Sweating gel.

A sweaty weekend. By my reckoning, I sweated through to the ends of my hair about five times over the weekend — a serious Saturday workout, then a bike ride in the early-evening heat, then cleaning the house, the usual — and now, on Sunday, my hair is basically held in place with dried sweat and truth be told, it’s not a terrible look. Maybe these hack-your-biome people are on to something. Once upon a time, it would be a disaster; I’ve always been a little on the oily side, but in my dessicated-crone years, I seem to have reached an equilibrium.

(I hasten to add that I still showered a couple times over the weekend. But I didn’t get my hair wet, because the last thing you want to do on a sweaty weekend is blow hot air on your head.)

And it was a decent weekend, hot, and a little upended. I had plans to do a river swim with a friend today, but we cancelled because police were looking for a drowning victim right where we usually go. Perils of summer, I guess, along with things like the blackout in New York.

What a blast that must have been, with Broadway casts singing in the streets and everybody jolly and helpful. I get the feeling people elsewhere are somehow disappointed when New York fails to disintegrate into a zombie-apocalypse scenario under such conditions, and instead rises to the occasion with grace, humor and generosity. When a water main broke in 1999 in Fort Wayne, cutting off water to a big chunk of the city, there was pushing and shoving in the bottled-water aisles at the grocery stores. And service was restored in just a few hours. Afterward, the tension was chalked up to “concerns about Y2K,” but if I was facing a tense situation, I know where I’d rather be.

Which brings us to the story of the weekend, wherein the president of the United States reveals himself, yet again, to be a racist, and half the nation gapes, appalled, and the other half essentially yawns, shrugs and says, “Portfolio’s doing pretty great. Nobody’s perfect.”

This stupid country. We are so deep into our Good Germans phase we’re soaking in it, and who cares? You do, I do, lots of people do, but not enough.

I want to say one last thing about Jeffrey Epstein, at least until I say the next thing: There’s an idea going around, that if you try to distinguish between “pedophilia” and what Epstein apparently has, i.e. “ephebophilia,” i.e., attraction to post-pubescent adolescents, that this is the hallmark of a creep. I get it, I really do, but I think it’s important to make a distinction, because it goes to the heart of the way young women are treated in this culture.

It’s in the porny way we treat “Lolitas,” and it’s not just people like Epstein and Larry Flynt and other creeps. It’s also evident in the way virginity is prized in evangelical cultures, this idea that women can be “spoiled” by sexual activity outside of marriage. It’s deeply misogynistic.

And it’s far more widespread than we acknowledge. I understand that men will look at beautiful teenage girls and recognize that they are attractive; that’s biology, and it happens. In ancient cultures, women were married off as soon as they were capable of childbearing. And this is what a lot of the don’t-call-it-pedophilia seem to be saying: That this is somehow OK, because it used to be OK for men to sleep with teens. Obviously, that’s not what I’m saying. When adults act on those urges, I think it’s a mistake to call it pedophilia, because that reduces young women to children in the name of protecting them. Of course they still need protection, but it’s different from the way we protect young kids; rather, it’s a way of valuing their potential and the life that lies ahead of them.

I keep thinking of something I read in the original Miami Herald piece about Epstein that started all this, last fall. One of the girls said she was triggered by the word “pure,” because that’s one Epstein used with her, over and over. I guess when he was done with her, she was no longer pure.

Women are people, and they’re real, not precious glass sculptures that you throw away when one’s leg gets snapped off. They’re not children, either, as much as we want to treat them that way.

OK, time to face the week ahead. Still gonna be hot. I guess it’s preferable to January.

Posted at 9:15 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 25 Comments
 

Could you repeat that? LOUDER?

I was sitting down to blog last night after dinner when all the house’s various white-noise sounds — refrigerator, ceiling fans — went silent and the internet stopped working, and whaddaya know, we’re having a power outage.

It wasn’t a widespread one, but it meant no blogging, no HBO, limited phone use to preserve battery life. I took the opportunity to go to bed at 10 p.m. — not really; I always go to bed at 10 — after reading until the light was all the way gone. Primitive things, these “books,” but oddly calming at bedtime.

And all was well and I was sweetly slumbering until 11, when the power came back on and my neighbor, who I suspect had been drinking earlier, bellowed THE POWER’S BACK ON while standing in his driveway, more or less directly under my bedroom window, and then I was wide awake until 1 a.m. and that, my friends, is how what started as a pleasant Little House on the Prairie Sunday night turned into a drag-ass Monday.

Why not sleep in? you may be thinking. Can’t do that. I’m signed up to do an open-water swim in about five weeks, and it’s time to put the hammer down, training-wise, and Monday is a swim day, so that’s what I did. Anyway, it’s summer outdoor swimming, and you don’t skip that just because you didn’t sleep well. Here’s the view from the pool deck at 6:21 a.m.:

I’ve been reading about the Jeffrey Epstein case, and have decided I don’t care if Bill Clinton gets his pecker caught in a mousetrap on this one — if he was a part of this, he richly deserves it. A friend posted this New York magazine piece from 2002, and I read it this afternoon. Epstein is close to Leslie Wexner, Columbus’ richest scion and the first billionaire I ever interviewed, maybe the only one, although at the time, he was merely a $600-millionaire. Reader, I cannot lie: I liked him and totally swallowed the story he was peddling, about how he emerged from a haze of work and empire building to become a money-slinging mover/shaker in the early ’80s. It may well be true, I don’t know, but anyone associated with Epstein is suspect by association. Anyway, this passage brought me up short:

“Before Epstein came along in 1988, the financial preparations and groundwork for the New Albany development [a wealthy exurb Wexner conjured out of farmland east of the city] were a total mess,” says Bob Fitrakis, a Columbus-based investigative journalist who has written extensively on Wexner and his finances. “Epstein cleaned everything up, as well as serving Wexner in other capacities – such as facilitating visits to Wexner’s home of the crew from Cats and organizing a Tony Randall song-and-dance show put on in Columbus.” Wexner declines to talk about his relationship with Epstein, but it is clearly one that continues to this day.

I really need to know more about this Tony Randall song-and-dance show, and I’m disappointed no editor asked that question.

I saw a booking photo of Epstein today. Despite (according to NYMag) “an hour and fifteen minutes every day doing advanced yoga with his personal instructor, who travels with him wherever he goes,” he looked quite slope-shouldered. No swimmer, he!

OK, then, with this measly update we start the week.

Posted at 7:16 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 32 Comments
 

A half-dozen items in search of a blog.

My god, when was I here last? Sunday? Now it’s Thursday. It was…a week. A few snapshots from it:

1) I’ve been trying to take the bus as often as possible this summer. Saves on parking, saves on gas, saves on peace of mind when I can spend the ride reading or relaxing or doing anything other than gripping the wheel and getting driver’s blood pressure. I generally ride the Detroit city bus coming in and take the suburban system home. There are differences.

The Detroit bus fills up about halfway to downtown. It is hardly ever not full, no matter when I take it. And it is overwhelmingly full of people wearing the polo shirts of various downtown restaurants, or otherwise dressed like people who have to take the bus because they don’t have a choice. The suburban bus is never more than half full, going home. The Detroit bus often features…conflict. Last week, two men yelled at each other for a few blocks, making less and less sense until one shouted, IF THERE’S ONE THING I CAN’T STAND IT’S A DOPE FIEND and the other one shouted back ME TOO and then the argument was over, just like that. It’s good when we can all come together and agree on something.

I’m going to write an epic poem at the end of the warm season, all about DDOT bus #31. I’ll call it “#31.”

2) One day I didn’t drive, because I had to go up to Bloomfield Hills for lunch. It would take, literally, six hours to get to where I needed to go via bus, so I drove. Bloomfield Hills is a wealthy area, and I drove past strip malls of boutiques, specialty groceries and high-end chain stores, because god forbid you do yoga in stretchy pants from Target — they have to cost $90 and come from Lululemon. Beautiful late-model cars glided past in oncoming traffic. If I hadn’t been expected at lunch, I might have stopped at one deli my boss is always raving about. It’s very good, but a tuna sandwich costs $14.

Later that day, the freeway was clogged, and I drove home from downtown on surface streets, along my bus route, some of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. It was…a contrast, shall we say. Nothing like a big city to give you a constant slide show of drama.

3) Here’s a police brief from my community:

4) Here’s a headline from Detroit:

5) Are we going to war with Iran this week? Anyone know?

6) This is old news by now, but check out the pictures and consider: This photographer did his job while a gunman was shooting at him. #EnemyOfThePeople, right?

Into the weekend we lurch. Stay on your feet, people. You never know what’s going to happen.

Posted at 9:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

Too much about vacuums.

A productive weekend, all things considered. Nothing like all-weekend clouds and rain to get your errands run. Grocery, dry cleaner, drugstore and — because the weather was at least warmish on Saturday — a bicycle run to handle those chores that never seem to get done, like a stop at the vacuum store to get bags. I got two packages of three, which means I won’t have to do this one again for quite some time, nor make small talk about my Kenmore vacuum, and the declining quality of the old Sears brands.

I also started a new novel — about which I’ll have more to say, once I finish it, but it was written by an infrequent member of our commenting community — and did some yoga on the bedroom floor. Got up covered with dog hair, so I vacuumed, but with the upstairs vacuum, which doesn’t use bags (a Dyson, bought secondhand, and a steal).

Why not take the upstairs vacuum downstairs, you might ask? Because I like the downstairs vacuum, too, and it’s kinda heavy, so a pain to lug up and down the stairs. When a friend offered to sell me her recently restored super-lightweight Dyson for a very good price, well, no-brainer. My upstairs rugs are cleaner than ever, but I still have a dog that sheds.

I live in a community where people have second-floor laundry rooms, master suites with wet bars and fireplaces, spare bedrooms converted into closets with dress forms to rehearse outfit combinations and all sorts of luxury foofrahs. I refuse to feel guilty for having two vacuums.

(Jeff Borden has a bedroom-turned-closet, said the tattletale. He calls it “Imelda’s Room,” and I totally approve. They don’t have kids, and when you can see everything you own, clothing-wise, you get more wear out of it.)

In a while I will finish this blog and paint my toenails, and my weekend chore list will be over. I just got a call from a pollster, testing my attitude toward the 2020 U.S. Senate race here, as well as the presidency. I portrayed myself as an independent of moderate political attitudes who wants Joe Biden to reconsider how he wants tp spend the latter years of his eighth decade.

(Now Wendy, sleeping next to me, is having a dream. Her hackles are raised, and she is wagging her tail furiously. This must be some kinda dream. Maybe a pollster called her subconscious.)

So on to bloggage, so I can get back to my book:

I’m not a fan of online video, but in 60 seconds, you can learn everything you need to know about Marianne Williamson. And then never think about her again.

Starts strong, finishes weak, but if you like snark: The Man Who Was Upset, an essay about oh-god-of-course-you-know-who:

The thing about impressiveness, however, is that it resides entirely in the eye of the beholder—and in Trump’s case, he typically invokes it in a crass gambit to annex and manipulate the inner workings of that beholder’s eye and generate maximum ego-gratification for himself. As with most things Trump-related, the form that this ascriptive impressiveness takes can be mapped with laughable ease over whatever failing he is most keen to conceal at that moment. When his marriage was falling apart on the front pages of New York City tabloids, Trump called the editor of the New York Post to vouch, on behalf of his then-girlfriend Marla Maples, that “Marla says with me it’s the best sex she’s ever had.” During his years in the cultural wilderness, Trump reportedly made it a stipulation for film productions that wished to shoot in the properties that he owned that there be a scene in which Trump himself appeared. “Martin Brest had to write something in Scent of a Woman,” Matt Damon told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “And the whole crew was in on it. You have to waste an hour of your day with a bullshit shot. Donald Trump walks in and Al Pacino’s like, ‘Hello, Mr. Trump!’—you had to call him by name—and then he exits.”


In 1991, as his divorce and a series of pyrotechnically misconceived business ventures ushered in the beginning of his long tour through our popular culture as an overleveraged punch line, Trump went ahead and just spelled his super-hero aspirations out. The story Trump told the New York Daily News was this: While driving to a Paula Abdul concert in New Jersey with Maples and another couple, Trump had seen “a big man with a big bat” committing a “brutal-looking” mugging. In Trump’s telling, he ordered his limo driver to stop and got out of the vehicle. “The guy with the bat looked at me, and I said, ‘Look, you’ve gotta stop this. Put down the bat,’“ Trump told the Daily News. “I guess he recognized me because he said, ‘Mr. Trump, I didn’t do anything wrong.’ I said, ‘How could you not do anything wrong when you’re whacking a guy with a bat?’ Then he ran away.”

How does a 25-year-old hairstylist clear a quarter-mil a year? This way. I respect the guy; I certainly wouldn’t pay $2,000 for hair extensions, but someone will, and he’s found enough to make it work for him. But this line blew me away:

He studied at Paul Mitchell The School in Sterling Heights on Van Dyke Avenue, near 18 Mile Road. It was about $22,000 total in 2011 for a 10-month program, he said.

That’s cosmetology school, mind you. He started out making $30,000 a year, and I’ll bet almost all of his classmates never go all that much higher. Talk about highway robbery.

Happy week ahead, all. Off to paint my nails.

Posted at 4:23 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Ducking (responsibility), goosing (geese).

I didn’t have a terrible week, but much of it went like this:

The battery in my computer has been in failure mode for a while, with “a while” = “a year.” Finally took it to the Genius Bar and the genius told me sure, they could replace it, but it would have to be shipped elsewhere, because they don’t do that in-house, and with shipping/repair time, I could expect it back in 10 days.

“That’s out of the question,” I said flatly. I use my computer for hours, every day that I work and for an hour or two every day that I don’t work. With no two-week vacations coming up, sorry, a non-starter. A battery replacement ought to be simple; you can’t do it while I wait? Even with an appointment? Nope, sorry, the genius said. “But Micro Center might,” he added, proving his bona fides as a genius. “Try them.”

So I called Micro Center, described my problem, and they said sure, they kept those batteries in stock, and if I showed up very first thing when they opened, they’d do it while I wait. Excellent.

So a few more weeks go by, and there’s a day on my schedule when no dogs are barking for my ass, so I get up and head across town to Micro Center — because of course it’s across town, because nothing I need is on the east side — and am there, as instructed, bright and early at 10 a.m.

I’m first in line at the repair counter. You know what’s coming next, right?

“We can’t do that,” I’m told. “Apple won’t let us work on anything newer than a 2011 model.”

“They literally told me to come here,” I said, using that word correctly in a sentence. “They looked at it, diagnosed the problem” — that’s another Genius Bar rant, how you come in knowing exactly what the problem is, and tell them so, and they run all their diagnostics and tell you to your face, without a hint of irony, what you just told them, in your exact words — “and told me to come here. What’s more, the person who answered your phone when I called said you could do it while I waited, if I came first thing in the morning.”

I didn’t add a second “literally,” but probably could have. The guy was just a serf. He didn’t deserve it.

“Well, that person was wrong,” he said. “We can’t fix it.”

Plan C: Alan and his fearlessness in the face of complex repair problems, as long as there are YouTube tutorials (there are) and Amazon carries the parts (they do). He is my all-purpose Genius Bar.

