Back off.

I think I’ve mentioned 14,000 or 15,000 times that this historical era has me feeling glum. Also, the insomnia is back — I awake at 4:30 a.m. most mornings now, and that’s not good, but it boils down to 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and that seems to be…adequate. But lack of sleep + pandemic + everything else is not a mood elevator, so this afternoon I figured I’d do a bike ride, see if I couldn’t rinse some random shit out of my head.

I saw this house, which was cheering:

It’s an old firehouse. No. 38, the numbers over the garage doors say. Move a few steps down the street and you can see the tower for hanging and drying the hoses:

I’m 90 percent sure this is a private residence. The best thing about it, which you can better see from the Google Maps satellite view — which I won’t post, because privacy — is that it’s virtually isolated. There are two houses on one side, two across the street, but in the other direction? Maybe a quarter-mile between houses. This is the neighborhood where, according to local legend, the first crack houses in the country sprang up. That was followed by abandonment, blight, “urban renewal” in the form of arson, and then, as Carl Sandburg wrote: “I am the grass. Let me work.”

Honestly, the concessions to reality — that stout fence is there for a reason — could be tolerable for quiet nights punctuated only by predawn pheasant crowing, coyotes yipping and maybe some random gunfire from time to time. Grosse Pointe is only a few blocks away, so you don’t have a hike for groceries and sundries. You find places like this all over town. Which is why the newsletter I produce for Deadline has a standing head: This week in America’s most interesting city.

Then I pedaled home and, as I was putting the bike away, got an alert that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been hospitalized and felt like screaming again.

Today, in greater Lansing, a 77-year-old man confronted a 43-year-old man outside a Quality Dairy — your basic quickie-mart type place. The confrontation was over the latter’s failure to wear a mask; he was ejected from the QD over it, and he must have been testy about it, because he stabbed the old man. Then he fled. The cops caught up with him about 30 minutes later, and he got out of his car armed with a knife and a screwdriver. He advanced on the cop twice; she shot him the second time. He’s dead.

I’d love to see that guy’s internet history. This being the 21st century, there is available video of the stop, the confrontation and the guy going down.

I love summer, but not this one.

Posted at 8:57 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 14 Comments
 

Unchained.

I met some friends for social-distance drinks on a patio Friday night, although “fled the house” might have better described my mood after a rocky week. I needed to go downtown to get my few belongings from our office there, as we’re giving up our lease; after three-plus months of WFH, we see no need to maintain it. I have mixed feelings. Commuting is a pain, but it gets you out of the house and forces you to engage with other human beings. Home is a nest that can easily become a fortress; many times I’ve been grateful for a random encounter on a bus, a sidewalk, a lunch spot that lights a creative spark.

But parking is expensive and it takes time, so.

Anyway, I stuffed my few personal items into a tote — the shawl I brought in case this summer’s a/c is anything like last summer’s, when it rarely rose above icebox level, a book, a water bottle — and we headed off for a patio. The police shot and killed a suspect Friday afternoon, and a demonstration had formed, this one fairly angry. We monitored it via Twitter through two rounds, told some stories, and left. I walked through the door a little after 8, and Alan told me Roger Stone had been granted clemency.

You know how it’s going to go from here on out, right? The corruption will get more and more brazen. If Trump wins, well then, there’s no governor on what can happen, none whatsoever. If he loses, the transition period will be nonstop crimes, the ramming through of pet legislation, all of it. I hope, when he leaves, someone goes through the White House silverware and artwork to make sure he hasn’t stashed any in his luggage.

Because that’s what we’re dealing with here.

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a hair trigger and go to MurderDeathKill twice a day.

I did fill out my absentee ballot for the August primary. It’s a whole lot of nothing — most seats were unopposed — but it felt like something.

Bloggage: In the summer I sometimes go swimming with my friend Bill, in the St. Clair River. He wrote a story about Great Lakes swimming yesterday.

And that’s it, I fear. Let’s see what fresh hell arrives in the next 48 hours.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments
 

Lazy, hazy, crazy.

Well, I guess it’s been a minute, yes? Sorry, but I’m just not in the mood to do much these days beyond what it takes to make a living, stay in shape and put food in my body. The MurderSun of recent days doesn’t help. Our spare bedroom/home office gets morning sun, and the neighborhood lost enough trees over the last few years that I keep the blinds drawn so I don’t poach in my own sweat, even with the a/c on. So I sit in my darkened room, reading the news of the day and stewing, not poaching.

Also, been busy.

Had to take Wendy in to get her teeth cleaned, an appointment overdue by about a year. Mission accomplished:

I’d skip to the bloggage, but honestly I’m a little overwhelmed by it, still. So let’s just call this a thread reboot and wish you all a nice weekend.

And yes, if you’re wondering, the title of this post is to inspire another ear worm in Mary’s head. Mmmm-wah-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Posted at 3:46 pm in Uncategorized | 61 Comments
 

Heat wave.

Some of you have been commiserating with Jeff about the divided nature of his congregation. Getta loada these apples:

Both inside and outside St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church on Sunday, the statement “Black lives matter” was said with conviction and met with opposition.

Outside, it was written on signs and chanted through megaphones by members of the community protesting remarks made late last month by the Rev. Theodore Rothrock calling Black Lives Matter organizers “maggots and parasites.”

Those “Black lives matter!” chants were met with chants of “Go Father Ted!” from counter-protesters who oppose the suspension handed down to Rothrock and argue that he was speaking the truth.

This is in suburban Indianapolis, by the way. And it goes on:

Inside, during 9:30 a.m. Mass, “Black lives matter” was said just once by Bishop Timothy Doherty of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana at the end of his opening comments to the more than 150 people attending.

His words prompted one woman to shout “You’re a coward” in the bishop’s direction multiple times before she was escorted out. More than a dozen other people gathered their belongings and walked out of the church along with her.

Breaking my usual three-paragraph rule because man, what a story. My history with the church is checkered but mostly non-existent, but I never heard a priest call an abortion provider a maggot, at least not from the altar. To call a movement working for justice by names like this? Man, no wonder the pews are empty.

But that’s our country these days. Adult babies throwing tantrums over wearing masks. White supremacists on the march. Murder hornets and ranting priests. I will not make a “who had that on their 2020 bingo card” joke here, but it applies.

OK, then. Short shrift today. Apologies. It’s supposed to be 93 today, and just thinking about it makes me want to move to an island in Lake Superior.

I’m grateful for whoever in my network flagged this piece, about the poisonous legacy of Newt Gingrich. You want to know where civility ran off to? Newt was one of the biggest traffic directors sending it over the next hill:

Gingrich was my introduction to Orwellian newspeak. He had this tic of starting every other paragraph with “frankly” and then telling a lie; it was his poker tell. Falsehoods and hyperbole came as naturally to him as smirking. He freely trafficked in conspiracy theories. His PAC circulated a pamphlet for aspiring politicians who wished “to speak like Newt.” It advised them to repeat a long list of words to describe Democrats, including sick, pathetic, corrupt.

Like Trump, Gingrich was a thrice-married womanizer who’d somehow seduced the evangelicals. He too had a skyscraping ego, nursed grudges as if they were newborns, and lacked impulse control. In 1995, Bill Clinton made him sit in the back of Air Force One; he responded with a tantrum and shut down the government, prompting The New York Daily News to run a cartoon cover of him in a diaper under the headline “Cry Baby.”

Gingrich turned the politics of white racial grievance into an art form. They may have started with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but Gingrich actually came from the South. He intuited the backlash to globalization, to affirmative action; the culture teemed with stories about white men under siege. (Including the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down,” about a divorced, unemployed defense contractor’s descent into armed madness.) It wasn’t long before 1994 became known as “The Year of the Angry White Male.”

Mark Souder, my former rep-for-life-or-until-he-gets-tired-of-it in Indiana, was elected in the 1994 sweep and looked up to his leader, the Newt. He mainly had an easy time of it at election time, but once in the early 2000s he was challenged by a credible moderate Democrat, and a man without reproach, Dr. Tom Hayhurst. He was the medical partner of a close friend, and I knew him a little bit. He grew up middle class in Fort Wayne, served as a medic in Vietnam, specialized in pulmonology and was liked and respected by all who knew him. And he was handsome, the sort of man who ages like Robert Redford but without the plastic surgery, which is to say: Well. Once I was ending a lunch with my friend, his partner. He was dawdling about going back to the office, and said he had an appointment with a patient who’d asked to see someone else in the practice because she couldn’t get along with Hayhurst.

“She can’t get along with Dimples?” my friend moaned. “What’s she gonna think about me?” (And yes, Hayhurst had dimples.)

Anyway, faced with this paragon, Souder went low, with ads calling the doctor “rich” and out of touch with regular people, even though he had lifelong friends all over town, few of whom were in his income bracket. Souder won, of course, and went on to flame out in the single most embarrassing sex scandal I can recall that didn’t involve an actual crime, or diapers.

You can trace that back to Newt, I guess. What a piece of shit.

And with that, let’s all start Tuesday! The mood seems to be going around.

Posted at 8:54 am in Current events | 131 Comments
 

I, Karen.

The other day I was scrolling Twitter and saw a video with many views and heart-eyes emojis after it, some funny guy doing his Karen act. He had the wig, the flat comfortable sandals and as he pulled on a pair of capri pants I realized, Um, wait, that’s me.

I wear capri pants in summer because my short-short days are long past, and I know the minimum inseam on any pair of shorts I might wear outside the house (9 inches). Even if you keep up the struggle, exercise, eat right, there comes a time when your thighs have given up, and you don’t show them to anyone other than close friends and the people you swim with, who are all old like you and have the bods to show for it.

One of the struggles I gave up this year was hair denial. I let the gray come in, and I’m very happy I did, as for once, the timing was perfect; my last haircut was two days before the salon shutdown. I got the last of the blonde highlights snipped off, and so spent the last three months not sweating my roots growing out. With a million new things to worry about in 2020, it was freeing to let that one go.

But now I’m about as Karen-y as Karens get, at least from the outside. Anyone looking at me would sum me up at a glance: Karen. Boomer. Enemy. And so on.

So now it’s the day before the holiday weekend starts, and I’m sitting inside because it is hot as hell outside and will be getting hotter for the foreseeable future. We’ve had a very angry few days here in Detroit. Two women got into a shouting match over a hip-check in the doorway of a Chipotle, and a gun was drawn, a truly insane confrontation. Was it captured on video? Do you even need to ask? And yes, one of the women involved was a Karen, as we understand the term these days: White, middle-aged, hair-trigger temper.

The night before, a cyclist shot a motorist dead on the street in front of the RenCen, probably the closest thing Detroit has to a Magnificent Mile district. It was a road-rage thing, we’re told. The motorist yelled at the cyclists, the cyclists yelled back, he stopped and got out of his vehicle with a knife in hand. One of the cyclists, a woman, was packing (legally) and fired one shot, enough to send him to Elysium. Must have been the surprise of his life.

It so happened I had to do the aggregation — short rewrite/summation, with link — of both of these stories, to Deadline. I posted them to Facebook, because that’s where we get our traffic.

So I’m circling back a few hours later, checking engagement, and start reading the comments. Are comments good for anything anymore? No. It’s all memes and the same catch phrases over and over. The preeners are the worst: Do better and Check your privilege and You spelled ‘racist’ wrong and Fixed it for ya and I guess someone here has work to do. I guess this is a byproduct of people being out of work or working from home where they can check social media all day. And of being angry, and of it being about 900 degrees outside, with cases spiking.

Anyway, I think I’ve had my fill for the day, and for the weekend. I’m taking my Karen-ass self out to walk the dog, if she’s up to a jaunt no longer than around the block. If I meet any black birdwatchers, I will not be calling the police. In fact, I may just leave my phone behind.

Bloggage:

Hank Stuever on the rise of Karens on your screen. Funny:

Now, with the cameras squarely and vigilantly in the hands of those who are sick of being hassled, the “Karens” show depressingly confirms some of our worst suspicions about people in general, wielding a similar power of stereotype. “Karens” triumphantly flips the “Cops” dynamic. The Karens of our world relied too long on the power of racism and intolerance, threatening to call the authorities on anyone who offended or unnerved them. Now Karen is the bad guy, getting the comeuppance she so richly deserves. (Whatcha gonna do, Karen? Whatcha gonna do when Instagram comes for you?)

I had more, but it’s stale by now. News gets stale in 10 minutes these days. Enjoy your holiday, and may the deity of your choice bless America.

Posted at 5:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 151 Comments
 

Super-spreaders.

Another exhausting week behind us, a semi-exhausting weekend ditto, and another exhausting week ahead. I’m planning to return to the office for one of my jobs, and maybe the other, but only one day a week, and only if it feels OK. As is happening elsewhere in this stupid-ass country, cases are on their way back up. One bar – one! – in East Lansing was the center of 80-some positive COVID tests. A student dive, of course, the sort of place where, if you’re close to my age, you might have attended a drink-and-drown night in the pre-Mothers Against Drunk Driving days.

The bar owner say They Did Everything Right – and you know it’s true, because they told Mitch Albom – but The Customers, They Just Wouldn’t Listen. OK, whatever. The horses are out of the barn now, anyway, and one galloped all the way to Grosse Pointe, where we had our own mini-spike in the young-adult crowd last week, culminating in 23 new cases confirmed on Friday. One of the bar patrons had his own rager the previous weekend, while symptomatic, and apparently infected a bunch of other people. Oy.

We ate dinner out Friday on a patio, but I’m wondering if even that is safe enough, in these conditions. Might be back to pizza and carryout and my own cooking for the foreseeable future. I did get an antibody test, as part of my blood-donation testing last week. Negative. Probably wouldn’t hurt to hit one of the drive-through test sites one of these days, too.

At least it’s summer, and it’s been pretty, so let’s do some pictures, eh?

Driving home from the market, I glanced right and saw this street:

The crop is a little unfair; there’s an abandoned house just out of frame to the left. What caught my eye was that massive willow tree, and the very saturated green-ness on an overcast morning. The remains of the sidewalk on the right side remind us that once upon a time, this was a residential city street and didn’t always look like rural Mississippi. There’s more housing just beyond the green, but needless to say, this isn’t the fancy neighborhood. Although I turned 90 degrees to the right and spotted this streetlight something-or-other:

Check out that brickwork. Once upon a time, we were a country that believed there was nothing wrong with making a public building beautiful, even a utility center. During the worst of the Detroit-is-crumbling era before the bankruptcy, a local TV reporter did a piece on streetlights, most of which were decades old and didn’t work. Some circuits were so old they had to be turned on manually, as in someone had to show up and throw the switch; this building looks from that era.

That was a weird time, especially in winter. Driving through some neighborhoods was like entering the haunted forest, it was so dark. Not anymore, though – new LED lights everywhere. When LED streetlights fail, they sometimes start strobing, I have since learned. People online call this their disco period. Very festive.

Saturday morning market:

#NoFilter. And mine, all mine. We put some of them on cake Saturday night and drank too much wine. Hey, it’s mojito season.

Finally, a Sunday bike ride before it got too hot:

A rod on every post at the fishing pier. This is my turnaround. Seeing the water always gives me a lift.

So, bloggage? Some.

Neil Steinberg offers some talking points on how to respond to your terrible friends and relatives asking about black crime in Chicago.

When Sherri floated the possibility that Trump might resign ahead of the election and cut a deal with Pence to pardon him, I thought, yeah interesting, and Alan said no way. Maybe not so no-way anymore. The president is losing, and it’s starting to dawn on him:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was blamed internally for the Tulsa rally failure. Some people complained about him trumpeting that 1 million people had requested tickets, a boast that fell flat when thousands of seats sat empty during Trump’s speech.

Parscale has been a target of some Trump allies who argue the campaign is lacking a coherent strategy and direction. But people close to the president insist that Parscale’s job is safe for now. Trump, who visited the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters a few months ago, has told people he came away impressed with the sophistication of the organization.

Oh, he was impressed? That changes everything.

Finally, a little good news for you boaters, out of Buenos Aires:

Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.

The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo, to ride out the era of lockdowns and social distancing in a scenic place largely spared by the virus. But the idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable.

So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March.

Twenty-nine feet isn’t much larger than ours. I can’t imagine doing this. But then, I’m not Juan Manuel Ballestero, brave mariner.

So come on then, week ahead.

Posted at 6:32 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

Hi-def and dumb.

We were having a cheeseburger in a bar on a summer evening – oh, lost pleasures of life– when I started watching the Tigers game on the TV. It was new and hi-def, and after about five minutes of this, I wondered why anyone would bother attending a major-league game in person again.

Oh, sure, it’s fun to take oneself out to the ballgame from time to time, eat peanuts and crackerjack, blah blah blah, but the parking, the traffic, the bathrooms, the $10 beers, the blast-furnace sun. How much nicer to watch in your own home, in such clarity that it’s like you’re there.

