Twenty years gone.

I guess, since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of you-know-what, I should write something about that today.

But I don’t know that I want to. I grew up with “where were you when you heard the president had been shot,” and it’s been replaced by this tragedy, and few of the answers are all that interesting. I was in school. I was at work. I was in the subway. I was there. We all carry a little bit of that day in our hearts, and we all have our stories. Like most of daily life, they’re quotidian for the most part.

I remember the after-times. I once said that I forgive everyone in the world anything crazy they said from that date until…January 1. Bomb Afghanistan to glass? You said that? Fine with me. You said you were glad George Bush was in charge that day and not Al Gore? Sure, that’s OK, as long as you admit history has shall we say proven you wrong. And so on. After 9/11 came anthrax, remember. We saw news anchors flipping out on live TV. Maureen Dowd was howling for Cipro. It was a strange, scary time. You were permitted to be afraid.

All I want to remember this weekend is my own personal slideshow of moments. Like…we had digital cable installed that day, which necessitated turning the TV off for about half an hour while the guy worked on the pole outside. I could hardly stand it. When it came back on, I said THANK GOD or some such, and this incredibly mellow and chill cable guy glanced at the TV, shrugged and said, “Yeah. Crazy.” Like I’d been watching roller derby.

I remember the stupidity, the witless public statements, that no one was embarrassed to say out loud. A woman ahead of me in the Target checkout line went on and on about 9/11 and 911 as an emergency number, and wasn’t it obvious the attackers had chosen that day for that reason? The endless rumors, such transparent bullshit, repeated by people who should know better. Did you hear about the six firefighters who were found safe in the basement because they’d been in a sturdy full-size SUV that somehow stood up to having a building fall on it? Remember the photo of the guy standing on the World Trade Center observation deck while the plane zoomed in behind him? Professional debunkers had to take that one apart like the Zapruder film. The “speech made by the pilot on the first flight afterward” story? The advice to travelers? Pack a can of Spam in your carry-on, and throw chunks of it at the hijackers. Evidently they’d be repelled, like Kryptonite. And this was before social media. If Facebook had existed then, we’d still have our thumbs up our big dumb asses.

And the wars, oh my god. The marketing names alone. First it was Operation Infinite Justice, because we can’t just call a war a war anymore, but that was rejected because Muslims were offended or something, and so it became Operation Enduring Freedom. How’d that work out, everyone? Are the Afghans free? Is it enduring? How about us? In my brief period as a copy editor, I took sadistic pleasure in changing every reference in copy from the marketing name to “the Gulf war,” “the second Gulf war,” “the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan,” etc. Over the years, however, I’ve found it’s a pretty good marker for the sort of person I’m talking to/reading. “When I was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom…” is a signifier that you are not dealing with a straight shooter. Anyway, there have been so many Operation Windy Adjective Patriotic Nouns of late, it’s hard to remember which is which.

The fear. I remember that, too. Sitting in earshot of the police reporter on Friday afterward, listening to the calls on the scanner, one after another, all of which boiled down to: Swarthy Man spotted on my street. Maybe he was walking with another Swarthy Man. These calls were especially prevalent around the east-side neighborhood in Fort Wayne that contained a technical college favored by South Asians. Who are swarthy, by and large.

The newspapers and websites are full of tell-us-your-story stories, already. There are some pretty good ones, but most are about Plucky People Who Never Gave Up Hope, because that’s what we like, I guess. I think of the stories I’d like to read, and I think of …maybe this WashPost piece on the summer before that September. My current editor worked there then. He was on the Chandra Levy story, for weeks on end. Spent two weeks in Modesto, Calif., knocking on doors. What an amazing indulgence that would never, ever happen today. I would like to read a story aimed at young people, telling them all the things we now take for granted that we owe to 9/11: Surveillance cameras everywhere. Taking off your shoes to go through airport security. That sort of thing.

