My civic duty.

Tomorrow is Election Day in Detroit, and I’m working it, so… you know what that means. Yes, excuses! My own suburb isn’t deciding anything tomorrow, but there’s a lot on the table in Detroit — control of city council, some other elected positions, and a revision of the city charter that is too complicated to explain here, but trust me, it’s complicated.

So I must soon get my black pants and white shirt laid out on the bed in the other room and prepare to sit on my butt for the better part of 14 hours. God, another election. Didn’t we just have one? Seems like it, and yet — here we are.

Fresh thread for any comments, but sorry, I feel just a little bit tapped out right now. Back on Wednesday, and maybe with more material.

Posted at 8:42 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 19 Comments
 

Eventful.

On Friday, I saw the sun rise…

…and set:

Both times over water, so you know it was a good day. The sunset came with a group:

I haven’t been kayaking in forever, so it was a good evening. We came for the moonrise, but clouds obscured the view. Even when you miss it, though, there’s something about paddling for home down the Detroit River at night that feels pretty great and makes up for everything.

On Saturday we went to the Detroit Golden Gloves tournament with my trainer and his wife. This bout was called a draw early on, when the guy on the right got a bloody nose:

And I include this pic for the ref’s mullet, which was amazing:

We came out into a heavy rain, which only got heavier. Our fave pizza place down the block was closed, the alternative had a one-hour wait, the second alternative was closed and by then, it was raining so hard I was worried about getting home. No way was I taking the freeway, not after seeing what happened the last time. So we headed back on surface streets, with the visibility almost nil — that’s how hard it was coming down. I couldn’t see where the deep spots were, but there was a car in front of me, so I just watched his tail lights. Of course — of course! — these people were undeterred:

They cannot be stopped. They are the cockroaches of the party scene, and will survive when every other place in town closes. I call them the Woo People, because every time you see them, the people onboard are saying WOOOO. On the water Friday night, there were the aquatic version, i.e. floating tiki huts with a small outboard motor, the most ridiculous things you ever saw, but they seem popular. There were also two larger ones, pontoon boats with free-spinning, non-functional “paddle wheels” on the back, along with flashing LED lights. Just ridiculous. As the rain continued to come down harder and harder last night, we passed one of the pedal pubs with its isenglass curtains rolled down, because cuz, there’d been a big change in the weather.

Everybody who’s spent time in the Midwest knows these storms; sometimes you have to pull off the freeway under an underpass to wait it out. They rarely last longer than a few minutes, but this one went for half an hour, easy.

When we got home, the basement was dry. As Aretha says, don’t know what I’m doing, but I must be living right.

So the plan to squeeze all the juice out of summer is going well. I just wish this rain would give us a break. Our butterfly bush is dying, and Alan says it’s from being drowned. I don’t doubt it.

A little bloggage? Sure.

J.D. Vance continues to devolve into an ever-more-horrible p.o.s. To wit:

Vance also took aim at the Democratic Party, saying that it had “become controlled by people who don’t have children.” He also claimed that politicians running the country do not have a “personal indirect stake” in improving it because they do not have children.

“And why is this just a normal fact of American life, that the leaders of our country should be people who don’t have a personal indirect stake in it via their own offspring, via their own children and grandchildren,” Vance asked, noting that he was not referring to people who are unable to have children.

Joe Biden has children. Nancy Pelosi has children. People all over the Democratic caucus have children, children, children. Vance’s principle principal sugar daddy, Peter Thiel, has no children. Fuck this guy.

Meanwhile, you think it’s bad here? This is the U.K. Do note the Trump flag in the crowd:

And with that, I have to clean a bathroom and finish overhauling a closet. Happy Sunday/Monday, all.

Posted at 11:16 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments
 

Self-editing, or the lack thereof.

Looks like national humiliation hasn’t curbed Tim Goeglein’s thirst to be A Writer. The Journal-Gazette carried another of his contributions over the weekend; hat tip to Alex for passing it along. Ahem:

What gives Fort Wayne its distinct sense of place and definition? What makes it a unique locale?

What about any city could never be part of a franchise of any other time or era?

Monuments and memorials of surpassing beauty certainly cohere that sense of place. So do beautiful buildings of distinction and proportion. A city’s cultural institutions play a large role in the composition of a city’s personality, tempo and style.

There are other works of art not normally put into a category of high achievement but which seem to live with us as things elegant but easily taken for granted or overlooked like a strand of pearls or a fine-cut stone or a filigreed lamppost on a shady, quiet city street.

Oh, god. Do we have to do this again? Monuments and memorials are close enough to being synonyms that you can drop one. Certainly, like most adverbs, is disposable. The second graf seems to be what he’s getting at — to put it more simply, let’s make a fuss over the little things. So where are we going, Tim?

In Fort Wayne, there are two neighborhoods, one south and one north, that deserve our celebration and further attention – as if they are great paintings or meaningful poems. They are probably irreplaceable and certainly matchlessly noble, grand and even lush.

I knew exactly which ones he was going to single out — Old Mill Road and Forest Park Boulevard — immediately, and why? Because they are constantly celebrated and paid attention to, “like great paintings or meaningful poems,” etc. etc. They are two neighborhoods with no shortage of blah-blah written about them, so of course those are the ones Tim singles out:

In summer, these inviting and lovely neighborhoods offer leafy coolness against the background of their shaded homes. Their canopies of trees, well-clipped lawns and beautiful old stonework seem to offer us a welcome respite and refreshment on otherwise molten days.

In fall, their autumnal and kaleidoscopic colors are inviting and form a tapestry of reds, yellows, oranges and golden hues.

If you order an ice cream sundae at Tim’s soda fountain, it will come with syrup, sprinkles, nuts, a cherry and I dunno, maybe a bow and a hat. It would be inviting and lovely, leafy and shaded, with canopies of trees and “well-clipped lawns,” whatever that means.

It goes on at some length. I am done making fun of it. Although I will say this: Rarely has a prose style so suited the human being from which it comes. The first time I saw a video of Tim speaking, and this was well after the incident here, I was shocked. As our dear lost Coozledad said, “That guy makes Fred Rogers look like Dick Butkus.”

Well, I am sure he’s happy. He certainly landed on his feet.

So, Wednesday nearly upon us. Our trip to France grows closer. Starting to check the weather reports, look at local listings. Downloaded the Paris Metro app. Thinking about maybe taking a cooking class. It’s gonna be great.

Of course, I hope it actually happens, too. Delta could shut everything down, but fingers are crossed. Certainly I don’t want to only travel within the borders of this batshit country for another year:

I guess we’ll see. In today’s news: Another billionaire in almost-space, riding in a penis-shaped rocket. Covid stirs anew. Rand Paul got his ass kicked by Dr. Fauci (again). In other words, just another day in late-stage, climate-meltdown capitalism. How’s your week going?

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 79 Comments
 

Two good days.

I wish getting too much sun wasn’t so bad for you — I’d do it every available weekend. Getting too much sun is one of those uniquely summer pleasures, especially when you don’t get burned, just mildly/somewhat irradiated. Kinda glow-y. Tired.

It finally stopped raining midday on Saturday, but before that there was another deluge, and another flood. Our basement stayed dry, and for the life of me I don’t know why. Maybe we sacrificed a chicken or something, but we were fortunate again, while people in Grosse Pointe Park had poop water in their basements, some for the second time in three weeks, some for the third. I can’t imagine how terrible that was. Boy did it come down Friday — another inch-plus downpour. We’d planned a staff get-together on the roof of our editor’s apartment building, but it was washed out, so we relocated to his place. We did go up at the end of the night, when it was down to a drizzle and we could enjoy the view:

That’s the DIA at bottom left, the library at bottom right. Between them, Woodward Avenue. On the far horizon at left, the RenCen. Far horizon right, Motor City Casino, Wayne State’s Old Main and the Ambassador Bridge twinkling off in the distance. Rural landscapes are pretty, but I love a sparkling city, even one (especially one) as messy as Detroit. In between, we lit the shabbos candles and told stories about the newspaper business when it was fun. It sure isn’t fun now. On the other hand, I have one foot out and will have the other one out sooner rather than later. I’m not happy to be aging, but the timing, in this case, isn’t terrible.

Alan’s sister came up Saturday, and we had another smallish dinner party, including Kate and some other friends. Today: Sailing, capped off with some pool time under a hazy sun. I could have skipped my Vitamin D this morning. Hence the irradiated feeling.

So another good weekend in the books, a reminder that time is precious and one should spend it well.

Meanwhile, more hair-whitening news on the ol’ teletype machine. Dateline Pittsburgh: A woman who’d been abducted two months ago managed to leave a detailed note in a public bathroom, giving the address of her captive prison and promising it was no joke. But when police arrived…

Scott police officers went to the apartment address listed in the note on the day the first note was discovered, a criminal complaint said, but no one answered. The officers said that they could hear furniture moving inside the apartment toward the front door, but because they did not have a warrant, they could not force their way inside.

They later called a cell phone connected to the man who was holding her. He refused to let them speak to her privately, insisting the call be on speaker. She told police she was fine, no problem, on vacation, even. Then the next day, a second note was found:

The second note said that the writer had heard police at the door of the apartment July 8 and added that the abuse had not stopped.

This time they came back with a warrant, arrested the guy and found the woman. She told them:

During interviews with police, the woman described months of abuse; Mr. Brewer had allegedly punched and stabbed her and cut off clumps of her hair, the complaint said.

Mr. Brewer had also attempted to strangle her on multiple occasions, she said, and he had raped her. According to the complaint, police saw red marks, cuts and bruises on the woman and said that her hair was cut unevenly.

So of course he had to stand before a judge at his arraignment:

On Monday, Mr. Brewer was released after posting 10 percent of the $5,000 bail set by North Side Magisterial District Judge Robert Ravenstahl Jr.

We can all do the math on what 10 percent of $5,000 is. Five hundred bucks to be free on pending charges of sexual assault, strangulation, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint and simple assault. I wonder what it would have been if he’d killed her. Probably at least $600.

I look forward to hearing more about this one.

And I look forward to a good week. With no more rain.

Posted at 9:47 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

A steamy blur.

Guess I’ve been scarce around here. Guess my calendar is all messed up. What day is it? Why is it 90 degrees outside? Why haven’t I been outside all day? (Because it’s 90 degrees.) And so on.

Also, there was a party, and too many drinks and snacks and birthday cake. I’m in the mood for a week of eggs, lean meats, leafy greens and nothing more exciting than ice-cold Topo Chico. Also, somewhat cooler temperatures. Friday was perfect, though, and a friend and I went over to Ann Arbor to welcome a mutual back to Michigan. It was nice to see the ol’ town again, especially without those annoying students. But I need to rest up before Shadow Show’s first show since March 2020, which is coming this weekend. Looking forward to that, oh yes I am.

So far, the summer has been pretty much exactly what I wanted — social, outdoorsy, and the hell with the housework, although I did clean the bathrooms today because I HAVE STANDARDS. But it’s more important to see people again, so that’s what I’m doing. And it’s great.

I’m so tired. How about the weekend in pictures? Here’s Friday’s view from the pool deck:

Less boxing this summer, more swimming.

Sunday I took a bike ride to my friend’s new eight-lot planned farmette in the city. It’s slow going, but in a year, it’ll be aces:

We should buy that old corner store, open an after-hours venue. Perfect neighborhood for it.

Met this dog at the Sunday party. I wanted to steal her. Look at that eye patch:

Any bloggage? Let’s see…ah, that greasy little shit J.D. Vance is falling in line nicely. I guess that’s enough irritation to get us into Tuesday.

Posted at 8:45 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Back to the blue.

The pools open for early-morning swimming late here, because schools run until mid-June and until they dismiss for the year, lifeguards are in short supply. They finally did this week, and I finally showed up this morning, Thursday. My beloved 80-year-old coach Tim was sitting as lifeguard, and didn’t change a bit in the year-plus since I saw him last.

“I got fat, then I got thinner, now I’m going the other way again,” he said. Story of all our lives. The morning was lovely and the pool, crystalline, but the workout was kinda subdued. I haven’t been in the water since January, but it all came back. Tim called out a few position tweaks, and I did 45 easy minutes. It was good to be back. If it’s not raining when I wake up, I’ll do it again tomorrow. I love to swim.

(Nov. 7, the day the cable networks called the election for Biden, was a Saturday, and it was warm and sunny here, unseasonably so. A friend and I played a couple rounds of miniature golf, then dropped by the Schvitz for some reason, I forget why. It was closed, but some people were out on the patio, and we drank some beers. A woman told me, “You have an amazing body,” and I goggled in amazement. “It’s your shoulders.” I thought: Can this day get any better? I don’t think so! Swimming, it does good things.)

Anyway, June is drawing to a close, and so far, it’s been a pretty good summer. It’s going to be hot and rainy soon, but that’s fine. I read the new Laura Lippman book, “Dream Girl,” in three days, and it is fantastic. I highly recommend it. It’s a little bit “Misery,” the first Stephen King book that knocked me over, and a lot of bits and pieces of other books and movies, and just a lot of fun to read. You might consider picking it up.

A few other things to read:

Stephen Rodrick’s obit for John McAfee is excellent, and the tone is just right.

Look on these photos, ye mighty, and despair.

Those are bad news stories, but hey, let’s not go out on a note of misery: Rudy’s lost his law license for a while! Things are looking up.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

The good good china.

It rained, off and on, all day Saturday. Skies were supposed to clear around 5 p.m., but there were sprinkles until 7, when guests started to arrive. We’d already made the call to go rain-or-shine, but 10 people can’t sit around my dining room table, so having our party outdoors, in the driveway, was really the only way we’d avoid the kids-table or strolling-supper solution. How tense! How will Mrs. Dalloway solve THIS problem?!?

It stopped sprinkling. Alan set up a full bar on a card table. I rented another table for the buffet, along with 10 chairs. A nice lady loaned me her 3-by-6 table, and we put a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood on top of it, with a tablecloth over. I set the plywood with a mix of our plates and a yard-sale set I picked up on a local swap group. On the buffet, some of my formal serving pieces, some sterling, some crap. Nothing matched. I scattered tea lights and random candles around the table, along with grocery-store flowers. And it all went just swimmingly.

The guest list, I learned for the 900th time, is the only thing that really matters. I ask you: Would you rather split a six-pack and a pizza with the Springsteens and the Obamas in the living room of your scrofulous college apartment, or attend a black-tie function at Mar-a-Lago with the Trumps and Kardashians?

And the guests were everything. Everything, it turned out, was just about getting out on a warm night, eating some imperfectly but enthusiastically prepared food, and opening a million bottles of wine, along with pitchers of mojitos and negronis. Not that it was a drunkfest, although one of the guests made a French exit without her purse or her shoes. Everyone got home safely. We’re all starved for a little fun with fun people. And we all had fun.

I took some pictures with my film camera, and it’ll be months before we see those. For now, two taken with the phone. Dessert:

And after dessert:

If you want to make the cake, here’s the recipe. The sponge is simple, but as always with egg whites, a bit of a nail-biter. It turned out fine, though.

Everything turned out fine. I have a mild hangover. I’m treating it with ice cream, a grilled cheese sandwich and ignoring my watch chirping at me to close my rings.

Hope your weekend went as well.

My hangover was ameliorated somewhat by putting on a sleep mask after I got up to pee at 5 a.m. Was able to sleep clear until 8 a.m., at which point I went out to finish the cleanup. Before I did, though, I read this essay, published a few years ago. It’s a first-person account of working as a waiter for Mr. and Mrs. William F. Buckley; someone posted it on Twitter last night, and I can’t tell you who.

The Buckleys lived in a maisonette on Park Avenue. What is a maisonette, you may be wondering, as I did?

A maisonette, if you didn’t know, and I didn’t, is a house hidden inside the walls of an apartment building. The owners share services with the rest of the building but have their own door.

The rest of it is full of fantastic detail about how wealthy upper class Manhattan lives and parties, or did once. Money remakes Manhattan every generation or so, and I think a lot of this has gone away. I recall the first super-rich person I knew in New York, an heiress to two fortunes. She had a floor-through apartment in a Good Building on the upper east side, which means hers was the only apartment on the floor. The elevator opened onto her front door, which she kept unlocked and standing open much of the time, so the dog walker could collect the pooches for their morning constitutional without having to wake their slumbering mistress. As for the Buckleys:

I was introduced then to a kind older gentleman who, in my memory, ran their household. I don’t recall his precise title or his name, but if it had been a palace, I think he would have been the chamberlain. He impressed me instantly as one of the sweetest and most elegant men I had ever met, with a full head of white hair and a wry look in his eyes that stayed whether he was regarding a martini or a waiter. He was busy with showing the cooks around the kitchen. The waiters were brought upstairs to change in a small room that sat at the end of a hallway near the entrance to the back stairs, which led from the second floor to the kitchen. It contained a single bed made up with a torn coverlet, and a treadmill covered in wire hangers and books. Dusty sports trophies lined dusty bookshelves.

“Whose room is this?” I asked the captain.

“Mr. B’s,” he said.

I stared, waiting for him to laugh.

He said, “Oh, honey. Sure. She’s the one with all the money, after all. Canadian timber fortune, I think. Her friends call her Timberrr because of that and because she’s tall and when she’s drunk she falls over, because she won’t wear her shoes.” I thought of Madge Wildwood in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I laughed, he laughed, and then his face came over serious and flat and we both stopped laughing at the same time.

“Don’t you dare write about any of this,” he said. “Or I’ll have to hunt you down and kill you. With my bare hands. Because I love them dearly.”

OK, then, time to make some spaghetti carbonara and drink more water. The week begins!

Posted at 6:52 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 29 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
 

Another mixed grill.

Nothing much to report today, so let’s get into the huh-that’s-interesting-but-not-very file and see what falls out.

Last year sometime I picked up my film camera again, loaded it with Tri-X, and pushed it to 1600 ASA. Why? I have no idea. It took a while to use up the roll, and most of it was shit, but here are two I liked. The Blue Angels flyover was a Hail Mary; we were down by the lake waiting for them, and I thought they’d come down over the water, but they were about 100 yards inland, and traveling so fast I didn’t have a second to get ready; I heard them, turned, raised the camera and pressed the shutter. Bingo:

A friend and I went bike riding past a long-closed bar in Delray – one of those cursed, over-polluted neighborhoods in southwest Detroit – and found the front door standing open. We stopped and stuck our heads in and found the owner there, hanging. He was a very, very chatty fellow and maybe a little tetched. This is the back of the building, taken from the Rouge River on another day. I like the dog keeping watch:

Some days I can deeply identify with this raccoon:

If you don’t want to click, cooking oil did the trick to unstick the raccoon.

June 3 was a few days back, but this isn’t time-dependent: An old writing lesson by Tommy Tomlinson, on what storytellers can learn from “Ode to Billie Joe.”

With that, I gotta pop in my contacts and do another Zoom workout. Good weekend, all.

Posted at 8:43 am in Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments
 

Wakeful.

God, my insomnia is SO bad of late. I was having luck for a while with just going limp — no melatonin, no cannabis, just trusting that my body would take what it needs. News alert: My body does not take what it needs. It will sometimes fall asleep for 40 minutes, then wake up for three hours. Last night was a rare can’t-get-to-sleep-at-all episode. I took melatonin. I took CBD. I took a bowl of cereal after 90 minutes of staring at the ceiling didn’t work. I did a crossword puzzle and finally got to sleep about 1:30 a.m. Awake at 6, back to sleep 20 minutes later, up for good at 7:30.

That’s not good sleep. When that happens I don’t get exercise, although I dress for it in hopes an opportunity will present itself. It didn’t happen today. It wasn’t a wasted day, but it was an unpleasant one.

It’s been hot, so the windows are closed, but sometimes, on nights like this, I’ll listen to the night sounds. My takeaway: It’s gonna be a wild summer, based on the squealing tires I hear, as well as the gunfire. So much gunfire! And yes, I know the difference between a semiauto and firecrackers. I think about all the people out there, going about their business, firing weapons, squealing tires, doing other things. Trying to sleep.

Because of my irritation of late, I read this story of Caitlyn Jenner’s gubernatorial run with some interest, particularly this graf, which I think is the nut of it:

Celebrities always have played a role in American politics, and no state has offered as many notable examples as California, with Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger morphing of course from Hollywood stars into public sector execs. But at a charged cultural and political juncture defined by Donald Trump, the most infamous entertainment-industry outsider ever, politics is no longer simply some notional lark of a second career but rather more and more a central means of creating or perpetuating renown, a newly altered electoral environment in which athletes, actors and other A-listers float bids to stoke fame.

The other day I tweeted that Kyrsten Sinema appears to have gone into politics for the sole purpose of displaying her impressive arms and shoulders on a national stage. I don’t understand why anyone would run for office and then simply fail to show up for important votes because oops I just couldn’t, that day. This is very dangerous for democracy, and a direct extension of the “vote for me, I’m not a career politician” trope we’ve been living under for 40-some years. Caitlyn Jenner has offered virtually nothing concrete in terms of policy ideas or solutions for the state she wants to govern. She does seem to be a bottomless, attention-sucking maw, however.

I looked, for several long minutes that I’ll never get back, at the main photo on that Politico story. I realize Jenner has had quite a bit of facial feminization surgery, and that the picture itself is quite stylized, but the weirdness of it is quite disconcerting. Who is this person? Does she even know herself? I doubt it.

And with that, my patience has reached its end. Time to do some skin care and, as the Detroit city motto says (in Latin), hope for better things. At least tomorrow.

Posted at 8:47 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments