Bringing home the paper.

Thank you for all your kind thoughts about our probable success in the SPJ-Detroit contest, but it wasn’t quite so grand. We have always entered the Online category, ‘cuz that’s what we are, and always done well, because there aren’t very many online-only publications in Michigan. Which is fine, but you want your wins to be significant. So this year we entered the largest print category, up against the big dailies.

And we won three awards. But the one that had my name on it (along with, y’know, three others, and the unseen name of our editor, who made it immeasurably better) was a first place.


That was the college-drinking project, fyi.

So it was a good night. I had three glasses of wine and regretted it yesterday, because I am old and can no longer handle liquor. (Next stop: The grave.) Either that, or I didn’t have enough to eat, a strong possibility as I try to go Clean again. It was still a fun night. One of Alan’s staffers won Young Journalist of the Year, so a good time was had on both sides of the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere.

May I just say? While you guys were carrying the load here over the last 48 hours, I was highly amused by Danny’s comment on the Tinder date, a very only-in-California story. And I was moved and heartened by MichaelG’s travel to Europe. Sail on, sailor.

Perhaps weighed down by trying to process a mere 12 ounces of wine, Wednesday was a snoozer. Fortunately, the bloggage is not. Somehow I got on the Wayne County prosecutor’s press-release mailing list, and every so often it delivers a gem:

An American Airlines co-pilot, John Francis Maguire, 50 (DOB 9/30/65), of Pennsylvania has been charged with the misdemeanor charge of :Aircraft – Operating Under the Influence. On March 26, 2016, at approximately 6:45 a.m. at Detroit Metropolitan Airport it is alleged that Maguire in the cockpit of an American Airlines plane and was under the influence of alcohol when he was detained and then arrested. He was later released by authorities on the same day.

Maguire will be arraigned and have a pre-trial hearing on May 11, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. in 34th District Court.

Prosecutor Worthy said, “Although we do not often hear of pilots being allegedly intoxicated, the laws apply to everyone – whether one is on the roads or airways.”

There’s nothing worse than drunken white girls, especially when they run in packs:

It’s a Friday night in Provincetown, in late August, and the mise-en-scène of this delicate ecosystem, plopped atop a sandbar in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is being threatened by a new and unfamiliar scourge. They are called, simply, The Bachelorettes.

Provincetown is, of course, as gay as …a very gay thing.

Determined to find some bachelorettes who will let me spend the night bar-hopping around Provincetown with them, I go to MacMillan Pier on Saturday morning to await the first boat from Boston. Immediately, I encounter a sextuplet of blondes wearing team bride tank tops. Maid of honor Stacey will not shake my hand. I ask if I can hang with them tonight.

“I don’t think so,” Stacey says. “Girls only.”

I am completely befuddled. “In Provincetown?” I ask. She is standing only feet away from a gaggle of bearded men sipping Muscle Milk and talking about Beyoncé.

“Sorry,” Stacey says in a smug, dense way.

I’m told they do that here, too, but I haven’t been invited to a bachelorette party in decades.

Finally, while I know there are a great many charter-school foes in this readership (coff-Brian-coff), after a few years of reading and reporting on them, I think the whole movement was best summed up by a charter expert who told me, “I’ve been in charters so good they make me want to give up a tenured professorship and go teach in them. And there are some that are just terrible.”

Here’s one in Detroit that Bridge wrote about. Guess which kind it is?

Now I’m going to swallow a melatonin and try to make up for the sin of drinking on a Tuesday night.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 31 Comments

Baby’s first existential bleakness.

My first exposure to the work of Franz Kafka came sometime in high school. I read “The Metamorphosis” and “In the Penal Colony,” one as assigned reading, the other just because. The term “Kafkaesque” was being thrown around the culture, and I thought I should know what it meant.

(This led to a sub-fling with the French existentialists, but after “No Exit” I realized these frog poseurs were best for reading in public, or casually displaying on top of a notebook in a cafe or pizza parlor. “This? Oh, yes – I’m into Sartre,” etc.)

I’m sure the assigned piece was “The Metamorphosis,” as I recall my stern-but-amusing 20th Century Literature teacher (this was in high school, senior year) chortling over the first line: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” (This may vary, depending on your translation. I like “gigantic insect” better than “monstrous verminous bug,” which I found online.) “In the Penal Colony” kind of blew my mind, or at least the descriptions of the harrow did.

So imagine my surprise when I looked at the Facebook feed of a former colleague and discovered “My First Kafka,” or Kafka for children. From the Amazon reviews:

This kid’s book is a great one for the intellectual parents in your life. Sedate the kid in front of the TV with Spongebob blasting and read yourself this beautiful book. Look around and the shattered remains of your life and fall into a beautifully illustrated pit of existential despair.

I was so square, I read my kid Beatrix Potter. If you ask me, those animals knew existential despair, especially Peter Rabbit.

Of course, if you want existential despair you can hardly do better than this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.24.18 PM

I generally power through winter with only my fair allotment of whiny bitching, but lately I think something changes in my body at this time of year, and I actually am physically colder. Because I’ve been freezing all week, and the above makes me want to weep. (When I visited San Francisco a few years back, we left Detroit in the middle of a standard withering summer heat wave. The first few days I strolled the night streets in a T-shirt, looking quizzically at the tiny Asian girls shivering in down jackets and wool hats. Within two days I had adjusted, but never put on anything thicker than a hooded sweatshirt.)

Speaking of which, some friends of mine are eloping to San Fran/Napa Valley in a couple of weeks. They’re trying to get reservations at the French Laundry, but they’re booked for months. Any of you Californians know the secret number to call?

So, bloggage:

You saw the Daily News front page. It looks like Eduardo Rafael Cruz is having a difficult time dealing with those New York values.

The headline’s not in all caps, but it should be: 20,000 LESBIANS IN THE DESERT: WELCOME TO THE DINAH, A WORLD WITHOUT MEN.

I usually try to post three links, but shouldn’t 20,000 lesbians count double? I think so. And with that, I wish you a happy weekend.

Posted at 12:29 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 70 Comments

Talk me down.

I try not to get too upset over politics in…what, March of a presidential election year. Lots and lots and lots can change in the next few months. So we’ll stipulate all that.

But that said, Wednesday was the first day I woke up and really-really realized that at this time next year, the first-light radio could be murmuring at me about President Trump. I once felt this was merely a high-wire joke. But the odds have dropped from 500-to-1 to 100-to-1, maybe lower.

Admittedly, the Thomas Frank piece I linked to in yesterday’s comments had something to do with it. He could clinch the nomination and do what all candidates do – move to the center – but do it in a way that soft-pedals the racism and increases the populism. Hillary has the world’s hardest job: To transform her eminently qualified self into something more…likable. Which, as any woman who has to be simultaneously tough and kind and smart but not-too-smart and honest but a Clinton can tell you is, well, it’s a tall order.

Maybe I’m panicking. Someone talk me down.

A second day at the office this week. We moved from the place closer to the center of town, which was informally called “the FEMA office” for its charmlessness, which admittedly, we did little to mitigate. But we were there little enough that we decided it wasn’t worth the money, so we relocated to a co-working space a few miles up the road – New Center, for you Detroiters.

I have a feeling co-working is the next great sitcom opportunity, but it isn’t widespread enough for the population at large to get it. Everybody goes to one space? But hardly anyone works together? But they do? And there are man-buns and anxieties over noise and courtesy? And there are popups in the common kitchen? And the usual office stuff about who makes the next pot of coffee?

Yes, there are all these things. We have only begun to explore the possibilities. Yesterday I moved between four or maybe six different seats. I felt like Goldilocks, looking for the one that had just the right combination of light, back support and noise level, but I’m figuring it out. And I’m enough of an extrovert that just being around people who are working — even if they’re working quietly, murmuring into the inline microphones on their phones and tap-tap-tapping on their Mac keyboards — invigorating.

And today’s popup was sublime:


I had the tacos and the carrot salad. Clashing flavor profiles for sure, but I needed the vegetables. And both were wonderful. Of course I spilled one on my shirt, but missed my silk scarf, so #winning.

Just a little bloggage:

My friend and former Knight-Wallace Fellow Yavuz Bandar sounded enough of an alarm to wake me from my Trump preoccupation with this. Did you know what’s happening to journalism in Turkey? I didn’t. I need to keep up better.

Roy, as usual, has a great take on the conservatives’ reaction to Tuesday’s elections.

And with that, I’ll bid you a pleasant Thursday.

Posted at 12:23 am in Current events, Detroit life | 36 Comments

Naked brunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotta love a good reference to the Nakatomi building.

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

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


Have a great week, all.

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

Not covered in drivers ed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker has been following Trump:

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

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

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

Shiny new models.

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


I wish I were that creative.

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


Because that is pretty cool.

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


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

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

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

Our motley human family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a tough town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it went like this:

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


Bitch on wheels.

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

And you thought public broadcasting was boring.

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

More evidence that Ted Cruz has few friends.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roy on El Douche and his apologists.

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

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