It’s a tragedy, not a comedy.

When you tell people you’re going out of town to see some theater, they inevitably say “Have fun!” Even though it’s pretty much impossible to have fun at a production of “King Lear,” which is what we saw. It was Colm Feore’s Lear at Stratford, and it only underlined what I’ve thought since I saw him in only his third Stratford role in 1986: This Canadian is one of the finest Shakespearean actors in the world.

Some friends and I began making an annual Stratford pilgrimage when we all lived in Fort Wayne, and have gone back periodically since — first annually, but there was a long gap after Kate came into the world, but over the years we’ve seen Feore play Hamlet, Iago, Richard III, Cassius — all the bigs, not to mention the Pirate King in “Pirates of Penzance,” Cyrano de Bergerac, and so on. This review from the Toronto Star gets the production right, by my lights. It really was a good one.

But a little fun was had on a cool and blustery weekend. The fall colors were at their peak for the drive, and when we arrived at dinner, found ourselves seated next to this guy, another company standout. That’s the fun of a repertory company in a small town — you see Macbeth walking to work on a hot day in shorts and a T-shirt.

Tickets are pricey, though, so we only stayed one night. That’s the fun of living so close to the repertory — you can just pop in and out. Although this is the end of the season. But we’ll be back next year.

I had a Caesar at brunch Saturday, a Caesar being a Canadian Bloody Mary; it’s made with clamato juice. Just like so many things with U.S. and Canadian equivalents. Similar, but different.

I’ve been so done with the church of my upbringing for years, but I am SO so done now:

Vatican City — Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals that stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront. It said “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy,” but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman. The paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Ohh-kay.

This story about my current home has so much wrong in it, it’s hard to find the right. Good thing it appeared in that obscure rag, the L.A. Times. It’s hard to say what’s the wrongest part; let’s choose a section at random:

In the last year or two, there have been complaints at the suburb’s premier park, which resembles a country club, with yachts listing quietly in the lake, bubbling fountains and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“I do sense it from some of the residents. If there’s an African American picnic there, and people are hopping in the pool, I sense a bit of, ‘What are you doing in my park?'” said Paul Wargo, who mans the gates at the park.

“Yachts” list before they capsize; there’s no source for the “complaints,” which I don’t believe are happening, as there’s a well-established African-American population in Grosse Pointe Park; the pool is not Olympic-size; and if you’re going to quote a guardhouse employee saying he “senses” something, it’s reasonable to follow up with “how do you know all this, working in the guardhouse?

But don’t mind me.

I think I’m going to make some chicken salad. Enjoy the week, OK?

Posted at 10:06 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments
 

Bows.

bartender

And so it’s farewell to the Comet Bar, a Cass Corridor dive that will soon fall to the relentless march of progress. It closes Wednesday, and as you can gather from the sign behind the bar, the people who work there are stick of answering questions about it. It had the advantage of being located on a desolate enough street that it looked scary from the outside, but it was always warm and friendly inside. You could watch a game or play the jukebox, and as you can also tell from that picture, the state’s smoking laws were, shall we say, not always strictly enforced.

We went Saturday night for karaoke, but astonishingly, the DJ couldn’t find the Andrea True Connection’s “More More More,” which is what I agreed to sing with my young friend Dustin. Oh, well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about gentrification this year, and this is a classic case that looks open-and-shut from a certain perspective, and it’s not necessarily wrong. The area around the arena’s footprint is already flowering, and my guess is it will continue to. You can certainly argue with the financing of this arena, which is the usual privatize-the-profit, socialize-the-risk deal. Detroit needs all the help it can get, and this will help. But. One reason people have started returning to this area has been its mix of — cliché alert ahead — grit and fun and, shall we say, its atmosphere, so unlike the suburbs. I don’t care what anyone says; the number of people who want to live in an area of perfect cleanliness and safety are already living in Seaside, Fla., and are 10,000 years old. Younger people want a little excitement in their lives. I disagree that sports arenas provide it, but they certainly inject oxygen into an area. But the old Cass Corridor, now rechristened Midtown, was never as bad as people in the suburbs feared it was, and the good things about it — the music, the street scene, places like the Comet — were a product of artists, students and others who lived closer to the margins than those who can afford NHL tickets.

They’ll find new neighborhoods; they always do. But in the meantime, it’s worth a final toast to places like the Comet.

So, some bloggage? Two from the NYT today. First, a look at the Dutch pension system. Which works, evidently:

Dutch pensions are scrupulously funded, unlike many United States plans, and are required to tally their liabilities with brutal honesty, using a method that is common in the financial-services industry but rejected by American public pension funds.

The Dutch system rests on the idea that each generation should pay its own costs — and that the costs must be measured accurately if that is to happen.

Vaccine denial culture in New York, as opposed to California.

We had a gubernatorial town-hall thing tonight, so my attention is divided. Let’s all have a good week, eh?

Posted at 9:24 pm in Detroit life | 95 Comments
 

Saturday morning market.

Haven’t done one of these for a while, but how often do you see a turnip as big as your head?

bigturnip

Posted at 9:34 am in Detroit life, iPhone | 20 Comments
 

Our changing language.

The other day one of my co-workers wondered how in the world someone got the great idea of naming a town in Michigan Climax. What were they thinking? Didn’t they know they’d be a butt of jokes forever after, another Intercourse or Blue Ball (both of Pennsylvania).

I pointed out that history takes a long time to arrive until one day it’s here, and it’s within my lifetime that people even started talking about sex out loud, much less using words like climax to describe what happens during it. Fort Wayne had a mayor named Harry Baals; my father went to grade school with a girl named Lucille Buttlicher.

“I wonder if there’s a town somewhere named Money Shot,” he mused. Let’s not go there. It’s a dirty, filthy enough world already.

I forgot to mention one of the fun activities of last weekend: Alan seemed to notice I was glum, and took me out to the fights. Yes, the fights — boxing, at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, in the Jack White Theater. Our seats were lousy, but the place wasn’t that big, and for once, we were in a central-city event where the crowd was a pretty accurate demographic reflection of the city as a whole. Interesting, I thought, that the boxing crowd was more than 80 percent black, and yet mixed martial arts, which has put boxing in its shade, attracts a far whiter audience. For the record, I hate MMA — the first time I saw it I watched a bloody beatdown that looked like first-degree felonious assault, all while the guy on the next barstool told me how much safer it was than boxing. Whatever.

Anyway, it was a fun night. Eight four-round fights ranging from pinweight to heavyweight, and wasn’t that one a revelation — one guy coming in at 240-ish and the other at 300. I thought for sure the lighter fighter would win. It’s really hard to be quick on your feet when you weight 300 pounds, but shows what I know. The bigger guy landed one lucky punch and boom, TKO. It was like something on “Game of Thrones.” The pinweights — that’s under 102 pounds, smaller than my petite daughter — put up a lively contest, too. They both seemed to hail from a part of the world where children grow up on gristle and wild plants. I really don’t know how you can be a grown man, able to train as a boxer, and still weigh less than I did in fifth grade.

One hometown hero was accompanied by his Omega Psi Phi brothers, entering to their theme song, “Atomic Dog.” He won.

We really need to go to the fights more often. Tommy Hearns was sitting ringside, Buster Douglas was training someone. Celebrities.

So, a little bloggage:

Someday we’ll look back at this era of corporate worship and wonder why we didn’t tie these folks to a whipping post: Two assholes argue over whether they can trademark the word “how.”

A good, simple explainer on the significance of the Supreme Court choosing not to engage with same-sex marriage. TL;DR? It’s over.

Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 10:42 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 52 Comments
 

Size 10 revisited.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but as of today I think it’s official: I have successfully lost every pound I gained during my pregnancy, and am back to what I guess you’d call fighting trim. (I’m a welterweight.) I think they tell you that at the OB’s office at your first post-natal visit: “Nine months to gain, 18 years to lose.”

But of course, when I finally dropped the baby, the placenta and all the extra blood I was carrying around, I had 10 to lose. Then it was 15, then 20 — you know the drill. Our culture makes it easy to be fat, my individual psychological profile (“eat your feelings”) makes it even easier, and I can’t even say when the corner was turned and I started taking better care of myself, but just in case you’re in the same place, here are a few things I learned along the way:

** Ninety percent of weight loss is getting your mind right. If your head isn’t in the game, it won’t work. And for me, that basically meant giving up. I stopped thinking in terms of “by this date, I want to weigh that much” and approached it more like an alcoholic: Today, I’m going to take care of myself. Just today, not tomorrow, not next Christmas. You will have many days when you fail at this. But as long as you succeed more often than you fail, the successes will add up. This weight loss was about 30 pounds, but took the better part of two years. There were a lot of failures along the way.

** There’s no way around this, but at some point you will have to become something of a hunger artist. My aim was always to arrive at the next meal hungry but not ravenous, and trust that the smaller portions I slowly grew accustomed to would satisfy me. I’ve mentioned many times that our culture keeps making everything bigger, and nowhere is this more true than in portion size. Restaurants pile our plates high, and we become accustomed to it, and soon this is the model at home, too. You don’t have to eat that much; the restaurant is dealing with economies of scale that don’t apply in your own kitchen. But you have to get comfortable with occasional tummy-rumbles, that’s all there is to it. If you’re hungry at 5 p.m., have a tall glass of water and a few almonds and ask yourself, “Can I put up with this for 90 minutes? Until dinnertime?” I bet you can.

** Exercise is great, but unless you’re training like an Olympic athlete, it’s still the lesser part of the battle. Controlling your eating is. What exercise will do is make your body look much better once the fat goes away. The last time I weighed this much I was a size 12. Now I’m a 10. I think it has to be because of all the weight training and yoga and cycling and swimming. And exercise, besides making you feel better and stronger, can come in handy at other times. A few weeks ago, I was having a bad day, part of a bad week and not the greatest month, either. I was in a mood to destroy some Haagen Dazs, maybe a pizza, maybe both. Scowling at myself in the bathroom mirror, I reached up to brush my hair and something resembling a small mouse scampered under the skin of my arm. Holy shit, it’s a muscle, I thought. And went for a bike ride instead.

** That said, be kind to yourself. Make room in your life for Haagen Dazs and pizza, because both are wonderful. You can have them, just not the whole thing, and not every day. Understand that winter happens, and you may not want to leave the couch for weeks at a time, and that’s OK, as long as you get back into it come spring.

** Finally, go for a walk every day. What MichaelG said about the people of Barcelona is true: Walking, and walking tall and with a nice forward stride, is just the most natural, pleasant, simple physical activity human beings can do. It’s why we stood up from all fours in the first place. It enables us to see the world, smell it, meet the eyes of others, experience the weather, all that stuff. It elevates your heart rate, but not too much. It’s an anti-depressant. Sometimes I pick up a weight at the gym for one reason or another think, “I used to walk around with this all the time. No wonder my feet were always killing me.” I walk a lot more now. For this I have Wendy to thank.

And that’s all I know. I think I’m going to stop losing for a while, see how the maintenance goes, and then reassess in a few more weeks. I feel great, honestly. My knees, the ones the orthopedist said were overdue for replacement a year ago, still hurt, but not as much – I don’t even take ibuprofen. But that’s about it. And I just ate some macaroni and cheese. Just not very much of it.

So, some bloggage?

The Building Detroit program, a city-run ongoing auction of blighted, yet still restorable, houses, has been going on for a while now, and is generally considered a success. Online bidders pay peanuts for places and agree to fix them up within a certain time frame. I encourage you to click the link and explore the variety of places being offered. Detroit boomed in the 1920s, and many of the houses date from that era with its lovely, sturdy architecture, but I’m also struck by the homelier places. There are a couple houses up now that are 700 square feet, maybe 800. Someone raised a family in that house, maybe several families. They stood in line for one bathroom. They never thought they didn’t have enough, even though the house was an ugly box. And there are thousands upon thousands of places like those in Detroit’s 138 square miles. Even if we could figure out a way to turn water into oil, if we could spark a North Dakota-style boom here, people just don’t want to live like that anymore. But remember: The failure of Detroit is due to? Yes, DEMOCRATS.

Somehow I think this story about a man rescued from a floating hamster wheel, says everything you need to know about a) runners; and b) people who pull stunts to “raise awareness” of things. But you be the judge.

Big week ahead, and deadlines still have to be met, so expect the usual scantiness.

Posted at 4:03 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Remain in light.

This weekend was Dlectricity, a biennial festival of light installations and other twinkly art up and down Woodward Avenue and thereabouts. I took my camera, but my friend Dustin has a better one, and an enormously better eye, and captured this:

dlectricity

That’s Rodin’s Thinker, for those who aren’t familiar with the Woodward face of the Detroit Institute of Arts. It only looks like he’s wearing a baseball cap.

So, a little bloggage:

I once assigned a long article on a digital movie pirate to my students, and in passing, asked how many of them illegally watched/listened and traded copyright material like movies and music. Nearly every hand went up. I asked if any felt guilty about this. All hands went down. Which maybe is why Hana Beshara, the woman profiled in this NYT story Sunday about the fallen proprietress of an online copyright-theft site, is still so unrepentant about her crimes, even after a prison term. Me, I’m baffled. Pay the artist! But we’ve discussed this before.

I don’t know if anyone else is watching “The Knick” on Cinemax — it’s a channel we hardly pay attention to, but Steven Soderbergh always gets my attention — but I think the most recent episode, “Get the Rope,” is one of my absolute favorites of any show this year. The series is about a New York City hospital c. 1901, and it’s fascinating for a number of reasons, from the spurting blood to the opium dens. The most recent episode was about a race riot, and perhaps captured the nature of riots, at least as they happen on television, with a small cast and not a lot of budget for extras, as well as any. If you want to discuss, feel free.

Book work continues, slower than I’d like. But expect fresh threads every day or couple-of-days for a while.

Posted at 4:35 pm in Detroit life, Television | 60 Comments
 

A bad case of Pretty.

So I was at lunch the other day, standing in line, waiting to order and pay. Things seemed to be taking a long time, and as I got closer, I could see why: The cashier was a flirt, and sort of all-thumbs. The credit-card swiper gave her problems, but she smiled and cocked her head prettily and seemed very bent on every (male) customer getting a few moments of her intense focus. She was no raving beauty, but she was cute enough, had a nice figure, a tight T-shirt, and the ineffable glow of Youth.

It was my turn. The bill was $9.81. I gave her a $20 bill and a penny. She stood over the cash drawer, staring down at it like she could transform it with the power of her gaze. (After all, it worked on the men.)

“I’m sorry,” she finally said. “What do I owe you?”

“Ten-twenty,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I really suck at math.”

“You’ve picked the right career, then,” I said.

I offer this anecdote mainly as a tiny glimpse of what it’s like for members of the non-pretty community to confront the realities of life, where a cute face, a snug T-shirt and an inability to make simple change qualifies you to be…pretty much anything, I bet. I guess I should be grateful she was only making change in an inexpensive restaurant and not running a nuclear reactor, but I bet there are a a few of her out there doing that, too.

A bit of bloggage:

Dexter and my other Wolverine fans, here’s John U. Bacon on the ongoing problems with the University of Michigan athletic program, and you might be interested. The football team’s problems have been well-covered, and this week a humiliating ticket-dump was revealed: Two tickets to the Minnesota game with the purchase of two bottles of Coke:

Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.

Michigan fans may be irrational about their love for the Wolverines, but they’re not stupid about their money. Their Saturday habit developed over a lifetime, but they can break it in a week.

I hear constantly from fans of other programs that their team is heading in the same direction. The question is, will other schools learn from Michigan’s mistakes in time to avoid Michigan’s troubles?

In case you’re wondering, yours truly was the unnamed colleague accused of lying in this bit of inside Bridge baseball. As you all know, I am a fearless teller of the truth. Yes, your ass looks fat in those pants.

Finally, not exactly an OID story (it happened in the Twin Cities just a couple years ago), but just one of the many reasons I love living here: Non-stop mayhem. Not that it’s good when infrastructure collapses and kills people, but life here is never boring, even for an adrenaline junkie. And OID would one of the first drivers on the scene be the Detroit Lions quarterback.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Scant. Just scant.

The thing is, it’s funny because every word is true:

FORT WAYNE, IN—Promising to steer them away from the usual tourist traps and show them the sights of his hometown through the eyes of a native, local man Martin Greenbaum pledged Monday to treat his visiting friends to the real Fort Wayne experience, sources said.

And yeah, it’s the Onion. But the Onion is genius.

I was actually thinking about Fort Wayne today, as it was Crazy Downtown Day in Detroit. The Tigers played at 4, followed by the Lions home opener/Monday Night Football right after. All through the stadium neighborhood, radio stations had set up remote broadcasts. There was food everywhere, bands — the whole shot. It made me happy, once again, to be here, all the Detroit jokes in the world be damned. I was meant to live in a big city. People like me don’t reach critical mass in tank towns. I stayed in the Fort 20 years and can’t say it wasn’t worth it — it absolutely was — but I’m glad I’m somewhere else now. Chapters, pages, etc.

So. Some of you guys know that I went to college with Peter King, the sportswriter. One of the best PK insults ever was in Deadspin today — “covers the league from the centermost pleat on Roger Goodell’s khakis” — but it sounds like he really stepped in it on this Ray Rice business.

Off to contemplate more Book. Happy Tuesday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Scanty pix.

Well, I cleared two big hurdles in Bookville this week, so I took myself a weekend. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad played at Dally in the Alley, a end-of-summer fest at Wayne State. Fortunately, my friend and former student Dustin was there with his DSLR:

DVAS1

That’s the best shot. But of course I’m partial to my girl:

DVAS2

They really did well. I’m so proud.

It was a great Dally — perfect weather, lots of fun people, the smell of dank in the air after dark. Drank too much beer, of course, but check that golden-hour light, will ya?

dally

It was a great weekend. Hope yours was, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 21 Comments