Finding a decent Chinese restaurant and other stuff

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 3, 2017 9:34 PM

It’s Friday. I wondered aloud today how much longer I can continue to run at this ridiculous pace. I wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular and the only person within earshot was the husband unit. Riley was in my office but he was sleeping and didn’t care much. The answer to my wonder was and is, of course, as long as necessary. For weeks, I have been slammed. I start work early in the morning; I work until late into the evening. And school. Every day is like this, and if I take any time off, meaning, like, Saturday, I don’t sleep because I have too much to do and I’m behind, and so I wonder. 

I have a big assignment due for school on Monday. I am not close to being done. I have essentially two more days. I am nervous, but I will get something done that will hopefully be OK. I am not doing well in this class though, partly because it’s a harder class and mostly because my work load is so over the top that there simply isn’t much time for anything else. I’m trying. I’m also failing, I hope not literally. 

I have neglected my blog. I was so strict for so long about writing and posting daily, but because of the work and school and the current state of our country, I have let that slide. Some days I’m busy; some I just can’t find anything good to write about. It’s not a good habit to get into. I remember not too long ago when there would be a technical issue prohibiting me from posting and I would be apoplectic. That doesn’t happen now. I don’t like it and need to get back to it. I will be better. 

My kid is coming home soon. He’ll be here for a month or so, then he’s off to Australia. I’m looking forward to him being here – we all are. It’s going to be interesting to see what he and Kelsey decide to do. After Australia, which is only about a six week gig, he’ll be off again. He’ll need to think about the future, about changing jobs, changing tours, or getting a more staid and stagnant job. Hmmmm. 

April is going to be a very busy month here at Il Sogno. Justin will be here. Roy and Bobbi are thinking of coming for a weekend. Jeff and Chris (Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law) may come, too. My sister and her family are thinking about a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and then to see us.

Riley is having skin issues. Spring brings out his allergies. On top of all of his anxiety, once the weather changes, he starts to itch. He’s been itching badly. I wonder if it’s a metaphor. 

Kevin fixed the brakes on his Classic. The independent dealership wanted $1500; he did it for about $325. We took it out tonight and Kevin had me drive. I have to admit to a bit of nervousness as we pulled out of the driveway and started down the very steep Falcon Crest. We took Riley. Destination: China Bamboo.

China Bamboo is a Chinese restaurant we’ve only gotten food from once. Tonight marks the second time. Shrimp egg rolls, vegetable egg rolls, vegetable lo mein, Szechuan shrimp. 

The truck rattled and rolled down Catalina Highway, across Tanque Verde, and into the parking lot. Kevin jumped out, got the food, climbed back in and off we went again. The brakes were good, the truck was good, the food once we got home was also good.

It’s Friday. I’m still working, taking just a few minutes to dash off a ridiculous post because I’m feeling guilty and running at a ridiculous pace that shows no sign of abatement. But it’s not bad; it’s all good. Being busy, being in school, having good Chinese food, and that Justin is coming home soon… it’s all worth celebrating.

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The old person’s video game

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:05 PM

In 1972, Atari came out with a game called Pong. It was essentially an electronic ping-pong game. They first put their console in a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern. Within days, the game was acting weird so Atari sent technicians to find out what the problem was, fearing that it would hurt their success potential. The technicians discovered that the reason the game wasn’t acting correctly was because the console was overfilled with quarters from people trying to play the game. Success. Soon after, in 1975, they created a home version and sold it through Sears. My dad bought one and we learned quickly how to maneuver the now antiquated controls to knock a small ball back over the ‘net so the other player could do the same. It had various speeds, and someone would eventually not be able to get their “paddle” – a square block of technology – into the right position. The electronic ball, just a round white disc, would sail past. Point. 

The game was in black and white, if it could be called that. The screen was black but the extremely crude game pieces were white/blue. It was like an old computer, which is essentially what it was. I remember playing it, but never being addicted to it. I think eventually Atari made more games and I’m sure my father upgraded the system. He was also one of the first to buy a VCR. I wasn’t a game person but someone in the house must have been. Maybe my brother, and perhaps my dad. 

