On Sundays alone

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:24 PM

For the past four days, we’ve had company. Our dearest friends Roy and Bobbi have been with us and oh, what a time we’ve had. They drove on Wednesday, leaving around 9:30 am. The plan was to take I-10 across California, into Arizona, down through Phoenix and finally exit in Tucson. That was the plan but plans change. As the old saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Also really bad accidents. One did, on the 10 at Blythe, closing the freeway in both directions. There is no other way to get through Blythe and into Arizona when on the 10.

Luckily they found out early enough; Bobbi sent me a message from the car. We started researching in order to plan an alternate. South on 86 out of Indio, past the Salton Sea, to the 111 and on down to the I-8. The I-8 runs from San Diego straight across the lower part of the Sonoran Desert, dangerously close to the Mexico border, so close that you could see the fence. It’s not significantly longer, maybe 20 miles. They stopped in Yuma for lunch, one of the biggest armpits in the country (apologies to people who live in Yuma), then zoomed along, finally arriving around 6.

We were waiting. We had some cheese, some wine. I made pasta with two kinds of sauce, or as Roy calls it “gravy.” We laughed and talked through the night. Over the next couple of days, we just enjoyed ourselves. We visited some wonderful places, places we had discovered and wanted to share. The Lost Barrio downtown, the famous Hotel Congress where John Dillinger was staying and where he was finally caught way back when as he was exiting the Rialto Theater across the street. We went to the Arizona Inn, a landmark that first opened in 1930. It’s a throw back place, full of history and possibility. It looks like old Hollywood glamour. I know that stars like Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, Katherine Hepburn and more used to vacation in Tucson during the 1930s and 1940s. I think the AZ Inn catered to the elite. It still caters to an older clientele simply because of the décor, the style. It’s old world and gorgeous.

We went to The Dish, an eclectic and impossibly small bistro that serves things like a bowl of mussels, swimming in a garlic-saffron broth, with a glass of wine for just $12.50 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Kevin and I had the mussels, Bobbi had smoked salon flatbread. Roy had a salad and squash soup. We all shared a Spanish wine.

Roy is an artist. Kevin has been pitching him as his artist representative and several weeks ago, booked a one-man month show at a gallery on the east side. We went to check out the space, take some pictures. We went to the house, took a picnic, went south to Elgin to do some southern Arizona wine tasting. We tasted our own wines, our Syrah and our Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our three full days of fun came to an end this morning. They loaded up their rental car, and drove off into the desert as Kevin, Cooper and I stood in the driveway watching them go.

It’s been a strange day. We’ve been trying to get some work done, and Kevin has been making more progress on that front than I. Cooper has been napping. He doesn’t seem to be feeling well today. Or maybe he’s just missing Roy and Bobbi. I know we are.

They’re our closest friends. We get along terrifically. We’ve always traveled well together; we stayed together well, too. There was no stress. It was just easy and fun. On this Sunday, as the warmth wrapped around us, we were missing our friends but celebrating our time together and the good times yet to come, when once again we’ll be living it out loud together.

70 bottles of wine on the bar, 70 bottles of wine

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 18, 2014 8:32 PM

Sometime in the 14th century, somebody in England penned a song called Ten Green Bottles. It was mind-numbingly stupid and repetitive – Ten Green Bottles hanging on the wall, And if one Green Bottle should accidentally fall, There’ll be Nine Green Bottles hanging on the wall – which is why American’s crafted their own version sometime in the 20th century. We upped the ante a bit though, to 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall because we’re Americans and we do everything bigger than everyone else. It’s our way.

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall.

There is also a 99 Bottles beer store in Federal Way, in Washington state. They carry over 1000 ales, lagers, hard ciders and meads from 50 countries. Not sure how they get 99 when it’s a 1000 but whatever. 

I bring all of this up, not as a lover of the song or a connoisseur of beer, though I do like an occasional Smithwicks, and just this week was introduced to Shock Top by my son, but because yesterday, we had 70 recently filled bottles of Michel Cellars wine on the table/eat-at-bar here in the kitchen.

