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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a tough town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it went like this:

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


Bitch on wheels.

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

And you thought public broadcasting was boring.

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

More evidence that Ted Cruz has few friends.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roy on El Douche and his apologists.

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

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

The pace quickens.

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


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

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

The broad-daylight shot:

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

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

This drives me nuts, too:

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

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

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

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

Me, I’m off to tackle Monday.

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

Lucky me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, then, a wee bit of bloggage:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

So, on to the house:


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


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



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


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


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


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


The closet ceiling:


In Indiana, they called this space the airing porch:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sidewalk critics.

I’m thinking I might take a night off. Work is spilling into the evening, and I need to concentrate on one thing instead of six. It was a pretty good day, helped enormously by being pretty beautiful outside. I took myself out to lunch at a Middle Eastern place a pleasant walk from the office, and was rewarded with the opinions of two sidewalk bums, one of whom said I looked good in my jeans, and the other agreed: “Yeah, you still got it.” I know these things should bother me, but they don’t anymore. A couple of downtown rummies in broad daylight are about as threatening as a box of kittens, and some days they’re the only feedback I get — I left the house before Alan got up and by the time he gets home tonight, I’ll be well into dreamland. Yes, the UAW set a strike deadline tonight. If they’ve walked off when you read this, I may well not see my husband again until Thanksgiving. #autoeditorproblems

Proud to be Miss Detroit Bum America, Wednesday sidewalk edition.

A pretty day, and a beautiful morning. I took this in my back yard after the gym, maybe a half-hour before sunrise. I posted it on Instagram with a filter, but this is the no-filter version, which more clearly shows what caught my eye — the diagonal line of the moon, Venus and whatever the star at lower left is. I’m sure one of you folks know. Enlighten us:


So open thread today, and let’s hope there aren’t any school shootings or hospital bombings or anything, really, other than sunshine and puppies and friendly bums.

Posted at 12:20 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments

The big empty.

I started a new volunteering gig on Tuesday afternoons, and the road home takes me through some perfectly astonishing parts of the east side. I don’t ever want to lose those outsider’s eyes, no matter how long I stay. I wish I’d stopped to take some pictures, but the light was fading, and the longer I live here, the less I want to be the slumming suburbanite snapping pix for her stupid blog. Trust me, though, you never come across a single house sitting on an otherwise empty block often enough to fail to be amazed by it. Parts of the city look like rural Mississippi, complete with chickens and goats, or else feral pit bulls and god-knows-what. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was feeding a baby dragon back in there.

I wonder what the occupant of this house thinks, for example:


I have a feeling I know: I won. Once upon a time that house was surrounded by others. Then abandonment came, then crack, arson, the aforementioned god-knows-what. Nowadays night falls, and it’s nice and quiet, except maybe for the animal sounds (barking, dragon roars), distant gunshots and the freeway off in the distance. If you survived the crack and the fires, it would feel like victory.

So with the theme of abandonment established, let’s go straight to the bloggage from faraway Chernobyl. This story isn’t really new — you can find photo galleries of the abandoned amusement park at Pripyat, Ukraine everywhere — but the wildlife angle is newer, and the GIFs within the story are amazing. The animals are coming home to Chernobyl, to the still-glowing but rapidly reasserting primeval forest, which now belongs to the wolves and boars and “rare European lynx — predatory cats the size of a Great Dane with tufted ears and glimmering gold eyes.” They don’t miss us at all:

“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our everyday activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”

“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”

Yes, Sheriff Know-Nothing, let’s all take a vow to never speak the same of the Oregon killer out loud. After all, we wouldn’t want to learn anything about him, would we?

Finally, an obit of a Detroit original, Grace Lee Boggs, who died Monday but left the legacy of 10 lesser souls. We forget what it meant to be a Dee-troit leftist at one time; it meant something special, and noble:

For years they also identified closely with Black Power advocates across the country. Malcolm X stayed with them on visits to Detroit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was said to have monitored their activities. When arson fires and rioting erupted in the city in 1967, Ms. Boggs described the violence as a rebellion against rising unemployment and police brutality.

“What we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest of a people against injustice,” she told Mr. Moyers. But the violence, she said, also became “a turning point in my life, because until that time I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution.”

Ms. Boggs eventually adopted Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies and in Detroit, which remained her base for the rest of her life, fostered Dr. King’s vision of “beloved communities,” striving for racial and economic justice through nonconfrontational methods. As Detroit’s economy and population declined sharply over the years, Ms. Boggs became a prominent symbol of resistance to the spreading blight.

She founded food cooperatives and community groups to support the elderly, organize unemployed workers and fight utility shut-offs. She devised tactics to combat crime, including protests outside known crack houses, and in columns for a local weekly newspaper, The Michigan Citizen, she promoted civic reforms.

With that, we carry ourselves over the hump of Wednesday. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life | 49 Comments

Two terrible benches.

OK, so let me get this straight: Last week, Noted Neurosurgeon And Healer Of Children Dr. Benjamin Carson came out in favor of letting junk science have a voice in the vaccine debate. This week, he said Muslims are not qualified to be president.

Prediction: Tomorrow, higher poll numbers for the doc.

Carly Fiorina lays smack down by describing a graphic scene in one of the Planned Parenthood videos that doesn’t exist. When asked to answer for this, she says, essentially, nuh-uh, does too exist.

Today? A front-runner.

Last year I wrote about that elusive creature, the African-American Detroit Republican. I had a great conversation with a black lawyer who explained the essential role in democracy of the loyal opposition — the people who disagree with you and stand in opposition to you, but still respect your right to govern. Good opponents make stronger parties, he said. And Detroit’s Democrats have grown so flabby from a lack of meaningful opposition that he thought that was his role in the city. (P.S. He voted for Obama. Twice.)

I think he’s right, which is why I’m so worried about this election. I can no longer take a certain sneering distance from this crew. As I said a while back, one malignant tumor and Hillary is toast, and the Dems have no bench. Bernie is a torch-carrier for the old left. Biden’s charm would evaporate if he were moved from the bucket-of-warm-spit job. And on the other bench? These guys. That guy. And her.

I have a sense of history, yes. I know this country has faced peril before, far worse than this. But I see people I know are intelligent sharing lunatic-fringe nonsense on their social-media accounts. Some batshit in one of my networks suggested the other day that I and others like me have “blood on our hands” because the president is vetoing the Planned Parenthood defunding. I had a class in high school, Communications, that taught me how to judge the veracity of a news story.

I guess they don’t teach that anymore.

So, it was a pretty good weekend. What happened? Can’t remember. Oh, right. Friday night, dinner at the Polish Yacht Club, a wonderful restaurant down in the old Poletown ‘hood. The streets around it are so deserted and sketchy that you tip the car guy — who only suggests street spaces, as there’s no parking lot — at least $5 on your way in. In return, he keeps your catalytic converter from being sawed off. Inside is Polish-food heaven, pierogis and potato pancakes and fried perch that’s out of this world. Also, Polish draft beer and Polish hospitality.

After that, we had a nightcap at the Raven Lounge:


Those of you who saw “Detropia” should remember it. It’s the blues bar in that movie. Too early for any sort of crowd. We paid the cover, caught the first couple numbers in the first set, and left.

On Saturday, a market day to make you sad, because it was rainy and the harvest is so plentiful you know it can’t last forever:


But I got my September sword of brussels sprouts, some nuts, this, that and the other thing. Next week I’ll be back. And so on and so on until it’s winter and there’s nothing to do on a Saturday morning but day-drink. (I’ll probably do that to, at least once.)


The most depressing thing about this are the comments from the nastiest wing of the childless-by-choice crowd, claiming a workplace that makes no allowance for parents is simply the way it should be, because having children is a choice, you know. Like raising shih tzus, apparently.

I didn’t expect much from “The Overnight,” which we watched via iTunes last night, but we were both pleasantly surprised. Dirty for sure, but still funny.

The woes of McDonald’s. I almost didn’t get past the first sentence, which reads:

Al Jarvis was 16 when he started working at a McDonald’s in Saginaw, a city in Michigan, in 1965.

I was born in St. Louis, a city in Missouri. Later our family moved to Columbus, a city in Ohio, and I didn’t leave until I relocated to Athens, another city in Ohio, for college. After that it was…you get the idea. Hello, editors? Wake up.

With that note, let’s get the week underway, OK?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Beanies, bandies and breezes.

Long, long weekend — I worked for most of it. But it was a good kind of work, the sort that got me out of the house and into the fresh air, which…freshened throughout the day. Which is to say, the day started sunny and cool, was briefly glorious, and then a cloud bank swept in from the west — you could see it on the horizon, bearing down like a malign force — and covered us all in gloom and chill.

