She’s 18 (just) and she likes it

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 24, 2013 10:08 PM

A couple of months ago, my friend Bobbi “liked” a Facebook page that I found intriguing. It was Jessica Trinh Photography, a then 17-year-old photographer who photographed dogs, mostly her own, in the most artistic and even innocent way. There’s a gentleness about her photos, a playfulness that makes you smile, makes you laugh, makes you nod in agreement. I realize that all dog photos make people smile, and that there is always an innocence about them, but there’s something different about these. Maybe it’s because they’re infused with the heart of a young girl. These photographs transcend the norm because Jessica is that a young girl.

She describes herself as an aspiring photographer. On her website, she writes: “Ever since I set my hands on a camera, I knew I had unlocked a new dimension. One where you can expand your imagination and run for endless miles. Photography makes you look at things differently. You notice rain drops and the way the sun kisses the Earth. You breath in every moment of your life. You love to live and live to love. There is no time to waste because there is an urgency to capture each loving gesture, smile, and laugh in both humans and animals.”

In addition to capturing loving gestures, she has captured the light and spirit of her two dogs Chuppy and Daisy in ways that not only show their personalities, they show hers as well. Chuppy is a golden retriever, born on July 16th, 2006. Jessica calls him goofy because he always has a smile on his face and he’s always ready for his close-up. Daisy is a rescue that showed up on the family’s doorstep one day and though they looked for the owner, they quickly decided to keep the funny little girl with the big personality. Daisy has also become the inspiration for Jessica’s pet project, Project Let It Rain Love.

Project Let It Rain Love is about getting the word out about shelter dogs. The title describes the drought that each caged shelter dog can be in because not a single drop of love falls on them. They need someone somewhere to shower them with love in a forever home. Jessica hopes to enlighten everyone about how great shelter dogs are. To do that, she’ll be visiting shelters, taking photos and helping the love rain down.

Jessica has a number of portfolios entitled The Creative, The Simple, The Action and People. The Creative is magical, with her dogs as well as other dogs caught in the middle of light and transparency. The Simple is simply the wonder and love and splendor of beautiful dogs. The Action is dogs on the move, rolling on their backs, running through fields, swimming, and jumping in leaves. People brings people into the joyful celebration of Jessica and Chuppy and Daisy.

My favorite is Into the Dark. Beautiful, expressive canine faces are highlighted against a completely black background. What’s around the dog is entirely up to the imagination and based solely on the expression on the dogs’ faces, in their eyes.

Today on Facebook, Jessica showcased a new photo, an experiment of light and breath in the coldness and the dark. It’s haunting and hopeful and completely about life.

Jessica just turned 18 a few days ago. On her Facebook page she makes mention of the fact that she can now vote. I’m not generally a fan of teenagers but she gets my vote for someone who is inspiring, who desires to do something, who wants to change the world through love, and dogs.

That’s something to celebrate every day.

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In which I cover myself in words

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:04 AM

One of my favorite quotes is by the writer Anaïs Nin, which states, simply, that “We write to taste life twice.” I have it framed and hanging on a wall in my office, just above the light switch. I hadn’t thought until today that it might be a metaphor for the very act of writing. Is writing something we turn on or off? Yes. Is being a writer something that can be turned on or off? I don’t think so. Not for most writers and definitely not the ones who are passionate about it, even when it hurts them, even when it kills them; especially when it brings great joy. To be a writer is not something one does. It is who one is.

I am reminded of this fact all the time because I am never not writing. Oh, there are times when I’m not physically putting words onto paper, or in most cases, to a word document, but even when that’s not happening, I’m thinking about writing, getting ideas for a story or how to write myself out of a particular dilemma I have created in whatever piece I happen to be working on. I’m jotting down thoughts or interesting lines I think of. When I wake up, after an especially vivid dream, I find myself scribbling notes on a piece of paper. My desk is littered with pieces of paper.

I have written before about my fear that I’m not a very good writer, a fear that plagues many. Sometimes I write something and I sit back and think “Wow. That’s pretty damned good.” That doesn’t happen very often. Mostly I write something and I think “Hack.” I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’ve always thought that people cursed with self-awareness inevitably hold themselves back, and I believe that most writers, this one included, are hyper aware. We see things that others don’t see, we hear sounds differently, smells transport us in ways that it don’t others, and we are forever compelled to scribble those awareness’ onto paper, iPhones, iPads, computers, journals, whatever is handy.

When we go for a motorcycle ride, I am the designated RIO, as in radar intercept officer. What I really do is give directions or point out things to watch for in case the pilot, in our case, Kevin, hasn’t seen them. Like the fact that there is a sea of brake lights ahead and the world is coming to a dead stop. Often though, we are out in the middle of nowhere, cruising along a relatively deserted road where we only see the occasional pickup truck or car, sometimes another motorcycle or two, almost always traveling in the opposite direction. We give the designated motorcycle wave, a quick acknowledgement with the left hand that never rises above the seat. It’s a quick “Hey, ride safe” to another cyclist we’ve never met and never will. I have little to do back there save for watching the birds passing low in front of us, or the side of the road for whatever trinkets may have fallen from passing cars. I see a lot of shoes and other items of clothing. Most of the time, I simply let my mind wander and it invariably creates some sort of story or at least the basis for one. Kevin asked me once what it is that I do back there while we’re riding through the canyons or along a back road to nowhere. I told him I write. He just smiled and nodded as if to say “Of course, you do because I’d expect nothing less.” He’s never asked me again.

The novelist Philip Roth once told an aspiring writer to “Quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good.” Elizabeth Gilbert responded by asking if writing is really all that difficult. “Is it more difficult than working in a steel mill, or raising a child alone, or commuting three hours a day to a deeply unsatisfying cubicle job, or doing laundry in a nursing home, or running a hospital ward, or being a luggage handler, or digging septic systems, or waiting tables … or pretty much anything else people do?”

I sometimes envy people who dig septic systems or drive garbage trucks. I have no illusion that they’d rather being doing something else, but perhaps they are perfectly content to simply work for a living and not have to think too much. Writing is constant thinking and it’s exhausting and exhilarating at once. Gilbert has said that writing is “The best life there is, because you get to live within the realm of your own mind, and that is a profoundly rare human privilege.” It also doesn’t usually get you institutionalized, like others who live within the realm of their own minds.

Writers are notorious complainers. We take a gift from the universe and we curse it endlessly, and yet we love it so. We are lost without words, we are forever searching out new ones to twist into sentences that become paragraphs that grow up to be chapters and eventually graduate into a book, hopefully a decent one.

Journalist Red Smith once said that “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” The writer to whom Philip Roth’s advice was cast is Jake Tepper. He wrote in a blog post on The Paris Review that “The one thing a writer has above all else, the reward which is bigger than anything that may come to him … is the weapon against boredom. The question of how to spend his time, what to do today, tomorrow, and during all the other pockets of time in between when some doing is required: this is not applicable to the writer. For he can always lose himself in the act of writing and make time vanish.”

As can I. I write instead of read because if I’m reading, I’m not writing but rather reading something that someone else wrote and I feel guilty and in awe and inspired all at once. I write to explore the joy and sorrow and mystery that is this life. I cover myself in words and I am warm and cozy and scared to death. And so I write more and when I’m done, I can sleep to dream, or ride on the back of the motorcycle to think; I can switch on the light and taste what imagination tastes like. I’m not sure I can describe it, though. Give me just a minute to scribble. 

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live out loud

If it's Friday it must be

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:04 AM

Time to celebrate the end of the week, and more importantly, the beginning of the weekend and especially my favorite day of the week – Saturday, a day when we don’t have anything we have to do and can happily spend our time doing anything we want to do like relaxing a bit, cooking something exotic and different, tasting our wine and eventually opening a bottle crafted by someone else;

A day to relax a bit, a day when the emails slow to a trickle and the phone doesn’t really ring and work gets done but surfing takes priority and the laziness sets in and all I want to do it take a nap even though I don’t;

All about the countdown to the Oscars taking on hyper-kinetic, wall-to-wall media coverage, even more so than usual, complete with Live Team Coverage from in front of the whatever-it’s-now-called theater as preparations are happening and the red carpet is shown still rolled and in plastic and giant Oscar statues stand at attention to greet the beautiful and the glittery, and I’m already bored;

A beautiful day for a walk, or three;

The start of warmer days, at least according to the weather dudes on KABC who keep telling us how horrible the cold is and how equally horrible the rain is even though we desperately need it and to hang in there because “there’s a big change coming in the weather, folks, and I think you’re going to like it;”

Almost time for a motorcycle ride;

Time for a trip to Costco to pick up some necessities, like coffee beans and Grey Goose because yes, Grey Goose is a necessity when it’s Friday and there’s company coming, and because it’s another great way to waste an hour or two;

Time to make a plan to wash the cars;

Time for some bad-for-us Mexican food or some Wendy’s also bad-for-us chili with everything just because every once in a while we have to – really;

Time for penne pasta with pesto and garlic bread made with melted butter and grated garlic toasted on fresh sourdough and topped with Romano cheese, served to our guests as Cooper moves from one to the other, putting on his best cute, begging for some pasta or even better, a crust of bread, just like a Dickens’ character only with better hygiene;

Time for good wine, good friends, lots of laughter and sharing of stories of hopes and dreams, of disappointments and sorrow, of dogs and cats, of memories and of the future;

A wonderfully perfect time to welcome the return of Fritini;

Time to live it out loud.

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live out loud

By a nose

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:08 PM

In Indonesia, some 9,000 miles from here, a 30-year-old woman named Yustince lives under careful supervision. Once married, her husband is long gone and hopefully in jail, though the laws for maiming one’s wife in many of these countries are disgustingly lax. Yustince had an altercation with her husband three-years ago. He pinned her down and using a machete, he sliced off her nose. Since the attack, she has worn a piece of gauze, secured by surgical tape, over the area. In addition to having a hole in her face, the tape has caused extreme irritation.

Yustince was destined to live a life in shame with no chance for assistance until Rebecca Grossman of the Grossman Burn Foundation in California somehow heard about her situation. Grossman traveled to Indonesia and met with Yustince to talk with her and discuss what might be done.

The Grossman Burn Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Grossman Burn Center, the plastic-surgery based medical center of excellence that specializes in the comprehensive treatment of burns. It provides local and worldwide support to families and children who have suffered severe and debilitating burns or related injuries. The Foundation provides healthcare, financial aid, legal support and education. One of their initiatives is the Stop Violence Against Women Globally campaign that uses petitions and documentaries to help educate against violence and abusive behavior.

Two years ago, they helped a girl named Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban husband and family. Her ears and nose were cut off as punishment for daring to flee after years of abuse. The Grossman Burn Foundation stepped in and they’re continuing to help her.

Why do men in the Middle East and Southeast Asia mutilate women? It appears to be more than punishment; it’s to shame and terrorize them. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.

In addition to Grossman, Yustince is also getting help from a man named Alec Gillis. In his studio in Chatsworth, California, Gillis normally creates zombies and other monsters – he’s an animatronic special effects and prosthetic makeup effects character creator – but when Rebecca Grossman approached him about creating something as simple as a nose, Gillis’ first response was fast and unequivocal: No problem.

Gillis went to work. Using photographs and a color chart to match Yustince’s skin tone, he created a myriad of different noses from different materials. Some could be glued directly to the face but since glue can cause additional irritation, a problem she has had since the mutilation occurred, he also created some nose prosthetics that could attach to eyeglasses and sunglasses via a magnet.

On the left, her mutilation; on the right, with the Alec Gillis prosthetic

Once Gillis had the noses complete, Grossman took them to Indonesia to deliver them in person. Yustince tried them on and a plastic surgeon at the Grossman Burn Center, Dr. Peter Grossman, was able to watch via the hospital’s telemedicine technology. He suggested some changes to make the nose look more natural.

Yustince has a daughter, and while in Indonesia, Rebecca Grossman took a mold of her daughter’s nose. With that mold and Dr. Grossman’s suggestions, Gillis is making adjustments so that the nose will be as perfect as it can be in terms of skin tone, and fit.

I first saw this story on the news last night. I was amazed. I’ve heard of the Grossman Burn Center for years; it is one of the most renowned institutions in the world for treating burn victims. They have done amazing work for more than 44 years. They make news with their non-profit work, their foundation. And with their worldwide campaigns like Stop Violence Against Women Globally.

With the help of some Hollywood heavyweights, their work is even more incredible. When it comes to helping a woman regain her confidence and go about her daily life without feeling ashamed, I’ll take Southern California, and specifically Hollywood, by a nose. 

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The real story of love

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:57 PM

On one of the most popular holidays in the country, Valentine’s Day, comes the news that it may be named for a saint about whom very little is known. Once an official Saint, recognized in the Catholic canon, St. Valentine and his official holiday, Valentine’s Day, was officially removed from the Catholic calendar in 1969 because not enough information existed to properly document his life and sainthood.

It makes it a sad day for love.

The reason seems to come from the fact that there may have been two Valentines who lived and died at the same time in the 3rd century, one a Roman priest and the other a bishop in Terne, 60 miles away. Most believe that there was only one, a man who was ultimately stoned and beheaded. Seems harsh for someone who has become synonymous with the idea of love, though I suppose it could have something to do with losing your head over someone.

I know. It’s a stretch.

In pagan Rome, the 15th of February was known as the feast of Lupercalia in honor of the god Lupercus. During the feast, Romans performed a ritual to ward off wolves, predators who threatened their way of life. The men wore strips of animal hide and proceeded to dance and cavort in the streets, engaging it a fertility ritual. The Romans got their wish. The wolves stayed away and new Roman babies were created.

Naturally a feast was included since all pagan rituals included a feast. Declarations of love were declared, martyrs were martyred and lives were sacrificed. Valentine, as a Saint, understood this since he lived, and died, for love.

Here’s what happened. In 269, Valentine was a priest under the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had banned marriage because he believed that single men made better soldiers. However, many would-be and wanna-be soldiers fell in love regardless and those that wanted to get married found an ally in the priest of love. Valentine performed many marriage ceremonies in secret, creating countless happy couples. But when Claudius found out, he had Valentine arrested, tortured and eventually killed.

There are many legends that surround the 3rd century priest. One says that children passed notes to him through the prison bars, perhaps creating the custom of sending love notes. Another says that Valentine himself wrote a love letter to his jailer’s daughter, a girl he had miraculously cured of blindness, shortly before his execution. It is said that he signed the note: “Your Valentine.”

Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century poet known for the Canterbury Tales, is considered the first to call February 14th Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare also referred to Valentine’s Day in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as in Hamlet.

The original Valentine, the priest who became a saint before he lost the title in the 20th century, knew that love was worth celebrating, that it is probably the best thing to celebrate.

Because without love, what is there?

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The silence of dogs in cars

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:22 PM

Every once in a while I come across something interesting on the Internets that is not good news or bad news but rather an artistic endeavor that makes me take notice. Often times, it involves animals and most specifically dogs. I admit to being a sucker for the cute dog pictures posted on Facebook. I regularly watch the videos posted there as well as those posted on the home pages of CNN or I know I’m not alone. There are a lot of dog lovers out there. I saw a statistic that said people are poised to spend something like $815 million on Valentine’s Day alone on their four-legged friends.

What I found today was a study by photographer Martin Usborne, a portrait and fine art photographer from London, who recently completed a personal project entitled The Silence of Dogs in Cars. It was his counter-approach to the cute. While it’s nothing frightening or bad, it is decidedly moody. I was intrigued.

Usborne actually sketched out his ideas prior to taking his first photo. He then went about recruiting dogs to appear in his photos. He approached their owners while walking his own dogs. Once he had each dog subject, he then tried to match the dog to a car. The project took three and a half years.

What transpired is a bit haunting and expressively mesmerizing. Big dogs in small cars, frilly dogs in masculine cars, aggressive dogs not wanting to be in cars at all. There are happy dogs and sad dogs, but all are in cars alone, in an unfamiliar environment. Dogs aren’t meant to be in cars. They’re only there because we decided they should be domesticated centuries ago, and as domesticates they go where we go when we go and when we want to go.

This isn’t to say that dogs don’t like cars. Nary a day goes by that we don’t see at least one dog gloriously hanging its head out of a car or SUV going by us on a walk. Maguire loved to do that. Going in the car was one of his most favorite things to do, unless it was to go to the vet. He rarely relaxed, and as he hung his head out the window, he would squint his eyes as his ears flew back and the fur would push close to his skull. The great mane around his neck and chest would billow, and slobber would coat the side of the Range Rover. You can always tell a car that owns a dog by the amount of dried slobber on the side.

Cooper is not big on hanging his head out the window though he seems to like the car just fine. He sits in the middle of the back seat, safely secured by his harness, looking straight ahead, through the front buckets and out the windshield. The outside of the car is cleaner; the inside, not so much.

Maguire was joyous and frantic. Cooper is subdued and contemplative. When I see dogs sitting patiently in cars in parking lots, waiting for their owners, I always stop to watch them. They’ll look at me with sad eyes. Their tails don’t wag. They are, simply, waiting. And they know exactly what they are waiting for: their beloved people to return. They are intent and intense, focused and ready to go. But until that time comes, they wait. Alone.

In fact, Usborne says that his project is about isolation. “The dog is a metaphor for the parts of ourselves that we keep locked away, that we aren’t able to express.”

They are our silent consciences, these dogs. And because of that, and for so many other reasons, they are to be celebrated.

The Silence of Dogs in Cars by Martin Usborne will be released on March 5, 2013.
Just in case you’re interested. 

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Monday, February 11, 2013 10:59 PM

I was thinking today about things. Such a nebulous word and yet so all encompassing. We talk about things, we see things, hear things, feel things, smell things, taste things. There are things I like to touch and things I don’t ever want to touch. I imagine things and I’m nervous about things and things change. Things evolve. Things become. Things live and breathe and die. Some things make me laugh, other things make me cry. The things I like the most are often the things that are the worst for me and vice versa.

Things are happy and things are sad. Things are scary and things aren’t. Things are out there and other things are in here. Things happen.

I like to see things like the blue sky illuminated by sunshine. Things like fog drifting across the hills. Things like rain clouds forming, and a bottle of my favorite syrah on the counter; a phone number I recognize on caller ID. Other things like stars in the sky, the glistening ocean, white sandy beaches, mountain tops covered with snow, my son’s smile, my husband’s face, my dog. My family, my friends; the cactus of Tucson.

Things I like are the touch of my husband’s hand; clean sheets at night. I like the feel of fleece and silk and faded old denim and bunchie sweaters and sweatshirts and dry pasta and skin cream and a chenille throw. I like things like a good joke and a great laugh.

Things I like to feel include joy, love, warmth, the seat warmers on my car warming my butt; fur.

Things I like to smell are my husband’s aftershave and my own perfume, intermingling. I like to smell things like garlic and deep red wine and the wind. I love to smell things like fresh cut grass because it reminds me of my grandmother’s house. Other things are spicy tomato sauce and a smoky fire, eucalyptus and rain.

I like to taste things like big, heavy, fat, red wines that are as deep as they are liquid. Things like pumpkin spice latte and really good pasta. Other things like the morning and 3 am. Those things taste like beginnings and mystery, respectfully.

There are things I look forward to like our new house and seeing Justin’s lighting design in May and his graduation in December and the next rainstorm and seeing my sister and niece and mother and brother and friends. There are things I don’t look forward to like getting older and the potential of illness and the death of loved ones and bad wine and worse vacations and bills.

I miss things like my dad and my beloved vintage puppy Maguire. I miss other things like running and Lays potato chips and my 30s. I miss the potential I left behind and my Mazda RX-7. I miss things like lazy days in bed watching movies.

The things in life that matter are the people we love, the others we live with, those we miss and those we will see again. In our dreams. Other things are laughter, happiness, joy, possibility, sadness, dog trainers, relaxing, the freedom of the motorcycle, life.

Here’s the thing. We can make things whatever we wish them to be, what we want them to be, and celebrate them for what they are. Those are the beautiful things about life. 

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Hope for the flowers

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 10, 2013 8:56 PM

Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a book. I don’t remember if it was a birthday or a Christmas present. I’m fairly sure it didn’t have to do with me leaving one job and going to another though it might have been. She and I have lost touch. She moved back to New Jersey and the last I heard, she had serious marital issues. That was about the time she dropped out of sight and touch. I think of her every now and again. We weren’t especially close but we had fun, we shared a love of humor and wit, of writing, and of hope for there to always be better things, better places, better times.

I thought of her today. I thought of my niece and of my sister. I thought of my mother, and my brother. I thought of my son and my husband. I thought of all of my friends, but especially of Pam who lost her husband on Wednesday of this past week and who today hosted a celebration of his life. What an inspiration that is. I thought of them because of a simple story that is for everyone, except those who have given up completely on joy.

Hope for the flowers is an allegorical novel, written in 1972 by Trina Paulus and it tells the tale of two caterpillars, Yellow and Stripe, who begin their search for meaning by attempting to climb to the top of a caterpillar pillar. But when they get to the top they realize something else entirely; they discover another destiny.

One day Yellow is surprised by a grey caterpillar hanging upside down on a branch. “You seem in trouble,” she said. “Can I help?”

“No, my dear, I have to do this to become a butterfly.”

Yellow contemplates, then asks: “Tell me, sir, what is a butterfly?”

“It’s what you are meant to become. It flies with beautiful wings and joins the earth to heaven. It drinks only nectar from the flowers and carries the seeds of love from one flower to another.”

Again Yellow contemplates. “How does one become a butterfly?” she asked pensively.

“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

“You mean to die?” asked Yellow, remembering three other caterpillars who fell out of the sky.

“Yes and No,” he answered. “What looks like you will die but what’s really you will still live. Life is changed, not taken away. Isn’t that different from those who die without ever becoming butterflies?”

Eventually Yellow becomes a butterfly. She lets go of all that she knows in order to know even more, to discover a more beautiful life. After much angst and worry, her friend Stripe decides to follow her into the end. Or perhaps toward the beginning.

I love this story. I love the hope it brings, the possibility for something bigger and better than today. I think it’s a story we all can relate to.

I wonder where my friend is, she who gave this to me and I hope that she was able to become her own butterfly. I hope she found her destiny, her hope; her flower. 

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great first paragraphs | live out loud

The power of voice

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:34 PM

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.” It’s a powerful way of saying that people should think before they speak, that actions are louder than words. It’s a simple philosophy, poetic, and one that I tend to subscribe to. The human voice is capable of such wonder and joy. But it can also bellow with anger and seethe with spite. It can evoke sympathy or disgust, surprise and resolution. It can whisper, speak, scream and sing. Voice can lift you up, make you heard; it can take you back in time, soothe your heart and soul, make you remember. It’s one of the first things noticed of a new acquaintance and the thing we most remember, long after a person has gone. It is our collective conscience, the verbal manifestation of our soul.

Every voice is as unique as a fingerprint. The tone and timber, the accent or lack there of, the pitch and vibration all contribute to what we hear and even to how we hear it. I love the sound of human voices; the ability to communicate and to express is profound and moving. But it is the ability to make me remember that I love most.

I have written before of the sound of my father’s voice, the deep baritone punctuated with a continuous clearing of his throat. He was a heavy smoker for at least half of his life and I suspect the years of pulling tobacco through his throat and into his lungs more than contributed to his death. But his voice was strong and it was my strongest connection to him since I lived so far away. He would call on Saturday mornings, always just after 9. If he happened to get our voice mail, he always started it the same way: “Yeah, hi, honey, it’s me.” I can hear it today as clearly as if I just listened to it on recording, and I remember.

Because I live so far away from my family, my strongest sensual connection to all of them is through their voices. My mother’s voice is gentle and kind. When I hear her voice now I also hear my grandmother’s, her mother. My sister’s voice is friendly, nice, clear and assured. My brother sounds just like my dad. It gives me another reason to talk to him on the phone. My niece has a teenager’s voice, giggly and sweet. They make me remember.

Justin now goes to school in New York so we talk to him more than we see him. His voice is like his dad’s, light and masculine though not bellowing. His voice almost always has some laughter hidden inside, full of memories.

Kevin’s voice is home to me. I remember.

When Maguire was alive, his barking voice was so deep it sometimes made the windows rattle. He barked in threes, always. Two close together, then one slightly apart. Woof, woof. Wooooof. I can still hear him, standing in the bay window in the kitchen, waiting patiently for Kevin and I to return. As soon as he’d see us, he’d start. There was no urgency, just the command that we hurry the hell up. I remember my Honey Bear.

Cooper bark voice is more piercing. Luckily he doesn’t use it often. He seems to prefer exhale noises.

I can hear my friend’s voices, too. Bobbi’s, dulcet and melodic (she used to be a singer). Pam’s, strong and fun, with a hint of a Maryland accent. Diane’s, resonant and real. Connie’s, honest and reasonable. Roy’s, assurance and truth.

Today, I talked to Pam’s brother. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him since we were all freshman in high school, but I had asked him to call. We spoke for 10 minutes or so. I didn’t remember his voice at all, but it was clear and crisp.

Voices in the present roam through my head and heart alongside the voices from the past, voices I’ll never hear again except in my memory, the place where they can be accessed forever, inside. I remember so often.

As Gandhi said “everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone.” The power of voice is that it exists in real time, for all time, and that’s always worth celebrating for that, quite possibly, is the still small voice.

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live out loud

John Mason

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 6, 2013 7:57 PM

Nearly four decades ago, I met a girl who was destined to become a lifelong friend, a soul mate. We were both freshman in high school, in Columbia, Maryland and we had only one year together before my family moved from Maryland to New Hampshire. We kept in touch though, seeing each other only once or twice, and again during college, and then lost touch. We reconnected after several years, she came to my first wedding, my first husband and I visited her and her husband once in the late 1980s, and then we lost touch again. Three years ago, in late December of 2009, we found each other on Facebook and it was as if no time had elapsed. I had gotten rid of the first husband by then and was much happier with husband number two; she still had husband number one. She had gotten it right on the first try.

We exchanged emails for a while, long tomes about our lives and all that had transpired in the decades we’d been apart. We eventually talked on the phone, for hours each time, and then when I was going back east over a 4th of July, I detoured to Baltimore to see her. She picked me up at the airport and I stayed with her and her husband just one night. He cooked a magnificent meal of salmon, veggies and roasted potatoes, and then he went to bed so that she and I could stay up half the night talking. I left the next day.

A year and a half later – just last February – they surprised me by being part of my birthday celebration in Paso Robles. We all drank too much wine, ate too much food, got too little sleep and had too much fun laughing and enjoying. That was the last time I saw him.

Pam and John

John Mason died this morning. I got a text from his wife, my beloved friend, Pam, saying simply that he had passed surrounded by family, that she couldn’t talk. I don’t know the details. I know he had suffered from heart issues, as well as other problems. He was healthy otherwise though, strong, loved to ski and was often found at their salon fixing what needed to be fixed, doing what needed to be done.

He had been a hairdresser by profession, and he and Pam had opened Mason & Friends in Columbia, Maryland many, many years ago. Twenty-five years her senior, they were perfectly compatible, sharing a passion for intelligence, family and friends; good food and good times. They also shared a passion for the Baltimore Ravens. It was fitting somehow, serendipitous even, that the Ravens won the Super Bowl just three days ago. When they beat the Patriots to earn a trip to New Orleans, I was disappointed. Why had the Pats played so badly? Now I know. It was so that John – Mason to Pam and his friends – could see them win.

I wish I had known him better but I knew him well enough to know that he loved Pam, and that told me so much about him and his character, told me all I needed to know.

What I will remember most about him is his voice. It’s what I remember so much about others who have passed. The difference is that his voice was always in the background when I talked to Pam, when it was bedtime for them and still hardly dinnertime for me. I would hear him calling for one of their cats to come in for the night.

"Harley!" Pause. "Harley!"

It always made me smile. I’m smiling now at the memory. I’m smiling through the tears.

Mason, enjoying the afternoon sun at Austin Hope winery, February 2012

Celebrating the life and love of John Mason. He will be missed by all.

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