Naked brunch.

In Detroit, the business known simply as the Schvitz has rather a scandalous reputation, not because of its daytime life as a traditional (built c. 1930) Russian baths for the old men who still believe in that sort of thing, but for its weekend incarnation as a swingers’ club. Google a little and you’ll find multiple stories about it, but John Carlisle’s piece from 2009 is comprehensive, covering both sides of the place, which in shorthand is basically a bit of old Detroit that hasn’t yet been corrupted by new Detroit. (Although it’s surely coming. I hear schvitzing is popular among the paleo crowd.)

It’s a men’s club in its day job and a swinger’s club on the weekends, and as I have neither a penis nor the inclination to have public sex with strangers, I figured I’d never see the inside of the place. Until I recently learned that a woman I know on a sort of tertiary basis — she used to own a restaurant I enjoyed — was hosting a public, women-only brunch there, on the first Sunday of every month. Bring a dish to share, a bottle if you like, plus $25, and you too can sit on the same steam-room benches the Purple Gang once occupied. Of course I went.

I tried to get some friends to go, but one was busy and the other said she was too hungover.

“Are you kidding me?” I replied. “That’s what schvitzing was INVENTED for.” The Russians spend half their time swilling vodka, and the other half moaning and sweating it out in steam rooms. But it was a barfy kind of hangover, so she got a pass. I ended up making vague plans to touch base with a woman I met three days ago. Nothing like being naked in a steam room to get acquainted with a new friend.

I packed a bag with a robe, towel and my shower stuff from my swimming bag, and considered whether to bring a bathing suit. Finally decided nope. Saunas and steam were meant to be experienced in one’s birthday suit, and I am too old to be shy about my body. I bought a cold bottle of champagne and got on the freeway.

Maybe 30 women were already there when I arrived, and maybe 30 more came after, making for a nice take for the Schvitz on what would be a dead day. Everybody was already in a robe, pouring mimosas and gabbing around the food. I dropped off my contribution (the rest of the pumpkin muffins I made for breakfast), put the wine on the bar table and got undressed. The thought of filling up on eggs before a steam sounded nauseating, so I popped the cork and poured a glass of bubbly, then headed downstairs in my robe.

What a place. The word “dank” applies, but then you realize dank is sort of the point. The Schvitz dates from an era when daily bathing wasn’t a custom, and communal bathing was an important part of social life. No one was worried about waffle-knit spa robes or essential oils; the idea was to open the pores with steam, close them with a plunge into the cold pool, repeat as needed. It’s dimly lit, probably as clean as a place 85 years old can be, and it gets the damn job done.

I never did make it all the way into the cold pool, just a little splashing. The water was 54 degrees. Maybe next time.

The old Russian guys who run the place have seen every incarnation of the human form that it’s possible to see (especially on swingers’ night), but still, when the steam-room door opened and one walked through to the laundry room, eyes averted, the conversation stopped briefly. Even the women in bikinis seemed a bit taken aback, but it’s hard to imagine a less sexy place than this; I honestly don’t see how the swingers manage, but maybe the atmosphere is part of the taboo.

This happened a couple of times — the walkthrough, always with eyes turned to the wall without the benches. I relaxed into the heat even more, until I realized two glasses of champagne were going directly to my head

I went upstairs and found a crock pot with Italian wedding soup in it. I had a bowl, had a muffin and two big glasses of water, then headed back down to the steam. By now, almost every bench was full, maybe 40 women in there, almost all at least topless, a fair number nude, yakking up a storm, everybody having a great time. The door opened, and the Russian guy came in again. This time he saw the hostess on the bench and walked right over to ask her something, then turned away to throw some cold water on the stones for more steam. There was some squealing, and he threw in another bucket before turning to ask if that was enough. One guy, 80 tits, everybody pouring sweat, cheering for steam.

I’ve felt less safe in doctors offices. What a great way spend an afternoon. As I left, I told the other Russian guy, Dosvidanya. Most people think it simply means “goodbye,” but it literally translates to “until we meet again.” We will. This is going on my calendar for the rest of the year.

