Chilling out

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 31, 2013 12:16 AM

This morning I woke up with a headache. I think it came from the window being open all night and the cold air stuffing up my nose and my head. Kevin was already up and Cooper had taken up residence on his side of the bed. I listened to the sound of the city, the cars rushing by out on Campbell, swooshing air, invisibly filling the room. The wind had already come up, the palm tree fronds were rustling. I could see the pink of the flowers just outside the window. Cooper stretched. I shivered. I reached for my phone, always next to the bed, and hit the weather button. 52º. I shivered again because I’m always cold. When it’s 72º, much like Sally Albright in When Harry Met Sally, I’m still cold.

The entire day stayed cool, never getting above 65º which I realize for folks on the East, is not cool and is in fact just the opposite. But 65º and breezy is cool here in the West. I actually had a sweatshirt on today over my shorts.

The whole week is supposed to be like this. Cold nights and cool days. The sun stays warm but never warm enough to heat up the day. I love this time of year. This is what fall is like here and while fall is over in the East, all the leaves having fallen to the ground where they were raked up and burned, fall in the desert consists of simply lower temperatures, brighter mornings and earlier evenings that are exceptionally dark.

I chilled out all day in my sweatshirt. I worked but it was a quiet day. Few phone calls, few emails. Lots to do but when it’s quiet it’s easy to push everything aside and concentrate on more fun things, like thinking about the holidays and gifts to buy. We’ll have a houseful for Thanksgiving this year and we are excited. Justin will be home, Roy and Bobbi are coming, as are Diane and Gene. Perhaps Justin will scare up a friend.

Bobbi and I talked today about reviving our Christmas card franchise. Years ago, in the early 1990s, Roy, Bobbi and I would do hand-made Christmas cards for all of our friends, family and co-workers. We would come up with a concept. I would write a story or a poem, Roy would illustrate it, Bobbi would design it and we would have it printed. We’d spend hours over several weekends assembling cards and preparing them to send. Each year people looked forward to those cards; many still have what we did long ago. There was a children’s book about a tree and a star; a carousel poem that took the form of a scroll. There were many cut-out mobiles that people would hang and leave up year round. We haven’t done one since the late 90s. But we’re thinking of doing one this year. We’re going to brainstorm this weekend to come up with a concept. I’ll write, Roy will illustrate, Bobbi will design and Kevin will program it online.

As the weather turns, these are the things that travel through my mind. Creative thoughts and ideas for gifts and cards. What to cook this year for Thanksgiving; what we’ll do for Christmas. When it will be cold enough to wear jeans all day and big fuzzy socks at night in front of the fire sipping wine, watching old movies on TMC. I need nothing more than the change of seasons to settle my soul.

During the Tang Dynasty, a poet by the name of Han Shan, which translates to Cold Mountain, wrote: “Swiftly the springs and autumns pass, but my mind is at peace, free from dust or delusion. How pleasant, to know I need nothing to lean on, to be still as the waters of the autumn river!”

It’s falling toward winter, even here in the West where it will dip down to the low 40s tonight, and I’m celebrating the idea of chilling out.

Because too late is better than never

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 25, 2013 12:29 AM

On the way to get my hair cut tonight, I happened upon a house, right near the road, that seemingly has all of its Christmas decorations on display. Wire framed trees and reindeer, a snowman and several candy canes, all already strung with white lights. The sun was just beginning to drop down into the west so I don't know if they light up at night, but it got me thinking about decorations. What is too early and is it ever too late?

Let's unpack this a little.

It is not yet Halloween. The majority of exterior home decorations right now seem to be of the pumpkin/ghost/witch/goblin/spider/skeleton variety. I'm good with that. These decorations, including the little orange lights and the black silhouette cats stuck to windows, went up about a month ago. Early, but not too. Late would probably be October 31. Really late would be November 1 because then it's time for Thanksgiving decorations of which there really aren't many. Thanksgiving seems like an interim holiday, at least in terms of what can be put on a house that screams “I'm in the Thanksgiving spirit.”

