An earlier Lent.

Well, at least I know now why I was feeling so listless on Sunday. I woke up a few hours later with a mild fever, and spent the next 24 hours feeling thisclose to barfing and swinging between that little fever and waking up in a sweaty tangle of sheets.

I’m better today, but still semi-queasy. It’s paçzki day in Detroit, and I haven’t felt even a whiff of a craving.

Paçzki are, of course, the jelly donuts that Polish folks around here — and everybody else, for that matter — eat on Shrove Tuesday. And I don’t care how many worthless stories are written about them every year, they’re fucking jelly donuts, and you can buy them at Dunkin’ all year long. So I’ll start a Lenten deprivation a little early.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow. I was “at work” Monday and today, but in a diminished fashion. But here I am, getting ready to watch the State of the City address, even though I’d rather watch almost anything else.

(Watching it now. Yep, anything else. No offense to the mayor, it’s just that these things are all the same.)

So, summing up my complaints in a bumper sticker? It just hasn’t been my year. Fortunately, it’s still young. And as my husband points out, it’s not like I have cancer or nothin’. All true.

Man, though, that Michael Jackson documentary? Chilling. Awful. Even worse is the braying from the hashtag-innocent crowd, who are simply rabid. And by rabid, I mean “diseased and crazed.” “There’s no evidence!” they cry. As though direct testimony, voluminous photos, faxes and other ephemera and classic behavior patterns somehow aren’t evidence. I think the squicky feeling I got watching it was not just my brewing stomach bug, but the feeling of…complicity, somehow. How easily the world swallowed that bullshit about the real-life Peter Pan who simply enjoyed the company of children, because he never had a proper childhood himself. Seeing shot after shot of MJ running from a hotel to a limousine, screaming fans an arm’s length away, while a little kid runs a few feet ahead of him — it was so familiar. How often did we see that in the ’80s and ’90s?

Vile.

The governor unveiled her budget proposal today, too. This happens every year. It’s usually big news when a new gov is doing it for the first time, because there are always tricks up the ol’ sleeve. Without going into the details, which aren’t all that interesting to anyone who doesn’t live there, be advised there’s a big per-gallon gas tax on the table, because our roads are in Third World condition and getting worse. There’s simply no way to finance what it would take to get them to fair — fair! — condition without more revenue. You can already see how the rest of this debate is going to go: Find the waste! No new taxes! As though $2.2 billion dollars, per year, is just sitting around, going to waste. For professional reasons, I can’t say much more, but still: Please.

For once, though, prominent conservatives are saying, essentially, we gotta do it. And if you think there’s so much waste in the system, point it out. I doubt the hashtag warriors will get far this year. But they’ll make her pay in four years. More will be revealed.

So, any bloggage? Is there anything new on the Trump Outrage beat? Well, it’s Tuesday. What do you think?

Time to go see how Ray Donovan’s going to get out of his latest fix. I’m enjoying Showtime for as long as I have it – I think it’ll expire with Kate’s graduation – and it beats Jacko’s abuse narrative.

Carry on, all. It’s Wednesday.

Posted at 8:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments
 

Blustery day, eh?

I can feel the wind coming in gusts that seem to have lost at least some of their earlier fury, but we’re by no means done with this bluster yet. And with a computer that no longer has a functional battery, it seems I better get moving on this thing unless I want to be

::zzt. blink::

Kidding. We’re now at 20K without power in southeast Michigan, and we could easily be the next. Alan already pushed a limb off a line in the back yard, and the big oak back there had a bad year. For now? Soldier on!

I’m looking forward to the week, the last of the month and — I devoutly hope — a fairly quiet one. I spent much of last week house/dogsitting for vacationing friends, and I’m happy to be back in my own bed, where there are only three pillows — one for the two heads that lay there, and one for me to hug, because I’m a pillow-hugger and have been for years.

By contrast, the bed in my friend’s house — king-sized, excellent firm mattress and otherwise a very nice place to sleep — has 10 pillows. Ten! I counted them. There’s a base layer of three, three more on top of that, another three, and then a smaller decorative one that sits in front of the whole crew, like a drum major.