Now it’s Sunday afternoon and I have to Truth-Squad the Democratic debate tonight. This means I’m missing my Sunday-night cable shows, but that’s why God sent us streaming. And since I no longer have cable, that means I have to find it online, and that, too, is why God sent us streaming.

So, mellow as I am post-steam, I have little to add in the way of bloggage. Or maybe not; let’s see what I can scrounge up…

This is a few days old, and serves as an answer to last weekend’s “Trump is all Obama’s fault,” which went around for a couple of days, but ran out of air fast, mainly because it was preposterous. I’m always tickled by Matt Taibbi’s turns of phrase:

(Karl) Rove correctly guessed that a generation of watching TV and Hollywood movies left huge blocs of Americans convinced that people who read books, looked at paintings and cared about spelling were either serial killers or scheming to steal bearer bonds from the Nakatomi building. (Even knowing what a bearer bond is was villainous).

Gotta love a good reference to the Nakatomi building.

Nancy Reagan is dead. I wasn’t a fan, but not a hater, either. Like many people I once found irritating, she grew on me after she left the spotlight. I’d look at her in her later years and think, frail. She was a truly birdlike woman, so thin she looked like she’d blow away in a stiff breeze. Ah, well — we’re all going to the same place, so let’s let her mourners mourn.

Finally, a companion headline to the one I posted Friday. I just love it:


Have a great week, all.

Posted at 12:10 am in Current events, Detroit life | 58 Comments

Not covered in drivers ed.

It looks as though the Oregon situation is, as we say in the biz, developing. Discuss, if you like.

I know we generally start with a little banter before getting to the bloggage, but really, can this wait?

Detroit — A Detroit man watching a porn movie while driving his car got into an accident and died.

The man, who wasn’t wearing pants, was watching the movie on his cellphone, said police.

Clifford Ray Jones, 58, wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected through the sunroof.

A state police spokesman said it’s the strangest incident he ever encountered.

The accident happened at 3:30 a.m. As Alan sometimes says, “I suspect alcohol was involved.”

Now, the banter: Another week lurches toward its midpoint. Sorta scattered at this end, trying to get a couple things going, but nothing really catching hold yet. It’s like scratching a match and trying to get it to light. You know it’ll happen eventually, but it’s going to take a few scratches first. But I swam fairly well Tuesday. You flail in one part of your life, and you do better in another.

Or, as Clifford Ray Jones might have put it: Just keep both hands on the wheel.

I wish I had more words for you today. I wish I had more links. But I have this:

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker has been following Trump:

Trump’s fans tend to express little regard for political norms. They cheer at his most outlandish statements. O’Reilly asked Trump if he meant it when he said that he would “take out” the family members of terrorists. He didn’t believe that Trump would “put out hits on women and children” if he were elected. Trump replied, “I would do pretty severe stuff.” The Mesa crowd erupted in applause. “Yeah, baby!” a man near me yelled. I had never previously been to a political event at which people cheered for the murder of women and children.

But right now, I have a little more work to bang out. Later.

Posted at 12:07 am in Detroit life | 44 Comments

Shiny new models.

Another curse of Facebook: When you tell people you’re going someplace special, everyone says, “OMG, you have to take a selfie and post it!” And unless you have professional lighting, or at least halfway decent lighting, everything ends up looking like this:


Hello, my name is Miss McEyebags, under an overhead light that could be used for interrogations, because that’s where the full-length mirror is that doesn’t reflect the disaster of the master-bedroom clothes-catcher. But never mind that; let’s do a quick tour of the 2016 North American International Auto Show. It’s a quick tour because we kind of did a speed-walk through — we made a dinner reservation this year, and while it seemed as though we’d have plenty of time, it rained torrentially and there was a ridiculous line at the coat check and bleh bleh bleh. So let’s get moving!

Here’s a Lincoln you cannot buy unless you’re in China: Correction: The Lincoln Continental was designed for the Chinese market but will also be sold here. And it will be made here. But here it is, Alex, just for you:


I love these cultural romances between countries. The Chinese ruling class loves this car, Alan says. They don’t drive them, their chauffeurs do, while they sit in the back seat and work. See, it’s very roomy:


Of all the cars they could choose, they go for a Lincoln. Love that.

So let’s head over to ConceptLand, and woo, what a sweet…Buick? Yep, it’s a Buick. Concepts are just sort of artistic ideas in car form, mind you, but here you go:


It’s on a Camaro platform. Love that paint job — it’s one of those that changes color depending on the angle, which has been on the custom/street rod market for a while. Trends trickle down and up. That blue, so rich.

Alan has a thing for Ducatis, but not this one, which he described as “their Harley imitation stupid street rod pig thing,” or some such.


Let’s take a moment to appreciate interesting floral design, too:


I wish I were that creative.

Technology was the big story out of this year’s show — self-driving, mobility management, electricity, all that stuff. I personally can’t wait until my headlights look like this:


Because that is pretty cool.

And here’s that Buick again. Foreground, a 1957 classic. There are cars in Havana older than that.


And with that, it was time to trot off to the Selden Standard for a celebratory, ides-of-January, halfway-through-the-Whole30 meal. I cheated my ass off, but it was so good, I didn’t care.

Back tomorrow with more links and conventional content. Honk-honk.

Posted at 12:06 am in Detroit life | 75 Comments

Our motley human family.

Well, chalk up one accomplishment to the Whole30 — I discovered spaghetti squash tonight, one of those things I’ve only had in restaurants and thought best left to the experts. When I want spaghetti, generally I just reach for the box in the pantry. But with an imperative to cut out grain, well, time to try new things, so tonight, spaghetti squash and meatballs. And damn, it was pretty good. You can’t cut one of those suckers with a sawzall, but an hour in the oven at 400 degrees and it softens right up and the innards turn into a nice neutral, spaghetti-shaped base for anything you want to put on it.

Write that down. You might need to avoid grain some day.

And so we veer from cooking to crazy: The Florida Atlantic University professor who became obsessed with the Sandy Hook tragedy, and made it a campaign against the bereaved survivors, has been fired from his tenured position. Good, but… How does any rational person believe this sort of thing? Is he insane? How else was his craziness made manifest in the world? It’s hard to understand how a person can live in this sort of dream world, and still function well enough to pass in the reality-based one.

And here’s a different kind of crazy story, also involving tragedy with children. It’s hard to turn away from, but one of those long-form narratives that always leaves me feeling a little squicky: The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuk, from the Tampa Bay Times. If you have the stomach for it — I should say here that I don’t recommend it for Jeff, who sees this sort of thing on the regular at his office — it’s very compelling reading, but at the end, ultimately I’m left with the same thought: And now what changes? The spoiler-free tl;dr: A crazy man killed his 5-year-old daughter. “The system” was given approximately 1 million chances to stop him, and failed. Along the way we are given a look at how desperate and squalid some people’s lives are, and yet, as they continue to have functioning ovaries and testes, can and do bring children into the world, who inevitably suffer the worst of it.

And it happens, and continues to happen, over and over. This is Florida, and I have no doubt it will happen again and again and again, alas. Which is why I feel squicky after I read these things. I want something to change.

Don’t want to leave you with a bummer to start the weekend. How about a unique OID pet adoption opportunity?

A Detroit dog shelter will soon be offering an fairly unusual pet for adoption: a hermaphrodite dog, which the shelter’s director hopes might provide therapy for transgender residents.

…The dog is a silvery-gray pit bull mix named Cody, who arrived at the Detroit-based rescue shelter on Tuesday. The dog was listed as a male, but upon inspection Cody turned out to have both sex organs.

She’s still in medical rehab, so not even technically adoptable yet.

Have a swell weekend! Seven more days until Auto Prom, so I have to hit the gym.

Posted at 8:58 am in Current events, Detroit life | 85 Comments


What a weekend. Temperatures nudging 70. Humid. Overcast. Weird. Everyone went around talking about the weather. Took a long bike ride and got all sweaty, then chilled, then just sort of tired because sweating and chilling in one day takes it out of you.

But if you’re wondering why I didn’t blog yesterday, I’d have to say this: Because I spent most of last evening making the basics for a gingerbread house.

Yeah, I didn’t think you’d believe me.

Seriously, this is for a weekend party a friend of mine here has every year, featuring blighted gingerbread houses. If you contribute, they don’t necessarily have to be blighted, but they need to be different somehow, because they’re auctioned, and people don’t want to bid on some Martha Stewart shit. So now that I have my parts — my sides, my roof, my gables — I have to figure what to do with it all.

I’m thinking…TRUMP. First I have to hit the decorative-baking aisle at Joann Fabrics and buy as much gold shit as I can get my hands on. Ideas welcome. They must be YUGE ideas. And they must not require very complicated structures, because man, it is wearisome, rolling out gingerbread dough, which is inedible and unappetizing, and right now I am committed to a basic rectangular house with a roof and overhanging eaves.

Plenty of room for yugeness, as long as it’s not too yuge.

So. We’ve talked here, many times, about the folly of the facile idea that “government must run like a business.” While there are certainly aspects of it that should follow certain rules of finance, to say government should run like a business misunderstands both government and business. Even businesses are sufficiently distinguished from one another that there’s no one-strategy-fits-all. Many successful governors would flounder in the public sector, and vice versa. But we’ve hashed this all out before.

Still, I recommend this ProPublica project on how new management at the American Red Cross has driven the venerable nonprofit nearly onto the rocks, due to a fundamental misunderstanding — that a strategy that works in one industry doesn’t necessarily work in another:

As part of her effort to run the Red Cross more like a business, McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions. The move stirred resentment inside the organization, with some longtime Red Cross hands referring to the charity as the “AT&T retirement program.’’

McGovern laid out a vision to increase revenue through “consolidated, powerful, breathtaking marketing.”

“This is a brand to die for,” she often said.

Her team unveiled a five-year blueprint in 2011 that called for expanding the charity’s revenue from $3 billion to $4 billion. In fact, Red Cross receipts have dropped since then and fell below their 2011 level last year.

It’s not entirely the CEO’s fault; the organization was in failing shape when she took over. But it drives me crazy when these folks swagger in like the cavalry and then screw things up even further. The lionization of business people in this country has been insane for some time; you’d think we’d have learned by now.

Back to the gingerbread drawing board. Thanks for holding the place together when I flake off for a while.

Posted at 10:01 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 52 Comments

It’s a tough town.

So the deal Wednesday was, the local public-radio station was hosting an event around the one-year anniversary of Detroit’s exit from Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. All the members of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative — comprised of several nonprofit news outlets in Southeast Michigan, including the one I work for — participated. My colleagues Mike and Chastity were drafted to sit on panels, and I was asked to do one of three one-on-one onstage interviews. The governor, the mayor and the bankruptcy judge were all set to appear. I drew the judge. The event was live streamed and was promised for broadcast later.

This sounds like classic public broadcasting, doesn’t it? Earnest public-affairs programming, done before a live audience in a university setting? Very eat-your-vegetables. Something you might want a hit of espresso beforehand, so you stay awake.

You must live in Minneapolis, then. This is Detroit.

I got there way early for the run-through, and so didn’t realize protesters were gathering outside as the crowd arrived. Back in the green room we were talking about stories and assignments and love-your-shoes and this-is-the-first-time-I’ve-seen-you-in-a-tie stuff. The show started, the introductions of the funders and participants and all the polite-applause material went by, and then it was time for Gov. Rick Snyder and Jenn White, the host of “All Things Considered” on Michigan Radio, one-on-one onstage.

We were watching on the live stream in the green room. The booing carried over the mics. Hmm. OK.

The interview commenced, and it got louder. It became evident it wasn’t just the usual boo-hiss stuff, but people standing up in the audience and shouting angrily. I walked out and stood in the wings after Jenn addressed the audience, asking for respect. (To no avail.)

I guess I should pause here to explain that opinions on the Detroit bankruptcy vary widely here. I had lunch Wednesday with a lawyer and engineer, two smart guys, suburbanites, and I asked what they thought I should ask Judge Steven Rhodes about. Silence. The lawyer spoke.

“We owe that man such a debt,” he said. “I don’t know if we can calculate the good he’s done for this city.”

This is a common opinion among the business community, the establishment, the people who are generally middle class, and swaths of the population itself. The night the trial was finally gaveled to a close, I was out with friends at a bar, and one insisted we all drink a toast, because baby, the debt is shed, the skies are blue and Detroit is coming back, leaner and stronger and damn it’s really gonna happen this time.

This is a simplistic view. Even the city’s biggest boosters admit the way back will be far more difficult, that the city’s future is brighter but still uncertain. But you get the idea.

Among the protesters, not so much. Generally speaking, these would be the lefties who despise the governor on general principles and specific ones, who think the whole Chapter 9 proceeding was a scheme to rob and rape the city, strip its assets for the benefit of the ruling class, upend democracy, punish the poor and tilt the playing field even further to the benefit of the wealthy and empowered. Some of these beliefs rest on shaky contentions, but there is a case to be made on this side, too.

(For the best, unbiased overview of the reasons Detroit failed financially, one that won’t require you to read three books, I recommend “How Detroit Went Broke,” the Detroit Free Press project from two years ago. Take you 30 minutes to read. Worth your time, if you care about this issue.)

So that’s where we are, a year later. There is much positive news from the city itself. It actually has a budget surplus. Street lights are coming back on, more buses are on the street, trash is being picked up — all good. The schools are a mess, blight is confounding and jobs are still by and large outside the city — all bad. Pensioners had to swallow a smaller hit to their monthly checks and a big hit to their health care — also bad. And for the best overview of the past year, I recommend Next Chapter Detroit’s four-part series that ran in the last month.

The governor’s interview ended. I’m not sure how Jenn got through it, because the yelling and catcalling continued throughout.

The next group was a panel. One member, the head of the city’s pensioners’ association, announced she wasn’t going to say much, because of the audience’s disrespect. They kept yelling. The MC tried to calm the crowd, but didn’t do much good.

Then it was our turn. The first two minutes of the allotted eight went pretty well, but about the time I started getting countdown cues from the floor director, the yelling started. My strategy was to stay focused on the judge; it’s been my experience that when you’re mic’d, even loud yelling in the background comes across, on the air, as a clamor way off in the distance. But it kept getting louder and louder, like this:

(I think that’s me barking QUIET in the last second or two.)

And then it went like this:

And I guess this is how I’ll remember it:


Bitch on wheels.

After the end of the interview dissolved in chaos, the mayor announced he was pulling out and the event was cut short after an hour. Just another night talkin’ public affairs.

And you thought public broadcasting was boring.

So that was Wednesday. Now we slide into the weekend, into the penultimate Christmas week. Everything reaches a crescendo on Friday, and then I can relax a bit. So not much today, links-wise. What do we have here?

More evidence that Ted Cruz has few friends.

How terror fuels a rightward shift, or, in other words, how terrorism does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

This is fantastic: A short scene from “Downton Abbey,” done by the original actors, with American accents.

A good weekend, all. I might actually sleep late.

Posted at 12:23 am in Detroit life | 97 Comments


The work at the end of the year is finally starting to abate, but somehow the work-that-is-about-work isn’t, so I’m sorry for what has been and will likely continue to be a little thin effort around here. Have a big meeting on Friday, followed by the workplace holiday lunch, performance reviews and so on, and in between there’s another lunch, plus I have to interview the judge for the Detroit municipal bankruptcy live on stage (and on HDTV), and do a one-hour (!!) phone interview on WOSU (tentatively scheduled, anyway) radio in Columbus on Thursday.

It’s a lot of prep. Even though the live interview is only eight minutes. The questions will be easy. Getting my old-ass face TV-ready should take three-four hours.

Not sure if the WOSU thing is entirely firm, but if so, it’ll be “All Sides with Ann Fisher” at 11 a.m. I’ll keep y’all in the loop. EDIT: Booted in favor of a more authoritative source.

Let me just say, I’m grateful how you guys keep the site percolating along when I take a day off. You barely slow down. I don’t even have to say anything about Donald Trump, because you guys will either say something pithy or find other people who are even pithier while I lumber about attending to things.

Weird to think of being on the radio in Columbus. I feel like I should open with a big shout-out to UAHS Class of ’75 hollaaaaaa.

But it was a pretty good day, all things considered. Talked to some people I haven’t talked with in a while, got a lot done, and did my weekly two hours at a volunteer thing I do, an after-school program. It ended with a fidgety third-grader snuggled up under my arm on a pile of pillows while I read a perfectly awful kids-book version of “Space Jam” to him.

“These are great pictures, and I’m sure you like the movie and the story, but this writing is awful,” I informed him. “Way too many adverbs. But it’s OK, we’re going to read it anyway.” Worst volunteer reader ever. Kids literature isn’t easy, I expect; the best is like a haiku — just enough words, and the right ones. No adverbs. On the way home I recalled the day I learned my one-year-old was figuring it all out. I said the first few lines in some of her favorite books, and she went and fetched them from the pile. Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. …In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. A magic moment.

Because I was buried today, not much bloggge, but some.

Roy on El Douche and his apologists.

Eh, that’s it. Time for bed. Be good, y’all.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Detroit life | 69 Comments

The pace quickens.

Short week ahead, and I’m hosting Thanksgiving, so much to do. Expect outages ahead, or maybe just a lot of food pictures. I can’t believe how fast the weeks whip by. On Sunday, I scan the week ahead and before I know it, it’s Thursday and I’m pulling myself out of the pool, telling the old lifeguard-coach, “See you next week, Tim.” That’s when my weekend starts, mentally, although two days of work remain at that point. But the attitude is different, no longer a climb but a coast. And then it’s Friday, and I head out to meet pals at a venerable local watering hole. The view across the street:


The scenery around here isn’t for everyone, but it grows on you. The Instagram filters help, too.

I was trying to grab the neon, admittedly in hail-Mary fashion, but I like the way it turned out. Just a tetch of Hopper-ness.

The broad-daylight shot:

But Sunday comes along eventually, and only a short week ahead, but Monday will be a bear. So let’s do this thing.

I work with public-radio people fairly regularly, so this story — about the graying of NPR — struck me. It’s a mix of reactions, equally “that’s too bad, because younger people need to be listening” and “it’s their own damn fault.” The latter is mainly due to the fact one of the local public stations is still playing “Car Talk,” years after half the team died. This seems like the public-radio equivalent of classic-rock stations refusing to move on because the Stones still sound so good, right?

This drives me nuts, too:

Some of the other brand-name talent at NPR illustrates the situation: Talk-show host Diane Rehm is 79; senior national correspondent Linda Wertheimer is 72; legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg is 71, and “Weekend Edition Saturday” host Scott Simon is a relative youngster at 63.

I enjoy 25-50 percent of the aforementioned hosts. It’s true, though, that when I go to a book-signing or other event that features a public radio-popular personality, I frequently feel like the youngest person there.

Any other bloggage? If you missed this, which someone posted in the comments last week, don’t. It’s good.

As is this companion piece. They’re both about people voting against their own interests, both absolutely worth your time.

Me, I’m off to tackle Monday.

Posted at 12:08 am in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 75 Comments

Lucky me.

Man, what a productive day. My luck’s really running hot right now, capped off by this near-miraculous occurrence last Friday:

I was driving a friend to some hipster rooftop party in Midtown when we swung through a bank’s ATM lane so he could get some cash. Because I was driving, I handled the keyboard work. The window at this one is never at the right height, and I had to open the car door to reach everything. From there, we drove around a block or two, found a good parking place, pulled in and as I reached for my purse…

Gone. Gone, and I knew just what had happened: It had fallen out the car door when I opened it to use the ATM. It’s small, so it didn’t make much of a sound. But it had my wallet, phone and keys in it. Losing even one of these items would have screwed the weekend but good. Losing all three would have ruined the week. I told my friend to buckle his seat belt and peeled out back to the bank. My heart was pounding, so much that I did something you should never, ever do in Detroit: Honked at a motorist too slow to turn right on red. (Well, it was some harmless-looking Toyota, and it was Midtown. Almost certainly a suburbanite coming down for an exotic meal at Hopcat.)

Maybe five minutes had elapsed since we left the window, but it was Woodward Avenue in the infamous D, across the street from a rock club and public hospital, next door to a restaurant and coffee shop, well-traveled by bums and other colorful urban denizens. My purse could have been in some guy’s backpack half a block away.

But! There it was, lying where it had fallen under the ATM! We both exhaled in relief. And circled around back to Cass, where the same parking spot we’d left was still open. Beyond belief.

I don’t mind telling you I bought a lottery ticket the next day. Didn’t win, but it felt like something I had to do.

So, then, a wee bit of bloggage:

Let’s kick this off with a nod to our handful of readers in the 50th state, and watch some video that demonstrates why I believe ocean swimming is nuts and everyone should stick to lakes, Great and otherwise. (A popular T-shirt around here reads, “Lake Michigan: Unsalted and shark-free”)

I wrote about this urban-farming project more than three years ago, and it finally appears to be coming to pass. Things move slowly here.

Oh look, Ben Carson said something crazy again. Enjoy your book tour, doc, because something like one-third of American women have had abortions, and my guess is that most of them don’t consider themselves the moral equivalent of slave holders.

Finally, a great OID story, with a headline I defy you not to click: Rare harp seized in case involving shrink, sex and pimp. Boo-yah!

Posted at 12:07 am in Current events, Detroit life | 85 Comments


I wish I had better pictures of the Detroit Flower House. We saw it in late afternoon, there’s no electricity in the house itself (although some spaces had lighting), and to really do it justice I’d have needed some auxiliary flashes and enough room to maneuver without people constantly walking through the frame.

But that’s OK. An art installation is what it is, and not everything needs to be extensively photographed, although that’s sort of a quaint idea today.

Anyway, the setting was an abandoned house hard by the freeway, a up-and-down two-flat, nothing fancy. The creative driver behind the project, Lisa Waud, bought it and the one next door for a total of $500. The one next door was used for the preview party a few weeks ago, and was decorated in a similar but lesser style for those guests, and its current state of Miss Havisham-like decay gives you an idea what the Flower House, open for three days only, will look like soon enough. Both buildings will be demolished.

So, on to the house:


Tickets were sold by time slot, and guests were given 20 minutes to take themselves through. You went in through one duplex door and exited via the other. Inside, the juxtaposition between decay and fresh plant life on its way to decay was unmistakable:


As you can see, this wasn’t a floral display in the sense of vases and water a pleasing combination of colors and textures to make the eye happy — although my eye was very happy. Rather, it was think-different sort of floral artistry:



The most literal displays were in the kitchen, where this fabulous cornucopia of flowers and vegetables covered a table…


…and probably the most amusing, this room called “In Loo of Flowers.”


And oh yeah, the bedroom. Really could have used a little stepladder to show this one off, but ah well:


Every space had something, including the closets, where I found the use of mushrooms amusing:


The closet ceiling:


In Indiana, they called this space the airing porch:


There were others, but honestly, you can probably find better shots by searching #detroitflowerhouse on Instagram or other social media.

I thought, later, about how younger designers are transforming floral design, moving well beyond the FTD model. A few years ago I met a couple of guys who run a shop here and do fantastic, imaginative displays — they were doing rose cubes (a dozen cut to one length, in a short square vase, with a banana leaf wrapped around the stems in the water) and these rustic daisy bouquets (tied with rough string and stuck into a green Mason jar) years ago, and their stuff has continued to evolve. I love the idea of putting flowers in contrast with decay, tropicals up against succulents and other imaginative renderings. I expect this will put Lisa Waud on the map in a big way. It’s a place she deserves to be.

And that was a big part of the weekend. I don’t have much from the Sunday papers, because I dedicated myself to some overdue cleaning, and neglected the papers. Some stories broke through the static, like this OID special. Talk about a click-bait headline: Pastor kills brick-wielding man during church service. And that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

Does your city have a cat café? Ferndale will, soon. All the dogs will be making prank phone calls.

Anyone watching “The Leftovers” this season? I was wondering how they would go on, as the events of the novel ended the first season. They’re going to Weirdsville, it turns out, and this explainer clears up a lot of the questions you might have.

Finally, if you missed Larry David as Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live,” take 10 minutes and catch up. Totally worth it.

A week awaits us all. Let’s make it work.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 59 Comments