In my next life

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:41 PM

Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Violence. Belligerence. Incompetence. Understanding. Hate. Love. Joy. Happiness. Sadness. Resilience. Resentment. Contempt. Acceptance. I am reminded of the words spoken by Rodney King so many years ago: “Can’t we all just get along?” Evidently not. I admit to hearing the news of today’s shooting and having mixed feelings. I am against guns and violence so my first feelings were of disgust. But then I thought how fortunate that those who required medical attention had health insurance. Good for them. I wondered, then, if being shot would qualify as a pre-existing condition.

I read the articles, I didn’t watch the news. Everyone always says the right things during times like this. Can’t we all just get along? And no one ever takes responsibility for their role in instigating and perpetuating and wink wink nod nod. Perhaps we could all get along if we didn’t demonize and excoriate and condemn and relentlessly criticize and cajole every person who doesn’t believe exactly as we do. Maybe. I am filled with doubtl.

I suffer from these feelings, too. I feel fear and loathing, not for my fellow citizens but for the government. A government of, by and for the people except it’s not. Except that it is. As Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently put it, and to paraphrase: You go to war with the government you have. Only he said army, not government. It’s one and the same these days. The word government can be interchanged with the words representatives, governors, politicians. 

Each day I grow ever more tired. Each day I try to put it all in the background as I concentrate on my work, my life, my good fortune. Each day, I fight the urge to succumb to it all. Each day, I am successful. So far. 

Then I begin to wonder: where does it all end? How much more can we take? Can’t we all just get along? 

My dog is where I find the most joy during the day. He is happy. He bounds through the house, he loves his toys. He lays on his back and joyfully holds his toy, his “guy,” up above him. He has no idea of the angst and turmoil and horror that each day brings. He doesn’t know that we have elected a complete buffoon as our leader. He would greet Herr Hair with the same energy and enthusiasm as he greets our friends. He just loves people. 

My dog is pure. Fun. Energetic. With a wicked sense of humor. Who likes to talk. Who loves to go for a walk and loves being on the deck over-looking the desert even more. Who curls up on the floor to nap. Who has a Martha Stewart bed in our bedroom (it was on sale at PetSmart) and another one in my office. Who alerts us to creatures crossing the driveway. Who has taught us to pay attention when he’s on high alert and looking up the hill because there are always deer descending or ascending.

Who has the life. So much so that in my next life, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dog, with good owners and a nice house, with lots to eat and too many toys from which to choose. In my next life, I’m going to not worry, not fuss, not lose sleep. In my next life, as a dog, I’m going to live in pure joy.

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Bye bye birdie

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 13, 2017 8:27 PM

As of the end of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database had reported 70,577 incidents of birds striking aircraft. They started keeping track in 2010. The amount, which has undoubtedly risen in the first nearly six months of 2017, averages out to one strike every 45 minutes. Those are just the ones that are documented. It’s possible there are more. The good news is that only 7% are actually damaging events.

One of the most famous bird strikes occurred in January 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia in New York. Two eight pound geese flew into each of the plane’s engines, causing massive failure and the famous water landing that’s been dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson.

Birds have been known to dent aircraft. They also don’t discriminate. In 2012, birds hit Air Force Two, with then Vice President Joe Biden onboard, as it was landing in Santa Barbara.

I bring this up today not because I was in an airplane that was struck by birds. Rather, I was in a house that suffered a strike this morning.

As I have written about before, our house has a lot of glass. Glass on the front of the house, not as prolific as glass on the back, but still prevalent, looking up onto the hillside behind us from the dining room, the front door, and the kitchen. On that hillside, are birds. Ravens and falcons are the big ones that haunt everything and lord over everyone. They occasionally land on the roof but never attempt to fly through the glass. Smaller cactus wrens, woodpeckers, humming birds are more brazen. The biggest culprits seem to be doves. 

