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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The day dawns

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 16, 2016 8:07 PM

There is evidence that waking up gradually as the bedroom fills with natural night is more pleasant than waking up to a screaming alarm clock, which makes tremendous sense. According to researchers at MIT, waking up to dawn’s light also increases the body’s level of cortisol, a neurohormone that helps prepare the brain and the body to handle whatever it encounters during the day. MIT says this helps people deliver peak performance. In their research, they found that people who give themselves about 30 minutes of morning light as they wake to greet the day are more likely to feel alert all day. 

The part of me that used to love sleep would love to take issue with that remark. After all, it wasn’t that long ago where sleeping in on Saturday mornings was one of the things I most looked forward to at the end of the week. I always thought it was a good way of recharging my battery. 

But I’ve come to realize that MIT researchers are probably right ­– it is MIT after all – and here’s why: I wake up to natural light every day and I actually feel better because of it. 

In Oak Park, we had nice vertical blinds on the sliding glass doors in the bedroom. They served to block out quite a bit of morning light. The big window in the bathroom, behind the bathtub, had blinds, too, mostly because our neighbors were so close that they could easily look in. Not that I’m prone to soaking in the tub. But the glass shower stall was right next to the tub. It stayed fairly cozy and dim in the room until I opened those blinds, making it easy to sleep in. But I often slept almost too much and then I’d feel actually worse. Foggy, with a dull headache. 

Our house now is not close to anyone other than the birds and the deer so we have no window coverings anywhere. The only thing we have is a deck with a roof that extends out at least 12 feet, providing shade but not necessarily diminishing the light. We face almost directly south so when the sun rises in the east each morning, it comes up over the mountains to our left, gently, almost quietly. And we wake up equally gently. We can stretch, watch as the sun floods the valley below, turning the day from a purplish gray to bright, the sky blue, the desert green. 


Photo to the east of the house at dawn, courtesy of Roy Guzman

I have found that I’m up early every day now, even on the weekends, even my precious recharging Saturday. Up with the light. This morning, a Saturday, previously my day to lounge and sleep, I was up at 6:50, walking the dog by 7:30. As the summer comes ever closer, I’ll be up even earlier. The light will flood the room, I’ll stretch and look to the south, out the wall of glass, past the railing on the deck and welcome the day. It’s hard for me to actually believe that I now enjoy getting up. That I can and do enjoy the earliness, every day.

We have coffee, we walk. We’re back to the house, usually before 8, just as the day is heating up. We still go to bed at the same time so we should be more tired, but we’re not. We’re – dare I say it? – energized.

The day dawns and so do we. If MIT says it’s good, who are we to argue?

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Heart

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 13, 2016 8:23 PM

I remember fondly my discovery of the group Heart when I was in high school. I was a freshman and Dreamboat Annie had been out for nearly a year. I was instantly fascinated with the guitar riff on Crazy on You, the flute on the title track, the venerable Magic Man. And Ann Wilson’s voice. During my freshman year, the band released their second album entitled Little Queen. I bought it immediately. It had Barracuda, which was great, but Love Alive was my favorite. It started slow and built in passion. And the voice. Before my family moved from Columbia, Maryland after my freshman year, my friend Pam took me to Baltimore to see the group. It was amazing. I remember it well. I saw Heart several times in Boston over the next few years and once again in Southern California. The latter wasn’t a good show. By that time, the group had descended into 80s big hair pop, and as much as I love 80s big hair rock, I prefer the male big hair bands. 

Sexist, I know. 

For years, I listened to debates about who the best female rock and roll singer was. Most people’s immediate answer was Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane and then the Jefferson Starship, and eventually just plain old Starship. I never agreed. Maybe because I wasn’t a big Airplane fan, though I did become a Jefferson Starship fan. I just didn’t think Slick had very much same range. Her voice always seemed almost one note. I loved Janis Joplin but she never had a great voice, just a distinct voice. I would listen to everyone and then I would tell them that the best female rock and roll singer ever was Ann Wilson. Most of the time people would stop and look at me and then say, yeah, you know, you’re right. Chick’s got pipes. 

She did and she does. 

I loved Nancy Wilson’s guitar work and I know she was always known as the pretty one, but the front (wo)man was the dynamic one. Some have referred to her as the female Robert Plant, and she and her group did a killer rendition of Stairway to Heaven at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony several years. She put her own signature voice to it and it rocked. 

The band evidently still tours in the same way that bands from the 70s all still tour. They don’t really make much new music anymore, existing off of their old hits. I haven’t listened to them in years. I still have that Dreamboat Annie album, and Little Queen, and all of the others that I bought over the years. I also bought several CDs in the 80s when I was still trying to like them even though they had lost their magic, man. 

Today I got an invitation to like a page on Facebook. It was called The Ann Wilson Thing. Naturally, I liked it. Evidently Ms. Wilson who is now 65, has a new group and she’s touring small cities around the country. She comes to Tucson on the 18th. Next week. 

I listened to several tracks on her album, appropriately called The Ann Wilson Thing. From what I had read, I thought the music would be substantially different than Heart and truth be told, it is different than Heart now but not necessarily Heart then. The music seems tinged with blues. The songs are by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Buffalo Springfield. She’s had guest performers with her like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, and Shawn Colvin. I read where she’d like to have Lucinda Williams join her for a song or two. In concert, she’s not doing Heart songs, opting for covers of Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and more instead. 

The idea is to challenge herself, expand her repertoire, and do something different. But still with that voice. That voice. Still the best female rock and roll singer around, and ever, in my opinion. She had heart. Now she’s got heart, and I may be becoming a fan all over again. Next week, at the Rialto.

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Finally some fun

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 9, 2016 8:39 PM

It occurred to us recently that we are very dull people. I believe this occurrence happened on or about the anniversary of our one-year of residence in the house. As we were sitting at the bar or maybe out on the deck, perhaps in the great room, one of us and probably me looked at the other, probably him, and said: “You know we never do anything fun anymore.” The other looked at me, blankly at first, and then recognition spread across his face, realization dawning. “You’re right. We don’t.” 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. We live a good life. We have this amazing house. We actually and genuinely like each other, and like spending nearly every waking moment together. We’re lucky.

But all we seem to do is work. During the week, we work our regular jobs and on the weekends we work around the house. Kevin has been obsessed with rocking outside, which is both lovely and efficient since the rock functions as a means to divert the falls of water that rush toward us, bursting off of the other and bigger rocks on the hill behind us. When it rains here, it is usually not polite. It is angry, demanding rain. And it threatens to engulf us. We knew we would have some issues before we moved in. We thought we had taken care of it with the wall we built along the driveway in the back. We quickly realized, with the arrival of the first storm last spring, that we hadn’t. 

I do things in the house, like clean. We long ago opted out of a cleaning service, which is funny because the only thing I ever wanted was someone to clean my house. When we moved into the Oak Park house, I informed Kevin that one of the first things I was going to do was hire someone to clean. I work all the time. I didn’t want to spend my free time cleaning. I wanted to occasionally do something, gasp, fun. Even if someone came just to scour the bathrooms and the kitchen once every two weeks, that was enough. Then Justin went away to school and the house wasn’t so dirty anymore. Then the cleaning people started not doing as good a job as we did. Then they started breaking things. We decided to take back our cleaning and we’ve been doing it ever since. 

But now I have this enormous house, and it’s literally impossible to clean it in a day, so I do it in increments, which means that it’s never done. I’m just moving from the west to the east only to start all over again. I go to the grocery store. I change the sheets on the bed. Kevin rocks. We don’t do much that’s fun.

We sometimes have people over for dinner, or go to someone else’s house for dinner. That’s fun. Every once in a while we meet friends for happy hour. That’s fun, too. But most of the time we’re in the house, doing house things. Or working. 

Then Saturday night, we collapse in a heap and watch mindless television. 

So after the revelation mentioned in the first paragraph, today we decided to do something fun. After Kevin spent just a short time outside and I did just a few chores inside (like changing the sheets), we washed the motorcycle, climbed on, went for a long ride, found some place to have lunch and then came home to collapse in a heap and watch television.

It’s how we lived it out loud – and had some fun – on this beautiful Saturday.

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The pitter patter of what the hell is on the roof

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:14 AM

It was just after 5 am. I woke up startled. At first I thought that something was wrong with the humidifier. Tap, tap. As the fog lifted from my brain, I realized that it wasn’t the humidifier and decided it was obviously raining, never mind that there is no rain in the forecast for weeks, and that we haven’t really had any clouds. Tap, tap, tap. Faster and faster. I raised up in bed because of course that would allow me to hear better. As I did, Kevin woke up, too. “What’s up?”

“Is it raining?” I asked, understanding the sheer stupidity of that question. But the sound, the tapping, was very reminiscent of the pitter patter of rain on the skylight.

“No,” he muttered and put his head back down.

I got up to investigate. The nearly full moon was low in the western sky, intertwined with some haze. It made the sky both darker and lighter, almost ghostly. Hauntingly beautiful. I went into the bathroom and stood under the skylight. Whatever was tapping wasn’t tapping from there. In the bedroom, Riley yawned. The humidifier bubbled.

I moved back toward the bedroom, tap tap tap tap tap scratch.Taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap. I stepped up to the window and looked out, half expecting something to be crawling either up or down the side of the house. The two electric control panels are there, one for Tucson Electric Power, the other for Solar City.

But there was nothing there. No critters. No giant lizards. I was relieved. The tapping went away temporarily, but soon, it was back, tapping and scratching across the ceiling in the bedroom. Something was on the roof, something not small but not big. Something that was probably a ring-tailed cat. 

Ring tailed cats are tiny nocturnal creatures. They’re usually between 24 and 32 inches long with a tail that adds an additional 12 to 17 inches. They weigh about 2 pounds. Sleek and dusty brown in color, they also sport an elongated, pointed nose and a mask. The tail is often black and ringed white, hence the name. They can climb anything including the side of a house, using the tail for balance. They also eat just about anything they can find, and it’s not unusual for them to get inside a house via the ventilation system. The famous hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is known to have ring tailed cats walk across the beams of the dining room ceiling in the evening.

Fun fact: ring tails are not members of the cat family but rather of the raccoon family. 

It’s the State Mammal of Arizona, since August 13, 1986. It’s evidently also the creature most likely to take up residence on our roof, amongst the solar panels, in the wee small hours of the morning.  

Last night, the pitter patter and tap tap tap tap scratch of its little paws was enough to wake me up. Enough for me to actually think it was raining. I almost wish it had been raining because the thought of a critter in the walls, or the ventilation system, creeps me out a bit. I can just imagine looking up and seeing a small pointy face looking back at me through the HVAC vent above the door. Blink blink.

I think he was on the roof though. I’m pretty sure. I hope he was. In fact, I’d stake tonight’s sleep on it. And if he’s back and the taptaptaptaptaptaptap scratchscratchtap returns, I’m going to just roll over and pull the covers up, and pretend that there isn’t a critter perhaps watching me. Once the tapscratching stops, I’ll peer up and by the light of the moon, make sure a little ring tailed cat isn’t looking back at me as he taps it out loud.

It's not delivery but I kinda wish it was

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 3, 2016 9:25 PM

We live in a fairly remote area. As such, no one delivers food. Oh, I supposed it’s possible that we could hire an Uber driver to pick something up and bring it here; maybe GrubHub. The problem is that Uber doesn’t deliver anything other than people, at least not to my knowledge, and GrubHub isn’t available here yet. The only thing we ever got delivered in our old lives was the occasional take out from China Garden, who made damn good garlic chicken, vegetable fried rice and vegetable egg rolls, and pizza. Everyone gets pizza delivered. It’s de rigueur for American cities. 

Out here in nowhere’s ville, I cook nearly every night. This means that we eat healthy most nights. There is also the added benefit that I enjoy it immensely. Cooking relaxes me. I love to experiment with new ideas, things I’ve just made up or things that we tried somewhere else and decided that I could probably make it just fine here. A couple of nights ago we grilled a stack of romaine, topped it with sliced Roma tomatoes and grated parmesan cheese, drizzled with some spicy Caesar dressing. We’d had something similar at Jonathan’s last week. Seemed easy enough to make and it was.

Last night I made a Cajun pasta dish, with a garlic cream Cajun sauce, tossed with smoked Cajun-spiced salmon, served over gluten-free rotini. It was delicious, spicy, and the gluten-free was a nice way to balance the cream sauce.

Like I said, I love to cook. 

But toward the end of the week, and it’s Thursday, I start to run out of steam on nearly every level. I’m slammed with work, and I’m not sleeping well because of it. Also, I need a haircut. I seem to function better when my hair is working. I work from 7:30 am until the equivalent of 7:30 or 8 pm, which means 9, taking time out for dinner. My days are about 12 hours long. I’m not complaining. I like what I do; and I get paid to do what I like to do. A winning combination. But I never seem to get enough done. Today is one of those days.

When we showered, at about 6:45, I asked the husband-unit what he wanted for dinner. Before he could answer, I told him that it had to be either PF Chang’s frozen Chinese – which is actually pretty damned good – or frozen pizza. I had the ingredients to make a pizza, essentially from scratch, but that takes more time than taking something out of the box and putting it into the oven. And I had neither the time nor the inclination to make one. Sensing this, the husband said, correctly, pizza. Even Chang’s frozen Chinese takes some cooking and stirring time. 

I always keep a frozen pizza in the freezer, just in case. Lately we’ve been using the DiGiorno pizzeria thin crust pizzas. For frozen, they’re not bad. In fact, their margarita pizza is the opposite of not bad, edging toward fairly good. 

DiGiorno ran an ad campaign not too long ago, touting how good they are, by comparing themselves to delivery. I’m not sure that’s a high bar since Dominos delivers as does Pizza Hut (affectionately referred to as Pizza Slut in our house) and neither one are very good. Still, the campaign theme was a good one, memorable even. It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno. As good as it is, I still sort of wish it was delivery. But I’ll take it because it’s easy, it’s fast. And it allows me to keep working it out loud well into the evening. Maybe tonight I’ll even sleep.

Ha.

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Something as simple as going out to dinner

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 26, 2016 8:17 PM

Going out to dinner used to be a weekly occurrence for us. Now it is usually reserved for a special occasion. We have long had a policy of “date night.” It started when Justin was little. We worked so hard during the week, and we had so many things going on with him, that we knew instinctively that we also had to make time to just be us. Every Friday night we would go out, often to our favorite Italian restaurant in Westlake called Mandevilla. When the economy started to get a little cranky, we decided we really didn’t need to be spending $100 + every Friday. We found a place to go wine tasting instead. Every Thursday, we’d go to The Wineyard in Thousand Oaks. It was our ritual; something we looked forward to every week. We got to know the owners and many of the other attendees. On Thursdays, the Wineyard would invite vintners from all over California to come and pour their wines. Every week they poured something different, sometimes from wineries we weren’t familiar with. We would taste, and then head home. 

Interestingly both Mandevilla and The Wineyard have since closed, once again driving home the point that Tom Sweet, the owner of Mandevilla, told us many times: The restaurant business is difficult. Most fail in the first year. If you make it past three years, you’re usually good. He closed Mandevilla after twelve. We had never discussed the effect of a recession on restaurants but it made sense. We knew we weren’t the only people to stop going out to dinner on a regular basis.

We told ourselves that we would eventually get back to going out to dinner. But somehow, even after the economy got better, we never did. We stuck with wine tasting. 

Going out to dinner became something we did for our anniversary but only sometimes. It became something we did when we had company.

Moving to Tucson made finding a place to wine taste challenging. I think because it’s a relatively small city and not especially sophisticated, the idea of wine tasting isn’t yet in demand. We’ve found a couple of places, but nothing like the Wineyard. We’ve resigned ourselves to finding places with a decent wine list where we can go, having a glass, maybe order an appetizer. We found such a place last week when Kevin stumbled upon Jonathan’s Cork. It’s a cute, tucked back behind a Jimmy John’s, just off of Wilmot. We looked it up online. Like most places here, it has a not-great website, but it looked charming. And different. The menu items tend toward game, which isn’t something we’re interested in, but we have found that restaurants that do different types of meals tend to last. Like the Saddlepeak Lodge in Malibu. 

Last week we went for a glass of wine. We think it might have once been a house, again similar to Saddlepeak. Once upon a time, the east side of Tucson was even more old west than it is now. The building is slump block, with a tiled roof, old archways. The bar is small but comfortable, four pub tables in the front window, a bar that wraps itself down and around a corner. The bartender was great, made some suggestions for wine. We ordered an appetizer from our pub table in the corner and had a wonderful time. We love small gems like this. We tend to stay away from chain restaurants; we’re not big on trendy. 

Last night we decided to go back, sit in the bar again, have a glass of wine and splurge, have two appetizers. We got there about 7:45 or so. There was no place to sit in the bar. We panicked. Should we just leave? Should we just go home? WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

OK. It wasn’t really panic. I mean, a full bar doesn’t really necessitate freak-out mode. But not having a place to sit in the bar threw off our entire night. 

We decided to just sit at a regular table in the restaurant. And then we decided, what the hell? Let’s have dinner.

Dinner!

Kevin ordered ribs. I had green chili shrimp baked with pepper jack cheese. We even ordered a bottle of wine. Woo hoo. Woot woot.

We sat there under the heavy wooden beams and popcorn ceilings. We marveled at how uncool the place is and how utterly fabulous. There were modern pendant lights and speakers in the ceiling. In the background, people sipped cocktails in the bar under flat screen TVs showing muted college basketball games. Jazz flooded down. We sipped our wine, and ate our dinner out. Sometimes something as simple as having a meal in a restaurant is just what’s needed to celebrate the end of the week.

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Wine at sunset

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 16, 2016 9:54 PM

Every night, just before the sun drops below the Tucson mountains in the west, I hear the telling click followed by the slide of the weather stripping on the tile. Kevin has opened the wine room door, and that can only mean one thing: sunset. Nearly every night since we’ve moved in, we step outside to watch the sky become painted in shades of orange. Some nights, especially when there are clouds, it is spectacular. Luckily there are clouds a lot. 

Last Spring was our first true experience with these desert sunsets even though we’d lived here for more than a year and a half. From the rental, we could see the sky set ablaze but we were down low, in the city. From our vantage point up here on the hill, with completely unobstructed views, it takes our breath away. Even the nights without clouds, when the sun simply drops behind the mountains in a glorious game of hide and seek, it’s stunning.

In the summertime it was often almost too warm to sit on the deck though we’d go anyway. It was more than a habit; it was a ritual. It was the exclamation point at the end of the day. It signaled the time when the day could be safely retired into evening and then into night.

Sunset was usually between 7:30 and 8. But as the summer turned to fall, the days got shorter until sunset was around 5. Having wine at 5 is lovely but it’s a little too early to end the day. I still have work to get done. And once I have wine, I’m relaxed and my brain begins to drift into shut down mode. We would have a sip and then put it away until a bit later.

The days are starting to lengthen again as we move ever faster toward summer. Tonight, just after 6, I heard the bottom of the door scratch the tile. I heard the pop of the cork, and soon enough, my husband came into my office, on the west side of the house, holding two glasses of wine, each with a mesh lid to keep out the bugs. We stepped out onto the deck. It was still warm, almost hot. We’ve had unseasonably warm weather. I refer to it as obscenely warm, certainly in February. Two weeks ago it was 25º in the morning. Now it’s at least 20 degrees warmer at the same time. 

Today was around 80º. Tonight it wasn’t much cooler. The sky was clear; no clouds. The sun was low and already blazing orange, silhouetting the mountains. We stepped outside, sat in our Adirondack chairs. We like the west deck for sunset for obvious reasons. It faces directly west; there are no obstructions to the view. 

We sat tonight like we do nearly every night save when it’s raining or just too cold. We talk, we exchange dissertations on our day, we watch Riley as he bounces around the deck with a toy, loving that it’s sunset and the end of the day. Because his days are so hard. 

Tonight’s set wasn’t nearly as dramatic or lush as some nights but it didn’t matter. It was the end of the day. Days that will get longer in the months ahead. Soon enough, we’ll be back to our 7:30 sunsets. But for now, we’re enjoying what we’ve been enjoying for almost a year now. Wine at sunset. On the deck. May we never grow tired of it.

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I love my washing machine. Is that wrong?

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 6, 2016 7:08 PM

When husband #1 and I bought our first townhouse, a small three story in Northridge, in 1987, we had to buy appliances. It was the first time we’d had to do that, since when you rent, most rentals come with the requisite stove, refrigerator, sometimes a microwave and occasionally a dishwasher. We bought everything used because we couldn’t afford anything new. When we bought our first house, just over a year later, it was brand new so we did get to pick appliances to install, at least for the kitchen. It was part of the price, similar to the color of the carpet and the countertop tile. We brought our used almond-colored washer and dryer with us. The laundry area was in the garage so I didn’t care, and it worked just fine. 

After we got divorced, I took the washer and dryer with me since the house he was renting had both. I needed them for the townhouse I bought. They continued to work great for several years. Then came January 17, 1994 when the earth shook and Southern California broke into a million pieces. At least that’s how it felt. In addition to all of my crystal dying a shattering death, my washer and dryer were also inexplicably killed. I never understood how since they were both locked inside a small room off of my patio, next to my hot water heater.

I got two new used pieces to replace them. They were barely used, or mostly new which is how I chose to think of them. They were new to me, made by Whirlpool, both white and a bit more modern. Neither was big but they were big enough, even when I once again became two when Kevin moved in. Those two pieces moved with us into our Oak Park home and served us well for another 16 years. We never had a problem with either of them. 

But when we moved to Tucson, we sold them. The house we were renting had a full laundry room including a decent washer and dryer. They weren’t great but they washed our clothes. When we finally moved into this house, we had the opportunity to get everything brand spanking new, including the washer and dryer. We had a budget, of course, and all of our appliances needed to fit into the budget. We couldn’t get the big, fancy washers and dryers that are offered now. The front loading washers; the dryers big enough to put small children or big dogs inside. We went with GE everything and went to a showroom to pick out the refrigerator, the double wall oven, the microwave, the cook top and the dishwasher. We purchased the washer and dryer, sight unseen, based on what money we still had in the budget which wasn’t a lot. I think there was about $1000 left for both. If you’ve done any shopping lately for a washer and dryer you know that each one can cost more than that.

The thing is, they all do the same thing. And there is just Kevin and I. And we don’t have a need for anything fancy.

I was pleasantly surprised when they were delivered and installed. They were bigger than I thought they’d be. They were shiny white which is OK. I would have preferred stainless but they weren’t available in stainless in our price range.

They are my first new washer and dryer. I’m in my early 50s now. I feel like I’ve finally grown up. I don’t have to buy used appliances. Yee haw! 

They have the added benefit of being pretty cool. New washers these days don’t have a center agitator, or at least this one doesn’t. It’s a big stainless steel tub that agitates by swishing the clothes around rather than by twisting them around a center stalk. I love that. It’s much less wear and tear on my sweatpants. As I loaded up the washer this morning with fleece jackets and vests, I thought these very simple words: I love my washing machine. Then I thought quickly: Is that wrong? I’ll just say this, if loving my washer is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Sitting here at my eat-at bar, typing away, and listening to my washer washing it out loud. Life is clean this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

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live out loud

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