All of which is saying that even if I were a Trump-lover with a “ticket,” whatever that means when hundreds of thousands are sold for an arena that holds maybe 19,000, a few brain cells might fire and I might consider staying home and watching the thing on C-SPAN.

All of which is a callback to events of the weekend, which in the way time gallops today, apparently happened 15 years ago.

But who cares if that stupid git has a full house or not. This is a far more worrisome story:

Public health workers, already underfunded and understaffed, are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have resigned, retired or been fired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.”

I think it’s interesting that in Michigan, the abuse is heaped upon our female governor, a Democrat. In Ohio, which had restrictions nearly as severe as Michigan’s, but a male Republican governor, the abuse instead goes to…

Ohio’s public health director, Amy Acton, shifted to an advisory role after enduring months of anger over the state’s preventive measures, including armed protesters at her home bearing messages including anti-Semitic and sexist slurs. One Republican lawmaker linked Acton, who is Jewish, to Nazi Germany; another called her a dictator.

These stupid fucking idiots. Also…

Georgia’s public health director said last month that she receives threats daily and now has an armed escort. Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender, has come under fire over the state’s handling of the pandemic, including from a county official who resigned after saying at a recent meeting that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up as a woman.”

I’m sensing a theme here. Anyone else?

Oh, I am damn peevish this week. The heat broke, briefly, so we can open the windows and hear the constant fireworks. I’m going to read a book and go to bed.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events | 92 Comments
 

First weekend of summer.

These long summer evenings, I love them so. Not a stellar weekend, but one in which I put a big headache – our taxes – in the rear-view mirror. We had to pay less than I’d feared, so celebrated with a dinner out on a patio, at a restaurant two blocks away. Warm summer night, big crunchy salad – life could be worse.

Meanwhile, down came the statuary everywhere else. I have no official opinion about this. When I took that slavery walk last summer, we stopped at the statue of Alexander Macomb, Revolutionary War general and slave holder. Honestly, I’d never even noticed him before; he was just another man in period dress, cast in bronze, for pigeons to poop on. This week, in an op-ed in the Freep, one of his descendants said it was time for him to come down. They could replace him with a sculpture of Malcolm X and after a week or three, I don’t think anyone would notice.

The question is, how do you move forward?

Then there was the ridiculousness in Tulsa, for which I don’t have many words. I’m so tired of this. It’s like being beaten by an abusive partner over and over, only the partner has shown to be a drunken, toothless ass. He can still hurt, but he’s fully revealed as the little man that he is. What a shameful time we’re living through.

Then there’s this:

President Trump and several staff members stood backstage and gazed at the empty Bank of Oklahoma Center in horror.

Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had canceled plans at the last minute to speak at an outdoor overflow rally that was almost entirely empty, despite claims of nearly one million people registering for tickets to attend the event in Tulsa, Okla., and the president’s false boast of never having an empty seat at one of his events.

The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place. Brad Parscale, the campaign manager who had put the event together, was not present.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Not a bad weekend after all.

Posted at 9:54 pm in Current events | 69 Comments
 

A few words about Columbus.

All these years later, I can still hear the piano in my head, the simple melody, the music teacher at the keyboard leading us in song at Barrington Road Elementary:

In fourteen-hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
His ship was small, but he was brave
He dared the wind, he dared the waves

He kept on sailing toward the west
And never thought of taking rest
To our great land at last he came
And so we sing his famous name

I have the feeling there was a third verse; for the life of me I can’t remember a word of it. But the rest of it lingers, the way you can remember your phone number from when you were 8 years old, but not your husband’s phone number today. (Why memorize? I just touch his name on the screen.)

As most of you know, I’m a daughter of Columbus, Ohio. I’m also old, so it’s fair to say I received the Full Columbus, education-wise. My school was all-white, and even the city itself was hardly diverse in the way we think about it today. There were white people and black people, and a few Asians sprinkled in here and there. A few years ago I was paging through my yearbook and realized we had one or two Hispanic people – or LatinX, in the contemporary parlance – in my class, although I didn’t know them, and their roots in South America were so well camouflaged I only recognized them as brunette.

Native Americans? Get outta town. The closest anyone came to that was the random kid who’d say, “You know, my grandmother says our family has some Cherokee blood.” Years later, I would work with a card-carrying Nez Perce, transplanted from Montana to Indiana, who said he was always told the same thing. “Man, those Cherokees sure got around,” he said.

But in the mid-’60s, in the largest city named for him, it’s safe to say Christopher Columbus was not a controversial figure. There were statues of him everywhere. The biggest one was in front of City Hall, which Google Street View indicates was still there as of September 2019…

…but also random ones scattered here and there, mostly in parks.

We were not taught that Columbus was anything other than visionary and brave, the man who discovered America by refusing to believe maps that showed the world was flat. He’d watched ships leave the harbor, they told us, and kept watching until they couldn’t be seen anymore. They didn’t suddenly disappear; they gradually sank from sight, the masts the last visible detail. I’m not sure I believe that, thinking back. Could one man’s eyesight be good enough to watch a ship follow the curvature of the earth? I can see across Lake St. Clair, but only at the narrow part and even then it has to be a very clear day. Well, whatever. The point is, he had a Big Idea, and he found a patron, and the rest is literal history. The turning point of so many great forces. A collision, actually.

Later the story was filled in, not as much as you’d hope. No teacher in my education even connected Columbus with the Conquistadors, the indisputably bad guys who followed him. We learned that he didn’t actually discover America so much as some islands on western fringes of the Atlantic. Certainly by high school we were being briefed on what a disaster Columbus’ arrival was for North America’s native populations, but this was never explained as anything other than Sad and Regrettable, but also Inevitable, chalked up to viruses as much as human blood thirst. And so I drifted on a cloud of Columbus ignorance for many years.

(Lest you think there was something uniquely evil about this, a miseducation done to indoctrinate children, be advised that Kate learned about Henry Ford at about the same age and his anti-Semitism wasn’t part of the lesson, either.)

Here’s something else we were taught in fourth grade: That in 1992, Columbus would probably host the Olympic Games, that the 500-year celebration of his arrival would demand nothing less than this sort of worldwide celebration.

Well.

I left Columbus in 1984, when the quincentennial was still a few years off. There was a commission planning something, and as the date grew closer it became clear the Olympics were off the table – Barcelona got that burden – and more important, something else had changed. The rise of the American Indian Movement, and the attention paid to the royal screwing natives of all lands had gotten at the hands of the first explorers, everything from whooping cough to chattel slavery, made the old guy problematic.

Suddenly, other cities that had statues of Columbus were taking them down. These weren’t violent events for the most part, and rather than drop them into the nearest body of water, city managers called up their colleagues in Columbus: “Hey, want a free statue of your namesake? We’ll pay shipping!”

This was an early warning that 1992 wouldn’t be a lovefest, and it wasn’t. There were teach-ins and seminars and all sorts of consciousness-raising. The commemorations were a mix of solemnity and celebration. I think there was a new park or parks built, maybe some other stuff. I went to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists convention in Columbus that year. I think my paper was even flush enough to pay for a hotel, when I could have just crashed at my parents’ or sister’s place. One of the events was a Native American who did his own teach-in, and painted the explorer as an unrepentant rapist, slaver and shitty-ass navigator who basically ran aground in the Caribbean. He was very full of himself, and I poked at him during the Q&A, because he got on my nerves.

“Wasn’t the meeting of the old and new worlds inevitable?” I asked. “You act as though the guy who would have come the following year would have somehow been different.” He went off on a tangent about the Vikings, and I don’t remember how it went after that. I’m sure he thought of me as a disciple of Charles Krauthammer or something. Then the seminar ended and we were taken by bus to Select Sires in Plain City, to hear about artificial insemination in dairy cattle, which was actually interesting and of course, a giggle for a bunch of dirty-minded journalists.

Anyway. The biggest international event Columbus got that year was Ameriflora, an “international horticultural exhibition,” i.e., a flower show.

There was one other thing I want to mention: As part of the commemoration, and another stop on the columnists’ tour, we visited the Santa Maria Columbus, a replica of the explorer’s flagship. I can’t recall enough of the details – how faithful a replica it was of the actual ship, what the design was based on, etc. It looked boxy to me, like it was built more to accommodate tourists than cross the ocean blue. Three masts, 90 feet length overall. It looked like a movie set. I have no idea how it got to this city far from any coast; I suspect it was trucked in pieces and assembled at its mooring on the Scioto River, the city’s brown, slow-moving waterway.

But in its own way, it impressed me. Ninety feet sounds big until you think what it would be like to cross an ocean on it, and an ocean some believed drained into an abyss, at that. During hurricane season. And this was the biggest of the three in the expedition; the Nina and Pinta were even smaller.

I see Columbus more fully now, certainly. He was a man of his times, and the times were very different. But his ship was indeed small and he was brave to take command and sail off into the unknown. As the Mercury astronauts would later say about themselves, he was spam in a can.

A final note: Last summer I took a walking tour of downtown Detroit, led by a local historian, an African-American man, who briefed us on the slave-holding roots of the city’s founders. We made a brief stop at the bust of Columbus, which this week was removed to storage until the city can have a conversation about it, the mayor said.

The guide said he didn’t consider Columbus any kind of hero, but he respected his presence on the Randolph Street median, because it had been erected by the local Italian-American community, who were confident enough to insist on their own depictions of their own history. And we walked on.

You don’t know the half of it, I thought, and played the song in my head again.

Posted at 6:13 pm in Current events | 82 Comments
 

Beneath the blue suburban skies.

I don’t want to oversell this storm that hit us, but I don’t want to undersell it, either. Our neighborhood was littered with enough fallen trees to build a couple of log cabins. Mostly silver maple, we noticed – a fast-growing tree people plant because they don’t want to wait too long for shade. Years later, another homeowner curses them forever when it comes in through the bay window.

Anyway, the chippers came through this morning to dispose of the piles in front of every other house. (We didn’t have any huge limbs down, but Alan took advantage of the chipping service to take some deadwood out of a dogwood and flowering something-or-other.) I’m hoping the extraordinary noise of recent days – generators and chain saws and chippers – is over for now. Our power returned almost 48 hours exactly after it went out.

We didn’t have any major damage, but we lost everything in the freezer and most of what was in the fridge. And about the only blessing besides not having a tree fall through a bedroom is, the cold front that caused all this brought along some delightfully cool summer weather. Perfect for a bike ride, some outdoor exercise, grocery shopping to restock the fridge, all that.

I’m having that weird time-collapse thing. Sometimes I go back through the archives and reflect on how events used to last a while, how things that happened on Monday could sometimes still be remembered on Thursday. Now it just blurs from one disaster to the next. What happened Saturday? Oh right – Cadet Bone Spurs gave the commencement address at West Point. We’ll all have our favorite moments from that, but maybe mine was when he shouted out his birthday the following day, paused for the applause he expected and heard…crickets. I’ve never seen another West Point commencement; it’s entirely possible that the soldiers are not expected to respond to cheap applause lines during the speech, but to clap at the end only, politely. But it was a nice moment.

Trump looked drugged to the gills. In his weekday newsletter, Roy Edroso’s been writing these brief Oval Office scenes and playlets, and having fun with the president and his “formula,” tweaked by his doctors and chief of staff to keep him engaged, voluble and under control. And there’s that guy on Twitter, the former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who’s been claiming for years that Trump snorts Adderall and other drugs for the same reason. But on days like Saturday you could really see it. He leaned on the podium like an old man on a four-footed cane, slurred simple words, mispronounced “Ulysses” and “MacArthur” and then there was the ramp incident.

The day after, hundreds of MAGA-heads joined in that stupid boat parade through Lake St. Clair to the RenCen. There was a land component, too. A friend lives close to the route, and hearing the honking, thought it must be a graduation parade, common this year with the lack of formal ceremonies. So she went outside to wave, and was appalled to see the TRUMP 2020 flags flying past her house. So she stood there, raised both middle fingers and made sure a few of them saw her doing so. The suburban vote.

Another friend said his buddy was on his boat when the flotilla went by. Why, he asked, do all those geezers blare “YMCA,” which they of all people are old enough to recall is a gay sex anthem? The answer, of course, is that they’ve ruined that, too.

They’ve ruined everything.

One reason I didn’t blog last night is, we were invited to Italian-style family dinner with friends, and what would you do? It was marinated pork chops and pasta puttanesca – worth breaking quarantine for. We talked about whether the Trumps have ever, EVER hosted a White House cultural event, the way the Obamas (and for that matter, even the Bushes) did. Which made me think of the wonderful East Room concerts, which made me think of this, which made me cry.

What a Monday. On to Tuesday, then.

Posted at 6:21 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments