Joy in a growl

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:41 PM

I am in love. It has happened gradually and yes, a bit unexpectedly. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to love again but it snuck up on me and now I can hardly stop smiling. I whistle during the day. I find myself singing sometimes and I don’t sing. I laugh out loud for little to no reason at all. It is joyous, this love, for it is new and bubbly and fun, and growing.

The love of which I speak? My Cooper.

When we lost our Maguire last March, I could hardly imagine ever having another dog let alone loving one. And yet, within months of losing him, I was lost. I was lonely. I missed the jazz feet on the hard wood, the drool across the floor, the toys, in various states of disarray all over the house. The wonderfulness of fur. Everywhere. I missed my Maguire, and I still do, but by October of last year, I was ready to try again. To heal my broken heart. To fill the empty place with a beautiful new face.

I found Cooper on Pet Finder. He was a rescue and I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. I looked at him for weeks before I even told Kevin that I was thinking I was ready. Kevin, of course, was not ready. He was prepared to never be ready again. He loved Maguire fiercely and the thought of another made him almost angry. No one could replace Maguire.

I explained that I didn’t want to replace Maguire, that no one dog could ever replace such an amazing animal, the love of our lives. But I needed to have a dog in the house. I had found one. Would he at least take a look? Begrudgingly he agreed. We met Cooper, then Andy, and made the decision to take him. It was not love at first sight. It wasn’t even love after a week. For a short time I worried that I’d been too hasty. That I shouldn’t have gotten another dog so soon. The memory of Maguire and his Maguireness was still too fresh. After all, I could still smell his fur if I tried hard enough, and truth be told I didn’t have to try very hard.

We had our fair share of issues with Cooper. I worried and stewed. I wasn’t feeling the rush, the heart palpitations, the sheer bliss of seeing his little face and hearing his feet as they danced across the floor.

But then something happened. Things changed. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was kiss his nose. And hug him close, and rub his belly. And play with him. And take care of him, to let him know that after years as a foster puppy, he had finally found his forever home.

Tonight, I met my friend Connie for a glass of wine. We laughed and talked and exchanged stories about family. We had a great time. While I was there I got a text message, from Cooper, relayed through Cooper’s dad, that he had gone for a walk, that he and dad were doing fine and that he’d even had dinner and it was good. I smiled.

When I got home and came in from the garage, a little red and white face was anxiously awaiting my arrival. His tail was thumping against the wall. We exchanged a pet and a hello, and then he took off like a shot, looking for a toy, any toy but most likely Wubba. He was excited! Mom was home! Life was as it should be! His family was complete! And he needed to share his joy via his toys.

Wubba was still in my office so he couldn’t quite find him, but he found two other toys that he proceeded to growl at as he tossed them round the room with great joy. I watched it all with amusement and, yes, love. As I watched him racing around the room, throwing his toys through the air with wild abandon, all because he was just so damned excited that I was home, I was suddenly overcome. I realized that I had fallen completely and totally, head over heels in love with my dog. I don’t know exactly when things changed but they did.

Maybe it’s the complete happiness he has in playing with his toys with both me and his dad in the room. His life is complete. And now, again, ours is too.

Somebody once said something along the lines of “once you have loved a dog, your heart will never truly be full again until you allow another in.” It’s a bad paraphrase but the sentiment is a good one.

I have allowed another in; we have. And my heart – our hearts – are all the better for it. Maguire would understand. And I think celebrate it with us.

Even though he was never much for other dogs. 

Along the Charles and out to the Atlantic

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:19 AM

When you fly into Logan International Airport, you come in low over the ocean. Regardless of where you’re flying in from, and I generally fly in from the West, the planes circle out over the Atlantic. I remember when I liked sitting in a window seat; I remember watching as the water would get closer and closer and closer to me. I remember always thinking “god, I hope there’s a runway out there and soon.” And just as I would think that, the plane would touch down with that telling thump, on asphalt, and we would be taxiing toward the terminal.

The sun, when it hits the Charles, dances and sparkles. It’s not unusual to see the Harvard crew team sculls pulling their oars through. Pull. Pull. Pull. Cambridge, the home of Harvard is just across the Charles from Boston between 90 and 93 and the McGrath Highway.

Boston. It’s not my hometown – I don’t really have a hometown as we moved so much when I was young – but it is one of them. We moved to New England when I was 15. I don’t remember many trips to Boston when I was in high school other than to a Heart concert. My dad, who worked in Belmont, had gotten tickets for me and my friends from a buddy of his who worked at one of the newspapers in town. The Globe or the Herald. Dad was good that way; getting tickets to concerts he had no interest in. I went into work with him at least once when my friend Pam – my dearest friend – was coming to visit. She came in on the train and dad and I picked her up. In Boston.

