Chasing clouds and shadows

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 28, 2011 9:35 PM

The strangest thing happened today. We left the house around 12:30 for our lunchtime walk. It had been a lovely morning, with a slight breeze, the air warm and drifting into the house. But as we started down Pesaro, the sun suddenly ducked out of sight. Our heads automatically snapped up in the direction of the sky. What had happened? Where had it gone? Would it be back?

It sounds odd to anyone who doesn’t live in Southern California, or the desert in general. The. Sun. Does. Not. Disappear. Midday. In. June. Certainly not during the day, and even as night falls, it seems to go kicking and sizzling into the sea. It’s an anomaly, a little seen phenomenon, potential cause for alarm. We’re not used to it. We don’t know what to do. We saw Independence Day.

So what impossibly huge element had obscured our precious orb and cast our beautiful southland into near darkness? Clouds. Yep. Right up there in the sky, a bunch of them. Thick and white, some tinged with gray, of all different sizes and shapes, and while there was quite a bit of blue sky drifting around and between, the clouds were big enough to temporarily block the shine.

We soldiered on anyway, under the shade, figuring – correctly – that the sun would reappear shortly. It did, but continued to play hide and seek, duck and cover, allowing all elements on the ground including us to cast shadows before taking them away. It was an odd little ritual, a sort of rumba, one Kevin and I were OK to try. Plus, the no-shadow moments kept the air a little cooler even if did raise the humidity level a bit. That’s another thing we don’t have here in Southern California in the summer. Evidently they did have some humidity up north today, though. My friend Lenni, who lives in the Bay Area (San Mateo), said it rained all day up there. They were also expecting thunder and lightning. She was preparing her cat, Phoebe, for Armageddon. Maguire has never been adversely affected by thunder; doesn’t seem to care when it happens. He yawns and rolls over. Of course, now he can’t hear it so it matters little. When I was a kid, our dog Chaudee, a little black ball of fluff, was terrified of storms. He could sense them coming hours before they’d arrive. The skies of New England would be bright and sunny, but the dog would have stowed himself safely under the coffee table where he proceeded to shake and whimper until the storm finally relieved itself. And then he’d really freak.

We weren’t going to get any of that today, there was no rain in the forecast. I doubt the American Meteorological Society even knew there would be clouds. It simply doesn’t rain here in June. Or July. Or August, September, October. But on those days when clouds dot the atmosphere and accumulate, when they make the sky seem close enough to touch, as the shadows on the ground disappear and the world flattens out… those are the June days I celebrate.

Because those are the days when our shadows get to dance.

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What happens on date night ends up as a blog post

by Lorin Michel Friday, June 24, 2011 11:42 PM

My husband and I go out on a date on Thursday nights. It’s our way of reconnecting at the end of the week, of spending time together doing something we both really enjoy. We get to talk, and laugh, tell stories, sometimes complain. Most importantly, we’re not working.

Last night was date night and we have both had just a horrendous week of work. Too much to do with much of it not going right and thus not getting done. I’ve also been in several meetings and any time I’m not in my office, I’m not really working. While I’m getting more work to do – always a good thing – having to fight traffic to get somewhere, meet, and fight traffic to get back is not productive.

Kevin had a number of deadlines that weren’t being met because his programmers were late on site development and that meant clients were going to be unhappy. Maguire has been a little under the weather. We were both a little down. We thought about not going. But ultimately decided to go anyway just to get out of our space.

I’m so glad we did. We went to The Wineyard, a little wine tasting place in Thousand Oaks where they have vineyard specific tastings on Thursday night. Often the winemaker is there so we can ask questions and learn about a particular vintner’s thoughts as to how he or she makes wine. Last night, the tasting was Boeger, a little winery northeast of Sacramento on the way to Lake Tahoe. They tasted four reds ranging from a Barbera to a Primitivo to a Zinfandel to a Syrah. Interestingly the Primitivo is actually a zinfandel vine from Italy but it’s processed differently and tastes nothing like a California zin.

As we were sitting at a pub table near one of the windows I happened to notice a black BMW with a vanity plate. I said to Kevin I thought I recognized the plate but I couldn’t place it. There weren’t a lot of people there last night; usually it’s packed. Kevin ventured over to the counter to get some bread and cheese and when he came back to the table he informed me that there was a lady selling jewelry and that I should go see if anything struck my fancy. It was mostly silver and some pieces were very cool. I decided I really liked a bracelet and my husband promptly bought it for me, along with a pair of earrings. I was feeling special.

The people at the table beside us got up to leave and must have heard us talking. They stopped by and we struck up a conversation about wineries and how fabulous it is when you can go to new places and drop someone’s name to get specialized treatment. Often when you do this, especially if you know about wine, suddenly the person who’s pouring the tastings will reach under the counter and pull something out they reserve for true wine lovers and connoisseurs. The man we were talking to introduced himself, gave us his card and told us to use his name at several local places we hadn’t yet been to, particularly a place up in Lompoc, north of Santa Barbara, called the Wine Ghetto. We love it already because of the name. This man and his wife looked so familiar to me. They said their goodbyes and soon we saw them get into the black BMW with the familiar license plate. We finally realized that we knew them from the ‘hood here in Oak Park, and that we had first “met” them when they stopped at one of our garage sales several years ago. The guy at one point was even interested in hiring Kevin to build his website.

Small world.

The lady from the jewelry table stopped by with a business card and we talked to her a bit. Turns out she’s friends with one of our neighbors across the street. It was like OP-neighbor night at The Wineyard.

Came home and Kevin’s developer who had been horrifically late on a project called just before 11 to announce that he had made tremendous progress and was close to being finished. Crisis averted.

Mark Twain once said: “Do something everyday that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” Last night we went out even when we didn’t want to and it ended up being one of our best date nights ever sharing stories with new people and just enjoying each other’s company.

Tonight friends will be arriving shortly and we’ll celebrate the end of a long and stressful week with good food and yes, more wine. Next Friday, I’ll be in Maryland, celebrating with a friend I haven’t seen in 20 years. Kevin asked me today if we’d recognize each other. I have no doubts whatsoever. True friendships transcend time and space, and I am blessed to have several friends – including my husband – who do just that.

Welcome to the weekend. Make it a good one.

Falling sky things

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 23, 2011 11:02 PM

I was in the kitchen last night, minding my own business, probably cooking or at least preparing to cook. Kevin was in the bathroom, just finishing a shower. Maguire was in the living room in his usual position, splayed on the floor, snoring and drooling.

I raised my glass of wine for a sip, since in my kitchen and in my house, evening food doesn’t happen without wine; it’s not civilized. Suddenly, something somewhere in the house crashed and crashed hard. I turned, curious. And called out to my husband: Honey?

No response. I put my glass down and walked to the doorway, expecting to see him sitting at the foot of the stairs tying his shoes. He wasn’t there. Maguire, however, was where he was supposed to be.

Kev? A little concerned now. He came strolling out of the bedroom; he had heard the crash, too, though didn’t seem terribly concerned. We could find nothing downstairs where the majority of the house spreads, so Kevin trucked upstairs since whatever had fallen from the sky seemed to resonate from on high. Nothing in the loft office, he reported. I sipped my wine, doing my due diligence. Silence from above. Anything, I asked?

“Looks like the showerhead broke off.” The bathroom upstairs, off of Justin’s old room now known as the guest room and the guest bath, has been under gradual renovation. We’re redoing the floor, we redid the vanity; replaced the showerhead.


This is not the first time we’ve had things fall unexpectedly from the sky inside the house. There was that one day many years ago when I was on the phone, luckily with Bobbi, and there was a huge crash in the house, I hung up quickly and dashed out of my office to find that the 1948 Roadmaster bicycle that we have suspended up above the foyer, on the bridge that holds the duct work from the A/C and more, had broken free of its moorings to land with a loud bang on the marble floor below. I was just happy that Maguire, who often lays directly under that bridge in the foyer because that’s where his kennel once resided, was out in the backyard, sleeping.

Then there was the time that Kevin was on the ladder in the great room on a Thanksgiving morning, the top of the extension resting against the high beam, when the ladder slipped and my husband crashed down, hitting the wine table, destroying his ankle ligaments and rendering him nearly crippled for life.

Shortly there after, in January, as we were watching the series finale of Sex and the City, sitting opposite one another, Kevin on the couch, me on the love seat, the coffee table between us, there was a loud crack. Both of us looked toward the fireplace, and the huge mirror that was on the wall reaching from the mantle to the ceiling. We both watched in horror as it peeled away from the top of the wall, at the ceiling, as if in slow motion, finally pulling away in total to crash between us onto the coffee table, splintering into a million pieces of glass that flew across the room, destroying the couches, demolishing a potter’s bowl purchased in an art gallery and a clock shaped like an electronic ice-cream cone. Once again and luckily, Maguire was outside.

When anything crashes these days, my first thought is: Where’s the dog? He doesn’t hear anything anymore so he wouldn’t hear anything falling from the sky; he’d just feel it if it landed on him. It’s one of my biggest fears, and I celebrate the fact that he has not been harmed by any of these things falling from the sky.

Last night, the only thing that fell from our internal sky was an inconsequential showerhead, easily replaced with a trip to Home Depot.

And undoubtedly a star or a thousand, somewhere, someplace in the world and the universe. 

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