We have a cactus down

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 13, 2016 12:00 AM

One of the things Kevin likes to do most is work in his yard. Of course, living in the middle of the Sonoran desert, the word “yard” is relative. We have no grass save for the hideous weed buffelgrass which can take over the world. It’s tall and green, especially after all of the rain we’ve received in the last two weeks, but it’s weak and we are in the process of destroying it, both on our property and in the entire development. Kevin has been working diligently the last few Saturday mornings, digging out clumps of buffel in order to clear it away from the rip rap below the house. There is much more to do and eventually we’ll have to hire someone. He’s just not up to removing buffelgrass from nearly four acres. 

He loves to work with all of the natural rock we have here. Called Catalina Gneiss, it’s a form of southwestern granite. The house is built on it. It surrounds us, to one extent or another, and we love it. It was one of the things we loved most about the property when we first bought it. Yes, it can be difficult because building on a mountain can require a lot of hammering, something our soon-to-be neighbors below found out when they spent nearly four months and double their initial hammering budget hammering out a buildable pad. 

Kevin uses the plentiful rock to create swales, rock ditches to help manage the flow of water. When it rains here, it is rarely nice. It’s often a violent, angry rain that dumps enormous amounts of water on us in a very short period of time. It pounds us from the sky and rushes down on us from the hillside above. We had some drainage when we moved in; it wasn’t enough. So he has been building up our rock-swales to divert the water away from and around the house. He’s done a remarkable job. 

On Saturday mornings, he gets up and puts on his work pants, heavy canvas to make the possibility of getting “bit” by all the many creatures and plants here less possible. He puts on a long-sleeve white t-shirt that long ago ceased being white. Steel-toed work boots. A hat. Heavy-duty gloves. And outside he goes for several hours. He sweats. He consumes large amounts of water. He strains his muscles. He loves every single minute of it. 

It’s his yard. He loves every aspect of it, too. 

Whether he’s rocking or buffeling, he is always mindful of the creatures, not seeking to disturb or harm any (except for maybe wasps, which let’s face it, must be destroyed). He is equally mindful of the various species of cactus that populate Southern Arizona’s Sonoran desert and thus our property. When someone who was attempting to put in the beginnings of a road above us, a project that has since been abandoned for its obvious folly, the guy flattened several ocotillos and prickly pears. Kevin grabbed them and replanted them on our property. Most if not all took and are now thriving. He had to move a tree once. He built a rock planter for it, and replanted that, too. And it is growing once again, lush and thick. He loves these plants, perhaps none more than the towering saguaros, the cactus synonymous with this area. The house being built below us had to remove several saguaros, and they hired professional saguaro removal teams. It’s a thing here. They’re protected. They can’t just be pushed aside. They have to either be moved or replanted, which is easier when they’re smaller. The 20, 30, 40 or 50 foot saguaros are almost impossible to move. 

When we built, we purposely built around several saguaros, taking them into account with the design of the house. We have three in the center of the driveway, one of which is at least 20 feet high if not taller. We also have a number that we built the lower rip rap around. They rise up so close to the house, right off the deck, that you can touch them. 

And yesterday, we lost one. I had gone into Kevin’s office in the afternoon for a reason that currently escapes me. I was looking out the French door that leads to his portion of the deck and something caught my eye. At first I wasn’t even sure what I was seeing. My brain couldn’t comprehend. I just knew that what I was seeing wasn’t right. In fact, it was very wrong. Oh. My. God. I said as I opened the door and stepped outside. 

One of our precious saguaros, the one that has been right outside the guest room, had fallen down into the desert, snapping at its base, taking its massive height and several spires (arms) down with it. We have no idea what happened and Kevin is beside himself. He loves these majestic plants.

So we have a cactus down. Our first one since we started building in December of 2013. We have pacified ourselves with the fact that even in the cactus world, there is a circle of life. This one has come to an end, but we will plant something in its place, and hopefully it too will grow and thrive. And reach for the sky.

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live out loud

Learning to exhale

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 8, 2016 10:01 PM

In the 1980s, Los Angeles was alive, vibrant. The music scene was the best it had been since the Whiskey a Go Go and Jim Morrison’s Doors took the city and the world by storm in the late 1960s. Some of the most famous restaurants in the world were serving customers at all hours, including Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s famous haunt up and behind Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. The Marlboro Man billboard still stood stories high, also on Sunset; smoking was still allowed in restaurants and bars. 

Always a car culture, the freeways bulged and the beach overflowed. Surfers surfed, artists made art, the city was teeming with youth and energy. There was also a lot of crime, crack and dirty grit. Downtown was mostly a disaster, but the West Side, Beverly Hills, and the Strip were happening. The weather was great, the atmosphere welcoming. It was the coolest place in the country to live. This is the LA that I moved to in 1986. I always felt so cool telling people back east, people I went to school with, people I’d just run into in the grocery store when I visited, that I lived in LA. It was glamorous, even if I wasn’t. All the beautiful people people lived in LA. It made me beautiful by proximity. 

I lived in Los Angeles for 27 years, the longest I ever lived anywhere in my life. It was very good to me. I started my career there, I made my closest friends there, I met my husband there. There was where my own family was created. 

Somewhere along the way, the city lost some of its shine. I think it happened when I started to get older. Like I said, LA is a young-town, obsessed with youth. If you’re not young, you don’t have a lot to offer. If you don’t have a lot of money and you’re not young, you definitely don’t have a lot to offer. I wasn’t and I didn’t. It started to become harder. The traffic was so bad that we never went anywhere. It became almost suffocating. We had the ability and the means, and so we left. We’ve been less stressed ever since. We’ve been able to exhale. 

I spoke with my friend Diane today, about this concept of exhaling. She and Gene had a similar reaction to Los Angeles, also having been there in its glory days. The city sparkled and glistened. Gene was a musician; Diane worked in a recording studio. They were the definition of LA. But they, too, grew older, and the city stubbornly refused to grow with them. With us. They, too, left, moving to Oregon. 

The weight of the city has been lifted from us. Suddenly, we don’t have to compete to be the youngest and the hippest. Now, we’re free to simply be the ones with the best lives. We have homes with yards or in our case, land. We’re making friends. We’re working but we’re less stressed about it all; about life.

We’ve learned to breathe, to enjoy, to live it out loud. 

We’ve learned to exhale.

From the what the hell is wrong with us file

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 6, 2016 8:02 PM

Kevin and I are strange people. Those who know us best would concur and are probably nodding their heads in agreement. The ways in which we're strange are numerous but for the purpose of this post, I'm going to stick with one.

We detail our own cars.

We spent the better part of five hours working on the Range Rover Sport today. This after spending the better part of last Saturday working on the Porsche and the new old truck, the Range Rover Classic. Those two vehicles looked great after we were done. The Classic was in desperate need of some love. The paint is pretty good and the guy Kevin bought it from had clay-barred it about three months ago. It still feels silky. But there were water spots along the passenger side and the interior was a disaster.

The Porsche is going to be sold. That makes me very sad but it's just not logical to keep it. We don't drive it very much. Kevin needed a truck and I have the current love of my automotive life: the Sport.

Once upon a time, I was a sports car person. Hence the Porsche, my second one. But as I've gotten older I find that I really like an SUV. It's not practical, though neither is the Porsche. But I like sitting up high rather than down on the road; I like the ride. And since we don't drive that much, I don't even mind the gas mileage.

After last week, when the two other cars got so much attention, I heard the Sport muttering under its breath the other day, a hiss coming out of the front grill. It sounded something like "what am I, the red-haired stepchild?"

Now first of all, that's an insult to red heads and step children everywhere, never mind that the Sport is actually red. Very red.

And second of all, I assured it, we had a whole day of spa treatments lined up for today.

Ordinary people would take the car to a detail shop in much the same way that ordinary people hire cleaning people to clean their 3700 square feet of house.

Did I mention that we're strange?

The fact is, I did look at taking the car to a detail shop. But I didn't know anything about any of them, other than Yelp and Google reviews. And the Sport, as previously stated, is my big red baby. I didn't want to take any chances handing it over to a stranger. That was all the incentive my husband needed. Off to the auto parts store he went. He came home with clay bars and liquid wax, both from Meguiars,  and a packet of microfiber towels.

This morning, I washed the wheels, then we washed the car. Easy enough. I put it back into the garage and we got to work. Kevin working the clay bar over the entirety of the paint, no easy task because the thing is a monster. I followed behind, applying wax, allowing it to dry, and then buffing it out.

We then applied armor-all to the tires, and the rubber trim. We detailed the interior, wiping down the leather, the doors, the dash. Kevin vacuumed; I did the windows. Five or so hours later, we were done. And exhausted.

Ordinary people don't do this. Ordinary people hire other people. Ordinary people spend their Saturday's going to the movies or out to lunch, maybe happy hour.

The truly strange thing is that we actually enjoy doing things like detailing the car(s) for the same reason we clean the house ourselves. We're very meticulous about how things are done and know that if we do them ourselves, we'll be happier with the result.

And I for one am thrilled with how my Sport looks.

Next weekend, maybe we'll finally getting around to doing something fun. Like painting.

The daily dilemma

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:42 PM

There are some weeks when I am firing on all cylinders, as the saying goes. I have energy to spare, my fuel-injectors are injected with energy or whatever. I’ve got it going on. And then there are weeks when getting out of bed is a chore. On the days of these weeks, and today was one, I just don’t have it in me to do much of anything. I work because I have to. Starting laundry, something as simple as throwing clothes into the washing machine, topping with detergent and pushing the button, is deemed too taxing. I think it’s the rain. 

When I was younger and lived on the east coast, I could tell it was raining even before I looked outside. I would wake up sluggish. As if someone had filled the tank with mud. 

Yes, the car metaphors are already wearing thin. Did I mention that today was a sluggish day?

Rain affects me and always has. I love it now that I live in the west where it doesn’t rain very much. In the east, where it can rain seemingly for weeks, something happens to the air. I want to say it’s heavy but I know, scientifically, that’s not actually correct. It simply feels heavy. Maybe it’s the lack of sun. I just remember feeling leaden when I would get up when it was raining. 

Coincidentally, it’s been raining here for days. It started last Thursday. Friday’s storm was horrendous, with 52 miles per hour winds and 2.73 inches of rain in about an hour. It rained on Saturday. Sprinkled a bit on Sunday. Stormed again on Monday during the day and into the night. This morning, the sky was low and thick. Eventually it would rain and do so for hours. It was coming again. It never really left. 

I woke up at 6:25 because of a certain blonde furry head that appeared on my side of the bed. You up? I wasn’t but I played along. I realized I had slept through the night, something that rarely happens anymore. We went to bed at 11. That’s seven and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep. I should have felt refreshed; I should have felt good. Ready to get up and tackle the day. Instead, I felt run over and worn out. 

And it was only Tuesday. 

So I was dragging a bit all day. So much so that when it came time to fix dinner, I had no energy to really cook. This is not normal for me as a) I like to cook and 2) do so nearly every night, concocting something, sometimes from not much. Tonight I contemplated what I had to work with. Sometimes I know exactly what I’m going to make. Sometimes, I’m inspired. I’ll have an idea and put it together and it will be pretty good. I made stuffed Portobello mushrooms on Saturday night. I soaked them in balsamic vinegar, and filled them with a sautéed blend of mushrooms, Italian squash, onions, garlic, a hint of jalapeno, parmesan and goat cheese. I topped them with more grated parmesan and fresh blueberries. Kevin said they were some of the best mushrooms I’ve made. 

But tonight I was uninspired. It is the daily dilemma. What do to for dinner. I gave him a choice: pizza or Chinese. 

He chose Chinese. So naturally I made pizza. Tired and cantankerous. 

I have to have some control, after all. Something to celebrate on this tired day.

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live out loud

And so

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 31, 2016 10:06 PM

I am struck by how many posts I pen while sitting on the deck in the early morning hours, absorbing the quiet, delighting in the gentle breeze that tests the resolve of the  temperature. Not will it rise, but when and how high. In the early morning on the deck, I can pretend that the hot summer is coming to an end and that I'll be able to soon wear long pants again.

Sunday is especially quiet out here away from town, away from people. Up on the hill, we survey our kingdom and think of The Lion King, a film that remain a favorite, perhaps because it reminds us so of Justin. When he was little, just three, Disney released the animated tale of a cub named Simba who grew to be a lion, and ruler of the land. Justin never went anywhere without his stuffed Simba. I think he was the young cub, come alive in the guise of a little boy with red hair and big glasses. Now he is the roaring lion, ruling his own kingdom with kindness and generosity. Perhaps that's why I hear Mufasa's words on these mornings on the deck. All the light touches.

As 7 o'clock becomes 8, I hear the horses down below, I hear the buzz of the desert, a sound that becomes as natural as the silence. It is the life of the Sonoran, with all of its prickly nature and prehistoric creatures. The cacti are all in full view but what lurks beneath, those making the music, remain mostly hidden. There but not.

Birds flit and chirp, not many, not nearly as many as the mid-day will bring. No one else appears to be up and about. There are no cars; no dogs let out after a night in the house to roar and bark. The houses remain in slumber even if its occupants aren't.

Lazy. That's the feel of the morning. A justified and accepted lazy. It's Sunday, the day of rest and relaxation, the day acting as precursor to a busy week. It’s soft and easy. The morning feels exactly that.

I am struck by my life. My good and plentiful life. On Sunday mornings when it's early and cool, I feel it most. Perhaps it's because I'm not consumed so much with what I have to do but rather can relish in what I have.

It will change when I go back inside, into my big beautiful home, with its artificial coolness and the world waiting inside my laptop. But I have these moments and I have this moment, on the deck, thinking about Justin, watching my dog survey his kingdom too, with my husband next to me. A cup of coffee. The desert.

And so I am blessed. And so I am.

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live out loud

Oh it was early

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 27, 2016 10:00 PM

It was still dark and lightning flashed behind the still heavy clouds shrouding the city. The lights in the distance seemed muted. There was no rumble of thunder, no tap of rain on the skylight. The air in the room was cool, swirled by the ceiling fan. A soft rush of still cooler air pushed from the vents up near the ceiling. I heard the whoosh of water from the shower and rolled over to look at the clock. 3:28. 

I could hear the coffee pot beginning to gurgle and sputter. I wondered how it was that Kevin had managed to get up, walk into the kitchen and get it going, how he’d managed to get ready for his shower without me hearing him. Without me feeling the weight of him lift from the bed we share. 

Oh, but it was early. And let me tell you why: Kevin was going to California. And let me tell you why: He finally bought a truck. 

Last week, we journeyed up to Prescott with cash in hand, ready to purchase a 1987 Range Rover. We didn’t. While we were up in that area, we went to look at another 1987. We didn’t buy that one either. Both were beyond rough in terms of aesthetics. But those could be fixed. It was the mechanical issues that made the ultimate decisions. Too much trouble even for $2500. Not drivable. 

But Kevin test drove both and he had the bug. He had made his decision. He wanted an old Range Rover Classic, something between 1987 and 1995, preferably before 1993 when Rover started putting air shocks into the cars. And while those shocks are nice, they are incredibly expensive to fix when they break and they always break. We had to fix them at least twice on our first red Rover. 

We continued to look, mostly at Craig’s list. There was nothing in Arizona so we got the idea of branching out a bit, into Southern California. We found one in San Diego, more money than we wanted to spend but we thought we’d look. Take the dog, maybe spend the weekend at the beach. 

That didn’t pan out. And it’s just as well. 

Yesterday, I happened to expand the search into the Inland Empire, the vast stretch between Palm Springs and Los Angeles, and there was a 1992, listed only 9 hours earlier. It looked phenomenal. In great shape. Pretty. Pre-1993 so no air shocks. Kevin called the guy at lunch yesterday. It was our luck that he had already received several calls but was unable to show the car yesterday. They talked, and hit it off on the phone. Kevin said he’d fly in to see it, and probably buy it based on their conversation but he needed to know that the truck would be there when he arrived. The guy said he’d be happy to hold it, and would even pick him up at the airport. 

Which brings me back to this morning at 3:28. We had to leave the house at 4:30 in order to get to the airport around 5:15 so that Kevin could make a 6 am flight. At 4:45, I felt a hand on my shoulder; I had fallen back to sleep. It was time for me to roll out of bed, slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and drive my husband to the airport so that he could go buy a car. A truck. Really this time. 

Oh, but it was early Oh, but I was and remain tired. But as I write this, my husband is driving home in his new old truck. He says it’s great. It’s in good shape. He had the oil changed, the radiator flushed, the power steering fluid changed and whatever-else fluid changed at Jiffylube and then got on the road. 

We will now have R3. Oh, did I mention it’s red?

Kevin's new ride: 1992 Range Rover 

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live out loud

I'm competitive

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2016 9:58 PM

I feel like I should stand in front of a group of fellow competitives and announce, solemnly, “Hi, I’m Lorin and I’m competitive.” 

All together now: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

Let me tell you my story. For some time now, I have needed to be the one who won, anything. When I was little, I was a terrible sore loser at board games like Candyland. I loved Candyland, but got angry and surly when I lost. I stopped playing board games shortly thereafter. 

As I grew a bit older, I used to compete with my dad. I don’t know when it started; I’m not even sure why it started. Perhaps because my dad used to engage in certain sporting activities that I also enjoyed. He was pretty good on ice skates. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I took ice skating lessons. I was decent; not great. But I enjoyed it, and I could skate a mean backwards 8. Behind our house in New York was a sort of swamp-pond that would freeze solid in the cold winter. The family would often go skating on the weekend. My dad would lace up his black figure skates and I would lace up mine. One day we decided to race and I was determined to beat him. For some ridiculous, youthful reason I needed to beat him. We raced. He caught a toe-pick on a small protruding branch or stick and went sprawling. I remember being elated because I’d won. I don’t remember being too worried as to whether or not he was OK (he was). 

Another time, we were playing tennis. I had taken an interest in the sport when I started watching Chris Evert. My first racket was a wooden Wilson racket that sported her signature. My dad had played tennis in his youth and again, for unknown reasons, it became very important that I beat him. We would bat the ball back and forth. Whenever I managed to put some spin on a ball that got past him, I would shriek with delight. At one point, on a particular Sunday, I went up to hit an overhead, determined to smash it past him. I came down, lost my footing, fell to the court and broke my wrist. I was so competitive though that I didn’t stop playing until I could no longer hold the tennis balls. 

I never liked to admit defeat, I didn’t like to be beat. I still don’t. But I’ve become a slightly better loser. Slightly. It’s something I recognize and work on, or at least try to. Except lately. Lately I am very competitive with my husband. In fairness, he is also competitive with me. 

When Justin was home, he was finally able to get us the fitness trackers he had “given” us for Christmas. Both Kevin and I chose Garmin Vivosmart HR trackers. They have a swipe face, with large letters and numbers making it easy to use and easy to see. We wear them every day. And every day, throughout the day, our conversations go something like this: 

“How many steps do you have?” 

“Did you reach goal yet?” 

“Not yet – wait. Goal!”

We have become obsessed with our step count. Each morning begins with a question: How many steps are you supposed to do today? The steps are automatically increased by a certain percentage based on whether or not we met the previous day’s steps. When Kevin gets to his goal before me, I feel dejected. Beaten. When we’re walking up the hill in the morning and he announces “goal!” because he’s met his stair-climbing goal and his wrist buzzes, I feel wronged. The Garmin’s screen shows fireworks and flashes the word GOAL! in celebration. My first instinct isn’t “great!” or “congrats!” Nope. It’s “why haven’t I met goal? We walked the same distance, we climbed the same hills.” Usually before I’m finished whining, my wrist too begins to buzz.

I don’t play board games anymore. I haven’t played tennis in ages. I can’t remember the last time I laced up skates. But none of that matters. I now have a fitness tracker, and it has reinvigorated my competitive streak. 

Say it with me: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

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live out loud

An advocate for torture

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 17, 2016 9:07 PM

We are pacifists. We're not big on war though we do understand the need for it in certain circumstances. We supported going into Afghanistan after 9/11. I did not support going into Iraq. Kevin was less reticent largely because he likes the war toys. Fighter jets, cargo planes, explosions. He quickly soured on it all when it became a deadly folly.

We don't own guns and don't particularly want to even though we live in the wild, Wild West. I have shot guns and enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. It's exhilarating. I felt powerful. Perhaps that's the lure and the danger.

When Justin was little, he was told that the only way he would go to college was if he joined the military. We quickly put the kabosh on that. We had a college fund, we assured him. He went to college without going to Iraq and for that we were profoundly grateful.

I – we – are not anti-military; we are anti-needless war. We are anti-torture and as much as we enjoyed the show 24, understand that it's not effective in the real world. I also choose to believe that we're better than that. If we're going to be an example to others, be something to look up to, representing people with integrity, we have to be better.

Which is what makes it so surprising that I am an advocate of waterboarding when it comes to my dog. Allow me to explain my seeming change of heart and mind.

It all started this morning when I was stupid. We had people over for dinner last night and we doing some final cleanup, putting away placemats, and trays, washing wine glasses and other delicates. Kevin was wiping off the counter. I had made coffee and decided to go out to get the paper. I also decided to take Riley with me.

It rained last night. The ground had dried and the humidity was high. I thought we'd be ok. I checked for lizards and saw none. I figured if the dog saw one and gave chase, the lizard would win easily no matter how fast Riley is. I looked in the portico. Clear. I glanced in the corners up the steps and didn't see anything but a small rock. I motioned to the dog that it was OK and he bounded out with that unique dog enthusiasm, the kind of wonderful joy that is completely pure. I'm going outside and it's the greatest thing. In. The. World. Paws down!

We had been outside for perhaps three seconds. He squared off against the small rock. Which turned out to be a toad. Toads are not that fast and definitely not as fast as my boy, who pounced, cat-like, and grabbed the toad. I yelled. He dropped it. I cursed. He looked at me like "well, what did you expect me to do. It. Was. A. Toad."

I grabbed his collar and yelled to Kevin. "Toad!" He knew exactly what to do. I took the dog toward the garage, Kevin met me there with the hose. And for the next 10 minutes we proceeded to push water through the dog's mouth. Rubbing our fingers across his gums. Again and again and again.

Flushing the dog's mouth for 5-10 minutes after a toad encounter of the poisonous kind is standard procedure. It's meant to remove any possible toxins before they can work into the dog's system, causing severe illness, seizures and even, in the most extreme cases, death.

In order to avoid death, I waterboard. I can't say I enjoy it; that would make me a monster. But I am advocate now.

I am also an advocate of waging war, a continuous assault on toads, in order to rid the world of their terror. They are a scourge, a blight. Dangerous. To dogs everywhere.

I never thought I'd be ok with torture. Technically, I'm still not. But if it saves lives, like that of Mr. Riley Boo, who am I to judge?

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live out loud

In which Kevin wants a truck

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 6, 2016 8:41 PM

On our first date, Kevin and I met at a place called Yankee Doodle in Woodland Hills. It was 6 o'clock on a Wednesday, and we were only going to have a drink. Yankee Doodle was convenient. I worked in Woodland Hills at the time; he lived in Woodland Hills.

Neither of us had been there and we quickly deduced that neither of us liked it. We never even sat down. It was a pool hall of sorts and had zero atmosphere. It was noisy, the music was too loud. It simply wasn't conducive to having a drink and talking. We walked back out into the parking lot and decided where we’d go instead. After a few minutes, we came up with a place called Monty’s, also in Woodland Hills and on the Boulevard. We also decided to take one car. 

In my divorce, I got one of the two Porsches, the 944, while husband number one got his precious 911. I was fine with that; the 944 had always been mine. But I wasn’t making very much money at the time and when the car rolled 100,000 miles, it started costing me a ton. I had to replace the clutch. I had to replace the water pump, and other things. So I made the painful decision to part with it. In its place, I got a Mazda MX-6, the single most boring car on the planet. Or maybe it was just because I’d been used to driving something dynamic.

Kevin and I stood in the parking lot and he said, “I’ll drive.” And I said, “where’s your car?” He pointed to a gray Mitsubishi pickup truck. The disappointment must have registered on my face. Me, in a pickup, simply did not compute. (In addition to being a hotel snob, I’m also a bit of a car snob.) Needless to say, we went to Monty’s in the pickup. It was the first of three dates just that week, and from then on we were together nearly non-stop, pickup notwithstanding. Not too long after, he sold his pickup and bought a BMW.

What he’d always wanted was a 1990 Land Cruiser FJ62, and several years later, he got one. It was gorgeous. Mint. But the ride was rough. Eventually we sold it for something a bit more refined. But we’ve always missed it, much like I always missed my Porsche. 

I eventually replaced the Mazda, first with a used BMW 325i and then I replaced that with a brand new 328i. Once I was working at home, I couldn’t justify having a car payment for something that sat in the garage most of the time. I turned in the Beemer, found a 1987 944 Turbo on ebay and bought it. That was in 2000. It’s been a phenomenal car; fast. Sexy. And we’ve had fun with it.

When I decided I also needed – needed – a Range Rover, we sold the Land Cruiser. We’ve had three Land Rovers since, a Discovery Series II, the first Range Rover that we affectionately call R1, and the current Range Rover Sport. My pride and joy, the current love of my car-life. It’s our go-to car. Our “daily” driver, the one we can always count on. It’s not practical, but it’s wonderful.

Kevin has taken to using it as his truck, putting bags of mortar, hauling rocks, putting trash cans stuffed with brush and debris into the back. And me being the anal-retentive car-freak that I am, doesn’t like it. It’s a beautiful car, an expensive car, and even though mechanics commonly refer to Rovers as trucks, I prefer to think of it as a limousine that can climb a tree.

So Kevin wants a truck. More importantly, he needs a truck. So lately we’ve been talking that maybe it’s time to sell the Porsche, which is fun but also not practical, and get him something that he can bomb around in on the weekends, go to Lowes or Home Depot or Ace or the rock store or the dump or wherever he needs to go and he can load in wood and dirt and rocks and mortar and trash and whatever he wants. And I won’t care and he won’t worry about me caring. 

We’re going to go back to a 1990 Land Cruiser FJ62, once we find one. It’s serendipitous, it’s cyclical. It’s perfect. Because Kevin wants a truck. He needs a truck. He deserves a truck.

And so the car adventures continue.  

Big wet nose

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 5, 2016 8:35 PM

Several days ago, Kevin took a selfie with Riley. Riley is very photogenic but hates getting his picture taken. The minute you get close to him with a camera or the iPhone, when he’s doing one of his best cutes, he drops his ears and turns away. Sometimes he peers back like he’s making sure that the evil evil camera is gone. Just as often, he gets up and walks away to ensure that there will be no photos. It’s like he’s in witness protection or something, which he could be since he’s a rescue. It’s amazing that I get as many photos as I do, and that’s largely because I manage to take them before he even knows what’s happening. The exception is when he doesn’t recognize a device. 

He’s onto my iPhone. He’s not onto the iPad, so I managed to get a good one the other day because I was holding the device and he was curious as to what it was. Before he knew what was going on, I’d captured his cute little face peering up at me. Mom?

He was also not onto Kevin’s iPhone so when Kevin sat down behind him and held out the phone to snap a selfie, Riley was curious. Hmmm. What does this smell like, dad? Can I eat it? Does it taste like chicken? 

Whenever I need a smile, I now just look at Kevin’s phone. He has it as his wallpaper for his home screen. That big wet nose, pushed up nearly onto the screen of the phone, and the curious eyes, questioning what he was looking at, are just precious, innocent. Cute.

It’s the nose. There’s nothing like the feel of a wet nose on your arm in the morning, nosing you awake. Mom? Or pressed up against the glass, creating nose art. Or shining brightly during the day. 

Evidently there’s a legend that says a dog’s cold, wet nose is a gift from the heavens. When the world was flooded, the legend goes, all life on the planet was inside of Noah’s ark. The two dogs Noah had chosen constantly patrolled the boat, checking on the other animals, and generally just poking around as dogs do. One day, the dogs were taking their daily stroll when they noticed a coin-sized leak and water was rushing in. One dog quickly ran for help, while the other dog gallantly stuck his nose in the hole to plug it. By the time Noah and his sons arrived to repair the hole, the poor dog was in great pain and gasping for breath, but a major disaster had been averted. So a dog’s cold, wet noses is simply a badge of honor, conferred upon him in memory of that heroic act. 


According to those in the know, like veterinarians, the real reason a dog’s nose is wet is because dogs lick their noses a lot, sometimes to help keep them cool. It can also make them pick up scents better. It’s perfectly natural for their noses to pick up moisture from the ground, grasses, plants and other areas. Making a cold, wet nose.

The bigger the dog, the bigger the nose. The cuter the nose. Our dogs have all been fairly big with equally big noses. Wet noses that nudge and nudged, that sniffed and smelled, that created nose art, and brought unlimited joy into our lives. Joy that we were able to capture easily because Maguire and Cooper loved to get their pictures taken. Maguire was a total ham, looking directly into the camera, ears forward, nose glistening. Take my picture because I am gooooooodddd lookin’. Cooper was more shy, but he at least looked at the camera, albeit with a little bit of what we called the side-eye, nose wet. I am a good boy, I am a good boy and the picture will prove it. 

Riley and his big nose are sporadically captured digitally but they’re forever captured in my memory, my imagination. Cold, wet, beautiful. Proud. Nosing it out loud.

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live out loud

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