My sister is very good about decorating their house for holidays. She has wonderful witches and cauldrons and ghosts that she places strategically on the front porch and between the two trees in the front yard. It's tasteful. If she does Thanksgiving decorations, I'm sure there are strategically placed straw husks, corn, gourds and something to connote a turkey. Maybe a well-appointed pilgrim.

But her decorations are timely, always appearing when appropriate and always disappearing within a respectable time post holiday. The exception may have been when she was pregnant with my nephew. She was so miserable the holidays had little meaning.

This house along my route today was well kept. I wondered if they just recently put up the reindeer and company or if they never were taken down from last year, perhaps even the year before. I hadn’t noticed before. Then again I haven't traveled this particular route very often.

I have always thought that people who leave their Christmas lights on their house all year long are kind of tacky. Though I've seen some places with nice strands of white lights along the edge of the house or threaded through trees. They burn these lights nightly and they are warm and inviting, not festive just friendly.

But reindeers and snowflakes and candy canes and Christmas trees all arranged in a nice “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” kind of way, in October, might be a little early.

In the restroom of my salon, stuck to the floor, was a tiny corner of a holiday sticker. Just two holly leaves were visible. I wondered how long it might have been there.

Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, maybe the house on River with the reindeers was also trying to tell me the same thing.

Then again, maybe the people in that house just really love Christmas. Maybe they're sharing the spirit, one that is joyous and happy, where music plays and snows falls gently and never screws up anyone's commute; when life is at its most lush and perfect.

Either that or they're just way late taking them down from last year. If that's the case, I'll go with it. I'll smile and applaud their ho-ho regardless of whether it meets my sense of appropriate. I'll celebrate every time I drive by. Because in this case late is better than never.

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live out loud

Where do they go?

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 18, 2013 12:26 AM

I have never quite been able to decide if I like balloons. I realize that’s a bit un-American but there it is. I like the fact that they are colorful and cheery. I don’t like that they’re rubber or latex. When they pop, even if I’m expecting it, they make me jump. I remember well the process of actually blowing up a balloon, especially when one doesn’t have access to a helium tank. You take them out of the plastic that they’ve been packaged in and stretch them, first long ways and then short ways. Then you put the open end with the very strange little roll into your mouth and blow so hard you almost have a stroke. This can’t be good for a person.

I remember once the balloons had been blown up, rubbing them on my shirt or my pants to create static electricity and then sticking them to a wall or a door, or my brother. It was like the poor-mans version of helium.

I don’t know if kids still blow up balloons. I do know that kids seem to be fascinated by them, from a very young age. I suspect mom and dad, and maybe an older sibling, handles the blowing up part since a little kid is likely to inhale and choke on the balloon. Maybe that’s ultimately what freaks me out a little bit. These bright and cheery items are just waiting to wreak havoc.

During political conventions, thousands and thousands of balloons are dropped at the very end, after the nominee has been nominated. Who blows them all up ahead of time and where do they go after everyone in the convention hall goes home?

When you drive around a town or a city, there are always bouquets of balloons tied to mailboxes announcing a birthday party, a beacon for parents who have never been to the area before. Just look for the balloons. You can’t go wrong.

Balloons are also tied to mailboxes and front doors to announce the arrival of a new baby. Pink for girls, blue for boys. They’re almost giddy with excitement as they sway lazily in the breeze, dancing together, an odd grind and bump.

Apartment buildings will tie a big bunch of multi-colored, helium-filled balloons to a sign or a stake out front announcing their latest move-in special. Free major utilities with a year lease.

Yesterday as we went out for a walk, a big balloon convention ascended in front of us and drifted across the road, up toward the trees and above, dancing in the sunshine, reveling in their freedom to go anywhere the breeze would take them until they had no air left to propel them aloft and forward. Where did they go?

In August of 2000, Jamie Lee Curtis released a children’s book called Where do balloons go? An uplifting mystery. Inside she and her illustrator, Laura Cornell, followed balloons all over, up and down, to different places, as they interacted with other people. It’s quite charming in an airy kind of way. But as cute as it is, it never quite explains where they really go, or how long they float, how far they travel.

This is the part of balloons I actually like, the idea of them on a mystical journey to nowhere. It’s peaceful on this journey, it’s unhurried and there’s no stress. A metaphor for peace in life. I watched these balloons yesterday, watched them until they seemingly disappeared into the air, into the sky. There was something magical in wondering what happened to them as they vanished. They were simply, easily, perfectly gone. That in itself is magical. It’s the stuff of wonder and imagination. It’s living it out loud in the most silent and silently profound way possible. 

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live out loud

On the bike again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All apologies to Willie Nelson. 

And the desert smiles

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 7, 2013 12:07 AM

I’m in Tucson and looking out at the sun dancing in the Catalina foothills. It’s been a simply glorious day here, not too hot, a gentle breeze tickling the palm trees and running headlong into the millions of saguaro and prickly pear cactus that refuse to budge. Birds have been singing and the butterflies are everywhere in all manner of sizes and colors, from the smallest yellow to the largest orange and black. Occasionally there is one of ghostly white with gossamer wings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white-winged butterfly before. I wonder if perhaps the intensity of the sun has faded away the color it once had.

This morning we went for a walk along the expansive and dry Rillito River. The city has created pathways and bridges for walkers and cyclists that runs nearly the length of the river, a bed that I’m sure has water in it at some point during the year but never has during any of the times we’ve been here. There were plenty of people walking their dogs, others walking dogless like us. The number of cyclists was impossible to count. People on mountain bikes, others on road bikes; some out for a leisurely tour, others working up a sweat. Some were young, others older, still others old but all were happy and friendly. Good morning. ‘morning!

The sun crested eventually, dripping heat down upon us. We retreated to the air conditioning to watch a little football, do a little more work. Our entire weekend has mostly been about work and that’s OK. We have work; this is good. It is infinitely better than the alternative.

We relaxed. We enjoyed. We reflected.

Monday is knocking at the door already. It’s a faint knock but insistent. Tomorrow evening we’re thinking of going to the movies since we didn’t get a chance to do much of anything this weekend, at least not much of anything fun, not much of anything that was nothing. Sometimes nothing is what’s needed in order to recharge and re-energize. I did do a little bit of nothing later today. By nothing I mean simply enjoying the moment and not being involved in anything stressful. By nothing I mean something fun. I talked to a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while and it was delightful.

I’m standing at the window watching as two big bear-like dogs, Newfoundlands I think, are strolling with their owners. Plodding along, also enjoying the something that is nothing.

The last bit of sun is kissing the highest point of the hills; the rest is bathed in shadow, now flat and dark. The temperatures are starting to fall again. Soon the city will sleep and us along with it, before getting up to work another day, another week. Still, as the silence begins to settle, I am struck by the calm of it all. The desert, for all of its harsh reality is a beautiful place. It is filled with color and hope; with life. As the night begins to settle and the sun wanes, I think I can see it smiling. 

4:20 am and the phone sounds

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 2, 2013 1:06 AM

There are few things that can rouse a person out of a deep dream-state in a split second. An earthquake, the sound of glass breaking somewhere in the house (often synonymous with an earthquake) and a ringing phone. In the days before cell phones, an old-fashioned phone was usually propped on a bedside table. If its ring shattered the silence, it was just jarring enough to cause instant panic. Who died?

These days, many people no longer have landlines, Kevin and I included. Cell phones and all that they can do – and let’s face it they can do everything but go grocery shopping – have rendered landlines virtually extinct. This summer, after several years of threatening to pull the cord, we did, eliminating both our private line and our two business lines. Now the cell phones go with us everywhere, held in our hands or tucked in a pocket or a purse. They move to the coffee table at night when we set up to relax and watch a little tube before going to bed. Then they move into the bedroom, each taking up residence on its owner’s table, hopefully to be silent until the morning.

We’ve had telemarketing calls come in fairly early, around 7 am. That’s obnoxious, but we’re usually not in that dead-like sleep where the real world has ceased to exist and instead has been replaced by strange happenings that seem, remarkably, normal. Being in the same space with a group of people I haven’t seen since college. Driving a car that isn’t mine and that I’ve never seen before and trying desperately to find my lost candy bar. The possibility of time travel where my dad is still alive and young, as are my brother and sister, but where I’m the same age or older than I am now. A story is born.

