The mask of Don Justino

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 31, 2017 5:03 PM

One of our favorite fun movies is The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Sir (!) Anthony Hopkins. It’s one of those films we never grow tired of, and stop to watch anytime we come across it. It’s beautifully photographed, the story is great, the action fun, and the acting decent. It’s a little tongue in cheek, and everyone is just gorgeous, especially Antonio Banderas. Part of it was filmed in San Carlos, Mexico, a place I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Susan earlier this summer. It was a perfect stand in for California. 

The film was released in the summer of 1998 when Justin was 7. It was rated PG-13 but we took him anyway. We had seen the trailer several times, figured it would be fun, and we weren’t disappointed. There’s a bit of violence, no language and no sex. It didn’t seem to us any more harmful than the Pokemon animation and other Japanese anime he was consumed with at the time. He loved the movie, as did we. No sooner did we get home than he found himself something he could make a mask from and armed with his Star Wars light saber, he proceeded to play the role of Zorro.

In the film, which takes place mostly in 1841, noblemen fight for the republic of Las Californias (California wouldn’t become a state until 1850), railing against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence. They are “dons,” established and respected men, men of social standing. The moniker of Don appears before their first names. Don Raphael is the bad guy; Don Diego is the older good guy and Don Alejandro is the younger good guy. Both good guys, naturally, also inhabit the Mask of Zorro.

For months, we were entertained by our own Zorro. And as Halloween got closer, and it came time to choose a costume, there was nothing to discuss. Zorro would once again come to the rescue of … Oak Park. Hey, it was California.

We found a costume, and with his pajamas underneath, and sporting his black cowboy books, Justin transformed before our eyes into Don Justino.

Every year, on Halloween we remember that costume. He wore it for weeks prior and weeks after. Sometimes he’d just wear the top part and shorts. But always the mask and the hat; always with plastic sword in hand as he singlehandedly saved the house from … whoever and usually Maguire. 

To this day, nearly 20 years later, he remains Don Justino. I doubt that the costume fits anymore, but the cuteness and goodness – the desire to save the world – definitely remains.

Go east young man

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 9, 2017 9:59 PM

In 1851, a writer for the Terre Haute Express, John Babsone Lane Soule, used the phrase “go west, young man, go west.” The phrase is widely attributed to another writer, Horace Greely, who co-opted it, writing in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Greely freely gave credit to Soule, even showing people the original article. Regardless, the phrase “go west, young man” quickly became a mantra, especially for those returning from the Civil War. Looking for a new start, many were casting their fortunes to the west, moving their families. Greely, an author and editor of Tribune, had used the phrase because he envisioned the farmland of the west being ideal for people willing to work hard for the chance to succeed.

This morning, Justin climbed behind the wheel of his new (used) car. It was packed up with nearly everything he owns, mostly clothing and some electronics, along with some hand-me-downs from us. A set of dishes. Pots and pans. Flatware. He started the car and with a wave and a “love you guys” he drove across the driveway, down the road and … west. I watched the car for as long as I could see it, and then came back inside. The west part of his trip was short-lived. Once he got onto Catalina Highway and got to the second stop sign, he turned south, drove down to Interstate 10 and headed east. Destination: Atlanta.

He’s 26 years old. He’ll be 27 at the beginning of January. He has had two major jobs. His first was working for Norwegian Cruise Line which he got before he got out of college and started about a month and half after graduating. The second he got after Norwegian left him hanging for his next “tour.” The cruise lines all function similarly in that workers are on the boat – on a tour of duty, so to speak – for six months at a time. Then they are forced to take a mandatory six weeks off before they can embark on another tour. Justin was all set to do that, and had agreed to another six months on a ship called the Pride of America which cruises around the Hawaiian islands for six months. Not too hard to take. But they never followed through getting him the necessary paperwork from the Coast Guard and he got tired of waiting so he got a job with Feld Entertainment working on Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Until last month, he’d been with them for almost three years during which time he has traveled the country and much of the world. Last summer, on July 2, he left for Japan, where he was for three months, then they went on to Great Britain where he was for another three months. After that, he was in Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and maybe other countries I can’t remember. In April he was home for a month, and then jetted off to New Zealand and Australia where he was until two weeks ago. 

