Sorry for taking the day off. Had an early appointment in Detroit Wednesday morning, a day that promised to be brutally hot (and delivered), with an ozone alert to boot. Curtail your driving, the radio warned. So I took the long way home.
It might have been an environmental misdemeanor, but until you’ve worked at home, you don’t know how important it is to just get the hell out of the house once in a while. I followed Woodward to Jefferson and took a lap of Belle Isle, which is being readied for the Indy Grand Prix Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure what the exact course is, but if it’s what I think, there’s one sharp turn pretty near the water, and I wondered what the chances of a spin-out ending up in the river might be. That would be so awesome.
But mostly I looked at the landscape. We’re deep in the Big Dry now — haven’t had a significant rain in weeks and weeks. A shower here, some drops there, but little more than that. It’s making everything look tired and zapped. In Grosse Pointe, people water constantly, even the median strips are sprinklered, so it’s still fairly lush, but in Detroit, not so. In the car with Kate, I’ve taken to pointing out dead trees — the emerald ash borer continues its sawdusty reign of terror — and they’re more common than P.T. Bruisers. Especially in Detroit, where they can’t keep up with removing dead buildings, let alone dead trees. (Wait until we finally do get a thunderstorm, and they come down on power lines.) One of the many incongruous sights in this city is a profusion of green growing over a crumbling ruin, like the “ghetto palms” that sprout on roofs and through cracks in pavement. It seems to make a statement about the implacability of nature and the impermanence of everything else, but when nature can’t keep up anymore, it’s sort of creepy.
Today will be hotter, we’re told. Oh, I can’t wait to see my electric bill this month.
Last night was taken by the tragedy in Minneapolis. Whenever there’s a breaking story like this, the first thing the over-cabled household does is look for the channel with the least offensive anchor presiding over it all. CNN had Paula Zahn, whose passive-aggressive style requires her to mention children on that school bus seen “with blood on their faces” and no other explanation. So I switched to MSNBC. Keith Olbermann can be insufferable in many contexts, but I liked him doing breaking news; he prefaced every fact with a million caveats — this just in, unverified, we don’t know if this is true, chaotic information streams, etc. Given how much of breaking-news info turns out to be b.s., it’s nice to hear a little honesty. One other thing: Olbermann has a command of the English language that’s getting rarer every day. Yesterday I heard a radio host speak of “accolations” instead of “accolades,” and of a body being “interned,” rather than “interred.” One of the bridge-collapse witnesses said he’d crossed the span moments before, “and that’s too close to call.” Of course he was upset, but he meant to say “too close for comfort.” I don’t blame the guy for flubbing the common expression, but does it have to go on the newspaper website?
(Note to non-journalists: You fix that by lopping the last two words — “…and that’s too close.” The quote is still accurate, and it makes more sense. Or you don’t use the quote.)
It’s unseemly to quibble like this when there’s been a tragedy of such magnitude. As I write this, it’s nine confirmed dead and 20 missing, which suggests the final death toll will be around 30. Just an average day in Baghdad. And a final note: Much of the early TV coverage concerned the children on the school bus, and rightly so. We’re hard-wired to protect children; they are, as the great philosopher Whitney Houston tells us, the future. That’s one reason I was so stunned to learn that, in actuarial terms, the death of a child is nothing much. I learned this from a man who’d had a child drown at his summer camp, and participated in the wrongful-death settlement. Kids, for all their innocence and potential, for the injustice of having them taken from us, for the devastating pain it causes their survivors, the insurance companies don’t really pay a lot for them. Their father or mother, yes, especially if they’re sole support of a family. But you don’t pay for potential. This is the market at work.
I read the Daily Telegraph every day. How did I miss this? Fifty must-watch web videos. They’re a tad Brit-centric, but the must-sees of all this TV are David Attenborough’s lyre bird segment and, of course, the Mike Tyson montage. God, that guy was an animal. I don’t know why more of his opponents didn’t just shit their pants and faint at the sound of the bell.
A nice deconstruction of yet another legacy of the Bush family, Clarence Thomas. It concerns his legal arguments, not his video-rental habits.
Roy has a cold, too, but it didn’t stop him from appreciating the most recent 6,000-word geyser of crap from Camille Paglia. This one’s a gem. Read.
Off to stare at the punishing sun and mutter.