My love affair with a certain city in the 48th state

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:32 PM

Today is the 100th birthday of the red state of Arizona, and I don’t mean red just in terms of politics. This state, which sits just to the east of Southern California and, like us, also borders Mexico, is home to the Painted Desert and the exquisite Grand Canyon. It also offers the red rocks of Sedona, just north of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Yes, a good portion of Arizona is in the Sonoran Desert, but even more of it isn’t. There are the mountains of Flagstaff, where snows fall regularly. Snow also falls in the Canyon, and rains fall regularly in the areas north of Phoenix. But from Phoenix south to our beloved Tucson, the rains come in the form of monsoons, gale force winds and suddenly blackened skies that break open to release the driving storms that flood the roads and rush down the washes.

Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912 so today is their centennial celebration. I don’t know what they’re doing, if anything, but I imagine somewhere, some of their nearly 6.5 million people might be doing something fun. It’s probably not the Native Americans of whom there are nine different tribes including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi, Apache and Yuman tribes, the Yaqui peoples and Tohono O’odham. Maybe it’s those of Mexican ancestry (27%), German (16%), Irish (11%), English (10%) or Italian (nearly 5%). Maybe it’s some in the biggest city, Phoenix, or the second biggest city, Tucson. Maybe it’s all.

Downtown Tucson in winter

It was Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan, who first explored the area that would become the 48th state. It was 1539. Fortified towns were established first in Tubac in 1752 and in Tucson in 1775. When Mexico achieved its independence in 1821, Arizona became known as Arizonac derived from the O’odham name ali sonak, and became part of Nueva California. It was recognized as a Confederate territory by Jefferson Davis on February 14, 1862, the first time its name of Arizona was officially used. After the war, when President Lincoln signed a bill recognizing the territory, names like Gadsonia, Pimeria, Montezuma and Arizuma were also considered but the bill read Arizona and Arizona it became. When it became a state 100 years ago, it was the last of the continental states to be admitted.

Like so much of the west, Arizona has a long and storied history. It had German and Italian POW camps during World War II as well as Japanese-American internment camps. It has a history of forcing Native American children to assimilate into Anglo-American culture. It is home to many retirees because of its warm, dry climate – evidently good for arthritis and other ailments – and it is the name of the ship that lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor with hundreds of sailors’ remains still entombed.

It is also the home of the previously mentioned Tucson, a city we have absolutely fallen in love with. Both Kevin and I have been to the Grand Canyon. I lived in Scottsdale for a year in the mid-80s, a year when I spent many weekends in Sedona to escape the heat of the valley. I’ve been to Prescott and Jerome. But neither of us had ever been to Tucson until we took Justin to the University of Arizona in August of 2009. We drove the 525 miles from Oak Park across the desert, pretty much a straight shot east, with a sharp right turn south at Phoenix, and got off at Speedway, the main drag leading to the college. From the 10 Freeway to the school is maybe a mile, two at the most, and it’s a horrible street. The bungalows that line the road are run down, bars protect the windows and doors. Kevin and I exchanged worried glances. We weren’t sure this was such a good idea. But the school was lovely, and after Justin kicked us to the curb because he wanted to set up his room and get to know the school, we went to the place we had chosen to stay, a place north of the UofA and in the foothills, and as we drove the roughly 8 miles to reach the Westward Look, we gradually began to change our minds. The scenery got prettier, the hills beckoned, we explored, and by the time the next morning rolled around, we were in love.

The backyard of our Tucson property

Tucson is just 60 miles north of the border and has 520,116 people according to the most recent census report. The northern part of the city traces the line of the Catalina foothills, the southern nestles itself firmly into the Sonoran. It has no grass, save for the golf courses. All yards are populated with saguaro cactus, mesquite and organ pipes, another type of cactus. There is a dark skies ordinance that keeps the ground dark and the night sparkling with stars. And the people we have encountered are quite simply lovely, helpful, willing. Real.

While we’re not fans of the political climate of the state, we are huge fans of our adopted city, so much so that we bought several acres in the far northeast corner. Someday we’ll build a house and we’ll watch the sunrise in the east and see it set in the west. We’ll watch the twinkling lights of the city from afar. We’ll drink wine on our patio, under the cover of the stars, and we’ll fall in love again every night.

Arizona’s red is most often attributed to politics, especially lately. But on this Valentine’s day, I’m attributing it to love, to our love of our next adopted state and our Tucson.

Happy Birthday, Arizona. Happy Valentine’s Day, Tucson. We love you.

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The arrow and the star

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 6, 2012 10:31 PM

Last night when I took the dog out before bed, I looked up into the sky as I so often do. I don’t have a lot to do when I’m out there and he’s busy. Most of the time the sky is clear, the stars bright. Occasionally the moon smiles down upon Maguire and I, illuminating the grass, silhouetting the trees. Often there is a jet contrail, dissipating somewhere above 20000 feet. Last night there was an arrow formed by a jet trail and a cloud and it pointed directly toward a star. I stood and watched it for a while, waiting for it to dissipate, like a mirage evaporates when you finally come upon it. It didn’t.

As Maguire toured the yard, sniffing and finding places to mark his territory, I studied the arrow and wondered. Was there a hidden meaning in it? What was the star? Was it famous? Was it new? Was it part of an otherwise hidden constellation?

It was just after 11 and the sky was its customary color of black, dotted with the sparkling stars that appear most nights. Out here in Oak Park, away from the city and without an abundance of streetlights, there always seems to be more stars than when they’re blurred by the hazy, drifting lights of the city. The most stars I’ve ever seen are in the skies above our property in Tucson. Tucson has a dark-skies ordinance so it doesn’t allow streetlights or even bright lights on the outside of houses. Our property is in the upper northeast corner of the city. We can literally stand on the hillside and look directly south and see the border of Tucson and the rest of the desert. At night, sequestered amongst the towering saguaros and the blackened mesquite bushes, the sky seems to settle down right on top of us. The stars are everywhere, a virtual blanket of sparkle. When we’re there, I always feel like I could reach up and grab one, pull it down and put it on the table to light the night. The desert at night is incredibly dark, not at all quiet, and simply breathtaking in its depth. The floor meets the sky and it is really exquisite. That’s how I always think stars should be seen. From the desert floor looking up.

Oak Park is decidedly not the desert, not even close really, not by Tucson standards, but it was dark and quiet last night. The houses were mostly blackened; only every other streetlight was illuminated. There were no cars; most of the houses had extinguished their outdoor lights or garage lanterns. As Maguire paraded up and down the sidewalk, straying occasionally into the grass, I watched the sky and the arrow. I imagined that it was pointing toward a distant planet populated with people who were happy and joyous, who laughed all the time and didn’t hate. They were looking down on us with amusement.

I thought it might be a spaceship, traveling from another time and place, full of animals who had been saved and who had grown more intelligent than people, but in an enlightened way.

Perhaps it was a satellite from an era long gone, or a beacon, a light from another dimension showing whomever might follow the way. Maybe it was my dad, watching over me, twinkling and smiling, telling me that he was still there, as if I didn’t know; as if I don’t feel his presence almost constantly.

The arrow pointing to the star may have meant nothing at all other than an optical illusion, an atmospheric phenomenon that only seemed to be an arrow but was really just an oddly shaped high cloud that happened to be somehow over the condensation left by jet fuel.

I’m not a superstitious person. Regular readers know I’m not religious, but I think that arrow was there to show me there is wonder in the night, and in living a life that even allows for the possibility that on a dark night in February, an arrow made of nothing more than a cloud might be pointing the way toward a star. 

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The power of traditions

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 6, 2011 11:24 PM

I’m getting sick. This fact, in and of itself, would not seem to be cause for celebration but you know me. I’m the one who has found reason to celebrate insomnia and headaches, so why not celebrate getting sick, right? Wrong. That’s not what this post is going to be about. In fact, I actually had another idea but I just didn’t have the time to research it today so I decided to pick another topic. Nothing came to me.

And then my throat started to scratch. Like rough sandpaper rubbing inside, roughing up the back of my mouth.

And I thought, well, isn’t this special? I’m getting sick. I don’t have time to get sick. I have many deadlines to meet, I have decorating still to do, I have shopping to finish and eventual presents to wrap once they begin arriving. There is music to listen to, meetings to attend, phone calls to make, arrangements to arrange. Sick is bad.

And then I remembered that I get this way every year around this time. It’s my annual cold/flu/throat irritation holiday sick. Not sick enough to keep me in bed all day sick; just sick enough to make me feel not quite myself. The brain doesn’t fire on all synapses, the fingers stumble a bit on the keyboard. I’m fuzzy. I look tired. Even my hair gets frizzy. It’s tradition!

Which got me to thinking about traditions in general, the more fun and less sick kind. Traditions like playing holiday music on Thanksgiving and cyber-shopping through Black Friday and the corresponding weekend, a tradition that really only started with the advent and proliferation of the internet. Opening presents one at a time on Christmas morning while munching on coffee cake. Going wine tasting the day after Christmas and de-Christmasing the house on January 1. Those are Christmas-related traditions.

There are also traditions like wine tasting on Thursday nights, staying at the Westward Look in Tucson when we travel to Arizona, celebrating Valentine’s Day by only spending $10 each on gifts. Those are some of our traditions.

The rest of the world has traditions as well, not all steeped in holidays though many are. Like fireworks on the 4th of July, and flags flying on Veteran’s Day, and the President throwing out the first pitch somewhere on baseball’s opening day; the Day of the Dead celebrations in mostly Latin countries, the Maypole dance, and birthday traditions to ward off evil spirits for at least another year. Marriage traditions vary from adorning a Pakistani bride’s hands with henna tattoos to African weddings full of song, dance and music. In Iceland, ceremonies start at least a day before the actual wedding while in Jamaica, a dark fruitcake laced with rum is served, with any remaining pieces mailed to friends and relatives. I wonder why the postal service is in trouble…

Traditions are rituals with roots in the past for present celebrations. They can be holidays or something totally impractical like the barrister wigs worn in English courts by lawyers. The word itself comes from the Latin traditio and was originally used in Roman law to refer to legal transfers. More modern interpretations happen when something new is introduced to something old, like a white wedding dress for weddings. Weddings themselves are nearly as old as mankind, but the white dress only became tradition after Queen Victoria wore a white gown when she married Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. Traditions show up in politics, biology, music, social structure, anthropology, art, relationships, religion and my annual sickness.

Every year this happens, like clockwork, even though I don’t plan for it. It is tradition and it is a powerful force.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to engage in another tradition, this one daily: the ritual of going to bed.




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Time for a Niner

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, September 28, 2011 10:44 PM

Those of you who know me know that I have several weaknesses. One is for my kid, of whom I’m so proud; one is for my vintage puppy, who makes me smile simply by existing. Another is my husband, most days. Other weaknesses include my closest friends and my wondrous family, mostly one in the same. I love to read and really love to write. I love my Patriots (even last weekend when Brady was intercepted 4 – !!!!!! – times. I digress) and Chicago and Tucson. I love pasta and just about anything made from or with a potato.

And I love wine, especially if it’s colored red.

The bigger, bolder and hairy the better. I like a red wine that is so deep and dense that it’s impossible for light to get through the liquid as it floats in a perfectly formed goblet. To swirl and sniff and sip a heavy red wine, like a Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Syrah from 2007 or a Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon from virtually any year is to taste what heaven must be if I believed in heaven. Instead, I choose to believe in Bacchus the Roman god of wine and mayhem, probably song as well.

Bacchus is a liberator, a god whose wine, music and dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear to breakthrough the restraints imposed upon the minions. That would be us wine drinkers. Bacchus also has a cult, a cult of souls, and I’m a happy member. Now normally I’m mostly opposed to cults, for obvious reasons. Group thought and group belief bugs me. But a cult of souls committed to wine? That might be a cult I can remain a part of since I’ve obviously already joined.

