The plan

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 3, 2016 7:17 PM

I am a ridiculous planner. I'd use the term meticulous but it's more than that. It's borderline obsessive. I blame the Capricorn in me. We goats have to always have a plan. Even when I'm spontaneous I need a plan. It's sad I know, but I have come to terms with my neuroses. 

We've been planning a motorcycle trip all week. Just a day trip. Still, there must be a plan. Proper attire must be chosen for maximum comfort and ease. Sunscreen must be applied. Plenty of water has to be “packed.” Last weekend, the plan was to go to Apache Junction which is about two hours northwest of us. It's supposed to be a lovely little town, and there's an old mine aspect as well, with the remnants of a centuries past mining camp updated to have a cool restaurant called the Dutchman’s Hideout. It sits at the base of the Superstition Mountains, so named for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. According the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz supposedly discovered a mother lode of gold in the mountains and only revealed its location when he died in 1891. The mine has never been discovered. Apaches believe that there is a hole in the Superstition Mountains that leads to hell. Others believe that winds blowing from the hole are the cause of the severe dust storms the area is known for. Superstitions abound. 

As a backdrop these mountains are stunning, red and jagged against a blue sky. But when the temps were forecasted to be in the 100s, that plan changed. Being on the motorcycle in that kind of unrelenting heat is brutal. We did it once when we took the bike to Las Vegas. I thought we would melt into the saddle. When we got to the Ritz-Carlton where we were spending the weekend, we both needed to be wrung out. We walked in carrying motorcycle helmets and backpacks. The lady at the front desk looked at us warily. 

I scrambled to find another place. I wanted to take a ride. I miss going off for the day, feeling the wind, experiencing the complete freedom that comes on two wheels flying down an open road. But where?

Southern Arizona is still hot at this time of the year. Sometimes hellishly so. I don't mind low 90s. I can handle low 90s, because when you're moving, it's more like mid 80s. Really. I searched for things east, for things south. Believe it or not, many areas south of us, heading toward Mexico, can be a touch cooler because the elevations are a touch higher. I found Patagonia. 

Patagonia is about an hour and a half south east of us. Population at the last census: 913. Total square miles: 1.3. It's an old Arizona town, nestled in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains in the distance and rolling fields of golden grass in the foreground. At one point, it was a supply center for nearby ranches and long-ago abandoned mines. Those mining camps are now ghost towns and dot the Patagonia Mountains to the southeast. The town is now primarily artists. To get there, we'll wind down Houghton Road to Sahaurita and head east to the 83 south to the 82 south. We'll poke around the two or three galleries, we'll mosey on over to the Wagon Wheel Saloon, belly up to the bar and have a salad and some water. Maybe in the old west, back when there were miners, they had burgers and a whiskey. We're old and we're in the west but any semblance stops there. 

Then we'll climb back onto our sturdy steed, all 900 pounds and six cylinders of it, and cruise home, reversing our course. Heading north toward our waiting puppy.

At least that's the plan.

Just like riding a bike

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 24, 2016 9:31 PM

Kevin took the motorcycle out today. First time since July 4. That’s an unusually long time between rides for him. He loves his motorcycle, this one more than any of the others. Ever since that fateful Sunday I came home from dropping movies at Blockbuster and sat next to a couple on a bike at a stoplight on Agoura Road, he’s been back into motorcycles. I say “back into” because he evidently had a bike when he got out of college. I think he got rid of it when he got married the first time; I know he hadn’t had one for a long time. I think we went to look at motorcycles that day. We had our first bike by the following Friday. A Suzuki Intruder 800. 

Within six months, we’d upgraded to a 1500. It was a beautiful bike but not very comfortable for the passenger also known as me. Within about a year and a half, we sold that and bought our big Kaw (pronounced “cow”). A Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 chipped. So it was fast. It was also built for two. Whereas the big Suzook had a seat on the back, it always seemed like an afterthought. This new bike had floor boards from the driver and the passenger. Big saddlebags, a backrest for the passenger also known as me. We put white wall tires on it and it was gorgeous. Black metallic paint, lots of chrome. How we loved that bike. 

But once we moved, we knew we’d have to sell it. The roads here are atrocious and the ride was just too rough. It took all the fun out of cruising.

Enter the car on two-wheels. The love of Kevin’s motorcycle life. His favorite bike ever. The beloved Honda Goldwing 1800. This thing is amazing. It’s a touring bike versus a cruiser so it’s cushy, built for long rides. It has six cylinders, a tremendous amount of power. A six-CD changer, an AM/FM radio, an AUX hookup for an iPod. There are four speakers. It has a trunk to go with the two side pods. If we wanted, there is space for a trailer hitch and we could pull a small trailer. It has cruise control. The only thing it doesn’t have is air conditioning. 

We used to go out fairly regularly but since we moved, we don’t. Whereas our weekends used to consist of hopping on the bike to go to Ojai, usually for gas, our new weekend adventures consisted of driving to tile stores and hardware stores and paint stores. We needed a bigger trunk. Plus the no AC thing in the summer made it less enjoyable. 

Since we moved into our house, the weekends often consist of weekend things. Working outside, working inside. Socializing. And the bike sits in the garage, getting dusty, looking sad. I was looking at it the other day and I mentioned to Kevin that it had been a long time. I was feeling nostalgic. I was wanting a ride. 

We decided that over Labor Day weekend, we’d take a day, drive up to Apache Junction, have lunch, then wind our way back. 

Today, Kevin had to run some errands. 

“Which car are you taking?” I asked since we currently have three. 

“Not,” he said. “Taking the bike.” Then he grinned. “I just hope I can remember how to drive it.”

Whenever he goes out on the motorcycle without me, I’m adamant that he call or text me when he arrives at his destination, and again when he’s leaving to head home. Then I have an idea when to expect him. That way, if the time goes too long, I know to worry. 

He got to his destination. I got my text: “I remembered.”

“Just like riding a bike.” I texted back.

Meanwhile in the garage

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 6, 2014 10:33 PM

Last Saturday we made the journey to Catalina, up 77, through the desert where I bought a pumpkin spice latte and my husband bought a new used table saw. I think he said it’s a cabinet saw and that he used to have one; that he has been wanting to get another one ever since. We have not yet taken possession of the new old saw for two reasons: 1) we need to rent a truck with a lift-gate because it’s so big and heavy; and 2) we don’t really have room in our current garage. While the garage is an oversized two-car, and for normal people would offer plenty of space, my husband is not normal people. We have a ton of tools, most of which I am not on a first name basis with, that coexist with the still ailing Porsche, the new motorcycle – the monster 1800 Honda Goldwing – and the big SUV Range Rover. Plus boxes, a wine “vault” that Kevin built to house our good wine and keep it cool while we’re between houses, two bicycles and a bunch of odds and ends. The kinds of things that are in every garage. A bucket filled with car washing stuff; brooms; a trash can.

Kevin manages to get all of this into our oversized two-car garage, with a bit of room to spare, and with the garage door able to close. No small feat. He’s a master organizer. You should see him pack a car. Interestingly, when we travel, I am the one who packs the suitcases. That’s fodder for another post.

When we decided to finally take the plunge and build our own home, there were several must-haves. We both wanted offices inside the house, on opposite sides so as not to bother one another when one or the other or both are on the phone. I wouldn’t even entertain a place that did not offer natural gas since I do a lot of cooking. We wanted a wine room that was full size, easy to get in and out of. Our last wine room was more of a closet that we had to stoop to get into. Once inside, we couldn’t stand up. It was well insulated and kept the wine chilled to a constant balmy 58º. Kevin built it. Like all things that Kevin builds, it was impeccable and functional.

In our new house, he wanted a three-car garage. And a workshop for all of his tools. So that he could build whatever it is that he is building at any given time without completely rearranging the garage in order to do so. In the past, and even currently while we’re renting, when he was working in the garage, all of the vehicles had to exit stage front. All of the tools had to be pulled out from wherever they were hiding. When he was finished for the day, all of those same tools had to be cleaned and put away. The garage floor had to be swept and vacuumed. Then the cars and bike could return. It was – is – not the most efficient way to wood-work.

He is nearly giddy with the prospect of having his own space. Space that is completely devoted to housing all of his tools in whatever configuration he decides is appropriate. I have a feeling that he’ll spend a lot of his weekend time out there. I can foresee move-in day, when he’ll be in the garage, arranging his workshop which is off the back of the middle stall. We talked last night about where he was going to put his TV so he can watch football while he’s working. Meanwhile, I will be in the entirety of the house, unpacking room by room; hanging pictures, arranging furniture.

Today, Kevin put an ad on Craig’s List to sell his current table saw. Last night he cleaned it up. Because he takes such good care of his tools, the thing looks practically brand new. Because we are both a little anal, he still has the owner’s manual. We even knew where it was – right were we keep all of the other owner’s manuals for all of the other tools, and appliances, and electronic equipment. We even have the owner’s manual for our bicycle helmets. He wrote his ad. This morning he got up and posted it. I slept in a bit. When I got up just before nine, he had already had three guys contact him about the saw, and one guy coming at 10 am.

I laughed as I poured myself a cup of coffee. You mean it’s not sold yet?

Once it does, which I suspect will be today, we can arrange for the lift-gate truck and drive back to Catalina to get the new old saw, the bigger saw. I have no idea how it’s going to fit in the current garage. But I’m not worried. Kevin will figure it out. He always does, and it’s what I’m celebrating today. Happy weekend all.

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. 

White wall tyres

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 15, 2014 9:45 PM

I have always had a fascination with white wall tires. It might have something to do with the big fat tires on the big fat cars of the 1940s. The luxe Cadillacs and Packards and Lincolns come to mind. Several years ago we put white wall tires on the motorcycle and they look incredible.

Our bike is a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 with a charged chip for more power and fancy Cobra pipes for a better sound. It’s not as raucous as a Harley but it definitely sounds like a beast. It was my idea to get this style of bike. It’s built for two people, comes out of the factory with sideboards for the passenger as well as a padded backrest. It also comes standard with hard, rounded saddlebags that match the metallic black of the bike itself. We bought it used. We found it at the Harley Davidson dealer in Simi Valley and they wanted to get rid of it. It only had about 3000 miles on it. We bought it for around $9000 and we love it.

It came with black tires, also standard equipment. Because the paint is black, even though it’s metallic, it cut quite a lethal silhouette. We dressed it up a bit with more chrome, bites on the ends of the fenders, but the black tires were still black tires. When we had to replace both tires a few years ago, I suggested we look at white walls. I knew it would change the look entirely. Kevin was skeptical. The white walls were more expensive. Plus he was unconvinced that the bike would look good with white walls. His reasoning was sound: if it was supposed to have white walls, it would have come with white walls.

My reasoning was equally sound: if it wasn’t supposed to have white walls, they wouldn’t make white walls that fit it. A nice pair of pants looks even nicer with a great belt. A great hair cut looks even better with a blast of equally fabulous color.

Fine, he said. We ordered white walls.

White wall tires were first made in 1914 by a small company in Chicago for horse and chauffer-drawn carriages. The natural rubber of these early car tires was mixed with several chemicals to make them wear better. One of those chemicals was zinc oxide, just like the white stuff lifeguards used to wear on their noses to block the sun. It’s still used in many natural-based sunscreens. In a tire, the zinc increased traction. It also made the entire rubber compound, and thus the tire, white. But white rubber didn’t last as long so carbon black was added to the rubber to increase tread life. The carbon black was originally only on the tread, leaving the rest of the tire white.

By the 1930s, black tires were all the rage and symbolized great status. The luxury cars of the time all sported completely black tires. On April 6, 1934, Ford reintroduced white walls as an option on all of its cars. The extra cost? $11.25 They quickly became popular again and by the 1950s, most cars sported white walls. The Corvette and the Thunderbird. All wore white walls proudly.

Modern cars don’t have white walls and would probably look kind of stupid. They’re just not designed for them. But motorcycles are, especially the big cruisers like ours.

Today, Kevin is scrubbing the white walls on our bike. They haven’t been done in a while and they’ve turned a rather dingy shade of dove gray. He has his bleach mixture and soap. He’s lying on the driveway with a scrub brush. It’s 88º; he’s hot. And he’s probably cursing me. She needed to have white walls. I don’t see her out here with the bleach and the brush. Black tires would have been just fine. I would have been done by now if we had black tires. But oh, no. We had to have white walls. Had. To. Have.

And I’m thinking: Oh, but they look so good.

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live out loud

Parade of lights

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 16, 2013 10:55 PM

Catalina Highway begins at Tanque Verde to the east and ascends in a straight line, north toward Mount Lemmon. From the moment you turn onto it, you’re overwhelmed by the stretch of road ahead, one where there are precious few cars, and one that appears to be headed directly into the foothills. They jut up into the sky, red rocks and cactus, an imposing feast of nature beckoning you ever forward. Cyclists love this road. It’s not uncommon to find more people on bicycles than in cars.

Along the two-lane roadway, there are houses tucked in and between saguaros and prickly pear, mesquite and other desert brush. They are almost all desert architecture, low to the ground with flat roofs. They are not too close together. Rather they’re spread out and comfortable. Rarely do you see people outside of these houses; occasionally someone will be walking a dog.

Before the climb begins to Mount Lemmon there are two stop signs, one at Houghton, the other at Snyder. Just past Snyder, about five miles up from where the road began, it begins to climb up and to the east, twisting its way through the Catalina foothills on its way to the mountain. Just before this climb, there is a road called Mount Lemmon Short road. It is back off of this road, and nestled into the hills, where our property resides. It’s quiet during the day, pitch black at night save for the twinkling stars and on this night, a full moon tucked behind a veil of clouds.

It’s a beautiful area, peaceful, serene, away from most of the city. In fact, it is outside the city limits though still within the arms of the county. On Saturday, suited up in our leathers we rode the Highway. I happened to see a fire truck parked in someone’s driveway, completely decked out for the holidays, with tinsel and Santa and his sleigh on top. Lights dripped along the metal, nearly obscuring the truck’s true identity; a wreath adorned the grill. Kevin didn’t see it. On the way back down, I pointed it out. We figured it had to be for a parade. People decorate for the holidays, some even decorate vehicles, but not like this.

There is a tractor in a field near where we live that is outlined in lights. At night, it is lit up, the lights lining the wheels appearing to turn. Smoke in the guise of blue lights pushes out the chimney. There is an old Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep, with a right hand drive, in the street across the way. It is parked in someone’s front yard, also strewn with lights. An inflatable reindeer is on top. Inside, at the wheel, an inflatable Santa.

Down the street, in an area called Winter Haven, the houses are all decorated and ready for the steady stream of visitors who walk and drive through each Christmas for two weeks. There are enormous pine trees that reach toward the stars, real smoke curls from chimneys, Christmas music plays. It’s as if moving through a film. It’s a destination for people all over the city, a chance to experience the magic of Christmas. Norman Rockwell meets Clark Griswald.

Today, I saw the fire truck again, on Facebook. It was announcing the annual Parade of Lights, an event that takes place this Saturday night. The truck will undoubtedly be part of the parade that will start with a tree lighting and will see dozens of entrants, all showcasing beauty and creativity. The parade theme is creativity in the use of lights.

Off of Catalina Highway, outside the city limits, was one entry already prepared to lead the way, from our neighborhood to downtown and beyond. It’s going to be something to see. Very festive, joyous. Colorful. It’s the spirit of the season lit up for the world, living it out loud along streets trimmed to be very merry. I can’t wait. 

Such fine chaps

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 14, 2013 11:36 PM

Many Sundays ago, when Maguire was still alive and young enough to go with me in the car to run errands, when there was still Blockbuster Video and before Netflix and Smart TVs, he and I went to Westlake Village to return our DVDs. It was a beautiful day, warm but not hot, and as we pulled up to a stop light on Agoura Road, two motorcycles roared to a stop next to us. They were both cruisers and each carried a couple, with the man driving and the woman along for the ride. They were on our right, on the passenger side. Maguire, in the back seat, hung his head out the window and looked handsome, which wasn’t hard for him. The women both looked at him and smiled. They nodded to me. The light changed, the men dropped the bikes into gear and off they roared.

When Maguire and I got home, I said, casually, to Kevin that we should get a motorcycle. We had our first by the end of the following week, a metallic silver Suzuki Intruder 850. It was a beautiful bike but proved to be too small. Within the year, we bought another Suzuki, this time a 1500. It was big enough, powerful enough, stylish enough with its two toned paint – metallic white and metallic silver – but it was missing character. Another year later we got our current bike, a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. It has a chipped engine which I think soups it up a bit. It also has custom exhaust. It’s big, it’s bad. It’s comfortable. Metallic black with white wall tires, and two big saddlebags. We love it.


The Kawasaki

Over the years we have put thousands of miles on all of our bikes, but the most on the Kaw. I believe we’re currently around 23,000. It’s only used for fun, though Kevin occasionally takes it to meetings or to run errands. I don’t like it when he goes off without me. It worries me. My philosophy is “if we’re going to go splat, we’re going to go together.”

Since we’ve been riding, we’ve also collected quite the menagerie of riding gear. We have heavy leathers for when it’s cold, light leathers for when it’s just cool. We have vests for when we just need a little something to break the wind. There are different gloves to go with the different weather types; llighter gloves with a mesh top for when it’s not cold, heavier, lined gloves for when it is. Kevin has gauntlet gloves for when it’s cold. They are long and wide enough to go up over the end of this jacket sleeve. It keeps the wind out. I had always seen riders wearing leather and thought they did it just to be cool. Once we started riding, I realized it was because it often is cool if not downright cold. And the air goes right through cotton jeans and jackets. Leather blocks it.


Kevin in his biker gear, including chaps

Years ago, for Christmas, and unbeknownst to each other, we got chaps. Chaps are seatless leather pants that are most frequently associated with cowboys. They’re Spanish in origin, and were called armas, or shield, and used as protection against cactus, brush and thorns when herding cattle in the west. They were basically two large pieces of leather sown together and attached to the horn of the rider’s saddle, and then spread across the horse’s chest and the rider’s legs. A little bulky and awkward. Finally someone got the idea to actually make them function more as an addendum to pants and Chaperajos were the result. Chaperajos means leg of iron. They were abbreviated to chaps though the ch was pronounced as sh originally. They became hugely popular in the 1870s, again primarily with cowboys. In the colder climates, cowboys also wore angora chaps with bear, buffalo or angora fur/wool. In the 1900s, batwing chaps became all the rage. They fit closely at the waist and thigh and then flared at the bottom for greater flexibility.

Motorcycle chaps developed initially from tank corps gear after World War I. Long leather coats were worn for protection, but tended to catch in the wheels. By World War II, wide legged leathers or breeches were being worn. In 1928, Irving Schott invented the popular jacket and chaps made famous by Marlon Brando in The Wild One in 1954. They’ve been worn by American bikers since the early 1960s to protect against weather, especially the cold, and in the case of a fall, they tend to be more resilient against asphalt.


Me in my biker gear, including chaps

As far as I can tell, the addition of fringe is purely decorative. Mine have fringe. I also have a brilliant red rose tapestry sown onto each thigh. It matches the brilliant red rose abstracts on my coat, which also has fringe. Kevin’s chaps don’t have fringe. Neither does his coat. I wear mine with black cowboy boots, as a nod to the past.

We look bad on the bike. We look like bikers. And unless you ride, you might have thought that all that leather is just to look like part of the biker subculture. That may be partially true. We bikers stick together. There’s an unwritten code that says you stop to help someone who’s on the side of the road. If you’re just passing another biker, you acknowledge each other with a low hand out to the side, or a peace sign. Very cool, very casual. We take care of each other because ultimately we’re all fine chaps. Some of us are also wearing them. 

Afraid of the scenes

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 23, 2013 9:16 PM

As good as television has become in certain aspects, on certain channels, it is also equally bad in many respects. That’s why when we have a show that we love, we cling to it, sometimes irrationally, for too long. We did it with The X-Files, which, let’s face it was a mere shadow of itself in seasons 8 and 9, sans Mulder and the Mulder/Scully chemistry. We did it with Gilmore Girls after Amy Sherman Palladino left after season 5. We kept hoping for the magic to return. We did it with The West Wing after Aaron Sorkin had a meltdown and left his chaotically brilliant show after season 5. The West Wing, though, actually redeemed itself well by becoming about the next campaign for president after the beloved Jed Bartlet would depart to fly home to New Hampshire. It didn’t hurt that the redemption was capped with Jimmy Smits, a personal favorite since LA Law.

So when we find a good show, we savor it like a fine wine, sipping from its delectable dialogue and allowing it to swirl around in our mouths for a while. We wait anxiously every week for a good show. It becomes close to appointment TV, which is what The West Wing and The X-Files were for years. There could be no distractions during appointment TV. If the phone rang, too bad. We simply basked in the warm, gooey – sometimes literally in the case of The X-Files – wonder of great characters speaking great dialogue in believable plots. OK. Not The X-Files. But that show was never about believability. It was about the truth.

These days, appointment TV has dwindled to three, two of which still blow our hair back weekly; one of which is limping along and we’re still in the “it’s going to be OK” phase, hoping it will pull its plot-addled head out of its butt and get back on track. I watching you Homeland.

One of the two is the über-violent, sadistically vile and incredibly rapturous motorcycle scorcher, Sons of Anarchy. There is often no one who is even remotely likable in the cast. They kill randomly. They treat each other badly. They rage against authority even as they push a gun-running trade and pornography, only one of which is illegal. We can’t take our eyes off of it. Now in its 6th and penultimate season, it has become a show that we await anxiously. Is it September yet?

This season started off with a bit too much of a bang. For a show this exquisitely violent and blood soaked, the first episode was nearly over the top. I found myself wondering if we could even continue to watch it. While violence is what the show is all about, it took it to a place that was so abhorrent I worried they had finally gone too far. Being the loyal fans we are, though, we decided to at least watch the next episodes to give it a fair shot. They have come roaring back. The Shakespeare meme – it very loosely mirrors Hamlet – is on full display and I just know that Tara, as the stand in for Ophelia, is going to die and it’s going to unleash Jax in ways we’ve never before seen. Also, it too has Jimmy Smits.

And this is the guy who shot a woman in the head just last night and then ordered his “brothas” to clean it up while he went outside for a smoke. Because smoking inside is frowned upon.

Our other appointment TV is the simply exquisite The Good Wife. We’ve been watching it since its debut. Always good, this season it has veered into goosebump territory. It’s smart, intelligent, the plots make sense, the acting is amazing, the cast superb. We watched this week’s last night because Sunday nights get weird here, with time and football, and Homeland, so we watch Alicia and company On-Demand on Tuesday night.

At the end of this week’s episode, when the newly married Diane leaves Alicia’s office, stops in the hall, a look of realization washing over her face (dog bless Christine Baranski) and stands staring at Will, who is in his own office, meeting with a potential new colleague, Kevin and I were on the edge of our seats. Will and Diane have been in the process of dissolving their partnership and thus their firm of Lockhart/Gardner but as Will absorbed the look and immediately dismissed his colleague, the connection they have shared and continue to share was electric. He knew she knew something that she needed to tell him, animosity be damned. And she did.

Cut to black.

Cut to Kevin and I: Holy crap, batman.

Julianna Margulies’ voice came on and casually asked us to “stay tuned for scenes from our next episode.” Casually, like it couldn’t be a very big deal.

Kevin: “I can’t watch. I don’t want to see the scenes.” He was like a little kid putting his head under the pillow to escape the monsters in the room, only in this case, the monsters were the amazing talents responsible for this show. We were literally afraid of the scenes, afraid to know what was going to happen. At least until we watch it next Tuesday.

That’s good stuff. That’s the best kind of television there is, one that celebrates the audience’s intelligence even as that audience hides in the closet, quivering with anticipation.

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live out loud

I hear the sound of my husband’s motorcycle approaching

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 11, 2013 10:53 PM

Kevin and I are motorcycle people. We love them. He had bikes in the past, before I came into the picture. I always wanted one. I had friends in college who had bikes, sport bikes – or crotch rockets as they’re affectionately known – and street bikes. Cruisers weren’t really all that popular until the last 15 years or so. Two of my guy friends in college, Kevin (no relation) and Mac, had the same street bike. It was a Kawasaki 450, if memory serves. One of them was black, the other blue.

I tried to have a motorcycle when I was married the first time, but husband number one was more interested in fast cars and particularly in Porsches. I was OK with that as I’m also a car person. I love old cars, new cars, sports cars and classic cars. I love our current 1987 Porsche turbo. It’s my second Porsche. My first was during HNO (husband number one) and I had to sell it when we got divorced because I couldn’t afford the maintenance. I wish that I had the foresight to keep it. I babied that car; it would still be a great car. The turbo was not babied until we got it. We think of it like a rescue.

A number of years ago, when Maguire was still young and Blockbuster Video was still in business, he and I went for a Sunday morning Rover ride to return whatever we had rented. On the way home, stopped at a light on Agoura Road, two cruisers pulled up alongside of us, each being driven by a guy; each with a chick on the back. They looked comfortable and cool. They looked relaxed. They looked like they were having fun. When I got home I told Kevin that I thought we should get a motorcycle. We had one the following weekend, a beautiful silver Suzuki 850 Intruder. But it was too small, so within the year we upgraded to a Suzuki 1500 Intruder, but we never really fell in love with it. It was awkward, oafish. One summer, in 2007, while Kevin and Justin were in Illinois visiting Kevin’s family, I was standing in the kitchen perusing Motorcyclist magazine and there was an ad for a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500. A gorgeous bike with sleek lines, and built for two. It came with foot panels for the passenger and hard saddlebags, and a backrest. When Kevin got home, I broached the subject of maybe looking at one. We found a used one shortly thereafter and bought it. Metallic black, with lots of chrome and white-wall tires.  We’ve had it ever since.

Today, he had to run some errands and as he often does when it’s a beautiful day, he took the bike, roaring out of the driveway and down the street, the powerful growl of the engine disappearing into the desert as he rounded the corner and headed east.

I worry when he’s out by himself. He’s a great driver and beyond careful, but people don’t always see motorcycles and that leads to stupid accidents. When he goes off without me, he promises to text me whenever he arrives at his destination. I usually get nothing more than a simple “here.” He texts me again as he moves from place to place, keeping me updated so I know he didn’t go splat.


Kevin, returning home this afternoon

Sitting in my office this afternoon, the windows once again open, the cool of the day once again drifting in and around the room, I listened for the sound. Low and powerful, a lion’s purr, it’s very distinct. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but smile. He has returned safely on this fine piece of machinery, one of the finest we’ve owned. Sleek as a cat and ready to cruise, it’s joy on two white-walled wheels.

I hear it now. I hear him approaching. I smile. Soon, I’ll be smiling broadly, enjoying the view as he pulls into the driveway, safe at home. Definitely worth celebrating. 

This isn't charming

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:18 PM

Last night one of our favorite television shows had its season premiere. Sons of Anarchy. It is raunchy, nasty, dirty, profane, violent, and mean. There isn’t a single likable character; some are just less unlikable than others. Essentially it is the story of a motorcycle club/gang that functions much like a medieval band of knights. Kurt Sutter, the creator, has said that he based the premise on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and in some ways it is very much Hamlet, even Shakespearean in its lyrical, tattoo-laden violence.

The de facto king in the story is Clay Morrow. In Hamlet, he would be Claudius. His queen, who was instrumental in the death of her first husband, is Gemma. In Hamlet, she would be Gertrude. The tortured son is Jackson Teller, known as Jax. He has never truly trusted his stepfather and has longed for his real father. There is no ghost, though. In this tale, there is a manifesto written by the deceased father. In it, he tells of his dissatisfaction with the club, with Clay; even with his wife. It is written to Jax, and once Jax discovered it, he became determined to end the reign of Clay.

Along the way there have been drug deals with “the Myans” and “the blacks.” There is gun running with “the Irish” and others. It is one gang against another. There is a lot of sex, much of it down and dirty. It should probably be on HBO, Showtime or Cinemax. We’re always a little amazed at what they seem to get away with on F/X. The violence is brutal. Everyone is out to screw everyone else. And they all ride big black Harleys. They all wear baggy gang-like clothing and leather vests or jackets emblazoned with the Sons of Anarchy logo. They smoke. They drink. They curse. They kill.

But they’re also married with children. They have barbecues and big dinners with the family; pot lucks. They love their kids; they change diapers. And they’re fiercely loyal to each other. They’re more loyal to the club than they are to their wives, and they will torture people to death for real and perceived crimes against the club.

The club is SAMCRO. Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original. They are the ones who started the gang, though there are other chapters in other places. Occasionally we get to visit those places. Several years ago, we went to Ireland while Jax hunted down the men who kidnapped his baby. While they were there, we couldn’t understand a word that was said.

With all of its profanity and violence, the show can be difficult to understand at times. Some of the guys have accents. They talk fast. Some mutter. They sneer through facial hair. Kevin and I look at each other every few minutes and say “what did he say?” Most times it doesn’t really matter. The visuals will tell the story that the dialogue was meant to enhance.

As I said, there is no one in the entire show that is likable. They’re horrible to their women, they kill at will. They’re mean. They are murderous thugs who sit around their rectangle table in the clubhouse to discuss who they’re going to kill, and how, what they’re going to sell, who they’re going to screw, literally and figuratively.

It takes place in the fictional Northern California town of Charming, but it is the antithesis of charming. It is brutal. And we Can. Not. Take. Our. Eyes. Off. Of. It. We wait for it. We are glued to the television when it’s on. And when each episode is over, we look at each other, incredulous. How can it be over already?!

Why do we find it charming when it really isn’t? It doesn’t make our lives better; it doesn’t enhance our sense of right and wrong. It doesn’t really celebrate the poetry of Shakespeare though perhaps if Shakespeare was writing today, his main characters might be motorcycle gangs. Maybe we like it because it celebrates the outlaw, the west, the desire to live on the edge and to get away with it. To not show fear; to not allow anyone to dictate the confines of one’s life.

I suppose that’s all very possible, maybe even probable.

But I’m going with the motorcycles. 

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