So this came in the mail

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 28, 2017 9:08 PM

Once upon a time, it was 1957. I was not yet born and wouldn’t be for several more years. This was back when a crooner named Perry Como was popular and that year he gave the world his second RCA Victor 12” long-play album. It was called We Get Letters and it was a concept record, based on requests from the singer’s television show. It was a soft, breezy record and did not include a song by the same name. Years later, David Letterman had a regular skit on his show where he sang, gleefully, “letters, we get letters” while opening his mail. 

This morning, Riley was on the deck and I was in my office, a ritual we engage in daily. He had just had a bath and was drying in the cool desert breeze; I was working. It was about 9:30. I had just taken a sip of coffee when suddenly, from the general direction of the deck, came the apoplectic barking and carrying on of my dog. I got up as I usually do and went to the door with the intention of asking what I usually ask when the dog is apoplectic. What is the issue? But before I got the door open I saw exactly what the issue was: trotting up the hill toward the house, as nice as you please, were two dogs, one a beagle, the other what looked to be a beagle mix.

I sprang into dog wrangling mode and headed toward the front door, yelling behind me that there were two dogs and for Kevin to grab a couple of leashes. As dog people, we have at least six leashes, only one of which do we use on a regular basis. Outside, I crouched down and in my friendliest voice called to the dogs who both came to me willingly. Kevin got the leashes, I attached them, and down the hill we went. 

I hadn’t met them but knew they were our new neighbor’s dogs because I knew they had beagles. I also know every other dog in the neighborhood. It’s not that big of a ‘hood. My neighbor, Alan, who had several workers at the house, couldn’t believe the dogs were out. 

“How…?” he asked, his question trailing off. 

“Gate’s open,” I said just as the worker – a pool guy – came in apologizing for leaving the gate open. 

Mission accomplished, I decided to head back up to the house. Alan remembered something as I started out the door. 

“Oh, hey,” he said. “I have some mail here. It has your house on it.” 

My house? How could that be? Someone was sending mail that showed my house? Our house? What? 

Alan handed me an oversized postcard and there, sure enough, in the place of honor taking up the top two thirds of the card, was the home we affectionately refer to as Il Sogno. The card had been sent by our architect/builder because our neighbors had pulled permits to build a house and he was advertising his services. Better late than never, since the house is already built and the card was stamped 4/18. 

So our house is being sent all over the city, perhaps further. We’re famous. Just like Perry Como. Without the crooning.

Frankly, it’s interesting

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 7, 2015 7:58 PM

I have long had a love of architecture. I am fascinated by buildings of all sorts, and especially by homes. I think the different styles that are indicative of certain parts of the country are intriguing. The colonial on the east coast, the Cape Cod in New England, Santa Fe style and desert contemporary, Mediterranean in Southern California. There are modern houses everywhere, of course, in styles that mirror their location. There are no stucco houses in New England that I know of; there are very few clapboard houses in the desert. Roofs on the east tend to be pitched and shingled while in the west they’re mostly tile, or in the case of many desert homes, flat, stuccoed and painted.

This morning, Kevin and I went to Bookman’s, a wonderfully eclectic bookstore that is all used books, musical instruments (a ton of guitars, both acoustic and electric as well as banjos and ukeles), antiques and art. We were hoping to find a New York Times. They didn’t have one but they did have several books we decided we couldn’t live without, one of which is a photography book for Kevin. As he was perusing, I happened upon the architecture section. There were a number of books on one of this country’s most famous architects, one Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. He has a number of homes all over the country, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, Illinois to California and many places in between.

I’ve been to Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, Kevin has been to the B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Illinois, where he was born and raised. June 8 would have been Wright’s 148th birthday. It’s a testament to his vision that many of his homes are still landmarks, still known as Wright houses.

It got me thinking, though, not just about Frank Lloyd Wright but about all of the famous architects named Frank. 


Frank Lloyd Wright house, Kankakee, Illinois


Frank Clark house, Medford, Oregon


Frank Gehry, Disney Hall, Los Angeles, California

In Oregon, Diane and Gene have been looking at a house designed by Frank Clark, a famous and famously prolific architect in the Pacific Northwest. There is of course Frank Gehry who designs more commercial buildings including the famous and famously blinding Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Francis Fleetwood was a designer of the big time homes that sit on the North Shore of Long Island, in an area affectionately known as the Hamptons.

Of course there are also Frank architects of some repute who are not American, like Francis Greenway who was an architect in Australia in the latter 18th and early 19th centuries. And Francis Golding, a London architect, who was killed just two years ago while bicycling. 


Michael Bratton, Michel House, Tucson, Arizona

Our architect, Mike Bratton is an honorary Frank because he is very frank in his conversations, sometimes to the point of appearing rude. We quickly became used to it and actually embraced it because he designed and built us one hell of a house. He says what he thinks, he has an opinion and he knows what he’s talking about.

I find it all incredible, the ability to design a building from nothing. It’s like creating a piece of art on a piece of canvas or a story on a blank page. Frankly, the ability to create anything from nothing is interesting. And if it lasts through the ages, like Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Clark or Frank Gehry, it’s definitely something to celebrate.

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