And now, this.

It rained hard overnight Friday. I was on the early-morning-weekend-update shift (we rotate), and I was lying in bed, preparing to get up, when I heard a different rhythm to the rain on the roof. A separate drip-drip-drip that didn’t belong to the dripdripdripdripdrip coming down on the bathroom skylight. I thought Alan might be awake, so I asked him:

“Do you hear that?”

“Yes.”

And that, friends, is how we were up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, me trying to aggregate the fucking onslaught of overnight news — Friday night was when the president christened “that woman in Michigan,” our governor, “Half.” (Her name is Gretchen Whitmer. If you don’t get it immediately, think about it.) There was also a hot nursing home and the usual skyrocketing disease numbers. And Alan was clambering around in the attic, trying to set up drip-catchers and figure out where the leak was coming from, because it is indeed the Month from Hell, house-wise.

On March 2, we had our gigantic backyard oak tree taken down. Very close to the house, very tall, and I hated to do it but it had to be done — the thing was rotten all the way through. But hoo-boy, expensive. A couple weeks later, the hot water heater started to leak because why? Because it had rusted clean through. So the new water heater came next. Now, a leaky roof. And a pandemic.

But we’re all healthy! So that’s good. Seriously, it’s good. I’m reading more and more about people younger than me dying, older than me dying, lots of people close to dying. (Like John Prine, please keep him going just a little longer.) The tree, the water heater, the roof — all these can be fixed with money. Your health can’t.

Good to remember. But man, I wish I made a lot more of it.

So it was only a half-terrible weekend. Except that the auto show was finally cancelled, for the upsetting reason that FEMA is taking over the Cobo Center (now known as the TCF Center) for a 900-bed field hospital for the next six months.

I did have to do some food shopping. I put a bandanna over my mouth, which did nothing but maybe made others feel better. Kate went with me; her bandanna was red, which, she said, meant she was a Blood.

I’d like an N95 mask, but they’re only to be had in 300,000-piece lots. I’d like some more hand sanitizer, and businesses are making it, but again, only in gigantic lots. When this stuff trickles down to the retail level, someone let me know.

Or maybe I could buy one “out the back door,” like the president says.

Anyway, the Kroger now has floor stickers to space people out in the checkout line, and plexiglass sneeze shields between customers and the checkout clerks. Our new normal.

Kate says we can make our own sanitizer, but we’ll need aloe gel. That’s probably disappeared from the stores, too. Might have to sacrifice our kitchen aloe; her day may well have come. We’ll see.

What to read? Here’s something I wrote: An obituary, but non-COVID. No, just the tragic loss of a 33-year-old man, widely beloved, who had an aggressive form of colon cancer. He first had symptoms on his honeymoon.

An entertainingly written history of Purell, from the WP.

And I guess that’s all. For once I can ask, what fresh hell awaits us in the coming week and be almost entirely sure there will be some, and a lot of it.

Stay safe! Keep washing those paws.

Posted at 7:13 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments
 

The list.

You guys. This throw-grandma-from-the-train argument the lunatic fringe is making these days is no surprise to me. I have a select group of Deplorable blogs and Twitter accounts that I follow, and they’ve been saying this since almost the beginning.

A lot of them live in smaller towns — nothing like those crickets chirping in the inky night to make you think you need a lot of guns, and nothing like living elbow-to-elbow with people of all colors, creeds and ethnicities to make you think we could do with a lot fewer (but more of their tasty national dishes). They’re convinced the disease will never make it to wherever they are, and if it does, no biggie. They’ve been treating chest colds with grandma’s secret poultice since they were babies, and it never fails to knock them out in eight to 10 days, tops. They’ll be fine. It’s the Dow they’re worried about. Also their taxes. And so on.

So they’ve been saying two things for a while: 1) Is the death rate really so bad that it’s worth wrecking the economy over? And 2) MAGA!!!!!

For the record: I do not intend to sacrifice myself for anyone’s grandchildren. Until a month ago, I was feeling pretty good about retiring in three to five years, and then doing things. Some people would call it a bucket list, and I guess that’s what it is, but it doesn’t include skydiving. Over the last few days I’ve been mentally adding to it whenever my brain starts to sizzle a little from the ambient stupidity in the air. Here’s what I have so far:

  • See a few more Vermeers. (I’m not in the every-Vermeer-in-the-world camp, but just, y’know, a few more.)
  • Spend a day at the Prado and examine “The Garden of Earthly Delights” from every angle, from as close as I can get, until I’m satisfied. Then maybe go back two days later and see if it has anything else to say to me. It’s Madrid, after all — I won’t get bored.
  • Go to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Hermitage, the Neva, Red Square, and Lenin in his tomb, then home before I get arrested.
  • Rent a big, steady, kind horse and ride through the Irish countryside for half a day, with at least one short gallop and a couple of low fences.
  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from end to end, north to south, not too fast, then have dinner in Tijuana.
  • A month in Asia, itinerary TBD.
  • Read way more books. Maybe write one, maybe not.
  • Sell house in Grosse Pointe, buy condo in Detroit.

I think of a couple more every day.

The only thing I can recommend you read today is this, a story about how the Trump morons were handed a report that literally said PANDEMIC PLAYBOOK on the cover, then threw it away. Because they are morons.

Gotta get to work. Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:16 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments
 

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

I guess we’ve all been considering how we want to be in the coming weeks and months. How we want to conduct ourselves, think of ourselves later. Do we want to be heroes? Some people say that. They’ll shelter Anne Frank’s family, dammit! Screw those Nazis, they won’t hoard toilet paper!

I have no illusions about my own morality or ability to stand up to extraordinary measures. Sure, I’d put the Franks up, if they asked. But if the Nazis came snooping around later, or worse, the Serbs, and grabbed my daughter and threatened her with rape or worse if I didn’t talk? Yep, the Franks are in attic. We’ll just go out for coffee until you’ve dealt with them. No worries, I’ll clean up.

But we probably won’t have to deal with Nazis, or Serbs, in the coming misery. Rather, it’ll be poverty, and shortages and brother-can-you-spare-a-dime. I think, in that case, I want to be generous.

There are two kinds of generous. Foolishly so, and sensibly so. And a third, maybe: Just-because generosity. My boss gives a buck to every bum we pass on the street. It’s kinda comical. He engages them in conversation. He offers them small tasks in exchange for a few dollars more. He once stopped on the way back from lunch last summer to talk to a guy we both knew to be a heroin addict who grew up in Grosse Pointe and now sleeps rough, downtown. My editor was suggesting job opportunities, and the junkie was saying he couldn’t apply because he didn’t have a state ID. My editor said, “I could take you down to the library and show you how to get the documents you need, online.”

“Yeah, but you know? There’s an opportunity cost to that,” the junkie replied. I rolled my eyes so hard I actually may have sprained them, then said I would nip into the coffee shop we were standing in front of, because I could use a double espresso.

When I came out, they were still discussing the economics of giving up an hour or two of panhandling vis-a-vis the chance of getting a paying job later. I separated them – the junkie probably figured time chatting was money lost – and I laughed as we walked the final block back to the office.

“You are the world’s softest touch,” I told him. We agreed there are worse things to be.

You might call that foolish generosity, but as I’ve often told my husband: If I had to sleep on the street, I’d want to be high all the time, too. Giving a buck or two won’t change anyone’s life. But it might make the next hour a little better.

The spot outside my Saturday breakfast spot is popular with bums. They say they’re hungry. I ask what they want to eat, go inside and buy it, taking it out in a go box. “Make sure the wrappers go in the trash,” I say, then go back inside and have my own eggs.

I expect, in the coming days, weeks, months – people will lose their jobs. They’ll need help, need cash, need something I can maybe help them with. I want to do that. I’m not going to give away money to anyone who asks; I have needs, too. But I won’t be a pig about what I have. I’ll share. I’ll overtip. I’ll buy stuff I don’t need if I can afford it, and it helps the seller in some significant way. (Which is to say, bring me your Girl Scout cookies.) I don’t want to be an asshole, crouched in my bunker, thinking only of my own family. Stacking up boxes of ammo, or some other paranoid must-have.

