Sunrise in Templeton

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:47 PM

It is early this Sunday morning, three days after Thanksgiving 2017. The sky has brightened, drifting from dark to gray to a pale blue. Wispy clouds streak across in oranges, reds and purples. It’s amazing how much sunrise mirrors sunset. It’s softer though, more muted. Perhaps more promising. Maybe because it fades into sunshine as opposed to darkness. We’re leaving Templeton early. The clock on the dashboard of the Sport reads 6:32. We had set a time of departure for 6:30. We’re doing well.

As we drive across Santa Rita Road, towering oaks form a covered bridge above us. Fallen leaves have collected on either side. A deer walks through and bounds away as we approach. Yesterday Roy said he encountered a gaggle of wild turkeys, 50 or so, celebrating the fact that they made it another year without being someone’s dinner.

The house we always seem to stay in - this is our third time - isn’t far off the freeway but seems completely removed from m the world, nestled as it is among the trees. A creek is just below. A trickle of water exists now as there hasn’t been much rain. Across the creek, a hillside flows up. To the east are more trees and somewhere, the road. To the west, vineyards have been planted. In the gray light of this morning, under the canopy of oaks, the stakes and white conicals covering the new growth are barely visible, tiny ghosts in the sunrise. By summer, they’ll be spilling over with green leaves and green grape clusters. By next Thanksgiving, they’ll be covered in fall oranges, rusts and golds.

When we sit outside in the evenings, gatherings around the fire pit we can hear creatures scurrying. Somewhere there are squirrels and rabbits, raccoons and more deer. It’s far removed from any civilization which is why we love it. We know the vineyards are there, too. We dream of the wine to come.

As we drift across the narrow bridge and ease our way up to Vineyard where we’ll head east toward the freeway, the sky is already losing its color. Soon it will be, simply, blue. There are rolling banks of clouds in the distance. The weather app had said rain but I never saw any time when it was actually supposed to fall.

Another Thanksgiving weekend is ending. The journey toward Christmas begins. But first, we travel 750 miles toward home.

We’re leaving Templeton under a rising sun and a brightening sky. And thinking about how we lived it out loud.

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live out loud

Save the wine. Save the trip.

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 20, 2017 10:15 PM

A week ago today we went to California. We dropped Riley at the pet resort, a nicety that he didn’t seem to appreciate at all, and then peddled our way across the desert. We did this last summer, too. It’s become a new tradition. We go twice a year now, the other time being for Thanksgiving. Both trips involve Roy and Bobbi and a house we all rent together. For the summer trip, we always stay in LA overnight on Thursday, then get up to drive the remaining three hours to Paso on Friday morning. At Thanksgiving, we stay for four nights. During the summer, just two.

We arrived at our hotel just after 5, took a shower and then met Roy and Bobbi for dinner on the lake in Westlake Village. It was a lovely way to start our long weekend. 

By Friday at 11, we were at Rabbit Ridge, on the north west side of Paso. It’s one of our favorites and we’re members, as we are of at least five wineries in the area. Normally when we go wine tasting, we explore mostly new ones – wineries we haven’t yet visited – while also hitting maybe one or three of our favorites. This trip, Kevin decided it might be fun to do a greatest hits tour. So we were only going to visit our favorites, ones we’d already visited, ones where either we were members or Roy and Bobbi were. 

For the next two days we visited places like Zenaida and Niner, Barr, Sculpterra and Vina Robles. We close every wine tasting trip at Vina Robles. They have a members-only lounge where they have comfortable couches, pour all the wine you want and then some, and even serve gourmet appetizers. It’s probably the best wine in Paso, and while we always worry that one time it will finally disappoint us, it never does. 

We bought seven plus cases of wine on our trip. We had great conversations with great friends. We ate well; we slept well. We had fun. 

On Sunday morning, Kevin and I packed up the Sport and left at 6:30 a.m. We had an 11 hour drive ahead of us and we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. Kevin drove the first part, just until we got to Calabasas where we were going to stop and get coffee and something to eat. I had a bit of writing to do that I needed to finish before the end of the day, so it worked well. I took over in Calabasas, and off we sped, across the Valley, through Burbank and Glendale, into Pasadena and then off into the desert. 

Before we left Arizona, Kevin and I had both noticed that the Sport’s AC didn’t seem to be as cool as it was before. We took it to the dealer and asked them to check it, telling them that we would be driving through the desert in July and really would need our air conditioning. They assured us that it was blowing cold; that all was good. 

And it was. It was fine on the trip on Thursday. It was great all through Paso Robles, and it was hot in Paso. High 90s/low 100s. And it was fine early on Sunday. But then, it seemed to get warmer in the car. We kept turning the temp down on the climate control and nothing happened. It became clear that the AC had stopped working at an optimum level. While it was still cooler in the car than outside, it was not comfortable. It was not right. And it was cooking our wine. 

Wine does not like to be in warm temperatures. It prefers about 58º, which is what our wine room is set to. On Sunday, we were hell and gone from that room. We got cranky, we started to fight. We knew that riding through the entire desert and into more desert would ruin the seven plus cases we had in the back. 

So, after screaming and yelling at each other, we exited the freeway in Blythe, California, a lovely hole of a town that we refer to as Blight, found a rite-aid and proceeded to buy five Styrofoam coolers and several bags of ice. In the parking lot, under intense sun, and horrendous heat, we opened our cases, distributed the wine into the coolers, poured ice over each, reloaded them into the back of the care, disposed of the broken case boxes, and climbed back into the Sport. I fired up the ignition. And voila, the AC was working.

Still, we saved the wine. Because if we hadn’t, it would have ruined the trip. We celebrated rite-aid last week, something we’ve never done previously and not sure we’ll do again, but they were there when we needed them. And when the wine needed them. And for that, we were and are very, very, very happy.

Bud break

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 30, 2016 8:57 PM

Bud break is a celebration of vines breaking open, with flowers that will eventually become grapes. It happens in spring, much like flowers blooming. If you're a winemaker, this is a very special time, allowing you to get an idea of what your potential yield for the year might be. This is the time you start to come alive too, if you're a winemaker, because this is when it all starts. For the past months, you've perhaps bottled and labeled. You've spent time cleaning barrels and tanks, and the warehouse-like rooms and floors where barrels and tanks are kept at a balmy and constant 50 degrees. You've entered contests and festivals, and you've waited. And here it is. Finally. The vines are coming alive after a dormant winter. 

We are budding winemakers. Our six vines are in the ground. We have not yet seen bud break but we're hopeful. Today, though, we went to experience another winery's bud break. Keeling Schaefer. Located about two hours south east of us. We are members of their club, the only one we've joined in Arizona; one of the few wineries in Southern Arizona that makes bold reds and we're all about the bold and the red. Their vineyard is located in Pearce. We'd never been to either Pearce or their vineyard. Their tasting room is in Wilcox, a tiny town a bit further west. At one point, it was a small booming town. Now, it's just small. Their tasting room is in the old Wilcox Bank & Trust building. The safe is still there and operational. We're members of the WB&T club so we get four bottles three times a year.

About a month or so ago, we got an email that they were going to be having a bud break party, and we were invited along with the other club members. The chance to roam through the vines and talk to the winemaker, not to mention sample the wines, was one we couldn't pass up. So this morning we cleaned the windshield, climbed into the otherwise filthy Range Rover and set off. 

Once we got off the freeway, we were in the land that time forgot. Broken down houses dotted the mostly flat landscape. There was a town called Dragoon. I looked it up later. There are 209 people that live there, and 10 hotels, none of which did we see. There were no stores, no cafes or saloons. There was a post office and a Baptist church. 

We cruised down Dragoon Road toward I-191 to I-181. Both roads were nearly deserted. Occasionally a car passed us going the other direction. There were towering trees to the left, green crops to the right. Pink and purple flowers marched up to the side of the road but didn’t dare cross. There was no cell service. We went by one house, a brown wooden structure with an old-porch. I remarked that it looked like little house on the prairie, but with cars. There were at least five cars in the backyard. 

We went by Golden Rule Vineyards and the Dream Catcher B & B, then turned right onto Rock Creek Lane. It was dirt and rock and washboard. A total disaster of a road, but it was lined with budding grape vines. We were smiling even as the dust was flying. 

There were at least 120 people at the vineyard. The winery was pouring all of their wines, as many tastes as you wanted, with a “lunch pour” of your choice for lunch. The winemaker, Rod Keeling, talked to everyone about the vines and the “buds” as we all stood in rapturous attention. There were barrel tastings of a 2014 Shiraz, one from a brand new barrel, one from a year old barrel. The difference was astounding. Kevin got the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Rod to get some pointers and to find out about buying grapes so we can make some more wine since our fledgling vineyard still has years to go. 

We bought six bottles of wine, and then it was 3:15. Time to reverse course and head home.

The sky was low and heavy – cloudy clouds – and rain specked the windshield and the now even filthier car. We were still smiling as we found our way back to the 181 and the 191 and then the 10 west, heading home. Once again, through the wilderness, areas just dotted with houses. We didn’t see a single person, only horses and cows.  

We’d met some wonderful people, tasted some phenomenal wine, discovered some new information. It once again affirmed our decision, and our commitment, and our love of the middle of nowhere, of wine, of buds breaking and of each other. It was a good day.

In which Kevin plants a vineyard and Lorin helps

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 10, 2016 8:11 PM

Kevin and I are big winos. This does not come as news to anyone who reads this blog or who knows us. Even people that have just met us get a feel for our wino tendencies, especially if they come to the house. That’s undoubtedly because we have a temperature controlled wine room. We went to Stephanie and John’s house a couple of weeks ago and when I asked what I could bring, she didn’t hesitate before putting me in charge of wine. We love wine. We drink it regularly. When we vacation we go wine tasting. We’re rather boring in terms of what we like and like to do, but it works for us.

Years ago, I bought Kevin wine making equipment for Christmas. It was essentially the equivalent of a starter kit. It even came with a box of wine juice. It was very bad wine. But Kevin got hooked on the idea of making wine. Several years later, in 2012, we took the plunge and actually bought grapes, 100 pounds each of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We fermented them, listening to the crackle and pop for several days. Eventually we pressed them, removing the skins and preserving the juice, aged them, bottled, corked and labeled them. Ultimately we got 72 bottles, 36 of each. 

Now we’ve taken another plunge and have planted our own micro-vineyard in order to grow our own grapes which we can them ferment, press, age, bottle and serve. I say micro because as of now, we only have six actual vines of Barbera. They arrived, wrapped in wet shredded newspaper and plastic in order to keep the moisture in until they got planted. For nearly two weeks, we worked to ready the area, pulling out weeds and bufflegrass, building walls – essentially making a 30 foot by 6 foot planter. 

On Thursday, we unwrapped the plastic, and saw our vines for the first time. They’re very unattractive. Knarly and long, skinny things that look and feel a bit like bark, with spindly, spidery roots. Kevin pulled out the old fermenter, filled it with water and put the roots into the water. They needed to soak for several hours before planting.

Next, out to the vineyard he went to dig holes. In a large vineyard – even a regular size vineyard – vines are planted in rows that are trenched by a machine. Each vine is planted approximately 4 to 5 feet apart. This is because they grow up and then have to be trained along wires in order to have lots of room to grow and to have grapes drop down.

The holes he dug were about 12 inches deep. We placed the vines into the holes, one vine per hole, put a six-foot stake in the ground next to each, then refilled the holes, watered, and stepped back to admire our work. 

This is the beginnings of our long hoped for vineyard. I say beginnings because we have plans to perhaps get more Barbera vines, maybe some Petit Sirah, maybe some Malbec. We have to get vines that do well in this kind of climate but those three do. Our current six vines will produce up to about 70 pounds of fruit, with each individual one capable of between 10 and 12 pounds of grapes. It won’t happen for about 3 years, but once it does and we can pick, de-stem and crush, ferment, press, age, bottle, cork, label. Drink. 

The vintner and his erstwhile helper; the micro-vineyard in the background

Michel Cellars, our fledging winery, will produce estate-bottled wines, meaning wines made only from grapes grown on the property versus wine made with grapes purchased elsewhere. Kevin has long wanted to be a vintner. He’s on his way. By the time he retires, he’ll have enough grape vines to keep him at least partially busy. Until then, and if all goes according to plan, we should have new Barbera wines to drink in about five years. 

That’s wining out loud.

Readying the soil

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 18, 2016 4:39 PM

There is a DirecTV commercial currently running that makes me smile every time. It’s called "The Settlers." The premise is simple enough: a family lives in a house right in the middle of a tract development. On either side of their house is another almost exactly the same. One neighbor comes home in his BMW SUV and stops to say hi. The family’s father is on his wagon in the front yard. It’s being pulled by an ox. They’re tilling and fertilizing the soil. His son has already asked why they can’t have DirecTV like the McGregor’s next door. The father has informed him that they’re settlers. They settle for things. Like cable.

Cue Mr. McGregor, calling over the fence. “Hey Jebediah. How’s it going?” 

Jebediah, waving back: “Working the land. Hoping for a fertile spring.”

The absurdity of it is what gets me, similar to the Geico camel and hump day commercial from a year or so. They’re just laugh-out-loud funny. 

We have DirecTV so we’re not necessarily settlers. We are however about to be working the land, readying the soil and hoping for a fertile fall in about three years. Actually, we’re not quite readying the soil yet because we have to have some delivered. About 6 cubic yards of it. But we are working the land because we’re getting ready to plant grape vines. 

Several years ago, Kevin and I bought grapes and made our own wine. We got about a hundred pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Paso Robles, and an equal amount of Syrah grapes from Santa Barbara County. Over the course of several months, we fermented, crushed, aged, and bottled about 72 bottles total, 36 of each. There was more to it, of course, but that was the gist. It sounds so easy. It was nerve racking, what with temperature fluctuation and the time Kevin was sure that the cab had developed bacteria. In the end, it all came out well, and we had our first true Michel Cellars wines. That was about three years ago. We haven’t had time to do it again since due to other life things like moving.

But for Christmas this past year, I bought him six grafted Barbera grape vines. We have to be very careful what we try to grow because of the climate, but Barbera is supposed to grow very well here. So I found a place online. I ordered them before Christmas and gave Kevin a print out in his stocking. The vines ship on Monday; they’ll arrive around mid-next week.

Once we decided on the best place to put them, we got to work. He’s been building walls because we want to plant on a hillside on the west side of the house. The issue, other than our fairly dry soil, is that we’re mostly rock. The soil we have simply isn’t that deep. So he’s positioning his walls on a flatter part of the hill and we’re going to have dirt delivered to create an area where we can plant, and nurture, and grow. We also have to figure out the best way to keep the critters away and to protect the vines from the winds and the monsoon rains. This is why I only bought six. Better to start small, figure it out and add to the vineyard than to start with a bunch and have them all get eaten, blow away or drown. 

Providing the grafts take in the soil we’ll have delivered next week, we’ll spend the next three years tending our six little vines, training them, pruning them, weeding, and watching. Any berries that grow we’ll put back into the soil for the first couple of years. In three years, we should have grapes that we can pick, de-stem, ferment, crush, age and make into our first estate-grown wine. Michel Cellars Barbera 2019.

Jebediah would be proud.

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live out loud

And technology. And wine.

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 27, 2015 9:38 PM

Several weeks ago, Bobbi and I were discussing something online. We talk every day and on that particular day I have no idea what the topic was, but whatever it was had to have had something to do with us both having a bad and unproductive day. This is nothing particularly new. We have these often. Most people do. But on this particular day, we decided that whenever something was bad, if we had a not-positive response to a question or even just an observation, we would still state the answer but follow it with something simple. Elegant. Understated. Tasty.

And wine.

For instance: I am so sick of the bad news today that I’m just going to scream. And wine.

And wine made everything better. It worked for us for about a day and then it sort of dissipated. Like a fine wine, I suppose, it was finished off. We still throw it out there every once in a while, just to add a bit of brevity to what might otherwise be a cranky situation. It never ceases to bring a smile.

I’m sitting here at my computer tonight, after a day of not getting nearly enough done and painfully little crossed off my list. I was tired and found myself surfing a bit too much. I surf when I’m wasting time. I also surf between projects as a way to clear my head. Sometimes a particular story makes me follow it more closely than I should because I’m interested. The Patriots being in Arizona this week, for instance. The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz for another. I don’t know why but I have long had a dreadful fascination with World War II and the atrocities that were committed. I am horrified, disgusted. To think that a good portion of an otherwise civilized country thought it OK to have places like Auschwitz occupies me. I don’t know why.

I’m not naïve. I know that civilizations have been destroying others different than themselves forever. The Crusades, Nazi Germany, the Sudan, Syria; more. I am fascinated by it though, by the mindset that allows one to assume such arrogance, such power, and to think nothing of murdering mass groups of people, of committing genocide. It gives me no comfort to know that it has been going on since the dawn of time. It gives me no comfort to know that sometimes the perpetrators are destroyed as well.

The arrogance of man, the hypocrisy, the murderous intent.

Because of technology, I can now read about these things freely. You’d think I would prefer to read about dogs, and I do. But even then, I am drawn to the stories of animals who have survived unspeakable acts of cruelty, neglect. I am sickened by the stories and the pictures. But I read them because I long for a happy ending. I want to see the starved dog named Angel who was rescued by a woman affiliated with Rescue from the Hart, Annie Hart ‘s Southern California organization. Little Angel was found barely able to walk on the streets of Palmdale. She was the definition of skin and bones. People walked by, people drove my. One woman stopped to help. I need to see Angel be OK.

Angel was not expected to survive. Her body, like those of concentration camp victims and survivors, was consuming itself in order to stay alive. But the vets at Westlake Animal Hospital kept her alive, somehow, and today, Angel is normal weight and happy, living with a foster family, and well loved.

I suppose to read these stories because I want people to be good and when they are, when they help, when they intervene in order to save another soul, whether that soul belongs to a human or an animal, then my faith is at least temporarily renewed. Until the next travesty presents itself and I can’t look away.

Until technology, I didn’t know what I know now. I didn’t see it daily. I do now. Sometimes I actively seek it out because I need it to be better, I need the happily ever after.

I don’t know that technology gives it to me, but it allows me to see it in action.

People suck. People surprise me.

And wine.

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by Lorin Michel Friday, December 26, 2014 10:04 PM

There is a town in Cochise County that was originally called Maley. It was founded in 1880 as a whistlestop on the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1889, it was renamed Willcox after Orlando Bolivar Willcox who served as a general in the Union Army in the Civil War. He was on the first train that came through the tiny town. Today it is home to 10 Southern Arizona wineries and about 3700 people. Day-after-Christmas wine tasting is a tradition, and this year Willcox was where we journeyed.

This tiny, nearly forgotten western town is just over an hour from Tucson. At an altitude of nearly 4200 feet it’s also cooler. In fact, it was only in the low 40s under a cloudless sky, and it was windy. We went to the older part of town first. Driving through, we were immediately struck by the fact that it’s very run down, kind of a hole as I dubbed it. Once upon a time it was probably wonderful and bustling. There are motels after motels, nearly all abandoned, with broken windows and signs that are falling from the building, hanging by old wires. It looks like you’re driving through an old town from the 1950s, a black and white movie like The Last Picture Show.

We turned right on Maley and then left onto Main, at the corner of The Rabbit Hole and The Dining Car Big Tex Barbecue. Flying Leap was on the same corner. There was an empty saloon for sale by Steve, and another small barbecue that looked like the place Frank Underwood frequents in the House of Cards on Netflix. The owner was sitting outside. He smiled and said Merry Christmas as we walked by. The old-fashioned movie house was advertising Hobbit 3 on the marquee. The road had angled parking places on either side of the street. Keeling Schaefer was there, too, across from the bronze sculpture of General Willcox.  We walked in and began our day of tasting.

Keeling Schaefer is in an old bank building from 1917. There is a ladder up to a lookout where the guard would sit with his rifle. Such was security in the old west. We tasted wine, we bought wine; we watched the trains roll by. We walked over to Big Tex, had some pulled pork for lunch, piled into the car and went in search of other wineries.

We found Bodega Pierce after turning on a dirt road. It was like being in a covered wagon, jostling along, kicking up dust. I was glad we hadn’t washed our already filthy car. From Bodega Pierce we went to Pillsbury and then to Zarpara. All of these tasting rooms are in people’s homes. They pour from what would be an eat-at bar in their kitchen.

We met a woman named Barbara at Bodega. She’s the owner of the winery. We met Bonnie at Pillsbury. She’s originally from Ohio but has been in Southern Arizona for 20 some years. She’s 65, a writer and came to Willcox about a year and a half ago to live on the vineyard property. She had her woodstove blazing. At Zarpara we were greeted by their dog Tilly, and the winery owners Rona and Mark were pouring wine from their kitchen. All of these winery owners had left corporate jobs; had decided there had to be something more to life. They found it in the rolling planes of this wonderful and wonderfully odd, time-forgotten little town.

We found it today, too, as we journeyed to a different time and place, where the grapes grow in volcanic soils and the winemakers walk the vineyards themselves, testing, observing, living a new life. In vino vertitas is what the Italians say. In wine, truth. And life. Today in Willcox, in wine there was living it out loud.

Rental cars and stuff

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:30 PM

On Thursday, Thanksgiving, we’re embarking on a road trip. About a 10 hour road trip.

Pause while Pam cleans up the coffee she just spit out of her mouth.

We’re driving to Paso Robles, on the central coat of California, to go wine tasting. It’s the first vacation we’ve had in a while, at least two years and perhaps more. We’ve been away but it was mostly to visit family. The last vacation we had may have been the long weekend we spent in Paso when I turned 50. That was nearly three years ago.

We rented a car today to make the trip. We did this for a number of reasons. First, it’s cheaper. Our Range Rover weighs nearly 6000 pounds and thus doesn’t get great gas mileage. It also takes only premium gas which is more expensive. A rental car takes cheaper gas, and because it’s a car, not an SUV and thus lighter, it gets better mileage. We rented a 2015 Nissan Altima. It gets 38 mph, about 600 miles per tank.

Second, it’s less wear and tear on our car. And since it’s cheaper why put the miles on our tires? Why put the miles on our oil? Why put our car out there in the elements when it can stay safely behind and we spend less money?

The car is, coincidentally, the same color as our Rover. A deep metallic red. The interior is black, also like the Rover’s, only this interior is cloth. It doesn’t have satellite, but we have cell phones we can hook up to the aux and listen to internet radio.

On Sunday, we downloaded the Tunein app so that we can tune into the Bears/Lions game on Thursday and the Packers/Patriots game on Sunday. We have all of our cords.  We have our USB cigarette-lighter, 12V plug. Everything works; we’re ready. Let the listening and road-tripping begin.

We’re doing laundry tonight. Tomorrow I’ll make the twice-baked potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. We have everything else we’re in charge of as well, including pears, cranberries and goat cheese. We have rolls. And packets of gravy in case we need it. We have snacks for the road. We don’t do fast food when we travel. We try to eat healthy. So I have ham and cheese to do rollups. I have raisins and grapes. We’ll take water.

Cooper will need to be packed, but he should be pleased to have the entire back seat to himself. We might take up some room on the floor, but he doesn’t use the floor anyway. He’ll be able to get in more easily because the car is very low to the ground, much lower than I would have thought. He should just be able to step in and up, settle himself down on the blankets we’ll put on the seat and watch the desert go by.

We have a rental car. Tomorrow it will be full of stuff. Thursday we’ll leave around 6 am. Can’t wait.

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

Some thoughts about Justin

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 30, 2013 8:08 PM

Justin has been here for the last week and today we take him back to the airport. He’s on a plane at noon, back to Buffalo, via Las Vegas. We’ll miss him as we always do but he’ll be back in three weeks, on December 22, for Christmas. Next time he arrives he will be officially finished with school. He may have a job waiting for him; he may have two. It’s a very exciting and nervous time.

Last night, after we returned from wine tasting, and had munched on some dinner, we all sat here at the bar in the kitchen, drinking wine and listening to Justin tell us about how his chosen career will unfold. Union work versus non-union work. How to get into the union and how hard it is. How expensive New York City is but how that remains the center of the theatre universe. How he doesn’t really want to live in New York because it’s so expensive.

He talked about getting on a tour that might take him all over the world. He talked about how hard his chosen profession is on a relationship; about how he doesn’t want to get into anything heavy until he’s a bit older, has some money in the bank and the possibility for a more steady work environment, something that doesn’t take him away via air, train or boat.

It’s a very transient life he’s chosen, one with so much potential to see the world, to explore all that there is out there, but one that has perhaps more ups and downs than the ordinary boring life the rest of us lead. A six-month job can be very lucrative, but then it ends and he starts all over, looking for another gig, another month, or three or six, until that too is over and he begins yet again. There is little job security. There is little grounding. And he’s very excited about it all.

We listened to him and asked questions. Once again, I tried to impress upon him the idea of saving. He’s not a good saver, by his own admission, and given how sporadic his work life could end up being, he really needs to change his pattern of spending most of what he makes. Since he went away to college in 2009 I’ve been sounding like a proverbial broken record: you need to put money away when you’re working for when you’re not working. That was even more clear last night as we listened to the life he will lead, work and personal wise.

Justin, yesterday, with the winery dog at Keif-Joshua

It’s exhilarating and terrifying, as parents, to watch your child head out into the big bad, cold cruel and every other cliché world. For his entire life (and for me, most of his entire life) we have been there to take care of him; to feed and clothe him, get his hair cut when it needed it; to buy toys and school supplies; to get him new computers; a car when he started to drive; assistance with college applications and visits and interviews with schools that accepted him. In college, we paid for the majority of his tuition, and all of his books and living expenses. We had him take out a student loan because Kevin felt that it was important for him to have “skin in the game.” It needed to be Justin’s nickel as much as it was ours. We’ll probably help him pay his loans though he doesn’t know that. We want him to understand that being in the real world has real consequences and real responsibilities. The minute you’re out of school it begins. You may end up staying with your parents temporarily but kids don’t want to do that any more than parents want them to. It’s time to be, finally, the adult he’s been preparing to be; the adult that he wants to be. The adult that he, in many ways, already is.

I was up half the night last night. Part of it was all of the usual anxiety that swirls through my head about getting my work done, paying my bills, living a good and true life; a celebratory life.

It occurred to me that Justin, too, will soon be partaking in this dance. He will have sleepless nights wondering where his next job is coming from, if he made the right decisions, what the next year or three or ten will look like. He can’t wait of course because it’s time. But part of me wants to hug him and protect him and spare him from the rigors of being all grown up. But then he also wouldn’t have the joy that accompanies living a full life out loud. 

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