I think I’ll try to tune out as much as possible this weekend. I don’t need to relive it, I don’t want to relive it. The local firefighters will hang a big flag from a fully extended ladder truck over the main avenue through town, and I’ll probably pass under it in the course of my usual Saturday grind. I’ll keep my eyes front. These guys, by and large, weren’t there. Some of them were still in diapers. I hate sentimentality. Everything changed that day, and most of it wasn’t good. I see no need to get emotional about it.

So. Happy weekend to you? Last weekend before we leave (still assuming we leave, which is not at all certain). Weather’s supposed to be nice. I hope yours is good.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events, Media | 62 Comments
 

Not so malicious.

Made some time to watch “Malice at the Palace,” a short (about an hour) documentary about the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. It was Nov. 19, 2003, and I remember it mainly because Alan had a job interview in Detroit that day, and they’d made him an offer. We were moving to Detroit. Then I came downstairs that Saturday morning, turned on the TV and found it looping on almost every channel.

We laughed and laughed – hey, it’s our new home! What a crazy place! And beyond the usual anniversary pieces, the tiresome Albomesque chin-scratching about Our Violent Society and Won’t Someone Think of the Children, I haven’t thought much about it since.

So I’m glad I watched. And I came away feeling bad for laughing. I hadn’t thought enough about what it meant to the players who were suspended, losing millions of dollars and being derailed for an entire season. And I certainly hadn’t given enough consideration to the jerkoff fans who started the thing, in particular the guy who threw the cup that set things off. His name is John Green and while he expressed regret, I can’t say I felt much of it coming through the screen.

The players, though – that was rough. Ron Artest, who appeared to have a few mental health issues. Jermaine O’Neal, all sweetness and regret. Stephen Jackson, still pissed. And so on.

Of the woefully unprepared security team, we will say little, other than to echo O’Neal’s contempt that one of the cops didn’t recognize Reggie Miller and came close to giving him a mace facial. True, he wasn’t dressed in his uniform – he had a broken finger – but he was in a very nice suit and trying to break things up; you’d think even a suburban cop would realize a 6-foot-7-inch black man in a suit with courtside access was not just another rioter.

(I once stumbled across a stray piece of video from a couple years back. Miller, who has moved on to sports broadcasting, was walking across a court in an empty arena, hours before a NCAA championship game was to start. A few balls are scattered around the floor. Miller is, again, in a nicely tailored suit. He picks up a ball, dribbles twice, shoots and drains it, from well into the three-point zone. Does it again, does it again, does it five times, each time nothing but net, outside the line. All of this is captured by a photographer he doesn’t see. After he’s shot all the balls within reach, he walks off to wherever he was headed. It’s such a pleasure to watch someone who is that good at what he does, doing what he does. And I’m not even a sports fan.)

The worst offenders, of course, are the media. The word “thug” comes up again and again in the coverage, while people in suits sit in front of cameras and opine straight out their asses. Having been an out-the-ass opiner myself, I know the job often requires you to have opinions about shit you know little to nothing about. Still. Man, I’m glad I don’t have that job anymore.

Anyway, it’s on Netflix, and well worth an hour of your time, sports fan or not.

And with that, we await the weekend. The sunrise was lovely this morning, but it’s gonna be a hot one. Stay cool.

Posted at 9:26 am in Detroit life, Media | 40 Comments
 

Oh, shut up.

The longer you watch the Olympics, the more the suckitude intrudes. Why is golf an Olympic sport? Why are zillionaire American pros permitted to play Olympic tennis? Why can’t any of these color commentators just shut the hell up once in a while?

And of course, why do idiots keep weighing in on Simone Biles’ “mental health?” I put it in quotes because the way some of them talk, you’d think she’s hallucinating demons perched on the uneven bars, when it seems pretty clear what is happening: She’s had enough, and she’s done, and she’s not going to risk breaking her neck for the entertainment of a bunch of fat-asses in Barcaloungers, and that’s that.

With all we’ve learned about women’s gymnastics in recent years, isn’t it time for us to shut up and listen to them? I think so. I also think it’s grimly hilarious that the people who are saying but-but-but-Kerri-Strug and but-but-but-the-Magnificent-Seven can now hear directly from Strug and, oh, Dominique Moceanu, and they and others who have been in Biles’ shoes are all saying, girl, you did the right thing. Also, Rachael Denhollander:

And many, many more.

Even Mitch Albom got up off his cash-stuffed bed and phoned in some piece of shit I won’t link to because it’s paywalled and also, it sucks. But here’s one passage:

“At the end of the day, we’re human, too,” she told the media. ”We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”

It’s hard to argue with that sentence. It’s just weird to hear it at the Olympics — in a sport that is defined by Olympic performances. It’d be one thing if Tom Brady stepped away from Game 15 of the regular season, saying he was burned out or needed a break. It’d be another thing if he did it after the first snap of the Super Bowl.

As many have pointed out: When Tom Brady has a bad day at work, he throws interceptions. When Simone Biles does, she can end up in a wheelchair.

Of course, only idiots still read Albom. Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins wrote one outstanding column about her and USA Gymnastics, may that outfit rot in hell, today. She had another really good one on the utter idiocy of the debates over what female athletes should wear in their performances two days ago.

But both of those are paywalled, and this one isn’t, by my old colleague Dave Jones, about the malign influence of one ambitious NBC executive on the Olympics and, by extension, every American who watched or competed:

The outgoing network showcased the athletes of the world and told us their stories. It could be Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila or Kenyan 1,500- and 5,000-meter specialist Kip Keino or Russian gymnast Olga Korbut or Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev or Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci – as well as the great American champions such as swimmer Mark Spitz, skaters Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, decathlete Bruce Jenner and gymnast Mary Lou Retton and diver Greg Louganis. Whatever and whoever the great stories were, ABC found them, regardless of nationality. Which is, after all the ideal of the Olympics.

Under Ebersol’s command at NBC, all that changed. Obsession with Americans and only Americans, to the point of almost jingoism, was the theme. Nobody else was worth personalizing. Foreigners were essentially made adversaries. The nightly medal count became paramount.

Ebersol was the man who gave us schlockmeister John Tesh as a preeminent event host, complete with his… what would you call them – illustrated lyrical narratives? – before the ’92 Barcelona Games women’s gymnastics sessions. If a Celine Dion ballad of the era could have been whipped for 90 seconds in a Cuisinart with a tablespoon of orchid nectar, it would have emerged as a John Tesh NBC Olympics essay.

And it’s a fun read, too.

Finally, Danny Raskin died this week. He was 102. You probably don’t know who that is. A columnist for the Jewish News here in Detroit for no fewer than 80 years, he wrote a restaurant/around town column called “Best of Everything.” This was the best obit, and the kicker is hilarious:

Scott Raskin said his father was wearing his customary suit and tie when they went to lunch at the Stage Deli in West Bloomfield shortly before the onset of COVID-19.

Mr. Raskin, then 101, spoke briefly to another diner there, a bent and aged-looking woman Scott Raskin guessed to be around 80.

Then “he turned to me,” he said, “and told me, ‘I dated her mother. She was a looker.'”

And with that? Another storm is coming, high winds, so better get this posted in case the power goes out.

Posted at 8:18 pm in Current events, Media | 33 Comments
 

Eve of the eve.

I think the party will probably be OK, but I’m still nervous. I keep repeating my mantra: It’s not the food, it’s the guest list. And we have a good one for this — excellent talkers, good storytellers. If the tenderloin hits the driveway, it’ll be another good story to tell, not a tragedy. We can always call for pizzas, as Alison Roman helpfully points out in one of her books.

But I still have a bit of cleaning and a lot of prep work to do.

You can do me a solid and hit this column of mine, if you like. It’s about (sigh) Mitch Albom. Yes, after I swore I was done picking on him. But this guy — he keeps finding new ways to chap my ass.

OK, then, it’s a rainy Friday and I for one am here for it. Something in my Midwestern nature doesn’t trust too many sunny days in a row, and we had a week of glorious ones, but it’s time to water the earth. As long as it quits by tomorrow evening, and we’re assured it will.

Happy weekend to all.

Posted at 8:07 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

Read that, not this.

You know what I’m doing this weekend? Having a dinner party. For TEN people. What was I thinking? This is madness, and I’m still trying to work out the menu. So far: Mixed grill of beef tenderloin, chicken and maybe some shrimp, a fancier-than-average potato salad, grilled vegetables and…whatever. Open to suggestions, must feed 10. I have yet to shop.

Which is to say, this blog may be scarce the rest of the week. However! Neil Steinberg has written a fantastic one about Eric Zorn, who is taking the buyout and leaving the Chicago Tribune in the wake of its purchase by Alden Capital. It’s long, but absolutely worth the time, and has some very fine lines therein, including:

The thing Eric and I do, comment intelligently in a well-written fashion, isn’t what’s driving the conversation anymore, not the way wild extremism does. Fanatics glitter in the spotlight while moderation creeps off to die alone in the shadows.

How does it feel? Like a brontosaurus, under a darkening sky, up to its knees in a bog, slowly chewing a big mouthful of decaying vegetation, gazing uncomprehendingly at the heaving ribs of a stegosaurus that has toppled over on its side and is breathing hard, eyes staring, fixed.

Something like that.

Maybe it hit me because I’ve been doing my basement-cleaning, running across old clips, and feeling very dinosaur-y myself.

Anyway, I have much work to do. Much, much work. Read Neil, and we’ll talk later.

Posted at 10:21 am in Media | 45 Comments
 

Looking back.

How many of you have had a mentor in your career? What did it do for you? I ask because I got through another box in my long-term basement-cleaning project Saturday, and ran across some stories I did way back in the day and had almost entirely forgotten.

One brought back memories of the last few years in Fort Wayne, when the paper was starting its ruinous cycle of cut-cut-cut, which eventually led to its humiliating and ignominious death. I’d heard there was a newspaper war going on in North Manchester, a small town two counties away. The owner of the long-standing weekly had sold it as part of his midlife crisis (he’d decided he really wanted to be a teacher), then was horrified to realize, too late, that the buyer was a fire-breathing Christian ignoramus, who used his new mouthpiece to run syndicated crap from the know-nothing right. (One editorial pooh-poohed the crazy idea of evolution, as I recall.) The former editor retaliated by starting his own weekly, and the war was on, all played out in a town of about 1,700 households, so it was shot through with small-town drama and amusing detail, and was fun to report and read.

And as I recall, it was a struggle to even get it published. The managing editor at the time hated Features (he came from Sports) and liked to offer sparkling criticisms like, “I don’t know why we spend so much ink covering the symphony, when tractor pulls get bigger crowds.” Anyway, there was a fair bit of why-are-we-doing-this-story and who-cares-about-this-stuff from the higher-ups, and it was only the latest in a long, long string of incidents that convinced me I’d way overstayed at that place, but the alternatives were not great either; the whole industry was contracting, and I had a husband and young child, mortgage and all the rest of it. And the market for stories like that one — quirky, offbeat, low-stakes features that are just good yarns — was drying up everywhere.

In looking for someone else to blame for my bad choices, it occurred to me that if I’d had a mentor earlier in my career, I might have made better ones. But I didn’t. When I asked for it, from editors I respected, I inevitably got some version of this: “You know, I have eight reporters to oversee, half of whom struggle with subject-verb agreement. You aren’t one of my problems. Keep doing what you’re doing.” At a bigger paper, it would have been easier, but in a contracting small one, it just couldn’t happen.

If this sounds like self-pity to you, it probably is. I don’t spend much time looking back, but digging through your old clips will do that to you.

I threw out that story, and all the rest of them. Saved the loose photographs. Shook off the resentment and watched that water go right on under the bridge.

Then I vacuumed and we went sailing in a nice breeze. So there’s that.

Just one piece of bloggage today, a lovely story for Pride and you LGBTQ folks: Looking for Uncle Allan, written by a former colleague of my Alan, at the Detroit News. It’s about being gay and finding out you had a gay ancestor:

I know Uncle Allan ditched Detroit for Manhattan lights as soon as he was able, sometime around 1912, but other than that, for all intents and purposes, I know almost nothing about him. When you’re the notorious family homosexual, poor at the end to boot, nobody collects and preserves your papers and treasures. They’re scattered, auctioned off, left in boxes on the porch for the Goodwill. Unknowing fingers pop photos out of frames for resale, smudging black and white portraits on their way to the trash. My parents, as it happened, played a small but significant role in this obliteration.

Mostly what I do know are stories from the war years — we’re talking World War II here — when a then-elderly Uncle Allan would blow into our little dairy farm north of Detroit a couple times a year to drink up all my parents’ liquor rations. Most of the family wouldn’t receive him. But Mom and Dad — young and, I suppose, a little daring — did, and he’d settle in for a week at a time. He was tall and garrulous, with a full head of bright white hair and a theatrical voice and manner my grandfather always called “fruity,” but which the women adored. At the slightest prompting, Uncle Allan would act out little bits, “mere snippets,” he called them, from the classics on Broadway, shows that had debuted some 30 years before.

A lovely read. And now, I must tackle Monday.

Posted at 9:21 am in Media | 49 Comments
 

And now we wait, but not too long.

I kept trying to carve out a few moments here and there today to write a blog, but then the Chauvin verdict news came in, and I thought: Wait until after, or before?

Before, I guess. New thread for verdict discussion.

In the meantime, three quick items:

If you need a break from bad news, we saw “Shiva Baby” on Amazon Prime video last night, and it was funny and cringe-y, and if you like that kind of thing, it’s that kind of thing. New York magazine called it “The Gradiate” meets “Uncut Gems,” and that’s right.

This story is five years old, but I just read it today, and it’s very funny: How Morrissey ruined Bill Cosby’s set on “The Tonight Show,” 30 years ago now.

Finally, since some of you are talking about Walter Mondale today, let it be known that for a tryout on MPR many years ago, I interviewed by Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Simultaneously! On one show! I didn’t get the job. If I had, I’d probably still be there, and my heart would be pounding right now.

Fifteen minutes.

Posted at 4:16 pm in Current events, Media, Movies | 39 Comments
 

Enjoy hell, asshole.

I learned of Rush Limbaugh fairly early in his career. WGL in Fort Wayne was one of the first stations to pick up his show when he went national. I believe I’d listened for five minutes when I said to myself, “This is a fat guy who cannot score with chicks.”

Nothing against fat guys! Decent fat guys score all the time. Malevolent ones whose lack of Clooneytude has metastasized into a deep hatred of women are the ones who can’t. And while he was able to lure four of them into matrimony, none stuck around for very long. The last two lasted 10 years apiece, but I’d be willing to bet that as his wealth grew, the women in his life maintained separate bedrooms. Like Melania Trump, because she couldn’t stand the sight of the bastard “liked to read.”

I mean, five minutes with that foghorn voice would make me stick a drill in my ear. Rush would eventually lose his own hearing, likely through opiate abuse, which suggests even his own body was sick of carrying his blackened soul around after a while.

So anyway, that’s where it started with me and Limbaugh: The sexism. The racism, the homophobia, the casual bigotry and contempt for anyone who he perceived to be a lib-rull, as he pronounced it — that would come later, but only about 10 minutes later. You gotta give him this: The man was who he was from the beginning, and never really changed. If he had a conscience, if he ever evolved on any issue, if he grew, if his heart softened or expanded in any way, if he discarded one position and took up another, I never saw it. Of course, I didn’t listen to him for very long and had to depend on what was reported about him.

But you didn’t have to listen to him to listen to him. In Indiana, I heard him coming out of my neighbor’s kitchen window, out of cars stopped at lights, in restaurants. God, the restaurants. Alan, when he was a reporter, did a story on the “Rush rooms,” i.e. dedicated rooms in restaurants where they played his show over speakers for those who maybe couldn’t listen at work, but could catch the first or second hour at lunchtime. People only talked during the breaks. The rest of the time these places were like church with the clinking of silverware. Some people came every day.

I have been a fan in my life, a superfan of some, but honestly, I cannot imagine being so wound up with any one entertainer, one writer, one broadcaster, that I would devote this sort of attention to them. But I was never in Rush Limbaugh’s target audience, the people who not only listened to his show, but subscribed to his newsletter, bought his horrible books (even a “history” series, for children), attended his speeches and book signings, all the while looking at the sky or their shoes as the man revealed himself: As a serial bridegroom, a sex tourist, a drug addict, an all-around piece of shit from head to toe, from day one to whenever his last breath rattled his larynx.

Ordinary people, those with decency, stumble in all those ways, too. There’s no crime in multiple divorces (although when they come with NDAs you might want to check yourself), in patronizing sex workers, even in addiction. But you’re supposed to learn from these things. They’re supposed to humble you. If they did, the listening audience never got a sense of it.

It all culminated with that ghastly moment at the last State of the Union, when the worst president in history arranged to have his sex-worker wife hang the nation’s highest civilian honor around his neck, cheapening it forever. By then we all knew cancer was going to take him home sooner rather than later. I viciously hoped he’d live long enough to see Trump lose, and he did, but he was happy to walk in the president’s slime trail to the very end. Game recognize game.

Even Lee Atwater repented on his death bed. I guess we’ll have to see whether Mrs. Limbaugh numero quatro tells us what his final words were.

Alan noted that when people Rush Limbaugh didn’t like died, he’d say they “assumed room temperature.” I guess his corpse has gotten there by now. And the world is an incrementally better place today for his loss.

(This being the third entry of the week, I’m going to take the next couple of days off, unless Trump kicks the bucket, too. Then we’ll open the champagne. See you Monday.)

Posted at 2:34 pm in Current events, Media | 113 Comments
 

I remember Larry.

Man, that was hard to watch, wasn’t it?

I’m speaking, of course, of the daylong testimony in the impeachment trial, culminating with the last hour or so, when the videos from inside the Capitol were shown. With the very compelling graphics that demonstrated just how close to the senators and representatives that the mob came, you’d think this would be a slam dunk for the Democrats, but as we all know, it won’t be.

Nevertheless, I found myself almost incandescent with fury watching, and I thought I’d already pegged the needle on this one. Worst of all was the police, the outnumbered, overtaxed, why-the-hell-didn’t-they-get-more-backup police, their panicked voices on the radios. For them to be terrorized by this gang of scraggly-beard, stunted-penis, mouth-breathing, misusing-who-and-whom-and-never-mind-less-and-fewer bunch of terra-cotta-toothed* shitheads? It’s enraging.

And they’re going to vote to acquit. Because they suck so, so hard.

Seriously, though, how could anyone watch that and not believe Trump was the architect of the whole thing? I was almost physically sickened by it, and yet, just a few days ago, the majority leader of the Michigan Senate called this whole event “a hoax.” I wonder if he’s nauseous today. My guess is not.

Then, at the end of the day, Larry Flynt died, and I was moved to tweet. This is the first of a long thread, so if you want the rest, click on it and read it on Twitter:

Obviously he was more than a colorful punchline. His porn could be incredibly gross, but he had a certain guilelessness that I always liked. And he was a legit First Amendment warrior. He made political satire safe for everyone. Gotta respect that.

I can’t wait to see how the defense answers what was laid out today. That’s a reason to get up in the morning.

* Original witticism credited to Brett Butler. Apologies for not doing so sooner.

Posted at 9:11 pm in Current events, Media | 27 Comments
 

Two terrible columnists.

I’ve been aware of Salena Zito’s columns for a while now. The Pennsylvania-based writer, previously a nobody, rocketed to stardom after her work in 2016, where she essentially predicted Trump’s election, and came up with the “literally, not seriously / seriously, not literally” line that was quoted so often in the shellshocked days afterward.

I didn’t read many of them, though. I leave that to people like Roy, who carries the duty through life like Jesus’ cross. Someone has to do it; I’m glad it’s him.

Others have pointed out the gaping holes in her work – the jes’ folks sources, salt-of-the-earth Real Americans who turn out to be GOP county officials; the oddly well-constructed and perfect quotes that she just happens to overhear at gas station mini-marts; and so on.

The Detroit News has been carrying her work, and by Thursday, when she most often runs, my week has begun to slow down and I can savor every word. By the time I get to this kicker, the italic line at the end of most columns, I’m usually testy, and this doesn’t help:

Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between.

OK, then.

I read the one that ran today. It’s about minor-league baseball, because of course it is: It’s the sport most beloved by Everyman and Everywoman. Zito wore some leather off her shoes and took herself out to the ballgame, where she wrote this memorable scene-setter:

Altoona, Pennsylvania — As the scent of fresh-cut grass delicately fills the air, so do the aromas of hot dogs and hamburgers coming from the grill on the lower deck. Just past right field, there is an amusement park where you can hear the slow clink, clink, clink of the roller coaster as the carriage climbs its ancient wood scaffoldings. The kitschy music found at any ballpark in America echoes throughout.

The pitcher has taken the mound; the catcher is crouched in position; and an eternity passes as glances and signs are exchanged. The pitcher winds up, stretching his left hand behind his back. The ball sails toward home at a smidge over 90 mph, and POP! It lands in the weathered glove of the catcher.

POP! The clichés have really loaded the bases here, haven’t they? The scent of fresh-cut grass, hot dogs and hamburgers. Oh, and you say there’s an amusement park nearby? And can’t forget the sound a pitch makes in the “weathered” glove of the catcher, which in my world is called a mitt, but OK whatever.

I used to tell writing students: Tell me what you see, but learn the difference between meaningless and meaningful detail. If you’re describing something we’ve all seen, strive to describe it in fresh vocabulary. The sights and sounds of the modest, minor-league ballpark are pretty familiar in Zito country; think of something to notice besides the way the grass and hot dogs smell.

But what do I know? Nobody’s asking to put me on CNN.

This passage, describing the people watching from outside the fence, just chapped my ass:

Today, despite the relentless sun and heat, locals steal a peek of the taxi team from the fences located hundreds of yards away, along the parking lots or near the amusement park.

They say they are here just to hear the crack of the bat, or to follow the signals, or to see the game they love, or maybe even to catch a ball knocked out of the park.

I’ll bet my next 50-percent-smaller paycheck that there is no way in goddamn hell she hoofed it out to the cheapest seats to talk to any of those people. True, “they say” is pretty ambiguous in that she doesn’t quote anyone directly, or use quote marks, but if a normal Altoonan said they were there to “hear the crack of a bat” (and aren’t they all aluminum these days?) or ** “see the game I love,” I don’t know Everyman and Everywoman the way Salena Zito does.

Finally, any column about minor-league ball in Pennsylvania that doesn’t shout out Jim Brockmire? I have no use for.

Then there’s Gary Abernathy, the other Luckiest Man in Journalism, whose podunk newspaper’s endorsement of Trump in 2016 won him a contributor’s seat in the Washington goddamn Post, tries his Everyman best to sneer at the Lincoln Project, and ends with this amazing paragraph:

Among Never Trumpers are consultants, officials and pundits who have long been at the center of the Republican world, respected by conservatives who shared their vision and worked to achieve their common goals. But many of them were always somewhat misled, mistaking respect for love. They tell themselves now that Trump has corrupted the GOP. In fact, the GOP has long been the party it is today, just waiting for Trump to come along. That’s the hardest truth of all for the Never Trumpers to accept.

Ooooo-kay then!

I’m out at the tail end of an amazingly stressful week. I’ll debrief you all on the election here – an 18-hour day for yours truly, but a rewarding one – after the weekend. In the meantime, I will ask you: Note that the Republicans are not hesitating to use an unmedicated manic-depressive as a weapon against Joe Biden.

It’s only August! I can’t wait for the October surprise.

** Smarter sports fans have informed me pros don’t use aluminum bats. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Posted at 3:46 pm in Current events, Media | 125 Comments