Thou shalt not fear the apocalypse

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 4, 2014 10:21 PM

As desert rats, we understand that in the next weeks, we will be descending into the inferno. We are ready, we think; we are prepared, maybe. We know we will become like pieces of pottery, fired in a kiln only to eventually emerge and cool for use. I use this forced metaphor because tomorrow I start a pottery class. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. On Monday nights for the next eight weeks, I will drive through the ever-building heat toward a studio where I will sit at a wheel and throw around wet clay. I can’t think of a better way to cool off.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The coming apocalypse. By apocalypse, I mean the dreaded summer heat of the southwest where daily temperatures are usually at 100º and higher. These temperatures can be found in Southern Arizona and Southern California, especially in the San Fernando Valley of SoCal. There have been days when I have driven across the Valley and been told by the temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car that it is a balmy 116º. 

That is nothing compared to the hottest place on earth, the desert’s own Death Valley where the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134º. Talk about going into the kiln. Several years ago, my mother visited in the summer and we went to Santa Ynez and Los Olivos to do some wine tasting. It was 104º. She’s not used to living in a kiln, but – as my brother likes to joke – at least it’s a dry heat. Like that matters when the temperature is over 100.

To beat this apocalyptic heat, we engage in several activities. One involves staying inside with the air conditioning running, keeping the house at a comfortable 78º. Another involves traveling by car, also with the AC on. And another involves rearranging our lives so as to exercise before 8 am so as not to melt into a puddle of goo. This was the case this morning as we set off on our bicycles. At 8:40. We had good intentions. Last night we went to bed and said we would ride this morning early because of the coming apocalypse. It was supposed to be 95º today (I think it ultimately topped out at 93º). We woke up early and then because we hadn’t slept well because let’s face it, who can when the end of the world is coming, we fell back to sleep. Or rather, we dozed. At 7:35 we awoke with a start. We still had to walk Cooper. We needed to have a cup of coffee. We needed to prepare for the journey, a process that entails Kevin topping off the air pressure in the tires while I get the water bottles ready.

When we finally mounted the bikes and clicked into our pedals, it was already toasty. We rode 13 miles. Not far but it was mostly uphill. Even the brief periods of downhill were uphill. It’s true. I know you’re probably thinking that the heat has started to fry my brain because how can downhills go up, but they can and they do in the desert when it’s hot. Maybe it’s a mirage. By the time we got back, 52 minutes later, we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced, exactly how I would expect the apocalypse to make me.

I don’t know much about the apocalypse actually. My understanding is that it involves guys on horses, rather than bikes. But if my scant knowledge of the end of the world is correct, there is great heat and fire, and the gates of hell or something.

After a winter of nearly no rain, there will be fires. As I write this, there is one burning just east of Los Angeles. The weather people are predicting an apocalyptic fire season that has already started months early. It’s the price we pay for living in the southwest. But I don’t believe the actual apocalypse is coming, nor do I fear it if it does because I’m fairly used to the heat. And besides, I ride a bike. 

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live out loud

There is no substitute

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 24, 2012 10:42 PM

I’m a car person, always have been. I have no idea why. It’s not like I grew up in a household that was big into cars. My father had company cars that leaned toward the 4-door Pontiac Bonneville variety. My mother had an original 1965 convertible Ford Mustang, bought right off the production line for less than $3500. They didn’t buy it because it was cool or because they were car people; they bought it because it was in the price range.

Somewhere around the time I became a teenager I discovered that cars could be really cool. I didn’t necessarily like muscle cars like the Pontiac Trans-Am or the comparable Chevrolet Z28, their supped up, hot rod version of the Camaro. I remember several guys in high school had the same black Trans-Am with a gold eagle painted on the hood. They always struck me as big and sloppy; the cars, too. But one of my close friend’s boyfriend had a maroon Camaro that we all spent many fun hours in. Other friends had Toyotas, and I grew to love those as well. I learned to drive a stick on a red 1969 VW Beetle because friends of my parents gave it to me for a weekend once and said: “if you can drive it, you can use it.” I learned fast. I couldn’t get it into reverse though, so for the entire weekend I had to be careful of how and where I parked.

My Toyota Celica. It was sort of beige.

Fast forward to later in high school when I hooked up with an old boyfriend for a little while. He worked at Queen City Toyota in Manchester, NH and drove a 1976 Celica, a little stubby car with two doors. It was green and adorable. He let me drive it and I fell in love. With the car. I set my sites on my own Celica, and when I was a junior in college I bought a used 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback. This was after my mother had decided that she needed a sports car herself. I think it was a bit of a mid-life crisis. I borrowed another boyfriend’s car one night while at school and drove home for dinner. I pulled into the driveway and there were no lights on outside the garage. It was dark; they knew I was coming. I fumbled around for my house keys, found the lock to the side door leading into the garage, opened said door, reached inside to flip on the lights and screamed. There, sitting where the blue Honda hatchback wagon used to sit was a brand new 1983 Toyota Celica Supra. I made my mother take me out for a ride that very night.

My RX-7

I loved my own Celica, right up until I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona for one misplaced year and had to sell it. The car didn’t have air conditioning and it is nearly impossible to live in the desert in the summer without A/C. I was sad to see it go but its replacement was truly sporty, sexy and fun. A 1983 Mazda RX-7, gun metal gray with dark tinted windows in the back and louvers on the hatch. Its A/C rocked the planet. I loved that car. It was my first real sports car and I was proud to walk to it every day to go to work. It was small, but it was mighty. It got sold out from underneath me, almost literally, by my first husband. He had stopped at a Porsche dealer one night on the way home from work and found a 1986 Porsche 944 that we just had to have. I didn’t want it; I wanted my Mazda. I wasn’t ready to make a change, and I resented being forced to get rid of my precious car without even having seen the Porsche. I bitched, I moaned.

Can you imagine? I was getting a Porsche. And I was mad.

I quickly warmed up to my new toy. It was also gun metal gray and, as you can imagine, fast. Very fast. My then-husband used to refer to it as the racehorse. Then he got his own Porsche, a 911 with a whale tale. Mine became the poor relation. We got divorced, though not because of the his-and-hers Porsches, and split up the cars according to who loved what. But as a single woman not making very much money at the time I couldn’t afford the maintenance on mine and was forced to sell. I went back to Mazda, buying an MX-6. I was bored within six months. Sold that, and bought a BMW. And then another BMW. Both 3 series.

Full disclosure: As much as I loved my early Japanese cars, I have become a German car snob. Nobody builds a car like the Germans. The technology is superior, the craftsmanship incredible. They’re heavy, built like tanks, and solid as can be. I adored my BMWs but I had started working exclusively from my home office. Having a car in the garage along with a car payment seemed … stupid. Plus I was getting the itch again. I had never stopped loving my first Porsche. Once I had fallen for it, I fell hard. When I had to sell it, I was devastated. I wanted another one, badly.

It was now into the early 2000s. Porsche had stopped making 944s in 1992. Where does one go to find a car that is no longer made and in short supply on the local used car circuit? eBay. I searched and found a 1987 gun metal gray 944 turbo. We bought it for $6000, had it shipped from its home in Oklahoma. OK! When it arrived on the carrier, I drove it home. The next morning it went into the local German-car shop, a place where we still take it called Autobahn West. The guy is Porsche trained, and has had his own shop for a while. We had him replace the clutch, rebuild other sections of the car, and get it road ready. The engine was strong. Cosmetically it was beautiful. It needed to be painted, and eventually it was, but the interior was pristine.

The 944 Turbo. A real beauty if I do say so myself.

We have the car still. We don’t drive it often, but it is as fast as can be. When we take the onramp to the northbound 101 off of Lindero Canyon, it has a wide, sweeping path and that car sits down and takes off. Drop it from 4th into 3rd and watch out. It’s perfectly balanced, heavy, and beautiful. It has the most exquisite rumble. We have no car payment, put only about 3000 miles a year on it and just enjoy its power. It lives up to the Porsche mantra: there IS no substitute.

I’m a car person, and I love my Porsche.

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