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McClatchy-Tribune  08/05/2014 11:20 PM ET
Steve Duin: The troubled summer of Dave Dahl, the good seed behind Dave's Killer Bread [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]

Aug. 05--Dave Dahl is drinking water. We are hemmed in by microbrews at the Lucky Lab on Southeast Hawthorne, but the ex-con is ignoring them. And while he has one eye on the potato chips nestled beside my sandwich, he will not reach for them.

When I refuse to show the same resolve, the founder of Dave's Killer Bread is cool. "You can't judge people," he says. "Everyone is at a different stage. I've been at a stage where I lived on tequila."

Dahl is ripped. He has lost 25 pounds since the November evening when, among other things, he emptied a bottle of water on his girlfriend; stripped off his clothes and wandered the streets wrapped in a blanket; and allegedly rammed two Washington County patrol cars with his Escalade. He eventually pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of assault, unlawful use of a Cadillac, and resisting arrest.

Dave Dahl, of Killer Bread fame, on failure and humility Dave Dahl, the ex-con behind Dave's Killer Bread, talks about the road he has traveled since last year's "mental health crisis."

He remembers it all. He was exhausted. Bipolarized. He lost it. "And when I do things," he concedes, "I do it 100 percent."

Almost nine months later, his manic energy barely in check, he is pondering what else may have disappeared. The relentless speaking tour? His redemptive storyline? The Dave Dahl karma?

He hasn't lost the cigarette habit, to be sure. As he lights another one, "Smoke on the Water" crawls from the patio speakers, and we both show our age.

"Deep Purple, right?"

Dahl nods. He has a band, the Killer Granddaddies, and you can feel him reaching for his G&L Stratocaster.

"It's one of the easiest songs to play," he says. "But to play it right? That's a different matter."

-- -- --

It didn't all come apart at once. "It wasn't just that particular day," Dahl says, "that I lost touch with reality."

He's known several realities, of course, in the last 51 years. His suicidal teens. His journey with methamphetamines. "I used to think as a kid that I was depressed because life sucked," Dahl says. "It wasn't until I shot the meth that I realized it was the other way around. Life sucked because I was depressed."

Life calmed down, oddly enough, during his 15 years in prison for armed robbery, dealing meth and a half-dozen other felonies. He was given treatment and medication. When he emerged from the Powder River Correctional Facility in 2004, Dahl joined his brother, Glenn, at the family bakery and, finally, made hay with his bread recipes.

As it says on the Killer Bread wrappers, "A whole lot of suffering has transformed an ex-con into an honest man who is doing his best to make the world a better place ... one loaf at a time."

In October 2008, Dahl met Michelle Bain -- a 43-year-old barista with four sons -- at the neighborhood Starbucks. "She has this amazing look when her hair is pulled back in a ponytail," Dahl says. "She said, 'I know you! You're the bread guy!' No one knew who I was back then."

That changed. Crowds gathered. The Rotary luncheons and the redemption homilies multiplied. Celebrity became increasingly addictive.

And suddenly Dahl was drinking: "More and more. Like I was entitled. We went to Puerto Vallarta. They were giving out top-shelf tequila, as much as you could drink. I developed a taste. An appreciation for the buzz.

Dave Dahl and the Killer Granddaddies Dave Dahl on lead guitar and vocals as the Killer Granddaddies -- with Grant Dickerson on guitar and "Lenny" Hanahan on drums -- launch into Kenny Wayne Shepherd's "Blue on Black,"

"I think it was the Black Sabbath concert I went to in the Gorge (when) I realized I had to figure out a way to stop. As life got easier for me, it was easier to just stay home and drink. Everything suffered. My physical appearance. My goals. My dreams. My aspirations."


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