New to the vernacular: the polar vortex

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 18, 2014 10:06 PM

Did we ever have polar votexes –  vortexi? – before the last couple of years? I’m fairly up on my news. I read the Washington Post every day. I visit There has been winter. There has been snow. I don’t remember the polar vortex making an appearance before last year.

Maybe it’s because I live in the Southwest were snow is loathe to visit. Lately, rain has been loathe as well.

Lake Erie was exploding this morning, with the areas of Buffalo, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, which both sit on the lake, getting more than two feet of snow before 9 am. I remarked that it was a good thing Justin wasn’t in Fredonia anymore, which sits smack in the middle between Erie and Buffalo. He would be unhappy. Of course, he’s on his way to New Jersey to begin his new job with Disney. It won’t be too balmy. And for this he gave up Hawaii? We obviously didn’t raise him very well.

According to NBC, every state is supposed to be hit by this polar vortex, with temperatures unexpectedly low everywhere. I’m not sure Southern California got the memo since it’s still comfortably in the 70s and at night doesn’t seem to drop much lower than 50.

In Southern California I suppose that is considered serious brrrrrr weather.

In the desert, it’s been very brrrrr at night. Into the 20s and 30s already.

So while the polar vortex is pounding the great lakes regions, the North East, the upper plains, we’re just a little chillier than normal. There have been no calls for us to bring in our pets, not that such a call would affect us. Our pet doesn’t like to be outside ever. We might get a little rain on Friday. Brrrrr.

According to that most trusted of news sources, NBC, more than 100 cities could break records for cold temps tonight and Wednesday could be the lowest daily high ever so far for this time of year. Anchorage, Alaska was forecast to be 34º, 12º warmer than Tallahassee, Florida.

What’s happening out there? The polar vortex. A phenomenon that was first diagnosed in the 1850s, but that I had never heard of until earlier this year which strangely seems like last year. It was actually January 2014 when most people heard the term. That’s because the temperatures had plunged to life-threatening lows, in some places 60º below zero when the windchill was factored in. No wonder the weather reports said to bring in your pets.

Here’s what I found out. The polar vortex is a seasonal atmospheric phenomenon that involves a system of strong, high-level winds inside a very, very cold pocket of Arctic air. When it breaks down it results in a big, powerful blast of arctic air that pushes south causing cold temperatures in places that don’t usually get cold winters. Like Tallahassee.

The polar vortex sounds like it should be a movie. Like The Polar Express. It’s not. Instead, it’s now part of everyone’s vernacular.

Tonight it will be low 40s here. Maybe we’ll get to the high 30s. It will be mid 50s in Southern Cal. Meanwhile, Buffalo will be buried under more than 6 feet. That’s the polar vortex in action. I don’t know if it’s something to celebrate, but it’s definitely winter clearing her throat and living it out loud.

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The clouds look like it’s gonna snow

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 16, 2014 7:01 PM

It was 41º here this morning. Cold and cloudy. The sky was filled with thick clouds that were white on top, heavy on the bottom. They wouldn’t do anything other than keep the temperature down. It’s not ready to rain and it’s definitely not going to snow. This last didn’t stop my husband from proclaiming just that as we left the house to walk the dog.

And he was right. In other parts of the country, this kind of cloud formation often leads to snow. He’s from Chicago where 41º at this time of year can be downright balmy. When the clouds form and the temperature drops, the air cuts through you like a knife, slicing into your bones. I’ve been to Chicago in the winter, been to Soldier Field for a football game in white out blizzard conditions where the kick-off temp was minus 21º and the field was covered in snow. True football weather. Bear weather as the fans call it. Not that it often matters as the Bears, unfortunately, often lose regardless of the weather conditions. The myth of cold, snowy, truly horrific conditions benefiting their play is just that.

I’m reminded of the Christmas song that begins “Oh, the weather outside is frightful.” For Christmas song aficionados out there, you’ll recognize that as the opening riff for Let it snow.

Snow behind the house, in the foothills, last winter

It is snowing in Chicago today and the Bears are losing as I write this. The Patriots are in Indianapolis tonight, and it is supposed to snow there, too. Let it snow. Oak Park is blustery but still on its way to 70º. In the Old Pueblo, where it has been known to snow, it is on its way to maybe 63º.

The air is flowing through the open window. The sun is beating back the clouds but it’s still cool. Most of the clouds have settled over the foothills where they’re casting ominous shadows, flattening the rocks. I’m always fascinated by the way light plays with a landscape. I supposed it’s also what fascinated landscape painters. The way the light changes depth and perception. The way sunlight can be both warm and cold. The way clouds can both dampen and enhance a scene. The way the eyes adjust. The way the sky can recede and come forward at the same time.

It’s not going to snow here today. Occasionally a cloud will break away from the hills and blot out the sun. The temperature will seem to drop but it won’t really. Not until the gray of the late afternoon comes back, not until night falls.

“The clouds look like it’s gonna snow.” That’s what Kevin said to me this morning as he came in with a cup of coffee, as the dog snored in his bed, as the cool air flooded the bedroom

“I don’t think so,” I said, accepting my coffee with a thank you.

But we can always dream. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Sports bars and such

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 4, 2014 9:50 PM

My dad was a sports fan. It was long a source of contention between he and my mom because he watched them all. Baseball season rolled into football season rolled into basketball season. In between there was hockey and golf and tennis and whatever else that involved athletic endeavors. He would lie on the couch or sit in his recliner and watch for hours. He never seemed to show a lot of emotion; never seemed to be overly invested in one team over another. He used to say that he just liked to watch a good game.

He wore out many a recliner. He also wore out the relationship between he and my mom.

My brother likes football and golf. Not sure he cares much about anything else. My mother has finally started watching football though she only watches it sometimes, and especially the playoffs. She goes to a Super Bowl party every year and for the most part dreads it. She usually brings cream puffs. My sister likes football and anything the kids are involved in. Shawn is currently playing lacrosse; Caden kicks around a soccer ball.

I love football. Occasionally I’ll watch a game in the World Series, and usually only the last one. I never watch basketball. I like a little bit of hockey, and some tennis. I like Indy car racing.

I love all football but naturally I’m particularly fond of my Patriots. If I had to pick a second team, I’d go with the Bears. I have no choice because I married a guy from Chicago. Never mind that the Bears wiped the Super Bowl field with my Patriots in 1985. I’ve gotten over it. Really I have. I’m not at all bitter.

Several years ago, we went to Chicago in December to see a game between the Bears and the Patriots. The commentariate predicted a blowout by the Bears because the weather was bad. Snowing and cold. Because there’s never weather like that in New England. The Patriots wiped the field with them.

We wanted to go to another game, give the Bears a chance to redeem themselves. We wanted to go to New England for this one. There’s a game on October 26 at Gillette in Foxborough. Tickets went on sale at the end of July. I forgot all about it until my mom said something to me yesterday. Naturally, the game is sold out. Tickets are only available on ebay. Four in the nosebleed section were going for $1500 yesterday. Gulp.

The plan was this: Fly to New England on Thursday. Visit with the family Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, drive to Boston with Khris and John, see the game inside Gillette Stadium, then stay in Boston on Sunday night and fly back home on Monday.

Now the plan is this: Fly to New England on Thursday. Visit with the family Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, drive to Boston with Khris and John, see the game inside CBS Scene, then stay in Boston on Sunday night and fly back home on Monday.

That’s right. We’re talking Sports Bar, baby. The next best thing to being there, and sometimes even better than being there. In the case of CBS Scene, the three-story sports bar is on Patriots Place at Gillette. There are 145 televisions. You can watch the game while the game is live and do so inside where there’s food and beer, and better weather.

In addition to being a sports fan, I’m now a sports bar fan. I think dad would approve.

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Foggy like the sun

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 16, 2014 10:11 PM

This has happened to me before. I have too many nights with not enough sleep and too many days packed with more to do than I can accomplish. Throw in some heat and sun and hormones and I wake up Monday morning with what I lovingly refer to as foggy brain.

Foggy brain is my own malady though I suspect others suffers from their own version. It’s kind of like allergies. While you may sneeze and your eyes may water, another person with a similar allergy may break out in hives, or suffer from their throat closing. Foggy brain often manifests itself much like the fog that shrouds the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It’s thick and white, like a damp smoke. But the sun lurks just above, piercing through ever so gently, and slowly. My brain is shrouded in gauze currently, but I know that somewhere the sun lurks for me as well.

