The week of socializing frequently.

Sorry for the late entry today. It’s been a top-rack week around here, and now that I look back on the last time I used that term, I see it was precisely this time last year. It’s auto-industry holiday-party week, and Alan has been able to attend precisely one of them, because it’s also been a crazy week for auto-industry news. I hope the party planners don’t mind. They can always forward the sugared almonds to the office, and we’ll see them at the auto show, anyway.

As for me, I had a meeting in Lansing that ran to nearly three hours, causing me to miss what was apparently the wingnut story of the day, but fortunately, Roy Edroso has it covered.

I’ll bring you something else. I was in Sephora over the weekend, the makeup superstore, picking up stocking-stuffers. How do you sell makeup in such a crowded environment? Simple: The way you sell everything else.

sephora1

sephora2

I don’t want to be the old man yelling at a cloud, but I’m reminded of what got Molly Ivins fired from the New York Times back in the day: She wrote a funny piece about a chicken-plucking contest and used the term “gang pluck.” This, I read, led to an epic shaming confrontation with Abe Rosenthal, in which he railed that she was “trying to make the readers of the New York Times think of the phrase ‘gang fuck,’ WEREN’T YOU MOLLY,” etc.

Well, no one ever accused A.M. Rosenthal of having a sexy mother pucker. Although I understand his wife writes some pretty spicy lady-porn.

So play nice amongst yourselves today, and if you need me I’ll be off in the corner, shaking hands and bowing.

Posted at 7:00 am in Current events, Detroit life | 63 Comments
 

A tale of two appliances.

Some years back, I posted a picture of my popcorn popper. This one:

popcornpopper

It’s a Sears Kenmore. My late Aunt Charlene — who was really my mother’s cousin — worked there all her life, and gave it as a gift to my Irish-twin elder siblings when they were “real little kids,” in my mother’s recollection. They’re both Medicare-eligible, so I’d put its age at, conservatively, 60 years.

It still works perfectly. I use it about once a month.

I don’t have a picture of the other appliance in this tale, because it’s sitting in the trash and I’m not going out in 20-degree weather to get a mugshot. It’s my Cuisinart coffee maker, dead at the age of 2. It replaced the Krups, which lasted about five years, maybe more. I don’t know what the hell happened to it; one day I turned it on, the light lit, but nothing happened. The plate didn’t get warm, the gurgle didn’t start, it just laid there like a sick old whore.

Once upon a time, I’d have taken it to a small appliance repair shop and gotten by for a week with Starbucks and the Kuerig, but nowadays? You just pitch it and buy a new one. It so happened I got another Krups, pretty much the identical model we had before. And I realized I’d forgotten something about that one — a design flaw that makes the pot dribble all over the counter unless it’s poured at precisely the right speed and angle.

“If you pour it at precisely the right speed and angle, it doesn’t drip,” I told a swearing Alan as he mopped up a spill yesterday.

“I SHOULD BE ABLE TO POUR IT HOWEVER I WANT,” he snapped back, and you know what? He’s right. I realize a coffeemaker is a more complicated appliance than a mid-century popcorn popper, but for cryin’ out loud, we ain’t putting up a shuttle here, either.

I haz a mad. So in that frame of mind I’m presenting a news roundup I’m calling the YOU FUCKERS digest.

She said she was a victim of the Knockout Game, that two black men had punched her in the face when she left a St. Louis bar, but guess what? Her boyfriend did it, and she was covering for him. YOU FUCKER. Do click through and check out that super-shiner she got, and scoff with me at the explanation:

The two claim Simms inadvertently hit DePew in the eye after she placed her hand on his and he “flung it back violently.”

Brandon Rios didn’t look that bad after going 12 rounds with Manny Pacquaio. But hey — blame the black guys.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the streetlights on I-94 between downtown and my exit were out, contributing to the general haunted-forest atmosphere of the east side. So in the last year,
the state department of transportation spent millions replacing all the lights with shiny new ones — I suspect LEDs because during the brief time they were on, lo they bathed the freeway in the pure light of heaven, or an UFO tractor beam.

Well, they’re all out again — copper thieves. YOU FUCKERS. This is a crime all authorities seem powerless to stop.

I need a job like this, where they fire you and then pay you $8 million just to keep your mouth shut. Because you and everybody you work for is a FUCKER. I would retire and move someplace where fuckers like me are welcome.

Non-fucker bloggage?

Here’s something amusing and fun — evidently students at Taylor University, a Christian school in Upland, Ind., observe a tradition called “silent night” at basketball games. (I don’t know if it’s every game or just one.) They sit in absolute silence in the stands until the 10th point is scored, at which point they — well, watch the video.

There isn’t much to do in Upland. I’m sure they like it that way.

Off to Lansing this morning.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, News, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

The cultural cornucopia.

I found this via Tumblr, so the usual cautions about authenticity apply, but what the hell, it’s worth sharing. This is a purported listings page from an unnamed New York newspaper in November 1963. The hell with JFK — talk about mourning a lost world:

listings

This, pals, is why I regret never living in New York City. Imagine an entertainment buffet spread with everything from Bill Monroe to Miles Davis to Sam Cooke to Bob Dylan. I looked it over twice before I noticed Stiller and Meara hiding in the cracks.

Was everyone’s Thanksgiving wonderful? Ours was just fine, if a little repetitive of last year’s. I was looking up a green bean recipe I like at this time of year, and a menu fell out of the book — exactly the same one I’ve been making for a while now. Oh, well. With a table set for only four, two of them picky eaters, what’s the point of adventure? That’s what dinner parties with friends are for.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to lazing on the couch watching Netflix, errands and the usual. Kate and I went to the DIA for a few hours on Friday, to tell “The Wedding Dance” we would always love it, even if it’s sold to Rupert Murdoch. Watched a couple of movies I would likely not have seen without streaming — “What Maisie Knew” and “The Panic in Needle Park,” which I was astounded to learn was written by Joan Didion and her husband. I cannot tell a lie: I love many, many things about the 1970s, and its strong tradition of antiheroic cinema is one of them.

So, then, some bloggage:

Today’s NYT ran a smoochfest on Jim Delany, whom I didn’t know about. Evidently he’s the guy responsible for the Big Ten conference being little more than a “brand.” Rutgers? Maryland? Now in the Big Ten? Fuck that noise. I prefer the Grantland take on this development:

In ways that matter to college administrators, Delany is a genius: The Big Ten Network is a money-making machine, and the conference actually made more money last year than even the SEC. Last fall, when I spent a day with the Indiana football program, they informed me that they’d been able to upgrade their facilities almost entirely with money procured from their Big Ten Network share. But that’s what makes this so frustrating for those of us who actually give a damn about the product: Speaking to Rittenberg, Delany appeared to characterize the conference’s football woes as a short-term concern, as something that could be attributed to an influx of new coaches and the consequences of immoral behavior at Penn State and Ohio State. He made no real acknowledgement of the long-term statistics, of the Big Ten’s 34-52 bowl record since 2000, of the fact that the Big Ten has won 37 percent of its nonconference games against nationally ranked teams since Ohio State won the national championship in 2002. The top of the conference is largely shaky, and the bottom has never been worse: I imagine Purdue and Minnesota and Illinois would struggle to finish .500 in the MAC.

Anything else? Yes, these rather astonishing-not-astonishing charts, about who uses marijuana and who gets busted for it, via Ezra Klein.

Finally, a fine piece by John Carlisle, former Detroitblogger, now roving columnist for the Freep. It’s about a community of legal scrappers in one of the most cursed neighborhoods in Detroit, who eke out a living digging holes in a now-vacant scrapyard, seeking out the long-buried bits of metal there. If you’re thinking, “why, that sounds like something you’d find in the Third World,” join the club. I was struck by the comments, which swung between that sentiment and a certain witless, attaboy-to-the-bootstrappers attitude, which ignores the fact the bootstrapping isn’t leading anywhere. Unless it’s to another generation of metal men:

Domenic Anderson used to follow his dad down here and watch him dig.

“Everybody would sit there, dig, get along,” he said. “All the grown-ups would be doing their own things, running their own crews out of here, making their own money.”

Now he works here, too. He stood on a dirt mound next to his twin brother, David Anderson. The 19-year-old brothers live just down the street and work in the lot six days a week. They’re rough edged and dirt streaked, and they share a distinct southwest Detroit accent and a kind of small-town genuineness.

For them, it’s not just work; it’s also their social life. Most of the neighbors moved away long ago, so there weren’t many kids to play with when they were younger, and there aren’t many to hang out with now that they’re older.

People around here like to say that we’re America’s future, so hey — look forward to it.

And so the long slog toward the holidays commences! Can you feel my excitement?

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Birthday weekend no. 1.

I ran into someone at the Eastern Market Saturday, who told me he’d been to Mitch Albom’s miracle event, at which the pint-size pundit laid hands on the thorny and ageless human problem of racism and healed it, healed it I say promoted his new book.

“You know, I like to think I’m pretty good at self-promotion,” he said. “But after that, I’d have to say I’m at maybe a bachelor’s degree level, and Albom has a couple of doctorates.”

The evening wasn’t a total waste, he added, as the admission price included an autographed copy of the Oracle’s new book, just in time for holiday regifting.

All of which was good to know when I read Sunday’s Mitch blurtage, which was, as usual, lazy and phoned-in and dumb in places it wasn’t actually wrong. It was about the Renisha McBride case, and contained the patented repeating-phrase trick. Mitch advises us all not to draw conclusions about the man who shot McBride, because “we don’t know” what happened. All true enough, but it’s incredibly annoying for this guy, who can barely rouse himself to report on sports, much less current affairs, to tell us “we don’t know” when he’s a virtual human shrine to knowing nothing.

Oh, well. Enough of that. It was a long weekend and a tiring one. Kate’s and Alan’s birthday was Saturday, so it was shop/cook/bake from dawn to well past dusk. Cake was prepared and enjoyed. Every morning errand took longer than it should have. I caught every red light, was helped last in every line, picked the wrong checkout, the usual. But at the end of the day? Chocolate frosting.

Now it’s Sunday, the wind is howling and I’m charging all my devices, as we’re told to expect power outages. I feel covered with a layer of grit, probably because I am — an early chore today was mulching a shitload of leaves to spread over our bare backyard topsoil. About a third of it tracked back into the house on our feet; I sincerely hope once it’s wet down thoroughly and starts to go back into the earth, this problem will abate. This is one winter we’ll be spending with gardening books, as we have a whole blank canvas to sketch.

Among the other activities: Watched “Flight,” not as bad as some of last year’s reviews led me to believe, but not great, either. The early plane crash scene is one of the greats. I think I’ve seen three movie plane crashes that made me reconsider flying altogether, and Robert Zemeckis directed two of them — this, and “Cast Away,” of course. The third was “Fearless” with Jeff Bridges, which might have been the best, as it explored human emotions other than terror.

But it’s a deeply flawed, overlong movie, worth watching for one performance — Denzel’s. Which makes it perfect Netflix material.

No bloggage today: I spent all my web time working. If you have something worth posting, feel free.

Let’s have a good week.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Media | 56 Comments
 

On the canvases.

One of the reasons for extended lameness in this space is my job. For better or worse, I’m a reporter again, and I have to be careful what I opine about in public. My bosses are quite indulgent, but on most local subjects I have to hold my fire other than an occasional isn’t-this-interesting.

Probably the highest-profile interesting — in the Chinese-curse sense of the word — story these days is the Detroit bankruptcy, specifically how it applies to the Detroit Institute of Arts. For those who need background: In an unusual arrangement, the collection of the DIA is actually owned by the city of Detroit. As the city is in bankruptcy, and a bankruptcy requires the listing of assets and obligations, the art is theoretically on the table for liquidation to pay the city’s billions in debt.

Now. From the beginning, all concerned have said that is not their intent to put paintings on the market to pay pensions, but you don’t have to be an art lover to see the Sophie’s choice offered here — cutting pensions to 78-year-old former file clerks vs. looting the museum to pay the bills. I doubt the governor, who appointed the emergency manager, wants to go down in state history as the guy who wrecked a great American cultural institution. Those file clerks will eventually die and stop collecting their pensions, but a closed DIA would loom over Woodward Avenue forever, maybe with the bolts that used to hold Rodin’s Thinker protruding, growing rust by the day. Even for a pro-business Republican, the idea of a once-great working-class city’s treasure being sold to Russian oligarchs and hedge-fund douchebags would likely be a bridge too far.

And for those who might say, “Can’t they just sell some art? Like some stuff from the basement, or a couple of the really valuable pieces?” The answer is no. Selling so much as an ashtray for any purpose other than to buy more art is forbidden under the rules of the museum’s professional organization, the name of which I can’t recall. It’s one they enforce strictly, and breaking it would mean ejection, which would mean the DIA could no longer host exhibits from other institutions, among other sanctions. More to the point, it would endanger the tri-county tax millage that now provides the DIA with its operating budget. Officials in two of those counties have explicitly said that if art is sold, the tax dollars stop. That is a far bigger threat.

In recent weeks, the tune has changed. Someone close to the emergency manager leaked a story to a friendly conservative columnist, claiming the EM “wants $500 million” from the DIA. That story has laid on the table like a rotten oyster for a while now, and finally, today, there seemed to be a response.

The judge has approached the deep-pocketed foundations in the region and asked them to get out their checkbooks:

The federal judge mediating Detroit’s bankruptcy is exploring whether regional and national foundations could create a fund that would protect the Detroit Institute of Arts’ city-owned collection by helping to support retiree pensions, multiple sources told The Detroit News.

Near the end of a Nov. 5 meeting lasting more than three hours, Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen offered what one participant called a “very carefully worded” concept that fell short of asking the nine foundations — including Kresge, Hudson-Webber, Mott, Knight and the Ford Foundation of New York — for commitments to support a plan. Rosen did not cite a specific amount, but participants said it could approach $500 million.

“The number is what’s in question,” said a participant, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential. “What does it take to pull this off, to satisfy everybody around the table? And what’s the time frame – 20 years, 25 years? It’s a creative solution to this thing.”

From the beginning, it’s been hard to avoid noting the discomfort of suburbanites, who usually watch Detroit’s agony the way they watch an old disaster movie at 1 a.m. — i.e., through half-closed eyes — suddenly bolt upright on the couch and shriek, SELL THE VAN GOGH? OVER MY DEAD BODY!!!! The foundations are the byproduct of generations-old family and corporate fortunes, many of which made their dollars here in the near-ruined city. Asking for this is a way of saying, OK, let’s see how much the big private money cares about this.

Here’s another thing I think I can note without fear of retribution: The national coverage of Detroit has been a mixed bag, but mainly an argument for the perils of parachute journalism. From Anthony Bourdain to 60 Minutes to this bit of libertarian troll-baiting, it’s been an instructive lesson for all: Outside eyes are valuable, but seldom see everything. Or even most things. And sometimes, not much of anything.

Lots of bloggage today, so let’s get to it:

I think a good lesson to take away from Grantland’s piece on Brian Holloway’s house is to be wary of any story that spreads primarily via social media. Holloway’s story, about how a gang of teenagers took over his empty vacation home and trashed it, turns out to be not the whole story. And not by a long shot. Read the whole thing, but here’s an insightful passage from low in the piece:

For all serious men, the ubiquity of smartphones, social media, and the Internet has opened up a widening gap between parents and their children. And while it’s easy and alluringly postmodern to slough all this off and say that all times in American history are the same as other times in American history, I wonder if there are really many among us who do not worry about what happens when one generation’s message to the next gets blocked off by that dirty cloud kicked up by our information addictions. Holloway’s mantra of discipline and accountability has resonated with thousands of frustrated parents who wax nostalgic for the days when kids could be disciplined in the old-fashioned way. To them, the photos of kids dancing on tables, the accounts of the damage, and Brian Holloway’s tough, militaristic rhetoric confirmed what they had always suspected: Kids were up to no damn good on that Internet.

(That’s especially recommended for Jeff the mild-mannered.)

The Nashville Tennessean digs up an old double homicide. The prose is lightly Albomed, but it’s still a pretty good read about how Stringbean and Estelle Akeman were murdered on their idyllic country property in 1973. Moral: If you carry lots of cash, don’t let everybody know.

Details on an interesting building renovation in Detroit, of an old apartment building heavily damaged by fire five years ago:

The building’s interior must be almost entirely rebuilt off of the rough framing. Developers are taking the opportunity to install some interesting features:
· Added partial penthouse floor with five additional apartments
· Twenty-seven geothermal wells for heating/air conditioning
· Roof deck for resident use
· Rainwater cisterns, which will provide water for flushing toilets
· Rooftop solar panels to aid with hot water
· Soundproof band-practice room in the former boiler room

What interests me most are the rainwater cisterns. Remember, Michigan is one of the wettest states in the nation. But conservation of potable supplies is always smart.

#AskJPM! This is hilarious.

Finally, a WashPost multi-parter on how an alleged small business operator gamed the federal system into millions in federal contracts. Great long form work.

Should we close with a dog picture? Here’s Wendy, having been shoved off my legs, keeping dibs on her seat and giving me the big sad dog eyes:

possessivewendy

Have a swell weekend, all. I’ll be raking me some leaves.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 42 Comments
 

Open thread.

So, yesterday I spent mostly in bed, swallowing ibuprofen, changing ice packs and making phone calls. Which means little to report. Knee is still an open issue; I see the doc today.

But one of the things I ran across was this terribly sad story about Newtown, Conn., one year after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. It’s not just sad in “The Sweet Hereafter” sense, but also in the peculiar American custom of how we divide the money raised to compensate victims of a crime like this. I promise you, if all you take away from this is the difference between “the 26,” “the 12″ and “the two,” it’s worth your time.

Theres also this, by John Carlisle, a Freep column worthy of his grittier Metro Times roots, about a community of squatters trying to create a utopia in one of the very worst — seriously, among a city packed with awful neighborhoods, this one is a top-fiver — neighborhoods in Detroit.

Otherwise? Open thread. I must now limp to the kitchen and make some coffee.

Posted at 7:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 44 Comments
 

Hair today, and tomorrow.

Happy Halloween. It’s pouring rain and we’re supposed to take the boat out of the water today.

At least it’s not cold.

But we were out late last night — Devil’s Night, meh heh heh heh heh — and missed my blogging time. Just a couple things today.

First, some of you have probably heard about Movember, the annual prostate-cancer awareness event in which men spend the month growing mustaches, perhaps in the hope of turning a few worried and/or exasperated glances (“You, Bob? A pornstache? YOU?) into a productive discussion about a disease that kills roughly 30,000 men in the U.S. every year.

Well, this year NN.c has a preferred mustache, and if you are so inclined, you can give to Bernie Mulvey, who is my BFF’s brilliant son, a first-year med student at Wash U. in St. Louis. Here’s his donation page. Here’s his statement:

BY GROWING UNKEMPT, PATCHY FACIAL HAIR, I WILL SYMBOLIZE THE BODILY DISARRAY OF PROSTATE CANCER AND ITS TREATMENT. IN SOLIDARITY WITH CANCER PATIENTS, I WILL ENDURE ANY EMBARRASSMENT AND SOCIAL OR PROFESSIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF APPEARING UNTIDY AND PERHAPS UNHYGIENIC.

I’m sorry it’s in all caps. His mom’s an editor, and he should know better, but perhaps the topic REQUIRES THIS SORT OF EMPHASIS.

Anyway, the money will be pooled with other Wash U. first-year med students, and it’s worth it. Bernie adds, in upper and lower case:

For those of you weary of research philanthropy groups, fear not; the PCF spends over 75% of its money on the research it exists to support! Plus, your donation is tax deductible (and really, would you rather that money go towards the NSA reading your Facebook, or towards keeping people alive and well?).

So that’s today’s cause: Fighting the disease that killed Frank Zappa and Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Here’s a snap from last night, Alan and Kate gazing upon the blazing carcass of a house in Detroit a bonfire:

devilsnight1

Alas, the event at the Lincoln Street Art Park, aka the Ghetto Louvre, was rained out before we could see the dragon:

devilsnight2

We saw it before at Maker Faire. Here it is, in action, defending the Detroit Institute of Arts.

With that, I must rush. Happy Halloween, and I hope all your trick-or-treaters are sweet as candy.

Posted at 8:38 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments
 

What you bought.

Well, this is hilarious: One of the stranger stories of the year here in Detroit appears to be rising to an even stranger climax. It’s the Packard plant, the second-most famous ruin in Detroit and certainly the most problematic. Vacant for more than half a century — it was abandoned the year before I was born, friends — it has become more of a mess and more dangerous every day since. When we moved here, it was still possible for brave souls to wander through it and take pictures, and dozens did.

Recently, it’s become even more of a free-for-all. A couple weeks ago, a website reported on a scrapping crew, using heavy equipment of all things, digging deeper into the plant than ever before, ripping metal from the reinforced concrete walls, piece by piece.

Inside the concrete labyrinth, we spied scrappers – long suspected to be the source of many Packard fires – stacking combustible objects like wooden pallets and sofas along beams supporting the metal-studded ceilings, waiting to be torched.

The plant is collapsing all around, and even drive-by photographers are being carjacked. It’s a nasty place. So. The 100-acre property came up for tax sale last week. Just a couple weeks ago, you could have picked it up for unpaid taxes, about $1 million. But anyone with eyes in their head and a room-temperature IQ could see it would take millions upon millions more just to tear down the buildings and clean up the site, much less redevelop it, in the midst of a miserable neighborhood on the blighted east side of Detroit.

So the auction started last Friday, and in the final hour, got weird:

An online auction for Detroit’s iconic Packard plant ended Friday with a ferocious bidding war and mystery winner from Texas who Wayne County officials say offered more than $6 million for the crumbling lot.

The county treasurer’s office identified the winner as Jill Van Horn of Ennis, Texas, a family practice doctor whose bid of $6,038,000 closed the property’s tax foreclosure auction at about 5:20 p.m. After opening at a mere $21,000 on Oct. 8, the high bid jumped from $601,000 to $5.5 million in the final hour, eventually creeping up to just above $6 million.

It’s as though someone paid $6 million for a case of cancer. Malignant cancer.

The first payment was due today, but given the sum involved, the treasurer said the doctor could have some extra time. First the doctor’s team announced they planned to take this ruin and turn it into a a factory to make manufactured homes. And then, as things tend to do around here, things got even weirder:

Wayne County officials expect to see money Wednesday from a Texas doctor who won a tax-foreclosure auction for the Packard Plant, but acknowledge they’re concerned about a statement released by her staff that likened Detroit’s potential to hydroelectric power.

“It is the process that allows us to transform the lake from a canoeing and fishing kind of place into an energy producing kind of place,” reads a three-page statement from Dr. Jill Van Horn’s staff that was released to the media on Tuesday. “Detroit’s assets, like energy, also have dormant value.”

“Dr. Van Horn’s prophecy was to resurrect Detroit by providing eduction, jobs and vocational training to the city’s residence, simultaneously unplugging the financial arteries of the city,” the statement read.

Prophecies. Anyone who could possibly be bored here simply isn’t paying attention.

You can read the whole statement at the last link. It’s worth it. And a great bonus: A drone-cam tour of the plant, with a Marvin Gaye soundtrack. Even more worth it.

At first I didn’t like it when our neighborhood in Fort Wayne got Halloween tourists on trick-or-treat night, but I got past it. Now I’m pro-candy, pro-Halloween, until it runs out and the porch light goes out. Some people need to mellow out.

Eric Zorn on the weirdness of modern car keys. Want an extra? That’ll cost you $650.

And that’s it for a Wednesday. If I can get over the hump, anything’s possible.

Posted at 12:32 am in Detroit life | 64 Comments
 

A one-dog weekend.

Now that the weather’s turned chilly, Wendy has turned into a lapdog. Nothing makes her happier than being permitted to jump up and make herself comfortable on a lap, outstretched legs or — this is a me-only privilege — stretched way out on my belly, with her nose tucked under my chin. It’s so cute you’d die. And sometimes it’s comical, as when I went out to call Alan for dinner Sunday and found him in his recliner, dog in place, her chin on his chest, both looking peaceful and cozy, except one was snoring and the other just looking sort of content.

I’ll let you figure which was which.

I love it. Spriggy never was up for snuggling. He always had to be unencumbered and ready to spring into action, just in case someone rang the doorbell.

So it was a dog-on-lap sort of weekend — cold and blustery on Saturday, autumn chill Sunday. The crap-reduction project continues apace, although most of the crap reduced this weekend was soap scum. I let the cleaning lady go, and am back to doing it myself for the first time in more than a year. New miracle product: Barkeeper’s Friend. The liquid kind. It KILLS soap scum.

But I got a few bags carried out, did some Swiffin’, put some sweaters into the get-outta-here pile. Rowed 4,200 meters on the erg Sunday. Saw “Cloud Atlas,” which seemed far, far longer (and was). And then Sunday afternoon brought the news of Lou Reed’s death. I knew to wait for Roy Edroso’s take, and of all that I read, it’s the best. Five tight paragraphs — the world’s blatherers could take a lesson.

Bloggage? I has it:

There was a homicide at a bank drive-through on Friday, the victim trapped in his hot-pink BMW with the “ask me about my grandchildren” front license plate. I offer it mainly for the chilling photo of the bullet-starred window and this quote, from a witness who heard the shots and immediately dropped to the ground: “I grew up on the northwest side of town,” he said. “It’s a natural reaction.”

What was the thief after? He didn’t jack the car, or even rob the victim, who was an older man known to rarely carry more than $20 or $30 at at ime.

Speaking of chilling, another homicide from last week, this one near Boston, a 14-year-old alleged to have killed his math teacher with a knife, and get this for a killer detail:

WCVB-TV, an ABC affiliate, citing unidentified sources, reported that the suspect killed Ms. Ritzer with a box cutter and then went to the movies, seeing Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

Fort Wayne peeps: Joseph Paul Franklin is set to be executed in a few weeks, whom the world mainly knows as the would-be assassin of Larry Flynt, but you locals remember as doing the same to Vernon Jordan in your fair city. And yeah, he did it:

He now regrets shooting Jordan. Although a federal jury acquitted him of shooting Jordan, Franklin admits he, indeed, shot the civil rights leader. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him now,” he said.

Finally, the holidays are coming, which means Mitch Albom is in fundraising mode, and writing self-promoting columns about it. This latest one is very strange, detailing an event that will honor retiring Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Judge Damon Keith of the federal bench, who are white and black, respectively, and the event is called “Detroit Legacies: In Black and White.” Hmm, OK. And why should you buy a ticket?

Tickets are just $40, and everyone attending will be given an autographed copy of my new novel, “The First Phone Call from Heaven,” a small way for me to thank my city.

And this blog, my friends, offered free and digitally autographed with my very own name, is a small way to thank you. Let’s have a good week.

Posted at 7:50 am in Current events, Detroit life | 30 Comments
 

Gimme the keys.

It takes all kinds, but for me? Small towns have always given me hives. I’m happy to drive through them and stop at the local antique store or whatever, but to live in one? Not for me. I need a decent library, a movie theater where I can see something first-run, a bookstore or two and — very important — a surprise around the corner once in a while.

So it’s always bugged me how small towns always have the benefit of this chin-chucking, patronizing and completely false presumption of innocence. Looks like Michael Schaeffer agrees with me:

Last Sunday, a New York Times reporter visited Maryville, Missouri to report on the existence of a grave threat to the town’s bucolic, Real-America essence: “Ever since The Kansas City Star ran a long article last Sunday raising new questions about the Nodaway County prosecutor’s decision to drop charges against a 17-year-old football player accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, the simplicity of small-town life here has been complicated by a storm of negative attention.”

Leaving aside the dubious victimology—poor Maryville, battered so cruelly by the dark-hearted Kansas City media and their relentless “negative attention”—the paragraph also represents a great big logical problem for anyone who read the Star story, or even the 20-odd inches of stellar Times copy that followed the clunky lede: The whole point of a story of rape allegations dismissed by a political-prosecutorial complex intimately connected to an accused assaulter’s state-legislative relative is that… Maryville never featured any of that simplicity in the first place!

It’d be easy to beat up on a reporter who was tasked with following a competitor’s story and slipped into cliché. In fact, the reductio ad Rockwell is a common tic of journalistic visits to small towns, especially those put on the map by infamy. And it’s one that really ought to stop. Decades of culture wars have left us with a set of social rules where it is largely OK for rural types to slander their citified co-citizens (cf. Sarah Palin, small-town mayor and “Real America” stalwart) but where urbanites can’t dis the country folks without being deemed elitist (cf. Barack Obama, Chicagoite and “cling” apologizer).

Oh, yeahhh. Small towns, we are frequently told, are wonderful places to raise children — as though no one in a large city ever successfully launched their offspring into the world. They’re close, loving and supportive — something no urban neighborhood is possibly capable of. Everyone knows your business? That’s love, child, love and concern. Spare me. Srsly.

So, was it necessary to kick off the blog with such rancor? Yes, so I could properly contrast it with this OID story, about as OID as they come, really — a carjacking, a “good Samaritan” in pursuit, a shootout and a second carjacking, all in the neighborhood of one of my bike routes this summer:

A good Samaritan who chased down a carjacking suspect on the city’s east side Thursday morning ended up being seriously wounded in a gunfight with the suspect after the stolen vehicle was ditched into a canal of the Detroit River.

Sharlonda Buckman, a 2013 Michiganian of the Year and chief executive officer of Detroit Parent Network, stopped about 8 a.m. Thursday at a BP gas station on the 10700 block of East Jefferson Avenue to buy some aspirin when she said an armed man forced her from her 2011 Chevrolet Traverse.

…Three men nearby witnessed the carjacking and came to Buckman’s aid, with two giving chase to the suspect. Police say one unnamed man, who was driving a 2009 blue Ford Focus, shot at the suspect with his licensed firearm after the suspect let the SUV sink into a Detroit River embankment near the Edison Boat Club.

I put good Samaritan in quotes because it’s pretty obvious this situation, bad as it was, only worsened when the guys in the Focus came to her aid. And after the good guy and the bad guy exchanged gunfire? The bad guy stole the good guy’s car, too.

The Freep’s story had the better headline: Detroit police: Man carjacks woman, sinks SUV, shoots witness

Granted: Not an often small-town occurrence. But it makes the big-city papers more interesting.

Well, here we are at the end of the week. It’s looking up, now that I’ve met a new eye doctor who is going to carve that cataract out of my eye and — he says — improve my vision significantly. What joy. I tell you, if you’d told me on New Year’s Day that my 2013 would contain a chilly spring, a lovely summer and two eye surgeries, I’m not sure what I’d have said. But I guess I’ll get through it. Not much of 2013 left.

Just two bits of bloggage left, then:

Ezra Klein on Obamacare chutzpah.

And Coozledad posted this in yesterday’s comments, but it bears repeating, as a North Carolina party hack explains just what the voter ID law there is all about.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 97 Comments