly into the path of Abby Wambach, who heads it firmly into the back of the net.

Seconds to go. Seconds to go. I've been watching the replay for the past two hours and I'm still getting shivers. Seconds to go.

Kicks from the spot are a horrible way to resolve a soccer contest, but at least there is resolution to be had. I called you over to me and held you before the television screen.

"Watch this," I said. "This is history."

The U.S. converts its first shot. Brazil too.

You squirmed a bit. You're four, after all, and you'd never seen this strange game-after-a-game before.

The U.S. converts again. Brazil too.

You ran off for a moment and I called you back, pulling you onto my lap and whispering into you ear.

"Trust me," I said. "You don't want to miss this. You really don't."

The U.S. converts another.

And then ...




... Hope Solo.

The shot came in hard and left. Solo, arms outstretched like Superwoman, punched it away.

We leaped together in joy. You chanted with the crowd, half a globe away: "USA! USA! USA!"

After that, you squirmed no more.

The U.S. converted its next shot. Brazil too.

Up 4 goals to 3 in the shoot out, it all came down to Ali Krieger, who put her shot in the lower corner to give the U.S. women a victory.

We screamed and hugged and jumped up and down. You watched the women celebrate on the television and — for a moment, I think — you pretended to celebrate alongside them.

We watch a lot of soccer in this home. I don't think you'll remember this moment above any other. But I've got a sneaking suspicion that it'll stick with you in other ways.

For a moment you were able to clearly and concretely see the way that patience can pay off. And that is one of the most beautiful parts of the beautiful game — because it's one of the most beautiful parts of life.


Friday, July 1, 2011


Dear Spike:

I start teaching full-time in August. Between now and then, I've been working for a school dedicated to helping high school dropouts re-enroll and re-engage — a job that I hope to keep, part time, after my professorship starts. Meanwhile, I've got a half-dozen freelance projects up in the air and have been doing some copy writing for a friend's business.

Oh yeah, and today I helped start a newspaper.

OK, well, it's not really a newspaper. It's more what you'd call a "hyper-local" website. Our good friend Alex and I began working on it a few months ago hoping for an excuse to be curious now that neither of us is getting paid, any longer, to stick our noses in other people's business. It's not much, yet, but we've got high hopes.

I suppose all of that makes me a bit of a busy guy, but I assure you that I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes I feel like one of those sharks — the kind that have to keep moving to keep oxygen running through their gills.

Yeah, that's me.

I do try to slow down, though, to enjoy the things in life that can't be savored at warp speed. Today you and I took a bike ride through the park and stopped at our favorite cafe for breakfast. Tomorrow I was thinking we might make some pancakes and smother them with fruit.

It's good to keep busy, but it's wise to take breaks, too. I hope you'll learn how to effectively do both. And when you can find the things that make you feel like you're doing both at the same time, you've hit the jackpot.