Boomtown.

I was 16 when I first set foot in the state of Michigan, and bypassed the lower peninsula altogether. We headed across the bridge, to my friends’ cottage in the Les Cheneaux Islands, high up in Lake Huron, off the eastern Upper Peninsula coast. Of course we stopped a few times in the nine hours or so it took to drive from Columbus, and we almost always stopped at Gaylord.

“Last chance for gas before the bridge,” someone would say. It’s about 50 miles south of the Mackinac Straits. Even though we’d been in the pine-trees-and-blue-skies north for at least 100 miles, Gaylord was the final turn before the home stretch.

(That the islands, and the cottage, were 45 minutes beyond the bridge didn’t matter. Once you crossed, you were as good as there.)

Gaylord was also the stop, going home, where you filled up and got junk food for the interminable, party’s-over trip home. My friend Paul, the party king, was famous for driving to Gaylord, getting a shoebox full of fries or bag of donuts at some drive-through, turning the wheel over to someone else and crashing for a carb nap in the back seat.

Anyway, while I don’t know Gaylord, I know its two freeway exits pretty well. After Alan and I got together, we started traveling to Grayling, about 15 miles south, and Gaylord faded into my past.

So on Sunday, I’m starting my trip home, hunger is starting to gnaw, and Covid or no Covid, northern Michigan was packed. Long lines at any sit-down restaurant, drive-ins and patios packed, and even McDonald’s in St. Ignace had a drive-through line backed up onto U.S. 2.

I crossed the bridge and tried Mackinaw City. Same story. So I got back in the car and figured, it’s Spike’s Keg o’ Nails in Grayling, then. As I approached Gaylord, I started seeing signs for lots of places to eat. Lots of them. It was a Five Guys sign that caught my eye; Five Guys aren’t exactly confined to Manhattan, but they’re usually located pretty far from little towns up north in Michigan.

So I took the usual fast-food exit and hooooly shit, this town has grown. There was not only fast food, but craft brewers, outdoors shops and lots of touristy stuff, but not overwhelmingly so. And this was just on one strip.

The answer was? Jobs, of course:

McComb said Gaylord is booming because it positioned itself to be ready after the economic downturn of 2007-08. Gaylord reeled when the Georgia-Pacific plant closed in 2006, eliminating 200 jobs.

McComb said the city has been able to attract employers and development because the city made itself attractive.

“We had a thriving community throughout the downtown and had things in place like an industrial park and another new industrial park, and infrastructure that we invested in in the downturn,” she said. “We really are a community where someone looking to invest can find an existing building or land to do it really quickly.”

I’m reminded of something someone said in an interview I did in northern Michigan once upon a time: “You want to change someone’s life up here? Give them a job.”

Other revelations from the trip: Radio has been entirely taken over by religious entities; I couldn’t find NPR to save my life. I did hear an interview with Salena Zito, the Trump whisperer on Relevant Radio, some Catholic network. She declared that Hollywood, New York and Washington are “all one big zip code” who dictate what the rest of us see and hear and…I turned it off. You had your time to cash in, honey. Once Trump is gone, you’ll just be another very low-rent Peggy Noonan, at one-tenth the salary, if that.

But it was a very pleasant trip, and when I got home? I got laid off. From one of my jobs; I remind you, I have two. They said it was for budgetary reasons, not performance, offered the usual letter of recommendation, all that. I’m…fine with it. Seriously. It was never the best fit, but it was important work. Deadline has more of an element of fun, and that’s the one that remains. I’m close enough to the end of my career that I could probably retire now, although I’d rather not do it abruptly. I’ll look for something else, and we shall see. Serenity now.

Tomorrow: Primary election. The day after that: Training for census work. I may not be back until week’s end. Enjoy yours.

Oh, wait. Before I go, I was calculating driving time to my election assignment tomorrow and found the Google Street View of my house. Alan made an appearance:

He was watering the ferns.

Posted at 8:30 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments
 

Moonrise.

“Does it bother you when these threads get to 130-some comments,” J.C. just asked me.

“I guess so,” I said. “Probably time for a photo post.”

So…

This was night before last. I’ll have you know that as I was capturing this lovely Upper Peninsula moonrise, a pontoon was about to glide into the frame, playing “Smoke on the Water” with its occupants drunkenly singing along.

J.C. and Sammy’s cottage is notable for its peace and quiet, and this was the first real evidence of more commonplace U.P. summer pursuits going on around us. Which only goes to show that somewhere in the world, it is always 1973, and Deep Purple is playing.

So! New post! I’m heading home today/tomorrow, and on Tuesday will be working the Michigan primary election as a poll worker. That will be 14-plus hours in a mask, and I expect I will be wiped afterward, so this thread may well get to 130-some comments too, but at some point, lo I shall return.

A couple of sandhill cranes just serenaded us. Such a lovely, unearthly sound. Nothing at all like Deep Purple.

The only thing I have to recommend is the Politico piece about Fort Wayne, which I see you’ve already been discussing. Jesus, what a barking moron Jason Arp is.

OK, the sun is out here and raining downstate, which means, alas, mini-vacation is probably about over.

Posted at 10:59 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments
 

The omen.

Federal stormtroopers are in Portland rousting protesters. The president has a new pandemic strategy; he’s ignoring it. Not my problem, people! The other day I was riding down a residential street and saw a man outside, taking a smoke break. Above the waist: Oxford-blue shirt and tie. Below the waist: Some sort of shorts so flimsy they may have well been boxers. In one hand, a cigarette, in the other, his phone. His posture said: I am so sick of this shit.

So are we all, my friend. Someone messaged me the other day to tell me her boss had taken a shit during a Zoom call. Carried the laptop into the can with her and took care of business. No one said a word, because: The boss.

“Surely she thought she was on audio only?” I replied. “I mean, otherwise…” What conclusion could you draw from behavior like that? That she has dementia? My correspondent had no explanation. Needless to say, neither do I.

There’s a comet in the sky now, too, which would normally be something to marvel over, and it is, but on top of incompetent governments, played-out American workers and shitting-on-Zoom bosses, it feels like an omen. Like the star of Bethlehem, or the red comet in the Game of Thrones books that announces dragons are in the world again.

Today I spent an inordinate amount of time researching recipes for deep-fried tofu. Kate was coming for dinner, and I wanted to do a fake-chicken sandwich. It turned out OK. Concentrating on one stupid thing like a tofu marinade at least made a certain kind of sense.

So I took a bike ride. I looked at the water:

And I looked at the lighthouse, strictly ornamental:

I imagine there’s some sort of weather-recording equipment up there. All the charming details of seafaring – charts, maps, lighthouses – are now obsolete. GPS changed everything. On the other hand, maybe someday an electromagnetic pulse will take care of GPS, and we’ll be adding bulbs to that thing.

The weekend’s journalism was two versions of the same story, both about how fucked this stupid virus situation is. In the WashPost, and in the NYT. It’s the usual. In the Post:

The fumbling of the virus was not a fluke: The American coronavirus fiasco has exposed the country’s incoherent leadership, self-defeating political polarization, a lack of investment in public health, and persistent socioeconomic and racial inequities that have left millions of people vulnerable to disease and death.

And in the Times:

Over a critical period beginning in mid-April, President Trump and his team convinced themselves that the outbreak was fading, that they had given state governments all the resources they needed to contain its remaining “embers” and that it was time to ease up on the lockdown.

In doing so, he was ignoring warnings that the numbers would continue to drop only if social distancing was kept in place, rushing instead to restart the economy and tend to his battered re-election hopes.

Casting the decision in ideological terms, Mr. Meadows would tell people: “Only in Washington, D.C., do they think that they have the answer for all of America.”

This is the world we live in. Let’s take it on for another week.

Posted at 9:48 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Unchained.

I met some friends for social-distance drinks on a patio Friday night, although “fled the house” might have better described my mood after a rocky week. I needed to go downtown to get my few belongings from our office there, as we’re giving up our lease; after three-plus months of WFH, we see no need to maintain it. I have mixed feelings. Commuting is a pain, but it gets you out of the house and forces you to engage with other human beings. Home is a nest that can easily become a fortress; many times I’ve been grateful for a random encounter on a bus, a sidewalk, a lunch spot that lights a creative spark.

But parking is expensive and it takes time, so.

Anyway, I stuffed my few personal items into a tote — the shawl I brought in case this summer’s a/c is anything like last summer’s, when it rarely rose above icebox level, a book, a water bottle — and we headed off for a patio. The police shot and killed a suspect Friday afternoon, and a demonstration had formed, this one fairly angry. We monitored it via Twitter through two rounds, told some stories, and left. I walked through the door a little after 8, and Alan told me Roger Stone had been granted clemency.

You know how it’s going to go from here on out, right? The corruption will get more and more brazen. If Trump wins, well then, there’s no governor on what can happen, none whatsoever. If he loses, the transition period will be nonstop crimes, the ramming through of pet legislation, all of it. I hope, when he leaves, someone goes through the White House silverware and artwork to make sure he hasn’t stashed any in his luggage.

Because that’s what we’re dealing with here.

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a hair trigger and go to MurderDeathKill twice a day.

I did fill out my absentee ballot for the August primary. It’s a whole lot of nothing — most seats were unopposed — but it felt like something.

Bloggage: In the summer I sometimes go swimming with my friend Bill, in the St. Clair River. He wrote a story about Great Lakes swimming yesterday.

And that’s it, I fear. Let’s see what fresh hell arrives in the next 48 hours.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments
 

Super-spreaders.

Another exhausting week behind us, a semi-exhausting weekend ditto, and another exhausting week ahead. I’m planning to return to the office for one of my jobs, and maybe the other, but only one day a week, and only if it feels OK. As is happening elsewhere in this stupid-ass country, cases are on their way back up. One bar – one! – in East Lansing was the center of 80-some positive COVID tests. A student dive, of course, the sort of place where, if you’re close to my age, you might have attended a drink-and-drown night in the pre-Mothers Against Drunk Driving days.

The bar owner say They Did Everything Right – and you know it’s true, because they told Mitch Albom – but The Customers, They Just Wouldn’t Listen. OK, whatever. The horses are out of the barn now, anyway, and one galloped all the way to Grosse Pointe, where we had our own mini-spike in the young-adult crowd last week, culminating in 23 new cases confirmed on Friday. One of the bar patrons had his own rager the previous weekend, while symptomatic, and apparently infected a bunch of other people. Oy.

We ate dinner out Friday on a patio, but I’m wondering if even that is safe enough, in these conditions. Might be back to pizza and carryout and my own cooking for the foreseeable future. I did get an antibody test, as part of my blood-donation testing last week. Negative. Probably wouldn’t hurt to hit one of the drive-through test sites one of these days, too.

At least it’s summer, and it’s been pretty, so let’s do some pictures, eh?

Driving home from the market, I glanced right and saw this street:

The crop is a little unfair; there’s an abandoned house just out of frame to the left. What caught my eye was that massive willow tree, and the very saturated green-ness on an overcast morning. The remains of the sidewalk on the right side remind us that once upon a time, this was a residential city street and didn’t always look like rural Mississippi. There’s more housing just beyond the green, but needless to say, this isn’t the fancy neighborhood. Although I turned 90 degrees to the right and spotted this streetlight something-or-other:

Check out that brickwork. Once upon a time, we were a country that believed there was nothing wrong with making a public building beautiful, even a utility center. During the worst of the Detroit-is-crumbling era before the bankruptcy, a local TV reporter did a piece on streetlights, most of which were decades old and didn’t work. Some circuits were so old they had to be turned on manually, as in someone had to show up and throw the switch; this building looks from that era.

That was a weird time, especially in winter. Driving through some neighborhoods was like entering the haunted forest, it was so dark. Not anymore, though – new LED lights everywhere. When LED streetlights fail, they sometimes start strobing, I have since learned. People online call this their disco period. Very festive.

Saturday morning market:

#NoFilter. And mine, all mine. We put some of them on cake Saturday night and drank too much wine. Hey, it’s mojito season.

Finally, a Sunday bike ride before it got too hot:

A rod on every post at the fishing pier. This is my turnaround. Seeing the water always gives me a lift.

So, bloggage? Some.

Neil Steinberg offers some talking points on how to respond to your terrible friends and relatives asking about black crime in Chicago.

When Sherri floated the possibility that Trump might resign ahead of the election and cut a deal with Pence to pardon him, I thought, yeah interesting, and Alan said no way. Maybe not so no-way anymore. The president is losing, and it’s starting to dawn on him:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was blamed internally for the Tulsa rally failure. Some people complained about him trumpeting that 1 million people had requested tickets, a boast that fell flat when thousands of seats sat empty during Trump’s speech.

Parscale has been a target of some Trump allies who argue the campaign is lacking a coherent strategy and direction. But people close to the president insist that Parscale’s job is safe for now. Trump, who visited the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters a few months ago, has told people he came away impressed with the sophistication of the organization.

Oh, he was impressed? That changes everything.

Finally, a little good news for you boaters, out of Buenos Aires:

Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.

The 47-year-old sailor could have stayed put on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo, to ride out the era of lockdowns and social distancing in a scenic place largely spared by the virus. But the idea of spending what he thought could be “the end of the world” away from his family, especially his father who was soon to turn 90, was unbearable.

So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March.

Twenty-nine feet isn’t much larger than ours. I can’t imagine doing this. But then, I’m not Juan Manuel Ballestero, brave mariner.

So come on then, week ahead.

Posted at 6:32 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

Beneath the blue suburban skies.

I don’t want to oversell this storm that hit us, but I don’t want to undersell it, either. Our neighborhood was littered with enough fallen trees to build a couple of log cabins. Mostly silver maple, we noticed – a fast-growing tree people plant because they don’t want to wait too long for shade. Years later, another homeowner curses them forever when it comes in through the bay window.

Anyway, the chippers came through this morning to dispose of the piles in front of every other house. (We didn’t have any huge limbs down, but Alan took advantage of the chipping service to take some deadwood out of a dogwood and flowering something-or-other.) I’m hoping the extraordinary noise of recent days – generators and chain saws and chippers – is over for now. Our power returned almost 48 hours exactly after it went out.

We didn’t have any major damage, but we lost everything in the freezer and most of what was in the fridge. And about the only blessing besides not having a tree fall through a bedroom is, the cold front that caused all this brought along some delightfully cool summer weather. Perfect for a bike ride, some outdoor exercise, grocery shopping to restock the fridge, all that.

I’m having that weird time-collapse thing. Sometimes I go back through the archives and reflect on how events used to last a while, how things that happened on Monday could sometimes still be remembered on Thursday. Now it just blurs from one disaster to the next. What happened Saturday? Oh right – Cadet Bone Spurs gave the commencement address at West Point. We’ll all have our favorite moments from that, but maybe mine was when he shouted out his birthday the following day, paused for the applause he expected and heard…crickets. I’ve never seen another West Point commencement; it’s entirely possible that the soldiers are not expected to respond to cheap applause lines during the speech, but to clap at the end only, politely. But it was a nice moment.

Trump looked drugged to the gills. In his weekday newsletter, Roy Edroso’s been writing these brief Oval Office scenes and playlets, and having fun with the president and his “formula,” tweaked by his doctors and chief of staff to keep him engaged, voluble and under control. And there’s that guy on Twitter, the former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who’s been claiming for years that Trump snorts Adderall and other drugs for the same reason. But on days like Saturday you could really see it. He leaned on the podium like an old man on a four-footed cane, slurred simple words, mispronounced “Ulysses” and “MacArthur” and then there was the ramp incident.

The day after, hundreds of MAGA-heads joined in that stupid boat parade through Lake St. Clair to the RenCen. There was a land component, too. A friend lives close to the route, and hearing the honking, thought it must be a graduation parade, common this year with the lack of formal ceremonies. So she went outside to wave, and was appalled to see the TRUMP 2020 flags flying past her house. So she stood there, raised both middle fingers and made sure a few of them saw her doing so. The suburban vote.

Another friend said his buddy was on his boat when the flotilla went by. Why, he asked, do all those geezers blare “YMCA,” which they of all people are old enough to recall is a gay sex anthem? The answer, of course, is that they’ve ruined that, too.

They’ve ruined everything.

One reason I didn’t blog last night is, we were invited to Italian-style family dinner with friends, and what would you do? It was marinated pork chops and pasta puttanesca – worth breaking quarantine for. We talked about whether the Trumps have ever, EVER hosted a White House cultural event, the way the Obamas (and for that matter, even the Bushes) did. Which made me think of the wonderful East Room concerts, which made me think of this, which made me cry.

What a Monday. On to Tuesday, then.

Posted at 6:21 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Surreality on all fronts.

With the sun rising at 6 a.m. and warm-enough mornings finally here (you can say that again; 30 degrees of difference in about three days), I’ve been taking some early-morning bike rides again. Get my sweat over with first, shower and face the day – it works for me.

Sunrise is a nice time of day to be out, even when you miss it by, oh, 20 minutes or so:

And then I headed inland. Good shadows on a day like…whatever day that was. Tuesday, I think:

In between, I passed a woman on a street corner, that goes around one of the two nearby hospitals. She was kneeling on the sidewalk, hands clasped in what looked like fervent prayer, face upturned toward the building, eyes closed. A relative or loved one inside on a ventilator? Just a generic prayer for the “health care heroes,” as the local yard signs say? Dunno. The weirdest detail: A toy-sized dog, fluffy, sat patiently behind her. (I think she was kneeling on its leash.) Looked like a papillon, very well-groomed.

I’d have taken a picture of that, but it was a private moment. Don’t be an asshole. The world has enough of them.

As I write this, the breaking news – and there’s been so much of it this week – is the president’s executive order on social media:

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Trump said before signing the document.

While Trump has threatened such action for years, his signing of the order Thursday was precipitated by a decision by Twitter earlier in the week to mark two of his erroneous tweets with fact-checking labels. The small move set off a firestorm of tweets by the president threatening social media companies with regulations and other punishments.

I’m not sure why, but I started thinking about this one guy, who was included in the Bridge project on the political division of the state when I was there. He was an affluent gent in his 50s who retired early by being a lifelong cheapskate and loved the president with his whole heart. After the election, he joined Twitter. No profile, no bio, no cutesy name. He follows one, just one, account: @RealDonaldTrump. I believe at the time he said he wanted to read the president unfiltered. (Like you have to be on Twitter for that.) I wonder what Twitter is like when that’s how you’ve crafted your experience, eh?

As I recall, he was stupefied – unbelieving – that anyone could not see the Greatness that had been unleashed upon our land by Trump. And yet, sitting there reading the president, oh the things he must be learning. And now this.

November. November, November, November. It’s my birthday month. I’d gladly give up five months of my life and the whole summer and fall ahead to get this shit over with, now.

Then my editor calls and tells me he was driving downtown, just to check on our deserted office, when he saw a goose family crossing the street. Geese are unusual downtown, but the river was only a couple blocks away, and that’s probably where they were headed. Another motorist stopped, and the guy got up, rushed the flock, scooped up two goslings and put them in his shirt before getting in his car to drive away. That story wrecked me for the rest of the day. WHO DOES THAT? I’m still bothered by it.

So let’s part on a more humorous note with… this. As usual, the best stuff is in the briefs at the bottom. Especially the item about Mnuchin.

Posted at 6:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 79 Comments
 

Close quarters.

Reading all of your reminiscences about apartment life tickled something in my memory. This blog has been around so long I expect I’ve told all my stories. (God knows I’m not collecting any new ones.) But yeah, we talked about bad neighbors once before, in 2011. I don’t know if I ever told the story about how Jeff Borden drove out one tenant in the four-flat we all lived in, thereby transforming it from 3 cool tenants + 1 pair of tightasses into an entirely cool building.

The tightasses were a couple, as young as we were but born 70 years old, apparently. They hated loud music, but had a yappy dog they’d leave in the back yard while they ran Saturday-morning errands. They had the nerve – the nerve! – to pound a broomstick on the ceiling if Jeff and his girlfriend made too much noise in bed. They were awful. So Jeff started a campaign of psychological torture to persuade them they really needed to get a new apartment. He cut up a hot dog and buried the pieces, shallowly, in her flower garden; the dog did the rest. He had a mark on his stereo of the maximum volume they’d tolerate, and would crank it up. As soon as the door downstairs would open and the angry footsteps start up the stairs, he’d drop it down to the mark. There’d be a pause, and the footsteps would retreat. He’d wait 10 minutes, then do it again.

There were other techniques, but I’ve forgotten them; maybe Jeff will remember.

I, too, am probably too cantankerous to live in an apartment anymore. Many days I wish my current neighbors could only be seen with binoculars, but they’re nice people and I tolerate dual Albums of the Summer blasting on the Bluetooth speakers (neighbors to the north and west), not to mention the Maximum Volume Lawn Service on the east. Our house faces south. So far the street hasn’t offended.

That said, I expect we’re headed for condo/apartment life eventually, although I’m hoping for a ranch house on a slab.

A long weekend, sorely needed. Saturday was warm and cloudy, Sunday hot, Monday ditto, and tomorrow, more of the same. I’m happy that it’s warm, but I resent that we were denied spring, going immediately from early April to July. That also said, we may have to turn the A/C on tomorrow. Work + computers = a need for temperature regulation. And it’ll be cooler later in the week. Knowing the way things have gone for us lately, the A/C will refuse to start and hello, get out the credit card for yet another major system repair.

Journalists swarmed over northern Michigan this weekend, as it was the first weekend the region was “opened up,” as we say now. And what happened? Two idiots who were symptomatic traveled in from out of state to visit family. They tested positive, and now six people are in lockdown. Idiots. This stay-home stuff is going to continue because of people like this.

Meanwhile, Kate the vegetarian is away from the house for dinner and I’m making a MemDay splurge: A USDA Prime New York strip steak, brought to medium-rare in the sous vide and seared on the grill. I bought it, plus two pounds of ground chuck yesterday, with plans to turn the ground into Sam Sifton’s Middle School Tacos, so Alan can pick at the leftovers for a couple days. Total bill? Forty-seven dollars. For three pounds of beef! Soon we will all be vegetarians.

Now, to figure out the sides. A good week ahead, everyone.

Posted at 5:56 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments
 

Plan B.

There are times when the pizza dough you put together for dinner simply fails. It sits there like a lump in a warm oven, not doing anything, and suddenly it’s 6 p.m. and it’s time for Plan B, which is Indian takeout.

Our TrumpBux arrived this week, so why not a $35 splurge on Indian! STIMULATION, baby!

God, what a week. You’ve probably heard that an entire city – Midland – was inundated this week. This, on top of everything else. I’ve only been to Midland briefly. But man, they didn’t deserve to have two privately owned, oft-cited, badly maintained dams collapse on top of them, for sure. I recall reporting over the years that pointed out there are literally dozens of dams in precarious condition scattered around the state, and it’s only a matter of time before more give way. We used to be a wealthy state; we aren’t anymore.

The photos from the scene are bizarre. When the dams gave way, the lakes they were there to create drained, too. So once-lakefront properties now overlook a mudflat hells cape with a few boats foundering on the bottom like dinosaurs in quicksand. And downstream properties are…not so much lakefront, but lake.

Man, I hate flooding. Fort Wayne taught me that. It’s like having a toilet overflow all over and through your house. Hardly anything survives a flood. And as I’ve said before here, it’s one thing to have your wedding album burn up in a fire, but it’s another thing entirely to find it at the bottom of a sodden pile of garbage, stinking like a sewer. Flooding is worse. There’s more trash to take out, for starters, and it all smells terrible.

So. As we lurch into the unofficial Beginning of Summer, I’m just…not feeling it. All those weeks penned in, a seemingly endless string of 42-degree days, and right now I have my windows open, but nothing feels the way it should. No swimming — pools are closed. All the summer festivals, cancelled. No vacation planned. The one thing I have to look forward to is a friend’s wedding, in October. Unless that venue, too, cannot get started back up again, in which case he’s going to Vegas and who knows, we might go, too.

Hate to leave with that bummer, but there you are. Don’t let it bring you down, though — here’s to a good long weekend, and a better-than-expected summer, just the same.

Posted at 9:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments
 

Crazy times.

The police arrested a “Detroit man,” a white real-estate agent living downtown, for what they called credible threats against the governor, attorney general, mayor and Rashida Tlaib. His Facebook page is public, and still is, and it’s interesting to see the outlines of his obvious-but-not-too-obvious mental illness – paranoia, threats, conspiracies, etc. It reminded me of something that’s interested me for a while, i.e., how mental illness is shaped by the times.

In fact, I think we’ve talked about this here before, how once, people claimed demons visited them in their sleep, usually having sex with them. Today, they’re more likely to claim aliens did it. A transparently obvious memory of, or reaction to, sex abuse of some kind gets wrapped in the trappings of the time.

We’ve also talked here about Edward Bodkin, the Huntington castrator (Google it). I still remember the debriefing from a colleague who’d just hung up the phone from interviewing the editor of Ball Club magazine. He was trying to get an idea why men would go to a grimy house in rural Indiana and willingly let someone cut off their testicles (free of charge, but you had to agree that the procedure be videotaped). The editor explained that some might have been transsexuals (we didn’t use terms like transgender then) who couldn’t afford sex-change surgery (we didn’t say gender-reassignment or gender-conforming then), and figured getting rid of part of the offensive anatomy was good enough.

But then he went off down a rabbit hole about the whole cult of body modification. These are people who simply don’t think the body they’re in is the one they’re supposed to be in. They’re not trans, just…unsatisfied. If there were a spectrum, at the mild end might be tattooing, with extreme plastic surgery closer to the middle, and at the other, people who use shotguns or saws or other implements to do enough damage to a limb that a doctor might have to just amputate what’s left. Because in their minds, they are amputees.

(You might put fitness freaks somewhere on that continuum. Rare is the person who is 100 percent pleased with every pore on their face, but I also think there’s a reason so much fitness activity is dressed up in the virtuous clothing of better health. Certainly it is better to be active than sedentary. But if you’re spending hours and hours a week in search of a different pair of arms, maybe you belong on that scale, too.)

Hoarding – was that a thing before the last 20-30 years? We’ve called people pack rats forever, but there’s something about the great, post-1980 age of Getting and Spending that seems to fold into hoarding rather neatly. Animal hoarding, ditto.

And so now we’re in an age when people in the highest offices in the land freely talk bullshit about American carnage and Qanon and pedophiles in pizza joints, and suddenly we have all these very suggestible, mentally fragile people making threats against the political enemies of those who, just to use one example, imply that a U.S. senator is a pedophile, and, well, you see what happens.

(The president’s eldest son, I have zero problems diagnosing from this distance, has extreme daddy issues and, I am sorry to say, these tactics won’t work to make daddy finally love him.)

Back to the guy who was threatening the Michigan politicians. If he hadn’t included the mayor, I’d think he also has…problems with women, shall we say. Actually, I will say it: He has problems with women. The other day I was emailing about this with a former colleague, who didn’t think the complaints about Gretchen Whitmer are motivated by sexism. I said, what are we to think when the expressions of those complaints are so often made with gendered insults? TYRANT BITCH, etc. Hmm? No answer.

Of course, part of the problem is, there are far fewer gendered insults for men. “Prick,” maybe. But even “asshole” doesn’t work; we all have them, after all.

OK, then. How was everyone’s weekend? We had one perfect day and one rainy day. Rode my bike on both. The Spotify mix tossed up “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” which is always amusing, and I regret to say that was the high point of Sunday’s ride, because then it started to rain and the now-predictable right-side lower-back pain came in right behind it. Saturday’s was better; I went with a friend and when it was over, got a couple of tall boys from a nearby likka sto’ and that was the cool down. We sat at opposite ends of a bench and talked about different types of feta cheese.

And Friday was our 27th anniversary. There was cake, there were flowers, there was a mushroom risotto. It was all quite nice.

And now the week ahead awaits. Let it be peaceful and healthy for all, but if Barack Obama’s gentle reproof in his virtual commencement address makes a particular skull explode, yeah well shit happens.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 121 Comments