How to name a house, part 1

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 29, 2014 12:38 AM

My husband thinks our house needs a name and he thinks I’m just the person to come up with one. I’ve never named a house before though I have named commercial buildings for real estate developers and I’ve named my share of products. It’s a process; rarely does the perfect name simply present itself, standing up in a crowd to shout here I am.

I named a hair vitamin once. It took about five minutes to come up with Vitamane.

I named a number of products at Sebastian, things like Potion 9 – another easy one. It had nine essential oils and extracts and the effect was magical.

When we got Maguire, we didn’t have a name picked out beforehand. In fact, we had no idea what to call him. We picked him up at 7:30 on a Monday morning, all stinky 10 pounds of him. As we walked to Kevin’s car, we talked about a name but had no ideas. We climbed in, me holding the pup, who was quite curious about this car thing. He immediately buried his head in the center console and when he pulled it out, he had a dollar bill in his mouth. Show me the money. He was Maguire before we got home.

We had a terrible time finding a name for Cooper. When we met him, our soon to be rescue was called Andy. He had originally been Lucky, but when the rescue got him, they named him Andy. We didn’t like the name Andy because we used to have a financial advisor named Andy and we didn’t like him. We met “Andy” on Thursday and decided on Thursday night that we would take him; we would pick him up on Friday. We also decided that he had to have a different name. On our walk on Friday at lunch, as we tooled up through the neighborhood, we talked names. My husband was throwing out ideas based on what he saw. Street Corner, Street Sign, Lawn Mower. Gardner. Mail Box! I honestly didn’t know what to name him so I was basically saying no without offering any suggestions. I thought about Jackson or Jax. But nothing felt right. Finally Kevin said Cooper. A Mini Cooper had just gone by. I thought it had merit. He kind of looked like a Cooper. Plus, he had/has red fur so he’s kind of copper. Copper Cooper.

As I said, naming is a process. When it’s personal, it’s even more difficult. Having distance helps. I don’t currently have distance unless you count 16 miles, which I don’t.

I have begun thinking about names for the house but I don’t want it to sound arrogant or lofty. I want it to be true and real and yet magical. I don’t want it to be too cute nor do I want it to be ordinary. I also don’t want it to be in English so whatever I might come up with has to translate into Spanish and sound beautiful.

I have played with something about stars, about the view, and desert vistas. I’ve thought about dream house. It’s a dwelling, a casa, a castle on the hill.

The word star translates to estrella. I like that. Dream house is casa de los sueños. Not crazy about it. Also too boring; too expected.

I am currently stuck. I figure I have a few months before I actually have to come up with something magical and poetic and lush and memorable. Until then, we’re simply calling it the dirt. La suciedad. It has a certain sensación, a certain sonido.

Our casa es su casa. Probably too big to fit on a sign. Perhaps just The Michels. Or Cooper’s house. Something will come to me one of these days, or more likely one of these nights when I’m supposed to be sleeping and I let my mind travel east and up to where you can reach out and touch the stars, where the sound of the night is just darkness and where the twinkling lights of the city promise a new day and a view that goes around the world.  

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live out loud

It's the little things

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 21, 2014 12:14 AM

I was on River Road this afternoon, both going to get my hair cut and returning home. River is widely acknowledged as the natural horizontal divide of the city. Everything to the south is considered more urban; everything to the north, the affluent foothills. We currently live south of River.

There used to be an actual river that also flowed east to west or maybe it was west to east. I don't know which way the currents moved; it was much before my time. It was, and sort of is, the Rillito River and during times of extreme rain and flooding, it rages anew. Most of the time, like now, there's a dry river bed with paved bike/walking/running paths on either side. River Road runs parallel to this dried bed, just to the north.

When we're heading east, we always take River to get wherever we're going. It's heavily residential with shopping areas only at the corners of major streets so there aren’t a lot of cars turning on or off. It twists its way along, an asphalt river, with only sporadic tributaries. It doesn't move fast, the currents are only about 35 miles per hour, but it flows steadily.

It also has two major dips between where I usually begin my journey at Campbell and when the River stops at Sabino Canyon. These dips rival those of roller coasters. You approach and then drop down so suddenly the cabin of the car practically loses pressure. You round through the bottom and then just as quickly as you dipped down you are sent up and out, as if by a sling shot. Your stomach drops and flips. You become almost lightheaded for about half a second and then it's over until the next ride.

One of these dips is much steeper than the other and as such, much more fun.

As I rode the river of River Road today I found myself smiling, as I often do after these dips. I love the feeling but it was more than that. I realized today that this seemingly small thing actually made my afternoon. It made me happy.

It was then that I also realized how much the seemingly inconsequential things in life matter. The buzz of a hummingbird, a western sunset, a good hair day, a rolling dip taken in the car on a Thursday afternoon. It's the little things in life that actually make life fun, little squirts of fun that by themselves don't seem to matter. They're fleeting. But while they're happening, there is also a little bit of joy, a break in the mundane and regular flow of the day, the week; life. For those few seconds, there is a little bit of living it out loud. It can mean the difference between a life lived and a life lived in celebration.

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live out loud

What is it about Friday's and pizza?

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 14, 2014 11:11 PM

I realize that the above question may be a bit rhetorical but these are the things I wonder about. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it; it doesn’t keep me up at night or anything. And the truth is, I probably even know the answer to the headline’s question. That’s not going to stop me from writing an entire post about it, though. Don’t think you’re going to get out of this that easily.

Here’s my theory. By the time Friday rolls around, people are tired. Younger people go out drinking after to work – bar hopping in certain cities – to release the stress of the week and to prepare for the weekend. I’m not sure that drinking on Friday is a good way to prepare for days off since drinking too much can lead to little enjoyment of the next day. But that’s between those people and their chosen glass.

For those of us who aren’t into bars, and long ago outgrew the going out on Friday night and fighting the crowds thing, we like to celebrate the end of the week by simply kicking back on the couch, maybe watching a movie, having a glass of wine.

After a long week of working 10 hours a day, I’m in no mood to cook. The easiest thing to do is order a pizza. Hot melting cheese, garlic drenched sauce, fresh sautéed ingredients, preferably only veggies, atop a hand-tossed pizza crust. Pizza is also the easiest to eat. If the place we’re ordering from delivers, even better.

So that’s it. Pizza is easy. And it tastes good, especially since we’ve discovered Rocco’s Little Chicago.

When we used to have Fritini, the late afternoon would roll around and I’d be tired. On one hand, I’d dread the evening a little just because I was exhausted from the week; on the other hand, I looked forward to unwinding with good friends. Laughing and talking, having some great wine together. We always cooked though usually something exquisitely easy like pasta. Or we threw something on the grill. At the end of the night, I was always glad we’d done it. The ultimate way to release the week is through laughing with best friends.

The second best, then, is ordering a pizza and just rockin’ the couch. I know Roy and Bobbi used to always have pizza on Friday nights. When we had Fritini, that stopped. But now, without Fritini, I think they’re back to ordering pizza. I’ve gotten chats that say simply: gotta go. Pizza’s here.

We don’t have pizza every week. In fact, sometimes we still cook. But I am particularly tired today. It’s been a long week of 11 plus hour days, five of them in a row. The sad part is I didn’t even have enough 11 plus hour days. I could have used one more. Maybe I’d be further along on my to-do list.

So I’m pretty beat, as well as hopelessly behind. And it’s Friday. And we’re having pizza tonight, from Rocco’s because it’s easy, it’s good and it’s fun. Which is ultimately what it is about Fridays and pizza. As they say in Italian, finire di mangiare. As they say at Rocco’s, eat up. As I say, live it out loud. 

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And all that jazz

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:17 AM

In the continuing adventures of Kevin and Lorin get some culture in their lives, we find our intrepid duo at the University of Arizona. Several months ago, Kevin won a bunch of tickets from Tucson Lifestyle Magazine so we’re experiencing music, dance, theatre. Maybe even a little opera.

