Go east young man

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 9, 2017 9:59 PM

In 1851, a writer for the Terre Haute Express, John Babsone Lane Soule, used the phrase “go west, young man, go west.” The phrase is widely attributed to another writer, Horace Greely, who co-opted it, writing in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Greely freely gave credit to Soule, even showing people the original article. Regardless, the phrase “go west, young man” quickly became a mantra, especially for those returning from the Civil War. Looking for a new start, many were casting their fortunes to the west, moving their families. Greely, an author and editor of Tribune, had used the phrase because he envisioned the farmland of the west being ideal for people willing to work hard for the chance to succeed.

This morning, Justin climbed behind the wheel of his new (used) car. It was packed up with nearly everything he owns, mostly clothing and some electronics, along with some hand-me-downs from us. A set of dishes. Pots and pans. Flatware. He started the car and with a wave and a “love you guys” he drove across the driveway, down the road and … west. I watched the car for as long as I could see it, and then came back inside. The west part of his trip was short-lived. Once he got onto Catalina Highway and got to the second stop sign, he turned south, drove down to Interstate 10 and headed east. Destination: Atlanta.

He’s 26 years old. He’ll be 27 at the beginning of January. He has had two major jobs. His first was working for Norwegian Cruise Line which he got before he got out of college and started about a month and half after graduating. The second he got after Norwegian left him hanging for his next “tour.” The cruise lines all function similarly in that workers are on the boat – on a tour of duty, so to speak – for six months at a time. Then they are forced to take a mandatory six weeks off before they can embark on another tour. Justin was all set to do that, and had agreed to another six months on a ship called the Pride of America which cruises around the Hawaiian islands for six months. Not too hard to take. But they never followed through getting him the necessary paperwork from the Coast Guard and he got tired of waiting so he got a job with Feld Entertainment working on Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Until last month, he’d been with them for almost three years during which time he has traveled the country and much of the world. Last summer, on July 2, he left for Japan, where he was for three months, then they went on to Great Britain where he was for another three months. After that, he was in Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and maybe other countries I can’t remember. In April he was home for a month, and then jetted off to New Zealand and Australia where he was until two weeks ago. 

Now he’s heading east toward a new job, as lighting supervisor for the Atlanta Opera. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, with him first needing to buy a car and then trying to secure an apartment long distance. He and Kevin spent the first couple of days looking at used cars, and most of them were in horrible condition. Evidently a lot of people just don’t take care of their vehicles. But our neighbors had indicated that they might like to sell their third car and I told them to let me know. They did, he drove it and bought it. It’s a 2007 Audi A4 2.0T. It’s in great shape, and best of all, was in his price range. It’s his first car (his previous car was what Kevin and I bought him when he turned 16) and it’s a beauty.

Justin's new wheels, pointed east in the driveway

Now, he’s heading east. Toward a new adventure, a new life. And new opportunities. We’re so proud of him, and can’t wait to see – and experience – all of the success that awaits him. Go east, young man, go east. We love you.

Vines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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live out loud

Save the wine. Save the trip.

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 20, 2017 10:15 PM

A week ago today we went to California. We dropped Riley at the pet resort, a nicety that he didn’t seem to appreciate at all, and then peddled our way across the desert. We did this last summer, too. It’s become a new tradition. We go twice a year now, the other time being for Thanksgiving. Both trips involve Roy and Bobbi and a house we all rent together. For the summer trip, we always stay in LA overnight on Thursday, then get up to drive the remaining three hours to Paso on Friday morning. At Thanksgiving, we stay for four nights. During the summer, just two.

We arrived at our hotel just after 5, took a shower and then met Roy and Bobbi for dinner on the lake in Westlake Village. It was a lovely way to start our long weekend. 

By Friday at 11, we were at Rabbit Ridge, on the north west side of Paso. It’s one of our favorites and we’re members, as we are of at least five wineries in the area. Normally when we go wine tasting, we explore mostly new ones – wineries we haven’t yet visited – while also hitting maybe one or three of our favorites. This trip, Kevin decided it might be fun to do a greatest hits tour. So we were only going to visit our favorites, ones we’d already visited, ones where either we were members or Roy and Bobbi were. 

For the next two days we visited places like Zenaida and Niner, Barr, Sculpterra and Vina Robles. We close every wine tasting trip at Vina Robles. They have a members-only lounge where they have comfortable couches, pour all the wine you want and then some, and even serve gourmet appetizers. It’s probably the best wine in Paso, and while we always worry that one time it will finally disappoint us, it never does. 

We bought seven plus cases of wine on our trip. We had great conversations with great friends. We ate well; we slept well. We had fun. 

On Sunday morning, Kevin and I packed up the Sport and left at 6:30 a.m. We had an 11 hour drive ahead of us and we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. Kevin drove the first part, just until we got to Calabasas where we were going to stop and get coffee and something to eat. I had a bit of writing to do that I needed to finish before the end of the day, so it worked well. I took over in Calabasas, and off we sped, across the Valley, through Burbank and Glendale, into Pasadena and then off into the desert. 

Before we left Arizona, Kevin and I had both noticed that the Sport’s AC didn’t seem to be as cool as it was before. We took it to the dealer and asked them to check it, telling them that we would be driving through the desert in July and really would need our air conditioning. They assured us that it was blowing cold; that all was good. 

And it was. It was fine on the trip on Thursday. It was great all through Paso Robles, and it was hot in Paso. High 90s/low 100s. And it was fine early on Sunday. But then, it seemed to get warmer in the car. We kept turning the temp down on the climate control and nothing happened. It became clear that the AC had stopped working at an optimum level. While it was still cooler in the car than outside, it was not comfortable. It was not right. And it was cooking our wine. 

Wine does not like to be in warm temperatures. It prefers about 58º, which is what our wine room is set to. On Sunday, we were hell and gone from that room. We got cranky, we started to fight. We knew that riding through the entire desert and into more desert would ruin the seven plus cases we had in the back. 

So, after screaming and yelling at each other, we exited the freeway in Blythe, California, a lovely hole of a town that we refer to as Blight, found a rite-aid and proceeded to buy five Styrofoam coolers and several bags of ice. In the parking lot, under intense sun, and horrendous heat, we opened our cases, distributed the wine into the coolers, poured ice over each, reloaded them into the back of the care, disposed of the broken case boxes, and climbed back into the Sport. I fired up the ignition. And voila, the AC was working.

Still, we saved the wine. Because if we hadn’t, it would have ruined the trip. We celebrated rite-aid last week, something we’ve never done previously and not sure we’ll do again, but they were there when we needed them. And when the wine needed them. And for that, we were and are very, very, very happy.

Our cup runneth not at all

by Lorin Michel Monday, July 10, 2017 8:44 PM

Regular readers know that I am not religious. I consider myself a good person, highly moral even. But I stopped believing when I was 15 and stood up in my backyard one Sunday morning, dressed in the appropriate Sunday attire of a teensie weensie bikini (no polka dots, definitely not yellow) and announced to my dad who was standing just outside the house that I wasn’t going to church. He glared at me. His mother, who was extremely religious and went to church three or four times a week, was visiting and standing behind him. He was taking the family to church because we always went to church when my grandmother visited. It was the only time. And I was finished with the hypocrisy. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

I can go to a Catholic service to this day and recite every part of it from memory. Obviously I don’t go often, but people getting married, people baptize babies, and we get invited. Kevin was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school through 12th grade. He jokes that he was beaten by the best, meaning nuns. We both joke that we’re recovering, that it’s a twelve century program. 

There is a prayer said in Catholic churches and other Christian churches around the world. It is The Lord is My Shepherd, or Psalm 23, taken from the Old Testament. There are many translations of the Psalm, originally written in Hebrew. But the gist is the same. That god provides, that all is wonderful. As is usual with translations there are a number of thous and ths and ests. The middle of the Psalm is basically this:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.             

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.  Thou anointest my head with oil.  My cup runneth over.

