Long, long weekend — I worked for most of it. But it was a good kind of work, the sort that got me out of the house and into the fresh air, which…freshened throughout the day. Which is to say, the day started sunny and cool, was briefly glorious, and then a cloud bank swept in from the west — you could see it on the horizon, bearing down like a malign force — and covered us all in gloom and chill.
But Michigan won the football game. I wasn’t in the stadium, but I was outside when the band passed by:
Look at those snowy white gloves. I’m always a sucker for a good marching band, and by “good” I mean Big Ten style — lots of brass, a loud-ass drumline and no silly arrangements of music that was never made to be played by a marching band. Leave that to the high schools. (In Indiana, marching bands compete with a ferocity generally seen only on reality shows featuring drag queens and dance moms. And they don’t really march, but sort of slither around the field in this weird walk-y gait, constantly moving — it’s harder — and never playing anything as mundane as, oh, “Across the Field.”) Marches! Fight songs! HAIL TO THE VICTORS! Or, you know, whatever they play for your school. But something rousing. That’s why the good lord gave us brass.
Story will be appearing in a couple weeks.
Kate wasn’t in Ann Arbor, amusingly enough. She came home for a Wayne State event with her friends, and we discovered another miraculous perk of enrollment at the state’s flagship university — the Detroit Center Connector, a free bus that runs between the Ann Arbor campus and Detroit four days a week. All that hang-wringing during the application process over how she was going to get home for band practice, the stuff I patiently answered with “Greyhound, Amtrak, ride-sharing and you’ll figure it out” has been vastly simplified. I dropped her off at 3 p.m. in front of the Ren Cen, where she joined three girls in hijabs to wait for pickup. And that was that. That student ID is worth its weight in gold. Plus a lot more. (Which we are paying, yes.)
Some good bloggage today that covers a vast span of emotional ground, so gird your loins and let’s do the depressing stuff first.
That would be the Washington Post’s remarkable look at the people with whom Dylann Roof stayed before he massacred nine people at a Charleston church earlier this summer. As is frequently the case, Roof gave ample warning of his plans, and he gave them to the people in this trailer. They didn’t say anything. Why? Read the story and shudder — it is terribly sad and depressing, and JeffTMM, you might want to stay away. As always, I ask, “What are we going to do with these people?” We used to have a place for them. We don’t anymore. But they’re still out there.
Moving on. One of the memories of Kate’s early childhood I recall fondly was the Beanie Baby era, although I did not play the tulip-fever game; we just played with them. She was still an infant unable to sit up unaided when a friend dropped by and gave her her first one, a rabbit of some sort. I thanked her, and when I later told someone else about it, they said, “You can’t let her play with it! It might be a valuable one!” I was under the impression we were talking about a $5 stuffed animal small enough for a baby to pick up, but no. And that’s how I was introduced to the silliness of Beanies, which was silly indeed. I recall a quote from a woman in the local paper: “These are going to pay for my daughter’s college education,” which even then a person with a room-temperature IQ could tell was bullshit. My neighbor did try to get a couple of hot ones, and nearly got herself and her toddler trampled in the process, which ended her enthusiasm quickly and before she spent more than a few bucks on them.
We bought our share and always took the tags off and played with them, and I remember how I tucked her in with a couple many nights. I was quite fond of them. You might enjoy this Vice piece on how they arced through the mid-90s pop-culture sky like a comet.
I laughed out loud at this account, by a Knight-Wallace Fellow from last year, on how he pledged a fraternity during his time in Ann Arbor. Yes, at the age of 38, hence the title, “The 38-year-old frat boy.”
I was about to give up when, on the last day of rush week, the Greek gods smiled upon me. It was at Alpha Delta Phi, otherwise known by students as “Shady Phi,” a popular frat on campus, with a beach volleyball court in the front yard. (As I would later learn, the prevailing rumor about A.D.P. was that even the sand in the volleyball court had herpes.)
I managed to hit it off with the president. He was an unconventional frat boy, a vegan who did yoga. He told me he wanted to be a life coach. We started going to the same meditation group and having lunch together on campus. Thanks to him, I got invited back to more events. I won first place at the beer pong party — turned out I was something of a beer pong savant, a skill I attributed to having a master’s degree in physics — and ably slammed Cuervo Silver and Simply Lemonade at Taco Tuesday. With the president’s political capital behind me, I was in.
Finally, Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, for a food startup of some kind. Best of luck to him, but I hope he doesn’t get all food-scoldy like everyone else in that community.