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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live out loud

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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live out loud

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.


live out loud


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

Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, July 22, 2017 8:47 PM

The only thing worse than driving on the 10 freeway through the desert is driving on the 5 freeway up or down through Central California. It’s a boring drive, and not even a little bit pretty. On the 5, it’s miles of flat agriculture and cattle and horrible smells even with the closed air ventilation of the car. On the 10, there are vast expanses of nothing. Just brown dirt, not even sand, and some desert scrub. No cactus, no trees, not even any interesting rocks. What it does have, though, are bugs. The 5 takes the prize in the sheer number, largely because of the agriculture and especially because of the thousands and thousands of grazing cattle. But the 10 runs a lovely second. By the time you get where you’re going, whether going to California or returning, the windshield is a mosaic of bug splatter; ditto the plastic coverings over the headlights. The front grill has fed nicely on all manner of insect and the part of the roof that curves down to the windshield sports many dried carcasses. It’s the only part of a road trip that I don’t particularly like, though I know to expect it. Cleaning it requires a great deal of scrubbing.

Last weekend we drove through the desert on our way back from California. The car was already a disaster because of dirt roads and tree droppings. The wheels were black with the brake dust of the new pads replaced before we left. I’ve been wanting to wash it all week.

One of the chores I love most in the world is to wash the car. I always have. I don’t know if it’s because the result is nearly instant and always better than when I began, or if I’m simply strange that way. But washing my own car is a pleasure. The only issue I ever have is finding the time to do it.

When we had the Porsche, washing it was easy. I could be done – start to finish, dry and back in the garage – in 30 minutes. The Range Rover takes about an hour and a half, sometimes more depending on how dirty it is and if I decide to do anything with the interior. It’s big, it’s tall, and it has a lot of windows including a sunroof. 

It’s been raining for days. After a slow start to monsoon, we seem to be trying to catch up. This is one of the times of year I love the most. Yes, it’s July in the desert but after temperatures that scorched near 120º several weeks ago, when the rains finally start, the temps are usually no higher than the low 90s. (As I type this on a Saturday afternoon, it’s 81º.) The clouds start to gather in the morning, accumulating over the Rincon mountains to the east or drifting up from the gulf to the south. We can literally see the rain beginning to form. Before long, the sky begins to gurgle and shout. Lightning flashes and the winds begin to whip. And the wall of water we’ve been watching descends upon us. Sometimes we get half an inch in 10 or 15 minutes; sometimes it’s a more sustained rain that accumulates slowly, over time. 

Today, I ran some errands. The sky was dark and sputtering a bit. I actually hoped it would pour to take some of the grit and grime and bugs off the car. It didn’t. When I got home, I parked in the driveway rather than in the garage. I was determined to wash it today, one way or another. And then, thunder rumbled in the distance and rain began to fall. Slowly at first, it built to a nice steady flow that wasn’t torrential or harsh, but gentle. I grabbed the bucket out of the laundry room, filled it with water, threw on a rain coat and decided to wash the car with the rain. I wasn’t sure it would cooperate long enough to allow me to work my way up from the wheels, which I did with an old sponge and the puddled water on the driveway, all the way to the roof. It did. As I washed, the rain began to fall harder. Soon it was beating down pretty good. I was drenched through the rain coat and I loved every minute of it. When I was done and the rain had rinsed away all the soap, I pulled into the garage and dried it off. The Sport is now clean. And all the bug guts have been scrubbed away. 

All I could think of as I was working to remove them was the old saying: Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

Feeling like the windshield today as I lived it out loud in the rain.

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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.

Give me silver, blue and gold

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 11, 2017 10:12 PM

It rained all night. Last evening’s simmering anger of lazy thunder and high lightning gave way to a steady rain of acceptance. The desert quieted. Once again there was no wind, only the gentle slosh of rain lapping the skylight. Soothing, lovely and renewing. By morning the rain had mostly dissipated but the sky remained low and heavy, gray and white, clouds hanging in the hills and drifting across the lower desert toward everywhere and nowhere.

The early temperature was a pleasant 68º, the humidity a whopping 90%. The ground was, naturally, wet. There were surprisingly few bugs, and only one squished toad as Riley and I made our way through the dense air to nowhere and anywhere he could pee, sniff, explore, and whine. All of the usual Riley morning things. While he was doing his thing, I watched the desert and caught my breath. The colors. The Sonoran desert, at least this part of it, is always green, surprisingly. Light green saguaros and prickly pear next to purple whipple cholla. Palo verde trees and mesquite leaves. It stretches forever and away, as far as can be seen. It’s beautiful, lush, quieting, especially in the early morning after a night of rain.

But this morning, the colors had turned from green to aquamarine. Everything was tinged with blue. Because of the rain, the ground was darker than usual, as were the tree trunks and branches. That darkness served as a dramatic backdrop to this new color. It stretched up into the canyons and down into the desert, and made the land glow even under cloud cover.

There was a song released by Bad Company in 1976. It was called Silver, Blue and Gold. It was a love song about being abandoned by a lover and contained these lyrics: 

“Give me silver, blue and gold,
The colour of the sky I’m told,
My ray-ay-ain-bow is overdue.”

Note the spelling of the word “colour,” with a ‘u.’ The British spelling. Bad Company was an English hard rock supergroup formed in Westminster, London in 1973. So that makes perfect sense. Supergroup evidently means that the members of the group were already successful as solo artists or as parts of other successful groups. That was something new I learned today. 

I also learned that I wanted new colors (colours) to describe what I saw in the desert this morning. It wasn’t just green; it wasn’t really blue. It definitely wasn’t silver, blue or gold. But it was green, blue, and platinum. The green and the blue melted together, the platinum made it seem jewel-like, glorious and rich. 

The color of the morning I’m told.


live out loud

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