Leftovers.

That was a nice break. I needed it, even if it feels like I spent all of it in the kitchen. My back hurts, and I told Alan I need me some carryout for a couple nights this week, or I might just collapse.

Thanksgiving was fine, but I promised two desserts and two sides, which meant: All day in the fucking kitchen. I did sweet potato for the pie and an apple tart, then a green bean thing and a cauliflower thing, and I swear, I only got into the shower in late afternoon. No matter, though — the hostess worked harder and dinner was delicious. My tart would be terrible, I thought; everything went wrong, and it was just so much work for something so slight, and yet, it was a big success, and delicious. Next try I’m doing an ombré variation.

All the cooking left me plenty of time to read the news today, oh boy. This WashPost piece got a lot of attention, deservedly so. I was taken by the full-length photo of Sidney Powell at the notorious RNC presser last week, in which she is wearing what appears to be a leopard-print cardigan with snakeskin boots. It reminded me of an editor I once had, who wore business clothes with strange embellishments — heels encased in gold cages, stuff like that. She said she’d picked it up in Texas, where no one dresses quote-unquote normally. Powell is from Dallas, so it tracks, but it reminded me of…was it Coco Chanel’s advice? Or your mother’s? The bit about getting dressed for the day, putting on all the jewelry you think you need, then taking off one piece.

New rule: You may wear one animal print. Not two. It makes you look crazy, and that you packed very badly.

Anyway, I’m glad my birthday is over and Thanksgiving is over, and the rest of it is just a glide into the holidays. Most of my shopping is done, and all I have to do is wrap and bake, and precious little of that. Man, I am sugared out for a few days. I’ve been thinking of trying soufflé vendome, i.e., a soufflé that’s hiding six poached eggs inside. Maybe in the spring, for Easter? I will think about it.

(Alan: “I don’t like poached eggs.” Me: “You’ll eat it anyway.”)

Every year I consider a buche de Noel. Every year, I think I’d rather stab out my eyes than carve marzipan mushrooms.

Although that’s why the gods gave us the Great British Baking Show, so I’ll watch that. Soon it will be December, the last 1/12th of 2020.

Posted at 8:48 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

HB2me.

Hey, er’rybody. Today is my birthday. I’m 63, although I seem to recall from my birth certificate that fact won’t be precisely, scientifically true until around 5 this afternoon. No matter. I’m 63, and I just finished a Zoom boxing class, which is both silly and deeply appreciated. The other morning I was shadowboxing away in my basement and saw police lights flashing through the glass-block window. They’d come to confirm the death of one of my neighbors. I don’t really know these neighbors on anything other than a wave-while-walking-the-dog basis, so I’m not sure what the cause was. She had been sick, I know that much. Ultimately I guess she died of what gets us all: Time’s up.

Another neighbor, who I really don’t know because she doesn’t wave, lost her father to Covid a few weeks back. (How do I know this? How else? Facebook.) So when I say my Zoom class is both silly and appreciated, it’s because it feels dumb to punch at nothing alone in my basement with a trainer telling me to correct my head position, but I’m very glad to be able to do it because: Consider the alternative.

My birthday always falls around Thanksgiving, which meant pumpkin pie for birthday cake in the past and in recent years, considerations like the above.

This has been a hard year, easier for some (which includes us), much worse for many others, devastating for still others. It’s important to be grateful for what you have, to share if you can, to take a moment to consider the alternative. And we have a lot to be thankful for this year, both personal and on the wider stage. We’ve rid the country of Trump is the big one. Obviously, Trumpism will endure, but he’ll no longer be able to command — not just draw, but command — the attention of the world. Many will continue to do so, but it’s like the ending of “A Face in the Crowd.” And yeah, we’ll have his demon spawn to deal with, but their power will be similarly diminished. There’s some punishing chemo to follow, but the biggest tumor has been taken to the incinerator.

There’s a Covid vaccine coming, that’s even better news. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be more than we have now. Life will return to something that resembles normality. We’ll be able to travel again, eat in restaurants again, maybe even hug one another. That’s something.

You have something in your life to be grateful for, some blessing to count. Count it tomorrow. Or today. Your call.

Me, I’m taking the rest of the week off. I’ll wear my birthstone jewelry. And I’ll have a very small Thanksgiving, with two friends who’ve already had Covid and been medically cleared. Alan has to work. We’ll bring him a plate.

If you haven’t had your fill already, here’s the big Politico tick-tock on the Michigan election drama. At least one better-sourced political reporter is pointing out that a couple of bad guys are obvious sources for it, and that the underground river running through it is the split between crazy and non-crazy Michigan Republicans, so be advised.

I now will accept your birthday tributes. The line forms to the left, with appropriate social distancing.

Posted at 8:51 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 81 Comments
 

Mixed grill for the weekend.

A friend-ish friend from Columbus posted some pictures on Facebook last night. As best as I can date them, they’re from….1975-76. Here’s our mutual friend, Mark:

That’s one of the most ’70s pictures ever, I think — the aviator glasses, the hair, the ‘stache, the rings and of course, the haze in the air that pretty much always hung over the basement where that was taken. Someone else was there that night, too:

Yeah, that’s me and my first serious boyfriend, Peter. He’s no longer with us (one-car fatal). Neither are those glasses, thank the lord. Who was I trying to be? Gloria Steinem?

Ah, memories.

Another friend sent me this. I hasten to add that it was not because he believed it, or thought I might, but just because this is the sort of QAnon bullshit flying around. Ahem:

A recount of voting ballots nationwide was being done by elite units of the National Guard by early Sun. morning 8 Nov. To prevent fraud official ballots had been printed with an invisible, unbreakable code watermark and registered on a Quantum Blockchain System.

As of this writing, in five states 14 million ballots had been put through a laser scanner – 78% of which failed because there was no watermark to verify the ballot. Of those that failed 100% had checked for Biden.

An initial test showed that according to water marks on validated ballots fed into the Quantum Computer, Trump won re-election by over 80% of the legal ballot cast. The final validated vote tallied in that test: Trump 73.5 million votes to Biden’s 25.9 million – and that didn’t even account for Trump votes that people observed being tossed and never accounted for.

I’d actually seen this earlier in the week. The first reference to National Guard has been corrected; the original called them “National Guards,” and I recall from 2016 that small usage errors are a hallmark of bad actors speaking in foreign accents. I did chuckle over “Quantum Blockchain System.” If there are two words in the English language that are essentially meaningless, it’s quantum and blockchain. I know, I know — they have definitions. But a friend who edits financial news observed some times ago that if you want to bump a stock a few points, issue a press release with “blockchain” in the headline and watch the magic happen.

And remember, there are people in this world who believe this. Mercy.

Happy Friday to all. This weekend marks the beginning of BirthdayFest, i.e. the celebrations of Alan and Kate, followed nine days later by my own edging closer to Medicare. (On my legislative wish list: Early buy-in.) And then, Thanksgiving, which is looking increasingly like it will be a lonely, two-plate event around here. I had planned to eat with friends (because Alan has to work), but they’re both recovering from you-know-what, along with one of their two children, and so the calculus is: Go, and assume that this may indeed be the safest place to be? Or stay home?

At this point, I’m not sure I even want to go grocery shopping. I’m wearing the KN-95 mask now for even routine errands, and it’s starting to feel like…well, not good.

Last thing: Here’s a story I wrote this week, about a local TV news guy. A reader has already described the headline with poop emojis.

And that’s why we go into journalism: Shitty money, the loathing of the public and every jerkoff in the world expresses their opinions about your work with poop emojis.

Posted at 8:25 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 86 Comments
 

Civilization.

As anyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, the U.S. Census is over. I pretty much stopped enumerating around the end of September anyway, after a series of frustrating shifts, the details of which are unimportant, convinced me it wasn’t worth my time or the wear and tear on my car anymore. Turned in my phone, ID and bag o’ forms last week. It’s over.

But I’m still left with my experiences, which is one big reason I did it in the first place.

In June, we had a brief, ferocious thunderstorm, and our neighborhood was hit hard. Trees down all over the place, roofs pierced by falling limbs, one house and a couple of garages destroyed. Within 12 hours all the streets were clear, within 48 hours most of the chain saws and chippers had fallen silent and within two weeks, you had to look for the damage in the trees — the still-raw snapped limb stumps, etc.

My census cases were mostly in Detroit, on the east side more or less adjacent to the Pointes. And there, three months after the storm, the storm’s evidence was still very much in view. No streets were blocked, but where limbs had fallen on private property, quite a few were still there. One house had a huge tree lying across the back yard. (I assume from the same storm because we didn’t have another nearly as severe, and the look of the leaves left on the branches, the stump, etc.)

I remember thinking, walking Wendy in the days after the storm, noting the cleanup, Thank you, civilization. But of course it’s more honest to say, Thank you, money. If you don’t have the resources to remove a tree too large to do yourself, or with help from neighbors, if you don’t have a chain saw or other suitable tools, well, the limb stays where it is.

My ultimate takeaway from the census was this, however: We have to figure out a way to do it better. Polling had to pivot from the everyone-in-the-phone book landline era to cellular phones. The census, too, has to figure out how to get more people to fill out the stupid form themselves, because door-knocking is a highly imperfect tactic, particularly in poor neighborhoods. Good news rarely arrives via a knock on your door, and with technology enabling people to see the person standing there without even leaving the upstairs bedroom, bathroom or miles-distant office, it’s easier than ever to ignore it. In poor neighborhoods, your friends text you that they’re coming by. Several times I’d knock, knock again, leave and then see someone pull up a minute later, hustle up the front walk and be hastily admitted.

All this by way of saying: We’re headed for a big undercount, especially in cities like Detroit.

I got my main Problem Closet cleaned. It took the better part of a week, off and on. As always, when I do this, I get sidetracked. There are boxes of letters and photographs in that closet, so you can just imagine. But as also always happens, the further you get into that project the more ruthless you become. I didn’t throw out a single photo, but I did pitch lots of clothes and other crap. The door closes smoothly now and while there is probably still stuff to toss — hello, mystery Box o’ Cords, I’m looking at you — it’s done for now. (I’m actually waiting for a recycle event for the cords. Someone must do something with those things; it can’t be entirely landfill material. Does anyone know?)

Now to put the still-good clothing on the Facebook Mom Swap. Lots of pictures to take, capsule descriptions to write. My FB listings are the J. Peterman catalog of social media.

What else this weekend? Watched the new Borat movie. It’s fine, if you like that sort of thing — cringe humor. Personally I think Larry David does it better, but Sasha Baron Cohen certainly does it fearlessly. One thing I do know, however:

Rudy wasn’t tucking in his shirt. At that man’s age, sometimes Mr. Happy needs a little shake to wake him up.

So let’s have a good week ahead? I hope to.

Posted at 4:07 pm in Detroit life, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments
 

The wringer.

Got the ol’ mammogram today. Never my favorite medical checkup of the year, but since they’ve gone digital, the tech always lets me look at the images so I can marvel at My Miraculous Body, Breast Division. And it’s less painful now that I don’t have to worry about the appointment falling during the time when the Miraculous Body turns the Breast Division into a sore thumb, so to speak. It’s just four uncomfortable squeezes that last a few seconds.

The clinic was running late, though, and I didn’t get in until 25 minutes past my appointment. I was feeling a little testy about this, probably displaced testiness from current events, transplanted into an area where I’m normally very chill. The tech apologized for the lateness: “The earlier patient got some bad news, and needed some extra time to get herself together.”

That was a shaming moment, right there. So OK, then: It was a nice day, I rode my bike in the mild temperatures to the clinic and had to wait an extra 25 minutes, during which I was able to scroll the nation’s greatest news sources on a miracle device I carry in my hip pocket. Plus I got to look at the insides of my boobs. Testiness is reconsidered. Count the blessings instead.

Otherwise, it was a quiet Tuesday, although I woke up and doomscrolled at 4 a.m., which I really shouldn’t do, but it’s either that or stare at the ceiling. Watching the president heave for breath last night is probably what did it. This barking asshole. This pestilence. October is going to be the longest month ever, like a dream where the escape door keeps retreating into the distance. Then, should Biden win, the transition period will last 17 years.

Ugh. Oh, well. RIP Eddie Van Halen. I was never an enormous fan of that cock-rock stuff, but I always turned up “And The Cradle Will Rock” when it came on in the car. Sixty-five is too young to die, said the nearly 63-year-old.

Posted at 5:53 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

One for you, 19 for me.

To answer the question on everyone’s lips: Yes. Yes, the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere paid more than $750 in federal income taxes last year. I think our daughter, the penniless struggling musician, paid more than that. Virtually everyone did.

Which is, of course, not going to make an immediate, titanic difference in the polls or anything else. Because this is the stupidest country.

But it is instructive, if you have seventh-grade reading skills:

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.

I can’t fucking stand it. But maybe we don’t have to stand it forever. Or even much longer.

Census-ing tonight was more of the same: Lots of dead-ender cases, with occasional glimpses of joy. One such case: I knock on the front door. After a few moments, the side door flies open with a loud WHO’S HERE, but not with a question mark. I peeked around the side, and there was a massive man, the size of a bison, advancing with an angry expression. I told him why I was there. WHAT’S THAT, he demanded. I explained the census and he immediately chilled. OK, we can talk about that, and we had a very productive survey.

I’ve enjoyed this interlude, but I’m looking forward to the end. I need to clean some bathrooms.

Tomorrow, more election training. Let’s get the week underway.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments
 

Dregs.

Stems and seeds and census: We’re down to the dregs these days, the houses where the case notes are likely to have four versions of subject said he wouldn’t participate or subject said he doesn’t care who gets counted or subject slammed the door in my face. All of these are, obviously, proxy cases. But even these proxy cases are long shots, in neighborhoods where all the nearby properties are vacant or boarded or have That Look that says, eh, you’re not going to luck out here.

Kate had a couple drug houses in one day last week. There was a sign on the door that read I DO NOT ACCEPT COINS OR SHORTS and she took that for a turn-around-and-head-back-to-the-car. Can’t say I blame her.

Yes, Kate is also working as an enumerator. Good money while she waits for her world to reopen. We’re all still waiting.

Two pieces of bloggage today. First, a thoughtful piece in Slate on why women, especially young women, are the new QAnon evangelists, gathered mostly via Instagram:

These accounts are growing quickly, even as Instagram tries to shut down some of the bigger players. The appeal is morally unambiguous, simultaneously frightening and reassuring, and perfectly crafted to draw in a certain slice of suburban women. There’s the psychology of the approach: Leftist discourse on these platforms can have a preacherly aspect that asserts moral truths without giving the listener the option of disagreeing. This can strike the not-yet-persuaded as condescending, bossy, or dismissive of their right to form independent judgments. Q-proselytizing folks err in the opposite direction: They tell tantalizing stories about their heartfelt conversions that are extremely light on detail and almost invariably conclude by saying, “Do your own research.” Of course this has power. It has the frisson of secrecy—find out what they’re not telling you. Most of all, it’s flattering: It expresses full faith in the reader’s abilities to discover the truth, promises a light at the end of the tunnel, and appears to invite independent verification and free inquiry. In practice, searching those hashtags tends to lead people into closed information ecosystems (and, yes, lectures) that are every bit as didactic as any “woke” explainer. The key is this: The new recruits feel that they have discovered these things.

Interesting theory. But this is dwarfed, of course, by the Barton Gellman doomscroll scare-a-thon in the Atlantic, i.e. What if Trump refuses to concede? It’s terrifying and infuriating and I can’t take out a few paragraphs to summarize. It’s all in the URL.

For a palate-cleanser, enjoy the video with this clip.

Into the weekend, the last of September. How’d that happen?

Posted at 8:49 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

Two clips, short shrift.

It’s a tired night, but I have two videos to share that I think you’ll dig.

First, a grizzly kills an elk in the Yellowstone River. It’s not as gross as you might fear. It’s just Wild Kingdom: The Director’s Cut.

Second, here’s the video for Kate’s band’s new single, and of course this is mom talking, but I think it’s pretty great. Fingers crossed — they already got a great email from KCRW, so if you’re in L.A., maybe you’ll hear them there.

Wednesday awaits.

Posted at 9:10 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Homestretch.

The census is coming down to the last 10 days, and the cases are getting harder. The way it works is: Most people respond to the form that went out in the spring. The ones who don’t get a home visit from someone like me, who, if they don’t answer the door, leaves behind a notice with a code where they can go online or call a toll-free number and do it there.

And if they still don’t respond, they become “proxy eligible,” i.e., we enumerators are obliged to knock on their neighbors’ doors, asking nosy questions about who lives next door, etc.

You can imagine how well this goes over in Detroit, especially when the questions are posed by a Karen like me.

Almost everything I had today was a proxy-eligible case. Rarely they’re easy; mostly they’re not. But the job is taking me onto some blocks where you can really see how fragile a neighborhood really is. Blight is a metastasizing cancer. I once shadowed a neighborhood manager in Detroit for a day, and he theorized that if you don’t get there early — if you don’t tear stuff down when there are maybe two rotten teeth in a row of houses — you risk being too late. Two bad houses can be cleared, and it’s a block with a couple of vacant lots, which in a still-stable neighborhood will be mowed and cared for and maybe turned into garden plots by the people who live adjacent. But if all the houses go bad, quickly, all you’re left with are those little-house-on-the prairie blocks.

Which can be very pleasant, I hasten to add. The people who stick it out often find themselves quite content, listening to pheasants and watching other natural scenes out their windows. The other day I was pulling out of a condo complex near Lafayette Park and a red fox trotted right across my path. I know they can become quite comfortable in urban environments, like their coyote cousins, but it is still startling to see.

Anyway, today I had one of those blocks. A weird one, too — one whole side of the street was 90 percent boarded, the other was maintaining. One address was easy, a godsend even, as it was being restored and the owner was there. The other was partially boarded, but not entirely. No answer to the knock, of course. A neighbor, a proxy, said he “saw people going in and out,” but only sometimes, and probably they were squatters. I stared at the app on the phone. I figured something out, but not sure what it was.

On the other hand, there were delights, the best being a 12-year-old boy, alone in the house, one year too young to be officially interviewed, who stunned me by saying, “Oh yeah, the census. We only got until the end of the month, right?” I asked how he knew that.

“I read everything,” he said. “I play video games and I read.”

“So what did you learn today?” I asked.

“The Chinese are test-driving a flying car,” he answered, instantly. You don’t say.

Ten more days of this.

I’m grateful to be busy. Friday night’s news, combined with one slice too many of pepperoni pizza, had me staring at the ceiling until past 2 a.m. If eyeballs could shoot death rays, I’d have burned a hole in the roof. I stopped reading about it by Saturday morning; I just can’t stand it anymore.

And now the week yawns before us. God, let it be not-too-terrible. I can’t take another like this one.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Some days, away.

Back home, back to the grind. It was a nice mini-break during which very little happened. I cooked all but one of our meals. Read two books (“Passing” by Nella Larsen, and “Squeeze Me,” Carl Hiaasen’s latest) and got a good start on a third (“Evil Geniuses,” Kurt Andersen). At one point I got bored and went into town, hoping for another slight novel from a used bookstore, a Friends of the Library pile, even a drugstore revolving rack. Discovered even the magazine selection at the latter was confined to fish, deer and, of course, weaponry:

Well, it is northern Michigan, after all. I found an InStyle, and bought that. Waste of money.

I also checked out, from our local library, the second season of “The Knick,” a Steven Soderbergh drama I — and hardly anyone else in the whole world — really liked. I cut the cable cord when that season, which was also its final one, was still playing, and I needed, what’s the word, closure. It reminded me how much I liked the damn thing, but alas, it is no more. At least I got my closure.

The last day we floated a few miles of the Au Sable:

Alan got skunked on midday fishing. The car-spotter cost $30. But that was the night we went into town for a barbecue dinner at a breezy, socially distanced restaurant, and that was OK.

Of course I had to peep at the news during our fleeting moments of connectivity. It was like looking through your fingers at a gory movie. Oh, we’re doing sterilizations on women in ICE camps now? A HHS communications aide is cracking up on Facebook Live? Who was it who said here that we’ll be cleaning up after the Trump disaster for the rest of their lifetime? That’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t leave a fresh turd in the Oval Office privy on his way out the door.

And that brings us up to date. A short shift of census-ing this evening, but I bagged some pelts, and that was good. Even got one from a household where a previous enumerator had been told to get off the property, so that’s good. And one nice lady had a two-month-old Rottweiler puppy that I got to pet. He was as soft as a stuffed animal. She said he already has a bond with her grand baby. I advised her to buy the “Good Dog Carl” books.

Now the weekend awaits.

One final photo, speaking of peeking through fingers at gory things. This is what Ivanka must know her future looks like. Imagine what that must be like:

Well, Halloween is coming…

Posted at 8:50 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 105 Comments