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
 

The red zone.

This was one of the season’s big weekends for us — Tox-away day at our local public-works department AND Theatre Bizarre.

We missed Tox-away day; it finished at 1 p.m., and we weren’t ready until 1:30. That left Theatre Bizarre, which did not disappoint. The event is now spread into four nights over two weekends, and I really hope the cash flow works out on this arrangement — even with the high ticket prices, it’s an event that barely breaks even, or so I’m told — because I like it a lot better. The last time we went, every inch of the Masonic Temple was elbow-to-elbow. There was a lot more breathing room this year, and that made for a more pleasant experience for me and my date:

alanthedemon

I wish I had more pictures to show you, but that’s the other thing about the TB: It’s a very red-lit event. (Except in the bathrooms, which are green.) If I’d had time to really mess with the exposure and use flash and so on, I might have gotten some better shots, but I’m increasingly unwilling to interrupt my experience of life by worrying that I should be Instagramming something. Sorry.

Of course, we were there to support these girls:

vipersattb

Not a bad gig for them, although they were staged in one of the smaller spaces within the Temple. (There are several.) But so, so red. Kate was having a fit over her costume beforehand; the one she’d ordered didn’t arrive in time, so she had to scrounge one up from the thrift store. I should have told her no one would notice. Either that, or my old eyes are just incapable of seeing in this light range, which is entirely possible.

Anyway, the artist behind TB describes it less as a party but as an immersive, participatory art installation, and that is absolutely correct. Every room is done to a T; every detail is considered. Even the tickets are beautiful. My favorites were these taxidermy displays:

goat

The wolf had a bird in its mouth:

wolf

I should have taken more pictures of the guests, if only for Brian, who approves heartily of boobs. I told Alan when we were leaving that every year we attend, I’m astonished anew at how many women seem to own corsets. There were some amazing boobage displays via corset, I must say, some left to simply take the air on their whalebone shelf.

Next year, maybe.

I’m really, really hoping next week is less crazed than last, although I did get a lot done. But I’m ready to move at a more reasonable pace for a while. Bloggage?

Nope. I’ve been so immersed in Trump for so long all I want to read about is makeup, cheap overseas travel, food, music and culture. Have a good week, all.

Posted at 4:27 pm in Detroit life | 97 Comments
 

Turning the pack loose.

Today was the last warm day for a while — 20-degree drop coming in the next 24 hours — so at quittin’ time, I took Wendy to the dog park.

We don’t go there often, although it’s my favorite one. Grosse Pointe dog parks require advance registration, proof of $100,000 liability in one’s homeowners’ insurance, vaccinations, and a pass, so that the Wrong Sort of Dog doesn’t get in. Detroit dog parks require that you show up with a dog. The Detroit park is even closer. Guess which one we go to.

But Wendy isn’t really a dog-park dog. She gets along fine with other pups, but basically, all she wants from life is to be with us, and life off the leash isn’t a huge priority. Ten minutes is about all she needs to sniff the perimeter and then return to our side and ask where we’re going next.

Today, three guys were there, with three dogs — another Jack Russell, more mutty than Wendy; a Staffordshire bull terrier; and a 9-month-old German shepherd. Male, female, male, respectively. The four of them sorted out their pecking order and started to run around, while I joined the guys. They had a cooler of Bass Ale and were passing around a joint. (I declined both.) All blue-collar dudes in the great Detroit tradition of skilled labor. The conversation was all over the map, perhaps because of the weed — work, the dogs, their friends, the variations on legal weed at the dispensary, and poetry. Yes, poetry. Not dirty limericks, this one, which one of the guys was looking up on his phone.

It reminded me not to get too judgey, to assume you know everything about a person because you noticed something about their hair or clothing or language.

The German shepherd began hassling Wendy, not aggressively, but he wanted her to pay attention to him and play, and she wasn’t into it. He’d face her, and touch her head with his paw. All, I should mention, with his red dog penis in full flower.

“Hey, who do you think you are, Donald Trump?” the dog’s owner called to him. The dog was named for a Mexican drug lord. The owner was the one with the weed (and a card to buy it legally, ankle pain). He also had a large cross on a chain around his neck.

We stayed about 45 minutes, then came home to read the latest NYT story about Donald Trump. Man, this part:

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

Oy. And then this:

A senior Trump adviser says the campaign will soon bring forward new accusers: “Women are coming to us who have been groped or sexually abused by Bill Clinton.” Trump is considering featuring these women at campaign rallies to “give witness to what Hillary Clinton actually did.” The Republican nominee’s decision to close out his campaign by attacking what he alleges to be the Clintons’ history of sexual violence suggests the next few weeks could be among the ugliest in modern presidential history.

And then this, from either Uday or Qusay Trump, I can’t recall which:

“I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence. At the same time, I’m not saying it’s right. It’s not the person that he is.”

In the world of men’s rights, everyone’s an alpha, kind of like in the ’80s when Shirley MacLaine was running around talking about past lives. No one was a reincarnated scullery maid or shopgirl; everyone was Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette. Betas do mass shootings; alphas have “game” and get laid by grabbing pussies.

God, I’m growing to despise these people. I want Ivanka selling cubic zirconia on QVC after this shitshow is over.

As for Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, et al? I want them sleeping in doorways. They’re that bad.

Don’t let me leave you on a bummer note, though. Here’s Wendy, with Donald Trump in hot pursuit:

dogparkwendy

Have a great Thursday. I’m going to be running from pre-dawn to well after dark. Might not get back with y’all until Friday or Saturday, but we’ll see.

Posted at 9:41 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 123 Comments
 

A full dance card.

A long, hot, busy, tiring weekend, and I’ve got an action-packed couple of days ahead. So if y’all don’t mind, this will be a bit phoned-in.

Fortunately, I took lots of pictures.

First, a bit of old business: I see a few of you were disappointed that we sip Woodford Reserve in any form other than neat or over a single ice cube. I hear you. I felt the same way when a bartender at a downtown Fort Wayne hotel told me that DeBarge, the ’80s pop band, ordered a $500-a-bottle cognac for their after-show drinks, which they mixed with Coca-Cola. But we’re long on good sippin’ whiskey right now, including this adorable find, which we stocked up on in the Iceland duty-free, bringing back bottles for our dog sitters, and one for ourselves. This stuff, Nikka, from Japan:

nikkawhiskey

That’s a 500ml bottle, not the usual 750, which I attribute to Japan being a country with limited storage space, presumably including liquor cabinets. But I love the shape of the bottle, the understated label, and the contents? Quite nice.

On to the weekend, which began with a rare night sail. The worst of the heat was blowing out and the breeze was just about perfect. Rain threatened but never really developed, and we had a long, lovely sunset to enjoy:

GPYCsunset

That spire is the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. We headed down to the mouth of the river, where we could see the skyline:

sylineatsunset

Of course, the other thing you should do when the sun is dropping is occasionally look in the other direction, because photographers don’t call it the golden hour for nothing:

goldenhour

Nice illustration of the breeze there, too. And here we have Heckle, Jeckle and their full extended family. These are cormorants, the shitting, roosting, fish-eating bane of the Great Lakes at the moment:

cormorants

We tacked around the bird party and headed back, catching a nice moonset in the bargain:

moonset

OK, that one was a little Instagrammed. Sue me.

The next day I had a chance to put on my old boots and dig out my chaps, because I had volunteered to help with a Detroit Neighborhoods Day activity, introducing city kids to horses. It was…an interesting day, for a lot of reasons. It was also sweaty, busy work, fitting kids with helmets, getting them onto a couple of willing ponies and leading them around a couple of big circles before pulling them off and putting the next one on. Just when I was thinking I could really use a break, these guys showed up:

blackhorsemen

I didn’t know such a group existed. They brought horses, too — all in western tack. I heard one call another a buffalo soldier, so you get where they’re coming from, i.e., the great tradition of African-American cavalrymen on the Great Plains. As this photo shows, not every rider came dressed for the occasion, but Charles didn’t care. He was an enthusiastic teacher, almost an evangelist for sitting up straight, legs down and putting fear where it belongs, under a pile of manure somewhere. It didn’t quite work with this girl, but she held on gamely for her trip:

riderinadress

It was four hours under a sun that grew hotter by the hour. At the end, I went out for a too-large Mexican lunch and a couple of margaritas, and woke up Sunday with a face so swollen I felt like Jerry Lewis in his prednisone period.

And Sunday was a trip to Defiance for a family reunion. It went the way most family reunions in city parks go. Alan’s sister brought some pictures of previous reunions, including this one of Alan, c. 1979:

youngalan

His Bob Seger period, right there.

Which brings us to right now, Sunday night. Tomorrow is Trump (I hope), Tuesday is a hard deadline, so you may have to look at these pix for a while. In the meantime, you might read this infuriating story by Bill McKibben, about the experience of being tracked by a conservative PAC trying to discredit his work around climate change.

And while I don’t want to load you up with NYT links — I know they’re limited for non-subscribers — this was an interesting essay on a subject of interest to maybe 100 people in the world, i.e., what’s happening to the restaurant scene in northern California as an unprecedented wave of money sweeps over it. I noticed it mainly for the arresting turns of phrase, like this:

I went there twice for work and concentrated both times on the food alone. I was knocked out, especially by a creation called Tidal Pool, which involved a clear littoral broth of seaweed dashi pooling around sea-urchin tongues, pickled kelp and foie gras. I know that I will set off the gag reflex in certain quarters when I confess that, in my view, Mr. Kinch took the sensory pleasure of falling off a surfboard into cold Northern California water and transformed it into the world’s most delicious bowl of Japanese-French seafood soup. Mr. Kinch, I concluded, was the savior sent to bring California cuisine into the 21st century.

How do you remove a sea urchin’s tongue? How is this different from eating ortolans? You tell me.

And when I get an empty 30 minutes, I’m going to read this, Jeb Lund’s account of the GOP convention, because I love Jeb Lund’s stuff.

Once more into the breach.

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

Saturday morning market. 

…includes a rare appearance by the wily red currant. 

Posted at 8:23 am in Detroit life, iPhone | 45 Comments
 

Brave new diners.

The sushi was delicious, if you’re wondering. This particular bar/restaurant has a “takeover Tuesday” every week, when guest chefs come in and do something new and different. It’s a cool idea, imperfectly executed, in that the regular kitchen staff and the waitstaff just take the night off. So it’s not just a new menu, it’s new servers and, well, anarchy of a sort. The place was full when I arrived, angling for seating for four. There were no rules about sections or seating, just take whatever you can grab. A six-top arrived five minutes after me and had their eyes on the same table.

(Guess who was sitting at the table, which could have comfortably accommodated five? One guy, working on a laptop, drinking a beer. I tried to displace him through my thought beams.)

Readers, I had to bigfoot the six-top, and readers, I felt bad about it. But when there are no rules, you make up your own.

This new dining culture in Detroit is simultaneously wonderful and baffling. The food is so much better than it was when we arrived, it hardly bears mentioning. But as we saw about a million times on “Top Chef,” just because you can put a great meal on the table doesn’t mean you know how to run a restaurant, and that lesson is harder to learn. Lots of the new places don’t take reservations and many don’t have phones. Nothing like making your way to the hot new place and discovering there’s a 90-minute wait. I have a young friend who sets aside Friday as date night with his girlfriend, and I rely on him for intel on whether I can even get near a hot new place. Lately we find them when they’re only lukewarm; we were delighted to get immediate seating at one farm-to-table something-or-other a few months ago, and the food was quite good. A week later we heard it was on its last legs and would likely close within a month. (It remains open.)

But that sushi was great. Had a pancake something-or-other, and a noodle thingie, and some rolls, and some sashimi, and some vegetable tempura. That’s the other thing about the new dining scene — there are robust vegetarian and vegan options everywhere, and while I’m neither, it’s nice to have someone paying attention to the vegetables, because they’re damn tasty. I recall my last meal at a local chain that’s often recommended by people who live in the ‘burbs. “Sooooo good!” they enthuse. It isn’t, but it has a lot of locations, it’s Italian, and we happened to be in one of their neighborhoods when we were hungry and it was open. I didn’t want a pasta pile or cheese explosion, so I ordered something from the heart-healthy, light menu, a lentil or bean thing I thought might include tomatoes and some Mediterranean seasonings. Utterly devoid of any seasonings, much less Mediterranean ones, it tasted like the gruel they serve on a hospital cardiac ward, dished up by Nurse Ratched. I put down my fork after a few bites and declared I would never, ever spend another dollar in this shithole, or any other of their other locations, and I haven’t, and I won’t.

I can put up with a lot of hipster bullshit when I remember the old alternative.

So! Bill’s speech last night! I didn’t last through it, but I heard the opening, and as he got into the groove, I could tell the old dog still had it. His voice is diminished, his body is diminished, but it’s going to take a lot more to put him down, and he’s a long way from down. So Rachel got her knickers in a twist because he said he “met a girl?” Oh, girl, please. And here I thought you had a sense of humor, or at least perspective. Whatever.

Tonight is POTUS, of course. By the time you read this, he’ll be on Marine One or Limo One or maybe kicking it in his jammies in a nice Philly hotel suite. So tell me how it went, ’cause I won’t see these comments until Thursday morning. As I write this, Gabby Giffords has just given her speech, and oh my. That woman.

So I’m settling in for the rest of it. Have some bloggage:

Jill Stein is just awful.

The incomprehensible mystery of the Clintons’ marriage.

Tonight’s non-convention activity: Reading more Susan Faludi, and trying to decide whether we should refinance the house. Woo, adulting! Have a great Thursday, all.

Posted at 12:18 am in Current events, Detroit life | 65 Comments
 

Saturday morning market.

The transition from market to full-service entertainment district was complete a while ago. 

Posted at 7:56 am in Detroit life, iPhone | 31 Comments
 

Saturday morning market. 

Because life isn’t all vegetables and terrorism. 

Posted at 8:28 am in Detroit life, iPhone | 47 Comments