I hear the sound of my husband’s motorcycle approaching

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 11, 2013 10:53 PM

Kevin and I are motorcycle people. We love them. He had bikes in the past, before I came into the picture. I always wanted one. I had friends in college who had bikes, sport bikes – or crotch rockets as they’re affectionately known – and street bikes. Cruisers weren’t really all that popular until the last 15 years or so. Two of my guy friends in college, Kevin (no relation) and Mac, had the same street bike. It was a Kawasaki 450, if memory serves. One of them was black, the other blue.

I tried to have a motorcycle when I was married the first time, but husband number one was more interested in fast cars and particularly in Porsches. I was OK with that as I’m also a car person. I love old cars, new cars, sports cars and classic cars. I love our current 1987 Porsche turbo. It’s my second Porsche. My first was during HNO (husband number one) and I had to sell it when we got divorced because I couldn’t afford the maintenance. I wish that I had the foresight to keep it. I babied that car; it would still be a great car. The turbo was not babied until we got it. We think of it like a rescue.

A number of years ago, when Maguire was still young and Blockbuster Video was still in business, he and I went for a Sunday morning Rover ride to return whatever we had rented. On the way home, stopped at a light on Agoura Road, two cruisers pulled up alongside of us, each being driven by a guy; each with a chick on the back. They looked comfortable and cool. They looked relaxed. They looked like they were having fun. When I got home I told Kevin that I thought we should get a motorcycle. We had one the following weekend, a beautiful silver Suzuki 850 Intruder. But it was too small, so within the year we upgraded to a Suzuki 1500 Intruder, but we never really fell in love with it. It was awkward, oafish. One summer, in 2007, while Kevin and Justin were in Illinois visiting Kevin’s family, I was standing in the kitchen perusing Motorcyclist magazine and there was an ad for a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. A gorgeous bike with sleek lines, and built for two. It came with foot panels for the passenger and hard saddlebags, and a backrest. When Kevin got home, I broached the subject of maybe looking at one. We found a used one shortly thereafter and bought it. Metallic black, with lots of chrome and white-wall tires.  We’ve had it ever since.

Today, he had to run some errands and as he often does when it’s a beautiful day, he took the bike, roaring out of the driveway and down the street, the powerful growl of the engine disappearing into the desert as he rounded the corner and headed east.

I worry when he’s out by himself. He’s a great driver and beyond careful, but people don’t always see motorcycles and that leads to stupid accidents. When he goes off without me, he promises to text me whenever he arrives at his destination. I usually get nothing more than a simple “here.” He texts me again as he moves from place to place, keeping me updated so I know he didn’t go splat.

Kevin, returning home this afternoon

Sitting in my office this afternoon, the windows once again open, the cool of the day once again drifting in and around the room, I listened for the sound. Low and powerful, a lion’s purr, it’s very distinct. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but smile. He has returned safely on this fine piece of machinery, one of the finest we’ve owned. Sleek as a cat and ready to cruise, it’s joy on two white-walled wheels.

I hear it now. I hear him approaching. I smile. Soon, I’ll be smiling broadly, enjoying the view as he pulls into the driveway, safe at home. Definitely worth celebrating. 

It was either a woman's voice or a coyote

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 7, 2013 11:47 PM

There are many things that wake me up in the middle of the night. Most times I know what it is; other times I have no idea.

This morning, at 4:20, which seems to be my body’s favorite time to wake up these days, I remember lying in bed and listening. For some reason, I thought I heard something. I am not usually paranoid. I don’t consider myself delusional. But sometimes, there are things that go bump in the night and I find myself listening intensely, trying to hear something that’s probably not there.

Once last week, Cooper was standing in the great room, issuing low sonic growls followed by equally low pseudo barks. It got both Kevin and I up and without hesitation, we padded out to investigate what was happening. Which was nothing.

Usually I hear things like the crack of the walls or the snap of whatever snaps inside a television. I used to think that only happened with the big box TVs of old, the ones that weighed several hundred pounds and were nearly impossible to move without three people. But our new flat screen also snaps occasionally, just not as loud and insistent. I hear the icemaker in the refrigerator as cubes mature and drop into the plastic holding tray. I hear the dog snore. I hear the quiet of the air as it vibrates around me.

In the dark of this morning I heard what I thought was a woman’s voice. I remember it distinctly except, of course, for what it was that woke me up in the first place. Sometimes when the window is open I wonder if perhaps I just become a lighter sleeper just in case a bear tries to pry open the screen and come in for a banana, or my dog. I wonder if the rustling leaves are still on the trees or if someone is trouncing through them on their way for the banana, or the dog. I wonder especially when the winds are blowing making the night irresistibly alive with all kinds of sounds that usually sleep.

The voice was low but distinct. I couldn’t make out what it was saying but I was sure there was a woman somewhere that was causing me to lose sleep because she was outside at a ridiculously early hour.

Or maybe it was a coyote. Now I realize that even thinking that a woman’s voice might belong to a coyote is a bit insulting. The woman would have to have a pretty horrid voice, like Roseanne Barr or Kathy Griffin, something that grates, that makes your hair hurt. But that’s a bit what a coyote sounds like. They’re not bad looking animals but they have a mean streak, especially when it comes to other animals. And they are distinct in their sound. I remember taking Maguire out one night to pee. It was late, probably after 11. He always had to pee in the front yard; it was the routine. If we tried to take him out back at night before bed he’d just stand there like he didn’t know what to do. He was smart, though. I suspect he was just playing us.

This one particular night, it was probably around this same time of year, when the hills are brown and the food is scare, Maguire and I stepped out onto the front porch. He always waited until I walked out into the yard to make sure there were no bogies like other dogs or people that might scare him. Then I’d give a little wave and he’d saunter out. When he was young, he’d bound out. But he was older on this night; his face white as snow, his back legs much slower than his front. I always watched. You never knew who would come walking around the corner, walking their own dog one last time before bed.

I stood vigil, a sentry at her post while Maguire meandered around the yard. Then I saw it. Down the street, coming from the direction of Messina, a dog was sauntering down the sidewalk, faster than a walk, slower than a trot. I reacted quickly, turning to grab Maguire’s collar and pulling him inside. I went back out to see where the dog was going – I’m a sucker for a loose dog; I do everything I can to grab them and return them to their home – and I watched as he crossed the street and stopped right in front of me. It wasn’t a dog; it was a coyote. After a minute he continued on and after he was well out of sight, I brought Maguire back out.

Later that night I think I heard that coyote. Unless it was a woman’s voice.

You know, I can never really tell when it’s 4 in the morning.

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If a coffee pot beeps in the kitchen but its owners are still in bed, does it make a sound?

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:48 PM

Every once in a while an existential question arises. Albeit not usually at 7:30 am, but it happens. It happened this morning. Allow me to set the stage. It was cloudy and cool so it actually seemed earlier than it was. I could hear cars starting around the neighborhood; people on their way to work, maybe to school.

If a car starts in the OP and it’s actually a hybrid, can anyone hear it?

In the distance, a dog barked and then another.

If a dog barks and he’s alone, does anyone feel the need to bark with him or at him?

Cooper stirred, as he always does when he hears another dog. He was still in his kennel so he only lifted his head but his tags jingled. I could see him without looking. I knew his ears were forward and alert. Next to me, Kevin stirred as well. He rolled toward me and opened an eye to see me looking at him.

If a person wakes up alone, does anyone else know they’re alive?

I smiled at him and he closed his eyes again. Then he stretched and groaned and made wake-up noises before saying ‘morning.’ I said it back and Cooper shook his head making his tags clank and bang, the sure sign that he was about to stand up, arch his back and emit a low growl, which is Kevin’s clue to get up, put on his robe, rub his hands across his hair to try to tame it, slip on his slippers, and take the puppy out to pee. Cooper thumped his tail against the sides of his kennel as Kevin walked toward him, then, with one more shake, off they went to the backyard for a quick squirt. Cooper, not Kevin.

Within moments, Cooper was back, resting his head on my side of the bed. I petted and cooed at him. He moved around to Kevin’s side and I started the countdown. Three- two- one. Crash. 58 pounds of dog landed on the bed, moved toward me, flopped down and put his head next to me on the pillow.

Meanwhile, Kevin padded toward the kitchen. I heard him yawn. Soon I heard the refrigerator door open and close, I heard the can that we keep the freshly ground coffee in, clatter onto the counter. The water started to run, followed by the garbage disposal. I knew he’d be pouring more water into the Cuisinart. The can would be opened, he’d be scooping coffee into the gold filter. Then the glass coffee carafe would be shoved back into the machine. I could see him flipping the switch into the up position and the red light coming on. He would wait just a moment until the water started to heat and the machine started to rumble.

If there’s no one there to see the red light, does it come on?

He came back to bed after that. It was cold and dreary. As we waited for coffee, he climbed back into bed and rubbed his now chilled feet on mine. Mine, having stayed snug under the covers, were still warm, as was my whole self.

