Plague Paris.

We made it. The flight was long and uncomfortable, as you’d expect, but one thing I’ll say for Air France: The in-flight movie selection isn’t too shabby at all. I watched “Dog Day Afternoon,” and had forgotten how good it was.

And then you land, and clear customs, and find your transportation, and this, and that, and suddenly you’re in Paris, mofos, and oh my it’s better than you expected and different than you remembered, and in so many ways. The diesel exhaust smell I recall from 40 years ago is gone, and so many vehicles now are EV/hybrids. The locals are still slim and well-dressed, but everyone has a mask somewhere on their person, and surprisingly, the default is the plain old blue surgical-style, not the creative cloth version preferred in the U.S. (Alan read those are banned in offices as ineffective.) Covid testing stations are everywhere, including under pop-up tents on street corners. More people speak at least some English, and we’ve been getting by with pointing, gestures, a few words here and there and my mournful Je suis desole, je ne pas parlais francais.

Why is this famously language-proud country suddenly so much more accommodating of my atrocious monkey-grunts? I suspect the usual reasons: Smaller world. The internet. And can’t forget that great motivator of language study in the young — video games.

So in these early days, we’ve been knocking off the usual stops. The Louvre on Sunday, Norte Dame yesterday. Today, the wrapped Arc de Triomphe. I would upload some pictures, but the internet here is spotty and untrustworthy.

I wish you all well from the 11th arrondisement (I think), and now to puzzle out the Metro routes. Au revoir, all.

Posted at 3:28 am in Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

Wheels up.

We leave in about 36 hours. Still no health pass. Panicking? Who, me?

I was really hoping to get this settled before we left, but there’s another day of work ahead in France, so who knows, maybe a miracle will happen. In the meantime, a few things to remember:

I’m taking my laptop with us, but will not necessarily stick to any sort of schedule here. I’ll post when I’m moved to do so, probably mostly pictures but who knows. Part of the excitement of this trip will be getting out of the usual ruts, so let’s hope the next rut isn’t too trying.

Meanwhile, for some reason I started thinking about Italy the other day. Most of us here are old enough to remember when Italian voters put an adult-film actress in their parliament. Ilona Staller, stage name Cicciolina, took office in the ’80s sometime.

And while I’m a modern person and believe there’s no reason a porn star can’t be a policymaker, as I recall, Staller’s career seemed to be mostly dedicated to, as we say today, brand-building. If you can stand the exploding pop-ups and CSS, here’s a Daily Mail story about what she’s up to these days, now that she’s 70-ish. One of the subheads says so much: Between 1987 and 1991, she grabbed headlines with outlandish policy pledges. It would seem so. She offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein in return for peace in Iraq, for one. She married artist Jeff Koons, the guy who floated two basketballs in an aquarium and called it art, obviously a kindred spirit. And now she’s trying to get her ex-MP pension back, after it was reduced by two-thirds.

At the time, as an ignorant American, I recall reading a little more about how it happened – Staller’s career, that is. The upshot was that Italy is so deeply cynical about its politics that the idea of electing a porn actress who’s never going to get anything done, just dick around and make headlines, is seen as n.b.d.

And I think we’ve become Italy.

Look at the current crop of morons vying to become the next Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Cawthorn. I was keeping notes on them for a while, but have abandoned the effort. There are so many, most of them young and capable only of barking slogans into a camera while promising to go to Washington and fight the deep state.

Karoline Leavitt, in New Hampshire, called Black Lives Matter a Marxist terrorist organization. Graham Allen, in South Carolina, actually has the oldest cliché in reality TV in his pinned tweet: “I’m not going to DC to make friends.” And of course we can’t forget Caitlyn Jenner, the deeply unserious candidate for California governor, and yes I know she only got 1 percent in the recall vote, but still.

(However. If you have Netflix and are following the Untold series of sports docs, I can recommend the one on Bruce Jenner and his Olympic decathlon experience. I learned a lot about the decathlon, and despised Caitlin maybe 1 percent less afterward.)

Anyway, I think we’ve become Italy. These people are the Cicciolina of their time, treating the deadly serious work of guiding the nation as yet another reality TV show. If we’re not doomed outright, I think we’ve turned the corner to it.

Not that I wish to leave you with bummer thoughts! I’m looking forward to my future anyway — the next four weeks of it. Watch this space. I’ll try to make it worth your while.

Posted at 1:25 pm in Current events | 43 Comments

A frazzled frizzle.

Man, there is something about taking a piece of writing that is too long by half and trimming hundreds of words of fat from it. Sharpening focus, excising tangents, simplifying overlong sentences — you end your task thinking, man, this is better. You wish you could show readers what you started with. But the job of an editor is to be invisible, and so all I can do is leave behind this silver bullet, and…

…forgive me. My mind is awhirl with details and errands and crap, even though we’re well-organized for the upcoming trip. The to-do list is made and is being ticked off. Alan ordered some new books to read on the planes/trains. We upgraded our KN95 mask supply to fashionable black, because hey — Paris. But I’m still on the job, and we’re moving forward with a planned bathroom(s) rehab for later this fall, and the supplies are all being delivered – what supply-chain issues? – which is the long way of saying I just helped Alan carry six doors to the basement and then consulted with the writer I just trimmed.

A little scattered this morning. So how about a wee mixed grill?

** Who decided the hashtag for 9/11 anniversaries was #NeverForget, and why do I overwhelmingly see it on right-wingers’ social media? I mean, to paraphrase Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line,” did they think we maybe forgot? I don’t want to give these people any more, seeing as how they’ve already glommed onto the American flag, the word “patriot” and the once-essential, now-hives-inducing OK and thumbs-up gestures. They don’t get 9/11, too, no matter how many memes they hit the Share button on. As long as there are meme lords, there will always be a way for them to express their feelings, and it will probably feature a candle burning in a dark room.

** Unsatisfied with just one band to play in, Kate has hooked up with a second, although this is more casual. GiGi, another all-female lineup “dedicated to the power of anthems,” as their social media says. They played a quick five-song set (all they have right now) and they have a single/video, which you can watch here. It’s very…anthemic. The story of the song (and the genesis of the band) is in the notes on the video. If you watch carefully, you might see an old bag lady they dragged in from the street to add a little age diversity. We shot it last spring sometime. Here’s Saturday’s soiree, which was in Becky Tyner’s back yard in Detroit. It was fun — lotsa people. The deck made an imperfect stage for photography, but I did what I could.

** Finally, what is -core, to you? What sort of -core are you? The WashPost asks:

The spring of 2020 seems quaint in retrospect: We learned to knit, baked sourdough bread, solved puzzles and sewed handmade masks. Some people moved out of cities to get away from people, and spend more time in nature. This, we decided, was called “cottagecore” — performative cozy nesting, dried flowers, vintage aprons, a sense of optimism.

…And now? It’s still ramping up, but the new pandemic “core” is “goblincore.” Because that’s apparently where the summer surge has taken us. Goblincore is about pure fantasy and escaping humanity to live in the woods: Think homes filled with dark wood and plants, mossy colors, whimsical mushroom prints, earthen homes, tarot cards, extreme isolation, plenty of brown corduroy and tweed.

“All three of these movements are about trying to create an ideal,” says Ruth Page, who teaches English and linguistics at the University of Birmingham in England, “which is a way of comforting and alleviating the distress of the reality that is around us.”

I’m not sure which I am. Agingcore, maybe. OK, then, time to get this up before I lose every reader I have.

Posted at 12:19 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments

Twenty years gone.

I guess, since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of you-know-what, I should write something about that today.

But I don’t know that I want to. I grew up with “where were you when you heard the president had been shot,” and it’s been replaced by this tragedy, and few of the answers are all that interesting. I was in school. I was at work. I was in the subway. I was there. We all carry a little bit of that day in our hearts, and we all have our stories. Like most of daily life, they’re quotidian for the most part.

I remember the after-times. I once said that I forgive everyone in the world anything crazy they said from that date until…January 1. Bomb Afghanistan to glass? You said that? Fine with me. You said you were glad George Bush was in charge that day and not Al Gore? Sure, that’s OK, as long as you admit history has shall we say proven you wrong. And so on. After 9/11 came anthrax, remember. We saw news anchors flipping out on live TV. Maureen Dowd was howling for Cipro. It was a strange, scary time. You were permitted to be afraid.

All I want to remember this weekend is my own personal slideshow of moments. Like…we had digital cable installed that day, which necessitated turning the TV off for about half an hour while the guy worked on the pole outside. I could hardly stand it. When it came back on, I said THANK GOD or some such, and this incredibly mellow and chill cable guy glanced at the TV, shrugged and said, “Yeah. Crazy.” Like I’d been watching roller derby.

I remember the stupidity, the witless public statements, that no one was embarrassed to say out loud. A woman ahead of me in the Target checkout line went on and on about 9/11 and 911 as an emergency number, and wasn’t it obvious the attackers had chosen that day for that reason? The endless rumors, such transparent bullshit, repeated by people who should know better. Did you hear about the six firefighters who were found safe in the basement because they’d been in a sturdy full-size SUV that somehow stood up to having a building fall on it? Remember the photo of the guy standing on the World Trade Center observation deck while the plane zoomed in behind him? Professional debunkers had to take that one apart like the Zapruder film. The “speech made by the pilot on the first flight afterward” story? The advice to travelers? Pack a can of Spam in your carry-on, and throw chunks of it at the hijackers. Evidently they’d be repelled, like Kryptonite. And this was before social media. If Facebook had existed then, we’d still have our thumbs up our big dumb asses.

And the wars, oh my god. The marketing names alone. First it was Operation Infinite Justice, because we can’t just call a war a war anymore, but that was rejected because Muslims were offended or something, and so it became Operation Enduring Freedom. How’d that work out, everyone? Are the Afghans free? Is it enduring? How about us? In my brief period as a copy editor, I took sadistic pleasure in changing every reference in copy from the marketing name to “the Gulf war,” “the second Gulf war,” “the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan,” etc. Over the years, however, I’ve found it’s a pretty good marker for the sort of person I’m talking to/reading. “When I was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom…” is a signifier that you are not dealing with a straight shooter. Anyway, there have been so many Operation Windy Adjective Patriotic Nouns of late, it’s hard to remember which is which.

The fear. I remember that, too. Sitting in earshot of the police reporter on Friday afterward, listening to the calls on the scanner, one after another, all of which boiled down to: Swarthy Man spotted on my street. Maybe he was walking with another Swarthy Man. These calls were especially prevalent around the east-side neighborhood in Fort Wayne that contained a technical college favored by South Asians. Who are swarthy, by and large.

The newspapers and websites are full of tell-us-your-story stories, already. There are some pretty good ones, but most are about Plucky People Who Never Gave Up Hope, because that’s what we like, I guess. I think of the stories I’d like to read, and I think of …maybe this WashPost piece on the summer before that September. My current editor worked there then. He was on the Chandra Levy story, for weeks on end. Spent two weeks in Modesto, Calif., knocking on doors. What an amazing indulgence that would never, ever happen today. I would like to read a story aimed at young people, telling them all the things we now take for granted that we owe to 9/11: Surveillance cameras everywhere. Taking off your shoes to go through airport security. That sort of thing.

I think I’ll try to tune out as much as possible this weekend. I don’t need to relive it, I don’t want to relive it. The local firefighters will hang a big flag from a fully extended ladder truck over the main avenue through town, and I’ll probably pass under it in the course of my usual Saturday grind. I’ll keep my eyes front. These guys, by and large, weren’t there. Some of them were still in diapers. I hate sentimentality. Everything changed that day, and most of it wasn’t good. I see no need to get emotional about it.

So. Happy weekend to you? Last weekend before we leave (still assuming we leave, which is not at all certain). Weather’s supposed to be nice. I hope yours is good.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events, Media | 62 Comments

Eating with Sterling Cooper.

I’m a re- person. I like to reread books, rewatch movies, TV shows, all of that. I don’t wallow in the past, but when the pickings are slim, sometimes I’ll decide to rewatch “Mad Men,” and out of guilt for the indulgence I look for something different to pay attention to, critically.

This time? Food.

I often reflect on the difference in American meals over the course of my lifetime, how much richer, more varied, larger they was when I was a kid. I don’t need to tell you that, in my part of the Midwest, a salad used to be iceberg lettuce and a tomato the approximate flavor of cardboard. Dressing was made by Kraft. Vinaigrette was unheard of; if you were that kind of weirdo, a waitress would bring you twin cruets of salad oil and mystery vinegar.

You were there. You remember. Needless to say, it’s different now. In fact, food has emerged as the new religion, given outsize importance in American life. But “Mad Men,” with its famous attention to detail, is pretty close to how I remember ’60s food. It’s interesting to take note of.

First of all, the show takes place in New York, and as New York has always been, it was ahead of Columbus, Ohio. So, early on, when Don and Betty are in a hotel room, and she’s ordering room service, she asks for “crab meat in an avocado.” Crab meat was fancy food, but I don’t think I even knew what an avocado was until I was in college. The Drapers throw a fancy dinner party, and Betty is enormously proud of her trip-around-the-world menu, including “rumaki from Japan” (remember that) and gazpacho (nope). They go out to dinner, and the appetizer is a glass of tomato juice, served in a small glass in a small dish. Definitely remember that; it was standard in steakhouses into my college years.

There’s more. You want to know about the obesity problem? Look at the sandwiches dispensed from the coffee cart – they’re two pieces of standard grocery bread, and barely a filling. (Although everyone eats donuts and “buttered rolls” for breakfast in the office, and that doesn’t seem to show on anyone.) Don walks in the door on a summer night and Betty asks, “Hot or cold?” The choices: Swedish meatballs or chicken salad. Either one will serve for dinner, with Ritz crackers.

People just didn’t pay that much attention to what they ate, compared to today. But the classics then are classics today. Roger asks a waiter for “iceberg wedges with bleu cheese and bacon,” aka the wedge salad. Joy the lotus-eater tells Don about the Mexican food on his plate: “It’s a pepper, stuffed with cheese.” Chile rellano. Don drinks like a fish, but doesn’t eat very much, which made his choice of a late-night snack, corned beef hash with an egg, a little puzzling, but maybe that’s how he endures – fatty midnight meals to coat the stomach for all that drinking during the day.

The late-decade pivot to fast food comes when the firm guns for the Burger Chef account, a place I remember well – not exactly a regional chain, but it never caught on too widely. Didn’t they flame-broil their burgers? I liked them, although now I know the flavor probably came from a test tube. My mother worked full-time, unusual for our neighborhood, but fast food was a rare treat, saved for when my father was out of town on business. We preferred Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips.

Anyway, we’re in season three now, and I think I’m going to slow the pace a bit. I want to leave for France (fingers still crossed; pass sanitaire still hanging in the balance) with an empty stomach.

I leave you with what got me thinking of all this: A page from one of my mother’s most-used cookbooks (although we never had this). “The American Woman’s Cookbook” is a real time capsule, and I’ve enjoyed paging through it, if not actually cooking from it. It’s a reminder that grocery stores weren’t always lavish cathedrals of food, and sometimes you had to make a meal out of what you could get your hands on:

Happy Wednesday. May all work weeks be four days.

Posted at 8:48 am in Television | 44 Comments

A summer in photos.

It’s Labor Day, the traditional, not technical, end of summer. I feel like I should write something, but I already wrote a column today (not about Labor Day) and am feeling a little played out. So I went through my photos, and decided it wasn’t a bad season, not at all. Here’s a selection of these warm summer days, Memorial to Labor. I hope your season was as picturesque.

It started with a horse show, something I haven’t been to in ages. I was only a spectator, but it was interesting to see how they’re doing things these days. (Spoiler: All that’s really changed are the helmets. And everything is way more expensive, not that it was ever cheap.) This is a guy I used to take boxing classes with, riding in the schooling jumpers class:

Flashback to my June driveway dinner party. Lots of work, but lots of reward:

Outdoor Friday-night spritzes with Dustin at a new spot in Detroit. Typical post-industrial setting, typical curated wall art:

In early July, I went with my colleague Violet to what was billed as “the first political speech” by James Craig, who retired as chief of the Detroit P.D. to run for governor (although he hasn’t announced yet). Here he is demonstrating his support for the second amendment:

The story of the summer was the rain. Torrents of it, storm after storm, causing much misery and the usual idiot chin-scratching about what, huh, what could be causing these sorts of unprecedented rain events. This happened at least half a dozen times in two months or so:

This was the encore of Shadow Show’s first post-pandemic show. They ran offstage, quickly changed into (p)leather and came back to cover “Sharivari,” considered the first Detroit techno record, with a guest guitarist. A really fun time, and a great one for a bassist to show off:

Of course there was some sailing:

Wildfires out west, red sunrises here:

A late graduation party, poolside:

On to August, and a primary election. I worked it again. Criminally low turnout, but we left no ballot behind:

A rooftop Friday cocktail hour, and we lit the shabbos candles for Danny Fenster, now imprisoned in Myanmar for more than 100 days. If you know anyone on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a letter of support would be appreciated:

A pop-up show by Griz, an EDM artist who was launching his new cannabis brand. People who don’t live in states with legal weed are often amazed by how, shall we say, robust the market is here. Still, this was too many people too close together, and hardly anyone was masked. (It was brutally hot.) I got a Covid test five days later, just to be safe. (Negative.)

And finally we get to Labor Day weekend. The girls had a show at the Hamtramck festival, and I wandered off down Joseph Campau Street to get away from the crowd. Hamtramck was for years primarily a Polish community, and still is, in large part, although it’s now more diverse than the United Nations. This pocket park was built to honor Pope John Paul II:

May the Pope, wherever he is now, watch over our autumn, as we head into it.

Posted at 4:59 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 20 Comments

Taken for granted, no longer granted.

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than 50 years for the story around abortion to go from “Did you hear about X? I heard she was on the flight to New York” last Tuesday to driving your best friend to the clinic to putting your daughter/granddaughter/niece on a flight to New York. Legal abortion, nationwide, 1973-2021.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Privileged Woman version of abortion in the U.S., of course. The flight to New York out of Columbus was well-known in my suburban high school. It left early, which left you all day to visit the clinic, get the procedure, wait through recovery and get back to LaGuardia in time for the late-afternoon plane back home. I knew a few women — girls — who did that. A woman my sister’s age told me about her own pre-Roe abortion; it took place in a hotel room in Missouri, and it was awful, but it was as safe as a hotel-room abortion can be.

Then came Roe, and for a while we had three clinics in Columbus to choose from. The women I know preferred the one near Ohio State, for the protective coloring of blending in with a bunch of other college-age women. The peace and quiet didn’t last long, because once the anti-abortion movement got ramped up, you had to run a gantlet of screaming lunatics. Early in my career, you could call up a doctor you knew worked in a clinic, do an interview, and he wouldn’t have to worry about being shot in the head at church. That didn’t last long, either. By the time I got to Fort Wayne, those people feared for their lives, and why shouldn’t they? “Pro-life” activists shot up their clinic. So they stopped doing abortions at all (one was my own gynecologist) and left it all to the sad clinic downtown, with the circuit-riding doctor who came in from Illinois one day a week. Eventually, that clinic had to relocate, and then shut down.

Hoosiers, what was the name of that Operation Rescue guy? Wait, it’s coming back — Wendell Brane. As I recall, he and his wife suffered from secondary infertility, i.e., they had one child, but couldn’t conceive another. So did the main editorial writer at my newspaper who most often inveighed against abortion. His wife was a real piece of work; at a work party she whined to me about how unfair it was that this reporter and that editor were pregnant out of wedlock, but she couldn’t have a second. I thought of telling her the Lord works in mysterious ways, but just nodded and held my tongue.

Anyway, anecdotally I’ve noticed a lot of infertility issues among anti-choice activists: It’s not fair! They also believe that every woman who has an abortion spends the rest of her life In Quiet Mourning, waiting for her breast cancer to arrive. I’ve never had an abortion, and I can’t speak with certainty about anyone else’s interior life, but the ones I’ve known who seemed OK afterward. Mad at the men in their lives, who often behaved abominably, yes. But the idea that they weep for their lost little angel? Haven’t seen it, myself. (Miscarriages are another story, although even that varies wildly along a continuum of gestational age and religious devotion. I wonder if the serious Catholics who’ve miscarried ever ask themselves why God aborted their baby. Probably not.)

So this week Roe was effectively overturned. I mentioned above that I speak from the Privileged Woman’s perspective, and still do. If Kate or another young woman of my acquaintance needs this service, I’m fully prepared to buy — and able to buy — a plane ticket or drive across the bridge or whatever else I have to do to help them out. The unborn bay-beeeez (sorry, that’s always how I say it in my head) that will be born due to this will be born poor and disadvantaged, although maybe a lucky few will be adopted by Betsy DeVos types, at least as long as their mothers took good care of themselves through their pregnancies.

I expect Susan Collins is terribly, terribly disappointed in Brett Kavanaugh right now. Well, fuck her. Fuck them all.

If you’re looking for something to get a sense of what we’re up against now, I recommend “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always,” which you can probably find on a streaming service somewhere.

Why am I so low-level angry today? This is why. Also, at this:

OK, then. Tomorrow is Friday, and I think this will be the last one for the week for me. See you Sunday/Monday, and have a great weekend.

Posted at 1:37 pm in Current events | 53 Comments

Disappointed? Who, me?

Well, this is not good:

BRUSSELS — The European Union is set to advise member states that they should reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States, three E.U. officials said on Sunday, as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have surged in the U.S. in recent weeks.

Starting Monday, the officials said, the United States will be removed from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, will not be mandatory for member countries, and it will remain up to those countries to decide whether or not to impose them.

Not mandatory. So there’s a chance that…France, say, might decide to allow only vaccinated Americans in. So the lights aren’t out on our trip yet. But they’re growing dim.

Feeling smug about only booking places with generous cancellation policies. But very blue about missing beaujolais nouveau season in France. All fingers crossed.

I’m not here to whine, because holy shit New Orleans:

A slow-moving Hurricane Ida has left all of Orleans Parish customers without power due to “catastrophic transmission damage,” according to Entergy New Orleans.

The intense storm had caused all eight transmission lines into the New Orleans area to go down, spokesman Brandon Scardigli said in an emailed statement. That created a load imbalance that knocked all power generation in the region offline, Scardigli said.

A million people without power in not just one city, but an entire region. This is gonna get ugly. I’m not a big fan of nostalgia, but I’m recalling the aftermath of Katrina, and not just what happened, but how ugly and discordant the national discussion around it was: Sure it’s terrible what’s happening there, but they had the chance to leave and they didn’t, so? :::shrug::: But we’ve grown so much and learned so much since then, right? I’m sure it’ll be much better this time.

A steamy, oppressively hot weekend that ended with a banger of a thunderstorm. Alan was off fishing all weekend, and said his experience was the same, only a little cooler. He had to shelter from a huge one under some trees (yeah, I know) and actually bail his drift boat, because it was coming in so fast. We’ve had at least half a dozen, maybe 10, of these storms this summer. The most recent one before this was…Friday, I believe. A short one that cooled things off by maybe a degree or two until the sun came out and heated all that rainfall into steam. A friend and I stopped at a free techno show for a bit; the artist, an EDM musician, if turntables count as instruments, was launching his own weed brand and announced a pop-up show at the last minute. He threw free samples to the crowd and I marveled at our changing world.

However, I also marveled at the lack of masks, the close quarters (although still outside) and the flying sweat droplets. So we didn’t stay long. I’m booking a test on Wednesday, anyway.

The last storm broke the back of the heat, at least. Cooler today, then mid to high 70s the rest of the week. Ahh.

While we welcome Monday, let’s keep a good thought for Louisiana — the good parts, anyway.

Posted at 8:09 am in Current events, Detroit life | 67 Comments

There she went.

I see Alex posted the excerpt from the Miss America book in yesterday’s comments, about the year Vanessa Williams won. It’s very good; if you haven’t used up your WashPost clicks this month, I recommend you spend one on it.

I attended, and covered, the Miss A pageant the year before that. I always have had abysmal timing, but 1982 was the year Miss Ohio was a local girl, and that’s the year the paper decided to send me. I flew to Philadelphia and then took a puddle-jumper to A.C., and there I was, at Miss America.

And yes, you can hum those last six words in the tune of the famous song. But that year, and I believe Vanessa’s year as well, it was not sung as the newly crowned Miss A took her first walk. It had something to do with firing Bert Parks and maybe he had copyright? Can’t recall. But the song that year was called “Miss America, You’re Beautiful,” sung by Gary Collins, Parks’ replacement. It didn’t go over well, and a deal was struck with Parks and “There She Is” came back.

I’m sure I’ve told all these stories before, so I won’t bore you. But as far as Amy Argetsinger’s excellent history goes, she notes an old Texas pageant coach told his own charge, well before they arrived in Atlantic City, the following:

“Miss New York is going to win,” he said. “She will be the first Black Miss America.”

I don’t doubt it, because even I had heard that. It wasn’t that the fix was in, but rather, that the timing was right. Various parties had been pestering the pageant for years for its lily-whiteness and retro ideas about femininity, etc., and they were under the gun to show nuh-uh, they were so not racist, and along came Vanessa Williams, and she was…perfect. Black, unmistakably so, but light-skinned, blue-eyed, fine-featured, tawny hair. She was Black, but entirely in the Miss America mold. And she could sing, god, she could sing. Looked great in a swimsuit. The whole package.

