Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Flying up front.

I was reading MichaelG’s vivid account of his trip to Barcelona in the previous thread, feeling, as the kids on the internet say, all the feels – happiness, envy, nostalgia. It was the comment about flying first class that did it. I’ve done so exactly once, and it came via the way many people who don’t generally fly first class get on the other side of the curtain.

I was leaving Key West in September 1980. You Floridians know what September is like at that latitude. Miserable. It’s hurricane season, the islands drenched in the hot breath of the African coast, and even though there were no storms that week, I vividly remember thinking I have never been this hot before, and if I have anything to say about it, never will be again. I went down because I had vacation time and no plans, but two friends in the Keys. Gay men, of course. One, my dear old friend Jeff, is now dead and I expect the other one, his roommate Dennis, is too, but you never know.

Our last night, we stayed up all night, doing what you do in Key West, what we did all week: We started at one bar with all the other gay men and fag hags in town, then, as if on a signal, decamped for another bar, and then, as if on another signal, left for the place everybody closed down: The Monster. We danced and danced and danced and partied and partied and partied with the people who had become MY BEST FRIENDS EVER in the course of a week. They included one sweet young man, who’d come to the Keys from Wyoming, thinking he’d find an easier place to be gay there. He was hanging with some German guy, and there was a real cutie named Les, who worked as a bartender at the in-between bar and called me “baby.” Wyoming man paid me the ultimate compliment: “If I were straight, you’d be the woman for me.” How can you not love that? I did, but then, it was a very strange week in all ways. (I see now that he probably said that to all the girls.) Several nights in a row, walking home from the Monster, Jeff would see me to the door of their rented hovel and then peel off to have a nightcap in the baths, no doubt nurturing the virus that would kill him a few years later.

On this last night, we decided to stay up because my flight was at 8 a.m. and why not? What, you’re going to bed at 3 and then getting up three hours later?

I don’t even remember what we did, only that it was the hottest night ever, and Jeff dropped me at the airport around 7, with the sun rising on another steamy one, and I stumbled aboard the plane wearing sunglasses and the next thing I knew, the stewardesses were asking one another, “Do you smell jet fuel?”

Something was wrong with the plane. They had to send another one down from Miami, and I missed my connection back to Ohio, and in the rebooking, I heard those magical words: “We can get you there, but you’ll have to fly first class.” Have to! Really? I guess I can manage.

I don’t think I took off my sunglasses the whole time. Staying up all night does odd things to your perception, especially when you’ve been drinking for hours and hours. I wasn’t drunk, though — I’d gotten to that place where I seemed to be burning the alcohol at the same rate I was consuming it, the highly sought-after state of equilibrium.

The stewardess kept bringing me bloody Marys, anyway. Bloody Marys and food that was sort of edible and real silverware, not plastic. Plus pillows and blankets and a nice seat mate who could talk about this and that. It was all sort of “Miami Vice” years before the show appeared, and when they announced our descent into Columbus, I was sort of sad. I could have stayed on that flight forever.

Have a great trip, MichaelG. That ham you spoke of? I had a tiny scrap of it in Ann Arbor, at a snooty wine store that kept a couple in the back room. Don’t think of the per-kilo price, because all you eat is a little at a time. Just enjoy it.

So.

Today on the bus, I overheard two guys talking about bike routes from the Pointes to downtown, and I butted in and made some suggestions. They seemed surprised that this old bag was the one whose bike was on the rack on the front of the bus, and maybe this is why: There’s a gender gap in cycling. Well, damn, there shouldn’t be. Especially during a week like this.

I guess by the time you read this, the Scottish independence vote will be in full swing. I don’t know a lot about it, but my gut is with the No faction — the better-together people. Someone, make the case for independence, because I don’t see it being good for anyone now.

The blogger at Gin & Tacos lives in Peoria, and his local paper sounds a lot like the one I used to work for. The one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge now.

Enjoy the rest of the week, all.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 93 Comments
 

Whew.

Ugh, but I am burning the candle at both ends, and will be for a while. Fortunately, this doesn’t involve shoveling coal or anything, but still. I finally got a chance to watch part of “The Roosevelts” — which I’m missing at least partly by choice, because I’m still committed to my premium-cable Sunday nights, along with Dexter — and what do you know, it’s pretty good. A lordly American family who felt an obligation to help their country along, and not just loot it for the profit of their friends? What a revelation.

A little bloggage:

More Cris Carters, fewer Charles Barkleys. What a tool that guy is. (Barkley.)

Big Lebowski fans will want to read this. Thanks, MMJeff. A friend of mine got a magnetic-word selection from the film’s dialogue. She took out most of the swears, because the house has children who don’t need to see that. When I go over, I try to make “My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.” Haven’t been able to, yet.

Are we really putting boots back on the ground in goddamn Iraq? Really?

Talk soon.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

Two days away.

Another September weekend in the bag. I’m growing to enjoy these things, these “weekends.” This was Friday night: A couple of brew-pops at a local dive bar marked for destruction. It’s in the way of the hockey arena, but until then, it remains your proverbial not-particularly-clean-or-well-lighted-place, and delightful. Graffiti in the outdoor smoking lounge:

comet

For the record, Dan Gilbert is not the Detroit-transformin’ tycoon responsible for the Comet’s death sentence, but Mike Ilitch. Disclaimer: I don’t believe he touches boys, except in the usual sense of the phrase, like how you might pat a dude on the shoulder. But people get upset when good dive bars go down.

Saturday was a local music festival in Windsor. I can never shake the weird feeling I have when I’m in Canada — everything is the same, but not. Windsor is closer to my own house than Bloomfield Hills is, but it’s just so not-U.S., especially in the sense that you don’t have to drive many miles to get some fine Asian food. We had pho at a Vietnamese place, with that wonderful pho broth that arrives at the table exhaling the scent of a place you’ve never been, but really want to visit one of these days. The music was…well, it was Canadian. Everyone sounded CBC-ready, but not a lot of stank on anything.

And now it is Sunday, the cool weather continues, and I just concluded a 45-minute twilight bike cruise. This is another thing I’m enjoying, this after-dark and pre-dawn cycling. The night time is the right time.

Some bloggage:

If I remember my catechism correctly, the actual corpse of a potential saint is considered key to their beatification process because of incorruptibility, or something. It all sounds terribly macabre, which is how this story about the delayed beatification of the late Bishop Fulton Sheen sounds so damn medieval:

By canon law, the body should be exhumed and authenticated before beatification, and relics — bone fragments and other physical remains — taken for the purpose of veneration.

An interesting look at a variety of Catholicism most Catholics wouldn’t even recognize.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 37 Comments
 

Drenched.

So, two fronts collided somewhere over Michigan Wednesday, a low from the southwest and a high from the northwest, and the result was about what you’d expect this time of year — lots of crap falling from the sky. We also had crazy wind, and me? I had sandals on. It was a warm day, after all. I hope they’re not ruined by the water sluicing through them on the way to the bus stop. The puddles were unavoidable.

Well, that’s city life. It’s not like I didn’t have warning; some schools were dismissed early, after the apocalyptic forecasts spooked everyone. They weren’t new sandals or anything.

And that is today’s excitement.

Time for some Small Faces, I think:

This will be old news by the time you read it, but when you think about it, it was old news all along: Yep, the NFL brass had the whole Ray Rice video all along. What a bunch of lying liar sleazebags.

This is also old news, but it’s big news, and it’s mostly Detroit news. However, we have to acknowledge it, because it’s news: The city’s way out of bankruptcy became a lot clearer when the most recalcitrant of its creditors appears to have reached a settlement that doesn’t involve taking paintings from the wall at the art museum. And I link mainly for this priceless quote:

Outside court, Syncora lawyer Stephen Hackney reflected on a 14-month journey during which he fought to liquidate the city’s art collection, tried to block repairs to miles of broken streetlights and leveled a “blistering” personal attack on federal mediators that drew a rebuke from the judge.

“It is interesting and ironic that we are both part of Detroit’s future,” Hackney said. “It feels better to be loving rather than fighting.”

Lawyers. You gotta love ‘em.

Thanks so much for being so patient and good about keeping the chatter going through this month of Scant. I do appreciate it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 87 Comments
 

Scant entertainment.

I’m closing in on the end of a chapter, and have time to say hi — Hi! — and give you some more longreads for the weekend.

One of my favorite web writers — Roy Edroso at Alicublog — used to write for another webzine, the Alicubi Journal, back when we spoke of things like webzines. (Or even blogs.)

The archive remains online and the other day I looked up the articles archive and found one of my all-time faves of his, “The Ballad of the Reverb Motherfuckers,” a memoir of his time in, well, let him tell it:

In 1986, I was living in the East Village. Naturally I was in a number of bands.

But of course he was. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four. You’ll notice part four ends with “to be continued.” It doesn’t. I emailed Roy and asked him where the conclusion was, and he said he never got around to it; this was a webzine, after all, not Esquire or Playboy. If you’re worried that Roy was never OK again, well, he’s fine and I had a drink with him just last fall on the sun-kissed banks of the Detroit River. Lives in D.C. with his lovely wife Kia.

Every part of this saga cracks me up. It’s like Coozledad, only longer than a blog comment:

Once we had decided to proceed, drummer or no, it only remained for us to get gigs. For an unknown band comprised, for all the world knew, of aging losers, our best chances were among the local, low-rent performance spaces where junior-grade sonic youth yowled and gibbered nightly. Our first booking was in the last slot on a Saturday night at Neither/Nor, a bookstore and illicit club on Sixth Street between Avenues C and D.

Neither/Nor was owned by a moneyed young aesthete (as were most of the alt-rock spaces east of Avenue A then), but effectively managed by an unflappable black hustler known only as Billy Sleaze. Billy never opened his eyes more than halfway, nor smiled more than enough to show grudging approval, and he practiced similar energy conservation techniques in his management of the acts that tumbled through the venue. He told the players where to put their amps and then languidly patrolled the perimeter, sometimes shaking his head at the shrill foolishness onstage. But he had expressed mild appreciation for the professionalism of the Deadbeats when we had played Neither/Nor in that guise, and he was almost friendly when we lugged our pathetic, cumbersome gear through the door.

“Here, man,” he said to John, “take my card.”

The card was homemade and bore a photo of an black penis entering a white, puckered anus.

“Guess he likes us,” I said.

Enjoy. I’m off for a weekend, and will see you here next week, again in scanty form, but with a weak signal prevailing.

Posted at 8:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 19 Comments
 

Scantastic.

A friend of mine is making a short film and asked for my help. It’s some sort of steampunk-Western thing, so I went down to the basement to dig up my neglected riding gear and see what still might work.

The good news: I found my old chaps, and dammit, THEY FUCKING FIT. Sorry for the obscenity there, but it’s just when you have a garment that is zipped around your thighs, and you haven’t worn them in a decade, you have anxiety just looking at them. To strap on the belt — hey, it’s going to the old hole, whaddaya know? — and then reach down and bring them around to the zipper, fingers a-tremble? And then to find they fit, easily? That’s a good feeling.

The mildewy smell in the suede will be the next obstacle. I’d also like to maybe wear them on a horse again, but one obstacle at a time.

The other thing I found was this, rattling around loose in a box, yet another treasure from letters from my dear bff Deb.

We are a cruel people, journalists. Then again, sometimes those we are cruel to deserve it. Damn.

If you’d like a short list of what’s wrong with this story besides the dam/damn bit, let me lay it out for you:

** Don’t write the source’s name and lengthy title before whatever it is they’re saying. Information, then “said Smith.”

** Quotes should illuminate the information, not carry it. Especially when the quote repeats the information in the previous paragraph. Especially when it’s that boring.

** Actual drilling, as opposed to, what? Pretend drilling, I guess.

Back to work.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

Scanty.

The start of September Scantiness (until final deadline is met) begins with a long read, lately rendered in journalese as “longread.” It’s a classic holiday-weekend package, thousands and thousands of words and a front-page presentation that jumps to two inside pages AND a video, all on… a man learning to swim.

But of course, it’s about much more than that: Conquering fear, how we try to heal ourselves, the challenges we take on when we’re old enough to know better. The sort of thing you read on a holiday weekend, but what the hell, you might enjoy it on Sept. 2.

More longreads and tasty morsels coming, as I find them. A fine day to all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 13 Comments
 

Deadline crunch.

Well, it starts soon: The final push to get the book done. Which means very light posting until the end of September. Links here, a pic here, but you’ll have to carry most of the load.

Fortunately, I have one. A picture, that is:

thursdaymorning

This was the view as I hit the homestretch on Thursday’s bike ride. Sunrise is coming later and later, but as you can see, it’s still worth seeing. That teeny-tiny dot on the horizon? A freighter, downbound.

Bloggage: My little gal’s band gets more love all the time. I’m so proud of them.

Judge Posner: Everybody’s new hero. (Sorry, Alex: I just don’t have the time or gas to really say much more.)

Have a great Labor Day weekend, my friends. I’ll see you Tuesday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 27 Comments
 

Disconnected.

IMG_1527.JPG

Hi, everyone. Wendy here. We had a big storm night before last and while we kept our power, we lost our internet. ALL DAY, for reals. I know, it was awful. It’s still not back, and Dog only know when it will be. So I’m tapping this out on the phone and this will be it, most likely.

No bloggage, but if you could wish mild-mannered Jeff a happy birthday, that would be a very man’s-best-friend thing to do.

Thanks. Happy Thursday, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments