A passing thing.

Summer colds are the worst. There’s always a likelihood they will happen during the loveliest days of the season, meaning you’ll have the poisoned feeling of lying on your bed all day, too weak to do much more than watch “Mad Men” season-one episodes on your iPad, while the sun shines outside and the leaves wave in a gentle breeze.

On the other hand, why the hell not? It was a great season.

And now, as the weekend wanes and the forecast calls for Monday with a chance of Tuesday, I think the corner has been turned. Paid a bunch of bills and took a short, slow bike ride that didn’t reduce me to a puddle of snot, so evidently the rumors are true: These things aren’t fatal.

In the meantime, I love stories like this. A note from my old boss, Richard:

So I’m sitting in the passport office in the Northfield Township Office in Glenview, explaining to the supervisor why I can’t find a passpost I got more than 22 years ago. I mentioned I moved at least a dozen times since then and that it was in a box somewhere. I mentioned Fort Wayne among my moves.

“Fort Wayne?” she asked. “Do you know Nancy Nall?”

“I hired Nancy Nall,” I answered.

“I love her blog,” she responded.

She knew you weren’t feeling well yesterday and even asked about Kate.

In even more coincidental weirdness, it turns out the passport supervisor also worked with Richard’s wife at a cooks’ store in the Chicago suburbs. Her name’s Jill. Hi, Jill! Glad you met Richard. It’s a tiny little world, ain’t it?

A slow weekend, but there were some outings. Kate’s band played at a bar in Hamtramck. I love their neon; I tried to capture Kate outside and failed miserably, although I had a good time blowing this picture up huge and noting all the noir details:


The guy passing by, waving. The car parked at the curb has a Maine license plate The gas station in the background, where a beatdown was happening as we arrived. (Like good urbanites, we ignored it and hurried inside before the gunfire started. As Elmore Leonard once wrote, if it isn’t our business, it’s probably dope business, and dope business isn’t our business. Paraphrasing.) The light on the glass block above the door. The mysterious black spots on the sidewalk — are they petrified gum? How do they survive, year after year? And of course the model closed her eyes.

The neon got blown out because I metered off the street light. One of these days I’ll learn to take a decent picture.

And one of these days I’ll take some shots of the back yard, which is now more or less fully planted and operational. Later this week, maybe.

I also need to get cracking on my book project. Photos might be more common over the summer.

Hopping to bloggage, one thing my malady this weekend allowed for was to finish Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations.” It seems everyone needs to preface their remarks about it by saying “it’s really long,” and it is, but it’s not preposterously so — maybe 15,000 words, and well worth the hour or so it takes to read. His through-line is the story of African Americans in Chicago, and I don’t have much to add to Neil Steinberg’s thoughts, and he didn’t have much to add other than: read the thing. At least we owe this much:

Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

I didn’t join in the Maya Angelou mourning last week; I generally don’t get too upset when 86-year-olds leave the world behind. But I was delighted by this video of Dave Chappelle in conversation with her, and you might be, too.

Now off to, as Grantland calls it, fight night in Westeros. Have a good week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

36 responses to “A passing thing.”

  1. velvet goldmine said on June 2, 2014 at 1:24 am

    I also like this funny but fond SNL video — Maya as Maya.


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  2. Dexter said on June 2, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Definitely gum on the sidewalk. http://tinyurl.com/mcnfna9 I have a dim memory of an essay written by someone like George Plimpton on this topic years ago. Four years ago I did an experiment in this scientific field. I bought exactly 100 pieces of Bazooka bubble gum. For 100 nights I chewed a piece and at midnight or after, final dog walk, I spat it onto the street so as to eventually cover a large area in gum dots. They lasted three years, through snowplows. I bet I could find a lot of them tonight , I just betcha I could.

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  3. MarcG said on June 2, 2014 at 3:42 am

    Really great picture, Nancy. Kate closing her eyes makes it even better. I listened to a couple of their songs, I bet they would be superstars in Finland!

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  4. Jill said on June 2, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Adding just a little to Richard’s small world story: He mentioned having been an editor in Fort Wayne. I don’t just ask random people from there if they know you; the newspaper connection made me think he might. Anyway, it was fun meeting him and making the connections. He’d mentioned having his Kindle with him and it’s usually rewarding to strike up a conversation with someone who loves reading that much. There’s always something to talk about.

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  5. coozledad said on June 2, 2014 at 7:17 am

    One of the the reasons the reparations argument elicits the question “who pays” is because we know damn well who pays: the corporate, political and government entities who have benefited directly from the system of slavery and its euphemistic descendants.

    A lot of the infrastructure the slaves built, in many cases designed and built is still standing in the south. Washington DC? The Capitol building? Slave built. Transfer the titles of those structures to those what built them. And remember, it’s heritage, not hate.

    OT, but I understand the Republicans have a problem with supporting the troops. Particularly prisoners of war who might not share their opinions, or whose parents might be resentful that Commander Pissbritches’ War took their child. Or they’re pissed because Obama didn’t sell arms in exchange for the prisoner and funnel the money to the Russian freedom fighters in Crimea or some shit cause that’s how old Prion Ron woulda done it.

    I always knew those “support the troops” stickers translated to You are being passed by a vehicle whose owner is a poor genetic relation of the species. Slow down before its dumb ass plows into another car out of sheer stupidity and involves you in an accident.*

    *This message brought to you by mouthbreathing jingo protohominids of the shit-end of the late imperialist American fuckstick.

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  6. Julie Robinson said on June 2, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Imagine the scenario if the R’s had learned that Obama had a chance to free Bowe Bergdahl but hadn’t because it would have been negotiating with terrorists. Their fury isn’t about principles; they’re just pissed that Obama’s had yet another win.

    Remember that fun government shutdown the R’s sponsored last fall? If you were a veteran applying for a mortgage, you lost the house you wanted to buy because of the delay, and when you decided to try again you had to start the whole process over again from square one. This happened to a classmate of our son. Support our troops indeed.

    On a happier note, like Jill I love to ask what people are reading. I just finished listening to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which was an unexpected surprise. It was narrated by the marvelous actor Jim Broadbent, and if ever a narration evoked a movie, this was it. I’d produce it tomorrow if I had the resources.

    Busy day today but I’ll check back tonight to see if anyone else has book recommendations to pass along. Jill?

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  7. Suzanne said on June 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I just finished “Family Life” by Akhil Sharma, about an Indian immigrant family who face tragedy in the new world but, as life goes, manage. I enjoyed it very much!

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  8. Jill said on June 2, 2014 at 8:50 am

    In an unfortunate computer mishap I lost my reading lists from the last couple of years so I can’t look through them for recommendations. This year I read One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf, a novel about a small town in Iowa in the midst of a crisis. Each chapter is written from a different point of view. For non-fiction, I just read Bloodhound in Blue, the story of Utah’s first bloodhound K-9 officer. It was fascinating and had some very funny scenes. Turns out bad guys don’t like being bayed at by bloodhounds.

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  9. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Ebony and Ivy –

    a troubling book that brightly underscores Cooz’s point about reparations above, and expands upon it

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  10. Connie said on June 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I just read The Storied Life of AJ Filkry by Gabrielle Zevin and loved it.

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  11. Deborah said on June 2, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Julie, have you read anything by Junot Diaz? As I said here before I’m on an Alice Munro kick, right now reading “Open Secrets”, the last of the four or five I was able to buy in hardback. I’m at Midway waiting for my flight to NM and I’m insanely early so plenty of time to read. I used my iPhone boarding pass through TSA and had no problem. I also had pre-check or whatever they call it. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or remove my laptop or toiletries. How do they decide who gets that? Is it random? This is the second time I’ve had it.

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  12. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Sounds like you’re being (positively) profiled

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  13. Judybusy said on June 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Jill, I used to keep a word document of books read, but began using Goodreads a couple years ago. I don’t necessarily like that my reviews and notes are public, but they’re so basic and obviously for my own needs (“I gave this a try after so-and-so recommended it…”) that people mostly ignore them. I really like that it’s online and so I can access it anywhere.

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  14. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 11:33 am

    This Bo Berdahl thing is going to get much uglier before it gets better.


    Imagine being a flag-waving rah-rah “I support the troops” Obama-hating, evangelical Gawd-fearing cluck.

    Do you forgive this guy his trespasses (if any); this soldier who, whatever else he did, volunteered and went into harm’s way?

    Is he unforgiveable, even after 5 years of God-knows-what, at the hands of a hostile force?

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  15. Scout said on June 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I am reading Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, by Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of the current grand poobah. It is one of those books that will not let you put it down. I started it yesterday morning and finally had to turn off the light and sleep if I wanted to function at work today. I have a couple chapters left and will finish it tonight. I knew it (Scientology) was fukked up, but damn, it is as bad as you could imagine and worse.

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  16. MichaelG said on June 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I just picked up ‘Tatiana’ the latest novel by Martin Cruz Smith. It’s set in Kaliningrad, Russia which is situated in a little disconnected part of Russia on the Baltic in a corner between Lithuania and Poland. I never knew about this little sliver of Russia which is a couple of hundred miles from the main part of the country. Live and learn.


    Deborah, that express lane at airports started up six or eight months ago. As far as I know it’s a frequent flyer thing and I was able to take advantage of it the last few months I was travelling. Great, isn’t it?

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  17. MichaelG said on June 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Whatever, there certainly appear to be serious questions about the circumstances surrounding Bowe Bergdahl’s falling into Taliban custody. I am sure those questions are being explored vigorously in Landstuhl even as we speak as Sgt. Bergdahl is “debriefed”.

    You pose good questions, Brian, but I think they will have to wait a while for answers. I am sure there will be several opposing opinions expressed.

    Very cute picture, Nance. Kate is very charming.

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  18. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Meanwhile, the Fox News website is main-streaming the blazing headline “Taliban Dream Team” – regarding the five chuckleheads we traded for our soldier –

    thereby sealing the “Obama is a treasonous darky” narrative while also injecting a slightly more subtle bit of racism (smirk smirk these 5 guys look like an NBA team)

    Actually, I think the 5 Taliban guys look like Duck Dynasty cousins

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  19. Charlotte said on June 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I just finished Julia Glass’s new novel “And the Dark, Sacred Night” — which I quite liked. Reading Lorrie Moore’s latest now, “Bark” — dark, and her one-liners are still to die for. Both of those courtesy of the Livingston Library (it was such a long winter the shelves were actually picked bare!). Also just finished “During the Reign of the Queen of Persia” by Joan Chase which I quite enjoyed — thought of all of you since it’s set in Ohio — a New York Review of Books paperback. A couple of times a year I go cruise their site and buy a half dozen or so books — beautifully designed, and I’ve never been let down. And if you haven’t, there’s a reason everyone’s raving about Stoner, by John Williams, also NYRB. Lovely and heartbreaking.

    I was baffled by the critical success of “The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison, which everyone was raving about at the big AWP conference this winter. I found it unreadable, and … callow? And yet, the great reviews pile up and I can’t help wonder if I’m really that out of it …

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  20. Jeff Borden said on June 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you, Brian, for noting how much the fauxbilly Robertsons resemble Taliban followers. Actually, I’m going to guess the Taliban are better dressed and groomed.

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  21. Kirk said on June 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Taliban boys might speak better English, too.

    I’m a devoted non-fiction fan. Among a few good ones I’ve finished in the past few months: Wil Haygood’s biography of Sugar Ray Robinson, Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra and Jeffrey Frank’s “Ike & Dick,” an excellent look at the strange relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon that almost makes you feel kind of sorry for poor old Dick.

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  22. Sherri said on June 2, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    My most recent non-fiction was Michael Lewis’ “Flash Boys”, pretty good, though if you’ve read the NYTimes excerpt, you’ve pretty much got the gist. In genre fiction, I read the 4 books (so far) of Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman Saga, a science fiction series that at first glance looks like sword and sorcery fantasy but really, really isn’t, and Jo Walton’s “My Real Children”, a sort of “Sliding Doors” style personal alternate history (which was very poignant; Walton is one of my favorite writers.) I also read Olen Steinhauer’s “The Cairo Affair”; I like his spy thrillers. In more literary fiction, I’m currently reading Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”, which somehow I’ve never read.

    Westeros was a particularly gory place last night, even considering the usual level of gore.

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  23. Deborah said on June 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I’ve made it to NM, waiting for the shuttle to take me to Santa Fe. I wish I could take the train called the Railrunner but I’ve only been able to do it once because the timing never works out. The train only costs $4 (senior rate) while the shuttle costs $28 plus tip. I have taken to calling it the shittle. By the way my iPhone boarding pass got me on the plane, no problem.

    Nancy, that’s a cute picture of Kate.

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  24. Julie Robinson said on June 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you all; many new books to add to the list. And now, a confession: I recently reread The Bridges of Madison County, and it stank just as much as the first time. I was listening to the recently closed Broadway show’s recording, and the music was so beautiful I wanted to immerse myself. Stick to the music, stay away from the book. But you knew that, right?

    You can just see the R’s trying to find a way to blame Bergdahl on Hillary. She was Sec of State when he went AWOL/lagged behind and was captured/whatever really happened, so naturally it’s because of her.

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  25. jcburns said on June 2, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I think Kate’s vermillion iDevice really makes her outfit. GREAT picture, Nance.

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  26. Julie Robinson said on June 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Deborah, I used a phone boarding pass but printed it out anyway like you, the belt and suspender approach. I was worried about dropping the phone though. I think I’ll print them out when I have access to a printer but not worry if I don’t.

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  27. Hattie said on June 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    The think about Maya Angelou is that she was unique. She has no successors.
    I do like that photo a lot!
    And see how famous you are! You have several fans in Hawaii, even!

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  28. Hattie said on June 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    God. Thing. Looks like I can’t revise my comments on your blog any more.

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  29. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    That IS a tremendous photograph. It passes the most important test:

    30 years from now, when she comes across that image, it will evoke vivid memories of where she was at that precise moment.

    btw – a semi-non sequitur: watched bits of the Indycar races (apparently they ran both Saturday and Sunday) at Belle Isle.

    It looked like Detroit was having as glorious a weekend (weather-wise) as we were; and Belle Isle looked beautiful on the aerial shots, as did the Detroit River and the boats and the skyline…I could see why that one maroon wanted to take Belle Isle and secede from Michigan (although he had already seceded from reality)

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  30. adrianne said on June 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    It’s long, but compelling: “Five Days at Memorial” by Sheryl Fink on the desperate days after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and how some patients trapped at Memorial Medical Center were essentially put to death by medical staff.

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  31. brian stouder said on June 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Speaking of secession – there’s this passage from the lead of the CNN story on the POW that we are not leaving behind:

    While the Idaho man’s friends and family and the Obama administration are hailing his release, the deal that set him free is getting heat from critics who say Bergdahl is a traitor who cost American lives and those who say the deal could cost American lives in the future.

    By that logic, how can anyone venerate Bobby Lee or fly the Stars and Bars – the leader and the symbol of the most traitorous impulse in United States history?

    Why do we have so many United States military installations named after traitors like Bragg and Hood and Lee and Benning?

    Real, blood-soaked, to-the-death traitors, responsible for more loyal American soldiers’ deaths than all other enemies the United States has ever fought, combined?

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  32. Heather said on June 2, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I attended a book publishing workshop the year The Bridges of Madison County came out and well I remember all the lamentations about how book publishing was ruined by this type of claptrap. Little did they know what was coming! And yet literature survives. Writers get poorer and poorer, but it survives.

    Deborah, I love Junot Diaz. My favorite is “Drown,” the collection of short stories, and my least favorite is actually the one he won the Pulitzer for, “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”–not that it wasn’t well-done or enjoyable, just a personal preference. You can’t go wrong with him, really.

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  33. Jill said on June 2, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks for the Goodreads idea, Judybusy. I haven’t posted there because I don’t like doing reviews but your method sounds like it’ll work for me.

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  34. basset said on June 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Never was able to bring myself to even start “Bridges.” I understand it inspired a lot of men to become gentleman-angler fly “fishers,” though, and for that it deserves to be burned in gasoline-soaked heaps on courthouse plazas across the nation. Would have to be top-grade imported English petrol, though, with kindling of hand-planed, artisanally rubbed and lacquered split bamboo.

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  35. basset said on June 2, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    A little heavy on the “thoughs” tonight… where’s that edit button…

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  36. Dexter said on June 3, 2014 at 12:00 am

    brian, that’s a helluva good point. Bergdahl , by his platoon’s medic’s assertion, deserted his platoon with a bottle of water and a compass in a pre-planned maneuver of desertion. Two of the company’s men were killed trying to find him and four more injured badly.
    What the hell is Obama calling him a hero for doing? This story is wack.

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