Celebrate teachers

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:51 PM

Posted without comment and with great appreciation for all the great teachers out there now, in the past and still to come.

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I stand on my desk for you.

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Horatio Magellan Crunch, Jr.

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 14, 2011 10:18 PM

He was born in 1963 though he had already attained the rank of captain and sported a full handle-bar-like moustache of white. The son of a great seaman, Admiral Horatio Magellan Crunch, Sr., he was, and remains, dapper in his Navy blues. His ship is the S.S. Guppy, a stout 3-master that still rides high in the water. First mate Seadog is strong and silent; the crew is eclectic.

Many adventures have followed Crunch and his crew as they sailed the treacherous waters of the Milk Sea discovering islands inhabited by beasts and more including Smedley, who often impersonated a navy man, and Harry S. Hippo, also in the Navy. Along the way, Crunch and his crew, chanced upon a great white whale, similar to Ahab in Moby Dick, though this whale was much less fierce and much more winsome.

Throughout his voyages, the Captain maintained a strong spirit and a constant vigil, always seeking truth and justice. In 1997, H.M. Crunch, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Admiral. When the Guppy sailed again, the crew discovered an insidious threat to the world’s supply of the rare mineral crunchium on the secret land of Volcania. The land was saved when the admiral and his crew foiled the crunchium thieves.

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Crunch’s “mother” was a woman named Pamela Low, a flavorist by trade who specialized in brown sugar and butter recipes served over rice. It is she who gave “birth” to the captain, the only naval seaman that I love, and have always loved. I was a fan when I was a child and remember fondly nights spent at my best friend Pam’s house when each morning the box sat on the table, the Quaker Oats Company logo prominently displayed. I didn’t care; I just loved the sugar coated corn-like squares that floated effortlessly in the Milk Sea and managed to hold their own without waging war with the Soggies, two very rough customers dedicated to making my cereal, well, soggy.

H.M. Crunch, Jr. Son of Senior and creation of Ms. Low. Cap’n my Cap’n. I remember our mornings fondly and miss you. You were so very good. You still sit at the head of my table.

 

Art by Brian Stuckey.

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In celebration of slippers

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 13, 2011 10:31 PM

I’m a big fan of slippers. I don’t know when it happened, though I suspect it started when I was in 8th grade and my mother brought home a pair of tan suede leather moccasins, with a suede leather tie and fringe. They had a faux fur foam insole and I lived in them. I think she bought them at Barker’s, Hyde Park, New York’s version of Target many years before there was a Target.

Slippers are worn by nearly every culture in the world, with both men and women slipping their feet into something more comfortable on a regular basis. They originate from sandals dating back to ancient Egypt, as so many things do. The earliest recorded discussion of slippers appears in a description by a Southern Song dynasty soldier describing two types of not-quite shoes he witnessed in what is now Vietnam. These slippers, like my earliest moccasins, had a leather bottom so that the wearers could walk outside comfortably. One type had a small post with a mushroom shape atop; the post was worn between the toes, similar to today’s flip-flops (full disclosure: also a fan); another style had a cross-shaped leather cover across the foot, connecting to the leather sole.

People in Japan have long revered slippers. These are a people whose customs dictate that they take their shoes off when entering homes, including their own. When Westerners first descended on the island country during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the Japanese invented a special type of slipper that the ‘round eyes’ could pull over their boots. If you visit Japan today, you’ll find slippers in every hotel or inn you check into.

The rest of the western world slips into slippers most mornings, sometimes during the night, and for those of us who work out of the home, all day.

The earliest record of the English word for slipper occurred in 1478 and was derived from the verb ‘to slip,’ describing something one slips their foot into.

The United Kingdom’s traditional slipper is the Albert, from the Victoria era and Prince Albert. Naturally it’s velvet with a quilted silk lining and a leather sole.

The first ballet slipper was created by Marie Ann Cupis de Camargo of the Royal Ballet in the 1700s. Salvatore Capezio advanced the ballet slipper in 1887 in New York City, and Jacob Bloch of Russia made slippers of leather in 1932.

Cinderella, who, believe it or not, may have originated in classical antiquity, wore sandals in the earliest incarnation of her story. She was called Rhosopis then. It wasn’t until 1697 that the glass slipper was first introduced by the French author Charles Perrault.

Dorothy, from the L. Frank Baum story The Wizard of Oz and famously played by Judy Garland, wore ruby slippers. But they had heels. Talk about something from the Wicked Witch.

Today’s slippers include fleece-lined, leather loafers, corduroy slip-ons, and suede moccasins.  

My slippers currently include a pair of the fleece-lined variety, a faux-suede slip-on, and yep – those old moccasins from 8th grade. I still have them. I still love them. I still celebrate them.

Though the foam insole needs replaced.

 

UPDATE: My good friend Roy sends along these beautiful slippers, which he lovingly calls "footini."

Slippers and an ice-cold, grey goose martini, slightly dirty, extra olives. That's a celebration unto itself.

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A beautiful man

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 10, 2011 11:46 PM

The Thomas Crown Affair, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo was on AMC tonight. I absolutely love that movie. It's sexy, and smart, and it has Pierce Brosnan. 

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It's always a good day when I can look at Pierce Brosnan. The husband-unit doesn't mind looking at Rene Russo either.

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Ah. Coffee.

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 9, 2011 11:49 PM

I read recently that Starbucks is now 40 years old and I was surprised. I had no idea that the self-appointed coffee-connoisseur had been around nearly as long as I had. As I sat in one today, in Glendale, sipping a non-fat latte, listening to their music selection of the day, a woman who sounded a little like Lucinda Williams, and catching up on a little work, I thought about how important coffee has become to our society.

It is an international ice-breaker, a meeting maker, a social norm. "Let’s grab coffee." "Meet me at Starbucks." "See you at 10." It is ever present in most gatherings; it is the way we end most dinners. It begins most days.

Coffee. Ah.

I know that every morning Kevin gets up before me, usually to take the dog out. He then makes coffee, bless his soul. We grind our own beans and steep them in water, steaming through a very narrow tube to fill a pot. I lay in bed, inhaling the rich dirt and dark fragrance as it wafts through the house and into the bedroom. I can hear it percolating. Do we still call it that? I usually call it cooking. After a while I call out and my fabulous husband appears in the doorway and asks: “You want I should bring you coffee?”

That’s better than Starbucks any day! And definitely every morning. I always nod enthusiastically. 

Ah. Caffé.

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Ringing the bell

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 8, 2011 11:30 PM

Alexander Graham Bell changed the world on June 2, 1875. It was that night that his partner, Thomas Watson, plucked a reed, part of an ongoing experiment that Bell was running to create a harmonic telegraph, mimicking the overtones necessary for creating speech over telegraph lines. Then, on March 10, 1876, the famous words were uttered over a liquid transmitter: “Mr. Watson ­– Come here – I want to see you.” Words that Watson heard clearly over those same lines.

The telephone was officially born that day, and it forever changed the way we could, and do, talk to one another. Hallelujah!

Since Bell and Watson, we’ve gone from boxes that hang on the wall with separate ear and voice horns, to rotary phones, to touch tone or push button. Portable phones made their debut in the 1980s, right around the time that car phones became popular. Then came cell phones, 1G, 2G, 3G and now 4G. Smart phones.

These phones allow us to talk as well as type so we can communicate in many ways, using just one device. We surf the 'net, we tweet. We are forever talking to one another in one form or another and I believe that's a good thing. It keeps the lines of communication open to all sorts of messages and all manner of information-sharing.

People often bemoan the lack of communication skills with today’s younger generation. Supposedly they don’t know how to talk on the phone; all they do is text; they’re on Facebook or Twitter all day long. All may be true, but what’s also true is that every one of those is a means of communication. The older generation may not like it but the fact is, they’re communicating. They’re “talking” to each other in a myriad of ways, setting up food dates and making plans, connecting, spreading important news instantaneously, even letting parents know what’s going on. They’re talking.

