Substitute grandma.

Hello from Sunday, the last day of what has been a perfect summer weekend — the heat blew out, the sun remained, and the humidity has been low and tolerable for three whole days now.

Tomorrow it will be 90 again. Sigh.

I hope you all had a good one. I spent Saturday seeing friends from Ohio, in town for a wedding. I babysat their grandson while they all danced the night away at the Detroit Athletic Club. Ezra is nine months old, and quite the little charmer, as you’d expect. He was really getting his crawl on, and as even a high-end hotel suite is not baby proof, it was a few hours of following him around, cupping my hand around the razor-sharp edges of tables, redirecting his urge to pull on electrical cords and improvising toys out of things like empty water bottles. (It’s a great toy — lightweight plastic can be intriguingly crushed by even an infant, and it makes a great crackling sound. If you feel inclined to lecture me about BPAs shedding or some such, keep it to yourself. He found it delightful.)

As it’s been a while since I went through this, I was amazed by all the changes in child-rearing customs and technology. Ezra is still pretty much entirely formula-fed, eating mushy vegetables only as “practice food,” his grandmother said. Rice cereal? Has been shown the door by contemporary mothers. Something about arsenic; I had no idea. But the real revelation was the Baby Brezza, aka the Keurig for infant formula. You dump the powder in the top, the water in a reservoir on the side, select a temperature and amount, stick the bottle under the spout and press a button. You get a warm bottle in seconds. Screw on the top, give it a shake and serve. Amazing.

But Ezra, being curious as all babies are, was happiest when I plopped him into his stroller and took him outside. We started at a community garden outside the hotel, but what really made him happy was to get into the thick of things down around Campus Martius, in the heart of downtown. And with a Tigers game and various summer activities in full swing, it really was the thick of things — it was like the old D-Day photos down there. The fountains! The music playing on restaurant patios! People everywhere! He was thrilled. So we walked, and walked, and walked, and today my feet are sore. But he was a happy little guy.

Of course, even New Detroit has a certain amount of the Old in it:

I’ll tell you one thing Saturday did — I checked out of the news for almost 18 whole hours. That made absorbing the NYT this morning a little more like times of old. I’m now following the Thai cave rescue, which is, if you can believe this, a pleasant break from paying attention to ol’ what’s-his-name. At least four out as I write this, with fingers crossed for all of them, soon. How nerve-wracking that must be for all involved. Every one of those Ezras has a mom who is worried to the edge of hysteria. All hopes for a good outcome to the last one.

Happy start of the week to all. Heat notwithstanding.

EDIT: OK, so given today’s topic, I have to include this jaw-dropper, about the U.S. upending a U.N. resolution encouraging breast-feeding. Is there anything this horrible bunch won’t do? Ahem:

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

Every day, a new nightmare. Sigh.

Posted at 11:36 am in Detroit life | 81 Comments
 

It will rise from the ashes.

Long day, my peeps. But not a bad one. Spent most of it in front of the Michigan Central Station, recently shed of its standard image as The Enduring Symbol of Detroit Blight, as seen in approximately a million images. Photographers liked to capture it when the sun was sinking behind it, and you could see the light shining all the way through, because all the interior structures had been destroyed. A see-through building, I believe those are called in the trade.

Anyway, Ford bought it and is planning a zillion-dollar renovation, to house their mobility and electric-vehicle divisions. There was absolutely zero news coming out of today’s event — it had all been reported in the days and weeks leading up to it — but that’s the sort of thing that most lends itself to a big media splash, with music and speeches and very special guests and rah-rah Ford.

But it’s going to be a great addition to the landscape when it’s done.

I took some pictures.

Say what you will about the auto companies, but when they do an event, they do it right. The speeches were followed by self-guided wander-throughs of the station before work starts on the interior. They had moving projections on the ceiling, all scaled to what part of the ceiling they were focused on:

The scrappers stole the whole goddamn roof from this section. (I believe it was copper.) I imagine it’ll be replaced with glass:

My friend Dustin was there, too, shooting for his employer. We enjoyed this mirror:

Probably Deborah knows more about the companies that throw this sort of thing together, but it would be interesting to watch them work. I imagine the meetings it took to come up with those phrases in the projections.

