Watch this

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 17, 2012 11:43 PM

Kevin found a watch this morning on our walk. I’m not sure how he saw it as it was off to the side in the foliage, and it was green. He picked it up; it was still fastened as if on a wrist. It had no face. His temporary ‘cool’ was replaced with ‘oh, well.’ He stuck it in his pocket until we got home and then he tossed it in the trash.

Kevin is a big watch person. He has an old watch like his dad used to wear and we hunted for a long time to find a band that had a vintage look. He also has my dad’s old watch, one with a silver and gold face and a metal elastic band. He doesn’t wear that one as much because it grabs at the hairs on his arm making it a little uncomfortable. It brings up a good point, though. How does anyone wear a band like that and not have the same thing happen?

Kevin's watch, only his band is blue

Many years ago I bought him a beautiful watch with a gold and silver face and a rich, brown leather band. On its face was one of our favorite cartoon characters: Mr. Bugs Bunny. There’s a Swiss Army watch with a big, bold white face and a thick silver band. I wear that one sometimes. I like the bulk of it. But his favorite watch is the one I bought him when we got married.

We had gone to a local jeweler in Westlake Village, DeJaun Jewelers, to pick out wedding rings; actually to pick out a wedding ring for him. My engagement ring was/is such that a ring needed to be designed to fit around it. Kevin had designed it; we just needed someone to craft it. We found him a plain platinum band with just a hint of gold around the edges. DeJaun then took a mold of my engagement ring, along with Kevin’s design, and made mine. It took 10 days.

As we were in the store, waiting to pick up both rings, we were browsing the cases. So much of the jewelry in jewelry stores is not to my taste. It tends to be heavy on precious stones, too heavy, and I’m more of a minimalist. My engagement ring has a solitaire stone of about one karat, with five tiny stones on each side that curve up and down and eventually form the perfect circle of the ring. That’s plenty of bling for me. My wedding bands (yes, two) are gold and platinum, one of each. But both Kevin and I love watches. We’re fascinated by them, and while some can border on too much, many are stunning in simplicity, color and detail. We’re partial to TAG Heuer. I’ve had one since 1990. It has a thick stainless steel and gold serpentine band; the watch face is round and white. It’s simple and still beautiful. In the TAG display case was a man’s watch with a sapphire blue face, encased in high chrome with diver’s marks all around. The band was thick, navy blue leather. He was in lust. I went back several weeks later and bought it for him for a wedding present. It’s still his favorite.

This is an $11 million watch.

Watches evidently fell a bit out of favor for a while but they’re making a comeback. It seems that with the proliferation of cell phones and even mp3 players, all equipped with time that syncs to the world atomic clock in Greenwich, England (Kevin calls it the mother ship), many people stopped wearing watches. If they needed to know what time it was, they simply looked at their phone. If they had a pre-determined appointment somewhere, they set their phone’s alarm.

But watches are back and boasting new retro styles and equally bold designs. The fashion designers are including sexy new time keeping devices on the wrists of male and female models strutting down the runways in New York, Paris, Tokyo, London and LA. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reports that watch sales are the highest they’ve been in 20 years, with exports from Switzerland surging 19.2 percent last year. Sales of watches up to $300 increased 22 percent; watches $300 to $1000 increased by 25 percent. Swatch and Fossil had increases of 40 percent in sales.

Men’s watches are selling faster than women’s, though it’s not just men wearing men’s watches. Women are also buying men’s watches because they’re bigger and bolder. They’re like the new version of the boyfriend jeans. Remember the 1980s when women wore their boyfriend’s jeans and just cinched the waist tight with a really cool belt? Yeah, I know. But we all did it.

Watches range from cheap to absurd with most people wearing something that falls in between. Many are like tiny mechanical sculptures – pieces of art – for the wrist. Some have enormous faces that seem to engulf the arm. The cheapest seem to be made by Casio; the most expensive are made by Patek Philippe at $11 million. Yes, you read that correctly. Many are analog rather than digital, with arms that can even make intellectual statements while telling time. A watch by Mr. Jones called The Accurate, which sells for $189, has a hour hand that reads “remember” and a minute hand that reads “you will die.” Not exactly cheery though I prefer to think of it as more of a carpe diem message.

Since none of us knows when our time is up, seize the day (and subsequently the time) and live life out loud. Just watch the time.

The Tuesday episode

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 24, 2012 11:35 PM

In today’s installment of Lorin’s weird dreams, I was in my old college Toyota, having chosen that over my mother’s much sleeker Supra and I was driving one of my clients and her little girl to the beach. My sister was also with us but she was about 5. It was raining like hell, I couldn’t see but I was driving straight ahead as if I could. My brother was there, too, at the front of the car, telling me which way to go – to the right! – like he was on the bow of a boat – starboard! – so as not to hit anything or go off the road. But I hit something anyway and then I had to get another car and the beach was too crowded anyway.

To which I say, huh?

The human mind is an amazing place to visit but I’m not sure I’d want to live there.

On this Tuesday, I have spent some time watching a service-puppy-cam. I do this sometimes simply for the smile value. It’s addictive, watching puppies frolic and eat and sleep and play. There are six particular puppies on this one live cam, and one mother, all golden retrievers. The puppies are in training to become service dogs. They evidently start this training at a very early age, conditioning them to certain things. I don’t know what all was done, but I watched the woman I’m assuming is Holly since the cam’s name is Holly’s Half Dozen as she lifted each up onto a table, removed their collars, maybe trimmed their nails, fed them something off her fingers and made sure they stood up. There was no sound on the cam; I wish there was. I would like to have heard the little puppy yips and yuks as they pounced and chewed and acted all kinds of puppy-tough. I’ve had the cam minimized, down in the lower right of my screen, most of the day.

At one point I had first Bobbi and then Kevin completely hooked. Kevin was even doing a running commentary. Hey, guys. Watch this. Hey. Where’s mom? Hey, did you see what’s happening over here?

A still from Tuesday's puppy-cam episode

Watching these little balls of fluff on puppy TV made me remember my own ball of fluff when he was just 8 weeks old. So much energy, bounding around the house, bouncing instead of running, eating his food in mid-air as we were pouring it into his bowl, terrified to go too far on a walk, even on his leash. We kennel-trained Maguire, and each night, after he had been fed and taken outside for a small puppy walk, we’d let him run around the house. Each night, that meant a gradual emptying of his kennel. His house, we called it. It was his den, his sanctuary. There was a blanket, his toys. And one by one, each thing inside would be carried outside and deposited in a nice little Maguire pile on the rug in the dining room. Then the playing would commence.

When we first got our beloved boy, we still lived in a two-story town house with a sunken living room. There were two steps down and he handled those well. The stairs up to the second floor were another tail all together. They were split, with three up to a small landing, then a 90º turn to the left where the majority of the steps loomed and led to another landing. Another sharp 90º turn to the left, up two and you were in the hallway that separated the two bedrooms. He could get up the first three, make the turn and then get up one. Then he’d stand there with his front paws up on the next step, rear legs on the first step, and cry that wonderful little puppy cry that said “it’s too scary; I can’t do it.” One of us would pick him up, assuring him that everything was just fine. He tried and tried.

One night, after I’d gotten home and taken him out, he was tearing around the dining room with his blue bone in his mouth. I dashed upstairs to get something and as I was up there, the phone rang. I was in the master bedroom; I grabbed it. It was Kevin. We talked for only a minute or two but as I was standing in the bedroom, suddenly this little black ball of fur popped around the corner. He had made it up all the stairs. He raced down the hall toward me, little legs moving as fast as he could make them, his ears flopping in his created breeze, tongue hanging just to one side of his mouth; a big grin on his face. He was so proud. He had braved the mountain to get to mom and he had conquered.

I’ll never forget that moment. Even now, as I type the story, I’m smiling through my tears. Dog, he was cute.

On the web cam, mom has come in. She’s eating as the puppies feed. She looks sad, in that beautiful way that dogs do; I suspect she’s over this motherhood thing. They’re getting too big; she’s tired.

There are seven dogs on this show, all of them that sweet honey color, all of them well-cared for; loved. It’s crowded like the beach in my dream but the weather is fine. It’s naptime now. One just tipped over his brother, another stood in the empty food bowl. Another one is curled on what I believe is the equivalent of the puppy litter box. Mom is lying in the middle of them all, surveying her pups. Now her head, too, goes down. Soon the feet twitch; the dreams have begun.

Another episode comes to an end. Roll credits.

My husband loves to make furniture and he's good at it

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 15, 2012 10:43 PM

My husband knows things, things no one else on my planet knows and I am forever amazed to find out. Things like if you have a two story house and the upstairs doesn’t get as cool as it should, it might be because of where the AC vents are located vis-à-vis the cold air intake. I didn’t even know what a cold air intake was until we got together. And that if you want to push more cool air to the upstairs, close all of the vents downstairs.


He knows how to fix sprinkler heads and doesn’t need the gardener to do it for him. He has more tools than Home Depot. He diagnosed and fixed a problem with Justin’s car yesterday and it wasn’t the first time. All it needed was a relay, which, thankfully, Pep Boys had in stock. $48 later, the car was back to its optimum running condition. If I was just me, I would have put the car in the shop and $200 plus later, I would have had a new relay installed with labor attached.

He just knows stuff that most of us mere mortals don’t. Like how to rewire a light switch without getting electrocuted or put recessed lighting in the kitchen to replace the ugly fluorescent lights. I realize there are professionals who do this stuff (see previous paragraph: Justin’s car), but to just be a regular guy who can essentially fix anything is astonishing to me. It’s also very handy around the house. When I have a to-do list, he can do just about everything on it without breaking a sweat.

Several years ago, he designed and built his own studio. It sits in the corner of the back of our little piece of property here in the OP, and serves as his at-home place of work. He also has an office in the Valley for meetings and such, but his studio is his haven. The place he spends up to 14 hours each day. It has a foundation, is fully insulated, electrified, has wi-fi and cable, a ceiling fan and is just a fabulous space. Most people, when they’re in the back for the first time, don’t even see it. That’s the genius of his design. It’s built to become part of the back yard, not to exist in spite of it.

When we first moved into this house in 1997, he designed and built an entertainment center that would hold what was then one of the big TVs. We still have it; a 36” JVC tube-type television. It works just fine and we don’t watch that much television. It fits in the space and that’s what we care about. The center also holds all of the stereo equipment including a working turntable, all of our CDs and DVDs (and a few VHS tapes I couldn’t bear to part with like Beauty and the Beast, Gone with the Wind and Galaxy Quest). It’s made of curly maple, and still gets compliments for its modern lines and unobtrusive nature.

Justin’s room, which has now become the guest room, is not large. In fact, the entire house is not large but it’s perfect for us. Still, the two rooms upstairs, one of which is my loft office, are relatively small. About 11 X 10 ish. In order to give Justin more floor space, Kevin designed and built a queen-size loft bed with a circular stair at one end that the kid slept in throughout high school. It was fabulous. We dismantled it once he moved out, got rid of the stairs and shortened the posts to make a shorter bed. It’s still fabulous, only not as tall.

When Maguire was getting older and we needed to raise his food and water bowls off the floor, Kevin designed and welded together a steel tray that was the perfect height for our boy.

In the master bedroom, I long hated our furniture. Finally, with the exception of the wrought iron sleigh bed frame that holds our California king, I got rid of everything else: the two bedside tables/night stands, the dresser and the chest of drawers. We replaced the bedside tables with something I found at Pottery Barn. But a piece of furniture to sit against the wall opposite the bed to hold t-shirts, shorts and incidentals below and the flat screen TV on top eluded us. We searched; we did not find. So Kevin pulled out his sketchpad and began to draw. We wanted something not big. Nothing that would overpower the room (see two paragraphs above: small house) but that would do exactly what we needed and maybe even a little more. Like hold some books.

As a writer and a book lover, I have piles of books everywhere. The coffee table in the living room has two stacks, artfully arranged of course. Next to the music cabinet, on the floor, I have a number of books lined up; another stack appears in front of it. The bedroom has long been home to numerous piles as has my office. And my office has bookshelves, though those shelves were long ago filled. So I thought it would be nice if we also had a piece of furniture with a shelf or two that could house some books.

We’ve been building it for a while. I say “we” because Kevin designs, we decide on the type of wood together (in this case, birch), then he cuts all of the pieces and assembles. Once it’s together, I stain and polyurethane. The basic shell of the piece was completed months ago and has been in place in the bedroom since. We finished the doors just a couple of weeks ago and hung those. Today, we put on the hardware. We’re officially done.

I know how lucky I am to have someone who not only knows how to do all of this stuff, but also enjoys it. I suspect if he could do just about anything in the world, he’d make furniture. It’s a dying art, unfortunately, but he’s so good at it. And because he is, we have these wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces in our house. Timeless, functional and beautiful.

So tonight I celebrate my honey, who knows how to work a honey-do list like no one I’ve ever met. Now, Kev – about the front suspension on the Porsche… 

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live out loud

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