Three Minutes of Sunshine (.. with Julie Allen)

There I was, sitting on a couch, minding my own business, when up walks this girl. She stuck out her hand, and with an easy smile said, "Hi! I'm Julie."

Julie AllenNow, girls dont usually walk up & introduce themselves to me like that (.. uh, not unless they're serving me a restraining order, or happen to be a detective who has called me in for questioning).

We were the only two in the room (.. where I was waiting for friends to finish their socializing). At least it seemed that way.

I found her easy to talk to. Classic all-American girl-next-door.

Not too good-looking to make you nervous, but cute enough to make you proud to take her on a date.

Picture of health. Vibrant. Wholesome. Fun. Hints of tomboy. Easy to like. Very.

I took particular note of the confident strides she took while approaching. Long, alacritous steps .. specially for such a little thing. (Only 5-3.)

Didnt know at the time that she had been a national-caliber runner. Nor that she had graduated from Stanford, with a full-boat scholarship (.. which tells me she's not only fast, but smart). In high school, she was second in the state (California).

[ She went to Corona del Mar high school. C-d-M is where I met Kobe. That's where Kobe lives. And also my 89-year-old walk-in-the-park friend. It's a ritzy little hamlet wedged between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach (.. where I used to live). ]

We chatted for only a few minutes .. before others came up and wanted to talk to her. But she definitely gave me the impression of being a 'together' person. As we went our separate ways, I called out, "Thanks for introducing yourself". And I meant it.

That was the first & last time I saw her.

Julie Allen crash» The Accident

Julie is .. gone. ('Dead' sounds so horribly harsh.)

She was involved a horrible 10-car accident .. down on Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) .. two weekends ago (9 days ago) .. a truly horrific crash that everybody here is talking about.

Three people died. More went to the hospital. Traffic was blocked off for 10 hours. (PCH is a heavily-traveled road.) Julie's car was the cause.

Hard to believe. Cuz it was barely a month or two ago when she walked up and stuck out her hand with such enthusiastic vigor. Seems like just yesterday.

Police claim Julie's car (a Taurus) was doing 90 or 100 MPH .. fast enough to send it airborne. It is not easy to get ANY car up to 100-mph driving down PCH (40-mph zone) .. even if you were trying.

It's a busy road (2 lanes each way), especially on the weekend. Sometimes traffic slows to a crawl, particularly during the summer months .. when locals take to navigating the side-streets.

I honestly cannot imagine a car -- any car, not even a Ferrari -- doing 90- or 100-mph down that particular stretch of PCH. My first thought was that the accelerator must've stuck. Cuz nothing else made sense.

••• today's entry continues here below •••

I mean, she wasnt the type to drink or do drugs, or even used bad words. We're talking 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon.

Flowers & candles left at Julie Allen's crash site» The Questions

I dont want to rehash the details. All that has already been covered.

If you'd like more, here are some links to articles published in the local papers:

Or you can search Google for the query » julie allen newport beach

You will read about her battle with bi-polar disorder, diagnosed at the end of her high school years, which delayed her entrance to Stanford by a year.

But nobody can figure out what happened. "Nothing adds up," is the theme of most comments.

Car accident Pacific Coast Hwy PCH Newport Beach Jan 15, 2011» The Eye Witness

The most telling eye-witness info comes from this thread at a Ferrari Chat forum (.. which half of Newport Beach belongs to):

"The driver that caused that accident nearly hit me in the crosswalk. I heard her hit the first car in front of Sterling BMW and then the car just kept going, I looked and it was headed straight for me.

There was something seriously wrong. It couldn't have just been because she was speeding. It was like she was knocked out, or had jammed the accelerator accidentally.

At that point she was going about 60-70 mph. There was no braking, just accelerating after she hit the first white car. She was deflected off another truck and into the Tacoma she flipped on its side killing those passengers instantly.

Then her car flew through the air nailing the guy on the motorcycle and several other cars before it came to rest, and then the whole scene (a very busy intersection, mind you) went dead quiet."

The original quote was pulled from an article in the Orange County Register. The crash site was described as » "like a scene from a war."

Julie Allen» The Sunshine

This girl had literally reached out to me .. and brought a little sunshine to my world. If you read the accounts of friends talking about her, they all echo the same sentiments ..

.. how she was "bubbly, angelic, a beautiful person, who stayed innocent & young for longer than most people can imagine .. a ray of sunshine."

