A hash of it.

I’m a feminist, but I try not to be too prickly about it. A lot of what younger women get upset about — catcalling, being told by total strangers to smile, having men simply assume they can impose upon my time without permission — simply doesn’t happen to me anymore. And I’m older now, and know that everybody, no matter their age or station in life, is figuring it out day by day. Which is to say: I try to forgive. You never know.

Saturday morning is my gift to myself. Almost every week, I get up early and go to the Eastern Market to drink in the glory of fresh vegetables glowing under the rising sun, or at least do a little people-watching. Then I stash my haul and take myself out for breakfast, at a coney island (non-Detroiters, read: diner).

I almost always sit at the counter rather than tie up a table. I usually order the hippie hash with eggs over easy. I’m in and out in 30 minutes.

On Saturday, seating was tighter than usual. Only two single stools.

As I sat down, the guy next to me started talking. To me.

“Man, I love this place,” he said. “It’s a dying breed. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.”

Three statements, one an opinion, the other two incorrect. Just smile and nod, said the angel on my shoulder. Set him straight, countered the demon on the other.

“Of course it’s not a dying breed,” I said. “There are probably dozens, no, hundreds of coney islands like this, all over the city.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s a great place,” he said.

OK, so maybe we’re dealing with someone not quite all there. He didn’t look homeless or mentally ill, didn’t smell drunk, but you never know. He was wearing a day-glo vest that suggested he had a real job, working near traffic. But the devil had led me into temptation, and now we were having a conversation.

“They just know you, they remember your face,” he enthused. “See? She brought you coffee, the way you like it.”

Too late, I smiled and nodded, then picked up my phone and started scrolling Twitter, the universal symbol for we’re-done-talking.

He wasn’t done talking. “It’s so great here,” he went on. “I love this place. The food is so good.” Kept scrolling. “Excuse me if I’m talking too much,” he said. I smiled and kept scrolling: Oh look, the president is yelling about Puerto Ricans. Someone sat down on the other side of him, a man, and he started in with him, only it was about football. The guy gave him two replies, then picked up his own phone. Back to me.

“They really serve the best corned beef I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s so…good.”

The angel reappeared on my shoulder. This poor man probably lives by himself and has no one to talk to, she whispered. Can’t you be a good person, just this once?

“I’m not much for corned beef, but I’m sure it’s very good,” I said, still looking at my phone.

“And the hash browns!” he went on. “They’re so great!”

WTF, I’m thinking. This isn’t a conversation, he’s just babbling. His food arrived. Corned beef and eggs. He started to eat, briefly stopping his patter, but not for long.

“Mmm, I just love this,” he said. “Sooo good.”

By now I was staring fixedly at my phone and actually turning my body away, to the extent I could without imposing on the person on the other side.

“Look at that yolk!” he crowed. “Just look at it!”

I turned back to him and snapped, “OK, that’s ENOUGH.”

He went on chortling to himself: “Mmm, these eggs, so good.”

My own food arrived. I bolted it, grabbed the check and left. A stranger, a man, had successfully ruined my breakfast because I lacked the spine to shut him up immediately.

This is my life now. Squabbling with crazy men in diners.

Of course, when you turn to the news, you get this:

Without taking an iota of glory away from first responders, I am increasingly uncomfortable with what happens pretty routinely now after these tragedies – the deflection of horror into generic praise for first responders, who are, after all, doing the jobs they signed up for. Maybe those who do are only looking for something, anything, good to say when confronting oceans of blood. But there comes a point where Mister Rogers’ advice is simply what it is: Comfort extended to children. It’s fine to look for the helpers. But if you can’t, or won’t, look at why the helpers were called in the first place, you’re simply deflecting.

Yep, I’m politicizing this tragedy. Join with me. Let’s politicize the shit out of it. Because it happened due to a failure of policy. Policy is decided through politics. So let’s get to it.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:17 am in Current events, Detroit life | 63 Comments
 

One for the books.

I want to observe the 24-hour rule. More will be revealed, always. It’s dangerous to extrapolate from incomplete data.

And while I freely acknowledge I’m no expert, this sounds like automatic-weapon fire, doesn’t it? (No gore, safe for work.)

It appears the killer took a sniper’s position from the Mandalay Bay and fired down into the crowd? That’s what you can do with an fully automatic weapon in a dense-packed area?

My god.

Our president sends “warm” condolences:

And here we go again. You ask me, 2017 sucks way worse than 2016, personal business aside.

Still standing, though, still whipsawing. It’s a long road ahead, and I’m still trudging down it. Better get to it. Open thread on the shooting and lord knows what else will come of this cursed day.

Posted at 8:14 am in Current events | 81 Comments
 

Park bench notes.

So, when one is unemployed, is it normal to be whipsawed between optimism over the unpredictable future and despair that one is old, old, old and will never work again?

Asking for a friend.

Basically doing OK here. I’m trying to keep busy. Sent out some résumés, surfed some more job-search websites, cleaned the first floor, ate leftovers for lunch, rode my bike a bit. Swam. Tried not to feel like a leper.

When I was a kid I had a board game called Careers. The square for unemployment was called Park Bench, because that’s what you did when you were jobless, I guess — went to the park and fed pigeons. I’ll try not to be a cliché, but Wendy does enjoy occasional jaunts to the dog park in Detroit. We’ll try that.

Hugh Hefner is dead. I do not have much of a feminist take on Hef, I confess. Objecting to the grosser elements of his lifestyle seems about as effective as objecting to the same parts of our president’s – you’re not going to make a dent in the guy, and the objections seem to be a feature, not a bug. He made it to 91 living more or less exactly how he wanted, down to the last detail. A deeply strange man, fully on display in this four-year-old Esquire feature on the occasion of his 87th birthday. Thanks to Hank for tweeting it late last night. I read it during my 4:30 a.m. insomnia bout (see above). A few details:

Even after they split up, when Hefner bought (ex-wife Kimberly) Conrad the mansion next door and smashed down the wall between them, he kept a blown-up version of her centerfold on the wall in his library. It wasn’t until (sons) Marston and Cooper told an interviewer that they didn’t love seeing their mom’s bush every time they came over that it even dawned on Hefner to take it down.

and this:

On another night, Bettie Page was invited to come see, for the first time, “The Notorious Bettie Page,” a 2005 biopic starring Gretchen Mol as the early, iconic Playmate. In her eighties then and still getting used to the idea of her late-life revival, Page sat near the back of the room. Everybody hoped that she liked what she saw. (Hefner was especially protective of her, having loudly denounced a biography that documented her battles with mental illness and occasional violence. A giant topless photograph of her still hangs in the hallway upstairs.) Those hopes were shattered only minutes into the movie when Page began screaming at the top of her lungs: “Lies! Lies! Lies!” Then she burst into tears, her face in her hands. “Why can’t they just tell the truth?” she said between sobs.

and can’t forget this:

He holds two Guinness World Records, for different kinds of devotion. The certificates are on display not far from Bettie Page’s beautiful tits. He is the longest serving editor in chief of a magazine—Playboy’s first issue came out in December 1953 (he founded it after leaving his job as a copywriter at Esquire), with a sixtieth-anniversary issue planned for the end of this year—and he has the world’s largest collection of personal scrapbooks. A genial but intense forty-nine-year-old man named Steve Martinez oversees their assembly and upkeep; he has a silver tooth and dark-framed glasses. For twenty-two years, he has been Hefner’s full-time archivist, responsible for the thick black books—2,643 volumes and counting—that document virtually every day of Hefner’s long and eventful life.

(Editor’s note: I wish classy magazines like Esquire and the New Yorker would stop spelling out numbers higher than nine. “Forty-nine-year-old man named,” etc. Ugh.)

The scrapbooks part is really weird.

Time to hit the gym and walk Wendy. In the meantime a little bloggage.

When we look back on this era, the No. 2 embarrassment will be our creation of the Dragon of Gluten, although it’s certainly been a good grift for some people:

Belle Gibson, wellness blogger and founder of the Whole Pantry, was fined $410,000 (in Australian dollars; $322,000 in American dollars) by an Australian court for claiming that she “cured her terminal brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar.” Gibson admitted in 2015 that the claims had been made up to Australia Women’s Weekly — she did not and never had brain cancer.

“Wellness blogger.” Speaking of which, if you’re on Twitter you should be following @drjengunter, who has made a small name for herself tormenting all things Goop, i.e., the work product of wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow.

As the kids say, so much This to this, a report from today’s college campuses from Ed and Gin and Tacos:

Articles about college students by people who do not spend their working lives on a college campus are inevitably bad. Hilariously bad. Bad like that right-wing Christian fantasy film God’s Not Dead, which represents a fever dream of what a college campus is like by a bunch of people who have never been on one.

Since this isn’t the Washington Post and I don’t have an editor here I’m going to cut to the chase: 99.99% of college students don’t care. About anything. Half of them consume so little news that even asking them about the major headline stories of a given time period draws blank stares more often than not. If they have opinions about political or social issues, more often than not it amounts to parroting the reactionary views of their parents and all the Fox News their parents exposed them to. The idea of college undergraduates as a gaggle of barbarians mobbing the proverbial gate is endlessly amusing to any college faculty. If you can get these kids to show up to class and hand in their assignments it’s a goddamn miracle.

OK, then. There are but 24 hours in this day and more than nine of them have already flown. Time to get some shit done.

Posted at 9:38 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments
 

New horizons.

I have to admit it: It’s hard to get excited about job-hunting in journalism, not only because there are so few of them available, I just know what all the job-listing language is really saying. Plan, coordinate, assign and edit = answer to vague directives from on high, struggle to translate them to assignments that can be understood by freelancers, beat the bushes for a few writers who are both a) literate and b) willing to work for peanuts, hector them until the pieces are done, try to shape them into what you really wanted, mail out tiny checks.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, when I think of what I want the next chapter in my work life to be, I find myself inspired by…well, this guy, who was the subject of a Wall Street Journal A-hed story way back in the day. He’s an Ohio U. grad, a few years ahead of my time, whom I met and chatted with at one of our college-newspaper reunions. He’d been the Israeli correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and was among the very first to be downsized. So he took his considerable portfolio of skills and ended up PR guy/day manager of one of those mega strip clubs that the Sun Belt is so famous for. Now that’s a goddamn transition.

As I come to the end of my career, I want my work to encompass more experiences outside journalism, not another office staffed by the depressed and overworked. The websites I’ve been examining for jobs this morning include casinos, professional sports, and if anyone knows some URLs for what a friend describes as Big Marijuana, pass them along. (Big Marijuana is gathering on the state’s borders, I’m told. Salivating. They need someone like me.)

However, I’m 59 and realistic. But you never know.

Thanks for all your support. In the end, I think Bridge will move in a new direction, and it’s just as well I won’t be moving with it, because I’d be miserable. My plan for the next few weeks, besides updating my resume, are to restore my sleep, relax, pinch pennies, exercise every day, chip off the eight pounds that accumulated over the last year and listen to my nerves sigh, rather than gasp for air.

So, need to hit that gym yet today. On to the bloggage:

I agree with Neil Steinberg that this piece is too long, but it’s delicious just the same — Matt Taibbi on the Madness of Donald Trump. If you’ll forgive this breaking of the three-paragraph rule, a description of the Phoenix rally a few weeks ago:

The audience seems into it for a while. But it goes on too long. During the campaign, Trump was expert at keeping a hall buzzed with resentment for an hour or so. But he hits weird notes now. He goes off on a tangent about his enemies, it’s not clear which ones. “They’re elite?” he says. “I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great.”

Polite applause.

“You know what?” he goes on. “I think we’re the elites. They’re not the elites.”

No one is counting fingers, but you can tell people are having trouble making the math work. We’re elite because you have a nice apartment? Campaign Trump bragged endlessly about his wealth – “I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney” was a classic line – but back then he was selling a vicarious fantasy. Trump’s Ferrari-underpants lifestyle was the silent-majority vision of how they would all live once the winning started. But candidate Trump was never dumb enough to try to tell debt-ridden, angry crowds they were already living the dream.

At one point, Trump ends up standing with a piece of paper in hand, haranguing all with transcripts of his own remarks on Charlottesville. To prove that he’s been misquoted or misunderstood, he goes through the whole story, from the beginning. It gets quiet in the hall.

It’s an agonizing parody of late-stage Lenny Bruce. The great Sixties comedian’s act degenerated into tendentious soliloquies about his legal situation (he had been charged with obscenity). Bruce too stood onstage in his last years for interminable periods, court papers in hand, quoting himself to audiences bored to insanity by the spectacle.

This, too, is another piece that’s on the long side, but it certainly captures the particular blend of soft-focus nostalgia and blindered self-delusion that is the contemporary Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy is there to make sure it stays that way:

We linger at the mausoleum of Jefferson Davis, whom my escort refers to as “the president.” “You probably don’t like President Trump, and to be honest I’m not too thrilled with President Obama,” he tells me. “But like it or not, they were president, and President Davis was our president.” I must look skeptical. “Aren’t you the folks who want to go around giving everyone a participation trophy?” he snaps.

The bronze effigy of Davis winks in the sunshine, a participation trophy if I’ve ever seen one. Earnest, meanwhile, has withdrawn once more into the 19th century. Not among these dead, he intones, is Davis’ son Jim Limber, a black boy freed and then adopted by Davis’ wife. “Union troops took Jim Limber away” when the first couple of the Confederacy retreated to Danville, Virginia, he says mournfully. “They didn’t think it was right to have an African child in a white family. But I tell people that we Southerners were way ahead of President Obama: We put a black in the Confederate White House.”

Yeesh.

Finally, on Mike Pence and Obamacare, this:

As governor of Indiana, he implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to great success, modifying the program to address what he perceived to be his state’s unique needs. Now Pence is championing a bill that would undo much of what he accomplished in Indiana, stripping insurance from the very people who received it under his plan. Graham-Cassidy redistributes federal funds from blue states to some red states—but not to Indiana: The bill would slash federal funding for Indiana by $7 billion between 2020 and 2027, denying health coverage to nearly 500,000 Hoosiers over the next 10 years. It is, in other words, another version of the same concept that Republicans have pushed for months: a massive cut to Medicaid under the guise of ACA repeal.

As vice president, Pence has unceasingly promoted measures that would undo his signature achievement as governor. (As of this writing, Graham-Cassidy appears to be dead, but recent history suggests the repeal effort isn’t truly over until the Sept. 30 reconciliation deadline passes.) More pointedly, he has promoted these measures using a rationale he has already himself disproved. Why? Pence obviously wants to remain loyal to his boss and the GOP agenda—but he’s also boxed in by his own past success. If the vice president told the whole truth, he’d have to admit that as governor he showed that the ACA already allows states to “innovate” with “new ideas” about health care. According to Republicans, Graham-Cassidy seeks to solve the alleged inflexibility of Obamacare toward states that want to color outside the lines. But Pence’s own record proves that this problem is simply nonexistent.

And that’s it for now. Again, thanks for all you do to buoy me up at times like this. It helps. It really does.

Posted at 11:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments
 

Lucifer.

Man, you can take your let-us-treasure-these-final-warm-days-before-the-snow-flies and stuff it. It’s 88 degrees as I write this, and I think I speak for many here: This weather blows. Two more days and it’s over, and after seeing a Christmas tree at Costco this afternoon, I say bring on the pumpkin spice and all the rest of it.

(I realize the pumpkin spice arrived the day after Labor Day, yes. And we had a few cool days in there before Lucifer arrived. But this shit is miserable.)

This weekend was Dlectricity, a biennial art festival that takes place after dark along Woodward Avenue and a few surrounding blocks. They’re light installations, mostly. There are several such events like this, the other being Noel Night, and last year I told Alan that Noel Night had joined the lengthening list of Things That Used to Be Fun, But Aren’t Anymore. Which is to say, parking is a nightmare, every attraction has a long line, etc. We decided to park about a mile or two away and use the new bike-sharing service to get close to the action, which is what we did, but about that weather? After we arrived, I looked down at my shirt and it was wet, in one of those Vs like you see in the movies when the handsome leading man is interrupted in the middle of his morning run.

However uncomfortable, it was still a good idea. Rode down, docked the bikes, walked around the installations, picked out another couple bikes and rode back to the car. The way home was in the new protected bike lanes, which was awesome.

As for the exhibits, I liked the bunnies best.

Two more days of this, then we drop below 80 for a daytime high. Maybe we can turn off the air conditioning.

Today I made the mistake of looking at some Twitter and Facebook posts about #Takeaknee, and it has dispirited me mightily. I have but this to say: God bless Martha Ford, that raving Marxist. She linked arms with her players while wearing sunglasses. I’m not inclined to tumble for WASPy matrons, but I did this time.

I have nothing blogwise, do I? Maybe:

How Trump bungled what could have been a first down. Why? Because he doesn’t understand football.

The latest heat-n-serve repeal from the GOP kitchen looks to be in peril. We shall see.

I don’t make it a point to watch the first lady’s speeches, so this piece was interesting. Turns out her observations are correct: She did appear to be on the brink of tears throughout. What’s going on in that lady’s head? (Never mind the outfit.)

Happy Monday. I hope wherever you are, it’s not as hot as it is here.

Posted at 6:49 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

May I borrow that pen?

I was reading the paper yesterday and came across one of those stories we’ve discussed before – the public shaming of someone caught embezzling. There’s something so uniquely humiliating about seeing these items bought with purloined funds; the evidence tags only underline the foolishness of risking liberty, fortune, reputation and family for something that inevitably looks shabby under a courtroom’s glaring lights.

This case hasn’t gotten this far; the accused is still only accused, but the feds are not shy with their filings in this case, in which an executive for Fiat Chrysler allegedly siphoned funds from a company training fund into his pocket and from there into various other pockets around town. He had the mansion and the swimming pool and the Ferrari and the “outdoor kitchen,” but this story is about his fondness for expensive fountain pens. He bought two — two! — $36,000, limited-edition (aren’t they all?) MontBlancs, with mother-of-pearl this and sapphire-embedded that. They were, the story labored perhaps just a teensy bit too hard to underline, issued to honor Abraham Lincoln, who I have to think would have guffawed at such a thing. (I shudder to think of the gewgaws yet to come to commemorate our 45th president.)

Anyway, not only does this guy have to squirm under the magnifying glass of those with subpoenas, he also has to endure the scorn of the pen community:

“This is a guy trying to live like how he thinks rich people live,” said Eric Fonville, president of the Michigan Pen Club, a collectors group of about 130 members. “Nobody would buy a $40,000 Montblanc. True millionaires don’t spend money like that.”

It so happens I agree, but someone must buy the things, or MontBlanc wouldn’t go to the trouble to make them. I guess they’re all tacky people.

But the shading is not over:

Iacobelli does not appear to be a serious pen collector. Fonville, the pen club president, had never heard of him until the indictment.

“He’s not a part of the pen-collecting community,” Fonville said.

And with that, a disgraced former Fiat Chrysler executive imagines life in a cell, and when everything he writes with resembles a crayon.

Stay honest, people. Or you could find yourself publicly shamed by a pen-club president.

So, we now march into the weekend. Hot and steamy here, which I guess is sorta-Indian summer, although I thought that had to come after the first frost, and we haven’t had that yet. I’m going to do the NYT mini crossword and ask you once again to read my Schvitz story, so I can be web-traffic queen for a day.

This other Bridge link will be live after noon EDT today. It’s about a crappy poll that claimed Kid Rock could beat Debbie Stabenow in the Michigan Senate race. If you follow the link within it to the FiveThirtyEight debunking, you find this remarkable passage:

After Delphi Analytica released its Michigan survey (it has released eight polls in all), I received a direct message on Twitter from Michael McDonald, a source I had spoken to before. McDonald follows political betting markets and had previously contacted me about another survey firm, CSP Polling, that he believed was a shell organization started by some people who use PredictIt, a betting market for political propositions. McDonald said that CSP stood for “Cuck Shed Polling.” Like Delphi Analytica, CSP Polling doesn’t list anyone who works there on its website.

A betting market for politics? Really? Talk about fools and their money.

Good weekend to all.

Posted at 9:14 am in Current events | 75 Comments
 

The good table.

The Detroit News has an annual event where they recognize the Michiganians of the Year, and this year’s was last night. I went as Alan’s date – a little reluctantly but dutifully, attitudes I shed as the evening went on. The view from atop the Motor City Casino was spectacular even on a drizzly evening, the company was good, the honorees inspiring and how often do you get to go to a party with Kate Upton?

Her uncle Fred, a Republican congressman from southwest Michigan, was being honored, along with Debbie Dingell, in a special bipartisan co-award. Dingell came close to tears describing her friendship with Fred Upton, a scene that good Republicans these days would laugh at scornfully, I suspect. Uncle Fred is said to be maybe retiring, or perhaps will run for the Senate. Dingell is in her second term, and indefatigable. Dunno what Kate’s next project is; I expect she’s concentrating on planning her wedding to Justin Verlander. And no, I never really got closer to her than looking at her blonde updo from a couple tables away, but I glimpsed her from the side at one point, and she has enviably nice legs.

And that’s why I didn’t update last night.

Back at work, and I feel pretty good so far. Yesterday was a bit of a grind, but I kept my nose to the stone and only have a little blood spattered on my blouse to show for it. In between, I caught up with some podcasts, in particular the week-old “What Happened” edition of “Pod Save America,” a 45-minute interview with Hillary Clinton. This WashPost piece concentrates on her comments about Bernie, but what stuck with me was her flinty defense of the necessity of courting big-money donors in an age of Koch, Mercer, Sinclair Broadcasting, et al. These are people who either own media empires or command them as such, and in an era when people are so easily manipulated by utter fucking bullshit, well, you can’t fight fire with kumbaya. I encourage you to click that last link, last week’s NYT magazine piece on the Russian propaganda operation, another piece I’m catching up with. It’s sort of terrifying.

And I’m multitasking with the NYT podcast looking at yesterday’s UN speech by the prez. He’s very fond of unnecessary modifiers, I notice — completely unacceptable, totally destroy, etc. Beyond that, I’ve not had enough coffee to further analyze that one.

So on to the bloggage.

We all know this, but Jamelle Bouie says it again.

Do you follow Will Sommer’s coverage of right-wing media? You should.

There’s a big freeway-restoration project going on in Detroit, the rebuilding of one side of the I-75 bridge over the Rouge River, but not only the Rouge River – it also crosses a landscape of industrial works that looks like the set of a dystopian sci-fi movie. It’s a two-year project and everyone around here knows about it. Except for this guy, who broke through the barriers, did $50,000 worth of damage to the project and nearly fell through the bridge surface. I know this is hard to believe, but police say alcohol may have been involved here.

With that, let’s tackle Wednesday.

Posted at 9:01 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments
 

All I ever wanted.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, today begins a week of vacation for yours truly, the first full week off since last Christmas, and yes, it’s nobody’s fault but mine. You can procrastinate on claiming your days off, the same way you can in filing expense reports and the like.

All I know right now, though, is I NEED A LITTLE BREAK. Yesterday I was toiling in one form or another for about 14 hours. Not heavy lifting, of course, and yes, there was a 20-minute power nap in there, but still. My mind needs a break from the news, from the grind, from all of it.

We’re going up north for a week. Alan will fish, I will read.

And there’ll be at least one more week off before the year-end holiday break. I mean, use it or lose it.

So now we wait for the next catastrophe. One of my Facebook network is posting intermittent short posts from Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin, which took a direct hit from Irma and is awaiting José. It’s grim there. I know dozens of people in Florida, and I’m thinking all my good thoughts for them. And of course we don’t know what our president will think of next. All I know is I’ll have a poor cell signal for a while.

I hope to put fresh posts in from time to time, probably picture posts you can comment on, as I don’t even know our rental’s wifi status. I hear the weather will be fine for at least some of the time. The woods and river are pretty up there. No hurricanes, anyway.

Have a great week, all. I plan to.

Posted at 4:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Fresh notebook pages.

It’s a bad policy, but Michigan schools are prohibited by law from starting until after Labor Day, and there’s a tiny part of me that is OK with that. I want the curtain to come down on summer before it rises on the school year, and yesterday was a perfect ending. The day was windy and increasingly hot through the afternoon, the gusts pushing the 80s out like a broom. A big front of thunderstorms was behind it all, and it hit around dinnertime where we are. It was the whistle that blew to clear the pool for good, send all the kids home to lay out their first-day outfits and backpacks, eat the final summer meal and set alarms for the first time in weeks or months.

Then, today, cool again, struggling to reach 70. My social-media feeds are full of pictures of little kids holding signs that say FIRST DAY 2017-18 and older ones smirking at mom.

People who live at this latitude say they like the change of seasons. They better, because they sure do change.

How was your weekend? We did a little sailing…

And I did a little rokkin’…

And there was relaxation, and some cold beers, tacos and laundry. The show was fun, Edgar Winter and Alice Cooper and Deep Purple on one bill, in that order. My young friend Dustin describes himself as an old soul, mainly reflected in his fondness for music that was popular when I was in high school. I wouldn’t have purchased a ticket for $5, but I was happy to be his plus-one as he reviewed the show for the local paper. The revelation was Edgar Winter, who I expected to be at death’s door, but wasn’t, and did a valiant “Tobacco Road” cover in honor of his late brother. Alice Cooper was…Alice Cooper, givin’ the folks what they came there for. Deep Purple took too many extended breaks for keyboard-solo noodling, doubtless to give the lead singer time for oxygen treatments backstage.

“One day, one of these guys is actually going to die out here in front of my eyes,” Dustin told me once. “And then my life will be complete.” He does a pretty fair impression of Roger Daltrey gasping for breath after struggling through the final yell in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that always makes me laugh. “He actually bent over and put his hands on his knees,” D. said, eyes aglow.

Our first trip to this venue was two years ago, to see Steely Dan, and of course Walter Becker, half of that group’s central duo, did actually die over the weekend. I have complicated feelings about that. Long live their many fine recordings.

During one of Deep Purple’s extended jams, I scrolled Twitter and learned of the DACA situation. What is there to say about that? The nation’s mattress continues to get soaked with pee.

And now we have Irma coming for us, but “The Deuce” to look forward to. One of these things is not like the other thing, and I’m not making the comparison.

Short week ahead, then VACATION FOR ME. Rarely have I needed one so badly.

Posted at 6:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 107 Comments
 

Open your eyes and see.

I remember something medical ethicist Art Caplan once told me in an interview, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Americans are great at saving the baby from the well.” (This was not long after the Baby Jessica story, which most of you will recall.) He went on: “We’re not so great at buying her a pair of glasses so she can see the well in the first place.” In the disaster in Texas — in every disaster — a lot of people have valiantly, heroically, pitched in to save the baby from the well.

That link goes to a WashPost story on the “Cajun Navy,” the assemblage of mostly Louisiana people who turn out with their low-draft boats to save people left in dire straits by floodwaters. I believe they first came to national prominence in the northern Louisiana floods last year, and they’ve turned out to help in Houston, of course. And that is a great thing, because lives are in acute danger. What’s much harder is caring about people when they’re not in danger, when they’re not wading chest-deep through the wreckage of their lives, holding their pets on their shoulders, or their children, or each other.

It’s harder — for some people, anyway — to admit that climate change is having a direct effect on these storms, and maybe we should swallow hard and make some difficult decisions. Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses.

During the 1993 Mississippi floods, some towns were so inundated that after the waters receded the hard decision was made to actually relocate them, to rebuild on bluffs instead of bottomland. This wasn’t 100 percent popular — history blah blah blah 500 year storms blah blah blah — but cooler heads prevailed. Or maybe they were cash-register heads, because the argument was pretty plain: If we want to rebuild on this soggy plain, we will be uninsurable, period. The next flood will take what it wants with no hope of recompense. And so the town trudged up the hill, and rebuilt there.

The floods in Houston are said to be similarly rare, a once-in-five-lifetimes thing, even though other no-way storms and damage have hit with more yes-way frequency in recent years – Katrina, Sandy and the the 2016 Louisiana floods, to name but two. Just in my little corner of the world, we have inches-in-not-many-hours rain events nearly every year, filling basements, closing freeways and overwhelming infrastructure that once could handle anything. We had one last night, in fact. We had one last summer. In 2014, Detroit got four to six inches of rain in four hours one night in August, doing a cool $1 billion in damage. And chances are, you didn’t even hear about it.

Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses. Climate change is a done deal, southern Louisiana is nearly lost, but perhaps we can start acknowledging that this thing our modern age did to the planet exists, and plan or modify our infrastructure accordingly. At the very least. Something.

Otherwise, it’s just us and the Cajun Navy, CNN, and the rest of this televised pathos-porn we love so much. Which is not enough.

So, bloggage:

This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. A complicated woman, a tabula rasa for the princess fantasies of millions of young women, who were collectively flattened by her violent end in a traffic accident, as a drunk-driving chauffeur tried to outrun a pack of photographers. I stuck with that story three days before I couldn’t watch another minute, but it went on for three weeks, maybe more. It was a rare case of worldwide hysteria. I mostly remember snapshots:

My local Borders bookstore had a table set up with a blank notebook, where customers could write their thoughts and condolences, with the promise it would be sent to the royal family. The pen was one of those with a feather glued to a ballpoint, I guess because it seemed more princess-y. There was a bud vase with a single flower and a box of Kleenex. This was an exercise that would arouse strong emotions; you needed a tissue. I wonder whether the book was ever sent, and if so, which mail clerk in the royal retinue fed it to the furnace and whether he laughed over it first: “Nigel, it says ‘ere, ‘Charles U R a monster and U deserve that horseface hag.’ Ha-ha!”

The classic-car auction in Auburn, Ind. a couple days later featured a Rolls-Royce with a single claim to fame — it had been used to carry Charles and Diana around on one day of a years-earlier trip to the U.S. Which is to say, she had sat in it for… maybe an hour? Two, tops? Sounds about right. The auctioneer treated this thing like it was the jawbone of a saint with centuries worth of provenance to back it up. The dumbasses at the auction lined up to fling some gladiolus stems into the back seat, like they were seeing on TV in London. I’m sure some tissues were dampened there, too. That they were bestowing near-religious significance on a car, to commemorate the death of a woman who had just died in a car? This seemed lost on them.

I wrote a column after 10 days or so wondering if maybe we weren’t all getting a little overexcited. I received a letter from a woman accusing me of hating Diana for her beauty, because I was so plain. That’s the word she used — plain. I’ve been on Team Camilla ever since, because Plain Girls Rock, or at least Survive. Plain girls don’t date vapid playboys and entrust themselves to their private-sector chauffeurs, anyway. At least I hope not.

My favorite single detail of the whole tawdry affair: Four people were in that car, three of them unsecured, all of whom died. The fourth, the princess’ palace-issued bodyguard, was sitting in the passenger seat. He fastened his seat belt, and survived. Let’s all lift a glass to Trevor Rees-Jones, and remember to buckle up.

Oh, and here’s a Hilary Mantel essay about Diana.

Finally, I remember Alex met an earlier partner at an event in Huntington, Ind., called the Nut Fry. Apparently nut fries are a thing in Indiana, and no less an authority than Rex Early, aka a “GOP power broker” used to host one.

And now you know.

Posted at 8:45 pm in Current events | 71 Comments