16 years

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:57 PM

It’s March 22. Sixteen years ago tonight, which was a Wednesday, my future husband and I met for a drink at Yankee Doodle at 6 pm. Just a drink. Dinner was too much of a commitment.

I think I got home around 12:30. We left Yankee Doodle - a pool hall and kind of sleazy - immediately, and went to a place called Monty’s on Topanga and Ventura in Woodland Hills. They have a great piano bar and they serve hors ‘d oeuvres. The piano player that night was cheesy and wonderful. He played “Macarthur Park” and we sang along. Yes, we’re just that weird. We hardly knew each other but we knew the words to that ridiculous song.

Three years later we got married. I celebrate that daily.

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Snow covered hills

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:54 PM

I live in Southern California. Snow doesn’t fall here, though the surrounding foothills occasionally get a dusting. The San Bernardino Mountains get several feet. All are visible from various points on various freeways.

I had to drive into town today for a meeting, and as I crested the Calabasas grade to begin the descent into the San Fernando Valley, the hills toward the east, rimming the city, and as far as the San Gabriel Valley were more than dusted. They were white. It was glorious.

I know it’s Spring, The lower hills are green, the trees are beginning to bloom, the flowers are peaking out from their cocoons. But snow fell this past weekend. It’s magical. Celebratory. Stunning.


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It's a wash

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 21, 2011 8:02 PM

Doing laundry. It’s one of those things no one likes to do, even with the convenience of a washer and dryer right in the laundry room. But how incredible that it’s that easy. Centuries ago, when people would be at sea, they would clean their dirty clothes by placing them in a strong cloth bag, tossing it overboard, and letting the ship drag it through the water for hours. Forcing water through clothes actually removed dirt. Fast-forward to 1782 and a Brit by the name of H. Sidgier who designed a cage with wooden rods and a turning handle to move water around and stir up the dirty clothes. Then in 1797, the first washing machine made an appearance as a scrub board. Somehow the sea method seemed at least more exotic.

In 1851, an American named James King patented the first washing machine to use a drum and the modern washer was born. I celebrate its invention regularly. Hamilton Smith introduced a reversing action in 1858. Not that it matters, but Hamilton Smith is the name of the English building at the University of New Hampshire.

In 1874 William Blackstone of Indiana built a birthday present for his wife that removed and washed away dirt from clothing. I suspect this is when it all began, the idea of not giving your wife appliances for special occasions.

Tiny electric motors helped power washing machines in the early 1900s, but when water sloshed over the side, sparks ensued. It wasn’t quite safe. Maytag, Whirlpool and the Schuthess Group produced washers in the early 1900s.

The first fully-automated machine was introduced in Louisiana in 1937 by the Bendix Corporation. Then came General Electric in 1947 with its introduction of five different push buttons to adjust water temperature, spin speed and agitation speed, and the history of washing clothes in a machine became complete. Fully automated, spin cycles, wringers, twin-tubs and more. All to make our lives easier and our laundry cleaner.

Today some 60 million washing machines are sold every year around the world. There are front-loaders and top-loading. They all clean clothes. I thought about that today as I threw a load of clothes into the washer and went about my work. A little while later, I came down from my loft office to throw the clothes into the dryer, a device first invented in Europe as a heat ventilator. Electric dryers appeared around 1915 and have progressed since then. Thank god. Especially since our house now sports a natural gas dryer.

I’m not a big fan of doing laundry, but I can’t imagine doing it on a scrub machine, or dragging it behind a boat. I don’t even have a boat. I love dumping clothes into my top-loading machine, starting the water, pouring in some detergent, closing the lid and letting it do its thing. I don’t care how; I just care that it does. I take the clothes out, put them into the dryer with a nice dryer sheet and within two hours I have clean clothes that smell good and are nice and warm to the touch.

That’s what I call a wash.

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What words can do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 20, 2011 9:44 PM

I like to think that words can enlighten and confound, create and obscure, twist together to form stories, papers, letters, articles, emails, texts, poetry, sonnets, plays, song. We speak words; we scream them. We sing them. We embrace them, become them, memorize and recite them. They define our personalities, the way we speak, the way we communicate, the way we emote and feel. Words define each culture, cleverly disguised as language. Each and every one, no matter how small or how elaborate, tells a tale of romance, redemption, infidelity, joy, drama, tragedy, comedy, reality and truth. Beauty.

Most of us never even think of the words we use, but I think of them everyday, imagine how to use them and somehow find a way to put a string of them together to make a sentence or two, a paragraph or three.

In my world, words become art.

On this rainy Sunday, I give you this: Portrait of a woman of words.

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A magus moon

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 19, 2011 9:13 PM

The Magus is a novel by the British writer John Fowles. It’s about an Oxford graduate and aspiring poet who gets pulled into the web of a mysterious recluse who may or may not have collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Psychological games ensue. It’s not necessarily cheery but it is fascinating, and beautifully written. A friend of mine gave it to me on my 30th birthday and I have never been able to get it out of my head.

The magus of the book’s title refers to a magician and a sorcerer, a manipulator of reality. But a magus is also an astrologer, someone who views the heavens and decides our collective fate. It’s interesting then that tonight we welcome what the magus have dubbed the super moon, so named by Richard Nolle, a magus with a flair for the dramatic. This super moon, which also happens to be a full moon, will orbit the earth much closer than usual, a mere 221,560 some-odd miles away. A lunar perigee like this, when the moon is at its closest as well as at its brightest, will also display itself bigger and brighter than normal. 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter to be exact, and yet that big brightness will be almost indecipherable to the frail human eye.

This phenomenon happens once every 18 to 20 years, though tonight’s moon hasn’t appeared quite this large since March of 1993.

It’s quite a sight when the moon rises from the horizon on a clear night. That big glowing orb in the sky never ceases to amaze and confound. There have been countless books written about it and a movie that captured its magic perfectly, Moonstruck.

On this night, our moon will be absolutely enormous as it rises in the East and sets in the West.

La bella luna. The beautiful moon. Bigger, brighter, more magical than ever.

So look up into the sky and celebrate the light it casts down upon we mortals. And celebrate the magic of being moonstruck.


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Cause to celebrate

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 18, 2011 6:53 PM

It's the end of the week, always cause for celebration. Tomorrow morning I get to sleep in a bit more than I do during the week. Another cause for joy. It's going to rain, and there's almost nothing I like more than to lay in bed on a morning when I don't have to get up, listening to the rain pounding the roof, the ground, racing through the gutters. I love the noise it makes as it pushes through the trees, gulpy and insistent, petulent in its rightness to be wet, to storm.

I'm celebrating friends and the ease we have with one another. Conversation never lags, and laughter bounces through the house and lodges up in the corners of the rafters, waiting to be called upon at another time. Like an echo, it's there to keep us company even after the friends have departed.

I'm celebrating my husband because he puts up with me and my moods.

I'm celebrating a good week of work and the possibility of another looming. Even the meetings are welcomed because there is interaction, and camaraderie, the sharing of ideas and thoughts. I relish that.

I'm celebrating my son who this week received an offer for a summer stock internship in New York, with New York Stage and Film. I'm not celebrating how much it's going to cost us but I'm thrilled for him and the experience he'll get. Experience he can use as he completes his next two years of college; experience that will propel him ever forward.

I'm celebrating my niece who is completing a play this week. She's 11, and so far away, but she's always in my heart and I'm so proud of her.

I'm celebrating my nephew because he's just so damn cute and because he's so determined in everything. It's easy to celebrate that as the doting aunt.

I'm celebrating the music pouring from the speakers in our great room, filling the house with piano and guitar, horns and drums.

I'm celebrating because I can, and that's cause enough. Life is cause enough.

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Green is good

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:52 PM

I’ve always liked the color green. It makes me feel calm. Maybe that’s because in some cultures it can symbolize hope and growth; it can also mean death, sickness and envy, as in green with. But for me, it means balance and harmony and health. It symbolizes change and transformation, a metamorphosis, something new. It’s opportunity and rebirth. No wonder Friday is also known as the day of green.

Green is a color, or many, a season or seasons, many animals, a number of veggies, a mood and money. In recent years it has come to symbolize technology as well. Green as a word is related to the old English verb growan, to grow. People can be green around the gills, or want some greenbacks. Cash.

Wikipedia has a whopping 62 pages devoted to 62 different colors of green. A website called diaspora.ie lists 568 shades of “green so far,” but I haven’t been able to decipher whether that may actually refer to 568 members, people or affiliates.

I suspect there are actually countless shades since the color green emits light wavelengths between 520 and 570 nanometers, and there is an infinite amount of floating point numbers between. Floating points are digital representations of a number that doesn’t actually exist but that generates a plethora of random other numbers. I don’t really understand it; it’s a scientific calculation. Science was never really my strong suit.

In the current Crayola crayons lineup there are twenty shades of green. My favorite is Shamrock, or maybe Inch Worm.

There are also a number of green animals. Many take on a green hue to camouflage themselves in their natural green environment. Lizards, many reptiles like the ball python – shudder - and amphibians, fish, insects (praying mantis) and even birds. Frogs.


Green also refers to technologies that harness natural energy sources. Solar and wind, electric cars, compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

Depending on where you live you have a season or two that celebrates green, rebirth and regrowth. In Southern California, it’s late winter into spring. Summer is all brown, but in the winter when the rains come, the hillsides are phosphorescent, alive and vibrant. Truly something extraordinary. It’s that way now, as the hills roll forwards and back and reach for the sky in glorious shades of green. In other parts of the country and world, green starts with the rebirth of trees and the budding of flowers in spring, and continues into summer, thick and lush and exotic.

Imagine the rainforest, green all the time.

Green vegetables are great sources of fiber, the antioxidant vitamins A, C and K, and minerals, and they’re low in calories. Broccoli, spinach, artichokes, asparagus, and celery are some of the top greenies. I like all five though celery is a little stringy for me. It gets caught in my teeth.

Greens can be a golf course or a salad. Green can be naïve or environmentally correct. It is freedom and new ideas.

Green is a ferocious personality, a color that means life and love, a symbol of health and growth, of ecology, social justice and non-violence.

On this day, it simply symbolizes solidarity with the Emerald Isle.

So in celebration of green…

Tucker Hirsch, therapy dog.


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Corned beef and cabbage

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:40 PM

My dad was Scotch-Irish. He stood 6’ 2”, weighed two hundred twenty pounds, had dark hair that, when it got too long, developed a slight curl over his ears and at his collar. When he was older, the color turned gray but still curled. His eyes were the lightest of blue with just a hint of green and twinkled when he was having a good time, when he laughed. He didn’t laugh often enough.

He was a big man, generous to a fault, gentle and yet possessed a fierce temper. He loved sports and Italian food, his three children and my mother, even after they divorced. And he loved corned beef and cabbage. Personally, I find corned beef salty and completely the wrong color. It borders on pinkish orangey gray, with a green tint. 

I learned today as I listened to NPR, that to corn beef, known as salt beef in the United Kingdom, you have to brine it. There is a mixture of spices that gives it its signature flavor. This spice mixture is also a simple preservative that keeps it that pinkish color even after it’s cooked. Known as potassium nitrate, it is commonly known as saltpeter. Interestingly, saltpeter is the critical oxidizing component of gunpowder, and fertilizer, along with being a food preservative. When dissolved in warm water, and mixed with sugar and more salt, saltpeter becomes the perfect brine, or water saturated with salt. Pour it over a brisket, seal it all up in a bag, and store in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days. Then cook it with cabbage and potatoes until everything is soft. Serve.

When we were growing up, my mother made corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. The only one in the family who really liked it was my dad. The rest of us pushed our meals around our plates and nibbled at the potatoes. The potatoes were good. But my dad… the twinkle was definitely in his eye as he savored his first serving and then his second.

I wish I knew what it was that he loved so much about this meal; I wish I could ask him. He died almost 9 years ago and I miss his twinkling eyes, his friendly chuckle followed by a snort. His dad-ness. I even miss the smell of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.

But not enough to cook it. Instead, I’ll raise a pint of Smithwick’s to my dad, Terry, and to his love of this most Irish of meals. I’ll wear something green to celebrate my partial Irish heritage. Perhaps I’ll put on some Celtic music. And I’ll miss my dad, maybe even a little bit more than I do every other day.

Mora na maidine dhuit, Da. Top of the morning to you, Dad.

Mom and Dad, in more twinkling days.

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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.


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.


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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