I think this is why

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 29, 2015 8:51 PM

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately. I think it started when we moved two years ago, though it was probably actually when we bought the property in 2010. Something inside was looking forward to what is to be, to what can be. We love California, as clichéd as it is, we love LA, but we needed to make a change in order to move forward.

When I look out the windows in my glass house, I see what we’ve been able to do, that we have indeed moved forward. Yes, our careers remain the same, but we are preparing for what’s next.

I think the reason I think about retiring – something that never occurred to me 10 years ago – is because I want to simply enjoy my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it now. I do. I love my husband and my dog. I love my friends and family. I love what I do for a living. I know many people who can’t say that. But to be able to just go off on a trip, of any length, anytime, would be nice. To know that our income would hold steady, that we’d have enough money to live our lives the way we live our lives, would be lovely. To relax more would be heavenly. That’s not to say I wouldn’t work, or at least continue to write. As I said, I love what I do. But to perhaps be a little less consumed by it, a little less frantic. I think about that. Life in a slower lane. I think about that, too.

I think this is why we chose the desert. It’s just easier here. The city is small, the people are friendly. But it’s a slower pace in general. Maybe it’s the heat, but people move more gently. I think it’s why we also chose to live on the far north east side of the city, no longer even within the city limits. There’s a peace here that was missing before. When we were younger, we thrived on the constancy of Los Angeles. It’s a vibrant city, filled with people and lights. It’s a place to discover yourself but it eventually becomes a place where you lose yourself as well, swallowed up by the traffic and the anonymity of it. When you’re in the 20s and 30s, it’s enough that the sun shines and the ocean glistens, that you can hike to the Hollywood sign and enjoy music at the Hollywood Bowl; that Beverly Hills remains aloof and that the canyons carve a path from the city into the Valley, a city unto itself. It pulses. Then you become 40 and 50, watching life go by too quickly. It’s not enough any more.

I think this is why I wanted to slow it down a bit. Savor it.

I want to travel the country by car. I love road trips. I want to experience every state, just explore, while I’m still young enough to appreciate it all, and still young enough to actually do it. To climb in and out of a car, to hike, to breathe in all that there is from the west to the east, south to north and everywhere in between. Maybe I’ll even go to Texas, a state I have always avoided except for passing through DFW.

I think this is why I want an Airstream. I just want to go, to escape, to live free, live long, live strong. Live riveted to life. I think that’s it. Tonight, I think it’s worth celebrating.

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Sitting in a beautiful 1920s home in West Los Angeles

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:02 PM

I’m on a lunch break and thus the perfect time to write a blog post. I’m working with several people, including Bobbi, on a big project, the kick off meeting of which is today, and we decided to do it at one of the women’s homes. That’s one of the women in the group. It’s also, literally, one of her homes.

Bobbi picked me up and we came in together. The traffic was, of course, horrendous because it always is, especially coming into the city. Locations in Beverly Hills or certain parts between the confluence of the 405, the 101 and the 10 are just not freeway close. To get where you’re going, you have to travel surface streets and contend with traffic lights and stupid drivers. It’s part of living and working a city as sprawling and convoluted as LA. I say that with love. I have always loved Los Angeles even when I rail against it, even when I’m stuck in traffic. It’s a love/hate thing, but mostly love.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The house.

One of the things I love about LA is how lovely neighborhoods filled with incredible homes suddenly appear near very busy streets like Melrose and Beverly. Such was the case this morning. We finally wound our way to where we were meeting, an incredible area with homes all built in the earlier part of the 20th century. This is old Los Angeles, from a time mostly caught on black and white film, yellowed and sepia tinged photographs. When it was just coming into its own, as the film industry was beginning, and money was flowing. Before the cynicism and corruption of the 1940s and 50s, the depravity of the 60s and 70s. Los Angeles was such a place. And in these older homes, we can return to part of it.

We walked in, and I stopped in the entranceway. Wood floors, and arched doorways, leaded and etched glass. High ceilings and wainscoting, floor moldings that are 8 inches high. Rich wood cabinets and old Spanish tile interspersed with travertine and stone.

In the 1920s, Los Angeles was in a period between World Wars. There was a lot of building in and around the city and there was a wide range of what is known as revival styles. All, including Italian Renaissance and Spanish Colonial Revival, were based on a very free adaptation of previous historic or “foreign” architectural styles. Two centuries of Spanish-Mexican influence also influenced these styles. There was often adobe mixed into more traditional building, setting the stage for a different kind of architecture than seen in any other part of the country.

It makes LA even more unique than it already is.

As I sit in this wonderful house, built in 1926 but remodeled some 80 years later I am surrounded by history and the present, converging. The wood comingling with the travertine, the old kitchen cabinets refinished but still in their same style above granite countertops. Women with computers and cells phones sitting amongst antique furniture. The juxtaposition is stunning. And very much in keeping with the city in which it exists, and has existed for nearly 90 years. Like the city, the house will still be here in another 90 years. That’s longevity, and beauty in the city of Angels on this December 18.

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The Sun is coming to Los Angeles

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 2, 2014 10:40 PM

Justin is now into month three of his six-month contract with Norwegian Cruise Lines. He’s on a ship called the Sun, sailing with 952 of his closest crewmates and 1,936 passengers. The ship first set sail in 2001 and was refurbished in 2011. He’s been cruising out of Miami, to the Caribbean, on 10 or 11 day cruises. On Monday, the ship left Miami on its way to Los Angeles where it will dock on May 13 and we’ll get to see the son on the Sun.

Each day we follow the ship in and out of ports via a live webcam that’s mounted to something very tall on the bow of the ship. It refreshes every two minutes and we can see where he is even if we have no idea where he is. Just below the camera is a bright blue deck. The hull of the ship is brilliant white, and beyond that has been the Atlantic Ocean, cold and gray, sometimes smooth, sometimes choppy. The weather has been warm and humid. It actually seems to rain in the Antilles. The webcam is often spotted with moisture. It shows the temperature and the relative humidity. The only thing it doesn’t show is Justin, but we can use our imaginations.

This past Monday, the boat left Miami and began the journey west. They stopped briefly in Cartagena, Columbia and today they went through the Panama Canal.

The webcam was down for several days and Kevin called NCL. He called Seascanner, which controls the feed. This morning, he woke me up before 7 and whispered “It’s baaaaccckkkkk!” Yes, complete with exclamation point. He had a huge grin on his face. I muttered something about the webcam and he showed me his phone. I looked at it through very sleepy eyes and saw the ship approaching the Canal. It’s what he’s been waiting for. We’ve never seen the Panama Canal and to be able to experience it almost as if we’re going through it, albeit in 2-minute intervals, was something we’d been looking forward to.

We watched for a bit, and then we went to our offices and each put it up on a browser so we could continue to watch. I got sidetracked and forgot to pay attention but Kevin kept me informed, shouting across the house “check out the camera” every so often so I knew to take a look. It really was quite fascinating.

I had heard about how the Canal worked but I’d never seen it. This 48-mile strip in Panama connects the Atlantic (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific. There are locks at each end to lift the ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial water mass created to reduce the amount of excavation needed to actually construct the Canal. At the opposite end, the ship is then lowered back down to the ocean’s level. It’s 85 feet above sea level and 110 feet wide. France began the construction in 1881 but had issues with the engineering so the United States took over in 1904 and completed the project in 1914. Previously, ships had to round Cape Horn in order to traverse from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Now it takes between 8 and 10 hours (with a reservation) via the Canal.

We watched as the ship went through several locks, the huge gates opening like the parting of the Red Sea. It was raining. The water looked muddy beyond the brilliant blue deck. Water spotted the webcam lens. The temperature was in the 90s. I could almost smell the humidity. They went under Centennial Bridge and then they were into the Pacific.

From there they’ll stop in Puntarenas, Costa Rica before journeying up the coast of Mexico, stopping in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. We got a text from Justin the other day asking where we’d all vacationed in Mexico and we reminded him of Cancun, when he was little. We also went to Cabo, one of our best family vacations, when he was a teen.

Soon enough the ship will power its way into San Pedro, the official Port of Los Angeles where it will begin the next leg of his six months, cruising up the West coast to run cruises between Vancouver and Alaska. We won’t see him again until perhaps the end of the summer; perhaps later. But on Tuesday, May 13, we’ll journey down to the port, present our passports and climb aboard. The son is coming home to Los Angeles on the Sun – how apropos – and we can’t wait to see him. 

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On the bike again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All apologies to Willie Nelson. 

The mother of us all

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 29, 2012 9:33 PM

I am forever amazed at the power of nature. I am even more amazed at how we mere mortals think we have power over that power. We build skyscrapers near fault lines and pretend that we have the technology to allow a 100-story building to sway in the face of an 8 point earthquake. We build mansions on a coastline that is continuously ravaged by a pounding surf. We put houses in the middle of nowhere and nowhere burns.

I am forever reminded of this, never more so than when we have a major weather event, which we seem to have at least once every couple of months. Sandy has come ashore and it is wreaking havoc up and down the eastern and weather-beaten seaboard. It made landfall in Atlantic City, New Jersey at 6:45 pm with 90 mile per hour winds and torrential rains. 2.2 million people were already without power before the superstorm hit. Thousands of flights were cancelled. A replica of the HMS Bounty sank off of Hatteras, North Carolina, stranding many and killing one. Snow was being forecast for elevations above 3000 feet. Parts of West Virginia were already under a blanket of white.

Mother Nature has such beauty, such majesty. This planet of ours is truly remarkable. Just look at what is in this country alone. The rocky shoreline of the northeast, the towering pine trees and arching mountain ranges. The sandy beaches further south. The warm waters of the gulf. The thick trees that give way to rolling hillsides and ice-cold lakes. Flat plains covered with wild grasses that blow all the time. Cold winds and more mountains across the north, flat desert sands and deep red canyons to the southwest; palm trees and another coast that’s less rocky and thus more accessible. The waters churn with the tides. Birds fly, fish swim, animals prowl and people are invited to be one with it all, to embrace the beauty and the wonder and the idea of something greater than all of us.

Most of us do; some of us are too arrogant. We think that it’s all here for us. It’s not. It’s all here in spite of us, and it is our responsibility to care for it. I’m not going to get into environmental correctness, though I think we should all practice it. I believe, as the saying goes, that we are but stewards of this house. We are so blessed to have this planet, to live with our mother Earth. Our Mother Nature.

She is not simply of our country. She became popular in the Middle Ages but her origin can be traced to Ancient Greece. Her name occurs in Mycenaean Greek as Mother Gaia. In Greek mythology, “Demeter (the goddess of harvest) would take the place of her grandmother, Gaia, and her mother, Rhea, as goddess of the earth in a time when humans and gods thought the activities of the heavens more sacred than those of earth.”

She also appears as Inanna or Ishtar on Mesopotamian tablets in the third millennium B.C. Of course, later medieval Christians in Europe thought of Mother Nature as something created by god. She was a personification, not a goddess.

The Algonquian legend says that “beneath the clouds lives the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and human.” She is strong and rarely silent, forceful but not necessarily vengeful. She will not, however, be taken for granted and she announces her presence with authority, as she did this morning when the news coverage began, and tonight, when she roared ashore.

While I would never celebrate the devastation nor the inconvenience, I am celebrating the power and the majesty, her majesty. As one who has lived through blizzards, firestorms, mudslides and earthquakes, I have come to respect her authority and to worship her beauty any way and all ways.

I wish all those who have been visited by this mother of a storm dog-speed and high ground. 

In space, no one can hear you scream but in Malibu, all bets are off

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 22, 2012 12:33 AM

In today’s episode of Kevin and Lorin’s continuing adventure, our intrepid duo decided to go to the ‘bu, as in Malibu. Not to lie on the beach or to dine at one of the many establishments along the coast, but to stake out their place in history. Sort of.

As many of you know, the space shuttle Endeavour, which flew its last mission in May of 2011 with Commander Mark Kelly, husband of the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at the controls, will be spending the rest of its years here in Southern California at the California Science Center near the University of Southern California. Endeavour, which replaced Challenger after the latter exploded shortly after takeoff in January of 1986, flew 25 missions in space for a total of 299 days out of Earth’s atmosphere and some 143,000,000 miles. Talk about frequent flyer benefits.

Lift-off

Back to our explorers. Who actually weren’t going to go at all. Oh, they had talked about it. The conversation went something like this:

Kevin: “Do you want to go?”

Lorin: “I don’t know. Do you?”

Kevin: “I don’t know. It might be kind of cool.”

Lorin: “It might be. But it’s so hot.”

They went to bed last night after watching the last part of The Daily Show and the first part of The Colbert Report without a plan. Or a plan that basically was all about what might happen in the morning, if they really wanted to go and how it might fit into the basic schedule since they also had to get their hair done. Hair trumps shuttle.

This morning dawned but without a clear decision as to what to do. It should be noted that our heroes aren’t usually this indecisive. In fact, they’re often capable of making quite large decisions in a fairly fast manner, especially if the decision involves the purchase of something with an engine and wheels. Evidently watching something with an engine and wheels doesn’t count. Kevin reached for the remote while they each sipped on a cup of coffee, and there it was: the NASA 747 rolling down the runway at Edwards Air Force Base where it had spent the night, slowly at first, building up speed until finally its nose lifted into the early morning air, the 78 tons of empty shuttle perched like a bird on its back.

They looked at each other and said, in unison: “Let’s go.”


Malibu

The question then became where to go. The best place was rumored to be the Griffith Observatory, high above the city, above the Hollywood sign. The shuttle was supposed to pass by flying as low as 400 feet. Kevin was skeptical. That sounded dangerous. But it would be cool to see it.

The temperature here in the Southland has been hovering around 227º. That’s -459º in space. So the adventurers opted to go west rather than east, jumping on the motorcycle, which would also make parking easier, and zooming through the canyon toward Malibu. They wound their way down Pacific Coast Highway, known affectionately as PCH, and settled in at Michael Landon Park across from Pepperdine University along with several hundred of their closest friends and dogs.

The plane came into view just over Paradise Cove, to the north. The sky was hazy and gray so visibility was limited. One minute it wasn’t there; the next it was. Someone in the park yelled “there it is!” Flanked by two NASA fighter-type jets, it flew by slowly, hanging in the air, as about a thousand or more stood watching above the rocky beach below. It did not pause; it did not dip its wings. It seemed largely unimpressed with the spectacle of Malibu. In the background, the great lawn of Pepperdine was filled with American flags. Some people cheered; many clapped. Kevin took pictures; Lorin tried to take video. And then it was gone. On its way further down the coast to the Santa Monica Pier.

The crowd dissipated quickly and the adventurers headed back to the bike, loaded it up and zoomed back up PCH, splitting lanes, not at all bothered by the traffic, arriving safely back home in time to see the 747 with its 5-story cargo atop touch down flawlessly at LAX. A band played, the crowd cheered. A small portal opened on top of the plane, above the cockpit, and as it came to a stop in front of the United Airlines terminal where the Endeavour will stay for the next 14 days, an American flag popped up and out.


Touch down

The Endeavour had landed for the last time. 

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