Saturday night fire.

So a few days ago a Facebook event floated through my timeline. It was for a massive Christmas-tree fire at a park in Detroit on the Grosse Pointe border. It was said to be an “unofficial fundraiser” for the Detroit fire department. You didn’t have to bring a tree, but you were encouraged to drop a few bucks into the bucket. Alan is trying to get over a persistent cold before his hell week commences (auto show), so I figured I’d stop by, see the sights and come home.

I arrived to find a couple hundred people milling around a medium-size pile of Christmas trees, and not one firefighter in evidence. Nor a bucket, nor any sense of organization. The stated time for the ignition came and went, and a rumor began to spread through the crowd: It was called off. Something about the fire marshall (not that a fire marshall was anywhere around, either). How did anyone know this? Who knows? It’s a bunch of people walking around in the freezing dark, waiting for a fire to start.

So someone started the fire.


I went to a Christmas-tree fire last winter, but it was held later in the month, so the trees had longer to dry out and went up like matchsticks. These trees took a little longer to catch, but pretty soon we had a pretty good inferno going.


At least one person had speakers in the bed of a pickup, and of course they were playing Motown, because this is Detroit, so soon it was a Detroit party with a big fire and a wind like a knife (18 degrees and a flag-snapping breeze) and everybody drinking and Stevie Wonder singing “Uptight” and hey, Saturday night. I looked out to the road, and who was arriving? The fire department. With lights, but no sirens.

There’s no big climax to this story. The firefighters approached, chatted with a few people, looked around and said, “I guess we’ll be leaving, then.”

I asked one where the bucket was. “What bucket?” “There’s no fundraiser?” “Huh?”


And with that, the big engine turned around, a few people applauded, and I went back to the car. It was very cold.

I got a new phone recently, and I’m pleased with the camera. One short sub-resolution this year is to learn to take better phone pictures. That’s not bad for point-and-shoot.

So now it’s auto-show week, which culminates in the car prom. I have a dress that makes me look like a desperate old tart and borrowed some swingy earrings. And all I can think is: I hope I don’t get Alan’s ghastly cold.

I don’t think I even have any bloggage. Maybe you do? Let’s hope for a great week ahead.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life |

52 responses to “Saturday night fire.”

  1. Dexter said on January 12, 2015 at 1:09 am

    How timely is your blog topic for me. I am watching “Four Brothers”, a movie directed by John Singleton and filmed in Detroit 10 winters ago. It’s about as “pure D” as it gets, with plenty of Motown (shown spun on a turntable from 45 rpm singles, those records with the star and the Detroit/Michigan map on the label.) Lots of scenery and landmarks, of course the old depot, Cass Tech high school, and as much decay as shown on a PBS documentary or imagined from a Detroitblogger column in The Freep. As I was reading here, I imagined the fire to be near where the mowing crew volunteers cleaned up a park and still mow in the summer, I assume.
    WJR-AM sent Frank Beckmann to Las Vegas for the tech convention…it seemed like he was there as he interviewed people, but maybe he was just doing phoners…anyway I thought “please keep him out there and let a guest-host do his show during Detroit Auto Show.” I feel about Beckmann the way most of you folks feel about Albom. Beckmann is much worse by the way…hateful, full-of-himself blowhard, ultra conservative asshole.
    It warmed a bit outside and I finally cleaned out the Pontiac van and in a few hours, if the buyer is at work, I will be driving to the auto salvage yard and selling it for junk. Making room for the new aluminum Ford F-150, doncha know? Yep, that and a new Mercedes sedan, sure. 🙂

    1366 chars

  2. Dexter said on January 12, 2015 at 1:37 am

    A Motown 45 rpm record.

    96 chars

  3. Basset said on January 12, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Desperate old tarts can be fun, go with it. No tree fires here, we pile em up in the city parks and they get ground up for trail covering.

    139 chars

  4. adrianne said on January 12, 2015 at 6:51 am

    New Paltz had a Christmas tree fire this past weekend, but it was under the supervision of the fire department (my nephew, a SUNY New Paltz student, is a volunteer, but he’s still home on break so he didn’t get to partake). They did it in the afternoon? Where’s the fun in that, I tell you. I think I prefer the D’s approach. Motown and mayhem, baby!

    350 chars

  5. brian stouder said on January 12, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I’m still stuck in the swingy….earrings

    41 chars

  6. alex said on January 12, 2015 at 9:47 am

    The killer cold from hell. I had it several weeks ago. My mom has it now. (She didn’t get it from me.) Awful stuff. The symptoms hang on for about three weeks. I almost never use decongestants and cough suppressants but couldn’t function without them this time around. Hope Alan’s past the contagious stage, which is probably only the first day or two of it.