After my year at the pageant, I would read anything I could find about it, and I saw an interview before the ’83 pageant with Debra Maffett, who had won the year I was there. Miss California, wore the famous Lucky Swimsuit, another one you could tell was going to be in the top five just by looking at her. And even she said, in that interview, that “the time was right for a black Miss America.” My point being: Vanessa Williams was someone everyone saw coming.

That was such a weird week, hanging backstage at the pageant, doing interviews with any Miss who would consent to one, and they all consented, knowing the worth of a little press. I was the same age they were, and yet, they were…so. So polished, so sparkly, so…not charismatic, more like packaged. No other woman my age wore her hair the way they did, unless she was a TV news anchor or something, curled and teased and sprayed into a helmet. None of my friends wore that much makeup. And none of my friends read Time magazine like Talmudic scholars read scripture, so they could drop an opinion on Israeli foreign policy on cue. They were weird. I am an outgoing person, but couldn’t imagine being friends with any of those creatures, except maybe Miss Florida, who came in a bad girl (DUI) and left one, too. You could see the real person inside, trying to escape. The rest held their own actual personalities in with shellack – polish, nail and otherwise, foundation, sequins.

It was an old trick, the day of the swimsuit photo shoots for the wire services, for one of the Misses to jump into the pool they were all posing around, knowing that picture would lead the photo package (and ruining one’s hairdo, so you were effectively excused from doing any more). Miss California did that. I looked her up today: She’s a Trumper, and I see hints of QAnon lurking around there.

Anyway, that would have been roughly 39 years ago, and Miss A is so different now…wait, didn’t the pageant go bankrupt? I can’t remember. But when I saw Miss Michigan at the auto show a few years back, she had a couple of visible tattoos. In her introduction, she was quite the little spark plug. And a women’s studies major. What a hoot.

Another 90 degree day. Considered going out in it? And thought better. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:00 pm in Popculch | 70 Comments

The busy reaper.

I think today’s post should be, in honor of all the people dying from Covid because they refused to get the vaccine? A roundup. Let’s begin in…Florida:

A Florida mom lost two sons to COVID-19 within 12 hours of each other after they failed to get vaccinated.

Lisa Brandon told News4Jax that she and her sons Aaron Jaggi, 35, and Free Jaggi, 41, who lived with her, got sick with COVID-19 in late July.

While Brandon got better, both of her sons got worse and had to be hospitalized and eventually put on ventilators after developing double pneumonia. Free died on August 12, followed by his brother just hours later on August 13.

Lisa, to her credit, had been vaccinated.

Phil Valentine, radio host who, well, you know:

Valentine had been a skeptic of coronavirus vaccines. But after he tested positive for COVID-19, and prior to his hospitalization, he told his listeners to consider, “If I get this COVID thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?” If so, he advised them to get vaccinated. He said he chose not to get vaccinated because he thought he probably wouldn’t die.

After Valentine was moved into a critical care unit, Mark Valentine said his brother regretted that “he wasn’t a more vocal advocate of the vaccination.”

This guy’s wife just died, but guess what he did?

A Republican legislator in Maine who lost his wife to COVID-19 last week appeared at a rally on Tuesday that featured a GOP colleague who compared the state’s Democratic governor to a Nazi doctor who performed deadly experiments on Jews during the Holocaust.

State Rep. Chris Johansen, who emerged in the early days of the pandemic as a fierce opponent of public health-related restrictions, joined a group of lawmakers at the event in Augusta. State Rep. Heidi Sampson delivered a speech to the crowd that baselessly accused Gov. Janet Mills, who has introduced a vaccine mandate for health-care workers, of operating a government campaign to test “experimental” vaccines on unknowing citizens.

Stephen Harmon, mocked vaccines? Died.

Texas GOP leader says vaccines don’t work? Died.

I was seeing these all weekend.

Here’s a video, where a central interviewee — spoiler alert! — dies. But not before saying he hasn’t been vaccinated because “I’m basically a libertarian,” even though there is absolutely nothing about being a libertarian that would preclude a person from being vaccinated. The video is actually really good; you should watch.

Besides watching the proudly unvaccinated drop like flies, it was a hot, steamy weekend and wasn’t good for much other than staying inside, so I read an old John D. McDonald book and a bunch of other things. How about you?

Posted at 9:06 pm in Current events | 48 Comments