The plan

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 3, 2016 7:17 PM

I am a ridiculous planner. I'd use the term meticulous but it's more than that. It's borderline obsessive. I blame the Capricorn in me. We goats have to always have a plan. Even when I'm spontaneous I need a plan. It's sad I know, but I have come to terms with my neuroses. 

We've been planning a motorcycle trip all week. Just a day trip. Still, there must be a plan. Proper attire must be chosen for maximum comfort and ease. Sunscreen must be applied. Plenty of water has to be “packed.” Last weekend, the plan was to go to Apache Junction which is about two hours northwest of us. It's supposed to be a lovely little town, and there's an old mine aspect as well, with the remnants of a centuries past mining camp updated to have a cool restaurant called the Dutchman’s Hideout. It sits at the base of the Superstition Mountains, so named for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. According the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz supposedly discovered a mother lode of gold in the mountains and only revealed its location when he died in 1891. The mine has never been discovered. Apaches believe that there is a hole in the Superstition Mountains that leads to hell. Others believe that winds blowing from the hole are the cause of the severe dust storms the area is known for. Superstitions abound. 

As a backdrop these mountains are stunning, red and jagged against a blue sky. But when the temps were forecasted to be in the 100s, that plan changed. Being on the motorcycle in that kind of unrelenting heat is brutal. We did it once when we took the bike to Las Vegas. I thought we would melt into the saddle. When we got to the Ritz-Carlton where we were spending the weekend, we both needed to be wrung out. We walked in carrying motorcycle helmets and backpacks. The lady at the front desk looked at us warily. 

I scrambled to find another place. I wanted to take a ride. I miss going off for the day, feeling the wind, experiencing the complete freedom that comes on two wheels flying down an open road. But where?

Southern Arizona is still hot at this time of the year. Sometimes hellishly so. I don't mind low 90s. I can handle low 90s, because when you're moving, it's more like mid 80s. Really. I searched for things east, for things south. Believe it or not, many areas south of us, heading toward Mexico, can be a touch cooler because the elevations are a touch higher. I found Patagonia. 

Patagonia is about an hour and a half south east of us. Population at the last census: 913. Total square miles: 1.3. It's an old Arizona town, nestled in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains in the distance and rolling fields of golden grass in the foreground. At one point, it was a supply center for nearby ranches and long-ago abandoned mines. Those mining camps are now ghost towns and dot the Patagonia Mountains to the southeast. The town is now primarily artists. To get there, we'll wind down Houghton Road to Sahaurita and head east to the 83 south to the 82 south. We'll poke around the two or three galleries, we'll mosey on over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon, belly up to the bar and have a salad and some water. Maybe in the old west, back when there were miners, they had burgers and a whiskey. We're old and we're in the west but any semblance stops there. 

Then we'll climb back onto our sturdy steed, all 900 pounds and six cylinders of it, and cruise home, reversing our course. Heading north toward our waiting puppy.

At least that's the plan.

Traffic report

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 31, 2016 11:18 PM

I sit in my office, high above the road below and when movement catches my eye, when sun glints off of glass or chrome, I look to see who and what’s approaching. At night, when we go out on to the deck to have a glass of sunset wine, we also look out over the road. As weary people return from work, sliding slowly through the open gate that’s just beyond our sight, we see the lights drifting along the road. There’s almost always just one. Our reaction is always the same: “Traffic!” 

On the rare occasion when there are actually two – there are never more – we joke that it’s a traffic jam, and that we’re obviously going to have to move. After all, we left traffic-jam central for just that reason (and others). 

Traffic in Los Angeles is always bad. The city and county of the same name regularly rank at the top of the annual list. In the most recent data, Angelenos spent an average of 81 hours of their lives last year idling in traffic. Washington DC and San Francisco were close with 75 hours each. The study was only done on the freeways, and Los Angeles has four of the world’s most-congested: the southbound 101 Freeway between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Vignes Street; the 5 Freeway between Highway 133 in Orange County and Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles; the 10 Freeway between the city of Santa Monica and Alameda Street; and the northbound 101 Freeway between the 60 Freeway and Haskell Avenue. 

The 101 southbound has the distinction of having the worst delays of any freeway in Los Angeles. For some reason, Wednesdays morning, around 8, is the most congested period. Drivers move an average of 17 mph and spend 58 minutes longer in their cars than they would if traffic were free-flowing. Drivers on that section of the 101 spend 134 hours per year — about 5 1/2 days each year— waiting in traffic.

I lost many brain cells and days off my life bitching and moaning as I sat in traffic on my way to Glendale for a meeting, or downtown for a meeting. Kevin and I sat side by side many times, usually on the 405, with him being calm and me being not-calm. Traffic sends me to the moon. I would rather drive out of my way and more miles in order to avoid it. 

Traffic is so prolific in Los Angeles that it warrants extensive coverage on every radio program and early morning news program, not to mention online. Anytime I was getting ready to leave for a meeting, I always pulled up sigalert.com to see where the thick red lines were most prevalent. Inevitably, they were always along my route. Whenever I got into the car, I always put on KNX1070 where they did traffic reports every 10 minutes, all day and all night long. If you’ve never driven in LA you might think that traffic reports at night are stupid. Trust me. They aren’t. 

I remember years ago, when a friend and I went to a midnight showing of a movie that’s name currently escapes me. We went to Universal City Walk in Universal City which necessitated a trip along the 101. We left the theatre at around 3 am, and found ourselves in dead stopped traffic. At 3 am. When we took Justin to college for the first time, we found ourselves in dead stopped traffic on the same freeway. It was 3 am then, too. 

I bring this up because this morning, as I sat at my desk, listening to NPR as I do every morning, I caught the traffic report. “There’s an accident at Houghton and Valencia.” One incident and it wasn’t even downtown.

Dog, I love this town.

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Anniversaries and stuff

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 23, 2016 9:07 PM

Three years ago today, we changed our lives. Again. We had of course, changed our lives previously when we met, and then again when we moved in together. We changed them when we got a dog and bought a house. We changed them when we got married. One of the ways we were able to remember the sequence of events was that we had Maguire, we grew out of the townhouse, we bought the Oak Park house, we got engaged, and a year and a month after moving into the house, we got married. Maguire, house, wedding.

We got Maguire in February 1997, the house was August – we moved in the night Princess Diana was killed in Paris. We got engaged on my birthday of that year, and married on September 26, 1998. Justin started high school in 2005, and graduated in 2009. We moved him to the University of Arizona on August 21, 2009 and he started classes on Monday the 24th. 

On Saturday, August 22, we fell in love with the town that would eventually lead to us changing our lives again. On May 10, 2010, we bought 3.8 acres of hillside property on the Northeast side of Tucson with the resolve to eventually build a house. It was our dream.

While Justin was in school, we lived our California lives. We lost our precious Maguire on March 6, 2012. We got Cooper on October 26, 2012. We visited family, we had friends over to the house often. We hired an architect who designed our dream house. Justin was supposed to graduate in May of 2013 but he transferred schools and had to take an extra semester. Still, 2013 was the year. 

For a long time, we convinced ourselves that we would never really be able to move; we weren’t even sure we wanted to. We were sure we had nearly 4 acres of beautiful property that we would never actually use. I asked Kevin once if he thought we’d ever build the house, ever move. His one word answer: No. 

I never asked again because I didn’t want it to be true. I also didn’t want to have spent the money on something we gave up on. 

Finally, we made the decision. We wouldn’t have any more tuition bills after August. It was time. We sold the house in Oak Park, we packed everything up and on Thursday, August 22, the movers came. We were up all night, literally, and at 6:45 the next morning, we left. Kevin was driving a U-Haul and towing the Porsche. I was driving the Range Rover, loaded to the roof. I couldn’t see out of the back window. Cooper was curled up on the front seat next to me. We had to beat the movers who were also driving on Friday in order to meet us at our rental house in Tucson. It was one of the worst experiences we have had as a couple. No sleep, a 10-hour drive across the desert. In August. 

August 23, 2013. Three years ago. 


The Michels, August 24, 2013. And our jam-packed U-Haul.

But it was the start of our greatest adventure, our new lives, and so along with our other anniversaries, we celebrate it. We celebrate this day. We remember with horror our lack of sleep and the drive. We remember arriving at the rental in 100º weather to find that the landlords had left us wine (red and white), crackers and cheese. We remember thinking maybe this might work out after all. I think it has.

Happy Anniversary to us. And stuff.

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In which neighbor Aranka is engaged

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 22, 2016 9:47 PM

One of our neighbors came up to the house today. We’ve only spoken a couple of times in the year and a half we’ve lived here, and only met officially about a month ago. She’s in her early to mid 70s, and has had a number of health issues. We’d see her in the mornings, driving to wherever she was going. We would be walking the dog. She almost always ignored us. We never really gave it much thought. 

Then, several months ago, the board of the homeowner’s association, of which Kevin is one of the directors, began the process of taking over and ousting the president. There had been widespread unhappiness from the homeowners for quite awhile and it was time for all of us to be in charge of our own neighborhood.

After this takeover was finished, I sent an email out to all of the homeowners, updating them on what had been happening and what the plans were for Mira Vista now that we were in charge. We are planning on having the roads fixed; we hired a landscaper to do some much needed trimming and weeding. We put in a new and bigger mailbox. We fixed the lighting in the front entrance. I also informed everyone that the previous president was no longer involved and that any neighborhood business should now be presented to the board. We even got an email address and a voice mail number.

One morning, while we were walking Riley, a car came up behind us and slowed. It was our neighbor and she wanted to introduce herself – her name is Aranka – and to thank us for the email, and for what we were doing. She was and is lovely.

About two weeks ago, she called to ask about getting two new gate remotes. I called her back to let her know they were on order and that as soon as they were in, I’d call or email her. They arrived on Friday night. Kevin programmed them, we tested them to make sure they work and I sent her an email saying we’d be glad to drop them off. She sent an email back asking if she could pick them up instead. She wanted to see the house. 


Aranka's house

So around 4 pm today, she drove her bright purple Jeep up the hill and into our driveway, and in she came. Every time we’ve seen her, she has on a big wide rimmed black hat. Today was no different. We chatted for a while, I gave her a tour of the house. And then we got to talking. She told me about how she ended up here in Tucson, about her time in San Francisco, about getting married after her soon-to-be husband asked the seventh time; about him dying tragically not long after. She told me about some of her health issues, and then she said, she had recently gotten engaged again. Tell me all about it, I said, grinning. 

She had met him at the airport. She travels quite a bit, especially to Europe, where she’s from (Hungary to be specific). They hit it off immediately and now, unexpectedly and six years after losing Frank, her husband, she is engaged to Doug. He’s an ex navy seal, retired. He loves dogs, and he sounds like he truly cares about her. We’ve seen him driving through the ‘hood; the dog gave it away. Evidently she got a puppy about 9 months ago, but then had some health issues. The puppy was becoming too much, so the pup now lives with Doug, up on Mt. Lemmon. But Doug and Rotta come to visit daily with the now 60-pound puppy sitting in the front seat of Doug’s truck.

It’s been a whirlwind of a romance, and she’s in no hurry to actually get married. She likes living alone too much. But she decided why not. She’s in her 70s. Life is too short to not have someone to share it with. They go somewhere every weekend. They’re thinking about buying a motorcycle. And they’ve having fun, celebrating being together.  

Definitely what life is all about.

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So about that door

by Lorin Michel Monday, July 18, 2016 8:59 PM

When we built the house, our goal was to make it completely our own. Everything was chosen or designed by us, with the exception, obviously, of the actual house. For that, we hired an architect. He was also a builder, which was a big selling point for us. We told him from the beginning, when we were in the process of designing, that we wanted to be completely involved. At his request, we sent images that we found online, of houses, colors, tile, stone, cabinets, bathrooms, everything so that he could get to know our taste. And then we had countless discussions over the phone. Months later, he called and came to LA for an afternoon, armed with designs. He spread them out on our dining room table, and we were amazed. There it was. Our house. We were speechless. 

Years later, when we finally decided to build, we had more meetings, in person this time. We went over the budget, and armed with the knowledge of what we needed to find and buy, off we went. Every weekend we roamed through tile stores. We were on a first name basis with the kitchen cabinet guy and the granite countertop guy. Ditto the appliance guy.

Everything in the house had to work together. The tile and the stone, the interior doors. All warmer, earthier colors. Deep rusts, bronzes, golds, coppers. That was the vision.

We chose sinks and faucets, bathtubs, and tile. We chose cabinet hardware and appliances. We chose a grill for the deck. After much discussion we settled on an exterior color for the stucco and an interior color for all the walls, accents to come later. We chose garage doors and pavers for the driveway. We chose rock for the fireplaces and columns. We chose light fixtures and railings; we chose doors. 

Except for the front door. We didn’t know what we wanted to do for the front door other than to a) have one and b) have it made of iron. We didn’t want one of the newly popular pivot doors. I hate the way they open and I think they’re terribly heavy. We wanted iron and glass, a single door, with two side windows on either side to expand its look. We had a budget for it, just like we did for everything else. 

We went to several places and ended up at First Impressions. They do gorgeous doors, in a variety of “colors,” of you want to call them that. Black, brown, iron, rust, bronze and different variations and combinations on iron. We looked at their designs and didn’t really like any of them. Then it occurred to us: We have a friend who just happens to be an artist. We called Roy and asked if he would do us the honor of designing our front door. He said yes. 

It’s a beautiful door. Fluidly geometrical, with open spaces and closed ones. We chose a bronze color for the iron. The glass opens to make cleaning easy and it latches back tightly. It’s inset, in the portico, and it makes us proud.

Evidently, we are not alone in our infatuation. First Impressions called today and they’d like to photograph our door to use in advertising. Our door is going to be famous. It’s going to grace magazines around the state, perhaps even nationally.  

Our door. Roy’s design. It’s something to celebrate.

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It’s too f-ing hot, it’s too f-ing cold, or it’s too f-ing windy

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 12, 2016 10:15 PM

We have gotten to know most of the people in our small community and we like them all tremendously. For the last few months, many of us have dedicated ourselves to taking control of our homeowner’s association, ousting the current president, electing a new board and new officers, and actually getting some things done. It’s what everyone is agreement on, and it’s bringing us all closer. Kevin is now on the board; I was elected secretary, mostly because of my typing skills. One of our other neighbors is now the treasurer. She was here yesterday, briefly, to drop off an envelope that had arrived in the mail to my attention. Her name is Susan. 

One of the things we’ve done is hire a maintenance worker who is performing maintenance throughout, trimming trees, mucking out debris that has settled around cactus, mesquite and palo verde trees. Once we get the weeds sprayed again, I’m sure we’ll engage him to remove the dead and dried growth. He’s currently working on Mondays. 

Kevin went out to find him yesterday to discuss a couple of other projects and also to pay him, so he called Susan for a check and then stopped by to get it. 

Susan, her husband and their two big yellow labs live in one of the biggest houses in the neighborhood. It’s about 6800 square feet and sits up on a hill at the beginning of the development. We hadn’t been to their house previously, so naturally Kevin came back with a report. 

Like most of the houses in here, they have a lot of glass and not a lot of window coverings. They have a beautiful rounded section of the house that faces due east so they are flooded with sun in the morning. Their infinity pool faces west. There are huge pocket doors that open out onto a sweeping veranda. There’s a dining table and chairs, several overstuffed pieces of patio furniture. 

Kevin: It must be great to sit out here. 

Susan, laughing: It is. But most of the time it’s either too fucking hot, too fucking cold or too fucking windy. 

Kevin relayed this story to me shortly afterward, and I laughed, too. 

Me: Does anything better sum up the seasons of the desert? 

Susan said it jokingly. Anyone who lives here gets it because most weeks it is either too hot, too cold or too windy to be outside, enjoying the day. You might get a day as October turns to November where it’s not too hot during the day nor too cold at night and when the winds are simply a gentle breeze, but there’s only a day or two. There might be another as March turns to April. 

