A big fan

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 27, 2011 12:27 AM

Guest post by Maguire

Hi. I’m Maguire, and I live with my parents in the OP. I like it here. I have my own yard and no body bugs me. Sometimes the squirrel has something to say and there are lots of birds. I’m not complaining. I like squirrels and birds.

I’m not usually allowed near mom’s computer. I don’t know what changed today except maybe because it’s really hot. Like really, really hot. Maybe it got to her brain. Mom is always saying that stuff is going on in her brain. She also says that I’m the smartest puppy she knows. I don’t know what she’s talking about when she says that but I figure it must be a good thing because usually it comes with a kiss on the nose. I like kisses on the nose.

Know what else I like? Cheese. And pizza bones. Chicken. I like salmon and tuna fish. I like twice baked potatoes. Like when mom makes them and then I get to lick the bowl. And then when I get the skins later, after dinner. Sort of like dessert. I like cheese. Did I say that?

I don’t like rain or baths ever. Also, I don’t like getting my nails trimmed.

I like my fan. I have my very own. It comes in handy in the summer on a count of because I’m wearing a fur coat. My dad always says he feels bad because if he’s hot I must be really, really hot because of my fur coat. But I’ve never been without my fur so I don’t know. I’m hot. Yep. But I’m not sure that I’d be cooler without fur. Plus I’d be naked and I don’t think I’d like that.

I like my toys, too. I have a bed in mom and dad’s room, in the corner near the door. My toys are in my bed. I like to lay my head on it and look out into my backyard. Sometimes my squirrel friends drop down to see me. I like squirrels.

Me, today; chillin'

My favorite toy is rope. Roy gave that to me. I like Roy.

Mom said I could guest post. I thought I might like that. She does this post thing every night. Dad will say “have you posted yet?” and mom will usually say “not yet.” But she must post before she goes to bed because otherwise it wouldn’t be there in the morning. And she wouldn’t shut her computer down. Mom never shuts her computer down until bedtime. Which is post post.

I like my parents. I like Justin, too. I think I’ll like Bethany. Justin told me about her when he was home last week. He’s not home very much anymore and sometimes I forget about him but then I see him and it’s like I remember everything. We were puppies together.

Roy’s coming tonight. He’s bringing me a puppy platter. I like puppy platters because they have cheese and carrots. I like carrots, too. I like Roy.

Me and Roy. I like Roy.

Diane is coming, too, and Bobbi. Bobbi comes with Roy and she calls me baby and handsome. I don’t know what handsome is but I guess I am. I remember Diane I think. I met her a long time ago when I was really small and mom took me into this building and I was on a leash. Diane gave me little cookies. I like cookies. I like my leash, too. Usually that means I’m going for a walk.

I like Fritini especially because Roy comes. I like Roy.

I’m almost 15. If I was a person I could be driving soon but I don’t go in the car anymore. I like the car. I really like the Rover but it’s hard for me to get in now. So I just look at it and remember. I’m a pretty happy boy. I like my house and my parents. My toys are cool. I like cookies. I like being a puppy in the OP. I like my fan. I’m in front of it now.


Me and my fan. 'Night!

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The acoustics

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 6, 2011 10:38 PM

I’m sitting here on the patio on a lovely Saturday evening. The sun is long gone, the night has settled in to sleep, as has the OP. We had dinner just a bit ago, and ate out here, under the patio cover, under the stars. There’s almost no noise except for an errant cricket or two, and the lovely acoustic guitar music drifting out from the stereo.

I’m a big fan of acoustic guitar. There’s something incredibly sensual about the sound each string makes, and then makes again when a finger is depressed against it, changing its pitch, its tone, its music. I’ve always been enamored of anyone who can truly play a guitar and make it seem as effortless as breathing. I played once, a long time ago. My mother had a small guitar in a canvas case tucked away in the closet. I decided I wanted to learn to play and so my parents got me lessons in town. It wasn’t long before the teacher told them that, if I was going to play, I needed a real guitar, a full-sized guitar. Mom and dad bought me a beautiful Yamaha. Honey colored with a molasses finish on the back, the wood polished to an extreme shine. It had a pick guard, naturally, and steel strings. I appreciate nylon, but it’s a different sound. Steel is where the heart, the depth and the soul emanate. The strings vibrate and sing and for someone who plays well, it is the most soothing, intoxicating sound in the world. At least to me.

I had that guitar for years, and while I was never a great player, I was passable. I had a modicum of talent but not the true gift nor the passion to practice all day, every day. It made my fingers hurt, even after I had calluses. Eventually I stopped playing, though when I went to college, the guitar went with me. When I left college, the guitar came home. Somewhere between moving to California and going home to get the remainder of my stuff, the guitar disappeared. I have my theories; I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say I believe someone sold it to buy illegal substances.

I talked about that guitar for years and often when I would hear someone playing in a bar or a club. I was entranced with the sound, the soul of it. I’ve bought countless CDs from acoustic guitar artists playing a gig on Saturday night at a winery. I put them into rotation on our five-CD changer on a regular basis and just sit back and let the strings wrap all around me.

Several years ago, Kevin bought me a guitar for Christmas and I was thrilled. I even committed myself to relearning what I had forgotten over the years so that I could play something passable. I worked at it quite a bit and did OK with Silent Night. But then life got in the way, and my playing was pushed aside. The guitar sits in its case in my office now, tucked behind my antique typewriter. Every so often I can hear it playing.

On a Saturday night, when the rest of the world is quiet, the acoustics are quite beautiful. 

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Squirrel wars: Battle for the backyard

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 31, 2011 10:17 PM

Day 13. The standoff continues.

For nearly two weeks, we have been innocent bystanders in the war between two squirrels. We think one is male because we can sort of, you know, tell. We suspect the other is female. They are fighting for supremacy, for the acorn stash, for custody of the squirrel-ettes. They are fighting to see who gets to live in the lovely backyard provided by the Michels, and who must move to another backyard, one not nearly as nice, one with small children, one without trees.

Today’s battle erupted just after noon. The morning clouds and rain had moved east, collecting in huge thunderheads just beyond the ridge. Humidity had set in and the sun was driving the temperature up into the 90s. There was no breeze, the ‘hood was quiet. Suddenly, the silence was shattered. Our two squirrels clattered through the trees, barking at each other, ripping the leaves and small branches as they circled each other menacingly. Up and down, back and forth, round and about.

Earlier, the one we think is female had quietly walked the wall, flattening herself every foot or two, becoming part of the concrete as her body went limp, front and back legs and paws hanging over the edge. Only her tail, curled above, flicked slightly like radar testing the area for incoming bogies. Finding none, she’d rise and flit along a little further before – FLAT! And again the tail-radar would hone in on potential incoming danger. Eventually she made it to the end of the wall undetected by the enemy and disappeared into the brush.

Then: war, the battle renewed. They spun around the oak tree, down to the ground then up through the branches then down again, at a break-neck pace, racing, racing, racing. Like the children’s game of musical chairs on steroids, they spun until some unheard music stopped and they froze. The male was perched in the cradle of two branches, peering down; the female glued to the side of the tree, defying gravity, glaring up. I watched from the family room, Kevin watched from his studio. Maguire watched the back of his eyelids.

The race began again, along with the barking and the nastiness until one went hard right, into the sycamore tree, the other straight up into the oak. The leaves shook, the trees were terrified. Finally, they both alighted onto the wall, the male in the lead, hauling squirrel-butt toward who knows what with his arch nemesis, his wife/girlfriend/significant other in hot pursuit.

Somebody did something to make somebody else really mad. Maybe he was stepping out with the chipmunk two houses back. Maybe she was tired of him not bringing home the bird eggs he’d promised, failing to deliver because he was chased by the bird eggs’ parents.

Come to think of it, the poor guy can’t seem to catch a break. His wife is hounding him, the birds are fed up. I mean, what’s a squirrel to do? No wonder he’s made his last stand at this time at this place. He is the warrior. But she is queen.

What they need is the great squirrel equalizer, the one who can unite the two against him rather than each other, the one who can take a bark and give eight in return. The one who …  was otherwise occupied.

And so the siege continues. May the best squirrel win, or may they both get into some obviously needed squirrel-therapy soon. 

Neighbors in the 'hood

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 9, 2011 11:53 PM

Back in the 1940s and 50s, perhaps earlier and even into the 60s and probably the 70s, people knew their neighbors. I remember moving quite a bit when I was a kid and each time, a neighbor would appear shortly after we moved in with a plate of cookies, a blueberry coffeecake, fresh strawberries, something that said welcome to the neighborhood in a food-friendly way.

My parents closest friends when I was little were Charlotte and Ed, a couple that was nearly twenty years older than Joyce and Terry, but who were fun loving, always around to help and just lovely people. They were so close that my parents asked them to be the legal guardians of me, Scott and Khristan should anything happen to them. Charlotte and Ed were our neighbors on Northern Drive near Erie; we all met when our family moved in next door. The Scotnickis were on the other side, the Zolners across the street. There were many barbecues and block parties in those days. It was like that every time we moved.

After I got divorced and bought my townhouse, I knew my neighbors enough to say hello. There was an older couple on the right, a single woman on the left. She never said anything to me, not until January 17, 1994, the morning of the Northridge earthquake. But that morning, at 4:40 am, she was the first person to knock on my door to see if I was OK. She moved shortly thereafter, and I became friendly with the couple that moved in. Lisa and Jeff. They had a daughter Justin’s age, Megan.

When we were looking to buy the house here in the OP, we met the guy who lived on the corner. Allan. The self proclaimed Mayor of Oak Park. More appropriately, he was the biggest gossip-monger in the ‘hood. He knew everything about everybody and what he didn’t know, he made up. His wife was lovely though; their son Andrew was shy. We went to his bar mitzvah. They’ve since divorced and moved away, but we know most everyone else around us.

There’s Dave and Lori across the street, with their son Devin and daughter Brianna, who just graduated from high school. To their right is Jonathan and Trisha, and their two year old Livvy. Jonathan is Korean and on Saturday’s they go to Korea town for family gatherings. Trisha drops off leftovers at night, usually home made rice cakes. To the left of Dave and Lori is Ali and Esther. They had three boys, but two of them have gotten married this summer and Stuart, their youngest, is away at school. Ali washes the cars a lot, and Esther goes shopping. She came over one morning to see if Kevin could move one of the boys’ cars from the driveway. It was blocking her car, in the garage, and she doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift. I told her I could do it, and did. She’s very sweet.

On our left is Sam. We don’t know his wife’s name, she never speaks. But she always smiles and waves as she pulls out of or back into their garage. She does this several times a day. We call her Mrs. Sam. They have an older daughter who only makes an appearance once a year or so. We call her Sammie.

To our right are the Chows. Dave and his wife, Mrs. Dave. They too have three boys, all grown and moved away. The middle son is Henry. We met him the night we moved in because Kevin recruited him to help lift the television. Nice kid, now in his 30s. Their oldest we call Dave Junior because he looks just like his dad. The youngest, well we have no idea what his name is. We call him Puppy Chow.

The neighbors we don’t know we create names for. On the corner is a dad with two or three teenage/early 20s sons. That’s the frat house. Next to them is a lady who is not friendly and who yells at her kids constantly. She has a whippet that she seems to love more than her boys. We call them Fat Head and Skinny Ass Dog. Another woman who is painfully thin and also not very friendly has been dubbed Minnie. And the guy diagonally across from us is the Little Drummer Boy because he’s constantly practicing the drums.

Everyone else is friendly and helpful. When someone leaves a garage door open accidentally and it’s late into the night, someone else will knock on a door to tell them. We’ve done that for Jonathan and Trisha. One Saturday night, around 2 am as Justin’s car was parked in front of the house, minding its own business, under the car cover while he was away at school, someone hit it. Lori was up waiting for Brianna. She stopped the guy, made him wait and came to get us.

We look out for each other, we ask polite questions, we know just enough about each other’s lives to inquire. We don’t socialize but we’re social. I think that’s how neighbors are these days. No one borrows a cup of sugar or vacations together, but we’re all friendly and we help each other out. I thought about that today as I put our trash cans away and then pulled the Sams’ can up to their gate. He’s done it for us; we do it for each other.

It’s the neighborly thing to do here in the ‘hood.

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