If no one is there to feel your warm or cold feet, does it really matter?

We talked about the day, what was in store, who we needed to talk to, what we needed to accomplished, what we hoped would happen, how eventually it would all lead to dinner and what were we having. It was all very innocuous and Wednesday morning. Cooper stretched out between us and rolled from facing me to facing Kevin with a heavy sigh. We both laughed. He was going to have such a tough day of sleeping and eating and two walks.

If you spend the day sleeping, does anyone ask why?

If you’re in love but nobody knows, does it count? 

If an argument happens in a vacuum and the one you’re arguing with isn’t even there, does it really matter?

After a few minutes we realized that the coffee must be done, but neither of us had heard the telling five beeps that the Cuisinart emits when it has finished brewing and the coffee is ready to pour. Kevin asked if the machine had beeped and I said I didn’t know, I hadn’t heard it but that it must have. Either that, or coffee was all over the counter as happens sometimes when we don’t get the carafe placed correctly.

We stayed there for a minute more, listening, not really wanting to get up because it was cold out there in the world and knowing that as soon as we got up, the day would start and we wanted to keep it at bay for just a few minutes more.

Then came the existential question of the day: If a coffee pot beeps in the kitchen but its owners are still in bed, does it make a sound? Followed by: Do we really care, so long as there’s coffee on a Wednesday morning?

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The chaos of a Wednesday morning

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:42 PM

When we first got Cooper, and were all getting to know each other, we got up every morning much earlier than usual. We’d be walking by 7 am. It was cold then. Some mornings we would bundle up in layers and wear gloves. There was ice on the sidewalk; the blades of grass were frozen. Any fallen leaves crunched and broke under our step. That was when Cooper was a puller and seemingly aggressive. A 7 am walk was quiet. We didn’t run into a lot of people, especially not people with dogs. It was a good thing.

As everybody got more comfortable we started walking a little later. We’d go at 8 o’clock, when the kids were going to school and people were going to work and dogs were getting walked. But it was too stressful because of Cooper being a puller and squaring off against other dogs because they were so threatening to him, especially little white yappy dogs. He seemed to be particularly irritated by them.

Then the incident happened. Granted it was a Saturday morning when that happened, but still. That spooked us. So we got a dog trainer and started our home schooling program. We also started walking him at odder hours, times when we were fairly sure we wouldn’t see too many people and dogs. Morning walks happened well after the kids were in school and parents had zipped off to work; afternoon walks were before any of the adults got home to walk the dogs that maybe didn’t get walked in the morning.

But since training we’ve been feeling a little better about walking our little monster and besides, I’ve been pretty swamped. It’s hard for me to go later in the morning when I should already be working. So this morning we started out earlier, around 8 once again, and ran smack into the chaos of Wednesday. There were kids everywhere, pulling their little wheeled backpacks along behind them. They were like miniature flight attendants, on their way through the terminal and down the jetway to fly away to the land of learning.

Their parents were either frantically trying to catch up or were far ahead, trying to coerce their little frequent flyers to fly faster in order to get to school on time.

There were cars zooming around corners, down streets, through stop signs, filled with kids and sometimes dogs, and still more frantic parents trying to get their cargo safely delivered to Red Oak or Oak Hills elementary schools before zooming off to work or back home to take care of things there.

Phones were ringing, dogs were barking. There was much noise, much mayhem, much chaos, and into this, we took our now diagnosed-as-terrified puppy for a walk. Ever vigilant, we both were constantly looking up streets and down culs de sac, looking for people but more, looking for dogs. We are constantly scoping other dogs when we walk so that we spot them before Cooper and we can prepare for any reaction on his part and correct him as necessary. The morning was already warm. The sun was streaming through the trees, lighting spraying sprinklers like tiny diamonds in the air. There was no breeze but lots people, lots of cars, lots of movement and rushing.

The parents corralling their kids reminded me of wranglers herding their flock. The constant and rapid movement and noise reminded me of when I used to work at Sebastian and we were on deadline and whatever we were on deadline for wasn’t done and we were rushing to finish, make changes, get approvals and get it out the door. It wasn’t the most efficient way to function. In fact, it was chaos management at it’s finest.

Chaos management is actually a good thing. It’s the ability to work through upheaval, disruption and turmoil to achieve success. Chaos theory is the scientific principle describing the unpredictability of weather patterns, ecosystems, water flows, anatomical functions, even organizations. While systems may seem wildly unfiltered and nonconforming, they can still be defined by a formula, still given order and boundaries. So chaos isn’t as chaotic as once feared. It can be managed, or so the theory goes.