I went to college in Durham, New Hampshire, near Portsmouth, near the coast and not far from Boston. I went in to the city for a concert on the Boston Common, Al Jarreau, with my friend Jennifer. She wasn’t my friend then, just someone I worked with at the restaurant. She ended up with an extra ticket and when she asked one night during a shift if anyone wanted to go, I said I would. We became fast friends that night and remained so for many years. We drove to Boston in her flat black 1967 MGB.

Throughout my college years I went to Boston mostly to visit Faneuil Hall/Haymarket Square. Great restaurants and shopping. I went to Logan a lot. Jennifer’s boyfriend lived in California and he flew her out to visit frequently. A roommate was from Cleveland and she flew home at holidays. I spent a lot of time on Route 1 and 93 south, exiting Dock Square/Callahan Tunnel that went under the water and came up at Logan.

My mother took interior design classes in Boston and she and I spent some occasional time along the city’s most famous shopping street, Newbury, where old architecture housed phenomenal boutiques and art galleries, cafes and restaurants. I think it was once a residential zone only, and there are still many who live in the lofts above the shops below. It’s a mesmerizing street, with tremendous energy and an artistic spirit. I remember those days fondly.

There is Boylston Street, Copley Square. The north end for Italians and their exquisite food. Fresh seafood, just off the boats, on the wharf. There is Tufts and MIT. Massachusetts General, one of the top hospitals in the country. The Cape. My beloved Patriots just to the south in Foxboro.

When I was home for a weekend long ago, my brother, still in high school at the time, was taking his girlfriend to a show at the Wang Center in the red light district. I’m sure my dad got him the tickets. It was for a Saturday night. I drove in with my dad. We dropped the kids at the show and then he and I went to his favorite restaurant in the North End, Joe Tecci’s. He spent a lot of time in Boston when he was working; they knew him at Tecci’s. We had great food and even greater service.

One afternoon, after I flew into Logan, low over the water, my dad took me to the wharf for seafood. He always picked me up. Boston didn’t scare him, even with its twisting roads, its circular layout, its horrific one-way streets. It’s not an easy city to navigate. If you miss a turn, you could end up in the South End, Chinatown or Chelsea.

It’s a city filled with heritage. It’s where Paul Revere announced how the British were coming during the revolutionary war. It’s where John Adams lived. It’s where the Kennedy’s still hail. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is there. The Freedom Trail winds its way past many of the historical buildings and monuments.

On a beautiful September morning in 2001, two of the planes involved in the terrorist attack took off from Boston’s Logan airport, jetting out over the ocean and climbing toward the heavens. One of those planes was a flight I had taken often, United 175.

As the clock rolled from morning to afternoon today, at the finish line of a grueling run, the famous Boston Marathon, bombs went off, killing 3 and injuring hundreds. Once again, the country was sickened, the city was on alert. Once again, I remembered one of my hometowns and was sad, horrified. Angry.

Along the Charles and out to the Atlantic, water flows strong. The currents are gentle and cold, even under a warm sun. The water is like this remarkable and infuriating city. Resilient, powerful; constant. A living thing. A celebration of life. 

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Some thing is out there

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 8, 2013 12:16 AM

Every day, I troll the paper and the internet; I mine the episodes and hours of my life for something celebratory to write about. Every night, one of the last thoughts I have before I finally drift off to sleep is tomorrow’s blog topic, something fun, perhaps different and hopefully interesting. It is sometimes a challenge and I’m sure it shows in those posts. Other times, a topic presents itself so effortlessly that writing it is much the same. I also have no doubt that those posts flow better than others.

Sometimes I have to ask my husband for ideas; other times I ask my “work” buddy Bobbi. Some of their ideas have led to really interesting posts. Several weeks ago, Bobbi and I were talking about the arguments being made in front of the Supreme Court regarding gay marriage. That led to my post on the Human Rights Campaign’s red equals sign.

Sometimes I remember a book that I’ve read, one that haunts my dreams and continues to rattle my consciousness. I write about that. Or perhaps a song is stuck in my head, one I used to love, and then I hear it again and realize I still love it. I like to share the love; I like to find things I love to share with others because sometimes it inspires a memory for another.

It’s this idea of finding some thing you love that I find the most intriguing. Everyone loves something, some thing; many are lucky enough to do it for a living. Everyone loves someone; many are lucky enough to marry that person. There was an article today on a site called Hello Giggles. I wasn’t familiar with the site. Based on its name I’m going to assume that it’s about happy things. The section of the site for the article I was reading was called “Teaspoon of Happy,” so I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume that my assumption was correct. For further evidence, the article was about finding your happy place and letting it take you in the direction you’re supposed to travel.

