Lizards, and deer, and rabbits oh my

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 31, 2017 8:51 PM

When it gets hard for me to find something to celebrate, I turn to nature. I do that a lot lately, marveling at the color of the sky, the green of the desert, the harshness of the wind. I find solace in the blooming cacti, so many of them sprouting different colors and different shapes of flowers and fruit. The saguaros have done their annual halo of white flowers. They’ve mostly all bloomed and are in the process of drying and dying, to fall and be picked up by birds. While they last, they’re angelic. The tiny cactus that flood the hillsides – I can’t recall their names – have been vibrant with red and hot pink while the prickly pear have been red, and the hedgehog cactus have been pink. The whipple cholla are currently teasing us with an amber, almost copper colored flower.

The creatures are out, too. We have deer all year long, and javelina, too. But now we also have snakes and spiders and lizards and toads. And rabbits. All of whom send my Riley into orbit. 

This morning, after our walk and is his habit, he takes wubba, dashes onto the deck and whips poor wubba back and forth, growling, barking, and generally announcing that any who would dare show their face in his desert. HIS. DESERT. should consider themselves warned. He does not take kindly to intruders, even those who came before him. 

So there he was, out on the deck, standing guard at the rail, staring into the abyss of the desert stretching beneath him. He seemed fixated on something. His tail was rigid, his ears forward, his body ready to spring. Which he eventually did, bouncing up in the air as if on a pogo stick and barking simultaneously when into his territory came a rabbit. A rather big rabbit by desert rabbit standards. And this one was brazen. Even though there was much commotion happening above him, he seemed to instinctively know that the wild animal in red fur couldn’t get to him. And so, Mr. Rabbit took up a spot just below Mr. Riley, in full view of Riley, taunting, while he proceeded to nibble on a bit of mesquite. He nibbled and nibbled, then sat back on his rear haunches, and stared straight ahead. Riley, big tough dog, could do nothing.

Eventually the rabbit got bored of his game and hopped up and over the deck. I thought we might be able to return to some quiet.

I was wrong.

A lizard, or three, each well over a foot long, shot down the hill and across the dirt below. Riley loves lizards, loves to chase them. Has even caught one or two. But again, from the deck, all he can do is whine and snarl and bark and dance. Every once in a while, he’ll look back at me, sitting inside, at my desk, watching him with a smile, as if to say: “Do you SEE what’s going on down there? How can you be so CALM?” 

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go meet my friend Stephanie, I noticed movement in the window behind me. In our master bath, we have a pedestal-type tub that sits nestled in front of three large windows that look out onto the driveway and the hillside beyond. It had been windy but the movement wasn’t the wind. I turned to look and there, just feet away from the house, were two – no, three! – deer. They had come down the hill to munch on some cactus and mesquite. My movement made them freeze and stare, directly at me, directly through me. I moved slowly from the bathroom, tucked Riley into my office and closed the door, and then called to Kevin. “Bring your camera.”

We hadn’t seen them that close before. Just like the rabbit had never been so brazen before, or the lizards to teasing. Perhaps we’re getting a reputation for being soft on wildlife. Perhaps they know that no harm will come to them here. Kevin and I wouldn’t hurt them, and Riley can’t get to them.

There are lizards, and deer, and rabbits. And so many more incredible creatures and wonders in this desert, so many colors, so much extreme and so much majesty. Something to celebrate not just today, but every day.

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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So this came in the mail

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 28, 2017 9:08 PM

Once upon a time, it was 1957. I was not yet born and wouldn’t be for several more years. This was back when a crooner named Perry Como was popular and that year he gave the world his second RCA Victor 12” long-play album. It was called We Get Letters and it was a concept record, based on requests from the singer’s television show. It was a soft, breezy record and did not include a song by the same name. Years later, David Letterman had a regular skit on his show where he sang, gleefully, “letters, we get letters” while opening his mail. 

This morning, Riley was on the deck and I was in my office, a ritual we engage in daily. He had just had a bath and was drying in the cool desert breeze; I was working. It was about 9:30. I had just taken a sip of coffee when suddenly, from the general direction of the deck, came the apoplectic barking and carrying on of my dog. I got up as I usually do and went to the door with the intention of asking what I usually ask when the dog is apoplectic. What is the issue? But before I got the door open I saw exactly what the issue was: trotting up the hill toward the house, as nice as you please, were two dogs, one a beagle, the other what looked to be a beagle mix.

I sprang into dog wrangling mode and headed toward the front door, yelling behind me that there were two dogs and for Kevin to grab a couple of leashes. As dog people, we have at least six leashes, only one of which do we use on a regular basis. Outside, I crouched down and in my friendliest voice called to the dogs who both came to me willingly. Kevin got the leashes, I attached them, and down the hill we went. 

I hadn’t met them but knew they were our new neighbor’s dogs because I knew they had beagles. I also know every other dog in the neighborhood. It’s not that big of a ‘hood. My neighbor, Alan, who had several workers at the house, couldn’t believe the dogs were out. 

“How…?” he asked, his question trailing off. 

“Gate’s open,” I said just as the worker – a pool guy – came in apologizing for leaving the gate open. 

Mission accomplished, I decided to head back up to the house. Alan remembered something as I started out the door. 

“Oh, hey,” he said. “I have some mail here. It has your house on it.” 

My house? How could that be? Someone was sending mail that showed my house? Our house? What? 

Alan handed me an oversized postcard and there, sure enough, in the place of honor taking up the top two thirds of the card, was the home we affectionately refer to as Il Sogno. The card had been sent by our architect/builder because our neighbors had pulled permits to build a house and he was advertising his services. Better late than never, since the house is already built and the card was stamped 4/18. 

So our house is being sent all over the city, perhaps further. We’re famous. Just like Perry Como. Without the crooning.

My husband's shorts

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:12 PM

We sold our house in Oak Park in July 2013 which meant that we were actually and finally going to move to Tucson, something we'd dreamed of doing since we bought our property in 2010. There was one issue: we had dirt but no place to live. And we had a month to get out of our house.

We booked a flight to Tucson for the following Saturday morning. And that's where it all started to go wrong. We got to the airport and waited at the gate. We were delayed. And then they changed gates and terminals. We dutifully followed the herd and waited some more. Finally they cancelled the flight. We scrambled to find something else but nothing was going to Tucson. We found a flight to Phoenix, and decided we'd do that and then drive the two hours.

We were supposed to meet our real estate agent/friend at 10 am. She had a bunch of interim places for us to look at where we could move and live while the house was being built. We finally got to her at 2:30. We had lost four plus hours, hours we needed that American Airlines stole.

We went to look at 13 houses. They were all fine, all in the price range but nothing seemed right. After leaving Stephanie and driving back to the Westward Look, where we were staying, we were quiet at first. Then we started to talk and then we started to fight. We weren't finding anything. Our day had been blown up, we were stressed and tired and hated our beloved Tucson.

The hotel had changed from our previous visits. It had been purchased by a big chain – I think Wyndham – and it had transformed from quaint to ordinary. Even the rooms seemed less charming. We went to the restaurant and ordered salads and a bottle of wine. The waitress who took our order had one tooth. There was a party going on in the bar, and it was rowdy. We ate a bit of our salads, then took our bottle of wine and went back to our room.

It was probably 9:30 by then. The black sky was lit up by lighting in the distance. We could smell rain. We hadn’t planned on being there long, literally just overnight, leaving early the next morning, so we hadn’t brought much with us. We stripped off the clothes that had become glued to us in the heat and disaster of the day. I pulled on a clean t-shirt, but hadn’t brought anything to lounge in. Luckily, we’d brought several pairs of shorts and boxers for Kevin – I have no idea why. I pulled on a pair of his boxers, grabbed the bottle and we went out onto the balcony to watch the sky, and wonder if we were about to make the biggest mistake of our lives. Both of us were wearing his shorts. 

Sitting in the cooling desert night, sipping a decent though not fabulous wine, we came to the conclusion that the reason we hadn’t liked anything was because none of the houses we’d looked at during the day were better than the house we were leaving. And while it was only going to be temporary, while our dream house was built, and even though they were all in the price range we’d requested, psychologically it bothered us that we were moving “down” in the world. 

The next morning, Kevin got up and went to the business center of the hotel, looked up rentals rather than places to buy, and we went and looked at several. One of them was perfect. Bigger than what we were leaving, relatively new, and for a rental price about what we paid in mortgage in Oak Park. This allowed us to keep all of the money we were going to invest in a temporary home and ultimately put it toward our eventual home. The trip was saved, our faith was restored. We caught a flight on that Sunday afternoon, and flew home to continue packing. 

I thought of that horrible weekend this morning when I finally got up. I’ve been burning the proverbial candle at both ends and at the nubs. We had company last night for sunset and tapas. Justin is home. I’m exhausted. Kevin let me sleep later than I had requested. He made an executive decision he told me once I finally got up. 

He and Justin had been on the deck having coffee and he must have seen me stirring. He came into the bedroom with a cup of a coffee as I was trying desperately to find a pair of loose, sloppy shorts to put on. Morning shorts. Everything was in the hamper reminding me that I needed to do laundry.

He went into the closet and grabbed a pair of his, and handed them to me. Big, sloppy, comfortable. And perfect.

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Time enough and then

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 8, 2017 8:55 PM

Last night I got run over by a truck with the license plate KJM 1954. Allow me to explain. Our neighbors had an impromptu BBQ and invited us down. It was casual. They were just going to throw some chicken and steaks on the grill, maybe boil some corn on the cob. I said I'd bring a salad. We also brought some wine. We arrived at around 6:30, just in time for sunset. We drank, we laughed, we ate, we drank some more.

This week, the roads in our neighborhood received a re-sealing. The board had decided to do something more elaborate than normal sealing because we're trying to make our roads last a bit longer before we have to do a complete redo. The roads went down in approximately 1998. Nearly 20 years later, they're not in horrific shape, but they aren't great. From Wednesday through late yesterday afternoon, Kevin worked with the asphalt company to ensure that the roads were all resealed beautifully.

He loves this stuff, my husband does. I remarked at one point that he should have been a contractor. For three mornings, he woke up early, donned his wide-brimmed hat, climbed into his Classic and zoomed to the front gate to make sure the gates were open. Then he'd spend time with the workers, showing them where they should be, driving the property to see what had been done, what was fine, what needed additional sealing. He was in his element. 

But by last night, he was toasted. Or as I like to say, toast that had been left in the toaster just a little too long. Off we went to the Roeslys for a Friday night soirée, and by about 9:30 I could tell that my little piece of toast was now completely burnt. I kept my hand on his arm, squeezing to make sure he didn't fall asleep since I thought that might be considered rude. When he does it at home, it's no big deal. But out in public, well – it might be frowned upon, even amongst friends.

By 10 o'clock I'd persuaded him to return home. I piled him into the Sport, climbed behind the wheel and off we went, up the driveway, around the cul de sac and then right up our road. It took us probably less than a minute. Once home, I poured him into the house and into bed. I did a bit of surfing and finding nothing worth watching and generally being tired myself, finally turned the TV off around 10:45. 

At 1:35, I woke up. I have no idea why. But Kevin wasn't in bed. I listened, and didn't hear anything. I called out – "honey?" Nothing. I got up and started through the house, calling his name. Still nothing. Then I started to panic. I knew he was in the house, but I figured I'd find him on the floor somewhere. Luckily, where I found him was asleep on the bed in the guest room. Tucked under the throw, one of the decorative pillows pulled close under his head. I gently woke him up, listened as he talked complete nonsense, and convinced him to come to bed. Where he snored and because I didn't want to wake him up, I listened for at least an hour and a half before exhaustion got the best of me and I finally fell asleep, fitfully. 

The poor guy. He was so spent, he had nothing left to give and yet his mind, playing tricks on him, compelled him to keep going, keep moving. 

He's amazing, my husband. He's conscientious, dedicated, focused. Everyone in the neighborhood just loves him and regularly gushes over what has happened since he managed to get the previous troll removed from the board. Now no one person is in charge. The three board members share responsibilities and they're getting things done. The amount that they've accomplished, from getting the lights at the front entrance working, to installing a new package mailbox, to weed control and general landscaping maintenance to now having the road done... everyone has noticed and everyone is thrilled. While they're all equal partners in making decisions, it's my husband who spearheads it all, who meets with contractors, who is completely engaged in the process, sometimes to the detriment of real work. But he loves it; he sees the progress. And it's noticed. It's recognized. It's rewarded.

Today, I've been just this side of zombie. Exhausted, not quite able to focus on anything worthwhile. Instead, we went to Lowes and spent a bunch of money on outdoor lighting and more furniture for the deck. We bought ceiling fans, and then went to the local nursery and bought plants, also for the deck. 

It was time. And it was a day when we were both tired, a little brain dead but still wanting to accomplish something. 

We sat outside tonight, as the sun was sinking and the wind was blowing, on our new chairs, sipping wine and listening to jazz. All I could think was that today, and tonight, at least we had time enough. Time enough to share, to enjoy, to be. And then... 

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Have you herd?

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 4, 2017 10:41 PM

So much of our joy these days comes from 3.8 acres. When we bought this property in 2010, we knew we’d found something special. We also knew that eventually we’d have to make the big decision and move, something we finally did in 2013. In the three years leading up to that, we visited our dirt, traversing the desolate landscape between California and Arizona. We’d bring a bottle of wine, pick up a pizza and drive out to our property. We’d picnic out of the back of the Range Rover as we watched the lights of the city sparkle and listened to the sounds of a desert in the darkness. 

We moved into our house in 2015. From up here on the hill, we can see most of the world. Our visibility stretches for at least 10 miles, perhaps more. I’m going by the app of my phone that regularly lists the visibility index. Down below, houses dot the landscape, nestled amongst saguaros, ocotillos, mesquite trees and the occasional palm. To the southwest, is the city. Beyond that, the Tucson Mountains carve into the sky. The Santa Ritas, the Rincons and the Catalinas do the same. Tucson is a desert paradise surrounded by four mountain ranges. It’s glorious. 

Up here on the hill, we are removed from everything. Tucked as we are in the far northeast corner of Pima County, we can literally see where the city-limits ends to the east. There is a line of demarcation at the base of the Rincons running directly south, pointed toward Mexico. 

We sit up here all day long, Kevin in his office that faces east and southeast, me in mine that faces west southwest, and we work. Riley spends his mornings and evenings on the deck, watching the desert go by.

We have come to love our patch of land in the Sonoran, with its spikey fauna, and biting creatures. We absorb it; it becomes part of us every day. 

Including on days like this that begin with those biting creatures at 6 am. Let me set the stage. It was 5:55. The sky was just fading from darkness to light, painted gray. I was faintly asleep having spent yet another restless night. This is my life these days. I wake up in the night; I’m awake for at least an hour. Then I toss and turn and try to get comfortable, temperature-wise. 

I had just rolled onto my side and pulled up the covers, finally cool enough to burrow. And it started. The growl followed by the scramble and the bark and the bark and the bark. Riley scrambled out of his bed and raced toward the bathroom, howling, barking, whining. It was early and we weren’t quite ready to be up but up we were. 

I got up first as Kevin cussed softly from his side of the bed. I went to find Riley who was wedged between the bathtub and the windows, positively glued to what was outside and barking his fool head off. 

I asked what the problem was, what the issue was, what the hell was going on? And then I looked outside. One after another after another, javelina, of all sizes and shapes, were climbing up from the desert below, clamoring up the swale, sauntering across the driveway, stopping to strike a pose.

There were at least nine that I saw. A herd. And I’m not sure how Riley actually heard them since the windows were closed. Still, there they were, standing, posing, looking javelina-ish, odd-looking creatures that they are. And all I could think was – dog, I love this place.

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A guy and a girl walk into a bar

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 22, 2017 10:21 PM

There used to be a place in Woodland Hills called Yankee Doodle. It was ostensibly a pool hall but I didn’t know that 22 years ago when I made arrangements to meet someone there for a drink. He was coming down from Chatsworth; I was already working in Woodland Hills and since he lived in Woodland Hills, it seems the perfect city if not an OK place to meet. 

I got there just after the pre-determined time of six because a lady likes to make an entrance. I was wearing a long skirt and a turtleneck sweater; boots. I was still thin then and I could actually tuck the sweater into the skirt and not look bulky. I had purposely dressed this way. I looked nice but not like I was trying too hard to be dressed up for a date. Truth be told, I didn’t really care much about going. It was more out of curiosity that I was there.

I parked my Mazda MX-6, a car I had already come to hate and I’d only had it for about three months, in the Yankee Doodle parking lot at Canoga and Victory, sighed heavily, and walked up to the front door. Opening it, I recognized him immediately. He was already there, waiting. Still tall and thin, still with very dark hair, almost black. I don’t remember if we shook hands, or exchanged an awkward hug. We already knew each other vaguely so it wouldn’t have been out of the question. More likely, we simple acknowledged each other’s presence. Quickly deducing that the place was not conducive to having a drink and talking, he suggested Monty’s on the Boulevard. We drove there in his truck. 

In those days, I was a divorcee and rather enjoying my single-hood after so many years with one who turned out to be wrong. I dated a lot, but no one for very long. The longest ended up being a very nice guy named David. We were together for four, maybe five months. We had even talked about him traveling with me at Christmas to visit my family. I broke up with him in early December. 

At the time of my date 22 years ago, I was actually seeing someone else. Obviously it wasn’t serious since I was open to going out with someone else. I knew the guy I was dating wasn’t right. We’d been friend for years, and he’d taken me to Cabo San Lucas at the end of January for a getaway that was supposed to be wonderful but turned out to be miserable. I had developed a reputation of not dating anyone for very long and losing interest quickly. But what could possibly go wrong with meeting someone I’d known peripherally years earlier for a cocktail? 

Monty’s on the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Topanga Canyon was and remains a steak house with a terrific bar. It’s been there forever and while I’d never visited, he had. I was fine with the choice. I was only going to have one drink anyway. It didn’t much matter where we went a long as there was a comfortable bar stool. 

A drink turned into appetizers turned into a pizza turned into closing the place The piano player in the bar was every bit the loungy player one would expect in a bar, though Monty’s is by no means a dive bar. It’s very upscale. By midnight, as the place was shutting down, the piano player started playing MacArthur’s Park and my date and I sang along, laughing that we both knew the words. Enjoying the hell out of ourselves.

That night was 22 years ago. The guy was Kevin. We’ve been inseparable ever since. Tonight we’re celebrating our first date anniversary. It’s corny, we know, but we do it every year. We may even break out in song, and I don’t think that I can take it….

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A total toad ban

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 16, 2017 9:08 PM

I have a pronouncement to make. As of this day, in the month of March in the year of 2017, I have declared a total toad ban. I’ll be signing an executive order soon but in the meantime, I thought I’d pronounce my pronouncement. I fully admit to being prejudiced. I am proud to say I will not tolerate any of them, not on my driveway, not in my portico, not at the door – no, they all have to go. 

I’m sorry. I was channeling a bit of Theodor Geisel there for a minute. 

I never used to harbor such ill will and bad thoughts about toads. Or frogs for that matter. I’ve never particularly liked them. Frogs are slimy and I’m not big into slimy. I had to dissect one in biology in junior high school which I remember thinking was cruel and disgusting, but I had disliked them long before that. Toads never bothered me much, maybe because there isn’t the slime factor. They’re dry. 

Which explains why they love the desert so much in the spring and summer. I didn’t even dislike them when I first realized that they were, well, everywhere. No, when I first started to dislike them was when I heard a report on the local news on the local NPR station saying they were poisonous to dogs. 

Anything that’s poisonous to dogs is cause for extreme dislike, prejudice even. 

So I am here today to tell you that I will actively work to ban all toads great and small, of all colors and spots, but especially those that evidently hale from the Colorado River. These toads emit poison when dogs pounce on them and bite them, which dogs will do because dogs love things that move, and toads do a lot of hopping. 

We are dispensing with any extreme vetting. It’s not necessary. Instead they are immediately placed into the toad relocation program that’s in full effect. This program is operated by my husband, whom some of you may remember as the great toad launcher of 2016. He long ago signed onto the program and is a big fan. 

This morning, when we left for our walk, there was a toad in the portico. Luckily Riley was on a leash though he pulled and twisted and lunged as the toad hopped away. We walked, and when we returned, we didn’t see it; nor did Riley though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Dog has a mind like an elephant. He forgets nothing. 

But shortly after we returned, we heard the telling whine and huff coming from the front door. It’s a whine and huff and squeal, actually, and he only seems to do it when there’s a toad, which means we haven’t heard it for months. Because there are no toads in the fall and winter. We heard it big time at about 8:30. Kevin grabbed his relocation gear – his broom and extended dustpan. He captured the thing, and then climbed out of the portico, disappearing into the desert morning. It would have been ominous if it wasn’t such a pretty day. 

So the total toad ban has been instituted. The first toad of the season has been banned. Relocated. 

I can’t help but wonder, though, if it will hold up under constitutional scrutiny. You know, sort of like moose lambs.

via GIPHY

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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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