Jurassic Park: Sonoran Desert

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 2, 2017 10:32 PM

Today I put this question into the google: why are there so many prehistoric creatures in the desert? I got various answers, most of which weren’t remotely related to what I was looking for, probably because it was the wrong question. Some of the links talked about why prehistoric creatures were so big, which many attributed to more oxygen in the air as well as more land. There is something called Cope’s Rule which says that as animals evolve over time, they naturally get bigger, until they’re wiped out by a mass extinction and are replaced by smaller animals that gradually grow bigger until they, too, are wiped out. And so on. 

What I should have asked, and did eventually, was: current prehistoric looking creatures sonoran desert. I got some very interesting information including this: the Sonoran desert, that lush and prickly place we call home, is actually considered to be tropical. Makes sense when you consider that July, which just ended two days ago, was our wettest ever recorded. Naturally, everything is green and getting greener. On any given day, one can travel through desert grasslands, desertscrub, thornscrub, and tropical deciduous forest habitats between here and Mexico’s Sonora. 

According to the desert museum, our little corner of prehistoria is fairly recent in terms of geologic time and is one of the youngest communities on the continent at about 8 million years old. The area where we live, in Tucson, is only about 9000 years old, with our plants and animals developing about 4500 years ago. During this time, what we now view as our beautiful, green, fabulously prickly desert became what it is today, with its trees and cactus and creatures.

It is the creatures that I would like to speak about because they are plentiful and this summer, they are freaking huge. Prehistoric huge. We knew when we moved into an area that is far removed from the city and is, in fact, outside the city lines, that we’d encounter creatures. We had a slight inkling of what those creatures might be and we waited patiently to see them. There would be rattlesnakes and tarantulas – those we knew for sure. Everything else we just braced for.

We’ve had plentiful deer. We’ve had javelina. There have been plenty of road runners and quail and ravens and falcons. We’ve see osprey and white-winged doves. There have been bob cats and ring-tailed cats, grass hoppers five inches long and lizards galore. Gila monsters? Check. Tarantulas? Yep. 

And then the rains of July hit and suddenly, the creatures are prolific. And huge. We’ve had toads but we always have toads. Now, though, we have toads the size of my hands and I have big hands. We have desert tortoises traversing the driveway and tucking themselves against the house and into the rocks. Every day brings another sizable creature here in the Sonoran. 

Which makes sense because there is actually a dinosaur named Sonorasaurus, named for the Sonoran desert. 

Still, I prefer to just refer to it as Jurassic Park: Tucson. Where we’re living it out loud, and watching where we step. 

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live out loud

Faux news

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 1, 2017 9:55 PM

In August of 1997, Kevin and I bought our first house together. Prior to that, we lived in my townhouse in Calabasas, but it was quickly becoming too small since we had acquired Maguire. We found a little three bedroom house in Oak Park, bought it, and moved in on the night Princess Diana was killed in Paris. It was an auspicious start, since she was 36 and I was 36, and her companion Dodi Fayed was 42 and Kevin was 42. We wondered, briefly, if it was some sort of a strange sign.

The house was adorable, though it suffered from too much white. The carpet was white, and stained from the previous owner’s kids and dog. The tiles in the kitchen and the master bath were white. The countertop tiles throughout were white. The walls, too. Over the years, we gradually divested ourselves of the non-color in favor of varying hues. We pulled the carpet and put in hardwood. We pulled the kitchen tile and put down something called Mardi Gras, a myriad of oranges, reds, grays, and purples. Color started to happen. 

We refinished the kitchen cabinets and replaced the white countertop with gray. And then we decided that the walls needed some assistance so we painted the back wall a deep taupe. It was called River Rock by Ralph Lauren. Then we painted the huge wall in the dining room with a slightly lighter version of the same. Finally, we painted the wall above the fireplace a deep, dark red. It was fabulous. All of these colors served to make the house more interesting; it gave it depth and personality. 

Fast forward to our new house. When we moved in, one of the things we needed to do was pick a wall color. This color would grace every wall, of which there aren’t many because we have so much glass. It would also be on the ceiling. The color we chose was Sahara. It’s pretty, a light sand color. But it’s everywhere. So we needed to add a bit of color. 

First we colored the four columns that were also Sahara. But we didn’t just paint them. We hired a faux painter to come in and sponge paint them, using all of the colors of the stone work we have on the fireplace as well as the hearth. While he was here he suggested doing the inlay above the dining room table, something we hadn’t thought of previously. He did that a metallic bronze and it’s gorgeous. 

The wall behind our bed can be seen from the main part of the house, as can – obviously – the bed. The comforter is an off-white, along with throw pillows of taupe and red. I wanted to add some color to that room, to add some personality. Remembering how much luck we had with the River Rock, I went looking for something similar. They don’t make River Rock anymore, so instead I chose some deep colors, things that looked awfully pretty at the paint store. I brought home several samples. I bought a piece of short drywall at Home Depot, divided it into the equal sections and then applied paint. I put it up against the wall in the bedroom. 

I hated it. It was flat. Boring. Lacked soul. It looked fake. 

So I called my faux painter again, had him come out, listen to what I wanted for color (to pick up the colors of the tile), and yesterday he came back armed with a number of cans of paint along with several rags. He painted for six hours, applying first a gold base color, then proceeding to dab different colors on top. Red. Brown. Gray. Orange. Purple. Repeat. 

And it’s gorgeous. We’re thrilled. I’m already looking at what I want to do next. As David, our painter, says: It’s like tattoos. Once you have one, you want more.

Celebrating the faux tonight, and loving it out loud.

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Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 22, 2017 8:47 PM

The only thing worse than driving on the 10 freeway through the desert is driving on the 5 freeway up or down through Central California. It’s a boring drive, and not even a little bit pretty. On the 5, it’s miles of flat agriculture and cattle and horrible smells even with the closed air ventilation of the car. On the 10, there are vast expanses of nothing. Just brown dirt, not even sand, and some desert scrub. No cactus, no trees, not even any interesting rocks. What it does have, though, are bugs. The 5 takes the prize in the sheer number, largely because of the agriculture and especially because of the thousands and thousands of grazing cattle. But the 10 runs a lovely second. By the time you get where you’re going, whether going to California or returning, the windshield is a mosaic of bug splatter; ditto the plastic coverings over the headlights. The front grill has fed nicely on all manner of insect and the part of the roof that curves down to the windshield sports many dried carcasses. It’s the only part of a road trip that I don’t particularly like, though I know to expect it. Cleaning it requires a great deal of scrubbing.

Last weekend we drove through the desert on our way back from California. The car was already a disaster because of dirt roads and tree droppings. The wheels were black with the brake dust of the new pads replaced before we left. I’ve been wanting to wash it all week.

One of the chores I love most in the world is to wash the car. I always have. I don’t know if it’s because the result is nearly instant and always better than when I began, or if I’m simply strange that way. But washing my own car is a pleasure. The only issue I ever have is finding the time to do it.

When we had the Porsche, washing it was easy. I could be done – start to finish, dry and back in the garage – in 30 minutes. The Range Rover takes about an hour and a half, sometimes more depending on how dirty it is and if I decide to do anything with the interior. It’s big, it’s tall, and it has a lot of windows including a sunroof. 

It’s been raining for days. After a slow start to monsoon, we seem to be trying to catch up. This is one of the times of year I love the most. Yes, it’s July in the desert but after temperatures that scorched near 120º several weeks ago, when the rains finally start, the temps are usually no higher than the low 90s. (As I type this on a Saturday afternoon, it’s 81º.) The clouds start to gather in the morning, accumulating over the Rincon mountains to the east or drifting up from the gulf to the south. We can literally see the rain beginning to form. Before long, the sky begins to gurgle and shout. Lightning flashes and the winds begin to whip. And the wall of water we’ve been watching descends upon us. Sometimes we get half an inch in 10 or 15 minutes; sometimes it’s a more sustained rain that accumulates slowly, over time. 

Today, I ran some errands. The sky was dark and sputtering a bit. I actually hoped it would pour to take some of the grit and grime and bugs off the car. It didn’t. When I got home, I parked in the driveway rather than in the garage. I was determined to wash it today, one way or another. And then, thunder rumbled in the distance and rain began to fall. Slowly at first, it built to a nice steady flow that wasn’t torrential or harsh, but gentle. I grabbed the bucket out of the laundry room, filled it with water, threw on a rain coat and decided to wash the car with the rain. I wasn’t sure it would cooperate long enough to allow me to work my way up from the wheels, which I did with an old sponge and the puddled water on the driveway, all the way to the roof. It did. As I washed, the rain began to fall harder. Soon it was beating down pretty good. I was drenched through the rain coat and I loved every minute of it. When I was done and the rain had rinsed away all the soap, I pulled into the garage and dried it off. The Sport is now clean. And all the bug guts have been scrubbed away. 

All I could think of as I was working to remove them was the old saying: Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

Feeling like the windshield today as I lived it out loud in the rain.

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Save the wine. Save the trip.

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 20, 2017 10:15 PM

A week ago today we went to California. We dropped Riley at the pet resort, a nicety that he didn’t seem to appreciate at all, and then peddled our way across the desert. We did this last summer, too. It’s become a new tradition. We go twice a year now, the other time being for Thanksgiving. Both trips involve Roy and Bobbi and a house we all rent together. For the summer trip, we always stay in LA overnight on Thursday, then get up to drive the remaining three hours to Paso on Friday morning. At Thanksgiving, we stay for four nights. During the summer, just two.

We arrived at our hotel just after 5, took a shower and then met Roy and Bobbi for dinner on the lake in Westlake Village. It was a lovely way to start our long weekend. 

By Friday at 11, we were at Rabbit Ridge, on the north west side of Paso. It’s one of our favorites and we’re members, as we are of at least five wineries in the area. Normally when we go wine tasting, we explore mostly new ones – wineries we haven’t yet visited – while also hitting maybe one or three of our favorites. This trip, Kevin decided it might be fun to do a greatest hits tour. So we were only going to visit our favorites, ones we’d already visited, ones where either we were members or Roy and Bobbi were. 

For the next two days we visited places like Zenaida and Niner, Barr, Sculpterra and Vina Robles. We close every wine tasting trip at Vina Robles. They have a members-only lounge where they have comfortable couches, pour all the wine you want and then some, and even serve gourmet appetizers. It’s probably the best wine in Paso, and while we always worry that one time it will finally disappoint us, it never does. 

We bought seven plus cases of wine on our trip. We had great conversations with great friends. We ate well; we slept well. We had fun. 

On Sunday morning, Kevin and I packed up the Sport and left at 6:30 a.m. We had an 11 hour drive ahead of us and we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. Kevin drove the first part, just until we got to Calabasas where we were going to stop and get coffee and something to eat. I had a bit of writing to do that I needed to finish before the end of the day, so it worked well. I took over in Calabasas, and off we sped, across the Valley, through Burbank and Glendale, into Pasadena and then off into the desert. 

Before we left Arizona, Kevin and I had both noticed that the Sport’s AC didn’t seem to be as cool as it was before. We took it to the dealer and asked them to check it, telling them that we would be driving through the desert in July and really would need our air conditioning. They assured us that it was blowing cold; that all was good. 

And it was. It was fine on the trip on Thursday. It was great all through Paso Robles, and it was hot in Paso. High 90s/low 100s. And it was fine early on Sunday. But then, it seemed to get warmer in the car. We kept turning the temp down on the climate control and nothing happened. It became clear that the AC had stopped working at an optimum level. While it was still cooler in the car than outside, it was not comfortable. It was not right. And it was cooking our wine. 

Wine does not like to be in warm temperatures. It prefers about 58º, which is what our wine room is set to. On Sunday, we were hell and gone from that room. We got cranky, we started to fight. We knew that riding through the entire desert and into more desert would ruin the seven plus cases we had in the back. 

So, after screaming and yelling at each other, we exited the freeway in Blythe, California, a lovely hole of a town that we refer to as Blight, found a rite-aid and proceeded to buy five Styrofoam coolers and several bags of ice. In the parking lot, under intense sun, and horrendous heat, we opened our cases, distributed the wine into the coolers, poured ice over each, reloaded them into the back of the care, disposed of the broken case boxes, and climbed back into the Sport. I fired up the ignition. And voila, the AC was working.

Still, we saved the wine. Because if we hadn’t, it would have ruined the trip. We celebrated rite-aid last week, something we’ve never done previously and not sure we’ll do again, but they were there when we needed them. And when the wine needed them. And for that, we were and are very, very, very happy.

Our cup runneth not at all

by Lorin Michel Monday, July 10, 2017 8:44 PM

Regular readers know that I am not religious. I consider myself a good person, highly moral even. But I stopped believing when I was 15 and stood up in my backyard one Sunday morning, dressed in the appropriate Sunday attire of a teensie weensie bikini (no polka dots, definitely not yellow) and announced to my dad who was standing just outside the house that I wasn’t going to church. He glared at me. His mother, who was extremely religious and went to church three or four times a week, was visiting and standing behind him. He was taking the family to church because we always went to church when my grandmother visited. It was the only time. And I was finished with the hypocrisy. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

I can go to a Catholic service to this day and recite every part of it from memory. Obviously I don’t go often, but people getting married, people baptize babies, and we get invited. Kevin was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school through 12th grade. He jokes that he was beaten by the best, meaning nuns. We both joke that we’re recovering, that it’s a twelve century program. 

There is a prayer said in Catholic churches and other Christian churches around the world. It is The Lord is My Shepherd, or Psalm 23, taken from the Old Testament. There are many translations of the Psalm, originally written in Hebrew. But the gist is the same. That god provides, that all is wonderful. As is usual with translations there are a number of thous and ths and ests. The middle of the Psalm is basically this:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.             

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.  Thou anointest my head with oil.  My cup runneth over.

Again, I am not religious and as far as I’m concerned oil is used to anointest my skillet as I sauté something. The cup runneth over thing is pretty self-explanatory and most of the time, that’s how I feel. My cup is filled. I have a good life. I have love and laughter. Life, as the saying goes, is good. Sometimes it’s so good that my cup definitely runneth over.

This morning we left to walk through the valley of the shadow of hell since the temperatures have been high. There were scant clouds in the sky though the humidity seemed unusually high. The air wasn’t moving. It wrapped around us like a blanket, oppressive and heavy. Nothing was moving. Kevin glanced up at the weather station we have positioned just above the turn-about in the driveway. The wind paddles, small white cups that spin to tell us the wind speed, were motionless.

“Our cups runneth … not at all,” said my recovering Catholic husband.

Later this afternoon, the winds roared in accompanied by dark skies, rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. The temperatures dropped from 107 to 80 to 73. Our cups were running over with rain. Luckily the rain gauge was there to captureth it all.

Praise be to dog.

In which Lorin is fascinated by history

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 5, 2017 10:15 PM

Maybe it’s the fire burning perilously close to our house; maybe it’s the impending doom I feel daily due to our current political climate and the ridiculous man-child we have to call president. Maybe it’s that the older I get, the more fascinating things old become. Whatever the reason, I am fascinated by Amelia Earhart.

Everyone knows the story of the famed aviator, a woman who made the first solo flight across North America – by a woman – in 1928, who took up competitive air racing in 1929, and in 1931 set a world altitude rating by reaching 18,415 feet. Her first solo trans-Atlantic flight occurred in 1932 and for that, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from then President Hoover.

In 1935, she became the first aviator –male or female – to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland. Other firsts followed along with more speed records. In March 1937, she made her first attempt at flying around the world but was unsuccessful. In June 1937, she tried again, flying in the opposite direction and again was unsuccessful but this is the trip for which she is most known because on July 2, she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared. 

There has long been speculation as to what happened. They died on impact with the ocean. Or they landed on a reef and made it to a deserted island where they eventually died after not being rescued. Or they were captured by the Japanese. But nothing was ever found. No plane. No bodies. Only mystery. 

This story fascinates me in the same way the Titanic fascinates me. Maybe it’s that both involve an ocean. Maybe it’s the era. Maybe it’s both. The Titanic was, of course, unsinkable until it sank on its maiden voyage. The arrogance of man dictated not enough lifeboats and those that were available weren’t filled to capacity. On that frigid night in April 2012, 1514 people died. I can’t imagine the horror. I can’t imagine the chaos. And I am drawn to the stories, to the films about it. 

Full disclosure, I am also drawn to stories about the Holocaust. It is unfathomable to me that people could be so cruel. It is almost more unfathomable that some survived. It haunts me; it terrifies me that we are capable of such atrocities even though I know we are still. I wonder if I’m drawn to it because I’m so afraid it will happen again and that this country will be responsible. 

Today, news broke that a photograph was discovered, one that had been misfiled many years ago. There is speculation that it shows Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on a dock in the Marshall Islands – alive – and prisoners of the Japanese. In the background is a ship towing a barge and on the barge is what some are speculating is Earhart’s Lockheed Electra plane. 