“I’m the pillow queen,” my friend said when I mentioned this. We were in the company of other affluent women of the same demographic, and I learned that over-pillowing is definitely a Thing among them. I knew it was with hotels; whenever we stay in one, Alan bats them away like a peevish bear, growling too many fuckin’ pillows. I select my hugger from the pile on the floor, and we go to bed.

I wonder if over-pillowing is a way to build a bulwark against your spouse, even in a loving relationship. Even in a big bed, some people will always claim your part of it, but it’s way harder to do when there’s a dyke of pillows keeping you in your lane, so to speak.

I really don’t know. But three suits our queen-size just fine.

And with that, I need to go start a pot of chili. Back in a minute.

I’m back! Yes, that was fast. I’ve found that chili goes better in our house if I handle the initial meat-browning, onion-chopping, can-opening assembly chores, etc., and then leave the seasoning to Alan, who, like many men, has complicated opinions on various chili seasonings that I do not share.

So, anyway. Been thinking about the Robert Kraft case this weekend, and what I said earlier about trafficking stories. If the facts the police have presented so far hold up, this is about as clear-cut a case as you could find — young women from another country compelled to sexually service an endless line of men. I was struck by the detail that did them in: A health inspector noted suitcases and bedding, an unusual amount of food for a workplace that its employees would leave behind at the end of the day.

It so happens that was one thing that a trafficking expert — a real trafficking expert, not the self-elevated ones you hear so much from these days — said should be a tipoff when I wrote about this subject a while back. She mentioned it in the context of nail salons, not storefront rub parlors, but one thing you learn when you start investigating human trafficking is this: For many people, even advocates, all they want to talk about is sex trafficking, mainly because that’s what the media, especially the electronic media, talks about. But labor trafficking is very real, too. It’s much harder to illustrate during a sweeps-month “investigation.” You can’t use shadowy silhouettes of a young woman leaning into a car, or perhaps weeping into her hands while rolls of money pile up on the bed behind her.

That’s one reason I regard so much of this issue with suspicion. So little data, so much tape over mouths. Cheesy titillation rubs me the wrong way.

Human trafficking has only been part of UCR data — that’s Uniform Crime Reporting, for your civilians — since 2013. We are still groping in the dark toward a fuller understanding of it.

As for why a billionaire would patronize a storefront rub parlor in Florida, when he could presumably order up a Miss America runner-up in a thong to come directly to his hotel suite? You’d have to ask him. But it’s been my experience that the richer a man is, the more likely he is to be cheap in truly cringeworthy ways:

In the case of the Orchids of Asia parlor in Jupiter, where services were listed for $59 for half an hour or $79 for an hour, an arrest affidavit for the women managing the spa detailed a similar investigative approach. Police watched men going into the spa for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

OK, a little bloggage:

My friends had a copy of Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” in the house, and I read a little of it. It was pretty great and amazingly well-written. No ghost is credited, and Obama does acknowledge collaborators, so I can’t say how much of it is her own prose style. But it’s a much more pleasant read than I expected. Neil Steinberg agrees:

“Becoming” is perfect for our perilous national moment, reminding us of when our country had a thoughtful, decent man as president. Donald Trump emerges like a monster in a horror movie, glimpsed first in flashes far off, then rearing up behind us. Obama casts him as the latest in a line of bullies she’s battled.

“Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people,” she writes.

Have you ever heard it put so well?

Speaking of reading books, this was a sobering read. I think I’m going to take a certain amount of it to heart. I still love Twitter, like/loathe aspects of Facebook and enjoy being up on things, but I really need to get a handle on my book reading again. It starts with breaking up with one’s phone, or at least renegotiating the terms of the relationship.

We’re having wind downstate, but upstate — as in, northern Michigan and the UP — they’re having a goddamn blizzard. The photos piling up in my social media feeds are one reason I can’t quite quit Twitter just yet.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 5:29 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 86 Comments
 

Returned.

Well, we’re back. We’ve been back since Monday night, but as so often happens when you take time off, work falls on your head the minute you walk back through the door.

Also, laundry. Also, snow and ice and more snow.

So now there’s a moment, and here I am. Back! We went here:

That’s an architectural detail outside the Dakota, John Lennon’s old apartment building on Central Park West, in New York. This was a spur-of-the-moment trip, which we threw together at the last minute and lucked into, with a good Airbnb, a decent flight and four days away from Detroit. It was cold, but not as cold as here. We wandered here and there, shopped a little, and did the two NYC museums I’d somehow not seen — MoMA and the Whitney. We went to this show at the Whitney:

The permanent collection was more impressive. With Warhol, you see one, you’ve seen …most of them, anyway.

The true revelation of the trip came Friday night, when we went to the cabaret space at the Public Theater to see Salty Brine, a performer whose Living Record Collection is a series of shows that mash together contemporary albums with other stories. We saw “And If You Listen Very Hard,” a combination of personal stories, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and “Led Zeppelin IV.”

It was truly one of the most original, entertaining, funny, poignant and moving nights at the theater I’ve had in years, probably because it was so unexpected. Alan found the listing in Time Out, the seats were dirt cheap ($20), and we got the last ones. Write down the name; you don’t want to miss it if you can.

Otherwise, it was just walking and the subway and eating and all that. It’s been a while since I’ve been to New York; I should go more often.

And now we’re back, with the snow and ice and misery of mid-to-late winter. Good to keep up with all your stories via the comments.

As I continue to cough. Yes. It’s fully tuberculosis now, I figure. So I’m heading to bed.

Here’s a column I wrote. Read it. Traffic is important.

I’ll try to be back Friday. Thanks for holding the place up in my absence.

Posted at 9:49 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Slow down, short month.

Oy, what a week. Can February be a little less ridiculous, please? I hope so, anyway. An extraordinarily busy week ended it all, complicated by the cold.

How did it go? The Henry Ford story went viral and provoked a boneheaded response by the city administration, which culminated in a story in the New York Times, but they included a link back to Deadline Detroit, so hey — win-win.

A former owner of one of Detroit’s two most-beloved coney islands died, so that was a quick-turn obit. Then the deep, deep cold settled in for a two-day stay, and my friend Dustin got CO poisoning from the furnace in his apartment. So we had an emergency houseguest Thursday night. (That’s why no blog Friday.) And on Friday night I helped host a fundraiser with about 200 people, for a 501(c)3 I’m involved with. It was a big success, but with this cold — my cold, not the free-floating cold, although it was pretty nippy that night, too — still hanging around, I was croaking like …something that croaks by Saturday morning, which required a bloody-mary debrief on how the night went.

We stayed in Saturday night. For which I am grateful.

The fundraiser was at a local yacht club. Here’s the last picture I took from the back deck before the guests arrived. You get a sense of the temperature, I expect:

But now it is Sunday, and a relatively normal week lies ahead, which will end with a long-weekend getaway for the Derringers, sorely needed. I hope the news behaves itself.

Random notes: Watched “BlackkKlansman” Saturday night, and hated it. Hated hated HATED it. It was vintage Spike Lee: Heavy-handed, too long, scenes that go on and on and on, the whole nine. Did it have its pleasures? Sure: Denzel’s son John David Washington is fine, and Adam Driver is always worth your time. One of the too-long scenes was a dance montage to Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose’s “Too Late to Turn Back Now,” so at least the music was good. But by the time the fourth or fifth white racist said something like, “One of these days we’ll elect a president who thinks like we do” or “America needs to be great again,” I’d had enough. I turned it off with 15 minutes left. It still took two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I can’t tell whether Spike Lee beats his audience with a Message Stick because he doesn’t trust us to get it, or if he just hates us. I’m going with the latter.

Is there a surge in human trafficking at the Super Bowl, as we hear over and over and over at this time of year? In a word? No.