This morning, as I was sitting in my office, I heard a horrendous crash, the noise coming from the vicinity of the dining room. Kevin had already asked me earlier if I had a bird hit the glass in my office. I assured him that what he heard was me slamming a fly swatter against a very large wasp. But this noise, this crash, was obviously a bird. I came out of my office, Kevin out of his, and we met in the dining room. There, on the glass, was a lot of red, some feathers and streaks where the liquid was running down the glass. 

I gulped, afraid to look down into the portico below. As I got closer, I realized that what was on the glass was not what I feared. It actually had seeds. And was more pink than blood red. But laying in the portico, not dead, was a white winged dove. We’ve had bird strikes before, some that have killed the poor creature. Most times, though, it simply stuns them. They sit, very still, staring straight ahead. Eventually they fly off.

This bird had obviously tried to fly through the glass with a piece of saguaro fruit in its mouth. It was the fruit that splattered on the glass. The dove was lying in a pool of juice. It was breathing, its eyes were open, but we were concerned. What to do?

Eventually, it righted itself but didn’t move. A longer time later, it began to walk around. We noticed an initial few drops of blood but then nothing. It extended its head, its tail feathers fluffing up and out. It tried to fly but had some trouble, instead settling down onto the portico, in the shade. 

We checked on it regularly. We hoped that it would be OK. We felt bad. After all, someone – us – dropped a house here in the middle of its desert. In the middle of the homes of all the desert creatures. It’s why we don’t kill anything, especially if its outside. Inside might be another matter. We have killed two scorpions and several spiders. We had a red headed centipede that we had to kill. But generally we try to be respectful. And we don’t like that we have caused several birds harm, including today.

After a number of hours, when the bird hadn’t yet been able to fly, I called the Tucson Wildlife Center. They’re a hospital for rescuing, rehabilitating and then releasing all manner of wild creatures here in the desert. I was all set to scoop the bird up and drive it to their facility. I couldn’t let it stay there all night, exposed, hurting, perhaps dying.

Riley stood at the window and whined throughout the day. And then, he stopped. I went to check. The bird was gone, having flown away, finally, and hopefully to continue living it out loud in the desert above.

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Dream a little dream

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 12, 2017 10:08 PM

I have always tried to live by the dream. By that I mean I believe, strongly, that dreams can lead to great success, extraordinary happiness, and yes – I realize – intense disappointment. But I believe that dreaming of better things, newer things, more fun things; of adventure and love; of possibility is what it means to truly be alive.

I dreamed, long ago, of living in the west and I have for more than 30 years. A dream come true. I dreamed of a marriage that was a true partnership, filled with laughter and fun, of sharing the same goals and enjoying the same things, and I have that with my favorite husband. I dreamed of having a son, and I have an amazing one. I dreamed of a Samoyed husky and while I’ve never had one, I have had three extraordinary dogs that I have and continue to adore, including the current goof known as Riley Boo. I also had a dog growing up, who was my savior when I was bullied in 8th grade, who met me every day as the bus dropped me off. I’d walk, dejected and miserable along the side of the bus toward home and I’d hear the gallop. Looking up, there he’d be, Chaudee, his ears flying, tongue hanging out, coming to greet me, to welcome me home, to make the world OK at least for a few minutes. 

I dream still. I admit, freely, that I dream partly to avoid reality. Lately especially. Reality reigns down. It rains down, as well. Reality is the antithesis of dreaming. It is right here, right now, deal with it, figure it out. Horror. But dreaming is not yet realized. It is all about hope, and maybe. It can be something as simple as hoping for nice weather, dreaming for cool in the hot of the desert. It can be something as drastic as wishing for new government and direction. Dreaming is, by nature, oblique, ubiquitous. Possible. 

I dream of retiring. I dream of traveling, strangely enough for me, in a travel trailer. Strange because I don’t camp and have never once in my life dreamed of camping. I love nature, love the outdoors. I have no desire to sleep amongst it unless I can bring my own room with me. I dream. 