Again, I am not religious and as far as I’m concerned oil is used to anointest my skillet as I sauté something. The cup runneth over thing is pretty self-explanatory and most of the time, that’s how I feel. My cup is filled. I have a good life. I have love and laughter. Life, as the saying goes, is good. Sometimes it’s so good that my cup definitely runneth over.

This morning we left to walk through the valley of the shadow of hell since the temperatures have been high. There were scant clouds in the sky though the humidity seemed unusually high. The air wasn’t moving. It wrapped around us like a blanket, oppressive and heavy. Nothing was moving. Kevin glanced up at the weather station we have positioned just above the turn-about in the driveway. The wind paddles, small white cups that spin to tell us the wind speed, were motionless.

“Our cups runneth … not at all,” said my recovering Catholic husband.

Later this afternoon, the winds roared in accompanied by dark skies, rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. The temperatures dropped from 107 to 80 to 73. Our cups were running over with rain. Luckily the rain gauge was there to captureth it all.

Praise be to dog.

I can’t deal with cleaning up. Let’s sell the house.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 1, 2017 8:34 PM

My parents used to entertain every once in a while. I remember several times, like the surprise party mom threw for my dad’s 40th birthday. Friends from everywhere descended upon the house and when my dad answered the door, there was a group of his friends from his previous life even before he had us. I don’t remember the party all that well other than there was quite a group of people, eating and drinking the night away while my father beamed. After it was all over, I’m sure we had to clean up before going to bed because my mother always cleaned up before going to bed. It didn’t matter what time it was, if there was a mess in the kitchen, it had to be dealt with so that it was gone in the morning and she – and everyone – could start the day anew. 

For years, I subscribed to this same philosophy. It didn’t matter how late it was when people departed my home. When they were gone, I went to the kitchen to rinse plates and load them into the dishwasher, wash any pots and pans, as well as glassware from cocktails. On the rare occasion that I used my china, I also hand washed that. Leaving a pan to soak overnight because it was simply too crusted to clean immediately was my worst sin. 

Somewhere along the way to middle age, I stopped doing that. I don’t remember when it happened. Perhaps it was after Kevin and I got together. Our relationship has always been fun and easy; we’re each other’s best friend. I think because of the easy nature of our lives together, it occurred to me without ever really thinking about it that I could leave plates on the counters and used pots on the stove and go to bed. That it would all still be there in the morning, and that it would all clean up just as easily then.

Maybe it was because we became late eaters, rarely having dinner before 8:30, a practice that continues to this day. While not especially healthy, it has become habit. Also, we work until about 7 each night, then we shower. By the time I get around to cooking, it’s often close to 8. By the time we’re done eating, we just want to relax and maybe watch a little television. Soon, we’re tired. The dishes sit on the counter; any pots or pans remain on the stove.

Last night we had some people over for dinner. It was casual, just like we like it. I made an artichoke-jalapeno dip in my small crock pot, put out some pita chips and cheese and crackers. Kevin made cosmopolitans and poured wine. For dinner, I made a pasta primavera and a big Caesar salad and sliced some bread that I served with a pesto balsamic dipping sauce. About 9 o’clock we noticed there were fireworks in the distance so off we all went to the deck where we spent the rest of the evening. Everyone left somewhere around 11 I think. Not terribly late, but by then we were tired and simply went to bed, leaving the kitchen for another day.

This morning, I looked at the havoc I had wrought and all I could think of was Marilyn Lovell. 

The 1995 film Apollo 13 – one of favorites – begins with the famous moonwalk by Neil Armstrong. There is a party at the Houston home of astronaut Jim Lovell and his wife, Marilyn, played in the film by Tom Hanks and Kathleen Quinlan. All the astronauts who aren’t in space are there, including the men who would eventually join Lovell on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. There is much champagne and eating and something about Cadet Lovell getting a haircut. After everyone leaves, Jim is in the backyard, lying on a chase lounge gazing up at – what else – the moon. Marilyn comes out and says: “I can’t deal with cleaning up. Let’s sell the house.”

My thoughts this morning.

Friends, food, cocktails, fireworks. Worth the mess on a Saturday morning and definitely worth celebrating.

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The bathing suit dilemma

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 29, 2017 10:46 PM

When I was in college I had a gray striped bikini that I loved. That was back in the day when I was skinny and looked good in a bikini. I had it in a beach bag in the back of my Toyota Celica in my garage one night for reasons I can no longer remember. It got stolen, along with my beach bag and a small tool kit I kept in the car for emergencies. I remember thinking how disgusting it was that someone would steal a used bikini. Also, I was pissed. While I bought others, I was never able to replace that bikini. I remember it fondly to this day.

I used to like shopping for bathing suits. It was fun, and I was in great shape. Picking out a bathing suit wasn’t difficult. It was an enjoyable experience. 

I didn’t swim a lot but I did love the sun. Too much. I am paying for it now, all these years later. 

As I got older, I stopped loving the sun in terms of sunbathing. I still love it. Love its energy and its beauty; don’t love what it has done to and for my skin. Still one needs a bathing suit in order to partake in pool parties and go on vacation to tropical places like Hawaii.

I don’t have a good bathing suit. It’s been years since we went anywhere tropical or that required swimming or even just sitting in the water. Still, one needs to have one just in case. We’re already making plans for a trip next year to either Hawaii or Cabo San Lucas, where we’ll stay at a resort and sit under cabanas and swim up to aquabars; where we’ll stroll the beaches and soak up the warmth, if not the sun. I’ve been dreading the idea of finding a bathing suit. I thought I could put it off. I hoped. Today, I was confronted with the bathing suit dilemma body-on. 

Friends of ours have a home in San Carlos, Mexico. It’s not far from here, about 5 hours or so by car. When we’ve gotten together, we’ve talked about going down, joining them for a weekend, or renting one of their condos and going by ourselves. I got a text this morning from Susan: I have to go to SC next weekend to deliver some parts for the boat. Wanna come?

Just the girls. No husbands. No dogs (they have two; we have one). 

Naturally I said yes, of course, fabulous, love it, can’t wait. Except for that one tiny issue. I DON’T HAVE A DECENT BATHING SUIT. 

I immediately dialed up the internet and started looking at what the styles are today, what might look good on me, on a body that’s much different than the one that easily wore the bikini that got stolen out of her 1979 Toyota Celica.

Evidently something called tankinis are very in. Two pieces that have a tank type top and different types of bottoms including swim shorts. I was intrigued. They seemed perfect for this old body of mine.

So I ordered two. Both will be here by mid-next week. In time for my weekend trip to Mexico. Hopefully one will work. If not, I’ll be wearing shorts and a tank, and hoping for the best. Either way, I’ll be in Mexico, on a boat, having fun. And that’s a good thing.

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The four elements of the apocalypse, desert edition

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 27, 2017 8:22 PM

Kevin went to the doctor today. He has a great relationship with his physician, a man who, coincidentally, happens to live in our little ‘hood. He’s a DO, a doctor of osteopathic medicine which means he advocates a whole-person approach to care. He’s a good guy, and I might have chosen him myself except for two things: it’s a little odd to see your doctor every day as well as at homeowner’s association meetings, and I also prefer female doctors, for all specialties.

It’s been hot here, the June-furnace has been blasting now for several weeks. We get this every year right before the monsoons hit. It’s been brutal. Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we recorded 120º up here on the hill, a temperature I feel pretty good touting because it comes directly from our own personal weather station. It’s also been windy, a continuous hot breath that offers a grand total of zero relief. Mostly we stay in the house. We urge Riley to pee quickly when he has to go out. 

With the heat comes fire, plague and pestilence. We’ve had brush fires burn, thankfully none close enough to threaten us, just close enough to smell and see the smoke. We haven’t had plague or pestilence, also thankfully because that would be bad. We have, however, had our fair share of creatures and by creatures, I mean bugs. We have been over-run with box elders, tiny flying beetles. They’re outside, but they’re disgusting. We’ve seen snakes. There have been toads. Also the lizards have been prolific. 

