The big wrap up

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 17, 2016 7:44 PM

A storm blew in last night. Earlier in the evening, the winds had been strong, so strong that we had trouble keeping the grill lit. It continued until we went to bed and through the early morning hours. Right after 2 am, the winds became even stronger. We had the window open in the bedroom, the cool air nice but becoming too cold. We listened as the wind chimes whipped and clanged. The howl of the wind through the desert is an eerie, almost ghostly thing to listen to. Frightening and mesmerizing all at once. Soon enough, the rain began, pinging the glass of the skylight and then the windows of the bedroom. We tossed and turned, trying to sleep, but the noise of nature was deafening.

At 3:30, I finally got up and closed the window. It muffled the sound but didn’t eliminate it. We both drifted in and out of sleep. The occasional clang and bang of something outside would jar us suddenly awake and we’d both whisper “what was that?” Neither of us wanted to get up and investigate. One of the chairs on the deck just outside our bedroom took flight and slammed against the railing, coming to a rest upside down. I wondered how the furniture on the main deck was faring, if the pillows on the couches had been swirled up into the atmosphere and deposited somewhere down amongst the cactus. At 8 am, the other chair on our bedroom deck slid across to join its mate and I woke up from a deep and restless sleep. I was in the middle of a not very good dream, and it took me a minute to get my bearings. Riley was curled up on his bed at the foot of ours; Kevin was gone. I hadn’t heard or felt him leave.

He brought me coffee after I called out to him – “Kevy?” – and thus the day began.

It was still cold, though the winds were more respectful. A blanket of cold fog hung over the valley. Kevin didn’t work outside today as he often does on Saturdays. We had actually discussed it last night in front of the fire. We have guests coming next week, and there are things we want to do in the house. His time would be better spent inside than out. As it turned out, he couldn’t have worked outside anyway. All’s well that plans well. 

As he busied himself doing things like painting the television insets above the fireplaces, replacing lightbulbs, and getting the fireplaces ready, I finally got some Christmas cards ready to send. I don’t send many these days, mostly just to family. To all my friends and colleagues, I usually do a fun electronic message. How modern of me. 

After that was done, and before I started work (because even though it’s the holidays, clients still want their stuff), I decided to also wrap some presents. I have things that need to ship and because I am once again and forever behind, it’s going to cost me a fortune. This happens to me every Christmas. I always have good intentions. Those intentions never seem to make it to realities. Oh well. 

I organized according to what was going to who (whom?), pulled the wrapping paper rolls from the closet along with the new batch of to/from tags I bought yesterday, and wrapped. I love to wrap presents. I find it soothing, and pretty. I’ve always felt this way. One of my jobs in high school was in a pharmacy in town that had quite a gift selection. At the holidays, I became the de facto wrapper because I liked it and I did it well. 

My mother called the other night to ask me if I could come home and wrap presents for her. I used to do that every year when I lived at home or came home for Christmas. I haven’t done that in a long time. As nice as it would be, travel is too difficult at the holidays, and so we stay here. She even offered, teasingly, to pay my airfare if I’d promise to wrap. We laughed and then talked instead about what everyone was doing on Christmas day. 

Today I boxed my gifts for sending. I put some under the tree. There is more to do, there always is. But I made progress. And then I started back to work. It was a Saturday spent living it out loud from the wee hours and on through the day.

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live out loud

Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:17 PM

Back in 2001 or 2002, or maybe it was 2003, Kevin joined together with Roy and Bobbi, as well as another marketing person, and they rented space in Chatsworth. They took an old warehouse office and transformed it into something extraordinary. It had a lovely reception area, an office, and a conference room. The back was one big empty space that quickly went from being wall-less to having walls, which Kevin constructed and the rest of us painted. The walls served to create individual open offices, as the ceilings were high and none had any doors. We built a kitchen, bought, stained and hung cabinets. We got a refrigerator and a microwave. Roy had the far back of the space which he took over with his artwork; Bobbi had a space near his. Across from them was another open area where the printer and fax were. There was also a big table used for all manner of art, graphics, assembly, etc. Kevin’s office was next to Bobbi’s. It was quite the set up.