Video games progressed to Pac Man in the early 1980s. We had Pac Man game consoles in the restaurant where I worked in college. They were always populated with frat boys who would place their mugs of beer on the side as they hooted and hollered while eating up whatever stuff as they maneuvered their game guy through a maze. I don’t know that I ever played Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man which was the same except pink. 

Atari begat Nintendo which begat Play Station. When Justin was little we had Play Station. He was also completely enamored with Game Boy. He had several versions, beginning when he was fairly young. He never went anywhere without it, including camp. I picked him up one day after they returned from one of their excursions, maybe to Disneyland or Magic Mountain, pullin up in my BMW to find him in tears, sitting on the curb. It wasn’t because I was late; I wasn’t. It was because he’d lost his Game Boy. I sat down next to him, put my arm around his quivering shoulder and asked him to tell me what happened; where he had lost it. He looked up at me through his enormous glasses, his eyes rimmed with tears. He was maybe 8. Evidently when he’d gotten out of the bus, someone hit his arm, and his Game Boy crashed to the ground where it proceeded to slide down into the drain. The drain that was right beneath us. I got down on the ground and looked and sure enough, there it was, in all of its bright yellowness, resting on a bed of leaves. 

“Let’s go get a handle and see if we can fish it out,” I told him. This gave him hope. We buzzed home. I grabbed a broom handle, the small shovel and a roll of duct tape. We drove back, I attached the shovel to the broom handle with the tape and then laid down on the road to try to fish it out. Justin was squatted next to me, watching with great anticipation. 

I was very determined but ultimately would have probably been unsuccessful. Thankfully, two guys in a pickup truck pulled up and asked if they could help. I told them what was going on. They had a crowbar in their truck. They pried up the manhole cover leading to the drain. Justin scampered down, retrieved his Game Boy, and all was right with the world.

Kevin and I have never been fans of video games. Justin upgraded his Play Station. He may have had something else as well, though I don’t think he had a Wii. He still plays video games on his computer and can sit for hours doing nothing more than that. He’s 26 now, but still loves it. 

Kevin plays a game on the iPad. It’s solitaire. The old fashioned card game created for one person. He opens the app, shuffles the cards, and proceeds to play game after game by simply touching the screen. He loves it, and I can’t help but laugh. Justin slays dragons and progresses up through levels as he kills or whatever. Kevin turns over cards and occasionally tackles the daily challenge.

It’s the old person’s version of a video game. And I think it’s worth celebrating.

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Anadotal. The evidence is in.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 28, 2017 8:47 PM

My husband loves to mispronounce words. He does it on purpose, mostly to aggravate me. And mostly I let him do so. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and an English major before that, but I’m a stickler for proper spelling and proper pronunciation. I strive to do both; sometimes I succeed. Usually when I don’t it’s not on purpose, as opposed to the husband unit.

We’ve been engaging in this dance for quite some time. Whenever I bring it up he usually tells me that it has something to do with some comedian named Norm Crosby who evidently made a fairly decent living mispronouncing things. In fact, Crosby was known as a master of the malapropism, the use of an incorrect word resulting in a “nonsensical, often humorous utterance.” So sayeth Wikipedia. So sayeth my husband, too, a man well-practiced in the art of the malaprop. 

Yesterday, in the shower, he started talking about anadotal evidence. I don’t know what the original conversation was about, and it was probably about politics, because as soon as he said anadotal, my mind went blank and my brain started to steam. 

“Anadotal,” I said in a tone so flat as to be shoe leather. 

“Yep,” he said, scrubbing shampoo into his hair. “Ana Dotal. She sat in front of me in 4th grade.” 

“Anadotal. Ana Dotal. So… the c is silent?” 

He grinned and stepped under his shower head to wash the suds away and down the drain. 

So we have anadotal evidence of things that aren’t necessarily true or based on fact, much like our current administration. There is no truth or fact because we are living in the world of alternative facts and truthy truths. 

Which leads me to today in the desert. I was in the bedroom, making the bed, or cleaning up or doing something worthwhile when I heard Kevin call to me. He sounded full of angst and/or pain. I came out quickly, wondering what could possibly be the matter. He was grimacing, standing in a weird position, with his body thrust forward, his butt pushed back. 

“What?” I asked, concerned. “Are you ok?” 

“Is there something…” he turned around… “here?” Stuck to his pants was a rather chunky piece of cholla. 

“Yep,” I said, laughing. “Want me to remove it?”

He glared at me. I grinned back.


The cholla I pulled out of the husband-unit's butt

Anecdotally, the husband unit had a piece of cactus stuck to his butt. It meant something, likely that he should stay away from cholla, and that he shouldn’t put his butt in places it doesn’t belong.

Anadotally, of course.

That’s my tray

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 9, 2017 7:16 PM

In the United Kingdom, 60% of people eat dinner in front of the telly. I don’t have the figures for this country though I would venture to say that at least 75% of us eat in front of the television. Kevin and I do nearly every night. The exception tends to be Friday or Saturday, but rarely both, holidays and when we have company. We rarely even turn the television on when we have company.

I don’t know when the practice started but it was sometime when Justin was little and we lived in Oak Park. We had a rectangular coffee table between the two couches. Each night, we’d all sit on the floor with our legs under the table, Japanese style. It went on that way for years. Then Kevin hurt his back so getting down on the floor to eat was difficult at best and painful at worst. In shop class at school, Justin made us a wooden serving tray. It was for use when we entertained, like on Thanksgiving when we always had a houseful of people, but Kevin quickly commandeered it for use as a TV tray. Several years later, I got my own tray for Christmas. It was long after Justin had left for college. It was just the two of us, and our habits hadn’t changed. Each night, we’d fix our plates in the kitchen, with whatever we were eating, and then settle ourselves on opposite sides of the table, on opposing couches. 

It’s a practice we continue here. We have a routine. As I cook dinner, he gets the two trays out of the pantry, puts a placemat on each, and then sets them as mini-tables. A napkin, and whatever eating utensils we need. Forks and knives usually. Sometimes chopsticks for me if we’re having Chinese food. Then he gets out two plates and puts them on the center island. When I’m done cooking whatever I’m cooking, I arrange the food on the plates, put each on a tray and then off we go to the Great Room, still sitting on opposite couches, though now those couches are perpendicular.

Last night was no different than most, other than we were having something terribly healthy – grilled chicken Caesar salad. Kevin worked the grill, also part of his job. I fixed the salad which consisted of romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, a bit of onion and shaved parmesan cheese. Once the chicken was done, I sliced it and arranged it on the portions of lettuce, drizzled some of Ken’s Creamy Caesar dressing on top, added some fresh ground pepper and then Kevin took his plate and I took mine, and we adjourned to the couches. It was then that I realized what had happened. 

I looked at him. 

“What?” he asked.

“That’s my tray,” I said.

We sat there, eating our salads, watching Madam Secretary, me coveting my tray.

“Do you want to switch?” he asked, raising his plate.

“No, of course not,” I said, even though I secretly did. I like my tray; I’m used to it. It fits well on my lap, and it’s mine.

Can you covet your own TV tray? Last night, I was doing just that, and then I realized the ridiculousness of it, and the retentiveness of me. And I laughed out loud.

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Twas the day after Christmas

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 26, 2016 6:07 PM

And all through the casa, not a human was stirring, not even Mufasa. You’ll have to pardon my lack of creativity but a) I’m tired and 2) I’m a big fan of Mufasa, always have been and it’s the only thing I could think of that rhymed with casa. We’re tired today, exhausted really. We had a lovely day yesterday, filled with Facetime and texts and presents and mimosas and coffee and coffee cake and stockings. And then we cleaned everything up – including ourselves – in order to prepare for guests and dinner. Said guests arrived just after five, in time for sunset, and the festivities began anew.

Roy and Bobbi are here, of course. It’s our third Christmas with them, here in the desert; the second in the new house. I think they enjoy coming; I hope they do. I know it’s always hard to be away from home and life, but we so look forward to them being here. We live well together, all of us. There’s never really an agenda. We sit around working or playing on our computers or texting with our phones. We listen to music, we eat good food and drink great wine. It’s always lovely. 