Kevin’s doctor, who lives in the house just below us, swims every morning before he leaves for work. He was entertaining Kevin with tales of not going into the pool because it was occupied by a toad, and that he draws the line at sharing his pool with creatures. He has had box elders and toads sticking to his windows. He has had pack rats eating the wiring to his lighting and poor equipment, and ground squirrels and rabbits oh my. Scorpions and lizards and cicadas. 

“Basically half of everything ever talked about in the bible,” he joked. 

Kevin laughed. When he told me the story, I laughed, too. Because it’s funny. It also happens to ring a little too true.

The start of this summer has been hotter than usual, drier and windier. That heat has brought out the bugs in droves. Bugs that cling to the side of the house, that climb the windows, that die and congregate in piles of black carcasses on the portico and the deck. They look, at first glance, like raisins, only infinitely less appetizing. 

Toads, bigger than usual, descend upon the house at night. They haunt the top step leading down to the front door, sitting there until the dog sees them and begins to whine and squeal. Let me at ‘em. As if that’s going to happen. These toads are poisonous to dogs.

The heat speaks for itself. The winds are wicked and wild. 

There is no water, no rain in the forecast. Only sun as far as the weather report can see. It is biblical. This is how polite society ends, pulling its hair out because it can’t get rid of the annoying bugs, having to co-exist with Colorado river toads, and never being allowed outside because of spontaneous combustion, with your ashes blown away by 20 mph winds with gusts up to 50.

Welcome to the apocalypse, desert edition. It’s about as religious as I get, and while I’m not into the bugs or the toads or the heat or the wind, I am very much into the storms that follow. May they come soon and wash away our sins.

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Red Rover, Red Rover … uh, red Rover?

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 25, 2017 8:20 PM

Kevin has a 1992 Range Rover Classic. Along with his Gold Wing, it’s his mechanical pride and joy. We bought it in July of 2016 after months of searching. He needed a truck, but didn’t want a traditional pick-up. He wanted something that was enclosed so that if he had to haul things a long way, those things wouldn’t be subjected to the harsh elements of the Sonoran desert. That meant an SUV but one that was big enough. He also tends to like classics. Yes, they’re more temperamental in some ways, but in others, they’re also easier to fix since they’re not completely governed by electronics.

Before we got married, he had a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. It looked like an SUV but at the time, which was before the rush of sport utility vehicles, it was classified as a station wagon. He had always loved the look. Big, boxy, square. The interior was fairly utilitarian but it was comfortable. It was also in phenomenal shape. He put brush guards on the front and it was a head turner. It also had leaf spring shocks making it a very rough ride. I got to the point where I didn’t particularly enjoy riding in it. That’s when we bought our first Land Rover, a Discovery Series II. In Land Rover forums and when buying parts at places like Atlantic British, people call them Discos. 

My current vehicle is my second Land Rover Range Rover, this time a Sport. The first Range Rover we had was a fabulous car. Truck, the mechanics called it. Not like a truck I’d ever ridden in. It had heated seats, dual climate control, the ability to raise and lower the vehicle depending on what was needed. It rode on air shocks. It was red. Unfortunately, this particular model of Range Rover, designated a P38 by Land Rover, had a fatal engine sleeve flaw. Eventually we had a choice to make: rebuild the engine, or buy a new car. That was in 2012. 

I loved my first Range Rover. It was big, comfortable, flawless on the exterior and interior, and had a bitchin’ sound system to boot. When we had to get rid of it, I was not happy. We had fallen in love with the Range Rover Sport when they first came out in 2005, so we decided to get one. Kevin: “Don’t you even want to look at something else?” Me: “No.” 

Not only did we not look at something else, we bought another red one.

There is a review about the Range Rover that basically describes it as a limousine that can climb a tree That’s fairly accurate. They’re built for off-roading, for traversing mountains and streams. My beloved Sport does none of those things. I’m a typical limousine SUV owner. I love the bigness, love the luxury. Use very few of the off-road capabilities. I baby this car. I don’t like it used to haul things. 

So when we moved and Kevin decided he needed a truck, we looked at old Land Cruisers again, and settled on an old Range Rover, the models before the P38. We looked here in Arizona, even driving up to the norther part of the state to test drive a couple. Our budget was $5000. The trucks we test drove were in appalling shape. Then we found one on Craig’s List in Chino Hills. It was a 1992, with 188,000 miles on it. For $3500. Also, it was red. We talked to the guy, looked at the pics, and decided that it just might be perfect. Kevin flew to Ontario, Ubered to the guy’s house, test drove it, bought it for $3000, and drove it home that night. 

He loves it. I love it. We both love that it can haul whatever he needs to haul, without having to employ the use of my beloved Sport. They’re both beautiful trucks.

This morning, we were outside, with two of the garage doors open. I started to laugh. Red Rover in stall three; Red Rover in stall one. And there in the center, the most beautiful red “rover” we have, our beloved Riley Boo. And he’s always worth celebrating.

The Middle

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:50 PM

At any given time, the number of women in this country who are on a diet is somewhere around 50%. That’s according to the Judy Mahle Lutter book “The Bodywise Woman.” Others have estimated it to be half that much. Regardless, when you consider that there are some 126 million women, that’s a bunch. Up to 90% of teenagers diet regularly and even 50% of younger kids have tried a diet at some point. The numbers aren’t that hard to believe when you realize that, according the Marketdata, Americans spend somewhere between $46.3 billion and $100 billion each year on weight loss products. It’s probably because the Centers for Disease Control have told us that 62% of us are overweight or obese. Another 9 million kids are suffering from that particular malady as well.

I bring all of this up because I have no idea now to diet. I was a fat baby but after that, I was pretty slim. I went through high school thin, though never skinny. I had a brief flirtation with what it was like to gain wait when I was in college, which I blamed on dining hall food. That quickly got under control when I moved into an apartment and started working at a restaurant known for its pizza. I also catered for a restaurant known for its clambakes on the beach. I lived on pizza, lobster and alcohol, and was in great shape. I was also 21.

Another flirtation with minimal weight gain happened in my mid 20s. I’m not sure what was behind it but I remember feeling a little thicker than usual during one trip north to wine country. It didn’t last long, and I was fairly quickly back to normal. I was always able to eat and drink what I wanted without consequence. My blood pressure has been low, my cholesterol fine. I exercised a lot when I was younger. Everything worked well.

Then I turned 50. Suddenly nothing worked at all, including my ability to not gain weight and gain weight I have. Not a ton, but enough that it bugs me. Nothing fits me as well as it used to. I feel thick and dumpy. 

The problem I’m really having though is that because I never had a weight problem, I never learned how to diet. I don’t know how to navigate these new heavier waters. It’s foreign to me, and GPS is not working at all. And the fact is, I’m not actually a believer in diets. I think most people are too harsh on what they allow themselves to eat, and so they drop weight but then, because they’ve deprived themselves, they end up falling off their diet and gaining everything back plus. 

Moderation, it seems, is key. It worked for me in the past when I felt a little off. Cut back a bit and everything was/is fine. 

But did I mention about turning 50? Now the cutting back a bit doesn’t seem to work very well. I blame metabolism. I blame menopause. I blame age-rot. I blame the middle. As in my middle. 

The point is, I’m trying to diet in my own way, cutting back on what I eat, especially when it comes to carbs. And I love carbs. Oh, how I love carbohydrates. Pasta, bread, potatoes. Chips. I love to eat; I love to drink wine. But the middle can no longer be ignored. So this week, Kevin and I have decided – not to diet – but to eat healthier. Cut back on carbs. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. 

We’re both determined to do something about our middles. 

Yesterday and today I made us smoothies in the morning. I poured orange juice into the blender, then added yogurt (strawberry yesterday, blueberry today), and fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, blueberries). Blended. Poured. Tasty. For lunch today, I made salads. I always put raisins on my salads. I like the hint of sweet with the tang of salad dressing.

Then I saw on HealthPlus50 that three of the worst culprits for an expanding middle are … yogurt, raisins and orange juice. Still, I have to believe that yogurt, raisins and orange juice are still better that toast, bagels, or poptarts.

mmmmm. Poptarts. I think they come in blueberry, a perfect complement to my smoothies.

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