Donna saved me.

I have friends who have moved…let me count… three or four times in 10 or so years, and honestly, I don’t know how the hell they’ve survived. My brother lived in a small apartment, the heavy stuff was already done by his younger friends, and still, two days of moving his dusty shit from one place to another left me grumpy and wrung out like a worn dishrag. Driving home, I was forced — forced, I say — to put Donna Summer singles on very very loud in my car, just to keep my spirits up for the final push from Toledo to Detroit.

Of course, it would help if he hadn’t lived in one of those hellscape ’70s-era apartment complexes, about a dozen or so units that all look like this:

I mean, every single one. I was trying to find his unit in this ghastly array, talking to my sister on the phone, and said, “I bet even the people who build this shit were depressed afterward.” Of course they weren’t; this was the ’70s, and complexes like these were going up everywhere. The better ones had pools, at least, but this one didn’t. Just these ugly mushroom-capped buildings, garages and… shudder.

But he’s in a better place now, in a better part of town. And I have rested and rehydrated, got some pool time and some non-crap food, and I feel mostly human again.

And I do recommend Donna for slow periods on the road. Especially “Hot Stuff” and any playlist called Disco Forever.

After I got home, I retrieved “Heat 2” from my local library; I had to wait long enough that I’d forgotten I was on the hold list. This is Michael Mann’s novel-as-sequel to his film “Heat,” one of my favorites; one night in France when it was pouring buckets outside, we stayed inside to watch it on Netflix with French subtitles (I thought I might pick up some tips on obscenities). I read the whole 460-page thing in three days, which is to say it’s a page-turner, but oy, it reads like Mann dictated the whole thing into voice memos and left Meg Gardiner, his co-author, to turn it into prose. The action sequences — see, I’m even using film jargon here — are described in the most minute detail, as are the weapons, while the female characters are basically a combination of stock adjectives for hair, skin and body.

However! If you were a fan of the movie, you’ll probably find it worth your while. It’s both a prequel and sequel to the story told in the film, so you get lots of Neil McCauley, Michael Cerrito and Chris Shiherlis, as well as Vincent Hanna. And the female characters are all beautiful, athletic, and move like lionesses. And if you like that stuff, you’ll like this stuff.

Now it’s Monday, and it’s time to get to work. Poached eggs and spinach for breakfast, I’m thinking. I need to start the week like Popeye.

Posted at 8:16 am in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 20 Comments

Good read, gift link.

Hey, everyone. I am in Columbus, helping my brother move. It is supposed to be 86 degrees today, and I am wearing my sweat-proof underwear, to give you an idea of the glamour I’m operating under.

However! I have a great read for you today. Remember my friend Nathan Gotsch, who ran for Congress last year in Fort Wayne, as an independent? He’s been up to other stuff lately, namely producing the LGBT-themed play that got all the bigots up in their feelings. The Washington Post story about it dropped today (gift link), and it’s a great story about taking from bigots and giving it to deserving kids.

Enjoy. I’m off to sweat and clean a bathroom.

Posted at 8:51 am in Current events | 37 Comments


This is Movement weekend, Movement being the three-day techno music fest at Hart Plaza downtown that kicks off summer in Detroit. Tickets aren’t cheap, but there are related parties in lots of clubs that cost far less to enter. On Sunday was the by-now-traditional sunrise rave at a local art park, and that was free. So I went with two young friends, who I sometimes call my surrogate sons:

That was 7:30 a.m., and all three of us had slept the night before, which wasn’t true of many other attendees. I did have a single beer, and a single hit of a preroll going around. In the druggy world of techno, that’s like sipping a small glass of sherry at a three-day bacchanal. Plus it’s legal, and what the hell, I ain’t dead yet.

As it was, a beer on an empty stomach and one tiny hit of today’s supercharged weed was just enough to put my head in a weird, dreamy space, not high, just ultra-relaxed. We had breakfast afterward and a wonderful, loopy conversation about everything, including a few moments on photojournalist Don McCullin, who specialized in war zones and was seemingly unafraid of anything. (I guess I should say “is,” as he’s still alive, at 87.) He went to Africa, the Middle East, Vietnam, but it’s his pictures of street fighting during the Troubles in Northern Ireland that are my favorites, if images of such violence can be said to be favorite. I still like looking at them, because you have to respect photographers this crazy, because otherwise, how would we know?

Also, if we have another civil war in this country, it’ll be fought like the one in Northern Ireland, i.e. house-to-house and block-to-block. Ain’t no north-and-south anymore. I tell my friends with cottages in rural areas, “Let me know when you have to shoot your way into your vacation home,” and sometimes people chuckle, but mostly not.

The best way to experience techno is to be there when someone is spinning live; it’s not great music for idle listening, at least for me. Any attempt to upload video would end in tears, so accept this frame to give you an idea:

The theme of this party was Sunday gospel, and the DJ was layering beats over gospel rousers. It was quite fetching. I saw a guy dancing in a Tushy T-shirt; the front read Ask me about my butthole. The art-park venue has lots of regulars, one of whom shoots fire:

As I left, I passed a man my age who had introduced himself, mentioning a mutual acquaintance. I said goodbye on my way out, as he was stenciling a quotation about justice, in Arabic and Hebrew, onto an art car that looked like a giant cockroach. And there’s a sentence you don’t get to write every day, and another reason I’m happy to live next to this nutty city.

I hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend, if you are fortunate enough to have one.

Posted at 4:59 pm in Detroit life | 31 Comments


Well, I guess we have to say something about Tina Turner. It’s hard to do, because so much has already been said about her. Now that the top ranks in news organizations have been taken over by Gen X, the headlines and obits are concentrating on her ’80s period, i.e., post-Ike. That’s a defensible stance; her struggle to leave her abusive ex-husband was the turning point of her life and career, and we’re not supposed to give bad people like Ike Turner credit, even for the good things they did.

But the first time I saw Tina perform she was with Ike, and it left a mark. They were at the Ohio State Fair, we got in early enough to be in the first rows, and their performance was…indelible. (That means “it left a mark,” ha.) This must have been in their career bump after “Proud Mary,” and they performed as Ike and Tina Turner. I remember none of Ike, lurking in the back like the dark presence and bandleader he was. You watched Tina. The three Ikettes stood to Tina’s right, a few feet behind her. But they were all dressed similarly, in short dresses with fringe that never stopped shaking, because they didn’t, either. God knows how Tina could sing as well as she did, moving all the time; she must have had the cardio fitness of a Tour de France stage leader. They did slow songs, but Tina stutter-stepped through those, too, leaving it all on the stage, which was set up on the racetrack where harness races were held, the first rows seated on the track and the rest up in the grandstand. It wasn’t a glamorous venue; the fair director was famous for x-ing out those infamous tour riders that performers insisted on, delivering the same mediocre fair food to all the acts.

I’m sure Tina was used to it. Her memoir — most memoirs of performers of that era — was pretty clear about the tour grind they went through on the way to making the charts. Stage life is difficult, especially when your cheating husband is going through Ikettes like jelly beans, and beating you when you object. And they were black, which meant the chitlin circuit to start, until The Rolling Stones invited them to open in the ’60s, and they started reaching white audiences. It is said that Tina taught Mick Jagger to dance, and I believe it.

If you saw “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the biopic based on her memoir, you know all this, especially the dramatic split with Ike, where they fought in the back of a limousine in Las Vegas Dallas, she got out at a light left Ike sleeping in their hotel room and walked across the street crossed a busy highway to a Ramada Inn, where she told the manager she had 36 cents in her purse and a Mobil credit card, but would they give her a room anyway? He did, and she stayed at Ramadas for years afterward, mentioning the kindness in interviews whenever she was asked.

So it’s not surprising the interviews will mention the triumphant, you-go-girl part of her career first. I saw the Private Dancer tour in Fort Wayne, the shaggy-wig look, the Auntie Entity persona, and it was excellent. But you never forget your first Tina.

You guys can talk about that Tina if you want, but the record I’ll be playing in my head today is my absolute favorite, the Phil Spector production of “River Deep, Mountain High.” The story goes that Phil agreed to put Ike’s name on the recording, but only if he butted all the way out, and he did. So this is Tina-without-Ike, plus another bad man, but oh well.

One more small thing, no, two: She was really her own woman, embracing Buddhism and practicing it faithfully. And she left behind American racism, moving to Europe decades ago and settling in Switzerland. I always liked that about her, and pictured her hitting her singing bowl and chanting her mantra.

She also had the best single response to a question about whether she’d had plastic surgery, during her comeback. She replied yes, she had, because being beaten by her husband had left facial fractures that affected her breathing. And “I had my breasts put back in place,” she said. Take that, Ed Bradley, or whoever asked.

Did you ever see her? What did you think?

Posted at 4:16 pm in Current events, Popculch | 54 Comments

Brewskis for days.

Well, that was a great weekend. Long, too much driving, but I got it done, the mother-to-be was showered — did I mention this trip was for a baby shower? — and I drank approximately 17,000 gallons of beer. My lord, they love their beer in Wisconsin, don’t they? And by 17,000 gallons, I don’t mean to say that I was drunk the whole time. It’s just that however many I had felt like 17,000 gallons. Beer used to be all I drank and now it’s more like once in a while. I felt… bilious. But happy. Perfect weather, old friends, a couple hours of WXRT on the radio.

And lakes:

And sunsets over the lakes:

The University of Wisconsin student union is the best I’ve ever been to, on yet another lake:

But I got home in time for “Succession,” which I see many of you have been discussing. A killer episode in a killer season. I will grieve its disappearance after next week. I’ve had my eye on Jeremy Strong since I saw him in “The Big Short” and it’s great to see him with such a meaty role.

And after <200 words, I can already tell I'm tapped out. Accept these photos and I'll be back later in the week.

Posted at 9:19 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 22 Comments

Rose-colored glasses.

Gonna be doing a little traveling, again, this weekend. On (to) Wisconsin for a friend catch-up plus baby shower. Both of the friends I’ll be visiting are Covid-sensitive, so I’ll be packing some tests for everyone’s peace of mind. Whenever I think of Covid, I’ll check current case numbers, which continue to fall and fall. Covid is not done with us, but for now — FOR NOW — the worst is over.

Sometimes, when I’m checking numbers, I’ll think about the early days of Covid, when nobody knew anything, some people were wiping down their groceries with bleach and it was sanitize-sanitize-sanitize. One thing I cannot tolerate in 2023 are people who believe everything we’ve learned since then was widely known in 2020. “The virus only killed old people!” “You couldn’t get it outside!” And so on. I saw a Guardian story about a woman, Naomi Klein, who is often confused with Naomi Wolf, and used that to spark a book about conspiracy lunatics. That reminded me that Wolf came to Michigan two years ago and testified before the Legislature, so I looked up what she said then, and: Whew.

I have no doubt another pandemic will wipe us out, because apparently we learned nothing at all from this last one. Can you tell I’m reading “Station Eleven” now, and loving it? Because I am. It’s wonderful and haunting, and a very different read today than it would have been when it was published in 2014.

Yesterday I went to the Schvitz with a friend. It was hot, hot, mega-hot. Like hell’s-waiting-room hot. I went in and out for a couple of hours, then came home feeling utterly wrung out, which is good, although I needed another couple tankards of water to even gather the strength to make dinner. On the way there, WDET played Shadow Show’s new single and the host speculated it could be this year’s “Detroit song of the summer,” which was very nice.

Speaking of Kate, she went to the Tigers game yesterday and was caught on the fan cam:

I used to date a guy whose father would write a one-page roundup of all the family news, kind of a weekly Christmas letter, using multiple carbons and sending them out to any close relative who lived out of town. He always, always ended it this way:

That is about all the news for this week.

Seems to work here. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 11:37 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments

525,600 minutes x 30.

Last week Alan and I realized we are about to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and we should do something to observe it. So we made last-minute reservations in Stratford, where the Shakespeare festival isn’t quite up to full speed just yet, but the plays are starting to open, and still at preview-level pricing.

We drove over on Saturday and saw “Rent,” one of two musicals they’re doing this year. (The other is “Spamalot,” and as I’m only a casual Monty Python fan, the choice was clear.) It was very fine. I’m not much for sung-through musicals, but this was a good production. Just a few years ago, a 1996 play about the persecution of drag queens, homosexuals, AIDS victims, anarchist professors and others might have seemed dated. As it is, the only unrealistic thing about the show was the idea that artists could squat in a loft on the lower east side of Manhattan. The rest was pretty dead-on.

I was curious who was in the original Broadway production. I don’t follow B’way closely, but I recognized Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel (or as John Travolta called her at the Oscars, Adele Dazeem). Diggs played Roger, the AIDS-cursed guitarist Benny the bad guy, and Adele was Maureen, who gets a couple of big numbers.

Living so close to Canada, I always wonder why we don’t go more often, even to Windsor. We’re so close to Canada you can see cars driving the shoreline roads, and yet, once you get there, everything is different. The accents change, people say “soe-rry” for the slightest offense, miles change to kilometers, the roads are as smooth as glass, your chance of dying in a mass shooting drops off the table. You can pick up a little French just by reading labels and street signs. Even their vodka-and-tomato juice drink is different, the bloody Caesar instead of Mary. And yet, you’re still speaking English, the currency is still dollars and cents, just different, gaily colored dollars.

God knows what Canadians think of us.

As always when I’m in Stratford, I bought books. “Station Eleven” from the Canadian-authors rack. “Birnam Wood,” which got a rave review in the NYT today, and the text of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which I’ve never read. And a blank journal for Kate, who stepped up to watch Wendy on short notice.

Speaking of the NYT, some great work today, not only there. First, an infuriating, extremely well-documented project on how three assholes worked a number of fake charities via robocall, raising $89 million in the process, and spending only 1 percent on the issues they were allegedly raising money for. I know you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn these guys are…well, you know.

This is older, but from ProPublica, a report on the nation’s worst-funded schools, which are falling apart. It’s not where you might think. (But once you know, it makes perfect sense.)

Finally, is it past time for Dianne Feinstein to resign?

And with that, I’m going to doze and wait for my Mothers Day dinner with Kate. Hope yours went/is going well.

Posted at 4:43 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Fishsticks the Svengali.

I don’t know why I subscribe to Axios. All that smart-brevity stuff is mainly just a news roundup at the beginning and end of the day. Skimmable = skippable, but we don’t have to keep up with everything, do we?

But start a news item this way…

Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson are joining forces…

…and OK, you have my attention. Apparently Tucker is starting a version of his show on Twitter? Fantastic idea. Take Tuck’s elderly, white, terrified viewers and try to explain Twitter to them — that’ll go well. But he’s certainly playing his Svengali role to the hilt, I’d say:

“At the most basic level, the news you consume is a lie — a lie of the stealthiest and most insidious kind,” Carlson said in a video announcing he plans to relaunch his show on Twitter. “Facts have been withheld on purpose along with proportion and perspective. You are being manipulated.”

Hello, pot? This is the kettle. You’re black.

The rest of the story is a little scare-mongering itself, but I’m not going to express confidence that truth will prevail when I can’t open a social-media app without seeing AI bullshit clogging it up, followed by credulous comments.

That said, there is also some excellent AI work going on, and you should follow this guy, who does a lot of it:

Obama looks like he maybe played bass in Sly Stone’s backup band.

The E. Jean Carroll verdict is in, and it’s a good one, if for no other reason than it sets him up for a lifetime of small-dick jokes. She’ll likely never see a dime of her award, but who cares. With a case like this, the headlines and vindication are the settlement. The pussy-grabber finally got his hand slapped. It ain’t prison time, but it’s good enough.

Finally, you may have seen this already, the FBI’s instructional video on how to survive a mass shooting. When “thoughts and prayers” don’t work, and yelling “mental health” does nothing, it’ll be, “you should have watched the video. Then you might not have been shot.”

This stupid country.

Happy Wednesday, all. I got a deadline, and have to go hard today.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events, Media | 71 Comments

The big hat.

Many years ago, I remember listening to an interview with some British royal-watcher, and he predicted that one day we’d see two old people ascend to the throne of that sceptered isle, that other Eden, and no one would remember the troubled princess who nearly suicide-bombed the whole institution out of existence. I’d say he was correct.

I didn’t watch the coronation, alas. I stayed out until 1 a.m. the night before (fundraiser, and I was on the committee and had to stay through the cleanup), didn’t get to sleep until 2. We had the TV on as we pushed brooms and gathered trash, and the overnight news was already on its pre-coronation packages. But. I watched the video highlights via the NYT site, and found it…interesting. Charles had the perfect look on his face, a tender, somewhat-confused expression that said, “I’ve been waiting for this for 74 years. Now what?” “What,” I imagine, will be a reign of 15 years, give or take. For my money, Camilla had a more peaceful, settled look, the look of triumphant mistresses everywhere. She married a man who cheats on his wife, but late in life when the sap has largely ebbed from the royal staff. Plus, he obviously loves her.

There were a lot of anti-royal voices raised this weekend, of course, here and there. Perfectly fine — we’re both free countries, after all. Honestly, though, what’s the point? Destroy the monarchy? OK. It won’t make a bit of difference beyond a few ceremonial details in the U.K.’s self-government. Make the castles into museums. They’ll cost at least as much to run. So…sell them? OK. How will you feel when Mohammed bin Salman or some Russian oligarch owns Buckingham Palace? Sell the crown jewels? Great idea. They, too, will disappear into private hands, you’ll never see them again, and the money will go…somewhere. (Probably also into private hands, a step or two down the road.)

People talk a lot about how “rich” the new king is, but think about what that means. He holds a lot of land, and several over-large, drafty houses. True, he can go fishing and riding and gadding about the countryside in a kilt, but only when his schedule permits, and the schedule consists mainly of dressing up, showing up, shaking a few hands, posing for pictures. Same thing with Camilla, only she must also accept nosegays from adorable schoolchildren. Look at that picture of the new royal couple in their crowns; do you envy them? Do their lives seem enviable to you? Do they look happy to you? I bet Camilla didn’t even have a moment to take off that necklace and fondle the jewels in her hand for a while; someone unclasped it, boxed it and sent it back to the vault.

Face it, if being royal were a job posted on a hiring board somewhere, few people would want it.

Prince Bill and Princess Cathy looked nice, I thought. I’m used to seeing the royal men wear chests full of medals that make them look like war heroes, but we rarely see the women in their “official” finery. This was a ‘fit, as the kids say:

Love the headpiece(s), which makes her look like a superhero awaiting a ceremony on Wonder Woman’s island. And little Princess Charlotte is just a treasure. I hope she can have a meaningful life.

There was snickering about…oh god, I can’t look up all those title and spellings right now, but the something-or-other of Chumley*, allegedly William’s mistress, being seated in the crowd. She could be seated on his dick, and Princess Superhero isn’t going to act like her late mother-in-law. She knew exactly the job she was being hired to do, has done it beautifully, and won’t give it up for some round-heeled former model. There are a lot of bedrooms in those drafty houses; she looks capable of enduring until it’s her turn to wear the big hat.

* OK, I looked it up again. It’s the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

My favorite moment of my sleep-deprived viewing of the after-parade was the horse band. Seriously, it was a full band, mounted on moving horses. The joke is, of course, that it takes two hands to play an instrument and at least one to guide a horse, so…how does this work? Google explains at least the part of the drummers who lead the troupe: The riders have reins affixed to their feet. I guess the rest of them do, too.

And of course Saturday couldn’t conclude with just a coronation and American horse race in the news, so we had to have a mass shooting, too. Those of you who follow Laura Lippman on Twitter know that she walks Baltimore in the early morning and takes a photo of the Domino Sugar sign, then posts it. This was Sunday’s, and I don’t think we need to say anything more than this:

Have a good week, all. And please stay alive.

Posted at 11:26 am in Current events | 80 Comments

Cabin fever.

The weather rarely gives us a break at this latitude. We had one week — a single week — of glorious, sunny, summertime weather earlier in April, and since then? Cold garbage. Finally my reserve cracked, and I ran some errands, taking the long way there and back. For some reason, I ended up near Camden Street in Detroit, where I shot this photo in October 2008, while escorting a pair of French journalists around town on a two-day pulse-of-America visit:

They wanted to see the famous $1 houses that were flooding the market, a story written by my old colleague Ron French that went all over the world. They were going through one across the street from this one, which was being stripped of its bricks by a couple of raggedy men. Note the professionally wrapped pallet of bricks to the side; someone was making money off this project, probably pretty good money. Old bricks are in demand for new housing. Luxury housing.

In Detroit, wave after wave of foreclosure, much of it due to mortgage fraud, was leaving neighborhoods like this rapidly emptying, and arsonists and scrappers did the rest. America was about to elect its first black president, and the agony of financial-crisis Detroit notwithstanding, optimism was in the air. It was a very strange time.

This was shot with my first iPhone, and thanks to the geotagging, I was able to pinpoint the exact spot it was taken. Which is good, because on Tuesday, there wasn’t much left:

The vacant lot to the left is where the men were working. The house on the right is still standing, but barely. Spindly volunteer trees reach the second story. The porch steps are in pieces. And the $1 house the French guys were so eager to document is gone, too. The whole neighborhood is pretty much toast, but for a few stubborn hangers-on. I went around a couple blocks and found this, too:

Ah, memories.

You know what I remember most from that visit in 2008? The realtor brought along his handyman, the guy who went through these wrecks and decided whether they could be brought back. He looked around and said, “This used to be a neighborhood.” Only a year before, he said, it’d been more or less fully occupied, with poor people to be sure, but they were hanging on. Now it’s urban farmland and construction debris.

For some reason this sent my brain cartwheeling back to the ’90s, working for Knight-Ridder, the newspaper chain. The editors had been tasked by corporate with coming up with a mission statement (yes, really) and a so-called master narrative for each city. We sat in meetings for this project and asked perfectly reasonable questions: “A mission statement? For a newspaper? Isn’t it, ‘cover the news in our city?'” To his credit, the editor running the meeting seemed as baffled as we were. And Fort Wayne’s master narrative, which we were instructed was the overarching story of the city, was only a community-theater version of Detroit’s grand opera: Once-thriving industrial city struggles to find its footing in new economy.

And to think, that was probably some vice president’s quarterly project. And they kept us inside for those meetings, when we could have been outdoors, looking for stories in houses just like that.

That’s really a non sequitur, I know, but like I said: My cabin fever is bad this year.

I guess I should say a few words about Gordon Lightfoot, recently departed. He was part of the aural landscape of my youth, but I paid little attention to lyrics. In recent years, I corrected that. “Sundown” fascinates me as a song about a man who’s thinking of hurting his cheating girlfriend, and still might. The woman in question was, of course, Cathy Smith, the background-singing, drug-dealing bit of bad news who sold John Belushi his fatal speedball. I think lots of men might be tempted to hurt her, but she did the damage herself. (Went to prison, deported to Canada, died a few years back.) As for the song everybody knows, about the ore carrier known around these parts as the Fitz, well, it’s a great song. A friend and I were discussing how often people who have never been to the Great Lakes can’t believe how big they are, once they see them. Imagine being in a ship, 729 feet long, that’s losing the battle with a storm, and not only that, an ice storm, a hurricane of sorts, the lake treating it like a toy. It must have been terrifying, the waves turning the minutes to hours, and all that.

But I snickered when a journalist friend noted on his Facebook today that he once “heard a folksinger at the Old Shillelagh, weary of endless requests, abridge the Lightfoot song as follows: ‘There was a big boat, and it sank.'”

And they’re all still down there in Lake Superior. Which never gives up its dead, but you’ve already heard that, many times. Ah, well: Rest in peace, Gordon. It was a great life you had.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 66 Comments