If she was captured, she most likely died in a cell somewhere in Saipan, of something horrible. No one knows. Still.

And so the mystery and my fascination continue. It doesn’t ultimately matter, but much like the world needing to know more about the Titanic, the world continues to want closure on Earhart. In 1985, Robert Ballard and his crew found the Titanic in 12,000 feet of water off the coast of Newfoundland. If explorers can find evidence of what actually happened to Amelia Earhart, it would be, in a word, fascinating.

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The fire list

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 2, 2017 8:44 PM

I got a call one morning when Justin was a sophomore in high school. It was about 3 am. Kevin was in Las Vegas for a convention. I answered and it was a recorded message from Tony Frank, the then superintendent of the Oak Park School District. “Due to the wild fires burning in Oak Park, the board has made the decision to cancel classes.”

Wild fire burning in Oak Park? I popped out of bed and, with Maguire in tow, trudged out the front door and into the street. Sure enough, the hills lining our beautiful town were rimmed with fire. I saw lights go on in some of my neighbors’ houses as they too got the call.

By sun rise, the sky was thick with smoke and ash drifted down like snow, covering cars and trees and flowers. I was never truly concerned about it reaching our house. We were safely ensconced in a neighborhood where each of the houses was mere feet away from the next. Fires like space. 

During fire season, I often watched the news in horror as flames devoured hillsides and canyons, racing along unchecked due to the terrain, eating any fuel in their path. I always felt for people who lived in areas where fire could get to them. My old bosses had 30 acres in Hidden Valley, an area of Thousand Oaks. Fire burned perilously close to their house at one point. When we flew to New York to see one of Justin’s productions, there was a fire burning in the canyons near the pet motel we used for the dog. I was emailing them from 35,000 feet, trying to get an answer as to whether there was any actual danger. There wasn’t. 

When we built the house up here on the hill, I wondered about fire. After all, we have four acres ourselves, and the land above us is undeveloped. It’s desert for miles. To the east is another lot that’s not developed and more land above that. There are canyons that cut into the land that can’t be developed but there are still trees and brush and desert grasses. We have fire insurance along with our homeowners. 

Most people hear of fires burning in Southern California because it’s such a famous area. When homes burn in Malibu it makes national news. But the entire southwest is susceptible to fire and often succumbs. In 2013, the Yarnell fire in Arizona burned 8400 acres, destroyed 129 buildings and killed 19 firefighters who got trapped in its path. In 2003, a fire burned in the mountains above us, destroying 84,750 acres and 340 homes and businesses. One of our neighbors here told us that they stood on their patio and watched as the flamed climbed up and over the hills above Catalina Highway. The fire department had told them that if the fire jumped the highway, they would need to evacuate. It didn’t; the firefighters were able to stop it. That fire burned for a month before it was fully contained. 

Yesterday when we left to run errands, I noticed smoke off to the east. Big, awful plumes reaching high into the sky, white with dark brown laced throughout. Fire. We watched it as we were out, the smoke visible for miles. Last night we watched it from the deck as we made a list of things we would have to pack in case of evacuation. We decided it was a good idea to have such a list even if we didn’t end up needing it because if the fire department tells you to get out, you have, at best, an hour. We would not be thinking clearly; we would be reacting. Having a check list would be helpful. 

But as I wrote the list, I thought how strange it was to be making it. And yet how necessary. Things like dog food, water, jewelry, photographs, artwork, my Carolers made the list. Things that are valuable, irreplaceable; that mean something to us. Computers, cameras, some of my writing notebooks. It was making a list in case of our impending destruction.

This morning, the fire had tripled in size and became Type 1 Incident Management meaning national and state resources were brought in. We watched as D10 Tankers flew close enough that we could read the tail numbers. The roar and rumble of a DC10 flying just about the house was both terrifying and comforting.

There were possible thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon. The winds were mild earlier and picked up throughout the day, as is usual. We had our list. We watched the sky. And celebrated the men and women who decide that this is their calling, to fight fire in hundred plus degree heat, with high winds, and dry conditions. Dogspeed all.

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I can’t deal with cleaning up. Let’s sell the house.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 1, 2017 8:34 PM

My parents used to entertain every once in a while. I remember several times, like the surprise party mom threw for my dad’s 40th birthday. Friends from everywhere descended upon the house and when my dad answered the door, there was a group of his friends from his previous life even before he had us. I don’t remember the party all that well other than there was quite a group of people, eating and drinking the night away while my father beamed. After it was all over, I’m sure we had to clean up before going to bed because my mother always cleaned up before going to bed. It didn’t matter what time it was, if there was a mess in the kitchen, it had to be dealt with so that it was gone in the morning and she – and everyone – could start the day anew. 

For years, I subscribed to this same philosophy. It didn’t matter how late it was when people departed my home. When they were gone, I went to the kitchen to rinse plates and load them into the dishwasher, wash any pots and pans, as well as glassware from cocktails. On the rare occasion that I used my china, I also hand washed that. Leaving a pan to soak overnight because it was simply too crusted to clean immediately was my worst sin. 

Somewhere along the way to middle age, I stopped doing that. I don’t remember when it happened. Perhaps it was after Kevin and I got together. Our relationship has always been fun and easy; we’re each other’s best friend. I think because of the easy nature of our lives together, it occurred to me without ever really thinking about it that I could leave plates on the counters and used pots on the stove and go to bed. That it would all still be there in the morning, and that it would all clean up just as easily then.

Maybe it was because we became late eaters, rarely having dinner before 8:30, a practice that continues to this day. While not especially healthy, it has become habit. Also, we work until about 7 each night, then we shower. By the time I get around to cooking, it’s often close to 8. By the time we’re done eating, we just want to relax and maybe watch a little television. Soon, we’re tired. The dishes sit on the counter; any pots or pans remain on the stove.

Last night we had some people over for dinner. It was casual, just like we like it. I made an artichoke-jalapeno dip in my small crock pot, put out some pita chips and cheese and crackers. Kevin made cosmopolitans and poured wine. For dinner, I made a pasta primavera and a big Caesar salad and sliced some bread that I served with a pesto balsamic dipping sauce. About 9 o’clock we noticed there were fireworks in the distance so off we all went to the deck where we spent the rest of the evening. Everyone left somewhere around 11 I think. Not terribly late, but by then we were tired and simply went to bed, leaving the kitchen for another day.

This morning, I looked at the havoc I had wrought and all I could think of was Marilyn Lovell. 

The 1995 film Apollo 13 – one of favorites – begins with the famous moonwalk by Neil Armstrong. There is a party at the Houston home of astronaut Jim Lovell and his wife, Marilyn, played in the film by Tom Hanks and Kathleen Quinlan. All the astronauts who aren’t in space are there, including the men who would eventually join Lovell on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. There is much champagne and eating and something about Cadet Lovell getting a haircut. After everyone leaves, Jim is in the backyard, lying on a chase lounge gazing up at – what else – the moon. Marilyn comes out and says: “I can’t deal with cleaning up. Let’s sell the house.”

My thoughts this morning.

Friends, food, cocktails, fireworks. Worth the mess on a Saturday morning and definitely worth celebrating.

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The bathing suit dilemma

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 29, 2017 10:46 PM

When I was in college I had a gray striped bikini that I loved. That was back in the day when I was skinny and looked good in a bikini. I had it in a beach bag in the back of my Toyota Celica in my garage one night for reasons I can no longer remember. It got stolen, along with my beach bag and a small tool kit I kept in the car for emergencies. I remember thinking how disgusting it was that someone would steal a used bikini. Also, I was pissed. While I bought others, I was never able to replace that bikini. I remember it fondly to this day.

I used to like shopping for bathing suits. It was fun, and I was in great shape. Picking out a bathing suit wasn’t difficult. It was an enjoyable experience. 

I didn’t swim a lot but I did love the sun. Too much. I am paying for it now, all these years later. 

As I got older, I stopped loving the sun in terms of sunbathing. I still love it. Love its energy and its beauty; don’t love what it has done to and for my skin. Still one needs a bathing suit in order to partake in pool parties and go on vacation to tropical places like Hawaii.

I don’t have a good bathing suit. It’s been years since we went anywhere tropical or that required swimming or even just sitting in the water. Still, one needs to have one just in case. We’re already making plans for a trip next year to either Hawaii or Cabo San Lucas, where we’ll stay at a resort and sit under cabanas and swim up to aquabars; where we’ll stroll the beaches and soak up the warmth, if not the sun. I’ve been dreading the idea of finding a bathing suit. I thought I could put it off. I hoped. Today, I was confronted with the bathing suit dilemma body-on. 

