And Hawaii

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 29, 2014 8:57 PM

This morning, the husband unit and I were lounging in bed, having a cup of coffee, discussing the seven continents because what else would a happily married couple be doing at 7 am on a Wednesday morning?

The conversation had started rather innocently when I mentioned that this weekend was the time change. Many parts of the country fall behind. Arizona doesn’t participate because why would they. So I mentioned that we needed to remember that when California clients said they’d like to have a 2 pm meeting, that actually means 3 pm our time for the next several months unless we’re in California and then we don’t have to think about it. Kevin took a sip of his coffee and said his head hurt already. Then he said that maybe we needed to get some of those clocks, and I smiled and I said so we’d know what time it was in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, maybe Singapore.

That led to a segue of me asking what the biggest city in China is, and we both decided that it must be Beijing. This prompted me to say that I was pretty sure I could name most of the major cities in most countries but that Africa always eluded me. I knew Johannesburg in South Africa. I knew much of Africa was horribly poor, and that there is always strife there; always has been.

He said South Hampton. I don’t know if there’s a South Hampton in Africa. I know there’s one on Long Island and England. I asked if there were any other big cities in Africa which naturally led to a discussion about Egypt and Cairo because what else do you discuss at 7:05 in the morning. He said he didn’t think Egypt was in Africa and I asked well, then, where would it be? Luckily, I had my handy dandy communication device right next to the bed because dog forbid I not have my cell phone within reach at all times. I pulled up the internets and Wikipedia, wondering how I ever got by without Wikipedia, and looked up Egypt. There it was, a nice big splotch on the northern tip of Africa. Hmmm, said the husband unit, sipping his coffee.

What are the seven continents, I asked and together we quickly rattled off north and south America, Africa, Asia. Kevin offered Antarctica. Then we sat, perplexed. Australia? Yes. And Hawaii. I started to laugh. I’ve always loved Hawaii. It’s truly a tropical paradise. It has an otherworldiness about it, especially on the smaller islands, that makes you feel as if you’ve left the chaos behind. Time slows down a bit. You go from living life at mach II with your hair on fire to existing in slow motion. It can take a few days to acclimate, but once you do, it’s difficult to go back to the mainland. I think it might very well be the living and actual embodiment of Shangri-La, a fictional place from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton that was described as a mystical and harmonious valley, according to Wikipedia. It has since become somewhat synonymous with any earthly paradise.

Eventually, the husband unit and I came up with the correct seven continents. We got out of bed and took Cooper for a walk. The morning here was cool, low 50s. The light was almost blue, even as we approached 8 am. Fall weather. Cooper trotted along, his ears bouncing as they always do. We were quiet, lost in thoughts of Shangri-La. And the lost continent of Hawaii.

‘tis Friday and tonight it means exactly what it used to mean

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 19, 2014 10:49 PM

Once upon a time, we would partake in a weekly ritual. After a long and often stressful, strenuous, and arduous week, we would gather with our bestest friends to commiserate. The commiseration usually only lasted a few minutes before laughter and story telling took over, washing away the previous days and leaving in their wake the clarity that is friendship. Along with the laughter, and probably what helped to facilitate the laughter, was Grey Goose.

Kevin has become known in certain circles as the master mixologist. He shakes a mean vodka martini. Ice cold, just enough vermouth as to hint at its inclusion but never so much that it can actually be tasted. Depending on who wants what, some martinis are vodka of the aforementioned Grey Goose variety, and olives. Some are gin, the original martini, which is what Diane prefers especially if it’s Bombay Sapphire. Sometimes martinis are dirty, which is a little extra olive juice to go with the olives. Sometimes martinis have a twist of lemon. That’s how Kevin and I like ours. Grey Goose martini, ice cold, with a twist. Roy and Bobbi, our bestest friends who are with us this weekend, like theirs dirty, with extra olives.

According to NPR, “there’s no cocktail more distinctly American than the martini. It’s strong, sophisticated and sexy. It’s everything we hope to project while ordering one.” H.L. Mencken, the satirist from Baltimore, called the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

The history of this “American invention” is kind of fuzzy, and memories of its origins were equally fuzzy, probably due to the imbibing of one or two. Some attribute the ‘tini to a miner who struck gold during the California gold rush. Said miner walked into a bar and asked for a special drink to celebrate his new fortune and the bartender concocted something special with what he had on-hand, namely fortified wine, also known as vermouth, gin and a few other goodies. The bartender called it a Martinez after the miner.

Others say that San Francisco is where the martini was truly born, right around the same time. Another claims that a New Yorker created it in 1911. Vermouth was marketed under the name Martini in Italy in 1863. But the name Martini is actually an Arab name, which maybe is why there are so many martinis consumed in Syria. But maybe that’s because the French occupied Syria from 1920 thru 1946. Which explains Grey Goose, a French vodka, but not the martini because it’s traditionally made with gin, and Grey Goose is our choice, not necessarily everyone’s. Some people prefer Kettle One, or Belvedere or just a speed rack vodka because it’s cheaper in a bar.

Then there is Bond, James Bond, who drinks martinis shaken not stirred. We assume that he drinks gin martinis because he doesn’t order a call liquor, but perhaps he drinks a vodka martini. And he’s British.

All I know is that tonight is awash in martinis and friends, good food and laughter. It’s why it was dubbed, once a long, long time ago in the land of Oak Park, Fritini. It has returned for the first time in a long time and it has brought with it all of the wonder and joyous reunion that we knew it would. Fritini is friends. I think it’s interesting that both words begin with F-R-I, as does Friday. Friday is fritini for friends. And we’re celebrating it tonight. Cheers.

Hoodoo you think you're foolin'

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 5, 2014 8:32 PM

Yesterday we journeyed up to Mount Lemmon. It is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains, rising just over 9100 feet above the desert floor. In the winter, they get snow. They have a small ski area called Ski Valley, three lifts and about eight runs. It’s not Mammoth or Lake Tahoe, but it’s close. We might even ski this winter.

The desert is in monsoon so while the temperatures haven’t been excruciating, the humidity is. The clouds gather every morning, thick with an incoming storm. They get blacker as the day progresses. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls. It rains. To escape the heat we jumped on the motorcycle and made our way east to Catalina Highway, then north toward the mountain. It was hot and we were in shorts and t-shirts, but as we climbed, the temperature started to drop. We felt it first right around the 5000 feet mark. It was slight but perceptible, and welcome. We continued to wind our way up the twisting road, huge clouds above us.

Catalina Highway, officially General Hitchcock Highway, was cut into the mountain in 1933. It rises 8000 feet above the desert floor before ending in Summerhaven, the tiny resort town that serves the ski area. Summerhaven has a population of 40 full time residents.

There are a number of places to pull off the highway to view the incredible vistas. The road drops off on at least one side at any given time and sometimes on both sides. As you climb, the cactus, so plentiful on the desert floor, gradually give way to pine trees. Interspersed between are some of the most thrilling rock formations we’ve seen.

Arizona has ridiculous politics but what if offers in terms of desert and landscape is stunning. It is home to the Grand Canyon and part of the painted desert. The red rocks of Sedona are positively mystical. In the canyons and mountains of the Catalinas, there are hoodoos. And they’re magical.

Hoodoos are tall, thin spires of rocks that rise out of the dry terrain bedded with softer rocks and clay soil. This type of terrain is commonly called a badland, and it’s characterized by impossibly steep slopes, little to no plant life and lots of water running through. Hoodoos can be as short as 5 feet and as tall as 150 feet, and look like someone placed rock on top of rock to create towers. They’re found all over the world, in this kind of desert. Bryce Canyon and Moab, Utah are known for their hoodoos, as is the area below Mount Lemmon. They rise up and stand at attention, and look as if the slightest push could topple them. They’ve stood for thousands of years; they will stand for thousands more.

As we wound our way up to Summerhaven, we marveled at these glorious tributes to geology. Once we got close to the top of the mountain, the hoodoos were replaced with towering pine trees and cold air. We had to buy sweatshirts. On the way back down, we had an even better view of the hoodoos. There are a number of lookouts from which to view them. Some people were even climbing the ones that were shorter in stature. I understood it but it bothered me. Somehow people standing atop a symphonic rock formation seems to diminish it somehow, removes it from its otherworldliness and brings it into our realm. I know why people do it. It’s to have the photo for posterity sake. And to post on Facebook. Still.