Now he’s heading east toward a new job, as lighting supervisor for the Atlanta Opera. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, with him first needing to buy a car and then trying to secure an apartment long distance. He and Kevin spent the first couple of days looking at used cars, and most of them were in horrible condition. Evidently a lot of people just don’t take care of their vehicles. But our neighbors had indicated that they might like to sell their third car and I told them to let me know. They did, he drove it and bought it. It’s a 2007 Audi A4 2.0T. It’s in great shape, and best of all, was in his price range. It’s his first car (his previous car was what Kevin and I bought him when he turned 16) and it’s a beauty.

Justin's new wheels, pointed east in the driveway

Now, he’s heading east. Toward a new adventure, a new life. And new opportunities. We’re so proud of him, and can’t wait to see – and experience – all of the success that awaits him. Go east, young man, go east. We love you.

Ignorance is bliss

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:42 PM

Ben Franklin said: "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." This brilliance is something I think about nearly every day as I click through the news. I am forever amazed at how uninformed and willfully uneducated so many people remain, even in this age of instant information literally in your hand. I get push notices on my phone; breaking news alerts as they happen. I have my fitness tracker set up to also deliver whatever alerts my phone has received. They are tied together by Bluetooth.

The internet itself is a bastion of information. It matters not whether you lean left, right or stand fairly straight in the middle. It’s easy to find information about what you’re looking for. It’s easy to educate yourself. Main stream news happens to be my preference because I don’t always want dogma and the left slant. I know how I feel; I know which way my emotions and loyalties tilt. What I want is reporting, news. I crave the facts. Opinions are fine and I read those, too, but I don’t only read people who agree with me. I try to also sneak into enemy territory in order to get a glimpse into how they’re thinking and feeling. Sometimes I get a lot of good information there, too. I don’t always agree with it, but I can appreciate its clarity of thought. 

As Jack Ryan said in The Hunt for Red October, in Russian – “It is wise to study the ways of one’s adversary.” –and Captain Ramius answered, in English – “It is.” –  it’s important to know both sides in order to have a well-rounded opinion of your own. And to have the facts. Ben Franklin’s quote above offers incredible wisdom about the dumb and ill-informed. It also offers great truth. 

The Republicans have crafted a health care bill in total secret that will repeal Obamacare. This bothers me greatly, and not just because of the ripe hypocrisy of it all. It will directly affect me; ultimately it will affect everyone but the ridiculously rich. And most people refuse to see it. Ask people who will lose their Medicaid, whose premiums will skyrocket to nearly half of their yearly income, how they feel and they’ll say they’re worried. In the next breath, they say that the president will never do that. 

Meanwhile, he’s sitting behind his tiny desk with pen poised to wipe out millions of people with his seismographic signature. 

These, of course, are the same people who when interviewed on the street say they’re very much opposed to Obamacare but they like the benefits they receive from the Affordable Care Act.

That sound you hear is me, hitting my head against anything that is hard. It beggars belief that we are this ignorant as a country, that we are this purposefully uneducated about the things that will ultimately affect our lives. 

I have been busy writing to and calling my representative and my senators. I do not hold out much hope because their ideology clashes so completely with my own. They simply believe it’s not the government’s job to help those who can’t completely help themselves. To which I answer, then whose job is it?

I think, I feel, I help, I learn. Constantly. My question to others then, to quote President Andrew Shepherd in The American President, is: “Why don’t you, Bob?” Or Mitch, or John, or Rob, or Susan, or Lisa, or Jeff, or Dean, or [fill in another name here]. 

The day draws to a close, taking with it the exhausting heat we’ve been experiencing in the west. Tomorrow comes the release of this new bill. Tomorrow comes the further exploitation of the ignorant. Justin wants to somehow force people to become educated and I can’t seem to convince him that it’s not possible. But I admire his passion. I admire his hope. Because as Benjamin Franklin also said: “The doors of wisdom are never shut.” And that possibility is worth celebrating.

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I have a theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 15, 2017 10:10 PM

Long ago I made the pronouncement that I’m not particularly crazy about teenagers. I’ve never made an attempt to hide it; Justin knew all about even as he careened through his teens. His teens ended up being exhibit B as to why I’m not a fan of the years between 13 to 19. I was exhibit A. 

Unlike many people, I remember well how horrible I was as a teen. I was fairly miserable, not fitting in where I wanted to fit in, not being as popular as I wanted to be, not getting everything that I demanded from my parents. I was impossible, moody, demanding, raging about nothing and everything, in no particular order; rude. My parents tolerated me, even loved me. I was why I decided that teenagers weren’t fit for human consumption.

I also know that I eventually became human again. It happened sometime during college and the metamorphosis, that time after I finished school and went out on my own. I still had insecurity issues and occasional bouts of mood, but I softened with age. I liked my parents again; more importantly they liked me again, too. While they always loved me, the like thing was difficult during “those years.” 

Much the same happened with Justin. We didn’t much like him. He was moody and difficult and demanding. He continually pushed us to the edge, and sometimes we went over. We didn’t like him, he hated us. Then he went to college and suddenly, we liked him again. He liked us. We were reborn as a family. 

I think the teenage years are some of the cruelest. Your body is betraying you, your moods are uncontrollable. You hate everyone and mostly yourself. When you get old and your body is once again betraying you, it’s also cruel because you know how good you once had it. As a teen you can’t imagine the wonder that awaits. I think that’s why it’s more cruel. 

Regardless, being a teen totally sucks. This is something I thought of today as I spoke with my sister who is in the midst of her own teen turmoil. I mentioned my theory, one she was familiar with. Here it is: 

Teens become awful because they’re getting ready to leave for college and by the time they do, as a parent, you’re so ready for them to go, you don’t really miss them. If they left when they were wonderful, when they were loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, as a parent, you’d be totally bereft.   

So kids go to college and become human again and as a parent, you start liking them again. And then they become wonderful. At least ours did.

Justin has been home for the past month or so, on a break from his tour. Where he was difficult during those terrible teen years, he’s a joy to have around now. Easy, personable. Smart as hell. He likes wine and conversation; he laughs easily and quickly. For Mother’s Day, he had a dozen roses delivered for me along with a lovely card. And today, before he left, another package arrived. He presented it to Kevin and I. We opened it and inside were four gorgeous wine glasses. Matching wine glasses. He had noticed that many of our pairs had become singles, had lost their mates. He thought it would be nice for us to have a nice set that we could use to entertain, that we could use on the deck for sunset, that would like nice and that we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking. These glasses are made with a slightly heavier stem; they’re harder to knock over. 

The point is he noticed. He’s thoughtful. He’s wonderful.

My new theory is better: Kids grow up and become teens and then they become people you like and respect and enjoy. They become equals. They become incredible. In our case, they become Justin.

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Finding a decent Chinese restaurant and other stuff

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 3, 2017 9:34 PM

It’s Friday. I wondered aloud today how much longer I can continue to run at this ridiculous pace. I wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular and the only person within earshot was the husband unit. Riley was in my office but he was sleeping and didn’t care much. The answer to my wonder was and is, of course, as long as necessary. For weeks, I have been slammed. I start work early in the morning; I work until late into the evening. And school. Every day is like this, and if I take any time off, meaning, like, Saturday, I don’t sleep because I have too much to do and I’m behind, and so I wonder. 

I have a big assignment due for school on Monday. I am not close to being done. I have essentially two more days. I am nervous, but I will get something done that will hopefully be OK. I am not doing well in this class though, partly because it’s a harder class and mostly because my work load is so over the top that there simply isn’t much time for anything else. I’m trying. I’m also failing, I hope not literally. 

I have neglected my blog. I was so strict for so long about writing and posting daily, but because of the work and school and the current state of our country, I have let that slide. Some days I’m busy; some I just can’t find anything good to write about. It’s not a good habit to get into. I remember not too long ago when there would be a technical issue prohibiting me from posting and I would be apoplectic. That doesn’t happen now. I don’t like it and need to get back to it. I will be better. 

My kid is coming home soon. He’ll be here for a month or so, then he’s off to Australia. I’m looking forward to him being here – we all are. It’s going to be interesting to see what he and Kelsey decide to do. After Australia, which is only about a six week gig, he’ll be off again. He’ll need to think about the future, about changing jobs, changing tours, or getting a more staid and stagnant job. Hmmmm. 

