The Batman theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 11, 2018 8:08 PM

Indulge me for a minute while I set the scene. It was Sunday night. The desert had grown quiet and calm after the raging winds of the afternoon and early evening. The lights from the city, so far and incredibly close all at once, danced. Riley was on the floor, sleeping against the wall underneath the window that looks out onto the deck, and Kevin was yawning. It was about 10:15. We had watched the first episode of the second season of Cardinal, a Hulu series that we find mildly enjoyable without being too taxing. We were both tired and rather than even start the second episode, we decided it was time for bed. I got up from the couch and just then, I heard it. 

Fluttering, scratching. Paws or feet or claws tramping across the ceiling out toward the deck. The house creaked. Kevin stopped yawning. Riley immediately sat up and started to growl.

Me: “What the fuck is that?” 

Kevin shhhh’d me as we waited for it to happen again, which it did, louder and more insistent. If someone told me a pterodactyl was on the roof, I would have believed them. 

The desert is the land of many odd, majestic, scary, and prehistoric creatures. It’s not unusual to see Gila monsters and desert tortoises, snakes, lizards, and tarantulas. Last summer I watched a tarantula climb up the front stone of the house, but what was on the roof was either the biggest spider in history or something far more menacing.

“Whatever it is had to have crawled, climbed or scaled up the side of the house,” I said. I don’t know if I was trying to be logical and find reason in what was happening or if I was just proffering some sort of explanation. Either way, the visual was not comforting. 

Kevin was on his feet, at the window, looking up and out. He went into his office and, grabbing a flashlight, started toward the front door. 

“You’re not going out there,” I said and asked all at once.

“I was,” he said. 

“Not without shoes,” I said and he dutifully slipped on his flip flops to avoid any scorpions or centipedes that might be lurking in the portico. I bravely stood in the doorway with my hand on the door as he went out and flashed his light up toward the roofline. He moved along the house, illuminating the stucco and the scuppers. This went on for about five minutes, five minutes that seemed like an hour. 

He turned off the light and shrugged his shoulders. The light from inside the house and from above the garage doors bathed the driveway in an eerie light. An owl hooted from somewhere in the hill above, but the noise on the roof was gone. 

“Maybe a ring-tailed cat,” I suggested. 

“Sounded too big for a ring-tail,” he said. “Maybe it was the owl.” 

“An owl couldn’t possibly make that kind of noise.”

“Maybe the osprey?” We have one osprey that appears occasionally, sitting atop a saguaro up above. The first time I saw it, I was convinced it was an eagle. But the markings were different, and when it finally took flight, the wing span rivaled a small commuter plane.

“The problem with the osprey is that most birds don’t fly at night,” I said before adding, sheepishly, “do they?”

He shrugged again. “Whatever it is appears to either be playing possum or it’s gone.” 

He came in the house and we both took Riley out to pee, just in case there was something lurking on the side of the house. Strength in numbers and all that. When we brought the dog back in, who happily trotted toward the bedroom, Kevin stopped, listening again. Silence. 

“Maybe … it was Batman.” 

That’s our current theory for last night’s roof disruption. I’m just hoping for the Michael Keaton version.

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live out loud

Cape optional

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:57 PM

It's that time of the month again, the time when Lorin gets her hair done. I'm sitting here with my hair sticking out in all directions, as if I stuck my iPhone in a light socket and got an obviously big shock. It's not attractive, getting my color done. The only thing funnier is getting foiled. Then my hair sticks out in every direction and shines and clacks when I move. The saving grace to getting my hair done and looking like this is that it's temporary, and when I leave I'll be freshly coiffed, complete with cut. Also, all of the other women around me - I'm currently in the color lounge - look the exact same way.

When I used to get my hair done in Woodland Hills, Tammy used a different kind if color. It was liquid and squirted from a bottle. She would use the nozzled end to part my hair as she squeezed the color into my hair at the scalp. Once the bottle was empty, she'd comb it all through so I looked like a gel-head.

Zell, my new stylist, uses a thicker gel color that she paints on so she only focuses on the root. She uses the pointed end of a brush to part my hair then flips the brush around and paints. The interesting thing about this type of color application technique keeps the chemicals off of my scalp so I suspect it might perhaps be healthier. Because let's face it. Putting chemicals on your scalp where they soak into your skin and thus into your body can't be a good thing.

My eyebrows have also been painted.

After my color has cooked, which happens even though I'm not under a dryer, I get washed and then they apply some sort of shine sealer. I should know what it's called but I don't. I should know because I am in the hair business, at least sort of. I write about it. And I should know what the product is because it's similar, only better, to Sebastian's Cellophanes/Colourshines. I worked at Sebastian and wrote a bunch about C/C.

The shine sealer seals in the color and locks in shine so my hair looks vibrant and healthy. There's that word again.

Then I get blown out (Zell did my cut first), I pay, leave a good-size tip and then I go home.

Until that time, though, here I sit. I'm on a black leather couch. There is some funky music playing softly if funky music can play softly. I like this salon though I preferred the music at Tammy's salon. I am dressed in jeans and a maroon colored fitted t-shirt with a tan silk-screened motorcycle on the front. I have a pair of cowboy boots on with low wooden heels. I make a lot of noise when I walk especially on concrete floors.

I am also draped in a black cape. It is nearly 4:30 as I write this. Justin and Joanne, having finally made it out of Chicago, will be arriving shortly; so says the text that just came in from Kevin. It is a beautiful day here in the desert, nearly 80 degrees.

I am getting my hair done and my eyebrows darkened. My son will be there when I get home. I'm flying high. The cape is optional.

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live out loud

He's Batman

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 23, 2012 9:31 PM

Regular readers may recall that my favorite superhero was and remains Batman. I like that he’s always been dark and mysterious, that he became a crime fighter to avenge the death of his parents. I especially like that he doesn’t have any special powers; he just has really cool toys, not the least of which is the Batmobile. It’s always been a great car, regardless of the incarnation. The 1960s version was a bit cartoonish, as was the entire series. But it was campy and fun. Then Michael Keaton got some great wheels in the Tim Burton smash in 1989. Christian Bale’s dark night got some equally fabulous wheels in his trilogy, including a motorcycle.

Since his creation by writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane in 1939, Batman has been known as the Bat-Man, the Caped Crusader, and the Dark Knight. In Davis, California there is another name for the creature who wears a bat-themed costume and possesses indomitable will. Meet the Dog Knight.

He's Batman

He’s a three-year-old Formosan, a type of small to medium sized mountain dog indigenous to Taiwan. They’re known to be alert, faithful, bold and fearless, all characteristics that fit this Knight whose name is, appropriately, Batman.

Batman was found in an alley in Taiwan after apparently being hit by a car that didn’t stop to help. The dog dragged himself from the street, and was discovered several days later, his spine fractured, his back legs useless. A local veterinarian did the initial surgery and then decided there was virtually no chance of adoption. They put him into a foster care system and left him in a small area by himself. A rescue group in San Ramon, California called Love & Second Chances heard of Batman’s plight and raised the $1400 needed to fly him to his new country. Batman underwent more surgery but the veterinarian had sad news: the window of opportunity for the most optimal treatment has passed. Batman would never walk again.

Love & Second Chances is a group of interconnected rescuers in Northern California committed to helping abused, neglected, homeless and dogs on death row to find loving homes. No dog is too big, too old, too injured to qualify for their help.

New legs!

Batman now has a wheelchair and tears across a parking lot, over grass, even up and down stairs. He plays with other dogs, he chews on his toys, he’s as happy a boy as he can be, especially when he’s sporting his special Batman cape. Recently, he has also showed signs of something called reflexive walking where he can wiggle his back legs a bit. He’s able to spin around on the ground and even to use the legs sparingly because his spinal cord is steering his movements without the use of his brain. This 26-pound hero is now being outfitted for custom leg braces that will be donated by a canine-prosthetics company, enabling him to also get around without his Batmobile.

I came across Batman’s story earlier this morning and watched the youtube video put out by the group who is trying to find him a forever home. On one hand it’s painful to watch; I wanted to turn away, especially when they showed some of the dog’s injuries. But when I saw him racing around on his wheels, and playing with the other dogs in the park, it made me smile. I’m not going to embed it but here is the link:

This dog was showing, in just the few minutes of video that are available, the power of determination, a dominance of spirit and the strength of character that we all wish we possessed ourselves. Dogs are a special species in that they simply are what they are. There’s no pretense; they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They rarely sit around and think that the world has dealt them a bad hand. All the more amazing because dogs like Batman definitely got dealt from a deck that was stacked against him. But he doesn’t let it get him down. I doubt he even knows that he’s different. He’s simply alive and living it out loud.

That’s why they call him the Dog Knight.

The Batmobile

So often dogs can show us the people we can and should be. Rising above challenges, not letting anything get in our way, being the superheroes we always imagined we would be, the crusaders for justice that we were meant to personify. Bold, fearless, living with joyous abandon; loving life.

He’s Batman and that’s what he showed me today.  

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live out loud

The Thursday enterprise

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 27, 2012 12:43 AM

Day four of my experiment. In today's installment we begin again with a dream though this dream wasn't nearly as vivid as the last few have been. I suspect it's because even my subconscious is losing interest in my daily exploits into the land of 'huh?'

Here's what I remember: Kevin in a Batman costume talking to a guy in a window above, also in a Batman costume. Both had been hired by an unknown firm to portray the caped crusader but then they fired Kevin almost immediately. He looked very sleek in his costume, though it wasn't the black armor of the current Christian Bale Batman, nor even of the Michael Keaton variety (I tend to ignore the Val Kilmer version; ditto George Clooney, and I rarely ignore George Clooney). Kevin was sporting the Adam West style of purple tights. He looked cute. Then some woman went off in a limo but then she was returning almost as quickly and we all had to get out of there quick.

No idea where “there” was. This dream was fuzzy, and I felt like I was watching it happen rather than participating. It's something that can happen in real, conscious life as well. When I was younger there were times when I was more of an observer in my own life than a participant. I allowed things to happen to me rather than making them happen for me. I think it's something common for a lot of people. For whatever reason, they lack the self-confidence to be bold, to take charge, to make a change.

Before my first marriage, I knew that we weren't right for forever. But we had been together for so long we felt we needed to get married. I'm sure Tim felt the same. I loved him, but we were growing more incompatible every day. He was very entrenched in the company he worked for which didn't have a lot of respect for women. It was Japanese and in that culture, women were/are still subservient to men. I don't think Tim wanted to buy into that, but he did. He was also becoming more conservative which pushed me the other way. He referred to the company I worked for at the time, a beauty company, a hair care giant, as "that f#cking company you work for."

We got married. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a transfer to New York and he took it without talking to me. He expected me to follow him. Truth be told, my mother thought I should follow him, too. I didn’t want to.

I took the transfer as the strength I needed to finally break free of an unhappy marriage. I didn't do it on my own. I didn't take charge. Perhaps it was how I was raised. More likely it was just my personality. I was strong in certain aspects, afraid in others.

As I've gotten older, I've learned that to change my life I have to be the one to take charge. If I don't like where I'm living, I can move. If I don't like what I do for a living, I can change it. If I don't like anything, I can change it. It's not a new concept. Therapists have been preaching this theory for decades, but it's one thing to hear it and another entirely to do it. Doing something to change is hard. You feel as if you need to be a superhero, complete with cape, just to get up off the couch. It's always much easier to grab the remote. But what I've come to realize is the remote is just a metaphor for life. You can flip through every channel ­– love, family, friends, career – but not have any effect on any because you're sacked out on the couch. Get up.

One of the running jokes in Hollywood, with actors who have achieved great success (earned or not), is for them to be interviewed and have them say " but what I really want to do is direct."  Some do and they're better directors than they ever were actors. Clint Eastwood comes to mind, as does Penny Marshall. They got up and changed their own channel.

When I was unhappy in my job, at that f#cking company I worked for, I found something else. When I was unhappy there, I took the plunge and went out on my own. I've never regretted it. Of course, like the actors, I am now fond of saying that what I really want to do is write books. I have to make that happen, and I am. I have at least five that I’m involved in, either writing, editing or both.

It's terrifying to change. It's also exhilarating. My mother used to say that if something doesn't scare you a little, then it's probably not worth doing. There are many things my mother said and taught me, many of which ring very true. That's one. Because the fact is, if you try to change something and it doesn't work, you can always change again. Nothing's permanent other than desire and want.

It's an enterprising way to be, and infinitely more fulfilling. Batman did it. Even as a billionaire he was unfulfilled and so he became, well, a bat. To each his own, I suppose. I think I'll try it, too – the change thing, not the bat thing – and then try it again and again and again. With my husband by my side, my greatest love, my biggest supporter, my strength, I can live it out loud. Even scale the side of tall buildings.

Especially if he's wearing those purple tights.

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live out loud

Kevin and Lorin's big adventure with Batman

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 29, 2011 11:34 PM

In our continuing quest to get ourselves some class and culture, we pulled out the leathers and climbed on the motorcycle for another day of museuming. You may recall, dear reader, that two weeks ago we journeyed to the Miracle Mile – America’s Champs-Élysées – to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Today we journeyed back in that same direction and miraculously made it to the same mile, so named because of the area’s improbable rise to prominence in the 1920s. It was developed by a man named A.W. Ross who gave Wilshire Boulevard a number of firsts: dedicated left-turn lanes, required parking lots, major retailers with building facades best viewed through a windshield. Bold, simple signage, long buildings at a larger scale. It was designed as and continues to be a car-oriented urban wonderland.

How appropriate then that today we were there to visit the Peterson Automotive Museum. It was a natural choice since we’re both big car people, as in big into cars rather than into big cars, our own big SUV notwithstanding. We’re just fascinated with the engineering that has gone into designing and building automobiles since the first steam-powered cars were built and driven in 1900.

Cadillac Coupe

I’m particularly fond of the big cars from the 1940s. Packards, Cadillacs, Plymouths, Chryslers, and the like. I love all the chrome and the wheel covers. I love the white wall tires. In the 1940s, a car cost on average $800. Gas prices were about $.18 a gallon. Cars got between 15 and 20 miles per gallon. I suspect because the engines weren’t as high-performance, and speeds weren’t nearly as fast as they are today.

The Peterson also had all manner of scooters and some very old Indian motorcycles from 1912, two owned by the late actor Steve McQueen. There were Harley Davidson motorcycles as well and Vespa scooters from way back, even ones with carts and side-cars. What a blast. There were also old sports cars like one of only seven Ford Mark IIIs ever produced. There was a Jaguar XJ220 that originally sold for $650,000. Imagine what it sells for now.

Scooter and sidecar

And then there was the Batmobile, one of the original driving versions from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns, both starring Michael Keaton as the dark and body-armored caped crusader. I have to admit that Michael Keaton’s Batman was my favorite. I’ve seen The Dark Knight and liked it. But I don’t particularly like Christian Bale. The Tim Burton flicks still had enough of the comic book genre in them that, no matter how dark they got, they were still strictly fantasy. The newer versions make all of the fantasy more real. Michael Keaton was sexy in his sculpted body armor and gravelly voice; Christian Bale, not so much. I didn’t even mind Kim Basinger in the first one and Michelle Pfeiffer was truly phenomenal in the second (though Danny Devito’s Penguin was simply vile).

The Batmobile and Batman. The original Michael Keaton costume.

The Batmobile in the 1989 and 1992 films was almost 20 feet in length and based upon a 1967 Chevy Impala found in a London junkyard. It was powered by a 327-cubic inch V-8 Chevrolet engine mounted low in the frame in order to drop the hood line and enhance the car’s sleek profile. Rolls-Royce jet engine components were used to form the hood-mounted intake, and turbine blades in the nose piece were scavenged from a British Harrier fighter jet. Two Batmobiles, the featured car and a stand-in, appeared in the two films. It was very sexy, even though rumor has it that it couldn’t get out of its own way in real life.

Interestingly, while we were drooling over Batman’s ride, Tim Burton’s exhibit at LACMA was also still going on across the street. Coincidence?

Here’s the thing: We’re big fans of Batman in general. He’s probably our favorite superhero. Maybe it’s the black leather. When we’re on the bike, we’re often in black leather as well, albeit not nearly as chiseled and muscular as Batman’s. Still, perhaps we feel a kinship. We like that he doesn’t really have super powers; rather, he’s just a guy who’s able to do super things to help others. In that way, he’s more of a regular person thrown into extraordinary circumstances who has to work his way through, just like all of us on a regular basis, whether we’re sporting black leather or not. Definitely worth celebrating.

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live out loud

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