    358 chars

  7. Julie Robinson said on January 12, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I’m on day 11 or 12, no fever, but combined with the weather, it’s dragging me down. Too much work, too much cold & snow, too little sun…whine, whine.

    Just read all the Orlando/Disney comments. Both our kids now live in Orlando proper, ie the old part, which has lots of sidewalks AND lots of pedestrian deaths. Son is riding a bike path to work, which is a huge relief to me.

    Our daughter has bought the yearly passes to both sets of parks and is enjoying showing visitors around. Usually when we go the hubby ends up at one or the other for a day. Me, I’m over the whole theme park thing, and would much rather have a day in the sun, reading and listening to music. Now that’s a vacation.

    702 chars

  8. Dorothy said on January 12, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Instead of a big fire, I prefer the idea of donating old Christmas trees to the zoo. Did anyone else see this a week or so ago? Who knew, indeed?

    244 chars

  9. brian stouder said on January 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Dorothy, kitty cats with Christmas trees brings back a memory from when my age was still single-digits.

    Short version: a friend’s cat always played with the Christmas tree, and tinsel found its way through the kitty’s digestive system…and needed external assistance to complete the journey

    294 chars

  10. Hattie said on January 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I can’t believe how good those photos are.

    42 chars

  11. Charlotte said on January 12, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I cut all the branches off my tree and use them for winter mulch in the garden. Helps that mine’s a wild tree so I don’t have to worry about weird tree-farm chemicals though … I think they compost ours around here, and Walleyes Unlimited collects them from towns up near the big reservoirs to use for fish habitat. No one would burn them in big piles like that though — we all live in terror of forest fires as it is.

    420 chars

  12. coozledad said on January 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    One way to stop the rise of all violent fundamentalisms would be to give the world court police authority as well as the power to extradite wacky “people of the book”, plus warped Hindus and Buddhists. China might be willing to construct a massive detention center in the Gobi desert at exorbitant costs, to make sure every Ravening fundie Muslim gets a ravening Christianist cellmate, or one of Netanyahu’s twitchy West Bank real estate brokers.

    Another way would be for people to stop listening to absolute shitheads like David Brooks. Why is that pathologically stupid numbnuts on the TV? Why is Chuck Todd?

    723 chars

  13. beb said on January 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Having people say outrageous things on TV (Brooks, Ann Coulter,etc) is a feature not a bug of our libellous media. Likewise toadying to the rich and power (Todd) is a feature not a bug.

    I fondly remember some brush fires we had at my Dad’s. Controlled burns of trash. It was oddly exciting, There must be something in our DNA that makes people attracted to fire.

    366 chars

  14. Julie Robinson said on January 12, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    We lived in the country and didn’t have any trash pickup so we used a burn barrel. Pretty sure I worked all my pyromaniac tendencies out while “helping”. Woo-hee, that was fun.

    176 chars

  15. Dexter said on January 12, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    When I was a small boy my parents rented a farm house on a working dairy farm and the neighbors had a field with a lot of brush which they cleared and piled into three huge piles as big as a house, each one. They let it dry all summer and around Halloween they doused all three with kerosene and torched them. No fire department, just a lot of folks hanging around and taking it the triple burns.
    As a adult I attended one memorable bonfire, oh boy was it ever. It was thirty years ago, a pig roast in the afternoon, unlimited booze and a kegger flowing, rural area just outside Auburn, Indiana, no kids, it was just men and women having a ball. A preplanned bonfire was already planned, brush and a load of stumps one of the men hauled in, and the fire was lighted on the foundation of a long-ago large out-building.
    The whiskey became the conductor of this show. A couple very drunken celebrants began chucking anything that was loose into the inferno. The host was cool as he calmed down the wild ones, but then a really big drunk grabbed up a really nice wooden outdoor lounge-type chair and flung it into the fire. Somebody grabbed a rake and salvaged it…later I found out it had been repainted and was still usable…but that was my sign that it was time to mosey on outta there, fire at its apex in the sky.

    1327 chars

  16. MichaelG said on January 12, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I can’t believe the US didn’t have a representative at the Paris march. That’s inexcusable.

    92 chars

  17. brian stouder said on January 12, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    MichaelG – agreed.

    Especially given that our AG was in the country.

    70 chars

  18. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    The U.S. ambassador to France was there and some other State Department representatives, but, I see the point. I don’t think they understood how big of a deal the march was going to be until it happened. In fact, I don’t think the organizers understood that either.

    The French ambassador to the U.S. was on MSNBC today saying very explicitly that they were not offended. (Of course, he has to say that, but he seemed quite sincere.) Obama did, twice, say publicly that the U.S. mourns with the French and stands with them in the fight against terrorism, and he visited the French embassy in Washington to sign a book of condolences last week. Also, John Kerry spoke quite eloquently about what had happened, in French, earlier in the week. Kerry was, by the way, in India yesterday for long-planned meetings. To be in Paris, he’d have had to insult the Indians, who, by the way, didn’t have a representative there either. Neither did Canada or Australia, who both recently experienced terrorist attacks.

    Without meaning to be too defensive, it’s worth thinking about the importance of being in the March versus what the U.S. has done and is doing to support the security and liberty of France. I’m sure President Hollande and most French citizens would sacrifice an appearance at the march for the cooperation of US. intelligence and security agencies, not to mention decades of protection under NATO.

    That said, VP Biden should have gone, and Josh Earnest, WH press secretary, pretty much said so today.

    While regretting that

    1541 chars

  19. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Also worth noting that some of the countries who did send leaders to the march–Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Bahrain, and Qatar, for starters–are not exactly known for their commitment to freedom of the press. Just last week, Saudi Arabia flogged a blogger for insulting Islam.

    The U.S. isn’t perfect on freedom of the press, but it’s ahead of much of the competition.

    470 chars

  20. Charlotte said on January 12, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    It was a photo-op, they weren’t at the head of the march at all. Digby has the wide-angle shot:

    But Kerry should have been there at the very least …

    261 chars

  21. Deborah said on January 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I read something about the security detail that would have been necessary if Obama or Biden had attended the march in Paris, it would have been obstructive to others marching. To be outside, with a million people about would have required amazing security preplanning. Not that it wouldn’t have made a great photo if they had been there. The cost would have set the right-wingers off if nothing else. No matter what they do they’re damned.

    Today was a “get organized” day, actually yesterday was too, I did my bedroom closet yesterday and today we got some new shelves for our wire shelving system and started reorganizing the kitchen. Tomorrow we should have the kitchen finished.

    We took a walk this morning looking for a new place in town called Barrio Brinery, they only sell pickles and fermented items, turns out it was closed because it’s so popular they ran out of stock. Imagine that. I had no idea pickles were such crowd pleasers.

    948 chars

  22. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Pickles are, apparently, a cool thing these days. Pretty funny to think that the skills of farm wives are now the basis of hipster businesses. See Brooklyn Brine, which has several times been mentioned in the NYT.

    268 chars

  23. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Some time ago, I read an article saying that presidential travel typically involves about 500 people, including WH staff and security personnel. I couldn’t find that specific piece, but did find an interesting piece re Obama’s 2013 trip to Africa. When you see what they plan for, you can see where that number comes from. This sort of security overkill is not unlike what we’ve put up with in air travel since 9/11–the piling on of security measures to insure that the ass of any potentially responsible actor is covered.

    712 chars

  24. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    More than a little nauseating to see these Republicans haranguing Obama for not supporting our allies when they spent much of the previous decade eating freedom fries and calling the French cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

    472 chars

  25. MichaelG said on January 12, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Of course the US Ambassador was there. That’s his post. He’s always there. The G’ment should have known how big the deal was. Everybody else in the world did. Lord knows they have enough analysts, entrail pokers, tea leaf readers and the rest. Of course all those people said what they had to say. Of course we are going to provide intelligence (assuming we have any). I’m not sure it’s time yet for us to take our diplomatic cues from India. Bottom line is that the whole thing was symbolic, a matter of showing up. That’s all, just showing up. And we didn’t show up. The US has hosts of geniuses on staff. They could have worked the logistics. Everybody else did. Including the Israelis. Not our finest hour. We blew it.

    755 chars

  26. Jolene said on January 12, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve read several articles saying that Hollande didn’t want either Netanyahu or Abbas to come because he wanted to keep the always hot Israeli-Palestnian conflict out of it, but Netanyahu insisted. Hence, Abbas was hastily invited.

    On Twitter, James Fallows said that, since 1963, it has been policy for U.S. presidents not to appear at large, outdoor, public gatherings where people cannot be screened by, for instance, going through a magnetometer. Doesn’t let Biden off the hook, but it’s a pretty good reason.

    The U.S. ambassador, by the way, is a she. Jane Hartley.

    Here’s an article re the WH reaction today. Worth reading to the end.

    818 chars

  27. Dorothy said on January 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    It’s a minor point, but the U.S. ambassador to France is a woman.

    65 chars

  28. Dexter said on January 13, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Jolene…I used to stop here on the way home from work and load up on these delicacies.

    121 chars

  29. Jolene said on January 13, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Looks like a great place, Dexter. Do you have any specific recommendations?

    75 chars

  30. beb said on January 13, 2015 at 8:02 am

    And the campaign to steal our social security begins in ernest:

    136 chars

  31. Connie said on January 13, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I see Buckeye post win behavior is all over the news. And here I thought burning couches was a Michigan State thing.

    117 chars

  32. Charlotte said on January 13, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I have a recipe for a Persian Tarragon pickle I make in the summer — it’s delicious on ham and cheese sandwiches. (Not that different from a dill pickle, just tarragon instead, which since I don’t like dill, works for me.) I do a weird Asian pickled greens with carrots thing too that I really like in the dead of winter …

    325 chars

  33. brian stouder said on January 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Connie, it IS funny (as in “odd”) that institutions of higher learning now seem to have a tradition of “Win a Big Game, and then have a senseless riot”.

    Last night’s school board meeting ran extra long, which got me in trouble with my lovely wife (I missed the opportunity to go pick up our daughter from Flag Corps practice at 8; a task which then defaulted to Pam).

    But, dog gone-it, it was swearing-in night, and I was determined to be there; and anyway, the newest trustee had invited me to a pre-meeting reception, with excellent Cottage (or equivalent) cookies – It seemed to me that if you partake of the goodies, then the thing to do is stay to the absolute end.

    But I will say this. The PTA lady commented ahead of me, and then it was my go, and then the insane lady got up and commented.

    She went in circles and had many pages of notes in her hand, and she was asked if she was building up to a point…at which time she wrapped it up.

    If she’d have gone ahead of me, then after that I believe I would have had to hit the EJECT button, and called it a night!

    1093 chars

  34. coozledad said on January 13, 2015 at 10:42 am

    83 chars

  35. alex said on January 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Tarragon pickles sound heavenly, Charlotte. Tarragon anything for that matter. It has become my go-to herb for compound butters, for sauces and for meat glazes for grilling.

    173 chars

  36. Dorothy said on January 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I don’t eat pickles, but my husband does – and he likes to make them. If you would be so kind as to share that tarragon recipe, Connie, I’d be grateful! (well actually MIKE will be grateful…!)

    195 chars

  37. Dorothy said on January 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

    DRAT – Charlotte, not Connie!

    29 chars

  38. Deborah said on January 13, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Kirk, don’t you live and work in Columbus? What’s it like there today after last night? I don’t get the riots after a big win. Are people just out of their minds drunk?

    168 chars

  39. coozledad said on January 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Deborah: Mass enthusiasm. The hindbrain is in full throttle.

    Whites will even resort to that shit over a pumpkin festival. White leaders need to speak to their people and urge them to stop it.

    195 chars

  40. Dorothy said on January 13, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Mass enthusiasm is a good phrase. It happens in every city when a hometown team wins a big game/national title/etc. I was three years old in 1960 when the Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series, and I can still remember my family’s screaming and hollering in jubilation. In fact it’s probably my earliest memory! I had no idea what was going on, just that everyone was very, very excited. One doesn’t have to be drunk to want to join in the celebrating.

    464 chars

  41. Kirk said on January 13, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Deborah@38: As far as I know, all the craziness was on campus, though I doubt that it was all students. Some people don’t know how to celebrate other than by getting drunk and destructive. It’s certainly not unusual or peculiar to here. I usually stop at drunk.

    I haven’t been out yet today; I’ve been doing a rush proofreading job on the last pages of the commemorative book that the Columbus Dispatch will put out on OSU’s season. I’m sure that there will be even more front-runners and bandwagon-jumpers sporting Ohio State gear in public than usual, but I’ll get over it. I didn’t go to OSU, and, while I’m a huge college football fan, I find the whole OSU football culture obnoxious, especially that “O-H” bullshit.

    723 chars

  42. Charlotte said on January 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Persian Tarragon PIckles — from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
    2 lbs small cucumbers (seedless or pickling)
    4 cloves garlic,
    4 sprigs fresh tarragon
    1 tbsp coriander seed (or 4 heads fresh)
    4 fresh or dried hot chiles
    1/4 cup kosher salt
    1 cup cider vinegar
    Cut the blossom end off each cucumber and put cukes, garlic, tarragon, coriander and chiles in 2 quart jars, being careful not to bruise the cucumbers. Separately, combine 4 cups water, the salt and vinegar. Stir to dissolve the salt. Pour over the cucumbers and refrigerate for 4 weeks.

    Last time I did this, I sliced all the cucumbers on a mandoline, and canned them in pint jars in a hot water bath. Not as crunchy, but makes nice pickle slices for sandwiches.

    751 chars

  43. Jenine said on January 13, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    And I’d love the second recipe you referred to, Charlotte: “a weird Asian pickled greens with carrots thing”. Sound like what I’d like. Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Cabbage Salad makes me happy.

    254 chars

  44. Deborah said on January 13, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I made pickled red cabbage during the summer and we finally had some a week or so ago when we had pulled pork sandwiches. We put it on the sandwiches and boy was it good. It’s too sour for me to eat as a side, but it sure is good on things. It’s so pretty too.

    261 chars

  45. Deborah said on January 13, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Dorothy, I get mass enthusiasm for a big win, but not the rioting and destruction. That’s just weird to me. Setting fires to dumpsters and old couches seems pretty dangerous to me, plus shooting off guns in the air. What goes up must come down. When we lived in St. Louis a neighbor girl had a 45 caliber bullet go through the back of her foot while she was sitting on the front porch of another neighbor’s house. They thought that blocks away someone fired into the air. I think it was around the 4th of July.

    510 chars

  46. brian stouder said on January 13, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Somewhere during the holiday, I saw a Mythbusters about the idiocy of shooting guns into the air.

    The theory – which they proved (more or less) is that if you could fire a straight vertical shot, the bullet would slow to terminal velocity on it’s trip back to earth, and would not necessarily be dangerous…but if it was NOT fired straight vertically, it would reach the ground at dangerous speeds…

    which reminded me that I was once told if you threw a coin off the Empire State Building, you could kill a person on the ground – which sounded fishy even then, and is of course not true

    594 chars

  47. Julie Robinson said on January 13, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Indeed, one July 5 morning many years ago, we were awakened by our little daughter’s scratchy voice: “there’s something naughty in the living room and I didn’t do it”. And there it was, a bullet, completely undamaged by its trip through our roof and ceiling.

    259 chars

  48. Jolene said on January 13, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Have been listening to reports that Mitt Romney is going to run for president again. He hasn’t announced, but, apparently, is making phone calls to former donors and staffers to line up support and has said publicly that he wants to do it.

    One of my relatives said on Facebook that Mitt’s recent moves reminded him of a kid who, five years after graduating, shows up in the high school parking and revs his engine.

    I thought that was a good description.

    459 chars

  49. Jolene said on January 13, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Wow, Julie, that is scary, even if there was no serious damage.

    63 chars

  50. Jolene said on January 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Following up earlier conversations on good British crime dramas, I recently finished watching The Fall, which involves a beautiful British detective (Jillian Anderson) trying to catch a serial killer in Belfast. On Netflix. Season 1 is just five episodes, so it’s not life-consuming, and Season 2 is set to start on January 15th.

    329 chars

  51. Jolene said on January 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Of possible interest: New PBS Frontline re Vladimir Putin on tonight. Also new American Experience show re the KKK.

    115 chars

  52. Charlotte said on January 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Hi Jenine — I started with the Burmese Style Mustard Greens recipe from a book called Pickled, by Kelly Carollata (I reviewed cookbooks for several years, so got a lot of the odd ones). She calls for:
    1.5 lbs mustard greens (I uses kales, because they’re sturdier and I had a lot in my garden)
    3 cups carrots (the recipe says thinly sliced, I grated because I didn’t like the big chunks)
    1/2 lb shallots, peeled
    2 fresh red chiles
    2 tsp pickling salt
    2 tsp brown sugar
    1 tsp fresh grated ginger
    1/3 cup dark ale
    2/3 cup malt vinegar
    (My notes on the page say I also added some fish sauce and Tabasco).
    Blanch the greens in boiling water and an ice bath, dry, and cut into shreds. Mix with the remaining ingredients in a big bowl and turn to coat evenly. Cover with a plate for weight and plastic wrap and let sit for 24 hours. Greens can be refrigerated, frozen or canned (I did hot-water bath canning).

    I like these in midwinter added to salad or stir fries … as a sort of condiment …

    1009 chars