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' | 52 Comments
 

Saturday night, special.

Sunday morning as I write this, a coolish one that reminds us of what lies ahead, but frankly, delightful to enjoy after weeks of swelter. I slept late because I stayed up late last night. The Schvitz, currently undergoing renovation, hosted a fight night party for the McGregor/Mayweather matchup. Ladies admitted free, freewill offering toward the construction fund appreciated.

I went alone, but met friends old and new, including the owner of a marijuana dispensary. The law is in flux here, with a new city ordinance and a state licensing system set to go online later this year. The old dispensary was closed, but a new one is planned. The owner was optimistic and promised it would be something fantastic. I forget the exact language he used, but he implied a Walmart of weed crossed with Nordstrom-level customer service, or something. Should be amusing to see, once it’s finished.

Was the fight worth staying up late for? Meh. Of course the outcome was foreordained, but McGregor delivered, staying upright for 10 rounds and only fouling his opponent with MMA-ish moves about a million times. I wish I could have enjoyed the memory of watching it a little longer, before reading somewhere — can’t recall where, so no link, sorry — that McGregor was the rooting choice of White America, and they’re taking his brave stand as a victory. Well, bully for those rednecks then. I’m feeling a little cranky these days, and I’m blaming it on TAJ, or Trump-adjusted terms, as the new phrase goes. McGregor won in Trump-adjusted terms.

I miss the days when our president didn’t impose himself into my consciousness so often. But that is the world we live in now.

Honestly, Friday’s events left me feeling discouraged and depressed. The more you learn about Joe Arpaio — and I encourage you to follow this Twitter thread, and click the links — the more repulsed, sad and insert-bad-emotion-here I got. And that was only one of the awful things that happened Friday. In an optimistic moment, it’s possible to see this shitshow as the last gasps of a dying corpse. When I’m feeling less so, I think: 60 million people voted for this shit.

Right now I have to get the house in order. We’re having guests for the “Game of Thrones” finale, and I need to do some prep work. In the meantime…

Remember Kirk Jones, the guy who went over Niagara Falls to his death that I wrote about a while back? The Detroit News did a deep dive — so to speak — on him. Nothing about his life is particularly surprising, and he fits the pattern of so many Niagara “daredevils,” who really should be called desperados, in the truest sense of the word. I still owe you guys a story about the Toby Tyler Circus, Jones’ brief employer. One of these days.

A good NYT piece on the best and worst places to be gay in America. I’m not spoiling things to note that most of the best places are in urban America.

Someone was looking for a book recommendation recently, can’t recall who. I can recommend “Mrs. Fletcher,” Tom Perrotta’s new novel over there on the nightstand. It’s funny and seemingly slight, but it has some interesting things to say about contemporary sex and sexuality. I guess I also have to read Joshua Green’s “Devil’s Bargain,” although I don’t want to, but I probably have to. I’ve heard good things. It’s going on the list.

And with that, off to whip up dessert, then do a little more shopping. Enjoy this lovely day, and give thanks you’re not Conor McGregor, who this morning probably feels like he was in a car accident. See you in roughly 48 hours.

Posted at 11:32 am in Current events, Detroit life | 67 Comments
 

Notes from well outside the perimeter.

I guess I picked the wrong weekend to try to stay away from the news, eh? I was happily plowing through an overpriced granola/yogurt breakfast at the Eastern Market when I checked Twitter out of boredom and saw the first reports from Charlottesville, of the tiki-torch march. Had a feeling nothing good would come of it. Was right.

A few thoughts:

James Fields, the young man who was apparently behind the wheel of the car that plowed into the crowd is, as you might expect, yet another young man already in life’s clearance bin. Fatherless, directionless, quiet, “kept to himself,” etc. A lot of these kids find themselves in the Army. As did Fields, until he found himself out of it:

Military records show that Mr. Fields entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, around the time his mother wrote on Facebook that he had left for boot camp. Less than four months later, on Dec. 11, his period of active duty concluded. It was not immediately clear why he left the military.

I’ll leave it to you vets to speculate on what might have cut his service short. I saw some Twitter commentary on an interview with his mother, whose own affect seemed a bit flat. She stays out of his politics, she said. No part of this was surprising to me; I have met a thousand versions of this woman, an older, wearier version of her son. They’d been living in Toledo for about a year, in one of those townhouse developments where a person could, if they were so inclined, more or less disappear from the face of the earth. (He had moved out a while ago, however.) The video showed her sitting next to a silver car. You’ve passed a dozen of her on your way into work today. Silver cars blend in. Middle-aged women blend in. Townhouses are pre-blended in housing. Just a reminder you never know. About anyone.

Meanwhile, this oxygen thief (thanks for that one, FDChief!) thinks the whole thing was staged. And some of his oxygen-thievin’ listeners probably believe it.

By the way, if you’re not reading Will Sommer on the various tribes of the right, you’re missing out. Here’s his C’ville report in The Hill. Here’s his Twitter. And here’s a link to his weekly-ish newsletter roundup.

You should also read Roy on this subject, as well.

So. Other than that, how was the weekend? Tiring. I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen, but then cleaned myself up and went out with Alan to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We went to the proverbial chic downtown hotspot, which was crowded and loud and where Alan got the surprise of his life when he ordered a rye manhattan and was charged $19 for it. Yes, $19. For one drink. But that was just for cocktail hour. We went later to a different place for dinner and I’m not sure what manhattans were costing there, but I bet it was less than $19. It was a nice evening. Kathryn Bigelow stayed at the hotel connected to the $19-manhattan place when she was in town last month, but I’m sure the studio was paying.

Sunday was more cleaning, but the house is no longer a Den of Shame and Dust, and we managed a graduation party in the afternoon. The host had a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and was pouring summer refreshments for anyone who wanted more than a beer. “Here you go,” he said to Alan, fortifying his lemonade. “I’ll make it a double and it won’t be $19.”

Have a swell week ahead, all. Let’s hope everybody simmers down.

Posted at 8:36 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

You otter be in the water.

My friend Bill is recently retired, which means he’s in the go-go stage of post-work life. (The other two, of course, are slow-go and no-go.) He’s having a great summer, bombing around the state with “12th & Clairmount,” the documentary film our employer co-produced, and on his travels, he’s developing a new sport. The sport of the future! he says. He calls it ottering – it’s open water swimming in fins and a life jacket. He keeps saying we should go so I can try it out, and Sunday we worked out our schedules and did so.

We drove to St. Clair, Michigan, on the St. Clair river between Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair. There’s a park there, with a long boardwalk and seawall. We put on the gear and jumped off into 68-degree water and spent an hour ottering. It’s fun. The PFD holds you up and the fins allow you to master the current, which runs about 3 miles per hour draining the Great Lakes toward the sea. At least half a dozen ships passed us, and their wakes bobbed us up and down pleasantly as we drifted and floated.

Why is this the sport of the future? Because Bill has been swimming there most of his adult life, and in recent years has developed shoulder pain, enough that he fears one day injuring himself climbing back up the ladder on the seawall. Hence the PFD. The fins just make it easy to move around. So the pitch really should be, Ottering: The sport of the future in an aging America.

Now to monetize it. I told him to write the book and I’d contribute a chapter. He could do a merch run. It could be his gift to the world, a way to bring the joy back to swimming for people who don’t feel confident enough to do it in deep water anymore.

Then we had lunch and a couple of beers. Not a bad way to spend half a Sunday.

It was a pretty FUBAR weekend all around, with Alan suffering drug side effects from his oral surgery. He had hiccups all day Friday. Seriously, all day. Was awakened at 6 a.m. by hiccups, in fact. Turns out they’re a side effect of the steroid he’s on. Then you have the antibiotics and the painkillers and a UAW vote in Mississippi on a Friday night, and there goes half the weekend. I had to finish a story to boot, so there went half of mine. I was able to slip away for a while Friday night, for a house music lineup at a local bar.

House music sounds like this, at least this set did. That link is to a short video. (If it gives you problems or won’t play on your phone or whatever, I don’t want to hear about it.) I like it OK, and that was a nice early-evening groove, not too loud, so a pleasant way to pass a couple hours.

And suddenly, there goes the weekend. August is flying by. Next week is the OABI, the Once Around Belle Isle kayak race, which I’m on the fence about entering, and the weekend after that is Swim to the Moon, my first open-water swimming event (besides ottering). And then another kayak thing and into Labor Day. Stay a little longer, summer.

So, on to the bloggage? Sure.

This German dude is a future otter, commuting to work via swimming the Isar River, through Munich.

Man, the Chinese have this hoax nailed. Down.

Another take on “Detroit,” this one calling the film immoral.

Oh, and finally, perhaps appropriate because we spent all weekend working, we watched “Obit” on Saturday night, a documentary about the NYT obit desk. Very enjoyable, and I recommend. Let’s hope the weekend ahead is the same.

Posted at 12:13 am in Current events, Detroit life, Movies | 44 Comments
 

‘Detroit.’

The events of the last week of July 1967 in Detroit are one of those things everybody knows, and nobody knows, including what to even call what happened. “Riot” is the generally accepted language, although among African Americans, “rebellion” or “uprising” is nearly universal these days. Ever the wishy-washy moderate, I usually opt for “civil unrest,” because the most destructive element of the violence was the widespread looting and arson, which is hard to justify as an act of rebellion, especially considering how many black-owned businesses were destroyed that week.

But never mind that for now. Everybody knows the precipitating event was an early-morning raid on an illegal drinking establishment, known as a blind pig in the local parlance. Detroit still has zillions of these, mainly after-hours bars. I’ve never been to one because I’m a thousand years old, but my young friends all have their favorites. It’s where Detroit’s techno/house music scene took root and continues to thrive. They continue to be busted by the police, too, although I’m not sure if the customers are rousted with quite the vigor the law displayed in the 1967 raid on the establishment on the second floor of a 12th Street print shop. It was the rough handling of the folks being put into paddy wagons, especially the women, that supposedly moved Bill Scott to climb onto a car and exhort the crowd of onlookers:

“Are we going to let these peckerwood motherfuckers come down here any time they want and mess us around?”

The crowd roared back, “Hell, no!” and the bottles and rocks started to fly.

That’s from my colleague Bill McGraw’s excellent story of the family who owned the blind pig, whose own history reverberates with fallout from that night to this day. I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth your time if you didn’t get to it then.

Anyway.

The city was 40 percent black by that point, but its police were still overwhelmingly white and dedicated to keeping the black community in its place — in their neighborhoods, and out of white ones. Unlike most cities its size, Detroit grew horizontally; one reason it has the specific and unique problems it has today is that sprawling footprint, mostly covered with modest working-class housing for the huge labor force that gathered there in the early 20th century. They came from all over the country and all over the world, and working side-by-side in factories didn’t necessarily make them love one another. My friend Michael once drove me around his old neighborhood, where something like four Catholic churches existed in just a few square blocks — one for the Italians, one for the Hungarians, etc., like the punchline of the joke about the two Jews on a desert island.

Anyway. It was with all this knowledge in our heads that we went to see Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit,” which will open in a theater near most of you August 4. We got the “now playing in select theaters” early run.

Bigelow is a director I run hot and cold on. Hated “Blue Steel,” found “Point Break” ridiculous, liked “The Hurt Locker,” found “Zero Dark Thirty” troubling but worth seeing. She’s undeniably skilled, with an eye for finding beautiful images in horrific stories. “Detroit” kicks off with the blind pig raid, but quickly gets to the main narrative — the events of one night at the Algiers Motel, a fleabag at Woodward and Virginia Park, stormed by police, National Guard and Army troops after they heard shots fired from the building.

They never found a gun — which was said to be a starter pistol one guest was messing around with — but did find a number of black teenagers, 17-19, some members of The Dramatics, a singing group. Two of the teens were white girls, visiting from Ohio. At the end of the night, three of the young men were dead, and the survivors told of being tortured and terrorized by Detroit police in search of the gun and the shooter. This story didn’t come out immediately, but after an investigation, which led to murder trials for the Detroit officers and acquittals by all-white juries. The facts of what went on that night have never been definitively established — the cops claimed self-defense — but the rough outlines of the narrative have: Three dead teens, no gun found, survivor stories of torture.

That’s what Bigelow and her team were working with. And I’ll give her this: That lady knows torture. The police lined eight men and two women up against a wall in the motel for an hour, and that’s about how much screen time it takes, too. It’s an excruciating hour. Individuals are peeled off and taken into rooms, where police then fired gunshots, coming out to tell the rest that, well, we killed that guy, and would anyone now like to change their story and produce the gun?

There’s little relief in that hour. State police decide not to intervene. A few of the Guard/Army troops commit acts of mercy or stand in judgment of the insanity unfolding at the wall, but no one really intervenes. The baddest of the bad guys is a punk-faced, trigger-happy racist with a penchant for shooting people in the back and the unfortunate gift of making weaker men follow his lead. The other two are nearly as bad. One sneeringly asks one of the girls why she “fucks niggers” and how she can stand the smell of Afro Sheen.

Eventually the incidents at the motel conclude, and the film swings into an awkward third act — trials for the cops, recovery for the victims. You can feel the air go out of the balloon after the blood is mopped up. It really doesn’t feel like Bigelow’s heart is in this part of it, although this is where the greatest injustice happened. No one was ever held responsible. One victim is left with PTSD. Bad police are still abusing black people with impunity, and the president is encouraging them. And a corner that once looked like this now looks like this.

I walked out impressed by Bigelow’s technique but hardly entertained, or even enlightened. I think the critic for Roger Ebert’s site, Angelica Jade Bastien, got it exactly right:

Watching “Detroit,” the latest film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and penned by Mark Boal, I hit a breaking point I didn’t realize I had. I was disturbed so deeply by what I witnessed that I left the theater afterward in tears.

It wasn’t the relentless violence inflicted upon black bodies or the fiery devastation of the riots ripping apart Detroit but the emptiness behind these moments that got under my skin. Watching “Detroit” I realized that I’m not interested in white perceptions of black pain. White filmmakers, of course, have every right to make stories that highlight the real and imagined histories of racism and police brutality that pointedly affect Black America.

…“Detroit” is ultimately a confused film that has an ugliness reflected in its visual craft and narrative. Bigelow is adept at making the sharp crack of an officer’s gun against a black man’s face feel impactful but doesn’t understand the meaning of the emotional scars left behind or how they echo through American history. “Detroit” is a hollow spectacle, displaying rank racism and countless deaths that has nothing to say about race, the justice system, police brutality, or the city that gives it its title.

We saw the film at a multiplex on 8 Mile Road, and were apparently the only white people in the theater. (We were certainly the only ones who sat through the credits to see my boss’ name; he did research for screenwriter Boal, and was listed as a consultant.) “Well, I HATED that,” a woman said, loudly, as she filed out, and I expect that will be a pretty uniform opinion among black folks. To be sure, it’s a terrible story with an unhappy ending. The bad guys got away with it. And they were terrible bad guys.

But in the end, it’s an incredibly bloody film that is ultimately rather bloodless.

One final note: When I was young and ignorant, my boyfriend’s stepfather was a retired prison guard. He’d worked at Riker’s Island, in New York. I asked him what sort of weaponry he carried as a guard, and he quickly corrected me: He never carried a gun, or even a nightstick. Guards can’t take the risk of being disarmed by prisoners.

I thought of him during the riot scenes, which underline how fragile order really is, how thin is the social fabric we all walk around on and under, every day. It doesn’t take much to turn a Saturday-night party into something far more sinister, something police flee from, how quickly even these guardians of order can be overcome. Temperatures rise, tempers flare, a guy stands on a car and shouts encouragement — that’s it. And the correction, the restoration of control, is worse. It leads to harsher policing, more fearful citizens, more guns in nervous, fearful hands.

I hope I don’t live to see something like this happen again, but I fear I will. We always speak of events in incendiary terms, of “powder kegs” and “ticking time bombs” and “lighting the fuse,” etc. But all these things have to have a supply of powder, a bomb, to exist. How about building fewer bombs? Just a thought.

Posted at 12:10 am in Detroit life, Movies | 68 Comments
 

Waiting for a miracle.

All the advice was to see “Dunkirk” in IMAX, so I googled around. Turned out there’s an IMAX screen at a multiplex in Royal Oak that I didn’t know about. Royal Oak is closer than the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, which is where I feared we’d have to go, so this was good news. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a regular theatrical-entertainment film in IMAX, only short science films like they show at museums. Bought tickets online, paid IMAX prices.

After the credit-card sale went through I looked at the tickets. “‘Dunkirk’ in EMAX,” they said. What’s EMAX? I thought, but figured it had to be some version of IMAX.

It wasn’t. It was just a wide screen. The theater is called Emagine, and sure enough, there’s no such thing as EMAX as a film format, it’s just the chain’s name for “PREMIUM LARGE FORMAT, bigger picture & maximum sound.” You can say that again; it was really, really loud. But the screen was nice and wide and oh well, at least for a movie like this you don’t generally have people talking throughout. And if they had, the soundtrack would have drowned them out pretty well.

And I can’t say I missed the IMAX, honestly. “Dunkirk” was an immersive experience in every sense of the word; it’s hard to see people wearing boots and heavy wool uniforms trying to swim in an unforgiving sea. A colleague saw it Thursday and panned its storytelling trick of multiple, non-synchronized timelines, but it worked for me. I imagine service in a war zone is a series of minutes-become-hours, hours-pass-like-seconds episodes, part of what makes it so disorienting.

You can read entire shelves of books about the Dunkirk evacuation, and thousands of words about this telling of the story, so I won’t add to it other than to say I liked the film very much and it made me want to sail our boat across the lake and rescue some Canadians. Or maybe the other way around. And I’ll also stand with David Edelstein, who took a pasting in the comments about his review in New York magazine, for writing that he assumed one chapter/timeline, titled “the Mole,” was about the anonymous soldier at its center, who has a prominent mole on his jaw. I did too! And I subsequently learned that “mole” is another term for a jetty, pier or breakwater, a structure that is very important in this story. I’ve read pretty widely and spent lots of time on or near water and boats, and I’ve never heard this before. Ever.

Before the movie, we visited a local brewhouse/restaurant. On the menu:

Proud to be an American.

I guess the next movie we’ll see in a theater is “Detroit,” about an incident in the ’67 riots, being commemorated this very week. Here’s a tick-tock by my former colleague Bill, roused from retirement to help the Freep staff. Lots of links within to other stuff, and sorry about the goddamn autoplaying videos, but that’s Gannett these days. And here’s the News’ editorial-page editor with the suburban take.

Over my years here, I’ve heard many personal recollections of that week, mostly bad ones. Some were grimly amusing; a guy on a local message board lived in St. Clair Shores, and remembers one of his mother’s friends knocking on the door late one night in a panic. She’d heard that gangs of black men were going house-to-house in Grosse Pointe, raping white women, and could she take shelter with them? He thought it was extra funny that he saw her a year later at a party his parents threw, and her escort was a black man. I always wonder, when I hear stuff like that, if there are people who deliberately start hateful rumors in the wake of chaos, for whatever reason. They were rife after 9/11, none backed by any shred of evidence.

This personal story isn’t funny at all, but it was written by a friend whose father was a Detroit firefighter in 1967, and it’s sad and worth your time.

As for the events from Washington, the Fall of Spicey and the rise of the next guy, Scaramucci, I leave it to the comedians.

Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:10 am in Current events, Detroit life, Movies | 89 Comments
 

They’re down, they’re out, what’s next?

I guess the big talker in the WashPost today had to be this story, another deep dive into the murky pond of Trump’s America. The tl;dr: Seventy-four percent of McDowell County, W.Va. voted for Trump. About that same number needs the various benefits of the Affordable Care Act just to make it to their next birthday. What is the disconnect? Well, it’s pretty cavernous:

Another patient comes in: Carolyn Hodges, 68, who tells Keisha that she’s been feeling dizzy. Carolyn has Medicare, the public health insurance for the elderly. Medicare doesn’t cover all health-care costs, which is why Carolyn is as worried about the price of her medications as the fact that she’s been bumping into walls.

The last time she went to pick up her husband Roger’s insulin, Carolyn tells Keisha, the pharmacist said it would be more than $600, instead of the $100 or so they usually pay. That was when she learned Roger was in the Medicare prescription “donut hole,” which means that the cost of his medications had exceeded his limit for the year, and he would be forced to pay far more for prescriptions until the year ended and the tab started over. One initiative of the ACA has been to close that hole incrementally, but Carolyn, unaware of that, sees the bills piling up and thinks she knows who must be to blame.

“Thank you, Obama!” Carolyn says, throwing her arms in the air.

A week does not go by that I don’t read a story like this, or yet another tweetstorm from some poverty tourist with a laptop and a Medium page, telling the world how rough things are in Trump country, and how much they’re a-gonna suffer, etc. etc. And I’m getting tired of them. They knew precisely what they voted for, and now they’re getting it. How much sympathy are the rest of us required to have for someone like this?

Heartburn is just the latest problem for Clyde, a patient Keisha sees every three months. Like so many in this corner of Appalachia, he used to have a highly paid job at a coal mine. Company insurance covered all of his medical needs. Then he lost the job and ended up here, holding a cane and suffering not only from heartburn but diabetes, arthritis, diverticulitis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Because of the ACA, Clyde’s visit is covered by Medicaid. Before the law, most West Virginians without children or disabilities could not qualify for Medicaid, no matter how poor they were. The ACA — better known here as Obamacare — expanded the program to cover more people, such as Clyde, who can depend on Keisha to fix his heartburn without having to worry about the cost.

As for the other problems in his life, he has put his hopes in Trump, who came to West Virginia saying he would bring back coal and put miners back to work. When Trump mentioned repealing Obamacare, Clyde wasn’t sure what that might mean for his Medicaid. But if he had a job that provided health insurance, he reasoned, he wouldn’t need Medicaid anyway, so he voted for Trump, along with 74 percent of McDowell County.

Love that word choice: “he reasoned.” He “reasoned” that a blowhard said he could command a river to reverse its course, and then his raft would no longer be drifting toward that waterfall. Good to know.

Clyde! Listen up! The reason you lost your job is, coal is over. Natural gas, produced in abundance through fracking, ran coal off the road. Lots of environmentalists worked hard against fracking, too, but I expect you thought of them as limp-wristed hippies and special snowflakes and all the rest of it.

I take a few deep breaths when I read stuff like this. I am empathetic, really I am. I understand what it means to be ignorant, and stuck in a shithole, and grasping for straws. I blame a lot of people for how things are turning out, including the cable-news executives who shoveled free airtime at Trump like Clyde shoveled coal down in the mine. But my patience is wearing thin.

I don’t think I’m alone, either. David Fahrenthold, a WashPost reporter, posted this story on his Twitter twice, asking people just to try to understand. The replies were pretty brutal. People do understand. They’re just not feeling nice about it.

How was y’all’s weekend? This was mine:

Yes, Patti Smith’s 40th-anniversary “Horses” tour. My young friend Dustin (who took the picture) got a plus-one for his review ticket. Not bad at all. I go back and forth on Patti; at her best she’s a truly interesting art-rock artist — sorry, I reject that she’s ever been “punk” — and at her worst, just a big bunch of pretension. But she’s aged into an interesting senior citizenship (she’s 70), and maybe I’ve mellowed. It was a very nice show, complete with that new wrinkle in rock shows, at least by the Olds: Bringing one’s kids out as part of the backing band.

After that we swung by the Old Miami to hear some friend of Dustin’s spin, as they say. Equally enjoyable, as she was working a fun mashup of ’90s hip-hop and newer stuff. Biggie’s “Hypnotize” never gets old, does it?

The last thing Patti did was slice the strings of her guitar, one by one, and throw them into the crowd. Don’t think Biggie ever did that, though.

I’ll leave you with a shot of Wendy in a pensive pose…

…as we start the week, pensively.

Posted at 6:37 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 59 Comments
 

This year’s models.

The North American International Auto Show Charity Preview is, I am obliged to say, the single largest charity event in the metro area, and raises a small fortune for its various beneficiaries – $5.2 million this year. They do it by not spending much at all — the drinks are included with the $400 ticket price, and I was shocked this year that I was actually able to nab one. In previous years it seemed like they had one bar and a case of mediocre champagne. This year there were multiple bars, and mediocre red and white wine, plus beer. But that’s fine, because it’s for charity, and as they always say, the stars are the cars.

Eh, not so much this year. It was a pretty underwhelming show, which you can see as a just a fallow year or maybe a tipping point. The big talker this year was Ford’s embrace of “mobility,” the buzzword for the city of the future — light rail plus buses plus ride-sharing plus driverless cars plus bikes plus, oh yeah, your own two feet. This is how we’ll get around in denser environments, and for those of you who insist on living elsewhere? Here’s an SUV. So let’s get to the pictures, shall we?

The underwhelming stuff is in the lobby outside the show hall. The guy pimping this whatever-it-is roped me in with an air of desperation. It’s one seat wide, no back seat, and it gets 85 miles per gallon. He told me that three times. Whatever, dude. I can’t imagine how it handles, but it’s your car for getting to the light-rail station, maybe.

We entered at Kia, which unveiled a new fancy-schmancy thing, seen here. I think it’s called a Stinger:

If you’re thinking, yes, the world’s been waiting for a better Camry, then you must be living in my head. But hey, it’s a Kia. And it’s very red and shiny. This, elsewhere in the Kia space, was my fave:

Now those are some damn snow tires. About three or four days a year, I could use the hell out of those.

This matte paint is a trend, I gathered. That’s a vintage …Challenger body (I think) with a brand-new performance engine in it. For the boomer who has everything:

I’m including this picture of a Chrysler concept van for Brian Stouder, and I think he knows exactly why:

It’s actually kind of cool. Called the Portal. It’s a concept, so all the cool shit will be stripped off if it ever hits the road, but that’s why we love concepts.

The Volvo moose. I think it’s promoting their accident-avoidance system:

Here’s something I’m glad we are finally speaking plainly about. Quien es mas macho?

Finally, the new dress. Don’t like this picture; I don’t know what told me to stand with my feet like that, but it’s this year’s model, and probably next year’s, too:

It is always fun to dress up, but man — wearing heels for just a few hours is like getting shitfaced drunk — my feet have a 24-hour hangover at a minimum. (And yeah, I should really have an evening sandal; didn’t get to that chore this year.) Maybe next year I should go floor-length and wear some Chuck Taylors underneath.

And that’s all for 2017, folks. Be safe out there and watch out for the autonomous cars.

Posted at 7:51 pm in Detroit life | 52 Comments
 

The cars have come to town.

Our outstanding webmaster J.C. has done the thing he’s done for a number of our late commenters — made a separate comment thread for Maggie Jochild’s contributions. It being January and all, it has me thinking of whether I should shut down the blog before this becomes a weekly occurrence, and all that’s left is for some 25-year-old reporter for a yet-to-be-founded website by an as-yet-unborn tech guru to do a story on this curiosity that’s been publishing regularly since 2001.

Old people! They’re so funny!

Maggie was a wonderful writer. I read a few of her poems here. I think that’s the best tribute you can pay to a writer — keep reading them. You’re never really dead until no one remembers you anymore. Reading is remembering.

Is this too much of a memento mori to kick off the week? I hope not. Don’t want to be one of those people who complains chronically about winter and gray skies and all that. Friday night I went out with a friend and he told me a wonderful story about an edible (that’s medical-marijuana lingo for weed you don’t smoke), a 300-pound security guard in a Santa hat and an assault rifle. I chuckled well into Saturday over that one; it was one of those stories that tells me I’m in the right place, gray-bowl skies and all. There’s a certain kind of hijinks that only certain cities produce.

We were in a bar, a new one for me and nearly new for him. The bartender had been a witness in a high-profile murder case a few years back, and the experience had left her shaken — or “deeply shaken,” as the newspapers inevitably put it. But she had valuable evidence to offer: How the accused, her landlord, had shown up at the apartment building the night of the crime and made a big show of sweeping the parking lot — an activity he had never done before, at least in her tenure — and introducing himself by name to everyone who walked by. That is to say, he was establishing his alibi. He might have gotten away with it if he had spent a little more on a hit man; the one he hired (for something like $1,500 and the title to a used Cadillac) walked into the police station a few days after the crime and confessed. He still might have gotten away with it if the police had been successful in sending the hit man away as a crank, which they tried to do.

It was a mess. But a juicy story.

So that was Friday. Saturday was the usual blur of chores, and here I sit for the next few days, a virtual widow as Alan deals with his Hell Week, i.e., the Detroit auto show. The gala is next Friday and I will take some snaps, I promise. Got a new dress, too. Red.

I won’t be getting one of these. But it might make useful protective coloring if you have to travel through hostile territory in the next four years.

The other thing that’s getting me down is what’s happening Jan. 20. The dread is starting to catch up, because every day I see awful things in the news and I wonder why my street isn’t filled with people screaming as a result. I recall also feeling this way during the financial crisis, which was a useful lesson: When momentous events happen, life as it’s lived on a daily basis doesn’t change abruptly, until it does. I read this piece on Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, our soon-to-be attorney general, and felt icy dread inside. If you click through, WTF with those women in those dresses, and one of them is… black? Really? They found an African-American woman to put on plantation drag complete with parasol? Maybe I’m missing something.

Not all the news is terrible today, though:

Got to sit down with my bullet journal and make a plan for what will be a pretty busy-ass week. Also, I’m gonna vacuum. Enjoy the remainder of the weekend and Monday, all.

Posted at 4:31 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 72 Comments
 

Men in dresses.

It was an Old Detroit kind of weekend, when it all wrapped up. Saturday night at the Players Club Invitational, a guest of my friend Michael. This is a different Players Club than the one on 8 Mile, a strip club. This is a more than 100-year-old men’s club in the tradition of Hasty Pudding, and those men’s theatrical clubs of a bygone era.

“Men joined this club to get away from their wives,” Michael said. Very Babbitt, actually. They do a production every month or so (I think), for members only, no ladies allowed. But twice a year, in spring and fall, there’s an invitational, when XX chromosomes attend, but only to watch. All parts are played by men, just like in ol’ Bill Shakespeare’s time. And so you get a slamming-doors farce like “Boeing, Boeing,” where Gloria, the American flight attendant, looks just a little…tall:

playersclub

I mean, even in kitten heels.

Michael said he’d been in one production so far, an episode of “Gilligan’s Island.” It so happens he bears a strong resemblance to Brian Dennehy, and I assumed he’d been cast as the Skipper. No, he said.

“A rather stout Mary Ann.”

Now that I’d have liked to see.

Anyway, a very enjoyable evening. Seating is dinner-theater style, and guests bring picnic baskets of food and drink. It was a stitch.

Sunday was ladies day at the Schvitz. It was a perfect day for being outdoors, riding a bike, raking leaves or otherwise being under the sun. I considered all this and went to the dank, steamy Schvitz. I’ve been feeling a little, how you say, tense. And one of the other schvitzers said she was inviting a massage therapist, a stronger lure than any sunshine.

“I think this election is driving me insane,” I said to the woman who invited her.

“You’re telling me,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming about people chasing me around, telling me who to vote for.”

We both got massages. The therapist said my back felt pretty knotted. You’re telling me.

She also told me I needed an adjustment. But I’m not much of a believer in chiropractic, so I said nothing. The few times I had it, nothing much seemed to change, and the doc gave me a big anti-vax pitch toward the end of our course of treatment. Ugh.

Hope the rest of you had a pleasant weekend. Adrianne saw this ad during a football game yesterday and was appalled. Juuuuust a wee bit anti-Semitic.

But of course, this is the big news of the weekend – Hillary’s emails, cleared. Who is scripting this ridiculous movie, anyway?

Posted at 9:33 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 64 Comments