“Does it bother you when these threads get to 130-some comments,” J.C. just asked me.

“I guess so,” I said. “Probably time for a photo post.”


This was night before last. I’ll have you know that as I was capturing this lovely Upper Peninsula moonrise, a pontoon was about to glide into the frame, playing “Smoke on the Water” with its occupants drunkenly singing along.

J.C. and Sammy’s cottage is notable for its peace and quiet, and this was the first real evidence of more commonplace U.P. summer pursuits going on around us. Which only goes to show that somewhere in the world, it is always 1973, and Deep Purple is playing.

So! New post! I’m heading home today/tomorrow, and on Tuesday will be working the Michigan primary election as a poll worker. That will be 14-plus hours in a mask, and I expect I will be wiped afterward, so this thread may well get to 130-some comments too, but at some point, lo I shall return.

A couple of sandhill cranes just serenaded us. Such a lovely, unearthly sound. Nothing at all like Deep Purple.

The only thing I have to recommend is the Politico piece about Fort Wayne, which I see you’ve already been discussing. Jesus, what a barking moron Jason Arp is.

OK, the sun is out here and raining downstate, which means, alas, mini-vacation is probably about over.

Posted at 10:59 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Happy new year.

As always, thanks for hanging around here when the postings get a little sparse. As the summer ends, I realize I’ve taken off more days than I intended, and I don’t really have much of an excuse other than: I did it because I could. As the new year — and September is the new year, as far as I’m concerned — I need to do more non-work writing. If only to keep myself off Twitter and whatever is falling apart in the world at the moment.

At this moment, it’s the Florida coast, as an enormous storm comes ever-closer, at a crawling speed, which has of course pushed the leadership of the country into Command Centers, where they’re closely monitoring the hurricane’s progress, in contact with local relief agencies, ready at a moment’s notice to step in to help save lives and mitigate misery, and…

…never mind, he’s tweeting again:

I can’t let any more of this nonsense keep me away from doing the stuff I enjoy — reading and writing.

It was a good weekend. Some pictures? Sure.

This was Saturday, for Shadow Show’s final appearance before next year. That’s because Kate leaves for California tomorrow, and I told her not to get homesick and come running back. Stay. Stay as long as the job and the money holds out, for cryin’ out loud.

In the distance: Sign in Arabic, because Hamtramck, and a pretty good crowd. This AC/DC tribute band (Icey Dicey) wasn’t doing quite as well, but they were just getting started:

I think they were playing “TNT” when I took that. Can’t remember.

And then on Sunday, we had a sendoff for Kate at a friend’s house. We had a hot dog/not dog bar, which was GENIUS (because everybody gets what they want, and all you have to do is set out a bunch of toppings), and I brought a pie and a cherry tart. Wendy got to spend some time with her favorite uncle:

Then we all discussed our funeral playlists and put each other in charge of carrying out our wishes. Yes, beer was involved.

Today it was a long bike ride in beautiful weather, and now I’m getting ready to dip back into “The Sheltering Sky” for the remainder of the afternoon.

One last pic: The Bassets meet the Dorothys for dinner in Dayton. Someone didn’t finish their onion rings:

And so the New Year commences! Let’s make it a good one.

Posted at 2:43 pm in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments

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

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