Friends and family

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 13, 2014 10:09 PM

After I wrote about my parents’ friends Charlotte and Ed yesterday, I happened to speak with my mother who had happened to speak with Charlotte and Ed the other day. Ed is 91; Charlotte 85. They are celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and still going strong, at least as strong as people nearing the end of their lives can be.

I told my mother about my dream, and about the salad, and she recounted a story that I’d forgotten. After we moved away from Northern Drive in Fairfiew, where Charlotte and Ed were our neighbors, we bounced around to a number of places. Several in New York, in Maryland and finally into New England. Charlotte and Ed, who in the brief time we were all neighbors had become like family – in some cases better than family – came to visit us in every place. They would pile into whatever vehicle they happened to have at the time, and make the journey regardless of where we were. They were older than my parents, and Ed retired early so they always had time to drive and to spend. They would play golf with my dad; they would visit with my mother. There was always so much laughter in the house when they visited. They had their opinions to be sure, especially Charlotte wasn’t shy about sharing them, but they were and remain good, kind, decent people.

Charlotte trained our dog when we were little. They always had dogs, up until they became older, and when my grandmother gave us a puppy for Christmas one year, my mother was beside herself. I was maybe 10 at the time, perhaps even younger, which meant my brother was 6 and my sister was 3. It fell to my mother to train the pup, and she was miserable. She didn’t know what she was doing and in those days, there wasn’t the plethora of books and videos there are now. She spent many a night on the couch with a whining, whimpering dog that she could not train to pee when and where he was supposed to. Charlotte had the little guy trained within a day.

Charlotte and Ed were designated as our legal guardians in the event of something happening to mom and dad. They were, as I said, family.

I was remembering yesterday the salad incident, being in my mother’s kitchen in New Hampshire and making salad with Charlotte and Ed. Charlotte, I believe was on bread duty. Ed was on drinking duty. I have no idea where the rest of the family was; they all arrived eventually.

Mom told me the story of how Ed used to tease that the only reason they visited was for my mother’s lasagna. When they were coming, my mother busied herself in the kitchen, making a huge pan of lasagna, a salad, and getting bread ready. On one occasion, before she realized the seriousness of Ed’s claim, my dad suggested just doing some cold cuts and making sandwiches. It was easier, and would be ready essentially as soon as they arrived or whenever they wanted to eat. My mother thought that was fine idea. Ed did not.

He was relentless in chastising my mother for years, in a loving way, saying that he had not driven seven or eight hours to have a sandwich. She never did that again, and in fact, the afternoon Kevin and I were making salad, I know my mother had also prepared a big lasagna to feed everyone.

We all have family friends in our lives, people who made lasting impressions and still do. I had Charlotte and Ed. Kevin had Jim and Dora Latner, great friends of his parents who were like family. Justin has Roy and Bobbi, our closest friends who have long been our west coast family. When Justin was growing up, and even through college, holidays were always spent with R & B. When he graduated from high school, the only two people he wanted at the graduation, other than Kevin and I, was Roy and Bobbi. When he went on retreat, and came back to share what he learned, again he wanted Roy and Bobbi with us. When we went to visit him on his ship in May, he wanted R & B there, too.

Friends that become family can sometimes be better than actual family. I am blessed with a great family; people I not only love but also like. Many people can’t say that. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family. It’s just luck of the draw. In the not very good but extremely beautiful to look at film Tequila Sunrise, the late Raul Julia had a passionate speech toward the end intoning just that.

My brother, sister and I have also been blessed with people like Charlotte and Ed. Kevin and his brother and sisters had the Latners. Justin has R & B. I love how it transcends generations, that Kevin and I had family friends, and that Justin does as well. It’s the proverbial cycle of life, with friends helping complete the circle of living it out loud.

Lightning stormed

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 9, 2014 10:20 PM

The summer drolls are here. That’s what I call that time when the days melt into the nights, when the television shows all seem to be much the same. Pretty people saving the world. I enjoy seeing the world saved; we’re enjoying shows likes 24 again. But by 10:45 we were bored and Kevin was starting to fade. We decided to head to bed, to fall into a drolling sleep while the ceiling fan swirled around air-conditioned air. I took Cooper outside. The air was thick and cooling. By the time Cooper and I got into the bedroom, Kevin was already in bed and sleeping. I switched on the television just for white noise as I brushed my teeth and readied myself to join my husband.

