A day on the bike

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 27, 2017 8:24 PM

Ever since we moved into the house, most weekends are spent doing house things. Kevin spends his Saturdays working outside, building rock walls and swails, shoring up the rip rap on the hillside below the house and to the south. We have erosion problems. Not to the extent that the house is going to slide down the hill and end up in the backyard of the Roesly's, though I do joke about that. The hillside is mostly solid rock, but the dirt and fill continues to erode because of the horrendous rains we get and because everything above us runs down onto us and then gushes on by. The rocking is a necessity as well as a catharsis. He might not love it when he's doing it, but he loves the result. And he does enjoy the total mindlessness of it. Brain power replaced by brawn. 

 

While he rocks, I often run errands. Or clean. We have yet to retain cleaning people and instead prefer to do it ourselves. This is good and bad. Good in that we know that things are done correctly and exactly to our specifications; bad because the house is big and it's impossible to clean the whole thing at once. So I piece-meal it. The guest room and bath are clean so I don't have to do anything in there; ditto the bathroom off my office. But the master bath, which gets the most use, needs more attention. Our shower alone can take me an hour and a half. 

 

So Saturdays are spent in and around the house. It has occurred to us that, with the exception of spending time with friends in the evenings, we don't have much fun anymore. When we lived in California many a Saturday was spent happily drifting through the many canyon roads. We'd climb on the motorcycle and go off to Ojai for gas, taking Kanan to Westlake, then south to Avenida de los Arboles to Moorpark Road. Heading north, we'd make our way to Tierra Rejada, turn left and take that until it ended at Los Angeles Avenue. Another left and we'd twist along until we hit Balcom Canyon which would wind its way to Santa Paula where we'd pick up the 150 and cruise into Ojai. It was a delightful ride and while it could sometimes be hot, we were always moving and there was some shade, some respite from the heat.

 

Tucson doesn't have a lot of back roads or canyons that wind to somewhere else. To get anywhere you have to move through the city which means near constant stoplights. To the north is Mt. Lemmon and that's a lovely drive, cool and lush, but you can only go to Mt. Lemmon so many times. 

 

We've been wanting to go to Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat, old mining towns that are to the west and north, heading toward Phoenix and Scottsdale along the 79. But we haven't been able to get ourselves out before the weather turned scorching. It's a two and half hour drive under the unrelenting heat of the desert sun. We decided, again, not to do that today. Instead, we opted for Oracle which is on the other side of Mt. Lemmon. The only way to really get there, though, is to head west through town, go north on Oracle 77 and then wait to break free of the stoplights just south of Saddlebrook. It takes about an hour to do that. Mileage wise, it's not bad. Traffic light wise, it's brutal. It's about 40 miles total, and takes about an hour and a half. 

 

We left the house just after 10. It was already starting to get warm. The sun was lazy and the sky was white. The wind, which has been gale force all week, was softer though still hot, the breath of the desert breathing fire. We were lathered up with SPF 50 so we wouldn't get burned; we'd just feel like we were disintegrating in the atmosphere. 

 

Oracle is slightly more elevated at about 4547 feet, so we knew it would be cooler. Otherwise, we didn't really know what to expect. What we found was a small town, a lot of abandoned homes, a lot of trailer parks. There were several restaurants. A pizza place we had no interest in; a Mexican place that's closed on Saturday. We found a place called Ore House Hilltop Tavern and buzzed up the short hill. Both of us started to grin. It's a total dive, a wonder of a spot that time forgot. The dusty road and parking lot are red dust. There's an old travel trailer in the shape of motorcycle helmet. In front of that is a rusted out old motorcycle with a metal skeleton rider. A rusted metal horse pulls a dilapidated wooden wagon.

 

The building itself had to have been an old mining location. The floors are uneven; the ceilings, all wooden planks, are low. Scattered around the outdoor patio area are various old and rusting pieces of equipment. Our kind of place.

 

One of the things we love about going off on the motorcycle is finding a true dive. To climb off the bike in the summer, dusty, sweaty, is one of the true joys. In the winter, it's much the same except then we're dressed head to toe in leather including chaps. We're bikers when we're on the motorcycle, and bikers love biker hangouts and biker hangouts tend to be dives with great people, decent though not healthy food and cold beer on tap. 

 

I had fish and chips; Kevin had a panini Rueben. We decided on root beer rather than alcoholic beer, and we had a wonderful time. Afterwards, we wound our way back to a truly miraculous hole in the wall called Jerry & Sue's Trading Post. The place shows off all kinds of rusted pieces of antique equipment alongside rusted metal sculptures of people and animals. Inside, there's a plethora from which to choose including Christmas ornaments, antique plates and glasses, pre-owned cowboy boots and new cowboy hats, books, artwork, and tomahawks. 

 

We didn't buy anything but thanked Sue and climbed back onto the bike for the very hot trip back to Tucson. An hour and a half and too many stoplights later, we pulled into our garage. Hot, sweaty, tired. In need of more water.

 

It was a good day on the bike. One spent living out loud. 

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live out loud

Moments

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 24, 2017 10:42 PM

For some reason, I was reminded today of a Saturday late morning in 2008. I was in my kitchen in Oak Park. I had the television on because there was a rally at UCLA and I wanted to watch it. It featured Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. It was relatively early in the presidential campaign but I was already infatuated with Barack Obama. To me, he was a once in a life time politician, someone I found inspiring, intelligent, funny, personable, and believed with my whole being was what we needed after the previous eight disastrous years. I still believe that.

I don’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, but there I was, listening to Caroline and Oprah and then Michelle, who I also found to be compelling and inspirational. As I watched, and as her speech came to an end, she started talking about a surprise guest. The CSPAN camera panned the audience of mostly women as Michelle talked about this inspiring guest, someone who understood, someone who had a relationship all of the women on the stage. Then she introduced the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor then. I hadn’t supported him, but I always believed that he couldn’t be “all bad” (to quote True Lies) because even though he was a Republican, he was married to a Democrat, and a Kennedy to boot. California’s first couple had never made an attempt to pretend that she had suddenly changed her way of thinking and believing. She hadn’t, and as she strode to the stage, in a long suede duster, hair swinging, looking regal and down to the earth all at once, the crowd went wild. I was enthralled. It was a moment. 

I subscribe to her newsletter and read her thoughts every Sunday when she sends out her weekly email. I always liked her, admired her. During that 2008 impromptu appearance she spoke off the cuff. She was genuine and real, human and funny; self-deprecating. And she said something that has always stuck with me. Some nine years later, it still resonates. 

“Life is made up of moments.”

The moment we leave home. The moment we first fall in love. The moment we decide to move on. The moment we first eat cookies and cream ice cream. The moment we taste our first truly amazing red wine. The moment we become married; the moment we become parents. The moment we get sick, the moment we get better. The moment we see an eagle soar. 

The moment we decide we’re tired. The moment we realize the sun’s coming up. The moment we breathe in the day and marvel at the sunrise.

The moment we decide who we are; the moment we decide who we want to be. The moments we laugh, the moments we joke; the moments we cry. 

The moment we lose a parent, the moment a loved one is hurt or becomes ill. The moment we get the phone call. The moment we grow up. The moment we reach for something new. The moment’s we change.

These moments become hours become days, weeks, months, years; a life. They are moments we should embrace and celebrate. Because they are the moments we live it out loud.

Abstract moments by David Downs

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Seeking seclusion

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 22, 2017 10:26 PM

I sometimes dream about existing in a cocoon. Not one spun by caterpillars, not a hard shell, just a safe place. A place where I can be quiet and safe, where the outside world doesn’t intrude; where the inside world comforts. 

I am not prone to cocooning, not usually. I’m not an extrovert but I’m also not an introvert. I’m private, reserved. I don’t necessarily keep to myself but I don’t let people in easily. It’s hard for people to know me and I realize that at this age, I won’t be changing. I am what I am. 

But lately, as the world spirals ever out of control for all of us, I feel the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head, to burrow, to cocoon, at least for the next few years. Nearly four to be exact unless something happens and it’s less. But it’s still four until we have an opportunity to truly change the trajectory of a country leading the way in the spiral down. 

I am consumed by news. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, the last thing I view at night. I get News Alerts throughout the day from various sources, often telling me the same thing. I think – I dream – about how nice it would be to not care but I don’t know how to do that. How do you not care about what’s happening in the world?

How do you not care that there are those determined to hurt others? That some of those doing the hurting are those in great power, those who control the government?

How do you not pay attention to the terror, the fear, the ineptitude, the ridiculousness?

How do you absorb the constancy of change, of not knowing, and continue to be upbeat and positive and work and play and drink wine and spend time with friends and family and enjoy life? 

The answer, of course, is that you simply do. There is no other choice, or rather, the only other choice is unacceptable.

I am an optimist by nature. I didn’t used to be but as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that facing the world, facing the day, going through life with a positive attitude is much more conducive to having a happy and positive life. It’s something I actually learned in college when being miserable and feeling sorry for myself for reasons I can no longer remember made for a very unhappy and unproductive existence. Back then, I had to force myself to be positive, to simply go through each day with a smile. I had to pretend that things didn’t bother me. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I made the decision a long time ago. I embrace it now. It’s part of me. It’s easier. 

And harder. Since November, I find it more difficult to exist in a state of perpetual happiness. I find it easier to be angry and frustrated and hateful. I don’t like it.

So I seek a cocoon; I crave seclusion so that I can get back to my life as I know it, as I remember it. Life that is good, filled with love and laughter and potential. That’s the life I embrace; that I crave. The life that is living it out loud.

Painting: Seclusion Redux, by Roy Guzman

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live out loud

And just like that

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:29 PM

And just like that, we race toward summer. I am amazed at how quickly this year has flown, how fast time is passing. Just yesterday, it was New Year's and the yesterday before it was Halloween and the world was safer somehow, even on that night of demons and ghouls.

Today I awoke to nothing horrific. And yet I didn't breathe a sigh of relief. There are few sighs like that today from people who think and feel as I do, as my husband and kid do; as my family and friends do. Full of fear and loathing, of apprehension and uncertainty. It’s unsettling. We all feel, strangely, displaced. We are who we’ve always been and yet we’re not.

I awoke later than usual, to the sun shining. I could tell it was warm. There's a different light on the desert when it's warm. Whiter, yet more dense. It's as if you can see the heat. It will get only hotter as the day becomes tomorrow becomes next week, next month. Summer. It’s coming. It’s already simmering.

Just like that, life continues. I'll journey back east in two weeks to see my family and see Shawn graduate. It will be a happy time, joyous. The light is different there in spring and summer. More clear and warmer even though the temperatures are cooler and the humidity higher. Fascinating the way the light changes with the temperatures and the geography. The air becomes thinner and yet more dense. The temperatures expand and contract. Rain falls but not here. Only heat falls here.

And so it goes, so it continues, so it will always until it doesn't. This pace is unsustainable, or at least it feels that way. We awake to the impossibility that it is still happening, that nothing has changed and yet everything changes daily. We despair. We  worry and stew and study and pray and scream.

And just like that we are awakened by the light and the day anew. Time passes and it doesn't. It's too fast and not fast enough. The light is bright and warm, the day equally so. Just like that, we are in today. Just like that, tomorrow will come and next week, next month, next year.

Just like that it can all change. Just look at the color of the day, the light from the sun, the density of the air and hope. 

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live out loud

The shadows

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 18, 2017 10:42 PM

The few clouds that drifted across the sky starting at noon seemingly floated lower to the earth with each passing hour. Big, black patches of shadow covered the valley below. Each was rimmed with the sun. The winds were whipping from all different directions. It actually hissed as it pushed across the deck and through the view port where it whistled through the bamboo reeds we have in a big clay vase. It was both ominous and beautiful, much like the world today.

As I watched the shadows ebb and flow with the tide of the wind, drifting lazily and violently, I thought of how life is much the same. We have sunny days and dark days; we have calm days and those not so calm. Lately, the days are mostly windy. It’s spring now. The calm of the fall and winter, even with its occasional calamitous storms, was strangely soothing. The days were short and cold, but we knew what each would bring. Now the days are sometimes cool and oft times warm, and the winds blow with the ferocity of chaos. They careen and damage, they threaten and cajole. They blow away the sunshine, and then the shadows descend. 

The metaphor is a bit heavy-handed, I know. But as I watched the shadows rimmed with sun, I saw what our country has become. Our spring drifts toward summer. The shadows are strong and the heat is intensifying. It’s what we are experiencing, and what we hope desperately will blow out to sea soon. 

I’ve watched the shadows descend upon the country for the past three and a half months. Always dangerous, they have become ominous. The last two weeks have bordered on the ridiculous. If I wasn’t watching and listening and absorbing with my own ears and eyes, if it was registering inside my brain, I wouldn’t believe it. A novel written with these plot twists would be deemed implausible. A film with these scenes would never get made.

And yet, here we are. Caught up in a horror movie of our own making. Each day we awake and open our smart phones to check the news, dreading what we’ll see and some of us strangely hopeful about what might come to be. We are confronted with headlines that shriek and scream. It’s like the boogieman hiding in the bushes coming out with a knife. And an Uzi. And enough c-4 to blow us all to Mars. 

Kevin and I are probably too political, even more so these days because of what has happened, because of the abomination in the oval office; because of a toddler throwing a perpetual tantrum.

There’s something lurking in the shadows. It’s frustration and fear. The wind blows and shifts the shadows and the frustration and fear becomes anger and rage. But regardless, all continue to be rimmed by sunshine.

Rimmed with hope. Hope that whatever is in the shadows dissipates.

Tonight as we watched the sun set, we also watched the shadows fade. The world and the turmoil quieted, at least for a bit. If only that would happen the real world.

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I have a theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 15, 2017 10:10 PM

Long ago I made the pronouncement that I’m not particularly crazy about teenagers. I’ve never made an attempt to hide it; Justin knew all about even as he careened through his teens. His teens ended up being exhibit B as to why I’m not a fan of the years between 13 to 19. I was exhibit A. 

Unlike many people, I remember well how horrible I was as a teen. I was fairly miserable, not fitting in where I wanted to fit in, not being as popular as I wanted to be, not getting everything that I demanded from my parents. I was impossible, moody, demanding, raging about nothing and everything, in no particular order; rude. My parents tolerated me, even loved me. I was why I decided that teenagers weren’t fit for human consumption.

I also know that I eventually became human again. It happened sometime during college and the metamorphosis, that time after I finished school and went out on my own. I still had insecurity issues and occasional bouts of mood, but I softened with age. I liked my parents again; more importantly they liked me again, too. While they always loved me, the like thing was difficult during “those years.” 

Much the same happened with Justin. We didn’t much like him. He was moody and difficult and demanding. He continually pushed us to the edge, and sometimes we went over. We didn’t like him, he hated us. Then he went to college and suddenly, we liked him again. He liked us. We were reborn as a family. 

I think the teenage years are some of the cruelest. Your body is betraying you, your moods are uncontrollable. You hate everyone and mostly yourself. When you get old and your body is once again betraying you, it’s also cruel because you know how good you once had it. As a teen you can’t imagine the wonder that awaits. I think that’s why it’s more cruel. 

Regardless, being a teen totally sucks. This is something I thought of today as I spoke with my sister who is in the midst of her own teen turmoil. I mentioned my theory, one she was familiar with. Here it is: 

Teens become awful because they’re getting ready to leave for college and by the time they do, as a parent, you’re so ready for them to go, you don’t really miss them. If they left when they were wonderful, when they were loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, as a parent, you’d be totally bereft.   

So kids go to college and become human again and as a parent, you start liking them again. And then they become wonderful. At least ours did.

Justin has been home for the past month or so, on a break from his tour. Where he was difficult during those terrible teen years, he’s a joy to have around now. Easy, personable. Smart as hell. He likes wine and conversation; he laughs easily and quickly. For Mother’s Day, he had a dozen roses delivered for me along with a lovely card. And today, before he left, another package arrived. He presented it to Kevin and I. We opened it and inside were four gorgeous wine glasses. Matching wine glasses. He had noticed that many of our pairs had become singles, had lost their mates. He thought it would be nice for us to have a nice set that we could use to entertain, that we could use on the deck for sunset, that would like nice and that we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking. These glasses are made with a slightly heavier stem; they’re harder to knock over. 