This type of eulogistic talk is common for people to say about the deceased, but in Julie's case it was true. I know what they're talking about.

Last night, friends pointed out her parents. I wanted to go up and offer my condolences, but felt myself starting to cry. Couldn't do it. So sad. So tragic. I let it go. (They dont need to be consoling me.)

Her folks looked surprisingly good. No dark circles under their eyes. No telltale signs of sleepless nights. (Tho I had trouble sleeping myself last night.) I even saw them smile. What could I say that would help?

Flowers at Crash site of Julie Allen» The Grief

I'm perplexed by how much this is bothering me. I mean, we only talked for 3 minutes. So, what gives? Where is this grief coming from?

I know grief. Too well. I'm familiar with the fellow. We're old buddies. Used to hang out together, back in the day.

Is 'mortality' the issue here, staring me in the face? Surely mortality suks for anyone who wants to live (most of us). But mortality is nothing new.

Early on we all seem to figure out that our days are numbered. That's the situation here. Simple. Nothing much complicated about mortality. Nobody gets outta here alive. No exceptions.

But the fact that nobody is exempted makes the sukiness a bit easier to stomach. Both the king and the peasant share the same ultimate destination. No matter how finely accompanied the carriage might be, no matter how plush the fur lining, it still has a final destination that is predetermined. No bailouts. Nobody too big to fail.

So I dismissed mortality as the source of my heaviness.

Then of course there's the reminder that Death can come calling any day. Any time of day. And certainly Julie's death does a good job of driving home that point .. given her youth, her prowess in a pair of Nike's & that hyper-alive personality of hers.

But even that we all know .. disconcerting as it might be sometimes. None of us have any get-out-of-jail-free cards from the grave. No do-not-disturb signs to hang around our necks. So nothing there is new, either. Scratch transience-of-life as a possible culprit.

Or am I using her untimely death to process other emotional pain I might have buried inside? I dont know. Or is it simply that I know the world has lost one of the good ones?

On the other hand, I dont feel like I even have a right to grieve her death. Does three minutes give me the right? Wouldnt seem so.

I've tried to employ this logic (.. of not knowing her well enough) to trick myself into putting an end to the grief. But my ploy, thus far, doesnt seem to be working. The whole thing is very confusing.

Sometimes I ask myself, "Was she just saying hello? Or good-bye?"

Map of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) that runs through Newport Beach» The Hardest Part

Hardest thing for most folks to come to grips with .. is that two innocent people died.

That's really a head-bender. "Nothing adds up," many have said, scratching their heads.

Is she to blame for the death of two innocent people? (.. who - from everything I've read - were both very nice people).

It certainly would seem that way. Sure, that's definitely bothering me. Cuz it doesnt wash with what (little) I know of her. But that's not the source of my grief.

Another thing that I dont think is the source of my grief, but that I *am* feeling uneasy about .. is how my estimation of her was very certain that she was a 'together' person (.. which you no-doubt have to be in order to graduate from Stanford, and to train in order to compete at such at elite level).

But the reality was that she obviously had serious psychological issues. That does freak me out a little.

It's not that I dont know that things arent always the way they seem. Believe me, I have learned that lesson - the hard way. And Im reminded of it on a regular basis .. the consequences of having an imperfect discriminator.

So I know. But it's really the *certainty* of my opinion that freaks me out. I was very, very sure. Very.

Starry Night by Van Gogh, who many feel suffered from bipolar disorder» The Speculation

I read that she had recently broken up with her fiancé. Some speculate this might've been the thing that set her off.

That scenario would be hard for me to believe. When I break up with someone, I dont even wanna get out of bed. I'm depressed. I mourn the death of the relationship.

Tho I admit I dont understand the female species (.. maybe because I had no sisters).

When I met her, I detected no hint of emotional distress. Quite the contrary. She seemed happy, confident, relaxed. Remarkably so.

[ Ya know, I happen to have more-than-a-little experience dealing with people who are emotionally unstable. The Dog thinks I attract them .. cuz I'm so stable. "Zen-like," he calls it.

He says they can 'sense' it .. like a bat senses the walls in a dark cave. And that they do this by emitting 'signals' .. not unlike what a bat does. Of course, this is his theory, not mine. (The Dog however, has no brothers. Only sisters.)

The military doesnt let emotionally unstable people run their reactors. Opposites attract. Again » his theory .. not mine.

Anyway, there's a chance I might've been able to help. A chance. ]

If an argument with a guy *was* involved, I cant imagine how he must feel. Can you? The police will probably wanna talk to him.

Or maybe the autopsy will reveal she had a heart attack or a stoke. Tho this scenario seems farfetched, given her age and the state of her athletic cardio-vascular conditioning.

Living on the Edge» The Bi-Polar Edge

I heard they prescribe lithium to sufferers of bi-polar disorder.

Not only is lithium toxic, but the effective dose is close to the toxic dose. Side effects » here.

Think about that. And the concept of 'margin-of-error.' How she was treading a knife-edge .. between (on one side) toxicity .. and (on the other) the psychologcal precipice that is bi-polarity.

No wonder so many mentioned how disciplined she was about taking her meds (.. as disciplined as she was with her training). She *had* to be. A little waver could have serious consequences. Not much room for mistakes. Talk about living on the edge.

A spooky quote:

"No evidence has emerged indicating that Allen was off her medication. But friends said she would not have been in a condition to drive if she were having a psychological problem."

Is that what happened? Was she having a "psychological problem"? Brought on perhaps by relationship issues with her fiancé? (Her older sister is married. That could generate pressure.)

Update - The Dog says he knew people on lithium, and that it's a horrible drug. The way it makes you feel. Everybody wants to get off it. So maybe she wasnt on lithum (.. or anything, for that matter). Cuz she seemed to be feeling pretty good when I saw her.

They might also have some new drugs out now. Something that doesnt make you feel like sleeping for 12 hours a day.

UPDATE - Looks like the coroner found two drugs in her system » Olanzapine (.. anti-psychotic, brand name Zyprexa, NIH page) and » Quetiapine (.. another anti-psychotic, brand name Seroquel, NIH page).

Perhaps more interesting:

The toxicology tests also found "critical low" levels of sodium and glucose in Allen's system. That can cause shock, seizures and unconsciousness.

But medical experts cautioned that it's hard to draw any conclusions because those tests were done days after the crash on fluid from Allen's eye, not her blood, which can change the results.

Allen also had unusually high levels of a thyroid-stimulating hormone, according to the toxicology report. That hormone plays a key role in regulating the body's use of energy.

Volcano» The Energy

From the Wikipedia page on Bipolar Disorder:

"Mania is the signature characteristic of bipolar disorder. Mania is generally characterized by a distinct period of elevated mood, which can take the form of euphoria.

People commonly experience an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep, with many often getting as little as 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night, while others can go days without sleeping.

Judgment may become impaired, and sufferers may go on spending sprees or engage in behavior that is quite abnormal for them. Their behavior may become aggressive, intolerant, or intrusive.

People may feel out of control or unstoppable, or as if they have been "chosen" and are "on a special mission" or have other grandiose or delusional ideas.

Sexual drive may increase. At more extreme phases, a person in a manic state can begin to experience psychosis, or a break with reality, where thinking is affected along with mood."

Notice the phrase "commonly experience an increase in energy". Are you not a little curious to know what it feels like to have THAT kind of energy?

On days (or weekends) when you expend large amounts of energy (feeling 'up'), is it not the case that these will (naturally) be followed by a day or two of feeling tired (down)? I'm trying to get into her head a little.

It may sound flaky, but I could *feel* her energy when she walked up. Hard to describe. I'll have to think about it. Certainly it had something to do with her body language & eye contact. But she was definitely 'up' .. in the very best sense of the word.

Julie Allen running a race at Corona del Mar high school» The Runner

It's no wonder she took to running. I've known others who needed to run. Every day. They ran as a form of self-medication .. cuz running causes the body to release (morphine-like) endorphins.

I have run myself, especially in Hawaii .. with the Dog, the strongest runner I ever ran with. Four miles every day .. along the Ala Wai canal, when we lived downtown Waikiki.

In every case, when I got to know these running enthusiasts .. something was bothering them. And running was how they dealt with it. I mean, who doesnt feel good after a nice, long run?

They channeled their emotional angst and used it as fuel to burn. (Better than doing drugs or drinking alcohol.) They ran and ran .. until the angst was depleted. Which is why they liked to run d_i_s_t_a_n_c_e.

If they couldnt run for more than a few days, they became complete jerks .. like a junkie in need of a fix.