I dream of making wine and making a living at it. I dream of sleeping for more than six hours a night; I dream of being well-rested. I dream. 

I dream of writing a phenomenal book that is well received and praised, something that matters to people, that makes a difference. 

I dream. 

Lately, I’m dreaming of this: 

We have long had motorcycles as our way to enjoy the day. In California, we regularly rode the back canyons to wherever, along the ocean to somewhere north and away from the heat. Here, not so much. It’s simply too hot in the summer and in the winter, we have too many projects. 

I dream now of having a convertible that can be used in summer and winter, under the sun and to escape it. The idea of a car like this is nothing I’ve really dreamed of. One of my college roommates had a 1967 MGB convertible. It was fun; we had fun. But it’s never been a dream to have a convertible.

Until now. Now I’m not just dreaming. I’m salivating. Because it would be a great way, another way, to live it out loud.

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There is a delight

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 11, 2017 8:59 PM

On March 15, 1910, just over a year after he left office, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote that “there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” He was in Khartoum at the time, leading an expedition to Africa in search of specimens for the Smithsonian’s new Natural History museum. Khartoum is in the Sudan, and at the time, was a burgeoning metropolis. It is now the capital of the region. But at the time, it was surrounded by the white sands of the desert and the rich fauna of the Nile Valley. He wrote those words about the vistas and landscapes he had encountered. I use them today to describe the vistas and landscapes we encountered this morning.

I don’t know what compelled me to move west. This magical place was just where I always imagined myself to be. I do know what compelled us to move to the desert. It wasn’t anything we’d ever even considered but when we brought Justin to school here in August of 2009, we knew it would eventually be our new home. Settling into the east side of town, we continually marvel at the vistas and landscapes. We are surrounded by rock and mountains, by saguaros and ocotillos and trees. From our house on the hill we can see for at least 10 miles and probably more. The desert, rimmed by mountains, stretches before us to infinity.

Kevin was up early this morning, by 6:15, early for a Sunday, the day we jokingly refer to as “the day of rest.” He didn’t sleep well, probably because he was overtired. Yesterday he started rocking outside, finishing the lower swale, at 5 am. He was done by 7:30 and then he switched to finishing the front brakes on the Classic. Luckily, I convinced him to buy an air conditioner for the garage so it was at least somewhat hospitable in there while the temperatures raged outside. He worked all day, and then couldn’t sleep. 

I got up about a half hour later, when I heard the coffee pot sputter and snarl and spit signaling that it was almost done brewing. My boys were on the deck. I poured two cups of coffee and went out to join them. We marveled at the calm of the morning, at the temperature just in the low 70s. At 7:30, I said it would be a great morning for a motorcycle ride and suggested we go. I didn’t have to suggest twice.

We climbed aboard the Gold Wing and took off south and east. We weren’t going anywhere in particular so we never reached a destination. Instead, we simply meandered, finding a road we’d never taken before and following it. The day was still early; there were almost no cars where we were. Even the churches we went by, and there were many, weren’t yet open for business.

We went past Saguaro National Forest east, something that often makes us smile since we seemingly live in a saguaro forest of our own. We headed toward Colossal Caves knowing that we weren’t going to stop, but it gave a place to turn around. The road surface was smooth, unlike so much in the desert. There were no stop signs or stop lights, just a wide open two-lane road. The sun was warm but not hot. I watched quail and roadrunners crossing the road; I watched for deer and cattle. We saw horses, and an osprey that landed in the middle of the road to extract something that used to be something else. In the trees to the east, huge black ravens sat perched on the branches of mesquite trees, their feathers glistening in the morning sun.

I was struck by the vastness of it, the desolate nature, and sheer glory of this Sonoran desert we call home.

The fuller Teddy Roosevelt quote says: “There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” That from a republican president. Something to celebrate on this Sunday.

What my mother said

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 10, 2017 8:23 PM

Lately I have been having trouble finding things to celebrate, which makes it hard to write this blog. Regular readers, if I have any left, have no doubt noticed. It's not that I don't want to write; it's that I am often not in the mood to celebrate. Since the election, I have found myself adrift. An anger simmers just below the surface, threatening to erupt at any time. A frustration, singular and consuming. As much as I hate to admit it, there is fear and loathing. 

 

I find solace with my friends, solidarity with those who share my disgust, fear and overwhelming sense of dread. I am consumed with the news, more so than ever. It threatens sometimes to take over my day. I hold it at bay, but after every project completed, I immediately check the Washington Post. I have news alerts set on my phone. They buzz through hourly. Sometimes they're innocuous but I am compelled to always make sure that we haven't started a war, to see who we've insulted, to try to understand the wanton cruelty that now exists and emanates from the White House.

 

Yesterday I spoke to a client who lives in New Jersey. It had been sometime since we connected, since she had any work for me, probably well over a year. I asked how her business was and she sighed, telling me that it's OK, but that she just hasn't been motivated to solicit new business, even to nurture existing business, not since the election. As I so often do, I nodded along. I told her that I try to ignore it and to focus on work, but that my personal writing has suffered; that I simply haven't been writing as much; that I miss it terribly. I could hear her nodding as well. Solidarity comes from these connections. 

 

I was in New England a week ago. My mother kept apologizing for the weather and I kept telling her it was fine; as if she had anything to do with it anyway. The weather was fine. It was cool and cloudy, a little bit of rain, a sometimes blow of wind. But I didn't need sun. I live in sun. I have sun. All. The. Time. 

 

She mentioned that I hadn't been blogging as much and I told her the reason. I have trouble finding things to celebrate every day – which is the whole point of Live it Out Loud. I find frivolous some of the things I used to write about, things like my memory of eating blueberry pop tarts at my grandmother's house in the summer. They never had frosting. Seeing something along the road and inventing a story, like the watch we found on a walk in Oak Park, or the orange plastic skeleton, sitting cross legged under a drain pipe behind a store. These memories, these items were fun. Why can't I find the fun anymore? 

 

My mother said something very profound, as mothers are wont to do regularly, especially once you're no longer a teenager under their roof. She said: look around you. Look at what you have, look at what you've accomplished. You have a husband who loves you, a son who is successful and happy and likes to visit, a dog who is healthy. You have a wonderful family. You have friends that you enjoy spending time with. You have that amazing house. You're healthy. You have a good life. Celebrate those things. 

 

She's right of course, about it all. And I am eternally and forever grateful for everyone and everything. I have to get out of my head. I have to not be so combustible, so consumed by anger and fear and loathing and disgust. I need to heed my mother's advice. I need to find my way back to living it out loud. 

 

Perhaps I'll start by getting back to writing every day. I miss that. I miss my readers. I hope you're still there. Are you?

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The weekend

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 5, 2017 8:04 PM

I spent the weekend in New Hampshire with my family. My niece and godchild, Shawn, graduated from high school. I hadn't been back to visit for two and a half years. Life gets in the way. Doesn't it always?

It's so green in New Hampshire at this time of year, after the rains. On the back roads, and they are plentiful, the trees form high, thick canopies that nearly block the sky. During the day, sunlight flickers as it finds a way through the leaves to paint abstract patterns of light and shadowed dark on the roads below. The bugs can be plentiful, too; the mosquitoes thirsty, especially after the rains.

I always forget how thick the green is, how prolific the bugs.

The temperatures were cool, though, and windy especially on Friday night for the graduation. The air was clear and nearly crisp. At night, with the windows open in the bedroom I slept in, it was cold, a nice change from the heat of the desert.