One of our new favorite reds is just about anything by a Paso Robles winery called Niner, and especially anything from 2007. They have a kick-butt Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a decent Cab. They make a wine called Fog Dog, and another phenomenal red and our new favorite: Twisted Spur. This blend from what is essentially the Central Coast region of California is grown on a patch of land called Bootjack Ranch on the side of the Salinas River. It’s 125 acres of hearty red grapes like Syrah, Merlot, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Twisted Spur is an exquisite blend of Merlot (59%), Cab Franc (27%), Syrah (12%) and Petite Syrah (2%), all blended and twisted together to form an absolutely exquisite wine. The spur, I suspect, is just a nice Western twist. Pun intended.

Tonight we popped a bottle to have with a lovely plate of pasta. Penne with a light cream sauce of parmesan, a touch of blue cheese, and sautéed mushrooms, onions, a little ham in olive oil and Marsala. I had a tough day, fighting with one of my projects with the project winning for a good part of the time. Then I went to a meeting for about three and a half hours. When I came back, my project decided to cooperate and the evening got better. The wine was the crown.

As I was writing this, Kevin said: “What’s the blend of the Spur?” I had literally just pulled up the website. He took a sip and smiled. “How do we continue to do that?” he asked. “Do what?” “Always be on the same page all the time.”

It’s called synergy, and like this fine wine, it gives our lives and our evenings flavor. 

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In ten years

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:21 PM

In ten years, Kevin and I have raised Justin from a young child through the ravages of high school to be a college junior. We have helped Maguire reach vintage puppy status. We have grown our businesses and buried parents – my father, his mother – and grandparents. We have welcomed a new nephew, Caden, and watched – albeit long distance – as our niece and my goddaughter Shawn has grown from a toddler of two to a young lady of twelve. We have seen our oldest nephew marry and Kevin’s older siblings retire. In ten years, we have visited Napa Valley and Santa Ynez, our families in Chicago and New England; we have fallen in love with Tucson. We have rediscovered old friends, welcoming them back into our lives with joy; we have embraced existing friendships, becoming even closer than we thought possible. It is good.

We have created Fritini. We bought a motorcycle, then another and a third until we finally got it right. We have big Thanksgiving get-togethers, some years bigger than others, but everyone is invited, especially those who live far from family, or would simply rather be with friends. It’s a celebration we cherish every year.

We have said goodbye to Hogan and Rusty and Max and KJ and so many others. We have welcomed Lucky and Tommy and Pixel and Libby. We have joined animal rescue groups and supported other causes dear to our hearts. We have loved and lost, felt hopelessness and joy; we have lived.

In the next ten years, we will say goodbye to loved ones, we will grow ever closer to those most dear, we will try to be nicer, better, stronger, funnier. We will embrace challenges and change when we need to change because to remain stagnant is to wither. And we will not wither.

We will enjoy good wine and great friends. We will love.

Ten years ago, there was collective fear and sadness, a profound sense of loss. I didn’t expect this September 11th anniversary to affect me as it has but I find myself transported into the past even as I look with hope into the future. Ten years ago, we were paralyzed. Ten years from now, we’ll be in a yet a different place emotionally, physically.

With luck, we’ll be stronger. We’ll have more humor and less angst. We’ll have wonderful times together with good food because there are great recipes to try. Maybe we’ll be making wine. Wouldn’t that be something? With more luck, I’ll have written more books. I will have further developed my craft, my art. I will have helped others to do the same.

On this day, a day that until today, I thought wouldn’t bring me to my knees yet again, I celebrate my husband, my son, my dog, my family, my friends, my clients, my dreams and desires, my hopes, my successes, my failures. My good life.

Live life on purpose. Utilize full potential. Take responsibility for life. Live in the question. How can I do this better? How can I help change the world? How can I make a difference by making some noise?

Because “if you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”  



Into the sunset

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 3, 2011 11:11 PM


I’ve never known any real cowboys, only those in the movies, and most of them are like cartoon characters. I’ve read and studied quite a bit, though, and I appreciate how the real cowboys worked in the old days of the west and how many still do. It’s a calling, I imagine, like anything else, and a tough life. Long days in the hot sun, long nights under a sky carpeted with stars, cold early mornings and a lot of loneliness. But the beauty of the western landscape would make it worth it and I suspect it’s one of the reasons many chose and choose the life. Stretches of barren plains, the hard unforgiving earth ready to wash away at even a hint of rain, rolling hills made treacherous by rocks and loose vegetation, all spreading out as far as the eye can see. There are no houses, no towns, no cities. No urban sprawl or hip-hop music blasting from passing cars; no true modern amenities. Cowboys still sleep under the sky.

I thought about that today as we drove west across the Sonoran desert, heading home from Tucson. It’s flat and bleak, with a blight of asphalt jungle, the 10 freeway, running through it for hundreds of miles. That’s the only hint we were in the 21st century as much of the landscape is still untouched, largely uninhabitable because of the terrain and the heat. So much of it seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Occasionally we’d see an abandoned structure, the windows long broken by who knows what, perhaps sand storms or driving monsoons. It would sit impossibly low, as if no one could truly stand up inside. Maybe it was just our perspective from the road. There were no doors, no clutter, no rusting metal tools or cars; just a building that someone resurrected once upon a time and then left to whither in the unforgiving desert heat. I wondered who, and then we were past.

We drove on, direction due west, on our steel horse, the cruise control set at 82, trying to beat the sun. It always seemed to be just beyond our reach, moving further and further down in the sky no matter how fast we went. Finally we stopped trying and settled in for the ride and its beauty.

Jack Kerouac wrote a novel, published in 1957, called On the Road about two friends, Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise who meet in 1947 New York City and begin three years of restless journeys back and forth across the country searching for adventure, for truth and for passion. It was an autobiographical work with a stream of consciousness style. An acquired taste to be sure. Kerouac was part of the Beat Generation, writers who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity. Most Beatnik writers like Kerouac were inspired by other writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, also non-conformists who sought to change how the world thought, acted and reacted through commentary, analysis and poetry. The poet William Carlos Williams was also a big influence. His poem The Dance is one my all time favorites.

Writers like Kerouac were dedicated to respecting the land and indigenous peoples and creatures, much like today’s cowboys. (The old children’s game of cowboys and Indians notwithstanding.) Kerouac’s own description of On the Road was that “the Earth is an Indian thing,” meaning rich in history, in culture, in what’s real. In some ways, it’s horribly naïve; in others, it’s exquisitely beautiful and introspective. That’s what the cowboys have always gotten right: the idea that truth is in the land, in nature. It is all around us, still waiting to be absorbed and appreciated and loved.

Tonight, we’re back in California with our beloved Maguire. We have the windows open and the air is cool. Crickets are chirping and we’ve opened a bottle of Arizona wine, a Syrah made by Kief-Joshua. It has hints of dust and the sunset, of deep pomegranate and desire. A perfect wine to drink this night, with the stars blanketing the sky and the earth and the memory of the desert still in our minds and hearts.

When we close our eyes we’ll see the fire of the sun as it drifted toward the horizon, changing from white hot to bright yellow to orange to red as it sizzled into the sea, extinguishing its heat as it pulled the sky over for cover. We’ll relive our journey and rejoice.

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 1, Chapter 7.

And then it rained

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 2, 2011 11:13 PM


Tucson day two. It dawned early for us, around 7. We got up, went for a long walk around the resort, and then headed to Gold, one of the restaurants, for a buffet breakfast. And coffee. It wasn’t yet hot, maybe high 70s but desert heat is different. It’s hard to explain. We get heat in California but with it comes a breeze that almost always has a hint of cool in it, even if it’s only tickling the edges. In the desert, there is simply no respite. The sun beats down, the air is hot and heavy, any breeze equally so. It radiates. And we love it.

We headed east to visit our little piece of dirt at the base of the mountains. Driving along the Catalina foothills is beautiful. It’s not lush but it’s strong and peaceful, and dry. Countless saguaros reach for the sky having found some kind of life in the earth beneath. Luckily they don’t need much. The ground is light, sandy dirt; there is very little grass. I noticed that in the few places where grass had been planted, like the entrance to an apartment building or a church, their sprinklers were going off. I was surprised. We’ve had it drilled into us to conserve water and give grass as much to drink as possible, sprinklers should run at night or early in the morning. I learned that in California. Funny the things you notice.

