I have a new plan for retirement: To live somewhere I can ride my bicycle 365 days a year (366 in leap years). I know this boils down to “a place that is unpleasantly hot for a large chunk of that time,” so the plan needs work. But few things make me happier, I realized yesterday, than saddling up for a quick trip to the butcher three blocks away. If only we hadn’t engineered modern life to do away with much of its moderate exercise; maybe the murder rate would be lower.
Detroit is a town that, like Los Angeles, was built to accommodate the automobile, and friends, it ain’t aging well. Every few months I feel the need to say this again, but it bears repeating: This is one ugly town. Not just the decimated city, but also its suburbs, and it’s at times like this I’m ever so glad we chose the Pointes, because it was platted before walking was seen as a sign of weakness, and at least we have the lake. There’s nothing like rolling out one of the big through avenues like Gratiot, six lanes or so, flowing fast and free because it’s at maybe 50 percent of its carrying capacity even at rush hour, while one ugly storefront after another goes past. How does anyone make a living in vacuum-cleaner repair, you wonder, when just finding your store means you have to buck traffic and hunt out a five-digit address that may or may not be on the building? You can almost mark the point, as you drive out from the core, when the idea of the strip mall took hold — a little more setback in return for easier parking out front, six little shops replaced by three larger anchors, if you can call a chain video store an anchor, plus the inevitable Lee Nails. (When was it decreed that all nail shops be run by Asians? How do these ethnic connections to market sectors get made? Is it the same group that says, “OK, Chaldeans — you got the party stores. Jews? Jewelry for you. Macedonians? I hope you like restaurants.” And so on.)
Urban planners point out the inevitable a lot (perhaps to disguise how often “planning” doesn’t got as, um, planned), and say the trend toward dense urban centers is real and has legs, and the sooner individual municipalities start accommodating it, the better. Walkable, bikeable, parking-out-of-sight — this is the future. Turns out people want to rub elbows with their fellow man, after all, preferably in a farmer’s market. We’ll see. But I sure like my bicycle. In about an hour I’m going out to make my cop-shop rounds on it — it’ll be two hours of mostly riding, covering 12 miles or so, work/workout all in one. This is living.
(It helps that people don’t expect reporters to be much more than sweaty and unpleasant.)
So how was your weekend? Mine was fine. We got the boat in the water on Saturday with no arguments or even much yelling, showing that it only takes a few years of practice to get the our routine down, plus the help of a couple of able souls at the marina. The lake is a foot higher this year, a happy turn of events that’s been in the news quite a bit of late. A new study by the International Joint Commission (a group virtually unknown outside the Great Lakes) says the drastically lower levels of recent years are a natural phenomenon, caused in part by ice jams that scoured the St. Clair River bottom — nature’s dredge, in other words. An interesting theory, but at this point all I care about it how nice it is to have a little more water out there.
And so boating season begins. At least four, effectively five, and as many as six months of sailing lies ahead. In other words, as much winter as I just bitched about. Life really is binary.
Bloggage? Not much, buth this:
One of Justice David Souter’s clerks reveals the man you don’t know in Slate, a man who would rather read by the last two foot-candles of winter light than turn on a lamp. Now I feel bad for having made fun of him:
Why would a man who can understand Grokster read by the window rather than turn on a light? Souter has a characteristic New England thriftiness and a distrust of luxury that verges on the spartan. He can keep a suit for decades, and he gently mocked me and my fellow clerks for wearing overcoats in the winter, claiming that his view was shared by that other great Yankee justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Souter is also deeply unpretentious. It would never occur to him that because he is a Supreme Court justice he’s entitled to waste a bit of the taxpayers’ electricity. (He once wrote me a note on a napkin I’d left on my desk rather than using a new sheet of paper.)
Souter’s current position on the left wing of the court owes much more to movement by the court and the country than to any lurch on his part. The current court, after all, has seven Republican appointees and has been on a steady rightward drift since the Reagan years. The Republican Party has, too. I think Souter is indeed in many ways a Republican; it’s just that his sort of Republican no longer really exists.
Remember those? I do. I miss ’em.
OK, off to edit my syllabus and fire up the NewsCycle. Have a great week, all.
ADDED: Because Brian brought it up last week — either here or in an e-mail, I don’t recall — an interview with Lenore Skenazy, who advocates off-leash child-rearing. Interesting.