I wonder

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 18, 2017 7:35 PM

[Written late last night and posted today]

I am 37,000 feet above the earth. It seems an impossible number. I try to imagine 37,000 wooden rulers like the ones I had in grade school, stacked one on top of the other, end to end, an endless stick that points from the desert up into a night sky where only the pale flash of red lights gives away where we are. I wonder how 37,000 feet became the accepted height for flight. I realize I don’t care enough to find out.

I am on my way home, finally. I say finally as if it’s been weeks since I was there when it was only yesterday that I left. It just seems like weeks. I wonder if others feel this way when they leave home or if others think about it.

I wonder when Southwest Airlines started having such on-time awfulness. I wonder when flying became more awful, nothing more than a means to an endpoint. I used to like flying when I would board big planes in Los Angeles and fly all the way across the country without stopping until we landed in Boston. I suppose I liked it because my dad often gave me his first class upgrades and first class is always better than steerage. Southwest only does the latter. When I liked flying it was before 9/11, before the rest of us were made to suffer because of the government’s mistakes. The government started making flying less fun; the airlines just perpetuate it.

I wonder why it’s always nearly impossible to hear the pilot when he addresses the cabin. That’s probably not safe. I also wonder why there is always someone who farts at least once while the plane is in the air and why that person is always sitting just in front of me. 

Or maybe airplanes just stink.

I am on my way home from San Francisco.

I had forgotten how much I love it there. It’s an incredible city, sprawling and tall, dirty and glorious, filled with different types of people all melding into one. I watched people walking their little dogs last night in Union Square as I sat in a Thai restaurant eating curries and pad Thai and sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. I miss the sophistication of a city like San Francisco. I had forgotten. I wonder why.

It rained on my walk back to the hotel, the kind of soft rain that you almost can’t feel and so you’re surprised to find out how wet you are when you step inside. Water dripped from the fire escapes above. People strolled, dogs pooped and owners cleaned it up.


Today I sat in a board room with walls of glass overlooking AT & T Park, where the Giants play, and the glass-like bay. The sun was shining, there was only the slightest breeze. People walked and jogged, dogs ambled. Tugboats chugged toward buoys. I wondered when I would have the opportunity to visit the City by the Bay again and have more time to breathe in its scent of ocean and bread and diesel and Thai food.

The plane has started its descent. The city lights are growing closer. Soon I will be able to see the cars on the road, the still and always illuminated flags waving in the desert night.

I love how the sound of the plane changes just before you touch down. The engines have slowed to landing speed; the gear is down, the flaps up. There is a hovering sound, a closeness, a tease of a kiss.

Home.

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In the gray

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:42 PM

We’re officially in fall. I know that much of the country has been in fall for several weeks now, but the desert seasons are a little different. It takes us longer. But it has finally become cooler, the days have shortened and the darkness has lengthened. The air conditioning has been turned off, and the windows are open, the daily breeze flowing through and coating everything in dust. It’s impossible to keep up with the dust in the desert, something I had been warned about previously. It’s not as bad in town but out where we live, where the winds are stronger and the land is more plentiful, the dust drifts in with the breeze and settles on our furniture, books, the floor like a long lost friend. 

Eventually even cooler temps will arrive though not for long. The numbers will drift down into the 20s and 30s at night. We might get a spit of snow. In the mornings, as we walk the dog, we will wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and slip our hands into gloves, wrap a scarf around our throats. The temperature of the desert in winter is icy even when it’s not as cold as it feels.

This morning, we woke up to a coated sky. Gray and white, the kind of sky that would signal snow in the Northeast or Midwest. It hovers, a sky like this. There are no defined clouds, there is simply a seamless blanket covering the city, the county, the desert. 

The sky up here on the hill is different somehow. Perhaps it’s because we are so sparsely populated. It just seems bigger, and smaller. And today, grayer. When the sky is like this, we seem to sit almost at the same level, like I could reach out and feel the cool of the hovering moisture.

I love the gray. I love the way it changes the colors. The greens are muted and quiet, the houses blend more into the landscape. Even those with red-tiled roofs, Mediterranean in style, seem subdued. The black of the pavement softens and becomes more accessible. The sun tries hard to push through but it never quite makes it, and so the desert flattens and softens. It looks almost two-dimensional from up here. It’s a painted landscape that stretches 10 miles or more in every direction except north. North lies the hill. In the gray, it seems closer than ever. 

There is something about the gray that makes me start to feel the approach of the holidays. Perhaps it’s the diminishing temperatures, or the shorter days. The gray, gauzy sky is what I remember from growing up in the Northeast. A sky like this always ushered in winter and with it, Christmas. The sky doesn’t look like this in the spring or summer. There’s something about the cold that makes the sky cloudier with less clouds. When the sky was this color, we would wait and watch. A single flurry could be cause for celebration. Maybe if it actually snowed and snowed enough, school would be cancelled the next day. It had to snow a lot for that to happen.

Now, the gray just allows for cool, and the promise of cold. The weather channel says it might rain. I don’t think it will. This is the kind of sky that settles in for a long nap. It’s in no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. It hovers.

In the gray, I find solitude and wonder. In the gray, I can think less of the constant chaos, and more about the world’s potential. In the gray, I find peace. Perhaps the world needs more gray.


Shades of gray. Painting by David Pearce

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Shelter in place

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:13 PM

It’s not uncommon for us to see a lot of creatures up here on the hill. During the summer, many tend to be of the reptilian variety but now that we’re heading, albeit slowly, into fall and cooler temperatures, the warm blooded animals of the desert are reappearing. This morning, we had a desert rabbit just outside the bay window in the master bathroom and just above the drive. As we walked west with the dog, we encountered a mama javelina and her little javelin-ette. They were standing in the road, staring right at us, daring us to come forward. We stopped, they continued frozen. Finally Kevin put his hands up in the air as if to say “WTF?” and the baby nudged the mom – “Come on, mom, let’s goooooo!” – and she turned and off they trotted into the desert south.

Further down, there were two deer in amongst the rocks of a wash. We stopped to look, they looked back. Then we continued on and we assume they continued to forage for food. 

On the way back, the deer were gone, but we encountered another single javelina in the road. Normally, these animals travel in packs so it was odd. We stopped, Riley whined, and then this one lumbered across and disappeared into the desert north. 

We continued on our walk, finally ascending the road that leads to our house. We do this walk four to five times a week, always taking Sundays off – the day of rest, we jokingly call it – and often Wednesdays. If it’s particularly hot or we’re too tired or it’s too late, we don’t go. The last climb is difficult and though we’ve been making it now for some two and a half years, it never gets easier. We get to the top and we are always winded, tired. In the summers, sweating profusely. We tell ourselves that it’s good exercise, that the dog needs his walk, both of which are true. But the real truth is that we’d both probably never do it again if we had our druthers. 

Druthers is such an interesting word isn’t it? I love that word.

I digress.

As we started across the driveway toward the front door and thus sanctuary and coffee, we heard a strange noise from above. It didn’t quite sound like a bird; we thought perhaps it was some type of cat, maybe a mountain lion or a bobcat. We don’t see them often but we know they do haunt the hills. We stopped and listened, and then, over the rocks to the east, came a single deer. She leaped down and across other rocks, then slowed as she picked her way through the cactus. 

It’s not unusual for us to have deer above the house. It happens fairly regularly though we haven’t seen any recently. This one stopped above us, ears pointed and twitching. We watched and said “hi,” as we often do. When Riley started to whine, I brought him in the house, and shortly thereafter, Kevin followed. 

From the kitchen window, we could see her. She moved slightly toward the west, then stopped behind a saguaro and turned back to the east, so still she could have been a statue. Kevin got his camera and we watched through the zoom lens. We could see her muscles twitch, her breathe in and out. It seemed that she was either waiting for the rest of here friends or family to join her, or, if there had been a cat, she had gotten away and the word in the herd was to always shelter in place.

She stood there for at least 45 minutes, maybe closer to an hour. We kept waiting for others to appear. We scanned the hillside with binoculars, looking for movement, signs of more. We never did find any and eventually we had to go to work. When we came back for coffee a while later, she was gone into the desert.

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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The shadow cast

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:51 PM

I’ve written before about the creatures we encounter in the desert. Most of them are on the ground, but we do have plentiful birds and flying bugs. One buzzed by me this morning and I noticed that it cast a shadow. You know something is big when it casts a shadow. I don’t know what type of bug it was and I honestly don’t care. I’m not a big fan of bugs on the ground; less so of ones in the air.

It made me think though. Shadows are fascinating changes in the light. While they seem to block the light entirely, in effect they really only hide it, temporarily, and even then only some of it. If there’s enough light to cast a shadow, there is enough light to dance in the shadow. Every day, I look at the shadows cast by the towering saguaros in our driveway and watch them drift from west to east as the sun moves from east to west. This isn’t exactly news to anyone and I don’t mean it to be. It’s more of an observation. In those shadows and in others, there is still light. It’s just taking a break. 

I watch sports and am amazed when the baseball hit to deep left field or the deep pass thrown toward a sprinting receiver disappears in the interplay of shadow and light within a stadium. It’s there one minute; the next it’s hiding in plain sight only to drop out of the sky, often into a waiting glove or the capable hands of the receiver. I wonder how the players keep their eye on ball, how they find it in the interplay of light and darkness.

I marvel at the moving shadows cast by the ravens and falcons, the occasional hawk and the even more occasional osprey as they float across the desert, sometimes so close I can see their eyes, count the feathers in their wings. Depending on where the sun is, the shadow they cast can seem like a mini-eclipse. Even airplanes, high in the sky, when moving past the sun in just the right way, can shadow the earth below. It’s eerie and wondrous, dare I say illuminating. 

A person can stand and cast a shadow. A house casts a shadow; ditto a car. A dog casts a shadow; a cat, too. Deer, javelina, tortoises cast shadows here in the desert. Saguaros, ocotillos, prickly pear; mesquite and palo verde, even palm trees. And bugs.

The particular bug this morning was black and winged. Might have been a beetle, definitely wasn’t a grasshopper. As we trudged down the hill, it was coming up, flying against gravity. It buzzed up and around, a tiny Cessna, a single passenger bug-plane, and as it neared, it’s shadow buzzed along with it, beneath it, on the pavement, not quite keeping up but close. 

Then it buzzed by, taking its shadow with it, and I was left with a sense of awe as I so often am in the desert especially in the early morning when the sun has just started to warm the day and the shadows cast to the west are long.  Awe at the nature of it all.

I don’t know why this struck me today. There are shadows every day; sometimes there are shadows at night, if there’s a full moon. But I couldn’t help but notice, and think that if something casts a shadow, that means there is light behind.

There is a shadow cast across the country now, too. But somewhere there is also still light above. I’m not at all religious, but that light? It gives me hope.

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How much longer

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 23, 2017 7:35 PM

Are we there yet? It’s an age-old question, asked by many a child on a long road trip, tucked into the back seat, staring out the window as blurred scenery rushes by. Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom. How much longer?

I don’t know if children actually ask this question or if it’s one of those old-wives tales that has been passed down through the generations. I ask it now, sometimes, when Kevin and I are in the car on an especially long road trip. Are we there yet? How much longer? I do it for fun and it’s often followed up by the other old standby from years ago: Don’t make me stop this car. 

When we were kids, we never flew anywhere. That was a luxury normal people like us, middle class but nothing more, could never hope to afford. It never occurred to my parents that a family vacation would involve buying five round-trip airfare tickets to somewhere. Instead, we always climbed into my dad’s company car, always a boat of a vehicle, and off we went. Often it was to Maine, to a little place we found on the water in Prout’s Neck called the Braden Cottage. It was an odd house, upside down in a way, with all of the bedrooms and one large bathroom on the ground floor and the living room/kitchen above. I suppose it was like that because the view of the water was better from up there. We always went in June, because it wasn’t yet high season. We always drove.

When I was nine, making my brother five and my sister three, we took a big road trip south, to Florida. The destination was Disneyworld. This was long before there was Epcot Center. It was probably 1971. It took us at least two days and probably three to drive all the way down the east coast to Orlando. I remember my mother, who was always prepared, having created daily packets of stuff for each of us to do while safely ensconced in the backseat. Crayons and coloring books, small games, and other assorted distractions. Anything so as not to hear three kids continually whining: How much longer. 

This morning I read the news. As usual it was filled with chaos and strife, gnashing of teeth and shaking of heads. There was no immediate crisis, just the rolling continuation of this abhorrent presidency. The toddler came to Arizona yesterday, dropping down into the valley of the sun – a balmy 107º – to bring his particular brand of hate and crazy into a state known, mostly in the suburbs and rural areas, for both. Phoenix, like Tucson, indeed like most cities in the country, is a bastion of blue, a melting pot of people and cultures and ideas. I think it’s one of the reasons people congregate in cities. They share a love of differences, and enjoy celebrating that. 

Not our president. I shudder that I even have to type those words because he is so obviously and completely unfit and unwilling to actually do the job to which he is assigned. He celebrates only one thing: himself. He has a pretty high opinion of himself. He’s in the minority. He’s a petty, vile, ugly little man. 

As I read about what he had to say – I didn’t watch the rally (definitely not a speech) and refuse to ever watch him if for no other reason than to keep my blood pressure low – as I read about how he lied about what he has actually said recently, about how unfairly he’s covered when what he actually says is broadcast; when I listened to him rail about trade agreements and race and crowd size and pardoning a despicable man of law enforcement who broke the law repeatedly; as I looked at his bloated, orange buffoonery, his stupid little hands, the thumb and forefinger perpetually pressed together, all I could think of was how much longer. How much longer can this go on? How much longer can we stand it? How much longer before something horrible happens? How much longer before he does lasting damage to us, and the world? How much longer?

Are we there yet?

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Go east young man

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 9, 2017 9:59 PM

In 1851, a writer for the Terre Haute Express, John Babsone Lane Soule, used the phrase “go west, young man, go west.” The phrase is widely attributed to another writer, Horace Greely, who co-opted it, writing in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Greely freely gave credit to Soule, even showing people the original article. Regardless, the phrase “go west, young man” quickly became a mantra, especially for those returning from the Civil War. Looking for a new start, many were casting their fortunes to the west, moving their families. Greely, an author and editor of Tribune, had used the phrase because he envisioned the farmland of the west being ideal for people willing to work hard for the chance to succeed.

This morning, Justin climbed behind the wheel of his new (used) car. It was packed up with nearly everything he owns, mostly clothing and some electronics, along with some hand-me-downs from us. A set of dishes. Pots and pans. Flatware. He started the car and with a wave and a “love you guys” he drove across the driveway, down the road and … west. I watched the car for as long as I could see it, and then came back inside. The west part of his trip was short-lived. Once he got onto Catalina Highway and got to the second stop sign, he turned south, drove down to Interstate 10 and headed east. Destination: Atlanta.

He’s 26 years old. He’ll be 27 at the beginning of January. He has had two major jobs. His first was working for Norwegian Cruise Line which he got before he got out of college and started about a month and half after graduating. The second he got after Norwegian left him hanging for his next “tour.” The cruise lines all function similarly in that workers are on the boat – on a tour of duty, so to speak – for six months at a time. Then they are forced to take a mandatory six weeks off before they can embark on another tour. Justin was all set to do that, and had agreed to another six months on a ship called the Pride of America which cruises around the Hawaiian islands for six months. Not too hard to take. But they never followed through getting him the necessary paperwork from the Coast Guard and he got tired of waiting so he got a job with Feld Entertainment working on Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Until last month, he’d been with them for almost three years during which time he has traveled the country and much of the world. Last summer, on July 2, he left for Japan, where he was for three months, then they went on to Great Britain where he was for another three months. After that, he was in Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and maybe other countries I can’t remember. In April he was home for a month, and then jetted off to New Zealand and Australia where he was until two weeks ago. 

Now he’s heading east toward a new job, as lighting supervisor for the Atlanta Opera. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, with him first needing to buy a car and then trying to secure an apartment long distance. He and Kevin spent the first couple of days looking at used cars, and most of them were in horrible condition. Evidently a lot of people just don’t take care of their vehicles. But our neighbors had indicated that they might like to sell their third car and I told them to let me know. They did, he drove it and bought it. It’s a 2007 Audi A4 2.0T. It’s in great shape, and best of all, was in his price range. It’s his first car (his previous car was what Kevin and I bought him when he turned 16) and it’s a beauty.

Justin's new wheels, pointed east in the driveway

Now, he’s heading east. Toward a new adventure, a new life. And new opportunities. We’re so proud of him, and can’t wait to see – and experience – all of the success that awaits him. Go east, young man, go east. We love you.

The bathing suit dilemma

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 29, 2017 10:46 PM

When I was in college I had a gray striped bikini that I loved. That was back in the day when I was skinny and looked good in a bikini. I had it in a beach bag in the back of my Toyota Celica in my garage one night for reasons I can no longer remember. It got stolen, along with my beach bag and a small tool kit I kept in the car for emergencies. I remember thinking how disgusting it was that someone would steal a used bikini. Also, I was pissed. While I bought others, I was never able to replace that bikini. I remember it fondly to this day.

I used to like shopping for bathing suits. It was fun, and I was in great shape. Picking out a bathing suit wasn’t difficult. It was an enjoyable experience. 

I didn’t swim a lot but I did love the sun. Too much. I am paying for it now, all these years later. 

As I got older, I stopped loving the sun in terms of sunbathing. I still love it. Love its energy and its beauty; don’t love what it has done to and for my skin. Still one needs a bathing suit in order to partake in pool parties and go on vacation to tropical places like Hawaii.

I don’t have a good bathing suit. It’s been years since we went anywhere tropical or that required swimming or even just sitting in the water. Still, one needs to have one just in case. We’re already making plans for a trip next year to either Hawaii or Cabo San Lucas, where we’ll stay at a resort and sit under cabanas and swim up to aquabars; where we’ll stroll the beaches and soak up the warmth, if not the sun. I’ve been dreading the idea of finding a bathing suit. I thought I could put it off. I hoped. Today, I was confronted with the bathing suit dilemma body-on. 

Friends of ours have a home in San Carlos, Mexico. It’s not far from here, about 5 hours or so by car. When we’ve gotten together, we’ve talked about going down, joining them for a weekend, or renting one of their condos and going by ourselves. I got a text this morning from Susan: I have to go to SC next weekend to deliver some parts for the boat. Wanna come?

Just the girls. No husbands. No dogs (they have two; we have one). 

Naturally I said yes, of course, fabulous, love it, can’t wait. Except for that one tiny issue. I DON’T HAVE A DECENT BATHING SUIT. 

I immediately dialed up the internet and started looking at what the styles are today, what might look good on me, on a body that’s much different than the one that easily wore the bikini that got stolen out of her 1979 Toyota Celica.

Evidently something called tankinis are very in. Two pieces that have a tank type top and different types of bottoms including swim shorts. I was intrigued. They seemed perfect for this old body of mine.

So I ordered two. Both will be here by mid-next week. In time for my weekend trip to Mexico. Hopefully one will work. If not, I’ll be wearing shorts and a tank, and hoping for the best. Either way, I’ll be in Mexico, on a boat, having fun. And that’s a good thing.

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The four elements of the apocalypse, desert edition

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 27, 2017 8:22 PM

Kevin went to the doctor today. He has a great relationship with his physician, a man who, coincidentally, happens to live in our little ‘hood. He’s a DO, a doctor of osteopathic medicine which means he advocates a whole-person approach to care. He’s a good guy, and I might have chosen him myself except for two things: it’s a little odd to see your doctor every day as well as at homeowner’s association meetings, and I also prefer female doctors, for all specialties.

It’s been hot here, the June-furnace has been blasting now for several weeks. We get this every year right before the monsoons hit. It’s been brutal. Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we recorded 120º up here on the hill, a temperature I feel pretty good touting because it comes directly from our own personal weather station. It’s also been windy, a continuous hot breath that offers a grand total of zero relief. Mostly we stay in the house. We urge Riley to pee quickly when he has to go out. 

With the heat comes fire, plague and pestilence. We’ve had brush fires burn, thankfully none close enough to threaten us, just close enough to smell and see the smoke. We haven’t had plague or pestilence, also thankfully because that would be bad. We have, however, had our fair share of creatures and by creatures, I mean bugs. We have been over-run with box elders, tiny flying beetles. They’re outside, but they’re disgusting. We’ve seen snakes. There have been toads. Also the lizards have been prolific. 

Kevin’s doctor, who lives in the house just below us, swims every morning before he leaves for work. He was entertaining Kevin with tales of not going into the pool because it was occupied by a toad, and that he draws the line at sharing his pool with creatures. He has had box elders and toads sticking to his windows. He has had pack rats eating the wiring to his lighting and poor equipment, and ground squirrels and rabbits oh my. Scorpions and lizards and cicadas. 

“Basically half of everything ever talked about in the bible,” he joked. 

Kevin laughed. When he told me the story, I laughed, too. Because it’s funny. It also happens to ring a little too true.

The start of this summer has been hotter than usual, drier and windier. That heat has brought out the bugs in droves. Bugs that cling to the side of the house, that climb the windows, that die and congregate in piles of black carcasses on the portico and the deck. They look, at first glance, like raisins, only infinitely less appetizing. 

Toads, bigger than usual, descend upon the house at night. They haunt the top step leading down to the front door, sitting there until the dog sees them and begins to whine and squeal. Let me at ‘em. As if that’s going to happen. These toads are poisonous to dogs.

The heat speaks for itself. The winds are wicked and wild. 

There is no water, no rain in the forecast. Only sun as far as the weather report can see. It is biblical. This is how polite society ends, pulling its hair out because it can’t get rid of the annoying bugs, having to co-exist with Colorado river toads, and never being allowed outside because of spontaneous combustion, with your ashes blown away by 20 mph winds with gusts up to 50.

Welcome to the apocalypse, desert edition. It’s about as religious as I get, and while I’m not into the bugs or the toads or the heat or the wind, I am very much into the storms that follow. May they come soon and wash away our sins.

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Red Rover, Red Rover … uh, red Rover?

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 25, 2017 8:20 PM

Kevin has a 1992 Range Rover Classic. Along with his Gold Wing, it’s his mechanical pride and joy. We bought it in July of 2016 after months of searching. He needed a truck, but didn’t want a traditional pick-up. He wanted something that was enclosed so that if he had to haul things a long way, those things wouldn’t be subjected to the harsh elements of the Sonoran desert. That meant an SUV but one that was big enough. He also tends to like classics. Yes, they’re more temperamental in some ways, but in others, they’re also easier to fix since they’re not completely governed by electronics.

Before we got married, he had a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. It looked like an SUV but at the time, which was before the rush of sport utility vehicles, it was classified as a station wagon. He had always loved the look. Big, boxy, square. The interior was fairly utilitarian but it was comfortable. It was also in phenomenal shape. He put brush guards on the front and it was a head turner. It also had leaf spring shocks making it a very rough ride. I got to the point where I didn’t particularly enjoy riding in it. That’s when we bought our first Land Rover, a Discovery Series II. In Land Rover forums and when buying parts at places like Atlantic British, people call them Discos. 

My current vehicle is my second Land Rover Range Rover, this time a Sport. The first Range Rover we had was a fabulous car. Truck, the mechanics called it. Not like a truck I’d ever ridden in. It had heated seats, dual climate control, the ability to raise and lower the vehicle depending on what was needed. It rode on air shocks. It was red. Unfortunately, this particular model of Range Rover, designated a P38 by Land Rover, had a fatal engine sleeve flaw. Eventually we had a choice to make: rebuild the engine, or buy a new car. That was in 2012. 

I loved my first Range Rover. It was big, comfortable, flawless on the exterior and interior, and had a bitchin’ sound system to boot. When we had to get rid of it, I was not happy. We had fallen in love with the Range Rover Sport when they first came out in 2005, so we decided to get one. Kevin: “Don’t you even want to look at something else?” Me: “No.” 

Not only did we not look at something else, we bought another red one.

There is a review about the Range Rover that basically describes it as a limousine that can climb a tree That’s fairly accurate. They’re built for off-roading, for traversing mountains and streams. My beloved Sport does none of those things. I’m a typical limousine SUV owner. I love the bigness, love the luxury. Use very few of the off-road capabilities. I baby this car. I don’t like it used to haul things. 

So when we moved and Kevin decided he needed a truck, we looked at old Land Cruisers again, and settled on an old Range Rover, the models before the P38. We looked here in Arizona, even driving up to the norther part of the state to test drive a couple. Our budget was $5000. The trucks we test drove were in appalling shape. Then we found one on Craig’s List in Chino Hills. It was a 1992, with 188,000 miles on it. For $3500. Also, it was red. We talked to the guy, looked at the pics, and decided that it just might be perfect. Kevin flew to Ontario, Ubered to the guy’s house, test drove it, bought it for $3000, and drove it home that night. 

He loves it. I love it. We both love that it can haul whatever he needs to haul, without having to employ the use of my beloved Sport. They’re both beautiful trucks.

This morning, we were outside, with two of the garage doors open. I started to laugh. Red Rover in stall three; Red Rover in stall one. And there in the center, the most beautiful red “rover” we have, our beloved Riley Boo. And he’s always worth celebrating.

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