On Saturday, while Shawn slept after an all-night party, my mother and sister and I journeyed east and north, first toward Durham, where I went to college and where Shawn starts in the fall, and then up to South Berwick, Maine which is just over the river. Gregg, my mother's companion, has a gorgeous house there, with glass walls overlooking the water, and high, open ceilings reaching toward the sky. We had lunch in York, across from a surprisingly calm but still gray ocean. I've never known the Atlantic to be anything but gray. Perhaps I haven't been there at the right time. It fit, though, as the day, too, was a cool gray with spots of rain.


But Sunday morning was glorious. I got up around 9, slipped into my sweats and walked toward the kitchen. I noticed my mother's room was empty though her bed was still unmade. I expected to find her in the living room watching television. But she wasn't there either. Alone and craving some exercise, I laced up my sneakers and decided to go for a walk.

I didn't grow up in New Hampshire. I was 15, nearly 16, when we moved there. I was an angry teenager who resented having to change schools after just one year. I never became fully acclimated so I don't know my way around very well. I know enough, though, to be able to walk from my mother's house on New Boston Road toward town. I hadn't given a lot of thought as to where I'd go. My initial inclination was just to the end of the road where New Boston meets Boston Post. But the day was glorious and there was little traffic save for cyclists, joggers and other walkers so I continued on, thinking I'd simply make a big loop around. Instead I found myself walking toward the cemetery where my dad is buried.

I hadn't been there in years but I thought I remembered where to find his grave. I walked through the open gate framed by two stone pillars, and continued along the grooves of the well-worn path. When we buried my father in 2002, his grave was in the back, the last row. Behind was empty space, waiting to be filled with the dead. Strange to think of land that way, especially when it's so green and lush.

The cemetery had become more populated since I was last there. The tall, deep red cherry tree that used to mark his grave site was gone. I remembered that my sister told me it had died several years ago and that we weren't allowed to replace it. Something about the town no longer allowing it. Small towns in New England can border on authoritarian.

Without that tree and with so many more headstones, I found myself not knowing which way to go. I turned to the left but knew that wasn't right. I was alone - no one else was visiting their dead. And you can't ask for directions in a cemetery. I wondered how I would find it.

Then I saw a statue of a dog, one of those cement statues that people sometimes put in their garden or at the entrance to their house. I remembered then that the grave in front of my father's had a statue of a dog. I walked toward it and found his marble headstone engraved with "Shields."

There was some moss on the marble; weeds had begun to encroach into last year's mulch. Every year at Father's Day, my brother once again cuts away the grass, pulls the weeds, removes the old mulch and puts down new.

My dad isn't there in the cemetery, of course. The remains of his body are buried there, near a small pine tree that needs to be trimmed, and a perennial plant that was blooming deep pink as to be red and next to a small statue of a golfer also covered in the dried moss of age. With a dog standing guard not far away.

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Somewhere else

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 1, 2017 7:28 PM

The morning before the dawn is blue. Ghostly. Haunting. Beautiful. It looks like ice and winter and somewhere else. Somewhere else is where I'm getting ready to go. Somewhere else is where I'll be tonight.

It is June 1. In 30 days we will officially be half way through 2017. I am relieved, suspicious and apprehensive. It has already been an interesting year, completely different and totally the same. It has been busy and filled with work and friends, laughter and fun, and yes, anger and frustration. Such a strange brew of emotions. It's a cocktail I don't actually enjoy but it is the cocktail we've been served. I'd like to down it all at once in order to get it finished and over with. Unfortunately, this cocktail is still in the sip and see mode.

Such a metaphor. Such a crock.

I awoke this morning at 2:25, as I so often do. And as so often happens, it took me a while to get back to sleep. In fact, I didn't really. Rather I dozed. My brain was racing around in my head, ideas were flowing like rain. I was hot and slept with the sheet over me, my feet sticking out into the air conditioning. I kept checking the clock, something I don't usually do. It is what it is when I'm not sleeping. I just let it happen and trust that when my body is ready, it will allow me to drift.

But this morning was different because this morning I had to get up at 4 in order to go somewhere else. At about 3:45 I felt the familiar wash of nothing. My brain began to quiet, my body temperature dropped. I was falling back into dreamland and yet I couldn't allow it. A cruel thing to inflict on oneself.

At 4, I got up. The day had not yet knocked; outside it was still dark. Dark enough that all of the solar lights lining the driveway, that can be seen through the windows in the master bath, were still on. Dimming, awaiting sun to recharge, but still lighting the way.

And then came the steel blue light, the strange color that bathed the desert; the cool before the warmth. The promise of something else.

I'm traveling to New England today. It's been two and a half years. No longer home, it remains where my family is. My mother, my sister and her family, my brother. It's a familiar place and yet foreign. I know it and yet I don't. It’s a place I lived but not for long; it's where I went to college, where I started my journey from. Interesting that I often think of it that way. It gave me the tools and possibility, the courage to leave. Now it's somewhere else. It's where I'm journeying to rather than away from. Where I'll be living it out loud until Monday. 

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Lizards, and deer, and rabbits oh my

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 31, 2017 8:51 PM

When it gets hard for me to find something to celebrate, I turn to nature. I do that a lot lately, marveling at the color of the sky, the green of the desert, the harshness of the wind. I find solace in the blooming cacti, so many of them sprouting different colors and different shapes of flowers and fruit. The saguaros have done their annual halo of white flowers. They’ve mostly all bloomed and are in the process of drying and dying, to fall and be picked up by birds. While they last, they’re angelic. The tiny cactus that flood the hillsides – I can’t recall their names – have been vibrant with red and hot pink while the prickly pear have been red, and the hedgehog cactus have been pink. The whipple cholla are currently teasing us with an amber, almost copper colored flower.

The creatures are out, too. We have deer all year long, and javelina, too. But now we also have snakes and spiders and lizards and toads. And rabbits. All of whom send my Riley into orbit. 

This morning, after our walk and is his habit, he takes wubba, dashes onto the deck and whips poor wubba back and forth, growling, barking, and generally announcing that any who would dare show their face in his desert. HIS. DESERT. should consider themselves warned. He does not take kindly to intruders, even those who came before him. 

So there he was, out on the deck, standing guard at the rail, staring into the abyss of the desert stretching beneath him. He seemed fixated on something. His tail was rigid, his ears forward, his body ready to spring. Which he eventually did, bouncing up in the air as if on a pogo stick and barking simultaneously when into his territory came a rabbit. A rather big rabbit by desert rabbit standards. And this one was brazen. Even though there was much commotion happening above him, he seemed to instinctively know that the wild animal in red fur couldn’t get to him. And so, Mr. Rabbit took up a spot just below Mr. Riley, in full view of Riley, taunting, while he proceeded to nibble on a bit of mesquite. He nibbled and nibbled, then sat back on his rear haunches, and stared straight ahead. Riley, big tough dog, could do nothing.

Eventually the rabbit got bored of his game and hopped up and over the deck. I thought we might be able to return to some quiet.

I was wrong.

A lizard, or three, each well over a foot long, shot down the hill and across the dirt below. Riley loves lizards, loves to chase them. Has even caught one or two. But again, from the deck, all he can do is whine and snarl and bark and dance. Every once in a while, he’ll look back at me, sitting inside, at my desk, watching him with a smile, as if to say: “Do you SEE what’s going on down there? How can you be so CALM?” 

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go meet my friend Stephanie, I noticed movement in the window behind me. In our master bath, we have a pedestal-type tub that sits nestled in front of three large windows that look out onto the driveway and the hillside beyond. It had been windy but the movement wasn’t the wind. I turned to look and there, just feet away from the house, were two – no, three! – deer. They had come down the hill to munch on some cactus and mesquite. My movement made them freeze and stare, directly at me, directly through me. I moved slowly from the bathroom, tucked Riley into my office and closed the door, and then called to Kevin. “Bring your camera.”

