One minute you have a nice, warm, delicious garlic roll and the next minute

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 22, 2014 12:36 AM

I love bread. I am especially drawn to fresh baked sourdough bread. If it is freshly baked sourdough with garlic and parsley and a bit of Parmesan cheese, I’m nearly euphoric. I don’t eat a lot of bread because I’ve found that as I get older, bread tends to, well, not evaporate as well as it used to when I was in my 20s and 30s.

Last night we went to our favorite gourmet grocery store to get salads from their salad bar. Like many gourmet grocers, their spread is very extensive with several types of lettuce, marinated as well as sliced button mushrooms, artichoke hearts, different cheeses, and more. We don’t do these salads often but I wasn’t in the mood to cook, or even to go to the store.

Salad bars often have fresh soups as well. The one last night also had fresh garlic rolls. They smelled so wonderful, so warm and gooey, that I had Kevin grab one for each of us. We got home with our salads and plopped ourselves in front of the television as is the way of the overworked American, Kevin on the couch, leaning over the coffee table, me on the floor, legs under the coffee table.

We flipped through channels and finally settled on Sideways. It had already been on for about 30 minutes but we just love that movie – we actually own the DVD and the soundtrack. We came in right around the time Miles and Jack were having their first dinner at The Hitching Post and seeing Maya. We decided we too needed a glass of wine if we were going to watch the film so in honor of Miles we opened a Pinot Noir. It wasn’t from Santa Ynez, where the film takes place. It was from Washington, and fairly decent. It’s hard to find a good Pinot because, as Miles so eloquently explains, they’re temperamental and need a lot of love and attention.

Cooper was flitting from one side of the table to the other. We were taking turns telling him to stay back. He was drooling, panting, whining. In other words, being a dog. You’d think he was horribly deprived, that he never got any food in his life.

Maguire was one of the most polite people – I mean dogs – we’ve ever met. It wasn’t anything we trained him to be; he simply was. He never took any food without it being given to him. We used to joke that we could put an entire chicken on the floor in front of him, and unless we told him it was ok, he wouldn’t eat it. He’d drown himself in a pool of drool but he’d never eat the chicken. It wouldn’t occur to him to ever take food unless offered. Like I said, polite. Cooper is not nearly as polite.

You can see where this is going I’m sure.

So there I was, feet out in front of me, legs crossed at the ankles. I was leaning back against the couch, watching the movie. I swirled my wine, sniffed and sipped, just like Miles was doing. It’s funny how you sometimes emulate what you’re seeing or hearing. Maybe it’s just us. We like to quote and recite and mimic.

Cooper finally sat down next to me. He was close, but he was fine. Every few seconds or so, he’d lean into me, as if to remind me that he was still there and could he have something to eat please. Never mind that he was panting and breathing rather heavily on me. Or that he weighs about 55 pounds or that he has red fur, making him hard to miss. Never mind that he doesn’t really like salad – it’s not really in one of his food groups. He wanted something, anything, please please please please.

I took a sip and he took the opportunity. With one quick lunge he grabbed my nice warm gooey garlic roll from the table and ate the whole thing in one bite. I almost spit out my wine. Kevin started to laugh. I said Bad dog but Cooper, unlike Maguire, doesn’t seem to suffer from remorse. He didn’t seem to feel the least bit badly about the fact that he had taken my roll. He got up and went over to Kevin’s side, eyeing Kevin’s roll hungrily. Kevin picked his up and ate it.

It just goes to show you that some things in life are fleeting. Look sideways for just a second, or watch Sideways, and you lose your garlic roll. One minute it’s there, and the next your dog is living it out loud. With garlic roll breath.

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live out loud | The cooking of joy

It is humid

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 5, 2013 8:58 PM

I forget sometimes about humidity.  When you live in the desert or at least on the outskirts of it,  you get very used to dry air. It gets hot to be sure. Over 100 regularly in the summer months and don't believe it when someone says "yeah, but it's a dry heat." Heat is heat and over 100 it doesn't matter. The hottest place on earth is Death Valley with a recorded high of 134. It's in the middle of the desert. Things don't grow there. It is dry and blistering.

Now I'm on the east coast, in McKeesport, in my late Aunt Beryl's house, high above the Allegheny river. The sun is dripping from the sky, through clouds. It is sweltering, everything is damp, even when it should be dry. It is humid.

It's an interesting phenomenon, humidity. It sucks the life and moisture right out of you and deposits it into your hair. I have wavy hair that I can keep somewhat in line in California, but here, it's gone a bit haywire. It curls in unmanageable directions, flips out and then tries to pretend like there's nothing wrong. I had forgotten; I have remembered quickly. 

The air hangs; you can almost see it. Far off clouds gather steam and congregate, first thick and white, then tinged with anger. I watched them from the front stoop of Aunt Beryl's house today as I gazed down the steep, yellowed brick road. At the bottom of the street, only a couple hundred feet at the most, and over the trees, flows the black and brown of the Allegheny. A power boat pulled out from the trees and zoomed across the river, under the gathering humidity.

I knew it would rain again. Rain has a feel to it as it comes in. The air gets heavier; it smells thick and damp. Any breeze dies entirely before resurrecting itself to turn tree  leaves upside down and inside out. There is almost a whisper. The temperature rises ever so slightly.  Then it begins, sometimes in earnest, sometimes timid. The temperature drops and heat rises from the pavement like steam. My hair is curling just thinking about it.

It is humid. My hair may be curlier but my skin is less dry so that's good. In the house, the temp was probably 15 to 20 degrees hotter especially upstairs. There is no air conditioning; instead there are open windows and many fans. I spent time up in the attic, the highest and the hottest room in the house. I went through cupboards and closets and boxes, pulling out old photographs, birth certificates from an immediate family now, nearly a century later, gone.

I found dresses that I remembered my Aunt Eleanor wearing when I was a child. Pink checked light cotton, with a button down front. In those days, they were called housedresses. I don't know what they are called now, if anything. 

I found a portrait of my mother's grandfather in uniform, from World War I. I found one piece swim suits. I found dust and dirt and heat.

After awhile I had to go downstairs. It was simply too hot; too humid.

But today, from the front stoop looking out over the river to the gathering clouds to the stifling attic, I learned to love the humidity, even if just a little. Because once the clouds rained and the air cooled, it was a good day. It was actually lovely.

Interview with a Squire

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 13, 2013 11:02 PM

He shows up on time, dapper in his gray fur tipped with hints of black. It is darker nearer his body, and it occurs to me that he is aging the opposite of humans and even dogs, or at least the late Maguire, the one he dubbed his Knight. He has been known ever since as the Squire, the ever-present attendant and companion to the noble dog, the one who helped get him ready for battle and in the end, helped him prepare for the inevitable.

He settles himself into the corner of the branch of the birch tree in the back yard. The sun streams down through the trees, the leaves around him rustle slightly. He pays them no attention. Pulling a nut out from his cheek he starts to nibble.

“You don’t mind if I eat, do you?” he asks politely. “I’ve been traveling and I lost a little weight. Now the missus wants me to get healthy. She doesn’t like me skinny.”

I assure him that it’s perfectly fine for him to eat and nod, agreeing that he looks a bit thin but that he also looks good. Perhaps it’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve seen him haunting our trees, racing along the walls and dancing atop Kevin’s – Hey, Kevin – studio. I ask him where he’s been. Between bites and acorn chews he tells me.

“I got a job,” he says. “Some squirrels from Washington contacted me through squirrel mail and said they were getting ready for this thing called Squirrel Week. And I thought, come on. There’s a week celebrating me?”

I say that I’ve heard of that but didn’t know much about it.

He chews for a minute, bringing his little squirrel hands up to his mouth, and then he swallows. He tosses the rest of the nut to the side. He starts to speak again and then he freezes. Suddenly he is on high alert. His fur stands on end, the black tips at attention, his black eyes straight ahead, his ears perked.

Inside the house, the new dog, the knight-wannabe, stirs. I am out on the patio with a cup of coffee and the new dog, known as Cooper, wants to be outside with me. He is rather attached to me, as it turns out. But as I am having a chat with the Squire, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have him racing around, trying to cause trouble. I tell Cooper to hush and assure the Squire that we’re cool.

“Sometimes he makes me wish I was a flying squirrel,” the Squire mutters.

Squirrel Week, it turns out, was started by The Washington Post to celebrate the much loathed and more beloved rodents –

“Rodents,” he repeats. “Piiittthhhh.”

– who are descended from the Sciuridae family from some 40 million years ago. There are 285 known relative-types and most live in either terribly cold climates or exceptionally hot areas. They like to eat birdseed and nuts, they scavenge and forage for food and they love to play chicken with cars. I have seen too many relatives of our beloved Squire end up splat on the road. It’s not pretty. I see them dart out from seemingly nowhere and as they start across the asphalt I find myself cheering them on: “Go squirrel, go!”

“We’re creative in our approach to life,” the Squire says after a few moments of silence. “If we need to get someplace, we get there. We call it the squirrel squirt. If we need to extract a nut, we figure it out. It might take a while, but it happens. It’s about overcoming challenges. You know, like being called a rodent.”

That is a challenge, I agree. As the fictional Carrie Bradshaw once intoned: squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits. I admit that I’ve always found that funny. The Squire looks at me steadily. I can tell he’s trying to decide if he should be insulted. I assure him he shouldn’t be. I also laugh at jokes about Italians and about women, even sometimes about Italian women. He smiles. He says it’s good to be back and that his job didn’t really pan out. I ask what it was.

“Getting all 285 to pose for one picture,” he says. “Wasn’t happening. Not even close.”

I have one more question for the Squire. How is he getting along without his Knight?

“Oh, you know, it’s hard,” he says sadly. He’s quiet then, lost in squirrel thoughts. “I miss the big guy. And he was a really good guest blogger. I have trouble with that sometimes.” He pauses.

“I guess I still have big paws to fill,” he says with a smile.

And with that he is up off the branch and scurrying up the tree. I watch him go, wondering why the Washington Post felt the need to have a Squirrel Week and if Cooper will ever be the knight we hope he’ll be. I’m lost in my own squirrel thoughts when I hear my name:

“Hey Lorin,” he says. I look but can’t find him. “Sometimes you just gotta let the nuts fall where they may.” I smile. “And May will be here before you know it! Bye!”

His voice disappears then, too. But the Squire is back, and I for one am celebrating him – and all of his brethren – on this Saturday as we are all living it out loud … in cute outfits. 

Mistaken for what? Observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 2, 2013 10:17 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here. I understand from Hey Lorin that everyone, including her, was starting to get worried about me. I have been laying a little low and here’s why: at this time of year, I always get mistaken for something called a groundhog. Now I know that he’s a dude who generally lives underground and just comes out every once in a while but really – he can’t possibly look a thing like me.

Still, I know that groundhogs get grabbed up and put up on a stage and then they have to parade around and wait for the sun to come up and see if they see their shadow. Something about a shadow meaning that there’s going to still be lots more winter and no shadow meaning the spring is coming early. I don’t know how it could come early since according to my calendar, it comes the same date as it does every year, shadow or not. But whatever.

Me, a little heavier than usual

The most famous groundhog doesn’t even live around here. He has a first name I can’t even pronounce like Hunkytony and then his last name is Phil. I think that’s kind of a weird last name but maybe his parents thought it would make him memorable or something. I guess he is pretty smart because according to everything I read, these German people from some place called Yourup but who lived in Pennsylvania believed that when this Phil guy came out of his hole on February 2 – that’s today – and the sun came out and cast a shadow that he’d go right back underground for another six weeks. At least that’s what Hey Lorin was saying today. But I don’t think that makes any sense. I mean, if he’s so smart, why’s he coming out of his hole anyway, especially when it’s cold and especially when there are all kinds of people around to grab at him and take his picture. Plus, why does seeing a shadow make you smart? I see shadows all the time. I’m pretty smart but it’s just a shadow. It’s not like it’s rocket squience or something.

When Hey Lorin saw me today, she was so relieved. She asked where I’d been and I said I was keeping a low profile because of the groundhog thing. Then I asked her what is a groundhog anyway. She told me that groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistle-pigs, and they’re actually related to me cause they’re also ground squirrels called marmots. They live in a hole, like Hunkytony and they can weigh as much as 30 pounds. That’s like me times at least 10. Now I know I’ve put on a little weight this winter but I’m not that big. Still, I decided to ask Hey Lorin since she hadn’t seen me in a while.

“Hey Lorin,” I asked as I crammed an acorn in my cheek. “Do you think I look fat?”

She looked up at me and smiled. I noticed she didn’t answer me right away and I was starting to get worried that maybe I was fat.

Finally: “I think your fur is just thick for the winter,” she said.

Ha. That’s exactly what Mrs. Squirrel said. Girls are all alike I guess.  I decided not to point out that the Red Furred one also looked like his fur has gotten a little thick lately.

So maybe I need to lose a little bit of weight. I mean, Hunkytony Phil didn’t see his shadow so spring is coming and that means something called bathing suit season is coming next. I don’t know what bathing suit season is and I don’t think I want to. But since it was cloudy today and I didn’t see my shadow either, no matter how hard I looked, I guess I better get ready.

At least now nobody will think I’m a groundhog, though they may think I’m a whistle-pig, if Hey Lorin is right. I hope they don’t think I’m that but just in case, maybe I should start eating more berries.

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live out loud

The zen of sit: Observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 5, 2013 8:31 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here and I’m a little dizzy. It seems that things are moving very fast around here lately and it’s enough to make a squirrel’s head spin. First there was all that celebrating that went on, with too many cars and an awful lot of people. I stayed hidden for days; it was just too scary to be out there where I could go splat and you all know how Mrs. Squirrel feels about splat. I don’t feel much better about it to tell you the truth.

There were lots of lights everywhere, too. Little lights and bigger lights and some lights that were in the shape of big animals. Those scared me at first because I didn’t quite know what to make of them. It was like there was suddenly a big twinkling deer in the neighbor’s yard only it didn’t smell like what I think a deer probably smells like. Also, it never moved.

Then there were these really big shapes that swayed in the night air. During the day they were just collapsed on the grass in a mostly white heap. It looked kind of like snow only it wasn’t. Of course, a couple of nights it was cold enough to snow. Me and Mrs. Squirrel had to huddle up real close in order to keep warm. I like huddling. Not sure the missus likes it quite as much but she was a good sport.

I sat on the grass one morning, in front of one of these collapsed things and tried to talk to it. It had been so big and sort of scary the night before, but then it looked like it got attacked or something. I wanted to know what had happened so I could be on the lookout for whatever or whoever it was. I figured if it could get to something that big, it could for sure get to something small like me. But I couldn’t get that blobby white thing to talk to me so after a few barks I gave up and started back toward the house.

That’s when the red blur came by. He spotted me and immediately he lunged and growled and barked at me, too. I went half way up the tree in the front yard since he kind of startled me and then I hung there, upside down, just looking at him. He pranced and danced and then he stopped and he stood frozen, his ears forward, his body tense. He has good form, this red knight-to-be, and he’s handsome, too. Not as handsome as the first knight, my best knight. No one will ever been that handsome, but this red furred one is a good-looking dude. He’s a little wild still. As if to prove that, Hey Kevin who was with the red furred one said “Cooper, zen.” I think he followed it up with a dammit and I chuckled. It’s hard to train a new knight. I know that better than just about any squirrel.

“Hey Kevin?” I asked, safely on the tree.

“Oh, Hey Squire,” he said followed by “Sit!”

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean me.

“What’s up with the zen?” I asked.

“Well, he’s a nut and I thought that if we could get him to understand the idea of zen then our walks wouldn’t be quite so, well, crazy.”

I thought about that for a couple of seconds, then I turned my eye toward the one they call Cooper. He was eyeing me, too. But he was sitting. He was calm even though all of his fur seemed to be electrified. If I so much as moved a whisker, I knew he’d spring forward. So zen must mean sit. Good to know.

Cause I’ve got some work to do with this one.

Miss trees: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 1, 2012 6:51 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here. It’s another wet morning in Oak Park and wet rainy mornings always make me kind of lazy. I just want to stay in the den a little longer. This morning when I finally left, Mrs. Squirrel told me to be extra careful. The trees are a little more slick than when it’s dry and I could slide and fall off. She was right. I was flying down the side wall, scampering along at my usual pace. I could see Hey Lorin in the kitchen having some coffee. I got to the corner of the wall and jumped for the tree like usual. I almost didn’t make it. I went to grab the branch and my paws started to slide off. I finally caught one of the leaves and was able to pull myself up. Phew. That was a close one. I could have gone splat on the ground.

Once I got myself composed, I decided to just hole up for a little bit. I scrunched down in the space where the branch meets the tree. It wasn’t as wet and seemed wider. Plus it’s a really great space to watch what’s going on, and here’s what I saw. A tree, going in the house.

Naturally I was sort of curious. Trees aren’t usually in the house, but this one went right in through the garage. I left my safe, dry spot, carefully made my way back to the wall and ran to the back of the house. I went down one tree, snuck across the wet grass, and spun my way back up another tree. This one has the lowest branches in the yard and I could look inside. I found myself a dry spot under some big leaves, and hunkered down to watch.

Hey Lorin put the tree into a green thing on the floor. Then she got down on the floor, too, and had these screw things she was turning. The red-furred one they call Cooper was sitting on the rug, just watching. I could tell he didn’t quite understand why there was a tree in the house. His head was cocked to one side and his ears were really far forward. You could just see him trying to understand. He must not have ever had a tree in the other houses where he lived before he lived here with Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin.

Hey Lorin was talking to him, telling him what was going on. I couldn’t hear everything because the windows were closed because it’s kind of cold and rainy but I’m pretty sure she said it’s a miss tree. Hmmmm. I figured that was probably about right. A tree in the house would sure be missed by the outside trees. It’s also a miss because it doesn’t really belong in the house. I don’t think it’s a girl tree, though, so it’s not that kind of miss. Can trees be boys or girls? I’ll have to look that one up.

Anyway, the red-furred one kept sitting on the rug and watching and Hey Lorin started putting these long strings of things on the miss tree, wrapping them around. They were very bright, like a million tiny white lights. They were actually really pretty and I was pretty intrigued by it all. Then I heard a crash from the front of the house so I had to go investigate that.

Back down along the wall, but this time, I didn’t just jump onto the tree. I went down the front of the wall, and then up the tree and to the roof over the house so I could see what was happening. Hey Kevin was out there, on a ladder, hanging more tiny white lights on the front of the house. He wasn’t very happy about it either.

When he saw me, he nodded. Hey Squire.

Hey Kevin. What are you doing?

Hanging miss lights. That’s what he said.

I looked around the neighborhood and some of the other houses seemed to have these pretty little lights on their houses, too. I saw a car go by with a tree on top and I wondered if it was a miss tree, too, and if it was going in somebody else’s house. I didn’t recognize the car but I don’t know all the cars in the neighborhood, just the ones that try to run over me.

Miss lights and miss trees. Seems like there is an awful lot of miss happening around here. It’s kind of pretty. Maybe I’ll even get a miss tree for the den. Mrs. Squirrel would like that.

Oh what a knight: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 10, 2012 8:30 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here and can I just say that I’m pretty worn out? Trying to get this new knight-wanna-be in any kind of shape to even begin his extensive training is tiring. I can’t even get the guy to look at me. He’s so obsessed with what’s down that he has yet to look up. It’s frustrating. I don’t remember this with the actual knight, the real knight, the big dog.

Let me tell you what’s happening. It shouldn’t take long, because it’s essentially nothing. Oh, he’s cute and all. I actually kind of like his red fur cause it’s a little like mine and I’ve always been proud of the reddishness of my fur coat. My mother, Madam Squirrel, use to tell me that she thought we must be descended from the great Irish squirrels of the 16th century. Back then, when the Celts ruled on the isle so green, squirrels were their constant companions. Sometimes they were also dinner. I never liked that part. But that’s why we squires immigrated to this country. According to legend, or at least my mom, it happened quite by accident when Old Squire Squirrel the first and his soon-to-be missus Old Squire Squirrel were squirreling around near the water. Some horses rode up and Old Squire decided they needed to take cover “lest they get et.”

That’s old-time Squire speak for somebody was going to be on the menu.

So Old Squire and his soon-to-be missus jumped onto some big wooden thing to hide. It was a boat. Next thing they knew they were someplace else where they decided to stay. Eventually there was Old Squire the 82nd and he and his Mrs. Old Squire caught a ride to the Americas, their kids traveled west in somebody’s wagon and that’s how we got here.

The Squire ancestors were all assigned to a knight. It’s in our blood. That’s how I got to be the knight’s squire. He was a good knight, too. Very stoic, very powerful. Toward the end, all he had to do was use his eyes and whoever he was looking at started to quiver. Of course, that’s really all he could use, his eyes. He was kind of old but still strong and he was still a great knight. I did good by him, I think. I was always there to tell him when some other element was flying in, like birds or that big red hawk that sometimes drops by. When he comes, I high-tail it for my den in a big time hurry. I don’t have any desire to be his dinner – to be ‘et’ – any more than the original Old Squire wanted to be. I always told the Knight “in coming!” before I scurried though.

Some knights might have said I was cowardly, but the knight, my knight, he understood. I mean, I’m not that big and I’d fit pretty easily into that hawk’s beak.

Now there is the knight-to-be. He is still a little wet behind the ears. A nutbag, whatever that is. I hear Hey Lorin calling him that all the time, like “Hey, nutbag, what are you doing out there?” She says it really nice and sweet, too, like she thinks he’s cute. I think he’s a little bit crazy, running around outside. He even chases that never-will-be-a-knight-no-way-no-how Kobe along the side of the house. They can’t even see each other but they run back and forth and bark up a storm, raising such a ruckus, it’s like to bring Old Squire back from squirrel heaven.

Me, this morning. See my red fur?

Hey Kevin was out on the patio this morning, huddled up in his bathrobe while the red knight-to-be ran around the yard looking for a tree. Never looked up once. Hey Kevin did though.

“Hey Squire,” he said. I could see his breath. It was really cold this morning. I like it when it’s cold. I like how my fur gets thicker. It makes me look bigger and tougher.

“Hey Kevin. How’s he doing?”

“He’s good. But he’s definitely a nutbag.”

I asked what a nutbag was since I’d heard them say that and it didn’t sound like they were actually talking about nuts in a bag. Personally, I like nuts. So I was thinking that I might like a nutbag.

After Kevin described what he meant – that he was just fun and crazy and had a lot of energy – I nodded.  Those are all good traits in a knight-to-be. Then they went inside and I watched the red knight swoosh his tail and trot in to see Hey Lorin. I nodded again. I do that a lot when I’m thinking. I think I’m going to like this nutbag.

OK. Gotta squirrel. The missus is calling. I think she’s making something with nuts for breakfast. Like I said, I like nuts. I like nutbags.

Waitin’ all night for Satur-day: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 3, 2012 11:08 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here. For some reason, I have that song in my head, the one that gets sung on Sunday nights when Hey Kevin watches that game where there’s a bunch of big guys running around in really tight colorful outfits. Sometimes he yells: “what are you DOING?!” That’s usually when somebody called the Bears is playing. Hey Lorin yells when those guys from someplace called the Patriots are playing.

There’s a really pretty blonde lady who comes out and sings about waiting all day for Sunday night. Hey Kevin stands in front of the TV and watches her. He doesn’t say anything the whole time she’s singing. It’s like he’s a statue of something. It’s kind of funny. I always chuckle a little. Hey Lorin teases him about how much he likes faith. I didn’t even think Hey Kevin was a religious guy.

Anyway, I had that song in my head this morning as I was walking across the wall before I jumped up onto my favorite branch. Waitin’ all day…. Except that I was thinking about waitin’ all night for Satur-day. It’s a catchy song. I think it’s sort of like “I hate myself for loving you.” That’s a song by Joan Jett from like a really, really long time ago. I don’t know much about music but I kind of like that song, or at least the Sunday night version.

But this morning, I heard Hey Kevin singing it. And it was “waitin’ all night for Satur-day.” And then he sang something like “Mom and dad are the best in OP.” And I couldn’t figure out what he was talking or singing about. I heard a little jingle jangle from the vicinity of their bedroom and I sort of stretched out, wondering just what was going on. Then all of a sudden the door opened and out shot this red-furred knight in training, followed by Hey Kevin in his bathrobe. This red guy ran straight toward the tree I was hanging in, literally, and then he pee’d. Didn’t even look up. Hey Kevin did, though. He looked up at me and said:

“Hey Squire.”

“Hey Kevin. What’s with the red one?”

“This is Cooper. He’s going to be living with us.”

“Cooper.” Hmmmm. “Is he taking the place of the knight?” I couldn’t believe I was asking it but I don’t want anyone to take the knight’s place. He was my liege; I was his squire. We were a couple of guys in the backyard. I’m not ready to let that go.

“Not taking his place,” Hey Kevin said. “No body could ever take his place. He was our most special boy. But Cooper is the new generation; he’s the next guy. He needs a good home and we wanted to give it to him. I hope you two will get along.”

I huffed a bit. I’m not sure I want to get along. But as I gazed down at this hyper mass of wanna-be, I thought, well, maybe it would be OK to have a new knight I could train, that I could serve. It wouldn’t be the same, but it could be different.

I nodded. Hey Kevin nodded. Hey Cooper pee’d again and then raced back toward the house.

“He’s going to need some work,” I said.

“He is,” said Hey Kevin, and then they both went back inside, with Hey Kevin singing his new song.

I’m not sure about this but I’ll give it a try. I may hate myself for liking you, but if Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin think Hey Cooper is OK, then I’ll sing along.

Besides, I’ve been waiting all night for satur-day. The tough get rough in a big-time way. The last one standin’ gets to turn on the play, cause I been waitin’ all night for Satur-day. 

A misunderstanding about mayonnaise: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 13, 2012 10:20 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here, perched above the open garage door and peering over and down so I can see what’s going on. I heard a bunch of crashing and banging earlier. At first I thought maybe something bad had happened but then I realized that Hey Kevin was in the garage and there tends to be crashing and banging when he’s in there. Also sawing. I don’t like sawing. It makes my teeth hurt.

So here I am, just hanging around and watching. The big red car is in the driveway already and the little black one is sort of half in and half out of the garage. That’s the car I hear Hey Lorin asking about all the time; “when is it going to get fixed?” It’s a cute car and it has a really big engine noise. It always kind of scares me but not that much, especially when I realize what it is. Vroom, it goes. Shhhh, I go. And then I put my paws in my ears. I haven’t had to do that in a while, actually. I wonder, too, when it’s going to get fixed even though I don’t really care all that much.

Hey Kevin is busy pulling all kinds of stuff out of a big cabinet. There are some jars and some stirring kind of sticks and brushes on long pieces of wire. There are some empty wine bottles and more big glass bottles. There are also pictures. Hey Kevin pulls out one picture and he starts to laugh. Later, when Hey Lorin came home, he showed it to her and she laughed too. It was a picture of him when he was in high school with something called a Packard. I don’t know what a Packard is but I guess it must be funny. I wonder if it makes loud noises.

Me above the garage

Hey Lorin had been gone for a little while but now she’s coming back with a cup of coffee. She was walking and she says Hey Squire and I say Hey Lorin as she walks underneath me and goes into the house as she tells Hey Kevin that she’ll be right out. I hear the hair dryer. I think she must have gotten a hair cut because her hair did look sort of wet. Pretty soon she comes back out and that’s when Hey Kevin shows her the picture and they laugh. He shows her some other stuff he found, too, and they decide that some of it they can keep and some of it they should throw away. I’m watching the whole thing. It’s like seeing one of those TV shows where people are always sort of pawing through junk and suddenly finding something like a really old copper pot that’s worth like a gazillion bucks. I don’t know what gazillion is other than a lot and bucks, I’m pretty sure, are money. Or deer.

Hey Kevin asks how she likes her hair and she says good and then he asks if she’s feeling any better and she says that she isn’t as down as she’d been earlier in the week. That the mayonnaise has passed.

I like mayonnaise. I have it every once in a while when I find part of a tuna fish sandwich or something. It has kind of a sweet and smooth taste. I don’t like too much but a little is always good for flavor. I didn’t know that feeling down had anything to do with mayonnaise and so I hang down even further, off the garage, until they look at me.

Why did you pass mayonnaise, I say.

And Hey Kevin starts to laugh out and Hey Lorin smiles this really big smile and then she says she was talking about malaise. She even spells it for me; that’s how I get it right. I hang there for a minute and then say OK even though I don’t get it.

It’s OK, Squire, Hey Lorin says like she is trying to reassure me. Getting rid of malaise is a good thing.

I say OK again and then I hear Mrs. Squirrel calling me for lunch so I say Bye! and then high-tail it up the roof, down the other side, across the second tree to the left and then squirrel into the den, all the time wondering if malaise would be good on a sandwich, too. I make a mental note to ask some time. 

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live out loud

Walk and talk: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 22, 2012 10:07 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The squire here, watching the world go by from the usual spot. Actually, I’m watching the people of the neighborhood go by. People around here sure do walk a lot, and when they do, they talk. I like to listen though a lot of times all I really can hear are certain words. “What?” “Today.” “Coffee.” “Did you watch…” “Sky.” “Where…” “Tomorrow.” “Joe.” “Tennis.” “Pavilions.” “Bank.” I think they’re saying something about today and tomorrow and playing tennis and going to the bank where there is coffee and sky.

But I can’t be sure.

Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin call this the walk and talk. It’s something that started a long time ago with some writer guy who did a TV show called The West Wing. I wasn’t around then but I know they were big fans of whatever it was and really got to like when people walk and talk at the same time. Maybe because people who walk and talk don’t waste time, and sometimes they say interesting things. Or at least they do on TV. I don’t do much of the walk and talk mostly because I don’t walk. I scurry. Scurrying is much more efficient especially in trees and along walls. And most especially when crossing the street. That can be really scary. I sometimes start across the street and then think I hear something and stop dead in my tracks. Mrs. Squirrel doesn’t like when I stop dead. She doesn’t like that word because that means splat, and splat is bad for a squirrel. It’s also bad for a person.

Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin walk all the time. They're usually talking before they even leave the house. I can hear them and then they're still talking when they get back and go back in the house. I wonder sometimes how they can have so much to talk about but I think it's pretty cool.

Me, watching the walk and talk

Walk and talk was on a pretty funny video this week. I didn't see it but I heard Hey Lorin say it was The West Wing. I thought we were sort of the west wing because we're in California but I don't think that's what she was talking about.

Here come the people that live in the house behind ours. They’re really old, like at least 85, at least that’s what Hey Lorin thinks. They don’t speak much English but they shuffle through the neighborhood talking in a language I don’t understand. They hold hands and they’re really cute. I hope me and Mrs. Squirrel get to be old and still hold paws when we’re scurrying along the back wall. 

The older couple walks around the corner just as two ladies walk by. They walk by a lot, almost always in the morning. Hey Kevin calls one Jane. I don't think that's her name but Hey Kevin has names for a lot of people. Jane talks really quiet and sort of mumbles. Jane and this other lady are talking – I can see their mouths moving – but their voices are really sort of like a hum.

I like when people walk by together and talk. I also like when people walk by alone and stop to talk. They don’t stop to talk to me, probably because they don’t see me because I try to blend in. They always stopped to talk to the Knight. He liked to be in the front yard, especially if Hey Kevin or Hey Lorin, or even if Hey Justin was out there. He liked to watch the world walk by and he really liked when people would stop and talk to him. He would wag his tail. Sometimes he wouldn’t even get up, especially if he was really tired. But the tail would slap against the ground and people would rough up his ears and talk to him.

Sometimes people stop by now just to say hi and ask Hey Kevin what he’s working on in the garage because Hey Kevin is always working on something. Some people don't say anything to anybody. I always wonder if they're shy or just not very nice.

Nobody who stops by has asked about the knight. I think that's weird and I know it bothers Hey Lorin. She thinks it's rude.

I think it's just people not really knowing what to say. People like to talk about nothing with people they don't really know. Otherwise the conversation gets too heavy and makes people uncomfortable. People like to be comfortable. That’s why they also wear special shoes. I guess if something is uncomfortable, walking while talking is good because then you don’t have to look at the other person. 

It's also good for just going forward.

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live out loud

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