I’m not comparing myself to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the country. I’ve never been partial to New York, no matter how I’ve tried. I find it big and messy and rude, all of the clichés. It’s noisy and cramped and impossibly expensive. We lived in New York State, not too far from the city when I was a kid, and I remember visiting, touring the Statue of Liberty. I remember visiting with my mother, staying at the Essex House, going to the Met and shopping 5th Avenue. We went into Tiffany’s. I still recall a necklace they had on display. It was gold with small branches of diamonds. The cost was $38,000. We had dinner at Mama Leone’s. It was a great trip.

In college, four of us went to the city for a weekend, and also stayed at the Essex House. I didn’t like it any better then. I shopped there with my ex-husband; I still have an enormous stuffed bear from FAO Schwartz in my office. Kevin and I have been for business, both together and separately. I’ve dreaded it every time. I’ve spent more hours waiting for a delayed flight at JFK than any other airport in the country.

But drop me in the financial district of Chicago or San Francisco and I’m in heaven. They’ve both very different, personality-wise. Chicago is grittier, certainly colder. But to me it is the quintessential American city. Tall and imposing where it needs to be but accessible. The shopping is as good if not better than NYC and the restaurants are fabulous. Don’t even get me started on the incredible music.

San Francisco has a different personality all together. Maybe it’s because it’s the west coast, a city of hills and sexy buildings. It’s as recognizable as New York and Chicago because of its buildings, its architecture. It also has better wine. The temperature is perfect and a bit on the cool side, even in summer. And then there’s the fog.

Fog hides some of the magic and wonder of the city. In the countryside, it hides what’s around the corner. Walk down a dirt road and feel the quiet. It’s like walking through a blanket. It’s not always warm but it is always comforting. Maybe it’s that you can’t see what’s there, directly to your left or right, behind or in front. For just a few moments, you’re alone with the mystery of potential.

I like to think that fog in my brain is also hiding the potential for something wondrous, something celebratory. Something I can’t yet see but I know is there, lurking, hovering above, waiting to burn through. Just like the sun.

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Never too early to start thinking about football

by Lorin Michel Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:08 PM

I am a football fan. I know that has become a bit controversial of late, especially with the brutal and continuing injuries not to mention the sustained damage those injuries cause for the rest of the players' lives. I remember reading somewhere and years ago about a player trying to get out of bed in the morning and walk across the room. It’s a painful and horrific experience, their bodies racked with arthritis from the time they’re in their early 40s, having already long retired. It has stayed with me. It's a brutal sport and I cringe when I see hits like the one the Browns’ TJ Ward threw at Rob Gronkowski took last season, the one that blew out his knees, tearing the ACL and the NCL on one.

Also Wes Welker, I'm looking at you for the hit on Aqib Talib. Wessie, Wessie, Wessie. I hardly knew ye.

But I remain a fan regardless. I scream and yell at the TV. I stand in the middle of the room and hold my breath during much of a Patriot's game.

Several years ago, Kevin and I went to Chicago in December specifically to see my Patriots battle his Bears at Soldier Field. It was the second time we had traveled to Chicago in December for a football game. Los Angeles doesn't have a football team. We don't like San Diego and we never thought too much about going up to San Francisco. We both like the 49ers, though less so now because we're not fans of Jim Harbaugh, the coach. We remain committed to the teams of our youth. His Bears and my Pats. Notice the ownership. They belong to us.

The first time we went I don't think we were even married yet and I surprised him with tickets for his birthday (which is December 8). It was Bears vs Bills. Chicago won.

In the game against the Patriots, the Pats wiped the field with da Bears. Whiteout conditions. Couldn't hardly see the field. -23º at kickoff. Final score 35 to 7. It was an amazing experience.

We have never been to Foxborough, otherwise know as Gillette Stadium, the home field for the Patriots. The 2014 schedule was announced today, or at least today was when I found it. On October 26th at 1 pm, Bears at Patriots. I immediately texted my sister: If we come, will you and John go to the game with us?

Her response: Hell, yes!

Tickets don't go on sale until July. I already have it in my calendar. If we can get tickets, we'll fly in Thursday, spend Friday and Saturday with my family in New Hampshire. On Sunday we'll go to the game, then head into Boston where we'll spend the night and fly out the next morning. That's the plan. If we can get tickets. Fingers crossed.

Because it's never too early to start thinking about football and celebrating the idea of seeing a rematch between my Pats and his Bears. We'll be screaming it out loud at Foxborough and enjoying every minute of it, regardless of the weather and regardless of who wins. We're already ready for some football. Are you?

Deep dish or thin

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:13 PM

I love pizza. I just can’t seem to find really good pizza anywhere outside of New York or Chicago, and especially Chicago. The last time we were in the Windy City it was for a December football game about two years ago. We flew in on Friday, the game was on Sunday and so we had all day Saturday to walk around and enjoy the city. It was cold and raining, just miserable weather and we couldn’t have been having more fun. For lunch we stopped into the original Pizzeria Uno at the corner of Ohio and Wabash. It was packed. So we went across the street and one block north to Dues, which opened in 1955 when the original grew just too busy. Uno means one, Due for two. They have the distinct claim to fame of originating the deep dish pizza that has become synonymous with Chicago-style pizza.

We sat in Dues on that cold rainy Saturday in December, eating our deep dish pizza and savoring every bite.

Dues. Unos is in the background. Obviously not December.

Kevin is from the Chicago area, and as such considers himself a true connoisseur of the pie. Whenever we get a chance, he orders thick crust. I actually prefer thin crust just because it’s less filling, and there’s much less bread. You still get the same amount of sauce and cheese and veggies. But we don’t eat pizza very often because of the bread factor, regardless of whether it’s thick or thin, so ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Still, who doesn’t love pizza? Evidently, nobody. At least according to a report released today by the US Department of Agriculture based on a study they commissioned about what we eat in America. The report, compiled by the Food Surveys Research Group studied Americans’ eating habits from 2007 thru 2010 and came to one non-surprising result: The most popular food consumed in every corner and crevice of this country is pizza. In fact, 13% of us, ages 2 and over, eat pizza on any given day of the week. That’s 1 in 8. Kids and teens eat it the most, 22%, with 1 in 4 males consuming the most. Many college guys will consume it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the same day. Adults 60 and over eat it less. Just 6% of them chow down on the Italian-American delicacy on a regular basis.

Pizza provides approximately 27% of the total energy a consumer uses every day. It provides about a third of the total amount of calcium and half of a day’s total intake for lycopene. It also provides 38% of the daily intake of sodium in adults as well as quite a bit of protein, saturated fat, fiber and carbohydrates.

There didn’t seem to be any data as to what pizza people most prefer. I think it depends on taste and on geographic location. When we were young, in New York, we used to order pizza from a place called Salvatore’s. They offered regular crust and Sicilian style, which was thick and wonderful. I loved it. I loved Dues the day we were in Chicago.

Tonight, Justin and his girlfriend are in Chicago. They were supposed to be here but they were delayed leaving New York and so they missed their flight. Southwest couldn’t get them on another flight so they put them in a local Marriott. We suggested they hop a cab or take the El downtown and get some pizza at Unos or Dues, deep dish or thin, whatever their fancy. It might give them the energy they need to continue their travels tomorrow.

They could probably get a seat, seeing that most people, 59%, eat pizza at home. 

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Because lazy is still doing something

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 29, 2013 11:14 PM

Some days are meant to be slow and lazy. Days when the sun doesn’t ever come out but stays sleepy and keeps the day gray. Days when it’s raining and cool, when there’s really no place to go and a Twilight Zone marathon is on SyFy. When I haven’t had very much sleep and so my brain never truly wakes up, making it a perfect day to read in front of the fire, with the gray day wrapped around the house, dressed in sweat pants, a sweat shirt, and slippers. Maybe wrapped in a blanket.

Today wasn’t that kind of day. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. I got plenty of sleep last night which isn’t to say that I woke up refreshed or that I got enough. I’ve always been a little suspect of anyone who says that they got enough sleep. It seems that no matter how much I get, I always want more. As I like to say, I was born early and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. I lazed in bed with my husband and my dog until about 10 am, unheard of unless it’s raining. Which, as I’ve already established, it wasn’t.

We went for a walk. We made breakfast. We put on the television to watch what we hoped would be at least one if not both of our teams. Chicago was playing Green Bay in Chicago. New England was playing Buffalo in New England. Both were late games, both “games of the week.” Pfffft. Fox put the San Francisco-Arizona game on and CBS went the boringly safe route with Denver and Oakland. At least the 49er-Cardinal game was moderately interesting. But not having either of our teams on the tube forced us to read them on the Internet., which is a horrible website, does play-by-play recounts of all the games on TV. But when the games started, the site was down so none of the detail was available. So I went to the Boston Globe website where a guy named Zuri Berry live-blogs all the Patriots’ games. He’s usually pretty good. Kevin went to the Chicago Bears website where a guy named Larry Mayer does the same thing, live-blogging the Bears’ games. Each succinctly recaps every play for each team. It’s not the same as watching, of course, but at least we know what’s going on in almost real time.

It occurred to me later in the day that essentially we were reading our football games.

If we’d been more industrious, we might have gotten ourselves dressed in something other than sweats and slippers and dragged ourselves to a sports bar. Sports bars always have multiple televisions and because they usually have satellite, they stream all of the games onto different sets. We could have positioned ourselves in such a manner that we could have watched the Bears lose to the Pack and the Pats beat the Bills in truly miserable conditions at Foxborough. The Pats have been both amazing and amazingly bad this year. They’ve suffered from extensive and prolific injuries and they still have managed to have a 12 – 4 record. If they make it to the Super Bowl I will cheer them on and won’t be the least bit surprised if they … Well, I won’t finish that. Don’t want to jinx my not spectacular team.

But we weren’t industrious. We were lazy. We read our football today. But it got me thinking about lazy. Everyone thinks that being lazy is, well, lazy. It’s not doing anything, not making good use of time, being a slug, a loser, a couch potato, a hammock, a chip cruncher. I beg to differ. I think being lazy is still an act of doing something. It might not be doing something as productive as you might otherwise be doing, but it’s still laying on the couch, or surfing the internet, or binge watching House of Cards on Netflix, or ordering a pizza rather than making one. It’s making conscious choices to not do anything, which is actually doing something.

We were only moderately lazy today. I did manage to get a few things done. Not as many things as I wanted but I did get a couple of things crossed off my list. I didn’t get out of my sweats all day. Even when I showered I simply put clean sweats on. We didn’t leave the house other than to walk the dog. We watched and read football. It was the perfect way to spend the definition of a lazy Sunday, and I’m celebrating that by opening a new bag of gluten-free chips.  

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A sucker for da Bears

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 8, 2013 10:29 PM

As anyone who is not living on another planet knows, today was the first official Sunday of the football season. Naturally, my team was not on any of the national games and when that happens, I follow it on, largely because I’m cheap and won’t pay the ridiculous amount of money to get the NFL network, or even to get the audio. I love my Patriots but not that much. I suppose some could argue that I’m not much of a fan, but I beg to differ. I follow it; I cheer. It’s just easier on my blood pressure to not always have to watch.

The other team we follow closely in Chez Michel is the Chicago Bears, affectionately known as da Bears. They were the early game on CBS today, against the Bengals, fulfilling two thirds of the famous Wizard of Oz intonation: lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

I always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Bears largely because of the way they decimated my Patriots back in the 1985 Super Bowl. That was, of course, the year of the Super Bowl Shuffle. It was arrogant and as it turns out, prescient. They destroyed my Pats 46 to 10. Sad, that.

I didn’t have Kevin at that point but the Bears had a thuggish style that you had to admire as a football fan even if I didn’t particularly cheer them on. That all changed when I met Kevin who hails from Chicago. As a Chicagoan, he exerts his dog-given right to bitch and moan and kvetch about his beloved team every time they’re on. I have come to understand that this is how all Chicago fans behave. It is how they roll in the Windy City. Bears are up by 21 with three minutes left in the game? They’ll find a way to screw it up. A good play is met with howls of yeah but what about the next pass. It’s like they set themselves up to be failures just in case.

I asked Kevin once why the Bears are so beloved and so reviled at once. He tried, valiantly, to explain:

“It’s because they almost always suck. But they’re our suck.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. He explained further:

“The Halas family is cheap and won’t pay good money to hire marquee players. So we have to put up with it and we love our Bears but we don’t love the management style.”

The Halas family refers to the descendants of George who purchased the team in 1921 from the A. E. Staley starch company for $100, thus beginning the era of cheap. Halas was also their coach for a number of years. He retired in 1967 and when he died in 1983, he left controlling interest, or 80% of the team, to his eldest child Virginia Halas McCaskey. She’s 90 years old and according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, the McCaskey family – the heirs to George Halas – intend to maintain ownership and control of the Bears franchise for the foreseeable future.

The Bears do occasionally luck onto a good player. They currently have a decent quarterback in Jay Cutler. They have the amazing Matt Forte, as long as he’s healthy. And they, along with their teammates, fill Soldier Field for every home game, regardless of the weather. To this I can attest since we were there several years ago for a game in early December when da Bears were hosting the Patriots. We watched the pre-game stuff from the hotel. The weather was horrific; white-out blizzard conditions and Soldier Field is an outdoor stadium. The announcers were all saying how the weather favored the Bears, as if there was no way the Patriots, from New England, could handle the snow. We went to the stadium, which was packed, and watched the Pats demolish the Bears, 35 – 7. Payback. I felt vindicated.

Today, the Bears, who still wear a GSH on their sleeves, for George S. Halas, beat the tigers. I was cheering them on every yard of the way. Because I’m a sucker for the constantly down on its luck team from my favorite city.

Celebrating da Bears win today. Of course, they’ll probably lose next week.

See? A true fan.

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City of New Orleans

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 29, 2013 1:00 AM

Kevin was born and raised in Kankakee, Illinois, about an hour or so south of Chicago. His birthday is December 8. In Catholicism, it is the date of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. For his entire primary school education, he went to Catholic school and in Catholic school, when the Feast of the Immaculate Conception fell – and I assume falls – on a weekday, school was closed. Such a day happened on December 8, 1967 when he was 13 years old.

He was telling me about it last night. The Arlo Guthrie song “City of New Orleans” came on, and as Mr. Guthrie sang about riding on the train on a Monday morning, Kevin held up his hand to listen. “Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail. All along the southbound odyssey The train pulls out at Kankakee” and sang along. He told me about a trip into the city with his mother on that particular Feast day. They took his younger sister, too. Julie was probably about six years old at the time. Kevin hadn’t been to the city before. He hadn’t ridden the train out of Kankakee. He thinks they went because school was out that day and because it was a way to celebrate his advance into teendom.

They took the train into Union Station and from there they took a cab to Marshall Field and Company, the flagship department store for the city of Chicago, and one of the great stores to visit at the holidays. That, and Carson, Pirie, Scott. Much like New York, these stores take up a city block and have wonderful windows all the way around that are decorated with a theme each Christmas season. Huge faux brass trumpets stick out from above the entrance of Marshall Field. Inside, a huge tree rises through the atrium, from the first floor to the top floor. Escalators step up and up and up.

Kevin had never seen such a spectacle. He was referring, of course, to the escalators. Since he was thirteen and old enough to be off on his own, in the big city department store, he proceeded to ride the escalators up to the top floor, then he’d walk around the square to pick up the down side and ride back down to the bottom before riding back up again. He didn’t say how many times he did this. Knowing my husband as I now do, I’ll venture a guess. 10 times.

His older sister Susan who was in college at the time, took the train in from wherever she was and met them. The girls shopped. The boy rode the escalator. The tree twinkled. Outside, business people and other shoppers streamed along Randolph or State Street on their way to the store founded by Marshall Field and Levi Leiter in January of 1865, under the name Field, Palmer, Leiter & Co. Palmer left in 1867. By 1881, after the great Chicago fire of 1871 and the worldwide financial crisis of 1873, Field bought out his partner and changed the store name to Marshall Field and Company in 1881. It was that way until 2005 when Macy’s bought it.

That Friday in Chicago, during the holidays, Kevin experienced his first trip to the city of Chicago. It was most likely not on the City of New Orleans but maybe it was.

The Arlo Guthrie song goes on: “Good morning American how are you? Don’t know you me I’m your native son I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”

Kevin didn’t go five hundred miles that day but he did experience the life and heartbeat of a city. It’s a city I have grown to love, one of my favorites in the country. I remember experiencing Marshall Field at Christmas time, several times. Even after it became Macy’s, it still bears the name – the plaque – of Marshall Field.

Listening to my husband last night made me nostalgic for Chicago and for the escalators at Marshall Field. It made me nostalgic for trains, especially for one destined for another great city, the City of New Orleans.

Somehow New Orleans and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception don’t seem to go together. No wonder I’m intrigued.

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Having a wonderful. Wish you were.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 16, 2013 9:47 PM

I was born and raised in the Northeast. The furthest south I got was Maryland where we lived for my freshman year of high school. We spent almost a year there, but it wasn’t far enough south that we didn’t get snow. In fact, if memory serves, we got quite a bit of snow. One of my closest friends still lives there and she regales me with snowdrift tales on a regular basis.

Most of high school was spent in New Hampshire, and by the time I went to college, I was starting to get a bit tired of the brutal New England winters, which of course explains why I went to the University of New Hampshire. UNH is located in the small town of Durham, in the southeastern part of the state, nearly on the border of southern Maine. We spent many nights and weekends playing in the bars of Portsmouth, the gateway into Maine, and a lovely little town. It’s often called the San Francisco of the northeast. It’s right on the Atlantic, has hills that rise and fall – though none as steep as those in the City by the Bay – and has fabulous places to eat. Many days were spent on the rock-crusted, cold-even-in-summer beaches.

My winters at UNH were spent trying to keep my boots dry and my feet warm as I trudged through snow and slush to class, slipping on hidden ice and generally cursing whatever gods were responsible. I graduated on a Saturday in May of 1984, with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing, and left exactly one week later to drive myself across the country.

All my life I knew I wanted to be out West, so I pointed my 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback in the direction of Southern California. It didn’t occur to me to go anywhere in between. While I wanted to get out of New England, I didn’t want to be too far from an ocean; I just preferred an ocean that lapped at a warmer coastline.

I have a soft spot for the last remnants of waves as they spill onto the sand after first crashing with authority onto the water just off shore. That part of the wave is angry, but all of its bluster is gone when it finally inches onto land where some of it sinks into already saturated sand and the rest is pulled back out to sea. It’s one of the most soothing sights and sounds on this earth.

Recently I was invited to post some of my past blog meanderings on the Dwellable travel site. It was there that I discovered their new app for iPhone and iPad, of which I have both. So I downloaded it for fun, not expecting much other than the usual type-in-what-you’re-looking-for-and-wait-for-the-site-to-find-it, if it exists. I touched the icon on my iPhone and immediately I was treated to lapping waves on the sand, spilling clear and beautiful, one after the other. I smiled. This app had me at hello.

I’m not much of an app fiend. I only download the ones that I think I really need, like a flashlight app and Houzz, though I can’t say I absolutely positively need Houzz. It’s more of a fun app. With Dwellable I also have a very cool app, one that travels the country much like I once did.

For years now, whenever we go anywhere, Kevin and I find a house or condo to stay in rather than a hotel, with few exceptions, Chicago being one. We always stay at The Fairmont. I have nothing against hotels; I just like having a kitchen. Also, I like the quiet of a house versus shared, noisy hallways at 2 am. When Justin was young and we traveled to Hawaii (twice) and Mexico (twice), we found condos to rent. Our reasoning was simple: it was easier and cheaper to get up in the morning and make breakfast “at home.” We could also easily pop back for lunch and snacks. When we went to Maine several summers ago with my sister’s family, we rented cabins. When Kevin and I have gone wine tasting, up to Napa Valley as well as to Paso Robles, we always rent a house because we taste wine all day, which is tiring. The last thing we want to do is go out for dinner, so we buy food at the local grocery and cook. It’s the perfect night to a perfect day.

Dwellable offers homes, condos and guesthouses for rent in cities and towns from Maine to San Diego, even Hawaii. Their new app allows for finding those dwellings even when you’re on the road. It couldn’t be easier.

Atop the lapping waves is a simple search box that asks “where are you going?” Type in a destination and see what they have available. I put in Napa Valley since I was in the mood for a little wine and a number of offerings instantly appeared, neatly organized, with a picture, a price and rental name. I clicked on one called Wine Taster’s Estate because I’m a snob and I got a new page with pictures, amenities, a phone number and a website to visit should I require more information. The app has a dateboard to show availability for where and when you want to stay, a photo link and a map feature that shows exactly where your rental choice is located within the city/area you’ve chosen.

Unfortunately, Dwellable doesn’t have maps for all locations. They also don’t have a dateboard for all locations, especially for those that are new. It would be nice to have that feature, but at least the app is contrite about it, saying “Sadly, we don’t know the exact map location for any of these rentals.” It is sad. But not a deal breaker.

It’s easy to navigate and very fast. I kept touching Home just so I could go back to the waves. My only wish was that there was sound. Oh, well. Maybe on the next version. Still, it made me want to go somewhere, anywhere, to get away. Maybe back to Maui, something on Wailea, where the turquoise blue water fades to clear as it kisses the white sand. I have a rum and pineapple in my hand, the sun is warm, the breeze tickles and the Pacific is endless.

Having a wonderful. Wish you were … 

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