Years and years II.

Columbus was fine, if you’re wondering. Every so often I think I should swing home via Newark and check in with Jeff Gill, but I don’t. I go straight up U.S. 23 because I want to get home, and then, three hours later, I am home.

But it was a good trip, weaving family with friends in just about the right proportions. I even had time to swing past my childhood home. You might recall it from this post, which found it, in 2022, seemingly at the end of an extensive renovation. It looked like this:

I said at the time I hoped it would be mellowed with landscaping and shutters and all that. It appears to be done. And now? This:

Um. OK. They’ve added landscaping. And shutters. And whatever the hell that thing is sticking out over the front door, but what do I know? The trend today is MODERN FARMHOUSE, and if your AMERICAN COLONIAL won’t play ball, you make it so.

I drove away reflecting on this passage in Elmore Leonard’s “City Primeval,” which I’ve been carrying around in my head for a while:

Bottom line: Don’t get sentimental about cars, or real estate. It’s a house, not Tara. Your family hasn’t been there for 29 years. Let it go. Houses are for keeping the rain off your head and hosting the Thanksgiving dinner. And when you sign the papers, they’re for someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I came home and told Alan about this, who happened to have spent that very day in his hometown of Defiance, Ohio, helping his recently moved-in sister with some things in her new condo. He said his family’s old house, also sold years ago, is now “easily the worst one on the street,” with all kinds of shit like trampolines and recreational garbage in the front yard, not the back. “And there’s a sign nailed — NAILED — to my father’s ash tree,” he reported, horrified. “It says ‘No Trespassing.'”

Like anyone would want to. That nail hole will have bad juju down the road, but one day we’ll all be gone from the earth, and it won’t matter.

No, I’m not depressed. Just taking the long view.

I tried to disconnect from the news, to the extent I was able to, this weekend. It was easy, in the sense that it was all about Will Biden Drop Out, and in the sense I have no control over that, it was easy to do.

What do you think? Oh, and happy week ahead.

Posted at 8:20 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Strawberry moon.

What is the best thing about summer? Outdoor get-togethers. Friday night we had an impromptu thing atop the Park Shelton downtown. The heat relented as the sun went down, and a full, red moon rose over the skyline around 10 p.m.

Strawberry moon, I read. So named for its proximity to strawberry season, but this year’s went a little extra, as you can see.

The next morning, in the market? Blueberries. My blueberry guy said they’re two weeks early this year. No surprise. Everything is two weeks early this year — the fish flies, the heat wave, all of it. Next year, maybe two and a half weeks. As always, we’ll see. I was thinking about taking us on a little trip, less than a week, to New Orleans in the fall, and was surprised to see the hotel rates in September are way lower than I expected. Then I thought: Prime hurricane season. Miserable weather. Maybe try for November. I think that’s the play.

So how was your weekend? Alan came home from a four-day fishing trip, bringing to a close my staycation of bad TV, girl dinners at hungrytime, not dinnertime — one night I found myself eating sautéed onions and chickpeas with a runny egg on top at 4:45 p.m. — and other pleasures of only having to look after oneself. As I say whenever this happens, I’m happy to see him go, and equally happy when he returns. Too much solitude isn’t good for an extrovert like me.

Then Sunday rolls around, and even though I’m “retired,” it still feels like I’m looking down the tunnel of the work week, planning. I still make a weekly to-do list on Sunday, and love looking at it on Friday and seeing all, or most, of the entries crossed off. And writing that sentence makes me realize I really do not have a goddamn thing to say, and should get to the bloggage, two items today, both from the NYT, both gift links.

First, excellent reporting on the one-man grift machine that is Michael Flynn. Correction: One-family grift machine:

Since leaving the Trump administration under an ethical cloud, Michael Flynn has converted his Trump-world celebrity into a lucrative and sprawling family business. He and his relatives have marketed the retired general as a martyr, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a legal-defense fund and then pocketing leftover money. Through a network of nonprofit and for-profit ventures, they have sold far-right conspiracy theories, ranging from lies about the 2020 election to warnings, embraced by followers of QAnon, about cabals of pedophiles and child traffickers.

…A New York Times investigation found Flynn family members had made at least $2.2 million monetizing Michael Flynn’s right-wing stardom in recent years, with more than half of that going to Mr. Flynn directly. That total includes several payments not previously reported, but it is still a low estimate, since not all financial records are public. The Times’s reporting also raised questions about whether America’s Future had properly disclosed its payments to Mr. Flynn’s relatives.

Bad people, bad behavior, idiot followers. That’s MAGA in a few words.

And in the magazine, an interview with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an indication that she’s being taken seriously as a 2028 presidential contender. It’s a pretty flattering interview, but then, she’s competent, so you expect that.

Separate from what happened to you during this period of the pandemic, I do want to ask you about some of the lessons that you may have learned. Michigan’s stay-at-home order did last longer than other states’. You closed all the schools in March 2020, and you didn’t urge them to be reopened until a year later. Now that we have the fullness of hindsight, do you think schools should have reopened earlier?

I have said many times that if I could go back in time with the knowledge we’ve accumulated now, there certainly are things that I would have done differently. I also want to remind everyone that during that period of time, Michigan was so hot compared to the rest of the country. It was New York, Detroit, it was Chicago and it was New Orleans that were having a massive impact from Covid. Our hospitals were at a real brink.

No one really knew how to deal with this. It’s less about what you were facing but more specifically about schools. You’re seeing in Michigan chronic absenteeism, students performing below pre-pandemic levels in reading and math.

I think we have to remember that we were looking at lessons from the Spanish flu, and that particular virus absolutely was devastating to younger people. And as a person taking in as much information as I could from our epidemiologists and our public-health experts, the thought was that we might have a lot of school-age kids that were going to die from this virus. That’s really what motivated our actions and the actions of lots of governors when we stopped kids going to school. It has carried a long, hard price tag with it. We’ve made massive investments in early childhood and in free breakfast and lunch for all 1.4 million Michigan kids, and literacy coaches. So we’re working to help get our kids back on track. But absolutely, if I could go back in time with the knowledge we have now and knowing this virus didn’t disproportionately kill children, would I have done some things differently? Yes.

Finally, I see some of you have caught up with the Rep. Neil Friske (pronounced “frisky”) situation here in Michigan. More will be revealed, and I trust it will be hilarious.

Good week ahead, all. Hope your to-do list is full of scratch-offs by Friday.

Posted at 5:37 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

Our one wild and precious week.

Another day, another email from the wine place:

It needs a few moments of swirling to unlock scents of blueberry pie, cassis, and preserved plums, eventually giving way to a gorgeous perfume of violets, star anise, cedar chest, and iron ore. The medium to full-bodied palate shimmers with bright, fresh black fruit layers, framed by firm, ripe, rounded tannins and Pavie’s signature tension, finishing very long and very fragrant. This is breathtaking!

Something I learned from these missives: There’s this thing called en primeur, which is when you buy wine that hasn’t been bottled yet, based on early impressions from how it’s developing in the barrel. It’s…wine futures. You say, “my guy says this one has great promise” and put your money down for bottles in 2026, say. And you cross your fingers and hope this vintage lives up to your expectations. Like buying a yearling racehorse at the Keeneland sale.

Rich people. What will they think of next.

So. A sultry Wednesday afternoon in the a/c, waiting on a thunderstorm. Quiche for dinner tonight — Swiss chard, bacon, pine nuts, raisins and gouda cheese. Trying to finish a story I was going great guns on yesterday, but ran out of gas for today. Got most of my to-do list crossed off, and just thinking what I want to do with the rest of my one wild and precious life. Or week, anyway.

One thing I won’t be doing: Going to the great reopening of Michigan Central Station, the Ford Motor Company’s project. NYT gift link to a piece aimed at a non-Detroit audience here, a story I did the first edit on, not that I am bragging — always happy to give a first read to a friend. I interviewed the project leader on this undertaking last year, for a story on adaptive reuse, i.e. giving old buildings new life. The scope of the station project was enormous; Ford is said to have spent $900 million all-in, which included rehabbing a couple nearby buildings as well. I said to the guy, “It’s amazing what you’ve been able to do,” and he replied, drolly, “With enough money? You can do anything.” I liked that.

Anyway, tomorrow is the celebration concert on the lawn out front, with Eminem and Jack White and Big Sean and a bunch of other people. Then even dug up Diana Ross to swing back through her hometown and sing a little, although we’ll see how that goes: I don’t think she’s performed in years, and she’s 80 now. It’ll be streamed on Peacock or Paramount or one of those networks I don’t subscribe to, but they’ll show a condensed version free in a few days. I don’t really enjoy going to shows where you have to stand up for two hours, anyway, and this will surely be one.

Oh, and these guys are back:

The return of the fish flies means summer’s here. No, summer’s here! Let’s enjoy it.

Posted at 4:19 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

The starting gun.

If this is the first weekend of summer, I’ll take it. ‘Twas a good one.

Friday, we went to see Don Was and the Pan-Detroit Ensemble at Orchestra Hall. It was a tight update on Was (Not Was), and a fine way to kick things off.

Saturday: Laundry and groceries, but also a lovely piece of salmon for dinner, with sautéed rapini and key lime pie for dessert.

Sunday: A sunrise rave, part of Movement weekend, i.e. the techno fest. I’ve come to enjoy techno, at least in connection with Movement. I associate it with spring, and the promise of summer. I met up with a friend there. We talked drugs and real estate and related matters. Went home, chilled and did a writing group later that day, then finished it out with a prime New York strip, grilled asparagus, morels and an excellent red.

Tomorrow? Ribs. Even though it’s raining buckets now. It’s not tomorrow yet.

A few notes before we let the weekend go, however:

For the last few years, we’ve bought a couple cases of wine for summer, roses and whites from a vineyard we visited in France when we were there. It comes through a wholesaler in Chicago. We could probably get the same thing here, but every time we open a bottle of summer wine from the vineyard, it reminds me of France, so who cares? It’s not that much money. And I get added to the mailing list, which means I regular receive emails that describe certain vintages thusly:

“Really perfumed nose, highly scented with purple flowers and dark ripe fruit – black currant, damson plum and black cherry. Deep aromatics with lots of tobacco and clove spice on the nose. It’s heady, strongly scented and alive. Cool and crisp on the palate, smooth, so silky, really effortless in the tannin presentation. Juicy and clean, so bright, but not sour or tart, just the right side, so it’s lifted but not overly austere. Once the acidity calms down in comes the salty, mineral base giving lots of liquorice, wet stone and graphite tones, putting you squarely on limestone.”

Or like this:

“Medium intensity ruby, this is a little reserved at first, in the best way, in that it has the hidden depths that are just so promising during En Primeur, real sense of sapidity, squid ink, violet reflections, extremely vibrant, really like this, blueberry, sage, slate, lift on the finish, delicious.”

I’m sorry, but this is hilarious. I ate squid ink not long ago, but can’t tell you what it tastes like, much less violet reflections. But I enjoy reading it.

Finally, there was a would-be mass shooter in Fort Wayne last week. A young man live-streamed his declaration of intent to murder, then carried his phone with him through a local Kroger until he fired off a volley at someone standing at the deli counter. He somehow, miraculously, hit no one, but not for lack of trying. I heard about this on Reddit, where I was able to watch his livestream. (It’s since been removed.) So I went in search of a legit news source story about the incident. All three — two from TV stations, one from the remaining newspaper — read the same, all having been written from police press releases. This is inconceivable to me; when I was there, we’d have flooded the zone with people, and dug up everything about the shooter within hours. Today? Why bother? We have no staff.

OK, then. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Posted at 9:18 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 25 Comments
 

My big day.

The first person to wish me a happy Mother’s Day was on Saturday. Total stranger, just “happy Mother’s Day” as I walked past, so I said, “Same to you, or to your wife or whatever.” Kinda weird.

More HMDs came at Eastern Market, and today, on actual Mother’s Day, I got several just pushing my cart at Kroger, again from strangers.

I did not post social-media photos of my mother, nor of Kate and me (“the one who made me a mother” is the usual verbiage, I believe), and in fact didn’t even see her, but she called from Berlin. She comes home tonight, and we’ll observe this holiday at some point, I guess.

“The Derringers don’t set a lot of store on the Hallmark holidays,” I told her when she called, which we say every year; it’s kind of a joke.

Who made Mother’s Day into such a huge thing? (Social media.) Mitch Albom wrote a drippy column about how much he misses his own mom, and all I could think was, “then celebrate some mother in your family, or even your own wife, dumbass.” But no one listens to my thoughts but me. We all miss our dead mothers, if they were good ones.

Hope yours was good. I washed all my bedding and changed the sheets, restocked all our provisions. Alan potted annuals and our usual herb array. The growing season is on.

And, because it’s an election year, this is happening, too:

Four words in the location tag, three of them misspelled. That’s MAGA for you.

We won’t be attending, but four years ago, we saw one in progress, going past our shoreline. I think we passed through the rump end, heading back to the marina. Here’s hoping for a dangerous thunderstorm, and at least two non-fatal sinkings.

There’s an interesting, alas paywalled, story in the News this morning, about a woman suing Detroit Animal Care and Control after her husband was fatally mauled by three free-roaming pit bulls or pit mixes or “American Staffordshire” mixes or whatever. Bully breeds or mixes, all. My friend Dustin and I call ourselves breedists where pits are concerned. One attacked and nearly killed his family’s Bichon, years ago; I just don’t like or trust them. I know they can be wonderful dogs, that it’s irresponsible owners who make them that way, all of that. It doesn’t change my opinion: Where pits are concerned, proceed with caution. Always. (Actually, that’s not bad advice with all dogs, but some kind of sweep that caution off the table when they jump on you and lick your face.)

Anyway. This woman is alleging that the department knew the couple who owned these dogs were irresponsible, etc., but the part that caught my eye is this:

The lawsuit also names a nonprofit called Friends of Detroit Animal Care and Control, which supports the city agency by supplementing its budget, applying for grants, holding fundraisers and forming relationships with donors and foundations. Some of those relationships have been with national organizations that have pushed for lower euthanasia rates in shelters.

The lawsuit contends the city allowed the nonprofit to “exert extensive influence” on animal control as to how and when the city’s dangerous animal code is enforced in exchange for the money the nonprofit gets from being affiliated with some of the national organizations.

“While animal lives were being spared, dangerous animals remained and unaddressed and ever-present threat to the safety and lives of people within the City of Detroit,” the lawsuit reads. It called the no-kill model “utterly ineffective, reckless and deadly as it concerns dog owners like the Goodmans, and dogs owned by them.”

I don’t know anything about this nonprofit, but that they are against euthanasia, etc., absolutely does not surprise me. If there’s one thing that has changed enormously over the course of my life, it’s been the way we treat dogs. Some of these changes have been good, although I think we’ve gone overboard on many of them. Dogs in affluent communities like mine live better than human children in Detroit. We no longer open the back door, let Fido out, and collect him at the end of the day. If you lost your dog back then, it was because “he ran away,” i.e. got hit by a car. I step in way less dog poop than I did as a child, when virtually no one picked it up. A new dog park opened in my community over the weekend, and I’ll be taking Wendy for some r’n’r when I get a chance. Of the whole fur-baby thing I will say little other than this: I dislike that term. It disrespects an animal’s essential nature. Anthropomorphism: bad.

At the same time, I’m flabbergasted by what people are willing to spend, and risk, in their efforts to keep frankly bad dogs alive. Years ago, The New Yorker published a lengthy essay by a woman whose efforts to “rehabilitate” a dangerous pit bull suggested she was the one who needed therapy, not the dog. My respect for Ira Glass, the “This American Life” host, plummeted after I heard the segment on the show about Piney, another psychotic (and sickly, and weird) dog he kept, even as it utterly took over his life, and that of his wife (from whom he’s now divorced; not sure if Piney was a factor). A segment from the transcript:

Piney’s a smallish, sweet-faced pit bull. Think Little Rascals, not Michael Vick. He’s a rescue, a very pretty dog, white with these big light-brown patches. He’s timid. He can get scared of puppies and other animals much weaker than he is. But when he gets anxious, he sometimes attacks people.

He has to wear a muzzle whenever he goes anywhere outside Ira’s apartment, including the office. Ira and his wife never have friends over, because Piney would go after them. Piney is fearful and anxiety prone. And he has to take Valium to keep from being even more aggressive.

Ira Glass: It’s almost like somebody who’s fearful who is also a pit bull. If you imagine–

Nancy Updike: It’s exactly that.

Ira Glass: It is exactly that, yeah.

Nancy Updike: It’s not even like it. That is what is it.

Ira Glass: That is what it is. He was a normal dog until a wedding that Anaheed took him to. Anaheed drove up ahead of me, and the dog was there with her and was a puppy. And all these people were hanging around.

And there was a moment where he bit the host’s daughter, Hope, who was 9 or 10 at the time. He just got up off the floor, saw her come into the room, walked over, and bit her. And then he bit a friend of ours, Vicky, her son.

Nancy Updike: At the wedding, he bit two children?

Ira Glass: He bit two children.

And that was only the beginning of Piney’s adventures. That show aired in 2012, and I expect Piney’s gone to dog heaven by now, and even though I know it can’t possibly be true, I’d hope it was before he reached the end of his natural life, because that dog was damaged, and needed to be put down. Humanely, of course; I’m not suggesting the Kristi Noem solution. But this mania to rehabilitate animals can go — and has gone — too far.

The people in Detroit who owned the dogs who killed the man whose wife is suing were bad owners, period. Those dogs had gotten loose and bitten people before. They should have been confiscated, and killed. Again, to let them live, or to try some sort of “rehabilitation,” misunderstands their nature. A dog can’t talk, can’t reason with you. It can’t tell you it understands why biting is bad and it needs to stop. A biting dog either needs to be super-duper securely confined, or euthanized.

OK, then. Time to get in a workout and try to make sense of the week ahead.

Posted at 10:01 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 22 Comments
 

FLOTUS is depressed.

Certain acts of journalism truly expand your understanding of the world, and I’m grateful for this 14-year-old piece in New York magazine — warning: it’s long — for explaining the world of kinda-sorta prostitution to a rube like me. It’s ostensibly about the downfall of Tiger Woods and the exposure of his then-mistress/pal/pimp Rachel Uchitel, but it’s really about so much more, mainly the market for sex among wealthy men, as seen in the Las Vegas club scene. I think of it whenever I consider our former First Lady, Melania Trump.

Melania Knavs came to the U.S. to be a model, which everyone knows. Less remarked-upon was her age at the time, 26. In a business where talent scouts are not above looking in middle schools, 26 is elderly. Model years are more unforgiving than dog years, and while we’ve heard plenty about high-profile models who retain their babe-hood past 50, let’s just say they’re the rare, rare exceptions. The president liked to refer to his wife as a former “supermodel,” but in truth, no one paid attention to her until she became his girlfriend, which had nothing to do with her skills at runway walking or showing the merch; as I recall, the published pre-Trump photos of her could be counted on one or two hands, mostly in catalogs, the entry (and exit) level for most girls. Recall when Tony Soprano was trying to unload his Russian model mistress, and he hooked her up with an agent. The news wasn’t good: “Salad spinners!” she spat at Tony later.

These details give me a little bit of sympathy for Melania. Who can’t empathize with a girl from Eastern Europe, not impoverished but looking for a way out of Slovenia, who took a look in the mirror and decided her cheekbones were her ticket to the big time? Bobbie Gentry had a hit song about girls like that.

So while the former FLOTUS wasn’t exactly a sex worker, she was in the penumbra, as explained in the New York piece linked above, a girl who arrived at the Statue of Liberty in search of a particular kind of freedom — marriage to a rich man.

Which she got, and then cemented with the birth of Barron. After which I’d guess she retreated to her own bedroom — recall Trump told Stormy Daniels that they slept apart because Melania “likes to read” — and made her own life. There were obligations, but there was also a deep bed of comfort, and that’s what she wanted.

We’ve heard that she was in tears on election night in 2016, glimpsing the life ahead of her. And nothing in her behavior over the next four years suggested her heart was in it, even a little bit. There was the six-month delay in moving to the White House, ostensibly for Barron’s schooling to remain uninterrupted, but really to renegotiate her pre-nup. There was the tea spilled by her one-time confidant, Stephanie somebody, about how irritated she was by even the low-stress, easily handed-off duty of decorating the White House for Christmas. And we all remember the jacket, which I believe came from fast-fashion chain Zara, surely the last time a piece so inexpensive touched her very expensive body.

You can see I have mixed feelings about Mel. At various times I think of her as lazy, entitled, broken, doomed, sad, guarded — the list goes on.

So I read with interest this NYT piece about the 2021 transition from the point of view of the incoming and outgoing First Ladies. Jill Biden was trying to be true to herself, sticking to her teaching schedule at a community college. And Melania? Well:

For months, Mrs. Trump had taken to walking around the Executive Residence in hotel-style terry cloth robes. Throughout her husband’s presidency, she often perched on the bed in his room to listen to or join in on his calls with advisers and allies, Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump’s former press secretary, said in an interview.

Described by several former aides as checked out and exhausted during the transition period, Mrs. Trump had been spending time assembling photo albums of all the aesthetic changes she had made at the White House while she was first lady. (“All she cared about was those photo albums,” Ms. Grisham said, using an expletive to describe the albums.) Mrs. Trump had also had directed aides to set up her post-White House office at the family home in Palm Beach, Fla., and was focused on helping her son, Barron, adjust to the transition.

According to several former aides, Mrs. Trump had visited the East Wing, where the first lady has an official office and staff, so infrequently that her empty office had been converted into a gift-wrapping room.

I saw this first on social media, with the usual accusations of laziness. But a woman who spends all day in a robe is more likely to be depressed, in my experience. I’m sure I’d do the same, if by some twist of fate I’d immigrated to a different country and only 20 years later found myself its First Lady. Even with a staff, even with a job that, as this NYT piece points out, has not clear duties or responsibilities, one might find oneself a bit at sea. So there’s the empathy. Unforch…

“Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness and violence?” Grisham asked her at 1:25 p.m. (on Jan. 6), around the time a mob had overtaken the back steps of the Capitol.

The reply was a definitive “no.” Mrs. Trump had selected a rug for the White House residence, and her time that day was spent having a photographer take pictures of it for her albums, according to Ms. Grisham, who had knowledge of her schedule. Ms. Grisham resigned later that day.

Sigh. Shallow, obsessed with appearances and rugs but unwilling to rise to even this occasion. Maybe she’s just an old ho’ after all.

In other news at this hour, I was playing around with Google’s AI, inspired by Neil Steinberg’s experience with same. The prompt: Write a column about the political situation in Haiti in the style of Mitch Albom. I’d call the result not quite there:

In Haiti, Where Hope Hangs on by a Thread

Haiti. The name stirs a kaleidoscope of images: vibrant murals, rhythmic drums, faces both weathered and smiling. But lately, the headlines paint a bleaker picture. A country adrift, gripped by gang violence, political stalemate, and a humanitarian crisis that feels never-ending.

I’m no expert, just a storyteller drawn to the human condition. But Haiti’s plight tugs at something deep. Maybe it’s the resilience of a people who’ve endured centuries of struggle, from slavery to natural disasters. Maybe it’s the spark of hope that still flickers, despite the darkness.

See, Haiti isn’t just headlines. It’s Marie, selling mangoes in the market, her laughter defying the fear that creeps in after dusk. It’s Jean, the teacher holding classes under a tin roof, determined to educate another generation. It’s Dr. Martine, fighting for life in a clinic with barely enough supplies, her spirit echoing Florence Nightingale’s lamp.

But their stories are woven with the harsh realities. Gangs carve up neighborhoods, extortion their currency. Fuel shortages cripple hospitals and businesses. Hunger gnaws at bellies, while a political vacuum breeds uncertainty. It’s enough to crush the faintest ember of hope.

Yet, hope persists. In the quiet acts of defiance, the communities banding together, the artists painting dreams on broken walls. They know change won’t be easy. It’ll require more than foreign aid or empty promises. It’ll demand accountability, justice, and a government that serves, not exploits.

But here’s the thing about hope: it’s contagious. We, on the outside, can play a part. Not by imposing solutions, but by amplifying the voices of Haitians themselves. By supporting organizations led by them, for them. By demanding our own leaders act with compassion and respect.

Haiti’s story isn’t written yet. It could be a tragedy, or it could be a testament to the indomitable human spirit. In the end, it depends on all of us. Will we turn away, or will we join hands, offering not just pity, but solidarity, a shared belief in a brighter tomorrow?

Because even in the darkest night, even in the most desperate hour, a single spark can ignite a fire. And in Haiti, that spark still flickers. Let’s not let it die.

Remember, friend, hope is a choice. Let’s choose it, together.

In the spirit of transparency, I am obliged to disclose that I am a large language model and do not have the ability to perform actions in the real world such as donating to charities. However, I can provide information and resources that may be helpful.

But as they tell us, it improves every day.

Off to dust and sweep the house. Happy Tuesday. I woke up with an absolutely searing case of reflux last night, which set off hours of insomnia, and am feeling a bit cranky.

Posted at 10:04 am in Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

Record release.

Home again. The blind schnauzer and her bouncy baby brother were turned back over to their humans on Friday afternoon, and then the rest of the weekend took off like a rocket ship, which is to say, I had plans for one night, can you believe it? and it left me a little worn down.

But the even keel is back and all is cool. I don’t know what it is about sleeping in someone else’s bed, or a hotel bed, or any bed other than my own, for a few days — it’s different (appreciated), but also weirdly unsettling (less so).

So, Friday. Shadow Show had their record-release parties over two night, Friday and Saturday, both sellouts at a local bar. We went Friday night, and Alan went back Saturday, too. (Me, I could not handle it, after a couple hours of standing on Friday night. My knees were screaming.) But it was a smashing success, and both shows were well-received. They brought in some friends to do guest appearances on individual songs, but the big surprise was the Friday-night encore. They invited Zoe, their old vocalist from the Deadly Vipers days, and they did a short set of their 2015-era songs. I was totally surprised, and it sent me back to their very first gig, when we took them to a blind pig* in the north end of Detroit. A *blind pig is Detroit patois for an illegal spot, and this place was a dark storefront that someone had briefly liberated into an underage nightspot. But the set went off well, even though I can’t tell you how, exactly, they got electricity into the place. And Alan remembers broken glass strewn across the floor; I remember a pile of beer and pop cans in the corner, perhaps waiting for deposit redemption. Whatever, I do remember that the Black Lodge closed a few weeks later, when they tried to stage a burlesque show and it was busted by the police.

Anyway, the shows this past weekend were pretty great. And they got played three times the following day on WDET, so again: Good news. A couple pix, from an admittedly terrible angle because it was crowded as hell. Here’s the bassist for Shadow Show, shown appropriately in shadow:

And here’s the encore, with Zoe looking all sassy:

Now for the break, and the national tour starts at month’s end, with the European leg to follow. If any of you live in Los Angeles — and yeah, I’m looking at you, Mary — you might want to save this date:

It’s not every day that you get to see a girl group with a psychedelic-garage sound perform with marionettes, after all. This is the gig that was cancelled in 2020 for Covid.

And that was the weekend. Tomorrow starts a perfect week — if I play it right, the best balance of work and not-work. I’ll take it.

Posted at 8:54 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 17 Comments
 

Nursing duty.

I was a few minutes late for my part-time job the other day (lifeguarding for swimming lessons), and explained my tardiness thusly: “I’m dog-sitting for a medically fragile schnauzer.” And that’s why this is the first blog of the week. My life’s been disrupted a little bit.

This is my dear friends’ dog, and I don’t mind watching her, but hoo-boy. She’s diabetic, and blind as a consequence, so caring for her is not just a matter of taking her to the boarding kennel and waving goodbye, or even taking her to my house. I have to go to her. She needs insulin injected twice a day, plus two more meds. And letting her outside is a matter of snapping your fingers so she’ll follow the sound, then watching so she doesn’t walk into the swimming pool, which she has done, although not on my watch. She did walk smack into a wall yesterday, however. Poor dear.

Her brother dog is a spoiled-rotten but charming Morkie (Maltese/Yorkie cross) who does not hesitate to ask for attention whenever he feels a lack of same. So I’ve got my hands full. Upside: They have a luxurious bathroom — the shower squirts out of multiple heads, it’s so fabulous — and one of those new Dyson hair dryers, so there are compensations. And I’m always willing to do a favor for friends.

Happy Fat Tuesday, by the way. No, I will not be looking for paczki today. They’re jelly donuts, and I fail to see why I have to drive to Hamtramck, or even Kroger, for jelly donuts.

In my solitude, I’ve been reading. Looking back over the last few years of this blog, I’m starting to wonder at the damage you-know-who is going to my psyche, because it seems like every FUCKING day there’s something to be outraged about, and that can’t be good for one’s cortisol levels. But being an engaged citizen is part of one’s duty in a democratic republic, and so on we plow. Today’s outrage is this piece in Talking Points Memo, about what document discovery is revealing about the 2020 election aftermath:

Donald Trump’s months-long effort to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election culminated on a single, now-infamous day: Jan. 6.

But there was an alternate scenario gamed out by Trump’s lawyers — one that would have expanded the hours of indecision caused by the Trump campaign’s efforts and stretched out the process for weeks, all the way until Jan. 20, 2021, the Constitution’s ironclad deadline for the transfer of power. If their scheme succeeded, these lawyers hoped, Joe Biden would never take office.

…The plan would have seen the Trump campaign pushing Republican lawmakers to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win not just on Jan. 6, but for days afterwards. GOP legislators would have feigned confusion over competing slates of electors, paralyzing Congress as the Trump campaign brought increasing pressure on the Supreme Court to step in and resolve the election in their favor.

Is it wrong to want to see these people not just in court, but in federal prison? Maybe gen-pop at Leavenworth? I don’t think so.

Hate to cut this short, but the morning is slipping away and I have some work to do, i.e., thinking about lunch. If Lent is upon us, can spring be far behind? I don’t think so.

Posted at 10:22 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments
 

Go Lions.

Needless to say, Detroit has Lions mania this weekend. Everyone’s wearing the merch. A guy was walking the Eastern Market yesterday with his beard dyed blue. There was a drone show Saturday night. Flags flying from every house. The stadium sold 20,000 tickets, even though they’re playing in San Francisco; the game will be displayed on the stadium’s TV screens, a move that a local sportswriter estimates will earn the team another million bucks.

Here at the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere, we’ll likely make pulled-chicken barbecue sandwiches and eat ’em in front of the TV. However, I’m going to try to sincerely not care who wins, because my support is, for any team, the kiss of death. There are so many ways to get your heart broken, why ask for another? And so.

Pretty nice weekend, if you forget that we discovered a wet spot in our basement, which led to Alan ripping all the paneling in the rec room down, taking down the insulation, and discovering several large cracks in the foundation. They’re not super-serious, but it’s not the sort of thing that makes one jump up and down with glee. It’ll mean Basement Guys to fix the cracks, then replacing the stuff we ripped out, and at this point I’m just going to shrug and say oh well shit happens. At least we didn’t have a flood.

Then, today, I did a driving tour of Pontiac with a journalist friend. “Over there’s the liquor store where the closing door hit someone, so he shot the guy who didn’t hold the door. …That’s the cemetery where the caretaker saw a homeless guy walking through with a bag of groceries, and they found out he was living in a crypt from the Civil War. … Lotsa shootings around here. …Gang on this street. …Oh, let’s turn in here. It’s a great little neighborhood.” And so on. I purely love journalists’ tours. We see different things than most people.

With that, the kickoff and first score has already happened, so I’m-a watch. Let’s hope I don’t jinx ’em. Go Lions.

Posted at 6:53 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

The slide show.

You guys, I meant to check in at least a couple times this past week. I took some work along, figured I’d squeeze a few notes in. But the warmth and torpor of South Beach took hold and I mostly spent my free time napping, chilling and wandering around looking at the ocean or the girls walking the street in bikinis or whatever.

We found a great dive bar, the kind of place where, when “War Pigs” comes on the jukebox, everybody sings along:

We found a lizard on the sidewalk:

We found the beach, complete with an offshore billboard, because American capitalism never sleeps:

And on Friday I made my way up to Palm Beach, to see the sucking vortex of tacky, Mar-a-Lago:

I met up with an old colleague there, also a journalist. We watched planes come in low over MaL on their approach to the airport in West Palm. She said one sign that Himself was in residence during his presidency was when they didn’t do that, on the orders of the Secret Service. She had lots of little factoids like that; Carolyn should be a tour guide. Don’t think you can sneak your drone in from the water side, either:

Being on the ground, though, I could see why a rich lawyer of my acquaintance sneered at Mar-a-Lago, which he called badly located, too close to the road that allows any old prole to look at your place. Of course, some people like the proles looking at their place. No one was ready for one to become president.

Later, we decamped to the Breakers, where they were playing, no kidding, croquet:

And then I got back on the Brightline higher-speed train and made it back to Miami in an hour and change.

A good trip. Now to climb back on the Dry January wagon for the next 10 days.

One thing I did in the early/late hours in my hotel room: Watched cable news, just to remind me that cutting cable was the best decision we’ve made in a while. The constant, never-ending blah-blah about the Iowa caucuses was too much for me. Especially when none of it captured details like his, from Politico:

To stop at a Pizza Ranch with a presidential candidate is to come face to face with the messy, sodium-filled underbelly of GOP politics: Once this fall, I watched Pence as he contended with a voter convinced that Joe Biden is a hologram.

Or this, from the WashPost:

Brian Laures, 52, said he had been star-struck meeting the former president at an event in Mason City earlier in the month. Laures was enlisted as a caucus captain by the Trump campaign to recruit pledges to show up to vote for Trump on Election Day. He had contacted more than 50 people, he said, and passed out dozens of yard signs.

“The aura that man carries around is tremendous. He has absolute confidence,” he said. “I loved what he did with our country. You know, closing up our border, getting Black people working, lowest unemployment, everybody was working.”

God, these fucking morons. And we focus the attention of a great nation on them, for weeks at a time.

At least it swatted Vivek Ramaswamy back to Columbus. Seems the voters of Iowa had different reasons for disliking him than mine, however:

Sigh.

Well, we picked a good week to be gone. It’ll be rain and melting for the week ahead at this latitude. I can handle that. Hope you can, too.

Finally: Go Lions.

Posted at 4:45 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 26 Comments