We hadn’t seen them that close before. Just like the rabbit had never been so brazen before, or the lizards to teasing. Perhaps we’re getting a reputation for being soft on wildlife. Perhaps they know that no harm will come to them here. Kevin and I wouldn’t hurt them, and Riley can’t get to them.

There are lizards, and deer, and rabbits. And so many more incredible creatures and wonders in this desert, so many colors, so much extreme and so much majesty. Something to celebrate not just today, but every day.

A day on the bike

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 27, 2017 8:24 PM

Ever since we moved into the house, most weekends are spent doing house things. Kevin spends his Saturdays working outside, building rock walls and swails, shoring up the rip rap on the hillside below the house and to the south. We have erosion problems. Not to the extent that the house is going to slide down the hill and end up in the backyard of the Roesly's, though I do joke about that. The hillside is mostly solid rock, but the dirt and fill continues to erode because of the horrendous rains we get and because everything above us runs down onto us and then gushes on by. The rocking is a necessity as well as a catharsis. He might not love it when he's doing it, but he loves the result. And he does enjoy the total mindlessness of it. Brain power replaced by brawn. 

 

While he rocks, I often run errands. Or clean. We have yet to retain cleaning people and instead prefer to do it ourselves. This is good and bad. Good in that we know that things are done correctly and exactly to our specifications; bad because the house is big and it's impossible to clean the whole thing at once. So I piece-meal it. The guest room and bath are clean so I don't have to do anything in there; ditto the bathroom off my office. But the master bath, which gets the most use, needs more attention. Our shower alone can take me an hour and a half. 

 

So Saturdays are spent in and around the house. It has occurred to us that, with the exception of spending time with friends in the evenings, we don't have much fun anymore. When we lived in California many a Saturday was spent happily drifting through the many canyon roads. We'd climb on the motorcycle and go off to Ojai for gas, taking Kanan to Westlake, then south to Avenida de los Arboles to Moorpark Road. Heading north, we'd make our way to Tierra Rejada, turn left and take that until it ended at Los Angeles Avenue. Another left and we'd twist along until we hit Balcom Canyon which would wind its way to Santa Paula where we'd pick up the 150 and cruise into Ojai. It was a delightful ride and while it could sometimes be hot, we were always moving and there was some shade, some respite from the heat.

 

Tucson doesn't have a lot of back roads or canyons that wind to somewhere else. To get anywhere you have to move through the city which means near constant stoplights. To the north is Mt. Lemmon and that's a lovely drive, cool and lush, but you can only go to Mt. Lemmon so many times. 

 

We've been wanting to go to Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat, old mining towns that are to the west and north, heading toward Phoenix and Scottsdale along the 79. But we haven't been able to get ourselves out before the weather turned scorching. It's a two and half hour drive under the unrelenting heat of the desert sun. We decided, again, not to do that today. Instead, we opted for Oracle which is on the other side of Mt. Lemmon. The only way to really get there, though, is to head west through town, go north on Oracle 77 and then wait to break free of the stoplights just south of Saddlebrook. It takes about an hour to do that. Mileage wise, it's not bad. Traffic light wise, it's brutal. It's about 40 miles total, and takes about an hour and a half. 

 

We left the house just after 10. It was already starting to get warm. The sun was lazy and the sky was white. The wind, which has been gale force all week, was softer though still hot, the breath of the desert breathing fire. We were lathered up with SPF 50 so we wouldn't get burned; we'd just feel like we were disintegrating in the atmosphere. 

 

Oracle is slightly more elevated at about 4547 feet, so we knew it would be cooler. Otherwise, we didn't really know what to expect. What we found was a small town, a lot of abandoned homes, a lot of trailer parks. There were several restaurants. A pizza place we had no interest in; a Mexican place that's closed on Saturday. We found a place called Ore House Hilltop Tavern and buzzed up the short hill. Both of us started to grin. It's a total dive, a wonder of a spot that time forgot. The dusty road and parking lot are red dust. There's an old travel trailer in the shape of motorcycle helmet. In front of that is a rusted out old motorcycle with a metal skeleton rider. A rusted metal horse pulls a dilapidated wooden wagon.

 

The building itself had to have been an old mining location. The floors are uneven; the ceilings, all wooden planks, are low. Scattered around the outdoor patio area are various old and rusting pieces of equipment. Our kind of place.

 

One of the things we love about going off on the motorcycle is finding a true dive. To climb off the bike in the summer, dusty, sweaty, is one of the true joys. In the winter, it's much the same except then we're dressed head to toe in leather including chaps. We're bikers when we're on the motorcycle, and bikers love biker hangouts and biker hangouts tend to be dives with great people, decent though not healthy food and cold beer on tap. 

 

I had fish and chips; Kevin had a panini Rueben. We decided on root beer rather than alcoholic beer, and we had a wonderful time. Afterwards, we wound our way back to a truly miraculous hole in the wall called Jerry & Sue's Trading Post. The place shows off all kinds of rusted pieces of antique equipment alongside rusted metal sculptures of people and animals. Inside, there's a plethora from which to choose including Christmas ornaments, antique plates and glasses, pre-owned cowboy boots and new cowboy hats, books, artwork, and tomahawks. 

 

We didn't buy anything but thanked Sue and climbed back onto the bike for the very hot trip back to Tucson. An hour and a half and too many stoplights later, we pulled into our garage. Hot, sweaty, tired. In need of more water.

 

It was a good day on the bike. One spent living out loud. 

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live out loud

Moments

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 24, 2017 10:42 PM

For some reason, I was reminded today of a Saturday late morning in 2008. I was in my kitchen in Oak Park. I had the television on because there was a rally at UCLA and I wanted to watch it. It featured Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. It was relatively early in the presidential campaign but I was already infatuated with Barack Obama. To me, he was a once in a life time politician, someone I found inspiring, intelligent, funny, personable, and believed with my whole being was what we needed after the previous eight disastrous years. I still believe that.

I don’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, but there I was, listening to Caroline and Oprah and then Michelle, who I also found to be compelling and inspirational. As I watched, and as her speech came to an end, she started talking about a surprise guest. The CSPAN camera panned the audience of mostly women as Michelle talked about this inspiring guest, someone who understood, someone who had a relationship all of the women on the stage. Then she introduced the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor then. I hadn’t supported him, but I always believed that he couldn’t be “all bad” (to quote True Lies) because even though he was a Republican, he was married to a Democrat, and a Kennedy to boot. California’s first couple had never made an attempt to pretend that she had suddenly changed her way of thinking and believing. She hadn’t, and as she strode to the stage, in a long suede duster, hair swinging, looking regal and down to the earth all at once, the crowd went wild. I was enthralled. It was a moment. 

I subscribe to her newsletter and read her thoughts every Sunday when she sends out her weekly email. I always liked her, admired her. During that 2008 impromptu appearance she spoke off the cuff. She was genuine and real, human and funny; self-deprecating. And she said something that has always stuck with me. Some nine years later, it still resonates. 

“Life is made up of moments.”

The moment we leave home. The moment we first fall in love. The moment we decide to move on. The moment we first eat cookies and cream ice cream. The moment we taste our first truly amazing red wine. The moment we become married; the moment we become parents. The moment we get sick, the moment we get better. The moment we see an eagle soar. 

The moment we decide we’re tired. The moment we realize the sun’s coming up. The moment we breathe in the day and marvel at the sunrise.

The moment we decide who we are; the moment we decide who we want to be. The moments we laugh, the moments we joke; the moments we cry. 

The moment we lose a parent, the moment a loved one is hurt or becomes ill. The moment we get the phone call. The moment we grow up. The moment we reach for something new. The moment’s we change.

These moments become hours become days, weeks, months, years; a life. They are moments we should embrace and celebrate. Because they are the moments we live it out loud.

Abstract moments by David Downs

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live out loud

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