In the 1870s there was one official means of communication, the telegraph, and one beginning to gain popularity, the telephone.

Today, we don’t think about how we communicate; we simply pick up the phone. 

Cell. Text. Email. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. The Internet. All accessible by phone, with caller ID.

We’re talking up a storm over all kinds of lines and wireless devices. Alexander Graham Bell could never have imagined that his tiny liquid transmitter would lead to this but thank god it did.

In 1877, the first long-distance telephone lines were laid and in 1915, the first coast-to-coast long-distance call was completed, with Bell in New York City calling Thomas Augustus Watson in San Francisco.

I talked to my mom tonight. She’s in New England and I’m in Southern California. I think she’s got a little Bell in her, and I’m out here celebrating Thomas Watson. We talked for an hour, and I celebrate that. It's Alexander Bell's greatest legacy, the ability for those far away to have contact with those we love virtually any time.

And I love that.

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Wisdom of the aging

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 7, 2011 11:20 PM

Had a very nice interaction today with an older gentleman. We were out for our lunch-time walk, and on our way up the third of four hills, we encountered this man as he too ascended the hill, with a little help from a cane. He was slightly hunched forward, spry in a pair of baggy Levis, a red hoodie, white sneakers, a baseball cap, and aviator sunglasses that were almost black. He commented on the weather as we passed by and we stopped for moment to chat. He was here from New Jersey and was enjoying the weather immensely. It was about 65º today with a cool wind blowing. He’d left New Jersey on February 6 when it was 15º; he wasn’t missing it.

For the past few years, he and his wife have been snowbirding in Oak Park. They started with a month, then two. Next year, he’s thinking they may be here for three months. He loves this little town, loves the restaurants and the shopping. Loves to walk. They stay with his old college roommate.

I’m guessing that he’s in his early 80s. He was delightful, so enjoying the day and today’s life. And I couldn’t help but think that this man was wisdom-walking. The life he must have led. Had probably seen a war or two, married his high school sweetheart, had three kids (two girls and a boy in the middle) and worked his whole life at the same company. He gets a pension, and social security. He’s not hurting for money, even after putting his three kids through college and helping each one of them buy their first home.

He and his wife sold their house years ago and live in a very stylish townhome now. It’s much easier, much more ideal for their lifestyle. In the summer, they golf and visit their grandchildren. In the winter, they spend time in Southern California.

He was charming and lovely, a man of integrity who loved life, was out celebrating the day and vowing to celebrate even longer next year.

And it got me thinking. We think of wisdom as something we gain with age; that it’s something profound. I wonder, though, if wisdom is sometimes simply realizing that another place is better in the winter.

Wisdom is appreciating a beautiful March afternoon.

Wisdom is knowing that three months under a California winter sun, even when it’s just 65º is infinitely better than being under a gray New Jersey sky, when the temperature is rarely above 15º.

Wisdom is taking a walk on a Monday afternoon and talking to the whipper-snappers who are cruising by, and getting them to stop and chat. 

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March 5 and 79º

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 5, 2011 4:55 PM

An absolutely stunning day. The kind of day that, if I was religious, I’d say God made. But I don’t think she did. I think it was simply a function of the weatherman, my favorite dude, Dallas Raines. He made it happen; I'm sure of it.

Blue sky, not even a wisp of a cloud, nor hardly a hint of a breeze.

Perfect bicycle weather.

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In which I write about nothing at all

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:49 PM

I'm a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I freely admit it. In fact, I'm proud of it. The genius of A.A. Milne was that he could take the simplest philosophy, the simplest ideal of life and make it profound.

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."

"The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking."

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.

 

"Think it over, think it under."

Oh, and "Bother."

Bother to celebrate Pooh and Piglet and something today.

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Carole King

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 2, 2011 11:38 PM

I watched the Troubadours documentary tonight, and it made me remember how much I absolutely loved Carole King when I was starting to appreciate music.

Longer post tomorrow, but for tonight, I feel the earth move.

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