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
 

I, Karen.

The other day I was scrolling Twitter and saw a video with many views and heart-eyes emojis after it, some funny guy doing his Karen act. He had the wig, the flat comfortable sandals and as he pulled on a pair of capri pants I realized, Um, wait, that’s me.

I wear capri pants in summer because my short-short days are long past, and I know the minimum inseam on any pair of shorts I might wear outside the house (9 inches). Even if you keep up the struggle, exercise, eat right, there comes a time when your thighs have given up, and you don’t show them to anyone other than close friends and the people you swim with, who are all old like you and have the bods to show for it.

One of the struggles I gave up this year was hair denial. I let the gray come in, and I’m very happy I did, as for once, the timing was perfect; my last haircut was two days before the salon shutdown. I got the last of the blonde highlights snipped off, and so spent the last three months not sweating my roots growing out. With a million new things to worry about in 2020, it was freeing to let that one go.

But now I’m about as Karen-y as Karens get, at least from the outside. Anyone looking at me would sum me up at a glance: Karen. Boomer. Enemy. And so on.

So now it’s the day before the holiday weekend starts, and I’m sitting inside because it is hot as hell outside and will be getting hotter for the foreseeable future. We’ve had a very angry few days here in Detroit. Two women got into a shouting match over a hip-check in the doorway of a Chipotle, and a gun was drawn, a truly insane confrontation. Was it captured on video? Do you even need to ask? And yes, one of the women involved was a Karen, as we understand the term these days: White, middle-aged, hair-trigger temper.

The night before, a cyclist shot a motorist dead on the street in front of the RenCen, probably the closest thing Detroit has to a Magnificent Mile district. It was a road-rage thing, we’re told. The motorist yelled at the cyclists, the cyclists yelled back, he stopped and got out of his vehicle with a knife in hand. One of the cyclists, a woman, was packing (legally) and fired one shot, enough to send him to Elysium. Must have been the surprise of his life.

It so happened I had to do the aggregation — short rewrite/summation, with link — of both of these stories, to Deadline. I posted them to Facebook, because that’s where we get our traffic.

So I’m circling back a few hours later, checking engagement, and start reading the comments. Are comments good for anything anymore? No. It’s all memes and the same catch phrases over and over. The preeners are the worst: Do better and Check your privilege and You spelled ‘racist’ wrong and Fixed it for ya and I guess someone here has work to do. I guess this is a byproduct of people being out of work or working from home where they can check social media all day. And of being angry, and of it being about 900 degrees outside, with cases spiking.

Anyway, I think I’ve had my fill for the day, and for the weekend. I’m taking my Karen-ass self out to walk the dog, if she’s up to a jaunt no longer than around the block. If I meet any black birdwatchers, I will not be calling the police. In fact, I may just leave my phone behind.

Bloggage:

Hank Stuever on the rise of Karens on your screen. Funny:

Now, with the cameras squarely and vigilantly in the hands of those who are sick of being hassled, the “Karens” show depressingly confirms some of our worst suspicions about people in general, wielding a similar power of stereotype. “Karens” triumphantly flips the “Cops” dynamic. The Karens of our world relied too long on the power of racism and intolerance, threatening to call the authorities on anyone who offended or unnerved them. Now Karen is the bad guy, getting the comeuppance she so richly deserves. (Whatcha gonna do, Karen? Whatcha gonna do when Instagram comes for you?)

I had more, but it’s stale by now. News gets stale in 10 minutes these days. Enjoy your holiday, and may the deity of your choice bless America.

Posted at 5:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 151 Comments
 

Super-spreaders.

Another exhausting week behind us, a semi-exhausting weekend ditto, and another exhausting week ahead. I’m planning to return to the office for one of my jobs, and maybe the other, but only one day a week, and only if it feels OK. As is happening elsewhere in this stupid-ass country, cases are on their way back up. One bar – one! – in East Lansing was the center of 80-some positive COVID tests. A student dive, of course, the sort of place where, if you’re close to my age, you might have attended a drink-and-drown night in the pre-Mothers Against Drunk Driving days.

The bar owner say They Did Everything Right – and you know it’s true, because they told Mitch Albom – but The Customers, They Just Wouldn’t Listen. OK, whatever. The horses are out of the barn now, anyway, and one galloped all the way to Grosse Pointe, where we had our own mini-spike in the young-adult crowd last week, culminating in 23 new cases confirmed on Friday. One of the bar patrons had his own rager the previous weekend, while symptomatic, and apparently infected a bunch of other people. Oy.

We ate dinner out Friday on a patio, but I’m wondering if even that is safe enough, in these conditions. Might be back to pizza and carryout and my own cooking for the foreseeable future. I did get an antibody test, as part of my blood-donation testing last week. Negative. Probably wouldn’t hurt to hit one of the drive-through test sites one of these days, too.

At least it’s summer, and it’s been pretty, so let’s do some pictures, eh?

Driving home from the market, I glanced right and saw this street:

The crop is a little unfair; there’s an abandoned house just out of frame to the left. What caught my eye was that massive willow tree, and the very saturated green-ness on an overcast morning. The remains of the sidewalk on the right side remind us that once upon a time, this was a residential city street and didn’t always look like rural Mississippi. There’s more housing just beyond the green, but needless to say, this isn’t the fancy neighborhood. Although I turned 90 degrees to the right and spotted this streetlight something-or-other:

Check out that brickwork. Once upon a time, we were a country that believed there was nothing wrong with making a public building beautiful, even a utility center. During the worst of the Detroit-is-crumbling era before the bankruptcy, a local TV reporter did a piece on streetlights, most of which were decades old and didn’t work. Some circuits were so old they had to be turned on manually, as in someone had to show up and throw the switch; this building looks from that era.

That was a weird time, especially in winter. Driving through some neighborhoods was like entering the haunted forest, it was so dark. Not anymore, though – new LED lights everywhere. When LED streetlights fail, they sometimes start strobing, I have since learned. People online call this their disco period. Very festive.

Saturday morning market:

#NoFilter. And mine, all mine. We put some of them on cake Saturday night and drank too much wine. Hey, it’s mojito season.

Finally, a Sunday bike ride before it got too hot:

A rod on every post at the fishing pier. This is my turnaround. Seeing the water always gives me a lift.

So, bloggage? Some.

Neil Steinberg offers some talking points on how to respond to your terrible friends and relatives asking about black crime in Chicago.

When Sherri floated the possibility that Trump might resign ahead of the election and cut a deal with Pence to pardon him, I thought, yeah interesting, and Alan said no way. Maybe not so no-way anymore. The president is losing, and it’s starting to dawn on him:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was blamed internally for the Tulsa rally failure. Some people complained about him trumpeting that 1 million people had requested tickets, a boast that fell flat when thousands of seats sat empty during Trump’s speech.

Parscale has been a target of some Trump allies who argue the campaign is lacking a coherent strategy and direction. But people close to the president insist that Parscale’s job is safe for now. Trump, who visited the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters a few months ago, has told people he came away impressed with the sophistication of the organization.

Oh, he was impressed? That changes everything.

Finally, a little good news for you boaters, out of Buenos Aires:

Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.

The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo, to ride out the era of lockdowns and social distancing in a scenic place largely spared by the virus. But the idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable.

So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March.

Twenty-nine feet isn’t much larger than ours. I can’t imagine doing this. But then, I’m not Juan Manuel Ballestero, brave mariner.

So come on then, week ahead.

Posted at 6:32 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

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 | 27 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