That year, whatever it was, we had an office warming/Christmas party. For the front window, in the reception area, I found an old aluminum tree, from the 60s, on eBay. We put purple lights one it and hung antique ornaments. It was gloriously retro, ought-chic. It was the only time we used the tree, if I remember correctly. I don’t even know what happened to it. Maybe Bobbi still has it. I think maybe one year they put it up in their house, but I could be misremembering. I think maybe there’s a photo of Bobbi, Kae and I in front of the tree. 

Two weeks ago, I put up our tree. It’s 13 feet tall, artificial. It’s gorgeous. I strung it with mostly white lights and sprinkled in two or maybe it was three strands of multi-colored lights. I also strung our grape clusters, which glow red because they’re red grapes because we’re red wine drinkers. We don’t have any ornaments on it because I just haven’t gotten around to it. But it’s up and it’s beautiful. You can see it from down below and it looks very festive.

I also put out my big Santa, a guy my mom and sister got me years ago. He was originally part of a display in some store somewhere but Mom and Khris managed to get the store owner to sell and sent him to me. I think that’s what happened but I could be misremembering. He’s standing in the corner of the foyer, next to the window next to the door. He’s a good greeter. 

On the hearth, I have the Karen Didion wine Santa that Kevin got me years ago. He’s another favorite. Gorgeous in his tapestry coat, carrying grapes and wine bottles and signs. Both of these Santas have some girth to them; they add some substance to the room, as does the tree. They are currently my only decorations. But they’re Christmasy and pretty and make me feel a bit more festive. 

The song Blue Christmas was originally sung by Elvis Presley. I prefer the Celine Dion version mostly because I was never a huge Elvis fan. The lyrics sing, in part: “Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree.” 

I have that. It’s not the same as decorations of purple on an aluminum Christmas tree but it very pretty, very festive. I’m feeling the spirit surround me.

At least until I unplug the lights and go to bed.

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Health insurance and football

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 12, 2016 9:19 PM

So I know I said I was going to be cheery and all but sometimes it’s difficult to follow through on such promises. And besides, it wasn’t necessarily a promise. It was more like an “I’ll try,” as in “I’ll try to not be so cranky” which comes in handy on a celebratory blog. But today I’m having trouble. Maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe it’s because as much as I love the holidays, sometimes they become just one more thing that I have to do.

Maybe it’s because health insurance is also one more thing that I – we – have to do. I’ve complained about this before. I’ll complain about it again, and probably now. I have always had health insurance. I don’t mind that I’m supposed to have health insurance. I make a lot of money. I don’t qualify for a subsidy, don’t want one and certainly don’t expect one. I just want to buy health insurance for Kevin and I and I want to pay for it. We have to do this by Thursday as that’s the deadline to start health insurance in January. We’re doing this because our current insurer is no longer offering plans in Arizona, so we are fucked. 


And we are frustrated. We seem to be penalized for being entrepreneurs and for making decent money. If we didn’t make any money, we could qualify for different plans, and be happy. But we do and we don’t and we’re not. 

Kevin, who I’ve put in charge of this debacle after taking care of it for years, has been on the phone and internet all day. We know there are two horrific plans offered by Healthnet. They are the only two plans for individuals we’ve been able to find in Pima County. And none of our doctors nor our hospital of choice take either of these plans. 


I honestly don’t understand how people who make good money and want – want want want – to pay for insurance – and can – can’t get it. It makes no sense to me. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. 

I am frustrated. Furious. Flabbergasted. Flummoxed. Fucked. 

And so I have poured myself a glass of wine and settled in with Tom Brady and company to watch my Patriots destroy the dreaded Ravens. Apologies to my peeps in Maryland but I need this. I need a crushing win. I need to hear helmets crashing and men much too big for tight pants slamming into each other, pads rustling and snapping. I need to lip read the bad language and watch the Hoodie snort and snarl. I need to see my Tommy  – mine – defy his age once again. Please, just this once, allow me to love my Pats without consequence.

Because I’m in health insurance hell. In fact, I’ve renamed it hellth – clever, don’t you think? And I need something good to happen today/tonight so that I can maintain my oath of celebration. As I try to live it out loud.

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live out loud

And so I'm offering

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 11, 2016 7:54 PM

Possibility. Hope. Joy? I have decided that these last weeks of the year are going to be filled with cheer. Yes I know that rhymes. But I'm feeling strangely poetic this morning. And I love the holidays.

I have been filled with anger now for a month. I know I'm not alone. My anger fluctuates between seething and settled. There has been hatred wrapped around my heart and it hurts. I have never felt this way. I don't anticipate that it will go away anytime soon and not for years. But I have come to realize that I need to find somewhere to put it, at least for these last weeks, because I love Christmas. I love the spirit of it, no matter how fleeting.

And so I'm offering a temporary cease fire. The cease fire will continue through January 1, unless, of course, the other side does something so horrific that I have to return fire. I am not completely convinced that it will happen but I'm trying.

I'm offering myself if not regular readers a respite, however brief, from my diatribes. It's exhausting being this angry all the time. Though I know it's also cathartic. And it shows that I have passion, that I care. That we, collectively, care. This is not about sour grapes and hurt feelings. No, this is about fear and disgust and despair for where many of us perceive that we're heading as a country. Backwards and into oblivion, and irrelevance. When the guns and ammo of the most powerful nation on the planet have been placed in the hands of a petulant toddler, it can't end in anything other than a tantrum.

When I was little I was prone to tantrums. My mother used to walk away from me as I lay on the floor of a store, kicking and screaming, beating my fists, face red. I was 2. It's what 2-year-olds do. Imagine the destruction I could have wreaked with missiles available to my clenched little fists.

And so I'm offering a day, a week, two to listen to my favorite music, a surprisingly small portfolio of songs done in a myriad of ways. I'm going to turn up the volume - except when it's Barry Manilow or the Carpenters - and I'm going to make merry. Dammit.

I'm going to eat and drink and spend time with my husband and dog, with friends. I'll talk with my family and wish we were all together. I’ll miss my kid. I'm going to wrap presents and place them under the tree. I'm going to sing badly.

My sister's tree; my sister's photo

And so I'm offering this simple phrase, sung by everyone from the late, great Nat King Cole to the not so great Clay Aiken. To kids from one to ninety two. Although it's been said many times many ways. Merry Christmas to you. To me. To all except he who will not be named.

And so that’s what I'm offering. Let's celebrate. Let's live it out loud while we still can.

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In which we celebrate a day of obligation and the feast of the immaculate conception

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 8, 2016 9:21 PM

Today is the husband unit’s birthday. We’re not really doing much to celebrate. It’s a Thursday, which is typically date night, which usually means we would go out, and you know, celebrate. But we’re going to a street fair tomorrow afternoon, then coming back, getting cleaned up, and going out tomorrow night. And we have people coming Saturday night. So going out tonight just seemed like overkill. Plus when you get to be this old, birthdays are best ignored.

Which isn’t to say we’re ignoring his. Not at all. A friend of his, who runs his programming group, was in town and they met for lunch. He was gone for hours. Naturally, I posted something sentimental on Facebook and got lots of responses. Then he came home and Justin called and they talked for hours. Then his brother called and they talked for hours. In other words, there was plenty of celebration happening. Mostly without me, and that was ok.

In the Catholic religion, this day – December 8 – has two powerful things happening. It is a day of obligation, which means that if you’re Catholic, you’re required to attend mass. And the reason you’re obligated to do this is because of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Here’s what they have to say about that in Italy: The Feast Day marks the Immaculate Conception - that is, the conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

It's often mistakenly thought to mark Mary's conception of Jesus, but actually marks the conception of Mary herself. Unlike Mary, Saint Anne became pregnant in the usual biological way, Catholics believe, but the conception was 'immaculate' because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin.