And in every case (at least, for the people I got to know) the thing that was gnawing at them, which drove them to run (to self-medicate) .. was something from their childhood, or adolescence. Something that, for some reason or other, they just couldnt get over.

Maybe they didnt know how. Maybe they didnt have the right tools. Or maybe they just didnt want to (.. farfetched as that might seem). 

Winter solstice» The Resolution

She made me smile. She made me laugh. She made me feel good. Three minutes of sunshine. She was 27.

I have resolved to introduce myself to more people. To walk up confidently, stick out my hand with enthusiastic vigor and say » "Hi! I'm Julie". =)

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » julie allen newport beach

Calendat for January 2011» The Update

Okay, it's sad. Really sad. Definitely bothering me .. more than it should, it would seem. Wish I knew why any nepenthe is so elusive.

I think it has something to do with her innocence. Just a hunch. Innocence, as in 'not cynical' (.. like I've become).

It's trippy to meet someone, find them so alive (!) .. make a connection .. then (shortly thereafter) have them die .. so spectacularly. Makes death feel c.l.o.s.e. Whoa. Maybe just an emotional optical illusion.

I got sick. Literally. Twice in a row. Felt baseball-bat beat. Hopefully I'll feel better when I feel better. Ya know?

Some people believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I can see no rational reason why she died, or why she introduced herself to me shortly before she did. (I've looked; believe me.) If her death is any kind of omen, it cant be a good one. The death of Innocence.

The emotional contrast between an obviously Lovely person and the horribly, tragic accident .. is both a headtorquer & a heartbreaker.

[ You know, if there's one thing I'm good at .. it's dealing with the downside of life. I have plenty of nuclear-grade experience. More than my fair share .. piggy-wiggy that I am. Not that I would've necessarily chosen this career, of course. But life has a way of wandering from the rose garden. You know. ]

My message for the Sunshine girl woulda been » it's okay to feel sad. It means you're normal. Human. Alive. We all get sad from time to time.

Cuz if someone feels that it's not okay .. then they have other things to deal with as well, beside the depression, such as guilt. Things which can be even worse than the depression, or at least complicate the matter.

And I'd tell her it's okay to freak out, too. Life gets freaky, sometimes. Holding things in can lead to emotional constipation.

[ Bi-polar means you swing between extremes of emotional highs & lows. It used to be called 'manic-depressive'. You travel between the north pole & the south pole, emotionally speaking. ]

Obviously a very motivated woman. Ive always been interested in the intersection where drive meets compulsion. And the places where they overlap. I would've had some questions for her. Probing questions.

And yes, I have been introducing myself to more people. But that's another story. =) If I ask myself the question, "Should I introduce myself to that person?" I do it.

Julie Allen» The Difference

After a week of playing emotional detective, and rooting around deep within the bowels of my inward parts, I may've found the cause of my grief.

You see, the 'things' I have been going thru in Family Law (pro-mom, anti-dad) have been .. rough. The source of this emotional pain, you might argue, comes from a woman. Certainly in my mind. Therefore, ipso facto » women = pain. Classic Pavlovian conditioning.

Now, my ego does its job and tries its best to convince me that every hottie who flashes a smile wants my chromosomes. (Give me points for honesty.) Of course, a trip to the bathroom mirror quickly puts that fantasy to rest.

Yet this ego-tripping tends to put me on the defensive (.. guarding against more pain). Danger! Will Robinson. Happens automatically. Cuz it's human nature to be drawn-toward things that bring us pleaure, and away-from things that bring us pain.

I feel myself adapt to an emotionally defensive posture whenever I sense 'interest'. Because, in the past, interest has led to pain. Lots of it. Years, dawg.

But I didnt get that with Julie. No shields went up. I remember it distinctly, cuz it surprised me. How refreshing it felt to talk to a pretty girl without the defensive shields going up (.. which can be fatiguing).

They stayed down. For some reason. It was easy to be myself with her. That hadnt happened in a long time. Like a breath of fresh air.

[ I mean, dads dont go very far in the world of Family Law (.. where highly paid professionals & other experts, hired guns, line up for a chance to kick your butt .. and where it's not about right & wrong, but winning at any cost ..) without becoming practiced in the art of powering up their shields. ]

So I was able to 'connect' with ease. Without even trying. And of course, anybody who can make you feel that good that fast .. is naturally somebody you wanna 'connect' with more.

In other words, there was something special about her. Disarmingly sweet. And it appears I'm not the only one who felt that way.

So I think the reason her death has been bothering me - despite the brevity of our fleeting encounter - is that I was able to connect with her, and this connection was not only pleasant, but made without my usual defenses. It was therefore more open & honest. Yes, I'll say it. It was special.

In a way, she reminds me of the Dog .. cuz he's someone who brings out the best in me. He makes me laugh and I can be myself around him. No need to worry about the Dog attacking or judging or criticizing. (The Dog would be a huge loss, emotionally. Irreplaceable.)

James Taylor Sings Fire & Rain» The Blank Stare

It has been two weeks. Two very long weeks. Today. Welcome to my time warp. Starting to feel better, tho emotionally exhausted.

Thought of her early this morning while sipping my espresso at the coffee shop, where/when I heard James Taylor's Fire & Rain play on the radio.

"Dude, where'd you go?" my friend asked, waiving a hand in front of my face.

Ive heard that song before, many times, but never had it speak to me like that. So hauntingly. Took me a million miles away .. to a place I never been before. A lonely, sad place. More lonely than sad. Sad because it's lonely.

She was standing right there. So alive. So vibrant. Then she was gone. Forever. Having a hard time dealing with that .. wrapping my head around it. Seems like I cant quite get there.

I heard that people who lose a limb can still feel it. The phantom-limb effect. Part of me still expects her to walk up again. Trippy, no?

Fire is another way of saying 'Sunshine'. Bright sunshine. Energy. Rain brings the darkness. Cold. Despair. Sometimes for many days.

[ The length of today's entry might reflect how much this has been bothering me. I'm done. ]

» The Funk

Update » 05 Feb 2011 - The funk finally left. (Been 3 weeks, today.) Whew. That was nasty. I was walking at the Back Bay when I felt it lift. Need to get up there more often. But it has been cold here, and I've been feeling like krap.

Still dont feel great, but I definitely feel better.

Julie Allen. Newport Beach. What a shame. A tragedy. Heartbreaking.

May, 2011 - It has been 4 months. Whew, those were some darks days.

I reread what I wrote. Able to view the time from a different perspective now. Back them, I was inside-looking-out. Now looking in from without .. like at the zoo. [ Much better this way. =) ]

The whole thing is still a big question mark.

August 2011 - When I look back over my shoulder at those days .. the feeling I get is one of » slipping .. like you're walking along and suddenly lose your balance (.. only to recover before going down). Like oil on your painted garage floor.

Met Julie's Mom

I met Julie's mom. She says she read this post. Gave me a big hug when she learned that I was the author. "Bless you."

A friend (she explained) had sent her the link and said, "Read this. This guy knows Julie."

Mom said I was very perceptive & had remarkable insight.

Ran into her after she had stepped out of her car. Her walking-path seemed to sync with mine so perfectly & naturally that you might imagine the universe timed it for us to walk side-by-side .. for a number of steps.

(I didnt know this lady was Julie's mom. It has been 7 months since I saw her, and it was night-time then.)

"Nice car," I said. (If you saw the car, you'd know why the compliment came without any effort whatsoever.)


"Nice parking space," I added. (Best one in the whole lot.)

"Heck, nice *every* thing," I laughed, as I started to compliment her outfit. Felt like the compliments were pouring out of me. By themselves.

Now this is the trippy part .. cuz, if it werent for her daughter, I normally would've never introduced myself. But instead I stuck out my hand (as we walked along, side-by-side).

She responded by telling me her name. There was a few-second pause. Then she added her last name.

It took 3 or 4 steps for it to register with my brain. I stopped dead in my tracks. She stopped, too.

"Julie's mom?" I asked.

She nodded.

"I met your daughter," I said. "Well .. for only a few minutes" I added. "But she made quite the impression."

"Are you the .." she started to ask, referring to this entry.

Anyway, we had a nice chat. At the end of which she asked for my address and said, "I have something I'd like to send you."

The last thing I said to her was .. "Ya know ..  it's because of your daughter that I introduced myself to you. Never used to do that before. That's my way of honoring her life. That's how she affected me."

I was fine during our conversation (surprised at myself) but became quite emotional after getting home (and being alone). Tho it was cool cuz it lasted only briefly. Not for weeks .. like before.

We have actually spoken twice now. I have no idea what (if anything) it all might mean.

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on January 24, 2011 1:24 AM.

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