I can imagine that in this state, my eyes are engaged in the rapid movement scientists often discuss. I know that this morning at 4:20 I was deep in the zone. I have no idea what I was dreaming about but I know it was interesting in that way that dreams have of being just fascinating and making perfect sense while you’re in them. It’s probably one of the reasons they dissipate so quickly upon waking. They want to leave you with the feeling of wow rather than the more apt thought of WTF.

At 4:20 am, there was a loud bloutzel blang, the sound that Kevin’s phone makes when it is getting a text message. Both of us sat up immediately, terrified. Hearts pounding. A cold sweat breaking out. Hair standing on end.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Your phone,” I said, hyperventilating. “I think it was a text message.”

“What time is it?”

“I have no friggin’ idea. Who is texting you at this hour?”

“Where’s my phone?”

“It must be over there. I heard it.”

“I heard it, too. Shoot. Where’s Cooper?”

Cooper was snoring. My heart was pounding as was Kevin’s. He reached for his phone to find out who was texting us before 4:30 in the morning, interrupting our dreams, our sleep, our night. Jolting us awake in the same way as an earthquake or glass breaking or the old-fashioned jangling phones of old.

“Justin. He needs rent money.”

“At 4:20 in the morning?!”

Granted it was 7:20 for Justin since he’s in New York. Still. We both slid back down into the bed, under the covers. Cooper sighed. Seriously? We’re up and talking? It’s still dark out. After a while, we both drifted back off to sleep, back into dreamland, and back into the night. 4:20 is early to be so rudely awakened but the ability to get back to sleep is always something worth celebrating.

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live out loud

Out to dinner

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 27, 2013 11:42 PM

When Kevin and I first got together, we would go out quite a bit, to dinner, for drinks, to the movies. As we settled into old boringly wonderful married life, our time out dwindled. We’re home-bodies at heart so for us to fix a nice meal at home is often preferable to going out. Still, it’s nice every now and again. It’s why we instituted date night.

For quite a number of years, we would go out to dinner on Friday nights. It was a good night to be out with people, all of whom seemed to be breathing a collective sigh of relief that another week had come to a successful close. Then the recession hit and we stopped going out to dinner. Our businesses remained fairly strong even during the down years but like so many we lived in constant fear of it all falling apart. Spending $100 every week for a night out seemed frivolous at best and potentially dangerous at worst.

We then instituted the Thursday date night of wine tasting. Luckily this also corresponded nicely with the advent of Fritini. We could still go out every week, something that is important because if we don’t go out at least once a week, we start to develop a bit of cabin fever. And wine tasting is substantially less money than going out to dinner. Add Fritinis to that, which, even though we stay in, we’re with friends and making good meals and drinking good wine. It’s like going out only more fun with no closing time.

Still. Going out to dinner. Every once in a while we feel the need and since yesterday was our anniversary we decided that tonight would be a good night to dine in a restaurant. It surprised both of us how excited we are.

I love going out to eat. I love trying new types of food and when we find something we like, figuring out how I might be able to make something similar at home. This is one of the reasons we tend to not go out a lot. We have developed a fairly good repertoire over the years of fairly good food stuffs. We cook in the privacy of our home, and serve our food accompanied by a lovely bottle of wine.

Still. Going out to dinner. I’m really looking forward to it. I get to put on some decent clothes, something that’s not shorts and a tee shirt or tank top, maybe even some real shoes as opposed to the flip flops I seem to be living in these days. I’ll style my hair more than the usual wash and blow dry and hope for the best before just being fine with the fact that it’s at least clean. I’ll even put on some makeup. Ooooh, mascara. I’ll feel, gasp, like a girl.

Kevin may even break down and put on a pair of jeans.

When we go out to dinner we often opt for Italian because how can you go wrong with pasta and a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo? Tonight though, we’re trying someplace different. It’s called Pastiche and it’s more eclectic fair. Supposed to have a great wine list. And for one of their appetizers they have mushroom soup because “shitake happens.”

