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.

Sometimes you have to dance

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 1, 2017 8:09 PM

We listen to a lot of music, almost all of it via internet radio. When we built the house, we made sure to have it wired so that we could have speakers and thus sound throughout. We have two in the ceiling of the master bath, two in the ceiling between the kitchen and the breakfast nook, two in the garage, two out on the deck, and two in the ceiling in the great room which join three addition speakers, one on either side of the TV and one underneath (for surround sound). Oh, and a subwoofer.

We have a variety of favorite types of music, ranging from classical guitar to classic rock and everything in between. Depending on the time of day and what we’re doing, we choose accordingly. Working in the shop in the garage and cleaning the house requires some great 70s rock, or John Mayer – sometimes The Rolling Stones. Evenings usually require some sort of jazz while Sunday mornings are about something quiet and soothing.

Kevin went out to work in the garage this afternoon. He’s building wine racks for the wine room, so he’s been busy cutting and sanding and planing and jointing. There is sawdust everywhere. But he absolutely loves it – if he could do anything in the world, he would happily spend his life in the shop, building stuff. 

“What kind of music do you want me to put on?” I asked him. 

“Something new,” he said, to which I asked what does that mean? 

“Surprise me,” he said with a smile. 

I pulled up iHeartradio and looked at what they thought might be something I’d be interested in. And there was Rod Stewart. We love Rod Stewart. So I touched the button and Maggie May came on. Good so far. 

For several hours, Rod and friends played throughout the house. Around 5 I took a break from my computer and wandered out into the garage to see what progress he’d been making. As he was showing me his mortise and tenon joints, and we were discussing the best way to attach all 18 staves to both sides of the posts simultaneously, the Bee Gees came on. Staying Alive. And we both stopped talking and started dancing. Not very well, mind you, but dancing. 

It made us both laugh, and we stopped and tried to talk more about the racks. But we couldn’t. The music and the beat was too overwhelming. Pretty soon we were moving and grooving again. Swaying and boogying. Looking completely ridiculous and having an absolute blast late on a Sunday afternoon in the garage, surrounded by sawdust, with our musical choice drifting down over us.

See, here’s the thing: sometimes, you just gotta dance. It makes everything else in the world better and more fun, especially if it’s dancing to Staying Alive.

via GIPHY

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In which Lorin has a cold and begins speaking Latin

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:31 PM

I used to get a cold every Thanksgiving. I don’t remember when that stopped happening but I think it was when I started having less meetings. The less time you spend with other people, the easier it is to not be around germs. I’m no germaphobe, believe me. But I hate being sick. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had the flu (that sound you here, even through the internet, is me knocking on wood) and I think it was before I had Kevin. Since Kevin, I’ve had bronchitis once and a wicked case of strep throat, both of which cleared right up with antibiotics. Also a sinus infection. 

When I would get colds, or not necessarily feel completely 100%, my way of dealing was to ignore it. I would still go for a run. I would psych myself out of being sick and sometimes it actually worked. 

Colds are upper respiratory tract infections caused by viruses. These viruses are transmitted through microscopic droplets in the air when someone who’s already sick coughs or sneezes, laughs or talks. Evidently, a cold virus can also spread by shaking hands or sharing things like toys, phones, spoons; a glass of wine. For some reason, and according to the Mayo Clinic, people are more susceptible to colds in the fall and winter, though they don’t say why. They also say you can catch a cold any time, like if you’re at school or on an airplane; in other words a target-rich environment. I was on a plane (actually four of them) two weeks ago. I was with a bunch of people in a closed room. I’m also in school. 

But I don’t think that’s why I’m sick. I think I’m sick because I’m tired, which is not to be confused with sick and tired, which I also am, but in this case that particular fact is immaterial. I tend to welcome cold viruses with open arms, ears, mouth and nose when I’m rundown, haven’t been sleeping well, and just have too much going on.

To wit:
There’s work. There’s the house to take care of (though I have a phenomenal husband who more than does his part). I have friends that I love spending time with. There is school, which officially started yesterday. Did I mention work? Oh, and I somehow tweaked my back so I’m walking like an old person, and because it’s impossible to get comfortable when one’s back is tweaked, I haven’t been sleeping well, as in almost not at all. 

