There was a dead snake along the road this morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:09 PM

It was just after 8 am. The sun had long since risen above the house and was busy warming the day. Riley and I got a late start on our walk but since it was only hinting at 70º I knew we’d be fine. We trudged along, me saying “slow” about every ten feet. I’m trying to train him to not be such a puller and I’ve never liked the word “heel.” Dogs know the words they taught, and I’m teaching “slow.” His leash was wrapped around my left hand; I was keeping him close to me.

There were workers at the Strobel’s house. Kevin had mentioned that he heard what he thought were trucks and trailers down below, where the house is being built. He asked me to take a look as I went by, just to see who it was and whether we should call the sheriff. It was the contractor – I recognized his truck – and several others. All were busy working. The contractor saw me and waved. I waved back. 

We trudged along, Riley and I. No one else was out. No cars passed us. I always keep my eyes open for creatures, namely javelinas or coyotes. I look to the right and the left and dead ahead for the entirety of the walk. Javelinas can be nasty and dangerous. Coyotes not so much because Riley is a big dog. But I fear Riley would freak and cause a scene. I watch for Gila monsters that can bite down on a dog and not let go; I watch for tortoises that will bite if provoked and attacked. I watch for snakes. 

As we rounded a gentle curve, and began to walk down a small decline, there was one on the side of the road. A rattlesnake. We haven’t seen many snakes up here. We know they’re around; how could they not be given the terrain and the climate? I saw one in what was call the Cooper Area, where we take the dog to pee during the day and before we go to bed at night. There was the one that somehow got into the house. Another that was on the road another morning. We kept Riley close and made a wide circle to get around it. When we returned it was gone. 

I pulled Riley’s leash closer. He didn’t see it, but I kept my eyes on it as we continued by. When we came back past, it was still there, still in the exact same position, part of its scaly body looped over the other. This time, Riley saw it and stopped. He stood staring, his body extended in the direction of the snake, his head forward and down. He didn’t try to pull. He just watched, waiting.


I picked up a rock and tossed it. The snake didn’t move. It was dead. Completely intact. No apparent trauma. Perhaps one of the falcons or ravens had grabbed it up and then dropped it from a great height. Maybe it just died of old age. It didn’t matter. What mattered was there was a dead snake along the road. 

We continued toward home, my dog and I. I watched and listened for other predators. I nodded toward the contractor again. I thought about the snake and its symbolism. Rattlesnakes are lethal creatures, striking to kill. But it was dead. Could it be that it somehow also symbolized the death of fear?

We all live in fear, sometimes it can be crippling. Most times it just gnaws at the back of your soul. Fear of failure, of loss. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be what we dreamed of becoming as children. Fear of life. 

A rattlesnake is but one creature representing the personification of fear, but it’s a just representation. If it can die for no visible reason, could our own insecurities and fears die as easily? Can mine?

The death of fear. The death of anger. The death of lashing out, of striking out. All manifested in the death of one snake along the road this morning. Something to think about.

Maybe tonight I’ll sleep

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 26, 2016 10:54 PM

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I’ve mentioned before that this election is killing me; it’s keeping me up at night. I get to sleep but I can’t seem to stay there. Almost every night I wake up and then I’m awake for somewhere between one hour and two hours. I can’t turn off my brain. I toss and turn. I’m not thinking about anything in particular; I’m just a ball of anxiety. 

I’ve tried not to watch politics at night. Sometimes it works. I’ve tried not to read The Washington Post and check Fivethirtyeight, which I’m ashamed to say I’m almost obsessive about. This election terrifies me like no other. I can’t seem to shake the feeling of impending doom. I’m mortified that some of my fellow Americans think that a man like him is qualified to lead the greatest country on earth. I purposely don’t talk politics with anyone unless I know that they think the same and feel the same as I. I don’t want to think – or feel – differently about someone. 

And we now live in a red state so I’m not surrounded, necessarily, but people of the same persuasion, if not necessarily by default. The fact that we’re in Tucson helps. Tucson is very blue, very liberal. The other day I got my hair cut and colored and my hairdresser said she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know how this state is considered so red and so right because Tucson isn’t like that and neither is Phoenix. I agree with her. Where are these people? 

I’m afraid that some may be people I know and like. And so I don’t ask, and don’t speak, and I’ve no doubt it contributes to my anxiety 

Tonight was the first debate and I almost didn’t watch. Bobbi didn’t watch. Granted she had class tonight but even if she didn’t, she wasn’t sure she would have been able to view it. She couldn’t stand the stress. Kevin said the same thing to me earlier. 

“Are you going to watch the debate?” I asked. 

“I just don’t know if I can do it,” he said. 

Today is our anniversary; 18 years married. Ten years ago, we were in Lake Las Vegas. We’d gone for the weekend, to get away and just enjoy our married-ness. We took the motorcycle and drove from LA. It was miserable. The weather was horrific, the heat unbearable. We couldn’t escape it. By the time we got to the Ritz Carlton, we could literally have been wrung out. We got to our room and took a shower. Kevin got some champagne and, dressed in the white robes that came from the room, we lounged on the bed, drinking some bubbly and watching the first debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. 

Our 10th anniversary

Tonight, we watched the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of whom are we crazy about but we much prefer the former to the latter. We’re Democrats after all. 

“You know ten years ago…” I said earlier. 

“I know,” he said smiling. “We were in Vegas watching Obama and McCain. It’s nice that they schedule presidential debates on our anniversary.”

Indeed. Maybe tonight I’ll even be able to sleep.

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The legend of the red beast

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 5, 2016 12:00 AM

It is said, by the natives, that a great red beast haunts the desert of Arizona. It can be seen at sunset, galloping through the dust, the skeletal remains of its passenger lashed to the saddle. Is it seeking revenge or redemption? Perhaps we’ll never know.

In 1856, Jefferson Davis, who would go on to notoriety as the president of the Confederate States, was the secretary of war. Having fought in Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848, he knew well the harsh climate of the desert southwest. When he became Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, in 1853, he was charged with updating how the military functioned. He promptly ordered 62 camels. They were transported by boat to Indianola, Texas, arriving on May 14 where they were then taken to Camp Verde in Kerr County. Camels, the thinking went, would be great in the desert climate because they can survive with very little food or water, and they have great strength and stamina. They also, evidently, have serious attitude problems. Or maybe it was just that they had to live in Texas. Either way, the camels refused to live with the horses and mules, and even fought amongst themselves.

After the Civil War started in January 1861, and Davis became first provisional president of the south in February and then officially in February 1862, the Confederate forces seized Camp Verde. No record remains of what happened to the camels but most historians believe they were released onto the Texas plains. 

This is where we pick up our story. In 1883, a woman living on a southern Arizona ranch was trampled to death by a huge red beast with a skeletal creature riding on its back. When local ranchers gave chase, they found only cloven-hoof prints and tufts of red animal hair. More sightings began to emerge, tales of a wild beast, a ghost terrorizing cattle and bears, one who could run faster than any other. Legend had the beast standing 30 feet tall with the ability to disappear from sight. 

Once when prospectors were working in the Verde River, the Red Ghost appeared. They fired their rifles and in its retreat something fell from the creature’s back that would later be identified as a human skull with flesh and hair still attached. The Mohave County Miner wrote that the beast might be a camel, but local residents dismissed that idea because there was no earthly reason for there to be a skeletal-being perched atop. Several days later, the Red Ghost appeared again on a lonely road. Campers were awakened in the middle of the night by a loud scream and encountered a huge creature. The men ran for their lives, hiding in the brush. The next day, all they found were cloven-hoof prints and red strands of hair. 

This went on for another 10 years. Then in February of 1893, rancher Mizoo Hastings saw the Ghost in his vegetable patch. With one shot, he brought the beast down. It was indeed a camel. With a human skeleton strapped to its back. The skeleton that had been riding the creature had been tied to the animal with thick leather straps many years earlier. No one knew who it was or who had committed this horrific act. 

Historians speculated that perhaps the man had been tied to the camel as a form of revenge. Or that perhaps he was a Union soldier tied to the camel by the Confederate invaders of Camp Verde.

Regardless, the animal’s back was heavily scarred by the rawhide strips. Perhaps it was seeking revenge. 

Some speculated that a prospector named Jake found gold, and that he loaded his gold onto his camel. He went into a saloon to celebrate where he told his tale of finding riches. A man in the saloon followed him and when Jake camped for the night, the man murdered him. Later that night, the camel attacked the man, killing him.

Decades passed. Centuries. One night, the ghost of Jake appeared, riding on his camel. At night, still, if you listen, you can hear them. If the moon is full, you can see them. Riding across the desert. Riding into forever. Riding.

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Sometimes it's hard

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 12, 2016 5:18 PM

We woke this morning to the news of another mass shooting, this time in Orlando, Florida, at a gay nightclub. Evidently it is gay pride week. I didn't know this. I feel like I should have known, not because I'm gay but because I read the news every day. There's been so much coverage of our political discourse, a ridiculous amount, that it has sucked away the oxygen, sucked the life out of everything else. It took yet another mass shooting to knock that, at least temporarily, off the front page. 

When I hear of the depravity of people, when I see what my fellow human beings are capable of doing to one another, I despair. I know that there has always been depravity. History and text books are filled with stories of the abuse we as a species inflict on others like us but not like us enough. I am not naive; I know how horrible people can be. But every day I try to find something that gives me hope; something that makes me happy. Something to celebrate. 

Sometimes it's hard. Fifty people dead as of 8am Pacific, 53 injured, some critically. I have no doubt that number will rise as others fighting for their lives succumb to their injuries.

How do you celebrate when things like this happen, things that happen too often? Tom Brokaw talked about having a rational discussion about this, because we have a mass shooting every week in this country, but that it will be difficult in this political climate. I have no doubt that Republicans will immediately say that this is because of Obama, that it's further proof we need to ban Muslims. This after we just buried one of our most famous Muslims, a man universally celebrated as a wondrous human, a true humanitarian. Muhammad Ali. Today's shooter was Omar Mateen. Born in this country, just 29 years old with an ex-wife and at least one small child.

Already the gun control advocates are saying we need to do something while the 2nd amendment absolutists are screaming no! while they wave their guns. Already the right is screaming terrorism; already the left is screaming shut up. No you shut up. If you don't shut up, somebody is going to shut you up. 

Sometimes it's hard. 

I am saddened by the state of our country and the state of our politics, by the nastiness of so many people for no reason other than they're nasty. Just last week I watched a woman swing her car door wide and hit my car. Then she did it again. I said "You're hitting my car," and pointed to the paint from her car door on the wheel well of mine. Her door was still against my car and I had to move it. She could have - she should have - apologized. Instead what she did was say, belligerently, "what do you want me to do about it?" I told her she could start by being more careful when she swinging open her door; she could apologize. Then she proceeded to blame me. "That's what you get for driving such a big car." It was my fault that she damaged my car. 

Sometimes it's hard. 

Last night, we were out with Justin and Kelsey. We had a lovely time, wine tasting, laughing, telling stories, going to dinner. She talked about how hard it can be in Atlanta, where she's from; how people are so judgmental, so set in their ways. She said how nice everyone seems here, how refreshing it is. I smiled. I like to think we're capable of being nice, I like to believe that we're tolerant here in Southern Arizona. But we're a red state. We're not as tolerant as people want to believe we are. 

Sometimes it's hard. How do I find something to celebrate today? How do I find something that is happy without seeming out of touch, callous, indifferent? 

This shooting is the worst mass shooting in the country ever. As of today there have been 133 mass shootings this year. A mass shooting is defined as a killing that involves three or more people.

Today also saw a suicide bomber kill three people in Libya, a bomb go off in Beirut, and an explosive hurled in Shanghai’s airport. A man was arrested in LA with an assault rifle and explosives. He was on his way to the LA Gay Pride parade. A police officer was shot in Louisville, Kentucky; there was a murder-suicide in Littlestown, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, a singer was murdered in Orlando as she signed autographs after a concert. 

Today, President Obama spoke once again, the twentieth such speech he’s made in his seven and a half years in office. Twenty times. There have been 200 mass killings since 2006. In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings.

And yet we'll do nothing as a country other than point fingers and yell louder and threaten each other with harsh language. It makes me sad; it should make us all sad. 

Behind the president were two flags, the United States of America and the presidential flag with the eagle. The words e pluribus unum were glaring today. Out of many, one. If only it were so.

Sometimes it's hard.

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Finally, a law from this state I actually agree with

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 3, 2016 8:10 PM

When we decided to move to Arizona, those who knew me the best were a bit aghast. I heard the same phrase over and over again: “YOU’RE moving to a red state?” It’s true. This is a red state. It’s further true that we moved here anyway. It’s also true that I’m a dyed in the wool liberal.  Me moving to a red state seemed to be a complete disconnect for everyone, including me. As I was always quick to point out, we moved to Southern Arizona which is known to be much more liberal than the rest of Arizona. Tucson is a little island of blue in an otherwise deep sea of red. 

An aside. Dyed in the wool is a phrase used to describe an individual with “fixed, dedicated, committed, uncompromising, deep felt belief.” It’s phrase that relates to the medieval method of adding dye to raw wool rather than to spun wool or finished cloth. The final color evidently lasted much longer and was more deeply ingrained than dyeing at later stages. If something is dyed-in-the-wool, it's unlikely to change. It’s what I see when I look in the mirror. 

Arizona has a reputation of being … rigid. Uncompromising. Ridiculous. It also ranks 47th in the country for overall education, 46th for money spent on schools, 43rd in the country for school systems, 49th for preschool enrollment and 50th for headstart enrollment. We received a D+ on the report card from education week. I bring this up because it’s National Teacher Appreciation Day.

We were also the 48th state to become a state. Minimum wage is $8.05 per hour. We have the illustrious SB 1070 law which essentially makes it illegal to be of Hispanic descent – my interpretation. We have the Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. And a tremendous amount of retirees, many of whom apparently subscribe to the idea of “I got mine; screw you.” In other words, they’re Republicans. 

Which leads me back to the red state. It is red, and not just in political persuasion. It has red clay soil and the glorious red, orange and purple painted desert and Grand Canyon. The sunsets, equally on fire, are the prettiest I’ve ever seen and I lived in California for 27 years.

The heat isn’t so bad. The dryness is killer, though. And the creatures are exotic, if not a little scary. Everything bites, including almost all of the plants. The air quality is much better than in Southern California; ditto the traffic. The people are all nice. 

We knew we were moving to a place that goes against almost everything we believe politically. We knew the climate was more harsh. We didn’t think that we’d have trouble with wine. I don’t mean wine as in we can’t buy any, though we do have trouble finding some of our favorites. I mean wine as in we can’t get it shipped. The wines made here in Southern Arizona aren’t bad but we have had trouble finding spectacular. It’s a young wine-growing region. Most of the wines seem just that. Young. Uninteresting. Like they haven’t quite learned how to be fascinating yet, like teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. We have discovered Keeling Schaefer and they’re excellent. Bold. Interesting. 

One of the wine items we didn’t count on when we moved was that many of our favorite wineries wouldn’t be able to ship to us. We were club members of Niner and Zaca Mesa, for instance, and they couldn’t ship because they produced more than 20,000 gallons of wine a year. The Arizona law, one of those on the books since Prohibition, prohibited wine shipments from wineries exceeding the gallon count. We were bummed. We loved Niner and Zaca Mesa. We bought Niner when we’d go to Paso Robles. We found some Zaca Mesa here and there.

But today comes news that our long personal nightmare is coming to an end. Our esteemed governor, Doug Ducey whom I affectionately refer to as Douchey, signed a bill on April 1 allowing wineries from California, indeed from all over, to ship wines directly to customers in Arizona as long as they’re not for resale or exceed 18 cases per year. I learned this from Alicia at Niner Winery. Starting on January 1 of 2017, wineries like Niner and Zaca Mesa and countless others can apply for a $25 shipping license and ship away. I almost danced. I did book it across the house to Kevin’s office to announce the news. We rejoiced. 

So yes, we moved to a red state. And there are issues. But if the wine-shipping issue can be resolved I have hope. I hear there’s even a possibility that a Trump nomination puts the state in play for the election. Maybe, just maybe, this red state will turn blue, and I’ll definitely be home.

Hey. A girl can dream, especially while raising a glass of imported California wine.

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by Lorin Michel Monday, January 11, 2016 9:08 PM

We have a fox. I suspect we've had our fox for quite sometime. I further suspect that we may have more than one. But we've only seen one so I'm going singular. Our fox was first noticed several months ago when Kevin was down on the main road meeting with Dan the weed man. Foxy sauntered out from the brush at the bottom of our property and across the road. 

"Is that a cat?" Dan asked. Kevin shrugged his shoulders. He didn't think so but he couldn't be sure.

"Seems like the tail is too fluffy to be a cat."

This morning, Riley was on the deck as he so often is in the morning after we return from our walk. He likes to take one of his toys - one of his "guys" - and survey his kingdom, watch the desert go by. This includes barking at the neighbors who deign to leave their houses and whining at any perceived injustice such as a bird flying too low or the whiff of some creature that can only be seen by him. We heard a whine followed by a shrill yip followed by more whining. Naturally we opened the door to tell him to settle down. 

He was fixated on something down below and just to the east. Kevin recognized it immediately. The cat that is actually a fox. Cute, small, lithe. It moved easily up from the road, at an angle, under the lower cacti, along the rock out-croppings. The rocks are mostly an icy gray and near black but are also sprinkled with corral and terra cotta. The fox continued along the rocks, up the hill, finally disappearing into the desert. Riley, of course, was not convinced and continued to huff and puff, whine and squeal, and stare. He was sure that it was still there, not that he knew what it was. He just knew THAT it was. And that it was sure to come back and when it did, he would be ready. To squeal and huff and whine and puff and let that pesky fox know it was on his land, his territory. By dog.

I didn’t know that foxes were indigenous to this area but I shouldn’t have been surprised. With all of the other creatures we have haunting the premises, a fox is relatively minor. We’ve been told we shouldn’t be surprised to see a bear. A bear. We’ve already seen herds of javelinas, a number of deer, coyotes, snakes, tortoises, gila monsters, tarantulas, falcons, ravens, skunks, desert squirrels and all manner of insects and lizards. We haven’t yet seen the famed ring-tailed cats, nor bob cats. So a fox or two really isn’t out of the ordinary. 

The Arizona Gray Fox has a silver-gray coat with reddish fur on its legs and chest, and white on its throat, belly and inside of its legs. It has a long bushy tail with a black tip and black strip. It’s actually a member of the dog family but is known to use its hooked claws to climb trees. It likes to live in the rocky canyons and ridges. A fox can weigh up to 5 pounds, stand about 15 inches tall, and live their 7 – 10 years in a den.

They’re also fairly adorable. Cuddly. Though I’ve no doubt they’d scratch and claw to get away from a hug. 

We’ve named our fox Foxy. Clever, I know. He or she is gray and black and orange and white. Small. It’s what I’m celebrating today.

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Things that happened

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 31, 2015 3:09 PM

It seems like just a year ago it was snowing. I ran to the window every 15 minutes or so, like a kid, watching and waiting for the flakes to begin. When they did, I squealed with delight. Yes, squealed. It set the tone for 2015 and I was ready. 

We started the snowy year filled with anxiety and anticipation. Our house was nearing completion and Roy’s gallery opening was looming. We had hoped to be in by the end of January but we were still finishing, still tiling, still shopping for lights and mirrors and accoutrements. Cooper started to get sick and the vet kept insisting it was Valley Fever when it wasn’t. He put him on prednisone and it seemed to perk him right up. But it would be short lived. 

February came and went and we began to worry. We booked movers. We had Roy’s show coming up and we needed a house for the party we were throwing. We pressured Mike and he gave a date that was soon moved back. We simply weren’t finished. We paid a point and a half on our loan because we hadn’t converted from construction to residential. Tick tock went the clock.

Finally March, a move in, a show, a party and the loss of our beloved Cooper. I’ll never forget how sick he was just a week before the move. How he seemed to get better and then how he went completely down hill. I remember being frustrated with him and hating myself for it. There was so much going on and I needed him to be better because I didn’t have time to worry. But I did worry. And then he died on March 29, the day after Roy’s opening. 

We were in the house. Now came the task of putting it all together, and then the realization that a new house didn’t actually mean there was nothing to do. Quite the contrary. Project after project materialized. Some were completed; most were not. Works in progress. Projects in progress. 

Riley arrived on April 27 because I simply could not fathom living here without a dog. It was always supposed to be for the three of us. Our beautiful boy, whose name is still attached to the area on the side of the house where Riley pees and poops. The Cooper area. He never got to use it but Riley makes up for that every day. 

We experienced our first monsoon up here, watching the sky turn green and fly toward us at breakneck speed. Torrential rain, fierce winds. One day, a microburst that hurled our furniture across the deck, breaking one of our Adirondack chairs. 

Visitors came, two by two. Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, people I’d never spent any time with in the 20 years he and I have been together. What fun we had. Roy and Bobbi. Diane and Gene. Justin, who walked in and stood in the foyer. “Holy shit.” My sister came in July; my mother and aunt in November. We made new friends and missed our old ones. Wished they could always be here with us.

There was travel to Los Angeles, a road trip to Paso Robles. Wine tasting, cooking. Volunteer work and work work.

Birthdays, anniversaries, phone calls and Face Time, face time and emails, text messages. New iPhones, new iPads, a new computer for me.

Tick tock goes the clock. Ever forward.

Older, wiser. Some days happier, some days curious. Other days wondering did we do the right thing? So much change, so much. 

We end the year with high clouds and cold temperatures. No snow, not even rain in the forecast. We’ll light a fire and sit near the glow of the Christmas tree on this last night of the year. We’ll remember all we’ve accomplished, all we’ve celebrated, and what we’ve lost, what we’ve had to give up, the people we always miss, and we’ll toast to each. Happy 2015. And welcome a brand spankin’ new 2016. Let’s take it out for a ride and see what it can do.

Always very grand

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 27, 2015 9:51 PM

The first and only time I saw the Grand Canyon was almost by accident. It was the summer of 1984. I had graduated from college just over a week earlier and my mother and I had set off on our cross-country journey shortly thereafter. We had stopped to see friends in Colorado Springs before heading south to Santa Fe, New Mexico where we had lunch. We stayed in a horrible hotel – more likely a motel – in Gallup, an equally horrid town. The next morning, we headed west across the Painted Desert. I remember driving through, marveling at the colors and the flat lands surrounded by mountains. Along the road were a number of street vendors, Native Americans, selling silver and turquoise jewelry.

In 1984 there were no navigation systems, no cell phones. We had an old fashioned map and an itinerary prepared by the Automobile Association of America. We knew we were in Arizona, but had no idea how far we were from our destination. My car, a 1979 Toyota Celica, didn’t have a computer to tell us how many miles to go. All we knew was that we were on the right road and that we were heading into the setting sun. 

We came upon a number of cars parked along the side of the road. People were out of their vehicles, congregated more or less together and staring out at something. We stopped, too. Whatever it was must have been worth looking at. We walked to the edge of the road and there it was: The Grand Canyon in the last part of the day. It was breathtaking, unexpected, and startling. Rock formations that were lower than where we stood, in various shades of gray. As we watched the sun dipped too close to the earth’s surface to bring out any distinctions in the canyon, making it flat. Eventually, we made our way down the road a little farther and pulled into El Tovar. 

El Tovar is the lodge on the Canyon’s South Rim. It was built in 1905 by Chicago architect Charles Whittlesey who wanted his structure to be a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa. It cost $250,000 and at the time was considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi. It was built even though President Theodore Roosevelt, who had visited the Grand Canyon in 1903, said: “I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country – to keep this great wonder of nature as it is now ...I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loveliness and beauty of the Canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it.” In 1906, Roosevelt issued an executive order for the Grand Canyon Game Reserve. In 1908, the Canyon was established as a National Monument, and became a National Park in 1916. 

The hotel was supposed to be relatively small but because of the number of visitors to the Grand Canyon, the size was increased and it became a destination resort. My mom and I weren’t looking for a destination resort, just a nice place to sleep for the night. It was lovely, rustic, with a great dining room. It was the perfect complement to the discovery of the Canyon itself. We had a nice dinner, and slept in a decent bed, one of the best that wasn’t in the home of a friend, and in the morning, after breakfast, walked along the rim of the Canyon, marveling anew. 

President Roosevelt stayed at El Tovar for the first time in 1906, and again in 1913. There were originally 103 rooms and 21 bathrooms. Now there are 78 rooms, all with private bathrooms. It was renovated in 1983 and again in 2005. On January 1, 2017 it will close again for renovations. The carpet will be replaced, the rooms will be painted, the electrical and plumbing systems will be upgraded as will the heating, air conditioning, entertainment systems and the internet wi-fi. Evidently they’re also hoping to find the source of entrance for the ring-tailed cats that occasionally dine with the guests. There was an article in the paper about it today. It will open again in April of 2017. I hadn’t thought about El Tovar since we stayed there but as soon as I saw the photos I remembered. It was a grand lodge, on a grand trip. It will be even grander soon, still the perfect complement to the South Rim of the spectacular national park called the Grand Canyon.

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The sting

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 26, 2015 10:13 PM

When I was little and visiting my Aunt Beryl and Aunt Eleanor at their cabin in Confluence, Pennsylvania, I stepped on a bee. I’ve written about it before. I was staying with the aunts while my parents were visiting with some friends, at least that’s my recollection. I must have been very young as I don’t remember there being a Scott and definitely not a Khristan. My foot swelled up horribly. We went to the local doctor in town who instructed the aunts to apply this gooey black sap. It was like tar. I have no idea if it did anything. I suspect not. It was the early 1960s and that was probably the go-to remedy for a child having an allergic reaction to a bee sting in Confluence.

I’ve been stung other times and never had the same reaction but I’ve always been wary of bees and wasps.

Gordon Sumner, otherwise known as Sting, has long been a favorite of ours. I love his later work, the jazzy, celtic, bluesy stuff. I think his music is interesting. I even like the Christmas album he put out several years ago. Kevin, though a fan in general, doesn’t like that album so I play it either in rotation with others or in the car when I’m driving alone.

The Sting was a movie starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. It came out in 1973, and teamed Butch and Sundance again for what was definitely an enjoyable flick. I still prefer Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, maybe because it’s a Western, even though I don’t like Westerns in general. Maybe it’s the folklore of it all. The title of The Sting refers to the moment when a con artist finishes whatever situation they’re concocted and makes off with the money without the target knowing, in this case Robert Shaw.

Police use stings in much the same way, setting up a deceptive operation in order to catch a person of interest committing a crime.

A sting is what happened to my husband last night.

It was around 8 o’clock. After a long day of working outside and then spending hours in the garage doing a bit of organizing, we had showered, relaxed on the deck with a glass of wine while the sun sank into the west, and were in the kitchen readying to cook. I had already made twice-baked potatoes, and the filet was marinating. Kevin went into his office, which is just across from the kitchen to get something and upon his return, I heard this: “Ow, shit! Dammit. Fuck!”

He had stepped on a scorpion. It was the first one we’ve had in the house. We have no doubt that it won’t be the last. Scorpions sting, much like bees and wasps. Kevin couldn’t remember ever being stung, which surprised me considering how much he likes to work outside.

Honey bees die after stinging their prey. So does a scorpion, at least in this house. Kevin, down on his knees, hissed for me to get a fly swatter. He was not taking his eyes off of the offender. I grabbed the swatter, handed it to him and he proceeded to beat the thing silly. Appropriately mashed, it was discarded into the trash along with coffee grounds and an apple core.

With this type of sting, there really isn’t much that can be done. Take some drugs, apply some ice, wait a couple of days. We’re in the waiting part now. In the interim it throbs and tingles and generally feels like some sort of electrical current is shooting through his big toe.

My husband has finally experienced the yuck of getting stung. He doesn’t like it. But as I pointed out, at least there’s no black gooey salve involved. Definitely something to celebrate.

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Frankly, it’s interesting

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 7, 2015 7:58 PM

I have long had a love of architecture. I am fascinated by buildings of all sorts, and especially by homes. I think the different styles that are indicative of certain parts of the country are intriguing. The colonial on the east coast, the Cape Cod in New England, Santa Fe style and desert contemporary, Mediterranean in Southern California. There are modern houses everywhere, of course, in styles that mirror their location. There are no stucco houses in New England that I know of; there are very few clapboard houses in the desert. Roofs on the east tend to be pitched and shingled while in the west they’re mostly tile, or in the case of many desert homes, flat, stuccoed and painted.

This morning, Kevin and I went to Bookman’s, a wonderfully eclectic bookstore that is all used books, musical instruments (a ton of guitars, both acoustic and electric as well as banjos and ukeles), antiques and art. We were hoping to find a New York Times. They didn’t have one but they did have several books we decided we couldn’t live without, one of which is a photography book for Kevin. As he was perusing, I happened upon the architecture section. There were a number of books on one of this country’s most famous architects, one Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. He has a number of homes all over the country, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, Illinois to California and many places in between.

I’ve been to Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, Kevin has been to the B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Illinois, where he was born and raised. June 8 would have been Wright’s 148th birthday. It’s a testament to his vision that many of his homes are still landmarks, still known as Wright houses.

It got me thinking, though, not just about Frank Lloyd Wright but about all of the famous architects named Frank. 

Frank Lloyd Wright house, Kankakee, Illinois

Frank Clark house, Medford, Oregon

Frank Gehry, Disney Hall, Los Angeles, California

In Oregon, Diane and Gene have been looking at a house designed by Frank Clark, a famous and famously prolific architect in the Pacific Northwest. There is of course Frank Gehry who designs more commercial buildings including the famous and famously blinding Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Francis Fleetwood was a designer of the big time homes that sit on the North Shore of Long Island, in an area affectionately known as the Hamptons.

Of course there are also Frank architects of some repute who are not American, like Francis Greenway who was an architect in Australia in the latter 18th and early 19th centuries. And Francis Golding, a London architect, who was killed just two years ago while bicycling. 

Michael Bratton, Michel House, Tucson, Arizona

Our architect, Mike Bratton is an honorary Frank because he is very frank in his conversations, sometimes to the point of appearing rude. We quickly became used to it and actually embraced it because he designed and built us one hell of a house. He says what he thinks, he has an opinion and he knows what he’s talking about.

I find it all incredible, the ability to design a building from nothing. It’s like creating a piece of art on a piece of canvas or a story on a blank page. Frankly, the ability to create anything from nothing is interesting. And if it lasts through the ages, like Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Clark or Frank Gehry, it’s definitely something to celebrate.

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