Entitled “That thing that everyone says you’re supposed to do” it is essentially about discovery. It’s about change. It’s about nurturing the thing you love so that it can grow. The writer is a woman named Sarah May Bates who is a comedy writer, recovering vegetarian, yogi and lover of all things delicious. She had me at recovering vegetarian, not because she’s no longer a vegetarian but because she added the recovering part. That’s how I feel about my Catholicism. I’m most definitely recovering from the religion of my childhood.

Ms. Bates writes that, when you pursue what you love, what ‘you’re supposed to do,’ that “what you might soon discover is that your life will take new bends toward this thing you’re great at. You will become something of a magnet for more opportunity, and it will feel natural and easy; almost magical or fated.” I think what she’s talking about is giving it up as opposed to giving up. When you give it up for something or someone, you are acknowledging appreciation, excitement, possibility and yes, love. Giving up is something else entirely.

Long ago I decided I loved writing. This was after I was going to be a famous actress and then a rock star. Some days I’m actually good at the word-thing; other days I totally suck at it. Much depends on how much sleep I had the night before and my general mood.

But I write every day. If nothing else, I post to this page every day, and it makes me feel good. Even if the posts are mediocre, I still feel that I accomplished something, some thing; I wrote words, I put a mini-essay together; I pursued my love, or at least one of my loves.

Ms. Bates goes on to say that “if you are authentically yourself in everything you do, your path will lead you closer to the things that reward you.”

I found this inspirational, and once again I thank Bobbi for posting the link on Facebook. As I was trolling for a topic today, I happened upon it, read it and was inspired by it.

It’s much like what my blog is about in that it urges a celebration of the whatever. Paint, write, sculpt, build; open an animal sanctuary, make wine, sing. If you want to do something, some thing,  with your life, it is never too late. It is always too early to give up and the best time to try is right now. Or even tomorrow. But find it, grab it, hold onto it with every ounce of energy you have and enjoy every miserably wonderful meaning you decipher from it. It’s about that thing, that magical, allusive, fabulous thing.

I could write multiple posts on that. In fact, you just wrote one. I’m celebrating that today. I’ll write again tomorrow, about something else, and I’ll celebrate that, too. It’s my some thing

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We are so corkscrewed

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 5, 2013 12:20 AM

It is date night and date night means wine. We are creatures of habit, the husband unit and I. We tend to do the same things all the time. We find a good restaurant and we become regulars. We find a good take-out place and it becomes our go to place. We even tend to watch the same television show, something we’ve already seen and know is good, rather than watch something we know we don’t like but also haven’t seen. This is all by way of saying that tonight, for date night, we’re going where we usually go: The Wineyard.

The Wineyard does wine tastings on Thursday nights. A local winery, meaning from somewhere in California, brings in four wines. For $10 per person, we get four tastes each. There’s almost always one white wine, though lately they’ve been offering a second tasting of one of the red wines in place of the white for the hard-core red wine drinkers like the Michels.

We’ll park on the street and stroll through the parking lot to the front door. We don’t park in the lot because it’s almost impossible to get out of the parking lot without taking your car’s life in your hands. Meaning scrapes, bumps and dents. We don’t like to take chances with the Range Rover so it gets the pretty space in front. We’ll stand at our favorite section of the bar (sometimes we sit but not usually because we sit all day and sitting, according to recent studies, isn’t all that good for you). We’ll meet the winemaker, if he or she is there, or the winery representative, and we’ll listen as they explain about the vineyards, the harvest; how long the wine aged in a particular kind of oak; when it was bottled. We’ll watch as they uncork bottle after bottle, as they pour glass after glass of their finest offerings.

The corkscrew is such an interesting device. We’ve had a number of them over the years, some better than others. We’ve had screw-pulls that screw down into the cork and screw the cork entirely up and out of the bottle. We’ve had cheap corkscrews and expensive corkscrews. We’ve used any number of devices to extract the cork from a bottle, but we always come back to the old-fashioned screw.

No one seems to know for sure when or who invented the corkscrew. The earliest reference to someone using a device like a corkscrew seems to be from around 1681. It was called a “steel worm used for the drawing of corks out of bottles” at the time. A steel worm. It was evidently created by gunsmiths to clean the barrels of muskets. They weren’t used for wine until the early 18th century. In 1795, the first patent for a device to screw into a cork was issued to the Reverend Samuell Henshall in England. He used a simple disk, now known as the Henshall Button, between the steel worm and a shank. The disk prevented the worm from going too deep into the cork. It also forced the cork to turn with the turning of the shank, breaking the connection the cork had to the neck of the bottle. Once the connection was broken, the wine could be poured. This was and remains a good thing.

