Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

Flying up front.

I was reading MichaelG’s vivid account of his trip to Barcelona in the previous thread, feeling, as the kids on the internet say, all the feels – happiness, envy, nostalgia. It was the comment about flying first class that did it. I’ve done so exactly once, and it came via the way many people who don’t generally fly first class get on the other side of the curtain.

I was leaving Key West in September 1980. You Floridians know what September is like at that latitude. Miserable. It’s hurricane season, the islands drenched in the hot breath of the African coast, and even though there were no storms that week, I vividly remember thinking I have never been this hot before, and if I have anything to say about it, never will be again. I went down because I had vacation time and no plans, but two friends in the Keys. Gay men, of course. One, my dear old friend Jeff, is now dead and I expect the other one, his roommate Dennis, is too, but you never know.

Our last night, we stayed up all night, doing what you do in Key West, what we did all week: We started at one bar with all the other gay men and fag hags in town, then, as if on a signal, decamped for another bar, and then, as if on another signal, left for the place everybody closed down: The Monster. We danced and danced and danced and partied and partied and partied with the people who had become MY BEST FRIENDS EVER in the course of a week. They included one sweet young man, who’d come to the Keys from Wyoming, thinking he’d find an easier place to be gay there. He was hanging with some German guy, and there was a real cutie named Les, who worked as a bartender at the in-between bar and called me “baby.” Wyoming man paid me the ultimate compliment: “If I were straight, you’d be the woman for me.” How can you not love that? I did, but then, it was a very strange week in all ways. (I see now that he probably said that to all the girls.) Several nights in a row, walking home from the Monster, Jeff would see me to the door of their rented hovel and then peel off to have a nightcap in the baths, no doubt nurturing the virus that would kill him a few years later.

On this last night, we decided to stay up because my flight was at 8 a.m. and why not? What, you’re going to bed at 3 and then getting up three hours later?

I don’t even remember what we did, only that it was the hottest night ever, and Jeff dropped me at the airport around 7, with the sun rising on another steamy one, and I stumbled aboard the plane wearing sunglasses and the next thing I knew, the stewardesses were asking one another, “Do you smell jet fuel?”

Something was wrong with the plane. They had to send another one down from Miami, and I missed my connection back to Ohio, and in the rebooking, I heard those magical words: “We can get you there, but you’ll have to fly first class.” Have to! Really? I guess I can manage.

I don’t think I took off my sunglasses the whole time. Staying up all night does odd things to your perception, especially when you’ve been drinking for hours and hours. I wasn’t drunk, though — I’d gotten to that place where I seemed to be burning the alcohol at the same rate I was consuming it, the highly sought-after state of equilibrium.

The stewardess kept bringing me bloody Marys, anyway. Bloody Marys and food that was sort of edible and real silverware, not plastic. Plus pillows and blankets and a nice seat mate who could talk about this and that. It was all sort of “Miami Vice” years before the show appeared, and when they announced our descent into Columbus, I was sort of sad. I could have stayed on that flight forever.

Have a great trip, MichaelG. That ham you spoke of? I had a tiny scrap of it in Ann Arbor, at a snooty wine store that kept a couple in the back room. Don’t think of the per-kilo price, because all you eat is a little at a time. Just enjoy it.

So.

Today on the bus, I overheard two guys talking about bike routes from the Pointes to downtown, and I butted in and made some suggestions. They seemed surprised that this old bag was the one whose bike was on the rack on the front of the bus, and maybe this is why: There’s a gender gap in cycling. Well, damn, there shouldn’t be. Especially during a week like this.

I guess by the time you read this, the Scottish independence vote will be in full swing. I don’t know a lot about it, but my gut is with the No faction — the better-together people. Someone, make the case for independence, because I don’t see it being good for anyone now.

The blogger at Gin & Tacos lives in Peoria, and his local paper sounds a lot like the one I used to work for. The one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge now.

Enjoy the rest of the week, all.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 93 Comments
 

Scant. Just scant.

The thing is, it’s funny because every word is true:

FORT WAYNE, IN—Promising to steer them away from the usual tourist traps and show them the sights of his hometown through the eyes of a native, local man Martin Greenbaum pledged Monday to treat his visiting friends to the real Fort Wayne experience, sources said.

And yeah, it’s the Onion. But the Onion is genius.

I was actually thinking about Fort Wayne today, as it was Crazy Downtown Day in Detroit. The Tigers played at 4, followed by the Lions home opener/Monday Night Football right after. All through the stadium neighborhood, radio stations had set up remote broadcasts. There was food everywhere, bands — the whole shot. It made me happy, once again, to be here, all the Detroit jokes in the world be damned. I was meant to live in a big city. People like me don’t reach critical mass in tank towns. I stayed in the Fort 20 years and can’t say it wasn’t worth it — it absolutely was — but I’m glad I’m somewhere else now. Chapters, pages, etc.

So. Some of you guys know that I went to college with Peter King, the sportswriter. One of the best PK insults ever was in Deadspin today — “covers the league from the centermost pleat on Roger Goodell’s khakis” — but it sounds like he really stepped in it on this Ray Rice business.

Off to contemplate more Book. Happy Tuesday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Parents and their toys.

Alan brought this book — written by a Michigan author — to my attention a while back. “My Parents Open Carry” tells the story of young Brenna Strong (subtle, that) and her pistol-packing parents. They carry their heat right out on their hips, and “Our goal was to provide a wholesome family book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, i.e., that self-defense is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defense,” as the description goes.

You can imagine.

It was amusing to see the book is now being bombarded with Amazon user reviews:

Can’t wait for the sequel,. “My Black Parents Open Carried Until the Police Shot Them 146 Times”.

I got really excited when I found out there was a sequel coming out for the really little ones: “Goldilocks and the Three Open Carry Bears”

SPOILER ALERT: This does not end well for the blonde moocher who commits a Breaking and Entering.

Three stars because…Freedom.

I am taking away two for missing the obvious opportunity for this to be a pop-up book. Each time a figure popped up, the whole family could decide to shoot or not. Maybe include a detachable color palette of skin colors to help decide.

Who needs a little Isaac Hayes on a Thursday? Note who assists him with his outfit. That’s Jesse Jackson if it’s anyone:

Thursday! It is here.

UPDATE: Y’all would do me a solid if you’d hit my story on gentrification over at Bridge. Start with the mainbar and the map. There’s a sidebar with links to a potty mouth Spike Lee rant, too. Thanks.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 33 Comments
 

Crickets in the evening.

How about a nice mid-week link salad? Because all I have to report today is: Summer, she is fading. I swam on the dawn patrol at the city pool, and it wasn’t even dawn. The lifeguard was dozing, which means he wasn’t much of a lifeguard, but what the hell, we were all good swimmers.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” I asked as I was leaving. (Gently. I’m not an asshole.) He’ll be back at college soon enough; I think this is the last week for dawn-patrol swimming. And then comes Labor Day, and alas alas alas.

September and October will be glorious. I hope, anyway. Just a lot less light.

So have yourself some tasty readin':

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten canned tuna. Truth be told, I’ve liked it a lot less since they started packing it in water or even dry(ish), in those little pouches. And I liked it even less when I learned more than half of what is sold as tuna isn’t even tuna but something called escolar. I cannot deny that I still have a baby-boomer’s fondness for greasy tuna sandwich from time to time, but I have an excellent fish market at the end of my block, and I’d rather eat from their weekly offerings.

So here’s a little WashPost piece on how Americans have gone cold on canned tuna, for a variety of reasons. Hats off to the editor who resisted making “Sorry, Charlie” the headline.

The GOP might have had a chance to win a Senate seat this November, but it’s not looking good right now. One of a million reasons.

The original op-ed referred to in this Gawker rant is amazing. A cop explains how to avoid being a victim of a cop: Just do everything the cop says. OK. A few years ago, a cop made a Detroit couple perform sex acts in front of him. Is that what he means? Clarification is needed.

Great job, Officer Wilson!

And with that, happy hump day.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Up in smoke.

The blues jam I mentioned yesterday was family-friendly and included everyone from babies to seniors, but it was impossible not to note the smell of marijuana in the air from time to time. As we were leaving, I looked around and saw two men in their 60s, passing a joint back and forth.

There’s been some good data published in the last year on the difference between black/white marijuana use (not much) and punishment for same (a whole lot). I thought of that when I read today that Michael Brown “had marijuana in his system,” which led to the usual cocked eyebrows here and there, as though being stoned — or, as this story points out, not being stoned, but only being guilty of having consumed marijuana sometime in the last month or so — explains everything.

I get up pretty early these days, and sometimes I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, and I will turn on my iPad and check Twitter. Ferguson keeps burning. I find this terribly depressing. So does Charles Pierce, it would seem.

You should also read this Ta-Nehisi Coates piece:

We are being told that Michael Brown attacked an armed man and tried to take his gun. The people who are telling us this hail from that universe where choke-holds are warm-fuzzies, where boys discard their skittles yelling, “You’re gonna die tonight,” and possess the power to summon and banish shotguns from the ether. These are the necessary myths of our country, and without them we are subject to the awful specter of history, and that is just too much for us to bear.

When is this going to end? Who can make this situation right? Maybe the National Guard. But I doubt it.

Some slightly less depressing bloggage. The hipsters vs. family models of urban development.

How much is $100 worth in your state?

What’s Tuesday worth? We’re about to find out.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 32 Comments
 

The throwdown weekend.

Every so often you have to go out and have yourself a time. A pound-the-table, pound-some-shots, sing-karaoke-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, another-round-for-all sort of time. I had one Saturday night.

Probably shouldn’t say too much more about it, except that at some point I posted this photo on Twitter with the caption FUCK ALL Y’ALL:

karaoke

Not quite sure what I was thinking, there.

This was at a bar that’s going to close at the end of the month, a victim of the new hockey arena. It looks like a wino dump from the outside, but inside? Ohsomuchfun. I have no doubt the Applebee’s or whatever the hell will replace it won’t be nearly as good a time. Nor will it have multiple Wu-Tang Clan albums on the jukebox.

(And have no fear, I paced myself admirably. By nursing beers, palming the vile butterscotch shots and slipping an occasional Vernor’s in there, I drove home with nary a fear of lights in the rear-view. I’m an adult now.)

That was Saturday. On Sunday, on four hours of sleep and still hoarse from kicking out the karaoke jams on “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” a friend and I rode bikes to John’s Carpet House, recently reopened after a brief shutdown by the authorities. The Carpet House has no house and no carpet, but it does have a stage and a small generator, enough to power a live blues jam on Sunday afternoons throughout the warm season. If you’re a Detroiter and you’ve never been there, what are you waiting for, and if you’re an out-of-towner, you should check it out, because it is awesome.

Once we arrived, I called Alan to come with lawn chairs and some beers, and after a couple of those, he was kind enough to give us a ride back and spare us a 10-mile pedal in the heat of the late afternoon, belching craft-beer fumes.

The Carpet House is an opportunity for entrepreneurs – food vendors mostly, but also this guy:

john

No drama.

All of which adds up to a great weekend, although I’m guessing I’ll be going to bed early.

A little bloggage? Sure:

The Freep did a nice job turning around a localization of the Ferguson fiasco — looking at the militarization of Michigan police. Mercy:

Michigan police departments have armed themselves with grenade launchers, armored vehicles, automatic rifles and other equipment — 128,000 items in all, worth an estimated $43 million — under a federal program that allows police to obtain surplus gear free from the U.S. military.

A Free Press review of items transferred from the military since 2006 shows Michigan law enforcement agencies have received 17 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles or MRAPs, built to counter roadside bombs; 1,795 M16 rifles, the U.S. military’s combat weapon of choice; 696 M14 rifles; 530 bayonet and scabbards; 165 utility trucks; 32 12-gauge, riot-type shotguns; nine grenade launchers; and three observation helicopters.

And the situation in Missouri has led to a miracle of the stopped-clock variety: I agree with Ross Douthat.

Abortion isn’t always a difficult decision. Someone had to say it.

A busy, busy, busy week awaits. Expect gaps and maybe some photos. But let’s enjoy it, eh?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 45 Comments
 

Rounding up.

I don’t want to obsess on the Ferguson stuff, because I think it has peaked. The locals have been broomed, and with the state boys in charge, my guess is things will calm down. But before they do, let’s take a look at a couple of explainers on how we came to this point. First:

Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.

The idea was that if the U.S. wanted its police to act like drug warriors, it should equip them like warriors, which it has—to the tune of around $4.3 billion in equipment, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The St. Louis County Police Department’s annual budget is around $160 million. By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics.

This is instructive, too:

Fears of Al Qaeda in the heartland led to the further transfer of surplus military equipment like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to cops, as well as billions and billions of dollars given to them in the form of Department of Homeland Security grants used to purchase such equipment.

Suddenly, you had small towns in Texas and New Hampshire with armored vehicles, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, bomb robots, night-vision goggles, and lately, drones, all in the name of counterterrorism. Such grants have totaled about $34 billion since 2001, a number that has no doubt increased since the Center for Investigative Reporting released that figure in 2011.

Of course, since Islamic terrorists have yet to storm America’s small towns, this equipment is not used for counterterrorism. The police have to use these fancy new toys, so they use them for more and more SWAT operations, like the service of no-knock warrants, drug arrests, expensive and lengthy standoffs with empty houses, and as we saw in Ferguson last night, taking on protesters.

And finally? This:

There’s a no-fly zone in an American town because police are worried they might retaliate against police for shooting and killing an unarmed boy. So far, here’s the headcount:

At least five reports of unconstitutionally detained journalists. Two civilians shot by Ferguson Police this month; one killed. Four nights of tear gas, a chemical banned in war. At least one family teargassed in its own backyard and home. Twenty-one thousand people who have no one to call in case of an emergency, like the man left to struggle for his life while police carted away two journalists last night for sitting in a McDonald’s.

Zero shot or killed police officers. Zero names released for the shootings police committed in the last week. Zero apologies. No accountability.

But really? The story of the day has nothing to do with cops and tear gas, but Starbucks — a deep dive into the life of a single woman trying to keep her head above water and maybe get ahead in the world, but can’t. Not because she isn’t willing to work, but because Starbucks, and thousands of companies elsewhere, have adjusted their labor costs by screwing over their employers with truly impossible scheduling. On-call hours, short-notice shifts, some sort of unique torture called “clopening,” where you close at a late hour and then open the place four hours later — all of this whittles away at the labor costs and improves the bottom line, but makes it impossible to negotiate as a lowly barista. It’s a great, infuriating read, and I encourage you to make it.

Alos, have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 46 Comments
 

Urban unrest.

OK, I apologize; obviously the Ferguson story is national news now. I’m only wondering why I’m not seeing some pictures on the front pages of the papers I read. Like, say, the one at the top of this story.

I’m no fool. I know that one frame is not a reality, but I’m seeing a lot like this, and it bothers me — militarized police coming on like gangbusters for what are, after all, some protestors. This is what comes of arming police like an army. We’ll see what happens. I’m not optimistic.

Friends, I spent the evening sitting with a friend celebrating her birthday and drinking the fine Pouilly-Fuissé her partner bought for her. It was lovely. I rode my bike home in the dark, and that was even lovelier — the cool night, the blinking taillight, the swooping in and out of street and cul-de-sac. If everyone rode a bike more often, we’d have…well, we’d have healthier people, anyway. The ones who haven’t been run over.

So I’m getting out of here early. Enjoy Thursday, the downslope of the week.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 30 Comments
 

Water, water everywhere.

A couple of you mentioned the flooding here yesterday and the day before, brought on by the sort of torrential rains you don’t see every day. Several inches fell over the course of the day, and the freeways, which around here were built in that urban-canyon style, turned into rivers. It was truly remarkable — some had enough water pooled in underpasses to safely hold a diving competition.

We came through it bone-dry. Don’t know how. We just did.

So my head was thinking water when I heard this NPR story Tuesday morning. It touches on some geography most of us know, Arizona, which is having an unusually wet year, and where farmers are growing so much alfalfa they are, I shit you not, shipping it to China to feed cows in that country’s burgeoning dairy industry.

Not far away, California cooks like bacon in a skillet, but that can’t be shipped there, and Arizona farmers must use their entire allotment or risk losing it. It’s an insane situation, summed up by one dim-bulb farmer trying to argue it’s better to ship hay to China than fill Hollywood swimming pools so movie stars can sit around them and “drink hot toddies.” (Yep.)

Why is anyone growing alfalfa in goddamn Arizona? It makes less sense than a golf course.

Glennon says, exporting more and more alfalfa is unsustainable – a classic example of an economic dilemma known as the tragedy of the commons. Centuries ago, farmers in Europe grazed their cows on common ground. Each farmer acted rationally in their own self-interest, but together they depleted the common resource -grass. In this case, self-interest is a record high price for alfalfa. The common resource is water.

…Agriculture uses 80 percent of Colorado River water. Cities want more of it. But there’s no incentive for farmers to conserve water. Under the Byzantine law of the river, farmers like Dave Sharp don’t even have the option to use less water. If he doesn’t use his allotment, he loses it.

We in the wet regions of Michigan can make no sense of this. At all.

Back to the office tomorrow for a big staff meeting, so I’m going to bed early. Just a little bloggage:

You gotta love a woman willing to build in, and live in, a place like this.

The photos coming out of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., are shocking. Why isn’t this a bigger story?

Happy hump day, all. However you spend it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 44 Comments