I made the bed

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 26, 2017 7:58 PM

I made the bed this morning. This is something I do every morning without fail. I get up, pull on some clothes and pull up the sheets and the comforter. I walk into the bathroom and begin the three-trip task of retrieving the additional pillows: shams the same color as the comforter, European shams in taupe, and three throw pillows. A made bed feels neater to me, makes me feel as if the day has officially begun. I blame my mother, and a touch of OCD. My mother was a stickler for a made bed. As kids, they had to be made before we went to school in the morning. I may have rebelled a bit in college but I don’t think so. It became habit, one that stuck with me and my brother. My sister is not as much a stickler. Sometimes I envy that. 

Perhaps it’s also a control thing. After the Northridge earthquake in January, 1994, the first thing I did was make my bed. I learned later that I wasn’t the only one. The quake struck at 4:30 in the morning, the darkest part of night. It shook the city, and each individual home; seemed to shake the world. I stood in the doorjamb between my bedroom and bath on the second floor, gripping the sides and listening to the roar and the crash, the violence of breaking glass. When it was over, I looked at the clock and as if to reassure myself, said out loud that “it couldn’t have been that bad. We still have power.” The numbers on my clock were glowing red in the darkness. Then there was a loud pop as transformers blew in unison and everything went black. I knew my house was in shambles; I knew that what awaited me downstairs was a sea of glass and the contents of bottles splashed and strewn across the floor. But it was dark. I couldn’t see to clean that up. The only thing I could do to seem like I was OK, like I was making progress, like I was still in control of my life was to make the bed. 

One of the other things I learned from my mother was to always make the bed first when moving into a new place. That way, after spending a day moving and then unpacking, when it comes time for bed, when you’ve reached peak exhaustion, the bed is ready and waiting. It seems logical – I suppose many others do it as well. But it has stuck with me and I tried to impress that upon Justin, too. 

Yesterday, Shawn moved into her dorm at the University of New Hampshire. My sister posted photos on Facebook of Shawn sitting on her made bed. I don’t know if she’s a bed maker. She’s a college student and a teen so she’s probably not especially neat; most people aren’t in college. She probably will wash her sheets only when they get gritty and smelly, maybe once a month if the sheets are lucky. But for yesterday and for last night she had a clean bed with crisp sheets made up nice and neat.

Making the bed makes sense of a nonsensical world. In these nonsensical times, it helps me to believe that I can maintain a little control, a little bit of say, the smallest bit of honor and order in a country that daily careens toward oblivion and irrelevance. I wrote the other day, asking how much longer this can go on. I fear the answer. I fear that the divide being created, indeed nurtured and coddled from the oval office – the oval office – is one that will not soon go away, will be hard to tame and soothe. We are spiraling and there is a part of the country that thinks that’s good and that terrifies me. There are people who cheer the pardoning of a convicted law enforcement officer, who believe that people of different color, religion, sexual orientation, and sexual identity are to be feared. Worse, ostracized, demonized. There are those who believe that they and they alone are right and just and those who think differently be damned, and in the toddler they have found a champion. I fear for who we are fast becoming.

And so today I made the bed. I pulled the comforter taut and smoothed the wrinkles. I arranged the pillows and as I often do, I stopped to look at how pretty it looked against the newly painted wall behind. For just a few minutes, I controlled destiny.

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How much longer

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 23, 2017 7:35 PM

Are we there yet? It’s an age-old question, asked by many a child on a long road trip, tucked into the back seat, staring out the window as blurred scenery rushes by. Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom. How much longer?

I don’t know if children actually ask this question or if it’s one of those old-wives tales that has been passed down through the generations. I ask it now, sometimes, when Kevin and I are in the car on an especially long road trip. Are we there yet? How much longer? I do it for fun and it’s often followed up by the other old standby from years ago: Don’t make me stop this car. 

When we were kids, we never flew anywhere. That was a luxury normal people like us, middle class but nothing more, could never hope to afford. It never occurred to my parents that a family vacation would involve buying five round-trip airfare tickets to somewhere. Instead, we always climbed into my dad’s company car, always a boat of a vehicle, and off we went. Often it was to Maine, to a little place we found on the water in Prout’s Neck called the Braden Cottage. It was an odd house, upside down in a way, with all of the bedrooms and one large bathroom on the ground floor and the living room/kitchen above. I suppose it was like that because the view of the water was better from up there. We always went in June, because it wasn’t yet high season. We always drove.

When I was nine, making my brother five and my sister three, we took a big road trip south, to Florida. The destination was Disneyworld. This was long before there was Epcot Center. It was probably 1971. It took us at least two days and probably three to drive all the way down the east coast to Orlando. I remember my mother, who was always prepared, having created daily packets of stuff for each of us to do while safely ensconced in the backseat. Crayons and coloring books, small games, and other assorted distractions. Anything so as not to hear three kids continually whining: How much longer. 

This morning I read the news. As usual it was filled with chaos and strife, gnashing of teeth and shaking of heads. There was no immediate crisis, just the rolling continuation of this abhorrent presidency. The toddler came to Arizona yesterday, dropping down into the valley of the sun – a balmy 107º – to bring his particular brand of hate and crazy into a state known, mostly in the suburbs and rural areas, for both. Phoenix, like Tucson, indeed like most cities in the country, is a bastion of blue, a melting pot of people and cultures and ideas. I think it’s one of the reasons people congregate in cities. They share a love of differences, and enjoy celebrating that. 

Not our president. I shudder that I even have to type those words because he is so obviously and completely unfit and unwilling to actually do the job to which he is assigned. He celebrates only one thing: himself. He has a pretty high opinion of himself. He’s in the minority. He’s a petty, vile, ugly little man. 

As I read about what he had to say – I didn’t watch the rally (definitely not a speech) and refuse to ever watch him if for no other reason than to keep my blood pressure low – as I read about how he lied about what he has actually said recently, about how unfairly he’s covered when what he actually says is broadcast; when I listened to him rail about trade agreements and race and crowd size and pardoning a despicable man of law enforcement who broke the law repeatedly; as I looked at his bloated, orange buffoonery, his stupid little hands, the thumb and forefinger perpetually pressed together, all I could think of was how much longer. How much longer can this go on? How much longer can we stand it? How much longer before something horrible happens? How much longer before he does lasting damage to us, and the world? How much longer?

Are we there yet?

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I can’t today. I have to go shopping for my Bitmoji.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 20, 2017 8:40 PM

Evidently, bitmoji was all the craze a number of years ago. I was a little late jumping onto the wagon, but ever since I was introduced, I have been a fan. I love using these rather ridiculous and not-very-close-likeness mojis of, well, me to communicate. I can tell someone happy birthday, happy weekend or wine time. There are any number of emotions to send, some joyous, some angry, some just fun. I can be a Game of Thrones character or my own version of the Terminator, Scully from the X-Files, or batman, superman or a (wo)man in black.

For the uninitiated, a bitmoji is basically your own personal emoji. Rather than use one of the regular emojis that comes with your phone, you can download the app and create an “expressive cartoon avatar.” Because what I always wanted to be was an avatar. You can choose your sex, hair color, your facial shape, skin tone, whether you wear glasses or makeup. Bobbi first introduced it to me and I’ve been hooked virtually ever since. My friend Shana, here in Tucson, also has a bitmoji. We’ve had many conversations with just bitmojis and their accompanying phrases.

Along with creating a bitmoji that fits you, you also get to choose how you’d like your avatar to be dressed. In the winter, you can wear long pants and a sweater, or a snow suit; in the summer, shorts. You can change into a bathing suit, should you desire, or something more formal. 

Today I fired off a bitmoji to Justin after he’d said that he was tired after a long day of furniture assembly. He’s in Atlanta now, actually Smyrna, in his new apartment, a ground-floor apartment in a house in the ‘burbs. He loves it and has been decorating for days now, shopping at IKEA and Target and Walmart, getting pieces of furniture that have to be put together, usually with an allen wrench or hex key. 

I was looking at my Too Tired avatar, which doesn’t look nearly as tired as I actually do, and it occurred to me that I wasn’t a fan of the outfit, so quite innocently, I announced that I had to find something new for my bitmoji to wear. This sent my husband into fits of laughter. 

“You’re going shopping … for your bitmoji?” he asked playfully. I started to laugh, too. 

“I’m sorry,” he continued. “I can’t play with you today. I have to go out and see what I can find for my not-real, one dimensional, virtual self to wear.” 

“You’re mocking me,” I said. He nodded, grinning.

But I went shopping anyway, which consists of opening the app and looking at the different outfits that are available. I went from a tank top, skirt and flip flops to a more safari look, and sandals with heels. 

It’ll do for at least a couple of weeks. By then, the temps might adjust, and I’ll have to dig into the fall wardrobe. Jeans and boots. Hey, my avatar is a fashion plate, even if I’m … not.

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Ding dong

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 18, 2017 8:16 PM

Last week, a friend of mine who lives in Canada posted one of those questions on Facebook that’s just fun: What was the scariest movie from your childhood? She asked that we post a gif, rather than just type the title. The scariest movie I saw as a kid was not, as people who know me might believe, The Sound of Music. I hated that movie but it wasn’t really scary – not even the part in the abbey at the end with the Nazis. My memory went immediately to The Wizard of Oz but not for the reasons people might suspect. It didn’t have anything to do with the flying monkeys. For most people, even those who loved the movie and cherish the memory, which I didn’t and don’t, the scene with the flying monkeys terrorizing Dorothy et al was terrifying. Ditto when they were marching dutifully, chanting that dull allegiance to the Witch.

What terrified me when I was little and on the couch with my dad, watching the movie, was Elmira Gulch, the nasty neighbor in her drab puritanical dress and hat with a black ribbon flower bow who came and took Toto. Other than the obvious fact that she was taking Dorothy’s dog to do dog-knows what with and undoubtedly destroy it, I actually think what scared me was the ominous music. Duh da da da daaa duh Duh da da da daaa duh. I always buried my face in my dad’s chest.

So I posted a gif of that wretched woman on her bicycle.

I thought of this today which was just another day that tiptoed up to Armageddon and knocked quietly. We haven’t yet gotten to the point where we’re pounding on it, but I fear we’re only a tweet away. Every day brings new angst and turmoil, disgust and anger, and fear. This time, this administration, is the scariest movie I’ve seen as an adult. It’s horrifying and yet I find it impossible to look away mostly because I’m afraid I might miss something. And given the rapid fire rate at which things happen, I might. We all might. Every single day brings a new calamity, at least for those of us who live in reality and who don’t think CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, etc are fake news. I consume all, daily and constantly. This administration, if it can even be called that, terrifies me. It’s as if they are constantly taking my dog, putting him in a basket and pedaling off in sepia tones into a tornado.

Case in point: today’s firing of Steve Bannon. Or quitting of Steve Bannon. Whatever it is, he’s gone. That evil, travesty of a human dispensed with another evil, travesty of a human, the latter of which crawled back into his alt-right cave while the former slinked off to Camp David, or New Jersey, or wherever toads go.

Many in those media forms that I frequent were talking about yet another re-set. The pundits on television were saying that this represented a break for the good; that this impossible presidency could finally get back on track. As if Steve Bannon was the sole reason for Trump being Trump. As much as Steve Bannon is a prick; as much as I completely disagree with him on everything, he didn’t make the toddler who he is. Trump was a bowl full of slime long before Bannon added some red pepper flakes. Once slime, always slime.

I shook my head. In scary movies, the villain never dies the first time. Hell, the villain never even dies the fifth time. It takes fire, and molten lava, and stakes through the heart to kill the bad guy. I’ve seen my share of scary movies. I know. This is why there are always sequels. 

All of which brings me back, in a round-about way, to The Wizard of Oz. In that movie, Oz is actually a small grayed haired man operating behind a curtain. In our movie, Oz is an orange buffoon and a sleazebag of a man in a human skin suit. They are inseparable and indistinguishable. The latter may have been vanquished but is he really gone? 

In The Wizard of Oz, the witch dies in technicolor, Dorothy clicks her ruby red heels together and suddenly we’re back in Kansas, in black and white. Everyone is there, including Toto. But we never hear what happened to Elmira Gulch. Because you just know she came back and continued to wreak havoc.

Ding dong indeed.

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Puppy Supremacy

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 15, 2017 8:48 PM

There has been a lot of well-deserved outrage, wringing of hands, and anger the last few days. To that, I would also add disbelief and total disgust. How is it that, in 2017, we are seeing Nazi flags flying in Virginia, men and women marching with tiki torches – their version of the long sticks, with grass or rags wrapped in gasoline – white sheets, pointed hats. In 2017. I don’t like Jimmy Fallon but his response last night was spot on. I love Seth Meyers and his response was equally good. What the hell is going on? Neo-Nazis, alt-right fascists (is that redundant?), anti-Semites, white supremacists. All these poor snowflakes who whine and cry and bitch and moan about how they need to take their country back. Literally, evidently. Back to the late 1700s/early 1800s, when white men ruled and everyone else was lesser, including women and especially anyone who wasn’t white. Their idea of how America should be is abhorrent to most, though not, apparently, the Orange Julius in the White House.

There is nothing to celebrate about the last few days. Perhaps the only decent thing is that decent people still exist. Counter-protestors, students who have made it their mission to topple statues glorifying the Confederacy, TV show hosts, countless commentators, both left and right, and even Republicans all seem to be appalled.

Imagine the greatest generation, those who fought WWII, who fought the Nazis, who liberated the concentration camps. Imagine their disgust that the country they were proud to represent in the goal to remove this filth from the world is now entrenched in it. 

Not that we haven’t always had those who think others are inferior simply due to skin color, religion, or sex. We destroyed Native Americans; we had slaves. But we also fought a Civil War to rid the country of the latter. And yet, here we are in 2017 with white supremacy being the main topic of conversation on many websites and cable news. 

I am a liberal Democrat so I freely admit to not really understanding why I must hate someone because of race. Aren’t we all part of the human race? I know it sounds trite but sometimes trite can be profound. We are all the same on the inside. Skin color is just window dressing; it’s clothing. There are plenty of people I hate but I reserve that hatred for acts of idiocy and assholishness. 

Many years ago, I remember being in the kitchen in Oak Park, cooking. We had a small TV tucked under the upper cabinets. I was flipping through channels in an attempt to find something to keep me company as I cooked. I stopped on a show on the History Channel, or NatGeo, or maybe it was A & E or Bravo. It was about white supremacy and the man who was being interviewed was discussing how, if we weren’t careful, whites would be in the minority in the not-too-distant future. I watched with morbid fascination, and curiosity. All I could think of was: “So?” 

As I listened and watched today, the fourth day that this crap has driven the news; as I watched my dog and listened to him stretch and sigh, I came to this conclusion: I do care about making one “race” superior and that is caninity, canine maximus, dogilicious, puptometry, the PPP (Playful Pernicious Puppies). Puppy Supremacy. This belief system is simple: puppies (and dogs) are superior to those of all other races, especially the human race because of their joie de vivre. 

Floppy ears and wagging tails. Kisses and snuggles. Belly rubs and playtime. Maximus adorableness.

I think it’s a movement that could change the country.

Though I doubt it would ever change the toddler in chief.

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Go east young man

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 9, 2017 9:59 PM

In 1851, a writer for the Terre Haute Express, John Babsone Lane Soule, used the phrase “go west, young man, go west.” The phrase is widely attributed to another writer, Horace Greely, who co-opted it, writing in the New York Tribune on July 13, 1865: “go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” Greely freely gave credit to Soule, even showing people the original article. Regardless, the phrase “go west, young man” quickly became a mantra, especially for those returning from the Civil War. Looking for a new start, many were casting their fortunes to the west, moving their families. Greely, an author and editor of Tribune, had used the phrase because he envisioned the farmland of the west being ideal for people willing to work hard for the chance to succeed.

This morning, Justin climbed behind the wheel of his new (used) car. It was packed up with nearly everything he owns, mostly clothing and some electronics, along with some hand-me-downs from us. A set of dishes. Pots and pans. Flatware. He started the car and with a wave and a “love you guys” he drove across the driveway, down the road and … west. I watched the car for as long as I could see it, and then came back inside. The west part of his trip was short-lived. Once he got onto Catalina Highway and got to the second stop sign, he turned south, drove down to Interstate 10 and headed east. Destination: Atlanta.

He’s 26 years old. He’ll be 27 at the beginning of January. He has had two major jobs. His first was working for Norwegian Cruise Line which he got before he got out of college and started about a month and half after graduating. The second he got after Norwegian left him hanging for his next “tour.” The cruise lines all function similarly in that workers are on the boat – on a tour of duty, so to speak – for six months at a time. Then they are forced to take a mandatory six weeks off before they can embark on another tour. Justin was all set to do that, and had agreed to another six months on a ship called the Pride of America which cruises around the Hawaiian islands for six months. Not too hard to take. But they never followed through getting him the necessary paperwork from the Coast Guard and he got tired of waiting so he got a job with Feld Entertainment working on Disney’s Frozen on Ice. Until last month, he’d been with them for almost three years during which time he has traveled the country and much of the world. Last summer, on July 2, he left for Japan, where he was for three months, then they went on to Great Britain where he was for another three months. After that, he was in Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and maybe other countries I can’t remember. In April he was home for a month, and then jetted off to New Zealand and Australia where he was until two weeks ago. 

Now he’s heading east toward a new job, as lighting supervisor for the Atlanta Opera. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, with him first needing to buy a car and then trying to secure an apartment long distance. He and Kevin spent the first couple of days looking at used cars, and most of them were in horrible condition. Evidently a lot of people just don’t take care of their vehicles. But our neighbors had indicated that they might like to sell their third car and I told them to let me know. They did, he drove it and bought it. It’s a 2007 Audi A4 2.0T. It’s in great shape, and best of all, was in his price range. It’s his first car (his previous car was what Kevin and I bought him when he turned 16) and it’s a beauty.

Justin's new wheels, pointed east in the driveway

Now, he’s heading east. Toward a new adventure, a new life. And new opportunities. We’re so proud of him, and can’t wait to see – and experience – all of the success that awaits him. Go east, young man, go east. We love you.

A perfect record comes to an end

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 7, 2017 10:00 PM

Like most people of my generation, I got my driver’s license within days of turning 16, perhaps even hours. Being able to drive represented freedom not to mention the official pseudo entry into adulthood. I learned to drive in my parents’ Ford LTD, a big, green, boat of a car that had previously been my dad’s company vehicle. His car when I got my license was a 2-door Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, light blue with a white roof. It was almost sporty. That’s the car I was allowed to take my driver’s test in. I was concerned that I’d have to parallel park – something I still have trouble with today – but the only thing I had to do was back up. I remember thinking at the time how ridiculous that was. Now I understand why they make kids do it. You have to be able to keep the car straight so you need to be able to judge and perceive how the car can turn based on your body’s position. 

When Justin got his license we almost had to force him. I had this conversation with a number of parents, how their of-driving-age teens didn’t seem very interested in getting their license. Like most of these parents, we tired of playing chauffeur, so we forced him into Driver’s Ed, and we bought him a car on which to learn. It was a 1994 Honda Civic, a great little car that he ended up having through college. Once he actually got his license, he was thrilled to have the freedom and that illustrious entrance into adulthood. 

For years after I got my license, I borrowed my mother’s car. There were times when she allowed me to take it to school for the day leaving her without wheels. I realize now how amazing that was. At the time, I just wanted to have a car.

I bought my own car when I was 20, a 1979 Toyota Celica hatchback, the car of my dreams. I drove it through college and then across the country. I kept it until I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in May of 1985. That day it was 117º. I sold the car within a week and bought a 1983 Mazda RX-7. With air conditioning. That car began my love affair with speed. I graduated from the RX-7 to my first Porsche. Since then I’ve had one other Mazda, two BMWs, and another Porsche before I decided I liked Range Rovers. Now I’m on my third one of those, not counting Kevin’s Classic. They’re big and powerful, 8 cylinders that power through six gears and cruise at 80 miles per hour without breaking a sweat. 

I’ve been driving now for nearly 4 decades. In that time, I’ve never had a ticket, though not for lack of trying. I have been pulled over – once in college for rolling a stop sign, once in the Porsche in California, for speeding. But I was so apologetic, the cop let me go. It was Christmas time and he wished me happy holidays. Yesterday my streak came to an end, and not even for a good reason. I rolled another stop sign. There wasn’t another car around for miles, except for the blasted Sheriff in her big Ford SUV. As soon as I saw the truck pull out behind me, I suspected I was toast. Pretty soon, the car sped up and on came the lights. Busted.

I pulled over. I apologized. I handed over my license and registration and proof of insurance. She was very nice. But she gave me a ticket anyway. As she handed it to me, she said she couldn’t find anything about me in the computer, and asked if I had gotten a ticket in town or elsewhere. I told her that I’d never gotten a ticket anywhere. She looked a little sheepish and said she wished she’d known that. She didn’t say she wouldn’t have given me a ticket, but maybe, since I’m no longer some hot little chick in a fancy sports car anymore, maybe, just maybe, she would have let me go.

We’ll never know.

I now have the privilege of paying a fine of $269 AND going to traffic school so it doesn’t make my insurance go up. The only thing worth celebrating is that at least I can do traffic school online.

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Vines

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 6, 2017 8:42 AM

It’s no secret that Kevin and I are into wine. We have an entire, temperature controlled room in the house devoted to it. Our vacations of choice lately have all been to wine country where we spend days visiting various wineries, tasting and buying more wine for the wine room. It is one of the great passions we share together.

Over a year and a half ago, as one of his Christmas presents, I bought Kevin six Barbera vines. They arrived at the end of March 2016 and he planted them in the small vineyard area he had painstakingly created. In essence, he had built a large planter on the western side of the house. It was about 20 feet or so long, and 8 feet or so wide. The ground on which it’s built slopes down the hill, so to level it and shore it up, he built gabion walls using the plentiful amounts of rock we have on the property. He had a dump truck filled with soil drop its load at the edge. The two of us then shoveled and smoothed and generally readied the area for the big day. The day of planting.

He dug holes near where he’d plant each vine and placed a PVC pipe inside so that he could water from the top and ensure that the vines would receive water from below as well as above. Once the vines arrived, he followed the instructions which consisted of soaking them in water for three days and then placing them in the ground. Let the watering and growing commence. 

Except they didn’t grow. They died. So we ordered more vines which came and we soaked and planted and watered. They, too, died. He was frustrated and a little deflated. His great dream of starting his own vineyard was turning into a nightmare. By the third set of vines, which also died, he was done. It obviously wasn’t going to work. Nothing was going to grow in this climate even in the special soil he had delivered. That soil is now what he thinks was the culprit. It was too rich, too organic. Vines like to work for their nutrients and their water. We didn’t make them work hard enough.

Our little vineyard began to grow weeds from neglect. The vines, long withered and dead, were absconded by deer and rabbits and javelina. All that remains are the PVC pipes and the gabion walls, and Kevin’s disappointment.

Several months ago we were at Mesquite Valley Growers on East Speedway. It’s one of the most prolific nurseries I’ve ever visited, offering virtually any type of plant a person could want. We were there to look at getting some flowering plants for the big pots we have on our deck. We wanted some color, a bit of a subtle flair to offset the desert color of the house. Naturally, we also needed something that could take the intense heat of the summer. We found orange solar flares and bought them. While we were there we also noticed grape vines. I suggested we buy them. If we couldn’t grow them in the desert soil, maybe we could grow them in pots on the deck.

Kevin said no. I was persistent. Eventually he relented. We bought two Cabernet Sauvignon vines and planted them, one each in the large pots off on the deck off of his office. I watered them, I looked after them. And they lost all of their leaves, all of the tiny grape clusters they had sported when we bought them home. He didn’t say it but I know he was thinking: “I told you so.” 

But I wouldn’t give up. I kept tending to them, watering them in the morning, talking nice to them, urging them to grow. And sure enough, one day, I noticed a new leaf starting to spring from the gnarly vine of one. I felt cautiously optimistic. Within a week or so, the other, too, had started to sprout. Within a month, both were green and leafy and fabulous.

So we now have vines that are growing. We don’t expect to have any grapes that we can use for at least two more years. But we’re on our way. The beginning of Michel Vineyards has finally begun. That’s worth celebrating.

Jurassic Park: Sonoran Desert

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 2, 2017 10:32 PM

Today I put this question into the google: why are there so many prehistoric creatures in the desert? I got various answers, most of which weren’t remotely related to what I was looking for, probably because it was the wrong question. Some of the links talked about why prehistoric creatures were so big, which many attributed to more oxygen in the air as well as more land. There is something called Cope’s Rule which says that as animals evolve over time, they naturally get bigger, until they’re wiped out by a mass extinction and are replaced by smaller animals that gradually grow bigger until they, too, are wiped out. And so on. 

What I should have asked, and did eventually, was: current prehistoric looking creatures sonoran desert. I got some very interesting information including this: the Sonoran desert, that lush and prickly place we call home, is actually considered to be tropical. Makes sense when you consider that July, which just ended two days ago, was our wettest ever recorded. Naturally, everything is green and getting greener. On any given day, one can travel through desert grasslands, desertscrub, thornscrub, and tropical deciduous forest habitats between here and Mexico’s Sonora. 

According to the desert museum, our little corner of prehistoria is fairly recent in terms of geologic time and is one of the youngest communities on the continent at about 8 million years old. The area where we live, in Tucson, is only about 9000 years old, with our plants and animals developing about 4500 years ago. During this time, what we now view as our beautiful, green, fabulously prickly desert became what it is today, with its trees and cactus and creatures.

It is the creatures that I would like to speak about because they are plentiful and this summer, they are freaking huge. Prehistoric huge. We knew when we moved into an area that is far removed from the city and is, in fact, outside the city lines, that we’d encounter creatures. We had a slight inkling of what those creatures might be and we waited patiently to see them. There would be rattlesnakes and tarantulas – those we knew for sure. Everything else we just braced for.

We’ve had plentiful deer. We’ve had javelina. There have been plenty of road runners and quail and ravens and falcons. We’ve see osprey and white-winged doves. There have been bob cats and ring-tailed cats, grass hoppers five inches long and lizards galore. Gila monsters? Check. Tarantulas? Yep. 

And then the rains of July hit and suddenly, the creatures are prolific. And huge. We’ve had toads but we always have toads. Now, though, we have toads the size of my hands and I have big hands. We have desert tortoises traversing the driveway and tucking themselves against the house and into the rocks. Every day brings another sizable creature here in the Sonoran. 

Which makes sense because there is actually a dinosaur named Sonorasaurus, named for the Sonoran desert. 

Still, I prefer to just refer to it as Jurassic Park: Tucson. Where we’re living it out loud, and watching where we step. 

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live out loud

Faux news

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 1, 2017 9:55 PM

In August of 1997, Kevin and I bought our first house together. Prior to that, we lived in my townhouse in Calabasas, but it was quickly becoming too small since we had acquired Maguire. We found a little three bedroom house in Oak Park, bought it, and moved in on the night Princess Diana was killed in Paris. It was an auspicious start, since she was 36 and I was 36, and her companion Dodi Fayed was 42 and Kevin was 42. We wondered, briefly, if it was some sort of a strange sign.

The house was adorable, though it suffered from too much white. The carpet was white, and stained from the previous owner’s kids and dog. The tiles in the kitchen and the master bath were white. The countertop tiles throughout were white. The walls, too. Over the years, we gradually divested ourselves of the non-color in favor of varying hues. We pulled the carpet and put in hardwood. We pulled the kitchen tile and put down something called Mardi Gras, a myriad of oranges, reds, grays, and purples. Color started to happen. 

We refinished the kitchen cabinets and replaced the white countertop with gray. And then we decided that the walls needed some assistance so we painted the back wall a deep taupe. It was called River Rock by Ralph Lauren. Then we painted the huge wall in the dining room with a slightly lighter version of the same. Finally, we painted the wall above the fireplace a deep, dark red. It was fabulous. All of these colors served to make the house more interesting; it gave it depth and personality. 

Fast forward to our new house. When we moved in, one of the things we needed to do was pick a wall color. This color would grace every wall, of which there aren’t many because we have so much glass. It would also be on the ceiling. The color we chose was Sahara. It’s pretty, a light sand color. But it’s everywhere. So we needed to add a bit of color. 

First we colored the four columns that were also Sahara. But we didn’t just paint them. We hired a faux painter to come in and sponge paint them, using all of the colors of the stone work we have on the fireplace as well as the hearth. While he was here he suggested doing the inlay above the dining room table, something we hadn’t thought of previously. He did that a metallic bronze and it’s gorgeous. 

The wall behind our bed can be seen from the main part of the house, as can – obviously – the bed. The comforter is an off-white, along with throw pillows of taupe and red. I wanted to add some color to that room, to add some personality. Remembering how much luck we had with the River Rock, I went looking for something similar. They don’t make River Rock anymore, so instead I chose some deep colors, things that looked awfully pretty at the paint store. I brought home several samples. I bought a piece of short drywall at Home Depot, divided it into the equal sections and then applied paint. I put it up against the wall in the bedroom. 

I hated it. It was flat. Boring. Lacked soul. It looked fake. 

So I called my faux painter again, had him come out, listen to what I wanted for color (to pick up the colors of the tile), and yesterday he came back armed with a number of cans of paint along with several rags. He painted for six hours, applying first a gold base color, then proceeding to dab different colors on top. Red. Brown. Gray. Orange. Purple. Repeat. 

And it’s gorgeous. We’re thrilled. I’m already looking at what I want to do next. As David, our painter, says: It’s like tattoos. Once you have one, you want more.

Celebrating the faux tonight, and loving it out loud.

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live out loud

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