Our little community.

By request, a few snaps of Deborah’s retreat-in-progress down in New Mexico. The concept, per Deborah:

In a nutshell:
100 acres in Abiquiu, NM
First in a series of small buildings (less than 200 SF each)
Cabin, then bath house, then kitchen house etc
This cabin has no electricity or running water, the rest will have though
The buildings won’t be connected, must walk outside to get to each
This isn’t meant for daily habitation, will be a retreat/getaway

So here’s the architectural rendering of the cabin, which is what’s being worked on now. The vertical slats are to screen sun, and some will come off in winter for “passive solar gain,” whatever that is.


And here’s the work in progress.



And here’s Mr. Deborah and Little Bird overseeing the project:


I’m very impressed. It’s a great design. And I love the idea of the linked smaller buildings – it’ll encourage a different way of living.

And so we hit the holiday weekend, in a holiday mood. Let’s enjoy the sun, the fireworks, and of course, the FREEDOM.

Posted at 12:14 am in Friends and family | 42 Comments


Whoa, as much as I like to travel, I’m equally happy when I’m done traveling. I’ve been working so hard lately, and I finally have some breathing space, and now I’m staring at this blank page and blinking cursor, thinking: (Blink.)

How about some pix from the trip?

Here’s a topiary that will be truly impressive once all the plants fill in:


That’s the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is truly impressive itself. We spent a couple of hours there, and it could have been a couple of days. My eyes were so starved for green, I could have moved in.

Back at J.C. and Sammy’s house, I was confronted with the evidence that John, he don’t throw nothin’ out:


The postmark on that was 1979. Front? Sure:


And to top it all off, he handed me a thumb drive with about 1,000 pictures of us — the four of us, plus Kate, plus a few others — taken over the last 15 years, just in time for graduation-season posting. Won’t the rock ‘n’ roller’s friends get a kick out of this one?

Nancy Nall Derringer

My little girl. All growed up.

Then the long road home. Hello, Cincinnati:


But it’s great to have all this. And now it’s time to go to work. Bloggage tomorrow, I think.

Posted at 7:53 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 27 Comments

Where I am today.

So here we are, in beautiful, warm, sunny Atlanta. For a wedding, but of course we’re staying with J.C. and Sammy. Who have some spectacular neon in their neighborhood.




We drove, and broke it into two days, leaving after work Thursday and spending the first night in Cincinnati. A question for the room: Whatever happened to Red Roof Inn? I recall it as the cleanest and safest of the budget-hotel segment, and given that we were staying for less than 10 hours, it seemed silly to pay for anything more. Alas, it was seedy and smelly and creepy. There were bloodstains — yes, bloodstains, falling well short of shotgun-massacre but definitely WTF-happened-here — on the wall of the bathroom, and the door of the room next door had dents in it, at precisely boot-kicking height: CHRISTINE! YOU BITCH! YOU AIN’T KEEPIN MY KIDS FROM ME! OPEN THIS DOOR OR I’MA KICK IT DOWN!

Well, we got shut of that p.d.q. Friday morning and had breakfast at Bob Evans. Another bad idea, alas.

But now we’re here and dinner last night was far from a bad idea. And it’s not cold, and the sun is out, and everything is groovy. Open thread, and enjoy the pictures. Because I’m a journalist, one more — Manuel’s, the media-hangout bar, doomed-but-not.


Happy weekending, all.

Posted at 9:40 am in Friends and family, Housekeeping, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments

Farewell, Ben.

I’m having a Scotch tonight for my friend Ben Burns, whose funeral was today. Half the town was there; I arrived 20 minutes before the service started and had to sit in the balcony. A bagpiper played on the steps of the big Presbyterian stone pile on the lakefront, one of those too-GP-for-words churches, although Ben wasn’t like that at all. He grew up on a dairy farm up near the Thumb and lived all over the U.S. before he came back to Michigan and worked his way up to the editor-in-chief’s position at the Detroit News. I didn’t meet him until just a few years ago, long after he’d left the paper (sale to Gannett; need I say more?). He was one of the three partners in GrossePointeToday.com.

It was a beautiful service that struck a delicate balance between sadness and celebration. Ben was 72, past the usual threescore-and-ten we consider a full life, but it still seemed too soon. He’d been living with a blood condition for 15 years when it morphed into leukemia, and he died in less than two weeks. Two weeks! He was scheduled to teach a class at Wayne this term. I got the email, went to see him in the hospital and missed him. Left a note. Called him, but he was resting and not taking calls. So I wrote him a note, mailed it and he died the next morning. Two weeks. You think you have time for these things, but people? You don’t.

This is good Scotch. Macallan, 12 years old. Like 80-proof candy.

Ben made the best of his life. He was funny in a quiet, droll way, which made his stories even funnier — like the time he took a woman he was dating to a big, loud party, lost track of her and discovered her in bed with the hostess. He had a big Spinone Italiano named Mac, after a photographer he’d worked with. The photog thought he was having a nervous breakdown, so Ben took him to the psych ward for the rest cure. They had to sit for a few hours, as even psych wards have to practice triage, and it must have been a full moon or something. The photographer watched the passing parade all the time, and when his name was finally called, stood up and decided he was feeling better and wouldn’t be checking in. I guess something in the animal’s face reminded Ben of the photographer, and every time I looked at his big, goofy muzzle I would try to see the picture-taker within. The dog laid by Ben’s hospice bed until the very end. I don’t know what happened to the photographer.

When someone dies, we talk a lot about legacies. Ben’s: Four spectacular children, a beautiful wife, career accomplishments to fill 10 glory walls. (My fave: a photo of him standing next to Arthur Ashe, autographed by the tennis star: “Ben — Stick to basketball. — Arthur.” Ben was 6-feet-8.) And a reputation for friendship and mentorship, service and all-around decency that streamed across the sky like a comet’s trail.

The opening hymn was “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” The closing was “Lord of the Dance.” Joy. Dancing. That was his life.

(If any of you read the obit I linked to and like it, please know the best parts — the pickle fight, Kwame’s recalcitrance — were Ben’s, written as a brief autobiography for a speech introduction or something a while ago. I wrapped them up with a new top and bottom. I hope he would have appreciated the irony of writing his own obit, but who else would come up with details like being voted one of Metro Detroit’s “most woman-friendly men?”)

No links today. The Macallan is all gone, and I’m headed for bed.

Posted at 12:22 am in Detroit life, Friends and family | 61 Comments

Sunday on the road.

At Alex’s house, Leo, Indiana. Garden, garden-and-lake and Alex, with fruits of garden.




Posted at 8:43 am in Friends and family | 40 Comments

Getting (way) down.

I’m beginning to think medical marijuana is a ship that’s leaving without me. I have absolutely no problem with people using it however they like as medicine, and I know there are many sick people with real illnesses who are legitimately helped by it. I also know that legalizing it for medical use is de facto legalizing it for recreational use, and why pretend otherwise. If the state’s voters approve of weed as a treatment for cancer and back pain and free-floating anxiety, then let’s stop fooling ourselves.

That won’t happen. Our attorney general is making this a jihad of sorts, and I could make a speech about this, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll direct you to a rather ingenious idea related to the issue — repurposing of an Upper Peninsula copper mine as an underground pot farm. Kind of a trippy idea, when you think about it — you could stage a killer Harold & Kumar movie down there.

It would help to be stoned to property grok this pearl-clutcher from the News today, about fear of crime in Birmingham, another wealthy suburb on the west side. Actual quote: “I don’t know what the world is coming to.” Everybody in my Facebook network is howling over it, and I can’t say I blame ’em.

In honor of J.C.’s enhancement of Deborah’s photo yesterday, let’s run this one again. The Enhance Supercut!

And because supercuts are funny, No Signal:

From Bill, the official obit for Jay Z.

And goodnight.

Posted at 12:54 am in Detroit life, Friends and family | 45 Comments

Where is the love?

Right around the time its workplace shootings made “going postal” a new catchphrase, I read something interesting about the U.S. Postal Service — that while Americans overwhelmingly disliked going to their post office, they liked their individual letter carriers almost as much.

I’ve found this to be true in my own case. When our last carrier in Fort Wayne would leave a package, he’d always put a dog biscuit on it for the member of the household who greeted him most enthusiastically. It got to the point Spriggy would recognize the uniform — I think it was the stripes down the side of the pants — and pull madly at the leash whenever we encountered a mailman or lady, expecting to find a treat in one of those pockets.

I thought of that when my former colleague Brian Tombaugh posted this picture on his Facebook:

Halloween was Mailman Mike’s last day of work before retirement. Yay, Mike.

How much sleep did you get last night? I got: Not nearly enough. So expect a train wreck today. And in that spirit, let’s reconsider a topic we’ve perhaps batted around here in the past, but is always worth another round, i.e. The ’70s: Haters gotta hate.

Rod Dreher takes a detour from his graphomania to throw out a little nugget to his readers:

I was watching the long “American Experience” documentary on Nixon the other night with my oldest son, and it was really something to see overripe crappiness everywhere. The hair, the clothes, the cars, the … everything. No wonder we got Nixon.

James Lileks has, of course, made ’70s hate a cottage industry, publishing at least one book and millions of words of irrational disparagement of the decade. I take issue, friends. It’s true that much of it looks preposterous in hindsight, but you can say that about all of them. And for every one of you cranks who reels off the list like an indictment — disco afros wide ties polyester leisure suits Loni Anderson metallic wallpaper hot combs — I can think of another. The Ohio Players, Ramones, Patti Smith, Halston’s cocktail dresses, the films of Martin Scorsese, the Washington Post Style section — all trends and people and institutions that got their start, or first flowering, in the 1970s. Show me a ’70s-hater and I’ll show you someone like Dreher, who apparently spent it in front of a television eating Cap’n Crunch, or Lileks, who spent it in North Dakota.

I wasn’t exactly twirling with Andy and Liza at Studio 54 myself, but I was young and attentive to the world around me, such as it was in Columbus and Athens, Ohio, where I spent the decade. The difference between Columbus and Fargo and whatever Louisiana hellhole spawned Dreher must be the watershed between love or dismissal of the decade.

So, with that in mind, I give you…my high-school yearbook:

I’m actually on that page twice. That’s me walking out the door of the all-night graduation party, squinting at the camera flash. Granted, those pants? Mistake. But I’ll stand by all the rest of it, including my Jane Fonda shag. (My high school was so large that I don’t recall a single other person on that page. The Superstars of 1975 numbered around 750, as I recall — the largest, then and now, in the school’s history. Damn baby boomers.)

OK, time to go. Bloggage?

No. None. (I told you I didn’t get any sleep.) Happy Wednesday to all.

Posted at 9:53 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments

Smile at the Speed Graphic, kid.

Today in Embarrassing Pictures, we again refuse to embarrass the proprietress, instead throwing her husband into the line of fire:

Alan brushes

“These two boys are having fun demonstrating proper tooth brushing” during National Children’s Dental Health Week. “Albert Ramirez, son of Mr. and Mrs. Genaro Ramirez, 810 Nicholas St., looks on from the left while Alan Derringer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Derringer, 405 Northfield Ave., does the brushing.”

Among the oddities of this picture, which I can’t precisely date, other than to say, “Man, when was the last time you saw a kid wearing a wristwatch like that, eh?” Both kids come from intact, Mr. and Mrs. homes. No one objected to having their exact address printed in the newspaper. And when Alan’s mom died, she still lived at 405 Northfield and still had her phone listed under Roger Derringer.

Also note the long-standing Hispanic presence in northwest Ohio (this was in Defiance). I wonder how Mark Krikorian would pronounce Ramirez?

I like the way Albert is “looking on.” Someone is always looking on in old newspaper photos. For newspaper journalists of a certain age, we lived for the day we wouldn’t have to take pictures like this or write their witless captions, and if you were any good at all, sooner or later you beamed up to a bigger paper, which as a rule didn’t run this stuff. And now, here we are decades later, and the buzz is in hyperlocal journalism websites that welcome and solicit pictures like this, and guess who’s writing the captions? Full circle.

My pledge: No one will ever look on in my cutlines. Unless it’s in an ironic, retro way. Because otherwise I will have to start drinking a lot more.

Because it’s Friday, another no-cal bonbon. Thanks, Char, for sending this “hastily made Cleveland tourism video.” As for the punchline, well, yes they are. They just don’t know it yet:

I have to go to a meeting, edit a pile of copy and do some serious writin’ today. You folks take it from here.

Posted at 8:33 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Ah, memories.

Hey, are you guys working today? The day before a three-day weekend? Silly wabbits — hardly anyone else is. So today seems as good a day as ever to kick off a new Friday feature, which I’m calling Embarrassing Pictures, because, well, you’ll see.

Long-time readers will recognize this one, which I’ve used before, but not for a few years, so it’s fresh to most of you:

Old days

Just another self-portrait before a Saturday night out, c. 1981-82, around in there. Columbus, Ohio. I’m not in this one, but let me introduce you to the group. At left, some girl named Jeanine, who was friends with the other two girls in the picture — Lynne (with the champagne bottle) and Janet, known as Tall Janet for obvious reasons. The guys, in the back row, Jeff, Paul, Craig. Jeff and Craig were brothers. In front, Dan, known to all by his nickname, Futz. And at far right, in the Wayfarers, our very own Jeff Borden. I like this picture because it’s entirely a happy accident — Borden put the camera on a a tripod and used the self-timer, bounced the flash off the ceiling, and everyone just sort of assembled themselves. No one directed the pose or styled the outfits.

Details: Both Jeff and Craig were gay, lending support to the genetics argument, but both were natural performers, and I love the way Jeff is looking at Jeanine, like he’s about to throw her on the floor and ravage her, when in truth he couldn’t have been less interested. I love the way the ash on Jeanine’s cigarette is thisclose to falling. Futz and Paul are wearing buttons — buttons were big, back then. I still have my favorite from the era in my jewelry box. It reads VICTIM OF THE PRESS. I picked it up from a LaRouchie at one of their airport tables. I don’t know what was going on with Lynn’s sparkly disco vest, but she rocks it, I think. Borden’s wearing a hat because even then, barely 30 years old, he was stalked by the curse of a receding hairline.

Also, this: Jeff, Craig and Paul are all dead. AIDS. As I mentioned, Jeff and Craig were brothers. In the years immediately after they died, I thought a lot about them. Since Kate was born, I think mainly of their mother. Imagine losing two of your children, in subsequent years, to that disease.

Anyway, even though I wasn’t there, I was there. I think of this picture as exhibit A in the life I led at the time, when Borden and I lived across the hall from one another, left the doors open all the time, ran speakers from one apartment to the other, and had some great parties.

Good times.

That’s it for me, I think. Long weekend ahead, and I won’t be back until Tuesday. Discuss what you like in the comments and enjoy summer’s kickoff. Let’s hope it’s a long one.

Posted at 11:19 am in Friends and family | 46 Comments

He was there.

Chickens, how to put this? There are days when I open my little laptop and launch my wee browser and call up my NN.C WordPress dashboard page, and a single thought fills my skull:

I hate you.

Sometimes it goes into greater detail:

I hate you I hate me I hate everybody I don’t want to do this How did I get myself roped into this Why am I not writing a book Why am I wasting my time on this crap.

Usually it passes. I think of this page as batting practice, and these protests are, 99 days out of 100, just the creaking of the old muscles before they warm up and loosen up and start connecting with the ball. On the 100th day, it’s not, and that’s why I’m glad for you folks, because you’re all fabulous and many of you are better writers than I am, and sometimes you send photos. So let’s let our correspondent MichaelG, occasionally furloughed California state worker, carry the ball today. He left this in comments over the weekend, but he sent me some pix to go with it. He went to the AMGEN 2009 Tour of California when it rolled through his town:

The Amgen Tour of California kicked off today in Sacramento. Those who count such things tell us more than 100,000 people showed up to watch the race between the bicycle people and the impending storm. The bicycle people and the rest of us won. The race was a prologue. 136 riders started at one minute intervals to race the clock over a 2.4 mile course around the State Capitol. There were some fast cyclists in the first 118 riders and 118 minutes (notably the Marks Renshaw and Cavendish) but the last 18 minutes and riders were the cream. Zirbel, Hushovd, Kirchen, Boonen, Hincape, Tyler, Zabriskie, Armstrong, Vandevelde, Cancellara, Basso, Rogers, Landis, Leipheimer. This was where the racing and the times got serious. The suspense all day, the waiting for the arrival of the storm and the elite riders had the crowd greeting the late riders and the persistent good weather with cheers of approbation and relief. The cheers grew louder and louder as rider after rider lowered best time only to be shunted aside by a succeeding rider. It was a great day to stand on a curb in Sacramento.

I was a volunteer worker and my station was right at the finish line. The time clock on the arch over the line provided a rough idea of when to expect a cyclist and the cheering of the people a block up the street lent another visual signal to a rider’s arrival. They crossed the line and flashed past me at whatever speed a world class cyclist attains with an eight block run on a flat street. Taking pictures proved futile since they were going so fast and also since they tended to hug the fence upon which I was leaning. I could have picked one off with a seven iron. The same with watching, as the best view I could see was the advertising plastered on their asses as they slowed after the finish.

The collegial happiness of the crowd, the electricity generated by a world class event, the spectacle and the general all around fun made for a terrific day. The whole thing was capped by the news that the dipshits in the big white building across the street had finally reached a deal.

In the end I was standing right before the stage. I was in front of all the print people and photogs and behind the VS camera guy. I had a fantastic view of all the jersey presentations and my boss the Governator and got a ton of great pix. I have one of Cancellara (the winner) being interviewed. It’s a mega close up since in the crush he was actually leaning on me. After the interview he was mobbed by young women. I’m not jealous. Leipheimer had his bike with him and showed it to me. No pix here but I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the most beautiful bike ever. I’m not jealous.

Other than Armstrong who is a professional celebrity, the riders seem to be pleasant, down to earth guys who are embarrassed by the media attention and are amazingly accessible. Cancellara in particular seemed overwhelmed and almost frightened by the press of the press. At one point I thought he was going to throw up. You should have seen his face, his throat working and his hand over his mouth. I’d also like to see his paycheck.

A most enjoyable day. Afterwards, I fell into a pub down the street with a friend for a pint of Anchor Steam. It was delicious. Details and pix available on dozens of web sites. KCRA, SACBEE and VS (all dot com) are three good places to start. The rerun on VS starts in about 10 minutes. I can’t wait. Live coverage and reruns will be on VS for the next 10 days or so. Davis to Santa Rosa tomorrow. It’s as good as the Tour de France. Same cast on the road and on the TV including Liggett, Sherwen and Roll. Don’t miss it.


Michael gives the photo ID on this as: Arnold, Cavendish, The Fabe, Levi and Lance. It’s remarkable mainly for the unnatural hue of the governor’s hair. And finally, what’s a volunteer shift worth if you can’t grab a few photos of yourself for the scrapbook? Ladies and gentlemen, your correspondent:


Thanks, Michael. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Posted at 7:48 am in Friends and family | 51 Comments