The winemaker, otherwise known as Kevin, filtering the syrah

In the spring of 2012, Kevin announced that we were going to buy grapes and make our own wine. In the fall of that year, we did just that, securing about 100 pounds of Syrah grapes from Santa Barbara County first and then, a month of so later, 114 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Paso Robles. We bought them from a place in Camarillo called Custom Crush that caters to people wanting to private label their own wine. They also sell grapes to people like us who want to make their own. On two separate Sundays, we drove to Camarillo with our fermenter in the back of the Range Rover. There we met several other home winemakers, participated in the crushing and destemming of the grapes and finally, loaded up our fermenter, added some yeast, put it back in the back of the car, and drove home. For the next week or so, Kevin engaged in a ritual called the punchdown. Fermenting grape skins rise to the top of grape juice and must be hand mixed back into the juice in order to get the two to comingle and give the best color and flavor.

Once each wine was done fermenting, we had to press it which is just as it sounds. You scoop the grape mixture, called the must, out of the fermenter and into a machine that you tighten down. It has a flat wooden surface that screws down into the must, pressing all of the juice out of the skin. When you’re done, you’re left with dried, flat grapes that are then thrown away.

From there we racked the wine several times, transferring it into barrels and then into carboys, so it could age. In the end, we had seven gallons of each.

Yesterday, we bottled. We started with the syrah, which we ran through a filter to eliminate any sediment, or at least as much sediment as we could. Kevin created quite the system using a vacuum pump, several hoses and a number of carboys in order to pull the wine from one container into the other. Once in its final container, we then siphoned wine into 750 ml bottles. 100 and 114 pounds of grapes created seven gallons of wine respectively which each created 35 bottles. 35 bottles of Michel Cellars 2012 Santa Barbara County Syrah and 35 bottles of Michel Cellars 2012 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, each a 100% pure varietal. A total of 70 bottles of wine on the bar, 70 bottles of wine.

The first 35 bottles, of syrah

We corked and put all 70 bottles into six case boxes. They’re now standing up in the wine cellar. Next we label. It’s on my list today, to write the backs of each. And then, eventually, we drink.

Our first batches of homemade wine. So far, it’s pretty good. We know this because we sampled both yesterday to see what we had. We’re pleasantly surprised. We might even see about entering each into some amateur competition. Until then, we’re celebrating our 70 bottles of wine, and looking forward to starting the process all over again. We’re thinking of getting some Petite Verdot must from a place in Pennsylvania. They ship it frozen, just 3 gallons. Might be the perfect bridge between the spring and the fall, when California grapes are harvested and available again. Sniff, swirl, sip; ferment, punch, rack. This is living it out loud. 

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I effing love science

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:07 PM

The first time I used a word I wasn't supposed to, otherwise known as a swear word, was when I was in third grade. I was on the playground for recess and having trouble with my friend Patrice. Mutual friends were going back and forth between us telling each of us what the other had said. I was mad and said that she could go to hell. I remember feeling so grown up. A curse word. I was cool. I almost said it in a whisper since that was how my mother always swore so that's how I thought you were supposed to swear. I didn't; but I thought about it.

The second time I remember swearing was when I called my brother an asshole because he was being such a nudge. He was probably 7 or 8 at the time. He promptly ran off to tell my parents. We were in the woods behind our house and I was trying to build a fort. He was not helping. I got in trouble and I told him I'd never talk to him again. There. That would teach him to tattle on me.

I have since learned to use any number of words and combinations thereof. Sometimes I put words together that I've never heard used together before. I feel very creative when I do that. Sometimes I adopt these new phrases; often I grow tired of them and discard them for newer ideas. I have my favorites and especially one phrase that consists of two words and four syllables. Hint: both words end in “er.”

The point is, I swear. It makes me feel better to express my frustration with a few choice words. It allows me to release pent up anxiety without hitting something or becoming violent. I’ve never completely understood why people think swearing is so horrible. My mother has never been big on swearing though she’s better now than she used to be. Sometimes she uses her regular voice, though most of the time she says things like “he’s a real bastard,” and lowers the tenor to a whisper on “bastard.” I respect that she doesn’t like swearing so I try not to use my normally colorful vocabulary when I’m around her. I respect that others don’t have potty mouths, and that others are offended. I don’t feel the need to purposely offend someone. I’m not that insecure, dammit.

A friend of mine’s mother won’t go to R-rated movies and won’t even watch certain shows on television because she’s convinced that people don’t really talk that way. She refuses to be swayed but has never had a good answer for why then the dialogue is laced with the f-word, the s-word, the b-word and worse. My friend and I have had many discussions usually while shaking our heads because everybody we know talks like that.

Maybe it’s a generational thing.

Turns out it’s also a science thing. Psychologists at England’s Keele University have conducted a study and found that “expressing profane feelings is good for you;” that it’s a “harmless emotional release that can make you feel stronger and more resilient.”

Based on that, I should be like the female version of Hercules and Gumby combined.

I’ve also heard that people who use a lot of swear words tend to be more honest and trust worthy. Not sure why. I guess it’s the no bullsh^t factor.

But I have a dilemma. My mother doesn’t approve and I don’t like disappointing my mother. Yet I’m a big believer in science. I believe global warming is real and that the cures for the world’s deadliest diseases have come from scientists in laboratories. I don’t always understand science but I respect it and realize that scientists know more than I do about things related to, well, science. Still, a dilemma.

Given my effing stress level many days, the occasional, well-timed profanity helps me to effing vent. I’m not effing hurting anyone. Cooper doesn’t seem to mind, nor does my husband who is also big into stress relief. And if effing science says this will help me to effing feel better, I guess I’ll continue along my cursory path, at least until mom comes up with a better idea.

Celebrating effing science tonight. You guys made my damn day. 

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live out loud

I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 6, 2014 10:56 PM

Guest post by Cooper

When I first came to live with my mom and dad, I had already lived with a lot of people and I guess I just thought I wouldn’t be with them very long. I’ve been here now a pretty long time, almost my whole life, and I really like it. I like them, too. I especially like my mom. I’m not supposed to say that because I’m not supposed to have a favorite but I just like being with my mom better than being with just about anybody, even Wubba.

I get in trouble sometimes but not really bad trouble. Like I don’t dig or anything in the backyard probably because I don’t spend very much time there. I like it. It’s just that if I’m in the backyard, I’m not with my mom and I really like to be with my mom. Sometimes she sits in the backyard with me and I sleep in the sun. We did that today for like hours, though I think it was really only a few minutes. I was rolling around and she was sitting on the patio in the shade. I took a little nap. Then dad came out with the brush and I had to get brushed. I don’t like getting brushed.

I haven’t chewed anything in the house except my guys. I’m allowed to chew them and I do. I had a guy named Jax. He was really cool and had like five separate squeakers. I killed all of them! Jax is gone now and I’m sad.

I did do some stuff to the couch that mom didn’t like but I don’t really remember what it was.

When mom and dad would go out I used to get in my house, or kennel, and they’d shut the door. I don’t like that at all. I tried to dig my way out but it’s really hard to dig through the metal on the bottom. So then I started trying to chew my way through the bars. Dad said one day after they got home and I got out, look at the bars on the door. Were they always bent like that?

Then mom got worried. She was looking at the bars and running her hands along them and I guess they had teeth marks and stuff and then she said how could he do that? They’re metal. I guess I’m just really strong.

Then she said, well, we have to do something different because I don’t want to come home and him have figured out how to break the bars and then he impales himself.

I’m pretty sure the him that she was talking about was me since Justin isn’t here right now.

I’m not sure what impale is but I think it’s bad.