According to Catholic dogma, all humans are born with original sin, which is why babies are baptized shortly after birth to make them worthy of entry to Heaven. But Mary was never tainted by original sin, kept 'immaculate' from the moment of her conception because God knew she would one day give birth to Jesus Christ. 

Typical Catholic stuff. Actually typical religion stuff. It makes perfect sense as long as you don’t think about it too much and don’t actually need it to make sense. When Kevin was young and went to Catholic school, and if December 8 fell during the regular school week, they had the day off. He loved that. Not because he could go to mass and celebrate someone’s conception, immaculate or not, but because he got the day off and could go out and play in the snow.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating at home. There’s no snow. We did not go to mass. There will, however, be a feast and it won’t be immaculate because the husband unit has requested barbecued ribs and fries.

I also bought him an eclair.

Now that’s worth celebrating.

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It continues

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 1, 2016 7:15 PM

Frustration. Disbelief. Worry. Fear. Nearly a month after the election, I am still in a weird state of mind. I wake up every day and I think that it can’t be real, this can’t be happening, this country that has been so good and sure and thoughtful for so long did not do this. Did. Not. Do. This. Not this, please dog, not this. And then I look at the news and I see the latest ridiculousness and I am crushed again. Most days, I don’t engage, at least not nearly as much as I was engaging. I was consumed; now I’m just resigned. But still frustrated, worried, terrified. And yes, still angry. 

The anger has changed, though. It’s not just anger at what my fellow Americans did in electing this travesty. It’s anger at what my fellow Americans are doing now that this, this, this has happened. 

Since November 8, there have been 897 hate crimes reported. Reported. There were 202 recorded on November 9, 166 on November 10, 138 on November 11. The rest since. Most have been anti-immigrant and anti-black. Some have been anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-woman, white nationalist. Yes, there have been maybe 18 anti-Trump crimes. All have been directed at what has been deemed “other.” 

Who is this other? How do we identify them? Because if it’s just by looks, we are all other. Unless you’re an identical twin, you don’t look like anyone else, and even identical twins have characteristics that make them different from one another. I’ve had good friends who were identical twins and I never had any trouble telling one from the other. Other. 

Maybe it’s because I’m educated. Maybe it’s because I’m upper middle class. Maybe it’s because I’m sane. Probably because I’m a Democrat, but I don’t see other in every person I meet or see on the street. I see a person, someone who is the same species, with arms and legs and a beating heart and working lungs. With eyes and a nose and a mouth, who partakes in the five senses. People. Not others. 

I am appalled, disgusted, infuriated, afraid for what is happening here and in the world. Why have we become so fearful of each other? Is it just terrorism? Or is it, as I’ve come to believe, too much information? We are saturated with it and we gravitate toward what makes us feel most secure. If we are distrustful of those with different skin color, we seek reassurance that it’s OK to feel that way. If we believe that the arctic ice is receding and that polar bears are dying, we look to science to reinforce our fears. Science is science, after all. It’s not opinion. And so we are divided between opinion and fact and opinion almost always wins, unless it’s backed up with fact. Because we don’t want to change our opinion. It’s too scary. We don’t know what it’s like to think differently and we don’t want to try.

And so we spin out of control and into oblivion, forever blaming the other for things that are our own fault, problems we’ve made ourselves. I find myself doing it, too. I blame others, but not because of their skin color or religious beliefs or sexual orientation. I don’t care about that. I care about people being informed and good. I don’t see a lot of good right now in a large part of the country, and so I blame the ones that voted.

People will say it’s only 900 reported crimes out of 330,000,000 plus people. It’s just the media reporting it because it’s what “they” do, the media now having received the exalted status of “they.” But it’s not just they; it’s us. 

Kevin talked to a good friend of his today who lives in Orange County. He’s from Sri Lanka, has lived in Southern California for decades and is a US citizen. He has a thriving business, makes excellent money, pays a lot of taxes, and has very dark skin. He was in the bank the day after Thanksgiving and was confronted by a 30-year-old white guy who told him to get out, out of the bank, out of the country, go back to where you came from. Another friend of mine in Santa Barbara has two young children. She and her husband are second, maybe third generation Mexican-American, born in California. Smart, amazing people. They went to Pepperdine. She’s in Public Relations; he’s an attorney. And their five-year-old daughter was told by a classmate to go back to Mexico.

I am sickened. I feel powerless. I’m a privileged white woman who doesn’t understand and yet understands all too well that we are headed toward something very ugly. We are already partially there. I worry that we won’t survive it. If I was religious, I’d pray that we will. Instead, I’ll do what I can by supporting my friends, supporting those I don’t know, supporting other.  I’ll write my senators and congresswoman; I’ll stay active. And I’ll hope.

We are not this way. We can’t be. Can we?

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What vacation

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 27, 2016 7:21 PM

It always amazes me how quickly we return to our regularly scheduled lives, already in progress. We spent the last three full days in Paso Robles, on California’s central coast, cooking, visiting, hanging out, and of course, tasting wine. We arrived on Wednesday at 3 having left Tucson at the ridiculous hour of 4:30 am. We wanted to beat the traffic, or at least as much of it as possible, and for the most part we did. It got a little cranky as we made our way through Pasadena, and then again through Ventura along the coast but once we got past that snark and hiccup, we were fairly flying. 

We met Roy and Bobbi, our partners in all things wine, on the side of the road at the Vineyard exit. We hugged, and then we drove the rest of the way to the rental house, caravanning. Thus the adventure began. On Thursday, we went to one winery – believe it or not, four were open – and bought some wine for Thanksgiving. We cooked and had a meal that made us all want to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week. Luckily more wineries awaited on Friday and Saturday. 

We went to new places, as we always do, and found at least one new favorite in Ranchita Canyon. It’s small. But they make some lovely rich, dark reds. Reds with attitude. The kind of wine that puts hair on your chest. Our kind of wine. We bought a case and joined their wine club which gave us an automatic 25% off the case price. And because it was Black Friday, they were having everyone who purchased spin their wheel of fortune wheel for an additional percentage off. Yes, it was cheesy. But when I spun for an additional 25%, I didn’t think it was so dumb after all. 

We went to Rabbit Ridge and Graveyard, Villa San Juliette and J & J and Four Sisters. We bought wine at several and skipped the others. We went to our old favorites and proverbial stomping grounds: Niner, Vina Robles, Sculpterra. We tried another new winery on Saturday, Turley. A beautiful facility that specializes in Zinfandel. We’re not huge fans of Zin. Luckily they also had two Petite Sirahs.

And then, this morning came. Again, early, though not as bad as Wednesday. We got up close to 5:30 and after throwing some clothes on and brushing our teeth, hit the road for the long ride to Tucson just before 6. We wanted to beat the traffic, and we did, for the most part. After 10.5 hours, we pulled up our drive and into the garage. Home. 

We unloaded our six plus cases of assorted wines, as well as our suitcases. We unpacked quickly and put the suitcases away. The wine still waits outside the wine room door for entrance and sorting. We took showers, I started laundry. And now, as I type this, it’s just before 8 pm. I’m on my computer, working (and blogging). Kevin is at the eat-at bar, checking email. The football game is on. We settled back into our routines quickly and easily. Tomorrow, work begins with a vengeance. In some ways, it’s like the vacation never happened.

But it did, and as always, I am grateful. For friends, for wine; for great rental houses, for fun menus. For life. Let the holidays begin.

108 miles and not yet to Phoenix

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:48 AM

The first thing that happened was a text message at 12:17 am. We're selling our old artificial Christmas tree on Craig's List for $35 and there is evidently a desire for a six-foot tree in great condition. We didn't answer it because technically we were sleeping and conducting business regarding a used tree at that time of the morning/night is obscene.

At 3:15 I heard the hiss and snarl of the coffee maker as it finished brewing the 12 cups I'd asked it to make last night when we went to bed. I rolled over and clutched my pillow, balling it up under my head and snuggled in.

At 3:23 Kevin's alarm went off, a melodic song that always reminds me of Japan. He likes to set his alarm for strange times for reasons that I've never fully understood and he's never fully explained. I think he just likes to think he's being unpredictable. He sat up, reached for the phone and the chime was silenced.

At 3:30 my alarm went off, a chipper sound that belied the time of day. My ring tone for the alarm is more like a xylophone and way to happy for such an early hour. I sat up, turned it off, yawned, and said I miss my dog. 

Riley is in the kennel. We took him yesterday afternoon about 4:00. We've never left him in a kennel before. Last year, we left him at our vet's office. They board a very small number of animals and while it was fine, we didn't like that he was cooped up in a small room with no way to get outside to pee or poop. He had to wait for someone to come walk him. This year, we made a reservation at a traditional kennel with indoor/outdoor runs and we fretted about it the whole time. About a week and a half ago, Kevin stopped at another place near us, took a tour and came home to announce it was probably the nicest kennel he'd ever seen, also with indoor/outdoor runs. Plus the dogs are taken out into a little park type area every day to romp and play and sniff. Naturally they were booked but they put us on a waiting list. Yesterday, at about 11, they called. They had a cancellation and now had a run for Riley. It's a veterinary center which we like because our boy has anxiety issues. If something were to happen, if he gets too upset, they can help him. He was a nervous wreck when we took him in. It broke both of our hearts. We pick him up Monday morning. Until then, I'll call every day.

By 4:29, we pulled away from the house, the Sport loaded with suitcases and coolers. We reset the trip counter on the dash and started on our journey. We had a full tank of gas and hoped to average 22 miles per gallon. We didn't buy this car for its fuel efficiency. Last night Kevin checked all the fluids and the air in the tires. We scrubbed the windshield inside and out. We prepared.

It was dark and cold. The temp on the dash read 42. By the time we turned onto Catalina Highway it had dropped to 39 and a little snowflake appeared next to the numbers, the car's way of telling us it could snow soon. I reached over and turned on my seat warmer. Might as well have a hot butt, especially since we were both in shorts. At least I wore a sweatshirt.

The journey up the 10, then west through the desert and finally north along the ocean is 715 miles. 10 hours. 

The headlights lit our way. Kevin turned on the driving lights, too. Tonight we'll be in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. We'll have pizza and wine. We'll sit outside by the fire pit or inside next to the fire. It's supposed to be cold there too. 

But first we needed to get to Phoenix. Phoenix always seems like the official launching pad. When we come home, it always signifies the start of the final leg.

I looked over at the dash. 108 miles. I could see the lights of Phoenix sparkling ahead. Ready, set, go for vacation.


by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 19, 2016 6:44 PM

The desert is many things. A glorious habitat of life and death where everything bites, and some can kill. It is not a comfortable place; it is not for the fain of heart. It is harsh landscape and towering saguaros, jagged rocks and crusty sand. It is filled with creatures that slink and those that haunt. Deer stand like statues and stare, javelinas snort and puff, ravens and falcons caw and cry, mountain lions crouch and coyotes howl at the moon. It scorches in the summer and freezes in the winter and when it rains, it destroys. 

It is the land of extremes, a place where there is 50 degrees difference between noon and midnight, where the sun rises over the Rincons to the east and sets beyond the Catalinas and the Tucsons in the west, dragging a painted sky with it. Desert sunsets are like nothing before seen, perhaps even imagined. Impossible colors mix and melt into clouds and jet trails. More times than not, your breath catches for its sheer beauty.

In the summer it is 100 plus, in the winter it is 20 degrees, sometimes colder. And when the wind blows it's with enough force to stop you in place. Up on the hill, where the house is, the wind can be vicious. Steady at 25 miles per hour, gusts up to 50, sometimes more. These winds and gusts can be frightening because they're so fierce. Like an animal that shouldn't be caged, it thrashes and scratches and tears at the world, indiscriminate as to what it touches and rips. We've had cactus uprooted, rocks tumble down. It's amazing more doesn't happen.

