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' | 14 Comments
 

Adventures in latex.

I drove up into Macomb County at evening rush hour tonight — which you non-locals should read as, “I willingly inflicted painful torture upon myself” — to meet with a friend, one of my old filmmaking gang. He’s applying for an arts fellowship, and wants me to help write his application. He’s a special-effects makeup artist, a great guy, who worked for Chrysler for 15 years, took his buyout money and trained and transitioned into this practical art. It was very practical while the filmmaking tax credits existed, but today he spends a lot of time building prosthetic limbs in the long intervals between film work. We were talking about the intricacies of working with silicone skin when I said, “You should make sex dolls.”

“I’ve made a lot of sex toys,” he said.

Not the whole doll, but he had an early apprenticeship at a place in Los Angeles that makes dildos and fake hoo-has and various other love aids for the lonely.

“You mean, like the fake dicks of the stars?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? I cast…” And then he named a famous male porn actor who probably has a Google alert on his name. He described the PVC pipe full of latex molding compound that he prepared, with a hole cut in the middle for insertion. The actor was a pro, preparing himself for this very modern star appearance with no need for a fluffer or any other visual aid. Just drop trou and get to work. It was all quite efficient.

How about the women? I asked. They would come with a friend who would “twiddle the bits,” my friend said, until they were sufficiently protuberant, then the work was over fairly quickly. The latex only went on the outside, and then they hopped down and cleaned up.

I remember watching a “Real Sex” episode late at night about this practice. I mostly recall the production process, somewhere in Asia, where assembly lines of bored-looking Filipino women would hand-paint the details on the blanks. I wonder what they think of this faraway land known as America, I thought at the time. Today I’d think, I bet they understand why we elected Trump.

Anyway, my friend has come a long way from casting porn penises. He worked on the Hobbit movies, and won a local Emmy for this commercial, although if you ask me, the real workhorse was the poor actor, who had to live in that latex for 17 hours.

I love talking to people about the work they do.

So, a quick midweek hop to the bloggage? Sure.

Do you have coyotes in your neighborhood? And a small dog? That pup may need a coyote vest. Sorry, I don’t think they make them for cats.

Who is Scott Free? Deplorable America wants to know.

I petered out on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” after a few episodes last year, but Hank has convinced me I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ll try it again. What else do I have to do? Besides apply for an arts grant without mentioning penises, that is.

Happy Wednesday! See you (I hope) at week’s end.

Posted at 8:51 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments
 

Cleaning up. Everywhere.

We cleaned a closet this weekend. The big closet, the master-bedroom closet, the one we share. We cleaned it because it was a two-person job.

God, what a nightmare. What SHAME. There’s nothing like finding perfectly good shoes you haven’t worn in a decade to make you want to cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes. Then you look at the shoes and think, I never really liked these anyway, which makes you feel even guiltier that you bought them in the first place.

Into the donation pile they go.

At least there wasn’t anything NWT in there — that’s “new with tags,” for those of you who don’t stalk used-clothing websites. I’ve heard those horror stories.

It took half a day to get it all out, sweep, dust, mop the floor with Murphy’s and restock it with about one-third the items. But it honestly made me so happy that the first thing I did Sunday morning after I got out of bed was go to the closet and just admire it for a minute or two.

Then I cleaned the bathrooms, and that felt even better. I’m so bourgeois I can’t stand it.

I have a friend who, when she swaps her clothes seasonally, hangs everything up with the hangers reversed. As she wears things, she rehangs them the correct way. If anything makes it to the end of the season with the hanger still backwards, out it goes. Now that’s discipline. I don’t have it, though.

And with that, you’ve heard the fun of my weekend — Christmas shopping, exercise, dust in my nose. Went to a yoga-class benefit for the 501c3 I serve on, and they gave everyone a gift bag. Sticky-bottom socks, shea butter for your feet, all that stuff. Coupons for stuff like nutritional consultation, etc. I worked in the back row, so I could look at two or three rows of bottoms way firmer than mine in skin-tight leggings. Every time I do yoga, I think I should do it more. Then I get to class and think my ass is the fattest one here.

So, it would seem the the Mueller endgame is here, no? Certainly we have passed a significant milestone. I saw someone say on Twitter that she was expecting a royal flush. Do you? What’s the best intel we have so far? It would seem that he knew all along that Manafort’s lawyers were reporting back to Trump’s lawyers, but he let it go on, so he could feed specific information and manipulate the genius POTUS into certain responses?

Just make it a merry Christmas, Bob.

One bit of bloggage today: Why so many parties? Obviously, because it’s the end of the world.

Posted at 9:31 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

The gallop at midweek.

It’s still Wednesday, isn’t it?

Crazy beginning of the week, but at least it went pretty fast. Lots of work makes for flying hours. Two links you might consider hitting, before we start, both by me: A visit to the “Harvard of Santa schools,” with a former Hoosier; and some strict inside-baseball stuff for Detroiters, a quick-turnaround piece on a local scandalette.

Traffic is important in this job, and we’re trying to build a readership. So click and then come back. We’ll wait.

The Santa piece was fun. Ann, the woman at the beginning and end, used to read my column back in the Fort, her hometown. If you went to the Holly Trolley this past weekend, you saw her around town. She connected with me on Facebook a while back, and when this chance to go to Santa school in Michigan came up, she dropped a line. Serendipity.

So, hope you all are doing fine. I’m trying to get my Christmas ducks in a row, with the idea of having my shopping 90 percent done after this weekend. Then, to do the baking, although based on how my waistbands feel after this past weekend, maybe it’s best to delay that a while and go for roasted vegetables for a few days. Alan got me a sous vide for my birthday, and I made my first ribeye the other night. It was good, but too rare, even though the meat thermometer said it was ready. I ground the leftovers the next day and made shepherd’s pie for one (Alan had to work late). Very good. I look forward to exploring the wonderful world of eggs this weekend.

I also committed to my first swim meet, sometime in January. I’m not a fast swimmer, so I expect utter humiliation, but I will power through, as that is my sole virtue — doggedness. I show up, I put in the time, but I just don’t get any faster. Ah, well. The Olympic team needn’t call me up.

Which reminds me: If you’re a podcast listener, I highly recommend “Believed,” which dropped a few weeks ago from Michigan Radio. You can find it in the usual places. It’s about the Larry Nassar case, which I followed closely, but I’m still learning things I didn’t know from these stories. It’s very good at delving into some of the psychology behind these stories, particularly questions like, how could these young women not realize they’d been assaulted? How could this happen with their own parents in the room? And how could so many parents hear their daughters trying to tell them what happened, and still not respond appropriately? You’ll leave with more compassion for the flawed people in the world. (Although not for Nassar.)

As long as we’re back to bloggage, two more quick recommendations, and then I’m out.

Funny: Alexandra Petri on Melania’s bloody Christmas forest. Very funny.

Not funny at all: Laura Trujillo’s account of her mother’s suicide and its aftermath. Painful enough to read that if this issue is painful for you, it might be too painful. My grandfather committed suicide when my mother was 10, and it’s an act that I believe reverberates in our family to this day. But I learned a lot about suicide, and it’s absolutely beautifully written. Thanks to Hank for recommending it.

Time to draw the curtain on Wednesday and maybe eat some pizza. Talk later.

Posted at 7:11 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 82 Comments
 

Tryptophan hangovers.

You guys! I’m so bad at blogging this week! And I apologize. Somewhere along the way of having a birthday party, preparing 1.5 Thanksgiving meals, driving to hell ‘n’ gone and eating my weight in pretty much everything, this little task got dropped.

So here it is Sunday morning, a turkey breast is in the oven (yes, it’s too complicated and boring to explain), and I’m seizing this chance while I can. So, the weekend! The holiday! How was yours? The feast at Mar-a-Lago looks like it was lit, as per usual. Let’s look at the photos, shall we?