So before mom and dad went out today mom sat down on the floor with me and I sat down next to her. I knew they were going out. They always brush their teeth before they go out. Mom also has her purse. And they’re usually dressed differently than when they’re just hanging around the house. Like mom puts shoes on and stuff.

We were sitting there on the floor and she said that they were going to trust me and that I had to be a good boy.

I’m not really sure what would happen if I’m not a good boy. I wonder if they’d give me back. I always try to be a good boy. Mom says that no body ever really taught me how to be a good boy and that she knows I am one. But we had the talk anyway.

I really didn’t want them to leave but mom says she always comes back to Cooper and she does.

They left and I watched out the window in mom’s office. I barked a couple of times and then I wasn’t sure if that was being a good boy or not so I decided to just say it a bunch of times.

I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy I am a good boy

And you know what? I was! I didn’t even do anything to the couch. When mom came back about a hundred years later, she said I was a very good boy. And I got a cookie.

Good boy equals cookie. I can do that. 

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live out loud

Emotional strength defined

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:19 PM

I was perusing Facebook this morning, as I often do as I prepare to meet the day. I don’t tend to post much, nor do I comment. I occasionally “like” something, and it often has to do with dogs. My entire Facebook page is filled with liked pages featuring dogs, wine and politics, in that order. My friends tend to be a bit more diverse. This morning, friend Lisa J posted a link to a site called Elite Daily.

Elite Daily is the voice of Generation Y, and was “created out of a growing discontentment with antiquated media publications mandating that news coverage be presented in a dull, one-dimensional manner. The Elite Daily ethos is centered on reader engagement and fostering a true, unique connection with [their] readership through a platform that facilitates discussion rather than blandly presenting news. Elite Daily’s founding members grew tired of consuming disingenuous content and created a highly-engaging, social content platform that would radically change and redefine the meaning of a media publication, with millennial voices speaking directly to their fellow members of Gen-Y who share a similar passion for informative content.”

Generation Y is the generation born between 1977 and 1994, people who came of age between 1998 and 2006. There are approximately 71 million of them. They are much more racially and ethnically diverse and much more segmented as an audience due to the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, tablets and smart phones.

Many Gen Y kids, as they’re often called, were raised in dual income homes and were more involved in family purchases – everything from groceries to new cars – than generations previous. Generation Ys are also called Echo Boomers or Millenniums.

I am not Generation Y, not even close, but Justin is. Much of the description, as applied to him, is right on the money.

The article today, written by Yers, is geared toward his generation but is applicable to all. It was entitled: 15 things that emotionally strong people don’t do. I was intrigued enough to click and read, since I consider myself to be emotionally strong and wondered if I was right.

Emotions are our greatest motivators. Unfortunately, they can motivate us to act in any direction, even the wrong one. That’s why emotional strength is essential. The article listed some of the situations that emotionally strong people avoid and certain actions they never take.

  1. They don’t beg for attention
  2. They don’t allow others to bring them down
  3. They don’t hold grudges
  4. They never stop doing their own thing
  5. They never stop believing in themselves
  6. They don’t act like jerks
  7. They’re particular about who they let into their lives
  8. They aren’t afraid to love
  9. They don’t dread the day ahead
  10. They’re not afraid of slowing down
  11. They don’t do things they don’t want to do
  12. They have no problem saying “no”
  13. They don’t ever forget to give back
  14. They don’t feel the need to fit in
  15. They don’t forget that happiness is a decision

I actively try to follow those 15 things. I didn’t always, but I do now. I think it’s easier as you get older and naturally develop more confidence in the world around you, and thus more confidence in yourself.

I particularly like the last item on the list. It’s something I’ve long believed, that happiness is a decision you make for yourself, and if you choose to be happy, most of the other emotional aspects of life fall into place as they should.

All this wisdom from kids young enough to be my son. Which leads me to a  potential #16. Never stop learning, even from a younger generation, because they will be the next ones to live it out loud. 