Friends of ours have a home in San Carlos, Mexico. It’s not far from here, about 5 hours or so by car. When we’ve gotten together, we’ve talked about going down, joining them for a weekend, or renting one of their condos and going by ourselves. I got a text this morning from Susan: I have to go to SC next weekend to deliver some parts for the boat. Wanna come?

Just the girls. No husbands. No dogs (they have two; we have one). 

Naturally I said yes, of course, fabulous, love it, can’t wait. Except for that one tiny issue. I DON’T HAVE A DECENT BATHING SUIT. 

I immediately dialed up the internet and started looking at what the styles are today, what might look good on me, on a body that’s much different than the one that easily wore the bikini that got stolen out of her 1979 Toyota Celica.

Evidently something called tankinis are very in. Two pieces that have a tank type top and different types of bottoms including swim shorts. I was intrigued. They seemed perfect for this old body of mine.

So I ordered two. Both will be here by mid-next week. In time for my weekend trip to Mexico. Hopefully one will work. If not, I’ll be wearing shorts and a tank, and hoping for the best. Either way, I’ll be in Mexico, on a boat, having fun. And that’s a good thing.

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The four elements of the apocalypse, desert edition

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 27, 2017 8:22 PM

Kevin went to the doctor today. He has a great relationship with his physician, a man who, coincidentally, happens to live in our little ‘hood. He’s a DO, a doctor of osteopathic medicine which means he advocates a whole-person approach to care. He’s a good guy, and I might have chosen him myself except for two things: it’s a little odd to see your doctor every day as well as at homeowner’s association meetings, and I also prefer female doctors, for all specialties.

It’s been hot here, the June-furnace has been blasting now for several weeks. We get this every year right before the monsoons hit. It’s been brutal. Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we recorded 120º up here on the hill, a temperature I feel pretty good touting because it comes directly from our own personal weather station. It’s also been windy, a continuous hot breath that offers a grand total of zero relief. Mostly we stay in the house. We urge Riley to pee quickly when he has to go out. 

With the heat comes fire, plague and pestilence. We’ve had brush fires burn, thankfully none close enough to threaten us, just close enough to smell and see the smoke. We haven’t had plague or pestilence, also thankfully because that would be bad. We have, however, had our fair share of creatures and by creatures, I mean bugs. We have been over-run with box elders, tiny flying beetles. They’re outside, but they’re disgusting. We’ve seen snakes. There have been toads. Also the lizards have been prolific. 

Kevin’s doctor, who lives in the house just below us, swims every morning before he leaves for work. He was entertaining Kevin with tales of not going into the pool because it was occupied by a toad, and that he draws the line at sharing his pool with creatures. He has had box elders and toads sticking to his windows. He has had pack rats eating the wiring to his lighting and poor equipment, and ground squirrels and rabbits oh my. Scorpions and lizards and cicadas. 

“Basically half of everything ever talked about in the bible,” he joked. 

Kevin laughed. When he told me the story, I laughed, too. Because it’s funny. It also happens to ring a little too true.

The start of this summer has been hotter than usual, drier and windier. That heat has brought out the bugs in droves. Bugs that cling to the side of the house, that climb the windows, that die and congregate in piles of black carcasses on the portico and the deck. They look, at first glance, like raisins, only infinitely less appetizing. 

Toads, bigger than usual, descend upon the house at night. They haunt the top step leading down to the front door, sitting there until the dog sees them and begins to whine and squeal. Let me at ‘em. As if that’s going to happen. These toads are poisonous to dogs.

The heat speaks for itself. The winds are wicked and wild. 

There is no water, no rain in the forecast. Only sun as far as the weather report can see. It is biblical. This is how polite society ends, pulling its hair out because it can’t get rid of the annoying bugs, having to co-exist with Colorado river toads, and never being allowed outside because of spontaneous combustion, with your ashes blown away by 20 mph winds with gusts up to 50.

Welcome to the apocalypse, desert edition. It’s about as religious as I get, and while I’m not into the bugs or the toads or the heat or the wind, I am very much into the storms that follow. May they come soon and wash away our sins.

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