In ten years

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:21 PM

In ten years, Kevin and I have raised Justin from a young child through the ravages of high school to be a college junior. We have helped Maguire reach vintage puppy status. We have grown our businesses and buried parents – my father, his mother – and grandparents. We have welcomed a new nephew, Caden, and watched – albeit long distance – as our niece and my goddaughter Shawn has grown from a toddler of two to a young lady of twelve. We have seen our oldest nephew marry and Kevin’s older siblings retire. In ten years, we have visited Napa Valley and Santa Ynez, our families in Chicago and New England; we have fallen in love with Tucson. We have rediscovered old friends, welcoming them back into our lives with joy; we have embraced existing friendships, becoming even closer than we thought possible. It is good.

We have created Fritini. We bought a motorcycle, then another and a third until we finally got it right. We have big Thanksgiving get-togethers, some years bigger than others, but everyone is invited, especially those who live far from family, or would simply rather be with friends. It’s a celebration we cherish every year.

We have said goodbye to Hogan and Rusty and Max and KJ and so many others. We have welcomed Lucky and Tommy and Pixel and Libby. We have joined animal rescue groups and supported other causes dear to our hearts. We have loved and lost, felt hopelessness and joy; we have lived.

In the next ten years, we will say goodbye to loved ones, we will grow ever closer to those most dear, we will try to be nicer, better, stronger, funnier. We will embrace challenges and change when we need to change because to remain stagnant is to wither. And we will not wither.

We will enjoy good wine and great friends. We will love.

Ten years ago, there was collective fear and sadness, a profound sense of loss. I didn’t expect this September 11th anniversary to affect me as it has but I find myself transported into the past even as I look with hope into the future. Ten years ago, we were paralyzed. Ten years from now, we’ll be in a yet a different place emotionally, physically.

With luck, we’ll be stronger. We’ll have more humor and less angst. We’ll have wonderful times together with good food because there are great recipes to try. Maybe we’ll be making wine. Wouldn’t that be something? With more luck, I’ll have written more books. I will have further developed my craft, my art. I will have helped others to do the same.

On this day, a day that until today, I thought wouldn’t bring me to my knees yet again, I celebrate my husband, my son, my dog, my family, my friends, my clients, my dreams and desires, my hopes, my successes, my failures. My good life.

Live life on purpose. Utilize full potential. Take responsibility for life. Live in the question. How can I do this better? How can I help change the world? How can I make a difference by making some noise?

Because “if you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”  

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Attitude is everything

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 29, 2011 10:08 PM

The beginning of the week can bring the dread. If you work a regular Monday thru Friday, or the equivalent, the night before going back to work, a pall can descend. But it doesn’t have to. Starting the week with a positive attitude can help create a good week. Honest.

I know I’ve always tried to have a good attitude, to look on the proverbial bright side of life. I believe it helps to create a good atmosphere as I go forward into the world, even if the world is only just the next few days. I try to smile. If something goes wrong, I try not to immediately get angry but to look at the situation and figure out how I can make it better. Sometimes I’m actually successful. If there’s no coffee to grind in the morning because we haven’t been to CostCo, I don’t get frustrated. I either pull out one of my Starbucks gift cards (thanks, Pam) or I break into the e-coffee, an emergency stash we keep in the pantry. I know I’ll have coffee; it may just take a little longer than usual. I may even get a muffin if I go to Starbucks. See? Having a positive attitude feeds me, in more ways than one.

And it’s not just me. According to a study by the American Psychosomatic Society, women who are optimistic about life live longer and are generally healthier. The findings came from a clinical trial of more than 97,000 healthy women ages 50 to 74. Of those, optimistic women had a 14 percent lower risk of death from any cause after eight years as compared to those who were more pessimistic.

Harvard University even has a how-to-be-happy course, one of the school’s most popular classes where the first lesson is to embrace failures and frustrations. Psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar explains it like this: “When you give yourself permission to be human, you are more likely to open yourself up to positive emotions.”

Not to be left out, Carnegie Mellon researchers have discovered that positive people come down with fewer cold and flus, even after being exposed to the virus. Happy people are also less likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes and pain from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

And happiness researcher Martin Seligman who started a positive psychology master’s program at the University of Pittsburgh believes that a positive outlook and attitude come from inside. He’s even been so kind as to identify some steps that can help increase happiness. Things like setting realist goals: enjoying your work, what you like to do outside of work and the people you love. Check. Gratitude. Thanking someone can make you feel better. Check. Focusing on the good. Seligman suggests writing down three things each day that went well. Sort of check.

I don’t do three things but I do one and I write it down here. I embrace that one thing and live it out loud, shout it through my keyboard and celebrate something good, something fun, something funny, something beautiful. When I started, I wondered if I could find something every day. I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s not difficult at all.

Because attitude is everything.

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Bacchus calling

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:33 PM

It’s Thursday which means date night which means wine tasting which means fun. We look forward to it every week. The day flashes like a beacon in an otherwise long week, beckoning us forward. It starts on Monday when we both look at each other and ask: “Is it Thursday yet?” And while Thursday isn’t the actual end of the week, it is the symbolic end. We made it through four very long days. One more to go. And that one seems like a walk in park in comparison. We’re happy.

The origin of Thursdays as the last day of the week is probably related to college, or maybe not. I tend to think that Thursdays are simply an excuse. People go out together because they can, and they don’t have to use their actual weekend nights of Friday or Saturday on acquaintances. I know Thursdays were big when I was in school and then again when I was single. It was time to party.

Now it’s time to celebrate the week with my husband, a celebration that almost always includes wine. It’s like Bacchus himself is looking down on us.

Bacchus, the Roman god equivalent of the Greek god Dionysus, is the god of wine. He is the liberator, the one whose grape juice, music and dance free all followers from self-conscious fear. Like his Greek counterpart, his origins are uncertain, but what is fairly certain is that the Romans adopted his mindset from Greece. Supposedly he invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes, and can choose to drive a man mad. No word on whether he also drives women mad. As Dionysus, he wandered the world, encouraging the worship of the grape and thus the fruit of rebirth, especially as related to vines. As Bacchus he did much the same. Regardless of what he was called, he was and is always about wine and enjoyment.

We like him.

Tonight we go to our favorite spot where bad 80s music will drift through the speakers nestled in the corners of the room. It might be Hall and Oats or Simple Minds. I won’t know for sure because we won’t quite be able to hear it over the noise of those sipping, talking, laughing, engaging in wine-tasting, and ultimately it won’t matter. It’s ambience.

We’ll taste wine from Dashe Cellars; we’ll talk to some friends. The proprietors of the fine establishment where we frequent on Thursday nights – The Wineyard –  will stop by and we’ll talk about wine and kids in college, about the goodness of life and this lovely Thursday night. There will be no drunken debauchery but I still think that Bacchus or Dionysus or whichever god you prefer will be proud.

It’s Thursday and we’re celebrating the near end of the week; we're celebrating Bacchus. We’re relaxing and enjoying and readying ourselves for the joy that will come. We’ll talk, we’ll sip, we’ll text Justin. We’ll live it out loud.

Happy Thursday. Celebrate something.

Bonus shot: Maguire in front of his fan

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And I am want to howl at the moon

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 20, 2011 12:13 AM

Musings on a Fritini:

It is the last night Justin will be with us, at least here in the OP. We’ll see him in Tucson in less than two weeks but this is home, this is where he should be. We’ll miss him when he drives off tomorrow.

We’re welcoming friends tonight. “Aunt Roy and Uncle Bobbi” will be coming to see the kid, to hear what he’s been up to, to listen to his plans. And Diane will join us, finally. We’ve been trying to get together for weeks; tonight works. Gene is still in Europe, in Germany. Tomorrow he flies home and we’ll see him soon.

Maguire is being his usual self. Wandering about, waiting for food and squirrels; is there a difference? He’ll go in and out and in and out and in and out and again, all night long as he begs for food, mooches for food, becomes excessively adorable, becomes Maguire.

The night is quiet, filled with just our laughter and the crickets.

I talked to my mom today and she was better, not great. But the last few days have been difficult for her. The surgery on her back has left the equivalent of a box of heavy bricks and she has not been happy. I try to talk to her every day; we  didn’t connect yesterday because she was miserable and my sister, Saint Khristan, who has been bearing the brunt of this recovery, said: “Don’t call.” Today mom was OK. Justin called her and was able to chat for a few minutes as well.

It’s Friday and another week has come to an end. We worked, we talked with clients, we did our best to contribute to the world as we know it.

I washed the car.

The guy at Accurate Automotive, Gil, finally figured out what was wrong with Justin’s air conditioner.

I miss my friend, Pam.

I love and admire my sister.

I wish my mother was a better patient, but at least she knows she’s not very good and will hopefully try to do better, if for no one else than my sister.

The moon glows and I am forever in awe of the universe.

Animals howl at the moon to communicate, to send a message, to say that “I am here, I am now. I am.”  It means there’s no need to worry, no need for concern. I’ve got this and we’re OK. Howling can be a sign of happiness. People sing at the top of their voices when they’re feeling good; why can’t a dog or a wolf do the same?

We are here, we are now. We are feeling good about what’s happening around us. We are howling at the moon. I can’t think of a better thing to celebrate on this Friday night.  

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Friday

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:20 AM

Anyone with a regular work week has a special place in their heart for Friday. Even though I work for myself and work out of the house, which essentially means that I work all the time, I still love Friday. I love what it symbolizes. A productive week, a busy week, a week full of phone calls and emails and sending ideas back and forth between clients is coming to an end. The afternoon gets quiet. The phone stops ringing, the quantity of emails diminishes, the work world begins to dissolve and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief.

It’s over.

Fridays have been around since the Romans named the seven-days of the week between the 1st and 3rd centuries. It was named after the planet Venus. Perhaps that’s why most romance languages have derivatives that reflect the goddess more than the planet. In Latin, Friday is dies Veneris, in Italian venerdi, viernes (Spanish), and vendredi (French). The Irish call it An Aoine and in Scots Gaelic, it is Di-Haoine. The word itself comes from the Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the day of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Frige, a no-nonsense goddess who simply wanted to live life.

We call it Fritini, This derivative of the word for Friday comes from a combination of the fri meaning fried because the week has been busy and crazy and full, shaken with the tini of the infamous martini. We deemed it Fritini several years ago and each Friday night we gather friends here at the OP compound to have cocktails of the Grey Goose martini straight up variety. Some like olives, others prefer a twist. They’re all ice cold and served in a martini glass with a curvy midnight blue stem, a glass created by Roy, Bobbi, Kevin and I many years ago. It’s somehow fitting that each Fritini we pour our martinis into these glasses. They bond us; the day bonds us.

In some cultures Friday is considered unlucky. It is supposedly unlucky to start a sailing voyage on a Friday, though the Scottish Gaelic culture disagrees. There is also the infamous Friday the 13th, also bad luck. But we’ve had several Fritinis on a 13th day of the month and not once has it brought us bad luck; in fact, quite the contrary. Fritini the 13th means smooth pouring, select eating and a wondrous pairing of delectable friends.

And so it is Friday. I celebrate the end of the week, the end of the day, the beginning of Fritini and the truth of friends. Without Fridays, we would survive. Without friends, we would not. It really is that simple.

Live it out loud, my friends. Celebrate Friday, celebrate Fritini, celebrate life. We are here for a purpose, each and every one of us. Sometimes we don’t know what that is but we have a feeling, an inkling, and we just need to dedicate ourselves to finding out what we are meant to do, who we are meant to be with, how we are meant to live.

I have an inkling of what I’m meant to do. And I know that the man I’m with completes me. And I live my life each and every day as I choose. I choose to celebrate, I choose to love, I choose to sigh with relief, I choose to explore all of the possibilities. That’s what living it out loud means. It’s what Friday personifies.

On this Friday, celebrate something.

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In search of happiness

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 1, 2011 10:16 PM

My friend Bobbi and I have this discussion quite often: what is happy and how is it qualified? I don’t mean happy during every minute of every day; that’s simply not normal. But overall. What does it mean to be happy, and if you’re not happy, is it possible to become happy?

It’s such an odd word, happy. It has a flat sound for what it means, unlike joyous which has a lovely, melodic note to it. Happy is to be delighted, pleased or glad. It’s characterized by pleasure and comfort; it can feel fortunate and lucky. It actually came to us from Middle English – not Middle Earth, which was decidedly unhappy – around the mid-14 century and was derived from haphazard, chance and fortune. The Greeks and Irish used it to mean luck, the Welsh to mean wise. I like it to mean contentedness.

Happiness is feeling good about work or a job. It’s about enjoying life, about embracing possibilities. Happiness can be found in spending time with friends and family. It’s a feeling that washes over a situation and a person, leaving behind a feeling that’s calm, sustained, joyous.

Everyone in the world wants to be happy, but if you’re unclear about what you’re looking for, it can be impossible to find. It’s not a particular thing, it’s a feeling, a state of being. It can be exhilarating and peaceful, short term gained from external things and inner happiness that comes from acceptance of self, of living with purpose. Inner happiness is the hardest to find and the one Bobbi and I have spent our conversations discussing because it’s not about what so many think it’s about. It doesn’t matter if one has the newest electronics or car, or all the money in the world. There’s a reason why the saying “money can’t buy happiness” exists. It’s not even about having no worries at all, or lazing around all day in front of the television, or the computer. It’s deeper than that.

What I’ve found is that happiness means waking up every morning to enjoy the day, being grateful for the opportunity to explore that day. I love loving what I do and I like to think that maybe some of it makes a difference. I find happiness in having direction, and purpose, a goal. I find happiness in the way Kevin and I live our lives, together, with laughter and yes, joy. The smallest butterfly alighting a flower can make me happy because it fills me with peace, two squirrels fighting in the trees makes me laugh because it’s real; it’s an honest existence.

I find that the truest form of happiness comes from the soul, not the mind, and it is both a constant search and the exquisite feeling of not needing to search. It comes from choice and change, of finding strength in the positive. It’s satisfaction of self rather than material goods. It is at its core about being happy. It’s not something that can be described; it’s more nebulous. It simply is and when you have it, you know it.

I have great joy in my life, not every minute, but most often. And I choose to live it out loud by celebrating the little happiness-wrapped presents that arrive every day. A cool breeze at night, a great glass of wine, a talk with a friend, a phenomenal book, a tear-stained laugh; the sound of my husband’s voice, his laugh, Justin’s ‘Hi, mom!;” the smell of my dog’s fur. A good conversation with a client, a strong paragraph of writing; Saturdays. If you look and listen and open yourself up, you can find happiness where you left it. Deep inside. That’s where I found mine and where it continues to reside.

In praise of the olive

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 29, 2011 6:50 PM

It begins life as a seed that grows into a tiny green fruit with another seed in the middle. They don’t come hollow or stuffed with pimento, nor are they pickled, sliced or diced, not at first. They’re olea europaea, olives, whose trees are native to the Mediterranean, first appearing more than 7000 years ago and becoming a tremendous source of wealth. Legend states that when the Persians set fire to Athens, the original olive tree was burnt down, but on the very day it burned, it grew again to twice its height. Perhaps because the tree had been a gift from the gods.

There is definitely mythology in these little green footballs. Olives are mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible, in both the Old and the New Testament. They’re mentioned seven times in the Quran, praised as a precious fruit. In The Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olives growing from a single stock while in the Iliad, the olive tree is used as metaphor. It appears in the mountains by a spring, notable because olives rarely thrive too far away from the sea and definitely not up a mountain slope. This gave the Greeks power, and proved that the gods were watching out for them. The Roman poet Horace described his diet as filled with olives, endives and smooth mallows. Lord Monboddo, an 18th century Scottish judge and philosopher, commented that olives were one of the preferred foods of the gods because of their perfection. After the 16th century, the olive traveled to and began to grow in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina, and in the 18th century, in California. I thank the Lord, as in Monboddo.

We’re big on olives in this house, especially on Friday nights, affectionately known as Fritini. We prefer the manzanilla variety, a Spanish green cured lightly with lye then packed in salt and lactic acid brine, stuffed with pimento. When run through with a martini pick, and soaked in vodka for the appropriate amount of time, they’re quite tasty.

Of course, there is also the French variety known as picholine, also salt-brine cured with a subtle lightly salty flavor and packed with citric acid. And I’m a personal fan of the kalamata, especially on a Greek salad. The niçoise is great on pizza. There are also the Italian Liguria, ponentine, gaeta, lugano, the sevillano from California, and about 12 other types growing on about 800 million trees throughout the world.

But let’s return for a moment to the lovely green manzanilla and a number of its friends marinating in an ice cold Grey Goose martini, its pimentos smiling up from the liquid, just begging to be nibbled, chewed and swallowed.

On this last Friday in July, I give thanks to the Greeks and especially the Goddess Athena who brought olives to the tiny people below. This gift, useful for light, heat, food, medicine and perfume was chosen by Zeus as the world’s most useful invention, an invention that has also come to symbolize peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and purity. Athena’s original olive tree was said to be planted on the rocky hill of what is today the high city, the Acropolis.

The original olive tree on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

In praise of Athena, and her incredibly inventive fruit, I raise a glass. Cheers!

The joy of meeting a friend

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:55 PM

Here’s what I believe: Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.

Like the majority of the world, I’m on Facebook. You may even be reading this on Facebook. I started out with a regular page, and then when I started my blog, I eventually created a liveitoutloud.celebratesomething Facebook page. It’s a great way to connect with people. It’s also a great way to reconnect with people. I’ve found some people I went to high school with, people I haven’t had any contact with in 30 years. I found my long lost friend, Pam, who I missed so much for so long, and it’s like we’ve been together all of this time. There’s no awkwardness, only joy. We talk easily though not often enough.

I also found my friend Connie.

Connie and I met when I first moved to LA and worked at McCann-Erickson advertising. Somehow we became friends; I don’t remember how. We were friends for a long time and then we drifted apart. Part of it I know was because I started spending much of my free time with Kevin. I think it’s hard sometimes for friends when suddenly one is in a relationship.  Suddenly someone who once had all kinds of time is suddenly focusing that time elsewhere. So we drifted.

But then along came Facebook. I searched, and there she was. Tonight we met for a drink and it was great. Fun. No awkwardness. Like friendship should be.

There’s something special about old friends, and that’s not a reference to age. There’s comfort in knowing each other from another time and then reconnecting. It’s like you’re part of a secret club. The secret friends-who-used-to-be-friends club, people that knew each other during times of good and strife, who have memories from years past and who have a history allowing them to reconnect quickly, to re-establish the incredible comfort that comes with friendship.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish writer, once said, prophetically: “A friend is a gift you gift yourself.” It’s the gift of conversation, laughter, tears, joy, memories, disagreements, and more, often shared over a glass of wine. It’s a million things that add up to one big thing: Friendship. I am blessed to have incredible friends, women who have been in my life for a long time, women who will continue to be in my life for a long, long time. Pam, Connie, Bobbi, Diane. Of course my sister Khris, and my oldest friend, my mom. Again, no reference to age but rather to longevity, time served together.

Having friends is the glue that holds life together. I believe my life is sticking very well. And I'm living it out loud with each one of them.

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What dreams are made of

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:40 PM

The question comes up quite a bit between my friends and I. What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question as old as time, I suspect; one we’ve all heard since we were children. It started with adults asking how old we were and what were our names, and the minute those same adults suspected we had grown enough to answer a more thought-provoking question, they asked it: What do you want to be when you grow up?

We were conditioned to think we could be anything and most especially President, boys and girls alike. And as we grew older we decided we knew exactly what we would be. A teacher, an astronaut, a meter maid. I wrote a paper in 8th grade about becoming a photographer. I don’t believe I had ever taken a picture before in my life but it seemed like a very cool thing to be, a photographer. I would travel the world, go on safari, photograph giraffes and lions on the Serengeti; I would photograph the Eiffel tower and the Coliseum and Half Dome, only mine would be better than Ansel Adams. I outgrew that fairly quickly and then decided that I was born to be on stage before transitioning, effortlessly, to film. Or maybe I’d be a rock star. Never mind that I couldn’t sing. It was the dream of it all that mattered, the possibility.

In college, I temporarily lost focus and my dreams clouded. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started out as an art major and I was, at best, mediocre. I also didn’t have the passion for it. I had always excelled in English and in writing and I found myself leaning in the direction of Shakespeare and Faulkner, of Eudora Welty and Maya Angelou and Mark Twain, of DH Lawrence and Henry James. My major shifted to English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. I had no idea what I would do with such a degree when I graduated from college but like the great heroine of the quintessential Civil War-era, Southern novel Gone with the Wind famously posed: I would simply think about that tomorrow.

But what happens when tomorrow comes and then the next day?

Each one of us has dreams, some we’ve acted on, some we haven’t. I know I still do. I dream of writing a beautiful novel, of spending my days creating a reality that exists only in my head and transferring it perfectly, exquisitely to paper (metaphorically and literally). I dream and I refuse to stop.

I know so many people who are doing things to change their lives, to change the world. I’m writing several books for the man who started an important and non-profit health organization. His name is Bob Knutzen and he started the Pituitary Network Association to help spread the word about the incredible prevalence of pituitary disease. He’s passionate about it.

A woman I worked with years ago at Sebastian, Adrianna Reo, was laid off after 19 years and took a good portion of her severance to start The Reo Bakpak Company to provide homeless kids with good, strong, and even cool backpacks so that they feel more empowered when they go to school.

There’s a dog rescue in Washington State called Second Chance Dogs, a group of women who have dedicated their time and energy to rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing abandoned, abused, and neglected dogs.

My friend Bobbi is a perfect example of someone who understands the importance of dreams and not just because she’s a therapist. She never went to college, but in her 30s, decided that she was going to become a psychologist. She went through an undergrad program, and then got her master’s degree, and then had to complete 3000 hours of interning in order to take the test to become licensed. She did all of this while also working full time as a graphic designer. She’s also started, with other therapists, a group called The Conversation Group. I don’t think she realizes how inspirational she is.

Or her husband Roy, a fine artist who made a living for years as a creative director and an art director. Now in his 60s, he’s returning to his first love: art. And creating with a passion I’ve rarely witnessed.

There’s a man named Charlie Annenberg, a vet (I believe) who founded a non-profit organization, with his golden retriever Lucky, to provide therapy dogs to soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s called Dog Bless You.

And my buddy Tucker, a therapy dog who, along with his mom Dr. Wendi Hirsch, works to help kids fighting the debilitating effects of cancer and its treatment to feel a little bit better because of a snuggle and a kiss from a beautiful blonde, furry boy.

