It's not delivery but I kinda wish it was

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:25 PM

We live in a fairly remote area. As such, no one delivers food. Oh, I supposed it’s possible that we could hire an Uber driver to pick something up and bring it here; maybe GrubHub. The problem is that Uber doesn’t deliver anything other than people, at least not to my knowledge, and GrubHub isn’t available here yet. The only thing we ever got delivered in our old lives was the occasional take out from China Garden, who made damn good garlic chicken, vegetable fried rice and vegetable egg rolls, and pizza. Everyone gets pizza delivered. It’s de rigueur for American cities. 

Out here in nowhere’s ville, I cook nearly every night. This means that we eat healthy most nights. There is also the added benefit that I enjoy it immensely. Cooking relaxes me. I love to experiment with new ideas, things I’ve just made up or things that we tried somewhere else and decided that I could probably make it just fine here. A couple of nights ago we grilled a stack of romaine, topped it with sliced Roma tomatoes and grated parmesan cheese, drizzled with some spicy Caesar dressing. We’d had something similar at Jonathan’s last week. Seemed easy enough to make and it was.

Last night I made a Cajun pasta dish, with a garlic cream Cajun sauce, tossed with smoked Cajun-spiced salmon, served over gluten-free rotini. It was delicious, spicy, and the gluten-free was a nice way to balance the cream sauce.

Like I said, I love to cook. 

But toward the end of the week, and it’s Thursday, I start to run out of steam on nearly every level. I’m slammed with work, and I’m not sleeping well because of it. Also, I need a haircut. I seem to function better when my hair is working. I work from 7:30 am until the equivalent of 7:30 or 8 pm, which means 9, taking time out for dinner. My days are about 12 hours long. I’m not complaining. I like what I do; and I get paid to do what I like to do. A winning combination. But I never seem to get enough done. Today is one of those days.

When we showered, at about 6:45, I asked the husband-unit what he wanted for dinner. Before he could answer, I told him that it had to be either PF Chang’s frozen Chinese – which is actually pretty damned good – or frozen pizza. I had the ingredients to make a pizza, essentially from scratch, but that takes more time than taking something out of the box and putting it into the oven. And I had neither the time nor the inclination to make one. Sensing this, the husband said, correctly, pizza. Even Chang’s frozen Chinese takes some cooking and stirring time. 

I always keep a frozen pizza in the freezer, just in case. Lately we’ve been using the DiGiorno pizzeria thin crust pizzas. For frozen, they’re not bad. In fact, their margarita pizza is the opposite of not bad, edging toward fairly good. 

DiGiorno ran an ad campaign not too long ago, touting how good they are, by comparing themselves to delivery. I’m not sure that’s a high bar since Dominos delivers as does Pizza Hut (affectionately referred to as Pizza Slut in our house) and neither one are very good. Still, the campaign theme was a good one, memorable even. It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno. As good as it is, I still sort of wish it was delivery. But I’ll take it because it’s easy, it’s fast. And it allows me to keep working it out loud well into the evening. Maybe tonight I’ll even sleep.


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Something as simple as going out to dinner

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 26, 2016 8:17 PM

Going out to dinner used to be a weekly occurrence for us. Now it is usually reserved for a special occasion. We have long had a policy of “date night.” It started when Justin was little. We worked so hard during the week, and we had so many things going on with him, that we knew instinctively that we also had to make time to just be us. Every Friday night we would go out, often to our favorite Italian restaurant in Westlake called Mandevilla. When the economy started to get a little cranky, we decided we really didn’t need to be spending $100 + every Friday. We found a place to go wine tasting instead. Every Thursday, we’d go to The Wineyard in Thousand Oaks. It was our ritual; something we looked forward to every week. We got to know the owners and many of the other attendees. On Thursdays, the Wineyard would invite vintners from all over California to come and pour their wines. Every week they poured something different, sometimes from wineries we weren’t familiar with. We would taste, and then head home. 

Interestingly both Mandevilla and The Wineyard have since closed, once again driving home the point that Tom Sweet, the owner of Mandevilla, told us many times: The restaurant business is difficult. Most fail in the first year. If you make it past three years, you’re usually good. He closed Mandevilla after twelve. We had never discussed the effect of a recession on restaurants but it made sense. We knew we weren’t the only people to stop going out to dinner on a regular basis.

We told ourselves that we would eventually get back to going out to dinner. But somehow, even after the economy got better, we never did. We stuck with wine tasting. 

Going out to dinner became something we did for our anniversary but only sometimes. It became something we did when we had company.

Moving to Tucson made finding a place to wine taste challenging. I think because it’s a relatively small city and not especially sophisticated, the idea of wine tasting isn’t yet in demand. We’ve found a couple of places, but nothing like the Wineyard. We’ve resigned ourselves to finding places with a decent wine list where we can go, having a glass, maybe order an appetizer. We found such a place last week when Kevin stumbled upon Jonathan’s Cork. It’s a cute, tucked back behind a Jimmy John’s, just off of Wilmot. We looked it up online. Like most places here, it has a not-great website, but it looked charming. And different. The menu items tend toward game, which isn’t something we’re interested in, but we have found that restaurants that do different types of meals tend to last. Like the Saddlepeak Lodge in Malibu. 

Last week we went for a glass of wine. We think it might have once been a house, again similar to Saddlepeak. Once upon a time, the east side of Tucson was even more old west than it is now. The building is slump block, with a tiled roof, old archways. The bar is small but comfortable, four pub tables in the front window, a bar that wraps itself down and around a corner. The bartender was great, made some suggestions for wine. We ordered an appetizer from our pub table in the corner and had a wonderful time. We love small gems like this. We tend to stay away from chain restaurants; we’re not big on trendy. 

Last night we decided to go back, sit in the bar again, have a glass of wine and splurge, have two appetizers. We got there about 7:45 or so. There was no place to sit in the bar. We panicked. Should we just leave? Should we just go home? WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

OK. It wasn’t really panic. I mean, a full bar doesn’t really necessitate freak-out mode. But not having a place to sit in the bar threw off our entire night. 

We decided to just sit at a regular table in the restaurant. And then we decided, what the hell? Let’s have dinner.


Kevin ordered ribs. I had green chili shrimp baked with pepper jack cheese. We even ordered a bottle of wine. Woo hoo. Woot woot.

We sat there under the heavy wooden beams and popcorn ceilings. We marveled at how uncool the place is and how utterly fabulous. There were modern pendant lights and speakers in the ceiling. In the background, people sipped cocktails in the bar under flat screen TVs showing muted college basketball games. Jazz flooded down. We sipped our wine, and ate our dinner out. Sometimes something as simple as having a meal in a restaurant is just what’s needed to celebrate the end of the week.

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Wine at sunset

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 16, 2016 9:54 PM

Every night, just before the sun drops below the Tucson mountains in the west, I hear the telling click followed by the slide of the weather stripping on the tile. Kevin has opened the wine room door, and that can only mean one thing: sunset. Nearly every night since we’ve moved in, we step outside to watch the sky become painted in shades of orange. Some nights, especially when there are clouds, it is spectacular. Luckily there are clouds a lot. 

Last Spring was our first true experience with these desert sunsets even though we’d lived here for more than a year and a half. From the rental, we could see the sky set ablaze but we were down low, in the city. From our vantage point up here on the hill, with completely unobstructed views, it takes our breath away. Even the nights without clouds, when the sun simply drops behind the mountains in a glorious game of hide and seek, it’s stunning.

In the summertime it was often almost too warm to sit on the deck though we’d go anyway. It was more than a habit; it was a ritual. It was the exclamation point at the end of the day. It signaled the time when the day could be safely retired into evening and then into night.

Sunset was usually between 7:30 and 8. But as the summer turned to fall, the days got shorter until sunset was around 5. Having wine at 5 is lovely but it’s a little too early to end the day. I still have work to get done. And once I have wine, I’m relaxed and my brain begins to drift into shut down mode. We would have a sip and then put it away until a bit later.

The days are starting to lengthen again as we move ever faster toward summer. Tonight, just after 6, I heard the bottom of the door scratch the tile. I heard the pop of the cork, and soon enough, my husband came into my office, on the west side of the house, holding two glasses of wine, each with a mesh lid to keep out the bugs. We stepped out onto the deck. It was still warm, almost hot. We’ve had unseasonably warm weather. I refer to it as obscenely warm, certainly in February. Two weeks ago it was 25º in the morning. Now it’s at least 20 degrees warmer at the same time. 

Today was around 80º. Tonight it wasn’t much cooler. The sky was clear; no clouds. The sun was low and already blazing orange, silhouetting the mountains. We stepped outside, sat in our Adirondack chairs. We like the west deck for sunset for obvious reasons. It faces directly west; there are no obstructions to the view. 

We sat tonight like we do nearly every night save when it’s raining or just too cold. We talk, we exchange dissertations on our day, we watch Riley as he bounces around the deck with a toy, loving that it’s sunset and the end of the day. Because his days are so hard. 

Tonight’s set wasn’t nearly as dramatic or lush as some nights but it didn’t matter. It was the end of the day. Days that will get longer in the months ahead. Soon enough, we’ll be back to our 7:30 sunsets. But for now, we’re enjoying what we’ve been enjoying for almost a year now. Wine at sunset. On the deck. May we never grow tired of it.

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I love my washing machine. Is that wrong?

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 6, 2016 7:08 PM

When husband #1 and I bought our first townhouse, a small three story in Northridge, in 1987, we had to buy appliances. It was the first time we’d had to do that, since when you rent, most rentals come with the requisite stove, refrigerator, sometimes a microwave and occasionally a dishwasher. We bought everything used because we couldn’t afford anything new. When we bought our first house, just over a year later, it was brand new so we did get to pick appliances to install, at least for the kitchen. It was part of the price, similar to the color of the carpet and the countertop tile. We brought our used almond-colored washer and dryer with us. The laundry area was in the garage so I didn’t care, and it worked just fine. 

After we got divorced, I took the washer and dryer with me since the house he was renting had both. I needed them for the townhouse I bought. They continued to work great for several years. Then came January 17, 1994 when the earth shook and Southern California broke into a million pieces. At least that’s how it felt. In addition to all of my crystal dying a shattering death, my washer and dryer were also inexplicably killed. I never understood how since they were both locked inside a small room off of my patio, next to my hot water heater.

I got two new used pieces to replace them. They were barely used, or mostly new which is how I chose to think of them. They were new to me, made by Whirlpool, both white and a bit more modern. Neither was big but they were big enough, even when I once again became two when Kevin moved in. Those two pieces moved with us into our Oak Park home and served us well for another 16 years. We never had a problem with either of them. 

But when we moved to Tucson, we sold them. The house we were renting had a full laundry room including a decent washer and dryer. They weren’t great but they washed our clothes. When we finally moved into this house, we had the opportunity to get everything brand spanking new, including the washer and dryer. We had a budget, of course, and all of our appliances needed to fit into the budget. We couldn’t get the big, fancy washers and dryers that are offered now. The front loading washers; the dryers big enough to put small children or big dogs inside. We went with GE everything and went to a showroom to pick out the refrigerator, the double wall oven, the microwave, the cook top and the dishwasher. We purchased the washer and dryer, sight unseen, based on what money we still had in the budget which wasn’t a lot. I think there was about $1000 left for both. If you’ve done any shopping lately for a washer and dryer you know that each one can cost more than that.

The thing is, they all do the same thing. And there is just Kevin and I. And we don’t have a need for anything fancy.

I was pleasantly surprised when they were delivered and installed. They were bigger than I thought they’d be. They were shiny white which is OK. I would have preferred stainless but they weren’t available in stainless in our price range.

They are my first new washer and dryer. I’m in my early 50s now. I feel like I’ve finally grown up. I don’t have to buy used appliances. Yee haw! 

They have the added benefit of being pretty cool. New washers these days don’t have a center agitator, or at least this one doesn’t. It’s a big stainless steel tub that agitates by swishing the clothes around rather than by twisting them around a center stalk. I love that. It’s much less wear and tear on my sweatpants. As I loaded up the washer this morning with fleece jackets and vests, I thought these very simple words: I love my washing machine. Then I thought quickly: Is that wrong? I’ll just say this, if loving my washer is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Sitting here at my eat-at bar, typing away, and listening to my washer washing it out loud. Life is clean this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

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When one has no idea what to write about one resorts to stream of consciousness in the hope that something anything will materialize

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 5, 2016 8:10 PM

It’s Friday and I’m tired but neither is usually a reason for me to not have any idea whatsoever for a blog post. Often times ideas present themselves rather easily. Often when I’m not even looking for them, something will happen, somebody will say something, I’ll read an article and I’ll think instantly, ooooh I should write about that and so I do. But no such spark has ignited today. The news is filled with politics which I’m addicted to even though I hate hate hate it. There aren’t even that many stories out there about the Super Bowl, not that I care because even though I love football I also hate that I love it. It’s a dichotomy, an enigma. I probably need therapy for so many things. 

I thought about writing about my dog who is cute as hell and always worthy of a blog post but I worry that my readers will tire of my laziness. How hard, after all, is it to celebrate one’s golden retriever mix on a daily basis? Woo hoo. Woot woot. Break out the champagne. Even though Riley has developed this exceptionally cute thing where he brings a toy into Kevin’s office and deposits it somewhere out of site, then backs up into the doorway and stares. He stares and stares and the longer he stares, the harder his tail wags. When Kevin doesn’t pay attention to him, he then growls. Short growls, low growls. Playful growls. Kevin, hearing this, will still ignore him because then this happens: the tail stops wagging, and Riley smiles at him. He rolls his lips back ever so slightly to show his teeth. He growls again and when Kevin finally looks at him and says “what?” Riley bounces and growls and airsnaps in the direction of his toy. 

It’s probably something that dog trainers would say is aggressive. But we don’t see any aggression. We see him trying to get our attention so that we play with him. 

But I don’t want to write about that. 

Kevin suggested writing about the Super Bowl party we’re going to on Sunday and how sometimes and often Super Bowl parties are a plethora of chips and dips and beer and tequila. Other Super Bowl parties are catered. This is neither. We’re going to a friend’s house and the only criteria is that everyone attending has to be bring a hot appetizer. I couldn’t decide what to do and finally settled on something easy but good: small Yukon gold potatoes, wrapped in bacon, baked, and then served with a side of sour cream and chives. 

Hey. It’s a Super Bowl party. They’re not supposed to be healthy.

I worked all week and as usual didn’t get nearly enough done. I slept a bit better this week though not great. I went to a doctor’s appointment. I went to the grocery store. I worried that we didn’t stop to watch the sunset every night. I don’t know why and it’s not a habit I want to get into. I cherish our sunset watching. I look forward to it. It’s the punctuation at the end of the day, the time that says “phew, you made it through another one. Congratulations. I know it was tough but you toughed it out. You didn’t let the client critters get you down. Here – have a glass of wine.” 

That’s the punctuation at the end of this post, too. Cheers. Here’s to living it out loud.

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Furious blow

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 1, 2016 9:12 PM

I am not a nature freak. I don’t dream of spending a week in a cabin in the woods without running water or electricity. I’m not ever for sleeping in a tent. I love the desert. I love to hike. I love to walk slowly on the beach at sunset. I love to lie awake in the early morning and watch the sun rise.

I also love technology. I am lost without the internet even though I love to curl up with a book and read for hours, something I rarely do because I simply don’t take the time. I am regularly surrounded by my Mac, a PC, my iPhone and my iPad. I ground myself with the 1920s Royal typewriter that sits on the corner of my desk. I’m sure it was very hi-tech in the early 20th century. 

Our car has the requisite bells and whistles and then some. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about it. It’s why I wanted the first one; it’s why when it came time to get another car, I didn’t even look at anything else. Kevin asked me if we wanted to consider maybe a Jeep or a Toyota, perhaps a Lexus. I had no desire. They all have bells and whistles, too, in some cases more. Like backup cameras. But I wanted my Rover. I wanted its bells and whistles.

Sometimes when I drive with all of my technology, including my phone on Bluetooth, I open the sunroof so that I can experience the day. I love to feel the sun drifting in; I love to hear the wind. I love the meeting of tech and nature.

Living up on this hill, we get a tremendous amount of both sun and wind. We live in our contemporary house, with the latest technology to keep us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We have the latest in window glass; the stone we used is engineered to the highest standards. We have solar panels on our roof; we’re harnessing the latest in renewable energy from one of the oldest stars in the galaxy. Luckily our powerlines are underground.

Last night, before we went to bed, the wind picked up. I mentioned to Kevin that we should move our table and chairs to a safer location. We needed to move the chairs and couches closer to the fireplace to shield them from what was predicted to be horrific. It was. 

The wind howled. It shook the panels of glass in the frames. It threatened to tear the skylight away from its mooring. The ocotillos that are close to the house, whipped against the stucco and the glass in the bathroom. The solar panels howled and hissed, groaning under the ferocity of what can only be described as gale force. Gusts were over 50 miles per hour. I lay there in bed, listening, afraid to move as if my moving might cause the house to lose its tenuous grip on the hillside and fly to Oz. Never mind that we have caissons that go down into the earth – into the rock – some 10 feet, or that the house is firmly attached to those caissons. These were like miniature hurricane winds. A warning was issued by the county. 

Somewhere around 2, it began to rain. It was as if a fire hose has been unleashed against the glass. It pounded, requesting – no demanding – that it be let in. I wondered if somewhere on the roof, its wish might be granted.

This ferocious wind lasted all night and all day. It was loud and dangerous. It seemed at times angry, at other times simply insecure, as if blowing harder would allow it to get noticed. The rains pounded, then snow fell and the wind died down.

I was thankful to be inside, safely tucked away in my castle on the hill, away from the elements, surrounded by my technology, with the heat on to ward off the chill. I’m not a nature freak but I do appreciate its power – I am, in fact, in awe of it – even if I wish it would blow away.  

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Powering up the sun

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:28 PM

Tucson has an average of 350 days of sun every year. That doesn’t mean that the sun is shining each of those days for 24 hours; rather that each of those days, some sun appears to keep us warm, or in the case of the summer, hot. We can have a sunny day that turns black within hours. The skies open and the deluge begins, lasting for 30 minutes or so before retreating. The skies then clear and the sun shines once again. A sunny day. Only rarely do we have completely overcast days. Most of those result in some sort of weather. Even more rarely, it’s just cloudy. 

This type of sun drenching makes Southern Arizona the perfect place for solar power, something that the utility companies fight. For a while, they discontinued working relationships with some of the bigger solar companies, like Solar City. The rebates that were once offered if you went solar have been rescinded. The utility companies don’t like that anything taking money from their little coal-producing pockets so they lobby to have rates increased for using their grid. Some have been swatted down but as this is a “red” state, most have been approved. We wouldn’t want to do anything that might be good for the planet but not necessarily good for the utility company. 

Unless you’re ordinary civilians like us. We want to do things that are good for the planet. We use only canvas bags when we go grocery shopping. We don’t let water run unnecessarily. We even turn off the hose when washing the cars. Lately, we actually use the rain to wash the cars and it has worked well. We keep the air conditioning temperature set at 78º so it’s not running constantly; we keep the heat set at 62º which means it runs rarely. We pick up after the dog. And we don’t drive very much. Yes, when we do drive it tends to be our big 5500 pound SUV, which isn’t good because it doesn’t get good gas mileage. But we only put 7500 miles on it over the course of a year and a half, so we sort of negate that issue. 

When we moved here we immediately started thinking about solar. When we finally got into the house, we started calling solar companies. We went with Solar City. There was zero upfront cost and a flat fee every month regardless of whether it’s a high production month like July or a lower one like January. We signed a 20-year lease at the end of which we can re-up. It has a full-warranty. Our 39 panels were installed on our roof in early December. We can’t see them from the ground, but we can when we climb up the hill. That suits us just fine.

In order for the system to begin generating solar power that can then be turned into electricity to power the house, the electric company had to come out and approve the installation. After they approved the installation, they then had to come back and install a solar meter. The panels feed into two inverters that then convert the energy into electricity and feed that back to Tucson Electric Power, otherwise known as TEP. TEP gets to use our energy and supply us back what we produced. If we don’t produce enough, we have to buy more from them. If we produce more than we use, they get to buy it from us. Win sort of win.

TEP was here on Friday to install the new meter. Yesterday we got official notification that we were go for power up.

We started outside at the meter where we flipped the two fuses to on, and then pushed the lever up, also to on. We went to the garage, where the inverters are located, opened the control box, turned both of those fuses on and then dialed the boxes to go. A hum started. Lights began to flash. The LED panel began charting numbers. Power in, power out. 

Last night, as the sun went down, the inverters powered down. When there’s no sun, there’s no work. Makes sense. It’s how most of us use our days as well, working while the sun shines, retiring once the sun sets. 

We’re officially on solar power now, we’re officially saving money and the environment. Win really win. That’s living it out loud.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Monday, January 4, 2016 7:33 PM

We don’t have a yard; we have desert. It has become very trendy to pull out grass and irrigation systems in California because of the drought, and to replace it with desert landscaping. Rocks. Succulents. In the desert, desert landscaping in a natural phenomenon and we have nearly 4 acres of it. Rocks. Succulents. Mesquite trees. Palo Verde trees. Plus buffelgrass, deer grass, blue grama, brittle bush, and pink muhly. These grasses grow quickly and their roots grow deeply. They are green and thick after the monsoon rains of July, August and September. They dry out in the fall and winter, becoming straw colored, waving in the winds. They are a fire danger and they’re not that attractive. They’re also difficult and time consuming to remove.

This year, we had a stronger than normal monsoon season. It dumped buckets, rained rivers on us here on the hill, more so than down in the city. Certainly more than at the airport where the official totals were charted. This rain led to gorgeous greenery, grasses that were thick and lush, ocotillos that were nearly phosphorescent. Stunning. We’d stand on the deck and watch the desert bloom and grow, almost before our eyes.

Then the grasses started to grow through the rip rap below the house. The rip rap is the rock-type wall that we paid to have put in place in order to shore up the hillside leading up to and beneath the house. It’s beautiful and makes the hillside look more natural especially since we used rocks that are native to the area. They were hand-placed by a group of guys. It was painstaking work that took weeks. We love the look. We didn’t love the look of the grasses growing up and between the rocks, dislodging some. It makes the house look messy. It makes our hillside look overgrown. It negates the money we spent. 

Our neighbor Julianne has a stable of different workers to do a variety of different things around the house. She has a landscaper, she has a guy who does windows. She has a guy who sprays for weeds (Dan, who we used as well, both at the house and throughout the neighborhood). And she has Angel who clears away the brush.

Because Dan sprayed several months ago, we are now surrounded by dead grass, the most dangerous kind. Dan only sprays, though; he doesn’t remove. Kevin thought he might have time to do it. I helpfully pointed out that we have way too many other projects to get done; that it might be easier to simply hire someone to come in, cut it down, clear it out and take it away. 

He finally relented last week. We called Angel, on Julianne’s recommendation. He came out and met with Kevin. They walked around the house, down below, on the rip rap. He gave us an estimate; Kevin hired him on the spot.

He arrived this morning towing his cart. Kevin took him a cup of coffee, they chatted briefly and then he got to work. He was all alone. I don’t know if he usually has “guys” that help him, but he didn’t today. 

He worked for 5 hours, under the gathering clouds, in the diminished wind. He removed everything we asked him to, efficiently, beautifully, cutting, digging, pulling, re-exposing our rip rap and untangling some of our cactus. He did it with a sense of purpose and a sense of humor. At one point, I was in the window, watching as he dumped a bucket into his cart. He turned around, grinned and waved. I waved back .Just a nice guy and a hard worker. The kind of guy we enjoy paying because we know we get more than what we paid for. We’ll hire him again. Kevin already has his number in his phone.

He’s an angel, our Angel, and one I’m celebrating today.

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live out loud

Things that happened

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 31, 2015 3:09 PM

It seems like just a year ago it was snowing. I ran to the window every 15 minutes or so, like a kid, watching and waiting for the flakes to begin. When they did, I squealed with delight. Yes, squealed. It set the tone for 2015 and I was ready. 

We started the snowy year filled with anxiety and anticipation. Our house was nearing completion and Roy’s gallery opening was looming. We had hoped to be in by the end of January but we were still finishing, still tiling, still shopping for lights and mirrors and accoutrements. Cooper started to get sick and the vet kept insisting it was Valley Fever when it wasn’t. He put him on prednisone and it seemed to perk him right up. But it would be short lived. 

February came and went and we began to worry. We booked movers. We had Roy’s show coming up and we needed a house for the party we were throwing. We pressured Mike and he gave a date that was soon moved back. We simply weren’t finished. We paid a point and a half on our loan because we hadn’t converted from construction to residential. Tick tock went the clock.

Finally March, a move in, a show, a party and the loss of our beloved Cooper. I’ll never forget how sick he was just a week before the move. How he seemed to get better and then how he went completely down hill. I remember being frustrated with him and hating myself for it. There was so much going on and I needed him to be better because I didn’t have time to worry. But I did worry. And then he died on March 29, the day after Roy’s opening. 

We were in the house. Now came the task of putting it all together, and then the realization that a new house didn’t actually mean there was nothing to do. Quite the contrary. Project after project materialized. Some were completed; most were not. Works in progress. Projects in progress. 

Riley arrived on April 27 because I simply could not fathom living here without a dog. It was always supposed to be for the three of us. Our beautiful boy, whose name is still attached to the area on the side of the house where Riley pees and poops. The Cooper area. He never got to use it but Riley makes up for that every day. 

We experienced our first monsoon up here, watching the sky turn green and fly toward us at breakneck speed. Torrential rain, fierce winds. One day, a microburst that hurled our furniture across the deck, breaking one of our Adirondack chairs. 

Visitors came, two by two. Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, people I’d never spent any time with in the 20 years he and I have been together. What fun we had. Roy and Bobbi. Diane and Gene. Justin, who walked in and stood in the foyer. “Holy shit.” My sister came in July; my mother and aunt in November. We made new friends and missed our old ones. Wished they could always be here with us.

There was travel to Los Angeles, a road trip to Paso Robles. Wine tasting, cooking. Volunteer work and work work.

Birthdays, anniversaries, phone calls and Face Time, face time and emails, text messages. New iPhones, new iPads, a new computer for me.

Tick tock goes the clock. Ever forward.

Older, wiser. Some days happier, some days curious. Other days wondering did we do the right thing? So much change, so much. 

We end the year with high clouds and cold temperatures. No snow, not even rain in the forecast. We’ll light a fire and sit near the glow of the Christmas tree on this last night of the year. We’ll remember all we’ve accomplished, all we’ve celebrated, and what we’ve lost, what we’ve had to give up, the people we always miss, and we’ll toast to each. Happy 2015. And welcome a brand spankin’ new 2016. Let’s take it out for a ride and see what it can do.


by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 23, 2015 5:37 PM

Road trip today. Left on Houghton, down to the 10 east to 80 south toward Tombstone. Winding through the desert, through tiny towns that always make me wonder who lives there and why, past decaying buildings, many flying fraying flags. It was a two lane road, 80 east, flanked by buffalo grass waving in the breeze. The sky was heavy with clouds, threatening rain. We were behind a truck called Greer Doors & Windows. It was just the two of us, climbing slowly up to just over 5200 feet and into the charming and artistic town of Bisbee. 

Bisbee is about an hour and a half south of Tucson. It's tucked into the Mule Mountains in Cochise County. It was founded in 1880 as a mining town, like so many of the small towns in Arizona. Arizona is known as the copper state because of all the mining of copper in the 19th and early 20th century.

Bisbee is a bit like the land that time forgot, in the most artistic and funky way. Downtown still looks like it looked once upon a time though now, instead of tool shops and jean depots, it is galleries and gift shops, lovely cafes and restaurants. The architecture is funky, the spirit creative, the people artsy. There is wine tasting and music, lots of decorations. 

We got there around 10:30 and wound our way through galleries and shops, up Main Street and back down again. We stopped to talk to a woman who makes her own glass beads by wrapping different strands of glass around a soldering stick and melting them together. Each one has a different color scheme but each has a crescent moon on one side and a full moon on the other. Kevin bought one for me for Christmas. 

We ate at a place called Ana's Seasonal Cafe. There were six tables, one waitress and one cook. The tables all had shelf-lining paper wrapped around the tops and stapled on the bottom. The food was excellent. 

We stopped to pet a German shepherd puppy named Ozzie. His owner assured us that he will eventually grow into his ears.

As we walked back toward the car we stopped to look at a set of stairs that started between two businesses and went up, up and up some more. There are many such staircases in Bisbee. It's built into the mountains and houses are nestled and stacked. There are several abandoned mine buildings at the end of closed shafts. Kevin and Roy were taking photographs. A lovely elderly woman stopped. Her hair was a soft white, in loose curls. She wore blue jeans with studs down the side, brown cowboy boots. She was wrapped up in a big red coat and had a green scarf tied around her throat. She was carrying a small Christmas bag with an illustration of Santa.

"Where are you all from?" she asked.

We proceeded to tell her and she welcomed us to her town. She told us about the Acacia just down Main that used to be a horse hotel. Inside, she said, is the big wooden freight elevator they used to bring the horses to the second level. The carriages and wagons were parked on the first floor. Down Gulch were a number of mansions. There was mine tours. She used to work in the visitor's center. She's retired now, was in town to get her mail. Her name was Juanita and she's always called Bisbee home. She lives there with her husband. 

After speaking with us for 15 or 20 minutes, she said she had to get to the mail. She wished us Happy Christmas, and tying her scarf a little tighter, she walked off down Main, toward the Gulch, leaving us smiling in her wake.

We took a road trip today to Bisbee and we met some wonderful people. It was a day to celebrate, to live it out loud.

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