Disappointed? Who, me?

Well, this is not good:

BRUSSELS — The European Union is set to advise member states that they should reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States, three E.U. officials said on Sunday, as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have surged in the U.S. in recent weeks.

Starting Monday, the officials said, the United States will be removed from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, will not be mandatory for member countries, and it will remain up to those countries to decide whether or not to impose them.

Not mandatory. So there’s a chance that…France, say, might decide to allow only vaccinated Americans in. So the lights aren’t out on our trip yet. But they’re growing dim.

Feeling smug about only booking places with generous cancellation policies. But very blue about missing beaujolais nouveau season in France. All fingers crossed.

I’m not here to whine, because holy shit New Orleans:

A slow-moving Hurricane Ida has left all of Orleans Parish customers without power due to “catastrophic transmission damage,” according to Entergy New Orleans.

The intense storm had caused all eight transmission lines into the New Orleans area to go down, spokesman Brandon Scardigli said in an emailed statement. That created a load imbalance that knocked all power generation in the region offline, Scardigli said.

A million people without power in not just one city, but an entire region. This is gonna get ugly. I’m not a big fan of nostalgia, but I’m recalling the aftermath of Katrina, and not just what happened, but how ugly and discordant the national discussion around it was: Sure it’s terrible what’s happening there, but they had the chance to leave and they didn’t, so? :::shrug::: But we’ve grown so much and learned so much since then, right? I’m sure it’ll be much better this time.

A steamy, oppressively hot weekend that ended with a banger of a thunderstorm. Alan was off fishing all weekend, and said his experience was the same, only a little cooler. He had to shelter from a huge one under some trees (yeah, I know) and actually bail his drift boat, because it was coming in so fast. We’ve had at least half a dozen, maybe 10, of these storms this summer. The most recent one before this was…Friday, I believe. A short one that cooled things off by maybe a degree or two until the sun came out and heated all that rainfall into steam. A friend and I stopped at a free techno show for a bit; the artist, an EDM musician, if turntables count as instruments, was launching his own weed brand and announced a pop-up show at the last minute. He threw free samples to the crowd and I marveled at our changing world.

However, I also marveled at the lack of masks, the close quarters (although still outside) and the flying sweat droplets. So we didn’t stay long. I’m booking a test on Wednesday, anyway.

The last storm broke the back of the heat, at least. Cooler today, then mid to high 70s the rest of the week. Ahh.

While we welcome Monday, let’s keep a good thought for Louisiana — the good parts, anyway.

Posted at 8:09 am in Current events, Detroit life | 67 Comments

Not so malicious.

Made some time to watch “Malice at the Palace,” a short (about an hour) documentary about the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. It was Nov. 19, 2003, and I remember it mainly because Alan had a job interview in Detroit that day, and they’d made him an offer. We were moving to Detroit. Then I came downstairs that Saturday morning, turned on the TV and found it looping on almost every channel.

We laughed and laughed – hey, it’s our new home! What a crazy place! And beyond the usual anniversary pieces, the tiresome Albomesque chin-scratching about Our Violent Society and Won’t Someone Think of the Children, I haven’t thought much about it since.

So I’m glad I watched. And I came away feeling bad for laughing. I hadn’t thought enough about what it meant to the players who were suspended, losing millions of dollars and being derailed for an entire season. And I certainly hadn’t given enough consideration to the jerkoff fans who started the thing, in particular the guy who threw the cup that set things off. His name is John Green and while he expressed regret, I can’t say I felt much of it coming through the screen.

The players, though – that was rough. Ron Artest, who appeared to have a few mental health issues. Jermaine O’Neal, all sweetness and regret. Stephen Jackson, still pissed. And so on.

Of the woefully unprepared security team, we will say little, other than to echo O’Neal’s contempt that one of the cops didn’t recognize Reggie Miller and came close to giving him a mace facial. True, he wasn’t dressed in his uniform – he had a broken finger – but he was in a very nice suit and trying to break things up; you’d think even a suburban cop would realize a 6-foot-7-inch black man in a suit with courtside access was not just another rioter.

(I once stumbled across a stray piece of video from a couple years back. Miller, who has moved on to sports broadcasting, was walking across a court in an empty arena, hours before a NCAA championship game was to start. A few balls are scattered around the floor. Miller is, again, in a nicely tailored suit. He picks up a ball, dribbles twice, shoots and drains it, from well into the three-point zone. Does it again, does it again, does it five times, each time nothing but net, outside the line. All of this is captured by a photographer he doesn’t see. After he’s shot all the balls within reach, he walks off to wherever he was headed. It’s such a pleasure to watch someone who is that good at what he does, doing what he does. And I’m not even a sports fan.)

The worst offenders, of course, are the media. The word “thug” comes up again and again in the coverage, while people in suits sit in front of cameras and opine straight out their asses. Having been an out-the-ass opiner myself, I know the job often requires you to have opinions about shit you know little to nothing about. Still. Man, I’m glad I don’t have that job anymore.

Anyway, it’s on Netflix, and well worth an hour of your time, sports fan or not.

And with that, we await the weekend. The sunrise was lovely this morning, but it’s gonna be a hot one. Stay cool.

Posted at 9:26 am in Detroit life, Media | 40 Comments


On Friday, I saw the sun rise…

…and set:

Both times over water, so you know it was a good day. The sunset came with a group:

I haven’t been kayaking in forever, so it was a good evening. We came for the moonrise, but clouds obscured the view. Even when you miss it, though, there’s something about paddling for home down the Detroit River at night that feels pretty great and makes up for everything.

On Saturday we went to the Detroit Golden Gloves tournament with my trainer and his wife. This bout was called a draw early on, when the guy on the right got a bloody nose:

And I include this pic for the ref’s mullet, which was amazing:

We came out into a heavy rain, which only got heavier. Our fave pizza place down the block was closed, the alternative had a one-hour wait, the second alternative was closed and by then, it was raining so hard I was worried about getting home. No way was I taking the freeway, not after seeing what happened the last time. So we headed back on surface streets, with the visibility almost nil — that’s how hard it was coming down. I couldn’t see where the deep spots were, but there was a car in front of me, so I just watched his tail lights. Of course — of course! — these people were undeterred:

They cannot be stopped. They are the cockroaches of the party scene, and will survive when every other place in town closes. I call them the Woo People, because every time you see them, the people onboard are saying WOOOO. On the water Friday night, there were the aquatic version, i.e. floating tiki huts with a small outboard motor, the most ridiculous things you ever saw, but they seem popular. There were also two larger ones, pontoon boats with free-spinning, non-functional “paddle wheels” on the back, along with flashing LED lights. Just ridiculous. As the rain continued to come down harder and harder last night, we passed one of the pedal pubs with its isenglass curtains rolled down, because cuz, there’d been a big change in the weather.

Everybody who’s spent time in the Midwest knows these storms; sometimes you have to pull off the freeway under an underpass to wait it out. They rarely last longer than a few minutes, but this one went for half an hour, easy.

When we got home, the basement was dry. As Aretha says, don’t know what I’m doing, but I must be living right.

So the plan to squeeze all the juice out of summer is going well. I just wish this rain would give us a break. Our butterfly bush is dying, and Alan says it’s from being drowned. I don’t doubt it.

A little bloggage? Sure.

J.D. Vance continues to devolve into an ever-more-horrible p.o.s. To wit:

Vance also took aim at the Democratic Party, saying that it had “become controlled by people who don’t have children.” He also claimed that politicians running the country do not have a “personal indirect stake” in improving it because they do not have children.

“And why is this just a normal fact of American life, that the leaders of our country should be people who don’t have a personal indirect stake in it via their own offspring, via their own children and grandchildren,” Vance asked, noting that he was not referring to people who are unable to have children.

Joe Biden has children. Nancy Pelosi has children. People all over the Democratic caucus have children, children, children. Vance’s principle principal sugar daddy, Peter Thiel, has no children. Fuck this guy.

Meanwhile, you think it’s bad here? This is the U.K. Do note the Trump flag in the crowd:

And with that, I have to clean a bathroom and finish overhauling a closet. Happy Sunday/Monday, all.

Posted at 11:16 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

A flooding city.

I lived in a flooding city for 20 years. (Many of you still do.) In that time, I covered, or observed, probably at least a dozen flooding events, big and small. 1985, that was a biggie, caused by the usual factors – spring rain plus snow melt. But there were also weird one-offs like the one-river event in 2003 (I think), caused by a single, small storm system that stalled and dumped apocalyptic rain on a fairly small watershed.

In general, I think Fort Wayne has handled its flooding problem as well as can be expected, particularly in the area of turning floodplain into parkland. I think they also installed some massive infrastructure thing underground; a basin or something? It was after my time. But Fort Wayne’s flooding comes from the nearby rivers, and should surprise no one.

The ones that hit my community over the weekend mainly came from below, in backups from sewers and floor drains, although the streets were so full that some of it came in via the front door. The reaction in Indiana was usually: Shit happens, time to clean up. Here, it seems to be: Who can I sue?

Floods are awful, and I’ve said this before, but I think they’re the worst of all natural disasters. Tornadoes sweep everything away, fires burn it up, but floods cover your precious possessions with shit, sometimes literally. It’s devastating. Also, you have to do much of the work yourself, and lugging waterlogged crap up basement steps is back-breaking work.

The cleanup is continuing here. And it sucks. Many people are discovering their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. That’s a shit thing to find out.

Meanwhile, I’m following your own various miseries in the comments – the heat, the moving, the pooping cat. Man, it’s a trying week.

Things are getting weird everywhere. Apparently the South Dakota National Guard is now a mercenary force, for starters.

I’ll leave you with that, and let’s get through the midweek without melting or drowning, eh?

Posted at 7:12 pm in Detroit life | 89 Comments

Wet and wetter.

While the rest of you were discussing heat in the Pacific Northwest, we had our own extreme weather here – 6.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, which left the whole city and much of the suburbs under water. Probably the worst were the freeways, where the underpass pumps failed in large numbers. People had to abandon their cars and now, 36 hours later, large stretches of the freeways still look like this:

This looks like it was taken closer to sunrise, not long after the worst of it passed:

And how did the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere fare? Amazingly, astoundingly well. Two floor drains puddled and then receded. Zero damage. The kind of luck that makes you think you live under a lucky star, or something. The hand of fate spared us, this time. In Grosse Pointe Park, which is connected to a pumping station that failed, they weren’t so lucky. Basements were inundated – floating furniture, ruined electronics, the whole bit. We helped some friends pump out a minor flood in their own basement (6 or 7 inches), and it was just like being back in the Fort, I’m telling you.

It also reminded me to do two things in the next few weeks: Have our drains rootered, just because it’s been a while; and move stuff up off the floors and lower levels in the basement. It’s only a matter of time.

More pictures? Sure. These were the freeways Saturday morning:

Every few years, Grosse Pointe does one of those public art projects where they give blank objects to artists and let them paint them, then sell them as a fundraiser. Since we’ve been there, they’ve done frogs, dogs, fish and this year, hearts. Businesses buy them and put them outside their businesses. This one was bolted to the wall of this office building, but when the water rose, that fish obviously saw his opportunity to make an escape:

And with that, I just got a text asking for help clearing a sodden basement, so I think I’ll go polish my karma a little. You all stay dry out there, or cool, or otherwise adapted to whatever apocalyptic weather event is befalling your part of the world today.

Posted at 9:57 am in Current events, Detroit life | 40 Comments

Shut out.

On Monday, I took a bike ride with a friend on Belle Isle, the former city park, now a state park, negotiated as part of the city’s financial distress a while back. It being a holiday, it was a busy day, but not crazy-busy. Most of the bottleneck was at the gate, but there were fewer parking places, too, because of the Detroit Grand Prix in two weeks — they’ve been setting up the concrete barriers, barbed-wire fences and sponsor banners for a while now.

By the time we came off the island, the road coming in was blocked. Park’s full, find something else to do. But walk- and bike-ons are not limited, so people were parking on the road outside and walking half a mile or so across the bridge, then wherever the party they were seeking was.

I watched them walk by, overwhelmingly young black women dressed in the current style – waist-length braid extensions and those insane false eyelashes that look like fuzzy caterpillars. I thought about how much I despise that stupid grand prix, which squats on the island like an unwanted guest not just for three days in June, but for weeks before and after, uglying the place up and constricting park capacity. We give up so much in the name of tourism dollars, I wonder why we bother.

It was an OK after-ride, though – we got a couple beers each from the party store and sat by the sidewalk and drank them. The lady at the party store put four brown paper bags into the six-pack carton without even being asked. This town cracks me up.

And so the summer begins.

Hope your weekend was good. We cooked a little. Alan is painting the dining room, and it looks great. Let’s see what the season holds, for all of us.

Well, this isn’t great news:

…in a striking intervention, more than 100 scholars of democracy have signed a new public statement of principles that seeks to make the stakes unambiguously, jarringly clear: On the line is nothing less than the future of our democracy itself.

“Our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write in the statement, which I obtained before its release. “History will judge what we do at this moment.”

And these scholars underscore the crucial point: Our democracy’s long-term viability might depend on whether Democrats reform or kill the filibuster to pass sweeping voting rights protections.

The “I” here is Greg Sargent. I have no faith we can fix this.

In other news, you might recall a story I posted last spring, by a contributor to Deadline Detroit, about a cafe owner in a little town in Myanmar who is obsessed with Eminem. It’s a great story, but bad news: The writer, Danny Fenster, was arrested by government troops last week in Yangon, on his way out of the country to visit his family in Detroit. He hasn’t been heard from since. His family is very worried, obviously. If this sort of thing concerns you, you’re welcome to call your representatives. The hashtag is #BringDannyHome.

OK, then. Into the rest of the week.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments

Ah, the long weekend.

Rain is lashing at the windows as I write this. I love that image – lashing rain – even though it’s not pleasant weather to be outdoors in. (Not that I’m planning to go out.) It’s a last gasp of chill before the warm weather settles in. I think we set a new personal record today in the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere, i.e. air conditioning to heat in…four days? Five? As we say around here: Pure Michigan.

Imagine being a Native American, or early settler, enduring weather like this in a badly chinked log cabin. It’s late May, and you’re probably low on firewood, and what’s outside is wet. Do you dip into the stove wood, or just ride it out? Ride it out in your smelly, filthy clothing, I expect.

And so the unofficial opening of summer dawns with lashing rain. I hope it’s not an omen. Because I have plans to be out socializing for much of the warm season. I need to make up for lost time.

And speaking of time, I don’t have much of it this morning, so I leave you with this, which should demonstrate to everyone that Detroit is still Detroit, god love it. See you next week:

Posted at 11:09 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 35 Comments

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