Ric and Jane joined us last night for dinner. They’re new friends, who live here most of the year. For the three summer months, they live in Michigan. They bought a house west of here and had it remodeled. It’s actually how we met them. Our architect had used us as a referral when they contacted him about perhaps doing their house. Jane and I hit it off on the phone and the next time they were in town, they came to the house to see in person what Mike had done. They didn’t end up hiring him but, as we like to joke, they “hired” us. We’ve all become friends. They’re from Chicago, and they’re rabid democrats. They like good food and good wine. We get along wonderfully. 

Kevin and I made prime rib. I made twice-bake potatoes, and asparagus with a touch of lemon juice and blue cheese crumbles. We had martinis and wine and talked politics and therapy, there being no real correlation between the two other than the obvious. 

They left and the four of us sat in front of the fire for a few minutes before going to bed. We were tired, and sated with too much good food and good wine. At 3 am, a smoke detector decided its battery needed to be changed, this one right outside of the guest room. Annoying, tiring, and requiring a ladder. Kevin changed it out, and while he and I got back to sleep OK, Roy and Bobbi didn’t sleep well at all. I felt horrible all day because of that. I know that I didn’t make the 3 am chirp happen and that it’s one of those random house things that happens to everyone. But still. You like to have guests be able to rest and relax when they’re in your home. Ours have only been able to do so sporadically. I feel bad. 

Today we went out to a healthy lunch then to a shop Bobbi likes. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home so that I could get stuff to make chicken and mushrooms with asiago gravy, mashed potatoes and baby French carrots. Comfort food. 

When we walked into the house, the same smoke alarm was once again chirping. We’re hoping it was just a defective battery, and not that there’s something more nefarious going on. Kevin got the ladder once again while I retrieved Riley whose back legs where shaking with fear. He doesn’t understand the loud and piercing chirp; it scares him. 

We replaced the battery again with the last of our 9 volts, and while Bobbi when to take a much-needed nap, the boys trucked back down the hill to Ace Hardware to get a fresh supply of batteries. We’ve decided we’re just going to change the batteries in all of the detectors that haven’t yet beeped so that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get a few years in before we’re once again, rudely awakened by beep.

We’re tired. We’re Christmas-ed out. Tonight we relaxed, Roy and Bobbi, Kevin and I, and our own Mufasa, king of the house, who spent the latter part of the day hiding behind the bathtub, cowering out loud.

A traditional Christmas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:36 PM

When we were growing up, my mother always worried that we weren’t having a traditional Christmas. We rarely had any extended family; it was usually just the five of us, plus the dog. She would make cookies, seemingly for weeks, putting them in the freezer. Pecan tassies, apricot twists, thumbprints. She was a phenomenal baker.

When we lived in New York, we had a split-level ranch, and one tree. It was in the living room and on Christmas morning we’d all gather around on the shag carpeting and open presents. When we moved to New England, we had a kid’s tree in the family room and my mother’s tree in the living room. That tree, all white and gold, with garland, glass ornaments, white and gold “space balls”, glass icicles, and white and gold and red birds, was the tree under which all of the packages went. On Christmas morning, we’d gather in there and open presents, one at a time. It was her way of making sure that everyone was involved, and that Christmas wasn’t over in a flash of flying wrapping paper, bows and string. 

She would sit on the couch and watch, collecting wrapping paper that she would dutifully fold for use next year. She did the same with bows. And then it was over. And she was always a little down. Years later, we talked about it and she said that one of the reasons she felt that way was because she had convinced herself that everyone else had a more traditional Currier and Ives kind of Christmas, with extended family gathered around and everyone making merry. Then she found out that no body actually had that; that the paintings and prints were fantasies made of snow and sleighs. 

For the longest time, I was often down at Christmas, too, especially because I was away from my family. But then, I too, realized that there really isn’t a traditional Christmas. The traditions are yours and your family’s to make. Kevin and Justin and I, along with Maguire, made our own. We would get up, just the four of us, on Christmas morning and with a nod to how we did things as a kid, we’d open packages one at a time. Justin was in charge of picking out presents for everyone, and he was always so good about waiting. He actually seemed to enjoy the process. Maguire would lay on the floor and watch everyone. We’d give him one of his toys and he’s chew for a bit, then, keeping it close, return to watching. After presents were opened, but before stockings, we’d all go to the kitchen. Kevin would pour coffee and we’d make Justin some hot chocolate. I’d put the cinnamon coffee cake I made every Christmas into the oven, then we’d all go back into the great room to open stockings. 

Because we live west and away from immediate family, we long ago created our own western version. We’d spend Christmas late afternoon into the evening with Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and whoever else. We’d make a great meal, open more presents and enjoy each other’s company. On the 26th, we always went wine tasting. It was tradition, and a great way to extend the holiday.

Today I baked cookies. We listened to Christmas music and wrapped presents. We gathered in the great room, the five of us – Roy and Bobbi and Kevin and I and Riley – and we huddled around the fire as a cold storm blew in. It’s the new tradition, having Roy and Bobbi here with us in the desert. It’s the third year they’ve come, and it’s lovely. We went out to dinner, listened to some jazz and came back to once again gather around the fire and listen to music.  

I’ve decided that traditions are anything you want them to be, anything you make them. There’s no right or wrong tradition. There’s no Currier and Ives, except on paper. We are our own Currier and Ives. We do our best to embrace those we love, both near and far. We wish for snow and accept rain and cold. We eat cookies and drink wine and enjoy each other, always. It’s what traditions are made of. 

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and more. Feliz Navidad from the all of us in the desert where we’re celebrating out loud.

In which we celebrate a day of obligation and the feast of the immaculate conception

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 8, 2016 9:21 PM

Today is the husband unit’s birthday. We’re not really doing much to celebrate. It’s a Thursday, which is typically date night, which usually means we would go out, and you know, celebrate. But we’re going to a street fair tomorrow afternoon, then coming back, getting cleaned up, and going out tomorrow night. And we have people coming Saturday night. So going out tonight just seemed like overkill. Plus when you get to be this old, birthdays are best ignored.

Which isn’t to say we’re ignoring his. Not at all. A friend of his, who runs his programming group, was in town and they met for lunch. He was gone for hours. Naturally, I posted something sentimental on Facebook and got lots of responses. Then he came home and Justin called and they talked for hours. Then his brother called and they talked for hours. In other words, there was plenty of celebration happening. Mostly without me, and that was ok.

In the Catholic religion, this day – December 8 – has two powerful things happening. It is a day of obligation, which means that if you’re Catholic, you’re required to attend mass. And the reason you’re obligated to do this is because of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Here’s what they have to say about that in Italy: The Feast Day marks the Immaculate Conception - that is, the conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

It's often mistakenly thought to mark Mary's conception of Jesus, but actually marks the conception of Mary herself. Unlike Mary, Saint Anne became pregnant in the usual biological way, Catholics believe, but the conception was 'immaculate' because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin.

According to Catholic dogma, all humans are born with original sin, which is why babies are baptized shortly after birth to make them worthy of entry to Heaven. But Mary was never tainted by original sin, kept 'immaculate' from the moment of her conception because God knew she would one day give birth to Jesus Christ. 

Typical Catholic stuff. Actually typical religion stuff. It makes perfect sense as long as you don’t think about it too much and don’t actually need it to make sense. When Kevin was young and went to Catholic school, and if December 8 fell during the regular school week, they had the day off. He loved that. Not because he could go to mass and celebrate someone’s conception, immaculate or not, but because he got the day off and could go out and play in the snow.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating at home. There’s no snow. We did not go to mass. There will, however, be a feast and it won’t be immaculate because the husband unit has requested barbecued ribs and fries.

I also bought him an eclair.

Now that’s worth celebrating.

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What vacation

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 27, 2016 7:21 PM

It always amazes me how quickly we return to our regularly scheduled lives, already in progress. We spent the last three full days in Paso Robles, on California’s central coast, cooking, visiting, hanging out, and of course, tasting wine. We arrived on Wednesday at 3 having left Tucson at the ridiculous hour of 4:30 am. We wanted to beat the traffic, or at least as much of it as possible, and for the most part we did. It got a little cranky as we made our way through Pasadena, and then again through Ventura along the coast but once we got past that snark and hiccup, we were fairly flying. 

We met Roy and Bobbi, our partners in all things wine, on the side of the road at the Vineyard exit. We hugged, and then we drove the rest of the way to the rental house, caravanning. Thus the adventure began. On Thursday, we went to one winery – believe it or not, four were open – and bought some wine for Thanksgiving. We cooked and had a meal that made us all want to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week. Luckily more wineries awaited on Friday and Saturday. 

We went to new places, as we always do, and found at least one new favorite in Ranchita Canyon. It’s small. But they make some lovely rich, dark reds. Reds with attitude. The kind of wine that puts hair on your chest. Our kind of wine. We bought a case and joined their wine club which gave us an automatic 25% off the case price. And because it was Black Friday, they were having everyone who purchased spin their wheel of fortune wheel for an additional percentage off. Yes, it was cheesy. But when I spun for an additional 25%, I didn’t think it was so dumb after all. 

We went to Rabbit Ridge and Graveyard, Villa San Juliette and J & J and Four Sisters. We bought wine at several and skipped the others. We went to our old favorites and proverbial stomping grounds: Niner, Vina Robles, Sculpterra. We tried another new winery on Saturday, Turley. A beautiful facility that specializes in Zinfandel. We’re not huge fans of Zin. Luckily they also had two Petite Sirahs.

And then, this morning came. Again, early, though not as bad as Wednesday. We got up close to 5:30 and after throwing some clothes on and brushing our teeth, hit the road for the long ride to Tucson just before 6. We wanted to beat the traffic, and we did, for the most part. After 10.5 hours, we pulled up our drive and into the garage. Home. 

We unloaded our six plus cases of assorted wines, as well as our suitcases. We unpacked quickly and put the suitcases away. The wine still waits outside the wine room door for entrance and sorting. We took showers, I started laundry. And now, as I type this, it’s just before 8 pm. I’m on my computer, working (and blogging). Kevin is at the eat-at bar, checking email. The football game is on. We settled back into our routines quickly and easily. Tomorrow, work begins with a vengeance. In some ways, it’s like the vacation never happened.

But it did, and as always, I am grateful. For friends, for wine; for great rental houses, for fun menus. For life. Let the holidays begin.

108 miles and not yet to Phoenix

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:48 AM

The first thing that happened was a text message at 12:17 am. We're selling our old artificial Christmas tree on Craig's List for $35 and there is evidently a desire for a six-foot tree in great condition. We didn't answer it because technically we were sleeping and conducting business regarding a used tree at that time of the morning/night is obscene.

At 3:15 I heard the hiss and snarl of the coffee maker as it finished brewing the 12 cups I'd asked it to make last night when we went to bed. I rolled over and clutched my pillow, balling it up under my head and snuggled in.

At 3:23 Kevin's alarm went off, a melodic song that always reminds me of Japan. He likes to set his alarm for strange times for reasons that I've never fully understood and he's never fully explained. I think he just likes to think he's being unpredictable. He sat up, reached for the phone and the chime was silenced.

At 3:30 my alarm went off, a chipper sound that belied the time of day. My ring tone for the alarm is more like a xylophone and way to happy for such an early hour. I sat up, turned it off, yawned, and said I miss my dog. 

Riley is in the kennel. We took him yesterday afternoon about 4:00. We've never left him in a kennel before. Last year, we left him at our vet's office. They board a very small number of animals and while it was fine, we didn't like that he was cooped up in a small room with no way to get outside to pee or poop. He had to wait for someone to come walk him. This year, we made a reservation at a traditional kennel with indoor/outdoor runs and we fretted about it the whole time. About a week and a half ago, Kevin stopped at another place near us, took a tour and came home to announce it was probably the nicest kennel he'd ever seen, also with indoor/outdoor runs. Plus the dogs are taken out into a little park type area every day to romp and play and sniff. Naturally they were booked but they put us on a waiting list. Yesterday, at about 11, they called. They had a cancellation and now had a run for Riley. It's a veterinary center which we like because our boy has anxiety issues. If something were to happen, if he gets too upset, they can help him. He was a nervous wreck when we took him in. It broke both of our hearts. We pick him up Monday morning. Until then, I'll call every day.

By 4:29, we pulled away from the house, the Sport loaded with suitcases and coolers. We reset the trip counter on the dash and started on our journey. We had a full tank of gas and hoped to average 22 miles per gallon. We didn't buy this car for its fuel efficiency. Last night Kevin checked all the fluids and the air in the tires. We scrubbed the windshield inside and out. We prepared.

It was dark and cold. The temp on the dash read 42. By the time we turned onto Catalina Highway it had dropped to 39 and a little snowflake appeared next to the numbers, the car's way of telling us it could snow soon. I reached over and turned on my seat warmer. Might as well have a hot butt, especially since we were both in shorts. At least I wore a sweatshirt.

The journey up the 10, then west through the desert and finally north along the ocean is 715 miles. 10 hours. 

The headlights lit our way. Kevin turned on the driving lights, too. Tonight we'll be in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. We'll have pizza and wine. We'll sit outside by the fire pit or inside next to the fire. It's supposed to be cold there too. 

But first we needed to get to Phoenix. Phoenix always seems like the official launching pad. When we come home, it always signifies the start of the final leg.

I looked over at the dash. 108 miles. I could see the lights of Phoenix sparkling ahead. Ready, set, go for vacation.

Riley and Bobbi have the best yawn noises. Kevin says Riley wins.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 30, 2016 9:20 PM

My husband is a yawner but a silent yawner. He almost always yawns in the car, but only when I’m driving. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is though it is more pronounced later in the afternoon and especially after we’ve seen a movie. The only sound he really makes is a little bit of a huff at the end as he pushes the air out of his lungs and finally closes his mouth. I tease him about it because I’ve never been much of a yawner. He’s like a little kid. Justin was always a yawner in the car, too. He also almost always fell asleep in the car when he was little.

I yawn only when I am beyond exhaustion. I yawn so seldom that when I do, Kevin stops and looks at me: “Did you just yawn?” The fact that he has to comment on it tells you all you need to know.

But nobody yawns better than Bobbi, who is also very proficient at it when in the car. Last Christmas, when we were on our way to Bisbee, and she was in the back of the Sport, the yawns were prolific, announced with vigor and finesse, an exhale accompanied by a high exclaim. Every time she did it, we’d laugh. We had never heard someone get so much volume and pleasure from a single yawn. We were impressed.

Enter Riley who is quite the yawner/stretcher/squealer. His noises are always fascinating and funny. None of our other dogs have had any particular noises other than what you’d expect from a dog. Maguire would growl with his toys and bark at the squirrels in the backyard. When he stood at the front door and decided we needed to be told about something in particular that may or may not have been of concern, he barked three times. Woof, woof (pause), woof. I don’t remember Cooper being much of a barker, though he did occasionally growl at his toys. 

And then there’s Riley. He is much more vocal. If he wants you to play with him, he’ll bring a toy (a “guy”) over, and drop it near you. Then he’ll back up, drop his ears and issue a guttural challenge. It’s pretty funny. When he bounds outside in the morning, usually with Wubba, he does so with gusto, whipping it back and forth and growling to great fanfare. 

In the early mornings, though, it’s the yawns that make us laugh. He starts by coming to one side of the bed or the other. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern; it’s simply whoever he deciphers as being awake first. He then lays his head on the mattress next to whoever, and as soon as his presence is acknowledged with eyes opening, the tail begins to wag. As we lean over to pet him, he then presses his whole body against the bed for a full length rub. 

But when we get up, the true fun begins. He backs up to allow us room to exit said bed. And then once we’re up, he stretches his front legs and paws out in front of him as far as he can, pushing his head and neck down and his butt up into the air. And while he manages this acrobatic act, he yawns, opening his mouth up as wide as possible so that we can practically look down his throat and see his tail. And then, he issues this high pitched squeal that we’re convinced will someday shatter glass. Then his jaw snaps closed and he pushed himself back up so that he’s completely standing, and he air snaps. Come on! Let’s go! 

This happens over the course of several minutes, several times, as we get ready for a walk.

So in the battle for who has the best yawn noises, we have to give it to Riley, probably also because of the stretch and the butt. Maybe if Bobbi could perfect that, she might be back in the running. I’ll have to talk to her.

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