The mask of Don Justino

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 31, 2017 5:03 PM

One of our favorite fun movies is The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Sir (!) Anthony Hopkins. It’s one of those films we never grow tired of, and stop to watch anytime we come across it. It’s beautifully photographed, the story is great, the action fun, and the acting decent. It’s a little tongue in cheek, and everyone is just gorgeous, especially Antonio Banderas. Part of it was filmed in San Carlos, Mexico, a place I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Susan earlier this summer. It was a perfect stand in for California. 

The film was released in the summer of 1998 when Justin was 7. It was rated PG-13 but we took him anyway. We had seen the trailer several times, figured it would be fun, and we weren’t disappointed. There’s a bit of violence, no language and no sex. It didn’t seem to us any more harmful than the Pokemon animation and other Japanese anime he was consumed with at the time. He loved the movie, as did we. No sooner did we get home than he found himself something he could make a mask from and armed with his Star Wars light saber, he proceeded to play the role of Zorro.

In the film, which takes place mostly in 1841, noblemen fight for the republic of Las Californias (California wouldn’t become a state until 1850), railing against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence. They are “dons,” established and respected men, men of social standing. The moniker of Don appears before their first names. Don Raphael is the bad guy; Don Diego is the older good guy and Don Alejandro is the younger good guy. Both good guys, naturally, also inhabit the Mask of Zorro.

For months, we were entertained by our own Zorro. And as Halloween got closer, and it came time to choose a costume, there was nothing to discuss. Zorro would once again come to the rescue of … Oak Park. Hey, it was California.

We found a costume, and with his pajamas underneath, and sporting his black cowboy books, Justin transformed before our eyes into Don Justino.

Every year, on Halloween we remember that costume. He wore it for weeks prior and weeks after. Sometimes he’d just wear the top part and shorts. But always the mask and the hat; always with plastic sword in hand as he singlehandedly saved the house from … whoever and usually Maguire. 

To this day, nearly 20 years later, he remains Don Justino. I doubt that the costume fits anymore, but the cuteness and goodness – the desire to save the world – definitely remains.

March

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:40 PM

March is an odd month. On the one hand, it ushers in spring with its warm temperatures and balmy breezes, and flowers spilling out of trees and bushes. This spring, we’ve had unusually warm days and nights, though two nights ago, we also had an unexpected thunder and lightning storm that temporarily brought cool back into the desert. Birds are everywhere, bugs have returned, including the tiny gnats that love to swarm when we walk. There are bees and wasps. Lizards are once again prolific.

March is our dating anniversary. Twenty-two years ago on this past 22nd, Kevin and I found each other. Two years ago, on the 24th, we moved into our dream home. March has been good to us as a couple. 

It’s also been difficult for us emotionally. On March 6, 2012, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Maguire. He was our first puppy love and had been with us since 1997. We used to joke that we got together, got the house, got the dog and then got married. Maguire was just 10 weeks old when we found him in the middle of February. He had been surrendered to the animal shelter in Agoura so we didn’t know his actual birth day. Our vet determined the 10-week age and by process of subtraction we decided to give him Christmas day as his birthday. It seemed perfect. A celebration of a supposed angel with an actual one. 

When we lost him on March 6, we were devastated. It had taken us days to make the decision, but as we sat on the floor in the pet hospital, we knew as awful as it was, it wasn’t right to keep him as he was. I laid down next to him, ran my hands through his fur, hugged him carefully. He felt greasy; he felt as sick as he looked. I asked him for a sign that what we were about to do was right. He had been heavily medicated after suffering a nearly fatal series of seizures on Friday night. It was now Tuesday. The veterinarian had taken him off of the anti-seizure medication in the hopes that maybe he would come through it but as I lay there with him, feeling his faint breaths, he had another small seizure. Moments later the vet came in and he was gone. 

At the end of October of that year we decided it was time to rescue another dog, and we found our Cooper. He was an older dog at six. We think that he was ultimately even older than that, though we didn’t care.  We had some issues with him. He was afraid of everything, mostly I think of being abandoned, and he masked it by being aggressive – not towards people, but towards other dogs. It took us a while but by working with him, we taught him to trust. He traveled with us, moved with us, and then moved again. He became a good boy. But when we moved into this house two years ago, he was very sick. The vet had diagnosed idiopathic vestibular disease. His balance was off and they didn’t know why. It usually clears up within 72 hours, but it didn’t. He developed pneumonia, and we rushed him to the Veterinary Specialty Center. Five days after we’d moved in, on a Sunday morning, during a time that should have been joyous, he stopped breathing. We weren’t there. It haunts us. That was two years ago today. 

March runs the gamut of emotions, the highs of love and commitment, the lows of losing two of our boys.

But it’s spring, when life renews itself. I’m sitting here, looking at our newest boy, sleeping in the sun. He’s three, happy, healthy. As March winds down, we’re all doing our best to live it out loud.  

 

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