As for Ralph Northam, I have nothing to say. I checked Twitter during a bathroom break Friday night, when the story was breaking, and thought: I have no more room in my brain, sorry. But for now? I’ll just say that Pam Northam now joins the unhappy ranks of Wives Who Stand in the Background While Their Husbands Self-Immolate.

Also, medical schools have yearbooks? Why?

OK, then. The week awaits, but before that, the Super Bowl. Go Rams.

Posted at 5:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments
 

At least no trains and tunnels.

I envy those of you who have vivid dreams, funny dreams, the kind with truly David Lynch-ian symbolism and imagery. I hardly ever remember my dreams, and when I do, they involve one of two things, and sometimes both: Houses and water.

In dream symbolism, these are primary colors, no-brainers, the sort of thing Sigmund Freud would delegate to the interns. Houses are oneself, water is…well, it’s usually emotions, but it’s also anything you might find in poetry. I never wake up groggy and think, “What did that mean?” I know as soon as I wake up.

When I was pregnant, I had a recurrent dream of a koi pond. I could see the brightly colored fish moving around just under the surface, with one occasionally breaking the surface long enough for me to catch a glimpse, then diving down again. It was so obvious. I was very disappointed in my unimaginative subconscious.

Here’s my typical house dream: I am living in one, and one day I open an interior door and find…a previously unknown room. Which is actually part of a whole warren of undiscovered rooms, in a variety of states of repair, but usually good, but maybe with outdated decor. In the end, I realize that my house is far bigger than I knew.

Then I wake up.

I am large, I contain multitudes — of rooms.

How was your weekend? I put a couple of 2018 things behind me, and now truly feel ready for the new year. I was going to have a schvitz, but opted to clean a bathroom instead. One makes me feel as good as the other, and the schvitz will be there next weekend, whereas my bathroom needed cleaning now.

The auto show begins tomorrow — it’s already begun, actually — and that means the Charity Preview is Friday, and that means I have to spend a few days thinking about whether it’s OK that my jewelry is silver and my clutch, sorta gold. Weigh in, if you like.

Bloggage: This is a terrible story that will make you hate the pharmaceutical industry even more than you do already:

In the meantime, a portion of the more than 7 million diabetic Americans who take insulin are stuck with debilitating costs. Though most don’t pay the full list price for insulin because of insurance coverage and other rebates, some do, especially those who are uninsured, underinsured or facing a coverage gap through Medicare. “The most vulnerable patients are subsidizing the system,” William Cefalu, the chief scientific, medical and mission officer of the American Diabetes Association, told a Senate committee in May.

At the same hearing, a father from Maine told senators that a 90-day prescription for just one of his son’s insulins would cost him $1,489.46. That’s with his high-deductible insurance. He testified that he has taken to buying the same three-month supply from a Canadian pharmacy for about $300 plus $50 in shipping. (It’s technically illegal to import medication from other countries, but the Food and Drug Administration generally doesn’t prosecute individuals if it’s a short-term supply for personal use.) He is not alone in his dilemma: The website GoFundMe has thousands of posts with people pleading for help to pay for insulin.

This stupid country. A friend just got back to the U.S. after an extended stay in France. He’d needed an ultrasound while he was there, and had to pay out of pocket. “But it’s so much money!” the clinician fretted. Never mind that, he said; he’d pay. The bill was $60. For an $800 procedure in the U.S.

Couch-based entertainment update: Now watching “Killing Eve” (excellent), just finished “Leave No Trace,” which is merely heartbreaking.

Hello 2019, hello auto show. Hello, week. Hope yours is good.

Posted at 9:33 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol', Television | 91 Comments
 

Here for the avocados.

Interesting discussion of Used-To-Be-ism, aka Rose-Colored Glasses Syndrome, in the comments the other day. It coincided with something I’ve been trying to do lately, in the current chaos: Notice, actively noting things that are better today than they were in the past.

It’s a way to stay sane, to take the long view, to remember all that arc-of-history stuff. The bright side is hard to find these days; the least we can do is notice…

Kinder, nicer young people. I’ve never gotten all the lazy-ass derision aimed at millennials. They’re fine people, and I don’t say that because I raised one. I say that because it’s true, and they got it, in large part, from the greater culture, and who knows how that happened? Preschool teachers + an admirable president + something in the air? I can’t say. All I know is, they’re fine. I don’t worry about them.

It’s easier to be different. Let wingnuts laugh at trans people and wring their hands about silly things like nonbinary people who want to be referred to by plural pronouns. Just let them. This will settle out with time. In the meantime, and at the end of it, it’ll be a little easier to be something other than, what’s the word? Basic.

Entertainment of all kinds? So plentiful. You can basically spend all day watching Netflix or listening to all the recorded music in the world. Avoid this behavior, however.

Food systems. Midwesterners: How old were you when you saw your first avocado? Yeah, I thought so. Produce used to be lettuce, onions, pink tomatoes and potatoes. No different kinds of potatoes, just potatoes. In the last months I’ve bought fennel, three kinds of citrus, fresh greens of all kinds…I can’t total it all up. And yes, avocados. Which are in season, and so cheap.

Better…things. One of my bosses, who as a young man seemingly held every low-level job in creation, revealed the other day he used to drive a route for a linen supply house. One of the things he delivered was those cloth towels on rolls, that you used to dry your hands in public restrooms. You know, the kind you pulled down from a box on the wall? The used part was allegedly taken up by the box at the other end of the loop, but it rarely did, and you mostly ended up using the same damp section everyone else used. Well, today I used a restroom, and waved my hand in front of an electric eye, which dispensed a perfectly sized portion of paper towel. Yes, I am speaking of the Miracle of the Paper Towel.

In other words, we’ve ruined the planet, but at least we have 69-cent avocados, pink grapefruit and paper towels. I’m watching a terrible movie from 1972 on my flat-screen TV, which features naked witches with big boobs. LIFE IS GOOD, DAMMIT.

And as Alex pointed out, throwing your mattress away along the side of the road is terribly frowned upon.

Things I wish were more frowned upon: A guy in the elevator the other day was doing business on his phone. On speaker. It was a real-estate deal, and he’d offered $4 million, but another bidder was offering $6 million. “I can go to six, if you give me a year,” he told the guy on the other end. “Work with me.” Then they got disconnected. There’s a special place in heck for people like that. I mean, on speaker?

I have really gone off the rails tonight, haven’t I? Must be this witch movie on Amazon. Skip to the bloggage, then.

I’ve never met Tommy Tomlinson, but he’s a Facebook friend, and married to a former co-worker of mine. This is a powerful essay on what it’s like to be obese all your life, an excerpt from a coming memoir.

After the president claimed human traffickers have “bigger, stronger, and faster vehicles than our police have,” I can’t lie: I lusted for a Mexican rocket car.

The president came south today, and came dressed for battle. Robin Givhan explains.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 9:15 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 37 Comments
 

Deleting in the underwear drawer.

No big themes emerging as I sit down to wrap up the weekend, so accept this mixed grill:

Lately my social media feeds are showing me ads for undies — all sorts of undies, almost all of which I will never buy, because I think $20 for a pair of plain old panties is highway robbery. I think I mentioned the phenom of Startup Underwear here a while back, but that’s not why I bring it up.

It’s because the short video clips included in these ads frequently include un-models, i.e., normal-looking women with pregnancy stretch marks, fat asses and similar real-women bodies, and please note that I didn’t describe the above as “figure flaws.” Apparently women respond well to advertising that shows clothing on women’s bodies they actually identify with.

As part of my Delete campaign, I’ve been going through closets and looking for crap to pitch. I found a strapless/backless bra with still-firm elastic that doesn’t fit anymore, but might fit Kate, so I offered it to her. “It’s not something you’ll wear every day, but when you need it, you’ll want it,” I said. As I passed it over, I noticed the label: Victoria’s Secret. I remembered I bought it in…Fort Wayne, probably at Glenbrook Mall. Glenbrook was Da Place back then, but it’s a shadow of its former self. Also, malls in general are shadows of their former selves. And Victoria’s Secret, with its “fashion shows” featuring models with nine-foot-long legs, tight abs and gigantic fake breasts, is now a low-quality joke, mainly coveted by middle schoolers who still want PINK emblazoned across their butts. How the wheel, it do turn.

We took the holidays to the curb Sunday. It was Epiphany, a few days later than we usually do the chore. For a person like me, very little feels better than sweeping up that giant pile of pine needles and saying sayonara, tannenbaum. Kate said it makes her sad to not smell the tree in the house anymore, so there goes my scheme for a bare-branch tree next year, but oh well.

If I’m committed to Delete, deleting the holiday decorations feels pretty damn consequential, even if they’re just going back to the basement. A fellow blogger once observed that taking out the tree on New Year’s Day is like getting a room added to your house. Nothing to do now but wait for spring, and in the meantime, read some books and watch Netflix.

On that front: Watched “First Reformed” on Saturday, which I do not recommend to the Rev. Jeff, as it will probably make him want to stick his head in the oven. I liked it, Alan didn’t. Also watching the second season of “Atlanta,” which is spectacular. I’m reading “The Real Lolita” and “Dead Girls,” both of which I received for Christmas, both good so far. I also got the Sister Pie cookbook, a local bakery’s, which looks promising.

Finally, everybody’s talking about Rashida Tlaib’s comments about the president last week. You may want to see what she wrote two years ago, after she disrupted then-candidate Trump’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club. It was a planned protest that involved more than 20 people, who bought tickets, spread out in the room and, one after another, rose to yell at him, and then were frog-marched out of the place. In other words, she’s been after this motherfucker for a while. Good background to know.

With that, I bid you and the holiday season adieu, and look ahead to deleting more stuff.

Posted at 8:25 pm in Current events, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Peace, quiet and books.

Happy new year. I hope your 1/1/19 was peaceful and not too hungover. Our neighborhood resounded with gunfire, a Detroit tradition that seems to get worse every year. Yesterday was trash day, and the recycling is always the last to be collected, so the bin was still at the curb, looking ugly. I went down to pick it up shortly after we got home, around midnight-oh-five. Alan told me not to, but I did it anyway, because I like to live dangerously. Cover me, babe, I’m going for the recycling bin.

Meanwhile, in Washington:

Trump used the first day of 2019 to insult a retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan as a dumb loudmouth, sing the praises of an ultranationalist former aide and tell America to “ENJOY THE RIDE.”

That’s a teaser from the home page of the Washington Post. I’m afraid to click. So I won’t. OK, so I will. The self-proclaimed world’s greatest negotiator has invited congressional leaders for a briefing on border security, which I’m sure will be followed by this negotiation tweet: GIVE ME WALL.

But we’ll see that soon enough. Let’s talk…libraries, shall we?

I heard a little of “This American Life” on Sunday; the show was about libraries, and the chapter I heard was about a woman whose mother would take the whole family to the library every day for a year when she was little. It wasn’t until years later that she realized they’d been homeless, and the daily library trip was to give the family they were crashing with a break. She talked about the great children’s librarians who accommodated them and read to them and never made them feel anything but welcome.

It set my mind spinning back to when Kate was young, and I was trying to make it work with her in limited child care, which meant I dropped her at the sitter after lunch. The mornings are good for little kids, but the hours can be very long, and you’re always looking for something to fill them. We’d often go to the library, for story time, or just for a change of scenery from the house. The Allen County Public Library is a goddamn miracle, an institution worthy of a community far larger but somehow in this mid-size city (the county, really). The community loved it fiercely, with a few sourpuss exceptions, and for the most part, the library loved it back. There were programs for pretty much everyone, and the children’s room was particularly great.

I remember all the fantastic librarians who made us, and everybody else, feel welcome. The supervisor was a lesbian, Miss Mary (I think), who had a couple kids of her own. One of her deputies, Miss Beth, often ran story time and was hilarious. I was about as lucky as a mother of a young child could be, but when I think back on those years, I know how much I relied on others to help carry the load, and the library was a big part of it. It was one place in Fort Wayne where I felt absolutely welcome.

Here in Detroit, we don’t have a county-wide library system, and each city and suburb does its best. In Huntington Woods, they’ve instituted a drag queen story hour, which honestly sounds hilarious and something I would have enjoyed with a toddler. But as you can imagine? Some people object:

Warriors for Christ — which describes itself on its website as a pre-denominational ministry modeled after “the 1st century church that Jesus founded (which is not the Catholic Church)” — plans to meet at the library at 3 p.m. on Jan. 26 for prayer. This protest coincides with a scheduled Drag Queen Story Time, whose theme is “I Like Me Just the Way I Am!,” according to a Facebook event page.

The ministry has started its own Facebook event page, Rebuke Drag Queen Story, to get people to attend the protest.

Another group, Mass Resistance, has previously said it will be protesting the event.

And Rod Dreher, the conservative writer whose focus has dwindled down to Pedophile Priests and the Trans Menace, is also pitching a snit over it on his blog:

Why not Leather Daddy Story Hour? If you accept Drag Queen Story Hour, why not? What is the limiting principle? I’m not trolling; I’m asking seriously.

I guess the limiting principle would be whether parents are willing to take their children to that story hour. I’d probably have opted out of that one, but drag queens? What’s the harm? Kids see very tall women with too much makeup, playing a role. Big deal. And if they learn that people come in all shapes, sizes and …other differentiating factors, so much the better.

OK, then, a little bloggage:

The NYT podcast, The Daily, spent the holiday interregnum rerunning some of the year’s better pieces. This edition was a particularly good one, a deep look at how POTUS got rich. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to tell you that the origin story he peddled on the campaign trail — my dad gave me a loan, I paid it back with interest, and spun it into the billions I have today — is, um, a lie.

And this story, about the possibilities of “deepfake” videos, is deeply disturbing. Wait until the Russians start deploying it.

But I don’t want to bum you out as the year begins. Let’s go get it.

Posted at 8:10 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 35 Comments
 

The whirl.

Mercy, you folks must wonder what’s become of me. Honestly, it’s been a week. Nothing bad, but just constant running/driving/cooking/celebrating, to the point I’ve looked longingly at the calendar from time to time and longed for mid-January.

And then, when it finally arrives, I’ll be thinking, that was such a nice Christmas, wasn’t it? Because contradiction, thy name is Nance.

And it was a nice Christmas. If I’m feeling a little carb-bloated, well, I have no one to blame but myself. I got everything I wanted and more. We had a nice celebration here and in Columbus. Kate’s boyfriend came for the holiday — he’s an international student, and with Michigan’s short break, there was no sense in traveling all the way to Santiago for just a few days. We watched “Die Hard” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” We ate tamales on the Eve and had hot chocolate in my old Dutch double-walled milk warmer. Everything was fine.

Then, the next day? BACK TO WORK, GUYS. Although it’s not the usual grind — one of my jobs is dark this week, so it’s still a pretty leisurely pace. Time to think about what happens in January, plan for the year ahead, to the extent it’s possible.

The one-word resolution for 2019: Delete. Delete crap apps from the devices, delete all games, delete as much b.s. as possible from daily life.

We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve been following the comments these past few days, and I’m so grateful to have traveled to Paris with Deborah, to have celebrated with all of you, one way or another. (But especially to have gone to Paris. I mean, I’m sure Chicago was fine, but…) And I’m grateful to have been alive in this remarkable American moment, to watch the president of the United States ask a 7-year-old if she still believed in Santa Claus.

Because man, you couldn’t make that shit up, could you.

A few updates before I turn this over to you guys for the long New Year’s weekend:

Remember Ann, the Mrs. Claus I wrote about for the Santa-school story? She performed for a special audience just before the holidays:

She said she asked Bill if he’d been a good boy, but he didn’t hear her.

And Jerusalem Santa, in the same story? He’s in the WashPost now.

This was depressing, but in a grim-purpose sort of way: What it’s like to work for a not-particularly-exciting-or-prestigious daily newspaper in the age of fake news. A good read.

And with that, I wish you a happy new year, and I’ll see you all in 2019.

Posted at 8:29 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 81 Comments
 

Funeral for a friend.

Jeez, what a sucktastic Saturday. I spent much of it traveling to, attending and returning from a funeral. The husband of my former editor at Bridge (the one I still speak to and like) died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. At 37. Everyone was in shock, and the funeral home was filled to capacity with very sad people.

Derek still seemed flattened, and I expect he will be for some time. The two of them made one of those unlikely pairs that somehow works perfectly — the curmudgeon and the happy sprite, with Derek, the journalist, playing the curmudgeon role. The good news is, he has lots of people holding him up, many of whom wore bow ties to the service, in tribute to the deceased, Jesse, who wore them often.

Anyway, it got me thinking.

I found this Twitter thread last week. Someone dug up Ross Douthat’s college writings and found, whaddaya know, he hasn’t really changed since 1998. He was a smug little shit then, and remains one today. I was taken by the one headlined, “The Cross and the Triangle,” sniffing over the appointment of a lesbian to an associate-minister position at Memorial Church, which I gather is an important one at Harvard. Young Ross was “opposed to homosexual conduct,” like his church and, he points out, many others. Damn liberals.

It was a reminder that roughly 20 years ago was an utterly different era in how we think about gay people in this country. One of the last funerals for a gay person I attended was during the AIDS era, when it was common for health-care professionals and even morticians to refuse their business. My friend Paul had to find a new dentist. I expect some of the funeral directors would have preferred ditch burials, maybe preceded by an open burn, like for zombies.

But of course AIDS was, paradoxically, also one of the things that started to change our thinking. I once asked one of my gay male friends, who came of age in the ’70s, how many sex partners he’d had in his lifetime. First we had to determine what constituted sex, and settled on any activity where one or both parties reached orgasm, since body fluids were what was causing the plague. He had to estimate. It was a big number. A big, big number, and fairly common for that era, at least for men. A few years later, he was the one in the casket, having been lovingly cared for through a horrible illness by a partner he considered a husband. It was common at the time to consider gay men infantile pleasure-seekers, incapable of true romantic connection with another human being. (This, even though every city and town, large and small, had its Fred and Howard or Bob and Steve, two “roommates” who’ve shared a house for decades and always decorate it so nicely at the holidays and invite all the auxiliary ladies to use it for their fundraisers. I knew one of these guys back in Columbus; they had a custom drape to hang over the mural of semi-nude Roman centurions lounging around in leather harnesses, etc., when the auxiliaries came through.) Seeing how they mourned their dead put that one to rest.

Anyway, back to the funeral. The woman who led the service was a lesbian, and her partner/wife was one of the eulogists, speaking of their “gayborhood,” and their “framily.” I’m so happy that people don’t have to live lies anymore, to be “confirmed bachelors” but actual husbands to other husbands, wives to wives. Life goes better when you have someone you love sleeping next to you every night, drinking coffee with you in the morning, and you don’t have to hide it.

I expect I’m now at the age when the funerals will come more often. We had a “celebration of life” last summer. Saturday was a celebration of life, too, only no one was feeling particularly celebratory.

Sigh.

Otherwise? I’ve got a big day of writing ahead, so I should wrap. A little bloggage:

Thanks to LAMary for this, a collection of social-media shots from the White House staff holiday party. Folks, I’m worried about Tiffany. Very, very worried. She doesn’t look well.

If you aren’t one of those who caught this charming story about an unlikely friendship between Charles Barkley and Lin Wang, enjoy it now. Who is Lin Wang? That’s what makes the friendship unlikely.

On to my friend’s arts-grant application. Happy start-of-the-week, all.

Posted at 11:41 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments