The fine art of nose art

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 5, 2016 8:13 PM

Kevin cleaned the windows yesterday. In any house, this is considered a big job. A time consuming endeavor. In this house, it’s herculean. We have huge windows in virtual every room save the guest bath and the ¾ bath on the west side of the house. Even the laundry room has nice windows. The garage has three smallish windows at the back of the extended middle stall where Kevin’s shop is located. 

When it rains, a phenomenon that is rarely polite, we get sheets of water that blast against the windows. Because of the dust, the rain makes for nice streaks and spots on the glass. We’re heading into monsoon season. The official start of the season is June 15 and it goes through September 30. The skies can swirl to life at any time, moisture collecting in dark green clouds that begin to rumble and spark, and then the deluge comes. Temperatures drop 30º in 20 minutes. The glass drips.

And the windows get dirty. 

Several weeks ago, I bought some supposedly amazing window washing stuff. But in order to use it, Kevin needed to have some special bucket type thing that we couldn’t find anywhere. He finally ordered one online. It came last week. So yesterday, since it was so blisteringly hot, and since Saturday’s tend to be do-stuff-around-the-house-day, he decided it was time to wash the windows. 

While he did that, I put the new bed together. I changed the sheets on Justin’s bed. I did laundry. I cleaned our bathroom, which normally would be considered just a regular job but with our shower it, too, is herculean. It takes me an hour to clean that monstrosity. Justin cleaned his bathroom, and then spent the afternoon researching Phoenix resorts for him and Kelsey to stay in for part of her visit. Riley napped. 

For hours, Kevin squeegeed the outside windows, all around the house, with the exception of the windows in the garage. They’re nearly impossible to reach. And, garage. Then he moved to the inside. 

Because there isn’t rain inside, and because we live fairly cleanly, you wouldn’t think there would be much on the interior windows. You would think that. You would also be wrong. Because Riley. 

We purposely didn’t put floor to ceiling windows in because they’re expensive and because when you have floor to ceiling windows and the storms happen there is more danger of water somehow leaking in. So our windows stop about two and half feet above the floor, and we have window sills. This is everywhere in the house, save for the guest bath, the ¾ bath, the laundry room, the kitchen, and the garage. But across the back of the house, in the dining room, in all four of the bedrooms and in the master bath, the windows stop and the sills take over. The sills make a great place for Riley to rest his head while he watches out the window. It’s the perfect height, he doesn’t have to stretch or lean. He simply rests his weary head so that he can watch the birds or the lizards or the toads or whatever else happens to come his way. And he makes nose art.


Riley, today, nosing.

Nose art is the fine art of a dog applying his wet nose to glass. It can take on various abstract shapes and when it dries, there are lovely reminders that Riley was once here. Or there. All of our windows with sills and the front door with glass to the floor all display nose art. The house is like a gallery devoted to Riley. This nose art appears from about six inches above the sill down to the sill and decorates the glass for all to see. When it’s just Kevin and I, we don’t clean it every day, but occasionally, we need to do something. 

The problem is, nose art, much like graffiti, doesn’t remove easily. Simple Windex won’t do it. So yesterday, with his super-duper window washing fluid, his new bucket, his squeegee and a little old-fashioned elbow grease, Kevin managed to dislodge the nose art and for a brief time, the windows were so clear it was as if they weren’t there at all.

Unfortunately, like graffiti, the tagger returned. And the fine art of nose art has once again begun to appear. We had less than 24 hours of clarity. But who are we to question the talent and perseverance and beauty shared by our illustrious puppy? You know. The one nosing it out loud all over the house.

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The only difference between men and boys

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 31, 2016 10:13 PM

There is a saying that some say originated with Benjamin Franklin because it appeared in the Poor Richard Almanack, as a derivative of “Old boys have their playthings as well as young ones; the difference is only in the price.” The saying everyone knows actually has no known author and it’s a nice little ditty that goes like this: The only difference between men and boys is the size and the price of their toys.

I would like to amend that to say that the only difference between men and boys and their wives are the toys needed to make them both thrive(s). 

OK. It’s not as good and not as rhym-y, but you get the idea. 

Kevin and I love toys. We have a fun Porsche, a toy that is totally unpractical and fast as hell. We have a motorcycle, our fourth, and it’s big and bad and takes us to all kinds of fun places. We have great bicycles. We have a terrific sound system in the house. We have a Range Rover. When Tammy was here several weeks ago, she and Kevin went up to Mount Lemmon on the motorcycle with me following in the Porsche. We had breakfast and then we came back down the mountain in the same way. When we got to the house, and she stood shaking her hair out of the helmet, she had the biggest smile on her face. 

“You guys have the greatest toys,” she said.

We do. And we’ve talked about getting more. We’re not necessarily talking seriously about getting more, but we’ve talked about it. Or them. I’ve written here about my obsession with Airstream. Now there’s a toy. And the new Nest travel trailer that Airstream just purchased that is my newest obsession. Luckily those aren’t even available for at least another year so I don’t really have to think about that until then. 

But today, we started talking about acquiring another new toy that’s not so much a toy as something really almost practical. Kevin needs a vehicle that he can haul a bunch of stuff around in, go to Lowes or Home Depot to get wood and mortar and whatever else he happens to need for a weekend of working in the yard. Now with his vineyard, that he is threatening to grow, he’s going to need a truck. Or the equivalent of a truck. Yes, we have a Range Rover but it’s a really nice vehicle and we paid a lot of money for it. It’s not meant for trashing and hauling. 

So we started looking at what we might want to get and have zeroed in on a couple of different maybes. One is going back to an old Toyota Land Cruiser. Once upon a time we had an FJ60 from 1990 before they changed to the big body style. We loved it but the ride was very rough. So we sold it and got our first Land Rover. Now we’re looking at something from the 1970s, like a FJ55 or maybe even an FJ45, a two door type of Jeep. 

We’re also thinking about another Land Rover, maybe a Range Rover Classic also from the 1970s and also a two door. Again, something that he can haul stuff around in and not have to worry about damaging. We’d have his and hers. 

Which brings me back to my original premise. The only difference between men and their wives are the toys they need to make them both thrive(s). 

I know. It’s a stretch. But it’s my blog and I’ll bad-rhyme if I want to, celebrating the whole time.

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My generation doesn’t make good music

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 30, 2016 8:37 PM

These words were spoken by Justin last night as we were on the deck at sunset, listening to jazz flow from the speakers above. The song we were listening to was a jazz instrumental of Hotel California. The station is on Pandora and it’s something like Jazz Does Pop or something like that. I swore I wouldn’t do Pandora because I wanted to support the little guys but the little guys are getting harder and harder to find. They keep drifting away.

I used to pay a monthly fee to Live365 so that I could listen to everything I wanted, commercial free. But the government stepped in, something about licensing. The big players like Spotify and Pandora managed to get through it all relatively unscathed. Most of these stations, including Pandora, play commercials but that doesn’t really bother me, especially since it’s usually only one or two. It’s that I really want the small guys, the entrepreneurs to succeed.

Anyway, we were on the deck, listening to Hotel California done with saxophones and pianos. Justin said what a cool version of the song it was. He took a sip of his wine. And then he said: 

“My generation doesn’t make good music.” He said it with introspection, and insight. He was also right. This led to a discussion about some of the groups that he grew up with, most of whom aren’t really making music anymore and if they are, they’re not making memorable music and they’re touring in obscure locations throughout the world. Blink 182. Linkin Park. Nickelback. The boy bands that don’t even exist. 

We then went on to discuss the music he was raised with, which is the music he compares his generation’s lack-of-depth music to, people like Eric Clapton – he loves the Unplugged album specifically and Layla – and Sting – he’s a big fan of Fields of Gold. He likes U2, and he even had praise for the hair bands of the 80s like Bon Jovi. All before he was born. It was interesting to listen to him. 

He told us about a guy he works with who made a comment about Paul McCartney. Evidently the once-Beatle recently collaborated with Kanye West whom Justin affectionately calls a douche-canoe. It made both Kevin and I laugh. Justin’s friend heard the song they did together and made the following comment: “how cool is it that Kanye’s giving that old guy this opportunity. Must be the highlight of his life.” 

Justin nearly spit out whatever he was drinking at the time. 

My generation doesn’t make good music and then they make comments like that.

Justin is part of the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y. These are the people who were born between the early 1980s and the year 2000. Justin was born in 1991. They’re civic minded, they’re highly educated, upbeat and optimistic. They’re more open-minded than their parents on issues like same-sex marriage. They don’t tend to care about racial identity either, and they’re the least overtly religious generation. They were raised on the internet. They’re an interesting group. Smart, focused, non-judgmental. Opinionated. Fascinating. 

But lacking in the music of his parent’s generation. The Rolling Stones. Elton John. Bruce Springsteen. Eric Clapton. Rod Stewart. Sting and the Police. He listens to all of this music because we listened to all of this music. 

As jazz drifted from above, we all sipped wine, and enjoyed the fact that our generation, thankfully, did make that kind of music. Good. Classic. Lasting. And something to celebrate.                                                              

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In pizza, we must

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 27, 2016 10:39 PM

By the time Friday arrives, the amount of food in the house has dwindled. This is because I usually go shopping on Saturday and I stock up for the week. By the time Friday arrives, there is usually a blackening banana in the fruit bowl and one mushroom left in the vegetable drawer. There’s a swish of half and half left in the carton, a couple of sheets of paper towel on the roll. We’re usually down a jar of Raos pasta sauce and a box of pasta, the bags of cheese are nearly empty, as is the carton of eggs. Dwindled. This Friday is no exception. 

This is the situation I find myself in today. With nothing to eat and of what I do have, nothing I want to cook. 

I entertained going to the grocery store today instead of my usual Saturday morning but opted against it for no reason other than I simply wasn’t in the mood. I’m tired. And I’ve been working all day, and it’s the start of a long holiday weekend, the first of the summer, and like I said, I just wasn’t in the mood. It would be very busy out there, traffic wise, and the grocery store would be overflowing with people stocking up for the weekend, for camping trips and barbecues, parties and whatever else people do on three-day weekends. 

So I’ll go tomorrow. And I’ll stock up on mushrooms and bananas and eggs and orange juice and toilet paper and whatever else I need to keep the house running for the next week. With Justin here, I have to get more than usual and I have to remember to do that. I’ve been so used to shopping for just two; it’s been a long time since I shopped for three.

I’ll go to Petco, too, to stock up on Riley’s food. I buy a 30-pound bag of dog food, Natural Balance, each month. Our boy eats a lot. Three and a half cups a day. 

He’ll also get a bath tomorrow, our boy. I gave him a bath last week, but I think he might be allergic to the shampoo I used. He’s been itchy and he has a bit of a rash under his fur, near his tail. He keeps trying to bite it, to make the itch stop. It’ll be warm tomorrow, too, so he’ll be dry in no time, fur flying, shedding like a big dog, happy as he can be, clean and sparkly. With fresh dog food.

It’s Friday. No one has any food. And that means pizza for dinner. 

We have a great place not too far from here. I’ll order it and then drive in to pick it up. I haven’t been out of the house all week. I’ll climb into the Range Rover and drive down Catalina Highway. I’ll open the sunroof and crank the music. I love to drive at night when the air is cool and there’s little traffic. I’ll pull up to Rosati’s and get our pizza, or maybe our two pizzas, perhaps a Caesar salad. I’ll get back into the car, fire up the lights and take off, flying toward home. The smell of pizza will flood the car. And I will be free … 

… of groceries, of dog food, of chores at least until tomorrow. As an added bonus, I’ll be able to feed my family. Or, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, I’ll be able to “put food on my family.” 

Because I don’t have any food in the house, or at least no food I want to make, and I’m tired, and wasn’t in the mood for the grocery store. And so, in pizza, I must trust.

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Never gonna give it up

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 22, 2016 10:46 PM

There are some days that give meaning to life, that make you glad to be alive in this time, in this moment. They don’t occur often. Sometimes these moments involve a changing event, like the birth of a child, the acquiring of a puppy, a marriage. More often, these moments are attached to nothing but the universe. It’s a feeling, and it happens without warning. You’re driving along with the top out and the windows down, the music blasting. The road is a series of curves, long and winding, easy. You downshift and then you upshift, moving up toward the sky. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the trees impossibly green. 

And it hits you. This is joy. Unencumbered, unemotional. It simply is life defined. At its most pure. There is no one that’s responsible. Your joy isn’t contingent on another person being involved. There isn’t a situation that needs to develop. There isn’t a relationship that needs to start. It is already there. You are the person that’s involved; you are the situation. You are the relationship. And you’re here. 

I know. I’m being cryptic. I don’t mean to be. Our friend Tammy was here this weekend. She came in yesterday morning and we did nothing but hang out and enjoy. We went to this fabulous Mexican restaurant yesterday afternoon and had table-made fresh salsa and appetizers. We had dinner on the deck last night with a fire in the fireplace. It was cool, not cold, and the fire was more for ambiance than heat. It was lovely. We had wine, we talked; we laughed.

This morning, we decided to head up to Mount Lemmon for breakfast. Kevin asked Tammy if she’d like to go on the motorcycle. She grinned. I said I’d follow in the Porsche. I showed Tammy how to get up on the bike (it takes a bit of a contortionist move to do so); I helped her hook up the strap on her helmet. Off they went. I pulled the Porsche out of the garage and followed. 

It was a beautiful morning, just after 9. The sky was clear, the temperature was hovering in the upper 70s. I put both windows down; the roof still out. I grabbed my Patriots baseball hat, popped a CD into the stereo since I don’t have satellite in this car.

We climbed and climbed and climbed. I watched the bike in front of me, carrying my husband and my good friend. To either side, the green of the desert. The cactus gave way to trees which gave way to pine. Up we went, until it seemed we had entered into a forest. The temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. The air coming in through the open windows was cool. The pine trees were dense. The greenery was heavy. The rock formations glowed. I felt complete, whole. Overjoyed. I rounded a corner and the green completely obscured any other view. Through my Maui Jim’s, the colors came alive. Deeper blues, richer greens, clearer air. I breathed it all in, I watched it all.

And it occurred to me, this is what life is all about. The clarify of beauty. The reality of nothing special and yet everything … special. 

Several weeks ago, I wrote about listening to Al Jarreau in the Porsche. I thought of his music today, of the purity of it, of how it has always made me feel. Happy and in the moment. I thought about one song: Never gonna give it up.

I'll never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
I'll be content in time

I’ll never give up this feeling, this moment, this complete purity. Not now, not ever. It’s what living it out loud is all about.

Daisies before tulips

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 8, 2016 8:15 PM

Years ago, we would often turn on the television on a Sunday morning and surf a bit until we found something mindless we wanted to watch. Often times it involved a Law & Order episode. It’s also the way we discovered Longmire. Every once in a while it was a movie. 

This morning, I was feeling lazy. Kevin had gone to take Riley out and to make coffee. There were clouds outside, so a cool breeze was drifting through the open windows. It won’t be long before those windows will be closed for months as the air conditioning goes on full-time, so we’re taking advantage while we can. The remote, which is usually tucked under the TV that is tucked into the tile above the fireplace, was on the night stand. I had done some surfing last night before going to sleep. I reached for it and turned the TV on. As I was running through the usual channels, Kevin came back with coffee, Riley following. The dog immediately curly up on his bed. Kevin climbed back in next to me. 

I stopped on Turner Classic Movies. I often watch TCM because I’m a big fan of old movies. Sometimes they’re playing something I have no interest in; other times they’re playing something I’ve seen too many times. But they never fail to play history. Today, they were running several station promos and they were really good. We found ourselves intrigued. We had never seen TCM do such elaborate promotions for themselves. Then Ben Mankiewicz came on, and was talking about their Mother’s Day lineup featuring some good mothers, some bad, some crazy busy. First up: Doris Day. 

Now I don’t like Doris Day. Not personally; I don’t know the woman, who is still alive and kicking at 92. I just never particularly cared for her brand of film and definitely not her singing. I remember seeing films with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, stupid comedies, when I was a kid. I remember seeing one with Doris Day and James Garner. I didn’t like that either. 

Doris Day was always too sugary for me. The one thing I remember sort of liking her in was the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, where she played James Stewart’s wife. It was a supporting role. In many of her films, she sang. I’m not big of musicals in general, as I’ve mentioned before. She’s also too vanilla; too saccharine. I know that she’s a big animal-rights advocate so I appreciate that. I know, too, that the home her son lived in became the site of the infamous Manson murders in 1969. 

The film this morning was Please Don’t Eat The Daisies. We left it on; I have no idea why. Within minutes we were sort of enjoying it. The dialogue was surprisingly snappy and sophisticated. It wasn’t sappy and slapstick. It was more real life, for the time. It also stars David Niven and I’ve always loved David Niven. He brought gravitas to any role he played, certainly more so than Rock Hudson who was overrated in my opinion, and James Garner, who I actually liked as he got older. 

The film was released in 1960, before I was even born, and takes place predominantly in New York with a brief sojourn to a place called Hooton. Day and Niven play Kate and Larry MacKay. They have four boys, three of whom seem to be the same age. They’re a handful and horribly misbehaved. They also have a younger boy that they keep in a kennel type contraption that is never fully explained. Obviously this was before child services would investigate such things. They also have a dog named Hobo – cue the politically correct police – who is afraid of everything and has a habit of needing to be carried. He’s a sheep dog though, not a purse dog. The vet puts him on tranquilizers. So many things that are considered so wrong today. 

The cast is smart and while it’s predictable, the story is also mostly fun. The ending was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed to end too easily and even too quickly. We watched the whole thing and couldn’t believe we stayed in bed on a Sunday morning to watch a Doris Day movie. 

The title is never fully explained save for one of the horrible boys, who is old enough to know better, eating an entire bouquet of daisies, for no reason whatsoever. I guess a certain suspension of belief was required when it was made, and to watch it now. We happily suspended, for the 112 minutes that was needed. 

When I finally got up and made my way to the kitchen, I found a beautiful vase of double hybrid tulips, a gift from my husband on this mother’s day. Riley gave me a card; I got a sweet text from Justin who was working several shows today before loading out to move to the next city. It was a day for daisies and then tulips and, evidently, Doris Day. It was a day worth celebrating.

The fliage of time

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 27, 2016 10:47 PM

Time flies. Sometimes it’s when you’re having fun, but it flies, too, even when you’re not. Time flying is not a new concept. No matter what we do, we can’t stop time from continuing. Each day passes, each week, month, year, decade. It flies by. One minute we’re in kindergarten, the next we’re graduating from college. We make friends, we get married, we get divorced, friendships drift away. We lose people, we lose pets. And still time flies. 

We’ve had Riley for a year today. We’re amazed that it’s been that long, that over a year ago we lost Cooper. Over a year ago we moved in. Over a year ago was Roy’s gallery show and the party. Over a year ago when our lives changed again. I look back at the past year that has positively flown, and I can see moments hanging in the air, memory clouds. The day we moved in when I blew out my knee. That same night, Roy and Bobbi arriving. Cooper being so sick and there was nothing anyone could do for him. Taking him to the hospital on Friday in the middle of the night, having a party  – to celebrate Roy – here Saturday night after hastily arranging furniture to make it look like we sort of lived here after three days. Getting the call on Sunday morning that Cooper was gone. 

And then it was April and we were lonely. Going to the Adopt Love Adopt Local event and meeting Jackson, a beautiful Border Collie mix but he was over 10 and we didn’t think it was right to bring him up here on the hill at his age. In hind sight, he probably would have been fine. He seemed so easy going. 

We looked into adopting a special needs dog, a deaf Lethal White Australian Shepherd named Finn. But we didn’t pass the home inspection. They didn’t like that we didn’t have a fenced in yard and were concerned that he might jump over the railing on the deck and into the desert below. 

But if we’d taken Jackson or been approved for Finn, we wouldn’t have gotten our Riley.

Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue came to do a home visit and we passed, even though we didn’t have a yard. We didn’t even have the dog area fenced in yet, but they seemed to trust us, and they liked the fact that we kept our toilet seats down. Several weeks later, “Bernie” arrived. He quickly became Riley. 

A year later, the three of us are living happily up here on the hill. 

Time flies. 

I wonder if it would fly as quickly if we had to pay airfare, though in some ways we do. The one-way tickets would undoubtedly be astronomical. 

I have a theory that life’s airfare involves coach, business and first class, and that whatever one-way ticket we had to buy would somehow be split between all. Think about it. We start out in coach, then, once we’re working, we get to fly business and then, finally, we’re bumped to first class for our older years. If we’re lucky. It’s life’s version of airfare. Because time flies, and that fliage is what I’m celebrating today.

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Proof of success

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 25, 2016 8:14 PM

It occurred to me this morning as I climbed onto my new elliptical that I am perhaps finally successful at being an adult. There I was, just back from walking the dog, in my new gray Russell workout shorts and my old Bruce Springsteen t-shirt from the Tunnel of Love tour, and my Adidas running shoes. The iPod was playing Is this love? by Whitesnake and I was cruising along. I started at level 1 went to level 2 to level 3. I watched the number of strides, the speed, the calories burned. I looked out the window, and I thought: it’s official. I’m an adult. 

In terms of age, I’ve technically been an adult a long time. I’ve owned several houses – very adult things to do. I’ve bought cars. I’ve married and divorced and married again. I’ve helped raise a child. I’ve lost loved ones – my father, my grandparents, my beloved dogs. I’ve built a house. 

And yet I have continued to think of myself as young and sometimes even vibrant. I feel self-conscious sometimes, as if I can’t live up to who I’m supposed to be. I’m not good-enough. This isn’t meant to drum up sympathy. It’s meant only to explain that I often feel inadequate. Everyone else must be better; I haven’t been doing what I’m doing long enough to be this person that I’m supposed to be. I feel sometimes that I’m living a dream and that any minute, something rude will wake me up and I’ll once again be 22  with nothing but my 1979 Toyota Celica and some clothes to my name. No job. No husband. No house. No things. Certainly no elliptical. 

So this morning, as I was on the elliptical, it occurred to me that I actually have become an adult because only adults seem to have nice pieces of exercise equipment in their homes. Oh, I’ve had pieces before. I’ve mentioned my rowing machine, when I broke my foot, but it wasn’t really a nice one. I had a NordicTrack cross country ski machine but it wasn’t that great. At one point, when I decided I was going to look like Linda Hamilton looked in T2, after having seen the movie, I had a full-exercise unit. But it came from Costco and it was fairly inexpensive. 

But there I was, on this beautiful machine, and I felt like I actually was grownup. It is electrical, my elliptical, similar to the more industrial machines you find in gyms. I was looking out the window at the gorgeous landscape out and below. I was striding along, working my heart rate, which you have to do when you’re an adult, checking my calories burned. 

Not me, nor my view. But the right idea.

In my brain, people who have nice pieces of exercise equipment in their homes are successful adults. We went to a client meeting several weeks ago, at the client’s house. He’s a just-retired orthopedic surgeon and his house is very eclectic and wonderful. He’s an art collector so there were amazing paintings and sculptures everywhere. He showed us around and one of the rooms I found the most intriguing was the exercise room he had built off of the master bath. It’s sunken, down three steps. And it had every type of machine you can imagine. It was more than an exercise room; it was a full gym, on a smaller scale. He’s a surgeon. He’s successful.

I have one machine, my elliptical, and don’t necessarily want any others. I like my elliptical, like the workout, and since I don’t run anymore because of the impact on my aging joints, this is a perfect alternative. Fire up the iPod (the elliptical has an AUX plug and speakers), turn on the built in fan, and off I go. Without having to leave the bedroom. It just may prove to me once and for all that I am really and truly, no kidding, an adult and even successful at it. I might have to celebrate that.

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Smoke detector beeps, Gila monster creeps, and one freaked out dog oh my

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 24, 2016 8:04 PM

We have seven smoke detectors in the house, one in each of the bedrooms, one in the west hallway, one in the east hallway, and one on the way out to the garage. We also have two carbon monoxide sensors. One of the east side sensors calls out a mechanical "fire." We found this out shortly after we moved in and it went off one very early morning. We were up and out of bed like we'd been shot out of a cannon. It turned out it had a short, but it begged the question: why do smoke alarms only ever sound when you're sleeping? 

This question occurred to me last night as well. You can guess why based on the title of today's post. It was 2:50 am. Riley had already become agitated several hours before when he was sure he saw something anything and maybe a bear outside. He squealed at the bedroom window as he stared out into the still illuminated night. The moon is waning but it was full just two nights ago so it's fairly bright. Then he raced to the bathroom window, the floor to ceiling wall of glass behind the bathtub. He wedged himself between the tub and the glass and squealed some more. I didn't have to see him do this to know where he was. He does this all day long. On his third trip between the two rooms, I got up to look. I saw no bears, no things. I gave him a kiss and told him to get back in bed. He did. And all was quiet for about two more hours. 

Then. Beep.

Oh, crap. Beep.

Come on. 

Beep. 

The smoke detector in the bedroom was having a battery moment. It’s the kind of beep you want to ignore because you know it’s not smoke nor fire, but it’s so high-pitched and shrill that it’s impossible to sleep through it. Plus the dog was completely freaked out. I imagine the every 30 or 40 second BEEP hurt his ears. It did mine. We trudged out to garage to get the ladder, Riley leading the way, his tail tucked firmly between his legs. He was getting out of the house and away from the noise and fast. While Kevin maneuvered the ladder into the house I took the dog out to pee. There was a baby deer standing on the rocks looking down at us. I wondered if his parents knew where he was at that hour of the morning. 

We finally got the battery replaced, but it took at least 30 minutes to coax the dog back into the bedroom. Kevin finally lured him with cookies. An hour plus later, we finally got back to sleep. All of us. 

This morning it was as if the beeping had never happened. Except for the fact that we were exhausted and our eyes were puffy and we were cranky and the dog didn’t even want to get up. He finally did, and Kevin let him out on the deck. Within minutes, he was barking and howling and whining and pawing at the edge of the deck underneath the rail. Let me at ’em. This was more than the usual someone-is-driving-by-on-the-road-below-and-I-must-be-alert fuss. This was real. Something was down there. Kevin, manly man that he is, went to check. It was 8 am, the sun was already warm. The morning had been fairly quiet up until that point. He returned to the door within about 20 seconds, motioning me to come quickly. You gotta see this. 

And there it was, down below the rail, on the desert floor, motoring south, as quickly as they ever motor: the season’s first official Gila monster. Pale orange and black and about 15 inches long. And Riley did not like it one bit.

Within a five-hour period he encountered a rudely beeping smoke detector and a slinking lizard. It would be enough to freak out a low-key and mellow dog, neither of which have ever been used to described our Riley.

Somewhere in the hills above, the baby deer was still watching. That’ll be enough to send Riley Boo to the moon tonight. Oh my.

In which Kevin plants a vineyard and Lorin helps

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 10, 2016 8:11 PM

Kevin and I are big winos. This does not come as news to anyone who reads this blog or who knows us. Even people that have just met us get a feel for our wino tendencies, especially if they come to the house. That’s undoubtedly because we have a temperature controlled wine room. We went to Stephanie and John’s house a couple of weeks ago and when I asked what I could bring, she didn’t hesitate before putting me in charge of wine. We love wine. We drink it regularly. When we vacation we go wine tasting. We’re rather boring in terms of what we like and like to do, but it works for us.

Years ago, I bought Kevin wine making equipment for Christmas. It was essentially the equivalent of a starter kit. It even came with a box of wine juice. It was very bad wine. But Kevin got hooked on the idea of making wine. Several years later, in 2012, we took the plunge and actually bought grapes, 100 pounds each of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We fermented them, listening to the crackle and pop for several days. Eventually we pressed them, removing the skins and preserving the juice, aged them, bottled, corked and labeled them. Ultimately we got 72 bottles, 36 of each. 

Now we’ve taken another plunge and have planted our own micro-vineyard in order to grow our own grapes which we can them ferment, press, age, bottle and serve. I say micro because as of now, we only have six actual vines of Barbera. They arrived, wrapped in wet shredded newspaper and plastic in order to keep the moisture in until they got planted. For nearly two weeks, we worked to ready the area, pulling out weeds and bufflegrass, building walls – essentially making a 30 foot by 6 foot planter. 

On Thursday, we unwrapped the plastic, and saw our vines for the first time. They’re very unattractive. Knarly and long, skinny things that look and feel a bit like bark, with spindly, spidery roots. Kevin pulled out the old fermenter, filled it with water and put the roots into the water. They needed to soak for several hours before planting.

Next, out to the vineyard he went to dig holes. In a large vineyard – even a regular size vineyard – vines are planted in rows that are trenched by a machine. Each vine is planted approximately 4 to 5 feet apart. This is because they grow up and then have to be trained along wires in order to have lots of room to grow and to have grapes drop down.

The holes he dug were about 12 inches deep. We placed the vines into the holes, one vine per hole, put a six-foot stake in the ground next to each, then refilled the holes, watered, and stepped back to admire our work. 

This is the beginnings of our long hoped for vineyard. I say beginnings because we have plans to perhaps get more Barbera vines, maybe some Petit Sirah, maybe some Malbec. We have to get vines that do well in this kind of climate but those three do. Our current six vines will produce up to about 70 pounds of fruit, with each individual one capable of between 10 and 12 pounds of grapes. It won’t happen for about 3 years, but once it does and we can pick, de-stem and crush, ferment, press, age, bottle, cork, label. Drink. 


The vintner and his erstwhile helper; the micro-vineyard in the background

Michel Cellars, our fledging winery, will produce estate-bottled wines, meaning wines made only from grapes grown on the property versus wine made with grapes purchased elsewhere. Kevin has long wanted to be a vintner. He’s on his way. By the time he retires, he’ll have enough grape vines to keep him at least partially busy. Until then, and if all goes according to plan, we should have new Barbera wines to drink in about five years. 

That’s wining out loud.

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