That’s Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex to you

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 10, 2016 9:02 PM

We grow ‘em big out here. By ‘em I mean, well, everything especially bugs. Our flies are twice the size, ditto wasps. We have crickets that are enormous; grasshoppers, too. Spiders are large. It’s not uncommon to see scorpions that are several inches long, whipping their nasty, stinging tails in the air to warn off predators. They are never a match for my shoes. I stomp them and then stomp them again, even though they’re outside. In fact, they’re all outside with the exception of the occasional wall spider. I kill those, too. I am not, by nature, a violent person. But I don’t think that scorpions deserve to live anywhere, even outside. As for spiders, I have no trouble with them outside. It’s when they’re prowling my walls in the bedroom that I find fault. 

These spiders, flat wall spiders, are usually an inch and a half to two inches wide. They’re probably harmless. Still. 

We’ve had centipedes, giant redheads they’re called, that are six to eight inches long. They’re blonde and scaly with two red pinchers on each end and a thousand feet in between. They’re ugly, a little scary and huge.

Like I said, we grow ‘em big out here. 

Witness what was in the portico this morning. Meet one Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex. A tarantula. He was probably about three inches or so wide, from one hairy leg to the tip of the other seven. It’s our version of the T-Rex. They are terribly unattractive. I am not a fan though I admit to being completely intrigued by them. I know some people keep them for pets. I can’t imagine, in much the same way I can’t imagine keeping a snake for a pet. Some creatures are just not supposed to be cuddled. 

The tarantula, known by Aphonpelma chalcodes, is very common here in the desert. It tends to come out most during monsoon season – we are fast nearing the end of that – and into early fall. They dig holes in the desert that are about the size of a quarter where they nest. If a hole has silk in or over it, it’s an active tarantula nest. Females tend to hang pretty close to their hole while males are often hot footing it around the ‘hood trolling for a date. 

This creature is primitive, just like so many other creatures here in the desert, and has evolved little in terms of appearance in their some 350 million years on earth. Females tend to be light brown while males are darker. They’re furry, supposedly using their hair to sense vibrations which might indicate a predator or prey. They can also flick their hairs at an attacker. These hairs are barbed and irritating though not poisonous, at least not to humans. Neither is their venom. In fact, tarantulas are very docile and only bite when truly provoked. 

Females can live up to 25 years but males usually only live one year past sexual maturity which happens between 8 and 12. They don’t like water, which is interesting considering they come out in monsoon season, only drink occasionally, and in the winter, become dormant. Essentially they crawl into their holes and cover themselves up with silk and soil to wait for the cold to pass. 

They’re gruesome looking but they’re slow and steady and almost always outside. We’ve yet to see one inside. Thank dog.

So there he was, this guy in the portico. It really wasn’t a good place for him to be if only because I didn’t want to look at him. Armed with a long-handled dustpan and the broom, I walked out, swept him up and carried him out to the desert. It was part of the tarantula-relocation program. We run several such programs here including the toad-relocation program, and the Gila monster relocation program. They all get new identities and a new lease on life. In this case, I named our new friend Tarantulasaurus Rex. That’s Mr. T to you. A new friend to celebrate?

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The legend of the red beast

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 5, 2016 12:00 AM

It is said, by the natives, that a great red beast haunts the desert of Arizona. It can be seen at sunset, galloping through the dust, the skeletal remains of its passenger lashed to the saddle. Is it seeking revenge or redemption? Perhaps we’ll never know.

In 1856, Jefferson Davis, who would go on to notoriety as the president of the Confederate States, was the secretary of war. Having fought in Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848, he knew well the harsh climate of the desert southwest. When he became Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, in 1853, he was charged with updating how the military functioned. He promptly ordered 62 camels. They were transported by boat to Indianola, Texas, arriving on May 14 where they were then taken to Camp Verde in Kerr County. Camels, the thinking went, would be great in the desert climate because they can survive with very little food or water, and they have great strength and stamina. They also, evidently, have serious attitude problems. Or maybe it was just that they had to live in Texas. Either way, the camels refused to live with the horses and mules, and even fought amongst themselves.

After the Civil War started in January 1861, and Davis became first provisional president of the south in February and then officially in February 1862, the Confederate forces seized Camp Verde. No record remains of what happened to the camels but most historians believe they were released onto the Texas plains. 

This is where we pick up our story. In 1883, a woman living on a southern Arizona ranch was trampled to death by a huge red beast with a skeletal creature riding on its back. When local ranchers gave chase, they found only cloven-hoof prints and tufts of red animal hair. More sightings began to emerge, tales of a wild beast, a ghost terrorizing cattle and bears, one who could run faster than any other. Legend had the beast standing 30 feet tall with the ability to disappear from sight. 

Once when prospectors were working in the Verde River, the Red Ghost appeared. They fired their rifles and in its retreat something fell from the creature’s back that would later be identified as a human skull with flesh and hair still attached. The Mohave County Miner wrote that the beast might be a camel, but local residents dismissed that idea because there was no earthly reason for there to be a skeletal-being perched atop. Several days later, the Red Ghost appeared again on a lonely road. Campers were awakened in the middle of the night by a loud scream and encountered a huge creature. The men ran for their lives, hiding in the brush. The next day, all they found were cloven-hoof prints and red strands of hair. 

This went on for another 10 years. Then in February of 1893, rancher Mizoo Hastings saw the Ghost in his vegetable patch. With one shot, he brought the beast down. It was indeed a camel. With a human skeleton strapped to its back. The skeleton that had been riding the creature had been tied to the animal with thick leather straps many years earlier. No one knew who it was or who had committed this horrific act. 

Historians speculated that perhaps the man had been tied to the camel as a form of revenge. Or that perhaps he was a Union soldier tied to the camel by the Confederate invaders of Camp Verde.

Regardless, the animal’s back was heavily scarred by the rawhide strips. Perhaps it was seeking revenge. 

Some speculated that a prospector named Jake found gold, and that he loaded his gold onto his camel. He went into a saloon to celebrate where he told his tale of finding riches. A man in the saloon followed him and when Jake camped for the night, the man murdered him. Later that night, the camel attacked the man, killing him.

Decades passed. Centuries. One night, the ghost of Jake appeared, riding on his camel. At night, still, if you listen, you can hear them. If the moon is full, you can see them. Riding across the desert. Riding into forever. Riding.

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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 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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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.

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