I have a client who is committed to raising funds for cancer research through one of her products, Cure. Her mother died of breast cancer; her sister has successfully beaten it back twice.  And my friend Pam in Maryland, whose salon, Mason and Friends, participates in Cuts for Cancer each year, a local fund-raising event. She’s a cancer survivor, too, and a former dancer. One day, perhaps, she’ll dance again if for no other reason than because she can, and because she dreams.

My husband ditched his corporate career some ten or so years ago to go into web development, web design and Internet marketing. He also builds furniture and dreams of making wine.

Even while doing all of these things, each of these people – and so many, many more – myself included, continues to dream of what we’ll accomplish, what we can do, how we can change the world, what we will be when we grow up. That’s why today, I’m celebrating all the dreamers, because they are the biggest believers in the possible.

As the great writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

What is your dream? What is it made of?  I would be willing to bet that it’s made of hope.

 

 

The moon, paella and a dog named Coco

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 15, 2011 11:03 PM

It’s Friday night, which is normally reserved for Fritini. But all of our Fritini friends are out of town, or just returned late today so the martinis are on ice until next weekend. We did, however, have another offer we couldn’t refuse: A pick-up party at one of our wine clubs, Magnavino Cellars in Oxnard.

As anyone who reads this blog even occasionally knows, Kevin and I are certified winos. We love the entire process of knowing, talking, swirling, uncorking, drinking and even collecting wine. Because of that, we belong to several wine clubs. The California Wine Club that sends us several bottles of only red each month, The Wineyard for two bottles of exotic reds each month, Zaca Mesa which delivers several bottles of – you guessed it – red every once in a while, and Magnavino, a boutique winery on the Ventura Wine Trail. We joined early on and in fact are one of their first 100 club members. Their club is three times a year, and rather than shipping the wine to our front door, they have pick-up parties. They invite all club members to join them on various nights to taste wine, enjoy great music and terrific food, and then, at the end of the night, to pick up the wine we’ve ordered through the club (we get to choose the bottles we want) and go home.

Tonight was such a night. We drove to Magnavino, into the setting sun, arriving just after 6:30. We checked in, picked up our glasses and went to the tasting stations. Getting a little wine, we then moved on to the hors ‘d oeuvres table, then back to get the next little tasting and so on. We had one white, but since we’re not white wine drinkers, we quickly switched to red. Their new releases of red total seven: Grenache, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Syrah. They were all good, but the Sangiovese, light but tangy, the Zinfandel, thick and jammy, good enough to spread on toast, and Tempranillo, sassy and mysterious, were the ones that stood out. We took one of each. But it was the Petite Syrah that was simply astonishing. Deep and inky in color, with a rich nose of spice and dirt and pepper, it had a taste that was smooth like chocolate with notes of rose, blackberry and coffee. Sounds bad on paper, but felt like satin in our mouths. We bought three bottles.

They had an acoustic guitar player, a local guy named Alberto Dal Pino, who was hypnotic. I have a soft spot for acoustic guitar. It is sensual and strong and romantic and otherworldly; transportive and transformative. This guy was really great. We bought his CD. It’s called “Growin’ Up.”

Dinner was supposed to be tapas but it’s hard to do tapas for a big crowd. We had salad, bread and paella, and it was … edible. Not the best paella I’ve ever had. In fact, it was a little dry and dull. I like things hot, hot enough to make my hair rise. But Kevin, who doesn’t even like paella, had two helpings. He thought it was great. Then the owners, Rob and Barb, came around with their new winery dog, a rescue named Coco. She’s a small mutt of a dog, a gentle and easy soul, who greeted everyone with a kiss and a sigh. She’s new to the mix; the last time we were there, there was no Coco. Now there’s a dog bed in the tasting room and a sign announcing Coco as the official Magnavino greeter. She’s adorable, and her winery owners are obviously smitten. We said our hello, Coco kissed Kevin’s hand.

We collected our wine, we walked to the car and secured ourselves, and the wine, for the relatively short journey back to Oak Park.

On the drive home, we drove up the Camarillo grade, into the moon.

It was a good night.

 

 

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