The desert is a land of extremes. You don’t live here expecting it to be anything else. But it’s beautiful, lush, angry, harsh, alive. And filled with some of the nicest people. 

It’s hot here now, harsh. And windy. I can’t imagine it will ever be cold again though it will and sooner than we think.

Susan said yesterday that she’d had enough. The whole family, including the dogs, was off to Santa Barbara for two weeks. She’s hoping for fog, and rain, and clouds. No sun.  When it’s summer in the desert, that’s definitely something to celebrate.

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Summer

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 2, 2016 8:50 PM

We did not get a lot of rain this winter, not nearly as much as we were supposed to get according to the expert weather people. El Nino ended up being more or less a bust, especially for the southwest. The northwest got plenty of rain; we did not. We got some. We received a lot of cold. There were nights when we didn’t go out for sunset because it was simply too cold to sit on the deck. Every night that we did, we put on coats; sometimes gloves. And it was only 5:30.

The spring was not too bad though we’ve noticed that many of our desert creatures have arrived earlier this year than last. We don’t know what to attribute that to since we haven’t been here long enough to completely understand the workings of the desert. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. They’re here and as of today, it’s hot. “Africa hot” like Matthew Broderick’s character in Biloxi Blues said. So hot that stepping outside feels as if you’re stepping into an oven. 

I went out with Kevin to check on his grape vines. We’ve been having some issues with our vineyard. He’s doing everything right. The way they’re planted is the way they’re supposed to be planted; he’s watering them the way they’re supposed to be watered. The vines are a varietal that grows in the desert. But the first six died. The place we bought them from guarantees their vines, so they sent us six more. They’ve been in the ground for two weeks as of this afternoon. He’s taken pictures, he’s been in contact with the vendor, and they tell him he’s doing everything right. But they’re not growing. It’s frustrating. And sad. 

I told him I wanted to see what they were – or weren’t – doing, since I hadn’t been out to see them in a while. He waters three times a day, essentially morning, noon and night. He’s attentive, he’s diligent. He fairly hovers. I asked him to tell me when he was heading out to water.

After lunch, I heard him call my name. Well, actually, not my name. My nickname. 

“HB? I’m heading out.” 

HB stands for Hunny Bunny from the Amanda Plummer character who robs the diner in Pulp Fiction, our first movie date. I’m not sure when he started calling me that but it’s been years now. It’s even how he has me listed in his cell phone which would be a problem if anyone ever had to call his wife. 

But we don’t think or talk about that. 

I told him I’d be out in a minute, and went to grab my sunglasses. I can’t be outside during the day without sunglasses. It’s physically painful. I even wear them when it’s not that sunny out. But that was decidedly not the problem today. I put on my Maui Jim’s and pulled open the front door. The alarm system gave its telling beep-beep-beep and out I stepped. Into the inferno. 

I could feel the heat burning my skin, the prickliness of it, my hairs standing on end, searing. As hot as the air was, the road was even hotter. The pavement was radiating. It was nearly excruciating. We looked at the plants, and their lack there of growth. We discussed them; we wondered. And then we got the hell inside because hell was literally outside.

Last weekend was in the 70s. This weekend it will be 111º. Welcome to June in the summer in the desert. Something I’m sort of celebrating. Because air conditioning.

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Never gonna give it up

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 22, 2016 10:46 PM

There are some days that give meaning to life, that make you glad to be alive in this time, in this moment. They don’t occur often. Sometimes these moments involve a changing event, like the birth of a child, the acquiring of a puppy, a marriage. More often, these moments are attached to nothing but the universe. It’s a feeling, and it happens without warning. You’re driving along with the top out and the windows down, the music blasting. The road is a series of curves, long and winding, easy. You downshift and then you upshift, moving up toward the sky. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the trees impossibly green. 

And it hits you. This is joy. Unencumbered, unemotional. It simply is life defined. At its most pure. There is no one that’s responsible. Your joy isn’t contingent on another person being involved. There isn’t a situation that needs to develop. There isn’t a relationship that needs to start. It is already there. You are the person that’s involved; you are the situation. You are the relationship. And you’re here. 

I know. I’m being cryptic. I don’t mean to be. Our friend Tammy was here this weekend. She came in yesterday morning and we did nothing but hang out and enjoy. We went to this fabulous Mexican restaurant yesterday afternoon and had table-made fresh salsa and appetizers. We had dinner on the deck last night with a fire in the fireplace. It was cool, not cold, and the fire was more for ambiance than heat. It was lovely. We had wine, we talked; we laughed.

This morning, we decided to head up to Mount Lemmon for breakfast. Kevin asked Tammy if she’d like to go on the motorcycle. She grinned. I said I’d follow in the Porsche. I showed Tammy how to get up on the bike (it takes a bit of a contortionist move to do so); I helped her hook up the strap on her helmet. Off they went. I pulled the Porsche out of the garage and followed. 

It was a beautiful morning, just after 9. The sky was clear, the temperature was hovering in the upper 70s. I put both windows down; the roof still out. I grabbed my Patriots baseball hat, popped a CD into the stereo since I don’t have satellite in this car.

We climbed and climbed and climbed. I watched the bike in front of me, carrying my husband and my good friend. To either side, the green of the desert. The cactus gave way to trees which gave way to pine. Up we went, until it seemed we had entered into a forest. The temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. The air coming in through the open windows was cool. The pine trees were dense. The greenery was heavy. The rock formations glowed. I felt complete, whole. Overjoyed. I rounded a corner and the green completely obscured any other view. Through my Maui Jim’s, the colors came alive. Deeper blues, richer greens, clearer air. I breathed it all in, I watched it all.

And it occurred to me, this is what life is all about. The clarify of beauty. The reality of nothing special and yet everything … special. 

Several weeks ago, I wrote about listening to Al Jarreau in the Porsche. I thought of his music today, of the purity of it, of how it has always made me feel. Happy and in the moment. I thought about one song: Never gonna give it up.

I'll never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
Never give it up, never gonna give it up, even when this life is over
I'll be content in time

I’ll never give up this feeling, this moment, this complete purity. Not now, not ever. It’s what living it out loud is all about.

The still

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 14, 2016 7:50 PM

I was struck this morning by how still it was. Living in the desert, especially as spring transitions to summer, the winds can be insistent. Gust at 25 miles per hour aren’t uncommon here on the hill. Even down on the road below, the winds blow fiercely, daring you to ignore them. I don’t like wind. I like a breeze. This morning there was nothing.

Riley and I walked west along Mira Vista Canyon, toward the gate. It was just after 7 and already 75º. Nothing was moving, there were no sounds anywhere. Often times in the morning we hear the horses that live just to the south. Occasionally there is a rooster; a dog bark. The birds are usually flitting between trees and cactus, woodpeckers try their luck on the metal fireplace chimneys that top all of the houses here. But there was nothing. 

The sun turned the mountains red, the tips of the cactus lit up like fire. 

I could hear my sneakered footsteps hitting the pavement. Riley was trotting along, panting. He is normally anxious in the morning because he has anxiety issues. But not this morning. This morning he was mellow, at least mellow by a 2-year old Golden Retriever’s standards. 

When it’s still like it was, I am both amazed and even a bit frightened. It seems unnatural, the world has stopped and it’s if something bad is about to happen. In California, a still like that sometimes precipitated an earthquake though not always. I haven’t figured out what it means here and probably nothing at all other than it was early Saturday morning.

When it’s still like it was I want to savor it, enjoy the quiet, let it wrap around me and hold me tight. It’s comforting, the stillness. It invites introspection which can be both good and bad. I’ve always tried to be introspective, to question even myself. Did I handle something right? Could I have handled it better? What could I have done differently? What will I do differently in the future? 

What am I going to be when I grow up? 

When it’s still like that I embrace the early hour, I enjoy each step, each slap of the rubber of my shoe on the warming asphalt, the gentle panting of my dog, enjoying his walk, closely eyeing every rock on the road, every twig. When it’s still, I think.

I think about the week past and the day ahead. 

I think about my life thus far and where it’s going. 

I think about what I’ve done and what’s still to do.

I think about what I’m going to make for dinner. I think about nothing and everything and then some more. 

I think about the stillness of the morning – the still – and I celebrate that I am alive.  

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Finally, a law from this state I actually agree with

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 3, 2016 8:10 PM

When we decided to move to Arizona, those who knew me the best were a bit aghast. I heard the same phrase over and over again: “YOU’RE moving to a red state?” It’s true. This is a red state. It’s further true that we moved here anyway. It’s also true that I’m a dyed in the wool liberal.  Me moving to a red state seemed to be a complete disconnect for everyone, including me. As I was always quick to point out, we moved to Southern Arizona which is known to be much more liberal than the rest of Arizona. Tucson is a little island of blue in an otherwise deep sea of red. 

An aside. Dyed in the wool is a phrase used to describe an individual with “fixed, dedicated, committed, uncompromising, deep felt belief.” It’s phrase that relates to the medieval method of adding dye to raw wool rather than to spun wool or finished cloth. The final color evidently lasted much longer and was more deeply ingrained than dyeing at later stages. If something is dyed-in-the-wool, it's unlikely to change. It’s what I see when I look in the mirror. 

Arizona has a reputation of being … rigid. Uncompromising. Ridiculous. It also ranks 47th in the country for overall education, 46th for money spent on schools, 43rd in the country for school systems, 49th for preschool enrollment and 50th for headstart enrollment. We received a D+ on the report card from education week. I bring this up because it’s National Teacher Appreciation Day.

We were also the 48th state to become a state. Minimum wage is $8.05 per hour. We have the illustrious SB 1070 law which essentially makes it illegal to be of Hispanic descent – my interpretation. We have the Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. And a tremendous amount of retirees, many of whom apparently subscribe to the idea of “I got mine; screw you.” In other words, they’re Republicans. 

Which leads me back to the red state. It is red, and not just in political persuasion. It has red clay soil and the glorious red, orange and purple painted desert and Grand Canyon. The sunsets, equally on fire, are the prettiest I’ve ever seen and I lived in California for 27 years.

The heat isn’t so bad. The dryness is killer, though. And the creatures are exotic, if not a little scary. Everything bites, including almost all of the plants. The air quality is much better than in Southern California; ditto the traffic. The people are all nice. 

We knew we were moving to a place that goes against almost everything we believe politically. We knew the climate was more harsh. We didn’t think that we’d have trouble with wine. I don’t mean wine as in we can’t buy any, though we do have trouble finding some of our favorites. I mean wine as in we can’t get it shipped. The wines made here in Southern Arizona aren’t bad but we have had trouble finding spectacular. It’s a young wine-growing region. Most of the wines seem just that. Young. Uninteresting. Like they haven’t quite learned how to be fascinating yet, like teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. We have discovered Keeling Schaefer and they’re excellent. Bold. Interesting. 

One of the wine items we didn’t count on when we moved was that many of our favorite wineries wouldn’t be able to ship to us. We were club members of Niner and Zaca Mesa, for instance, and they couldn’t ship because they produced more than 20,000 gallons of wine a year. The Arizona law, one of those on the books since Prohibition, prohibited wine shipments from wineries exceeding the gallon count. We were bummed. We loved Niner and Zaca Mesa. We bought Niner when we’d go to Paso Robles. We found some Zaca Mesa here and there.

But today comes news that our long personal nightmare is coming to an end. Our esteemed governor, Doug Ducey whom I affectionately refer to as Douchey, signed a bill on April 1 allowing wineries from California, indeed from all over, to ship wines directly to customers in Arizona as long as they’re not for resale or exceed 18 cases per year. I learned this from Alicia at Niner Winery. Starting on January 1 of 2017, wineries like Niner and Zaca Mesa and countless others can apply for a $25 shipping license and ship away. I almost danced. I did book it across the house to Kevin’s office to announce the news. We rejoiced. 

So yes, we moved to a red state. And there are issues. But if the wine-shipping issue can be resolved I have hope. I hear there’s even a possibility that a Trump nomination puts the state in play for the election. Maybe, just maybe, this red state will turn blue, and I’ll definitely be home.

Hey. A girl can dream, especially while raising a glass of imported California wine.

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