Another friend of mine received this piece of mail at his house today:

It was a campaign mailer. Speaking of generosity.

God, this country. Enjoy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:59 pm in Current events | 112 Comments
 

The Bug, week 2.

On Friday, I donated blood. I generally do a couple-three times a year, mainly because they come to my gym, and what the hell, why not.

Around the same time, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Libertarian Fantasy America, was tested for coronavirus, and before receiving his results (which were positive, but you knew that), worked out in the Senate gym and went swimming in the Senate pool.

And all I can think is: OK, the Senate has a gym, no surprise there. But THE SENATE HAS A POOL?

My workout today was a Social Distancing Boxing Workout, held on one of the local high school football fields (artificial turf, no less):

At least I got something done. Sitting indoors, marinating in my own worries was making me nuts. I did get out, responsibly. Went to the Eastern Market, where the doors were propped open to permit the free flow of air, and advice was as close as the banners hanging everywhere:

Because Americans are natural entrepreneurs, some were taking advantage of the current crisis:

I saw the market’s executive director, although I didn’t recognize him at first. He had a bandanna pulled over his face in lieu of a mask. “This is hard for me,” he said. “Because the last time I saw someone wearing a bandanna like this, he had a shotgun and was robbing my bar.”

Saturday night I cruised around, chasing tips about illegal speakeasies. I’m sure they’re out there; Detroit has a long, storied and proud history of flouting liquor laws. I didn’t find any, but I found Woodward Avenue quiet enough that I could get a shot of the installation on the front of MOCAD:

Man, I sure hope so.

Otherwise, I followed the news and cooked meals and otherwise tried to keep things chill. Because otherwise I would just get furious — an emotion I’m sure many of you are familiar with.

So, so angry. Another workout tomorrow should help. You?

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events | 55 Comments
 

The bug.

God. What. A. Week.

I try to keep my sense of humor in all things — adjusting it for mordancy as circumstances dictate. But this week is chapping my ass for sure. Our alt-weekly pretty much folded this week. Most alt-weeklies — all of them — pretty much did the same, across the country. If your advertising model is pinned to nightclubs, bars and restaurants, and all of them are closed, everywhere, it’s lights out, folks.

And that was only part of the misery that has asserted itself in, what? The last week.

And here we are.

I am not enjoying the daily briefings. If only I could have the simple faith of a MAGA-head; I’d feel so much better. Instead, I find them deeply terrifying, the sight of the people we need to trust with our very lives, kowtowing to this idiot. Meanwhile, the tide is rising in Michigan; cases tripled from yesterday to today and I’m starting to read social-media posts from doctors talking about hospitals right here in GP, “inundated,” in their words.

I’m keeping my sanity, but it’s starting to fray, just a bit. It helps that Kate is finally home. I went to hug her and she said, “I don’t want to bring home the ‘rona,” and I informed her that in our house, we have officially decided to call it “the bug.” Because we watched “The Wire,” and honor it.

I bought dog food standing in a line outside our pet store, too. That was weird. But they have a really cool vibe, and I’m sorry I couldn’t go inside:

Anyway, Eastern Market is open this weekend. I’m going to go. Also, my trainer is offering semi-private sessions, and I’m going to those, too. It’s not back to normal, but I need to get at least a little way there.

Let’s get through the weekend.

Posted at 8:32 pm in Current events | 112 Comments
 

Got that pandemic.

Well, I guess we’re in the thick of it now. Both my jobs have pulled the work-from-home trigger. I went out Saturday because I always go out Saturday, although I observed more than the usual courtesies — washed my hands a few times, refrained from touching the vegetables at Eastern Market, overtipped at the coney island where I eat breakfast. I’m torn between supporting the small businesses imperiled by this disaster, and doing my public-health duty.

Also, I’m trying to avoid stir craziness. This is going to be the real challenge. Once the temperature gets above 50, I’m going out on my bike and you can’t stop me. Around this car-crazy town, no one is coming within six feet of me, I promise.

I should add that everyone at Eastern Market, basically a very big farmers’ market, was polite and the goods were plentiful. Grocery stores, meanwhile, are being stripped like farm fields in a locust invasion. Toilet paper in particular is a very hoardable item. I guess people figure that if you need it you need it, and it’s not like it goes bad. If it turns out the crisis ends before they use up 200 rolls, well then, no need to buy it before November. I just inventoried our stash; about 11 rolls. I think we’re good.

Meanwhile, here is the scene this very afternoon in Corktown:

Fox News viewers, I presume.

This is going to lead to the full shutdown of bars and restaurants, I predict. Ohio and Illinois did so within the last hour. And if that happens, ah well, it was nice knowing you guys.

Things are changing so quickly I don’t know what to say other than: Hello from lockdown. “Bombshell” is available for rent on iTunes now, and we did so last night. It was OK, not a bombshell, but not terrible. Charlize Theron is quite the mimic. And John Lithgow wore those prosthetic jowls like the pro he is.

Stay safe and isolated, guys.

Posted at 5:35 pm in Current events | 79 Comments
 

Everything is upside down.

Jesus, I hope we don’t have another week like this one for a while. In recent months, my editor and I at Deadline, our radio guy and a rotating special guest do a week-that-was podcast. This week we’ll be talking about the primary and COVID. Standing here, on Thursday night, the election seems like it was a month ago. Today was so bananas, with news of more COVID disruption coming every hour. This was my favorite:

Gobert spreading the love at LCA 3/7/2020 from r/DetroitPistons

That’s Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz player who tested positive for the big C, pulling off his compression sleeves and throwing them to the crowd. Lucky kids! Ah well – they’re out of school tomorrow and maybe for some time afterward. Everything is in an uproar. Kate called from Bakersfield today, crushed — most of their tour is cancelled, Europe as well, they have a long drive back and everything is terrible.

I hope they don’t need any toilet paper on the way home. My local Kroger:

That’s the toilet paper section. I don’t know why toilet paper is what we’re hoarding. There’s still plenty of pasta and beans and so on. You run out of t.p. and you can make do with a rag, disgusting though it may be. But if you need to eat, you need actual food.

This world is so stupid. This week has been so long

Who watched that shitshow last night? If that guy wasn’t on serious drugs, I’ll eat my remaining stash of t.p. (Six rolls.) What a fuckup – a 12-minute scripted speech, and they were issuing corrections on it within half an hour. Of course, it’s not like there’s much at stake, is there:

ROME — The mayor of one town complained that doctors were forced to decide not to treat the very old, leaving them to die. In another town, patients with coronavirus-caused pneumonia were being sent home. Elsewhere, a nurse collapsed with her mask on, her photograph becoming a symbol of overwhelmed medical staff.

In less than three weeks, the coronavirus has overloaded the heath care system all over northern Italy. It has turned the hard hit Lombardy region into a grim glimpse of what awaits countries if they cannot slow the spread of the virus and ‘‘flatten the curve’’ of new cases — allowing the sick to be treated without swamping the capacity of hospitals.

If not, even hospitals in developed countries with the world’s best health care risk becoming triage wards, forcing ordinary doctors and nurses to make extraordinary decisions about who may live and who may die. Wealthy northern Italy is facing a version of that nightmare already.

I did my part by rewatching “Contagion,” like everybody else in the world.

Eh. It’s late and I’m exhausted. But before I go, please spare a good thought or a prayer for our own Jeff Gill, whose father died “peacefully and unexpectedly” today in Texas. Condolences to one of our best community members.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 10:02 pm in Current events | 109 Comments
 

Face-toucher.

You know, once you try to stop touching your face, you really notice how much you touch your face.

And what’s more, it’s nearly impossible to stop. I mean, does leaning on your chin while you try to come up with a fresher turn of phrase count? Of course it does. My nose itches from time to time; am I not supposed to scratch it? Everyone knows nose itches left unscratched don’t go away. (Anyone who has tried to get through the savasana portion of a yoga class knows this.) I wear glasses and occasionally — which is to say constantly — readjust them. In the process, I touch my face. This can’t be avoided.

Also, it’s still chilly here, and I get a runny nose at the weirdest times. Not a cold, just a little clear drip when the temperature is uncomfortable, or even when I’m sweating. Does a sleeve dragged across one’s nose count?

This is going to be a long slog for some of us, unless we want to go around with our hands cuffed behind us.

For those who wondered: Yes, Shadow Show, Kate’s band, was supremely bummed that SXSW was cancelled. I told them to slide through town anyway, or keep their ears to the ground, because there’s no way all those people closing in on Austin are going to stay home. There will be shows, there will be networking — just go. They’re taking this under advisement. But they have a long drive across the country in the coming days:

Meanwhile, they recorded a single for some obscure psychedelic label called Hypnotic Bridge, and damn if it ain’t pretty good. Very proud of these girlies. They played a show Friday night at Third Man Records and didn’t put a foot wrong. Also, Kate wore go-go boots:

Verdict: “God, those things are so uncomfortable.” You don’t say?

And that was the weekend, in between reading about COVID-19 and trying not to touch my face. Oh, we watched “Ford vs. Ferrari.” Three stars, and I hope I never again have to watch a movie about a car race where a wife watches from home, her face lit by the TV screen and making various expressions of concern, fear and elation.

Primary coming up in 48 hours. We’ll see how that goes. I have no prediction, if you’re wondering.

Posted at 6:31 pm in Current events, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Ballot of the living dead.

Voted today. Now that Michigan has no-reason absentee, I thought why the hell not. So I headed down to city hall, which has been upended for a year now, since a pipe broke and flooded the place. It was a year ago this week, in fact, and the rebuilding is still going on. But anyway: In through the police station, down to the basement, following the signs, and waited in line behind a couple who was there to spoil their ballot, ie., revote. Why revote? Well:

What a lineup there. And as I took the ballot out of the envelope, my phone beeped with an alert: Warren is out. Well, there goes that plan. I circled my pen up and down the long list, made my choice, and left. It’ll be interesting to see the results; Bernie won Michigan in 2016, but this year is…different. If Biden gets it, it’ll mean the electorate is, shall we say, in a mood. We’ll see.

I suppose by now we’ve all heard about the president’s interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday night? No? Here’s a taste:

“Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor,” Trump said.

“You never hear about those people. So you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and — or virus. So you just can’t do that,” he continued. “So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better.”

The president’s comments came after the House of Representatives approved Wednesday an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to tackle the burgeoning disaster, and as California reported the 11th coronavirus death in the U.S., the first fatality outside of Washington state. But that cost to human life did not align with the WHO’s statistics, the president argued.

I just got done editing a piece on why people who are having symptoms shouldn’t go to work, but probably will, because they don’t have paid sick leave, a policy that has been resisted for years. I can’t fucking stand this. We are the stupidest country.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Current events | 76 Comments
 

Sayonara.

So Jack Welch is dead. Sorry to speak ill of the dead, but no big loss. Remember when he retired? And then he fell in love with some younger woman, and his wife spilled the financial beans during the divorce proceedings? It turned out that in addition to being paid 10 king’s ransoms in his retirement package, General Electric’s stockholders then put themselves on the hook to pay for everything in his life, and I do mean everything:

Following disclosure of his affair with the editor of the Harvard Business Review, the captain of capitalism has been painted as a ruthless womanizer who let his shareholders pay for just about everything–right down to the GE light bulbs in his numerous homes. Jane Beasley Welch has emerged as the modern model of the savvy corporate wife: so clever that she thought to include an expiration date in her prenuptial agreement–and stayed married long enough to pass it.

With perhaps $1 billion at stake, the Welch divorce is a primer on how wealthy couples uncouple. The case also affords a window into the benefits that corporations lavish on retired top executives–everything, in Jack Welch’s case, from sports tickets to the lifetime use of GE-owned jets, with charge accounts at flower shops and one of New York’s most expensive dining establishments thrown in as well. Mostly, this is a story about how a man who routinely crushed adversaries when he ran a Fortune 500 empire was stopped in his tracks by his own wife.

…Despite Welch’s intentions to keep things private, Jane Welch filed an affidavit in Bridgeport, Conn., outlining the couple’s “extraordinary” standard of living–much of it compliments of General Electric. The next day, the New York Times ran a long article describing how GE pays for the apartment the Welches occupied on Central Park West, membership fees at five country clubs and full staffs and services at homes in Florida, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

By Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an informal inquiry into Welch’s compensation agreement. Welch himself penned a column in Monday’s Wall Street Journal revealing that he offered last week to give up many of his retirement benefits–and the GE board accepted.

In other words, this titan of capitalism was…a welfare queen, basically. Light bulbs. Imagine the amount of cheek it takes to do whatever one must do to accept light bulbs from the people who thought they were investing in your company. Do you place an order? Does your household manager do it? Do they send over an assorted case? Or do you put in for reimbursement?

God, I remember that era – the ’80s, ’90s, around in there? Every third book in the bookstore was by one of these guys, delivering their secrets of success. (In airports, it was every other book.)

As the Washington Post’s Helaine Olen notes, Welch was really even worse:

Welch popularized the concept known as “shareholder value,” the idea that the primary duty of a company’s management is to increase its stock price for the benefit of shareholders. In pursuit of this goal, he bought and sold companies, shedding huge numbers of employees along the way. GE’s share prices soared. For this, Welch was celebrated: imitated by competitors and lionized by the fawning business press.

Never mind the fact Welch routinely closed GE’s Rust Belt factories and moved the jobs to Third World locales, where workers labored for less — much, much less — than the former GE employees. Never mind the fact that he cut funding for research and development, something that can undermine a company’s long-term health. And never mind the fact that the humane postwar arrangement between corporations and their employees — give us your loyalty and we’ll take care of you as best we can — ended in part because of Welch. He made money for shareholders, and that was the important thing.

So no, I will not be shedding any tears for Jack. Suzy Wetlaufer Welch – the woman he left Jane for – will come out ahead, no doubt. I’ve always said the best job in the world is to be the ex-wife of one of these goons. Maybe the second-best one is the widow, especially when you’re still young enough to enjoy it. The widow Welch is 61; she’ll be fine.

Oh, wait: There’s one more book on the stand. From 2006:

When Jack and Suzy met almost three years ago, they had much that seemed good in their lives. They traded it-his wife, her job, both of their reputations-for what they say is true love. The result was a storm the size of which neither one had ever seen. And now reporters are calling again. Jack and Suzy are writing a book about business strategy. Jack and Suzy have bought a house on Beacon Hill. Jack and Suzy are getting married. Jack and Suzy are in the news.

…Suzy Wetlaufer is not an easy woman to pigeonhole. She’s a Harvard-educated novelist, a brilliant thinker who some say was the best editor the Harvard Business Review ever had. She’s a devout Christian who attends Bible study regularly, but she’s also a woman who is partial to French manicures and shopping for designer clothes. She can expound on the situation in Iraq in one breath and blurt out things like, “Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs,” or, “Get out of town!” in another. When complimented, she may even exclaim, “I love you!” punctuated by a giant kissing sound. And yet, says Jack, “She’s the smartest person I know. I told her that on our second date.”

Good lord, imagine writing that crap. Why are all these little home wreckers devout Christians who attend Bible study regularly? Mrs. Gingrich, all the rest of them.

So now it’s Super Tuesday evening, and I’m watching the returns come in with the same blankness I’ve had all season. Just tell me who I’m voting for in November.

I guess we’ll know soon. Have a good hump day, eh?

Posted at 8:41 pm in Current events | 73 Comments