My own theory is that the chaos of this Wednesday morning and every weekday morning for that matter is simply the way life is. We all have things to do, places to be, people to interact with, jobs to accomplish, kids to school, families to feed, dogs to walk, dogs to avoid, and it’s all fine. It connects us somehow. Even though we don’t know each other and never will, there is order to what we do and how we interact by crossing the street, walking past one another, moving toward our goal. It’s chaos as a way forward. Even Cooper seemed to be largely unaffected. And that’s always a very, very good thing. 

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Pardon me while I switch on my fireplace

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 8, 2013 8:14 PM

When it’s cold outside one of the things I look forward to most is a roaring fire. This winter, it’s been colder than usual with night temps regularly down in the high 20s/low 30s. Cold for Southern California. From what I’ve been told, temps in the entire southwest have been colder than usual. We talked to Architect Mike the other day, in Tucson, and he said it’s been very cold. They’ve actually had snow.

When we bought this house, in 1997, we had only a few must-have criteria. It needed to be in an area with a good school district. We wanted a nice neighborhood. The house needed to have natural gas for cooking and heating, and it had to have at least one wood-burning fireplace. Also, it had to be affordable. We got everything on our list. Our house is not very big, just about 1800 square feet total, with three bedrooms and two and a half baths. The master bedroom is downstairs, off of the great room that provides the space for the dining room as well as the family room. We’ve never been big on having a formal living room. No one ever really uses a formal living room. The family room is, naturally, where the fireplace resides, on the sidewall in the back corner of the house. It has a gas starter, which makes it very easy to get one of those big roaring fires going. Each night, we turn on the gas, light it with a long lighter and sit back and enjoy the snap, crackle and pop; the hiss and sizzle; the smoke as it curls up the chimney; the red glow and gray ash; the smell. I love it all.

Our new house will have four fireplaces including one out on the patio. There will also be a big one in the family room, one in the master bedroom and one in the guest suite. I’ve never had more than one fireplace. I can hardly imagine the ambiance. The house will have that amazing light that only emanates from a fire, eerie and soft, warm and cold all at once. The Sonoran desert gets very cold at night and we’ll be in the northeast corner of the city, as the Catalina highway climbs up into the mountains toward Mt. Lemon. There is skiing up there, so there is snow. The temperatures drop into the teens. Having a fireplace out on the patio, where we can sit regardless of the temperature, sipping a glass of Michel Cellars Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, looking out over the spooky glow of towering Saguaro cactus on an otherwise clear night, will be spectacular. In my imagination, I’m there already; I’ll be there tonight.

As someone who grew up in the Northeast and thus was thrust into frigid temperatures for nearly six months of the year, you would think I’d be tougher when it comes to being cold. But I’m cold all the time. I’m one of those people, like Sally Allbright in When Harry Met Sally, who gets cold when it’s 72º out. During cold, rainy days like today when the air is raw, the house never seems to warm up. I sit in my loft office and freeze. Or at least I used to, but now I have a fireplace in my office, too.

No, we didn’t knock out a wall to put in a pre-fabricated fireplace unit. I didn’t blow a hole in the ceiling so that smoke from my little campfire could waft up and out. It’s much more simple than that because my office fireplace is electric. Kevin bought it for me last year and it has been getting quite a bit of use this year.

It’s very stylish, with its metallic red case and black face. It has three speeds. One is just the electric flame, for romantic mornings in front of the computer sipping a hot cup of coffee. Low keeps the flame flickering while also blowing out gentle heat, enough to wrap around my feet and rise toward my hands, keeping my fingers warm as I type furiously. I’ve never had it on high, that’s how well low works.

Until I can sit out on my patio in Tucson, looking out over the city, with our nearly 300º views, until I can lounge in my bed on a stormy Sunday with the fire blazing in the room, until I can cook in the kitchen and still hear the snap, crackle, pop, hiss and sizzle coming from the great room, until then I will enjoy my lovely fireplaces here in the OP, the one downstairs and the one here in my office. Here, let me switch it on and show you.

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The adventures of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 3, 2013 10:27 PM

Episode 3: Crouton Rainbow Sprinkles

In the ongoing saga that is the proper training of our pre-owned puppy, Cooper Michel, I thought it prudent to report the following: Trainer Danielle came yesterday morning, was here for another hour and a half, we learned even more and we have homework.

She called just before the appointed time of 9:30, said she was about a mile away and that she was going to drive by the house, honk her horn, and then park down the street a bit. We were to get Cooper suited up and then exit the house to walk. In essence she wanted to see how we were progressing after our first training session two and a half weeks ago. We stood anxiously in the kitchen, watching out the window. Cooper, oblivious as always, was crashed on the floor with best good friend Wubba. We’d already gone for a walk earlier in the morning so that he could have some regular time, and to get in what we call Pee Ops. Part of our training is to control him at all times, including when he gets to pull up at a tree and squirt. Hence, the Pee Ops.

Danielle drove by, honked twice, we got Cooper up, attached his pinch collar and leash (again) and prepared to exit stage left. He was jazzed. Two walks! And it wasn’t even lunchtime yet! Woohoo! Saturday’s are the best day in the world! I really like it here! You guys are the best parents ever!

We left the house with Kevin on leash duty, or as we call it, the Chain Gang. We stopped in the driveway and looked to see where Trainer Danielle was standing. I finally spotted her behind several cars just down the street. She motioned with her hand for us to walk. We started moving, with Cooper merrily trotting next to us. Then she emerged from behind the cars, with a dog.

Now regular readers will remember “the incident,” that horrid Saturday three weeks ago when our little Cujo attacked a poor, unsuspecting Golden Retriever after managing to unhook his leash. “The incident” was the catalyst for Trainer Danielle. “The incident” made us terrified of ever seeing another dog on the street again, ever. Did I mention ever?

Two and a half weeks ago, in our first session, Danielle had brought two of her own dogs, a big American Bandogge Mastiff and a German shepherd, the most well behaved dogs we have ever seen. Which they should be, of course, because she’s a dog trainer and her own dogs are her best references. And Cooper learned to be just fine with them. Maybe he would be with this new dog, too.

The new dog was a jet black labradoodle who looked a bit like a big throw rug or afghan.  She stopped in the street, gave him a hand signal and he collapsed into a pile, with a front paw tucked underneath. She indicated that we should keep going, then turn around and come back. She got her dog to get up, walked a bit more, then collapsed him again. Up down, up down, down up, down up. He just kept lying on the asphalt on command. At least it was still early. There was no traffic and the heat wasn’t yet horrible (it got to about 85º yesterday).

Trainer Danielle with Cooper

Finally, she told us to stop, in the shade, and she brought black rag-dog closer and closer, telling us what to do with Cooper, watching how we were with him and how he was reacting to the new dog. Once on the sidewalk, she had her dog turn around and lay down with his back and butt facing Cooper.

“Kevin,” she said from beneath her huge sunglasses. “Bring him over here so he can get a whiff.”

Kevin edged closer; Cooper took a smell.

“Ok, let him closer and relax the leash.”

Kevin: “No.”

“It’s fine. Let him get closer. Let him smell and sniff and lick if he wants.”

Kevin. “No.”

Remember. “The incident.” We’re going to have commemorative t-shirts made.

After several more back and forths with Danielle saying let him go and Kevin stubbornly refusing, Kevin relented and Cooper got good and close, and proceeded to perform the equivalent of a somewhat pornographic act on the black rag-dog, who just laid there and did absolutely nothing.

Danielle kept referring to the dog as Crew. I asked if he was one of hers. Nope. He was a client’s dog and she was taking him for the weekend because the clients were having a huge party and they didn’t want the poor dog relegated to the dog run for the entire day/night. Plus he’s kind of a wimp. Just a year and a half old, Danielle has been training him since he was 8 weeks old and he is afraid of his own shadow. I asked what his name was. It’s Crouton. So Crew is actually Crou, and his complete name is Crouton Rainbow Sprinkles. Or as Danielle called him yesterday, “bait.”

It was funny. Sort of. You know, given “the incident.”

After Cooper got a few more licks in, we wanted to ask if Crouton tasted like a garlic or an herb, and if it was like having a Caesar salad.

But we didn’t.

Because that would have been rude.

An hour and a half and much training later, we began to move into the reward part of the training. As in see-a-dog, get-a-treat. We’re reconditioning and rewiring Cooper’s brain to believe that seeing a dog is a really good thing and it leads to treats. We have two weeks to practice this theory. We’re calling it Pavlov’s Cooper.

In the mean time, the misadventures of Cooper Michel, pre-owned puppy, continue. At least he has a real name.

Living it out loud in the OP with Coopertino, Cooperlicious, Cooper Dooper, Coop de Ville, the Cadillac of rescue puppies. 

Mistaken for what? Observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 2, 2013 10:17 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here. I understand from Hey Lorin that everyone, including her, was starting to get worried about me. I have been laying a little low and here’s why: at this time of year, I always get mistaken for something called a groundhog. Now I know that he’s a dude who generally lives underground and just comes out every once in a while but really – he can’t possibly look a thing like me.

Still, I know that groundhogs get grabbed up and put up on a stage and then they have to parade around and wait for the sun to come up and see if they see their shadow. Something about a shadow meaning that there’s going to still be lots more winter and no shadow meaning the spring is coming early. I don’t know how it could come early since according to my calendar, it comes the same date as it does every year, shadow or not. But whatever.

Me, a little heavier than usual

The most famous groundhog doesn’t even live around here. He has a first name I can’t even pronounce like Hunkytony and then his last name is Phil. I think that’s kind of a weird last name but maybe his parents thought it would make him memorable or something. I guess he is pretty smart because according to everything I read, these German people from some place called Yourup but who lived in Pennsylvania believed that when this Phil guy came out of his hole on February 2 – that’s today – and the sun came out and cast a shadow that he’d go right back underground for another six weeks. At least that’s what Hey Lorin was saying today. But I don’t think that makes any sense. I mean, if he’s so smart, why’s he coming out of his hole anyway, especially when it’s cold and especially when there are all kinds of people around to grab at him and take his picture. Plus, why does seeing a shadow make you smart? I see shadows all the time. I’m pretty smart but it’s just a shadow. It’s not like it’s rocket squience or something.

When Hey Lorin saw me today, she was so relieved. She asked where I’d been and I said I was keeping a low profile because of the groundhog thing. Then I asked her what is a groundhog anyway. She told me that groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistle-pigs, and they’re actually related to me cause they’re also ground squirrels called marmots. They live in a hole, like Hunkytony and they can weigh as much as 30 pounds. That’s like me times at least 10. Now I know I’ve put on a little weight this winter but I’m not that big. Still, I decided to ask Hey Lorin since she hadn’t seen me in a while.

“Hey Lorin,” I asked as I crammed an acorn in my cheek. “Do you think I look fat?”

She looked up at me and smiled. I noticed she didn’t answer me right away and I was starting to get worried that maybe I was fat.

Finally: “I think your fur is just thick for the winter,” she said.

Ha. That’s exactly what Mrs. Squirrel said. Girls are all alike I guess.  I decided not to point out that the Red Furred one also looked like his fur has gotten a little thick lately.

So maybe I need to lose a little bit of weight. I mean, Hunkytony Phil didn’t see his shadow so spring is coming and that means something called bathing suit season is coming next. I don’t know what bathing suit season is and I don’t think I want to. But since it was cloudy today and I didn’t see my shadow either, no matter how hard I looked, I guess I better get ready.

At least now nobody will think I’m a groundhog, though they may think I’m a whistle-pig, if Hey Lorin is right. I hope they don’t think I’m that but just in case, maybe I should start eating more berries.

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The virtues of boring

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 19, 2013 7:30 PM

Last night a friend of ours joined us for Fritini. We hadn't seen her in awhile and we were looking forward to catching up. Boy did we. It seems that the man she has been involved with for several years, a man we knew only a little but liked tremendously, turned out to be a total dud. Scratch that. He turned out to be a probable sociopath. Basically everything he has said since she has known him has been a lie. A lie about how he's making money or not; whether he's writing a book or not. If he's involved with another woman or not; if he has a major drinking problem or not. She has bailed him out of jail numerous times. He was living with her and the police were called several times because of "disturbances". He managed to get her to put him on her cell phone plan and proceeded to ring up $1600 a month in charges. She had the smarts to kick him out several months ago but everything really came to a head over the holidays. Or in her words: "We just couldn't survive the joy."

We sat there- Kevin and I and Roy and Bobbi - stunned. How could we all be so fooled? was our first thought, followed quickly by OMG! Are you freaking kidding!?

Revelations are always interesting and often cringe worthy, as were many of these shared on this Fritini. We felt bad for our friend who was, herself, mortified, both by what she was telling us as well as the fact that she had allowed it to go on for as long as it did. We didn’t think any less of her because of it. We are a largely non-judgmental group, or at least we try to be. Fritinis are especially so. No topic is off limits, no embarrassment is unshared, no laughter is unkind, no argument tarnishes the fraternity. It's a special night of simply being with friends, always for the betterment of everyone.

We drank martinis and wine. We munched on appetizers and finally ate pasta and Caesar salad and garlic bread. And then it was over. It was about 1 am and we all felt better for the experience. It was cathartic as it always is.

But this morning, once we finally got up, sucked down some needed coffee and set off on our morning Cooper walk, we were largely silent, lost in thought. Finally Kevin said something about all of that stuff last night being really something. I nodded absently as I watched Cooper sniffing a flowering shrub. I always wonder if he even smells the flowers or if he just smells the legacy of dogs gone by. I suspect the latter. We walked on a bit further.

"We're kind of boring, aren't we?" I said more than asked. After all, it was a statement of fact. Kevin nodded.

We have a pretty set routine each day that only varies by the work that needs to be accomplished and sometimes not even that varies. We walk the dog in the morning and the evening, and we walk ourselves at mid-day. We eat dinner at the same time most nights, we watch reruns of SVU rather than first run sitcoms. We laugh and talk and spend an unusual amount of time together. We go out on Thursday nights and rarely any other night. We hardly ever leave Oak Park.

"Yeah," Kevin answered. "And I'm good with that."

Luckily so am I. Boring can be good as long as you like the person you're doing it with.

Just a little something to ponder on this post-Fritini. Happily living it out loud in our boring little lives.

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live out loud

The Mexican destination

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 8, 2013 8:46 PM

I am a big fan of most things Mexican. I love the country and am especially partial to the areas on and around the tip of Baja, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. We have spent many a luscious weekend in Cabo San Lucas, tucked into a niche around the cliffs, far away from the town. We’ve been to the La Estancia as well as the now-closed Twin Dolphin and it remains one of our favorite places on the planet. When the Dolphin was still around, it had about 60 rooms, all in groups of four, side-by-side and sprinkled along the rocks and beach of the Pacific. The rooms had no telephones or televisions. There was nearly nothing to do but lounge by the infinity pool, under a cabana, or swim up to the bar for an afternoon cocktail. The most relaxing place we’ve ever been.

The Hotel Twin Dolphin, Cabo San Lucas

For our honeymoon, we also went to Mexico but this time to the coast further south, to Puerto Vallarta. It was off-season, so the weather wasn’t perfect but it was perfect for us. We stayed in a suite at a place called La Jolla de Mismaloya. It’s where the 1964 film The Night of the Iguana starring Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner was shot. The hotel even had a channel dedicated to the film and ran it on a continuous loop. By the time our stay was over, we had seen the movie in its entirety only in parts. It’s not a very good movie; but it has a place in our hearts. Kevin has an original poster hanging in his studio.

Each day, we would rise somewhere around 9:30 or 10, and slush down to the pool for some coffee. The sun would be out for maybe an hour and a half, and then the heavy clouds would roll in and a soft rain would begin to fall. We went for walks, we explored, and never truly left the property. There were five restaurants; enough to feed us any number of delicacies.

We took Justin to Cancun when he was younger. With the exception of the Chichen Itza ruins, we didn’t like it very much. It’s very Americanized, with huge resorts, lots of Italian restaurants and big malls. Still the beaches are miles of white sand and the ocean is dusty turquoise and warm. Justin loved it but when our time was through, we were ready to come home.

I have long been a fan of Mexican food, the more authentic the better. Taco Bell does not count. [Confession: We are also embarrassingly big fans of Taco Bell. It is our fast food of choice especially when we’re working on a house project. But it is not Mexican food. It is Mexican flavored. Sort of. The hot sauce helps. Kind of.] I am also a fan of tequila, though much less so now than when I was younger. When I didn’t care so much about getting leveled by a golden elixir made from cactus, it was one of my drinks of choice. I developed a taste for it in college, a taste that continued on my first trips to Mexico, where shots were the norm. There remain many places where the food is fabulous and the tequila flows like water. Waiters walk around with holsters on each hip, each one sporting a bottle. An ammo belt of shot glasses straddles their chest. You get a shot. Or if you’re really brave, you simple tilt your head back and let them pour directly into your mouth.

You have to be young or stupid or both to do that too many times.

La Jolla de Mismaloya

I even like Mexican music. Not so much the mariachis, though when in Mexico, listen as the Mexicans do. But Latin-flavored jazz and swing is good stuff. It’s hot and spicy and has tremendous flavor. It makes me want to get up and dance.

Today, on one of our three walks, this one sans Cooper, we were discussing what to have for dinner tonight, especially as there’s nothing in the house. When there’s something in the house, I can usually scrounge around and come up with a fairly edible if not actually quite delectable (she said modestly) meal, but I knew that the only thing in the pantry was stuff to make pasta and we had pasta several nights ago. There may be chicken in the freezer but we had chicken last night. You can see our dilemma.

Kevin: “What do you want for dinner?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Kevin: “If you could have anything….”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Kevin: “Perfect world.”

Me, exasperated: “You understand that me having anything I want and perfect world are essentially the same thing, to which I answer, again, I don’t know.”

We walked on. He pondered; I did not because I really didn’t know what I wanted for dinner. We crossed over Lindero and started up through the alley behind Fresh & Easy in silence. As we rounded out of the parking lot and onto Kanan, on our way back home, we both said: “Mexican?”

Ruins near Cancun

So tonight, we’re making our version of Mexican food. It won’t be as good as that served poolside at the Twin Dolphin or the La Estancia, but it will be hot and spicy, it will sing with passion and warmth. It may even dance. It will be everything that is what I love about Mexico, only here in Oak Park. And there’s nothing wrong with that, since I have to work tomorrow and a trip to Baja is most definitely out of the question.

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live out loud

Amid the morning chaos

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 7, 2013 10:21 PM

The last two weeks have been quiet around here, especially in the morning. All of the neighborhood kids, and there are quite a few, have been off school so the mornings have been devoid of the sound of wheeled back packs bouncing along the sidewalk as they and their owners trudge toward Red Oak Elementary at the bottom of Pesaro followed by parents anxious to drop them off so they can get back to work. For the two weeks containing Christmas and New Year’s, parents have been off work as well. Even people with dogs seemed to be running on a much later schedule. Each morning, we would get up at our usual time, around 7:30 ish, put on a bunch of clothing, leash up the dog and off we’d trudge, up and around the block for about a mile. We rarely saw a soul, human or canine.

Out on Kanan Road, which during the school year is positively teaming with cars racing up and down, dropping kids off at one school before racing to drop more kids at another school before turning and racing back up the street to turn at the light at Lindero Canyon so they can go to work, the noise is deafening. Except for the last two weeks.

We had gotten used to it, the quiet. The three of us would walk and Cooper would sniff. Occasionally we’d see another dog and he’d huff and puff a bit, but it was really just us. There weren’t even any cars. It was nice; it was also a little weird probably because we knew it would come to an end and very soon. We thought it would come to an end this morning. It did.

7:30. Up, dressed, leashed, out the door by 8. We loped down the street, the three of us, toward Hawthorne. We expected to see all kinds of dogs with their people, all manner of bogies to dodge. We didn’t see any. We didn’t even see kids pulling backpacks. We asked if maybe we had it wrong; maybe the kids were still off. Maybe they didn’t start back until Wednesday for whatever reason. Just then, a little girl dressed in blue jeans and a pink hoodie, pulling a pink backpack behind her came ‘round the corner from Savona on her way to school. Soon, we heard more voices, small crescendos of excitement and resignation, on their way. Some alone, some with other kids, some with their parents, all depending on their age.

We got to the corner of Hawthorne. Usually there are cars streaming up and down this street as well, on their way to or from Red Oak. We always cross at an angle – we call it Beverly Hills because Beverly Hills runs its street crossings diagonally – and it always takes a while to get an opening. Not today. We crossed, and started north. Still no dogs, no people. We turned right at Bowfield and walked toward the cul de sac at the top where there’s an opening in the stone wall that takes us out to Kanan.

Everything was quiet, the morning was soft. The sun was shining and the temperature was nearly 60º. Cooper was motoring along. We were looking forward to the coffee that was brewing and waiting for us when we got home.

As we walked out through the stone wall, the quiet dissipated. Kanan was roaring with traffic. The regular morning chaos had returned with a vengeance to officially kick off the New Year, a little late perhaps but given the way the calendar has fallen, perfectly logical. We didn’t talk any more; it was too noisy with all of the cars racing north and south, desperate to get to their destination, wherever it might be.

But amid the noise and the bustle, there was still a strange aura about the day. Cooper was paying absolutely no attention to the noise. He was giving us a lesson in how to find peace amid the morning chaos. Evidently it involves sniffing, licking the bushes, lifting your leg quite often and occasionally huffing at a bird or a squirrel. He was focused on the job at hand, or paw. He was out for a walk. It was his special time, and when he got home there would be breakfast followed by a nap.

If only our lives could be like that. I suspect there would be no chaos and living it out loud would be quieter.

Celebrating Monday morning in the OP. 

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live out loud

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