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.


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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 27, 2014 8:45 PM

Somebody and maybe it’s the government has stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Then again, maybe it was my mother, a big fan of breakfast. I am not a big fan of breakfast but I am a fan of breakfast food. From the time I was a teen, the idea of eating immediately upon waking in the morning seemed wrong. It did and does take several hours before I’m hungry enough to break my fast. I know that eating a good breakfast sets the tone for the day. I understand the idea of refueling the body so that it hits the ground running, so to speak. With a good, nutritious breakfast, which means no donuts or poptarts, you’re more creative, think more clearly. To me, this is why dog created coffee.

I remember staying at my grandmother’s house when I was young, before my teenage years. Every morning I had hot oatmeal and a blueberry poptart on a TV tray in front of the television. I remember when we had snow days off school, and my mother making hot chocolate. I loved having buttered toast and dunking the toast into the hot chocolate. A little bit of the butter would pool on top of the chocolate. It was the definition of comfort on a cold, snowy morning.

In college, I rarely went to the dining hall for breakfast except after an 8 o’clock class and even then it was just coffee and a donut or two. The freshman 15 is not a myth, thanks to dining hall donuts. When I got my own apartment, I didn’t need the dining hall anymore and rarely had anything for breakfast except for coffee, maybe a graham cracker (I am a graham cracker fiend), occasionally cold pizza. I worked at a pizza place in town and often had pizza in the fridge. There was also a great diner in Dover called Jakes. My roommate and I would drive over there sometimes on a Sunday for an omelet, but by the time we got there and ate, we’d been up for hours. One summer we worked clambakes on the beach, and we had to be there by 6:30 am to set up. We always went to McDonalds on the way for an Egg McMuffin.

Once I started working, I always had coffee – are you sensing a pattern? – and sometimes a muffin late in the morning, again after having been up for several hours.

I do the same in the house. We start working around 8 am and we start with that lush, aromatic, hot liquid. By 10:30 or 11, I’m snacky. I don’t want a full breakfast, so I may have a piece of fruit or a yogurt. If we happen to have cereal, I might have a bowl, sans milk. I prefer my cereal more as a snack than as a meal. Kevin usually has milk on his, but milk and I don’t really like each other. I’m not lactose intolerant. I just hate the smell of it.

But come Sunday morning, breakfast rules. We get up and walk the dog. Then he has breakfast, which consists of his usual cup of food with a Zuke’s Hip Action Peanut Butter cookie on top. Kevin and I go for a bicycle ride and then, when we get back, it’s time to cook. Sometimes we do an omelet, other times a skillet scramble. I make turkey bacon or turkey sausage. We have watermelon and cantaloupe and this morning, sliced strawberries with a glaze drizzled on top. We have coffee and juice. Sometimes we make pancakes. My mother sent us some phenomenal buttermilk mix from New Hampshire for Christmas and it makes light, airy and wonderful cakes. I don’t tend to like pancakes because I find them heavy. Not so these.

Several years ago, we woke up one Sunday morning and Kevin said: “we should make waffles.” Never mind that we didn’t have a waffle iron. That’s why dog invented Bed, Bath & Beyond. We don’t use it often but when we do, it’s fabulous. Sometimes we add fruit to the waffle mix, sometimes cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. Sometimes I slice up pears and sauté them in butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, and the serve them with just a drizzle of syrup.

It’s a ritual, and always so good. Today, this Sunday, we had breakfast, a scramble with anaheim and jalapeno chiles, prosciutto, red onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, and turkey sausage, the aforementioned strawberries, cantaloupe, and as always loved it. It was hours after we got up, but absolutely worth celebrating. 

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live out loud | The cooking of joy

It's the little things

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 21, 2014 12:14 AM

I was on River Road this afternoon, both going to get my hair cut and returning home. River is widely acknowledged as the natural horizontal divide of the city. Everything to the south is considered more urban; everything to the north, the affluent foothills. We currently live south of River.

There used to be an actual river that also flowed east to west or maybe it was west to east. I don't know which way the currents moved; it was much before my time. It was, and sort of is, the Rillito River and during times of extreme rain and flooding, it rages anew. Most of the time, like now, there's a dry river bed with paved bike/walking/running paths on either side. River Road runs parallel to this dried bed, just to the north.

When we're heading east, we always take River to get wherever we're going. It's heavily residential with shopping areas only at the corners of major streets so there aren’t a lot of cars turning on or off. It twists its way along, an asphalt river, with only sporadic tributaries. It doesn't move fast, the currents are only about 35 miles per hour, but it flows steadily.

It also has two major dips between where I usually begin my journey at Campbell and when the River stops at Sabino Canyon. These dips rival those of roller coasters. You approach and then drop down so suddenly the cabin of the car practically loses pressure. You round through the bottom and then just as quickly as you dipped down you are sent up and out, as if by a sling shot. Your stomach drops and flips. You become almost lightheaded for about half a second and then it's over until the next ride.

One of these dips is much steeper than the other and as such, much more fun.

As I rode the river of River Road today I found myself smiling, as I often do after these dips. I love the feeling but it was more than that. I realized today that this seemingly small thing actually made my afternoon. It made me happy.

It was then that I also realized how much the seemingly inconsequential things in life matter. The buzz of a hummingbird, a western sunset, a good hair day, a rolling dip taken in the car on a Thursday afternoon. It's the little things in life that actually make life fun, little squirts of fun that by themselves don't seem to matter. They're fleeting. But while they're happening, there is also a little bit of joy, a break in the mundane and regular flow of the day, the week; life. For those few seconds, there is a little bit of living it out loud. It can mean the difference between a life lived and a life lived in celebration.

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live out loud

On the bike again

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 13, 2013 9:53 PM

When Kevin and I first started dating, I was into biking. I had bought a hybrid several years earlier, shortly after my divorce, and spent many a happy Saturday and Sunday morning merrily riding through the canyons of Calabasas, Malibu and Agoura. Enter Kevin, who wasn’t a cyclist. He had a bicycle, an old 10-speed, that he had somehow procured in his divorce but it had belonged to his ex-wife so it was too small for him. Still, he liked the idea of getting into biking as well so we tooled around a bit, his lanky 6-foot frame on a bicycle built for someone 5’6”.

He ended up liking the idea so much that he also bought a hybrid. For the uninitiated, a hybrid is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. They were very popular in the early to mid 1990s with people like us buying them because we didn’t really want to ride on trails and we didn’t really want to spend the money for a good road bike.

It was Kevin’s first brand new bike and he was thrilled. He had a bicycle that fit him and it was top of the line for the time. 

The more we rode, the more we enjoyed it and the quicker we realized that the hybrids, as great as they were, just didn’t suit our purposes. We really needed road bikes. We bought our first roadsters around the time we moved in together, in 1997. They were great and we put a lot of miles on them. Road bikes are lighter, with thinner tires and therefore travel much further much more easily. We put so many miles on our new road bikes that we quickly realized, again, that we needed something even lighter. After quite a bit of research, Kevin decided that what we needed were KHS so that’s what we got. 18 speeds, two chain rings so the low gears are more powerful for cranking on the flats and getting some good speed but the high gears don’t give as much ease for climbing. We don’t have what is known in the cycling world as “granny’s.” Granny gears allow someone to sit on their saddle and climb a hill, their legs churning without working too hard and the bike taking virtually forever to get anywhere.

We’ve had the KHS bikes for a number of years now. We used to ride 50 to 100 miles a week. But that has dissipated. In fact, we haven’t been on the bikes for at least six months if not closer to a year. Maybe it’s even more. I’ve lost track. Life gets in the way; we haven’t made the time. But when we go into the garage, we never fail to gaze longingly at our gorgeous metallic blue road bikes hanging on their hooks, gathering dust, their tires now devoid of air. Lately we’ve been talking about getting back on them. And today is the day that happens.