In places like New Orleans, where magical forces are thick, hoodoo is practiced as a spiritual influence on the physical world. Many people look down on it, believing that it has hurtful intentions, and perhaps confusing it with voodoo which can. Spells are cast and the supernatural reigns. Looking at these rocks yesterday, the first time I’d seen them other than in photographs, I could sense the magic. Something supernatural had to be responsible for this kind of beauty. Something supernatural like nature living it out loud.

On Sundays alone

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:24 PM

For the past four days, we’ve had company. Our dearest friends Roy and Bobbi have been with us and oh, what a time we’ve had. They drove on Wednesday, leaving around 9:30 am. The plan was to take I-10 across California, into Arizona, down through Phoenix and finally exit in Tucson. That was the plan but plans change. As the old saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Also really bad accidents. One did, on the 10 at Blythe, closing the freeway in both directions. There is no other way to get through Blythe and into Arizona when on the 10.

Luckily they found out early enough; Bobbi sent me a message from the car. We started researching in order to plan an alternate. South on 86 out of Indio, past the Salton Sea, to the 111 and on down to the I-8. The I-8 runs from San Diego straight across the lower part of the Sonoran Desert, dangerously close to the Mexico border, so close that you could see the fence. It’s not significantly longer, maybe 20 miles. They stopped in Yuma for lunch, one of the biggest armpits in the country (apologies to people who live in Yuma), then zoomed along, finally arriving around 6.

We were waiting. We had some cheese, some wine. I made pasta with two kinds of sauce, or as Roy calls it “gravy.” We laughed and talked through the night. Over the next couple of days, we just enjoyed ourselves. We visited some wonderful places, places we had discovered and wanted to share. The Lost Barrio downtown, the famous Hotel Congress where John Dillinger was staying and where he was finally caught way back when as he was exiting the Rialto Theater across the street. We went to the Arizona Inn, a landmark that first opened in 1930. It’s a throw back place, full of history and possibility. It looks like old Hollywood glamour. I know that stars like Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, Katherine Hepburn and more used to vacation in Tucson during the 1930s and 1940s. I think the AZ Inn catered to the elite. It still caters to an older clientele simply because of the décor, the style. It’s old world and gorgeous.

We went to The Dish, an eclectic and impossibly small bistro that serves things like a bowl of mussels, swimming in a garlic-saffron broth, with a glass of wine for just $12.50 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Kevin and I had the mussels, Bobbi had smoked salon flatbread. Roy had a salad and squash soup. We all shared a Spanish wine.

Roy is an artist. Kevin has been pitching him as his artist representative and several weeks ago, booked a one-man month show at a gallery on the east side. We went to check out the space, take some pictures. We went to the house, took a picnic, went south to Elgin to do some southern Arizona wine tasting. We tasted our own wines, our Syrah and our Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our three full days of fun came to an end this morning. They loaded up their rental car, and drove off into the desert as Kevin, Cooper and I stood in the driveway watching them go.

It’s been a strange day. We’ve been trying to get some work done, and Kevin has been making more progress on that front than I. Cooper has been napping. He doesn’t seem to be feeling well today. Or maybe he’s just missing Roy and Bobbi. I know we are.

They’re our closest friends. We get along terrifically. We’ve always traveled well together; we stayed together well, too. There was no stress. It was just easy and fun. On this Sunday, as the warmth wrapped around us, we were missing our friends but celebrating our time together and the good times yet to come, when once again we’ll be living it out loud together.

Cooper sit

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:42 PM

These were the first words I heard this morning. It was 6:53. Kevin had just gotten up because Cooper had just gotten up. This is the ritual. Cooper stretches inside his kennel, then we hear his paws hit the tiled floor. He shakes to get all of his fur into place. It's the equivalent of me getting out of bed and running a brush through my hair which I do every morning, often to little avail. Depending on how I've slept, it is often a lost cause. Cooper's fur always looks good though – the same, regardless of how he has slept. It's a perk of being canine.

The two boys padded out to the great room. There is a door in between the windows on the back wall that opens onto the patio. Every morning and several times during the day, Cooper journeys to this door so that he can go out into the backyard.

I heard the door open, the slatted wooden blinds that cover the glass banging slightly. Good morning. That's when I heard it: "Cooper, sit."