April is going to be a very busy month here at Il Sogno. Justin will be here. Roy and Bobbi are thinking of coming for a weekend. Jeff and Chris (Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law) may come, too. My sister and her family are thinking about a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and then to see us.

Riley is having skin issues. Spring brings out his allergies. On top of all of his anxiety, once the weather changes, he starts to itch. He’s been itching badly. I wonder if it’s a metaphor. 

Kevin fixed the brakes on his Classic. The independent dealership wanted $1500; he did it for about $325. We took it out tonight and Kevin had me drive. I have to admit to a bit of nervousness as we pulled out of the driveway and started down the very steep Falcon Crest. We took Riley. Destination: China Bamboo.

China Bamboo is a Chinese restaurant we’ve only gotten food from once. Tonight marks the second time. Shrimp egg rolls, vegetable egg rolls, vegetable lo mein, Szechuan shrimp. 

The truck rattled and rolled down Catalina Highway, across Tanque Verde, and into the parking lot. Kevin jumped out, got the food, climbed back in and off we went again. The brakes were good, the truck was good, the food once we got home was also good.

It’s Friday. I’m still working, taking just a few minutes to dash off a ridiculous post because I’m feeling guilty and running at a ridiculous pace that shows no sign of abatement. But it’s not bad; it’s all good. Being busy, being in school, having good Chinese food, and that Justin is coming home soon… it’s all worth celebrating.

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The old person’s video game

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:05 PM

In 1972, Atari came out with a game called Pong. It was essentially an electronic ping-pong game. They first put their console in a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern. Within days, the game was acting weird so Atari sent technicians to find out what the problem was, fearing that it would hurt their success potential. The technicians discovered that the reason the game wasn’t acting correctly was because the console was overfilled with quarters from people trying to play the game. Success. Soon after, in 1975, they created a home version and sold it through Sears. My dad bought one and we learned quickly how to maneuver the now antiquated controls to knock a small ball back over the ‘net so the other player could do the same. It had various speeds, and someone would eventually not be able to get their “paddle” – a square block of technology – into the right position. The electronic ball, just a round white disc, would sail past. Point. 

The game was in black and white, if it could be called that. The screen was black but the extremely crude game pieces were white/blue. It was like an old computer, which is essentially what it was. I remember playing it, but never being addicted to it. I think eventually Atari made more games and I’m sure my father upgraded the system. He was also one of the first to buy a VCR. I wasn’t a game person but someone in the house must have been. Maybe my brother, and perhaps my dad. 

Video games progressed to Pac Man in the early 1980s. We had Pac Man game consoles in the restaurant where I worked in college. They were always populated with frat boys who would place their mugs of beer on the side as they hooted and hollered while eating up whatever stuff as they maneuvered their game guy through a maze. I don’t know that I ever played Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man which was the same except pink. 

Atari begat Nintendo which begat Play Station. When Justin was little we had Play Station. He was also completely enamored with Game Boy. He had several versions, beginning when he was fairly young. He never went anywhere without it, including camp. I picked him up one day after they returned from one of their excursions, maybe to Disneyland or Magic Mountain, pullin up in my BMW to find him in tears, sitting on the curb. It wasn’t because I was late; I wasn’t. It was because he’d lost his Game Boy. I sat down next to him, put my arm around his quivering shoulder and asked him to tell me what happened; where he had lost it. He looked up at me through his enormous glasses, his eyes rimmed with tears. He was maybe 8. Evidently when he’d gotten out of the bus, someone hit his arm, and his Game Boy crashed to the ground where it proceeded to slide down into the drain. The drain that was right beneath us. I got down on the ground and looked and sure enough, there it was, in all of its bright yellowness, resting on a bed of leaves. 

“Let’s go get a handle and see if we can fish it out,” I told him. This gave him hope. We buzzed home. I grabbed a broom handle, the small shovel and a roll of duct tape. We drove back, I attached the shovel to the broom handle with the tape and then laid down on the road to try to fish it out. Justin was squatted next to me, watching with great anticipation. 

I was very determined but ultimately would have probably been unsuccessful. Thankfully, two guys in a pickup truck pulled up and asked if they could help. I told them what was going on. They had a crowbar in their truck. They pried up the manhole cover leading to the drain. Justin scampered down, retrieved his Game Boy, and all was right with the world.

Kevin and I have never been fans of video games. Justin upgraded his Play Station. He may have had something else as well, though I don’t think he had a Wii. He still plays video games on his computer and can sit for hours doing nothing more than that. He’s 26 now, but still loves it. 

Kevin plays a game on the iPad. It’s solitaire. The old fashioned card game created for one person. He opens the app, shuffles the cards, and proceeds to play game after game by simply touching the screen. He loves it, and I can’t help but laugh. Justin slays dragons and progresses up through levels as he kills or whatever. Kevin turns over cards and occasionally tackles the daily challenge.

It’s the old person’s version of a video game. And I think it’s worth celebrating.

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"I voted!"

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 24, 2016 8:01 PM

Justin is in England, specifically in Birmingham, at least for the next couple of days. He’s in England through the end of the year, and as when he was in Japan, appears to be loving it. The weather is a bit cooler. Japan was very hot and humid. And he loves him some good pub grub. 

Because he’s out of the country, he signed up for an absentee ballot. The ballot was, naturally, sent here to the house. Because he literally moves to a different city every week, it would have been difficult to have it simply sent directly to his hotel-home. We got the ballot last week. In order to get it to England in a timely basis, meaning before he moved again, we had to pinpoint his location starting this week (he usually changes locations on Sunday or Monday) and then figure the best way to get it over there. 

Our go-to for quick, overnight shipping has long been FedEx. They’re a little expensive but for more fragile items, they seem to take slightly better care. For a long time, UPS seemed to be a bit haphazard with their handling of packages. I think they’ve gotten much better. But I’m not sure they do international. USPS couldn’t guarantee delivery and FedEx was ridiculously expensive. 

Enter DHL. Kevin took it down to their office on Friday morning. Today we got a text: “I voted!” 

Justin was still in high school when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Kevin and I stood in front of the television for hours, watching the results come in. When Brian Williams said that it was just after 8 pm on the West Coast “and we have news” in that wonderful anchor-y voice of his (yes, we remain fans) and then proceeded to announce that Obama had been elected, we popped open a bottle of champagne and stood crying. We couldn’t have been prouder to be democrats, to have campaigned and voted for Obama, prouder of the country. Justin remained up in his room. We called up to him, wanting for him to share with us the moment where our country changed its history. He came to the top of the stairs, smiled, said something about “cool” and then went back into his room. He was young and the outside world didn’t quite exist yet.

In 2012, he was in college. I don’t remember and neither does he if he got an absentee ballot that year but I tend to think he didn’t. I would think he would have remembered filling it out; I would think we would remember sending him one. 

This year, he’s 25, soon to be 26, and actively engaged with the world in all of its entirety, figuratively and literally. He and his girlfriend were Bernie Sanders supporters. After Mr. Sanders failed to get the nomination, Justin switched his allegiance. While Sanders was his first choice, there was no way he was voting for The Donald, and no way he was wasting a vote on a third party. At 25, he realizes the futility of that. And the danger. And he wanted to make sure that regardless of where he was, he could cast his vote for president. 

Today, he voted. How ironic that he cast his vote for the first woman president in the country we fought for our independence from more than 240 years ago. A country that has already had its first female leader. It’s poetic. It’s exciting. It’s breathtaking in its symbolism. I’m not sure he sees it that way. He sees it as doing his civic duty. But I see it. And I celebrate it; I celebrate him.

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Back to

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 3, 2016 9:48 AM

When Justin was little, back to school entailed going to Target. With him leading the way, we found the boys’ department and proceeded to go through, finding jeans and shorts, t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts, socks, boxers, a new belt. We’d find a new hoodie. Then we’d go over to the shoe department so he could pick out sneakers and a pair of work boots for rainy weather. Just before school started, we’d go see Tammy so he could get his hair cut. Occasionally we needed to get him new glasses. Finally, we’d go to Staples to buy school supplies. This was my least favorite thing to do because every other parent and their child was in Staples, picking out notebooks and pencils and whatever else was needed. And making a huge mess. But it was all part of the ritual. 

Years ago, Staples started running a back-to-school commercial that was laugh-out-loud funny for the simple reason that it was true. Exasperated yet glowing parents and petulant, sad children would race and trudge, respectively, through Staples, shopping to the well-known Christmas song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The juxtaposition was something any parent could understand. 