Today, I woke up with a stuffy nose to go along with my tweaked back, and just the hint of a scratchy throat. I am not happy. First, I don’t do the sick thing well, largely because I don’t get sick all that often (see the first paragraph of this post). Second, the whole idea of a cold is dumb. 

Allow me to get existential here for a minute. A cold is not caused by cold weather, which we currently don’t have. It doesn’t necessarily cause one to feel cold, or to have chills. Ergo, a cold is a misnomer. It would make more sense to call it scratch and sniff, or SAS. Scratchy throat – check. Sniffy stuffy nose – check.

The name “cold” follows the theory of post hoc ergo propter hoc. For fans of The West Wing, you’ll probably remember this scene:

After this, therefore because of this. I have a cold because I have a cold. Blah.

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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I can not

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 7, 2017 10:09 PM

Children are very quick to use the word “can’t.” It’s easy. To say you can’t is to not have to try. It compensates for trying and failing so why try at all? Life is scary and “I can’t” keeps the fear away. I think children say “can’t” in much the same way they say “no.”

When I was little my mother used to say that can’t never did anything. It’s true, of course. At the time, I hated that phrase, but I understand it now. I used it a time or three on Justin when he was little. When my mom used to say it, I thought it was one of those motherly pearls that only she used. I’ve since found out that it’s a relatively common phrase, employed by parents the world over.

Whatever its origin, the philosophy it expounds is a good one, and something I long ago took to heart. To coin another over-used phrase, I developed a “can do” attitude. I moved west and made a life for myself when I knew virtually no one and had no job. We wanted to build a house and rather than thinking we can’t do that, we decided that we actually could. I started my own business, I’m going back to school, I divorced a man who made me unhappy and married one who makes me very happy, all because I can. 

But there are times when I just can not …

I can not get over the horrific fires burning in so much of the west, and that they are getting almost zero coverage from the national media. I can not understand why so many people refuse to believe that there is climate change when the climate and the weather is so clearly changing and not for the better. 

I can not believe where we are, what we’ve become, who is in charge, why we are here.

I can’t stand the constant whiplash, the fear, the need to constantly check the news to see where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re threatening, if we’ve carried through on any. One day one thing is said, the next a new thing is said superseding yesterday’s thing. One day there is an accusation, the next it is rescinded or doubled down on, or forgotten altogether. I can’t believe that so many don’t seem to care. 

Someone with no beliefs can’t truly be trusted. That’s not to say that everyone knows exactly how they feel about every given topic. I’m on the fence about Indian food, for instance. Ditto watching and rooting for football. Also skittles. But I know how I feel about climate change and abortion rights and animal safety and water preservation and solar power. I know how I feel about mornings (bad) and Saturday nights (excellent). I have no doubt in my mind that I would give my life for my family, friends, and dog. 

But someone with no beliefs is someone with no center, no moral code, someone who doesn’t care enough to have an opinion. That scares me, and I can’t understand it. I can’t embrace it. I can’t respect it. I can not. 

I’m talking about big things here. Things that matter, things that are life and death for hundreds of millions of people if not billions around the world. I’m talking about being cavalier with nuclear annihilation, and the fate of children and young adults. I’m talking about not really caring if the poorest among society have access to health care. I’m talking about telling everyone to have a good time after they’ve lost their homes, their everything, including, for some, their lives. That scares me, and I don’t respect it. I can not. 

I know that can’t never did anything. I believe in a can-do attitude. I try to live on the positive side of life. But sometimes, some days, I feel overwhelmed, and I can not. 

So instead I look forward to starting school. I mark the calendar days leading to our next trip wine tasting. I watch the storms roll up from the south and sit at my desk, surveying the view from my office, a rolling sea of green desert punctuated with flat roof homes in the valley below. I listen to good music. I think about maybe trying Indian food again. I look at my dog, sleeping in front of the fan, the manufactured wind blowing his fur, and I smile.

Because I can.

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The Saturday of a Labor Day weekend

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 2, 2017 8:25 PM

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, we finally moved into the house on the hill. Building had commenced on December 1, 2013 and Architect Mike thought maybe we’d be in by Christmas of 2014. We never really thought that was possible, but we hoped. December 2014 moved into January 2015. Mike said maybe the end of the month. January became February and Mike said the end of February. Then it was March, and we told him we had to move in. We had people coming to stay with us on March 24; we were throwing a party on Saturday, March 28. The truck rumbled up the hill early afternoon and the guys proceeded to unload it with me standing in the middle of the house directly traffic.

Roy and Bobbi got to the house around 11 pm. I had managed to get the bed set up and made in the guest room; put towels and a bar of soap in the guest bath. Ditto our own room. The kitchen was relatively put together because I’d been moving a lot of that in for days, taking Rover loads to the new house and arranging what I could. The rest of the house was a sea of boxes.

Over the next few days, I unpacked what I could but mostly stacked the boxes so that they at least looked neater. We put the couches, the floor lamps, the coffee table in place in the great room. We arranged the dining room table and chairs, and the hutch. We put together the new bar stools, and when the patio furniture arrived, we put that together. Because we were going to have a house full of people.

Kevin’s office stayed mostly a mess but mine had to be more put together because we had more people coming to stay on Thursday. I pushed the desk up against the wall, and we put together the spare bed we keep in the storage area. It’s a full size. I found more towels and another bar of soap. 

All of my boxes of books got stacked in the closet and there they stayed for the next two and a half years. The office itself has been highly functional though lacking some personality. The two bookshelves I had against the wall stayed there but mostly empty other than the errant stuff I stacked. The shelves stayed shrink wrapped in the hall closet. 

Several months ago, I started thinking that I might like to re-arrange my office. I had the desk at an angle but I didn’t like it. The empty book shelves were on the west wall, but I didn’t like those either. There was a lot of mess and no feng shui. I’m not necessarily a practitioner of feng shui, but I do know when a room feels right, and mine was just feeling off. But work is busy and I’ve had school, and my weekends come and go and nothing happened in my office. The top of the desk became a sea of papers that I needed to go through but didn’t. Dust gathered. 

For years, the day after Thanksgiving was my designated day to clean my office. I actually looked forward to it every year. But for the past four or five years, we’ve been going to Paso Robles for Thanksgiving, which means on that Friday, I’m happily ensconced in a winery or four, tasting wine and enjoying life while my office languishes.

This is another long weekend, and earlier this week I decided that I was going to use some of the time to clean my office and re-arrange the furniture. I started late yesterday afternoon, going through the mountains of papers on my desk and throwing out most of them. Then I decided to move the desk to in front of the window, the shelves to the east wall, and put my black chair and ottoman on the west wall. The corner shelf that had previously held a number of products from clients that I’m no longer working with got completely cleaned off. I put photos, and my 1920s typewriter, on that. I hung my cowboy hat from the corner. 

Then I ran out of time. But this afternoon, I ventured back in and started pulling boxes of books out of the closet. I opened each and decided which I wanted on the book shelves in the office, which I wanted on the shelves in the closet, and which I really didn’t need at all and could go to Goodwill or the library. I worked for hours, emptying countless boxes, and ended up with four boxes to donate. I pulled the shelves from the hall closet, dusted them off and put them in place. I arranged books. I dusted. And when it was all done, I stood back to admire my work. And it was good. 

On this Labor Day weekend, I labored to finally clean and re-arrange my office. It’s something to celebrate.

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I can’t today. I have to go shopping for my Bitmoji.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 20, 2017 8:40 PM

Evidently, bitmoji was all the craze a number of years ago. I was a little late jumping onto the wagon, but ever since I was introduced, I have been a fan. I love using these rather ridiculous and not-very-close-likeness mojis of, well, me to communicate. I can tell someone happy birthday, happy weekend or wine time. There are any number of emotions to send, some joyous, some angry, some just fun. I can be a Game of Thrones character or my own version of the Terminator, Scully from the X-Files, or batman, superman or a (wo)man in black.

For the uninitiated, a bitmoji is basically your own personal emoji. Rather than use one of the regular emojis that comes with your phone, you can download the app and create an “expressive cartoon avatar.” Because what I always wanted to be was an avatar. You can choose your sex, hair color, your facial shape, skin tone, whether you wear glasses or makeup. Bobbi first introduced it to me and I’ve been hooked virtually ever since. My friend Shana, here in Tucson, also has a bitmoji. We’ve had many conversations with just bitmojis and their accompanying phrases.

Along with creating a bitmoji that fits you, you also get to choose how you’d like your avatar to be dressed. In the winter, you can wear long pants and a sweater, or a snow suit; in the summer, shorts. You can change into a bathing suit, should you desire, or something more formal. 

Today I fired off a bitmoji to Justin after he’d said that he was tired after a long day of furniture assembly. He’s in Atlanta now, actually Smyrna, in his new apartment, a ground-floor apartment in a house in the ‘burbs. He loves it and has been decorating for days now, shopping at IKEA and Target and Walmart, getting pieces of furniture that have to be put together, usually with an allen wrench or hex key. 

I was looking at my Too Tired avatar, which doesn’t look nearly as tired as I actually do, and it occurred to me that I wasn’t a fan of the outfit, so quite innocently, I announced that I had to find something new for my bitmoji to wear. This sent my husband into fits of laughter. 

“You’re going shopping … for your bitmoji?” he asked playfully. I started to laugh, too. 

“I’m sorry,” he continued. “I can’t play with you today. I have to go out and see what I can find for my not-real, one dimensional, virtual self to wear.” 

“You’re mocking me,” I said. He nodded, grinning.

But I went shopping anyway, which consists of opening the app and looking at the different outfits that are available. I went from a tank top, skirt and flip flops to a more safari look, and sandals with heels. 

It’ll do for at least a couple of weeks. By then, the temps might adjust, and I’ll have to dig into the fall wardrobe. Jeans and boots. Hey, my avatar is a fashion plate, even if I’m … not.

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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.

Vines

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 6, 2017 8:42 AM

It’s no secret that Kevin and I are into wine. We have an entire, temperature controlled room in the house devoted to it. Our vacations of choice lately have all been to wine country where we spend days visiting various wineries, tasting and buying more wine for the wine room. It is one of the great passions we share together.

Over a year and a half ago, as one of his Christmas presents, I bought Kevin six Barbera vines. They arrived at the end of March 2016 and he planted them in the small vineyard area he had painstakingly created. In essence, he had built a large planter on the western side of the house. It was about 20 feet or so long, and 8 feet or so wide. The ground on which it’s built slopes down the hill, so to level it and shore it up, he built gabion walls using the plentiful amounts of rock we have on the property. He had a dump truck filled with soil drop its load at the edge. The two of us then shoveled and smoothed and generally readied the area for the big day. The day of planting.

He dug holes near where he’d plant each vine and placed a PVC pipe inside so that he could water from the top and ensure that the vines would receive water from below as well as above. Once the vines arrived, he followed the instructions which consisted of soaking them in water for three days and then placing them in the ground. Let the watering and growing commence. 

Except they didn’t grow. They died. So we ordered more vines which came and we soaked and planted and watered. They, too, died. He was frustrated and a little deflated. His great dream of starting his own vineyard was turning into a nightmare. By the third set of vines, which also died, he was done. It obviously wasn’t going to work. Nothing was going to grow in this climate even in the special soil he had delivered. That soil is now what he thinks was the culprit. It was too rich, too organic. Vines like to work for their nutrients and their water. We didn’t make them work hard enough.

Our little vineyard began to grow weeds from neglect. The vines, long withered and dead, were absconded by deer and rabbits and javelina. All that remains are the PVC pipes and the gabion walls, and Kevin’s disappointment.

Several months ago we were at Mesquite Valley Growers on East Speedway. It’s one of the most prolific nurseries I’ve ever visited, offering virtually any type of plant a person could want. We were there to look at getting some flowering plants for the big pots we have on our deck. We wanted some color, a bit of a subtle flair to offset the desert color of the house. Naturally, we also needed something that could take the intense heat of the summer. We found orange solar flares and bought them. While we were there we also noticed grape vines. I suggested we buy them. If we couldn’t grow them in the desert soil, maybe we could grow them in pots on the deck.

Kevin said no. I was persistent. Eventually he relented. We bought two Cabernet Sauvignon vines and planted them, one each in the large pots off on the deck off of his office. I watered them, I looked after them. And they lost all of their leaves, all of the tiny grape clusters they had sported when we bought them home. He didn’t say it but I know he was thinking: “I told you so.” 

But I wouldn’t give up. I kept tending to them, watering them in the morning, talking nice to them, urging them to grow. And sure enough, one day, I noticed a new leaf starting to spring from the gnarly vine of one. I felt cautiously optimistic. Within a week or so, the other, too, had started to sprout. Within a month, both were green and leafy and fabulous.

So we now have vines that are growing. We don’t expect to have any grapes that we can use for at least two more years. But we’re on our way. The beginning of Michel Vineyards has finally begun. That’s worth celebrating.

Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 22, 2017 8:47 PM

The only thing worse than driving on the 10 freeway through the desert is driving on the 5 freeway up or down through Central California. It’s a boring drive, and not even a little bit pretty. On the 5, it’s miles of flat agriculture and cattle and horrible smells even with the closed air ventilation of the car. On the 10, there are vast expanses of nothing. Just brown dirt, not even sand, and some desert scrub. No cactus, no trees, not even any interesting rocks. What it does have, though, are bugs. The 5 takes the prize in the sheer number, largely because of the agriculture and especially because of the thousands and thousands of grazing cattle. But the 10 runs a lovely second. By the time you get where you’re going, whether going to California or returning, the windshield is a mosaic of bug splatter; ditto the plastic coverings over the headlights. The front grill has fed nicely on all manner of insect and the part of the roof that curves down to the windshield sports many dried carcasses. It’s the only part of a road trip that I don’t particularly like, though I know to expect it. Cleaning it requires a great deal of scrubbing.

Last weekend we drove through the desert on our way back from California. The car was already a disaster because of dirt roads and tree droppings. The wheels were black with the brake dust of the new pads replaced before we left. I’ve been wanting to wash it all week.

One of the chores I love most in the world is to wash the car. I always have. I don’t know if it’s because the result is nearly instant and always better than when I began, or if I’m simply strange that way. But washing my own car is a pleasure. The only issue I ever have is finding the time to do it.

When we had the Porsche, washing it was easy. I could be done – start to finish, dry and back in the garage – in 30 minutes. The Range Rover takes about an hour and a half, sometimes more depending on how dirty it is and if I decide to do anything with the interior. It’s big, it’s tall, and it has a lot of windows including a sunroof. 

It’s been raining for days. After a slow start to monsoon, we seem to be trying to catch up. This is one of the times of year I love the most. Yes, it’s July in the desert but after temperatures that scorched near 120º several weeks ago, when the rains finally start, the temps are usually no higher than the low 90s. (As I type this on a Saturday afternoon, it’s 81º.) The clouds start to gather in the morning, accumulating over the Rincon mountains to the east or drifting up from the gulf to the south. We can literally see the rain beginning to form. Before long, the sky begins to gurgle and shout. Lightning flashes and the winds begin to whip. And the wall of water we’ve been watching descends upon us. Sometimes we get half an inch in 10 or 15 minutes; sometimes it’s a more sustained rain that accumulates slowly, over time. 

Today, I ran some errands. The sky was dark and sputtering a bit. I actually hoped it would pour to take some of the grit and grime and bugs off the car. It didn’t. When I got home, I parked in the driveway rather than in the garage. I was determined to wash it today, one way or another. And then, thunder rumbled in the distance and rain began to fall. Slowly at first, it built to a nice steady flow that wasn’t torrential or harsh, but gentle. I grabbed the bucket out of the laundry room, filled it with water, threw on a rain coat and decided to wash the car with the rain. I wasn’t sure it would cooperate long enough to allow me to work my way up from the wheels, which I did with an old sponge and the puddled water on the driveway, all the way to the roof. It did. As I washed, the rain began to fall harder. Soon it was beating down pretty good. I was drenched through the rain coat and I loved every minute of it. When I was done and the rain had rinsed away all the soap, I pulled into the garage and dried it off. The Sport is now clean. And all the bug guts have been scrubbed away. 

All I could think of as I was working to remove them was the old saying: Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

Feeling like the windshield today as I lived it out loud in the rain.

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live out loud

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