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.

There's been a hoot owl howling by my window now

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 21, 2015 7:24 PM

Last Spring, when Roy was here for his gallery show, he talked about waking up in the night and seeing an owl perched on the railing outside his room. The windows were open, the air still April-cool. The owl hooted and called. I thought perhaps he was dreaming it but whimsy can follow Roy. It appears often in his paintings and drawings. I’ve said before, and those who know him will nod their heads in agreement: Roy sees things differently than the rest of us and we are blessed that he can take that vision and turn it into art. 

Last night, I woke up at 3:23. I suppose technically, that’s morning, but as it was still dark, it was still night. The desert was fairly quiet. Unfortunately my brain was screaming. I couldn’t calm it down and so I laid there, worrying and listening and thinking. About an hour later, Kevin stirred. I whispered are you awake? He whispered back no. Why are you awake? I’m worrying, I said. Why are you awake? He said the owl.

The hoot hoot hoot of one owl, and then, seemingly another. Either that or the one was broadcasting in stereo. I raised my head and looked, thinking I might see the outline of one of these birds as he perched on the rail. I didn’t. Which means nothing other than it was perched somewhere else. 

I continued to lie there, trying to get comfortable, trying to turn off my brain, not at all phased by the owl but rather the song the owl made start to play in my head. Yes. It was Michael Murphy’s Wildfire. I heard the gentle guitar at the beginning, the sorrowful, haunting tale of a horse and a girl lost in the storm, of the one left behind hearing the hoot owl howling by my window now for six nights in a row. I admit to having a love-hate relationship with that song. Love probably for nostalgia. It was popular when I was very young and I tend to have a soft spot for songs that take me back in time. Except for KC and the Sunshine Band. Also the Bay City Rollers. 

Hate because it’s kind of sappy. Murphy purportedly wrote it in one morning after dreaming the entire thing. The song, he said, came to him from a story his grandfather told him when he was a boy, about a prominent Native American legend about a ghost horse. It was Murphy, a Brit, who gave the ghost the name Wildfire. 

The owl eventually flew off or went to sleep because the hooting ceased. Kevin began to snore softly. I was playing Wildfire in my head and trying to turn down the volume.

Outside, coyotes began to howl. Often they seem almost impossibly far away. These seemed to be just below the window, perhaps on the drive. I wondered how many there were since it sounded like several though someone told me not too long ago that coyotes can essentially throw their voices to appear like they are more than one. This, I would assume, inflicts terror on their intended prey.

I don’t know if the coyotes wandered away. Perhaps they left in search of the hoot owl. But it became quiet again. The clock showed 4:57. I told myself that if I wasn’t asleep by 5:30 I was just going to get up and start the day. I love the bargains we make with ourselves in the middle of the night with a hoot owl and coyotes howling in the dark. I finally drifted off to sleep to the quieter hum of the desert, celebrating the night out loud.

The hills have eyes

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:54 PM

The desert is a mystical place. Harsh in climate, with a haunting beauty especially at night. The summers can kill, and nearly everything that lives here bites. The cacti, the trees, even the weeds can slice your skin. The creatures are prehistoric, some of them poisonous. Mostly these creatures leave you alone, but occasionally, if you come upon them unexpectedly, they will strike. When you live in the desert, you have to always be aware. Maybe it’s because of the harshness of the weather that it is mystical, even magical. It wraps around you, wraps around me, and has penetrated my soul.

As brutal as the summer heat can be, the rains can be equally dangerous. That’s because it doesn’t just rain here; it storms. Violently. The winds whip into a frenzy, whistling and howling through the cactus, the mesquite and palo verde trees; the rails around the deck. Lightning splits the sky, often in strikes of two or three. Thunder rolls and crashes, rattling windows and skylights. And then the rain starts. It rarely begins slowly. It simply gushes and pours and once the wind catches it, it becomes horizontal, driving against the windows. 

During monsoon season, which runs from June 15 until September 30, the sky turns dark, nearly green. The winds swirl, the rains come, the temperatures drop. Often within minutes it’s over. The clouds move on, the winds calm, and the sun returns. The ground dries quickly. It’s as if it never happened.

Then there is the kind of rain we’ve been having lately. The kind of rain that happened again yesterday. The sky was thick most of the day and the rain arrived here somewhere around 5:15. Again, the winds picked up, and soon it was raining so hard it obscured the landscape. The air was nearly white. It lasted for about an hour or so, then it started up again around 7:30, this time with hail. We had closed the windows in the master bedroom because the winds were so strong and the windows are nearly at the end of the deck which means that when the winds are strong, it pushes the rain into the house. After the hail storm, we opened the windows again. As I stood in front of the screen, feeling the cool of the night flow past me, I thought I heard something in the desert below. I called to Kevin to see if I was hearing things. He listened, both of us holding our heads impossibly still, ears toward the window as if somehow that would make it easier to hear. 

“I think it’s just water dripping from the scuppers,” he declared but took the flashlight we keep next to the bed and stepped outside to make sure. I went about doing whatever I was doing which was straightening up the bathroom since we’d just showered. After a few minutes, I went back to the window. 

“Anything?” I asked truly wanting the answer to be ‘no.’ Instead, he appeared in the window, holding the flashlight under this chin so that he looked like a character in a horror movie. Then he whispered: “come here.”

Oh, shit. Oh, crap. I didn’t want to go. As mystical and wondrous as I find the desert, the desert at night can be scary. It’s impossibly dark, and because it was still cloudy, it was inky and thick. I stepped out onto the deck. Apprehensive, only slightly curious. Kevin trained the flashlight up the hill. 

“See it?” he whispered. I looked but didn’t want to see. I shook my head even as I shuddered. I told myself it was the coolness of the air. He moved the light and then moved it back, and there it was. The telling glare of two eyes. 

“Holy crap,” I hissed. “What the hell is it?” 

He laughed a sinister laugh that chilled the air even further. MuahHAha.

Last night, after the rains, as dampness hung in the air and water dripped slowly down onto the rocks below, the hills above us were alive. Something was watching us. As we watched back, it slowly turned and gracefully moved up and out of sight. The eyes it seemed belonged to one of our resident deer, haunting it out loud in the hills after the rains.

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The smallness

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 17, 2015 8:56 PM

We are ants on this planet. I came to this conclusion a long time ago but also this morning as I was outside helping my husband put the new house numbers sign up on the rock wall. By helping I mean giving my opinion as to whether they should be a little bit higher, perhaps a tad to the right. There were ants crawling along the pavers. Big, black ants. There was also an occasional red ant but they were mostly black. As I often do when I see ants, I stare and marvel just a little bit. They’re so small, and we’re so big. Yet, we’re so small and insignificant and the planet is so big.

The natural state of our planet puts me in awe. I stand at my kitchen sink and look up at the hill behind us, rising up and over, disappearing into the sky. Beyond there are more hills that I can’t see from my ant-like position, but I know they’re there. I’ve seen them; I’ve driven them. I’d know they were there even if I hadn’t done either though, because of course they’re there. They are part of the landscape, on an ever-changing and awe inspiring planet.

The desert mystifies, calms and alarms me. It’s like everything I’ve always said about nature and its power combined into one unique setting. Humanity does its best to triumph over nature but we don’t succeed in much the same way ants don’t ever triumph. Nature is too big and too powerful. I’ve lived in Southern California when buildings tumbled because of earthquakes that last mere seconds. I’ve seen hillsides slide down to bury towns; fire has burned even the most expensive homes on the coast of Malibu.

Just this week, torrential rain on a hardened earth created mud flows that buried homes and cars, that closed 40 miles of Interstate 5. Think about that. A highway that took years to complete, running the length of the west coast, from Southern California north to Washington. An engineering marvel, a triumph of man. Buried in minutes by a wall of mud. 

I’ve lived in the north east when snow falls so thick and so quickly that it closes a city. I’ve watched Boston succumb to nature’s will. I’ve seen Chicago pull the shades and stay inside when lake effect snow blankets and buries an otherwise thriving city.

Last night, we had another signature desert thunderstorm. Black skies flashing, thunder booming over the house with enough force to rattle the windows and skylights; a scary sound that makes the dog bark and whimper. He can’t see it and it terrifies him. I listened as the wind whipped across the hill above on its way down and over and across. It howled, it threatened. I lay there in bed, thinking about the deck furniture and wondering where the couch pillows might end up. Two weeks ago we had what can only be described as a microburst. The winds were so severe they picked up the table and chairs on the deck and moved them across, slamming them into the railing. The pillows swirled and threatened to take off for New Mexico. On the west deck, one of our Adirondack chairs went airborne and also slammed into the rail, breaking into pieces.

Today is calmer. The winds have dissipated to a breeze. Clouds are still heavy, another thunderstorm is threatening. I can see the sky blackening over the hills. We are powerless against its force. It will either wreak havoc or it will simply let us know who’s really in charge. It’s not us. We’re ants. I’m surprisingly OK with that because this planet is awesome, and this life I’m living puts me forever in a state of awe. The smallness of me, of all of us, against the power and largess of nature. It’s truly amazing and no matter how frightening it can be sometimes, I still celebrate that it is. Because it is.

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The simple joy of a conversation with my husband over a glass of wine

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 10, 2015 10:00 PM

Last night, Kevin and I went to the movies. We caught a late afternoon/early evening showing of The Martian and thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re very particular about the films we choose to see in the theater. Most of those released don’t interest us enough to take the time or spend the money to see and so we wait for Netflix. It’s a system that works well for us. But we spent both the time and the money yesterday and it was well worth it. The film was great. 

As we often do after seeing a movie we enjoy, we talk about it. I suppose it’s something most people do, but I never did that with my first husband. He and I didn’t talk about much of anything so I guess that’s not so hard to believe. Kevin and I talk about everything. We enjoy talking. We enjoy hearing each other’s point of view. We enjoy going deep into a conversation. 

Often when we leave a film, we’re quiet. When that happens, we know we both enjoyed it. We’re thinking. We’re replaying certain scenes in our minds. As we walk to the car, fingers intertwined, one of us will say “so, what did you think?” and the other will start to nod and grin and counter with “I thought it was great. You?” It doesn’t matter who starts or who responds. It’s almost interchangeable. We already know. But we need to start talking about it because we each liked it and there’s so much we want to discuss; to find out what the other thought of that scene, or “What do you think that meant?’

I’m sure most people do the same. But it’s in our nature to dissect. We become hyper-focused. We think almost too much. We reach into the far corners to see what we can come up with.

We did it when we saw Cast Away. We were both very moved by that film, especially by its both blatant and subtle symbolism. I’ve written about that before, here

The Martian, in some ways, was Cast Away in space. Except it wasn’t. There wasn’t really any symbolism. There were just obstacles, and the sheer will to figure out how to survive. In that way, Cast Away may have been the stronger of the films. But The Martian was sheer, experiential fun. It was a ride. We loved it from the beginning. The unsentimentality of it. The old-fashioned story telling aspect of it. It didn’t rely on special effects. Even though it was set in space, it was remarkably grounded in good old-fashioned science. Mars just happened to be the backdrop. And what a spectacular backdrop it was. Jordan’s Wadi Rum provided the location. It was exquisite and completely believable as the surface of Mars.

Last night, we sat at the table having a light dinner, a nice salad. And a bottle of wine that had just arrived from the California Wine Club, a blend called Sunset Red from a winery called Burnside Road. We talked more about the film, about the actors, about the landscape; about the fun and intelligence of the story. We laughed as we recounted some of the lines, like “They’re launching me into space in a convertible.”

As I listened to Kevin laugh, I thought how wonderful that after all these years we still do this, that we will enjoy each other, that we’d rather be with just us than just about anyone else. It’s rare; it’s delightful. It’s one of the great joys of my life, to sit and talk with my husband while we sip wine and watch the twinkle of the city lights. It’s the very definition of living it out loud.

It's art

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 2, 2015 10:57 PM


As much as I want everyone to believe that Roy and Bobbi are here this weekend just because they missed us, it's not true. Well maybe it's a little true but it's mostly not. They're here because Roy has two pieces of art going into galleries in Phoenix.

As Roy's rep, Kevin has been pitching his art to galleries and we've been somewhat successful. There was the gallery showing during the month of April which was a success. There is the piece on permanent display at the Tucson Music Museum downtown. Bobbi hasn't seen that yet; we might go tomorrow when we're downtown for Tucson Modern Week.

The other place where we've had success is the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix. The Herberger was built in 1989 to "support and foster the growth of performing arts in Phoenix as a performance venue and arts incubator. The Herberger Theater Center has contributed to the cultural and educational development of the Valley. Each year, approximately 130,000 patrons, including 30,000 school-aged children share the unique experience of live performing arts." That's from their website. It has a sister theatre in Tucson called the Arizona Theatre Company. We've been three times and just love it.

When we submit Roy's art, it has thus far been for juried art shows, where we've submitted pieces and his work has been chosen sans his name or any other information. The first time his work exhibited there was during the same month as the gallery showing. He has two pieces going in this month, one a painting and another a photograph that is going up in one of their affiliated facilities. The painting is on display until January; the photograph just through early November. Roy and Bobbi came on Wednesday evening, stopping in Phoenix to drop both pieces at the Theatre.

Tonight is the opening and the four of us are going to the Valley of the Sun, to downtown Phoenix. It's a two and a half hour drive each way. The event is an hour and a half. We'll drive through the desert in the late afternoon sun, talking and laughing. Tired because Roy accidentally set the alarm off around 6 am waking us both up rather violently. But excited to see Roy's piece on display. This place is big time. It's high end. It's art. When it's Roy's art, it's always worth celebrating.

Up and out of bed so fast

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 26, 2015 8:28 PM

There are several things that will get you up and out of bed faster than you ever thought possible. My sister and I have had this discussion many times. There are the ones you would expect like a child having a nightmare. Or someone breaking into your house. Though the latter might just make you freeze in place instead and quietly reach for the phone and 9-1-1.

The piercing screech of a smoke detector will rouse you quickly, which of course it’s meant to do. On one of our first nights in the house we heard a detector go off and a computerized woman’s voice say calmly – too calmly – Fire. We were both up and running. It turned out to be a fault in the carbon monoxide sensor.

Note to whomever it is that makes these things. The voice should have just a tad more urgency.

A house alarm will get you up and “adam,” which is actually up and at ‘em, a derivative of a military term of Up, Guard, and at them. I love when people say up and adam. Much like I love when people say prolly instead of probably, or intensive purposes rather than intents and purposes. This mangling of idioms and the English language is fodder for another blog post.

Another thing that gets you up and at ‘em is the sound of a puking dog. This is the discussion my sister and I have had. It will usually go something like this:

“How are you?”

“I’m kind of tired today.”

“Didn’t you sleep?”

“I did, but the dog got sick – “

“And nothing gets you up and out of bed faster” than the retching sound of a dog about to lose his cookies. It doesn’t matter who initiates the dialogue because it is always much the same. At least dogs give you warning. They begin that convulsive sound and you just know what’s coming. You toss the covers aside and your feet hit the floor as you simultaneously call for the dog who won’t come because hello-getting sick here and so you reach for his collar and try desperately to at least get him off of the carpet. It is not easy moving an 80-pound dog that doesn’t want to be moved.

This is but one reason why we now have only tile in the house. Much easier to clean, on all levels.

All of which brings me to this morning. It was early, about 5:45. The sky was still dusty. Not quite dark, not yet light. Kevin got up and I mumbled something about what are you doing it’s Saturday.

He informed me that he was going to get some rocking done. More swale work to abate the erosion issues on the sides of the house. I muttered OK, and be careful and I’ll be up soon. But it was still too early. Riley wasn’t even up yet. Kevin pulled clothes out of the closet, his customary rocking outfit of a pair of Levis with holes in all the best places and a long sleeve tee shirt, equally holely. He grabbed socks and his work boots and padded out to the kitchen. Barefoot.

You see where this is going, right?

I rolled into the middle of the bed, which I often do because it’s cooler and started to drift back to sleep. I just wanted another half hour. A lousy 30 minutes. I wasn’t asking for much. It’s Saturday after all. I get to sleep in until 6:30 on Saturdays.

Then, I heard it. The yelling, cursing, shouting, swearing, anger and general pissed-off-ness. All coming from the direction of the still-dark kitchen.

I was up and out of bed as fast as if the dog had been retching. I raced toward the kitchen.

“Don’t come down here,” he hissed through clenched teeth.

“What happened?” I said from the steps leading up toward the bedroom.

“I stepped on another one.”

I will not go into detail about what the “another one” was. Suffice it to say that if you know about the desert, what you’re thinking is probably correct. We hunted it down and killed it, deposited it off the deck and back into the desert from which it had come.

But I was up. Out of bed. Fast. While it wasn’t the way we wanted to start our Saturday, Kevin least of all, at least we were up. The day was beginning with a bang, or rather a bite. Let the celebrations begin.

Why did the javelina cross the road

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 25, 2015 10:15 PM

It’s the age-old question, turned into an elementary school joke. But it’s also profound. Why did the chicken cross the road? If you employ Occam’s Razor, the answer is simple: to get to the other side. It’s why we all cross the road. But I’ve always contended that there was more to it. Maybe the chicken was crossing the road to have a clandestine meeting with a rooster. Or maybe another chicken. Maybe the chicken didn’t want to be dinner that night. Maybe the chicken was just trying to stretch her legs, get a little exercise.

The fact is, we’ll never really know why the chicken crossed the road and we really don’t care all that much. It’s a riddle, and an example of something labeled anti-humor because it is presented as something funny, setting up the listener for something funny. And then it’s not. It first appeared in 1847 in an edition of The Knickerbocker, a New York City monthly magazine, stated like this:

...There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this: ‘Why does a chicken cross the street?[’] Are you ‘out of town?’ Do you ‘give it up?’ Well, then: ‘Because it wants to get on the other side!’

In the 1890s, Potter’s American Monthly printed it like this: “Why should not a chicken cross the road? It would be a fowl proceeding.”

Other variations include a turkey or duck crossing "because it was the chicken's day off," and a dinosaur crossing "because chickens didn't exist yet." Some variants are both puns and references to the original, such as "Why did the duck cross the road?" "To prove he's no chicken."

To this ridiculousness, I would like to add my Tuesday morning version: Why did the javelina cross the road? I wondered about this, briefly, when Riley and I pulled up on our walk because I noticed these wild pigs crossing the road in front of us.

Javelinas are members of the peccary species. They’re a medium sized wild pig that can grow to about 4 feet in length and weigh up to 88 pounds. They’re native to the desert, they smell horrible (they’re also known as skunk pigs) and ugly as hell. These are not the cute, cuddly pigs like Babe that people have as pets. These things are mostly blind, eat anything including small animals and prickly pear cactus, and have been known to batter a dog with their tusks with enough force to tear the dog apart. I have not seen this happen, and had no desire to see it enacted today.

As they walked across the road, down by Highland Park which is where we usually turn around in the summer because it’s just too damn hot, I stopped. Riley stopped. He squared off. Whined. I pulled at his leash, he fought me. He did not want to go. I did not want to provoke the javelinas. I won. We turned back with Riley glancing over his should a couple of times. I did the same. If those things started after us, I was going to start running, even with my bad knee. Once we got around the corner, and I knew they hadn’t caught a whiff of my dog, or of me, I turned back one last time. Riley had moved on to chasing after small lizards.

Still, the riddle rattled around in my early morning brain. Why DID the javelina cross the road? The only thing I could come up with was “Because of its fowl smell.”

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Life in the presidio

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 21, 2015 8:33 PM

On August 20, 1775, Captain Hugh O’Conor, an Irish mercenary working for Spain and leading a company of Spanish Army soldiers, was tasked with moving all presidios to the state of California. He never made it that far, instead selecting an area overlooking the Santa Cruz River floodplain. He named it the Presidio San Agustin. Nearby was a small O’odham village named S-cuk Son.

This was a new frontier, a year before the country declared its independence from England. Where presidios provided protection for those working the silver mines. The Spanish came up from the south, from a place called Tubac, and found their new fort is pretty sorry shape. There was no place to live, little food. They got to work, setting up a ramada to put a roof over their heads. Over the course of several years, they built a gate in the center of the west wall, with a chapel located on the east wall. The commandant’s house was in the center. Homes, stables and warehouses grew up in the center. The exterior walls were fortified adobe to help protect against occasional attacks from the Apache who would often come to steal the animals.

Soldiers hunted on Sentinel Peak, a place that eventually became known as “A” Mountain. They guarded the community, protected their families and grew to love the town that was Tucson. In 1775, there was no politics, not even any news from the rest of the country. This little jewel in the Sonoran desert, filled with greenery and life-sustenance , didn’t even know about the American revolution until 1780.

Sometimes I wonder if it is still that removed. I wonder if it’s one of the reasons we love it like we do. There are politics here now. There are politics everywhere. But it’s not as bad as most people might think especially since this is Arizona, the land of the rabid right and ridiculously xenophobic. Interesting that the state was founded by Native Americans and those from Mexico. Tucson was actually part of Mexico, fighting for Mexican’s independence in 1821, not becoming part of the United States until 1854. But to acknowledge that is to somehow betray our heritage. Not so much here, though; not in our little island of blue. And green. Where orange and purple flowers and ripe red prickly pear fruit are the norm. The lush oasis of the southern desert.

S-cuk Son, or Tucson, celebrated its 240th birthday yesterday. To my knowledge there wasn’t a cake, nor were there fireworks. For its age, it looks pretty good. There are some cracks and lines, some sagging in the middle, mostly from the underground aqueducts. But there’s a reason people settled here then. It’s much the same reason people stayed, giving birth to generation of Tucsonans. The reason people like us now call it home.

It’s the people. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the remarkable terrain. The creatures. The sky at night. The history. Our history. And when the birds take flight as storms gather and rain down, it is past meets present. It’s life in the presidio, with adobe walls and homes and agriculture and animals that still need to be protected though no longer from the Apaches. It’s wondrous, still a great place to build a fort. We have. And we couldn’t be happier.

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There’s a tarantula in the portico. Now what?

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 16, 2015 8:17 PM

Welcome to today’s edition of “what the f#$% is THAT?!” As usual, our story takes place in the portico. For some reason, that small, covered walkway seems to attract all manner of creatures, especially now that it’s blisteringly hot following the 2” plus of rain we got on Tuesday. The three Ts are supposed to be regular occurrences in monsoon season. We’ve seen our fair share of Toads, they of the poisonous variety, who haunt the portico and the Cooper area (where Riley pees) just teasing the dog. We had three last night, which Kevin relocated using his magical dustpan with the long handle and a broom.

On Friday, when SolarCity Charlie was here, we had a Tortoise. We think he was trying to elude the roadrunner. Kevin donned gloves (the tortoise was much too big for the dustpan) and picked him up, set him on the driveway and off he motored toward the eastern desert.

Two Ts down. We knew it was just a matter of time before the third one appeared. After all, we haven’t seen one since September of 2013 and given our current locale, in the middle of the Sonoran desert, we knew they were lurking, probably under a rock somewhere. In fact, every time I moved a rock last weekend, I expected to see something fuzzy and sinister looking back at me with an “excuse me, I’m hibernating here” look. I didn’t. I was glad.

But today, oh, today. As you might surmise from the title of the post, the third T made an appearance. Kevin had gone out to the portico to sweep up. Ever since Orkin started coming on a regular basis, we tend to get a good number of dead bugs in the portico as well as the deck every day. Add in some wind, and there tends to be an accumulation of carcasses, dirt and leaves. The portico is sunken, three steps down from the driveway. As such, it’s a magnet for stuff. 

My brave husband was out there barefoot. It was the middle of the day and on Sunday, he generally refuses to wear shoes. It’s at night that the scorpions come out so he figures he’s safe. However, when he was doing the dishes after breakfast, he jumped back like something had bit him. 


“Something just twitched past my foot,” he said.

We both immediately moved to put something on our feet. Me, the flip flops that were at the bar; him, the slippers that were on the other end of the bar. Armed with footgear, we went back to the scene of the alleged crime and found … absolutely nothing.

The flip flops and the slippers got removed again. Let’s pick up our story from there: The husband unit was outside in the sweltering heat, sweeping. I was at the bar, working. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up. My barefoot husband was standing in the kitchen window, gesturing frantically. Come here! Now!

I cautiously opened the front door. He pointed. I looked. And didn't see anything.

“It’s down under there, in the corner.”

Uh-oh. I bent down.

“I still don’t see anything,” I said, not knowing what it was I was supposed to be seeing but figuring it was probably bad based on the wild gesticulating. 

“There,” he pointed again. I looked closer and there it was: a furry leg coming down from under the house. 

“Well, crap,” I said getting up and backing away. “What are we going to do (we actually meaning you)? We can’t leave it there.”

He sighed, resigned. We went back inside. He got the long-handled dustpan. He put on his slippers. He looked at me again, and turned toward the door.

“If I don’t come back, take care of our boys.”

It promised to be a battle for the ages.

In one corner, Tommy “the terrible” Tarantula, weighing in at 2 oz. He’s really slimmed down, Bob. Look at him dance on all eight feet, lighter than air.

And in the other corner, Kevin “the mere mortal” Michel. He looks good, strong. But he’s in slippers, a little leaden, and that can’t be good.

In the end, the mere mortal defeated the terrible, scooping him into the long-handled dustpan and relocating him into a pile of rocks across the roadway where the arachnid eyed the humanoid with some disdain, vowing that he’d be back. And that he’d bring friends.

Great. Something to look forward to. Something to … celebrate?

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