“Low Winter Sun” just aired its third episode, and I am watching out of a sense of duty — it was shot here in Detroit, the story relocated here (from Britain, I understand), friends worked on the crews, etc. My tax dollars at work. I want it to succeed. So far? Not an unqualified success.
I do give Ernest Dickerson, who directed the first two episodes, a great deal of credit for finding the visual interest in the city. He gets the ruin thing, of course, but that’s not all he gets. The cameras have found some largely unseen (even by locals) corners, particularly down near the end of Alter Road, one of my favorite bike routes. He sees the way someone who’s been here a few times (but hasn’t been jaded to it all) sees, so I can’t complain about the look of the show or its setting.
What has bugged me are the local touches to the dialogue, all of which sound like they were gleaned from a one-sheet sent over from the Free Press features department. One character cuts down another, saying something like, “You haven’t gotten a thrill like that since you were 15 and got a
blow job hand job at the Dream Cruise,” truly a laugh line, as the Dream Cruise is attended almost exclusively by older people who generally have to plan for blow jobs hand jobs, with medication.
This week, there was an exchange about coneys. Detroit has two next-door neighbor coney islands in the middle of town, American and Lafayette, and allegedly there is a great tribal thing over which one you patronize. You know me, I’m just a tourist here, but I find both equally gross, and I keep waiting for someone to point this out in the many stories I’ve read about this great dividing line. (Interestingly, I have never, not once, heard a native express a preference for one over another, although they’re always doing so in newspaper and magazine stories. Whatever.)
I keep thinking about “The Wire,” in which the city of Baltimore was, as the critics like to say, a character in the story, and the difference between it and “Low Winter Sun.” I think it comes down to David Simon and his writing staff’s deep familiarity with the place. Simon, of course, worked as a police reporter there for years, and had a long embed with the homicide squad. That’s how you get wonderful details that became plot points and other great moments in the show — the Sunday truce, the exchange between the tourists and the stoop-sitting corner kids about the Poe House, and the two cops eating crabs in an interrogation room, one scooping out the guts with his fingers and reproving the other for being too much of a pussy to eat them.
It’s the difference between really knowing a city and only being here for the scenery and tax credits.
Last week on “Low Winter Sun,” one cop tells his partner that he took a woman “across the border, to Windsor.” No one would say that here; they’d just say Windsor, or across the border. Not both. That’s forgivable, though, because most non-Detroiters don’t know where Windsor is, and judging from how often the Canadian border is even left off locator maps in major newspapers, maybe we should be glad the line wasn’t, “I took her across the Canadian border, to Windsor, Ontario. That’s a province in Canada, Frank, not exactly equivalent to a state in the U.S. More a regional thing.”
I’m going to keep watching, because the show isn’t bad. I only wish they’d hire a local to read the scripts first. (I think I’m available.)
So, speaking of local weirdness, I was amazed by this story in today’s Freep, about a longtime political fixer — sort of a professional connector — suing a judge over an unpaid bill. The fixer, a woman named Jean West, brokers appearances by candidates running for office at local churches, senior centers and neighborhood groups. This was the part that hit me:
The 77-year-old plaintiff, a retired nurse who dived into politics after helping the first black woman get elected to Detroit’s City Council, called it a first. Never in her 43 years of working on campaigns had she ever gone unpaid, she said, despite her old-school methods.
When candidates seek her services, West brokers deals with a verbal contract and a handshake, promising to get them into as many Detroit churches as possible. And when she wants to get paid — her typical fee is $350 per week — the clients meet her in her backyard or at her dining room table and pay her, usually in cash.
No invoices. No formal contracts. She gets paid.
She’s suing for $3,500. Do you think the attention she’ll draw from the IRS will be worth that much?
Via Jeff the MM, one of those great Telegraph obits, of Col. Julian Fane, deceased at 92, a war hero:
On May 28 they received a message to make a break for it and head for Dunkirk. Fane, at the head of a small group of men, managed to slip away in the darkness. He was wounded in the arm by a mortar bomb as they scrambled through hedges and over ditches, guided by the flashes of guns on the coast and the light from burning farm houses.
At 3am they hid up in a barn and grabbed some sleep. During the day, the Germans arrived and the farmer climbed up a ladder and whispered to them to stay concealed under the straw. The next night, Fane and his men crept past an enemy bicycle patrol which was fast asleep under a hedge beside a towpath.
On June 2, after covering more than 20 miles of enemy-held country, he was standing in the doorway of a small terrace house close to the beach when a bomb fell nearby. The house collapsed and he was blown into the street.
His party reached Dunkirk in time to be evacuated back to England. Fane received the first of his MCs for his part in the fighting withdrawal.
Finally, I have nothing to say about a certain Disney pop tart a few years past her sell-by date, and her activities of the past couple of days, but before you write her off entirely, ask yourself whether this girl still lives inside her somewhere, and how she might be encouraged to reassert herself.
In the meantime, I just wish she’d put her damn tongue back in her mouth.