We’ve used the wing corkscrew and the twin prong cork puller, but our current favorite is a sommelier knife that I bought for Kevin for his birthday. It came from a new favorite winery up in Paso Robles called Sculpterra. It resides in a fancy wooden box. It has a hand-carved handle, and the steel used for the screw is top-notch. It has an arm that extends as a brace against the lip of the bottle for leverage when extracting the cork. It has a hinged knife to remove foil. It even has a bottle opener (for beer bottle caps). The original design was conceived by a German sommelier named Karl Wienke in 1882.

It is deadly to look at and delicious in its ability. We’ll watch a variation of it in use tonight at The Wineyard and then we’ll come home and perhaps use our own to engage in another glass. After all, it’s date night. And without the habit of this wondrous night – a night that gets us out of the house and away from work even for just a few hours – we would both be screwed.

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The myth of closure

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 1, 2013 10:44 PM

I was on the phone today with a client/friend whom Kevin and I have known for a good number of years. We’ve worked with her in various businesses, including her own which she started about six years ago. The business is undergoing a fairly major change and we were discussing it a bit more in-depth. Her business, which is skin care, is evolving into another skin care company because of legal issues. It will happen at the end of this month.

We were discussing a presentation that she’s making to a group of angel investors, wealthy individuals who provide capital for business start-ups, usually in exchange for ownership equity. She did her presentation for Kevin and I, via phone, so we could critique and offer suggestions as well as accolades. I asked her how she was doing with all of this and she said she was doing OK. She felt like she would soon be able to achieve closure.

I felt myself nodding and heard myself agreeing and then I found myself wondering. Closure. Do we ever really get it?

Closure is defined as an act or process of closing something, to which I want to shout “duh!” It’s also a thing that closes or seals something, like a zipper. The dictionary goes on to mention an architectural screen or parapet, especially one standing free between columns or piers. A parapet is a low or protective wall along the edge of a roof, or along a trench to conceal troops during battle.

Closure is also the act of bringing to an end; a conclusion.

That’s the closure we all discuss when we’re dealing with the finality of something. Like our friend/client now business partner (she has asked us to be part of her new venture and we have accepted) who is dealing with the finality of the first part of her business, we all seek something that allows us to feel that this is just, this is right, this is how it is supposed to be so that we can start over.

Closure allows us to accept the demise of a love affair, usually by having some sort of discussion, or by burning his or her “stuff.” We write letters; we announce that seeing him just one more time will give us the closure we need to finally move on. It’s a game we play. Really what allows us to move on is time and the knowledge that being out of the relationship is better for our psyche, for our soul; a knowledge that only comes as the days, weeks, and months tick by.

We seek closure when someone close to us dies. When my dad died unexpectedly and suddenly in 2002, we were all stunned. For days, we raced around from place to place, planning a funeral we hadn’t planned on, picking out headstones, and music to play at the ceremony. It kept us busy. Afterward, my sister needed to know what happened. She talked to his doctor, formed speculations, all in search of an answer to “why?”; in search of a definitive reason he had died. In search of closure. I don’t think she ever got it because it wasn’t there to get. Instead, time passed and eventually the grief dissipated to sadness and evaporated to longing leaving only memories in its place. There was no closure other than he was gone. That chapter in our lives had been closed.

Achieving closure is somewhat of a myth.

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea. As humans we seek closure because it brings rational thought to an otherwise irrational world. Things happen, people die, loves dissolve, relationships splinter and we need a reason. In the face of chaos, we need order. We seek the resolution of an event or a relationship, and think that once we get that resolution, we will feel a sense of contentment.

Closure is almost always used as a way to find peace. In that way, then, closure, while being an end, can also be a beginning. It can be opportunity. Once we have concluded something in our life, we then free ourselves to discover new loves, new relationships, to make new memories. Closure, while an inherently negative word, opens a door. It shows us possibilities, a very positive word. It allows us to accomplish things we never thought we’d accomplish, to see things we've never seen, to feel things we've never felt. It encourages us to fly again and maybe even for the first time.

I celebrate that. I live that idea each and every day. Do you?

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The solidarity of a red square

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, March 26, 2013 8:36 PM

I started noticing it yesterday. Suddenly, many of my friends on Facebook were changing their profile pics to the same photo. A red square with two pink horizontal rectangles in the middle. At first I didn’t pay any attention; People change their profile pictures all the time. But then there were more and more of these squares, and it suddenly hit me. All of them were heterosexuals, and every one of them was expressing solidarity with the gay community for same sex marriage.

Today was the first day of arguments for the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that defined marriage between a man and a woman. It was passed in 2008 but in several subsequent court cases, it has been overturned. The case is now before the Supreme Court and is asking a relatively simple question: Is there a fundamental right for gays to marry?

Though Prop 8 passed narrowly in 2008, most experts believe that if the same ballot were to appear today, it would be defeated. In a relatively few short years, public opinion has shifted dramatically. In 1996, 68% of Americans were opposed to same sex marriage. By 2012, 48% were opposed. In a poll released on Monday, 53% said they support same-sex marriage. According to Facebook, at least my Facebook page, that number looked to be closer to 75% and that’s based solely on the people who changed their profile pic. I didn’t change mine, but I support gay marriage.

The red square seen on Facebook is from a photo that originated from the Human Rights Campaign. The HRC works to ensure equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Their mission is to end discrimination and they do so by engaging their 1.5 million members and supporters. The red square was shared more than 100,000 times as of 4 pm today, and it’s just the first day of oral arguments.

Even celebrities got in on it with George Takei, a huge Facebook presence and gay-rights activist, garnering nearly 40,000 likes from his fan base. MSNBC reported that the square was going viral, running the Twitter feed as a crawl on the screen. Sophia Bush changed her profile photo, as did Lance Bass. Senators Chris Coons, Al Franken, Mazie Hirono, Frank Lautenberg, Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, Jon Tester, Mark Warner and Elizabeth Warren all changed their photos as well.

I don’t post political things on Facebook because I have several “friends” who are also clients. I don’t know their political views; they don’t know mine. I think that’s how it should stay. Politics can be very volatile. But I kept checking Facebook all day to see who had changed their profile pics, and I quietly “liked” them.

I spend so much of my day seeing and reading about all of the bad that goes on in the world. Wars that destroy countries, and their people; their children. Famine that wipes out generations. Guns that kill babies. And then there are the never-ending squabbles of our politicians, bickering over things instead of trying to work together to fix our problems. I get so tired of it all. I get so depressed. I lose faith in humanity.

But then something like a red square with pink rectangles appears and I realize that there are reasons to have hope. I realize that people can come together for causes they believe in. I realize that we are stronger together than we are apart. I realize that we can build cathedrals when we stand as one rather than as tiny pieces that seemingly don’t fit.

Andrew Sullivan, the author and blogger, is happily married. He and his husband married in Massachusetts several years ago. I read his blog daily. Today there was a post from a reader who wrote: …”But then today I checked out my Facebook feed and see update after update of friends changing their profile pictures to red equal-sign logos, and posts about wearing red, and posts on hearing updates. Even my young niece changed her profile pic to a red logo.

“And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: the majority of folks who made these updates and posts are straight! In my circle, the biggest champions of marriage equality have been my straight friends.”

I support same sex marriage because I believe people are people. I support same sex marriage in the same way that I don’t have a problem with the white majority’s diminishing power. I don’t see myself as a white woman; I just see myself as a woman. But I also don’t think of myself as just a woman; I think of myself as a human.

We are such a unique species, capable of such amazing things if we would just stop tearing each other down. Today, I felt like we stopped, for just a moment. I was proud. I was red with love for my friends and fellow humans who also believe that people are people are people, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, religion or political affiliation.

Proving that we might all be better served to live and let live it out loud.

Surviving survival town

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 25, 2013 9:57 PM

It was a beautiful spring day in 1955. The desert stretched as far as the eye could see, and in the middle of nowhere, a collection of homes and businesses, populated with plastic people, stood welcoming and ready. It was called Survival Town and it was destined to be obliterated on May 5 when the Apple-2 test was conducted at 8:10 am. The winds had calmed when the Army gave the all-clear signal and an atomic bomb was detonated. It weighed 31 kilotons. The blast area extended 3 miles out and essentially destroyed the “people” and the buildings.

Survival Town, however, still survives. Several of the town’s buildings actually withstood the blast, including a structure called Behlen, a corrugated steel structure that was only mildly dented during the explosion, even though it was just 6,800 feet away. Another house still stands starkly in the middle of the desert grass and yucca trees. The windows are gone but the window structures remain. A brick chimney still reaches toward a blue sky. Roof tiles are largely gone, as is the door, but the steps leading to the front door still lead to oblivion. It’s a ghost of a house.

Other bits of structures remain as well, largely gutted. They simply sit on the flats of the Nevada desert, remnants of a nuclear program when we knew what we had but didn’t yet know its devastating power. The Nevada Department of Energy still conducts tours of what still stands, though no cameras are allowed, visitors must be over the age of 14 and pregnant women are advised not to make the trip because of the bumpy bus ride.  It’s like the time that land forgot.

The desert is home to many such times and places. We see them when we drive through the Sonoran desert to Tucson. Discarded homes in the middle of what used to be someplace but is now only on the way to somewhere else. The Nevada desert, in addition to being the birthplace of nuclear bomb testing, is also the home of the infamous Area 51.

Area 51 is an air force base that’s near Edwards Air Force Base. It’s located in a very remote area of the Nevada desert near the dry bed of Groom Lake. It’s probably the most famous military installation in the world that doesn’t officially exist. It doesn’t appear on any public US government maps. For decades, conspiracy theorists and UFOlogists have speculated that the government uses Area 51 to experiment with extraterrestrials and their spacecraft. This is largely because of an alleged government cover-up in 1947 when an alien spaceship supposedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. Others have even gone so far as to claim that the moon landing was staged there.

I don’t know all of the details about Area 51. I have read books and heard interviews by a woman named Annie Jacobsen who wrote an uncensored history of the base. She conducted interviews with 19 men who served there for decades, eye witnesses to the area’s history. Most didn’t cop to little green men but did talk of top secret spy planes developed in a program known as Oxcart. One such plane was the Archangel-12 which could travel at speeds of more than 2000 miles per hour and take photographs from an altitude of 90,000 feet. The SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter were also conceived and tested in the place known as Dreamland. These air craft are probably the reason so many desert drifters have sworn they’ve seen UFOs in the area.

The desert hides all the sins of man, burying them in amongst the sand and cactus, the blowing winds and the debilitating heat. There is history there. Here. Great accomplishments have happened; greater disappointments have taken place. It is the land of imagination, both horrific and incredible. It is a place where survival is never assured but if achieved, can be both devastating and glorious. In that way, the desert mirrors life. It can be frighteningly beautiful and disastrous, ugly and lush, full of love and death. And it can all be seen from satellite images, and from the heart.

I am fascinated with the desert, with its history, with its beauty and its unrelenting desire to capture its prey. Again, like life. For that reason, it’s a place to celebrate, for its strength, its character, its soul, its harsh reality, its ability to survive. And so I do, tonight and always. I am a desert rat, after all. And I am living it out loud. 

Two of my favorite words together in one great food

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 24, 2013 8:30 PM

Every Sunday, we have a ritual. We wake up, make coffee, retrieve the paper and take a cup of coffee along with the best sections of the paper back to bed. There are only small variations in the routine. Sometimes, if we have cantaloupe, Kevin will scoop some out and we bring a little of that along in a small bowl. Occasionally Kevin will put on the TV, particularly if it’s football season. After we’ve read the paper and lounged for a bit, we take the dog for a walk and then congregate in the kitchen to make some brunch. I say brunch because it’s usually too late for breakfast and much closer to lunchtime, but I always make breakfast food.

I start some smoked turkey bacon cooking slowly (yes, for the record, we prefer real bacon but turkey bacon is better for us so we’ve made ourselves used to it). Then I decide what I’m going to make. It’s often some type of egg establishment since it’s the only time during the week we indulge in eggs. Sometimes it’s an omelet, once in a while it’s over-easy – though not often because I have a hard time flipping eggs without breaking the yolk – or sunny-side up. Sometimes like today, I do some sort of a skillet scramble.

Kevin always jokes that whatever didn’t get used the night before gets added to Sunday breakfast. He’s right, but only to an extent, and especially when it comes to vegetables. Last night I made a low mein vegetable stir-fry with several kinds of mushrooms along with garlic, broccoli, and baby spinach. For something a little different, I also put in some chopped jalapeno pepper and some potato slices. It was quite tasty. I had some broccoli, mushrooms, potato and jalapeno left over so this morning, I separated out my ingredients. The skillet scramble would have sautéed mushrooms, broccoli, scallions and tomato. But what to do with the potatoes?

Home fries. I love home fries, largely because I love just about anything potato. Baked, French fried, au gratin, scalloped, salad, chips, soup. Breakfast potatoes are something I don’t make often though I love when we go out to breakfast. Restaurants almost always offer breakfast potatoes, usually in the form of home fries, to accompany their omelets, pancakes, waffles, French toast. If I had more will-power, I’d order the fruit cup. Will-power is not necessarily something I’m equipped with, especially when it comes to potatoes.

I had half of a fairly large Yukon gold potato left over last night and anticipating using it on Sunday and hating to throw away a potato, I put it in a bowl of water so it wouldn’t brown and stuck it in the fridge. I retrieved it, and sliced it up into nice, edible size chunks. I retrieved my jalapeno pepper and cut off three slices that I then diced. I found an onion and sliced that up. I put some olive oil into a skillet and tossed it all in, to start the sizzle and cook. I thought about pre-cooking the potatoes. It would make the process faster. But my prep time for breakfast takes a bit of time anyway, so I assumed, correctly, that allowing it all to simmer in olive oil would be just fine. I tossed it frequently so it wouldn’t burn. While that was simmering, I attended to the bacon, flipping that, and then got the veggies ready for the scramble. Sauteed the ‘shrooms, broccoli and scallions in butter. Flipped the fries, turned the bacon, stirred the sauté, beat the eggs into submission, made a fresh pot of coffee. Kevin was in charge of juice and fruit, in this case, fresh strawberries.

I tested the potatoes and when they were just about done, I sprinkled some smoked paprika over them, flipped them again to coat, turned the heat way down and put a cover over them to keep them warm and cooking. I turned up the heat under the bacon so it was snapping, and poured the eggs into the vegetable sauté to scramble. I added some diced roma tomatoes. The kitchen was alive with the aroma of onions and mushrooms and bacon and potatoes. My stomach was growling.

Once everything was done, I separated it onto two plates and we sat down to eat. It was all good, but the potatoes were especially good. I don’t know if it was the jalapeno or the smoked paprika but I could have made a meal on just the home fries.

Home fries have been around as long as humans have been consuming cooked potatoes. They’re a relatively simple dish that can be prepared by people with even modest cooking skills. Some serve them as a snack or a meal, often with ketchup, sour cream or maple syrup. If I’d added bell peppers, I would have been making Potatoes O’Brien, a dish that originated at a Boston restaurant called Jerome’s in the early 1900s. If I’d sliced and sautéed them with parsley and other seasonings I would have been cooking Lyonnaise potatoes. If I’d shredded the potatoes I would have been making hash browns.

As it was I was making a dish that has two of my favorite words in it: home, because I love being home; and fries because it reminds me of French fries, and French fries and I, well, we go way back.

Celebrating two simple and simply perfect words today, alone and together, and living it out loud.

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The view from the chair

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 22, 2013 11:38 PM

It's Friday and that can only mean one thing: a haircut and color, both desperately needed. A couple of haircuts ago I changed my style a bit. Because I have wavy hair that goes wherever it wants to go and because said hair is relatively finely textured, I am somewhat limited to what I can do with my dark locks. This is probably more because I simply refuse to spend a lot of time on my hair. I don't have enough time as it is. I refuse to straighten and curl and fluff and mousse. My hair gets 5 minutes a day not including a shampoo.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. My changed hairstyle. I asked Tammy, my beloved hair stylist, to give me a long shag. Now before you recoil in horror, with visions of Carol Brady haunting your daydreams, allow me to recall the conversation.

Tammy: “So what are we doing today?”

Me: “I'm thinking kind of a long shag.”

Tammy: “No.”

Tammy, it should be noted, can bear a striking resemblance to my husband in terms of opinion.

Me: “Well not a shag-shag. More of a sort of shag.”

Tammy pondered this for a minute. She was standing behind me as I sat in her chair. We were both facing me in the mirror and she had her hands in my hair. It's interesting that a hairdresser can play with your hair and there is nothing remotely romantic about it.

Tammy: “You mean just lots of layers?”

Me: “Perfect!”

So I got lots of layers and wispys at the ends. A modern version of a shag. More Jane Fonda on Newsroom than Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch. Easy to take care of, quick to blow dry. Five minutes tops. But lots of layers means I have to get a haircut more often because lots of layers grow out very quickly. But since Tammy acquiesced to my "shag," I'm much happier.

As I sit in her chair once again on this Friday, with a new kind of color combed through my hair, I’m pondering. The color is organic which I both like because it's healthier and am apprehensive about because organic doesn't usually cover as well. My hair is very dark, always has been save for a brief journey into light brown/blonde when I was in my early to mid-30s. I liked it but the maintenance was horrific. See previous comment about very dark hair. Dark hair has dark roots. Dark roots on light brown/blonde is skunkish.

As I write this, my hair is slicked back with this new color and Tammy is currently busy cutting the hair of the person sitting immediately to my right who looks and sounds remarkably like my husband because it is. They're talking about Cooper. I’m studying my reflection and the hair color. It’s not as wet as hair color usually is. I do not have high hopes. Now they’re talking about wine. I’ve said before we have limited interests and people who know us are intimately involved in the details of those interests. Before Cooper, it was Maguire. They know we’re dog people. They know we’re wine people. Politics can’t be far behind.

Behind me another stylist, Claudia, is cutting the hair of an elderly woman. Claudia seems to have a lot of elderly clients. I think it’s wonderful. In the back, the nail lady is leaning against the wall, awaiting her next client. I see it all through the mirror. Outside, I can hear the occasional car drift by. A dog barks, then another. There is a tussle, the kind of dog interaction that we are also intimately acquainted with. I can’t help but smile.

I wonder about my gray hair and the fact that the right side of my head gets grayer than the left side. I supposed that’s because the right side gets worked more as the right is the creative side. I wonder if having a sort of shag really does turn me into Carol Brady. I never liked her, not even when I was a kid and I was supposed to think she was the coolest mom around. As far as I was concerned, the coolest mom was Shirley Partridge. She had a shag haircut, too. Then again, so did David Cassidy, and I was a big fan of David Cassidy when I was little. My hair is more his color. Carol and Shirley were both frosted blondes.

Today when Tammy combs out my hair after the color has been washed away and says “so what are we doing? Still liking the sort of shag?” I’ll smile coyly at her through the mirror and say “yep. But this time let’s go with David Cassidy.”

Living it out loud on a Friday in the salon, and celebrating the sheer joy of getting my hair done. 

If a coffee pot beeps in the kitchen but its owners are still in bed, does it make a sound?

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:48 PM

Every once in a while an existential question arises. Albeit not usually at 7:30 am, but it happens. It happened this morning. Allow me to set the stage. It was cloudy and cool so it actually seemed earlier than it was. I could hear cars starting around the neighborhood; people on their way to work, maybe to school.

If a car starts in the OP and it’s actually a hybrid, can anyone hear it?

In the distance, a dog barked and then another.

If a dog barks and he’s alone, does anyone feel the need to bark with him or at him?

Cooper stirred, as he always does when he hears another dog. He was still in his kennel so he only lifted his head but his tags jingled. I could see him without looking. I knew his ears were forward and alert. Next to me, Kevin stirred as well. He rolled toward me and opened an eye to see me looking at him.

If a person wakes up alone, does anyone else know they’re alive?

I smiled at him and he closed his eyes again. Then he stretched and groaned and made wake-up noises before saying ‘morning.’ I said it back and Cooper shook his head making his tags clank and bang, the sure sign that he was about to stand up, arch his back and emit a low growl, which is Kevin’s clue to get up, put on his robe, rub his hands across his hair to try to tame it, slip on his slippers, and take the puppy out to pee. Cooper thumped his tail against the sides of his kennel as Kevin walked toward him, then, with one more shake, off they went to the backyard for a quick squirt. Cooper, not Kevin.

Within moments, Cooper was back, resting his head on my side of the bed. I petted and cooed at him. He moved around to Kevin’s side and I started the countdown. Three- two- one. Crash. 58 pounds of dog landed on the bed, moved toward me, flopped down and put his head next to me on the pillow.

Meanwhile, Kevin padded toward the kitchen. I heard him yawn. Soon I heard the refrigerator door open and close, I heard the can that we keep the freshly ground coffee in, clatter onto the counter. The water started to run, followed by the garbage disposal. I knew he’d be pouring more water into the Cuisinart. The can would be opened, he’d be scooping coffee into the gold filter. Then the glass coffee carafe would be shoved back into the machine. I could see him flipping the switch into the up position and the red light coming on. He would wait just a moment until the water started to heat and the machine started to rumble.

If there’s no one there to see the red light, does it come on?

He came back to bed after that. It was cold and dreary. As we waited for coffee, he climbed back into bed and rubbed his now chilled feet on mine. Mine, having stayed snug under the covers, were still warm, as was my whole self.

If no one is there to feel your warm or cold feet, does it really matter?

We talked about the day, what was in store, who we needed to talk to, what we needed to accomplished, what we hoped would happen, how eventually it would all lead to dinner and what were we having. It was all very innocuous and Wednesday morning. Cooper stretched out between us and rolled from facing me to facing Kevin with a heavy sigh. We both laughed. He was going to have such a tough day of sleeping and eating and two walks.

If you spend the day sleeping, does anyone ask why?

If you’re in love but nobody knows, does it count? 

If an argument happens in a vacuum and the one you’re arguing with isn’t even there, does it really matter?

After a few minutes we realized that the coffee must be done, but neither of us had heard the telling five beeps that the Cuisinart emits when it has finished brewing and the coffee is ready to pour. Kevin asked if the machine had beeped and I said I didn’t know, I hadn’t heard it but that it must have. Either that, or coffee was all over the counter as happens sometimes when we don’t get the carafe placed correctly.

We stayed there for a minute more, listening, not really wanting to get up because it was cold out there in the world and knowing that as soon as we got up, the day would start and we wanted to keep it at bay for just a few minutes more.

Then came the existential question of the day: If a coffee pot beeps in the kitchen but its owners are still in bed, does it make a sound? Followed by: Do we really care, so long as there’s coffee on a Wednesday morning?

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live out loud

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