The sidewalk critics.

I’m thinking I might take a night off. Work is spilling into the evening, and I need to concentrate on one thing instead of six. It was a pretty good day, helped enormously by being pretty beautiful outside. I took myself out to lunch at a Middle Eastern place a pleasant walk from the office, and was rewarded with the opinions of two sidewalk bums, one of whom said I looked good in my jeans, and the other agreed: “Yeah, you still got it.” I know these things should bother me, but they don’t anymore. A couple of downtown rummies in broad daylight are about as threatening as a box of kittens, and some days they’re the only feedback I get — I left the house before Alan got up and by the time he gets home tonight, I’ll be well into dreamland. Yes, the UAW set a strike deadline tonight. If they’ve walked off when you read this, I may well not see my husband again until Thanksgiving. #autoeditorproblems

Proud to be Miss Detroit Bum America, Wednesday sidewalk edition.

A pretty day, and a beautiful morning. I took this in my back yard after the gym, maybe a half-hour before sunrise. I posted it on Instagram with a filter, but this is the no-filter version, which more clearly shows what caught my eye — the diagonal line of the moon, Venus and whatever the star at lower left is. I’m sure one of you folks know. Enlighten us:


So open thread today, and let’s hope there aren’t any school shootings or hospital bombings or anything, really, other than sunshine and puppies and friendly bums.

Posted at 12:20 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments

The big empty.

I started a new volunteering gig on Tuesday afternoons, and the road home takes me through some perfectly astonishing parts of the east side. I don’t ever want to lose those outsider’s eyes, no matter how long I stay. I wish I’d stopped to take some pictures, but the light was fading, and the longer I live here, the less I want to be the slumming suburbanite snapping pix for her stupid blog. Trust me, though, you never come across a single house sitting on an otherwise empty block often enough to fail to be amazed by it. Parts of the city look like rural Mississippi, complete with chickens and goats, or else feral pit bulls and god-knows-what. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was feeding a baby dragon back in there.

I wonder what the occupant of this house thinks, for example:


I have a feeling I know: I won. Once upon a time that house was surrounded by others. Then abandonment came, then crack, arson, the aforementioned god-knows-what. Nowadays night falls, and it’s nice and quiet, except maybe for the animal sounds (barking, dragon roars), distant gunshots and the freeway off in the distance. If you survived the crack and the fires, it would feel like victory.

So with the theme of abandonment established, let’s go straight to the bloggage from faraway Chernobyl. This story isn’t really new — you can find photo galleries of the abandoned amusement park at Pripyat, Ukraine everywhere — but the wildlife angle is newer, and the GIFs within the story are amazing. The animals are coming home to Chernobyl, to the still-glowing but rapidly reasserting primeval forest, which now belongs to the wolves and boars and “rare European lynx — predatory cats the size of a Great Dane with tufted ears and glimmering gold eyes.” They don’t miss us at all:

“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our everyday activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”

“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”

Yes, Sheriff Know-Nothing, let’s all take a vow to never speak the same of the Oregon killer out loud. After all, we wouldn’t want to learn anything about him, would we?

Finally, an obit of a Detroit original, Grace Lee Boggs, who died Monday but left the legacy of 10 lesser souls. We forget what it meant to be a Dee-troit leftist at one time; it meant something special, and noble:

For years they also identified closely with Black Power advocates across the country. Malcolm X stayed with them on visits to Detroit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was said to have monitored their activities. When arson fires and rioting erupted in the city in 1967, Ms. Boggs described the violence as a rebellion against rising unemployment and police brutality.

“What we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest of a people against injustice,” she told Mr. Moyers. But the violence, she said, also became “a turning point in my life, because until that time I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution.”

Ms. Boggs eventually adopted Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies and in Detroit, which remained her base for the rest of her life, fostered Dr. King’s vision of “beloved communities,” striving for racial and economic justice through nonconfrontational methods. As Detroit’s economy and population declined sharply over the years, Ms. Boggs became a prominent symbol of resistance to the spreading blight.

She founded food cooperatives and community groups to support the elderly, organize unemployed workers and fight utility shut-offs. She devised tactics to combat crime, including protests outside known crack houses, and in columns for a local weekly newspaper, The Michigan Citizen, she promoted civic reforms.

With that, we carry ourselves over the hump of Wednesday. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life | 49 Comments

Two terrible benches.

OK, so let me get this straight: Last week, Noted Neurosurgeon And Healer Of Children Dr. Benjamin Carson came out in favor of letting junk science have a voice in the vaccine debate. This week, he said Muslims are not qualified to be president.

Prediction: Tomorrow, higher poll numbers for the doc.

Carly Fiorina lays smack down by describing a graphic scene in one of the Planned Parenthood videos that doesn’t exist. When asked to answer for this, she says, essentially, nuh-uh, does too exist.

Today? A front-runner.

Last year I wrote about that elusive creature, the African-American Detroit Republican. I had a great conversation with a black lawyer who explained the essential role in democracy of the loyal opposition — the people who disagree with you and stand in opposition to you, but still respect your right to govern. Good opponents make stronger parties, he said. And Detroit’s Democrats have grown so flabby from a lack of meaningful opposition that he thought that was his role in the city. (P.S. He voted for Obama. Twice.)

I think he’s right, which is why I’m so worried about this election. I can no longer take a certain sneering distance from this crew. As I said a while back, one malignant tumor and Hillary is toast, and the Dems have no bench. Bernie is a torch-carrier for the old left. Biden’s charm would evaporate if he were moved from the bucket-of-warm-spit job. And on the other bench? These guys. That guy. And her.

I have a sense of history, yes. I know this country has faced peril before, far worse than this. But I see people I know are intelligent sharing lunatic-fringe nonsense on their social-media accounts. Some batshit in one of my networks suggested the other day that I and others like me have “blood on our hands” because the president is vetoing the Planned Parenthood defunding. I had a class in high school, Communications, that taught me how to judge the veracity of a news story.

I guess they don’t teach that anymore.

So, it was a pretty good weekend. What happened? Can’t remember. Oh, right. Friday night, dinner at the Polish Yacht Club, a wonderful restaurant down in the old Poletown ‘hood. The streets around it are so deserted and sketchy that you tip the car guy — who only suggests street spaces, as there’s no parking lot — at least $5 on your way in. In return, he keeps your catalytic converter from being sawed off. Inside is Polish-food heaven, pierogis and potato pancakes and fried perch that’s out of this world. Also, Polish draft beer and Polish hospitality.

After that, we had a nightcap at the Raven Lounge:


Those of you who saw “Detropia” should remember it. It’s the blues bar in that movie. Too early for any sort of crowd. We paid the cover, caught the first couple numbers in the first set, and left.

On Saturday, a market day to make you sad, because it was rainy and the harvest is so plentiful you know it can’t last forever:


But I got my September sword of brussels sprouts, some nuts, this, that and the other thing. Next week I’ll be back. And so on and so on until it’s winter and there’s nothing to do on a Saturday morning but day-drink. (I’ll probably do that to, at least once.)


The most depressing thing about this are the comments from the nastiest wing of the childless-by-choice crowd, claiming a workplace that makes no allowance for parents is simply the way it should be, because having children is a choice, you know. Like raising shih tzus, apparently.

I didn’t expect much from “The Overnight,” which we watched via iTunes last night, but we were both pleasantly surprised. Dirty for sure, but still funny.

The woes of McDonald’s. I almost didn’t get past the first sentence, which reads:

Al Jarvis was 16 when he started working at a McDonald’s in Saginaw, a city in Michigan, in 1965.

I was born in St. Louis, a city in Missouri. Later our family moved to Columbus, a city in Ohio, and I didn’t leave until I relocated to Athens, another city in Ohio, for college. After that it was…you get the idea. Hello, editors? Wake up.

With that note, let’s get the week underway, OK?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Beanies, bandies and breezes.

Long, long weekend — I worked for most of it. But it was a good kind of work, the sort that got me out of the house and into the fresh air, which…freshened throughout the day. Which is to say, the day started sunny and cool, was briefly glorious, and then a cloud bank swept in from the west — you could see it on the horizon, bearing down like a malign force — and covered us all in gloom and chill.

But Michigan won the football game. I wasn’t in the stadium, but I was outside when the band passed by:


Look at those snowy white gloves. I’m always a sucker for a good marching band, and by “good” I mean Big Ten style — lots of brass, a loud-ass drumline and no silly arrangements of music that was never made to be played by a marching band. Leave that to the high schools. (In Indiana, marching bands compete with a ferocity generally seen only on reality shows featuring drag queens and dance moms. And they don’t really march, but sort of slither around the field in this weird walk-y gait, constantly moving — it’s harder — and never playing anything as mundane as, oh, “Across the Field.”) Marches! Fight songs! HAIL TO THE VICTORS! Or, you know, whatever they play for your school. But something rousing. That’s why the good lord gave us brass.

Story will be appearing in a couple weeks.

Kate wasn’t in Ann Arbor, amusingly enough. She came home for a Wayne State event with her friends, and we discovered another miraculous perk of enrollment at the state’s flagship university — the Detroit Center Connector, a free bus that runs between the Ann Arbor campus and Detroit four days a week. All that hang-wringing during the application process over how she was going to get home for band practice, the stuff I patiently answered with “Greyhound, Amtrak, ride-sharing and you’ll figure it out” has been vastly simplified. I dropped her off at 3 p.m. in front of the Ren Cen, where she joined three girls in hijabs to wait for pickup. And that was that. That student ID is worth its weight in gold. Plus a lot more. (Which we are paying, yes.)

Some good bloggage today that covers a vast span of emotional ground, so gird your loins and let’s do the depressing stuff first.

That would be the Washington Post’s remarkable look at the people with whom Dylann Roof stayed before he massacred nine people at a Charleston church earlier this summer. As is frequently the case, Roof gave ample warning of his plans, and he gave them to the people in this trailer. They didn’t say anything. Why? Read the story and shudder — it is terribly sad and depressing, and JeffTMM, you might want to stay away. As always, I ask, “What are we going to do with these people?” We used to have a place for them. We don’t anymore. But they’re still out there.

Moving on. One of the memories of Kate’s early childhood I recall fondly was the Beanie Baby era, although I did not play the tulip-fever game; we just played with them. She was still an infant unable to sit up unaided when a friend dropped by and gave her her first one, a rabbit of some sort. I thanked her, and when I later told someone else about it, they said, “You can’t let her play with it! It might be a valuable one!” I was under the impression we were talking about a $5 stuffed animal small enough for a baby to pick up, but no. And that’s how I was introduced to the silliness of Beanies, which was silly indeed. I recall a quote from a woman in the local paper: “These are going to pay for my daughter’s college education,” which even then a person with a room-temperature IQ could tell was bullshit. My neighbor did try to get a couple of hot ones, and nearly got herself and her toddler trampled in the process, which ended her enthusiasm quickly and before she spent more than a few bucks on them.

We bought our share and always took the tags off and played with them, and I remember how I tucked her in with a couple many nights. I was quite fond of them. You might enjoy this Vice piece on how they arced through the mid-90s pop-culture sky like a comet.

I laughed out loud at this account, by a Knight-Wallace Fellow from last year, on how he pledged a fraternity during his time in Ann Arbor. Yes, at the age of 38, hence the title, “The 38-year-old frat boy.”

I was about to give up when, on the last day of rush week, the Greek gods smiled upon me. It was at Alpha Delta Phi, otherwise known by students as “Shady Phi,” a popular frat on campus, with a beach volleyball court in the front yard. (As I would later learn, the prevailing rumor about A.D.P. was that even the sand in the volleyball court had herpes.)

I managed to hit it off with the president. He was an unconventional frat boy, a vegan who did yoga. He told me he wanted to be a life coach. We started going to the same meditation group and having lunch together on campus. Thanks to him, I got invited back to more events. I won first place at the beer pong party — turned out I was something of a beer pong savant, a skill I attributed to having a master’s degree in physics — and ably slammed Cuervo Silver and Simply Lemonade at Taco Tuesday. With the president’s political capital behind me, I was in.

Finally, Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, for a food startup of some kind. Best of luck to him, but I hope he doesn’t get all food-scoldy like everyone else in that community.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Detroit life, Popculch | 66 Comments

Still steamed.

I know I spent a fair amount of time bitching about the weather this summer, because I spend a fair amount of time bitching about the weather, period. I recall days on end in July when the temperature didn’t kiss the bottom side of 70, but this weekend summer showed up for the last scene. It was hotter than a Louisiana swamp until sundown Monday, at which point I was sitting poolside at a nice end-of-summer party. What are you gonna do? Summer party? You gotta go.

It was an amazingly productive weekend. Got work done, bathrooms cleaned, potato salad made, dry cleaning dropped off and picked up — you know the drill. Not one but two ill-fitting dresses returned for credit. A lot of miles driven, but that’s what espresso is for, right?

Along the way, a funny story turned up by one of my Bridge colleagues, which I’m sorry Prospero/Caliban didn’t live to see — about the time the MC5 came to play at his Catholic high school, in 1968. The primary concern? What would Rob Tyner howl when they launched into their signature song? Read and find out.

I wish I had more for you today, but I took a bit of an internet break this weekend. You’ll find something to talk about. Let the fall begin!

Posted at 12:09 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments

God bless the Jumbotron.

No blogging today, alas. I accepted a friend’s invitation to see Elvis Costello and Steely Dan last night at the venue once and forever known as Pine Knob. It was a hot night and only got hotter when the main act came on. A woman seated in the row ahead of us barfed all over the floor — I honestly don’t think she was drunk, as she seemed to be ralphing mainly gouts of clear liquid. The crew got it cleaned up between acts and a different couple sat down in the adjacent seats. Dustin and I looked at each other and said? Nothing, of course.

The barfer and her husband returned, the barfer’s hair tied up in a ponytail. Maybe she was just overheated.

Anyway, the acts were in good voice and Donald Fagen is still one of my favorite lyricists in pop music. Fortunately, there were visual enhancements:


I’m told the kids don’t like Steely Dan, and in fact consider the band the absolute epitome of boomer narcissism, all jazzy pretentiousness and grad-school navel-gazing. Their fans are assholes, they play “music to put your sleazy moves on a drunk woman in a ski lodge to,” they’re for snobs only.

OK. Whatever. I have very specific and generational memories linked to most of their hits, and as for “Aja,” well, let’s just call it a foundational text in my pop-music memory. So the hell with you haters. We all know what you gotta do.

So not much bloggage today, except for this, my old colleague Dave Jones on the poisoning of youth sports. By their parents, of course:

As Hall of Fame acceptance speeches go, John Smoltz’s was not terribly entertaining. He was too careful to mention each and every person who affected his life, growing up as the son of accordion teachers in Michigan, to reach any sort of real connection with the audience during a rather lengthy half-hour.

Until, that is, the last five minutes. The loudest and longest ovation Smoltz received was for the most passionate point he made near the end of his time on the podium at Cooperstown on Sunday.

It was when he tried to talk some sense into all the parents who are relentlessly driving their kids through the nonstop treadmill that is travel baseball. He was speaking of all the kids whose arms are worn out and even damaged by their mid-teens. Whose passion for the game has long since been replaced by a hollow expression, whose onetime thrill in competition has dissolved into some vague sense of duty to their parents’ commitment.

‘Til Tuesday, and beyond.

Posted at 8:59 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 46 Comments

The horn section.

The Detroit “scene” — yes, air quotes are definitely called for here — has been growing so quickly that it’s sometimes hard to tell the New Detroit weekend activities from the earlier, more organic and fun variety. One year you’re going on a group bike ride and it’s just a good time, two years later you have thousands of fellow riders and corporate/foundation sponsorship and all the rest of it.

So lately, when I hear that something’s going on somewhere in the central part of town, I’m less likely to think hey, fun and more likely to think parking’s gonna be a four-legged bitch, no doubt.

It was a pleasant surprise to drop by the second annual Crash Detroit festival in its waning hours Saturday and see it was still fun. This is a brass-band gathering, very much in the New Orleans tradition of fun and partying and spontaneity, and we arrived for the last act, the hometown Detroit Party Marching Band:


A little dark, I know, but I wanted you to get the idea of how they work — no stage, just gather up and start playing. And they play hard. The trombonist nearest to me shed his jacket halfway through the show, but I bet he wished he could shed more. Most of these folks play hard, and it was hot.

Still, in the depths of summer, a good news Sunday. There’s the Bill Cosby story, so much ick in one package:

He was not above seducing a young model by showing interest in her father’s cancer. He promised other women his mentorship and career advice before pushing them for sex acts. And he tried to use financial sleight of hand to keep his wife from finding out about his serial philandering.

Bill Cosby admitted to all of this and more over four days of intense questioning 10 years ago at a Philadelphia hotel, where he defended himself in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by a young woman who accused him of drugging and molesting her.

Even as Mr. Cosby denied he was a sexual predator who assaulted many women, he presented himself in the deposition as an unapologetic, cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women — a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.

Man, I’m not one for idolizing celebrities (with some exceptions), and this is not Monday-morning hindsight, but there was always something off-putting about his Doctor Cosby, American Dad act I found off-putting. I should trust my instinct more often.

Brian Dickerson, my No. 1 reason for reading the Sunday Free Press, had a thoughtful column about the pressures on liberal arts educations these days. I think he nails it — business is trying to outsource its training onto higher ed — and have been saddened at the idea that studying something other than finance, marketing, math and business is somehow worthless. I’ve known many liberal-arts majors who are brilliant business people; knowing Iago’s motivation might be a useful skill in business, in my opinion, but what do I know.

A long read, but absolutely worth it: A long NYT project on crime on the high seas, Pulitzer-worthy, that reminds me to read William Langewiesche’s book on the same subject. A sobering reminder of the cost of civilization, a connection I probably drew from my liberal-arts education.

Oh, and also, this weekend? There was a pie:


I’m-a eat a piece. Right now. Enjoy the upcoming week.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 30 Comments

A little tapped.

Whenever I spend a day writing, I find myself not wanting to spend a night writing. Which explains a dark Wednesday. Guess what I did on Wednesday? Yep.

But we cannot have two dark days, can we? No, we cannot. So let’s start off in that great NN.c tradition of bitching about the weather.

Today it didn’t reach 50 degrees. In fact, it barely reached 45 degrees. It also snowed, and rained, and snowed again. On my way to the parking garage, a three-block walk that can feel like 300, I passed a wan little family headed to the ballpark, dressed for a polar expedition. What a sucktastic night for baseball.

However, it was a good excuse to wear boots for one more day. It’s always a little hard to put some nice boots away for the summer.

I guess in the Department of Following Up on Stuff, I should note that the 78-year-old man on trial for having sex with his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife beat the rap. What a terribly sad story, and what a waste of judicial resources. I hope he enjoys what years he has left.

I’d say it’s also not looking good for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who made the mistake of flipping off a camera in his cell, now a nice exhibit for the prosecutors who want to give him the needle. He’ll get it, I expect, but for once I agree with his defense team; it’s far from a definitive message. He may well have been saying f.u. to the camera itself, which I don’t think anyone would welcome in a personal space.

There’s also talk of a “smirk,” another expression it’s unwise to wear in a court of law.

Amy Schumer isn’t everyone’s cup of dirty tea, but if you’re in a safe office or with headphones, you might like this — “Last Fuckable Day.” I know I did.

Weren’t we talking about teratovas the other day? Ew.

With this weak, thin effort, it’s my bedtime. Zzzz.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 37 Comments

A day downtown.

I don’t get to the office as often as I should, although I do when I can, and I’ll be going more now that the weather is breaking and commuting isn’t such an ordeal. What’s the truism? If you want people to get things done, let them work at home. If you want them to be creative, put them together. Lately I have a lot to get done, so I’ve been staying home.

But today I went in. I had to do a radio show first, then headed to the office. Three doors from my building, a homeless man brayed, “You a sexy lady! Yeah, you like Beyoncé. You woke up like this!” I guess I should have scowled, but the thought of being compared to Beyoncé is so absurd I had to laugh. Another homeless guy heard this and added, “I second that!”

I should get into the office more often. The other day one of my colleagues was talking on the phone, looking out the window, and saw a hooker servicing a client in the alley, next to a dumpster. The best moment? When she stood up, lifted her skirt, turned around and offered the goods, and the john backed off, waving his hands hell, no.

She said that when she told this story later, the most common reaction is, “Did you record it?” No.

I realize those two anecdotes may make it sound like I work in some kind of cesspool of vice. I don’t. The hooker story was amazing, as Detroit has cleaned up its downtown and central city so much that you just don’t see that sort of stuff at all anymore, let alone in broad daylight. As for the homeless guys? Well, they have eyes, don’t they?

A little bloggage:

This has been going around a couple days, but it is hilarious and probably NSFW: Martha Stewart, absolutely killing it at the Justin Bieber roast. Of course she didn’t write the material, but she delivered it so well, you’d think she did.

Drew Miller, a Detroit Red Wing, almost lost an eye when he was hit in the face by a skate on Tuesday. Fifty stitches. Very scary. But when he appeared at a presser today and I saw the picture, all I could think is, when that thing heals, he is going to be the sexiest man alive. Scars are so fabulous, and a good facial scar is the best of all. I know how sick that sounds, but you’re looking at the country’s other No. 1 Omar fan.

The Hoosier fiasco continues. A friend there emailed this week to say, “I am fully fed up, fed up of course with dingbats who claim that RFRA doesn’t target gays, but also fed up with people who act as if this is an anti-gay Kristallnacht. It was a hamfisted sop by Rs for their reactionary base, a kind of consolation prize because the anti-gay marriage amendment was shot down. RFRA was a clumsy overreach by the ruling clique, and now they and Gov. FumbleBlunder are eating the shit they cooked in their own kitchen.” Shit cooked in their own kitchen — that’s it exactly. Meanwhile, here’s yet another analysis, by Amy Davidson at the New Yorker. There’s not a great deal new here, but a good turn of phrase that doesn’t bring to mind shit in a kitchen:

Pence said that the Indiana law “simply mirrors federal law that President Bill Clinton signed in 1993”—which is correct only if the mirror is the kind that adds twenty pounds when you look in it.

Have a great Thursday, all. We’re over the hump.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 33 Comments


Hey, guys. This is where Alan and I were last night: The Dirty Show, Detroit’s annual erotic-art exhibition, although “erotic” isn’t the word that came to mind most often last night. “Dirty” did, though.

Photography is forbidden, but I saw so many people breaking the rule I dared to capture these dancers, and a bouncer shut me down after a single frame. So apologies for the pic, but you get the idea:


We went to see the opening-night performer – John Waters. He did a version of “This Filthy World,” his one-man show, another aptly named entertainment, with the distinct advantage of being very funny.

Then I got a text about David Carr, and, well…

But we stayed out late, and I have a buttload of work to do now, so short shrift. I’ll tell you all about it on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 7:55 am in Detroit life | 75 Comments