Not much bloggage today. The situation at the border is so depressing, and there’s so much out there to read. I suggest you do so. Meanwhile, this was a good essay on the modern American city, and the creeping homogeneity that threatens their character:

And what’s happening to New York now—what’s already happened to most of Manhattan, its core—is happening in every affluent American city. San Francisco is overrun by tech conjurers who are rapidly annihilating its remarkable diversity; they swarm in and out of the metropolis in specially chartered buses to work in Silicon Valley, using the city itself as a gigantic bed-and-breakfast. Boston, which used to be a city of a thousand nooks and crannies, back-alley restaurants and shops, dive bars and ice cream parlors hidden under its elevated, is now one long, monotonous wall of modern skyscraper. In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.

By trying to improve our cities, we have only succeeded in making them empty simulacra of what was. To bring this about we have signed on to political scams and mindless development schemes that are so exclusive they are more destructive than all they were supposed to improve. The urban crisis of affluence exemplifies our wider crisis: we now live in an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.

There’s a lot to think about here, some of which I disagree with, but undeniably worth mentioning. Some of the things the author mentions — the nonprofit “conservancies” given sway over public entities, to name but one — are seen all over Detroit, and in that case, were instrumental in changing the city for the better. Gentrification isn’t the problem here as much as entrenched poverty is, but in the pockets of affluence sprouting around town, many of these forces are at work.

Worth a read. Me, I’m going to collapse in a heap on my bed. Night-night.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Detroit life | 35 Comments
 

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

It’s Memorial Day as I write this, and while I have largely kept my resolution to minimize screen time this weekend, even a reduced schedule of check-ins reveals the patriots are out in full force, demanding I give thanks for my freedom, purchased with the blood of brave soldiers.

Which is why I was struck by a final post, by a veteran, positing that we haven’t fought a war for our freedom since 1945. Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Wars I and II and the many skirmishes in between — Grenada, anyone? — were mainly foreign-policy blunders for which we are still paying, in one form or another, while their architects go about unpunished.

A bold statement. And yet, one with which I largely agree.

Grenada, man. Haven’t thought of that one for a while. I sat next to a Grenada vet at a dinner party once, who had me in stitches describing the ambitious officers who swarmed all over the island during that brief war-with-umbrella-drinks, getting their campaign ribbons so as to continue their career climbs unimpeded by a failure to “see combat.”

“And what did you do there?” I asked.

“Maintained a radio beacon for aircraft,” he said. “It was on the beach. I had to check it every 30 minutes, which was good, because it reminded me to turn over and tan the other side.”

And yet, still, about 20 American lives were lost, 6,000 troops were sent, to protect 1,000 American civilians in residence, most of them medical students. I wonder how those dead soldiers’ loved ones feel about their sacrifice.

Ah well. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

The long weekend was much-appreciated, even if it was fairly formless. The heat descended like a sledgehammer, and I spent much of Monday indoors, reading lazily and trying to avoid the outdoors. Had a long bike ride early, just to shake off the laziness, before it got too steamy. Saw an old friend, met a new one — Icarus, one of our commenting community. We sat in a nearly deserted air-conditioned bar and had a couple of beers, chatting about Grosse Pointe and Chicago. Sunday was a long day, starting at 5 a.m., when I went to a sunrise party, one of the many, many unofficial events connected to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, or Movement. It was held at an art park run by a merry chap, and a certain happy anarchy presides over the place. Note the spire, a new addition in the last couple of years:

It shoots fire:

Gentrified Detroit is creeping out to him, and I wonder how long the place can endure. A graffiti artist died there a while back; he fell through a roof. It seems only a matter of time before someone decides such lawlessness can’t be tolerated, especially with flamethrowers. But for now, it rocks on, and I was happy to be there, one of a handful who arrived after a night of sleep. Most appeared to have played through the night.

In between all this lazing about and dawn’s-early-light partying, we watched “All the Money in the World,” a reminder that rich people are often some of the absolute worst ones in it. And I read the news, paying attention to the repeal-the-8th vote in Ireland, and the conservative keening about it stateside. I wish they’d spend less time worrying about culture war and more studying politics. A friend told me that a four-point win or above in any race qualifies as decisive, and this one, with 66 percent in favor, is a legit landslide, without qualification. That speaks to a deep dissatisfaction among the people who had to live with this law, the humiliation it heaped on women who had to go abroad to get abortions, the real harm done to those with medical complications related to pregnancy (including the worst complication of all), not to mention Ireland’s shameful history with the Magdalene laundries and other mother-and-baby homes. A vote that lopsided speaks to a people trying to right a wrong, and at times like this it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut, if you disagree.

And now, in the waning hours of this lovely long weekend, I’m going to return to my book. A novel. An escape. Let the summer begin.

Posted at 5:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Movies | 65 Comments
 

A weekend of wonders.

Hey, everyone! I finally saw “Black Panther.” And…well. I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I found a lot to like about it. The costumes were fantastic, production design ditto. Can’t complain about the acting, certainly, and the script was pretty good, too. It’s taken this long, but now I can state with confidence: I just don’t like comic-book movies.

I felt the same way about the equally praised “Wonder Woman.” Every story is the same hero’s quest, every outcome predetermined. The fight scenes go on and on and ON, and ever since Chinese kung-fu movies decided human beings could run straight up walls, what’s left for superheroes to do? Apparently Black Panther’s suit “absorbs kinetic energy” and allows him to dish it back out in equal measure. So you shoot at him, and he only gets stronger. Wow, how exciting.

The most interesting character in the story is the bad guy. (And — spoiler alert — he dies in the end.)

Why is this so hard for writers to understand? People’s flaws are as important as their strengths, maybe more so. They’re the shadow that makes the light more defined. The worst thing you could say about T’Challa, i.e., Black Panther, is that he’s too good. Bor-ing.

Good thing the outfits were so fab. And T’Challa was hilarious on “Black Jeopardy.” But the people talking about this being a Best Picture nominee are full of it.

That was the second cultural event we took in Saturday. The first was the Tom of Finland show at the local contemporary-art museum. For those not up on Tom of Finland: He was to leather daddies what Alberto Vargas was to pin-up girls. Google if you dare, but much of it is porn, with comically outsized dicks. This pretty tame piece gives you the idea, though:

Well, hello sailor. At the Tom of Finland 🇫🇮 show.

A post shared by nderringer (@nderringer) on

I still chuckle whenever I see a bunch of kids dancing to “YMCA.” Gay culture seeped in under the door, and hardly anyone noticed.

And then, because last week was our 25th anniversary, we went out to dinner on Sunday night, a rare event for us. It was great, at a pop-up space in Hazel Park run by a photographer I worked with once when I was a freelancer. Four courses with twin themes of Thai and Springtime, which meant fiddlehead ferns in chili oil with something called a 63-degree egg, which is, I learned via Professor Google, a thing. It was amazing — almost an egg pudding. The menu was full of wonders, including soft-shell crabs and avocado ice cream. The photographer seated us at the table closest to the action, so we could watch the cooking and the plating and all of it. Quite a night. I woke up with a food hangover today, but pushed through. I don’t expect to be hungry again for two days.

More Instagram? Sure why not:

What else happened this weekend? Oh, right: Two people in England got married. Don’t tell me your problems with the dress, because I’m not hearing them. That dress was perfect for a 36-year-old divorcee marrying into a royal family in front of 1 billion eyeballs. Of course, there were 2 billion photos, but for my money, I love the official ones released by the palace, if only because it captures the royal family in all its weirdness. I know Phil and Betty are now in their 90s, but man, he looks like a cadaver these days. I expect he won’t truck with having a little concealer dabbed around those sunken black eyes. The kids are adorable, of course. All these pictures needed was a corgi or two.