Kevin has dusted them off, re-inflated the tires, lubed the chains. I’ve found the water bottles and they’re filled with cool, not cold water. We only drink water when we ride; no electrolyte beverages for us. Water is what we need; water is what we have.

We’re going to slip into our biking clothes, the black spandex shorts with the padded crotch and the brightly colored Lycra tops. We’ll slip into our cycling shoes, the kind with clips on the bottom that attach to the peddles so you have to clip in and clip out when you start and stop. I hope we can remember how; otherwise we’ll tip over. We’ll put them into the Range Rover and head east, to a nice stretch of road that climbs a bit at first. We’ll get to the end and then turn around for more of a coast on the way back. We’ll have parked where there’s a great coffee/breakfast place we like so that afterwards, we can get some coffee, maybe a muffin. It won’t be a long ride, but it will be a good ride, one to get us back on the saddle again, and on the road again.

All apologies to Willie Nelson. 

The importance of toys

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 23, 2012 1:21 AM

I am a grown woman and I love toys. I have them all over my house and I’m proud of that. In my office, directly in front of me when I sit at my desk working is a Samantha Stevens/Bewitched doll complete with hat and broom. On top of the shelf is an antique croquet game. In the corner is an enormous stuffed bear from FAO Schwartz in New York. I have blocks, a Winnie the Pooh, a Piglet, an Eeyore and a Tigger. In the bookshelf are some stuffed animals; atop my bookshelf is a Scarlett O’Hara Barbie doll and a Scully and Mulder Barbie and Ken doll set from the X-Files. They carefully guard a Tasmanian devil and an old metal lunchbox like what I carried when I was in school. On the floor is an antique doll crib with two antique dolls, one a Madame Alexander, another a Heinrich Handwerk, both bisque. Which is not to be confused with Bisquik, another blog post entirely.

Walk down the stairs and at the bottom is a black, limited edition Road Hog tricycle that I bought for Kevin for Christmas several years ago. It has motorcycle aspirations, complete with a tiny saddlebag under the saddle. On top rides a stuffed dog in a leather Harley-Davidson jacket with matching sunglasses. He looks bad-ass. Miniature motorcycles, mostly metal, are on the stairs; miniature bicycles on the fireplace mantle. On the entertainment center is a Marshall Field Tonka truck from 1955 as well as a Smith-Miller Bank of America armored truck, complete with lock.

The real toy collection begins in the bedroom, though. Like typical kids, it’s where we keep most of our stuff so that it doesn’t get underfoot, nobody slips on it, and it doesn’t clutter the living room. A shelf across the sliding glass door houses some of our best toys. Actually, Kevin’s toys. There are countless trucks mostly from the late 1950s/early 1960s including a full set of orange Tonka road crew vehicles. The set even includes road signs. I bought that for him for his birthday some years ago. On the shelf up high is a menagerie of stuff: more trucks, a Sno-Cone maker, an army tank that actually shoots something, an original erector set, a set of Lincoln logs, a metal Snow-Flake sled and a fully-functional (as long as the battery terminals aren’t corroded) King Ding robot complete with his brain, a smaller robot that rides up and down inside King Ding on an elevator.

Pebbles, a replacement of my favorite doll from when I was a child, sits next to the flat screen TV. Kevin found her somewhere on the east coast and gave her to me when we got married. I always loved that doll; she may well have been the only one I ever did love. I suspect because she first belonged to my older cousin Kim and I idolized Kim. When Kim gave her to me, it was like she had given me a million dollars. I’m sure she didn’t think that; she simply no longer had any use for the raggedy piece of plastic with a stuffed body and bad hair.

I’m not sure when or why we got so into toys, and truth be told, we’re getting a little tired of some of them. Thank dog for ebay. Still, we have some pieces that are true collectors items and worth a good deal of money. We’ll keep many of the best trucks, including Marshall Field, Bank of America and all of the trucks above the sliding glass door. They’re all in mint condition. I’ll keep Pebbles for sure. The trike stays, too.

I think toys somehow makes us feel invincible again, they remind us of a simpler time when we had no responsibilities and the biggest question of the day was “when do I have to be home for dinner?” They allow us to use our imaginations, construct worlds that don’t exist except for that day, as we play and move around our trucks and our dolls and our stuffed animals. It’s a way to create, and even to problem solve. There’s also something kind of cool about having exceptionally old, working and pristine toys in your house as an adult when there are no children around. They make people smile.

Toys and games have been discovered at the sites of some of the world’s most ancient civilizations. These discoveries include dolls and animals, whistles shaped like birds and even carts with wheels. Egyptian children had dolls that sported wigs and even had movable limbs. Most of the world’s earliest toys were made from rocks, sticks and clay. Most were made by parents for their children or by the children themselves. There was care given; each toy was more personal than the mass-produced toys of today.

But the reason for being is the same: to develop the mind and the imagination. That’s something adults could use more of, especially during especially trying times. Toys allow us to escape and to play even if it’s just in our minds, even if it’s just for pretend.

Also in the bedroom, in the corner, is Maguire’s bed. I don’t think he slept in it once during his 15 plus years. Instead, it became his toy “box,” holding all of his toys and they were plentiful. Each day, he would trot out anywhere from two to six, and after he was done playing and chewing, he’d leave them wherever he grew bored. He never learned the fine art of cleaning up after himself. Those toys are still in his bed. They allow us to imagine that he’s still with us, to pretend just for a minute that we can still hear the squeak of Pig or Moo or Hedge as he bites down for a chew.

Tonight I’m celebrating toys, celebrating the pretend. Living it out loud.

Picture this: A lonely 10-speed leaning on a post between two Brownstones

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 19, 2012 8:29 PM

Much like my dearly departed Maguire, I am a mutt. Most people are. I seem to have a bunch of heritages mixed into my blood and they show in my skin tone, my hair color and my eye color. My mother has a good deal of Italian in her and I’m not sure what else. My father was largely Irish and Scottish with some other things thrown in for good measure. I tend to favor my dad in terms of coloring. Fair but with a hint of red in my skin. My dad was ruddy; I’m not. But my hair is dark, my eyes brown with a hint of green. I’m covered with freckles and moles, and spent too much time in the sun when I was young so these days I have the occasional mark that goes bad. Now I spend a lot of time at the dermatologist, a woman I discovered many years ago when I had something on my leg that my General Practitioner couldn’t quite figure out. Dr. L knew what it was right away. She also correctly discovered a basal cell mole. I’ve been visiting her every couple of months ever since.

Today I had another one of my morning appointments, and as I sat in her waiting room, alone, I found myself studying the many photographs that line the walls. All of them have been taken by my doctor’s husband, who is also a doctor, an ophthalmologist. They share an office space they cleverly call Westlake Eye & Skin. Evidently Dr. Fred is quite the photog as well, though has decided he doesn’t want to show his work anywhere, nor does he want to sell it. But when they travel, and they take at least one big trip each year, he spends a good amount of their time taking pictures. Not typical touristy pics by any stretch. These photographs tend more toward the artistic. Then he has large prints made, at least 16” X 20”, always in color, double matted and all framed in black so as not to draw attention away from the shots.

The waiting room is now showing shots taken during last fall’s trip to New York City. There are interesting pictures of the balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, of the Statue of Liberty, of firemen all in a line, of the ice rink in Central Park on a sunny day. Various photographs of skyscrapers rise from the canvas at strange angles. One photograph, just opposite my chair, showed a lonely bicycle, an old 10-speed, leaning against a black pole between two brownstones. There were no people in the photograph, no cars, no trash. It had a very quiet aura, soothing, a little sad. I found myself drawn into the quiet world of this dark bicycle.

Photo by Dr. Fred Linstone. Taken with my cell phone in the waiting room.

I imagined its one-time owner. His old aunt, his mother’s sister, had long lived in the brownstone alone after her little chocolate poodle Mixy, died suddenly. Poor little guy had run after a rat and been caught under the wheels of a yellow taxi. I’ll call the aunt Felicity. Devastated by the loss of her four-legged friend, she shut herself into the house, up in the unfinished attic, where she watched as the world flowed by in the streets below. Her nephew – I’ll call him Garner – showed up one day, opened the door with his mother’s key and announced that he had come to keep her company. Felicity started to come alive again with Garner in the house. She had someone to cook for, and oh, did she love to cook. Garner got a job as a bicycle messenger and started taking classes at NYU. He had decided he wanted to be an architect, a passion that sparked when Felicity asked him to help finish the attic.

The room was dark. Wooden panels of plywood had been throw over the floor joists to form a kind of surface but one wrong step would send a person plummeting down into the livable space beneath. Garner had taken a beanbag chair up the stairs, thrown it down in front of the portal window and sat there for a day and a half, sketching, planning, figuring. When he showed his ideas to Felicity she was thrilled. Garner was going to make the space into a library. He began to hammer and saw, pull and tug, expose and then recover the floor, the walls, the ceiling. He removed the portal window and replaced it with a floor-to-ceiling panel of glass.

He road his bicycle through the streets of New York, he went to class and he worked on the attic, he ate Aunt Felicity’s lovingly prepared meals. It was a simple existence but it was perfect, right up until the day the same taxi that had caught Mixy came barreling down the street. Garner had just parked his bicycle and had stepped out into the street to pick up the candy bar that had fallen from his pocket. He didn’t see the car until it was too late.

Now the bicycle sits against the light pole where he left it as a tree sprawls upward and Felicity sits in her nearly finished attic watching the world go by below.

Hey. It could happen.

And it was better than thinking about having Dr. L find something else on my skin that was going bad, which, coincidentally, didn’t happen. Not today anyway. Check back with me in a three more months.

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live out loud

The cycle of Sunday

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 10, 2011 10:42 PM

Another week ends, another week begins. I’ve always been a little cloudy on the official first day of the week. I’ve heard it as both Sunday and Monday, though I tend to fall with those who think the latter. Otherwise, why would Sunday be the day of rest? We certainly don’t need a day of rest to begin a week but it sure is a nice way to end one. Today was no exception.

Up early – of course. We have a dog that no longer sleeps through the night and is usually up for good or at least for his morning cookie, around 6. The sun was already up, too, streaming lightly through the trees just off the back patio. It was quiet. Nothing stirred other than his supreme puppiness but after a tour around the house, an outside cookie –chomp, chomp, crunch – two Hip Actions, loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin to help ease his arthritis, and a big water slurp, he huffed down for his early morning nap. Once his tags were arranged on the floor, he puffed one more time, and then fell asleep. Peace descended.

Kevin brought in the newspaper around 7:30 and we arranged it on the bed in the order we like to read it. I always start with Calendar and Arts & Books, followed by the front page. He starts with the flyers and inserts, then moves onto Sports. We trade the Travel section, the California section and Business. Depending on the Sunday, we can be reading anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour plus. Today was a short day. We sipped some coffee as the sprinklers sputtered to life. 8 am.

We went for a walk, and came back to make breakfast. Yesterday I picked up some peach cobbler cinnamon bread at the farmer’s market. I sliced and buttered it, then grilled it. While that was happening, I sautéed freshly sliced nectarines, also purchased at the market, in butter and cinnamon. Turkey bacon sizzled in the next skillet. When the bread was toasted on both sides, I flipped it onto two plates, dabbed each with butter, arranged the nectarines on top, put a couple pieces of bacon on the side. Voila. Breakfast was served.

Later in the day, we went for a motorcycle ride, just a short one. It’s so freeing being on the bike, zooming through the canyons, feeling the wind and the sun. It’s like flying on the ground; it’s a feeling like no other.