Cooper had crawled onto his new bed and he was snoring as well. The television was droning on – I think it was the end of Covert Affairs. I vaguely remember Piper Perabo and her inappropriate shoes. Pretty shoes to be sure; but heels and running, jumping and spinning while shooting a gun aren’t truly compatible. I turned off the television before the show was over, twirled the blinds closed, turned off the light and flopped down onto the bed.

As I do so often, I stayed on the fitted sheet, the top sheet and comforter pushed to the side. I needed to cool down. The drolls were roiling. I was staring at the ceiling. Suddenly there was a flash. I thought for a minute there was something wrong with my eyes. Another. Perhaps there was something misfiring in my brain. Another still. I turned my eyes toward the door that leads out onto the patio and watched. Within seconds there was another flash, this time more from the direction of the window.

I got up, went to the window and peered through the blinds. It was as if the sky had come alive. Every second or two, the clouds that had been heavy all day, the clouds directly to the north over the foothills, were illuminated. Another second or two went by and the clouds to the west flashed white. This dance between the north and the west went on. There was no thunder; the rain wouldn’t come yet for hours, something we’d find out this morning when we left to take Cooper for a walk.

I wanted Kevin to see what was happening. I had never seen anything like it, and though he’s from Chicago, where thunderstorms are regular events, this was a true phenomenon. Silent explosions in the atmosphere. But he didn’t want to wake up.

Lightning in the desert during the drolls is to be expected. During our many visits, especially in the summer, we’ve sat on the balcony of our room at the Westward Look and watched the sky dance with jags of light. Lightning is an electrostatic discharge between the electrically charged regions inside clouds, or even between a cloud and the surface of a planet.  Heat lightning is from distant thunderstorms that don’t yet have the sounds of thunder that usually accompany lightning. I think what we must have been experiencing was heat lightning.

I wandered through the house and out onto the patio, Cooper padding along behind me. Together we stood under the cover and watched the sky dance.

Last night, as the lightning stormed, quietly disrupting the night, I stood transfixed. It was magical, strangely alive, eerie and seductive. It was the atmosphere celebrating. Cooper and I were happy to be spectators.

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Kevin and the magic keyboard

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:39 PM

I did something incredibly stupid on Sunday night. I spilled wine on my computer keyboard. I’m still cringing and still beating myself up. Kevin had poured me a little bit of Zaca Mesa. We had opened a 2009 Syrah for dinner on Saturday night but we hadn’t finished it. I had it sitting on my desk, to the left of my computer as I was gathering my stuff together to take into the living room. I had worked in my office most of the afternoon but it was time to pretend to have a life.

I reached over to unplug the laptop and I don’t know if the cord was somehow wrapped around the stem of the glass or what. All I know is that the glass tilted to the right, spilling the wine across the keyboard. I panicked. I shouted for Kevin. Grab some towels! I grabbed the glass and righted it, took my hand and swiped it across the keys pushing as much wine off as I could. I raced into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, and ran back into the office where I began soaking up the wine. Kevin, dog bless him, said “pick it up and turn it upside down.” Brilliant. Wine poured out. I couldn’t believe how much. It was maybe a third of a glass to begin with and there was still some in the glass.

Wine ran down my arms and onto my white shirt. It was as if my machine was bleeding. Worse, it was as if I had killed it.

Kevin ran to grab a can of compressed air and started blowing at the keys, dislodging all that hadn’t flowed out of its own accord. I just held it up and shook my head. Stupid. Stupid. S-T-O-O-P-I-D.

When nothing else seemed to be coming out, I moved the machine to the kitchen bar. I did a backup, which I usually do on Monday mornings, just in case everything started wigging out. But miraculously everything seemed to be OK. All of my programs were working. I had dodged a technological bullet.

Except I hadn’t. After about an hour, right after I said “I think maybe we got it all and there’s no indication anything is wrong” the “h” key started to wig. It was small at first. hhhhhhhhh

Then I’d thhhyphe and it would just insert itself randomly. Uh-oh. Not so lucky after all. I sent a note to my Mac guy Dave and he sent a note back. “Turn it upside down, keyboard on a towel. I’ll call you in the morning.” By morning I couldn’t even open a word document without hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I was screwed. I knew it.

Dave called. He tried to help me long distance. He said to use more compressed air, shoving it right under the keys if possible. The h was flipping out, I couldn’t get a new document to open on command (actually command n) and the computer was running at high speed. The internal fans, which usually spin around 2000 rpms on each side, were at 5200 each. Usually when that happens, which is rare, I just put the computer to sleep and it calms down. But it wouldn’t go to sleep. I called several places in town. “We might be able to fix it but you’ll have to leave it for a week.” The undertone was ‘not our fault lady. You were s-t-o-o-p-i-d.’

By lunch time I was beyond frustrated. I was getting nothing done, my machine was out of its mind, I had destroyed it and I was in tears. I’m not a crier but when I get frustrated, I bawl. Kevin called a place that said the first thing they’d do was hook up an external keyboard. If that worked, it was just the keyboard. We figured we could do the same.

We hooked up Kevin’s external keyboard and I got hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So screwed. Then he said, what about opening the Mac version of notepad, meaning Text Edit. I did. Same thing. Completely screwed.

We unhooked the keyboard, and just because, I tried again. Suddenly and inexplicably it worked. I was typing. I had an “h.” I could open new documents with command n; the computer slept soundly. I was saved, at least for a little while, even though my keys now have a lovely syrah tint within the backlight.

The moral of the story: My husband is a genius even though there is really no earthly reason why it started to work, as he himself pointed out.

Moral part deux: Always keep the wine far away from the keyboard in order to continue typing it out loud.

It's a new old world

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 3, 2014 11:05 PM

As I am a woman of limited interests, I write a lot about animals and specifically mine, and I write a lot about wine. Because if you ask me, dogs and wine are what life is all about, that and having a wonderful partner, and amazing friends and family. I am blessed with all.

I am fascinated by discussions of old world and new world. It seems to be quite the buzz lately. There are old world styles and new world tiles and vice versa. Speaking of tiles, the ones we've chosen for the house are considered old world. It refers to the fact that this look was popular before electricity, when the world was newer than it is now though not a lot. When the earth is millions of years old, a couple hundred years are nothing more than a nano second. Called Romeo's Blend, they are a tumbled porcelain, 18" x 18," in browns, grays, terra cottas. They would be at home, natural looking, in an Italian villa in the Tuscan countryside. A place where they made and drank wine long before there was the Internet and where they probably still make and drink wine and now sell it, on the Internet.

I bring this up because of the wonders of electricity, the Internet, of the old world and the new world and how it all relates to wine.

The first wine was invented more than 8,000 years ago by winemakers in Eastern Georgia (the country, not the state). When archeologists dug up a pottery fragment at a place called Shulaveri, near where a number of Georgian skulls were unearthed, they discovered that shards of hardened clay had biochemical wine stains. It told scientists that it was the home to Vitis vinifera, a vine that snakes its way across trees and trellises and creates a truly wondrous fruit.

King Jamshid, from Persian, stored grapes in jars so he could eat them in winter. When he went to retrieve his grapes as the cold descended, he found broken skins and bubbling juice. Wine.

The origin of soil goes back even further, about 4.5 billion years. That’s when gravity pulled fragments of dead stars into the rocky ball we call Earth. There was lava which turned into rock. Microbes became the plants that sped up soil formation by breaking up rocks with their roots, and dissolving into the dirt once they died. This is how soil evolved to the point of being able to support animals, more plants and wine. Topsoil still takes centuries to form.

The first grapes in this country were brought to California some 2,000 years after Vitis vinifera started colonizing the planet. It was a Spanish padre named Fermín Francisco de Lasuén founded the Mission San Miguel just a few miles from present-day Paso Robles whose priests planted grapes in order to make wine for a little something called comunión.