Then it was off to downtown Tucson, which we had never seen. It’s actually a nice little city, but we didn’t spend much time; not much to do. We found a pub, had a beer and something to nosh. Then we wound our way back up toward the foothills. We had wanted to do some wine tasting while we were here, if at all possible, and we found a little place called CataVinos Wine Shop & Tasting Room, a lovely little store run by a woman named Yvonne and her dog, Cuvee, a chow/shepherd mix. Yvonne's originally from Detroit but went to school at the UofA, and moved here shortly thereafter. We talked to her about Arizona wines and she gave us some great information and hopefully some equally great recommendations. We bought four so we’ll find out when we get back to CA.

We didn’t expect to see Justin until tomorrow; he was supposed to be working tonight. But he sent us a text saying that if we were available, he’d love to join us for dinner. If. Of course! So he came up to the Westward Look and we took him out first to see our dirt since he’d never seen it before.

Our little parcel is located about as far North East as you can possibly get in Tucson. In fact, you can literally see the edge of the town, so sparse out where we are, with only a few houses populating the base of the hills. And we’re pretty much it to the north. We’re a little in the boonies, but as Justin said, in a really nice way. It’s not boonies where there’s absolutely nothing; it’s boonies where, within about 4 miles, there’s plenty.

As we drove east from the Westward Look, the skies were dark, ominous. Lightning once again split the sky, illuminating the clouds behind with each flash. A rainbow appeared. We were fairly certain that we’d find the end of the rainbow on our property and at the end would be a pot of gold. As we edged ever closer, the skies became darker, heavier. The winds began to swirl and the temperature spiked and then fell to 74º as the rains splashed against the windshield. We wound our way up the hill and sat in the car as the weather battered us. Night fell and we could see the lights of the city begin to light up the night.

Finally, the rain let up and we could show Justin what we had wanted him to see. A sea of cactus, a small graded patch of sandy dirt, and a new puddle in the driveway. We waited until the moon broke through and the distant sun in the west pulled the last of its light down into the horizon and then drove off to dinner, just the three Michels in a rental car, enjoying our conversation, enjoying our time together however brief. Enjoying the rain.

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Lightning strikes

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 1, 2011 11:16 PM

We’re in Tucson, sitting on our balcony at the Westward Look Resort, our favorite place to stay when we visit. It’s raining quietly but the skies are full of sound and fury. August and September are typically monsoon months. The desert heat will rise to be nearly unbearable, building up with pressure and moisture as the clouds rolls in and over. Dark, thick and ominous, they hover and tease and taunt, and then, with the flash of lightning the clouds relieve themselves on the city beneath.

When we arrived this afternoon, it was 106º. Meltingly hot and humid, but not yet raining to release the pressure. We set up Justin’s bed, one of the reasons we came, and hung his curtains, another reason we came. For an hour and a half we labored. And sweated. The room he rents in a small bungalow on Euclid Avenue, across from the University, is small. But it’s also cheap. The entire house is chilled with a swamp cooler which means it’s not very cool at all. It was pretty brutal for the parents.

When we finally finished, we headed to our ultimate destination to shower and put on some dry clothes. Thirty minutes later we were back in the car and on our way east to visit our acres of dirt. Our eventual retirement dirt.

Tucson has a dark skies ordinance, meaning there are no street lights. We’re staying at the north end of the city, against the foothills, and our dirt resides to the east. It’s actually about as far into the north east corner of Tucson as one can get. It’s very dark driving across the foothills and it was darker still as we finally turned onto Mira Vista Canyon. Pitch black, nothing but our headlights to illuminate the black road ahead. A rabbit darted across our path, moving quickly enough to be safe. We turned onto North Falcon Crest, and finally arrived at our property.

We had brought a bottle of wine, Niner Twisted Spur, along with two wine glasses from the Westward Look. We uncorked the Niner and poured two glasses. It was so dark, we couldn’t see but gradually our eyes adjusted and soon, we were amazed at what we could see. We could even read our watches. Two owls cooed from the saguaros, which stood majestically against the night sky. A cat called from somewhere near. We couldn’t find it. Off in the distance, lightning oozed through the clouds, in the west, the southwest and to the east. Occasionally, a jagged flash would split the sky and then fade away.

We went to dinner at a fabulous place called Zona 78 on Tanque Verdi, then headed west into the lightning and spots of rain. The roads were wet, puddles splashed, and as we drove, Watercolors played on XM Satellite.

And now, here we are, drinking the last of our Niner on the balcony as the storm plays itself out. It’s warm but not impossible, and obviously the humidity is high. But as the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, we both smile.

There’s such peace here, such beauty. Such unearthly quiet. The lightning seems to sizzle in the dark, the flashes begin to dissipate like the rain. The air is cooling as the thunder recedes. Soon there will be complete silence save for the hum of an air conditioner and the creatures that haunt the night. 

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Malibu in the fast lane

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 31, 2011 10:07 PM

I’m into cars. I love their evolution from the Model T Ford to today’s limited edition Ferrari 599 Gran Turismo Omologato (GTO) V12 berlinetta, max speed of over 208 mph, 315/35 ZR20” tires on the back, 0 – 62 in 3.35 seconds, 0 – 124 in 09.8. Six speed auto-clutch for propelling forward. One of the most awesome tributes to mechanical and automotive engineering to ever hit the pavement. Out the door at $450,000. And only 599 of them in production.

Yes, I’m drooling.

My first car was a 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback. Beige. But it had 5-speeds and it was pretty quick and pretty cute. My mother outdid me with a Toyota Celica Supra several years later. That baby could get out of its own way in a hurry, as my mother quickly found out due to the sheer number of tickets she received as she blasted her way around New Hampshire with the sun roof open and the tunes absolutely cranked. My Celica took me across the country in 1984, and lasted another year. Once I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, in May, when the temperature was 117º, I had to sell it. No A/C.

I bought a 1983 Mazda RX-7. Gun metal gray metallic with louvers on the back windows and hatch. Five-speed. Faster than fast. With A/C.

That lasted until I came home from work one day after husband number 1 and I had moved to Los Angeles. He had spied a 1986 Porsche 944 at Ogden Motorcars in Woodland Hills and decided we needed it. Needed it. Also gun metal gray metallic, 5-speeds of fast. At first, I sort of resented it, but I got over that fairly quickly. Soon he got his own Porsche, a 1983 911 SC with a whale tale. We had two Porsches in the garage. The neighbors probably thought we were drug dealers.

1965 Chevy Malibu

After we split up, I also had to split from my Porsche. It was simply too expensive for me to handle on one salary that, at the time, was not, well, high. I bought another Mazda, an MX-6, and was quickly bored to tears. Big, salty, run down to my toes tears. It was very sad. I sold it and bought a BMW. Then one Memorial Day as Kevin and I were passing by the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall, I decided I should probably upgrade to a newer model. I did. This time I leased. When my lease was up I decided it was time to go back to one of my earlier loves. I was working at home, not driving much. I bought a Porsche 944 Turbo. On ebay.

My hair is blowing back just thinking of it. It’s fun, beautiful, turns head and it’s completely paid for. We only drive it occasionally. It sits low and in the garage looking downright tiny next to the Range Rover.

New Chevrolet Malibu, exactly like our rental

Both of which are staying home this weekend while we go on a road trip to Tucson. We rented a Chevrolet Malibu. Now, as much of a car person as I am, I am not typically a big fan of American cars. I find them ill-refined and clunky. But recently Chevy has been turning my head a little (don’t tell the Porsche). First they came out with the new Camaro, and I’m smitten. Then we rented the Malibu and I have to say I’m impressed. It’s a four-door sedan but it’s smooth and fast, has a 6-speed automatic transmission that tachs out at just over 2000 at 70+mph. Great sound system, great look.

While I’m not in the market to buy, to rent it for the week, through Labor Day, well, let’s just say I’m really looking forward to hanging in Malibu for the next few days.

Off to Tucson tomorrow as I said. Will be posting from the road!

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