Snow day, early version.

Guys, I think we’d have been better off explaining climate change, early on, as something other than simply “global warming.” Most people hate winter; you say it’ll be shorter, and they shrug. Big deal, I planned to move to Kentucky after I retired, anyway, etc.

If, on the other hand, we’d have laid out more details: Polar vortices, blistering summers, super-hurricanes, apocalyptic wildfires, and so on, maybe we’d not be in the fix we are now. Oh well, too late now.

I write this looking out my bedroom window. We’re supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow today, at a time when lots of trees are still retaining leaves, most of those that have fallen have still not been picked up from the curb, and oh my it will all be a melty freezey mess. The upside? I’m working from home today. So there’s a balance.

An appropriately emotioned Veterans Day to you all. (It feels dumb saying “happy,” which I suppose only people who get the day off can claim.) Hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was…adequate. We watched “Midsommar” on the iTunes device, and it was that rarity of rarities — a horror movie I enjoyed, if enjoyed is quite the right word. It was flawed, but every flaw was a defensible choice, and parts of it were simply spectacular.

More Morocco? I thought you’d never ask! A short scooter video that I hope doesn’t clog the download time.

Scooters at night.

This was our first night in Marrakech. I was trying to capture the insanity of these scooters buzzing through the tight streets of the medina, but didn’t quite get there. But it is a good look at the unfashionable parts of the medina at pedestrian rush hour, and you get a sense of street life. I did notice, when we were there, how much same-sex affection you see on the street, but that it doesn’t necessarily feel…sexual. Women walk arm-in-arm, men with arms slung casually over one another’s shoulders. (Did I already talk about this? This feels like deja vu, but I’m too lazy to check.) Morocco was a big gay destination in the old days, but I don’t think people there are any gayer than they are anywhere else. I didn’t get a this-is-my-lover feeling from any of these couples; it was just different than here, where men have that weird urinal-choice etiquette.

Now that it’s fading into the past, I think about the things I saw that I was either too slow or too polite to get a picture of: The strolling couples, for one, but also the four or five Berber men I saw squatting around a big wok-like pot at lunch hour in the markets, scooping out their lunch (right hand only!) bite by bite. A kid racing toward me on a bicycle in Essaouira, his basket stocked with two sizable swordfish, swords sticking out one side of the basket and tails out the other; I jumped out of his way for fear of incurring a wound I’d have a hard time explaining at a clinic.

Such a magical place.

OK, now it’s snow and work and more snow, and I must get to it. Happy Monday.

Posted at 9:39 am in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments
 

A quickie, and a snapshot.

I set a goal to clean the entire house yesterday and pretty much accomplished it, but it sapped my energy at blogging time and so, no Sunday-night blog.

But fearing that interest in the last thread may be flagging, here’s a new one. Some things to consider:

E. Jean Carroll is suing the president. For defamation.

Can you imagine, in some not-so-distant past, hearing that the First Lady of the United States would be visiting your child’s school, and that announcement causing a flipout/meltdown? Of course, this is no ordinary FLOTUS, either.

One more Morocco picture. We were walking around the port in Essaouira, I was trying to frame this gull, and said, “Hey, gull, look over here,” and it did. Just then, one of its colleagues flew through the frame as the shutter fell. Like I said: Hard to take a bad picture over there.

Posted at 12:33 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

Here, kitty.

If you all will indulge me a little longer, another photo post from Morocco. Today’s subject: Cats.

Feral cats are common in Morocco, and elsewhere; I recommend a charming documentary about the cats of Istanbul, called “Kedi.” (Kitty, get it?) It’s not exactly the same in the Moroccan cities we visited, but similar — cats are everywhere, entirely wild, not entirely pleasant to consider what their lives are like.

They’re skinny, dirty, some with mange or eye problems. No one pets them, although some soft-hearted souls might feed them from time to time. One rubbed on my shins at a shop, but most kept their distance. We saw more in Fez than in Marrakesh (I theorize most had been run over by scooters). The Essaouira cats proliferated by the dock and port, where they competed with the gulls for fish guts.

If you’re a cat lover, you’ll get lots of pictures. But don’t try to touch them; they’re not that kind of cat.

But like cats everywhere, they were excellent photo subjects:

They were silhouetted in every alley in the medina, it seemed:

I saw this one early, on the way back from the patisserie. He was breakfasting on a fish head:

Lots and lots of kittens:

They walk in and out of the businesses, most of which are open-air in some way or another. So you’d turn around and see something like this:

I really was hoping you’d order the shrimp, lady. We were sitting on the roof level of a cafe, and he was a little higher. He watched us for a while, then disappeared.

At our last place, in Essaouira, our host told us to close the door to the riad balcony at night, because otherwise they’d come into the apartment. He told a story about a woman who was staying there alone, and called in a panic her first night. “Someone’s trying to get in the door,” she whispered, frantically, and he ran over, only to find the front door locked. He let himself in and flew up the stairs, where she pointed to the balcony door: “No, there!” It was a cat.

Sure enough, that night, the balcony door rattled with something that sounded exactly like a paw, knocking, along with the usual plaintive meowing. No dice, kitty, but I fed fish leavings to a couple in the port the next day.

Maybe it was this one; this was in the alley outside our riad:

This place is so picturesque it’s ridic. I’m not even a very good photographer, either. It’s just hard to take a bad picture in Morocco.

And what happened on this side of the Atlantic? Just the president’s allies attacking a Purple Heart recipient because he speaks a second language. Just another day in the greatest and richest country on earth.

Here’s to Wednesday.

Posted at 8:41 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 48 Comments
 

Roofs.

I’ll be doing some miscellaneous mop-up posts from Morocco, although I am now back in the land of plenty — plenty of water, of water pressure, of a cloud cover so dense you doubt the sun exists at all, and, as Donald Trump is still president, of maddening bullshit.

Anyway.

We learned that when you rent a room in a riad, which is any building structured around an open courtyard, you are first shown to your room, and then to the roof. The roof is one of the attractions of riad life. Here I am enjoying Marrakesh roof life one morning:

(Pardon the lack of a pedicure. After Labor Day, I lose my patience for nail polish.)

Here’s the reverse angle, where I was sitting:

Nice place to lounge, eh? That low wall in front of my feet is the one that surrounds the open-air courtyard, so no one falls in and goes splat. The Marrakesh riad took the extra step of putting an awning over the courtyard, although it rains very little there. But the courtyard has wooden furniture, and I expect birds could be a problem. The view looking down into the interior:

Very nice. A couple of ficus-type trees next to a water feature, quite soothing. I’ll say this for riad life; you tend to stagger home after a day or even an hour of battling Marrakesh medina street life — the noise, the hustlers, and of course the goddamn scooters — step through the door and really feel like you left it behind. It’s nice, a design that makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, back to the roof. The French couple whose stay overlapped with ours took their breakfast up there, probably so they could smoke afterward. In the mornings, it’s quite pleasant at this table:

Then you step to the edge and get a sense of what’s below:

A rare quiet moment, there — most of the shops haven’t opened yet. This was a Saturday, so the kids weren’t in school. Note mama or grandma on her scooter. We stayed in a very un-touristy part of the medina; not so many Westerners along our close-by streets. You can see the building across is another riad, and if we lift our gaze a bit, you can see what looks like another well-appointed rooftop a block or two away; if you look closely, you can see a pigeon coop there, too. (P.S. Pigeons are for eatin’ in Morocco, but I didn’t have one.)

Looking left from where I was standing:

And no, I have no idea how you determine a property line in any of this chaos. But fortunately, it’s not my problem. But this is where we ate kebab sandwiches a couple nights instead of enduring the grueling Jemaa al-Fna, and listened to the final call to prayer. We bought them from a seller about a block down; he didn’t speak English, but fortunately at least one or two other customers knew enough to help us order. Yes, onions, yes, “spice,” yes very delicious. The French pastries we bought for dessert were easier — just point and hold up fingers for how many.

And now, yes, we are back. The laundry is done, the fridge is mostly restocked, and I’m going out for a new electric toothbrush to replace the one that died the day before we left. What crazy shit will happen in the week ahead? God only knows.

Posted at 12:41 pm in Same ol' same ol', Uncategorized | 29 Comments
 

The packing begins.

Another weekend, but this one is the last weekend before we leave, so you know how it was spent: I cleaned two bathrooms and started solving the puzzle of my carry-on.

Our plan this trip is to travel as light as possible, which means very careful packing, complicated by the fact we’ll be visiting both the coast (cooler) and the inland (way hotter), and it’s a Muslim country and that means …well, nothing revealing, lots of clothes with vents, and nothing too tight, and not much of them.

Basically, wearing the same thing in lots of pictures, and rinsing stuff out in the room at night. Good thing I’m not an Instagram influencer. They need to change outfits a lot.

How about a couple of pictures? Here’s what was sitting on our backyard fence on Saturday morning.

Perhaps it was admiring the insane coleus, which started off as partners with the impatiens in this pot but started colonizing the area like the damn British empire:

It was that, and watching the country delaminate, of course. A second whistleblower, multiple insane-sundowning-grampa tweetstorms, and in between, I saw some friends.

A weekend, in other words.

Two things of note, one a Monica Hesse column about Hillary:

It would be lovely, just lovely, if instead of being a gutsy woman, Hillary was just a boring president.

It would be lovely if we could look at her as a human instead of a reminder of messy marriages and messy times and the limits of our own forgiveness and the repercussions of letting the perfect be the enemy of the sane.

Every time Hillary Clinton makes another public appearance, she is giving us a gift. The gift is not her mediocre book. The gift is not magnetic wit. The gift is all her complications. The gift is being able to tell her to go away while simultaneously wishing she would never leave.

And this, which was amazingly accurate, in the case of my name, anyway. Nancy is a very fab-’50s name; it’s rare to meet one under 50, unless she’s Asian, because some Asian families love fab-’50s names like Susan and Jane and Wendy.

Time to watch “Succession” and rethink my packing cubes.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Someone else said it better.

I have been thinking about Jeffrey Epstein and the elites for a few days now, and am not really any closer to a coherent opinion on them. I mistrust my brain when my feelings get too involved, and I can’t be absolutely sure they’re entirely disengaged here.

So lucky for me I found a particular Twitter thread, which is long even for a Twitter thread, but gets very close to what I’ve been thinking. I’m-a let this nice lady lay out her problems with the MIT Media Lab, and just say: Seconded. (Along with a HT to Heather for finding it.)

And I’m glad someone brought up Anand Giridharadas, too. I have his book on reserve at the library.

So. Sunday afternoon and I am home alone. Alan is at work, after working Saturday, too, coordinating coverage of the UAW strike called for midnight. I have already cleaned a bathroom and am now in my gym clothes, trying to summon the motivation to actually go there. Weight work is the most difficult motivation for me, because I do it alone. Also, I’ve skipped enough lately that I know I’m going to be sore as hell tomorrow, but I really should go anyway. Maybe after some food prep, and a banana. And a little power nap. And another chapter of “The Sheltering Sky” and ooh look, gym’s closed.

Has anyone seen the new Linda Ronstadt movie? I was always a fan, if not a superfan, but seeing all these YouTubes that keep popping up is making me wonder if I made a big miscalculation, back in the day. Maybe it’s because my brain has been broken by autotune, but when I hear this, I think, goddamn, now that is a voice. Shoulda gone to more of her shows, but I saw her at the Hollywood Bowl, and once you’ve done that, Vets Memorial in Columbus looks pretty small-time.

And with that, I seem to have run out of things to say. I can’t put it off any longer: Gym. (After maybe a little snack.)

Posted at 1:58 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Happy new year.

As always, thanks for hanging around here when the postings get a little sparse. As the summer ends, I realize I’ve taken off more days than I intended, and I don’t really have much of an excuse other than: I did it because I could. As the new year — and September is the new year, as far as I’m concerned — I need to do more non-work writing. If only to keep myself off Twitter and whatever is falling apart in the world at the moment.

At this moment, it’s the Florida coast, as an enormous storm comes ever-closer, at a crawling speed, which has of course pushed the leadership of the country into Command Centers, where they’re closely monitoring the hurricane’s progress, in contact with local relief agencies, ready at a moment’s notice to step in to help save lives and mitigate misery, and…

…never mind, he’s tweeting again:

I can’t let any more of this nonsense keep me away from doing the stuff I enjoy — reading and writing.

It was a good weekend. Some pictures? Sure.

This was Saturday, for Shadow Show’s final appearance before next year. That’s because Kate leaves for California tomorrow, and I told her not to get homesick and come running back. Stay. Stay as long as the job and the money holds out, for cryin’ out loud.

In the distance: Sign in Arabic, because Hamtramck, and a pretty good crowd. This AC/DC tribute band (Icey Dicey) wasn’t doing quite as well, but they were just getting started:

I think they were playing “TNT” when I took that. Can’t remember.

And then on Sunday, we had a sendoff for Kate at a friend’s house. We had a hot dog/not dog bar, which was GENIUS (because everybody gets what they want, and all you have to do is set out a bunch of toppings), and I brought a pie and a cherry tart. Wendy got to spend some time with her favorite uncle:

Then we all discussed our funeral playlists and put each other in charge of carrying out our wishes. Yes, beer was involved.

Today it was a long bike ride in beautiful weather, and now I’m getting ready to dip back into “The Sheltering Sky” for the remainder of the afternoon.

One last pic: The Bassets meet the Dorothys for dinner in Dayton. Someone didn’t finish their onion rings:

And so the New Year commences! Let’s make it a good one.

Posted at 2:43 pm in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

The weekend, the whirl.

We start the week on a rocket blast of coffee and eggs and barely slow down. Wednesday is Hump Day, halfway to the weekend, then it’s Thursday, the official start of the weekend. (This is true; I saw some market research once that said people start thinking of the weekend at noon on Thursday, and once your mind is there, your body’s only a half step behind. Then it’s the official weekend, and it’s woo, party! Dinner guests! Activities! Errands! Laundry! And all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking, what happened here?

Americans work too hard, this is indisputably true.

it was a busy weekend. Eastern Market, dry cleaner, blah blah, ending at the Cannabis Cup, in town for the weekend. This is an event I was utterly unprepared for, a trade show all about marijuana, newly legalized in Michigan. I went there expecting a …trade show, but it was far more. Line around the block to get in, in withering sun and heat. It probably took half an hour just to get through the lines, and once inside? Quite nuts. Packed to the rafters, hot as hell, stinky as hell, row after row of weed vendors, selling pretty much everything weed-related.

If you live in a non-legal state, the first glimpse of Big Marijuana may be surprising. It has product specialists:

And of course it has characters:

And a certain literally homegrown charm:

But this was a big crowd, in a very Detroit space — the Russell Industrial Center courtyard:

It’s Weedstock. I’m sure someone has called it that before. I mean, the Wu-Tang Clan played.

Then, today, Sunday, was Swim to the Moon, the open-water swim I’ve been worried about for weeks. I had reason to worry; it was no easier than two years ago, when I finished it thinking I was going to die. I stayed on course better this year, maybe shaved a minute or two off my last time. But there’s simply no way to swim that far and make it easy, not at my age. But I finished, and didn’t drown, so we’ll maybe see about next year.

I’m trying to catch up with whatever I missed in the papers this weekend, but for now, I’m working my way through the 1619 Project, the NYT future Pulitzer winner about the effects of slavery in America. It’s much better than I expected, which is why so many Republicans seem to be so butthurt over it. So far, though, it’s very good.

And with that, I’m out. So, so tired.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Help from afar.

Well, that particular problem wrapped itself up in a bow. Allow me to explain:

Kate has an internship opportunity this fall that could lead to permanent employment, although that’s a don’t-count-chickens deal for now. It’s in Los Angeles, and it starts unpaid. The job itself is in Malibu, which is a bit of a fur piece from the city proper. Money isn’t a problem yet — we have a lot of her 529 left over (thanks, scholarships and diligent saving) and can help her out for a while, but housing was a big question mark, as she can’t sign a lease without an income or a job. She was hoping to find a co-op house similar to where she lived in Ann Arbor, but no dice in pricey Malibu. Nor student housing at Pepperdine. She’d been Craigslisting her little heart out, looking for a short-term sublet, but when a spare bedroom in Culver City fell through, I told her I’d see what I could do.

L.A. Mary to the rescue, and in about 24 hours, to boot. She knows a guy who has a restored vintage Airstream trailer parked in his back yard, it’s coming vacant soon, and it’s in Venice, which location-wise is about the best possible solution. So barring a disaster, she’ll be moving in in October.

And get this: The house has a pool. About a mile from the ocean. And about 20 miles from Malibu. Man, when you have a problem in a faraway city, it always helps to know a few locals, and it really helps to know our Mary.

So thanks, Mary.

I only wish my commute was on the Pacific Coast Highway, although maybe not at rush hour.

I just spent some time looking at Google Maps. Sigh.

I really hope this works out for her. She’s a hard worker. But we all have to struggle, early in our careers.

Take Jeffrey Epstein, for example. Started as a humble high-school math teacher, but it wasn’t long before his sociopathic charm took him right to the top, and he did exactly what he liked along the way until only very recently, when he decided that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life eating bologna sandwiches and canned fruit cocktail.

You can understand.

I’m not forming an opinion about it yet. Weird shit happens every day in our crazy world, but often, Occam’s razor applies. And if the Clintons were that powerful, why are so many of the people who tormented them for so long, who torment them to this day, still walking around free? Newt Gingrich is a tub of lard who couldn’t evade a trained assassin for 30 seconds. And Anthony Weiner, for cryin’ out loud. Neither man would be much missed by their wives. Callista might even leave the bedroom window unlocked. (Hell, she’d send a thank-you note.)

That said, what an utter failure of what should be simple procedure in a federal lockup. Hanging oneself in a cell isn’t as cut-and-dried as a drop from a gallows; often the deceased suffocates, and that takes time. This never should have happened, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

The other big event this weekend was the old-folks’ swim meet we held Saturday morning. It was all team events, almost all relays. We all swam two or three races, and the teams I was on won some, lost some. It was a very casual event, as you can imagine; we were encouraged to “take the ribbons you think you deserve,” for instance. I left with none. What am I going to do with ribbons? I had a great time, and saw our old buddy Tom, who took much of the last year off as he waited for, and then received, a kidney transplant. Now he’s back in the pool, and here he is, after finishing his lap:

Man, nothing photographs like a pool on a beautiful summer day.

I hope the next day you face is beautiful. See you Tuesday/Wednesday.

Posted at 6:35 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments
 

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' | 29 Comments