A few seconds later again came the words "Cooper, sit." It wasn't yelled nor was it whispered. It was a simple command -

Cooper, sit

- that Cooper obviously wasn't obeying. After about four more of these commands I heard the door close again, the blinds tousling, and then my little furry one was back in the bedroom and on the bed.

I heard Kevin making coffee, then he too returned to the bedroom.

"What's up with all the Cooper sits?" I asked without opening my eyes.

Cooper growled.

Kevin proceeded to tell me that when he opened the door to let Cooper outside, the sprinkles were running. The landscapers had been here on Monday and then back again on Tuesday, and had evidently recalibrated the sprinklers. Cooper started to go out, then stopped and turned to go back in. He didn't want to pee in the shower I guess. Kevin needed him to wait. The sprinklers don't run for long. He just needed to be patient.

Patient is not a word in Cooper's vocabulary.

Each time he would sit and Kevin would turn away, Cooper would turn too, lower himself to the ground, a snake, and try to slink away unnoticed. Kevin was having none if it. Cooper was being obstinate and Kevin was going to win because he was.

Cooper sat and waited and eventually got to pee. But he was not at all pleased about it. Kevin was holding him back, cramping his style, making him late for a nap.

Which is another perk about being a dog. Almost as soon as you get up in the morning after a restful sleep, you get to crawl onto the big bed to sleep some more. That's sleeping it out loud.

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Thou shalt not fear the apocalypse

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 4, 2014 10:21 PM

As desert rats, we understand that in the next weeks, we will be descending into the inferno. We are ready, we think; we are prepared, maybe. We know we will become like pieces of pottery, fired in a kiln only to eventually emerge and cool for use. I use this forced metaphor because tomorrow I start a pottery class. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. On Monday nights for the next eight weeks, I will drive through the ever-building heat toward a studio where I will sit at a wheel and throw around wet clay. I can’t think of a better way to cool off.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The coming apocalypse. By apocalypse, I mean the dreaded summer heat of the southwest where daily temperatures are usually at 100º and higher. These temperatures can be found in Southern Arizona and Southern California, especially in the San Fernando Valley of SoCal. There have been days when I have driven across the Valley and been told by the temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car that it is a balmy 116º. 

That is nothing compared to the hottest place on earth, the desert’s own Death Valley where the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134º. Talk about going into the kiln. Several years ago, my mother visited in the summer and we went to Santa Ynez and Los Olivos to do some wine tasting. It was 104º. She’s not used to living in a kiln, but – as my brother likes to joke – at least it’s a dry heat. Like that matters when the temperature is over 100.

To beat this apocalyptic heat, we engage in several activities. One involves staying inside with the air conditioning running, keeping the house at a comfortable 78º. Another involves traveling by car, also with the AC on. And another involves rearranging our lives so as to exercise before 8 am so as not to melt into a puddle of goo. This was the case this morning as we set off on our bicycles. At 8:40. We had good intentions. Last night we went to bed and said we would ride this morning early because of the coming apocalypse. It was supposed to be 95º today (I think it ultimately topped out at 93º). We woke up early and then because we hadn’t slept well because let’s face it, who can when the end of the world is coming, we fell back to sleep. Or rather, we dozed. At 7:35 we awoke with a start. We still had to walk Cooper. We needed to have a cup of coffee. We needed to prepare for the journey, a process that entails Kevin topping off the air pressure in the tires while I get the water bottles ready.

When we finally mounted the bikes and clicked into our pedals, it was already toasty. We rode 13 miles. Not far but it was mostly uphill. Even the brief periods of downhill were uphill. It’s true. I know you’re probably thinking that the heat has started to fry my brain because how can downhills go up, but they can and they do in the desert when it’s hot. Maybe it’s a mirage. By the time we got back, 52 minutes later, we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced, exactly how I would expect the apocalypse to make me.

I don’t know much about the apocalypse actually. My understanding is that it involves guys on horses, rather than bikes. But if my scant knowledge of the end of the world is correct, there is great heat and fire, and the gates of hell or something.

After a winter of nearly no rain, there will be fires. As I write this, there is one burning just east of Los Angeles. The weather people are predicting an apocalyptic fire season that has already started months early. It’s the price we pay for living in the southwest. But I don’t believe the actual apocalypse is coming, nor do I fear it if it does because I’m fairly used to the heat. And besides, I ride a bike. 

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Saturday's with Moby

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 26, 2014 8:48 PM

When Kevin and I saw The Bourne Legacy several years ago, we suddenly became aware of the end credits music. We had seen all of the Jason Bourne movies, with Matt Damon. This latest incarnation starred Jeremy Renner and we enjoyed it more than most people. Part of the reason was the music by Moby. We became instant fans.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought Innocents, Moby’s album from 2013. It’s a very atmospheric album, filled with Moby eclecticism, perhaps less on this disc than on others. We like to put it on in the background, especially on weekend mornings and just let the electricity flood the house. This is what we did this morning, after we got back from a mile and a half walk with Cooper that included stopping at the vet to get his nails trimmed. We used to do Maguire’s ourselves because his nails were clear. We could both get down on the ground with him and I would shine a flashlight through his nail so we could see the vein, then Kevin would snip. Cooper’s nails are black. Neither of us is brave enough to chance it. He’s now very stealthy, stealing around the house and sliding around corners like he’s in socks.

We were back by 8:45. We put a pot of coffee on and listened to the wind. It’s been very windy lately, imposingly strong, in your face. It’s the wind of the desert and when it blows it has a mean streak. I tried to find something I wanted to listen to on live365, my internet radio app of choice but nothing was singing true. Moby was still in the CD player so I fired that up and poured myself another cup of coffee.

The fifth track on the album is called The Perfect Life. It’s got a near gospel sound to it. It begins like this: Oh We close our eyes The perfect life Is all we need.

As I was listening, I thought about those words. Is the perfect life something that’s only seen in dreams; in our imaginations; our thoughts? Is that why we close our eyes? Or is it the fact that life around us is just as we need it to be and so we close our eyes to acknowledge the weight of the ideal we have achieved? This life, the people in it, the lives we have created are all we need.

I thought of this fact all today, through the wind and the rain it brought along to play. The thunder as it rolled across the sky before rolling itself out. Kevin worked in the garage on the Porsche, reattaching the new front-end shocks. I did some cleaning, some laundry. I am always amazed at how mindless cleaning is. There are no thoughts, there are only tasks. It’s liberating, freeing. Easy.

I went to the grocery store. It had been a week and a half since our last trip and the refrigerator, the cupboards, were bare. There was precious little food to be found anywhere. I bought everything we needed and some things we didn’t. When I left home, the sky was brooding. As I exited the grocery store, I could smell the dampness of the dust. It was raining. I drove home and as I turned into the driveway, the garage door was still open. It had been open most of the day. Kevin was now reattaching tires. Cooper was helping in the wonderful way that dogs help which is not at all. They lie nearby and sleep, content to be with you. Maguire used to help me wash the car, which meant he laid underneath the big oak tree in the front yard. Cooper helps dad in the garage by lying on the cold cement.

As soon as I got out of the car, both of them rose to greet me. It was raining, cold. A perfect day. My husband and my dog were there, not necessarily waiting for me, but not not-waiting. Kevin smiled, Cooper wagged his tail. I had a car full of groceries and wine. Later, if it cleared up, we were planning a trip to the property to introduce Cooper to the new house. If not, we’ll go tomorrow.

A rainbow appeared, a perfect arch of refracted color and light against a still dark sky. The clouds were gradually flying east. The sunset was going to be spectacular.

On this Saturday Moby set the stage early on for today’s perfect life. It was all I needed; all I need.

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Spring rain in the desert

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 19, 2014 8:06 PM

In the desert, rain is sporadic. In Tucson, we only get about 12” of rain or so each year, most of it in August, and then January and February. This year has been a bit of an anomaly. Like most of the southwest, our rainfall was pathetic; snowfall even worse. Yesterday was overcast and in other parts of the country, you could be forgiven for thinking it might rain. Even though most of the time when there are clouds here it portends the coming of rain, because of this year’s lack thereof, I didn’t believe it. The wind whipped up once or twice and I heard the heavy thud of a dozen raindrops as they smacked the skylight but that was all.

This morning, we woke up around 8, which these days is sleeping in. Kevin took Cooper out and then went to make coffee as Cooper came in to snuggle for a few. He climbed his stairs and went straight to Kevin’s side where he curled up to gaze out the window. Cooper loves our bed. It’s the only piece of furniture he’s allowed on, like Maguire before him, and he takes full advantage of it. But whereas Maguire never stayed on very long unless he was completely alone and could sprawl to his heart’s content, Cooper would stay all day as long as I stayed there with him. I’ve never seen a dog so comfortable as Cooper when he stretches on one side or the other and rolls his eyes back to sleep.

Kevin came back with coffee and his phone, and he sat at the end of the bed, his legs under the bathrobe I always keep thrown over the footboard. It’s a habit I developed in California. If there’s an earthquake in the middle of the night, it makes it an easy grab for something to wear, especially if it’s cold. I grabbed my phone off the nightstand. This is what the modern couple does now, or at least what we do. We check email, we look at seascanner, we surf the ‘nets. In the past we used to turn on the television and look for a Law & Order marathon, maybe NCIS. Something mindless. Now we have the Internet.

The wind started up slowly, ruffling the leaves. The birds scattered for cover. Cooper picked up his head and glanced out the window. He yawned and stretched and flopped his head back down. Within seconds, he was sleeping again. Kevin was reading my blog. He often binge-reads, and often uses Saturday morning to catch up on the week previous. I was looking at Facebook and the news and looking for a restaurant in Tubac since we were planning on a road trip for lunch.

Then came the distinct rat-a-tat-tat of raindrops on the skylight. Soon there was the roll of thunder and then the deluge. Rain poured from the dark clouds above, swirling the trees. In through the open window came the earthy smell of parched earth tasting a drink of cool water after a very long drought. Dusty and damp. I love that smell.

It lasted for nearly 30 minutes. We were so surprised we both left the bedroom temporarily to glance out the window in my office. Sure enough, rain was drowning the pavement, bouncing off the asphalt. In the southern sky, there was sunshine. To the north, over the foothills, heavy clouds.

It rained in the desert today. Unless you live here you don’t know what a huge story that is. Mother Nature decided to live it out loud on this Saturday and we welcomed her with open arms and a big kiss. Rain. Wet. Wonderful. Something to celebrate. 

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The blind leading the seeing

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:37 AM

This morning we happened upon a blind gentleman. He was tall, lanky, with a mane of curly dark hair, and an equally dark, straggly beard, and dark aviator sunglasses. He was dirty; we assumed he was homeless. He was walking along the sidewalk, south on Campbell as we were walking north, returning with Cooper, ready to turn to make our way back to the house. He had a white cane, the traditional tool used by the blind. White with a red base, the loop of the handle around his wrist. Because we had the dog, we decided it was best to move off of the sidewalk down into the parking lot. He seemed to be doing well, walking steadily and with purpose.

Just as we passed, he called out and Kevin went to speak with him. I stayed with Cooper. Eventually Kevin helped him walk through the parking lot, the man’s arm hooked through Kevin’s as Kevin led the way, to take a seat on one of the cement flower boxes. When Kevin rejoined Cooper and I, he said the guy was from Montana. In the span of their five minutes or so together, Kevin learned about the size of the state, the climate, the people. He said he was going to the house to get some money to help. The man was on his way to Albertson’s, another half mile or so down Campbell.

Kevin grabbed $36 – we don’t tend to keep much cash in the house – and several bottles of water and headed back to the parking lot.

As I write this, Kevin has been gone for twenty minutes or so. His wallet and his cell phone are on the kitchen counter. I suspect he helped the man to Albertson’s though I don’t know.

My office window faces the street. My desk faces the wall. I pivot in my chair regularly to look out in search of my husband, wondering where he is and what he has learned.

This urban area we live in has a number of characters, people we see on a regular basis, coming to and fro the bus. One man is always dressed in brown uniform pants, the type you might see on a UPS driver in the winter. He is wrapped in a sweatshirt even on the hottest days. He wears a ratted baseball hat, thick glasses and a surgical mask. A lady with three tiny matted dogs. A group of disabled adults who walk around the parking lot and always want to say hi to Cooper. Such a pretty dog. Can we pet him?

Kevin has returned. He took the man, whose name is John, across the street to a gas station and then made sure he knew how to get to his destination. John walked here from Montana. It took him 20 days and 18 hours. He’s been in 47 states. Along the way he was stopped a number of times by State Police who wanted to know if he was Forrest Gump. He spent time in Vegas but doesn’t like it. He won $25,000 once in a joke telling contest. To win, contestants had to tell jokes for as long as they could. He lasted for seven hours and five minutes. He recently spent time in the hospital because several guys jumped him, beat him up. His front teeth are cracked. There is a rod in his left hand. He showed Kevin.

At first Kevin wondered if maybe he was being scammed. It’s quite a commentary on our culture that we often go to cynical before we embrace truth. But John was the real thing. He knew when the light changed before Kevin did because of the sound of the cars. He stumbled on several curbs when Kevin didn’t tell him what was ahead. Kevin said “I’m sorry; I suck at this.” John said that he hadn’t had much practice. “It’s kind of like the blind leading the seeing.”

They parted ways at the Chevron station. Kevin gave him the money we had. John folded the $20 a certain way, and the $10 another way. The 1s he put in a separate pocket.

He’s on his way, to where we don’t know. Maybe he’ll head to California and the beach. Maybe he’ll go east to New Mexico.

Is it a good omen to start a Monday morning helping a blind man to “see?” Perhaps. I like to believe that we all have the capacity to be better to one another, to see that making our lives better starts with helping others. Perhaps I’m naïve but I think it may be the key to living it out loud.

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Joy in the walk

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 29, 2014 10:23 PM

This morning, Cooper and I went for a long walk, just the two of us. It’s usually all three of us. In fact, since we got Cooper nearly a year and a half ago, we all go out twice a day. But Kevin was working on the car and there was absolutely no reason that the furry one and I couldn’t go off on our own for a bit. It was a gorgeous day, already 72º when we left and headed north along Campbell toward Allen where we stopped and waited for the light so that we could cross and get into an area where there is no traffic, in fact no cars at all, and just meander. Meander we did, him wandering in and out and around the brush, the trees, the well-placed rocks. I simply held the leash loosely. The walk is his time.

It’s also mine. Walking the dog alone allows me to think or not think at all, and I have been known to do both. Maybe it’s being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I don’t know. But the fact that I don’t have anyone to talk to means I can truly just relax and let my mind wander to wherever it decides to go. There are no restrictions. I might find myself in a childhood memory or on a sailboat off the coast of Maui. I might think about the day ahead or last night’s dinner. My brain may attempt to work out a creative problem with a story I’ve been writing or plan to start. Rarely do I think about work. I think my sub conscious takes over and I simply drift.

Which is not to say that I stop paying attention. I am vigilant when it comes to watching for other dogs or animals. Cooper, as I’ve mentioned, is a nervous dog. We’re not sure why though we’re fairly sure it has something to do with his life before us. He is terrified of other dogs, so we keep him away from them because he shows his terror by working himself up and attacking. I know this sounds counter intuitive but we have been assured by many dog trainers and behavior specialists that it’s actually quite common to react to terror with aggression. It’s impossible to avoid other dogs entirely and we don’t try to. We simply pull up on his leash so he is walking right next to us. The idea is to assure him that as pack leaders, we will take care of any and every situation and he doesn’t need to worry.

This morning, as Cooper and I walked down Allen toward a farm, there was an older couple walking toward us. They were on the other side. They had two dogs. I pulled up on the leash but we just kept walking. Cooper glanced at them as they passed but didn’t get upset or worried. He just went back to sniffing and peeing and being a dog. I nodded to the people, wished them a good morning.

Maguire and I used to walk alone nearly every day, until he got older. It became my job early on in our relationship to trot the pup as we called it. I’d ask him if he wanted to go for a walk and he’d turn cartwheels on his way to the door where he’d wait for me to put his harness on, raising his left front paw so I could slip the harness over it and then buckle it. Off we’d go. I came up with a lot of good ideas while he and I were out slumbering along. Maguire was not a fast walker. He was a grazer, a sniffer. When he got older and his gait slowed even more, Kevin started walking with us. I think he realized that we weren’t going to have our precious boy forever after all. The walks became our family time.

This morning was mostly quiet. Cooper’s prancing feet in the rocks and dirt made a lovely percussive melody. I walked along slightly behind him, my flip flops snapping as flip flops do. Behind us and in the distance, the sound of tires churned on pavement as people did whatever people do on Saturday mornings, going to wherever they need and want to go.

The solitude of the day was wrapping around us. In that, I found – I find – great joy. 

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