Dogs in the 'hood

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 13, 2011 9:40 PM

Like many small neighborhoods in California, in the country, in the world, we have a lot of dogs. Big ones, small ones, puppies both new and vintage; dogs with lovely personalities and those who could use a lesson or two in manners and attitude. Dogs who bark, dogs who whine, ones who squeal and howl at the moon in the middle of the day, like the five little monsters who live on the corner and fight each other for window space. We fear for our ankles every time we pass by, but we still smile. We love dogs.

We’re also suckers for dogs. They bring instant smiles and a desire to crouch down for a quick scratch behind the ears. For the dogs, too. We’ve also been known to assist a dog in distress, like today, when as we rounded the corner of Wiggin and Pesaro, on our way down toward the park, we spotted a big black dog, standing in a front yard, no owner or even possible owner in sight.

A Maddie-like dog

I immediately pointed her out (the “her” being a fact we ascertained shortly thereafter). Kevin hadn’t seen her. I called to her quietly, walking up on the sidewalk as she watched me intently but not fearfully. She stood proudly, staring at me with her big brown eyes and her slightly pointed ears that curled over at the top. It was hot and she was panting. I crouched down and called to her again, and she continued to study me but didn’t move. Finally, she started walking toward the front door of the house. Kevin had forgotten his cell phone so I tossed him the key to our house so he could run back while I followed the dog. If the front door had been open, I wouldn’t have worried, but it wasn’t. The dog, with thick black fur that had been shaved and was now growing in, was standing on the front porch, her nose pushed against the door jam, willing the door to open. It didn’t. I walked up, reached down to pet the top of her head while simultaneously knocking on the door. No answer. I rang the doorbell. No answer. She had tags. Her name was Maddie, and she had a phone number. When Kevin returned we called it. I could hear it ringing inside the house but again, no answer. Maddie and I sat on the front porch while Kevin went around to the back of the house, through the gate, to make sure that a dog did, in fact, live there. He found a big water bowl and a dog toy. We filled the bowl, and left Maddie behind the closed gate.

I thought about her all day until her owner finally called to thank us profusely for helping her dog. She was surprised we even approached Maddie since she’s big and totally black and most people find that intimidating. Kevin laughed and said that we had one of those ourselves.

A Carter-like pup

Over the years, we’ve helped numerous dogs find their way back home. There was Charlie the schnauzer who used to show up in our front yard regularly. After the first few times, we discovered exactly where he lived, so we’d put a leash on him and walk him home, depositing him behind his gate and closing it securely. There was the Saturday morning when two gorgeous Huskies showed up in our front yard. We corralled them and put them in the back, called the number on their tags and their owner came within minutes. She had been out in the car, searching frantically. A little pug went by one day and Kevin, who had been in the kitchen, dashed outside and started down the street. I followed, wondering what was going on until I saw her. Penny. She was old, deaf, and partially blind. Kevin got there before I did, and as I was walking toward them, a woman in a dark blue Lexus RX330 pulled up next to me, frantic, asking if I’d seen a dog. I told her my husband had her around the corner. The woman was almost in tears as she thanked us.

One morning Kevin had gone off to Home Depot to get supplies for one of our countless DIY projects. It was early when he called me, practically in tears. There was a dog out on Lindero Canyon, a chocolate lab, and someone had hit it and driven off. He was with the dog. Could I bring every towel I could find. I threw everything into the car and drove off. Within minutes, I found him, with the dog and another woman who had stopped to help, another dog lover. The dog was bleeding but alive. A cyclist came by, and stopped; said some guy was up the street, calling for a dog. Pretty freaked out. He turned around and rode back to tell the guy we had his dog and were taking her to the vet. We pulled everything out of the back of Rover, all the wood and tools and left them on the side of the road. The woman said she’d watch our stuff until we got back. We loaded the dog into the back of the truck, I got in with her, my hand pushing on her wound, trying to stop the bleeding as Kevin raced toward one of the local vets. He went through the stoplight, horn blaring, hazards flashing until we got to the vet. The owner showed up moments later as the vet team was unloading the dog onto a stretcher. The gardeners had left the side gate open and Abby had bolted.

A short time late, the vet called to say Abby had made it through surgery. Helping her was one of our proudest moments here in the OP.

A Kobe-like dog

The dogs in the ‘hood are members of our community. There’s the big Akita, a gentle soul, in the cul de sac, and Kobe, the nutty wire-haired fox terrier mix next door. Across the street is Carter, next to her are two big loopy dogs who howl every time Jonathan and Tricia come home, and Griffy, the whippet who recently suffered a stroke in his spine. Mister Mister lives around the corner, as do the three Springer spaniels and the two Staffordshire boxers. There's Emily, the golden retriever, and the pit bull on the other corner. Gary's little dog and the new doberman/lab mix. There are mutts and purebreds, nice and mean, all with personalities, all with people who love them; all with gardeners who leave the gates open. Today and every day, we celebrate those dogs. But we are partial to one in particular.

Our Maguire, the neighborhood’s resident big dog

In ten years

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:21 PM

In ten years, Kevin and I have raised Justin from a young child through the ravages of high school to be a college junior. We have helped Maguire reach vintage puppy status. We have grown our businesses and buried parents – my father, his mother – and grandparents. We have welcomed a new nephew, Caden, and watched – albeit long distance – as our niece and my goddaughter Shawn has grown from a toddler of two to a young lady of twelve. We have seen our oldest nephew marry and Kevin’s older siblings retire. In ten years, we have visited Napa Valley and Santa Ynez, our families in Chicago and New England; we have fallen in love with Tucson. We have rediscovered old friends, welcoming them back into our lives with joy; we have embraced existing friendships, becoming even closer than we thought possible. It is good.

We have created Fritini. We bought a motorcycle, then another and a third until we finally got it right. We have big Thanksgiving get-togethers, some years bigger than others, but everyone is invited, especially those who live far from family, or would simply rather be with friends. It’s a celebration we cherish every year.

We have said goodbye to Hogan and Rusty and Max and KJ and so many others. We have welcomed Lucky and Tommy and Pixel and Libby. We have joined animal rescue groups and supported other causes dear to our hearts. We have loved and lost, felt hopelessness and joy; we have lived.

In the next ten years, we will say goodbye to loved ones, we will grow ever closer to those most dear, we will try to be nicer, better, stronger, funnier. We will embrace challenges and change when we need to change because to remain stagnant is to wither. And we will not wither.

We will enjoy good wine and great friends. We will love.

Ten years ago, there was collective fear and sadness, a profound sense of loss. I didn’t expect this September 11th anniversary to affect me as it has but I find myself transported into the past even as I look with hope into the future. Ten years ago, we were paralyzed. Ten years from now, we’ll be in a yet a different place emotionally, physically.

With luck, we’ll be stronger. We’ll have more humor and less angst. We’ll have wonderful times together with good food because there are great recipes to try. Maybe we’ll be making wine. Wouldn’t that be something? With more luck, I’ll have written more books. I will have further developed my craft, my art. I will have helped others to do the same.

On this day, a day that until today, I thought wouldn’t bring me to my knees yet again, I celebrate my husband, my son, my dog, my family, my friends, my clients, my dreams and desires, my hopes, my successes, my failures. My good life.

Live life on purpose. Utilize full potential. Take responsibility for life. Live in the question. How can I do this better? How can I help change the world? How can I make a difference by making some noise?

Because “if you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”  



Happy Friday, you jackhammer!

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 9, 2011 6:58 PM

I have nothing but respect for morning. I understand its purpose. The sun rises, light streams into otherwise dark rooms and shadows form. Coffee brews as cars and their occupants drive off to school and work. The dog twitches as he finishes whatever dream he’s dreaming. Outside, the birds begin to get a little rambunctious. It should be a lazy time, time to stretch and pull the covers a little closer, to squeeze one last minute of sleep or at least relaxation out of the night before the day really begins. Which is usually around 7 am.

This morning it was 6:35. But it wasn’t the sun that roused us; it was the sound of industrial trucks taking over the ‘hood, their beep-beep-beep backup noise so close it was as if they were backing up into our bedroom.

I thought it was the trash trucks, albeit a little early. The trash trucks come on Fridays.

It wasn’t the trash trucks. At 6:59, fully one minute before they’re supposed to disrupt the calm, quiet of the morning, the jackhammers started. The roadies who have been repaving our roads had now set their tools on re-concreting the man-holes. Evidently in order to do that, the old concrete must first be blasted away in the noisiest way possible. At 7 am.

Did I mention the hour?

We tried to ignore it. We tried to sleep through it. We tried to not have to get up and make coffee. We burrowed; we sighed. Heavily. Even the dog pulled his front paws up over his ears, and he’s deaf.

This went on until close to 8. Normally we’re up between 7 and 7:30 but last night we didn’t get to bed until midnight and then with the noise, we were desperate for a little sleep. A little is what we got. We rose, stumbled to the kitchen, and I made the aforementioned coffee while Kevin and Maguire padded outside.

I yawned and stretched. I thought about being irritated, and almost was, and then I thought: no. I wouldn’t allow jackhammers, those wonderful, concrete busting, silence altering, eloquence shattering pieces of power-driven equipment to ruin Friday. After all, those guys are making a living, they’re doing a job, and a good one at that. They’re making our streets safe for all tires big and low-profile, for kids on skateboards and scooters, for cyclists and puppies and kittens and squirrels and the older lady who circles the neighborhood with her wheeled-walker, complete with hand-brakes, every morning.

Jackhammers were invented by a French engineer in 1861 named German Sommelier who came up with the idea while working on the Mont Cenis tunnel. With his pneumatic pick, which eventually became a version of a jackhammer, the tunnel was completed 20 years ahead of schedule. Charles Brady King, an American auto pioneer, engineer, artist, musician, poet, architect and inventor in the latter part of the 19th century, had the idea to combine a hammer with a chisel. His invention also became a version of a jackhammer. Jackhammers were so named in American in 1925. They can be powered by compressed air, electric motors and hydraulically. Whichever, they’re noisy, sometimes dangerously so. The guys who operate them wear sound-blocking earmuffs to prevent damage to their hearing. They didn’t, however, offer any to those whose sleep they were disturbing.

Still, since I was and am choosing to be cheery about this, I’ve decided that the cruel and somewhat debilitating racket being made this morning by the worker dudes was just the jackhammers’ way of saying “good morning, welcome to the day, get up and make something happen. I am. I’m making this old concrete disintegrate so that new concrete can be poured, and to demonstrate that very point, here is my good friend the cement mixer to churn the cement while I hammer, hammer, hammer, hammer, pause, mix, churn, mix, chu-HAMMER, hammer, hammer, mix. Can you hear it?”

That’s a fact, Jack.

Happy Friday and Fritini to all, and to all a pleasant night’s sleep followed by a piercingly quiet early morning. Except for those damned rambunctious birds.

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That blur you see is a vintage puppy streaking through the house

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 21, 2011 10:41 PM

It happened so fast, we almost didn’t see it. A streak, a blur of fur that made loose papers fly, and the flower petals ruffle. It was Maguire, on fire, not literally of course. Faster than a speeding snail, more powerful than a king-size pillow, able to leap… well, not able to leap. But still, Super Puppy had made an appearance.

When you’re a vintage puppy, edging ever closer to 15 (that’s 105 in dog years), sometimes simply getting up off the floor without assistance can be a major source of celebration. Then there are days when there’s a whole new sense of purpose. He’s younger seemingly, his batteries have been recharged. He leaps in and out of the back door and fairly runs – runs! – toward the kitchen for a cookie. He’s a puppy on the move, ready to face the day, come what may. Which will undoubtedly be a nap, and soon.

This morning was such an episode. He woke up at 7, shook and waited for me to get up. Normally he starts toward the kitchen and I have to go after him, touch his back and then beckon for him to follow me so that I can let him out in the back yard. He’s still used to the front yard to pee; vintage habits diehard. But this morning, he was standing, facing the back door, ready. All I needed to do was slide open the door and out he bounced. I left it open so that he could return, which he did, continuing on his way to the kitchen for a bite to eat and a water slurp. I had drifted off to sleep again. It was Sunday morning, after all.

Next thing I knew, he was standing next to me as I slumbered peacefully. He moved his head up next to the bed, and sighed. I opened my eyes and smiled, there he was, my masked man. God, how I love that dog. I reached over and scratched his head and behind his ears. I pulled my hand back only to have his head move toward me again, nudging. More please. I scratched his chest, dared to pull my hand back and got the nudge again. This went on for at least five minutes, which, when you’re attempting to sleep in on a lazy Sunday, can be an awfully long time.

Finally, the need for him to nap won out.

But once we got up and it was cookie time, he was ready. The nap renewed his energy. He ran toward the back of the house as Kevin made his way from the kitchen to the slider with bait in hand, otherwise known as a milkbone. And then, when he came back in, leaping over the slip lip of the slider, he took off. Running! Running!


His front paws were flapping and his front legs were pumping. The rear legs… not so much. But he managed a fast skip. He bounded into the kitchen, trotting, bouncing, enjoying his Sunday morning. He spun around, lapped up some water, and paced back and forth as I cooked breakfast, waiting patiently for his plate. Which he received. Scrambled eggs and a piece of turkey bacon, cooked crisp just like dad’s.

Then it was back to nap-ville. Sprawled on the floor, drooling and snoring, occasionally chasing butterflies or cats in his dreams, remembering what it was like to be a puppy on a mission, a dog on the move, a boy who’s got it going on. Ready to take on the world, ready to keep the world safe from absolutely nothing. Ready for anything that comes his way.

Especially another nap.

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The story of a vintage puppy and his pig

by Lorin Michel Thursday, August 11, 2011 10:38 PM

When he was a puppy and throughout most of his dog years, Maguire was the original toy destroyer. It wasn’t uncommon to give him a new plastic or rubber squeaker and within minutes, there would be piles of tiny, incomprehensible pieces of said plastic or rubber on the floor complete with the offending squeaker lying on the floor next to it. This happened for quite a while. You’d think his parents would be smarter and provide more indestructible toys. Eventually, they did.

We started buying plush toys.

The routine was the same. Mom – that would be me – would go to the pet store, usually for food or treats (known affectionately in the Michel household as cookies) and while walking by the wall of adorable toys hanging on hooks just begging to go home to Maguire, casually grab one or two of the cutest ones. We were big fans of the squeaking hedgehog for a while. “Hedge.” There was the little blonde chipmunk. “Chip.” And the Christmas related toys like a reindeer – “Rudy” – a long red elf-like dude – “elf” – and something green. “Grinch.” I think I remember “Scrooge” making an appearance as well.

I would come into the house, and put the bag containing said toy on the counter in the kitchen near the junk drawer where the scissors live, and turn my head ever so slightly in the direction of the door. There he’d be. Standing tall, ears perked, understanding instinctively that Mom had something for the pup. I would turn my back to him and he would come in and sit within inches of my leg. I could feel his breath on me; his stare bore through me as he waited, patiently, drooling major puddles on the floor, for his new toy. After removing all tags and stickers – and can I just sidebar here for a minute: the stickers manufacturers put on plush dog toys are nearly impossible to peel off of faux fur. Please think of the poor parents trying to get a toy ready for their waiting dog who is puddling on the floor and flooding us out of the house while we pull and tug and fight and grind away at the “I squeak!” stickie – I would turn, and introduce Maguire to his new toy. Always with a single name, preferably one syllable, and I would repeat it two or three times as he’d stare at it, willing it into his mouth. Then I would relinquish control. He would grab it, gently, and take it to his rug, just outside the kitchen and lie down to gently and intently pull it apart. If Kevin or I came within inches of him and his new toy, he would elicit a guttural growl as he protected his domain and his kill.

Because that’s what it was. The lion had stalked his prey as his mommy carefully prepared it and then he had to make sure no one else got a piece of it. And piece of it was key. Just like he would destroy the plastic and rubber toys, he would grab onto the plush toy, usually around the butt area, and begin to pull at the threads. He was very dedicated, very focused. Time after time after time, he would return with his teeth nibbling and pulling, nibbling and pulling, nibbling and pulling until he’d open a hole. Then he’d get more aggressive, digging in to pull out the stuffing, mouthful by mouthful, depositing the white tuffs of fiber filling next to the carcass. Soon there would be a pile of white and a squeaker next to it. His work done, he’d rise, shake and move on to stalk another.

Often times we’d pick up the carcass, re-stuff it, sew it up and re-present it as one of his old friends. He’d only pull it apart again.

Maguire and his pig, on his rug, August 11

These days, he’s older and the hunt isn’t as intense. Still, I came in the house the other day, after stopping at PetCo for some Zuke’s Hip Action cookies and finding an adorable little pink pig. It had been a while since Maguire got a new toy. I put the bag on the counter in the kitchen, next to the junk drawer, pulled out the scissors and prepared the new toy for my boy. Said boy stood behind me, waiting. He can’t sit anymore nor can he hear, but he still knows when there’s new prey. I presented him with Pig, and he seems to be completely in love. He brings Pig out from the bedroom during the day so that the little pink body lays in the family room with him. At night, Pig is carried back into the bedroom and deposited near his bed. Maguire then flops down on the carpet with his head resting on his little buddy. It’s the new routine.

There has been no carnage. Only a vintage puppy and his new best friend, a small pink plush with a pork-ish name, hanging together on the rug in the pink of the setting sun.

Once upon a time there was a dog and his pig, and they traveled the world of the house together, discovering adventure, finding love, and it was good.

It was puppy love.

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Vintage, not old

by Lorin Michel Monday, July 25, 2011 9:54 PM

We rarely buy anything new, other than wine but since we think of wine as food, that doesn’t really count. Neither does a pair of jeans or socks and underwear; shoes are bought new, as are computers, though I did buy my iPad used. I figured it was something to play with, something to use only occasionally, so used was better. And less money for something I really didn’t need but just wanted.

We’ve spent some time on the need vs. want with Justin. He’s in college and doesn’t have unlimited funds, even from the parental ATM. He may want a blender but does he need it? He may want a trip to Italy, but does he need it? He needs a roof over his head, he needs food. There’s a fine line.

Both Kevin and I subscribe to the idea of working to build character rather than expecting it to build itself. We believe that character comes from learning, from living life and truly experiencing it, from working for what we have so that we enjoy it more. It’s something we’ve tried to instill in Justin as well. It’s something I learned as a teenager. I wanted a horse; I was sure of it. My parents said they thought that was just a great idea but that I should probably spend some time in a stable, actually being around horses, to learn about them before deciding which horse I should get. I didn’t have a problem with that and promptly got a job mucking stalls. I hated it. And then a horse I had led from his stall in order to clean it decided he didn’t want to go back in. He bucked and reared and came down on my foot. But I learned.

I learned that I didn’t really want a horse because I didn’t want to have to take care of one. I also didn’t need a horse.

When Justin was in high school, he got an allowance and when he turned 16, we told him we thought it would be a good idea if he got a part time job so he could learn how to better budget his time and make his own money to buy his own stuff, stuff that he wanted (we’ve always taken care of the needs). We thought it would teach him how life actually works. You don’t just get what you want, you have to work for it. He did not want to get a job, but he did, learning the fine art of filling out an application and dressing appropriately for an interview. He’s pretty much held a job ever since.

When he was 16 and learning to drive, we got him a car. Neither of our cars was appropriate for him to learn on – one too big, one too fast – so we found a 1994 Honda Civic LX. It had four doors, four cylinders and two airbags. It was perfect. Many of his friends got brand new cars when they were old enough to drive, as if the mere act of turning 16 warranted them having the newest car in the family. We didn’t think that taught anything so we went with an older car. Vintage.

When we bought our house, we bought one pre-owned. The Porsche we bought on ebay, figuring we could restore as necessary. The Range Rover we bought pre-owned as well, albeit from an owner who rarely drove it as it was a third vehicle; he kept it garaged. It looked and acted new; but it wasn’t. Now it’s also vintage.

Across the street, our neighbor’s daughter recently graduated from high school. They sent her to Europe for three weeks and then, just yesterday, she pulled up in front of the house in a brand new Fiat. We stood in the kitchen window, watching her and wondering if maybe we had done something wrong. Maybe we should have bought Justin a brand new car, maybe we should have brand new cars, too. But we didn’t and we don’t. We’ve chosen vintage, but not old. Even our puppy is vintage.

It’s how we like it. We think it gives us character, all of us, even Justin. He never complained, he loves his Honda, except that the A/C isn’t working very well (we’ll get that fixed; he does live in the desert), and we hope that when he’s older, he’ll better understand that new isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just new.

Maybe our philosophy is outdated, perhaps our way of thinking is old, but we like to think of it as vintage. Vintage, after all, has character. Just look at Maguire.

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The night stalker: a vintage puppy story

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 12, 2011 10:32 PM

The night falls hard only hours before. He falls hard with it, hitting the carpeted floor with a thud and a sigh. The air, cool and calculating, drifts in like fog, covering his fur, tickling his paws, settling on his nose. He sniffs, once, then shifts his weight. His favorite toy, a ratty old plush named Chip is safely secured under one paw. Chip will chip no more, not today. Next to his head, his trusted rope, his warrior toy, ragged and frayed. In his bed, a cadre of others, compatriots who will come in handy should he need them to fight off what and who is coming.

At 1:48 am, he is startled awake. Perhaps by the quiet, or the loan cricket noising in the distance. The moon is nearly full, casting an eerie glow across the land. A tree rustles, an owl speaks: Rise, old man. It. Is. Your. New. Time. To. Hunt. And so he does.

In the bed above, his parental units stir and sigh. He wonders if they’ll be angry, you know, because of the hour, but then dismisses the thought almost as quickly as it entered his mind. They’re never angry at me, for I am the old dog, the vintage puppy, the one who has them so completely trained that they will help lift me from the floor should I decide I’m too “weak” to rise on my own. They are the ones who rush to the cookie door should I cast hardly a glance or a growl; the ones I have trained to ensure that my water bowl is always full and cool. The mother unit will even boil chicken and rice for me when I am sick. I like chicken. Correction: I love chicken. Chicken is my chocolate.

He goes first to the kitchen for a drink of that fresh, cool water to steady his nerves for he knows what is to come. He waits, apprehensive, the moonlight dancing through the uncovered windows. A car goes by. Is it …? No. It isn’t. I thought maybe Roy. If only because I haven’t seen Roy in a really, really, really  long time. These people think I don’t know my days but I do. I know how long it has been. One million zillion days. Too. Long.

Through the house he moves, stealthily. Or so he thinks, but his nails need trimmed so he clicks along the wooden floors. Click. Click. Click. Pause. Click. Click. Click. Paws. He stops at the doorway back into the bedroom. He can see the outline of him at the back door. Or maybe it’s her. Whatever. One of them is waiting. He steels himself and then moves like he was shot from a cannon in a movie filmed in slow motion. Toward the door he races, through molasses; through the spooky moonlight he moves. As he nears, the door slides open and he slides out into the inky air.

He has become Maguire, the Night Stalker.



Post script: Maguire doesn’t know this but his parents devised this devious plan. Since he is now rising around 2 am, a full hour or more earlier than he was previously, it’s just too damned early to take him out front. So they have worked to teach a vintage puppy a new trick. That trick? Going out into the backyard to hunt and prowl and discover and eventually to pee. Under the moonlight, he stalks… well, nothing. Because all smart creatures are asleep. His parents would like to be asleep. But our little night stalker isn’t ready to sleep yet. He needs to howl at the moon.

The cycle of Sunday

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 10, 2011 10:42 PM

Another week ends, another week begins. I’ve always been a little cloudy on the official first day of the week. I’ve heard it as both Sunday and Monday, though I tend to fall with those who think the latter. Otherwise, why would Sunday be the day of rest? We certainly don’t need a day of rest to begin a week but it sure is a nice way to end one. Today was no exception.

Up early – of course. We have a dog that no longer sleeps through the night and is usually up for good or at least for his morning cookie, around 6. The sun was already up, too, streaming lightly through the trees just off the back patio. It was quiet. Nothing stirred other than his supreme puppiness but after a tour around the house, an outside cookie –chomp, chomp, crunch – two Hip Actions, loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin to help ease his arthritis, and a big water slurp, he huffed down for his early morning nap. Once his tags were arranged on the floor, he puffed one more time, and then fell asleep. Peace descended.

Kevin brought in the newspaper around 7:30 and we arranged it on the bed in the order we like to read it. I always start with Calendar and Arts & Books, followed by the front page. He starts with the flyers and inserts, then moves onto Sports. We trade the Travel section, the California section and Business. Depending on the Sunday, we can be reading anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour plus. Today was a short day. We sipped some coffee as the sprinklers sputtered to life. 8 am.

We went for a walk, and came back to make breakfast. Yesterday I picked up some peach cobbler cinnamon bread at the farmer’s market. I sliced and buttered it, then grilled it. While that was happening, I sautéed freshly sliced nectarines, also purchased at the market, in butter and cinnamon. Turkey bacon sizzled in the next skillet. When the bread was toasted on both sides, I flipped it onto two plates, dabbed each with butter, arranged the nectarines on top, put a couple pieces of bacon on the side. Voila. Breakfast was served.

Later in the day, we went for a motorcycle ride, just a short one. It’s so freeing being on the bike, zooming through the canyons, feeling the wind and the sun. It’s like flying on the ground; it’s a feeling like no other.

The first motorcycle, the Petroleum Reitwagon (riding car), was designed and built by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885. It looked a little like a bicycle but functioned quite a bit differently. It also had the first internal combustion, petroleum-fueled engine.

The French had previously built a steam-propelled motorcycle in 1868, called the Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede. Sylvester H. Roper Roxbury, of Massachusetts built the American Roper steam velocipede in 1869. Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first gasoline production motorcycle and the first to carry the name in 1894. Until World War I, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world was Indian, producing more than 20,000 motorcycles every year. Then Harley-Davidson got into the act, followed by Moto Guzzi who produced very radical designs, as did the German company NSU. Enter the Japanese: Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki. Sport bikes, dirt bikes, cruiser bikes and touring bikes. They get good gas mileage, none are particularly safe though some are safer than others, and they sell. Nearly 500,000 two-wheelers a year in the U.S.

We, of course, are only interested in one, our Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500, the big, bad cruiser. It’s paid for, has 20,000 plus miles on it and we love it. Especially on this Sunday afternoon, when the air is warm, the breeze is cool, and we’re celebrating the end of the week.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 30, 2011 10:34 PM

Tomorrow morning at 10 am, I will lift-off from Los Angeles International airport, whose code is known world-wide as LAX, and travel via a Boeing 737-300 first to Chicago where we will land and I will not de-plane, then lift-off again for Baltimore. If all goes according to plan, I will arrive at approximately 7:15 pm and my friend Pam will be waiting.

Pam and I haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. A year and a half ago, we re-connected on Facebook. We exchanged emails and then decided to talk. Our first conversation was 5 hours. It was fabulous, and solidified a friendship that began in our first year of high school but became sporadic because my family moved away and we saw each other only occasionally for several years after. Twenty plus years later, we seemed to have grown in the same trajectory. We like the same things, we think the same way, we have the same sense of humor. Our conversations are relaxed and easy, flowing. It’s really amazing and I’m equal parts excited and apprehensive.

I’ll spend one night with Pam and then travel up to Manchester, New Hampshire where my mother will pick me up on Saturday night. On Sunday, we’ll celebrate my niece’s 12th birthday; on Monday my mother’s 70th birthday. It’s a good weekend to travel back.

Still, I’ll miss my men, Kevin and Maguire. (Justin is in New York for the summer so he’s long been in the ‘miss’ category.) Tonight, I pulled my suitcase from the laundry room, trying to be quiet. I didn’t want to freak out Maguire, though he can’t hear anyway. Still, he heard me, or sensed what I was doing. I carried the smaller of my wheeled-cases toward the bedroom, and he was on high-alert. Mom? Are you going somewhere? Why yes, honey bear; I am. But mom… how can you leave me? Complete with the big bear face and the perky ears.

It’s hard to explain to a hearing-challenged vintage puppy that mom will be gone for a few days. He wants to understand but all he sees is the suitcase. His ears droop.

Tomorrow what I’ll see first is the back of my eyelids, followed by the rising sun and a shiny airplane that will transport me to the other side of the country within hours. It’s always somewhat amazing to me.

Tomorrow I will see my friend. Saturday I will see my family. Tuesday I will see my husband and my dog.

I celebrate them all; I love them all. I wish all a happy independence day weekend.



The ritual of the cookie

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 29, 2011 10:21 PM

Dogs, like kids, have a routine. If you stray from the routine, they get confused and stressed. Accidents happen. It is always best to stay on point, and do things at the same time each day in the same way. This keeps everyone happy and adds a nice cadence to what can otherwise be a hectic existence. Knowing, for instance, that the dog expects his nightly walk at 7 o’clock each night gives us a nice bookend to the 3:30 am wake up call that has become the new routine. When you have a vintage puppy like Maguire, new routines are introduced by necessity.

But today, I’m celebrating the routines we have had since he was a shiny, new puppy. I speak of the morning cookie.

Each day, we rise when the dog does, now more to protect the floor than anything else. He used to sleep in; no longer. He wakes, shakes and walks stiffly into the living room where he waits patiently for maybe 10 seconds. This is our window of opportunity. We must get to him and fast. We do, or more often, Kevin does. I handle the night shift.

He goes out into the front yard to pee because that’s the routine; we do not pee in the back yard. Somehow that is unseemly first thing in the morning. We like to pee where the world can see us as they’re going to school, going to work, going for a run, beginning their day. We don’t dawdle in the morning because as soon as the relief is complete, the race is on to get from the front door to the back door, him moving a bit more slowly than he used to, but still scuttling across the floor, trailing drool behind him all because of the ritual of the cookie. And because Kevin or I is following close at paw, a big milkbone in our grasp. He goes out onto the patio, pivots, grabs the cookie from our hand and takes it out into the yard. It’s always to the same place. He drops the bone onto the grass and hunkers over it, protecting it from predators like his parents, because we obviously want to take it away from him. We obviously want it for ourselves. Maybe we want to dunk it in our morning coffee! He shifts his head slightly to the right because that’s where the attack will come from, and bares his teeth. Then the growling begins, the snarling commences, the protective armor descends. He talks some smack.

Do. Not. Come closer, parental unit. I will chomp on you instead of this cookie.

Each night, we all go for a walk. Maguire’s internal alarm clock goes off at 7 and the nighttime dance begins, jazz feet on the floor. We get him ready and soon we’re strolling through the neighborhood, sniffing each blade of grass, huffing and puffing at each passing dog, ignoring each passing person. Clarification: We stroll, he sniffs, huffs and puffs. When we get back to the house, and release him from his harness, he stands on the rug outside of the kitchen, watching, ears at attention, waiting. I go to the cookie door, the area in the pantry where we keep the dog treats, grab half a cookie, and off we race again to the back door for more growling, snarling, the occasional bark, and munching.

It’s our routine, our lives and our ritual, for fourteen and a half years. I celebrate the growl every day.


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