Schedule wonked out.

Greetings, somewhat late today. I had my second shot yesterday, then came home to write something (for work) before the dread second-shot side effects set in, and that ate up my blogging time.

You can read the thing I wrote here. It’s a local story, but those of you who follow HGTV — hi, Pam! — might recognize one of the parties involved. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out; it’s a both-sides condemnation that actually seems justified.

And with that, I will dip out. You have a fresh thread for the weekend now. I should also add a couple housekeeping notes:

Sorry for those of you who have had comments hung up in moderation. I don’t always get to them immediately — email issues not worth getting into — and if you’d like to avoid them in the future, this is what lands you in that particular holding pen:

Posting from a different IP address, posting from a different email address or name, or putting too many links in your comment. I thought it was set at two links, but maybe just keep it to one to be safe. And if you end up there, feel free to comment again, double-checking the stuff I just mentioned.

Let’s all hold hands and have a little cry for Prince Philip, too. I’ll be back Sunday/Monday, on schedule, I devoutly hope.

By the way, I’m still waiting for the side effects. Sore arm is it, so far, at 25 hours post-shot.

Posted at 2:01 pm in Detroit life, Housekeeping | 55 Comments
 

They were SO mean.

So I didn’t watch Meghan and Harry and Oprah. From the Twitter reaction, I believe a bomb has been detonated in Buckingham Palace. I read the highlights and lowlights, and I’ve come to — jumped to — a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion No. 1: Meghan was never going to kill herself. Depression, sure, but she strikes me as a striving and ambitious woman. She could have exited her marriage if it were that bad, and honestly, I’m not sure I even believe she was denied help for her despair. Diana saw a therapist, and royals see medical professionals of all sorts. But saying one had “thoughts of suicide” is a neat way of getting the attention and sympathy without having to actually do it. Hell, probably all of us have at least had thoughts of suicide; what would I do if I were diagnosed with a terrible disease and all hope was gone? I’d think about suicide, yes I would.

Conclusion No. 2: The racism is offensive, and not surprising, although I really want to know who wondered idly about the skin color of the unborn Archie. Prince Philip came up in the Empire days, is a million years old, and racism is in his DNA. Charles I’d be more disappointed by, as it seemed he is, relatively speaking, the progressive of the family. But I guess we’ll have to wait for a follow-up special to see that.

Did we see Archie at all last night? Has anyone? Is he a cute baby? I expect so.

Of course this will reanimate the Diana Cult, but at this point, who really cares. The Firm will survive the way it always has: By keeping calm and carrying on.

And that’s as much attention as I plan to devote to this.

You could read my story about Detroit’s Covid anniversary, written oral history-style, which is one of my favorite ways to do pieces like this. (I submitted the transcripts to all the subjects for approval, and only one told me to fix his grammar, which was a matter of changing two adjectives to adverbs.) I was struck, again, by how little we knew a year ago, and this is why I cannot abide those who now complain “these doctors, they don’t know anything, they keep contradicting themselves.” Oh, fuck you.

My favorite single quote from that story: When the governor shut down everything, you know, I live at the top of Lafayette Tower and I looked down at the streets where no one was out, it just looked deserted. I told my wife, this must be what Passover was like.

OK, then. Monday. Let’s take this bull by the horns, but first: The crossword puzzle.

Posted at 10:01 am in Current events, Detroit life | 85 Comments
 

The coolest dude.

I attended a meeting of some government-related board in downtown Detroit a few years back. It was my day off, so I was dressed casually, which I believe that day was clean dark-wash jeans, Frye boots, blouse and a blazer. I mention this only because I started noticing the clothing others were wearing. Most of the people in the room were men, so I concentrated on them. They fell into three distinct groups.

(I have probably told this story before, because I’ve told all my stories before. I’m out of stories, sorry.)

At the bottom, the full-slob cohort, were the journalists. A writer from one of the dailies rolled in sporting hair that could have used a cut three months ago, an untrimmed mustache that no doubt captured food and some sort of got-dressed-in-the-dark shirt/pants combo. Another well-paid reporter came in jeans, a ratty sweater and a pair of sneakers I might choose to wash my car. Of the photographers from the TV stations we will say little, because they always dress like slobs, but at least they have an excuse — their next assignment might be a working fire, and you don’t need, or want, to wear your best outfit for that. Their on-camera partners were the only reporters in the room who wore what I would have considered the uniform for men in my business, when I started in it a million years ago — khakis or khaki-adjacent pants, shirt with a collar, maybe a tie but OK if not, and a jacket of some sort.

The second group were the white men on the board, or serving the board somehow. They looked fine. Their clothes were off the rack and untailored, but clean and appropriate, if unremarkable.

The last were the black men, who looked fiiiiiine. Not Sunday-church fine, but really good. Grooming was impeccable; they all looked like they’d had haircuts and shaves five minutes ago. Suits, good ones. Shirts in beautiful colors, ties of creamy silk that matched in interesting ways, picking up the shirt or pinstripe color in a subtle echo. And the accessories, oh my — cool eyeglass frames, tie bars, fancy wristwatches.

I mention all this because I chuckled over this Robin Givhan appreciation of Vernon Jordan, who died this week:

Over the years, it was impossible to miss Jordan in a crowd. Often that was because he was the only Black person in it. But he was noticeably well-dressed. His suits were attentively tailored and he had a love for Turnbull & Asser shirts, Charvet ties and fedoras. His style was full of European élan, Adam Clayton Powell flair, Wall Street pinstripes and Sunday morning going-to-church polish. His aesthetic drew upon the collage of influences that make this country exceptional but that connect us on common ground. Years ago, after writing about his style — a story for which he did not return my messages — Jordan called to express his gratitude after it was published.

If you live in a city with a sizable black population, you know that nothing about the meeting I described is particularly unusual. It’s pretty commonplace for powerful or well-off black men to dress well, and racists will snicker about some preacher’s purple suits, but fuck them. I think it’s notable that another fancy dresser in Washington, Roger Stone, ends up looking like a Batman villain when he leaves the house in the morning, but Jordan, in every photo I ever saw of him, just looks completely relaxed and natural. He wears his clothes, but Stone’s costumes wear him. Stone is a fop. Jordan had style.

Fort Wayne people remember when Jordan was shot by a would-be assassin there, in 1980, I believe. The shooter was Joseph Paul Franklin, who did the same to Larry Flynt, and escaped punishment for both, although he got the needle in 2013 for another murder. The story in Fort Wayne was that Jordan was brought into the ER and no one knew who he was until a black surgeon recognized him on the gurney and got him the top-level treatment that perhaps saved his life. Jordan, in town for a speaking engagement, was shot while returning to his hotel with a white woman who was not his wife. She was his driver/handler for his visit, and while many inferred what you’d expect from her presence, I don’t know that there was anything untoward about the fact she walked with him to the door of the hotel. They said Jordan was a charming man and a smooth talker, and who knows, maybe he was giving her career advice. But Franklin was enraged by interracial couples, too — it’s why he shot Flynt, after seeing an interracial photo spread in Hustler.

I recommend Givhan’s story. She captures not only his style, but his magnetism:

In public, as an eminence grise, Jordan used charm to batter down doors. His style reflected the words of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston: “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

…As a college student, he worked as a chauffeur and his employer regularly used the n-word. This elderly White man, after discovering that Jordan spent down time reading in his library, announced with condescending dismay to his family that “Vernon can read!” The phrase later became the title of Jordan’s memoir.

“When I have told this story to younger people, they often ask why I was not more angry at Maddox. How could I have continued working for him under those circumstances?” Jordan writes. “Each of us has to decide for ourselves how much nonsense we can take in life, and from whom we are willing to take it.” In other words, this small, old man didn’t matter. He was not someone to slay. Instead of fanning his racism with outrage, Jordan doused it with pity.

Ah well. A life well-lived.

What else should you read? The final of no fewer than 250 separate election audits has been completed in Michigan. Stand by for news:

Among the more prominent of the reviews was a hand count of every ballot cast for president in Antrim County, which found a net gain of 12 votes for former President Donald Trump’s 3,800-vote victory there, and a hand count of 18,000 randomly selected ballots across the state to ensure tabulated results matched the paper ballot.

The city of Detroit also was able to confirm that the clerk’s office, while it made some clerical errors, properly counted 174,000 valid absentee ballots that corresponded to signed envelopes for registered voters, Benson’s office said.

Auditors were able to bring into balance or explain imbalances in 83% of counting boards, up from 27% at the close of the canvass, Benson said. The total number of ballots out of balance accounted for 17 of the 174,000 absentee ballots counted in Detroit.

Tell your Republican friends, not that it will make a difference.

And hello Wednesday. Alan’s getting a vaccine tomorrow. I hope to follow him one of these days.

Posted at 6:24 am in Current events, Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

Worthy. No, exemplary.

We are all given to complaining this year, and who could blame us, but before 2020 slips away, I want to say some good things about the city I live near, but not in: Detroit.

Much maligned, particularly by dipshit Republicans who still think we stole Michigan, I was reminded of how well Detroiters (and others, yes) did one thing this year: Test for Covid.

Starting in the spring, the mayor and one of our local billionaires teamed up for a mass testing regime that worked better than I ever expected it would. One of the billionaire’s companies has phone-bank employees who were either idled or handling way less work than they normally would, and they went to work for this project. The city used the idled state fairgrounds to set up a drive-through with six or eight testing stations. You called a number, made an appointment, and once you arrived, never got out of your car. For the check-in, you didn’t even have to roll down your window. Once you were checked in, it was simply a matter of waiting your turn. I had three tests, and never had to wait more than 15 minutes.

Since cold weather arrived, they’ve moved it to an indoor facility, but it still goes smoothly: Arrive. Park in a numbered space. Call a number, tell them you’re there, and they come to you.

It’s not perfect. There’s no same-day service, so if you wake up with symptoms, you’ll still need to go to an urgent care or other facility. They also don’t do the rapid-response tests, so the wait can be anywhere from two to five days, but those are about my only quibbles. If you need a test for an upcoming trip, say, and if you’re capable of the simplest advance planning, it’s great.

Also, did I mention it’s free? It’s free if you live in Wayne County.

I took it for granted until the holidays approached, and I was discussing a possible visit with my sister-in-law, who is incredibly wary of this disease. “Just get tested a week ahead and we’ll do the same,” I said, but in her small city there is no such program. She’d have to go to a hospital, and all require a referral.

Detroit’s numbers have gone up with the onset of cold weather, like everyone’s have, but on a per-capita basis, we’re doing pretty well. I credit the testing program for a big part of this.

I also want to say something about the election, which is still chapping my ass, weeks later. I wonder if every dumbshit who shared a stupid meme about the TCF Center, or “just thinks something must have been wrong in all that business” ever considered what it takes to put on an election in a city with 500 precincts, in a pandemic, with a new law that makes absentee voting easier, etc. etc. When you consider all of that? This election went down like a cold drink on a hot day.

There was a lot of help and support involved in making this happen, granted. People with deep knowledge of election law and the foresight to see what was coming got involved. The city clerk hired as a consultant a former state elections director, a man of sterling reputation and ironclad nonpartisan status. And there was a lot of grant money pumped into the system, which bought new equipment, paid staff and enhanced training. Of course there were bobbles. Of course mistakes were made. But in the end, for all the crowing about “imbalanced precincts,” the total number of votes described in that phrase were around 400, in more than 250,000 cast. Not one race could have been changed by that number of votes.

I’ve written before about the barely concealed racism behind the endless complaints about Detroit, which is one reason I’ve lost all tolerance for those who cannot let this go. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another thing to be a sore loser. But it’s a third thing entirely to be a malevolent force in the service of an evil individual, and at this point I don’t think any other adjective is needed to describe President Trump.

But now it’s nearly 2021 — the sun is setting as I finish this up — and 20 days in, we’ll be rid of that p.o.s., at least in the Oval Office. Let’s hope, when the sun rises tomorrow, we can wish one another Happy New Year, and actually experience it.

I’ll see you all after the weekend.

Posted at 4:41 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 84 Comments
 

Civilization.

As anyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, the U.S. Census is over. I pretty much stopped enumerating around the end of September anyway, after a series of frustrating shifts, the details of which are unimportant, convinced me it wasn’t worth my time or the wear and tear on my car anymore. Turned in my phone, ID and bag o’ forms last week. It’s over.

But I’m still left with my experiences, which is one big reason I did it in the first place.

In June, we had a brief, ferocious thunderstorm, and our neighborhood was hit hard. Trees down all over the place, roofs pierced by falling limbs, one house and a couple of garages destroyed. Within 12 hours all the streets were clear, within 48 hours most of the chain saws and chippers had fallen silent and within two weeks, you had to look for the damage in the trees — the still-raw snapped limb stumps, etc.

My census cases were mostly in Detroit, on the east side more or less adjacent to the Pointes. And there, three months after the storm, the storm’s evidence was still very much in view. No streets were blocked, but where limbs had fallen on private property, quite a few were still there. One house had a huge tree lying across the back yard. (I assume from the same storm because we didn’t have another nearly as severe, and the look of the leaves left on the branches, the stump, etc.)

I remember thinking, walking Wendy in the days after the storm, noting the cleanup, Thank you, civilization. But of course it’s more honest to say, Thank you, money. If you don’t have the resources to remove a tree too large to do yourself, or with help from neighbors, if you don’t have a chain saw or other suitable tools, well, the limb stays where it is.

My ultimate takeaway from the census was this, however: We have to figure out a way to do it better. Polling had to pivot from the everyone-in-the-phone book landline era to cellular phones. The census, too, has to figure out how to get more people to fill out the stupid form themselves, because door-knocking is a highly imperfect tactic, particularly in poor neighborhoods. Good news rarely arrives via a knock on your door, and with technology enabling people to see the person standing there without even leaving the upstairs bedroom, bathroom or miles-distant office, it’s easier than ever to ignore it. In poor neighborhoods, your friends text you that they’re coming by. Several times I’d knock, knock again, leave and then see someone pull up a minute later, hustle up the front walk and be hastily admitted.

All this by way of saying: We’re headed for a big undercount, especially in cities like Detroit.

I got my main Problem Closet cleaned. It took the better part of a week, off and on. As always, when I do this, I get sidetracked. There are boxes of letters and photographs in that closet, so you can just imagine. But as also always happens, the further you get into that project the more ruthless you become. I didn’t throw out a single photo, but I did pitch lots of clothes and other crap. The door closes smoothly now and while there is probably still stuff to toss — hello, mystery Box o’ Cords, I’m looking at you — it’s done for now. (I’m actually waiting for a recycle event for the cords. Someone must do something with those things; it can’t be entirely landfill material. Does anyone know?)

Now to put the still-good clothing on the Facebook Mom Swap. Lots of pictures to take, capsule descriptions to write. My FB listings are the J. Peterman catalog of social media.

What else this weekend? Watched the new Borat movie. It’s fine, if you like that sort of thing — cringe humor. Personally I think Larry David does it better, but Sasha Baron Cohen certainly does it fearlessly. One thing I do know, however:

Rudy wasn’t tucking in his shirt. At that man’s age, sometimes Mr. Happy needs a little shake to wake him up.

So let’s have a good week ahead? I hope to.

Posted at 4:07 pm in Detroit life, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments
 

Waiting for the next chapter.

Driving crosstown after an Eastern Market stop on Saturday. I had just had my hair cut, so I was feeling the blowout and the sunshine and everything else. Stopped at a light. There was a young man holding something…a sign? No, a painting. Median-strip hustling is pretty common here, but I couldn’t figure what he was selling.

He walked past my car. I rolled down the window.

“Are you selling that painting?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

It wasn’t great, but a long way from terrible, sort of Thomas Hart Benton with about 20 percent of the technique, but he had the eye. A man playing an undulating keyboard with a woman hovering nearby, kind of like Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman in that photo, but more abstract.

“How much?”

“Two hundred dollars,” he replied.

“Sorry, I don’t have that much cash, but I wish you luck. Keep at it,” I said. The light still hadn’t changed.

“I always need money for art supplies,” he said. “A dollar would help.”

Reader, I gave him five. It was a perfect October day, after all, and of all the things I’ve been asked to help finance at stoplights, art supplies was a first. Points for originality.

The rest of the day, I played. Picked up a friend and we speculated on the work we’d have to do if the president croaked overnight.

“It’s going to be a 4 a.m. call, I just know it,” he said. “And I’ll have to write the obit.”

So we drafted a lead there at the table, in a heated restaurant tent with flow-through ventilation, built out onto the road, because of the pandemic that is still with us, because of the incompetence and failed leadership of the man whose death – from the same disease – we were anticipating. It was sort of meta. I went first:

“The improbable presidency of Donald Trump, a failed businessman who played a successful one on television, ended in reality-TV fashion early Sunday morning, as the 45th president succumbed to a disease he spent most of the year downplaying. He was 74.”

(I don’t know why obits always have the age as the second sentence. Probably because like I just did, writers try to cram everything in the first sentence.)

We went back and forth like that for a while, but I told him no way would that p.o.s. die overnight. He needs to survive to see an overwhelming election loss, then go to prison, then die of something like flesh-eating bacteria. As he has so much flesh to eat, it would take some time.

I believe we also discussed my idea for a new children’s TV show. My friend does a lot of dog sitting for a beautiful collie, whose coat is mostly black. His owner said when she walks him in Detroit, often people will see him and say, as they pass: “Hey, it’s black Lassie.” I said we need a new version of “Lassie,” set in the city instead of the country. “Black Lassie” would protect children from street dangers, not falling down wells or getting swept into fast-moving streams. Timmy, needless to say, would be black or brown (and not named Timmy).

This weekend I learned this dog lives with an all-white cat that sometimes climbs on top of him and naps in his abundant coat. SIDEKICK, I hollered. Black Lassie and his cat friend would talk to one another in their secret language and use their keen senses and animal skills to gather intelligence.

I feel very strongly this has potential. Look at these two movie stars and tell me I’m wrong:

That was Saturday. Sunday was rainy and gray, but I got my fall clothes rotated into the main closet and I tried to be ruthless in culling the summer stuff. I have no idea what I’ll be wearing this fall; I saw non-athleisure bottoms referred to as “hard pants” the other day. I’m on a crusade to lose the few pandemic pounds I gained, with all the tiresome stuff that goes with it — My Fitness Pal, mindful eating, blah blah blah. When I lose these six pounds, I’m going back into hard pants. I can’t live my life in quasi-pajamas. They’re comfy, but not conducive to my work style. Goddamn this stupid fucking president and his incompetent administration, anyway.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court overturned the governor’s emergency authority, and the GOP Senate leader stepped up to say no more mask mandates statewide, and that we’d just “have to learn to live with” this disease. Local entities – counties, cities – could do what they want, but no more of this top-down shit. Wonderful. A state version of Jared Kushner’s national strategy. Which has worked so well. Because no one travels between states, or within states. I can tell you this right now: I will not shop in, or otherwise patronize any business that doesn’t require masks, and enforce it. I want to wear hard pants again, and before 2025 or so.