Also, I hate — and by “hate” I mean with the white-hot fury of 10 million suns — dealing with any Silicon Valley- or tech-based company. I know I’m going to have a ram-butting-heads thing with Hulu next week when “The Handmaids Tale” starts, and it’s going to be ugly.

I took the long way back to the office Friday morning, and took some pictures of Detroit blight for our photo bank. Here’s one:

Also rolled through a squatters’ community that appears well-established in this neighborhood. As you can see: Lots of fixer-uppers.

The lovely weather helped my mood immensely, and it turned out to be an OK Friday. Got some good news about a friend, and even this situation ended about as well as could be expected:

This little goose family was on the sidewalk, attempting to cross Woodward Avenue. They’re blocks from any sort of sustaining habitat, but there was no way I or anyone else could herd them down to the river without a hell of a lot of backup.

But I figured I could save them from getting hit by the light rail if I got them into Campus Martius Park, where maybe they could chill until a quieter hour. So I and a couple other animal lovers made a team and got them into the park and beyond the border hedge.

After which I went to work. Good times.

Do note that blue scooter in the photo. This is the latest entry in the scooter market in Detroit, the fourth company to make these grab-and-go conveyances available. I shudder to think what a bunch of half-in-the-bag bros can do on a few of these. I just hope I’m not there to see it.

No links today, except for this one. Mostly for the picture. Sigh.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 12:51 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments
 

Long weekend.

Ah, a long weekend to start the season that’s always too short. Fitting.

So far it’s been pretty great. I haven’t done much — errands, shopping, a Movement party, “Booksmart” and still a fair amount of time to relax and finally make some progress in “Streets of Laredo,” which is my bedside read, put aside time and again for other stuff. To be sure, it’s only taken Larry McMurtry 225 pages to really get the plot moving, but it’s moving for sure now, and I’m less inclined to put it down after a page or two because my eyelids are so, so heavy.

In a while, I’m going to do some food prep and then a bike ride. Reading for pleasure is deeply calming, and I need to do more of it. Reason No. 2 billion to despise the commander-in-chief.

By the way, it’s Memorial Day — has he pardoned any war criminals yet?

And yes, Memorial Day. That’s also a good reason to stay off social media. Never mind the confusion with Veterans Day (M-Day is for the dead, V-Day for the still-standing), it’s the memes — those thanking the ones who died “so we could be free.” By my reckoning, WWII was the last war fought for our freedom. I guess “our” could encompass a lot more than Americans, however, so OK, I’m not going to quibble. And I guess the dead are still dead. But holidays are funny; what’s supposed to be solemn is more often a good day to go water skiing, but then again, what is freedom for, if not for choosing to go water skiing?

Actually, the reading-for-pleasure part of the weekend has convinced me that I simply HAVE to put up better barriers in my personal time. It’s a mental-health thing. Every time I open my eyes and see something like this?

One of the best-known but least visible former members of President Trump’s White House staff is facing an existential question: whether to comply with a congressional subpoena in the coming weeks.

My head threatens to explode.

The person in question is Hope Hicks. I did not know that complying with a subpoena was a choice, let alone an existential one. There are legal strategies to fight a subpoena, to be sure, but the question of compliance isn’t an existential question. And the picture! Oh my god. As someone on Twitter remarked, she’s a former assistant to the president, not a moody singer/songwriter with an album called “My Truth” dropping on Tuesday.

Of course, what this tells us is, Hope Hicks has been a very good source for Maggie Haberman, and a soft kiss on the cheek like this — known as a “beat sweetener” — is delivered in the hopes she will remain so. But now we have the New York Times noting casually that compliance with a subpoena is a fucking existential question, and so our democracy degrades just a little bit more.

I can already feel my shoulders tightening. Need to not let that happen anymore. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and I should be on my bike. Think that’s what I’ll do.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 74 Comments
 

Mother’s Day. Whatever.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m coasting into the homestretch. I had a good one, which consisted of Kate making me breakfast — coffeecake and fruit salad — and the three of us sharing a bottle of champagne. She went off to band practice, I read for a couple hours, finished the laundry and that was that.

This to me is how a holiday like this should be observed. Apparently I am wrong.

My social-media feeds are clogged with what I think of as performative Facebooking (or Tweeting, Instagramming or whatever). Performative Facebooking is when one uses a social-media platform to produce a picture of one’s life that underlines how cool one is, how accomplished, how lovely/handsome one’s spouse and family is, how much fun you have, every day, all the time. Your Halloween costumes are the most creative, your holiday decorating the most merry, and you have nothing but a good time, all day every day. Time to work out! Time to watch a soccer game! Sunday Funday! And so on.

Behind that wave comes the won’t-somebody-think-of-the-less-fortunate posters. Before you post that picture of you and your children, think of the people who struggle with infertility. Or whose mothers are gone. Or who are estranged. Or whatever.

And then it’s over, and we all wait for Memorial Day. Thank you for your service. Honoring the dead who gave their lives so that we might be free. And so on.

How was everyone’s weekend? I worked for about half of it, which wasn’t so bad, as it was mainly outside, plus writing, which I don’t mind. Watched “Chernobyl,” the new HBO miniseries, which was horrifying. Saw my baby girl before she heads out on tour for a week with her band and new college degree. And that’s about it.

And I don’t think I have much too blog. Here’s something I wrote Friday, after going to a birthday party for the IRS. It was more interesting than I thought it would be.

I’m sure the president did something horrifying over the weekend, but I tried to stay away from the news, for the most part. Oh, wait, except for this one:

President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

I think we need to emigrate. All of us.

In the meantime, enjoy the week ahead.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

Circles.

One of the baby gifts we received when Kate was born was a pair of infant-size slippers, kind of like those puffy down-filled ones L.L. Bean sells. She was born in the fall and didn’t walk until the following summer, and I wasn’t much for shoes in those early months, but they were cute and their oversized puffiness looked silly on her wee feet, so we put them on her sometimes on chilly days.

Also, they were pink.

So in those early months, during those long stretches where you basically just sit around holding your baby, we would sometimes sing The Big Pink Shoe song to her, which as I recall, was to the tune of “Tequila” and owed a lot to Peewee Herman. I’m doing my big pink shoe dance / I’m wearing my big pink shoes / My shoes are biiiiig and pink, yeah / And I got my big pink shoes on, yeah!

(Our skill with lyrics was also seen in the Poopy Diaper song, which was mine alone.)

Anyway, in recent years I keep noticing patterns as Kate ticks off her milestones. For instance: I went to see the Rolling Stones in Cleveland Stadium the summer after my high-school graduation, and she went to see the Rolling Stones in Comerica Park the summer after her high-school graduation, made all the more remarkable by the fact we graduated exactly 40 years apart.

Anyway, this happened on Friday. Note the shoes. (Doc Martens.)

I guess the next step in these closing-circle patterns is for me to die or something, but I hope to hold that off for a while.

It was a nice ceremony. The university, like many, divides the transition into two parts — a smaller one for the school or college or major (where you get to hear your name read aloud), followed by a larger one for the whole class (where you don’t). Friday was for the School of Music, Theater and Dance, so it featured music and dance, and the performances were very theatrical – one was a piece for two electric bassoons, and it was extremely so. Christine Lahti was the main speaker, and she worked blue, in that she described a job she was offered where “all I had to do was fuck the two directors,” followed by another story of being so depressed by it that she pulled herself out by vowing to “prove every one of those motherfuckers wrong.” Some of the parents seemed a little taken aback, but their graduates were probably the ones who studied violin, which doesn’t include swearing, except in practice that doesn’t go well, and maybe not even then.

The ceremony was so nice that we skipped the Big House the next day, allowing Kate to keep her four-year streak of never setting foot in the country’s largest football stadium intact. Actually, I think she did end up going, so as to celebrate with her housemates were were graduating in other majors. But we had complications, and didn’t. That was fine. It was overcast and cold.

On Saturday, I watched the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race, made more so by Maximum Security’s thrilling stretch run, where after leading from the start, he was seriously challenged and then found another gear, pulling away to win by one and half lengths. That sort of heart isn’t in every horse, especially on a sloppy track. To see his rider giving his post-race horseback interview in clean silks (everyone who ran behind him was streaked with mud) was remarkable.

And we all know what happened next. And I suppose that by now we all know this happened after that:

It was a disappointment, for sure, and I’m not at all satisfied that the best horse won, but in my humility, I trust that race stewards and those who enforce the rules know what they’re doing. There were 19 horses in that race, a huge field. I had no idea it had anything to do with political correctness. But what do I know? Less than the race steward-in-chief, evidently.

I hate what this country has become. After the 2016 election, a philosophical friend of mine said he was choosing not to be (too) alarmed. The United States, he said, was like an aircraft carrier, which needs miles of ocean to execute a change in direction, and there were so many things that would be even harder to change — the federal bureaucracy, for one. Congress would play its part as a check and balance. We’ll look back on this era and wince, but little real damage would be done.

It helped a little. I thought he might be right. I don’t think that anymore. I think we’re in very big trouble.

But this is a joyful weekend, the sun is shining, and I plan to enjoy what’s left of it. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 126 Comments
 

Out and about.

Thursday night I was invited to sit on a panel at a local bar/restaurant, an event sponsored by the local public-radio station, ostensibly to ask the grassroots what they were thinking about ahead of the Mackinac Policy Conference next month. I know the other panelists and the radio people, so it was a good time. Here we were; pic by my Deadline Detroit editor, who attended:

With any public radio-summoned audience, I always expect a higher level of discussion than you’d get from, say, mall walkers, but you still get the full spectrum of humanity, if you know what I mean. The No. 1 issue we discussed was road funding; Michigan’s have been neglected for years, and are at a crisis stage. This means a big tax to raise the $2 billion a year they will require for the foreseeable future, and the governor has proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon levy. That’s a hard swallow even for people who believe in it, and for Republicans? Of course it’s a non-starter in the legislature. We took a show-of-hands poll and found most in favor, with a few opposed.

“The governor has said that if you oppose this, you need to state what your solution would be, so would anyone like to offer one?” I asked, calling on one of the raised hands.

“The roads aren’t that bad,” he said, to guffaws from the room. Then he explained that the problem was people not calling the state highway authorities when they came across a bad patch, and anyway, he mostly drives on I-696, recently resurfaced, so he doesn’t see a need to pay so much for all the other roads awaiting action.

And if that isn’t the truest distillation of a certain kind of voter, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, and in line with the last thread’s comments, I was approached afterward by a woman with hollowed-out, imploring eyes. She kinda looked like Andrea Riseborough in this role (“Nancy,” in a film of the same name, weirdly enough), only with more hollowing and more imploring:

Her voice was low, but I picked out “greatest threat to health in our lifetimes” and a few other phrases. Thankfully, she just wanted a few seconds of time; the handout she pressed into mine would explain.

It was all about the radiation dangers of 5G internet.

So y’know, this stuff is going around. Put a pin in that, and then consider this:

We’re hearing a lot about civility these days, here and in Michigan, but my line is drawn: If this is the sort of rhetoric you support and cheer, I’m not going to be civil to you. And there are a lot of people who do, so where are we?

I fear there will have to be a 9/11-scale event to shake all this bullshit out of our skulls. I also fear it’s way too late for that. Although some people keep trying, like this lady; I encourage you to go over to Twitter and read the whole thread:

Oh, well. At least the NRA is suffering some public embarrassment. It’s the little things.

And now it’s a chilly but sunny day. I was going to lift some weights but instead I think I’m gonna put Wendy in the car and head over to Belle Isle for a walk along the river. Hope all have a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Rendering unto Caesar.

I’ve been following the talk in the comments about the price of car insurance wherever everybody is. People? In the words of Jame Gumb, you don’t know what pain is. Michigan has the highest-priced auto insurance in the nation, and Detroit has the highest in Michigan. We’re not in Detroit proper, but we are in the same county, and man, do we pay.

My no-collision-coverage premium on the old-ass Volvo is double what an entire year’s worth of coverage was on my brand-new VW back in Indiana. Most younger people around here pay for their coverage monthly, because a couple thousand in a six-month premium is too much for a lot of people to handle. A monthly insurance premium that costs more than a car payment is very common around here; in fact, I think I just read about a guy who surrendered his lease on a new Cadillac (payment: $540/month) because his premium was something like $560 a month — FOR INSURANCE — and he couldn’t swing it anymore.

Our premiums are due in August and March, and I DREAD August and March. Now that Kate has a car, it’s…about $2,500 extra in those months.

And Alan wonders why I want to give up my car entirely.

Oh, well. Another weekend in the books. I just paid our taxes, and I’m about to make a cherry clafoutis for the “Game of Thrones” watch party we’re attending tonight. There was actually quite a bit of discussion about how the menu should be structured — medieval-ish, with a touch of dragon fire? At one point I was committed to individual savory hand pies, because it seemed very Kingsroad Inn and Hot Pie, but finally the host decided he’d smoke a pork shoulder, so that’s the plan. I’ve never seen a pig on “Game of Thrones,” but the cruel boys at the Wall called Samwell Tarly a pig when he arrived at Castle Black, so…

Wait, you’re not into it? Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s fine. You don’t have to be in on the fun. I don’t even think this is the greatest TV show of all time, but it does have actual dragons, and I’m totally there for that. Also, it is SUCH an improvement on the books, it’s in the ‘Godfather’ Hall of Fame for Adaptations That Transcend Their Source Material, and that’s a plus. Five or six more books I won’t have to read.

I’m really — as in really, really, really — hoping next week is an improvement on the last, which sucked. It was a stung-by-gnats thing, mainly, just a thousand things piling up and conspiring to make me crazy and late and under-rested. All this is balanced by the fact we have some milestones coming up soon, too, and happy ones. Kate graduates from Michigan in just about two weeks, huzzah. We have two separate ceremonies to attend, one for her school (she’s up for an award) and the one for the whole university, in the Big House the following day. I was hoping they’d get Michelle Obama for a speaker, but it’s the governor, and I guess I’m fine with that. I hope her speech is a good one.

Friday was the open house for the senior theses, and we went to that. Kate’s thesis project was an album-length recording of her new band, recorded, mixed and mastered by her. (Here’s their Bandcamp page, with only two tracks on it, both recorded by someone else.) Her boyfriend had a show, too, featuring a dancer with sensors stuck all over her body. The sensors were tracked by cameras that triggered music, so she was essentially dancing to music her body was composing in real time. That was pretty cool, even though one of the sensors flew off in the final frenzied minutes of the performance, and landed at my feet. It was the one on her forehead; when we first saw her, Alan whispered, “What a weird piercing.”

So. On to the clafoutis. In the meantime?

“Fox brain” is a thing, and it has victims. I have many friends whose parents went from nice moderates to angry, fearful racists in a matter of months. I’m sure you do, too.

Ivanka! Everybody’s favorite Trump, discussed here. This is what a person with cotton where their brains should be does:

When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”

Has anyone told her that cultivating authenticity is an oxymoron? Guess not.

Finally, I’m finding Bernie tiresome in the extreme. That is all. Talk soon.

Posted at 5:41 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 85 Comments