The first motorcycle, the Petroleum Reitwagon (riding car), was designed and built by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885. It looked a little like a bicycle but functioned quite a bit differently. It also had the first internal combustion, petroleum-fueled engine.

The French had previously built a steam-propelled motorcycle in 1868, called the Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede. Sylvester H. Roper Roxbury, of Massachusetts built the American Roper steam velocipede in 1869. Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first gasoline production motorcycle and the first to carry the name in 1894. Until World War I, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world was Indian, producing more than 20,000 motorcycles every year. Then Harley-Davidson got into the act, followed by Moto Guzzi who produced very radical designs, as did the German company NSU. Enter the Japanese: Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki. Sport bikes, dirt bikes, cruiser bikes and touring bikes. They get good gas mileage, none are particularly safe though some are safer than others, and they sell. Nearly 500,000 two-wheelers a year in the U.S.

We, of course, are only interested in one, our Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500, the big, bad cruiser. It’s paid for, has 20,000 plus miles on it and we love it. Especially on this Sunday afternoon, when the air is warm, the breeze is cool, and we’re celebrating the end of the week.

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live out loud

Observations on a Saturday from the vantage point of two wheels

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:12 PM

The tires were pumped up to 110 pounds of pressure. Two water bottles had been loaded into their carriers on the frame. In the saddle pouch, a cell phone, a driver’s license, a bit of cash and house keys. The bike leaned against the house, the morning sun glancing off the frame deepening the metallic blue; yellow wheels waited patiently for the rider to snap the straps of her helmet, fit Sony ear buds into her ear, adjust the volume on the iPod strapped to her arm (first up: Rod Stewart’s Handbags and Gladrags). She refastened one of the Velcro straps on her right Shimano shoe, grabbed the bike, swung a leg over to straddle it, snapped one shoe into the pedal and pushed off. It was 9:30.

Small American flags, vinyl and on thin wooden rods had been stuck into the ground at the base of every driveway in the neighborhood. Some had fallen over either because they hadn’t been stuck down far enough or because a gardener, a leaf blower or a dog had made their presence known. The vinyl of each fluttered in the soft morning breeze.

Out onto Lindero Canyon, heading toward Lakeview Canyon, several cars passed heading north, probably towards the Bean Scene or Starbucks. The traffic was still light, the morning still relatively quiet. As the bike turned up Lakeview, preparing for the climb toward the North Ranch Country Club, several leaves floated down like feathers.

An open gate into a very large, very expensive house on the right. A small bulldozer parked on the grass.

Gardeners pushed lawn mowers, wielded weed whackers, blew leaves and grass clippings into piles to be picked up later. To the right, a tree trimming truck hummed loudly ready to splinter freshly cut branches. The smell of new wood intoxicating while Airborne Toxic Event played through the iPod.

Legs and lungs burning on the climb before the lovely descent.

There was a family, mom in the front with two young daughters, dad in the back with an older girl walking along Westlake Boulevard. They trudged on the rocky sidewalk, talking and laughing amongst themselves. Further on, people walking dogs: a big brown lab, small terrier and a small mutt, a cross between a dachshund and a Corgi and a Chihuahua.

A peloton flew by, all men, all young with huge legs covered in varying shades of spandex from white to purple to blue to multi to ordinary black. Soon they were nearly a speck in the distance as they pushed up and over the boulevard heading toward Lang Ranch, disappearing as they pedaled furiously down the hill.

Riding up Kanan Dume, a student driver came dangerously close. The little white Toyota screaming STUDENT DRIVER in red, which doesn’t help when they’re approaching from behind. Runners approached from ahead, gray shirts drenched in sweat as the Doobie Brothers Keeps You Running played in the iPod.

Birds, black and ornery, crows, dive bombing the street searching for road-kill and whatever else. A big orange sign screaming MOVING SALE next to a real estate sign for an Open House with an open door and people streaming toward it. A golden retriever lounged in the front yard.

The sun was warm, not hot, though the temperature was rising. As cool water dribbled down her chin from a missed spray from the water bottle, another cyclist pedaled by on the opposite side of Kanan going the opposite direction. A nod of acknowledgement between two people who don’t know each other and will never see each other again. In the air, kids could be heard splashing in a pool as summer played forward filling the air with the fragrance of freshly cut grass and a hot road. Breathing it in, smelling it, seeing it, living it. Riding it.

She rode in and out of shade provided by large untrimmed trees, watching the pavement for glass and anything else that might pierce a tire, riding through Westlake and North Ranch and back into the OP, celebrating a Saturday morning on two wheels as Garth Brooks sang about a long ago love That Summer.


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live out loud

And now for a little exercise

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 2, 2011 10:14 PM

I have always been a fairly active person. My mother used to thread bells into the laces of my little white shoes when I first learned how to walk so that she would be able to find me. It’s not like the apartment was that big, but evidently, I got around.

Then I got a bike, actually a trike, and I motored around like nobody’s business, flying around the driveway at what had to be warp speed. I remember it well. Then I learned to ride a two-wheeler and got the bike of my dreams, a metallic purple stingray with a white seat and purple streamers. I could go anywhere, as long as I stayed in the neighborhood, but that bike took me to places never before seen. Trees that hadn’t yet been climbed, streams that hadn’t been forged, often times in the same place. Then I got older and got a ten-speed, which was my ticket out of the neighborhood. I could ride to my friend Pam’s house all the way on the other side of Columbia. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t that far, but in my memory, it was a ways. We even did a bike-a-thon, 25 miles of cranking through the wilds of Maryland. I also started running, and playing tennis. I loved the power of swinging my aluminum racket and smashing that poor, unsuspecting neon green ball back over the net, or even into the net. I’d practice by hitting the ball against the big wall outside the high school’s gym. I got there on my bike.

As I grew yet older, I kept riding, running and even playing tennis. I upgraded my bike to a 12-speed before I went to college, a little French number that was very lightweight, for the time, and gave me transportation since I didn’t have a car. It got stolen in college. Someone cut through the chain lock that linked it through a fence. I didn’t replace it for at least ten years. No matter. I kept busy, kept exercising, kept my body tuned and fit.

I have a really expensive bike now. It weighs about 17 pounds and has 18 speeds. Kevin’s bike matches it except for the size. His is a little larger since he’s taller than I. We have weight lifting equipment, and an exercise bike in our gym which is actually a section of the patio. We used to use all religiously.

But something strange occurred to me this weekend. I realized I no longer really cared about the constant battle to keep busy, keep moving, keep exercising. I still do some exercise, of course, like my power walks at least four and usually five days a week, hopping on my bike on Saturdays, the husband unit and I doing our best for our blood pressure, our brains, and our waistlines. I no longer feel the driving need anymore though, and I wondered when that happened. I suspect I have been slowly becoming more and more apathetic. Was it when I turned 40? When my workload got too heavy and I didn’t get enough sleep so I was tired most of the time, too tired to exercise? Could it have happened when I realized there is absolutely nothing I can do to stave off the fact that I’m going to get older and that I’m actually OK with that? Perhaps all three and even more.

Then I began to wonder if I really didn’t care when or why it happened. Because I also realized something else: I just don’t want to anymore. I’d rather go out to lunch, I’d rather have another glass of wine, I’d rather read a book, I’d rather go the movies or watch TV. I’d rather. It’s freeing this freeing of myself, and I’m celebrating my newfound liberation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run out for a minute.

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live out loud

March 5 and 79º

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 5, 2011 4:55 PM

An absolutely stunning day. The kind of day that, if I was religious, I’d say God made. But I don’t think she did. I think it was simply a function of the weatherman, my favorite dude, Dallas Raines. He made it happen; I'm sure of it.

Blue sky, not even a wisp of a cloud, nor hardly a hint of a breeze.

Perfect bicycle weather.


live out loud

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