Wrung out.

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 3:42 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 17 Comments
 

The badge.

Sherri said something late in the comments on the last post, about how it’s time for the elected position of sheriff to go away, and mentioned Joe Arpaio. I’m agnostic on the position itself (for now), but she’s right about the office attracting a disproportionate number of lunatics.

Back in the…80s? Maybe? When the tax-protest began to gather steam, there was another group growing alongside them, the Posse Comitatus movement. You can google the Posse Comitatus Act, signed in 1878, but the part that applies to the movement is this:

The purpose of the act – in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807 – is to limit the powers of the federal government in using federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States. …The title of the act comes from the legal concept of posse comitatus, the authority under which a county sheriff, or other law officer, conscripts any able-bodied person to assist in keeping the peace.

These lunatics read this to mean: They don’t have to follow any damn laws they don’t want, at least none that federal law enforcement are involved in (like tax protest). And the only legal authority they respect is the county sheriff.

Now, I’ve mainly lived in urban areas my whole life, where the county sheriff worked more or less like the city police chief, enforcing the law in the unincorporated areas of the county. But as the divide grew between whiter, more affluent suburbs and blacker cities, the divide between law enforcement did, too. And lots of county sheriffs got kinda… full of themselves.

In Fort Wayne, the sheriff openly scorned the city, and referred to the county as a “donut,” the hole being Fort Wayne. He ran for mayor, perhaps after he was carried to a legal residence within the city limits on a litter, but lost pretty badly. (See Alex’s comments about the county GOP’s ineptitude in this area.)

Here in Detroit, where the suburban counties go way past mere scorn for Detroit, the model for the county sheriff is pretty different from that of the police chief. You can imagine how.

(Another weird Hoosier detail: The sheriff got a pretty good salary, in keeping with what you’d pay a department head, etc., but he was also permitted to keep a portion of all late property taxes he was somehow able to collect. Indiana is full of weird policy like this, much of it holdovers from the 18th or 19th century. As one of the the GA reporters, a native Bostonian, said in wonderment: “What is this? Medieval France?”)

Anyway, much of the tension in Michigan these days is around the governor’s stay-home order, and the fact Covid hasn’t really reached the hinterlands yet, at least not in the sort of alarming numbers that led to the order in the first place. Four county sheriffs up north have essentially said you can’t make us and announced they wouldn’t enforce the parts of the order they didn’t think were necessary up there.

I find myself torn between two common-sense ideas — that public-health directives are generally not made just for flex, and that local control is best. But one of the sheriff’s made a comment that had an undertone of sneering to it, and was ignorant to boot, something about how “fresh air” was the best thing for this illness. Unsaid: So let’s just get some and wait for it to skip over God’s country, as we all know it will.

Sigh. I grow weary.

So… what else? I am often weary these days, suddenly and without explanation. Zoom fitness, masked trips to the store and the same few rooms are getting on my nerves. Can’t forget the weather, which teases us with one 60 degree day, followed by a week where we’re lucky to hit 40. I told myself I’d go for a bike ride every day it was over 50, and there haven’t been many of those.

Just a bit of bloggage:

An old-style, crazy-polluter, zombie-wasteland steel mill is closing hereabouts. I’ve ridden my bike past the main-road entrance, and always wanted to go back to take a look, but security is very tight.

When a friend offered to take me trash fishing past it last spring, I jumped at the chance, just to get close on the water side.

It looks…foreboding:

The story about the closing is pretty good. We forget that well-paying work around here was often at the price of blowing black snot into your handkerchiefs.

That’s it for me, then. Stay sane, all.

Posted at 6:13 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 113 Comments
 

Black.

It seems to help to pay attention to things. This weekend I took note of signs in business windows. Some were hand-lettered, some printed on the on-site computer, some had obviously been designed by a pro and downloaded from Corporate. Sandwich boards, too, on the sidewalk — that was a thing. The longer ones explained they were closed for the duration, and seemed to take a lot of words to say so, about how much they valued their customers, but the governor has determined, etc. The shorter ones got right to the point: OPEN FOR CARRYOUT. We are OPEN. Call ahead for CURBSIDE PICKUP.

One restaurant put a sign in every window, written in Sharpie Magnum: OPEN OPEN OPEN OPEN. Only for carryout, of course. But it’s the only lifeline most restaurants have. It’s worth making a display of.

My pet store has it totally dialed in. Not only is this place incredibly clean (even the animals that exist primarily to be sold as food for others, like the white mice, look happy) and super cheerful, they have conquered online commerce, and they’re a very small business. Either someone has a kid who does this work free, or they have a surprisingly large budget. Within just a few days of starting walk-up service only, they posted a new website offering most of the inventory online. You shop and pay, get an order number and a time when it’ll be ready, and then show up. They’ve rigged a doorbell on the sidewalk and a bench, where they drop your order for no-contact pickup. The employee wears a mask, but smiles beneath it, and you can feel it. Instacart, but for a little pet store. It’s great.

We pause for this word from Alan, who was driving to Belle Isle for some R&R and fly-casting:

Only in the Pointes, I always say.

Meanwhile, I dug up my mom’s sewing machine and made a proper mask out of this:

I folded and stitched it into an oblong and added a hair band as an elastic strap. Rudely Elegant was an empty movie theater in Columbus. A gay artist bought it and turned into a nightclub that was only open one night a month. The monthly party went all night long — not sure how he swung it with the liquor license, maybe by making it a private club or something — and had a theme, usually a color. I attended the White party, and the Red party, but not the Black party. That’s because Black = Leather and it was a very wild scene; I’d be surprised if women were even allowed in the door. Note the rooster. Nineteen eighty-one, in the Chinese calendar, was the Year of the Cock. I might still have the handbill announcement/invitation somewhere. There was a nude young man — I’m told he was an OSU athlete of some sort, very deeply closeted — wearing a mask, with a live black rooster blocking his privates.

All I got was the party favor, the handkerchief.

That year was also the first that AIDS appeared in the U.S. The party was in March, I think, and no doubt many of the people having party sex that night were positive. Anyway, pretty much every gay man I knew then is dead now, so it seems appropriate to finally pull out that hanky and make it my mask for the new plague.

And we head into week? Four, I believe. More ahead, but I guess we’ll muddle through somehow.

Stay safe, stay sane, see ya soon.

Posted at 8:14 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 113 Comments
 

Big night.

Big weekend here. Kate’s band’s record release party was Friday night. The event was held in a bar with two other bands, and it’s safe to say the place was packed. Because it was. You could hardly move, what with their fans and those of two other bands all smashed into a not-very-big room.

And so eventful! The opening act had barely started its set when the lights went on and the music stopped. Apparently some guy, an older one, went down. I couldn’t see anything (crowded), but fortunately there was a registered nurse in the audience. He – the nurse – plays in his own band, Caveman and Bam Bam. The nurse is the caveman, and performs in an Alley Oop getup, and Bam Bam is the drummer. Anyway, Caveman is a pretty big guy, definitely the sort of nurse you want around when a patient of some size needs to be moved, or if someone collapses at a rock ‘n’ roll-type of event. I couldn’t see over the crowd, but his voice came through loud and clear: PETER CAN YOU TELL ME WHO’S THE PRESIDENT. PETER. MOVE YOUR RIGHT LEG FOR ME. And so on.

Here’s Caveman. He’s the one with the guitar:

So the paramedics were called, and they took the guy out, and I’m not sure what the outcome was, but the ambulance stayed at the curb for a while after the show started back up, so I have to assume he wasn’t in grave danger, or they’d have rushed him to the hospital.

Very exciting start to the show. The girls went on last, of course, it being their party, and they did well. They finally made a bit of money, too — a nice take at the door (did I mention how crowded it was) and about $800 worth of merch. A good night. They leave on tour in a couple weeks, and will stop at SXSW, if anyone is in the neighborhood. They’ll be at the Burger Records showcase; Shadow Show’s the name.

Oh, and the album is now streaming on all platforms. Call your local radio station and condemn it as injurious to today’s youth.

I drank two beers that night, and felt icky half of Saturday. On Saturday, however, I had an Aperol spritz, a nice glass of pinot noir and a manhattan to finish the night and feel capital today. So maybe it’s not all over between me and alcohol, it’s me and beer. Or just terrible beer.

A big week ahead, that I hope won’t be too ridiculous. I want to keep my weekends free of work, which means finishing it by 5 p.m. Friday and pushing back on any efforts to encroach on Saturday and Sunday. I have a hard enough time fitting my personal life and chores into the weekend; shouldn’t there be at least 15 minutes for recreation?

In the meantime, I leave you with two stories from our deteriorating republic.

This one is a lovely rumination on the fading star of Elizabeth Warren, by Monica Hesse, who usually has something interesting to say about gender in the early 21st century:

Loving Elizabeth Warren means planning for America to break your heart.

It means watching her tweet out an optimistic message after Iowa, and then watching how all of the early replies instruct her to defer to Sanders and drop out.

It means making sure to preface your pro-Warren statements with “I don’t have anything against the male candidates,” as if the act of supporting a female one was somehow misandrist in itself.

It means listening to people complain about her schoolmarmishness and quietly wondering what was so wrong, exactly, with sounding like a schoolmarm. What’s so wrong with sounding like a grandmother? What’s so wrong with her animated hand gestures, her cardigans, her preparedness, her laugh, her husband, her brain, her work, her femaleness, her voice?

It means hoping things will break your way but accepting that they probably wouldn’t, because America never quite seems to work that way, does it?

We’re gonna nominate Bernie and we’re gonna lose. I see it plainer every day.

Remember when Russia was our enemy, and we worried about propaganda slipping in under the door? The genius of Vladimir Putin may be that he figured it out. All you have to do to get Russian propaganda into this country’s bloodstream is write a big check:

In January, Radio Sputnik, a propaganda arm of the Russian government, started broadcasting on three Kansas City-area radio stations during prime drive times, even sharing one frequency with a station rooted in the city’s historic jazz district.

Sputnik’s American hosts follow a standard talk radio format, riffing on the day’s headlines and bantering with guests and callers. They find much to dislike in America, from the reporting on the coronavirus epidemic to the impeachment of President Trump, and they play on internal divisions as well.

On a recent show, one host started by saying he was broadcasting “live from Washington, D.C., capital of the divided states of America.”

Critics in Kansas City called Radio Sputnik’s arrival an unabashed exploitation of American values and openness. Those behind the deal defended it as a matter of free speech, as well as a simple business transaction.

Amazing.

OK, then. Off to enjoy an afternoon of soft sunshine and what’s left of my weekend.

Posted at 2:16 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 81 Comments
 

Dirty.

The snow is falling at the end of another weekend as I sit here, staring gloomily out the window. It’s not the pretty kind, so far, but there’s always overnight. It’s the time of winter when I notice the days getting longer, the air just a touch softer, the slant of the light just a little less severe. And a little snow wouldn’t be terrible, as long as it’s cleared by the time I have to … aaaand here comes a spell of scintillating scotoma. See you in 20 minutes.

:::20 minutes later:::

I try to thank the nonspecific spirits guiding the universe, the genetic lottery, whatever, for my health. Really I do. I’ve been lucky to stay healthy as long as I have, and I work at it, although most of it is just plain luck or blessings or whatever. But scintillating scotoma — occasional spells where my vision stars behaving like I recently dropped a hit of acid, lasting about 20 minutes — is a pain in the ass. It first showed up about five years ago. I saw a doctor and was advised to keep a diary of the circumstances around each onset, in hopes of finding triggers. I did so for months, and found no pattern whatsoever. Then they just stopped happening, and I thought I was past the whole business. In the last six weeks or so, they’re back. I’m fortunate in that they’re not harbingers of a migraine headache, which s.s. sometimes is. It just comes, messes up my vision for 20-30 minutes, then stops. As crosses to bear go, it’s made of balsa wood. Still.

The snow is coming down harder, and it’s a much prettier kind. Balance.

This was the first weekend of the Dirty Show here in Detroit, and even though we don’t swing or do any of that stuff, we went. It’s pretty much the same every year: 90 percent of the art is bad or at best forgettable, the burlesque is pretty great and the people-watching, without peer. A friend tells a story of seeing…I think it was a city councilman, maybe, at some earlier show, wearing a diaper and being led around on a leash. Nothing so wild Saturday night, alas. One dancer, a man, did a strip where he came out in a Gumby suit and finished in a G-string with Pokey on it. Pokey, get it? (You must be this old to get that cultural reference.) As for the art on the walls? There are only so many photographs of a woman’s abdomen imagined as a rolling landscape, or extreme close-ups of testicle-located hair follicles that I can see before the ol’ eyes glaze over. On the other hand, this was not forgettable:

We were home before midnight. But only by a couple of minutes.

Now I’m watching the Oscars, and trying not to think of who the president of the United States is.

Happy week ahead. Imagine what fresh hell might await.