I haven’t been to school since I graduated from college in 1984. I was always a good student in high school, straight As, a member of the National Honor Society. Because I didn’t have to work very hard, I developed poor study habits and so in college I was just an average student. My dad always used to joke: “Imagine what you could do if you just applied yourself a little more.” It used to make me mad, probably because I knew he was right.

When my first husband and I split up, I thought taking a UCLA extension class might be cathartic. I went to one and it was not for me. Rather it was for people who’d never been to school and were just playing with a new hobby. I commend those people, but I wanted more. If I was going to take classes, I wanted something more substantial, something more school-like.  

In those days I also took a course through the Director’s Guild called Robert McKee’s Story Structure. It was fascinating and I loved it. I was dabbling in writing the greatest screenplay ever at that point, and even though I eventually decided I was more of a long-form writer, much of what I learned in that class was universal and invaluable. About plot, about protagonists and antagonists. About flow.

As I write this, Justin, who graduated from college summa cum laude, is on a Cathay Pacific 747, flying from Hong Kong to England. Or the United Kingdom. Or Great Britain. I suppose it’s technically all of the above. He’ll be in Manchester for a bit, then various other places in the Kingdom. He’s there through New Year’s when he heads to Stockholm. It’s part of his continuing tour with Disney’s Frozen on Ice. He is putting his education to use. 

And while I put mine to use every day, I’ve also decided that I need to challenge myself more, so I’m now taking a writing class for the first time in decades. It’s online but it’s exactly what I always felt school should be. Interactive, fun, and as I hoped, challenging. It makes me want to write more which I didn’t know was possible. 

I’m getting back to basics and back to learning, back to expanding my mind and back to good habits, or perhaps developing them for the first time. Somehow it’s easier when you’re older and understand the ramifications more. 

I’m also back to realizing just how much fun it is to be in school. I don’t remember thinking that when I was in college. Most of the time I spent trying to just get finished so I could get on with the rest of my life. I’ve been getting on with my life now for quite some time, and it’s time to do something different, to flex the creative muscles. 

The idea of learning and expanding both terrifies and excites me. But it’s all part of getting back to living it out loud.

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Tonight for dinner we had

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 13, 2016 9:41 PM

Justin spoke those words – "tonight for dinner we had" – this morning when we talked with him. It was the first time we’ve heard his voice since he left so early on the morning of July 1. He’s been in Japan and still is, at least for the next two weeks. It’s a 16-hour time difference so it’s hard. We text, we email; we Facebook. He has dinner when we’ve yet to rise. 

Yesterday he sent a text and asked what we thought about joining him in London for Christmas. The tour will be there from December 21 through the 30 and he thought it might be a nice place for a family reunion. Christmas in London. How Dickensian. Figgie Pudding and all that Scrooge. We looked at flights, not for before Christmas but perhaps just after. We sent a text saying that we should connect today. Just before 7 this morning, we got a text. 

“Hey guys. You up?”

We were awake if not yet up but we got up quickly, took the dog out, started some coffee and settled down for a chat. He told us all about Japan and what they’ve seen, how they’ve settled into the culture. When Justin was little he discovered Pokemon and quickly became enamored with the game, the characters and especially with anime as well as the Japanese culture. As he grew up, his fascination only deepened. He learned to like the food, and studied the ancient Japanese Samurai. He knew he would love it and we just hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. He wasn’t. He has learned some of the language, loves the people, and is forever amazed at how helpful the Japanese are. 

They’ve been to nine cities thus far with the last one coming up in a few days. They’ve traveled the country by bus and by bullet train. Eventually they’ll make their way back to Narita and fly out of Japan and toward England. 

He told us about each city, about the castles, about the ramen which he was infatuated with before he left and has now fallen into full-blown love with. Evidently ramen is very big there and it’s especially easy to find ramen restaurants that are open after the last shows. The crew goes often.

He told us about the weather, about the pedestrian traffic which is evidently out of control. He said that he would live there in a heartbeat, that if he could get a job, he would move there. Kelsey, his girlfriend, isn’t so convinced. And so they’ve discussed taking two months or so for an extended trip to truly engage. 

He sounded great. He was happy and funny and easy, his usual self. He’s loving his life, even though he’s been working quite a bit and doesn’t necessarily plan to continue with the tour after they eventually end in Australia and New Zealand. The experience is amazing, by his own account. 

We talked about New Year’s instead of Christmas, which we think we’ll do. We talked about how much time he’ll have off between London and Stockholm, the stop after the UK. We’ll rent a flat; perhaps he and Kelsey can stay with us. He loved that. 

Then he yawned. And said “tonight for dinner…” and we smiled because it was still just after 8 our time. His life is so different than ours on so many levels. It’s as it should be. I couldn’t help but find meaning in the idea that he had already lived his day, this day, while ours was just beginning. On one hand, it seemed to symbolize us being left behind. On the other, perhaps the fact that we will now forever be trying to catch up to him. Soon he would be going to bed and rising to start the day again, chasing his life, chasing his dream, chasing the sun in the land known for rising. I – we – couldn’t be more proud.

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I'm competitive

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2016 9:58 PM

I feel like I should stand in front of a group of fellow competitives and announce, solemnly, “Hi, I’m Lorin and I’m competitive.” 

All together now: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

Let me tell you my story. For some time now, I have needed to be the one who won, anything. When I was little, I was a terrible sore loser at board games like Candyland. I loved Candyland, but got angry and surly when I lost. I stopped playing board games shortly thereafter. 

As I grew a bit older, I used to compete with my dad. I don’t know when it started; I’m not even sure why it started. Perhaps because my dad used to engage in certain sporting activities that I also enjoyed. He was pretty good on ice skates. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I took ice skating lessons. I was decent; not great. But I enjoyed it, and I could skate a mean backwards 8. Behind our house in New York was a sort of swamp-pond that would freeze solid in the cold winter. The family would often go skating on the weekend. My dad would lace up his black figure skates and I would lace up mine. One day we decided to race and I was determined to beat him. For some ridiculous, youthful reason I needed to beat him. We raced. He caught a toe-pick on a small protruding branch or stick and went sprawling. I remember being elated because I’d won. I don’t remember being too worried as to whether or not he was OK (he was). 

Another time, we were playing tennis. I had taken an interest in the sport when I started watching Chris Evert. My first racket was a wooden Wilson racket that sported her signature. My dad had played tennis in his youth and again, for unknown reasons, it became very important that I beat him. We would bat the ball back and forth. Whenever I managed to put some spin on a ball that got past him, I would shriek with delight. At one point, on a particular Sunday, I went up to hit an overhead, determined to smash it past him. I came down, lost my footing, fell to the court and broke my wrist. I was so competitive though that I didn’t stop playing until I could no longer hold the tennis balls. 

I never liked to admit defeat, I didn’t like to be beat. I still don’t. But I’ve become a slightly better loser. Slightly. It’s something I recognize and work on, or at least try to. Except lately. Lately I am very competitive with my husband. In fairness, he is also competitive with me. 

When Justin was home, he was finally able to get us the fitness trackers he had “given” us for Christmas. Both Kevin and I chose Garmin Vivosmart HR trackers. They have a swipe face, with large letters and numbers making it easy to use and easy to see. We wear them every day. And every day, throughout the day, our conversations go something like this: 

“How many steps do you have?” 

“Did you reach goal yet?” 

“Not yet – wait. Goal!”

We have become obsessed with our step count. Each morning begins with a question: How many steps are you supposed to do today? The steps are automatically increased by a certain percentage based on whether or not we met the previous day’s steps. When Kevin gets to his goal before me, I feel dejected. Beaten. When we’re walking up the hill in the morning and he announces “goal!” because he’s met his stair-climbing goal and his wrist buzzes, I feel wronged. The Garmin’s screen shows fireworks and flashes the word GOAL! in celebration. My first instinct isn’t “great!” or “congrats!” Nope. It’s “why haven’t I met goal? We walked the same distance, we climbed the same hills.” Usually before I’m finished whining, my wrist too begins to buzz.

I don’t play board games anymore. I haven’t played tennis in ages. I can’t remember the last time I laced up skates. But none of that matters. I now have a fitness tracker, and it has reinvigorated my competitive streak. 

Say it with me: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

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