In tonight’s episode of class and culture, or more appropriately brass and culture, we saw the UA Jazz Ensemble featuring the music of Jeff Beal. Jeff Beal is an Emmy winning composer of film and television, scoring the films Pollock and No Good Deed as well as William Macy's Door to Door, and HBO's From the Earth to the Moon. Also House of Cards. Jeff Beal himself was not there. We thought he would be. The way the brochure stated the information, we expected he'd be on stage with his trumpet, regaling us with his talent while backed by talented college students. Instead it was just the students.

And they were astonishing. The music was big band and I love big band jazz. The concert started off with A Little Minor Booze by Willie Maiden and it was powerful and fun and emotional and loud in a good way. It was jazz. Crisp and alive.

The arranger talked to the audience between songs and like jazz itself, he sometimes rambled, taking a while to get to his point. I thought at first it might be annoying, but it was actually charming. It was alive and real, improvisational like jazz.

Jeff Beal has multiple sclerosis which is why he couldn't be at the show. He was supposed to be there to talk to us about his music, to tell us a bit about it. Instead he recorded videos that played before each song. He too was very improvisational, telling stories and rambling gleefully about his time in Brooklyn, about learning that he didn’t want to be a composition major six months into his freshman year of school and instead devoted his time to the trumpet, about the TV shows he’s composed music for. The videos were close up, as if they were recorded on skype, but he was personable and funny and grateful.

I wonder what he would have thought about the music. About the students who soloed, especially the trumpet player named Max who was the chosen substitute for Mr. Beal. The kid definitely has the lips for a trumpet.

One of the music departmen’ts longest serving professors, Jeff Haskell, is retiring at the end of the semester, having been at the university for over three decades. He introduced the show, rambling again in that wonderful jazzy way, and then, half way through the show he came out, sat at the piano and began playing his arrangement of You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Loves You. He sang as well. He was wonderful.

Backed by these young college kids, one from as far away as New Zealand, one from Tucson, and the others from scattered places around the country, I was struck by the old and the new. Mr. Haskell has served the jazz world well, and the students he leaves behind will do so as well. Indeed, already are. The old guard who you’d expect to love jazz, and the new kids who surprised me with their passion and their verve. What a juxtaposition.

It was how it should be, proving that the best kinds of music aren’t fads but are embraced anew by each new generation and all that jazz. 

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The air feels alive

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:45 PM

A storm approaches slowly. The air is crisp though warm, puffy clouds float amongst the blue of the sky. In the distance, darker, more ominous clouds are gathering. They say it’s Armageddon. I suspect they’re wrong. There will be weather but there is supposed to be weather this time of year. Since we haven’t had any of late, it’s much bigger news that it might otherwise be.

I love when the air feels alive. I actually heard somebody say that the other day and it rang so true. The wind blows. There is an electrical charge that pulsates throughout, like static electricity. Touch something and it snaps and sparks. The air flicks.

The wind swirls and gushes, teases the trees and the flowers, ruffles the hair. Birds flaps and fly, and soar, chasing each other up and down and around before coming to a screeching halt atop the building. You can hear the sound of their wings as the pulse through the air.

Butterflies hover and alight. Moths do the same. Small flying insects cruise about, looking for access to the light, the house. The wind helps them as well.

Sunlight streams through the upper windows of the house, the windows up near the ceiling some 16 feet up. Maybe even higher. They cut across the wall, horizontal glass that’s been UV coated so as to hopefully curb some of the fading that inevitably occurs because of the sun. Below, dust particles dance in each stream. I am forever amazed at how much is actually inside the air, things we can’t see until we can.

I am dust particles in sunlight, I am the round sun.
Say I am You, by the 13th century poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

I used to joke to those back east that I didn’t trust air I couldn’t see. They thought it was hysterical, given that I lived in Los Angeles and LA had long been known for its smog problem. When I was in college and visited California for the first time, I spent a day or two in Los Angeles. I remember driving up from San Diego thinking that the air must be so dense with emissions tat you couldn’t see anything. A really dirty fog bank.

It was nothing like that of course. The sky was blue. Yes, there was a bit of smog but it hardly affected the views or visibility. I saw an article today about China and their horrendous smog problem. There was a picture of a man walking his golden retriever. Both were wearing surgical masks to block out some of the bad air. All around them was smog, making visibility only about 16 feet or so. Scary stuff. The air in China is alive in a completely different way; not a good way.

Clouds are rolling in over the desert, filling the air. Those that were fluffy and white seem to have left for drier prairies. These clouds are heavy, a brownish gray, ready for rain. The air is getting thicker even as the winds pick up. A storm is coming and it will be glorious.

It will drench the earth, cleanse the soul. It will be difficult while it’s happening, but once it’s over the air will be clearer, cleaner; crisper. Reborn like tomorrow.

The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami wrote: “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Another metaphor for life, much like the air being alive. A living, breathing entity that surrounds us, keeps us true, it can spark with furry and dissipate in the wind. And then, it can dance in the shafts of the sun. That’s what life is all about.

Chasing the sun

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 7, 2014 11:29 PM

Much of the country is in the deep freeze thanks to the Polar Vortex that has swept down and across the Midwest, into the deep south and on up the east coast. I read today where Anchorage, Alaska was only 34º and expecting rain while places in Louisiana are freezing and losing the citrus crops that usually do fine at this time of the year. Places in Minnesota were flirting with 62º below zero, Chicago and many parts of Wisconsin weren’t far behind. It’s been so cold and miserable that airlines have canceled some 6,000 flights over the last few days because it’s too dangerous to takeoff and land. There is ice to contend with, both on the wings and on the runways.  The wings can be taken care of with de-icing equipment but the runways are a different story. Fuel is also difficult to get into the planes when it’s this cold.

People are suffering; some have died. Dogs are wearing coats and booties. Everything is frozen, and gray. Bitter. I worry especially about the homeless. I’m sure the shelters are over-flowing; I hope they’re letting people sleep on the floor. I read a story about a couple whose son had gone missing and was spotted in a photograph taken by a photojournalist chronicling the homeless during this cold snap. The son was huddled around a steam vent in New York, trying to keep warm and no doubt failing. I don’t think it’s possible to keep warm outside in this kind of weather.

As I do so often when it’s impossibly cold in the Midwest and the northeast, I wonder how it is that people live there. Having lived there myself until I was 22, I know it can be done. I just don’t understand why. I remember visiting one holiday season many years ago when my dad was still alive. We were going to be having a holiday meal at my mother’s house and my dad wanted to watch a football game. He didn’t like my mother’s television so he gave us the money to buy a new one. The only catch was that we had to go get it.

Mom and I took my brother’s Bronco and off we went to Walmart, perhaps the first and last time I ever shopped there. As it was the holidays, it was pretty crazy inside but we found a television and one of the workers said he’d meet us outside the front entrance to load it up. We pulled the truck up to the entrance and sure enough the kid was there with the TV, only I couldn’t get the back hatch open. It took what seemed like a half hour. In reality it was probably only minutes. The wind was howling, the sky was gray, the air arctic. The kid was in shirt sleeves and looking at me with murder in his eyes. I finally got the back open, he loaded the TV and I got back into the cab where my mother was waiting. I looked at her, and felt an uncontrollable shiver flow through me. Shaking, I gripped the wheel.

“How do you people live here?”

The St. Joseph's Lighthouse on Lake Michigan where it was -50

I honestly didn’t and don’t know the answer. I watched the Green Bay football game over the weekend. They had been predicting dangerous cold, the kind of weather where frostbite can set in quickly, within minutes. It was 3º at kickoff and dropped slightly thereafter.

I feel marginally guilty here in the desert where the days have hovered in the low to mid 60s. Even for here, that’s cold. It’s not bitter, nor, I realize, dangerous. The sun is brighter just in the fact that it’s shining. It’s not shining in much of the country right now. But it’s warm streaming through my windows.

Every morning, Cooper begins his chase to catch the sun. He starts in the western corner of my office, near my guitar case. That’s where the first rays land when they come in from the east. Soon the sun moves so he moves, too, closer to me. As the sun moves across the sky each day and the trajectory of its rays changes as well, Cooper’s position changes with it, finally ending up with his butt against the chair on the east side of my office, catching the last bit of warmth of the day.

If I could package this chase and send it to the coldest places in the country so that they could partake in the warmth, or at least in the cuteness, I would. I have no doubt that they’re chasing the sun, too. I hope they find it soon; I hope the thaw can begin. 

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live out loud

Up, up and away

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 27, 2013 11:37 PM

In 1967 the pop-soul group the 5th Dimension released a single called Up, Up and Away. The lyrics talked of drifting up and away “in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.” I like the Fifth Dimension though I have no idea why. I think it’s nostalgia. I remember when I was a kid and visiting the big brick house in McKeesport where my Aunt Eleanor and my Aunt Beryl lived with their husbands.  The radio was always on in their house. It was a big console radio that sat on the floor under the window that overlooked the Youghiogheny river below. To the right and left the steel mills, then still producing, would belch thick plumes of smoke into the air. And from the radio, I remember the lush tones of Marilyn McCoo singing about marrying Bill (I would find out later that she was, in fact, married to Billy Davis, Jr) and about not getting to sleep at all the night before.

This morning, we took Justin to the airport and on the way back, to the east, three hot air balloons hung suspended in the sky. The sun had come up not much earlier and was blazing across the desert from the east, golden red and cold. The air was still.  The balloons lazed high above the earth, high enough so we couldn’t make out the people, the size of the basket or even graphics on the balloon itself. They were off in the distance; we were on the freeway. And they were majestic.

I wondered what it might be like to hover above the desert in the morning when the sun is just beginning to warm the ground, to alight on the cactus, to make the sand dance and send any creatures scurrying. I love the desert. Love its peace and majesty, its magic and spirit; its mystery. Even its danger. In the summer, under unrelenting temperatures it can destroy every living thing caught in its thunderous heat, with no shade or water for miles. Only cactus and reptiles seem to survive and even thrive. When winter descends, those once scorching temperatures plummet past freezing. People and animals can succumb to exposure if not careful. The desert can kill you easily and in a hundred different ways. I respect its power even as I marvel at its beauty.

Hot air balloons floating above this danger seems a complete dichotomy. No one thinks of danger when they think of hot air balloons. They’re too peaceful to be dangerous; too eerily beautiful. That’s a misunderstanding. Anything that floats above the earth at heights reaching thousands of feet is vulnerable. There is propane gas that ignites to heat the air inside the balloon, keeping it aloft. The wind can come up suddenly. My mother was a hot air balloonist for years and knew of several accidents, a number of which were catastrophic. As with anything wondrous and mysterious, there can be an undercurrent of the unknown. It’s that unknown that keeps many people away even as it attracts so many others.

The song Up, Up and Away was written by Jimmy Webb. It celebrated a genre called sunshine pop, cheerful and upbeat with warm squishy music and vocal harmonies dripping from the vinyl on which they were recorded. It also celebrated hot air ballooning and went on to win Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards the year it was released.

I thought of the song today as I watched the balloons hang in the air, as we flew by and left them behind too quickly. As we did, I knew that Justin, too, was up, up and away, on his way back to New York to start his post-college career. Like the balloons he was here and then, he was gone. But we’ll see him again soon. And perhaps we’ll see the balloons, too. Perhaps when they next make an appearance, it will signal Justin’s impending arrival. As they descend slowly, drifting lazily to the ground, Justin too will descend and then we’ll all celebrate with champagne and orange juice.

At least that’s how my mom’s crew celebrated the end of a successful Up, Up and Away ride.   

Tonight the son shines

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 23, 2013 12:06 AM

I’m going to gloat. This past Friday, after four and a half years of college, Justin graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Theatrical Production with a concentration in Lighting Design and Electrics. What a long strange trip it’s been. On one hand, and I know it seems like a cliché, it seems just yesterday that he was a little boy, riding in a car seat and just 35 pounds. Going to Disneyland, staying for the parade and Fantasmic and having him fall asleep. Kevin and I shared the responsibility of carrying him. It was like wearing a virtual heater in the summer.

There was camp and basketball and the time I found him and his girl friend in the back seat of my BMW, kissing. They were eight. I hardly knew what to do. I wasn’t prepared for this to happen at eight. I was prepared for 14. There were the family vacations to educational and fun places, and then just fun places. Starting high school, learning to play trombone – badly – and joining the jazz band only to quit because he couldn’t read music no matter how many private lessons we took him to.

There were soccer tryouts and an earned spot on the team. There were girlfriends and friends, and trouble in high school and getting in trouble for stealing hood ornaments off of parked cars and pushing over trees in one of the local parks. There were emotional issues and fights where he hated us and we weren’t too fond of him. There was therapy and there was enlightenment. And then came theatre. Theatre was his salvation. Once he discovered the fun and wonder and joy and heartache and creativity of what it means to be in theatre his whole life changed.

He started out building sets. On many an afternoon, he would call Kevin to ask for advice and sometimes help in building a particular set piece. Kevin would pack up tools and off he’d go to the high school.

Theatre introduced Justin to the possibility of making new worlds; to literature. He devoured it all, inhaled it, embraced it and came to personify it.

In 2009, he started his college career in Tucson at the University of Arizona. After two and a half years, he found a school that better fit his concentration of lighting and electricity, and settled into State University New York at Fredonia where he truly excelled. He was on the dean’s list. He designed several shows. He found a small theatre on Long island where he has worked for these three years.

Now he’s done and starts his next life. The first part of that next life begins in a month or so when he starts as a lighting tech on the Norwegian Sun, a cruise ship with Norwegian Cruise Lines. It’s a whole new world that stretches before. New people, new places, new shows. What a time of life.

Justin and Cooper tonight, watching football

Tonight we celebrated his graduation. We gave him the new iPad Air and he’s thrilled. We’re thrilled for him, and so excited to see him go off into the world to make his way, to discover more fun and different and creative things in theatre, in his life. He’s going to shine, I’m sure of it.

Tonight I’m celebrating my son and his new life, living it out loud. 

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live out loud

Red Friday

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 29, 2013 9:29 PM

It is the Friday morning after Thanksgiving and I’m sitting at the eat-at bar in my kitchen, listening to jazz and drinking coffee. The sun is shining and the air is warm, not hot. The windows are open letting in some fresh air and sweeping out some of the Thanksgiving of yesterday. On the counter are the wine glasses from last night’s dinner. I’m eyeing them periodically, knowing I have to wash them. I always hand-wash my wine glasses. They’re much to delicate to go into the dishwasher, not if I hope to keep them available for holding a deep syrah or a bold, peppery Cabernet Franc. I’ll get to them eventually, maybe this afternoon. Right now, I’m content to listen to my music and sip my coffee and write.

Cooper is where he always is at this time of day, on the floor, next to me, his head on his paws, his eyes mostly closed. If I move, the eyes slide open lazily to make sure I’m not going anywhere. Convinced that all is well, the eyes droop closed. Soon he’ll sigh and sleep. The life of a dog.

I have a number of things I’d like to get done today, things to get me ahead of the coming onslaught on Monday. Much of it is maintenance work, requiring little to no brain power, just time. I do have to get ahead on some invoices, and write a letter to Santa. My friend Lisa’s son has battled cancer twice in his young life. This year he is attempting to get 5000 Dear Santa letters for the Make a Wish Foundation. He posted it on Facebook where he and I are also friends, and I was one of many who happily agreed.

The sun has just dipped behind a cloud I didn’t realize was there and the house feels as if it has dropped 10º in temperature.

Kevin has just started a fresh pot of coffee. We always make a small pot to start. For some reason the second pot is always better, less bitter. Maybe it’s because by the second pot our palette has numbed. The coffee maker is gurgling and snapping as it warms the water and pushes it down through the filter, out into the carafe. I love the smell of brewing coffee. I love the smell of freshly ground coffee beans even more.

It’s Black Friday. Every time I open a browser I’m confronted with photos of shoppers storming their favorite stores in search of items that a loved one, or perhaps they themselves, desire. I can imagine the parking lots of the big box stores like Best Buy and Walmart and Target and Kmart overflowing. At the malls, people circle endlessly, inching through the lots, desperate for someone, anyone to leave, stalking the shoppers who have left the safety of the mall to walk, laden with bags and boxes to their waiting car. It’s the only place in America where driving slowly behind someone who is walking along is not cause for alarm by the pedestrian. It’s simply the status quo for those who brave the mall to shop, especially on this day after Thanksgiving.

I am not a mall shopper. When I was young, I occasionally braved the mall; no longer. My motto has long been if I can’t find it on the internet, I probably don’t need to buy it. I’m sticking to that motto. It has worked for me for many years now. I absolutely do not shop ever on the day after Thanksgiving. The name alone – Black Friday – is enough to make me start to quake with fear. Too many people in too small of a space, even in the cavernous malls; even at the outdoor malls like one of the nicer ones we have here. Black Friday can make even La Encantada feel claustrophobic.

In previous years I have used this day to clean my office, but my office is actually quite clean. So instead, this year, we’re starting a new tradition we’re called Red Friday. We’re making turkey sliders – small sandwiches with left over turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato. We’re packing a cooler with bottled water and cold Pepsi and my boys and I are going to hit some wineries to taste. We have four we want to go to, based on their red wine selection. We’ll taste only red wines as we usually do, and we’ll think of all of the other hapless people fighting over the last pair of ear buds and iPhones and tablets and whatever as we swirl and sniff and savor. We’ll raise a glass to toast to this most special time of the year, this Red Friday when we’re living it out loud and celebrating a new tradition for the season.

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The upside of the downside

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 7, 2013 12:17 AM

One of the downsides with your kid living on the other side of the country is that he might as well be on the other side of the world. You never get to see him. Since the advent of email, smart phones and skype it’s at least easier to speak to him. We don’t skype often; he’s usually in between classes or in one of his tech labs. We text and we have nice long conversations. Justin has been in New York for the last two years, largely year round. He started school there in January of 2012 and works there in the summer. We see him for holidays, like Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas, depending on whether he has to work, and when we get back there which hasn’t been often. We were there in May to see one of his stage productions where he was the lighting designer. We miss him but we understand that his life is there. And when he graduates in December, his life may still be there, in New York. Or perhaps it will be in Chicago, or San Diego, or Orlando, or Moscow. It’s the life he has chosen; the one he wants to live. Still.

My mother has long understood this dynamic. When I went to college, I was still in the same state as my family, but after my sophomore year, I rarely went home. I was working, I had an apartment; even in the summer I stayed at school because that’s where I lived, in my dinky, run-down horrid little apartment. Then I graduated and moved west. We talk on the phone all the time, but I only get back there about once a year and she gets out here even less. We’ve never really talked about skype; I wonder if she’d do it.

Justin is a lighting designer and a master electrician. His life is the theatre. He’s good at it and more importantly, he loves it. When I listen to him talk about what he does, I can honestly say that he might as well be speaking Japanese, but I’m still fascinated, riveted even, because he is so passionate about it. It means that he was lucky to find what he truly wants to do with his life early in his life. It means he made the right choices, first by going to the University of Arizona and then to State University New York at Fredonia, where he transferred.

Tonight one of the shows he designed premiers on campus. It’s called The School for Scandal and according to what I’ve read it’s about scandals and lies amidst the upper crust. It was originally written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and first performed in London, at Drury Lane Theatre, on May 8, 1777. I think it has been updated since then.

The school is streaming it live so we get to watch tonight from out here, very far away from our boy. Kevin put it on in his office; I put it on in mine. There’s a time difference, after all, so we’re still working while it’s on. But we get to see his show, see his work, see what he’s been doing and some of what we’ve been paying for.

This is yet another wonder of technology. Tonight we’re watching The School for Scandal in the west, the sun having just started to set, while it is playing live on stage in the nighttime of the east. We’re able to share in Justin’s triumph and his final lighting design of his senior year of college.

There are many downsides to living so far away from our kid, from anyone we love. But being able to see what he’s been doing happening at the same time that it’s actually happening is truly remarkable. It’s the upside of the downside and something worth celebrating.

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live out loud

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