Where has this dollar bill been and what has it seen

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 12, 2014 7:49 PM

It used to be more common to find money on the ground. I remember my mother telling the story of how she found a hundred dollar bill stuck under the wheel of a car back in the mid 1960s. She drove a 1965 Ford Mustang at the time, and I can’t remember if it was under her car or under another, but I believe it was hers. It was probably why she noticed it to begin with.

One hundred dollars was a huge amount of money in 1965. It’s a nice sum today. She was flabbergasted, and looked around as if to see if someone had dropped it, maybe frantically looking on the ground for something. She found no one. She watched the newspaper for a week, wondering if the unfortunate soul who had lost the bill would post a classified. Lost. One $100 bill. On State and Main. Please call 555-5555.

My mother was and remains an incredibly honest person. She would have returned the bill but no such ad ever appeared. Eventually she realized that the money was hers and she spent it on something. I don’t remember what.

When Kevin and I walk, we occasionally come upon a penny, sometimes a dime. Rarely is there more than that. We pick up the pennies only if they’re heads up. Any other change we pick up and put into a jar at home. After many years, the jar has very few coins.

Before Christmas, when we were at Bookman’s to visit the Amazing Aussies Lethal White rescue, there was a food truck in the parking lot. We hadn’t eaten anything yet and it was mid afternoon so we decided to get a sandwich and split it. It was cold that day, the sky thick and gray. Even still, we were on the motorcycle, outfitted in our leathers. As we waited for our sandwich, I saw what looked like money under a car. I bent down and reached. It was $30, a ten and a twenty. We used the $10 to pay for the $5 sandwich, leaving the rest for a tip. The $20 we gave to charity.

This morning we came across a crumpled dollar bill. It was in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like someone crammed it into their pocket but not far enough. Kevin bent down to pick it up and put it in his own pocket. It was such a forlorn looking bill, it got me to wondering about where it might have been and what it might have seen in its life.

I imagined that it made its way from the Mint in DC, by bus, in the wallet of a down-on-his-luck businessman who was on his way to Duluth for a job in a local engineering firm. He got the job because his brother-in-law works there. He was thankful but not hopeful. Along the way, he had a grilled cheese sandwich at a truck stop and used the bill to tip the waitress. She took the bill, along with the 67 other ones she got that day to the dollar store and purchased some things she needed for her apartment. A new laundry basket, a deep fryer, socks. The clerk at the store gave the bill out as change from a $10 to a teenager who used it at Taco Bell where it was given out as change to a guy on a Harley who was on his way to the Grand Canyon. He used the bill at a tavern near the park, leaving it as a tip for the bartender who gave it to his nephew who was on his way back to school at the University of Arizona. The nephew was out partying last night and shoved several left over dollar bills into his shorts early this morning as he stumbled home. One didn’t make it and spilled over onto the sidewalk as the nephew trudged to his apartment.

Or so I imagined.

There are several websites including WheresGeorge.com that exist to help people track the life of their money. Dollar bills stamped with messages like “currency tracking project” or “track me at wheresgeorge.com” allow users to enter the serial numbers on each George Washington to see where it has been. It’s called Georging, and while it’s a fun hobby, it also relies completely on others knowing about the website and entering the information into the database. It can also be helpful in terms of generating data that studies human mobility, at least according to a guy named Dirk Brockman who is a theoretical physicist at Northwestern University. He has used data generated by WheresGeorge to test theories about networks, infectious disease and to map the flow of currency in the country.

I was only interested in where my particular bill had been just because it looked so lost on the sidewalk, the wind swirling above, and cars slashing by only a foot or so away. I was interested in its story, not its data, something I will never know. Which, to me, is half the fun. Because in my imagination even currency can live it out loud. 

Repping the artist

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 6, 2014 11:01 PM

Our friend Roy is an artist. He made his living for years as an art director and illustrator, but he is truly a fine artist. He sketches constantly, paints daily. His work is amazing. I know I’m biased but I also believe him to be very talented. Like so many talented people, though, it’s hard to break through. It always seems like a case of right-place-right-time in order to make a name for oneself. How else to explain Thomas Kinkaid?

Several years ago, Bobbi created a website for his work, and put said work up on additional fine art sites for people to order prints. She and I recently started a blog called The Artist’s Loft, which we post on Roy’s site but that also appears on Fine Art America. We’re working on getting the word out.

Kevin has also gotten in the act as an artist’s rep. Bobbi designed a postcard and Kevin has been talking to local galleries and putting out feelers online. We believe it’s a matter of persistence, of getting the art out.

Tomorrow we’re delivering a packet of information to Agua Caliente Park Gallery, an oasis on the far eastern side of town. It used to be a ranch but has since become a place to see water in the desert, all types of birds and wildlife, and visit an art gallery that showcases works of nature as well as the great desert southwest.

Bobbi sent us the paintings they want to show, placing them in a great layout. Kevin is going to print them on regular 8 ½” x 11” photo paper, along with artist information, the postcard and contact information for contacting the rep, meaning Kevin.

Repping an artist can be a full-time job. Much like a writer has an agent, ditto actors, fine artists have representatives that do the same, namely pitch the artist’s work to galleries in order to get the artist a showing. With a showing comes potential notoriety, not to mention possible sales. Sales are good because money makes the artist’s work more appreciated, not to mention provides money to buy more canvases, more paints, more sketch pads. It also has the added benefit of helping with little things like food and the mortgage or rent.


Eternal Dance, commissioned for Lorin Michel, 2013. For Pam.

Kevin is enjoying this a great deal. I think, in many ways, it’s easier to be the rep than the artist because for the artist, it’s highly personal. Even though Roy is probably Kevin’s best friend and Kevin wants nothing more than to see him succeed, he’s still removed from the work because he doesn’t do the creating. The hardest thing for an artist to do is represent him or herself. It requires two different types of personality: one who’s into sales/marketing; the other who’s … not.

Artists can be reclusive. They see things differently and thus think and react differently. This is why they can’t represent themselves. Because they don’t think like business people, in terms of dollars and cents, or logistics. They think creatively rather than linearly.

Which is why we currently have Kevin, a businessman, who has dusted off his sales/marketing hat and is starting to pimp Roy’s art everywhere he can. We’re determined – we’re committed – to get this fabulous art into some galleries. It starts with one. That’s all it takes and then hopefully it snowballs. If anybody deserves the accolades, it’s Roy. Anyone who knows him agrees. Anyone who doesn’t would if they knew him and knew his work.

Celebrating art and especially the fine artist Roy Guzman. Keep your fingers crossed for some showing soon.

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Nothing like the sun

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:37 PM

The east is buried.  For my readers on the east who are simply rolling their eyes because I’m “stating the obvious,” I apologize. And I know. It took Justin 18 hours of travel time yesterday to get from out here to out there; he was not happy. As someone who used to live in the east, I wish I could say I remember it all fondly. I do remember it well and I also remember not liking it at all.

My family lives in New Hampshire. I’m not a New Englander by birth, more by assimilation, as is all of my family. We moved there when I was 15. I finished high school there and went to college there. All of my immediately family still lives there, and based on the conversations I’ve had in the last few days, they are not happy about it. I believe my mother’s words tonight were: “I love New England but this is ridiculous.”

My brother said something similar yesterday, with a bit more color.

My sister sent me a text today that said: “In snow hell right now! Getting more now!” She also sent this photo:


Amherst, New Hampshire. February 19, 2014

I pointed out that we had a few clouds in the sky and she promptly told me that I suck before telling me that they’re at the point where they don’t know where to put what they shovel anymore. Roofs are collapsing; everything is buried. No one but the ski resorts are happy.

Mom said they got 13” just yesterday and even more today. According to the International Business Times, which charts Boston snowfall and temperatures, it’s a little colder than usual but the snow fall hasn’t broken records. While above average, the 1995-1996 season was worse, clocking in at a total of nearly 108 inches. Right now, they’re pushing around 68”. Tell that to my mother, my sister, my brother and the rest of those snow blowing, plowing, shoveling and cursing.

New York is snowier than usual as is Chicago as is Atlanta. Meanwhile, the west is racked by drought, already under water rationing. Grape vines are springing up early which means they’ll mature early which means middle of the summer which is bad. The citrus groves are going to dry up.

I know from my time in New England that even after the worst winters, the sun eventually comes out. And there’s nothing like the sun. In fact, one of our favorite singers, Sting, devoted a whole album to it.

Nothing Like the Sun, released in 1987, took its title from a line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet #130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” The album was inspired by the death of Sting’s mother, in 1986 and by his Conspiracy of Hope Tour for Amnesty International. On one hand, despair while on the other, possibility. On one hand there is snow, on the other there is nothing like the sun.

Sending sunshine and warmth from the west tonight to all of my peeps in the east, while living it out loud under a beautiful desert sky. 

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Snow days long past

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 5, 2014 11:58 PM

Like many kids in the northeast, my sister’s are home from school today. As I write this, they’ve received 8 inches this morning and it’s still snowing. They’ve had many snow days so far this season. When I talked to Khris yesterday, she mentioned that they were probably going to have another day off today. For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about that and remembering the snow days we used to have when I was a kid and lived back east.

In those days, weather was forecast on the radio and the television. And the sky; always the sky. Incoming snow has a very distinct look in the sky. The clouds are more of a blanket, think and cottony. They look cold. Rain clouds are more formed and become black on the bottom. Not so snow clouds. They gather and knit together. The temperature drops, the air feels almost dry. When it starts to snow, it’s with just a flurry or two, as if it’s testing the idea.

When I was young and snow had been forecast, I would periodically flip the light on outside the front door and peer through the glass sidelight, out into the blackness, straining to see a flake. If I did, I knew the weather reports were on target. Regardless, I’d go to bed hopeful that the morning would bring enough snow to warrant a cancellation of school. In the morning, my mother would inform us that it had snowed and we’d put the radio on. The local news channel would read the list of school cancellations. We had to wait until they got to our district as they’d be announcing for essentially the whole state. When they got to ours and our school was mentioned, excitement ensued for everyone save my mother. When we weren’t included on the list, we begrudgingly got ready for school. We felt cheated as if we were owed a snow day.

Technology has progressed to where mass phone calls and text messages are now sent by the school district in the event of a school closure. I got such a message in the middle of one night when Justin was still in high school. The phone rang around 3:15 am. Any time a phone rings at 3 in the morning, it’s cause for alarm. I grabbed it only to hear the voice of Tony Knight, the superintendent of the Oak Park School District, informing me, as the parent of an Oak Park school student, that due to the fires burning in Oak Park, school would be closed.

It was the fires burning in Oak Park that got me up and out of bed in a big hurry. When I had gone to bed, there were no fires burning. I went out into the back yard and sure enough, the sky was orange, the air thick with smoke and ash. I knew we weren’t in danger of catching fire, but I could see why they cancelled school. I went back in, closed everything up, went into Justin’s room and turned off his alarm so he could sleep in. He was a teenager. If his alarm didn’t go off, he wouldn’t get up.

I miss having snow days. I’m sure my sister, much like our mother, isn’t so fond of them because it means having the kids home when they shouldn’t be, and thus disrupting her day. Until we had our fire day, I hadn’t really thought about it from a parent’s point of view. I did that day.

Snow days were cold and cozy. My mom used to make us a hot breakfast. We’d have hot chocolate and toast. I always loved dipping my buttered toast into my hot chocolate. I loved the silence of those days, the way the snow quieted the earth. When I remember those days now, it’s with nostalgia and not just a little bit of want and wanting to once again live it out loud under the peace of the snow.

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Detroit may be the write city after all

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 14, 2014 11:42 PM

Once upon a time, Detroit Michigan was a thriving city, its 125 auto companies, churning out over 7 millions cars every year. At its peak, in 1950, nearly 2 million people called it home. It lost 25% of its population in the ten-year span between 2000 and 2010. At the beginning of the 20th century, 285,704 people lived there. By the mid-20th century, 1.85 million people lived there, making it the fourth largest city in the country. Large homes sprung up. People shopped at Hudson’s and Crowley’s department stores, and walked to schools.

Then the automobile industry that built Detroit started to tear it down. By 1967, when the industry was still thriving, the city had lost more than 130,000 manufacturing jobs. New plants were built in small towns in the Midwest and in the Sunbelt. That same year, one of the worst race riots in American history erupted on the city’s streets. Then came the oil crises of the 1970s, Chrylser filed for bankruptcy and boomtown Detroit became bust-town.

This generalizes, of course. I’ve never been to Detroit – my friend Diane is from there and I know she could tell stories – but its current woes are regularly in the news; its troubles continue. People have fled; tens of thousands of houses have been abandoned. This past year, the city filed for bankruptcy. Everything that once made the city bright and shiny is now dull and tarnished.

Abandoned house in Detroit

Except for a new program I heard about today that I found fascinating. It wants to “enliven the literary arts of Detroit by renovating homes and giving them to authors, journalists, poets, aka writers. It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only in this case we’re actually giving the writer the residence, forever.”

The program is called Write a House, and it’s a Detroit-based organization that is taking distressed housing, of which there is a lot, and promoting renovation with the writer in residence doing much of the work on each individual property. In exchange for the work, the writer gets the house. No payment. It’s just theirs.

I thought this was about the coolest thing I’d ever heard. I know Detroit is in a bit of a hole right now, broken and destroyed, but what an amazing thing, to involve writers as a way to revive or reinvent – hell, perhaps just invent – a literary arts community.

Write a House is starting with three two-bedroom houses and currently accepting applications for writers to move in this Spring. They have to stay for two years, work on the house, engage in the city’s literary community and contribute to the program’s blog. If they fulfill these duties, they get the house. Within 24 hours of launching the program, 200 writers had already inquired.

Two of the houses were bought for a thousand dollars each; the third was donated by Power House Productions, a local community organization run by artists. There is currently a fund-raising campaign going on to help raise a minimum of $35,000 for each house to help fund the major renovations like electrical and plumbing.

Write a House being renovated

It’s rather brilliant. I can only imagine the amount of material that will come from this endeavor. Living in a city that has been virtually decaying for years gives great visual imagery. The animals that are living there, both on four legs and undoubtedly on two; the joy amidst the despair; the hope within the defeat. The colors can come to life, the sky will be bluer, the birds’ songs will be more melodic. The drama will also be more heartfelt and the comedy more cutting. Life, as observed by a poet or novelist could be similar to what Elmore Leonard said in 1985 of his home city:

“There are cities that get by on their good looks, offer climate and scenery, views of mountains or oceans, rockbound or with palm trees; and there are cities like Detroit that have to work for a living…. It’s never been the kind of city people visit and fall in love with because of its charm or think, gee, wouldn’t this be a nice place to live.”

Except maybe that’s changing. Maybe Detroit is the write city after all. 

Cheerio!

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 13, 2014 11:49 PM

One of the things that happens as a person gets older is that she starts to appreciate things she previously had no use for or dismissed as boring, awful, distasteful. Food items like cheesecake and blue cheese come to mind, both of which I thoroughly love now but the thought of which made me practically gag when I was young. I’ve always loved a good story, whether it be on television or in the cinema, though what I thought were good stories when I was a child turned out to be quite terrible. Watch an old episode of Lost in Space to see what I’m talking about.

My mother was a big fan of Upstairs/Downstairs when I was a kid. I wasn’t. Everybody on the show talked funny and the old guy who introduced it every week talked funny, too. It seemed terribly dull and uneventful. Of course, I wasn’t the target audience. Most nine year olds didn’t watch the show. I doubt many nine year olds watch the current British import that’s taken America by storm. I speak of Downton Abbey.

Largely different and still very much the same in that both shows dealt and deal with the upper crust of early 20th century England and the servants who faithfully look after them, both are also part of Masterpiece Theatre, now Masterpiece. Produced out of WGBH in Boston, a PBS station, the original Masterpiece Theatre premiered on January 10, 1971 with The First Churchills hosted by the journalist Alistair Cooke, who went on to host each season of Masterpiece Theatre until 1992. The series was based on the success of a 1967 broadcast of The Forsyte Saga on National Educational Television, which was the precursor to Public Broadcasting and was on the air from May 16, 1954 to October 4, 1970.

Over the seasons – and they do think of them as seasons. Masterpiece Theatre, now Masterpiece, is the longest running television series ever – they have put out such amazing fare as I, Claudius, Bleak House, Prime Suspect (with the amazing Helen Mirren), The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, and Brideshead Revisited. All British; all amazing.

That’s another thing I have come to truly appreciate of late: British television. In addition to the master works on Masterpiece (they dropped the “theatre” in 2008), Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery! And Masterpiece Contemporary, all on PBS, there are also the amazing shows on the BBC, some of which we’ve started delving into on Netflix. We fell for The Fall. We’ve just started getting into Wallander, with Kenneth Branagh.

British productions are different than ours. They’re more cerebral, more deliberate. More careful. They’ve been putting out thoughtful, long-form television for a number of years now and we’re just finally getting the hang of it. The last few years of American television, the networks have been following the lead of cable and putting some quality programming on, shows that we are absolutely glued to, like the new True Detective on HBO, the always amazing Sons of Anarchy on FX, The Americans also on FX, The Killing on AMC (now Netflix), Homeland and Masters of Sex on Showtime. The Good Wife on CBS, The Following on Fox.

Not to be outdone, PBS has continued to put out good television outside of Masterpiece, through series like the American Experience (the recent The Poisoner’s Handbook), Great Performances (a personal favorite because I love to see my favorite artists live); anything by Ken Burns.

PBS is quality. BBC is quality. Put the two together and all I can say is pip-pip! Cheerio! And bloody hell! If you don’t know this already, you’re not living it out loud. 

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The tale of Trader Joe

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 11, 2014 12:14 AM

If you live in one of the 30 states or Washington, DC that sports at least one location of Trader Joe’s, you already know that it’s simply a great store. Never very big, it always feels more like a neighborhood market with some wonderfully healthy alternatives to the usual Safeway, Albertson’s or Market Basket. We’ve long been fans of the store but have become more so of late because we have one within walking distance and we spend a lot of time walking.

I’ve always wondered if there was really a Joe, why he fancied himself a trader, why the logo looks like something from the South Pacific islands, and how the whole store came to be. So I did some research.

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Joseph Hardin Coulombe. He was born in San Diego in 1930 and after a relatively uneventful childhood, went to Stanford Business School where he got an MBA in 1954. He joined Rexall drug stores in 1958 and was asked to launch a chain of stores to compete with 7-Eleven. It was called Pronto Markets. The stores didn’t do badly; they just didn’t out-do 7-Eleven so Rexall wanted them closed. Coulombe bought the stores instead. There were just six.

Coulombe had a different idea of what to do with the stores. He didn’t believe that competing with 7-Eleven was viable. He decided that he needed his stores to be ones that could satisfy a growing taste that Americans were developing because of travel. Tastes that included different types of wine and cheese, as well as more exotic, healthier fare. Items that weren’t available in supermarkets of the time. This was when the Tiki culture was very popular as was Trader Vic’s. While on vacation in the Caribbean, Joe came up with an idea of playing off a trading company in the South Seas, and changed the name of his stores to Trader Joe’s. A legend was born.

The first store officially named Trader Joe’s opened on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena in 1967. There are now 408 stores in 30 states plus the District of Columbia. Almost half are in California. While a typical grocery store has about 50,000 items, a typical TJ’s, the shorthand lingo for our favorite gourmet-ish store, has only about 4,000. This is better for stocking and ultimately for profit. They sell gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian foods, unusual frozen fair, imported interests, domestic and imported wine and beer and some hard liquors. They also sell breads, cereals, dairy products, coffee and produce. They have a small but decent fresh meat section with chicken, steak, and fish. I don’t know if they have pork. They also have snacks that they try to keep healthy; vitamins, paper goods and toiletries. They also have Trader Joe’s brand “stuff,” and most of it is pretty good.

Joe has created a shopping experience that’s offbeat and fun. It makes shopping a cultural journey rather than a chore. They consistently stay ahead of the American palette, reflecting our constantly changing attitudes about food. And they pay their employees very well.

Joe is now 83, cruising toward 84 on June 3. He sold the chain a number of years ago but the stores that bear his name are doing just fine, from Manhattan’s Union Square to Tucson’s St. Phillips Plaza to the original Pasadena location. The stores are always bustling with people looking, shopping, stopping to talk – Have you tried this? I have and it’s fabulous! – and generally enjoying buying food to prepare at home. They share ideas and tastes and possibilities, laughter and recipes. That’s more than a neighborhood store. That’s a neighborhood. And like all neighborhoods, each has a story to tell. In Joe’s neighborhoods, those stories are often served up with blueberry crusted goat cheese, rice crackers and a glass of Two-Buck Chuck. After a couple of glasses of that, you’ll have your own tale to tell. That’s a whole other reason to love Trader Joe’s, and why I’m celebrating the store tonight. 

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Times gone by or times long past or old long since or long long ago

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 1, 2014 12:21 AM

In 1788, Robert Burns, a good Scottish lad, penned a tune that he called Auld Lang Syne, a title that translates to “times gone by” or “times long past” or something similar. Regardless it’s about remembering friends past and not letting them be forgotten. It’s a haunting song that was never meant to be a holiday song, certainly not one to ring in the new year. That particular tradition started in 1929 when Guy Lombardo and his band used the song as a segue between two radio programs during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. They played Auld Lang Syne just after midnight. A tradition was born.

It’s a song that everyone knows and yet no one knows the lyrics to, including myself. It has been used as the basis for other songs like Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang’s Syne where he meets an old lover in the grocery store while snow was falling Christmas Eve. It’s a sad song, mostly about regret and unhappiness. I don’t think Auld Lang Syne is actually about that at all.

I think it’s about reminiscing, about remembering what you’ve done and where you’ve been. I don’t think it’s necessarily about where you’re going and I’m OK with that. It’s what makes it an odd New Year’s Eve anthem on one hand. On this night, most people are all about celebrating the end of one year while anxiously awaiting and welcoming the next one. Out with the old, in with the new.

In one of my favorite comedies ever and certainly of 1989, When Harry Met Sally the movie essentially ends at a New Year’s Eve party. The two main characters have been enemies, friends, lovers and are now enemies again. And both are miserable. Sally is at the aforementioned New Year’s Eve party; Harry isn’t. But he realizes, as he’s watching bad television and eating Malomar cookies, that he really wants to be with Sally. He sprints through New York to this party where she’s miserable and about to leave. They meet at the door and as they square off, the band in the background begins playing Auld Lang Syne.

Harry wonders: “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances. Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?”

Sally replies: “Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.”

On this night, as my husband and I sit here on the couch in front of the fire, me wrapped in a blanket because like Sally, I get cold when it’s 72º, and watching the first season of The West Wing – comfort television – I’m thinking about times gone by, times long past, long, long ago.

I’m thinking about my friends – my hearts – my Roy and Bobbi, my Pam, my Diane and Gene, my Connie, my Nikola and Mike, my Khris, my Kevin and Justin and Cooper. I’m thinking about my mom and my brother. I’m thinking about friends I have lost touch with; I’m thinking about family members who are no longer with us. I’m thinking about old acquaintances but they’re not forgot, not one of them, not ever. I’m celebrating each and all, as well as all of you, my loyal readers. May the new year be wondrous and true. And may you live 2014 out loud. 

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Another year older

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 30, 2013 11:57 PM

Today is the day before the last day of the year, and for some reason I can’t get the John Lennon song Happy Christmas out of my head, specifically the line about another year over, and thus being another year older.

I am not much of a New Year’s Eve fan, and the best part of New Year’s Day is the de-Christmasing of the house. We take down whatever decorations are up, which aren’t that many; disassemble and re-pack the tree, take the lighted wreath off the front door and re-box that. The entire process doesn’t really take very long, especially since I stopped putting ornaments on the tree. It’s amazing how much time it takes to make sure each ornament has been removed and then packing the delicate ones so as not to break for another year. I actually like the process. It’s sort of a cleansing ritual and I love getting my house back to normal. As much as I love the holidays, by the time New Year’s rolls around, I’m done.

We don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. We never really have. We’re not big party people, and don’t care much for big crowds of people in general. Too much everything. We prefer to stay in, make something fun and different for dinner, have a nice bottle of wine, and go to bed, often before midnight.

I don’t make resolutions as I don’t believe in them. I think, for some, it helps them decide to make changes and that’s a good thing. For me, I make changes all the time so having one particular time of year to do it seems ineffective. I also think it sets people up to fail. Too much hype goes into resolutions that most people don’t keep.

Still, I find myself thinking that I am, indeed, another year older. I see another year drawing to a close. Then I hear the next line in my head:  and what have we done. It’s so ominous in a song entitled Happy Christmas. It’s also terribly true.

I lie in bed, at this time of year, and think about that line. I was thinking about it last night. This is the time of year when I look back at what has transpired over the last months, and contemplate. I suspect many people though not all do this. Those that need to do it most, don’t. Fodder for another blog post.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Lying in bed, thinking that I’m another year older and wondering what I’ve done. It’s such a heavy question, laced with regret and accusation and melancholy. I know I’m a successful woman, more successful than some, not as successful as others. I would like to be at a point in my life where I no longer have to worry about work and where it will come from. I would like to think that I’m moving toward a time when it’s easier, when I don’t have to work as hard, but simply work for more fun. Write more what I want to write.

And what have we done. Another year older, or maybe it’s over.

A move, new clients, new projects, a kid graduated; friends lost, friends found; family members gone but remembered. Countless words written, even more deleted. Projects completed, my website launched. A new hair cut, different hair color. New ideas, new possibilities, No matter how much I accomplish I always wish it had been more and when the end of each year dawns, I can’t help but wonder and contemplate if I’ll accomplish more next year.

Another year over, a new one just begun, and so happy Christmas, we hope you have fun. And I hope to continue living it out loud.

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What a find is the Lost Barrio

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 21, 2013 11:59 PM

We had a list of things to do today when we left the house including visit Bookman’s on Grant, an eclectic shop of used and new books, musical instruments and vinyl. From 1 – 4 today the Amazing Aussies of Arizona Rescue group, that rescues Lethal White Australian Shepherds, dogs that have been improperly bred so that they’re deaf or blind or both, was going to be there and sponsor the Christmas wrapping table. I’ve long supported them; my sister does as well. Today is Khris’ birthday and I knew she would love a video or two of the dogs. Mission accomplished.

We also wanted to go to an import place called Colonial Frontiers that has doors and ancient water urns and furniture. We were going to hit another antique place east of us on our way out to check on the dirt and the progress made this week in grading and the placement of footings.

It was cold and threatening rain when we got on the motorcycle, once again decked out in our leathers to guard against the wind and descending temperature. If we’d been on a freeway it would have been miserable, but we weren’t so it was merely chilly. We found Colonial Frontiers, and our day came to a screeching halt.

We found ourselves in the Lost Barrio, in the warehouse district of Tucson, just before you get into downtown. We had no idea the store was located there, not that it would have mattered. Until today, we didn’t really know much about the Lost Barrio. We had heard it mentioned; the name alone sounded intriguing. But we hadn’t actively sought it out. A barrio, officially, is a neighborhood where the predominant language is Spanish. The Urban Dictionary says that it’s the Spanish term for the “hood, or ghetto. This certainly didn’t seem to be in the ghetto, whatever that means.

We turned south on Park, off of Broadway. Downtown was straight ahead, its glass buildings stoic under the clouds. There wasn’t much traffic. Graduation from the University had happened earlier and the school was cleared out for Christmas break. We parked in one of the many spaces out front, climbed off the beast and made our way into the store we’d traveled to see. We walked in and both of looked at each other: we’re going to be here a while. It was essentially a warehouse filled with teak doors and furniture and pottery, all from the late 1800s, early 1900s. Some of it was from the Far East, some from England, some from Mexico. We found doors that we like, as well as an art deco table that attaches to a wall, perhaps perfect for the new powder room. I fell in love with an enormous water urn from Mexico, circa 1900. Its hand made, at least four feet tall, red brick clay with bits of mosaic tile. I want it for the entry way. We’ll see.

Then we went next door to a place called Petroglyphs and we both looked at each other: we’re never leaving this place. It was all eclectic art, furniture and accent pieces. They had wind chimes made from motorcycle exhaust pipes; others made from pieces of steel oxygen tanks. We found hand-silkscreened lamp shades for our two stone lamps and bought them. Because we were on the motorcycle I had to go back later to get them, but it was OK. They were just what we needed to replace what we had and make our lamps look like new.

They had furniture made of wood, stone and iron, all melded together; sculptures, paintings, tiles. Sadly, we left and moved next door to Southwest Furniture and Design. We looked at each other: we’re going to end up spending a bunch here.

The furniture was all hand made and while we’re not really in the market for furniture, we are in the market for doors. Interior doors, an entry way door and a wine room door. They hand make all of their doors, from alder or mesquite wood. They do kitchen cabinets. We talked to the owner, a lovely woman named Ana. Her brother is her sole vendor. He makes all of the doors. We’re going to meet with them after the first of the year to see about them making some, if not all, of our doors. To be able to do that locally would be amazing.

We support local businesses and these businesses in the Lost Barrio are quite the find. From furniture to doors to art, they have just about all of the accents we need for the house. Off of a small side street, in the middle of a ‘hood, on the way to the city. We fell in love all over again with everything this wonderful new town of ours has to offer. Art, ideas, craftsmanship. It’s truly extraordinary and serves to reinforce the reason we moved here. It’s about the atmosphere, the mood; the creativity. The Lost Barrio typifies the city. What a find indeed. 

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