How can we go wrong with a new place that has a sense of humor?

The only thing missing will be our friends.

Still. Going out to dinner. How decadent. How celebratory. How living it out loud of us. Cheers.

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The time of our lives

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:57 PM

I have long been fascinated by the idea of time, by how it’s abstract and real all at once.  We measure it so carefully, every day. Seconds tick and become minutes. Minutes turn into hours, hours become a day and the whole process begins again. The days mount up and become a week. The weeks turn into a month. Months eventually become a year. Years become decades become a life.

Each January we start the count all over again. Each year on our birthday, we get older. Time passes.

I was on the phone with a client yesterday and we were talking about a product launch that was supposed to happen this year but that has been pushed to January. He mentioned that it gave us four more months to get everything done and I pointed out that while that was true, the holidays were coming up quickly and once November hits, all bets are off. There are a lot of days when people aren’t working and even more when people are working but don’t want to be so not much gets done. It is like this through January 2, depending on the day of the week upon which January 2 falls.

My client agreed. It’s hard to think that far ahead some times, when we’re still mired in the heat of August. But Thanksgiving will be here next week, and then Christmas the week after. All in good time.

I also spoke with my mother last night and I asked how Shawn and Caden (my niece and nephew who live close to her) had done with their first day of school. Summertime has passed, it seems. She said that they were both fine but that she was having a bit of a hard time with it. It had all gone too fast. She talked about how it never used to bother her probably because when my brother, sister and I were still at home, exploring the lazy months of summer, doing nothing but playing and as we got older, borrowing the car and working, she was ready for us to go back to school. Ready for some down time. That time has passed.

I think when you’re a kid, time stalls. You can sit and wait for something to happen, watching the clock on the wall with each tick of the second hand in slow motion. It’s like watching a movie. And all you want is for it to be 8:30 so you can go out and get on your bike. Play time. But when you get older, suddenly the opposite happens. The seconds race by, becoming minutes then hours, then days and weeks and months and years. One day you wake up and it’s August; the next minute, it’s New Years.

Time is finite and infinite. It passes quickly and is gone and yet it stretches on forever. We can look in the mirror and see our past time but our future time we can only imagine, and hope for. Dream time.

Can we please do it one more time?

We have time, we tell time, we’re on time or we’re late. There is time, the time is now, no time like the present. Time heals all wounds, a stitch in time, does anybody really know what time it is?

All in good time, because it’s a matter of time. The test of time, a good time, and bad time, in the nick of time, having a wonderful time – wish you were here. At one time or another it’s about time; it’s high time, big time. Sometimes I hardly have time to think. Times change and we change with them.

And now it’s time I should be going.

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They mostly come out at night. Mostly.

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 26, 2013 1:01 AM

We have a cricket in the laundry room. And he is loud. I have never been a fan of crickets, for three reasons. They are noisy, they are impossible to find, and when you do find them, they are extraordinarily ugly, even by bug standards.

I was first introduced to crickets when I lived on the east coast. They come out at night – which reminds me of the line from Aliens when the little girl, Newt, who is the only survivor on whatever planet, says: “They mostly come out at night. Mostly.” – and they seemed to exist solely for the purpose of making humans’ lives miserable.

I wonder if the original writer of Alien and then James Cameron who wrote Aliens had crickets in mind when they wrote those horror/action films.

Crickets chirp and crick and sing and pulse and talk and screech and creak and whine and yell and tell jokes and cry and generally have conversations with other crickets who may or may not be listening and if I was a cricket, I wouldn’t be because their voices are like nails on a chalkboard.

But maybe they like it.

My point is I’m not really used to hearing crickets out here in the west. For some reason, I had thought they were an east coast creature and that perhaps they like the humidity, much like mosquitoes. I don’t know why for sure; I just know they don’t seem to like the desert southwest. And for that I’ve been pretty grateful, because I remember well when there was a cricket in the house and it would start making its cricket noise in the night and it was impossible to find. I would go on the hunt, staying oh-so-still when I thought I was close, listening to find exactly where the little chirping devil was hiding. I would take a step, and the damned thing would stop chirping. It was like it was watching me, toying with me, teasing me. As if it was sitting there somewhere in the dark saying “Catch me if you can, earthling.”