But Michigan won the football game. I wasn’t in the stadium, but I was outside when the band passed by:


Look at those snowy white gloves. I’m always a sucker for a good marching band, and by “good” I mean Big Ten style — lots of brass, a loud-ass drumline and no silly arrangements of music that was never made to be played by a marching band. Leave that to the high schools. (In Indiana, marching bands compete with a ferocity generally seen only on reality shows featuring drag queens and dance moms. And they don’t really march, but sort of slither around the field in this weird walk-y gait, constantly moving — it’s harder — and never playing anything as mundane as, oh, “Across the Field.”) Marches! Fight songs! HAIL TO THE VICTORS! Or, you know, whatever they play for your school. But something rousing. That’s why the good lord gave us brass.

Story will be appearing in a couple weeks.

Kate wasn’t in Ann Arbor, amusingly enough. She came home for a Wayne State event with her friends, and we discovered another miraculous perk of enrollment at the state’s flagship university — the Detroit Center Connector, a free bus that runs between the Ann Arbor campus and Detroit four days a week. All that hang-wringing during the application process over how she was going to get home for band practice, the stuff I patiently answered with “Greyhound, Amtrak, ride-sharing and you’ll figure it out” has been vastly simplified. I dropped her off at 3 p.m. in front of the Ren Cen, where she joined three girls in hijabs to wait for pickup. And that was that. That student ID is worth its weight in gold. Plus a lot more. (Which we are paying, yes.)

Some good bloggage today that covers a vast span of emotional ground, so gird your loins and let’s do the depressing stuff first.

That would be the Washington Post’s remarkable look at the people with whom Dylann Roof stayed before he massacred nine people at a Charleston church earlier this summer. As is frequently the case, Roof gave ample warning of his plans, and he gave them to the people in this trailer. They didn’t say anything. Why? Read the story and shudder — it is terribly sad and depressing, and JeffTMM, you might want to stay away. As always, I ask, “What are we going to do with these people?” We used to have a place for them. We don’t anymore. But they’re still out there.

Moving on. One of the memories of Kate’s early childhood I recall fondly was the Beanie Baby era, although I did not play the tulip-fever game; we just played with them. She was still an infant unable to sit up unaided when a friend dropped by and gave her her first one, a rabbit of some sort. I thanked her, and when I later told someone else about it, they said, “You can’t let her play with it! It might be a valuable one!” I was under the impression we were talking about a $5 stuffed animal small enough for a baby to pick up, but no. And that’s how I was introduced to the silliness of Beanies, which was silly indeed. I recall a quote from a woman in the local paper: “These are going to pay for my daughter’s college education,” which even then a person with a room-temperature IQ could tell was bullshit. My neighbor did try to get a couple of hot ones, and nearly got herself and her toddler trampled in the process, which ended her enthusiasm quickly and before she spent more than a few bucks on them.

We bought our share and always took the tags off and played with them, and I remember how I tucked her in with a couple many nights. I was quite fond of them. You might enjoy this Vice piece on how they arced through the mid-90s pop-culture sky like a comet.

I laughed out loud at this account, by a Knight-Wallace Fellow from last year, on how he pledged a fraternity during his time in Ann Arbor. Yes, at the age of 38, hence the title, “The 38-year-old frat boy.”

I was about to give up when, on the last day of rush week, the Greek gods smiled upon me. It was at Alpha Delta Phi, otherwise known by students as “Shady Phi,” a popular frat on campus, with a beach volleyball court in the front yard. (As I would later learn, the prevailing rumor about A.D.P. was that even the sand in the volleyball court had herpes.)

I managed to hit it off with the president. He was an unconventional frat boy, a vegan who did yoga. He told me he wanted to be a life coach. We started going to the same meditation group and having lunch together on campus. Thanks to him, I got invited back to more events. I won first place at the beer pong party — turned out I was something of a beer pong savant, a skill I attributed to having a master’s degree in physics — and ably slammed Cuervo Silver and Simply Lemonade at Taco Tuesday. With the president’s political capital behind me, I was in.

Finally, Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, for a food startup of some kind. Best of luck to him, but I hope he doesn’t get all food-scoldy like everyone else in that community.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Detroit life, Popculch | 66 Comments