A day at the museum

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:46 PM

One of the things we love most about Tucson is how creative it is and how accessible that creativity is for the masses. It’s a city masquerading as a small town. It has charm and personality. It is a city to be sure, with seedy areas and places you wouldn’t want to frequent. But it is always welcoming and hassle-free, even going downtown, which is where we went today.

Roy and Bobbi are visiting. They came in last night and they’re here through Saturday night, leaving earlier than originally planned (which was Sunday) because Roy wants to be home for a day of football. We love when they visit; it’s easy. The four of us get along so well. It’s completely normal for all of us to gather around the table or eat-at bar and work on our computers, all of us working, talking, laughing. There’s no real need to entertain. We just easily co-exist. It’s rare to find that in people. It’s why we travel so well together; it why we stay so well together.

We got up, worked a bit and then decided, since it was National Cheeseburger Day, to find a place where we could get a cheeseburger. I rarely eat cheeseburgers, but for some reason it sounded good. We found a place downtown called Lindy’s on 4th, whose tagline is “fighting anorexia one cheeseburger at a time.” They have attitude. I like attitude. It was a small place, maybe 10 tables total, a real hole in the wall. Perfect. Plus it wasn’t far from where we had decided to go this afternoon: the Tucson Museum of Art.

When we were in Los Angeles, we rarely engaged in cultural events because it was too much of a hassle. Going to plays or musical events, gallery openings and museums, was a monumental effort. Traffic was bad, parking was horrendous and expensive. It was easier to just stay home which, in the last few years, is exactly what we did. It became more fun to have a nice dinner at home with friends than to fight the traffic to try to get anywhere, including a restaurant. Because Tucson isn’t that big, the hassle factor is almost non-existent.

We climbed into the Range Rover and off we went. It took us all of 10 minutes to get downtown, find a parking spot and walk to Lindy’s. We had burgers, then climbed back into the Rover to drive a few more blocks to find the museum. We walked up to the building, which was very non-descript, ordinary, and not at all museum-like. I thought: this isn’t what I was expecting. We went inside and there was a guard who instructed us to walk through to the main building for admission. We followed his instructions and found ourselves in a big courtyard. A flowing water feature/pool was to the left along with lights strung across the trees, undoubtedly beautiful at night. There was a restaurant and several sculptures of Native Americans and cowboys. We walked across and through the double glass doors to find ourselves in a more-museum like environment. We paid admission and our docent Lois showed took us through the main installation called Beveldom Kinetic Art. It was cool and amazing, funky and weird. There was also an exhibit called Rails and Trails, lithographs from the expansion of the old west. There was a Mayan exhibit, as well as their regular collection. The museum spiraled down, much like the Guggenheim in New York though decidedly smaller. Part of the museum is also several older homes that now simply show art. It was fascinating to walk from room to room and imagine the rooms as part of a house. This would be the dining room, the living room, the kitchen.

Afterward we drove around this very interesting and old area of downtown, just west of the main part of the city. There were a lot of older buildings being renovated next to others that were dilapidated, jealous, wanting to be renovated. We found a place called Old Town Artisans, art galleries and shops. We stopped and decided to go in and see what we could see. It was built on the site of the El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, the fort built by the Spanish in 1775 to stake a claim to the northern frontier of New Spain. Fascinating jewelry, pottery, art. In the center courtyard, cantinas and restaurants. We stopped to get a beer. Under overcast skies and subtle temps, it was lovely.

Several hours later, we made our way home to Cooper and to cooking dinner and to more time spent with our best friends. It was a great day with great people, seeing great art. Perfect. And the ideal way to celebrate Tucson, friendship and art.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

Let us play

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 29, 2014 8:45 PM

I was raised catholic though we were never strong church goers. Most of what I remember of church was going whenever my grandmother was visiting. My dad’s mom was very religious and so when she visited, we pretended that we went to church. I suspect we didn’t fool her though she never said anything about it.

My dad was catholic; my mom isn’t. But my brother, sister and I were baptized catholic and all had our first communion. I was also confirmed. I don’t know why one gets confirmed but it seems to happen somewhere around sixth grade I think. I have no recollection of my brother or sister getting confirmed but again, we weren’t religious. I suspect that I was confirmed simply because I was the oldest and it was expected. This happens all the time. The first born gets the majority of attention and pictures taken because they’re the only one there. By the time the second, third or fourth comes along, the novelty has worn off. Not to mention that there is just too much stuff going on. No one has the time to spend, certainly not taking endless pictures.

I remember going to catechism classes when we lived in Erie. I was five or six at the time. I don’t remember anything that occurred in the class other than I was in it with my best friend Kathy Kallenbaugh. She and I had met in kindergarten. We were besties for at least a year.

I had my first communion in second grade. I remember that I had to make my first confession in order to receive communion. I remember thinking it was both exhilarating and terrifying to go into the confessional. Catholic churches are scary anyway, even though some can be quite beautiful. Putting a seven year old in a small dark vestibule, about the size of a closet, so that she can confess her grave sins is ridiculous. Most seven year olds have nothing to confess; I struggled to come with something. On Tuesday I slapped my little brother. Last week, I got really mad at my mom. I think there’s something written somewhere about honoring thy mother.

When I think back, I wonder if perhaps that was when I started to think how ridiculous it all was and is. It reminds me of when Justin announced to us, at 5, that he was born again. Because obviously something had gone terribly wrong in the five years since he’d actually been born. I know that many, if not all born-again Christians think that just by being born, you have committed some type of sin against god. It makes no sense to me, especially since most are also against birth control and abortion. If you’re not born you’re ok, but if you are you must repent. This is why I’m not religious. Actually, it’s just one of many reasons I’m not.

Though I don’t remember spending a great deal of time in church, I must have spent enough because on the rare occasion when I attend a catholic mass, like for a wedding for instance, I know all of the incantations, all of the responses. I revert to automaton status, simply saying what I’m supposed to when I’m supposed to and meaning absolutely none of it.

I stopped taking communion a long time ago, not that I have much opportunity these days. I think the only time I’ve been in a catholic church in the last few years is for funerals. In the eyes of the church I am a sinner and I’m just fine with that because in my eyes, they are worse. I often say I am a recovering catholic and that it’s a 12-century program. I still have a long ways to go.

Kevin was raised much more catholic than I. He went to catholic school, and his parents were fairly devout. The family went to church every Sunday. When the church introduced Saturday evening masses, his dad refused to even consider it as Sunday was the day of worship. His sisters remain heavily involved in the church.

On Sundays, it never occurs to us to go to church. Instead, we ride. We put on our best Sunday spandex and strap into our hard blue shoes. For a bonnet, we don a helmet, yellow for me, blue for him. We ride through the desert and the heat. We feel the hot breeze in our face, the sun on our backs. Our mantra is simple: Let us play. And let the play be good.

Amen.

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Finding good in disappointment

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:10 AM

There is no one who hasn’t experienced disappointment in one way or another in their lives. Even small children experience it when a toy is taken away because it’s deemed dangerous. Older people experience it when they can no longer do things they were always able to do with ease, like rake the leaves in the yard. Even animals experience it, though in much lesser ways. I can see it in Cooper’s eyes every time I take a bite of my food and don’t give him a bite as well.

Disappointments happen all the time. A hoped for job offer goes to someone else. The possibility of a beautiful day ends up drenching you with rain. An idea for the next great invention has already been thought of. The story you thought was good goes unpublished. A trip you were going to take can’t happen because of scheduling. A friend you were looking forward to seeing gets sick. The family you were hoping would come for a visit can’t.

Disappointment is part of life. It’s an intricate act of maneuvering through the maze of each day. It can be as mundane as there’s no coffee left in the pot to something as huge as the bank telling you no on a loan you were hoping to get.

Is there any good that can come from disappointment? It’s hard to know in the moment because disappointment is a very self-centered feeling, rightly so. This has happened to me. Why did this happen to me. It’s not fair this happened to me. Who can I slap?

This Thanksgiving, we were having a houseful but most everyone has had to cancel, all for very good reasons that I completely understand. In the same circumstances, I would do the same; anyone would. But I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to sharing and enjoying and laughing and talking and eating and drinking and laughing and talking some more. Our best friends were joining us. Everyone was going to stay here. It was going to be a big slumber party and so much fun.

I decided, though, that I can’t make this about me because it’s not. The reason our friends can’t come has nothing to do with me but rather is about issues that are personal and consuming and understandable. It got me to thinking about finding the good in disappointment.

There is sadness to be sure. We miss our friends; we’ll miss them on Thanksgiving. But they are still our friends. We don’t have to spend time together to solidify that because it is a fact. Spending time is a bonus. Breaking bread is a bonus. Giving thanks is what matters. We have wonderful friends who fill our lives and our hearts with joy. They are inside of us and nothing will dislodge that whether they are beside us or not.

There is some good.

Disappointment allows for re-evaluation and re-examination. If something didn’t work out, it can be opportunity to try something new, to think differently, to explore an alternate possibility. If the people you love can’t be with you, it’s not an opportunity, but it is still a reason to embrace them. Our friends, like our family, are the most important people in our lives, regardless of how often we see them. They are part of us, and while disappointed that we won’t see them, we are so very thankful they’re in our lives. Them not being with us does give us an opportunity to realize how much they mean to us, now and always, in person or long distance. It gives us the chance to ponder.

People are what matters. People are the only thing that matters. 

Damn that was fun

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 16, 2013 10:49 PM

Every once in a while a weekend is so good that when it’s over you’re even more blue than when a regular weekend ends. Such was the case with this past when we played host and hostess to our best good friends and family, Roy and Bobbi. They arrived late Thursday and we proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend visiting, laughing, enjoying wine and art and our friendship. They left this morning and I admit to being a bit blue. But instead of wilting and allowing the blue to completely envelop me, I’ve decided instead to embrace it just as I embraced my friends, literally and figuratively.

In my world, friendship is the glue that holds me together. Because I’m so far away from my family and because I’ve lived west for the majority of my life, friends are what I have out here. People I’ve chosen and who have allowed me into their lives; people who have been with me through some of the darker times, of first husband, of job changes, of the loss of beloved pets; and my father.

There are some people who have a lot of friends. I’ve never been one of them. I used to wish I were, back in high school. I was envious of the populars who had seemingly dozens of friends. I thought that was what I should have; I’m not sure why. Somehow a lot of friends would mean that I was more normal I suppose; more accepted for who I was.

Who I am.

After I graduated from college, I realized that it wasn’t the quantity of friends that mattered. It was the quality. Since then I have gone about collecting some of the finest people in this world as my friends. There are not many of them but they are the best. I hope they know who they are. They are my people, my confidantes, my west coast family; my lifeblood. It’s why after such a lush weekend – and I do not use the term to describe our wine consumption, even though it was plentiful – I feel a little down and lonely.

Friends are like air. And Roy and Bobbi are the freshest air. We have traveled together, we have helped each other move. We have consumed wine and started businesses together, sometimes over wine. They are the original Fritini participants. They are Justin’s official west coast aunt and uncle. When we lost Maguire, they were nearly as heartbroken as we were. They were there the night we brought Cooper home for the first time. They are my oldest friends in California. They are the truest of people, the kind that leave footprints in your heart.

We are lucky to have them. We are lucky to have all of our friends. And we celebrate each and every one with each and every waking day. While we can’t always be physically together, due to the circumstances called life, we are always together spiritually, emotionally; online.

This weekend was about friends and family, about discovery and good times. It was relaxing and easy. It was perfect because of our very good friends. And while I’m sad that I won’t see them in person for a while, I am blessed to have them in my life. I am honored to call them – all of you – good friends.

Groucho Marx once said this about a good friend: “When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.’”

It was. It was.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

People let me tell ya ‘bout my best friend(s)

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 7, 2012 7:12 PM

In today’s adventure of Kevin and Lorin got a new dog, we find the blustery little red head named Cooper tearing around the house at near warp speed. It happens every day at around 3 pm. This is the time our darling boy seems to unleash his inner nutbag. He races up and down the stairs, takes the corner at the bottom of said stairs like a cartoon dog, feet slipping, sliding and spinning out from underneath him on the hardwood floor as he tries to change direction toward the kitchen. He then tears toward the kitchen, makes another hard right at the rug, spring-boarding into said kitchen where he proceeds toward his water bowl to lap up a bunch of cool, clear, fresh water, half of which gets slopped onto the floor.

Luckily the kitchen is tile.

Back to this afternoon. It was about 3:30. The spinning feet had happened; the slurp had been slopped. Now it was time for some Wooba. Wooba is Cooper’s favorite toy. It’s some sort of brown thing with a cute bear-type face, a body stuffed with a tennis ball that actually squeaks, and five long tails tailing off, sort of octopus-like. For some reason, he is completely infatuated with Wooba.

Wooba was laying on the floor in the dining room. Cooper scooped him up, then raced back up the stairs. He flipped Wooba around a few times, then decided to race back down the stairs. But he lost Wooba in transit, so he picked up the pace, trying desperately to save the careening toy as it bounced ever downward with Cooper in hot pursuit. He managed to snag the toy at the last step then launched himself, with Wooba firmly in his mouth, into the living room. He whirled and twirled, shook the toy to kill it, ran toward the kitchen, made a spin move worthy of cirque du soleil and took off toward the back door in full growl as Kevin and I watched in mock horror.

There was no way to warn him, no time to stop him. Instead he went head first into the door, through the screen and out onto the patio where he dropped Wooba and turned back to look at us like, “Hey. That was kinda different. When did you guys put a door there?”

In Cooper’s defense, the door had been wide open for a short time this afternoon and he had been racing back and forth from the back yard into the house. In his little Cooper mind, he assumed that it still was. Right up until the time the screen tried to stop him and failed. Miserably.

After looking at us, he turned back to Wooba, picked it up, ran into the back yard and proceeded to growl and squeak and throw and bark. It was so adorable we couldn’t even be mad at him. In fact, Kevin left his post at the screen, trying to figure out if it was salvageable, to go play as well.

Destroying the screen door is not new in this house. Maguire, in his earlier terror days, was known to barrel through the house, fur flying, ears back and decide not to stop at the door but rather try to just go through it. Instead he’d knock it into next week, completely off the track as it flew through the air to land in the trees. When he did that, we had to replace the whole door, not just the screen. So we’re making progress.

The screen is currently being held in place with blue painter’s tape. There’s also a big blue X in the middle of the door so that his Cooper-ness hopefully sees it the next time he decides that he and Wooba Have. To. Be. Outside. Right. Now.

This little guy has quickly grabbed our hearts. His personality is coming out. He’s so cute, so red, so fast; such a good boy. I look at him sometimes and I wonder who would have and could have so easily given him up. I don’t think anyone ever encouraged him to be a good dog. I think he was ignored. I think he had people who never gave him much of a thought, and that breaks my heart. I don’t understand people like that; I don’t want to know them.

Instead, I want to know the people who would give up safety for their pets, who refuse to be rescued from harm if their pets can’t come along. I was reminded of this again watching the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. Just as with previous natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, so many animals were displaced. And now comes a Nor’Easter to add to the misery. Some pets have owners who would rather die than be separated from their four-legged creatures, and yet some have been forced to do just that. Some people who have been displaced and are currently in shelters aren’t allowed to have their dogs or cats with them and have placed them in shelters, temporarily. But the animals don’t know that; the dogs don’t understand why they’re where they are, with people they don’t know, away from their homes, their people, their toys.

There are rescue groups and shelters working overtime, filled to capacity, in desperate need of help themselves. They need volunteers, they need pet food and cat litter, leashes, and more. Organizations like Best Friends, one of the strongest animal rescue groups in the country and headquartered in Kanab, Utah, is at the forefront of helping as they so often are. Their Emergency Response Fund is helping groups throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to keep displaced animals comfortable, loved and sheltered until their parents can hopefully retrieve them. Their help is invaluable.

They’re keeping these poor four-legged creatures in their hearts which may bring some small measure of comfort to the parents whose hearts are breaking. They’re the kind of organizations that make it possible for Kevin and I to now have our new best friend, Cooper. While he didn’t come from Best Friends, he did come from a rescue. And as a once-again puppy parent, I feel better knowing that if something was to happen here, there are people who help. Best Friends that help best friends, with food, shelter, leashes.

And a Wooba.

I wonder if they do anything about screen doors. 

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