Then there is the bible. Noah, the boat builder, was evidently a drunk, probably on wine since that was the only spirit around. Jesus, the miracle worker, turned water from stone jars to make wine. The Romans renamed Dionysus while the New Testament was being written, calling him Bacchus. The new world had finally taken over the old world.

I wonder if they had tile.

Among old human artifacts, wine is a symbol of joy and resurrection, of fertility and ecstasy. In new ideas, wine has become something of a ritual. It is history and future combined. Old and new, new and old. In Latin there is a phrase: In vino veritas. In wine, truth. There’s nothing old about that. It’s a new world after all, complete with electricity. And the internet. 

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The man cave

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 29, 2014 8:54 PM

In 1992, a relationship counselor by the name of John Gray wrote a book that changed the course of relationships all over the world. It was called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and I admit to reading only some of it. But I read enough to know that in many ways he was stating the obvious. Men and women are different species. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with the opposite sex can tell you that. We process things differently, we think differently, we fight differently. I don’t think we feel differently though; I think we just show our feelings differently.

According to Dr. Gray, an oddly soft-spoken man, men often need “me” time, space to themselves. Women shouldn’t ever take it personally. They – we – should simply say “that’s great, honey. Enjoy your time and space and I’ll be here when you come back.” When you’re ready. I’ve never been good with that, probably because of the Venus thing.

This whole idea is the equivalent of interpreting time and space. There’s a part of the brain that does this interpreting and it’s bigger in men than in women. This translates to men having a bigger awareness for their need for space and time than women. Which is a little condescending, if you ask this smaller brained Venusian. I have plenty of times when I need space. I just don’t need a place to go for it. I usually just curl up on the couch with a book. My space is found in the story between the pages of that book.

But I do remember when I was married the first time, and my husband and I would fight all the time, I would often get in the car and drive. I needed space. Eventually I got a whole bunch of it when we got divorced.

I think when married people need space, it’s probably not a sign of a healthy marriage. See above paragraph. Being married usually means you don’t get a lot of space and most married people are perfectly fine with that. It’s part of the deal of getting/being married. It’s the point of being married, happily married anyway. That doesn’t mean you’re together 24 hours a day. People go to work, they meet friends for drinks, they go get their hair done, or to a class they’re taking. But then Mars and Venus come back together again after whatever. Key word together.

It’s not time or space. It’s living.

Kevin doesn’t ever have a need for a man cave, at least I don’t think so. He’ll have a workshop at the new house, a place where he can go and play with his saws and routers and hammers and nails and build something. But he has never said “I need space, I need time.” He does, however, occasionally turn inside himself. He’s a talker, my husband, so when he suddenly stops talking it makes me nervous. This might be his version of the man cave, and it immediately sends me to Venus. I ask him what’s wrong, what’s going on. I invoke Top Gun quotes – “Talk to me, Goose” – I sing, I dance; I promise things. Eventually he cracks a smile and he starts talking to me about what’s bothering him which is inevitably about work and some issue he’s having. And he always feels better for having gotten it out of his head.

We have friends, acquaintances really, and he has a man cave. They have a lovely house with a big garage, and off of the garage, he has built a room. It has its own air conditioner, a big screen television, a small refrigerator, a cushy couch. He disappears in there on a regular basis for his “me” time. His space. His cave.

I don’t know what kind of relationship they have. He travels a lot, they don’t seem to have a lot in common. And yet he still feels the need to disappear. I wonder.

I’m lucky. My husband doesn’t seem to feel the need to disappear. We spend an extraordinary amount of time together. We work in the house together; we exercise together; we cook together, make wine together. We vacation together. And since we don’t spend enough time together, we make sure to have date night every week.

I like to think that if he had a man cave, he’s share it with me. I suspect he would. The Martian and the Venusian – Venetian? – caveman and cave woman, together and celebrating, living it out loud. I wonder what Dr. Gray would say about that. 

Spinning wheel, got to go round

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 20, 2014 9:55 PM

I have now had three pottery classes. I go on Monday nights to the Clay Co-op, a small house that has been turned into a place where nutty old people like me can go and play in grown-up play dough. There’s a little porch with pillars and pots. Walk in the front door and there’s a small room with shelves, also containing finished pots, plates, wine goblets dripping with beautiful blue, purple, red glazes, all signed by the potters who are instructors at the Co-op.

In the main room there is what might be considered a dining room. In place of the dining table is a long table-like contraction. On either side are three electric pottery wheels with small metal stools. At the head of the table, another wheel. This is where the instructor sits and teaches.

There’s a small hallway with old built-in cabinets and drawers. A small bathroom. Three tiny bedrooms. In the back, there is what was probably once a kitchen but is now several large sinks, usually completely filled with cloudy-clay water. Out the back door is a covered patio where there are more pots, finished and not, kilns for firing the unfinished pots to make them finished. The place is dirty in a dusty clay kind of way. It smells like wet clay, too. Like the earth. It’s a fabulous smell.

On Mondays I leave the house around 5:30 or so and travel the roughly 10 minutes it takes to get to the Co-op. I pull my 25 pounds of clay down off of my shelf and then pick a wheel. I like the first wheel on the left. I take the little metal stool down off the wheel, plop the plastic bag of clay on the floor, take my tool kit out of my bag and place it on the table. I put my apron on, my blue denim shop apron I bought at the pottery and ceramics store, open my kit. A needle tool, a trim tool, a contour tool, a wooden mud tool and a red plastic mud tool, a wire cutter (which looks mostly like a garrote), sponges and a piece of chamois thumb-tacked to a cork. I have several rags, some plastic bags to cover my pots. My small and not very well shaped but well-intentioned pots.

The first class was just the instructor, a substitute since the official teacher had hurt her arm, and one other lady. It was great because I had no idea what I was doing. The other woman had only moderately more of a clue. We essentially had the teacher to ourselves. The second class had six of us, plus the instructor. It wasn’t quite as much fun because I still didn’t really know what I was doing but I understood. The Co-op offers classes. It doesn’t just offer classes to Lorin.

Last night, it was just three of us plus the instructor. The original two of us from class one as well as another lady who has tremendous experience with sculpting but, by her own admission, sucks at centering and throwing pots. We laughed and talked through the class, watched and listened as the instructor showed us new techniques and how to make lids for our pots. She showed us how to re-center a pot that had gotten off center and was wobbling on the wheel. We talked about our dogs – all of us have them. We showed pictures from our phones and oohed and awed.

Last night I watched my wheel spinning. Counter-clockwise. My hands wrapped around wet lumps of clay. I heard Blood, Sweat and Tears in my head. Spinning wheel got to go round. David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer and writer, has said that it was written “in an age when psychedelic imagery was all over lyrics. It was my way of saying ‘Don’t get too caught up, because everything comes full circle.’”

I took pottery in high school. 34 years ago. Three decades later I’m sitting at a wheel again, up to my elbows in wet clay. Clay in my hair, clay running down my legs and into my sneakers. The spinning wheel comes full circle and I’m living it out loud.

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Finally breaking bad

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:43 PM

Meet Kevin and Lorin Michel, a couple of pranksters who are as fiercely devoted to each other and their lives together as they are to being homebodies. They both work at home. Days go by when the only reason they leave is to walk the dog or themselves. So the introduction of a SmartTV into their lives along with a high speed internet connection to stream Hulu and Netflix has made them very happy, shiny people.

Netflix in particular has become one of their closest friends because it allows them to do things like binge-watch some of the television shows they’ve missed in the past, shows that are highly acclaimed, in many cases award-winning, and are now available to stream. And since there is painfully little worth watching on regular television these days save for The Good Wife and The Blacklist, and probably the reboot of 24, though they haven’t yet seen that, and since they get very tired of watching reruns of Law & Order: SVU and have given up on NCIS since Cote de Pablo left, they have found solace elsewhere.

It is on Netflix where they have met Claire and Frank Underwood of House of Cards, Stella Gibson on The Fall, and Kurt Wallander on Wallander. They have all become good friends. Into this mix has finally come Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher who uses his skills to cook a mean batch of meth and is thus, Breaking Bad.

Jiminy Crickets and then some.

Justin, the couple’s erstwhile seafaring son, is the owner of the Netflix account but he is allowed to have several people piggyback on. One is Justin’s good friend Wallaby, a buddy from the University of Arizona; the other is “mom & dad.” Since the son is currently on the Sun and has precious little internet access and since streaming is forbidden on the ship anyway, he is not using his account. Not sure if Wallaby is. But mom and dad have been enjoying the hell out of it. The mom part of the equation has made a mental note to thank said seafaring son when they see him on the Sun next Tuesday.

So Walter. Whoa.

There was nothing on Sunday night and since the couple doesn’t ever get the chance to watch The Good Wife during its regularly scheduled time and instead watches it OnDemand on Tuesday, they decided to fire up Netflix. One of the recommended shows for them, based on some of what they’ve watched in the past, was Breaking Bad. It has also been recommended by good friends Roy and Bobbi and just about anyone else who has ever watched it. But when the show was on during its actual televised run, the couple didn’t want to jump in not knowing how it started. Part of the reason was that R & B had tried to do that and said it was horrible. “You really have to start from the beginning to know what’s going on.”

So start from the beginning they did. Now a scant four episodes in, they are completely hooked. This morning on their bike ride, another occasional foray out of the house, Kevin was unusually quiet which usually indicates there is something fairly major on his mind. The couple pulled to a stop at the place on the path where they always stop to suck down some water and take a brief break before journeying back in the same direction. It’s near a dog park. Dozens of dogs of all sizes were racing around, chasing balls and each other. One little guy came over to the fence, near where the couple was standing, straddling their bikes. He watched them for a second or two, then barked as if to say if you don’t have dogs you’re not welcome.

Finally Kevin spoke: “What do you supposed happened to Crazy Eight?”

“Well, he’s dead. Walt killed him in the basement with the bike lock, remember?”

“Yes, but what happened to his BODY?”

This is why they will continue to watch, to find out how Walt disposed of Crazy Eight, since the drug dealer is on the DEA’s radar, as is his cousin, but they know what happened to him. He was dissolved. Of course, the DEA doesn’t know that.

The show is nasty, un-redemptive and absolutely brilliant. They are finally Breaking Bad. Just in time for some good summertime bingeing. Four episodes down, 58 to go. They’re already addicted, and celebrating such extraordinary storytelling. Plus they need to find out about Crazy Eight, and Walt’s health, and if Skylar will stick with him, and about Jesse’s kid brother who’s breaking a little bad, too. Jiminy. 

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Giving up the Ghost

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 5, 2014 10:30 PM

I start my pottery class tonight. I haven’t taken pottery since I was in high school. I remember it fondly, the art department in the back corner of Milford Area Senior High, MASH for short. There was a drawing studio, a photography area complete with dark room, and a pottery studio with a kick wheel. I spent many afternoons kicking that wheel, especially during the latter half of my senior year when I had painfully little to do since I’d already more than fulfilled my class requirements and all I wanted to do was get out of school.

There was no air conditioning in our high school and as the summer drew ever near, similar to what’s happening today, I’d be up to my elbows in wet clay and sweating profusely from the effort required to keep the wheel going fast enough to “throw a pot.”

Throwing a pot, for the un-pottery initiated, entails getting a good mound of wet clay in a nice fairly round ball, wetting the wheel and kicking to get the speed up, aiming and throwing the clay ball at the center of the wheel, hitting the center as close as possible, squeezing more water while forming a mound that is completely centered and then, eventually, pulled a pot up and out of the ball, all the while kicking, kicking, kicking, smoothing, pouring water to keep the clay wet and phew. I’m tired just thinking about it.

I’ve long missed the primal nature of working with clay. It’s messy. While there’s thought involved in creating and in focusing on the job in hand, literally, there’s something easy about it. It’s natural. Ancient civilizations have been using clay to make pots for thousands of year. With a kick wheel, rather than an electric wheel, it’s technologically simple. Simple these days is good. My life is filled with emails and text messages and phone calls and work and house and husband and kid and dog and family and friends. I’m not complaining but there are times when it all gets nearly overwhelming. The idea of sitting at a wheel and getting muddy sounds extremely appealing.

For the next eight weeks, the class meets on Mondays from 6 to 8. I have no idea what to expect. Perhaps it’s all instruction. I know the studio where I’m going also offers extensive studio hours where you can just go and play in clay.

I was talking to my brother about it over the weekend. He’s been a big supporter of me doing this ever since I told him I was thinking about it several weeks ago. We talked about the pottery studio at MASH. Scott was also very into art and took pottery classes. He was telling me about a place he visits sometimes in Vermont, a studio/gallery owned by a woman named Monica. For the life of me, I can’t remember her last name. We talked about the whole process of throwing a pot. He told me to make sure the wheel was a kick wheel because those you can control. Of course, I can’t control what kind of wheels there are at the studio.

Then he started to laugh and asked me if Kevin was looking forward to re-enacting the scene from Ghost. Without missing a beat I said that I doubted it would happen because the famous scene he was referring to, with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze writhing in wet clay to the sound of Unchained Melody, took place in the middle of the night in the privacy of their own beautiful New York loft. I will be in a public studio in the middle of town with my fellow potters. Also, he’s no more Patrick Swayze than I’m Demi Moore. Though we do like Unchained Melody.

When I told Kevin I thought he was going to explode he laughed so hard. I’m not sure whether to be insulted that he agreed with me or relieved that it’s not what he’s expecting. Not that I mind writhing around in wet clay to the Righteous Brothers. I just always wondered about the cleanup.

The movies are always really good at presenting these incredible situations but they never show you the aftermath. How Demi and Patrick (whose character names I think were Molly and Sam) mopped up the floor and cleaned up the walls so that the house looked normal isn’t addressed; nor is the part about getting clay in all the wrong places.

Tonight I’m giving up that Ghost but I’m not giving up the ghost. To do so would mean I won’t succeed or worse. And I think this is going to be something worth celebrating. 

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I saw a hopscotch board on the sidewalk this morning

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:52 PM

I remember certain games I played as a kid. There were the indoor games like checkers and jacks and pickup sticks. There were board games, too, like Shoots & Ladders and Candy Cane. Card games like Go Fish and War. I remember learning Solitaire at a fairly early age and spending hours dealing myself hands and trying very hard not to cheat. I’ve often wondered if the reason I am so OK being alone and working alone is because I love and respect the game and the name of solitaire, or if it is the just the opposite.

I remember learning to jump rope, not just with a rope twirled around my own hands, but the kind of jump rope played on playgrounds with a long rope with a  girl on each end, twirling in unison. You stand on the outside and you time it just right so you can jump in and jump over without the rope missing – skipping? – a beat. It took me a long time to master that and I loved the challenge. I loved to jump rope. I don’t know if kids still do this on the playgrounds at recess. I suspect they do. I hope so. It’s a fun and innocent game, and requires dexterity and timing and coordination, all things that kids need and should learn as they’re growing.

Another game I played when I was young was hopscotch. We’d draw a number of squares on the road in the neighborhood where we lived. I don’t remember if we numbered them. I don’t remember if we tossed a rock and hopped on the squares to pick up the rock in order to score points. I’m not even sure if I know exactly how the game is played or if I ever did. I just remember the squares and the hopping. One foot, one foot, one foot, two. One foot, one foot, one foot, two. Turn, and do it all again coming back.

I hadn’t thought about hopscotch for a long time, until this morning. Wednesday mornings we go for a bicycle ride. Not long, about 10 miles, but we stay in basically one gear and we pedal our little heart rates up for a nice 40 minute cardio workout. We go on the Rillito River path, a length of pavement that runs on both sides of the long-dried Rillito River, going nearly from the 10 freeway on the western side of the city to the far east side. It’s a wide lane, split with a line so it’s civilized. People walk their dogs and each other. Some rollerblade. Others run. Many, like us, cycle.

On the south side of the path, which we were on, heading east, there are many houses and apartment complexes. Some mobile homes. As we were pedaling along, we rode over a hopscotch board and then another. They had been drawn on the path with pink and white chalk, and were heavily scuffed from use, from other tires, from people walking over them. I don’t know when they were done; probably last night. It took a minute for it to even register what we had ridden over. A childhood game. Innocent play. The kind of game that seems to transcend generations because it is pure and fun and silly and wonderful. I could almost hear the kids who had been playing, as the sun melted into the west, searing the sky, giggling, shouting, encouraging, fighting. I could hear their parents calling them in for dinner and hear them going, reluctantly, calling see you tomorrow to one another.

It’s what we did as kids. Seeing that hopscotch board on the walk this morning reminded me of the sheer joy that can and should accompany childhood. It’s a time of no responsibilities other than learning the times table and spelling. It’s a time without worry. A time we all forget far too soon.

I thought about going back for a game. I thought about being a kid. I was on my bike, a different bike than when I was a kid when it was a purple stingray. The morning was cool and warm. The real kids were in school, learning times tables and spelling and dreaming of summer vacation. Maybe that’s why they had been playing hopscotch. It’s a summertime game, and summer is only weeks away. I saw it this morning. It was on the path, along the river, when we were living it out loud. 

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live out loud

In which Kevin and Lorin toy with the idea of getting a new used motorcycle

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 13, 2014 9:22 PM

Kevin and I have long had motorcycles. We like nothing better than to head out on the roadways on a Saturday or Sunday, cruise the canyons or the back roads, drive to a town 40 miles away just to get gas or have lunch. It’s our favorite form of release. For us, there is little more freeing that feeling the rush of the air and the wonder of the day as we meander to wherever we end up.

In 2005, we bought our current bike, a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, metallic black with lots of chrome and white wall tires. It’s a bike made for two, rather than a bike that tacks on a passenger after the fact. It’s always been fairly comfortable for a big fat cruiser. The ride isn’t the smoothest and occasionally Kevin will hit a bump that launches me into space at which time I curse loudly and smack the side of his helmet. It’s not productive but it works to communicate the basic message.

The bike has a little over 25,000 miles on it, all but 3500 of those ours. We bought the bike used and we have been in love with it since. We’re still in love but we’ve started talking seriously about getting something different, more of a touring bike rather than a cruiser. A bike with more storage, like a trunk. A bike that is built for longer distances and travels those miles with grace and a gentle ride.

Years ago, we had a neighbor who had a big BMW touring bike. He and his wife would disappear on that thing for weekends, often towing a small trailer behind it. It was metallic gray and impossibly quiet, at least compared to our bike, which we affectionately call the Kaw (pronounced “cow”). They would wave as they rounded the corner on the way to their latest adventure and we would watch until they were out of sight, a bit envious since our bike is simply not built for any kind of distance.

For our 10th wedding anniversary, we drove it to Las Vegas. About 395 miles of straight freeway in blazing heat. We stopped frequently just to wring out our pants and to guzzle more water; several times to get fuel. By the time we pulled into the Ritz Carlton in Henderson, with the Strip in the distance, we looked like we had been dragged through the desert and left for the buzzards. It was not fun. Two days later we had to do it all over again as we drove home. We vowed never again, certainly not on that bike.

The Kawasaki rumbles and vibrates. It does not have the kind of shocks one wants when one is traveling for hundreds of miles. It certainly doesn’t have the kind of shocks that can help to make the passenger (read: me) more comfortable for a long haul. I also sit high so the windshield does little to save me from wind battering my head. A full-face helmet helps but not enough.

Lately we’ve been having the itch. It’s something that no amount of Cortaid or Benadryl cream will heal. It’s the same itch we had when we upgraded our Suzukis from an 800 to a 1500 and then to the Kawasaki. It was an itch that could only be scratched by getting something different, in this case something with a smoother ride, better shocks, a trunk, communication, the ability to play music, cup holders, essentially a car on two wheels.

I mentioned the BMW and we’ve looked at those but they’re expensive. The other day we were in one of the local Power Sport shops and they had a 2002 Honda Goldwing with only 33,0000 miles on it, barely broken in for a big touring machine. We’ve been toying with it for the last few days, even worked out a price with the shop. Now it’s just a matter of saying fare-thee-well to the Kaw and making the transition to a Honda. The big wing. The monster, at 1800 ccs. It even has cruise control, and reverse. All this in a beautiful sandstone package.

By this time next weekend we could be living it out loud on new used wheels. Definitely something to celebrate. 

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