I never could.

And now, evidently, this same menace has found its way to my laundry room. Somehow it has traveled across the miles and set up his new torturous regime here in the West. Maybe it stowed away in my suitcase last time I was visiting though I doubt it since that’s ridiculous and also it’s been a while since I was at my mother’s house. I was back east in July but that was in Pittsburgh and Maryland and I don’t remember crickets there. The nasty little cricket creature I remember was in New York, and then in New Hampshire.

Perhaps it’s the “new” part that it likes.

It’s new for him to be out here, enjoying the sunshine and general lack of humidity. It’s new that I’m once again stalking a cricket that is obviously stalking me. It’s new that he’s in my house when he used to only live in my mother’s house.

Crickets should be outside where they can chirp and crick and sing and pulse and talk and screech and creak and whine and yell and tell jokes and cry and generally have conversations with other crickets who may or may not be listening, but where they are not keeping we humans – OK, just me; Kevin sleeps through everything – awake.

Is there something to celebrate about this cricket? Well, he did make it all the way across the country to once again wreak havoc on my sleep. So while I can’t celebrate my exhaustion, I can celebrate his fortitude. 

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It's all just a bunch of stuff

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 25, 2013 1:51 AM

I was going through some old boxes today. I'm always a bit amazed at what I find. Mementos from a long ago trip to Japan, another lifetime ago. An itinerary for the first time I went to Cabo San Lucas in 1989. That's when I fell in love with Baja, California. Unfortunately I was with someone that I wasn't really in love with; not anymore. I have no idea why I kept that itinerary. We were staying at the Melia San Lucas. I wonder if it’s still there.

I found old glass globe lanterns, frosted blue, two of them, a matching set, both holding tea light candles. There was a small wooden kaleidoscope; a heart shaped stone; a miniature martini glass.

Mostly what I found was old writings. As I’ve mentioned here before, I have been writing since I could write, penning stories from the time I was six and didn’t really know what stories were. I just knew I had to write them. Today I found the stories I wrote in college, many of which I sort of remember but not really. I wasn’t a very good writer then. I didn’t understand the craft and the structure. I just thought that if I had an idea and I could string legitimate sentences together that it made me a real writer. I was very wrong. The idea is only part of what happens when you’re a writer. It’s the structure that’s key. People have to be able to follow. There has to be drama. There has to be a reason to keep turning the page. I didn’t get that.

I re-read some of my old work and it was very bad. Even the ideas. I kept them anyway. I don’t know if it was for sentimental reasons or if it was because I think maybe there is something there. I doubt it’s the latter, though I did find some of my post-college work and while the writing isn’t perfect, some of the ideas are sound and improving with age.

I dabbled quite a bit in screenplays when I was in my 20s and early 30s. I had some that were nearly optioned which is to say I had interest. But nothing ever made it further than that. Still, some of the stories are pretty decent. They may make a good short story or novel.

There were old mugs and photos and business card holders and shot glasses and gift books and cards and letters and paperwork and the folder from the first house I bought. It was about 2100 square feet, three bedrooms, two and a half baths with a formal living room and dining room, a family room and a kitchen. It was $195,500 in 1988, a fortune back then in Southern California. I don’t know how we afforded it.

From the mugs to the coasters to the nic-nacs and more, it’s all just a bunch of stuff. But it’s the stuff that makes us who we are, that keeps us grounded in our present even as we revisit our past. Stuff is what we surround ourselves with even if it’s just an old wine label notebook. Stuff is what helps us to define ourselves, through our likes and dislikes and ultimately what we decide to keep and explore again as if it’s the first time. I think that may be the coolest part of going through old boxes: deciding if it’s all new again.

In other words, it’s all just a bunch of stuff, all old but I love stuff. Stuff is what we’re made of, it’s a road map to our past, navigation to our future. That’s the stuff of life.

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