This stupid country, I swear.

OK, time to put this to bed. Tomorrow is Monday and I hope I can start it off right.

Posted at 9:50 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 57 Comments
 

Bridge to nowhere.

In my last days at Bridge, the site was producing a documentary to go with our Divided Michigan project, which many might call a high-minded Cletus safari. The doc didn’t turn out well, but that’s another story. Along the way, though, our filmmaker became enamored of the Trump Unity Bridge. He spent many hours with the guy who came up with this…what’s the word? Attraction, maybe.

A Facebook friend referred to it as a “float,” and that’s probably the best description of it — a towed thing suitable for slow cruises in parades, or parking at rallies. It’s not a scam, because the people who over the years have donated $67,000 to its upkeep and fuel fund know exactly what they’re doing and getting.

Anyway, the bridge is a trailer with a bridge-kinda thing built on top, festooned with signs, which change from time to time. It was parked at the We Build the Wall event, the Bannon/Kolfage grift, and many selfies were taken in front of it.

And he drove it around downtown during the Democratic debates of…god, was it only last summer? Yeah. He plays music, too, really loud, and as it passed my editor and I on the street, he had Aretha’s “Think” cranked up to 11. (Like so many dummies, I’m sure what he liked about it was the FREEDOM chorus.)

“The next sound you hear,” I told my editor, “will be Aretha, rolling in her grave.”

Anyway, in a story that I tried to frown at but actually couldn’t stop laughing over, someone in Oklahoma stole it, took it for a joyride and wrecked it:

The vehicle was running so people could continue to take pictures in front of the bridge, which includes lights, a Statue of Liberty and large letters that spell out “TRUMP.”

At about midnight on Friday night, a man jumped in the vehicle and drove away.

“Rob, somebody’s stealing the Unity Bridge,” Cortis said he was told as he was at the counter in the hotel. He left his wallet at the counter as he rushed out to determine what was happening, he said.

Boy, that’s a totally believable quote, isn’t it? Someone’s stealing the Unity Bridge!

I asked several of my colleagues, when this thing first appeared, where’s the unity? What’s it a bridge to, or between? No one knew. The guy supposedly said it’s about Trump unifying the country. I guess we know how that worked out. Probably time for it to crash, although he already has a repair estimate and I’m sure wallets are being opened as we speak. But the moral of the story? Never leave your keys in your vehicle.

OK, then. Another week awaits. Here’s a story I wrote, about a local Instagram celebrity. I find it fitting that as my career draws to a close, I find myself out-earned by a young man who, after our first interview, informed me he was no longer giving his time away free and asked to be paid to answer follow-up questions. And he wasn’t even towing a bridge.

A good one to all.

Posted at 9:23 am in Current events, Detroit life | 64 Comments
 

Keep counting.

One of my census “cases” last night was here:

I’m not sure which of those two houses was the one I was supposed to visit. I looked at the app for a choice. Demolished didn’t quite work, so I chose uninhabitable. And I got no closer than this, because surely something was living back there. Quite a lot, actually. I was wearing sandals and didn’t want to encounter whatever critter or critters that might be. Or the poison ivy.

Also had a few vacant lots. You had to look for the driveway cut across the park strip to tell there had been a house there, once upon a time. And that tells you what the last 10 years did to Detroit.

Another exciting moment: I’m standing on the porch of a seen-better-days house, about to tell the app that I can’t determine whether or not it’s occupied — early lesson: never assume a rundown house in Detroit isn’t occupied without some compelling evidence — when I look up and see a pit bull sitting in the driveway, looking at me.

I don’t like pit bulls. I know there are some very nice ones, it’s all bad owners, and I’ve known a few sweet ones, but call me a breedist. I just don’t trust them. This one wasn’t threatening at all, and wasn’t 100 percent pit bull, but enough that you could tell. No collar. Looked healthy, and the neighborhood wasn’t a feral-dogs kind of place, but still. If this was its house, I was on its porch. We looked at each other for a long moment until I remembered you’re supposed to avert your eyes. I had a clipboard I could potentially use as a weapon. My flimsy shoulder bag, filled with paper, might be a shield, if an attack was only half-hearted. I looked back at the dog. “Who’s a good dog?” I asked in the voice I use on Wendy. No response. I opted for a slow sideways sidle off the porch and down the front walk. The dog watched me go, stood up and stretched, then turned around and headed for the back yard.

Potential unsecured dog, I thumb-typed into the app.

And that was my census adventure Thursday night. I should add that the people I encounter are mostly very kind and sweet. Most of my cases were in Detroit, and I had pleasant chats with more than a few Detroiters. House for house, I’ve seen far more hostility in Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods. But cheerful souls there, too. House by house, we count ’em up.

And no, I didn’t watch Trump’s speech last night. I don’t have 70 minutes of my life to give to that asshole, and Twitter was doing most of the heavy lifting. The scene at the White House was as horrifying as any movie monster. But Jim Gaffigan, the comedian, had a spectacular night. His tweets aren’t threaded, but they’re easy to find on his account. This was my favorite:

Also this one:

And this one was the coup de grace:

I’m taking today off from census-ing, but will be back Monday (I hope) with more tales of the count. Unless I am attacked by a dog.

Posted at 9:17 am in Current events, Detroit life | 137 Comments
 

What the hell, more cake.

Guys. What a long, exhausting week, and it’s not even over yet. It does appear to be on the downslope, though, so – a few minutes have I to catch up.

I feel maybe a little guilty playing the Tired card; Alan was out of town for two days, fishing, and I had the joint to myself, so it’s not like I didn’t have the time. But I spent it mopping the kitchen floor and gadding about with friends. The summer is slipping away, and there will be precious little gadding about possible once it gets cold. So I hopped off to Howell to meet my old Lansing boss kinda-halfway and sit at a sidewalk table for a steakhouse dinner.

Unfortunately, it was Drive Your Loud Vehicle Through Town night in Howell, a conservative town with a reputation as a Klan outpost. That made conversation trying at times, but it was nice to see my buddy. I made the mistake of ordering dessert.

“Our carrot cake is famous,” the waitress said. OK, that’s the play, then. Holy shit. It reminded me of Jim Harrison’s line, that only in the Midwest is overeating seen as somehow heroic. The piece was enormous, topped with about a pound of cream cheese frosting. If I’d been with Alan we’d have split it, but you can’t split food with someone not in your germ pod. I took half home, and the half I ate sat in my gut like a nuclear warhead all the way home. I still feel its poison in my body, 48 hours later.

The thing about a binge like that is – because the rest of the meal was similarly over-the-top, too – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, like an alcoholic falling off the wagon. In a normal year, I’d be selectively shopping the Nordstrom anniversary sale, assessing my fall wardrobe, rotating some pieces out, freshening up for the cool weather ahead. Now all I can think about is: More time spent in yoga pants and slippers? Why not have more cake?

Also: A friend of mine tested positive last week, a rather baffling result for someone who’s been very careful. She’s asymptomatic and I think false positive is a very real possibility, but she’s one person I’ve been outdoor-socializing with, too, so I went off to get my own nose-poke this afternoon. It was as uncomfortable as the last one, but driving home down 8 Mile Road was cheering, in that perverse-Detroit kinda way.

Traffic was fairly heavy, and you know who was doing a land-office business? The weed shops. With the pandemic precautions, they’re running almost exactly like street dealing in days of yore: Pull up, make your selection depending on what’s in stock. A runner retrieves it and you’re cashed out upon delivery by a masked employee. You don’t have to get out of your car, and it all seems to go very smoothly.

Other news today: Steve Bannon, charged with being a grifty grifter. Here’s a lightly edited version of what I said on Facebook, for those who don’t follow me there:

Steve Bannon is rich. Right? He has all this dough from working at Goldman Sachs, investing in “Seinfeld,” blah blah blah. And as an ex-Trumper, he could spend the rest of his dissolute life consulting and speaking and cashing checks.

When I went to the We Build the Wall Town Hall in Detroit last year, I was struck by two things: 1) how D-list the speakers were — hey, Tom Tancredo and Joy Villa! and 2) how truly pathetic-looking the crowd was. These weren’t young, vigorous MAGA types, but older people in Costco sneakers and bingo-outing sweat suits. What was Bannon, accustomed to consulting with European despot wannabes and yelling at Ivanka in staff meetings, doing scraping the bottom of this barrel?

Supposedly he cleared $1 million from this particular grift, which seems an absurdly low payment for the chore of dragging his ass around the country and having to look at Sheriff Clarke in a million green rooms. These people truly are despicable.

Check out the website for this shit. And let me assure you, the people whose donations added up to that $25 million, assuming the number is that high, didn’t do it by writing big checks. In Detroit, these were people living on Social Security. The most prosperous-looking people there were probably the Bikers for Trump. Who can steal from the pathetic like this? The worst people in the world.

Also, you know who the biggest clown was in that particular car? Not Bannon. Clarke. Pro wrestling missed something when they didn’t draft that asshole.

A rare witty comment on the Deadline Detroit Facebook post of the story today: “We have entered the Layla portion of this ‘Goodfellas’ remake.”

So now I’m pretty much all caught up, right? Weekend lies ahead. Hope my Covid test is negative. And I think it’s going to be salads and club soda for a few days. Let’s be optimistic.

Posted at 5:03 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments
 

Back off.

I think I’ve mentioned 14,000 or 15,000 times that this historical era has me feeling glum. Also, the insomnia is back — I awake at 4:30 a.m. most mornings now, and that’s not good, but it boils down to 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and that seems to be…adequate. But lack of sleep + pandemic + everything else is not a mood elevator, so this afternoon I figured I’d do a bike ride, see if I couldn’t rinse some random shit out of my head.

I saw this house, which was cheering:

It’s an old firehouse. No. 38, the numbers over the garage doors say. Move a few steps down the street and you can see the tower for hanging and drying the hoses:

I’m 90 percent sure this is a private residence. The best thing about it, which you can better see from the Google Maps satellite view — which I won’t post, because privacy — is that it’s virtually isolated. There are two houses on one side, two across the street, but in the other direction? Maybe a quarter-mile between houses. This is the neighborhood where, according to local legend, the first crack houses in the country sprang up. That was followed by abandonment, blight, “urban renewal” in the form of arson, and then, as Carl Sandburg wrote: “I am the grass. Let me work.”

Honestly, the concessions to reality — that stout fence is there for a reason — could be tolerable for quiet nights punctuated only by predawn pheasant crowing, coyotes yipping and maybe some random gunfire from time to time. Grosse Pointe is only a few blocks away, so you don’t have a hike for groceries and sundries. You find places like this all over town. Which is why the newsletter I produce for Deadline has a standing head: This week in America’s most interesting city.

Then I pedaled home and, as I was putting the bike away, got an alert that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been hospitalized and felt like screaming again.

Today, in greater Lansing, a 77-year-old man confronted a 43-year-old man outside a Quality Dairy — your basic quickie-mart type place. The confrontation was over the latter’s failure to wear a mask; he was ejected from the QD over it, and he must have been testy about it, because he stabbed the old man. Then he fled. The cops caught up with him about 30 minutes later, and he got out of his car armed with a knife and a screwdriver. He advanced on the cop twice; she shot him the second time. He’s dead.

I’d love to see that guy’s internet history. This being the 21st century, there is available video of the stop, the confrontation and the guy going down.

I love summer, but not this one.

Posted at 8:57 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 139 Comments