And with that, I’m out and offline. I need to sleep off 2,000 calories, still.

Posted at 8:00 pm in Detroit life, Movies | 53 Comments
 

Slipping away.

I could tell you I was totally busy early this week, which would be the truth, but the truthier truth is, sometimes you gotta lay your burden down, and sometimes it’s just nice to get out in the sunshine, and sometimes you have to do it without your laptop. And that’s what I did Sunday: Went for a longish bike ride with an old friend, followed by some Little Kings at a bar, and as Detroit Sundays go, that’s a pretty good one.

We went down to Delray, one of the most shat-upon neighborhoods in the city, for a variety of reasons I don’t want to explain here. (It often smells literally so, thanks to the sewage treatment plant there.) But we went mainly because things are changing fast there; the new bridge to Canada will begin construction eventually, and the customs plaza and various other infrastructure will be there, so I wanted to see how the land clearing was going. In a word: Apace. We rode past a building my friend was always curious about, and lo, the door was open, so we stopped. Inside was an old man who told us many stories about the place, about his life, about Delray, and about the building, which was once a bar.

“There’s a tunnel that runs under the road and comes out in the building over there,” he said. “The Purple Gang used to use it.”

Now. If you laid out all the Purple Gang-used-to-hang-here stories in Detroit end to end, there wouldn’t be a building left for a legit business. But in this case, I think it might be true. The bar is smack on the Rouge River, near where it flows into the Detroit River, and there’s a boat slip/house and dock out back, with not one but two basements. It would be a perfect place to offload liquor in the middle of the night, in the middle of Prohibition, and the neighborhood was never really known for its saintliness. We saw one basement but not the other, because it’s flooded, and that’s where the tunnel would have been. Meanwhile, the old man told story after story after story, some of them surely apocryphal, but maybe not. He was old and a little raggedy, and the bar had been closed for years. He said he was aiming to get his liquor license back, something I doubt will ever happen. But it was a nice interlude on a warm day.

This was the building. The garage just out of the frame on the left is now a pile of rubble. Here’s one man’s story about taking liquor deliveries to the bar. A boy who could ferry a boat over from Canada could make $5 per trip, big money in the 1920s. All soon to be gone, gone, gone. The new bridge will have a bike lane, we have been promised, so maybe someday, an international crossing for me on my two-wheeler.

Monday and Tuesday passed at a gallop, though. Gallops are good; they make the days fly. We’re whoa-ing to a trot Wednesday and Thursday, and may amble into the weekend at a relaxed walk. Time will tell.

Time will tell about a lot of things. The Iran deal cancellation, for one, although I think the time has already told: What a bonehead move. Our genius negotiator-in-chief.

The weekend’s WashPost story about the president’s real-estate financing during the before-he-was-president era is very interesting, too. It doesn’t actually say m – – – – l – – – – – – ing, but it’s certainly an unavoidable conclusion a thinking person might draw from the facts at hand. Some of you smarter people will have to explain how Deutsche Bank plays in all of this. I’m listening.

Oh, and this story is breaking as we speak:

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

And this was the big overnight read:

To many in Albany, New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, seemed staid and somewhat standoffish: a teetotaler who favored coffee shops over bars, liked yoga and health food and preferred high-minded intellectual and legal debate to the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s political arena.

But that carefully cultivated image of a caring, progressive Renaissance man came crashing down on Monday night after the publication of an expose by The New Yorker, detailing allegations of a sordid and stomach-turning double life, including Mr. Schneiderman’s physical and psychological abuse of four women with whom he had been romantically involved. The attorney general’s behavior, the article said, had been exacerbated by alcohol abuse and punctuated by insults of the very liberal voters and activists who had held him up as a champion willing to deliver a fearless counterpunch to President Trump.

Well, OK then.

Charge on into the week, guys. For the millionth time, I miss the olden days, don’t you?

Posted at 7:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 64 Comments
 

The earth moved.

So I’m sitting here, wondering what’s become of my life, why I just ate that cheeseburger, if anything super-good is ever going to happen to me again — you know, just basic end-of-winter self-pity — when what sounded like the world’s biggest truck went down the street. Like, GEM of Egypt big. Wendy popped her head up, the beams creaked, and the truck rumbled on down and, from the sound of it, blew the stop sign on the corner.

Ten seconds later, I got a text from a friend who lives two miles away. “Did your house just shake?”

It wasn’t a truck. It was an earthquake. A 3.6, to be specific. Epicenter was just across the river.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t sit on the couch feeling blue, because even the earth under your feet isn’t permanent. We never get earthquakes here. Except when we do.

Interesting bloggage today.

Not bragging, but I caught this video in the first few seconds; Jordan Peele gets the speech rhythms, but not quite the voice. Still, it’s funny, and the surrounding post is a good lesson for the coming era of fake everything.

Just another stop on Sarah Palin’s ongoing slide into the melting permafrost of Alaska. Soon she’ll be selling time shares.

A lesson in American election law:

With little fanfare, federal regulators took steps two weeks ago to kill a super PAC supporting former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

The Federal Election Commission’s letter of “administrative termination”—the formal process by which it shuts down a group’s operations—received no media attention whatsoever.

That’s because the super PAC was a joke. Perhaps the name gave it away.

“Blaze It for Delegate Jill Stein” didn’t spend a single cent during the 2016 election. If that wasn’t proof of its less-than-serious intentions, consider its origins.

On September 30, 2016, Charlie Baker of South Orange, New Jersey, took out a piece of lined paper, with hole punches in it, and wrote a handwritten application to form the committee. He was 14-years-old, in the middle of an 8th grade social studies in which the teacher had divided students into camps representing various presidential candidates.

Finally, we didn’t see Stormy last night. It started to sleet around showtime, the cover was $20, and if we wanted to sit down, another $40. Fortunately, the News sent one of their best writers.

Enjoy the weekend, all.

Posted at 9:47 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 68 Comments
 

A few minutes on Lucky Place.

I drive I-94 from my house to downtown Detroit, or pretty much anywhere west of me, and almost everything is west of me. So I’m on I-94 a lot. The roads that pass over it are identified with signage, and one has always intrigued me: Lucky Place.

Detroit is an old city, with old-city ideas about what you call the things we drive on to get from one place to another — they’re streets, roads, avenues, boulevards. Not for Detroit the cutesy-poo ideas of suburban developers, with their Ways and Lanes and Crescents, all suggesting either some generic English countryside (Andover Lane) or a darling daughter (Helen Promenade). So right there I was intrigued. The neighborhood Lucky Place cuts through is not in any danger of gentrifying soon. It’s near the Chene-Trombly Market, a large party store, as they’re known locally, that serves as a freeway landmark and has appeared in two or three books. Not long after we moved here, a couple of winos hot-wired a nearby backhoe and used it to tear out the front door of the place. The loss to the business, besides the door and structural damage: $200 in liquor. They were just thirsty.

That none of the writers thought to mention nearby Lucky Place seems like authorial malpractice. Lucky Place should be the title of a crime novel. Or maybe it’s too obvious.

This morning I had an appointment downtown that ended early, so I decided to take surface streets home. I further decided that this would be the day I would finally see Lucky Place from anything other than the freeway.

The map was a help, telling me that Lucky Place isn’t much of a street at all. I said it “cuts” through its neighborhood? It barely scratches it, running from a back gate to the Cadillac assembly plant, across I-94 and not even a block into the neighborhood on the other side. Not a through street, the freeway so close that the noise would be a constant, only a few houses. But Lucky Place-bound I was, and after a short drive, there I was.

If you’re going to visit a street like this, a morning like Friday was a good day to do it — we had a heavy, wet snow the day before, and even dead or diseased trees look good trimmed in white. I arrived just as it was starting to melt off and fall in wet, slushy splats.

Google Street View indicates this house was still more or less intact in 2013. Not so much today:

There are two tires stacked on the collapsed porch roof. I see this often, and always wonder who would bother to lug them up there, and why.

The trash is still being picked up, but it looks like only two of the houses are still occupied:

But as always, it’s all in where you direct your attention. On the other side of this thicket is another street with old houses and vacant lots. But look at it just so, in the snow, and you could be anywhere. You could be up north somewhere:

As often happens, the street of my imagination and expectation was better than reality. But I’m glad I stopped. Now I know.

(I should note that others have investigated before me. But I took pictures.)

So, here we are, well into Friday. Just one bit of bloggage today, but it’s a good one: An intriguing story about latter-day vampires in Florida, and by that I mean medical hucksters trying to sell aging boomers on the quackery of “young blood” transfusions. Yes, it was a joke on “Silicon Valley” last season, but now it’s in the Sunshine State. Scroll down to the photo of Christine Lynn and ask what the odds are that she belongs to Mar-a-Lago.

A good weekend to all. Stay lucky, my friends.

Posted at 1:07 pm in Detroit life | 94 Comments
 

Let’s take a spin.

Hey, guys! Let’s all say hi to Joe Louis, check our coats in the Delta lounge and see what the North American International Auto Show has to offer this year, shall we?

(I’m not sure how we got on The List for the Delta lounge, but I hope we get on it again next year. They had a little pre-party and an after-party, but the best perk was a separate coat check — it let us skip another line. The finger food and the champagne weren’t bad, either.)

Onto the show floor, where every year I’m a little overwhelmed by the first 10 minutes. As I’ve no doubt said before, it’s a very strange event. The lighting is about 1 trillion candlepower, there are liquid-video screens on every upright surface, lots of noise, and thousands and thousands of people dressed in black tie. I was talking to a guy a few months ago who said he likes to take LSD about twice a year. If he did it at this show, he’d run screaming from the floor before he hit the GM space. I want to send an avant-garde cinematographer in to capture surrealism on the hoof. Me, I just hold up my phone and say a Hail Mary:

Hello, Mercedes weirdness. Of course, that’s all anybody does: Take pictures. Of themselves, each other, and once in a while, a car. Like so:

I have no idea who that woman in the pink sequins is, although she appears to know me.

The media are all there, reporting live, reporting for later, just reporting-reporting-reporting. This guy is the No. 1 drive-time morning host on the AM talk station. I find his show almost unendurable; when I’m holed up in a bunker with federal troops outside, they’ll blare it on giant speakers and I’ll surrender in a minute:

Every year, it seems the cars are less of a story than the technology. The show follows the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, every year more seamlessly. The luxury models are more and more like rolling living rooms, with price tags to match, and even the less-luxurious do everything but make you lunch, and that may be on the drawing board. We have an automotive expression in our household — “it comes with all the shit on it,” with all pronounced Texas-style: awwwllll. I’m not sure what this photo represents, all-the-shit-wise; I only welcome our robot overlords with these well-dressed people:

Jeff Borden can tell a funny story about one of his early automotive purchases, where the trunk/glove box light was part of the deluxe accessories package.

But this is a car show, so here’s a car. Ford is reintroducing the fastback Mustang from “Bullitt” in 2019. I always sigh over these nostalgia-wallows, even while I know how useful they are for whipping up the auto press. Here’s the new Bullitt next to one of the two models used in the classic chase scene from the 1968 movie. Guess which one is valued at $4 million?

(Although the first 2019 production model just sold for $300,000 at auction, a price distorted by a charity donation.)

Me, I love a concept car. Freed from the constraints of federal safety standards, designers can go wild with the coolness. Like the carbon-fiber grille on this Lexus:

That’s the LF-1 Limitless, which Alan says is likely to go into production. I’m convinced the product expert was hired because his hair matched the paint job:

“We’re never going to be able to afford this car, are we?”

Look! A bedazzled fun fur!

Here’s a Chinese crossover. The name? A total coincidence, the company says. Well, I’m glad someone else is making money off the name other than you-know-who:

The Ram logo has been squared off and made more macho. Apparently the company thought the old one looked too much like a uterus.

What I said up there about rolling living rooms? Here’s the mileage sticker for the new Suburban, which is basically a bus for soccer moms who like to spend a lot of time at the gas station:

On the way out, we passed yet another refreshment station. Hey, it’s the Detroit News autos team. Good job, guys!

You can see their full coverage here, with more stories and many, far better pictures than these. As for us, bye for now:

Posted at 4:04 pm in Detroit life | 55 Comments
 

BOLO.

Hey, just realized I forgot to blog for Friday. A quick one, because I’m Cinderella-fying myself for the big dance tonight, and brother, that’s a long-term process at my age.

For those keeping score at home: I have just removed unwanted leg and pit hair and moisturized heavily. Next step: Nails.

I’ve also been following internet worm holes on human trafficking hysteria. With the auto show in town, the usual suspects are claiming their share of the spotlight, spewing questionable data and offering such helpful tips as: Watch for situations that just don’t seem right.

See, this is predicated on the extremely shaky contention that any large group of people descending on a city for an event – Super Bowl, Final Four, auto show – will lead to a “spike” in human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, but I bet you knew that. These press conferences aren’t to draw attention to domestic servants who are essentially held prisoner in their employers’ basement, but to give the local TV stations a chance to break out their whores-on-the-stroll video with the faces pixelated out. Anyway, I think the contention is shaky because so far, no one has ever produced any evidence other than this: Sex-service classifieds on sites like Backpage spike around that time.

This week, I tried to test it. To be sure, there are a lot of Backpage sex ads right now. But the ads drop off sharply after they’ve been up a day or two, and I’m not sure why. I also don’t have a control group from a non-auto show week. I tweeted a thread about this yesterday:

Any of you with experience in this area, feel free to private-message me via email or the channel of your choice. I’m genuinely curious.

Earlier this week, the police and some HT advocates held a presser that advised the public to BOLO (be on the lookout, in the cop lingo) for trafficked women at the show. They also said they made 22 arrests last year “tied to” the show, and apparently no one asked for more detail. So are girls, what? Working the floor? I find that hard to believe. Outside of Cobo? Ditto. Almost all prostitution is online now, anyway, so I don’t know how the public might see one of these women in the first place. Then there’s this:

Last year, police made 22 arrests for human trafficking that were tied to the auto show, Craig said. Some cases are still being investigated.

The chief anticipates there will be more reports at this year’s show, which runs through Jan. 28. Sex traffickers often go to major events that attract large crowds to find their victims, Craig said.

Craig emphasized that sex trafficking is much different from prostitution because trafficking means the person is held against their will.

Wait, what? Prostitution cases being investigated for a year? And what is he saying in the second paragraph there? That pimps are trolling the crowd for girls? Has anyone actually been to this show? The public week is hardly a magnet for young women traveling alone — it’s families, couples, and lots of guys. Is he pushing the “Taken” myth here? Oh, and trafficking vs. prostitution, he’s wrong there. He just is.

When I wrote about HT a couple years ago, one of my sources told me that, in terms of understanding the problem, we were about where we were with understanding domestic violence – in 1979.

It’s an interesting topic. I wish we had better data.

OK, on to the nails. I’ll have a photo roundup of the action tonight Sunday/Monday. Be good, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Coalflakes.

Today I will be sticking close to home. Those of you who are over 50 and have decent health insurance can probably figure out why I will be sticking close to home, so I don’t need to go into details, do I? The timing of this will be tricky, as I have a car in the shop and a very nice loaner. I need to turn it in before the rocket fuel kicks in, because those are some sweet leather seats. It’s funny, how we talk of these things in code. I was buying the rocket fuel earlier this week, and pushed it over the counter to the cashier along with a giant bottle of fruit-punch Gatorade.

“If this is what I think it’s for?” the clerk said. “You can’t use the red Gatorade.”

That wasn’t on my instructions, but it made perfect sense. I went back for a bottle of lemon-lime. At times like this, we need to take care of one another.

Today I am grateful for a) health insurance; and, to a far lesser extent, b) the idle hours to get all these tests done before it runs out. The new patient reports on this particular procedure, the one they hand you at checkout, include photos. I shudder to think.

So, for the huddle today, two stories of the Albion’s Seed variety. (I’m sure Coozledad will provide an amusing, obscene footnote.) First, via Reuters:

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Peak Coal passed a while ago. Natural gas killed it, not the Obama administration. This is the broad consensus the story references. Yet many in coal country continue to clap for Tinkerbell, setting up this conundrum:

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

Ta-da! Yes. You have to be willing to change to actually change, although admittedly, I share their cynicism about the “new industries” that might move to coal country once a “trained workforce” assembles itself at whatever critical mass they require. So I sympathize, to a point. But any coal miner who can’t see the forces that took away his or her livelihood — automation and fracking, mainly — simply isn’t paying close enough attention.

Which brings us to this laughter-through-tears piece beb pointed out late in yesterday’s thread. Remember “rolling coal,” i.e., modifying exhaust systems on big-ass trucks to blow thick clouds of black smoke into the atmosphere? Sometimes with amusing rear-window stickers warning of “Prius repellant?” Some states are passing laws to ban the practice. And yeah, well:

Entire dissertations could be written about rolling coal. Even more than Trump’s ascension, it seems to perfectly capture a moment in time, an inarticulate yawp of protest from angry white men. They feel disdained and overlooked and they will blow thick black smoke in your face until you pay attention.

There’s no faux nostalgia involved. Unlike with, say, hunting, there’s no tale of rugged rural self-sufficiency to draw on. This is not some sturdy heartland tradition with which meddlesome elites want to interfere.

Rolling coal is new; it just caught on a few years ago. It does not improve the performance of a truck. It has no practical application or pragmatic purpose of any kind. It is purely aggressive, a raw expression of defiance: I can pollute your air, for no reason, and no one can stop me.

Lots of writers love Hunter Thompson, and I’m one of them, at least before he became a human cartoon and general wrecking ball. “Hell’s Angels” is a fine piece of new journalism, and there’s a long passage in there about the Angels, and the rest of California biker culture, having their roots in American Appalachian/Okie/poor-white culture. I read it when I was 16 or so, and it opened my eyes to class issues as a companion to racial ones. Their flag is the Gadsden. Their motto: “It’s a free country,” sometimes spoken through a belch while crushing a beer can against one’s forehead.

Anyway, the Vox piece is pretty good, and I recommend it.

I keep coming back to something I said often when the auto industry was collapsing, southeast Michigan was contracting and workers everywhere were on the park bench, so to speak: What are we going to do with these people? Retraining was part of the answer. But when retraining itself is resisted, then what do you do?

OK, shower time, then my final solid food for a while, and a few hours after that? Rocket fuel!

Final thing I wanted to share: This photo.

Last Saturday night was a monthly dance-party pop-up my younger friends enjoy, so I tagged along this month, mainly because of the venue, an obscure bar that sits almost literally in the shadow of the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit. From the outside, it looks like a somewhat more upscale version of the thousands of workingmen’s bars all over Detroit’s less-glamorous districts, shot-and-a-beer places where you can prepare for, or wind down from, your shift. But step inside, and it’s the most neon-y neon lounge you ever saw.

“Oh my god, it’s ‘Miami Vice,'” I said as I showed my ID to the doorman.

“I was gonna say ‘Scarface,’ but yeah,” he replied.

Every surface that didn’t have a neon fixture had a mirror, making photography a little tricky. This welcome-to-hell glow was hard to expose for:

But it was so much fun. I saw one of my old Wayne State students. “I always knew you were a badass,” he said. Kids these days — gotta love ’em.

Posted at 10:06 am in Current events, Detroit life | 101 Comments