I, Karen.

The other day I was scrolling Twitter and saw a video with many views and heart-eyes emojis after it, some funny guy doing his Karen act. He had the wig, the flat comfortable sandals and as he pulled on a pair of capri pants I realized, Um, wait, that’s me.

I wear capri pants in summer because my short-short days are long past, and I know the minimum inseam on any pair of shorts I might wear outside the house (9 inches). Even if you keep up the struggle, exercise, eat right, there comes a time when your thighs have given up, and you don’t show them to anyone other than close friends and the people you swim with, who are all old like you and have the bods to show for it.

One of the struggles I gave up this year was hair denial. I let the gray come in, and I’m very happy I did, as for once, the timing was perfect; my last haircut was two days before the salon shutdown. I got the last of the blonde highlights snipped off, and so spent the last three months not sweating my roots growing out. With a million new things to worry about in 2020, it was freeing to let that one go.

But now I’m about as Karen-y as Karens get, at least from the outside. Anyone looking at me would sum me up at a glance: Karen. Boomer. Enemy. And so on.

So now it’s the day before the holiday weekend starts, and I’m sitting inside because it is hot as hell outside and will be getting hotter for the foreseeable future. We’ve had a very angry few days here in Detroit. Two women got into a shouting match over a hip-check in the doorway of a Chipotle, and a gun was drawn, a truly insane confrontation. Was it captured on video? Do you even need to ask? And yes, one of the women involved was a Karen, as we understand the term these days: White, middle-aged, hair-trigger temper.

The night before, a cyclist shot a motorist dead on the street in front of the RenCen, probably the closest thing Detroit has to a Magnificent Mile district. It was a road-rage thing, we’re told. The motorist yelled at the cyclists, the cyclists yelled back, he stopped and got out of his vehicle with a knife in hand. One of the cyclists, a woman, was packing (legally) and fired one shot, enough to send him to Elysium. Must have been the surprise of his life.

It so happened I had to do the aggregation — short rewrite/summation, with link — of both of these stories, to Deadline. I posted them to Facebook, because that’s where we get our traffic.

So I’m circling back a few hours later, checking engagement, and start reading the comments. Are comments good for anything anymore? No. It’s all memes and the same catch phrases over and over. The preeners are the worst: Do better and Check your privilege and You spelled ‘racist’ wrong and Fixed it for ya and I guess someone here has work to do. I guess this is a byproduct of people being out of work or working from home where they can check social media all day. And of being angry, and of it being about 900 degrees outside, with cases spiking.

Anyway, I think I’ve had my fill for the day, and for the weekend. I’m taking my Karen-ass self out to walk the dog, if she’s up to a jaunt no longer than around the block. If I meet any black birdwatchers, I will not be calling the police. In fact, I may just leave my phone behind.

Bloggage:

Hank Stuever on the rise of Karens on your screen. Funny:

Now, with the cameras squarely and vigilantly in the hands of those who are sick of being hassled, the “Karens” show depressingly confirms some of our worst suspicions about people in general, wielding a similar power of stereotype. “Karens” triumphantly flips the “Cops” dynamic. The Karens of our world relied too long on the power of racism and intolerance, threatening to call the authorities on anyone who offended or unnerved them. Now Karen is the bad guy, getting the comeuppance she so richly deserves. (Whatcha gonna do, Karen? Whatcha gonna do when Instagram comes for you?)

I had more, but it’s stale by now. News gets stale in 10 minutes these days. Enjoy your holiday, and may the deity of your choice bless America.

Posted at 5:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 141 Comments
 

Super-spreaders.

Another exhausting week behind us, a semi-exhausting weekend ditto, and another exhausting week ahead. I’m planning to return to the office for one of my jobs, and maybe the other, but only one day a week, and only if it feels OK. As is happening elsewhere in this stupid-ass country, cases are on their way back up. One bar – one! – in East Lansing was the center of 80-some positive COVID tests. A student dive, of course, the sort of place where, if you’re close to my age, you might have attended a drink-and-drown night in the pre-Mothers Against Drunk Driving days.

The bar owner say They Did Everything Right – and you know it’s true, because they told Mitch Albom – but The Customers, They Just Wouldn’t Listen. OK, whatever. The horses are out of the barn now, anyway, and one galloped all the way to Grosse Pointe, where we had our own mini-spike in the young-adult crowd last week, culminating in 23 new cases confirmed on Friday. One of the bar patrons had his own rager the previous weekend, while symptomatic, and apparently infected a bunch of other people. Oy.

We ate dinner out Friday on a patio, but I’m wondering if even that is safe enough, in these conditions. Might be back to pizza and carryout and my own cooking for the foreseeable future. I did get an antibody test, as part of my blood-donation testing last week. Negative. Probably wouldn’t hurt to hit one of the drive-through test sites one of these days, too.

At least it’s summer, and it’s been pretty, so let’s do some pictures, eh?

Driving home from the market, I glanced right and saw this street:

The crop is a little unfair; there’s an abandoned house just out of frame to the left. What caught my eye was that massive willow tree, and the very saturated green-ness on an overcast morning. The remains of the sidewalk on the right side remind us that once upon a time, this was a residential city street and didn’t always look like rural Mississippi. There’s more housing just beyond the green, but needless to say, this isn’t the fancy neighborhood. Although I turned 90 degrees to the right and spotted this streetlight something-or-other:

Check out that brickwork. Once upon a time, we were a country that believed there was nothing wrong with making a public building beautiful, even a utility center. During the worst of the Detroit-is-crumbling era before the bankruptcy, a local TV reporter did a piece on streetlights, most of which were decades old and didn’t work. Some circuits were so old they had to be turned on manually, as in someone had to show up and throw the switch; this building looks from that era.

That was a weird time, especially in winter. Driving through some neighborhoods was like entering the haunted forest, it was so dark. Not anymore, though – new LED lights everywhere. When LED streetlights fail, they sometimes start strobing, I have since learned. People online call this their disco period. Very festive.

Saturday morning market:

#NoFilter. And mine, all mine. We put some of them on cake Saturday night and drank too much wine. Hey, it’s mojito season.

Finally, a Sunday bike ride before it got too hot:

A rod on every post at the fishing pier. This is my turnaround. Seeing the water always gives me a lift.

So, bloggage? Some.

Neil Steinberg offers some talking points on how to respond to your terrible friends and relatives asking about black crime in Chicago.

When Sherri floated the possibility that Trump might resign ahead of the election and cut a deal with Pence to pardon him, I thought, yeah interesting, and Alan said no way. Maybe not so no-way anymore. The president is losing, and it’s starting to dawn on him:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was blamed internally for the Tulsa rally failure. Some people complained about him trumpeting that 1 million people had requested tickets, a boast that fell flat when thousands of seats sat empty during Trump’s speech.

Parscale has been a target of some Trump allies who argue the campaign is lacking a coherent strategy and direction. But people close to the president insist that Parscale’s job is safe for now. Trump, who visited the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters a few months ago, has told people he came away impressed with the sophistication of the organization.

Oh, he was impressed? That changes everything.

Finally, a little good news for you boaters, out of Buenos Aires:

Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.

The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo, to ride out the era of lockdowns and social distancing in a scenic place largely spared by the virus. But the idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable.

So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March.

Twenty-nine feet isn’t much larger than ours. I can’t imagine doing this. But then, I’m not Juan Manuel Ballestero, brave mariner.

So come on then, week ahead.

Posted at 6:32 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

Hi-def and dumb.

We were having a cheeseburger in a bar on a summer evening – oh, lost pleasures of life– when I started watching the Tigers game on the TV. It was new and hi-def, and after about five minutes of this, I wondered why anyone would bother attending a major-league game in person again.

Oh, sure, it’s fun to take oneself out to the ballgame from time to time, eat peanuts and crackerjack, blah blah blah, but the parking, the traffic, the bathrooms, the $10 beers, the blast-furnace sun. How much nicer to watch in your own home, in such clarity that it’s like you’re there.

All of which is saying that even if I were a Trump-lover with a “ticket,” whatever that means when hundreds of thousands are sold for an arena that holds maybe 19,000, a few brain cells might fire and I might consider staying home and watching the thing on C-SPAN.

All of which is a callback to events of the weekend, which in the way time gallops today, apparently happened 15 years ago.

But who cares if that stupid git has a full house or not. This is a far more worrisome story:

Public health workers, already underfunded and understaffed, are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have resigned, retired or been fired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.”

I think it’s interesting that in Michigan, the abuse is heaped upon our female governor, a Democrat. In Ohio, which had restrictions nearly as severe as Michigan’s, but a male Republican governor, the abuse instead goes to…

Ohio’s public health director, Amy Acton, shifted to an advisory role after enduring months of anger over the state’s preventive measures, including armed protesters at her home bearing messages including anti-Semitic and sexist slurs. One Republican lawmaker linked Acton, who is Jewish, to Nazi Germany; another called her a dictator.

These stupid fucking idiots. Also…

Georgia’s public health director said last month that she receives threats daily and now has an armed escort. Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender, has come under fire over the state’s handling of the pandemic, including from a county official who resigned after saying at a recent meeting that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up as a woman.”

I’m sensing a theme here. Anyone else?

Oh, I am damn peevish this week. The heat broke, briefly, so we can open the windows and hear the constant fireworks. I’m going to read a book and go to bed.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events | 92 Comments
 

First weekend of summer.

These long summer evenings, I love them so. Not a stellar weekend, but one in which I put a big headache – our taxes – in the rear-view mirror. We had to pay less than I’d feared, so celebrated with a dinner out on a patio, at a restaurant two blocks away. Warm summer night, big crunchy salad – life could be worse.

Meanwhile, down came the statuary everywhere else. I have no official opinion about this. When I took that slavery walk last summer, we stopped at the statue of Alexander Macomb, Revolutionary War general and slave holder. Honestly, I’d never even noticed him before; he was just another man in period dress, cast in bronze, for pigeons to poop on. This week, in an op-ed in the Freep, one of his descendants said it was time for him to come down. They could replace him with a sculpture of Malcolm X and after a week or three, I don’t think anyone would notice.

The question is, how do you move forward?

Then there was the ridiculousness in Tulsa, for which I don’t have many words. I’m so tired of this. It’s like being beaten by an abusive partner over and over, only the partner has shown to be a drunken, toothless ass. He can still hurt, but he’s fully revealed as the little man that he is. What a shameful time we’re living through.

Then there’s this:

President Trump and several staff members stood backstage and gazed at the empty Bank of Oklahoma Center in horror.

Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had canceled plans at the last minute to speak at an outdoor overflow rally that was almost entirely empty, despite claims of nearly one million people registering for tickets to attend the event in Tulsa, Okla., and the president’s false boast of never having an empty seat at one of his events.

The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place. Brad Parscale, the campaign manager who had put the event together, was not present.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Not a bad weekend after all.

Posted at 9:54 pm in Current events | 69 Comments
 

A few words about Columbus.

All these years later, I can still hear the piano in my head, the simple melody, the music teacher at the keyboard leading us in song at Barrington Road Elementary:

In fourteen-hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
His ship was small, but he was brave
He dared the wind, he dared the waves

He kept on sailing toward the west
And never thought of taking rest
To our great land at last he came
And so we sing his famous name

I have the feeling there was a third verse; for the life of me I can’t remember a word of it. But the rest of it lingers, the way you can remember your phone number from when you were 8 years old, but not your husband’s phone number today. (Why memorize? I just touch his name on the screen.)

As most of you know, I’m a daughter of Columbus, Ohio. I’m also old, so it’s fair to say I received the Full Columbus, education-wise. My school was all-white, and even the city itself was hardly diverse in the way we think about it today. There were white people and black people, and a few Asians sprinkled in here and there. A few years ago I was paging through my yearbook and realized we had one or two Hispanic people – or LatinX, in the contemporary parlance – in my class, although I didn’t know them, and their roots in South America were so well camouflaged I only recognized them as brunette.

Native Americans? Get outta town. The closest anyone came to that was the random kid who’d say, “You know, my grandmother says our family has some Cherokee blood.” Years later, I would work with a card-carrying Nez Perce, transplanted from Montana to Indiana, who said he was always told the same thing. “Man, those Cherokees sure got around,” he said.

But in the mid-’60s, in the largest city named for him, it’s safe to say Christopher Columbus was not a controversial figure. There were statues of him everywhere. The biggest one was in front of City Hall, which Google Street View indicates was still there as of September 2019…

…but also random ones scattered here and there, mostly in parks.

We were not taught that Columbus was anything other than visionary and brave, the man who discovered America by refusing to believe maps that showed the world was flat. He’d watched ships leave the harbor, they told us, and kept watching until they couldn’t be seen anymore. They didn’t suddenly disappear; they gradually sank from sight, the masts the last visible detail. I’m not sure I believe that, thinking back. Could one man’s eyesight be good enough to watch a ship follow the curvature of the earth? I can see across Lake St. Clair, but only at the narrow part and even then it has to be a very clear day. Well, whatever. The point is, he had a Big Idea, and he found a patron, and the rest is literal history. The turning point of so many great forces. A collision, actually.

Later the story was filled in, not as much as you’d hope. No teacher in my education even connected Columbus with the Conquistadors, the indisputably bad guys who followed him. We learned that he didn’t actually discover America so much as some islands on western fringes of the Atlantic. Certainly by high school we were being briefed on what a disaster Columbus’ arrival was for North America’s native populations, but this was never explained as anything other than Sad and Regrettable, but also Inevitable, chalked up to viruses as much as human blood thirst. And so I drifted on a cloud of Columbus ignorance for many years.

(Lest you think there was something uniquely evil about this, a miseducation done to indoctrinate children, be advised that Kate learned about Henry Ford at about the same age and his anti-Semitism wasn’t part of the lesson, either.)

Here’s something else we were taught in fourth grade: That in 1992, Columbus would probably host the Olympic Games, that the 500-year celebration of his arrival would demand nothing less than this sort of worldwide celebration.

Well.

I left Columbus in 1984, when the quincentennial was still a few years off. There was a commission planning something, and as the date grew closer it became clear the Olympics were off the table – Barcelona got that burden – and more important, something else had changed. The rise of the American Indian Movement, and the attention paid to the royal screwing natives of all lands had gotten at the hands of the first explorers, everything from whooping cough to chattel slavery, made the old guy problematic.

Suddenly, other cities that had statues of Columbus were taking them down. These weren’t violent events for the most part, and rather than drop them into the nearest body of water, city managers called up their colleagues in Columbus: “Hey, want a free statue of your namesake? We’ll pay shipping!”

This was an early warning that 1992 wouldn’t be a lovefest, and it wasn’t. There were teach-ins and seminars and all sorts of consciousness-raising. The commemorations were a mix of solemnity and celebration. I think there was a new park or parks built, maybe some other stuff. I went to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists convention in Columbus that year. I think my paper was even flush enough to pay for a hotel, when I could have just crashed at my parents’ or sister’s place. One of the events was a Native American who did his own teach-in, and painted the explorer as an unrepentant rapist, slaver and shitty-ass navigator who basically ran aground in the Caribbean. He was very full of himself, and I poked at him during the Q&A, because he got on my nerves.

“Wasn’t the meeting of the old and new worlds inevitable?” I asked. “You act as though the guy who would have come the following year would have somehow been different.” He went off on a tangent about the Vikings, and I don’t remember how it went after that. I’m sure he thought of me as a disciple of Charles Krauthammer or something. Then the seminar ended and we were taken by bus to Select Sires in Plain City, to hear about artificial insemination in dairy cattle, which was actually interesting and of course, a giggle for a bunch of dirty-minded journalists.

Anyway. The biggest international event Columbus got that year was Ameriflora, an “international horticultural exhibition,” i.e., a flower show.

There was one other thing I want to mention: As part of the commemoration, and another stop on the columnists’ tour, we visited the Santa Maria Columbus, a replica of the explorer’s flagship. I can’t recall enough of the details – how faithful a replica it was of the actual ship, what the design was based on, etc. It looked boxy to me, like it was built more to accommodate tourists than cross the ocean blue. Three masts, 90 feet length overall. It looked like a movie set. I have no idea how it got to this city far from any coast; I suspect it was trucked in pieces and assembled at its mooring on the Scioto River, the city’s brown, slow-moving waterway.

But in its own way, it impressed me. Ninety feet sounds big until you think what it would be like to cross an ocean on it, and an ocean some believed drained into an abyss, at that. During hurricane season. And this was the biggest of the three in the expedition; the Nina and Pinta were even smaller.

I see Columbus more fully now, certainly. He was a man of his times, and the times were very different. But his ship was indeed small and he was brave to take command and sail off into the unknown. As the Mercury astronauts would later say about themselves, he was spam in a can.

A final note: Last summer I took a walking tour of downtown Detroit, led by a local historian, an African-American man, who briefed us on the slave-holding roots of the city’s founders. We made a brief stop at the bust of Columbus, which this week was removed to storage until the city can have a conversation about it, the mayor said.

The guide said he didn’t consider Columbus any kind of hero, but he respected his presence on the Randolph Street median, because it had been erected by the local Italian-American community, who were confident enough to insist on their own depictions of their own history. And we walked on.

You don’t know the half of it, I thought, and played the song in my head again.

Posted at 6:13 pm in Current events | 82 Comments
 

Beneath the blue suburban skies.

I don’t want to oversell this storm that hit us, but I don’t want to undersell it, either. Our neighborhood was littered with enough fallen trees to build a couple of log cabins. Mostly silver maple, we noticed – a fast-growing tree people plant because they don’t want to wait too long for shade. Years later, another homeowner curses them forever when it comes in through the bay window.

Anyway, the chippers came through this morning to dispose of the piles in front of every other house. (We didn’t have any huge limbs down, but Alan took advantage of the chipping service to take some deadwood out of a dogwood and flowering something-or-other.) I’m hoping the extraordinary noise of recent days – generators and chain saws and chippers – is over for now. Our power returned almost 48 hours exactly after it went out.

We didn’t have any major damage, but we lost everything in the freezer and most of what was in the fridge. And about the only blessing besides not having a tree fall through a bedroom is, the cold front that caused all this brought along some delightfully cool summer weather. Perfect for a bike ride, some outdoor exercise, grocery shopping to restock the fridge, all that.

I’m having that weird time-collapse thing. Sometimes I go back through the archives and reflect on how events used to last a while, how things that happened on Monday could sometimes still be remembered on Thursday. Now it just blurs from one disaster to the next. What happened Saturday? Oh right – Cadet Bone Spurs gave the commencement address at West Point. We’ll all have our favorite moments from that, but maybe mine was when he shouted out his birthday the following day, paused for the applause he expected and heard…crickets. I’ve never seen another West Point commencement; it’s entirely possible that the soldiers are not expected to respond to cheap applause lines during the speech, but to clap at the end only, politely. But it was a nice moment.

Trump looked drugged to the gills. In his weekday newsletter, Roy Edroso’s been writing these brief Oval Office scenes and playlets, and having fun with the president and his “formula,” tweaked by his doctors and chief of staff to keep him engaged, voluble and under control. And there’s that guy on Twitter, the former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who’s been claiming for years that Trump snorts Adderall and other drugs for the same reason. But on days like Saturday you could really see it. He leaned on the podium like an old man on a four-footed cane, slurred simple words, mispronounced “Ulysses” and “MacArthur” and then there was the ramp incident.

The day after, hundreds of MAGA-heads joined in that stupid boat parade through Lake St. Clair to the RenCen. There was a land component, too. A friend lives close to the route, and hearing the honking, thought it must be a graduation parade, common this year with the lack of formal ceremonies. So she went outside to wave, and was appalled to see the TRUMP 2020 flags flying past her house. So she stood there, raised both middle fingers and made sure a few of them saw her doing so. The suburban vote.

Another friend said his buddy was on his boat when the flotilla went by. Why, he asked, do all those geezers blare “YMCA,” which they of all people are old enough to recall is a gay sex anthem? The answer, of course, is that they’ve ruined that, too.

They’ve ruined everything.

One reason I didn’t blog last night is, we were invited to Italian-style family dinner with friends, and what would you do? It was marinated pork chops and pasta puttanesca – worth breaking quarantine for. We talked about whether the Trumps have ever, EVER hosted a White House cultural event, the way the Obamas (and for that matter, even the Bushes) did. Which made me think of the wonderful East Room concerts, which made me think of this, which made me cry.

What a Monday. On to Tuesday, then.

Posted at 6:21 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Disenfranchised.

I got some texts today from our webmaster J.C., now back home in Atlanta:

We applied for mail-in (absentee) ballots that could be dropped off before 7 pm at a few places around the county. And then we filled them out and dropped them off down at the Auburn Ave Research Library. Then drove back via our polling place and this other mutant multi-precinct polling place set up at a restaurant/bar (!?) at the SE corner of Piedmont Park, called ‘Park Tavern.’ The lines circled the buildings multiple times and were not moving and people looked miserable. In an hour or two we’re supposed to get some residual tropical storm Cristobal rain. Reports are Fulton County voting machines are broken down in huge numbers. Total total clusterfuck.

It goes without saying that it is absolutely positively inexcusable for this to be happening in the United States, let alone in a thriving city. The photos from the Journal-Constitution are the Wisconsin primary with T-shirts instead of parkas. The copy says “elected officials (are trading) blame” for this fiasco. The governor and secretary of state are both Republicans, and I don’t know enough about the forces at play here to blame them specifically, but every single part of this was predictable. And probably avoidable, as long as one upholds certain values. Voting is important, and should be made as easy as possible for the widest range of qualified citizens.

I’m volunteering to be trained as a poll worker here in November, barring a disaster. Planning to vote absentee, myself. But it’s going to be a struggle for every vote, I am sure. I have to do something, and this is something.

Meanwhile, I see Rod Dreher and other panty-wetters are drenching their drawers over “defund the police.” As I remarked on another page, it’s amazing what you can learn when you dare to read a news story to the fourth paragraph and even beyond. I think John Scalzi gets it right here:

“Don’t make cops the people who have to handle every damn thing because we’ve defunded social programs and the experts who would do a better job with those issues and also don’t have guns to shoot people, let’s fund those programs with some of the money that we’ve given to the cops because we made them do all that stuff,” which as I understand it is closer to the generally accepted understanding of what “Defund the Police” means.

Yes, exactly.

And while we’re at it, re-collect all that military surplus gear we’ve been bestowing on them all these years, that they often don’t know how to use in the first place. My quiet little suburb of 15,000 souls, give or take a few hundred, has an armored troop carrier. Why? Because the chief filled out a form and asked for it. It might be useful in an active-shooter situation, he says when asked about it. Mainly now it’s driven to block parties for kids to climb in and out of. Beat that crap into plowshares, now.

OK, you can see I’m testy, which I tend to get when the temperature creeps close to 90 degrees, as it is now. But storms are expected, followed by another lovely weekend ahead. I’m down. Happy midweek, all.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Current events | 40 Comments
 

And now, your speaker.

Big fan of community colleges here. Big, big fan. They offer a reasonably priced alternative to the traditional four-year experience, and they’re useful for so many — for the first-generation higher-ed student, for the tech-certification student, for the budget-conscious student and probably a few I’m forgetting. When Bernie and his fellow travelers talk about “free college,” this is what they are talking about, or should be. Not four years at Oberlin, but two years of post-secondary at a local, public community college. It’s good for everyone, and by everyone I mean from students up through society at large.

This is another reason I find the private-sector poaching of community-college students so disgraceful. There is zero reason an 18-year-old should be taking on a better-car-size debt to get a “degree” in dental hygiene. Walking to my car after work one day, I passed a young woman in a cap and gown, making a phone call outside a downtown Detroit theater. On the marquee was a congratulatory message to the graduates of some “institute” that advertises on local TV, touting their night and online classes and flexible hours, ideal for working parents, etc. I wanted to ask her how much debt she’d taken on for her certificate. I wanted to tell her she could have saved money by getting all that stuff from her local CC. But why spoil a cap-and-gown occasion by spraying bummer juice all over it? Really.

And that’s why it was so disappointing to see that one of these public CCs, Wichita State University-Tech, invited Ivanka Trump to be their commencement speaker. The date was surely booked months ago. I’m not sure when the “virtual” speech the White House released over the weekend was recorded, but if it wasn’t “five minutes after she agreed to the date,” it’s yet another astonishing failure and misreading of the public mood by Team Trump and most especially, Team Ivanka.

From the beginning, the First Daughter’s presence in the White House has chapped my ass. Never mind that she was there in the first place; let’s just talk about her utter, utter cluelessness in how she’s…what’s the phrase we use today? “Built her brand,” yes. As the administration lurches from one disaster to the next, Ivanka soldiers on with her pretty-princess photo ops and video drops that get worse with every passing day, suggesting she is learning nothing, nothing at all, from her time in the West Wing.

It’s possible, in weak moments, to see Ivanka as yet another victim of her parents’ horrible raising, of her neglectful father and gold-digging mother. (One of the many things I learned about Ivana Sr. is that she’s been married four times, only her second lasting longer than two years.) From them, she obviously learned that a woman’s worth is always founded upon her physical attractiveness, and that attractiveness must always be sold with a smile. At a time when women so often complain about being told by men to “smile more,” it seems weird to tell Ivanka to smile less, but there you are — another norm smashed by the Trump family.

But then I think, if you start handing out those passes, when does it stop? The first daughter will be 39 on her next birthday. She’s a mother herself. What is she teaching her own daughter, whether overtly or by example? At what point do you hold people accountable for their actions?

Ivanka, we learned last week, was the one who thought up the photo op in front of the church, that the Bible her father held up like an auctioneer was carried in her Max Mara purse. And Ivanka delivered that clueless, tone-deaf, utterly ridiculous “commencement address” without an obvious gun to her head. She didn’t seem strung out on veterinary-grade Xanax like her stepmother did, moving woodenly through her own horrible photo ops last week. No, she sold that thing, with her head-swiveling and eyelash-batting and vocal inflections straight from the Madonna Institute of Trying to Sound Vaguely English or at Least Not From Michigan.

And now the graduates of WSU-Tech will have the dubious distinction of not only being deprived of their own cap-and-gown graduation, but of being forever associated with that ghastly display, although to their credit they also got it cancelled. A community college should invite someone who knows community colleges, preferably a speaker who’s attended one, but at least one who gets what’s involved in a CC education. Not a graduate of a private high school followed by a grease-slicked slide through an Ivy, who then delivers a line written by whatever GOP ladder-climbing intern came up with it: “Your journey to this day did not come without challenges, sacrifices, determination, grit, sweat, and likely even a few tears, but you persevered.”

It’s funny. Commencement addresses are generally accompanied by an honorary degree, a harmless bit of theater that suffices for a bigger honorarium. I wonder what was planned for Ivanka, pre-pandemic? An honorary tech certificate in welding or drone technology? Or maybe dental hygiene, to honor her shiny veneers. Who knows?

I think it was Rick Wilson who wrote the book “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” which has become a hashtag: #ETTD. It’s too bad this has been passed on to his children, but at some point it’s up to them to say, “Stop touching me, dad.” (And I don’t mean that in a sexual sense, and please let’s not go there in the comments.) It’s hard to break from one’s family, but sometimes it has to be done.

I have one bit of bloggage today, this Chicago Sun-Times piece on one of the young men arrested for rioting in that city. Among the million possible jokes you could make about it: Beavis & Butthead grow up, etc. But I see it as yet another version of Ivanka, just way more downmarket.

Now to clean the bathroom for the later arrival of J.C. and Sammy! A socially distanced cocktail hour is called for, for sure.

Posted at 10:57 am in Current events | 60 Comments
 

Wrung out.

The governor opened the pools, but it’s looking as though our own won’t be opening. Although who knows, maybe it will. The problem will be finding lifeguards at this late date, but again – no one knows anything. The summer will be long and hot because it always is, but it’ll also be uncharted territory due to…well, you know. Everything. Murder hornets. Whatever.

We got a tip this week that arrestees after one of the demonstrations — and there have been demos nightly, all week — were taken to Little Caesars Arena for processing. I typed up a brief story, and added a paragraph at the end about the symbolism of nonviolent protesters (these were curfew violators) being taken to a sports stadium, invoking Augusto Pinochet and his use of the national stadium as a prison camp. I thought it was at least worthy of a mention, but my editor cut it. Honestly, I had to laugh; I don’t generally get too attached to my work for Deadline. But today, the arena’s social-media staff posted this, and the comments are…not good:

And now, dunno about you, but at week’s end, I am whipped. There’s this, though, which I leave you with in hopes it will break over the weekend and at least offer some comic relief:

If you like, you can read my story about how the dailies are killing it with live-streaming of the protests.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 3:42 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 27 Comments
 

An open wound.

What a sour mood I find myself in on this…Tuesday. Too much work to do, and the temperature is spiking at close to 90, even as we speak. I was going to take a bike ride, but decided to have a Campari spritz instead.

Don’t feel much better. But it would probably be worse if it made the world better, right?

Anyway, I feel like I’m forgetting the lesson I learned in newspapers, i.e., never say it can’t get any worse, because it always can, and does. After the weekend, I could hardly believe Trump could go lower, but what am I saying? The bottom of the barrel can always be scraped a little more. Monday’s disgusting display, followed by this:

And I’m sure more is to come. Five more months of more. Maybe four more years after that.

But Monday. Watching Ivanka in her stilettos and fucking million-dollar purse – what do you need to buy between the White House and the church behind it that you needed to tote that little accessory along, hon? The press secretary in her toy-soldier outfit. And of course the president, who handles a Bible like he’s never seen one before. And the fellow travelers in the churches. Every one, every single one… I’m out of words, at least polite ones. Or even stern ones.

And then, this. Before my eyes resolved what I was looking at, I thought these were ants or something, being gassed by an exterminator. But no: American citizens.

And every time some shithead like Jimmy Lileks wrings hands over buildings, or windows, or whatever, I just want to scream.

So I need to stay off certain parts of the internet for a bit. Do my work and let the rest go by.

You lovely people, on the other hand, are great. So carry on.

Posted at 7:27 pm in Current events | 75 Comments