Posted at 8:10 pm in Detroit life | 42 Comments
 

Company town.

I think I told you that I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. After we ate, we made coffee and played Trivial Pursuit. Two teams. Our team, through the usual strategy of getting lucky rolls and easy questions, was way ahead after about 20 minutes, so when it was my turn to ask a question, I decided to make it easy for them.

The question was something about the other name for Mt. McKinley. You west-coast people know it; most people who have been around a while probably know it, but for some reason, they didn’t know it. The answer was Denali, and my hint was, “It’s a model of SUV.” I thought that was pretty good, as clues go, but they still couldn’t get it. After I told them the answer, a player on the other side said, “Well, that wasn’t a good clue. Denali is the GMC deluxe trim package, not the model.”

These are the kinds of things you learn at Detroit parties. Honestly, I had no idea.

Last night Alan decided to start watching “The Irishman,” which now that it is on Netflix is likely being watched by some viewers the way you eat a horse — one bite at a time. About 10 minutes in, there’s a flashback to when the DeNiro and Pesci characters met, in an era that looks like sometime in the 1940s. DeNiro is driving a truck that’s broken down, and has the hood up, trying to figure out what’s wrong. Pesci ambles over, looks inside and tells him the problem is the timing chain. Just tighten that up, and it’ll run fine, he says.

Alan barked from his seat, “That makes no sense. A vehicle like that would have had a camshaft.”

Such is life in a company town. What’s your town? What’s its company? And how does it affect your Trivial Pursuit games?

So. Today is the 39th anniversary of John Lennon’s death by gunfire. I guess, for some, it’s one of those things where you remember what you were doing and all that. I shudder to think of the information drought I lived through, then. Don’t think I owned a TV. I heard about it from a morning DJ, didn’t believe it, and confirmed with my friend Kirk, who was clearing the wires at the Dispatch that morning. Another friend, however, was way ahead of us both. He’d been doing something called “chatting” on a newfangled computer thingamajig called CompuServe. One of the people he was chatting with could see the Dakota from where he lived in New York, and was reporting live to everyone else in the chat. And finally, a former colleague got a call from a very bitter ex-girlfriend, who woke him up in the middle of the night to inform him, “John Lennon was shot four times tonight. Someone was waiting for him. That’s gonna happen to you some day.” Then she hung up, leaving him listening to a dial tone.

You ask me, we lost a lot when we lost the dial tone. Such an effective punctuation, such a great way to say “fuck off forever.” You can keep the busy signal, but bring back the dial tone.

My sister sold telephone systems. She was the first to point out how, early in the cellular era, Hollywood sound editors would sometimes insert a dial tone to indicate a hang-up or dropped cellular call in a movie, because otherwise how would the audience know the other party had left the call? (Answer: By using the No Signal trope.)

That was her company-town expertise.

Quiet weekend here. Got the tree, put up the tree, decorated the tree. Now I’m doing food prep for the week ahead, because my waistbands are edging toward tourniquet-land and it’s time to get that shit under control. Operation Better Body starts the day you decide to start, holidays be damned. If I can just put sugar away for a while, I’ll be fine.

Not much bloggage, although there was a great deal of good reading over the weekend. Go looking for it yourself; between paywalls and the history of this blog, I feel like there’s nothing more to say about links many of you can’t even look at. The big joke was, of course, the president of the United States bitching about low-flow toilets, which we hashed over in this space a couple years back. For the record, my house now has two, and I love them both. They have never failed to handle a depth charge, and they don’t refill for five minutes, which can disturb your sleep when you get up to pee at 3 a.m.

Also, you know bugs me the most about that stupid toilet rant? The way he says, “We’re looking very strongly at” something. He’s always looking strongly at something. Fucking speak correct English, you moron.

But there’s this: Linda Ronstadt, shit-talking Mike Pompeo right in his stupid lying face. They should give her a fucking medal on top of the Kennedy Center necklace.

The week ahead awaits us all. Make it a good one.

Posted at 5:22 pm in Detroit life | 59 Comments
 

Worse than manure.

Well, that was a weekend. For once, the news was closer to home. The Michigan GOP held its biannual leadership complex on Mackinac Island. If you know about Mackinac, you know that one of its traditions — one of its laws — is that cars and motor vehicles are forbidden. Bikes and horses are the way you get around, with exceptions made only for emergency vehicles.

Until the leadership conference, and its keynote speaker, Mike Pence.

The Secret Service insisted on a motor vehicle, for security reasons, and what the Secret Service wants, the Secret Service gets. So the vice president rolled in and out of the Grand Hotel in an EIGHT-CAR motorcade.

Seen here:

I don’t really have a strong opinion once way or another. I understand the need for more than a few agents jogging along with a horse-drawn conveyance (although it was good enough for President Ford, admittedly in a simpler time), and I don’t have that long-standing connection with Mackinac that most Michiganians have. But people here went nuts over this. Even Republicans harrumphed over why this had to happen; why couldn’t he make other arrangements, or turn down the gig? Or why couldn’t the service figure another way to keep him safe. And why EIGHT vehicles?

People feel very protective of Mackinac around here. And I think it’s safe to say they don’t like this one little bit. Here’s a roundup.

Eight vehicles. For that empty suit. I ask you.

He made a joke about how Mother wants him to bring home some fudge. Ha ha ha.

Mackinac was supposedly one of the places shopped for next year’s G-7, and didn’t make the cut. Thank God, because that would have been a car shitshow.

The other big thing was this nonprofit I work with, and our second annual House to Home project, wherein we find a woman who owns a house that could use a lot of work, and then do it. (The work, that is.) This year’s was insanely ambitious, and by the end of the weekend, we were exhausted and crabby. It didn’t help that it was about 85 degrees all three days, and the house didn’t have A/C. But we got it cleaned out and painted and redecorated, and the look on her little boy’s face when he saw his new Black Panther-themed room was something to see.

But now I feel like I am running on fumes, and “Succession” starts in four minutes. Guess what I’m going to do.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Bus tales.

Now that the weather is fine, I’ve been riding the bus more. The pluses are what I don’t have to worry about: Parking, mainly. Parking isn’t that expensive compared to other large cities, but I resent every penny I pay for it. Street parking is cheaper, but impossible to find and when you do, you have to monitor the app to make sure you don’t go over for even a second and the enforcement pythons don’t strike you with a $45 ticket.

So when I can, I ride the bus. It’s…an experience. I take the city bus into town, the suburban bus home. Public transit is a divisive issue in a region so fraught with racial politics, poverty and sprawl, and it is highly, highly imperfect. But the inner-ring suburbs like Grosse Pointe are among the places you can make PT commuting work, and I’m grateful.

Why “now that the weather is fine,” you might be wondering? It’s because the most convenient stop for my schedule is a good (checks the app) eight-tenths of a mile from my house, which is a bit of a hike in the morning, when the buses only run every 30 minutes or so. Miss it by a minute, you’ve wasted about 45 more. In the winter, I ride in with Alan and bus home. But in the summer, sweet summer, I can bike to the stop, stow it on the rack, then reverse the process when I get downtown. I like it a lot, although I’m sweaty when I arrive. No biggie.

Anyway, the city bus going in is rarely not full by the time we’re halfway through the route. When you’re poor and work low-wage jobs, you don’t work 9 to 5. And if you don’t work at all, the bus is how you get to your doctor, to the grocery, to see your friends. Which happens all the time.

There’s a driver who’s often on my route, the sort of — if I can traffic in a mild ethnic stereotype here — formidable African-American woman with whom one does not play. Fans of “The Wire” might remember her from season four, when someone very much like her walked into an unruly gym assembly of middle-schoolers and silenced it with a single glower. So the other day, a guy gets on. She takes one look at him and says, “That stays in your pocket. And if it don’t stay in your pocket, I’m putting you off.” I looked at the guy’s pocket, from which poked the neck of a flat pint bottle. Oh. He didn’t like that, but he knew who was in charge. So he sat down next to some other guy who seemed similarly drunk at 10 a.m. The two of them struck up a conversation that was, well, drunk.

I couldn’t quite follow it, but it had all the hallmarks of drunk talk — one or two phrases repeated and repeated and repeated, including “I AIN’T PAYIN NO MORE RENT” and “LIKE JOHNNIE SAY, IT’S CHEAPER TO KEEP HER.” If either one of these guys had a Her that they were somehow keeping, I’d eat my hat, but whatever. “I WAS GIVING NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH, BUT NO MORE. NO MORE RENT.” I tried to imagine what $95 might rent in Detroit. (Shudder.) It seemed they were spoiling for a fight with the driver, but she had no doubt sharpened her skills on scores of others, and just kept her mouth shut. But when the guy sitting next to me started listening to music on his phone without earphones, she pointed, snapped her fingers and nodded to the “no radio” sign. And that was that.

Another day, a political discussion started between two passengers sitting in different rows. It seemed to start over housing, then pivoted through public assistance and wound up with Trump, at which point others joined in and the volume increased. The driver actually turned off the white noise of the A/C so she could listen and join in. It reached a crescendo with one of the original talkers saying IF TRUMP SO GREAT, WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WORK FOR HIM IN JAIL? Another squawked, HE WANT A DICTATORSHIP. Others were chiming in from all corners, and then, suddenly, it was the ringleader’s stop. He stepped down and I gave him a golf clap as the driver caroled, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COF-FEEEEE.

This never, ever happens on the bus home. Maybe we’re all too tired.

Every day I do this, I save $6 — the difference between combined fares and the parking — and gain far more in observational details.

Other than that, the week’s been sucking. I have to take my lifeguard recertification test tomorrow, and I’m-a flunk that bitch, I just know it.

But there are fun things to read. Like this, an account of a visit to some sort of Ayn Rand fest in Cleveland, of all places:

I woke up the next morning ready to learn. It was hard to choose which seminar to attend during the triple-booked 8:40 a.m. slot. “Logic: The Cashing-In Course” seemed to be the biggest draw, but it came with a homework assignment, and “Duty as Anti-Morality” seemed a bit too by-the-numbers even for me, an Ayn Rand novice. Given the conference’s focus on establishing Randian beach heads in American culture, I opted for “Appreciating Ayn Rand’s Tiddlywink Music.”

Tiddlywink music, for the uninitiated, sounds like the score to “Steamboat Willie” or a tune you might hear on an old-timey carousel: manically upbeat and repetitive, calling to mind a sonic hamster wheel. For an hour, we listened to different examples of the genre, which seems to have been classified as such by Rand and no one else. “Pay attention to the tinkling,” the lecturer encouraged us. To me, it sounded like something a homicidal clown would listen to, or what a particularly sadistic interrogator would blast at high volume to torture his quarry.

What made Tiddlywink music uniquely pro-capitalist? It has roots in the 1890s, which Rand insisted was the only historical period of true human flourishing. It was an era of unfettered capitalism—child labor, robber barons, tenements—which she loved not in spite of those things, but because of them.

And here, as in so many other spheres, Rand’s true believers heed their master’s voice. For objectivists, Rand’s whims and fancies are inextricable from the movement’s philosophical precepts—so the assembled faithful were duly tutored in the finer points of grainy music-box melodies of the 1890s. We listened intently to Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz”—an inferior piece of music, we were told, because of its melancholy overtones and low “note density.” Tiddlywink music, in happy contrast, had five-and-a-half notes per second. When the hour was up, the presenter asked if we’d prefer a Q&A or another song. “One more song!” the crowd shouted back.

Pretty funny.

OK, I gotta get some sleep. Fingers crossed for me memorizing those chest-compression-to-breaths CPR ratios.

Posted at 9:44 pm in Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

One night in Detroit.

First, the before.

My editor and I walked up to the Fox around 5, stopping for a light dinner on the way. It was a nice, warm afternoon, no rain in the forecast, perfect for a little demonstrating. The police had Woodward blocked between Grand Circus Park and the freeway, and Detroit did show out for it.

This was protest ground zero. The two sides separated to opposite sides of Woodward. On the pro-Trump side: A man drenched in fake blood (abortion), some bikers with various love-it-or-leave-it signs, a makeshift band of young men plowing through “CNN Sucks,” a few Beckys. This was shot from the Trump side. Here’s Becky on the bullhorn:

The guy in the lei was wearing a yarmulke and trench coat. There were a couple of black folks on this side, one Latino-looking dude with a “legal immigrants for Trump” sign, along with InfoWars, religious people — the usual tossed salad.

On the anti-Trump side, a far larger group, more energized, with a smorgasbord of causes — green new deal, unions for all, one job should be enough, abolish ICE, etc. I took video of this side, but I won’t embed here; no need to eat up bandwidth. You’ve all seen a demonstration before. (Lots of pix of this side at Deadline Detroit, too.) This side was far more diverse, not only in causes but in age and ethnicity. Draw your own conclusions.

At the peak of the chanting, a hayride rolled right through the middle of everything:

Earlier in the day, spotted Marianne Williamson on the street. She’s been called fat-phobic. She’s certainly not fat herself; this is a size-0 XS woman if there ever was one:

After a while, it was time to go inside. Locked up my bike — a bike was very helpful for getting around this complex — and went into the media pen. All the media, except for the CNN moderators, were in the pen. It was a nice pen, thoroughly air-conditioned and well-wifi’d:

But we got no closer to the actual debate than you all did; we watched it on TV:

You all watched it, too, so I don’t have to tell you anything you already know. I was startled by Marianne Williamson, not only by the some of the sensible — but really not pertaining to the presidency — things she said, but also by how many supporters she had outside, and not the ones you’d think, i.e., not people like her. A surprising number of African Americans, for one, and the biggest watch-party venue of the lot:’

This is a couple doors down from the Fox. Which looked gorgeous on TV; kudos to the lighting and staging technicians.

And tonight we do it all again. I might wander down again; I think my credential will at least get me past the barricades for one more night, although unsure of the press pen. No matter. Detroit is fun 365 days a year, but most fun in summer, when we all come outside. As I left, the demonstrations were down to a few plucky sign-carriers, and these folks:

“Replace Rashida” was one of the signs on the pro-Trump side, earlier, but my guess is, they won’t come close. Her district seems to love her, and to be sure, she’s one of the warmest politicians I’ve seen in a while. She came out to march a while in the early demos, along with Nathan Phillips (the Native American guy in the Covington kids story). You can see her picture, along with many, many others, at the Deadline Detroit story.

Me, I’m going to eat some breakfast and get my butt to work. Have a good day, all.

Posted at 8:07 am in Current events, Detroit life | 91 Comments
 

A grim holiday.

I’ve lost track of time again, which happens with midweek holidays. I keep thinking it’s Saturday, but it’s not, and I have to work tomorrow, but it’ll be an easy-ish day, so whatever. All I know right now is, it’s hot, and the fireworks are already starting, and Wendy isn’t happy about that at all.

As I’m sure many of you noticed, it’s a terrible Fourth of July this year, what with the shenanigans in Washington and all the rest of it. The wind was non-existent, so no sailing, either. So we did something completely different, and went to a walking tour of downtown, called “Enemies of Freedom: Monuments of Detroit’s Slaveowners.” We walked from statue to historical marker to statue to historical marker, while the guide, who specializes in African-American history, told us which ones owed their wealth to exploitation of human beings. (Spoiler: All of them.)

The constant struggle in American history, with one army giving way to another, an ocean of blood drenching the ground, a million little tragedies adding up to a paragraph in a history book — I guess this is what you call the long view. And it helped on a day when the short view is so gruesome.

Only one person fainted in the heat, a young girl. Her mother carried her into the Church of Scientology building, where she recovered quickly. The Scientology building had a marker on it identifying it as the original site of Sainte Anne’s Catholic Church, located in the original French fort. Its first pastor, this marker claimed, Rev. Nicholas Constantine De L’Halle, was killed by Indians in 1706, making him the first Christian martyr in Detroit. The guide added that the Indians were upset because one of their number had been shot by the French, after he kicked a soldier’s dog who was bothering him. So they retaliated by shooting the priest. But history is written by the victors, and so: Christian martyr.

The girl was fine, once she drank some water and cooled off. We ended up peeling off ourselves — the tour was already running 45 minutes over, it was 88 degrees, the stops were becoming less interesting and we both needed a beer and sandwich. So that’s what we did.

So, a little bloggage? Sure: An interview with John Waters. He’s funny:

Have you ever done drag?
I was only in drag once, and that was as the Wicked Witch at a birthday party when I was 8 years old. That ended my drag career. You have to be so careful of what you say. My friend told me this story, “You know, every gay man once tried on their mother’s shoes.” You did it once; you never did it again. But now, if you have a very liberal mother and they catch you, you have sexual reassignment lessons at 8 years old. And you might not really wanna do that.

I don’t think that would happen.
Well, people have babies. That’s why Trump will win. Because of things like babies, where you don’t tell your child what sex they are until they figure it out themselves when they’re 3 years old, and then you give ’em a party and say, “You’re a girl.” These children will be in mental institutions. Your parents are supposed to tell you what to do. Then later, if you disagree, you rebel and do the opposite. I think that’s a healthy lifestyle.

That’s it for me this week, and you all have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 62 Comments