The point is he noticed. He’s thoughtful. He’s wonderful.

My new theory is better: Kids grow up and become teens and then they become people you like and respect and enjoy. They become equals. They become incredible. In our case, they become Justin.

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live out loud

Exhausted

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.

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live out loud | Lost Soles

Desert bingo

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 6, 2017 10:14 PM

In 1530, Italy, which had evidently broken into several factions, came back together. In order to help build support for initiatives, the Italian government created something that was, essentially, a lottery. Called Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia, the name meant the Clearance of the Lot of Italy. It involved the drawing of five numbers from a box. By 1778, the game had reached into France and was played primarily by wealthy Frenchman. By 1880, the game reached Germany and was used as a teaching tool to help students learn math, history and even spelling. In 1929, the game came to North America and was known as Beano. Players would have a sheet of paper with numbers arranged in a square. They would place small beans on the numbers as they were called with the object being to create a straight row in any single direction.

Edwin Lowe changed the name to “Bingo” that same year and turned to a mathematics professor named Carl Leffler with a request: Increase the possible number of card combinations to 6000.

I would imagine everyone of a certain age has played Bingo at one point or another. Maybe in kindergarten; maybe at some sort of church function. If you haven’t played it, you’ve probably seen it on television or in a movie. It’s usually a scene involving elderly men and women. They all sit around with a white card on the table in front of them. Someone up front picks a random number out of some sort of container, calls it out and eventually whoever gets a straight line yells out “Bingo!” Everyone gets jello and the winner gets a dollop of whipped cream on top. Woo hoo.

This morning, Justin announced that we should play Desert Bingo. 

It all started on our morning walk. Justin went with me for the first time since he’s been home. Usually on Saturday mornings, I walk alone and was planning to do so today. Kevin was already working outside in the dirt and rocks. I was glad to have the company. 

It was about 7 am, the sun was already high in the sky, a nice breeze was blowing. It would get windy later on but while we were walking, it remained pleasant. We walked to the gate. Along the way, we heard deer in the hills above. There was a falcon, sitting on the wall. I’m pretty sure I heard a snake slither in the grass. 

On our way back from the gate, we were talking. We rounded a curve, right before descending into what we call the hollow. I noticed something big and dark and thought that it was a rock. I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. Then I noticed that there was another dark rock in the middle of the road. Justin was chatting away, swatting at bugs. Riley was trotting along paying no attention. 

“Wait,” I said. “Stop.” Everyone stopped. I gestured ahead. “Javalina.”

A herd of about seven crossed the road and went up into the hill. We continued on. A truck was coming toward us, on our side of the road. I mentioned it might be nice if he got on his own side as Justin chuckled. Eventually, the truck went to his own side. He slowed down as he got closer and rolled his window down. He was a pool guy. 

“Gila monster in the road just up there,” he said, motioning behind. We thanked him and kept going. Sure enough, there was a big Gila monster not too far from where we were. Riley was fascinated. It took me a while to pull him away. But eventually, we were on our way again. 

Justin started to laugh.

“It’s like a game of desert bingo,” he said. “All we need is a tortoise and we win.”

Maybe tomorrow.

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Sleeping in

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 30, 2017 9:48 PM

We have no window coverings on our windows. Because we live on a hillside, with no one below or above us, we are fairly isolated. We can see houses around us, but they’re all acres away and nestled on their own hills. The entire back of the house, which overlooks the city, is glass. The front of the house has a lot of glass as well, but not the big, nearly floor to ceiling glass. The front looks up into the hillside above, a hillside where the only eyes belong to deer and javelina, ravens and falcons, gila monsters and tortoises and rabbits. And if any of them really want to peer into the bathroom, I’m ok with that. 

Without window coverings, though, we’re at the mercy of the sun. While we don’t get direct sun into any of the rooms at any time of the year (save for winter when I get the tail end of late afternoon setting-sun in my office), we do get daylight. The light flows across the valley before the sun crests the Rincon mountains to the east. In the winter, that doesn’t happen until after 7 but now, it’s happening before 6. The light, while not direct, is enough to act as a built-in alarm clock so we’re up every day by 6:30. It’s good in the summer because otherwise it would be too hot to walk Riley. 

My work load has been crazy lately. It was even worse when I had school, but I’m not taking a class this quarter, which theoretically should free me up a bit. It hasn’t. And I don’t sleep as well as I used to. Even in the past when I’d be up in the night, I could get right back to sleep. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now, I’m awake for at least an hour, maybe more because I’m too hot and then I’m too cold. Then the light floods the room and it no longer matters. I’m up. I am, thus, exhausted; all the time. 

Last night we made a nice dinner and the three of us (Justin’s home) proceeded to polish off several bottles of wine. Kevin went to bed around 10:30 but Justin and I stayed up talking for a couple more hours. I finally crawled into bed around 12:30. I was up once and awake, and then the paper was delivered at 5:55. I was awake again. By 7, I thought, screw it, I’ll just get up and get on with the day.   

And then it was 10:07. Somehow I had managed to fall asleep and stay asleep for another three hours. I felt groggy. I felt foggy. I felt not good at all. I had a headache. I felt as if I could fall back asleep if I allowed myself, but it was after 10 and way past the time I usually get my day started, even my Sunday. 

I was hoping that it would help me feel as if I’m catching up, at least for the day. I was hoping it would allow me to better enjoy my Sunday. I was hoping that it would prepare me for the coming onslaught that will be my week.

Sleeping in is something I used to do almost weekly. It wasn’t cause for discussion because it was so common. The fact that today I slept in and I consider it newsworthy is a significant step in my journey toward being an adult. I think that’s something to celebrate.  

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live out loud

Powwow

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 29, 2017 10:20 PM

I got a text from my neighbor earlier in the week about going to the powwow this weekend. If I was interested, we’d have to leave fairly early as it started at 7 and if we got there too late, it would be over. Or there wouldn’t be any goodies left to be got. I had tried to go to the one last week but got there too late so I know of what she spoke. I texted back “absolutely.” This morning at 7:17, I texted her that I was on my way.

I was first introduced to the idea of powwow just over a week ago. It’s actually an acronym: Produce On Wheels With-Out Waste. POWWOW. This program “rescues” 30 million pounds of fresh produce from the warehouses of produce distributors. For whatever reason – and based on what I “rescued” today – it has been deemed unmarketable. The grocery stores don’t want it; neither do the restaurants. You show up at one of their locations around the city, and for a $10 donation, you leave with a box full of fresh stuff, up to 60 pounds worth depending on what they have for that week. The donation goes to help feed the homeless and the needy. Each year, they help with over 4 million healthy meal supplements.

Susan (my neighbor) and I got to the powwow around 7:45 or so. We paid our $10 and then we started through the rows. There was eggplant and Brussel sprouts, neither of which did I take. Try as I might – and I have – I just don’t like eggplant. I think it’s one of those vegetables that you’re either for or against. Nothing in between. I’ve parmesan’d it; I’ve fried it. It just has a weird texture. 

Brussel sprouts I don’t mind especially if you cover them in garlic and mushrooms, but Kevin absolutely. Will. Not. Eat. Them. 

But then I came upon chilis. There were hatch chilis and the fiery red chilis. There were sweet peppers and red and yellow bell peppers. There were onions. And tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes. I felt myself starting to grin. I was in my element. Since we moved to Tucson, I use chilis and peppers a lot more than I ever did before. I put them in everything. Needless to say, I loaded up my box and came home from POWWOW with a bunch of stuff.

Stuff that I immediately set about using once I got home. I made a big pot of marinara sauce, using one of the onions and all of the tomatoes. I found my garlic in my veggie drawer, along with some celery and carrots, all diced very thin. I cooked and simmered and stirred and tasted. I added spices; I cooked some more. 

Then I turned it off and let it cool. Once cool, I put it into my food processor, added some fresh basil (coincidentally from a plant given to me by Susan) and distributed it into several containers to freeze. 

Cooking all day is not something everyone likes. But for me, it was the perfect way to spend my Saturday. In fact, I’m not sure I could have been happier. 

I powwow’d today. I got veggies. I cooked. I lived it out loud.

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live out loud

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