We have a neighbor whose house is also on a hill. Like us, they love it here. But the extremes can occasionally infiltrate the psyche and you find yourself howling at the moon, the sun and the desert. Our neighbor describes it like this: "Too fucking hot. Too fucking cold. And too fucking windy." She says it with a great deal of affection. You have to love the hot, the cold and the wind to live here. 

Last night, the winds stirred. By midnight, the air was a swirling cocktail of needles, leaves, of ocotillo branches hitting the house and wind chimes clanging outside the open windows. By this morning, it was 25 miles per hour as we walked the dog. For more than two miles we pushed, or it pushed us. All around, we heard chimes clanging. We saw leaves take flight and birds coast along without having to flap. We felt the warmth of the sun struggling to push through. Underneath, the air was cool. It was too windy even to talk. The wind carried all words and laughter away and stuck them to a cactus somewhere. 

Beyond the relentless wind, all we could hear was our neighbor’s voice and laughter, up in her house on the hill. We could see her shaking her head, and as she struggled to pull a door closed, she was saying it. Over and over again. Too fucking windy. Too fucking windy. Too.

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Shake it off

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 15, 2016 5:58 PM

My dad always used to say “shake it off” when someone, including one of his kids, got hurt. Obviously if one of us was egregiously hurt, he wouldn’t say that. But if we fell and got scraped up, he would advocate a good shake of the head or whatever body part in order to get rid of it. Get rid of the hurt. The day I broke my wrist, while playing tennis with him, he said it. I had gone up to hit an overhead lob and when I came down, lost my footing. I put out my left hand to break the fall and broke my wrist in the process. I didn’t realize it at the time, though it hurt like hell. I tried to keep playing, but when I could no longer hold the tennis balls in my left hand, I knew something was wrong. When I turned my hand over and saw a bone pushed up under the skin, I told my dad. We went to the hospital as soon as my mother picked us up. He felt horrible. 

Shake it off is one of those sayings I get. Things aren’t that bad – shake the angst out of your head. You don’t feel well – shake it off and pretend you’re fine. I used to do this last myself, especially when I had a cold. I could hardly breathe but I’d push myself to go for a long run under the mistaken idea that pushing through would push it away. I actually convinced myself of that a number of times. I was much younger then; I’m older than that now. If you’re sick, your body could be telling you to take it easy, chill out, give yourself a break and a rest. Let yourself get better before taking on the world. 

For the last week – has it been a week already? – I have heard my dad’s voice in my head too many times. Shake it off, you’ll be fine. Shake it off, it’s not that bad. Shake it off, it’s OK.

But I don’t feel fine, I think it’s very bad, and I’m pretty sure it’s not OK, no matter how violently I shake myself. 

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that the world is doomed. I am not, as a rule, a doomsdayer. I err on the side of optimism. But this feeling I have is so deep, so visceral, that I can’t shake it. As an individual, I’m afraid of what all of this means for my income, our healthcare, our way of life. As a citizen, I worry that we will no longer be the world’s beacon but rather the world’s pariah. I can’t believe that people really want that but evidently they do. Just like they must want Medicare and Social Security to be terminated, and all environmental protections to halt. Who needs the FDA? We can just trust that corporations will do the right thing. Who needs any regulations on Wall Street and the banks? It worked out so well for us last time. 

I remain dismayed that people have such short attention spans. In 2008, the world economy collapsed. It took years to rebuild it even to what it is now. By all means, let’s destroy it again. Let’s not worry about climate change because winters are too cold anyway, never mind that the sea levels are rising, that Florida will be under water soon, that Mar-a-Lago will soon be the resort destination of Atlantis. 

I can’t shake it off. I don’t know how. And no splint or cast is going to help me through this one. I wonder what my dad would say about all of this. Maybe he’d say his other favorite euphemism: somebody needs to get his “bell rung.”

Or maybe he’d just shake his head in dismay.

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live out loud

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