Fox News selected a set in which Melania managed to creak into a half-smile, and even Barron — poor Barron, forced to put on a goddamn necktie — seems to have a semi-pleasant emotion stirring behind his usually impassive face.

The Daily Caller proclaimed Melania “wowed” in a black lace dress, then posted photos where you could see approximately seven inches of the dress. Fashion coverage of Melania’s outfits is the best reason to read right-wing media, because that’s where they really shine. FLOTUS never fails to wow.

This is the pic most outlets went with. I like Melania’s thousand-yard stare.

I trust everyone else had a decent holiday, barring disaster. No neckties, anyway. And I hope the football team of your choice won the big game, although that certainly didn’t happen north of the 42nd parallel. The Lions sucked, the Wolverines sucked, and we’re supposed to get a few inches of snow overnight. Michigan — it’s a character-builder.

I was thinking about fake news a bit, especially after reading a rather disturbing New Yorker story about the future of AI-assisted “deep fake” technology. This is the programming that will someday allow you to see Meryl Streep in pornography and Barack Obama having a celebratory cocktail with Osama bin Laden. You think your Thanksgiving arguments with Uncle Foxnews are fun now? Just you wait.

The problem, of course, is not that people believe these things — although some will — but that far more people will then not believe anything. It’s one reason people grow frustrated with the chilly, cat-lays-the-bothsides-mouse-at-your-feet journalism of today, which is problematic in a world where all the rules have been suspended.

OK, my turkey is beeping and I have to get moving. Happy Sunday, see you soon.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments
 

More rakes please.

“There are hells below this” is something Neil Steinberg says from time to time. (It seems like it’s a phrase from Shakespeare or something, but when I google? It’s all him.) It’s a more elegant flip on the one lesson I learned from the newspaper game: Never say it can’t get any worse. It can always get worse. And usually does.

Anyway, this past week has been a new, deeper hell, in term of our national situation. By the time the president was rambling, exactly like a dementia-afflicted senior citizen, about raking the forest floor? I no longer had the spirit to even grimly chuckle. The president is deferred to, always — it’s one of the perks of the job — but I can only hope that sometimes, somewhere, there is someone in the White House who is brave enough to correct him.

What am I saying? Of course no one does such a thing. They just write anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.

Happy end-of-weekend, all. Ours went pretty well. After the dinner/cake thing in A2, I took Alan out for a peaceful Saturday breakfast, since any birthday when you have to work isn’t much of a birthday at all, in my opinion. Stopped by John King Books — a five- or six-floor temple of used ones — and bought four novels, in an attempt to rekindle my interest in the concept of reading for pleasure. Cheated with one that I’d already read, but it was long ago and at least I know the author (Martin Cruz Smith) is reliably pleasing to me. I also got a hardcover of “All the Light We Cannot See” and am hoping for the best. Also, did you know Elmore Leonard published a YA novel? No? Me neither. So I added that to the stack. Simplicity and brevity will do me good in the weeks ahead.

After John King there were chicken tacos, which I mention because I know how much you guys need to know that. And then it was “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the new Coen brothers movie that premiered in theaters last week before immediately hopping to Netflix. It was daffy and funny and I recommend it, especially if you’re a Coen fan.

One more thing before I hop to the bloggage: I followed some of the discussion of My Pants over the weekend. I found McEwan’s take interesting, but maybe not entirely convincing. For My Pants to rise, phoenix-like, from Trump’s ashes is no small task. He’ll have evangelicals, of course, but even moderate Republicans are going to be put off by the montages of Pence clapping, smiling and looking his oleaginous, toadying self next to POTUS. That first cabinet meeting alone should suffice, but we’re in a different place now, bets off, but I have a feeling. He’s the only person connected to this White House who I find almost as repellant at Trump himself. And that is saying a lot. I can’t believe the same suburban women who voted for Trump hoping for the best (and flipped blue in the midterms) would fall for this guy.

OK, then: Your greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts story today is this one, about a fake-news farm that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and the people who continue to believe what they publish, even when, for example, he publishes something like this:

He noticed a photo online of Trump standing at attention for the national anthem during a White House ceremony. Behind the president were several dozen dignitaries, including a white woman standing next to a black woman, and Blair copied the picture, circled the two women in red and wrote the first thing that came into his mind.

“President Trump extended an olive branch and invited Michelle Obama and Chelsea Clinton,” Blair wrote. “They thanked him by giving him ‘the finger’ during the national anthem. Lock them up for treason!”

Blair finished typing and looked again at the picture. The white woman was not in fact Chelsea Clinton but former White House strategist Hope Hicks. The black woman was not Michelle Obama but former Trump aide Omarosa Newman. Neither Obama nor Clinton had been invited to the ceremony. Nobody had flipped off the president. The entire premise was utterly ridiculous, which was exactly Blair’s point.

The story hits another gear when they visit one of those individuals who spends all day on Facebook, liking and sharing stuff like this because she thinks it’s true. The mournful violin strains of “Eleanor Rigby” began to play in my head, reading this:

It was barely dawn in Pahrump, Nev., when Shirley Chapian, 76, logged onto Facebook for her morning computer game of Criminal Case. She believed in starting each day with a problem-solving challenge, a quick mental exercise to keep her brain sharp more than a decade into retirement. For a while it had been the daily crossword puzzle, but then the local newspaper stopped delivering and a friend introduced her to the viral Facebook game with 65 million players. She spent an hour as a 1930s detective, interrogating witnesses and trying to parse their lies from the truth until finally she solved case No. 48 and clicked over to her Facebook news feed.

…On her computer the attack against America was urgent and unrelenting. Liberals were restricting free speech. Immigrants were storming the border and casting illegal votes. Politicians were scheming to take away everyone’s guns. “The second you stop paying attention, there’s another travesty underway in this country,” Chapian once wrote, in her own Facebook post, so she had decided to always pay attention, sometimes scrolling and sharing for hours at a time.

..She’d spent almost a decade in Pahrump without really knowing why. The heat could be unbearable. She had no family in Nevada. She loved going to movies, and the town of 30,000 didn’t have a theater. It seemed to her like a place in the business of luring people — into the air-conditioned casinos downtown, into the legal brothels on the edge of the desert, into the new developments of cheap housing available for no money down — and in some ways she’d become stuck, too.

Apologies for the long excerpt, but it’s worth breaking my three-paragraph rule for this one. If you have a lonely older person in your life, ask them to lunch. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

There’s a guy here in Metro Detroit, a civilian who knows the Affordable Care Act better than most legislators. I follow him on the tweeter machine. He recently published a spreadsheet of the “AHCA Class of 2017,” i.e., those legislators who voted to repeal Obamacare and just ran for re-election. This is a one-stop shop to find out the electoral fate of all 217 House Republicans. Most were re-elected, but enough weren’t that it’s worth checking out.

And with that? I’m off to the gym and grocery.

Posted at 12:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments
 

Natal anniversary.

It’s birthday season. Actually, it’s birthDAY for Alan and Kate, which means little time for you, although here’s a fresh thread. I just finished frosting the cake, and from here on it’s a run-run day until we head to Ann Arbor for dinner. Wendy’s coming along, and will spend the short week with her friends at Kate’s co-op. She loves that place, because it’s pretty much petting and walks and treats nonstop; she sleeps for two days after coming home from these canine bacchanals.

We’ll have a relaxing weekend afterward; Kate will be recording her band, part of her senior thesis. Yes, senior thesis. Assuming all goes well, she graduates in April. Sunrise, sunset.

A few reading recommendations for the next few days.

The NYT’s Facebook investigation is well worth your time. The short version: Fucking assholes. If you’re pressed for time, you can get the short version via podcast on The Daily, today.

Also, a companion piece on the ghastly behavior of Sheryl Sandberg in all of this.

I have a like-hate relationship with e-scooters. How about you? I think this WashPost writer gets the gist:

Electric scooters are a little like Q-Tips .

In both cases, the products are marketed with explicit warnings about how not to use them, even though everyone knows that’s precisely the way pretty much every customer will use them.

For scooter riders here in Santa Monica, it means: Don’t you dare ride on the sidewalk, which is against the law, even though it sometimes feels super unsafe to ride next to cars. Or: Wink-wink, always wear a helmet. Also, the beach bike path is verboten, even though it is the smoothest, most fun, most scenic ride possible. And definitely don’t just dump your scooter in the middle of a busy path or sidewalk.

Aw shucks, well, we did warn you. Guess it’s your fault if you land in the ER.

And with that, I best get moving. Happy weekend, all.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

Winter is here.

Woke up to the pitter-patter of rain on the skylight, which I expected, no biggie. I stumbled to the bathroom, put on my workout clothes and filled my water bottle, stumbling out the door to — snow. The rain was the dreaded “wintry mix,” that fat, plopping precipitation that comes at the beginning and end of the season and basically sucks, although at least it’s not too cold when it’s wintry-mixing outside.

Did the 6 a.m. boxing workout, taking a few breaks to work the mitts with the trainer. Smug level: Orange.

Hey, with winter bearing down on us, we take our little rewards where we can — flannel sheets, hearty soups, red wine with friends, online shopping for the holidays. I came home to see a news alert on Alan’s phone, about police responding to another active shooter. A bit later, a correction: Not a mass shooting, a malfunctioning water heater. Well, there’s a relief. I guess we’re all on edge after yesterday’s slaughter in Thousand Oaks, with the revolting detail that some of the people in the bar — some of the people who died — were survivors of the Las Vegas slaughter last fall. We are insane in this stupid country.

I have to go out in the wintry mix later today to attend a seminar on marijuana legalization, so I’m keeping my head light this morning. Did a little scanning for gift ideas, and fell headfirst into the weird world of startup underwear — you know, the MeUndies, Tommy John, all those brands that advertise on podcasts and have their noses in the air because they’re startups, and hence superior to Hanes and what-have-you.. And excuse me for saying this, but: The day I pay $35 for a pair of everyday u-trou is the day I hit the goddamn lottery, and probably not even then. I don’t doubt that it’s got amazingly soft microfiber whatever-the-hell fabric, and I’m sure it fits very well, but it’s underwear. If I’m going to pay that much, I want it to be lingerie, dammit. For just wearing under a pair of jeans, I’m going with something I can buy in a three-pack at Target.

Other mysteries: $200-a-pair blue jeans. Yes, yes, it’s selvage denim, supposedly superior to all other denims. Selvage, it turns out, is basically “self-edge,” and what that means is, the weave is different and it will only fray in two directions, instead of all four. Good to know! I generally expect my jeans not to fray at all — the worst money I ever spent was for a pair of “distressed” Levi’s, which have holes in the legs and can only be worn for a brief window in spring and fall, when it’s cool enough for jeans but not so cold you can’t wear the air-conditioned kind.

Anyway, jeans are one of those things that really rewards brand loyalty. You find the one that works on your bod, and you buy it forever. I’ve got a Levi’s ass, and Levi’s are my jeans jam, and I’m just grateful they don’t cost $200 a pair. You need to know what fits you, because jeans really are almost like, well, underwear.

Enough ranting about shopping. On to the bloggage.

Sarah Sanders is a lying liar, but you already knew that. That intern looks like a Sarah-in-training. Good luck, girlfriend, but I’d advise you to jump off this train at the first opportunity.

Mostly for Detroiters, but the issues are probably universal in contemporary urban America: An interview with the keeper of the Terrible Ilitches Facebook page. The Ilitches are a local billionaire family, owners of the Tigers and Red Wings, and adept at getting the city to subsidize their developments with tax money, promising payoffs that never come to pass.

Why Michigan just passed an anti-gerrymandering initiative: Because since the last round of redistricting, Democratic candidates have outpolled Republicans statewide, but find themselves outnumbered in the state legislature, and in Washington.

And I leave you with this difficult-to-watch clip. But watch it we must.

Off to the showers for a mostly work-at-home day. Enjoy yours, and your weekend.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments
 

Scrap paper.

I find the news of the day so disorienting I’m just going to download a bunch of random slides, post-it notes and half-scribbled cocktail napkins in my head, none of which have any point, but what the hell, here goes:

I’ve been commuting via bus lately. Probably a column in that one, but for the purposes of this discussion, all you need to know is that I was walking my neighborhood without Wendy, which I usually don’t do. I was trudging home on a steamy day. On the next block over, I walked up on a yard with a loose dog. Biggish, not a leviathan, and very friendly. Some sort of pitty/boxer-y melange, the sort that, when it wags its tail, the whole back half swings back and forth. I stopped and petted, of course, because I like dogs. A woman working in a yard a door or two down called the dog — Moxie, Maxie, something like that — closer to her. A squirrel was scampering around her, oddly close, for a squirrel. Also, it had pricked ears.

She reached down and scooped it up. It wasn’t a squirrel, but the tiniest puppy I think I’ve ever seen. The pup wore a eensie little collar with an ID tag that nearly covered her chest: Sophie. She was a Yorkie/chihuahua cross, and nine weeks old.

“I took her to the vet today. She weighs .88 pounds,” she said. I cuddled Sophie for a minute, and gave her back. She’ll be bossing Moxie/Maxie around soon enough.

* * * * *

I keep thinking about something that happened in July, when we went to Fort Wayne for an afternoon, for one of our old neighbor’s, sadly and unexpectedly deceased, “celebration of life.” (I always have to put that phrase in quotes; it doesn’t sound natural to me.)

The event was at Foster Park, which you locals most likely know — lovely gardens close to the entrance on Old Mill Road, a golf course behind, tennis courts, picnic pavilions. We were in a pavilion, reached by the main park road, which is paved. The parking is sort of haphazard; most people kinda bump onto a gravel shoulder, diagonally.

As we were leaving, carrying our cooler to the car and saying our goodbyes, I heard a child wailing. I looked over, and saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old, sitting on the park road, a few car lengths away, just where the gravel shoulder joined it, crying hysterically. A car was coming, too fast, and I held my breath; I didn’t have time to grab him, but surely there was an adult nearby who would.

The car passed the boy with room to spare, but no adult appeared. He continued to cry. I walked over and looked around. No obvious parent in sight, so I picked him up, said, “Let’s find your mom.”

We walked toward the nearest potential group of suspects, near the playground. “Point to your mom if you see her,” I told him. He was still crying, nowhere close to calm. I started asking random people; no one knew. The deceased neighbor’s daughter, a sometime nanny, speaks Spanish, and asked the boy where his mom was. No answer. We walked deeper into the playground, and I started calling out, “Whose little boy is this?” Again, nothing.

Finally, finally, a kid pointed to a woman sitting on a bench, waayyyy on the other side of the playground. She was on the phone. I walked over to her, the boy still yelling his head off.

“Is this your son?” I asked. Without even interrupting her conversation, she nodded and held out her arms. The boy reached back. OK, then.

“He was sitting in the road,” I said. She nodded in that yeah-I-hear-you way, while continuing to uh-huh-uh-huh whoever she was talking to. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say, so I walked away.

I looked back once. They were sitting on opposite ends of the bench, he in the hiccup-y end game of a crying jag. She? Was still on the phone.

Some people don’t deserve children.

* * * * *

I mentioned I’ve been taking the bus lately. Frankly, the extra time it takes me to get downtown is balanced by the lack of concern over parking and traffic.

It’s also an eavesdropper’s dream, a reward for anyone with eyes to look around the world and see what’s there. The other day I got on to find a man in surgical scrubs, carrying his clothes in a plastic bag, wearing a surgical mask. There’s a hospital two stops up, so the explained where he came from. But what happened to him? What was wrong with him?

I spent a few stops thinking about that, looking out the window. When I looked back, he was gone.

There are about a million stops on my route. The drivers don’t stop if no one is waiting. If there’s a hobo sleeping on the bench, they’ll slow down and honk. If the sleeper doesn’t stir, no stop.

Before I know it, we’re at the Rosa Parks Transit Center, where I take my bike off the rack and ride the last few blocks to the office. It’s a great way to start the work day. In summer, anyway.

Two summer pictures to close things out. Aretha, a mural at Eastern Market:

And the prettiest tomatoes ever:

And that’s it for the midweek memory dump. Have a nice Wednesday.

Posted at 9:01 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments
 

Double down.

I went to a party Saturday night. Somehow I ended up in conversation with two younger men, one of whom was a former major-league ball player (third base). They were friends of the host, in town for a weekend of sports and gambling.

They were staying at one of the downtown casino hotels, and the night before they, along with the father of one of them, had won more than $40,000 between the three of them. Baccarat.

“Like James Bond,” I said.

He got the reference, always a good sign in an age when James Bond now plays Texas Hold’em.

“So, what are you going to do with your winnings?” I asked. Both said they intended to go back to the casino that very night and keep playing, and that if they lost it all, they wouldn’t consider it a bad day at all.

“It’s entertainment,” one said.

I honestly don’t get it. If I were fortunate enough to win more than $20,000 in one sitting, the last thing the pit boss would see are the soles of my feet, leaving in a hurry. I know this is how casinos work. I know this is why they’re one business you almost have to work to fail at (ahem, POTUS), but it’s still baffling. The conversation moved on. It took a few unusual turns, but ended with my plus-one, a girlfriend, offering common-sense therapeutic relationship advice to the third baseman, which he received gratefully.

“I never thought of that,” he said.

Truth be told, he reminded me of Tim Robbins’ character in “Bull Durham.” But that’s a pro athlete for you.

What a weekend, all around. Fall arrived after a day of strong winds. Friday started hot and humid and ended chilly and overcast. Saturday, however, was perfect sweater weather. I bought apples at the market, and considered the last peaches, but passed. I bought some last week, and they took a while to soften, but they were fine and delicious. There’s always a day when I buy the last peaches of the summer and they’re terrible. Better to end on a high note, like any love affair.

So now it’s well and truly fall. The windows are closed, although today was lovely. I hit the gym, like an idiot. Should’ve been out on the bike, but at least I rode there and back. But leg strength needs a certain focused attention, and today was leg day. Google “Bulgarian split squats” and pity me, because I sure pity myself.

On to the bloggage!

So much of this stuff seems old, because most was gathered last week, before Thursday/Friday slipped out of my grasp. But what the hell, here you go:

Provocative headline: Everything you know about obesity is wrong, and totally worth the read.

You may have seen this already, but I found it so, so infuriating. It’s choir-preaching for sure, but to those of you who might wonder why women don’t report sexual assault, a sobering report about one young woman who did. Conclusion: Texas sucks, but so does everyplace else.

One of those cool NYT data presentations, about the links between counties via number of Facebook friendships. You’ll be mousing over this one all day.

Finally, because we need some good writing, Hank looks at twofour terrible TV shows, one of them a rebooted “Magnum P.I.”

So, “Magnum P.I.,” what am I to make of you? What is there to say about a show nobody asked for that oozed up anyhow from pop-culture’s toxic nostalgia barrel and now premieres Monday on CBS? Revived from your 30-year rest in the rerun crypt, you have achieved a new existence, Magnum — dipped in heavy gloss and buffed to a shine. Tires squeal, things explode, Dobermans bark. Still we feel nothing.

… You are not good at the thing you’re trying to be, New Magnum, and instead of resurrecting a feeling, you’ve run right over it with that bright red Ferrari. Instead of declaring a creative or timely purpose (like your network friend and fellow exhumee, “Murphy Brown”), you are merely a piece of content placed between commercials. Your existence is cold and cynical, Magnum, predicated on the previous success of reboots such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver.”

On to Monday, folks. Hope the week goes well.

Posted at 7:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments