I do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 10, 2017 8:40 PM

No one really knows when marriage first began though like many things ancient, it likely started with the Egyptians. In fact, The Elephantine Papyri, a collection of documents from the 5th century BC found on the island of Elephantine on the River Nile, found three marriage certificates. In one, the groom was named Ananiah ben Azariah and the bride was called, simply, Tamut. In 2300 BC, the Sumerian culture also recorded marriage certificates.

In the beginning of wedded bliss, people joined together for a number of reasons, most of which had little to do with love. Marriages were often arranged, joining two families together rather than two people, usually for practical reasons. One family wanted something another had and vice versa. Marriages were of convenience and for continuing lineage. In some parts of the world, this still happens, though thankfully not as often in this particular part.

The first record of a marriage license being issued in this country occurred in 1639 in Massachusetts. There doesn’t seem to be a record of who actually got married or why, or why, in that particular year, a license was required. Perhaps it was just something the couple wanted, or maybe it was so that there would be a record of the merger when it came time to sell crops or barter for food.

In the Western world, marriage has evolved to include couples of the same sex. Contrary to popular rhetoric, these marriages have not led to a plethora of people marrying children or their pets though I know some pets who would make better companions than some chosen husbands or wives. Most people seem to understand that things change, societies evolve, people become more tolerant and worldly. Most people understand this. Some don’t.

In the United States, most people get married for love. I have said “I do” twice, though it turns out that the first time I actually didn’t. The second time, I definitely did and do. I was too young to get married the first time. I have come to believe that people shouldn’t get married until they’re in their 30s for several reasons the main one being that I don’t think we know who we truly are or what we really want until we’ve experienced more of life than college. We need to work and travel and form opinions that are based on our own beliefs rather than those of our parents. We need to become our own people. This happens, in my opinion, starting in our late 20s and into our early 30s. We bring more to a marriage when we have become more of ourselves.

This weekend, we traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. I’d never been. Curiously Kevin, who grew up in Illinois and whose brother and sister-in-law live in the state, hadn’t been there either unless you count driving through. It’s not a place we had ever thought about going. When we do go to that part of the country, it’s to visit Chicago, something we haven’t done in years and something we always do at this time of the year. We love Chicago in December. It’s bitter cold but walking the streets and especially Michigan Avenue is spectacular under a near-Christmas sky. We had to change planes in Chicago, at O’Hare, and I felt a curious tug to stay, check in at The Fairmont overlooking Lake Shore Drive, and spend the weekend. Alas, we boarded another flight, a small commuter jet that took us to Des Moines International. Once there, Justin, who had driven in from Atlanta to meet us, picked us up and deposited us at the downtown Marriott in time to shower, change, and head off to a rehearsal dinner. We had come to town for a wedding.

Kevin’s brother Jeff has three kids, all of whom are in their 30s. The oldest, Eric, is 36; the youngest, Ryan, is 31. And in the middle is Laura, who is 32. Eric and Ryan are both married, with children. Eric and his wife, Becky, have two kids; Ryan and his wife, Marissa, have a little boy. It was Laura’s turn to get married.

In downtown Des Moines, a surprisingly wonderful city, reminiscent of a small and cleaner Chicago, the streets are lined with trees wrapped in white lights. Black, metal boxes, flared at the tops and supported by black metal stands, are strategically placed along the sidewalks. Each sports a small pine tree adorned with red ribbons. Wreaths hang above building entrances. In the lobbies, Christmas trees tower and twinkle through the day and night. Christmas music plays everywhere.

The temperatures were chilly. On Saturday, it was 25 degrees. An enclosed skywalk connects much of downtown, shielding pedestrians from the harshest temperatures. We used it for a while yesterday morning as we explored a bit, finally finding the Temple for the Performing Arts where the wedding and reception was to be held. This is the cultural hub of the city, where shows are produced, music is heard, and events like weddings are held. It was a Masonic Temple in its previous incarnation. In xxxx it took on its current persona. It’s a remarkable facility, old, with copper-plate ceilings, and stone columns. In the recital hall, where the wedding was held, the windows are stained glass.

Last night, at 5 o’clock, the ceremony began. The groomsmen ushered in bridesmaids, the ring bearers - Hartley (2) and Oliver (1) - made it mostly down the aisle as Eric and Ryan, both groomsmen, coerced and coaxed their boys forward. Rainey, 6, was the flower girl. Then came Laura, on her dad’s arm, walking toward her groom, Nathan. Glowing and gorgeous, and crying, the release of the tension leading up to this moment. The pastor talked of their choice, of the idea of hiring each other, that their courtship had been a long job interview and that they have both landed in a new career. They would be co-CROs. Chief Reminder Officers, whose job would be to remind each other constantly of their commitment and their love.

I had not heard that before. I smiled at its truth. And as I listened to Laura and Nathan exchange vows, I thought of how interesting weddings are, how much better marriage is, can, and should be, and how “I do” is, can, and should be what life and a partnership is ultimately what matters.

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Lost Soles


by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 9, 2017 10:19 PM

I’m trying to remember a time when such a constant and overwhelming feeling of exhaustion existed, not just within me but throughout the entire country. I talk to my friends and my family and to a one, they all say that they are constantly checking the news, that every time they get an alert on their phone or iPad or fitness tracker proclaiming “breaking news” they – we – hold their breath. What the fuck has he done now? Oh my dog, what has happened now? Now? Now! 

It’s exhausting. The constant barrage of news and scandal and ridiculousness and ineptness and fear. It’s frightening. It’s demoralizing. It’s embarrassing. It’s the United States of America.

I find no solace in the fact that more of us voted against this evil creature than voted for. I find no tolerance in me to understand why people support him. I simply don’t understand how anyone could support the indignities that are happening, the lawlessness that is excused, the lack of spine in anyone in elected office to support the country rather than the party. 

Climate change. Water regulations. Help for the poor. Cruel deportations. Health care. 

The evil that men do.

It gets to me, the constancy of it, the inability to relax. It permeates my sleep hours. It forces me to continually check my sources throughout the day to make sure that nothing catastrophic has happened in the last hour, the recent minutes. It’s amazing how many times something has happened. It’s not always horrible but it’s always depressing in some way. 

Maybe it’s because of who’s in the office. Perhaps it’s because of the complete lack of experience of everyone who’s in charge. It is because of those things and the fact that we have lost all credibility in the world, that we are on edge. It is because of the fact that we wait – in fear – for something truly awful to happen. A terror attack, a natural disaster, a shooting. What will happen then? Will we retaliate with the “power of God’s own thunder” to quote Josiah Bartlett? Will we launch a nuclear fusillade on North Korea? Will we declare martial law? Will tanks patrol the streets? Will journalists be jailed? Will anyone who’s not Caucasian be interned? Will women turn into handmaids?

It’s day 110. I’m exhausted. We’re all destroyed. And yet tomorrow will come, at least for the immediate future. I will sleep fitfully and awake to walk the dog, to drink coffee, to work. It’s strange how normal it all is when everything that swirls around is anything but.

We go on because there isn’t an alternative. We work, we cook dinner, we commiserate with friends; we drink wine and too much. We try to sleep and we awake unrested. 

Day 110. And nothing at all to celebrate.


live out loud | Lost Soles

The hormones giveth and the hormones taketh away

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 19, 2014 9:22 PM

I have a tumor. It is a uterine fibroid fundal tumor and it is benign. If you’re a woman in her 40s or 50s, perhaps even younger, chances are you have one as well. It’s a large club from what I understand, since 50% of all women have them. It’s not necessarily a fun club but one with many members all of whom would gladly turn their club card in at any moment.

This tumor of mine isn’t dangerous, or so I’ve been told. It is merely annoying. It does occasionally cause me to have to pee more often because it and my bladder evidently don’t get along.

I’m sorry. TMI?

Here’s the thing. I went to my doctor a couple of weeks ago and as I am a woman over 40 – I know, I know – I get mammograms every year. Because we moved, I hadn’t had one in nearly two years. This, I realize, is bad. But it took me months to get in to see my new doctor because I’m a new patient and because I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I was simply a new patient. I like to think that if I had something wrong with me, a good doctor would have made time to see me.

Perhaps I’m naïve.

Anyway, I went to the new doctor who was fabulous. I liked her immediately and tremendously. This is a good thing when one is seeing any kind of doctor but particularly a gynecologist.

For obvious reasons.

In order to have a mammogram, I had to have a note from my doctor, in the form of a prescription. This is why I couldn’t get a mammogram sooner. Naturally, the imaging center is booked several weeks out, so even having the prescription meant waiting a bit. Again, if it had been an emergency, I’m sure they would have made time. It not being an emergency is a good thing.

The doctor also suggested an ultrasound to check on my tumor. I have had two of these ultrasounds previously. I will not go into detail because this isn’t that kind of blog. Suffice it to say that many anti-abortion people think these types of invasive ultrasounds should be mandatory for any woman seeking an abortion for any reason. I suspect that those who think this have never had one of these ultrasounds. If they had, I doubt seriously they would think them a good thing.

Especially if the anti-abortion screed is male.

So I dutifully went to my appointment at the imaging center yesterday where I endured both tests. They were incredibly efficient at this center. Courteous, polite, and actually running a bit early.

Whoever heard of such a thing?

My new doctor is on a computerized medical records system. As a patient, I was invited to sign up. It’s completely secure – as much as anything is anyway – and all of my information is stored there for me to see, as well as for other physicians given access. My blood work. Height and weight. Test results. When I left the imaging center yesterday, the tech who did the mammogram said to expect the results next week, and that they would be requesting my previous records from my previous imaging center. The ultrasound tech said my doctor would have results by Thursday.

Last night, at 6:45, I got an email from the medical records site that my medical information had been updated. My results were already in and posted. I’m fine. My tumor, which I’ve had for a while, may even have shrunk a bit which leads me, finally, to the title of this post. Fibroid tumors are estrogen-dependent. They seem to increase as hormone levels fluctuate, and then, once menopause happens, and hormones abate, they tend to shrink. Now, as my doctor cautioned, and as I completely understand, it took years for my tumor to form; it will take years for her to go away. In the mean time, I will take comfort in the fact that it’s not really all that irritating, just mildly annoying. And that I can get my results online so quickly. That is cause for celebration.

Albeit a small one. 


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Lost Soles

A lost sole in the desert

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 14, 2014 8:54 PM

Several years ago, I had an idea. It occurred to me in the night, as some of my most interesting ideas often do. I hastily scribbled it down on the paper next to my side of the bed and the next morning I approached Kevin. We had been toying with finding something to do together. I don’t remember why. We often do projects together, especially when related to the house. Actually, he does the project. I help. I’m not even remotely good at building anything but I’ve become remarkably adept at holding large pieces of wood steady as they travel through the table saw. I can also lay tile. We were looking for something more creative, something that would make use of both of our talents.

Kevin has long been involved in photography. Sometimes long stretches of time will flow between photos, but he loves it. It’s something that started when he was young. His father was involved in the Kankakee camera club; Kevin was, too.

He had a SLR camera, I think it was a Minolta. It shot film. This was before digital cameras were as accessible and affordable as they are now. Certainly it was before smart phones and the cameras they all possess, making the smaller digital cameras nearly obsolete.

Every weekend, we’d climb onto the motorcycle, the camera bag and its additional lenses packed into the saddle bag, and off we’d go. To Ojai, to Camarillo; east to Lake Hughes; up into the Angeles Crest forest. We mostly avoided freeways and stuck to canyons and other side roads. We preferred places that were somewhat away from society. We searched for shoes.

I had long been fascinated with the abandoned shoes that litter the roads. I always wondered, and still do, how one shoe ended up in a ditch, or just tossed along the roadside. Sneakers, dress shoes, boots, children’s sandals. It didn’t seem to matter type, style or size, adult or child. Shoes were and are everywhere. We called our project Lost Soles: Stories from the road. Kevin took photographs, often lying on the side of the road while I stood by and tried to look nonchalant so as not to alarm passers-by. Most of the time it worked. Often people who slow down and call out to make sure we were OK.

After the film was developed, we would decide on a photo and I would craft a back story for the shoe, turning it into a character. It wasn’t about where we found the shoe, but perhaps why the shoe was there.

We pitched the idea as a book and had some interest. I need to get back to it and re-pitch it as I still believe it has merit. The shoes become metaphors for others who are struggling. Lost soles are lost souls and vice versa.

Yesterday, Kevin was out at the new house. He parked his motorcycle half way up the drive because there were too many workers at the top and he’d have no place to turn around. He hiked the rest of the way up, and when he returned back something made him decide to investigate the area where two trucks have flipped over into the desert. The first was a small pickup hauling a load of dirt. The driver lost control, it slid through the curb, breaking it, and flipped, dumping its load of dirt. Naturally, we got a call.

The truck was righted by a small piece of equipment, and continued its work. The spilled load of dirt was lost.

Just a couple of weeks ago, another truck went over the side. It was carrying spools of electrical wire. The driver had stopped because a turtle was crossing in front of him. He got out to move the turtle, but he neglected to set the parking brake. The truck rolled back and flipped. He too was pulled to safety and the spools reloaded so that work could continue.

Kevin went to the scene of the crimes and found this:

Someone lost a shoe. It’s now a lost sole, alone in the desert. I don't yet know its story, but I know this much: it's living it out loud, serene and resolved in the surrounding beauty.

Lost Soles. On the curb in Ojai.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 12, 2011 11:14 PM

The story of a sole found on the road into Ojai. A Nike on the edge.

“I always wanted to be a potter. My father wanted me to be a cop. But all I wanted to do was art. I remember my first class when I was just six and in first grade. The teacher asked us to draw our family. Mine included my mom and dad, obviously, and my big brother Sam – he did become a cop – and our dog Rags. I also drew a table with a vase on it. The vase was the biggest part of the picture. My mother cried when she saw it. I don’t think my dad cared at all.

The 150 into Ojai almost to Gorham, on a Monday. 2:53 pm

“The only class I was ever good at was art. I damn near failed just about everything – algebra, algebra II, geography, US history – the only thing I did OK at was English and, well, art. My paintings were OK. But in my junior year of high school, the art department offered a pottery class. I’d never experienced anything like that. Digging into wet clay, forming it into a round blob and throwing it, literally throwing it, onto the center of a steel wheel. A spinning wheel! That clay could become anything I wanted it to become. A vase, a pot, a flat plate. I spent all my time on the wheel. I stopped going to other classes and I didn’t graduate from high school. My dad threw me out of the house, my mom cried. But I left willingly.

“I knew where I wanted to go. Ojai. They have a huge artist’s community, and one of my idols. Beatrice Wood. She’s dead. Of course. I know that. But she was one of the best when it comes to clay. I saw her once, in 1991, at a gas station. She was standing outside of this big black car, her gray hair all rolled up like a piece of clay waiting to be created. When she died, I wanted to go to the funeral. I didn’t because I couldn’t.

“I play in the dirt every day and wish it was clay.


“Someday, I’ll just do it.”

This Lost Soles’ story dictated on September 6.

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Lost Soles

Lost Soles: Stories from the road

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 14, 2011 10:36 PM

Several years ago, Kevin and I had an idea to start photographing all of the shoes we saw on the sides of the roads we traveled. We saw them constantly and I had always wondered how they got there, where they came from, who they belonged to; who they were. Who they are. That’s the key. Each shoe has/had a story about who they are, as soles. We wanted to show and tell those stories.

Most people probably never notice but if you start to pay attention, the amount of shoes somehow lost and taking up residence on the canyons, freeways, side streets and more will astonish. It did us. We dubbed them Lost Soles and began to photograph them. Each weekend we would head out on the motorcycle, with the camera tucked safely in the saddlebag, on a ride to be sure but also on the hunt. Most days we would find at least one, some days we’d discover as many as 15, all with stories just waiting to be told. It was an adventure, one we still hope to turn into a book someday.

I thought I’d celebrate some of those photographs and stories here. Today is the first.

Deer Creek Road in Malibu, a Friday afternoon at 3:38 pm

This tan tennis shoe was nestled securely in a ditch on a winding road leading up from the glory of Pacific Coast Highway and into the hills above Malibu. The shoe had obviously been there for some time. It was dug in, permanent. It had no intention of giving up its view.

“This is where I belong, where I was always meant to be. I got here completely by accident, landing in this ditch on a windswept day. The sun was beating down; it was hot. I don’t know how it happened and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m here. I’m no surfer dude. Sure, at one time, I had the looks. I was blonde, had the good form. But it was just a game, make believe. This is what’s real. This is my life. In this ditch surrounded by debris and sticks who have become my friends. They understand me. I’m an artist. I can feel the ocean; it completes me.

“I’ve made a home for myself here. It’s lonely, sure. Not that many people come by. I’m living on the north end of Malibu. It’s practically Oxnard. But it’s quiet, serene almost. It lets me breathe. I was so suffocated before, having to be something I wasn’t, having to perform. Here, I’m just me. Just a guy. No one expects anything of me and so I can simply exist. It’s so much easier. I can contemplate what life truly means.

“And what does it mean? I’m on my own; we’re all alone. What’s the old saying? We come into this world alone; we go out the same way. What makes it worthwhile is the view. What a friggin’ view I have.

“Tomorrow I’m thinking about going down to Neptune’s Net. I knew people there. Once.”

This Lost Soles’ story dictated on July 30. 

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Lost Soles

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