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A hero is more than just a sandwich

by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 16, 2014 9:16 PM

In 1986 I read a book called A hero is more than just a sandwich. It was by a woman named Sonya Friedman, a psychotherapist, and her premise was simple and completely contained in the title of the book. Heroes used to be the name given to a submarine sandwich, a long roll with layers of veggies, meats, cheeses and dressing. It tasted good. But a real hero, in Friedman’s analysis, a man, also did good.

Sandwiches were invented by the Earl of Sandwich who started putting meat between two pieces of bread for a snack as a way to eat during his all-day gambling sessions. Super sandwiches are often called subs or hoagies or grinders; subs because they look like submarines. They were started in New London, Connecticut around World War II. The city was home to the Navy’s primary submarine base and a shipbuilding yard. One story has the big sandwich being invented by an Italian shopkeeper named Benedetto Capaldo who made about 500 a day. Another story has a restaurant advertising submarine sandwiches to take out, in Wilmington, Delaware.

The term hero began with a woman named Clementine Paddleworth who wrote a food column for the New York Herald Tribune in 1936, talking about a sandwich so large “you had to be a hero to eat it.”

I remember my dad making subs when I was a kid. I doubt he knew the origin of the name, nor would he have cared. He just wanted the sandwich and when dad was making a sub, it was a special day. I have no idea why. Perhaps it was because my mother did most of the cooking, as most mothers did in those days (and probably still do). My dad made fours things that I can remember: Scrambled eggs (the secret is always to put in a little bit of milk), ham salad (he had this horrible big grinding contraption that he used to secure to the side of the table and put pieces of ham, pickles, and onions through it), cocktail sauce (with ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire, Tabasco) and his world-famous subs.

He would take the longest roll and carefully slice it in half, long ways, laying both sides out, cut side up, on the counter. Then he would take everything that he had bought at the supermarket out of the fridge. At least two if not three types of lunchmeat (my dad was big on lunch meat), and several types of cheese, as well as dressing and veggies. He would start by putting some miracle whip on each side of the bread, then he’d begin layering the different meats and cheeses on one side. He’d slice an onion very thin and place that, along with sliced tomatoes. I think he drizzled Italian dressing over the top, but I could be mis-remembering. A little salt and pepper. When he was done, he’d take the side of the bread that only had the dressing and place it on top of everything else, squish it down a little, then slice it into more edible sizes. Serve.

I would sit at the table or stand off to the side and watch the process. It took at least 10 minutes or so; probably more. He was always so happy when he was making one of his subs. I wonder why he didn’t make them more often.

I don’t each subs anymore largely because I don’t eat much bread but I thought of dad and his subs today as I watched my husband making his version. He pulled out sliced turkey and salami, tomato, lettuce and onion, cheese. He opened a jar of mayo and spread it evenly across tortillas. He then layered everything nicely, topped it with a bit of spicy brown mustard and rolled it up nice and tight. A sub-ish wrap, if you will. Made by my hero.

A hero, then, is more than a sandwich. It’s a memory that is also celebrated in the present, with a tortilla playing the roll of the … roll. 

Packard it up and move on. Nothing to see here.

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:32 AM

Kevin’s first car was a 1948 Packard that he bought for $365 when he was a junior in high school. It had flat black paint and it needed a little work. He got it running and drove it for a number of years before he sold it to a guy who paid $500 because he needed the side-view mirror.

Kevin talks about that car fondly. We have a picture of him working on it, his wiry high school body leaning into the open hood, a wrench in his hand. Though I know it’s not possible, I wish I could have “met” that car. I have a fondness for the big, fat American cars of the 1940s.

The plant where Kevin’s car was built, in Detroit, is a ghost of its former self. It sits abandoned, its 3.5 million square feet of factory and office space sprawled across 35 acres that are overgrown and strewn with glass from the long-ago closed windows. It was designed by Albert Kahn and originally opened in 1903, employing, at the height of its production, more than 40,000 skilled workers who practiced over 80 different trades. It was the first plant of its kind to use reinforced concrete, and even had a test track on the roof. It closed in 1958 having produced 974,000 cars in its 55 years.

For quite some time, the Packard was considered a premier moniker, on par with Cadillac and Lincoln. It had a single production line that allowed for interchangeability between models known by their Series name. First Series, Second Series and so forth. In the end, though, the company was simply not big enough to offer real competition to the Big Three automakers of Ford, GM and Chrysler. Packard purchased Studebaker in 1954 to become the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. Studebaker had a larger dealer network and the men who ran Packard thought they could benefit from that market share. It didn’t work and the last Packard rolled off the assembly line in July of 1958, leaving the huge factory complex mostly vacant for the next 60 years.

It has slowly devolved into a haven for graffiti artists. Factory trucks still sit in loading bays, long rusted, relics to a simpler time for both the factory and Detroit, the city that cars built.

For a while, Chemical Processing Company occupied about 57,000 square feet of the complex, less than 1% of the total square footage. Regardless of the fact that there were tenants, vandals and scavengers would scour the buildings, cutting power and phone lines in search of scrap copper. While humans have been busy destroying what was once a symbol of greatness in the country, and certainly the city, the environment is actually doing more. Decades of harsh weather have left the largest abandoned factory in the world in dire straits, much like Detroit itself.

In September of this year, the plant was put up for auction. The starting bid was $975,000 which was the amount owed in taxes. No one bid. This month, it went up for auction again, at just $21,000. Dr. Jill Van Horn of Texas met that bid but then another doctor’s group that wants to turn the factory into an economic engine, producing modular homes and building supplies, came forward. Their bid: $6,030,000. 

I hope it goes through. It might help to revitalize one of the greatest American cities of the 20th century. I know it has had its problems. And the only time I’ve been there is to fly through once upon a time when Northwest was still an airline, so I only know it by reputation, and pictures, and talk amongst friends. But as a car lover and Packard lover, I do think this would be a good thing.

And Kevin would love it. That alone makes this worth celebrating, because he loved his Packard, and I love him.

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I hear the sound of my husband’s motorcycle approaching

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 11, 2013 10:53 PM

Kevin and I are motorcycle people. We love them. He had bikes in the past, before I came into the picture. I always wanted one. I had friends in college who had bikes, sport bikes – or crotch rockets as they’re affectionately known – and street bikes. Cruisers weren’t really all that popular until the last 15 years or so. Two of my guy friends in college, Kevin (no relation) and Mac, had the same street bike. It was a Kawasaki 450, if memory serves. One of them was black, the other blue.

I tried to have a motorcycle when I was married the first time, but husband number one was more interested in fast cars and particularly in Porsches. I was OK with that as I’m also a car person. I love old cars, new cars, sports cars and classic cars. I love our current 1987 Porsche turbo. It’s my second Porsche. My first was during HNO (husband number one) and I had to sell it when we got divorced because I couldn’t afford the maintenance. I wish that I had the foresight to keep it. I babied that car; it would still be a great car. The turbo was not babied until we got it. We think of it like a rescue.

A number of years ago, when Maguire was still young and Blockbuster Video was still in business, he and I went for a Sunday morning Rover ride to return whatever we had rented. On the way home, stopped at a light on Agoura Road, two cruisers pulled up alongside of us, each being driven by a guy; each with a chick on the back. They looked comfortable and cool. They looked relaxed. They looked like they were having fun. When I got home I told Kevin that I thought we should get a motorcycle. We had one the following weekend, a beautiful silver Suzuki 850 Intruder. But it was too small, so within the year we upgraded to a Suzuki 1500 Intruder, but we never really fell in love with it. It was awkward, oafish. One summer, in 2007, while Kevin and Justin were in Illinois visiting Kevin’s family, I was standing in the kitchen perusing Motorcyclist magazine and there was an ad for a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. A gorgeous bike with sleek lines, and built for two. It came with foot panels for the passenger and hard saddlebags, and a backrest. When Kevin got home, I broached the subject of maybe looking at one. We found a used one shortly thereafter and bought it. Metallic black, with lots of chrome and white-wall tires.  We’ve had it ever since.

Today, he had to run some errands and as he often does when it’s a beautiful day, he took the bike, roaring out of the driveway and down the street, the powerful growl of the engine disappearing into the desert as he rounded the corner and headed east.

I worry when he’s out by himself. He’s a great driver and beyond careful, but people don’t always see motorcycles and that leads to stupid accidents. When he goes off without me, he promises to text me whenever he arrives at his destination. I usually get nothing more than a simple “here.” He texts me again as he moves from place to place, keeping me updated so I know he didn’t go splat.

Kevin, returning home this afternoon

Sitting in my office this afternoon, the windows once again open, the cool of the day once again drifting in and around the room, I listened for the sound. Low and powerful, a lion’s purr, it’s very distinct. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but smile. He has returned safely on this fine piece of machinery, one of the finest we’ve owned. Sleek as a cat and ready to cruise, it’s joy on two white-walled wheels.

I hear it now. I hear him approaching. I smile. Soon, I’ll be smiling broadly, enjoying the view as he pulls into the driveway, safe at home. Definitely worth celebrating. 

4:20 am and the phone sounds

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1:06 AM

There are few things that can rouse a person out of a deep dream-state in a split second. An earthquake, the sound of glass breaking somewhere in the house (often synonymous with an earthquake) and a ringing phone. In the days before cell phones, an old-fashioned phone was usually propped on a bedside table. If its ring shattered the silence, it was just jarring enough to cause instant panic. Who died?

These days, many people no longer have landlines, Kevin and I included. Cell phones and all that they can do – and let’s face it they can do everything but go grocery shopping – have rendered landlines virtually extinct. This summer, after several years of threatening to pull the cord, we did, eliminating both our private line and our two business lines. Now the cell phones go with us everywhere, held in our hands or tucked in a pocket or a purse. They move to the coffee table at night when we set up to relax and watch a little tube before going to bed. Then they move into the bedroom, each taking up residence on its owner’s table, hopefully to be silent until the morning.

We’ve had telemarketing calls come in fairly early, around 7 am. That’s obnoxious, but we’re usually not in that dead-like sleep where the real world has ceased to exist and instead has been replaced by strange happenings that seem, remarkably, normal. Being in the same space with a group of people I haven’t seen since college. Driving a car that isn’t mine and that I’ve never seen before and trying desperately to find my lost candy bar. The possibility of time travel where my dad is still alive and young, as are my brother and sister, but where I’m the same age or older than I am now. A story is born.

I can imagine that in this state, my eyes are engaged in the rapid movement scientists often discuss. I know that this morning at 4:20 I was deep in the zone. I have no idea what I was dreaming about but I know it was interesting in that way that dreams have of being just fascinating and making perfect sense while you’re in them. It’s probably one of the reasons they dissipate so quickly upon waking. They want to leave you with the feeling of wow rather than the more apt thought of WTF.

At 4:20 am, there was a loud bloutzel blang, the sound that Kevin’s phone makes when it is getting a text message. Both of us sat up immediately, terrified. Hearts pounding. A cold sweat breaking out. Hair standing on end.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Your phone,” I said, hyperventilating. “I think it was a text message.”

“What time is it?”

“I have no friggin’ idea. Who is texting you at this hour?”

“Where’s my phone?”

“It must be over there. I heard it.”

“I heard it, too. Shoot. Where’s Cooper?”

Cooper was snoring. My heart was pounding as was Kevin’s. He reached for his phone to find out who was texting us before 4:30 in the morning, interrupting our dreams, our sleep, our night. Jolting us awake in the same way as an earthquake or glass breaking or the old-fashioned jangling phones of old.

“Justin. He needs rent money.”

“At 4:20 in the morning?!”

Granted it was 7:20 for Justin since he’s in New York. Still. We both slid back down into the bed, under the covers. Cooper sighed. Seriously? We’re up and talking? It’s still dark out. After a while, we both drifted back off to sleep, back into dreamland, and back into the night. 4:20 is early to be so rudely awakened but the ability to get back to sleep is always something worth celebrating.

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live out loud

Old Milwaukee

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:55 PM

It was an absolutely glorious day in the Southland so naturally my thoughts turned to Milwaukee. Allow me to set the stage. In typical K and L and C fashion, we were walking. It was about 8:06 or so when we got to the end of Hawthorne and crossed over Bowfield to head up into and around the cul de sac.

The sun was warm, unseasonably according to the weather dudes last night on KABC. Kevin was in shorts. I hadn’t gotten to that point yet – something about it only being the middle of March and technically not yet shorts season. But I was in lightweight pants and just a long sleeve denim shirt. Cooper was dressed in his usual fur and Aztec collar. We spun up and around and as we did, we came upon the remnants of what was undoubtedly a wonderful little party last night. Said remnants consisted of an empty can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and some other blue bottle. I could see a cigarette butt or two. It all fit. Cheap beer and bad cigarettes. Probably teenagers.

Would you be surprised if I said it made me nostalgic for when I was a crappy teenager drinking cheap beer? I would be surprised, too. First, I would never be nostalgic for being a teenager. I hated being a teenager. And second, I was never particularly fond of cheap beer.

But the Pabst prompted a discussion with the shorts-clad Kevin.

Me: “Is that a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon?”

Kevin: “Yup.”

Me: “I didn’t even know they still made that stuff? Do they still make that stuff?”

Kevin: “Well, they must. Either that or that was a really old can of beer and that’s just gross.”

I nodded, we kept walking. Cooper didn’t offer an opinion though he did lift his leg.

Me, after a few minutes. By now we were back onto Hawthorne but going the opposite direction. “Wasn’t there another really cheap beer called Stroh’s?” He nodded. Me, still: “Tim used to buy cases of really cheap beer when we lived in San Diego. But it only cost like $6.99 a case so it was like swill.” Ah, memories. Misty, swilly-colored memories of the way I used to live my life. Cue Barbra Streisand. “But I don’t think it was Stroh’s. Was there something cheap that started with a B?”

He racked his brain. I could see him squinching his mouth, which is what he does when he’s thinking really hard. Cooper was busy peeing on something else.

He offered Babst. But I thought he was joking.

Me: “You’re kidding right?”

Kevin: “Yes. Actually it’s Blatz. Or it was. I don’t know that they make it anymore.”

[They don’t because it became Pabst in 1958.]

We kept walking and he began naming some cheap beers he could remember: Schlitz, Hamm’s, Old Milwaukee.

Me: “That’s it!”

Old Milwakee, which doesn’t even have a “b” in it unless you count the “b” in Beer. It has evidently been a trusted, high quality beer since 1849, receiving awards and accolades. It became a value beer in 1955 when it was purchased by Schlitz Brewing. Then in 1982 both were acquired by Stroh’s. Stroh’s was acquired by Pabst in 2000. I just love how everything is cyclical.

I remember the beer cans on the bottom shelf of the used refrigerator in a ratty little apartment in San Diego in 1985. This was before Tim and I were even married. We were kids. We had no money. A case of beer cost $6.99. It was about all we could afford. I think at that point I was drinking Blue Nun Gewürztraminer so who am I to judge.

Old Milwaukee was brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which has a section called the Third Ward that’s located in the historic warehouse district of the city, a place that’s home to more than 450 shops, restaurants, art galleries, theatre groups, creative businesses and residential homes. So there’s Old Milwaukee and old Milwaukee. Since I was never big on beer and especially on cheap beer, I’m going with the latter, even though I’ve never been there.

Me: “You know I’ve never been to old Milwaukee.”

Kevin: silence

Cooper lifted his leg. Again.  

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