Size 10 revisited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, some bloggage?

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

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

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

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

Remain in light.

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

dlectricity

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

So, a little bloggage:

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

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

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

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

A bad case of Pretty.

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

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

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

“Ten-twenty,” I told her.

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

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

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

A bit of bloggage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend, all.

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

Saturday morning market, two days late.

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

hantzfarms

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

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

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

So, a little bloggage:

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

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

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

As for me, back into it.

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

Scant. Just scant.

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

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

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

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

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

Off to contemplate more Book. Happy Tuesday.

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

Scanty pix.

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

DVAS1

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

DVAS2

They really did well. I’m so proud.

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

dally

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

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

The throwdown weekend.

Every so often you have to go out and have yourself a time. A pound-the-table, pound-some-shots, sing-karaoke-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, another-round-for-all sort of time. I had one Saturday night.

Probably shouldn’t say too much more about it, except that at some point I posted this photo on Twitter with the caption FUCK ALL Y’ALL:

karaoke

Not quite sure what I was thinking, there.

This was at a bar that’s going to close at the end of the month, a victim of the new hockey arena. It looks like a wino dump from the outside, but inside? Ohsomuchfun. I have no doubt the Applebee’s or whatever the hell will replace it won’t be nearly as good a time. Nor will it have multiple Wu-Tang Clan albums on the jukebox.

(And have no fear, I paced myself admirably. By nursing beers, palming the vile butterscotch shots and slipping an occasional Vernor’s in there, I drove home with nary a fear of lights in the rear-view. I’m an adult now.)

That was Saturday. On Sunday, on four hours of sleep and still hoarse from kicking out the karaoke jams on “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” a friend and I rode bikes to John’s Carpet House, recently reopened after a brief shutdown by the authorities. The Carpet House has no house and no carpet, but it does have a stage and a small generator, enough to power a live blues jam on Sunday afternoons throughout the warm season. If you’re a Detroiter and you’ve never been there, what are you waiting for, and if you’re an out-of-towner, you should check it out, because it is awesome.

Once we arrived, I called Alan to come with lawn chairs and some beers, and after a couple of those, he was kind enough to give us a ride back and spare us a 10-mile pedal in the heat of the late afternoon, belching craft-beer fumes.

The Carpet House is an opportunity for entrepreneurs – food vendors mostly, but also this guy:

john

No drama.

All of which adds up to a great weekend, although I’m guessing I’ll be going to bed early.

A little bloggage? Sure:

The Freep did a nice job turning around a localization of the Ferguson fiasco — looking at the militarization of Michigan police. Mercy:

Michigan police departments have armed themselves with grenade launchers, armored vehicles, automatic rifles and other equipment — 128,000 items in all, worth an estimated $43 million — under a federal program that allows police to obtain surplus gear free from the U.S. military.

A Free Press review of items transferred from the military since 2006 shows Michigan law enforcement agencies have received 17 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles or MRAPs, built to counter roadside bombs; 1,795 M16 rifles, the U.S. military’s combat weapon of choice; 696 M14 rifles; 530 bayonet and scabbards; 165 utility trucks; 32 12-gauge, riot-type shotguns; nine grenade launchers; and three observation helicopters.

And the situation in Missouri has led to a miracle of the stopped-clock variety: I agree with Ross Douthat.

Abortion isn’t always a difficult decision. Someone had to say it.

A busy, busy, busy week awaits. Expect gaps and maybe some photos. But let’s enjoy it, eh?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 45 Comments
 

Seeing the forest, and paying.

One of the things that drives me nuttiest about the anti-government movement in this country is its easy assumption that all those who do work for the public are, at heart and at the root, Evil. Exhibit A: The woods of Huntington Woods.

Here we have a tiny (1.6 square mile) suburb that would likely be called “leafy,” mainly because it is. It’s Huntington Woods, after all. See if you can follow this: In 2007, the city does a survey to develop a community master plan. How do you feel about trees? the city asks. Ninety-six percent — 96! percent! — says yay trees. The next question: Would you support an ordinance to protect them? Ninety-one percent says hell yes. So in June the city passes an ordinance that discourages people from removing trees that aren’t diseased or dying. It’s patterned after one that already exists in 13 communities. Requires inspections and fines. And…

On June 17, Huntington Woods’ five-member city commission unanimously passed the new tree protection ordinance, Sullivan said.

It amended the city’s code of ordinances to require permits for cutting down trees — something that previously wasn’t on the books, she said.

The city only keeps permit fees of homeowners removing mature, healthy trees; it returns fees for removing dead or dying trees, according to the city manager.

I know you know what’s coming next: A citizen who says, like Madeline, “something is not right!”

“My personal feeling is they shouldn’t be able to tell us that we can’t take down any tree on our property,” said Iversen. “It’s ridiculous.”

Yes, it’s a property-rights activist who had determined that if she should want to take down her sycamore, it would cost her a lot, even though the sycamore is fine and yadda yadda principle of the thing.

It’s stories like this that make me heave a deep sigh. There’s a lot of this sort of thing locally — the endless surveys, the consensus-building that sometimes turns an entire administration into a finger in the wind, stripped of leadership. But I get why they do it, and when you get two surveys that show more than 90 percent of respondents are Pro-Tree, it shouldn’t be this complicated.

And yet it is. And somewhere out there, an eagle-eyed citizen is ready to upset the apple cart.

You wonder why anyone runs for a local office, with rewards like this waiting for them.

And so another week has collapsed under the collective weight of the work we’ve done, and a weekend awaits. Wait, did that sound grim? I didn’t mean it to. It’s just been a week. A little bloggage:

It’s not the Trayvon Martin Trial, part 2. This thoughtful Brian Dickerson column explains why.

Why do we say “big brown dog” instead of “brown big dog?” The semiotics of adjectives, for you language geeks.

Finally, oil and gas drilling (tries to) comes to the last, 49-acre stand of virgin white pine in Michigan.

A good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 40 Comments
 

A Fellini movie, every day.

Sitting at a Detroit office of the Secretary of State – an office people in most parts of the world think of as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or, in Indiana, the license branch – is a strange experience. A guy across the aisle looks exactly like Slim Charles from “The Wire.” Another is dressed, head to toe, hat to sandals, in orange. (And I doubt he’s a Tigers fan. Not a stitch of blue.) There’s a grandma tending a fussy baby who, you can tell from the look on her face, is working his way up to a blowout.

A woman clears her way though an aisle, claiming loudly, “I’m just looking for a place to sit.” Ninety seconds later, she goes back the other way: “I’m just going to get a smoke.”

I’ve been told to use all the online tools — the check-in, the text alerts for when your place in line is coming up — and I do, because if there’s one thing that will ruin your day, it’s sitting that waiting room for longer than 20 minutes.

One thing I forgot: To lie about the purchase price. Damn, I forgot they were the ones who collect the sales tax.

But now the car is fully insured and legal, and woo. Time to start pouring more money into it.

The conversation yesterday about factory farms reminded me to post this story and video, about a guy I wrote about for Bridge a couple of years ago, who’s still struggling to close the deal on his urban amoeba farm, all organic. It was written by a former student, so win-win, etc. It gives me a little hope for the future.

Besides, what crisis? Toledo is free to drink the water again. What fertilizer runoff? Oops. Spoke too soon.

This doesn’t happen often around here, but often enough that it doesn’t really surprise anyone:

Harsens Island — While a woman fights for her life after being injured in a boating accident that killed her husband and another person, police said Monday they are releasing a man connected to the accident Sunday evening on Lake St. Clair.

Authorities said Monday they expected to release a 32-year-old Chesterfield Township man, whose name is being withheld because he has not been charged. He did submit to a blood test to determine alcohol levels given that police say drinking and high speed may have been factors in the collision.

…Algonac resident Alan Block, who is a local sailboat racer and senior reporter for Sailing Anarchy, was sailing in the southbound channel and was about 200 feet from the collision when it occurred.

“I came to a stop because I knew something was going to happen,” Block said. “There were two large boats — perhaps 40 footers — headed southbound and they were leaving large wakes. One of the boats looked like a fishing vessel and the other was a cabin cruiser with an upper deck. A third boat, a 25-foot Baja, which is a very fast speed boat, was headed northbound in the shipping channel doing about 45 to 50 mph.”

According to Block, the Baja failed to slow down for the large wakes caused by the bigger boats.

Here’s a headline that says read me: Kid Rock: I don’t have glass sex toy sought in Insane Clown Posse case.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t deliver.

Good Tuesdays all around.

Posted at 12:32 am in Current events, Detroit life | 20 Comments
 

Lavender lake.

What am I doing here? It’s one of those hurrier-I-go-the-behinder-I-get sorts of weeks, but we all need a fresh thread from time to time.

At least I’m making time for exercise, y’know? Today was a crisp morning, very unseasonable for July, but I was out early on the bike and rode as hard and fast as I dared for 50 minutes. The reward was this:

dawn

Seconds before this shot, the rising sun was peeking out of the clouds, reflected in a pink stripe on the water. In the time it took me to fumble my camera out of my saddlebag, it was gone. Still, a very pretty morning. Not one regret about getting up at 5:45 a.m.

So, you’re a millionaire rock star, playing a triumphant sold-out show at a beautiful theater in your hometown, where the fans love you and all the rest of it. So what do you do? If you’re Jack White, complain:

Having launched the evening with a typically scorching roar, depositing hot, gnarled guitar into the one-two punch of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and the new “High Ball Stepper,” White soon became visibly displeased with the standing crowd’s lack of intensity in what he wanted to be a symbiotic affair.

Road manager Lalo Medina had already pleaded the case before show time, taking the stage and asking fans not to sit down or distract themselves with cell phone cameras.

Sure enough, just a half-hour in — after trying everything from a galloping “Hotel Yorba” to an acoustic reading of “Temporary Ground” with Lillie Mae Rische on harmony and Dominic Suchyta on upright bass — White summoned his stagehands. And with a quick “Thanks, God bless you,” he had the curtains pulled.

Several restless minutes passed before White and his five-piece band returned, ripping into “Fell in Love With a Girl” as White gestured at the crowd to engage. He soon paused to alternately tease and cajole the audience in the ornate room.

“I know as Detroiters you can overcome comfortable seating and beautiful lighting to make something as real as possible,” he said.

I guess it got better from there, but man, what a control freak.

Open thread today, obviously. (What am I saying? It’s open every day.) And happy Wednesday. I remembered this time.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, iPhone, Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments