Our day.

Ah, Mothers Day. The day when I eat waffles made my someone else, which, I should add, I thoroughly enjoyed. And based on the several wire photos I saw from places that “opened up,” as we’re saying, today? I will be enjoying home cooking for quite some time. Yes, by all means, let’s all crowd into a tiny restaurant because free at last free at last, etc.

Y’all go first, Alabama. I’ll wait.

On the other hand, when I was thinking about this the other day, it occurred to me that maybe the first thing I would do if it were safe is, find a good Mexican restaurant with a liquor license, and split a platter of tacos with friends. With two margaritas, and maybe three if I’m not driving.

Someday.

Another weekend of misery, cold and sunny one day, less-cold and rainy the next. Went to the Saturday market for the first time in a while. Scored some ramps and green garlic and jumbo eggs, the usual spring haul, and I hope we’ll have a chance to enjoy them in the coming days. Most people were masked and it was fine, but a visit to the market without a stop for breakfast just isn’t the same. Just to sit over a plate of eggs, scrolling Twitter and knowing someone will be around to warm up my coffee presently was a pleasure I didn’t appreciate enough when I had it. Although, who am I kidding. I appreciated it every single week. Market Saturdays were the highlight of my week, finding my secret parking spots, picking out the beautiful food, enjoying a solitary breakfast. So I miss it all the more.

I’m afraid I don’t have any bloggage to recommend, having plowed through the profile of NYT magazine Val Kilmer and thinking, huh. So let’s just wait for the week to unfold and to be appalled by it, OK?

Posted at 9:02 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

A slog of a week.

And so we lurch toward the end of a…surprisingly unproductive week for me, although I have high hopes for Friday. I worry I’m losing my mind. I worry I’m losing my motivation. I worry I’m going to gain even more weight before this is over. I worry. I could use some therapy, maybe in the form of a socially distanced walk with the world’s best therapist, but I don’t think that is on offer these days, and anyway, I can’t afford it, and anyway, my insurance wouldn’t cover it, and anyway, fuck all this shit.

The governor extended the stay-at-home order through May 28. Alan informed me he’s work-at-home through June. Kate is itching to get a Real Job and move out, and I don’t blame her. It’s what I wanted at her age. All week long I’ve been reading, or editing, pieces about the policy/budget fallout of all this, and I realize just how long this is going to continue, and how bad it’s going to be.

So yeah, just a little out of sorts, sorry.

The latter half of today was amusing. My editor wants a story on what it’s like to date in a pandemic, or to be more precise, to kinda date. To look forward to dating. To flirt online, maybe. Since my dating days are over, I asked some younger people I know. Had one spectacular interview, with a woman, who informed me Zoom has a setting called “enhance my appearance.” But it’s hard to find sources. So today I went ahead and just installed a dating app and started trawling for subjects. I described myself as bisexual, I guess, because I said I was “interested in everyone.” I started Liking pics and pasting in a note that ID’d myself as a journalist, looking for sources. The first respondent was a woman, who wanted to know everything about me, then went dark. The second was a man named Rod. OK, then, Rod, here’s who I am, here’s what I want and…

…he said, “You’re a little old for me, anyway,” but he was willing to talk, and I have high hopes for our chat tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, the weather has turned south again. I got an actual, no shit freeze warning on my phone a few hours ago. Low of 28 threatened for tomorrow, and won’t touch 50 all weekend. And it’s Mother’s Day.

So. In the interest of getting out early, just two bits of bloggage today. First, a death worthy of a “Six Feet Under” cold open:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The woman attacked and killed by an alligator in a gated community along the South Carolina coast was visiting the homeowner to do her nails and was trying to touch the animal when it grabbed her, authorities said.

After briefly getting away from the alligator Friday, the woman stood in waist deep water in the Kiawah Island pond and said “I guess I wont do this again,” but the alligator grabbed her in its jaws again and took her under, according to a supplemental police report released Tuesday.

Of course the poor gator had to pay with his life. The whole story is fantastic. Read.

And as someone else on my Twitter feed said today, “Axl Rose owning the Treasury Secretary on Twitter was not on my 2020 bingo card.” And yet? It happened.

OK, then, I’m outta here and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. I’ll be shivering.

Posted at 7:22 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

Astroturf.

Various news sources that have drifted past my eyes this weekend — I apologize, I didn’t pluck each one from the raging river, note the URL, then free it to float on — have indicated that the “grassroots” protests in recent days and accompanying social-media blitzes indeed are not grassroots at all. In fact, they may in fact be organized at a higher level, and I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been so shocked since it came out that Liberace was not losing all that weight because of the Watermelon Diet.

When the Bug spreads back to the rural areas of these various states, they’ll die and claim they aren’t dying, they just had a bad reaction to the Watermelon Diet.

Hope everyone’s weekend was good. Mine was amazingly productive. Project Paint the Living Room is nearly over, enough that I had the distinct pleasure of mopping the entire floor with Murphy’s Oil Soap this morning. I was the only one up and the sun was streaming through the windows onto the clean floor. It was a Zen moment, like looking at a clean notebook page. There is still stuff to do, but the biggest part is done and we can move the furniture back in, which we’ll do as soon as I’m over the pleasure of looking in at a totally bare room with fresh paint and a clean wooden floor.

Does anyone else ever dream of houses? I hardly ever remember my dreams, and the ones I have are mainly of houses. (We’ve discussed this before, I’m fairly sure.) The other night, it was books. But mainly: Houses. Maybe that’s why I like looking at my new living room so much.

I also got Kate’s taxes done, did a deep clean of the kitchen, started Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” and got a few other things done. I also scored a 12-pack of toilet paper, so that minor anxiety is abating. We’re good for a couple months with that.

And now, it’s a little Criterion collection and bed. What a week ahead.

Posted at 9:23 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 124 Comments
 

And now, this.

It rained hard overnight Friday. I was on the early-morning-weekend-update shift (we rotate), and I was lying in bed, preparing to get up, when I heard a different rhythm to the rain on the roof. A separate drip-drip-drip that didn’t belong to the dripdripdripdripdrip coming down on the bathroom skylight. I thought Alan might be awake, so I asked him:

“Do you hear that?”

“Yes.”

And that, friends, is how we were up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, me trying to aggregate the fucking onslaught of overnight news — Friday night was when the president christened “that woman in Michigan,” our governor, “Half.” (Her name is Gretchen Whitmer. If you don’t get it immediately, think about it.) There was also a hot nursing home and the usual skyrocketing disease numbers. And Alan was clambering around in the attic, trying to set up drip-catchers and figure out where the leak was coming from, because it is indeed the Month from Hell, house-wise.

On March 2, we had our gigantic backyard oak tree taken down. Very close to the house, very tall, and I hated to do it but it had to be done — the thing was rotten all the way through. But hoo-boy, expensive. A couple weeks later, the hot water heater started to leak because why? Because it had rusted clean through. So the new water heater came next. Now, a leaky roof. And a pandemic.

But we’re all healthy! So that’s good. Seriously, it’s good. I’m reading more and more about people younger than me dying, older than me dying, lots of people close to dying. (Like John Prine, please keep him going just a little longer.) The tree, the water heater, the roof — all these can be fixed with money. Your health can’t.

Good to remember. But man, I wish I made a lot more of it.

So it was only a half-terrible weekend. Except that the auto show was finally cancelled, for the upsetting reason that FEMA is taking over the Cobo Center (now known as the TCF Center) for a 900-bed field hospital for the next six months.

I did have to do some food shopping. I put a bandanna over my mouth, which did nothing but maybe made others feel better. Kate went with me; her bandanna was red, which, she said, meant she was a Blood.

I’d like an N95 mask, but they’re only to be had in 300,000-piece lots. I’d like some more hand sanitizer, and businesses are making it, but again, only in gigantic lots. When this stuff trickles down to the retail level, someone let me know.

Or maybe I could buy one “out the back door,” like the president says.

Anyway, the Kroger now has floor stickers to space people out in the checkout line, and plexiglass sneeze shields between customers and the checkout clerks. Our new normal.

Kate says we can make our own sanitizer, but we’ll need aloe gel. That’s probably disappeared from the stores, too. Might have to sacrifice our kitchen aloe; her day may well have come. We’ll see.

What to read? Here’s something I wrote: An obituary, but non-COVID. No, just the tragic loss of a 33-year-old man, widely beloved, who had an aggressive form of colon cancer. He first had symptoms on his honeymoon.

An entertainingly written history of Purell, from the WP.

And I guess that’s all. For once I can ask, what fresh hell awaits us in the coming week and be almost entirely sure there will be some, and a lot of it.

Stay safe! Keep washing those paws.

Posted at 7:13 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 104 Comments
 

The list.

You guys. This throw-grandma-from-the-train argument the lunatic fringe is making these days is no surprise to me. I have a select group of Deplorable blogs and Twitter accounts that I follow, and they’ve been saying this since almost the beginning.

A lot of them live in smaller towns — nothing like those crickets chirping in the inky night to make you think you need a lot of guns, and nothing like living elbow-to-elbow with people of all colors, creeds and ethnicities to make you think we could do with a lot fewer (but more of their tasty national dishes). They’re convinced the disease will never make it to wherever they are, and if it does, no biggie. They’ve been treating chest colds with grandma’s secret poultice since they were babies, and it never fails to knock them out in eight to 10 days, tops. They’ll be fine. It’s the Dow they’re worried about. Also their taxes. And so on.

So they’ve been saying two things for a while: 1) Is the death rate really so bad that it’s worth wrecking the economy over? And 2) MAGA!!!!!

For the record: I do not intend to sacrifice myself for anyone’s grandchildren. Until a month ago, I was feeling pretty good about retiring in three to five years, and then doing things. Some people would call it a bucket list, and I guess that’s what it is, but it doesn’t include skydiving. Over the last few days I’ve been mentally adding to it whenever my brain starts to sizzle a little from the ambient stupidity in the air. Here’s what I have so far:

  • See a few more Vermeers. (I’m not in the every-Vermeer-in-the-world camp, but just, y’know, a few more.)
  • Spend a day at the Prado and examine “The Garden of Earthly Delights” from every angle, from as close as I can get, until I’m satisfied. Then maybe go back two days later and see if it has anything else to say to me. It’s Madrid, after all — I won’t get bored.
  • Go to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Hermitage, the Neva, Red Square, and Lenin in his tomb, then home before I get arrested.
  • Rent a big, steady, kind horse and ride through the Irish countryside for half a day, with at least one short gallop and a couple of low fences.
  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from end to end, north to south, not too fast, then have dinner in Tijuana.
  • A month in Asia, itinerary TBD.
  • Read way more books. Maybe write one, maybe not.
  • Sell house in Grosse Pointe, buy condo in Detroit.

I think of a couple more every day.

The only thing I can recommend you read today is this, a story about how the Trump morons were handed a report that literally said PANDEMIC PLAYBOOK on the cover, then threw it away. Because they are morons.

Gotta get to work. Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:16 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments
 

Brokedown.

Poor Shadow Show. Ten days ago, they were on top of the world, headed out on their triumphant tour. Now, limping home from a mere two shows in California — one in Oakland, barely attended, the other in a record store in Fullerton — their van broke down. In rural Utah. Ferron, Utah, to be exact, which is where they limped when it started making an awful noise on the interstate.

Apparently they chose it because it looked like it had a service garage. It did, but it’s been closed for years, which they discovered after sleeping in the van like a trio of hobos.

But the sun rose Tuesday, they found a tow truck to take them to the next-closest, somewhat larger town — Castle Dale — where they were diagnosed with a bad wheel bearing. Alan advised them to have all four replaced, we sent them the money via the miracle of electronic transfer, and they spent the day hanging out in Castle Dale. Everyone was very nice, in rural-Utah fashion. They skated around a local playground in their fancy Moxi skates, and I’m sure they were quite a sight. A rock band! All girls! With a Michigan license plate and a van covered with stickers! And cotton candy-colored roller skates!

They’re really cursed this tour, but then, we all are. We’re working our asses off, all day. I believe Detroit’s alt-weekly is on life support and who knows, maybe Deadline Detroit will be soon, too. We’ll keep working until the bitter end, though. It’s how we do.

How about that stimulus, eh? Those airlines really need the help, so they can hoard the next bailout.

Meanwhile, in the checkout line at Whole Foods…

My friend Deb used to put out these products. I believe they’re called “bookazines,” or something like that. Look at the fear in those eyes. Americans can make a buck off anything.

Meanwhile, enjoy working at home tomorrow. Grocery stores are still stripped here, but we have plenty of food.

Posted at 9:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments
 

Face-toucher.

You know, once you try to stop touching your face, you really notice how much you touch your face.

And what’s more, it’s nearly impossible to stop. I mean, does leaning on your chin while you try to come up with a fresher turn of phrase count? Of course it does. My nose itches from time to time; am I not supposed to scratch it? Everyone knows nose itches left unscratched don’t go away. (Anyone who has tried to get through the savasana portion of a yoga class knows this.) I wear glasses and occasionally — which is to say constantly — readjust them. In the process, I touch my face. This can’t be avoided.

Also, it’s still chilly here, and I get a runny nose at the weirdest times. Not a cold, just a little clear drip when the temperature is uncomfortable, or even when I’m sweating. Does a sleeve dragged across one’s nose count?

This is going to be a long slog for some of us, unless we want to go around with our hands cuffed behind us.

For those who wondered: Yes, Shadow Show, Kate’s band, was supremely bummed that SXSW was cancelled. I told them to slide through town anyway, or keep their ears to the ground, because there’s no way all those people closing in on Austin are going to stay home. There will be shows, there will be networking — just go. They’re taking this under advisement. But they have a long drive across the country in the coming days:

Meanwhile, they recorded a single for some obscure psychedelic label called Hypnotic Bridge, and damn if it ain’t pretty good. Very proud of these girlies. They played a show Friday night at Third Man Records and didn’t put a foot wrong. Also, Kate wore go-go boots:

Verdict: “God, those things are so uncomfortable.” You don’t say?

And that was the weekend, in between reading about COVID-19 and trying not to touch my face. Oh, we watched “Ford vs. Ferrari.” Three stars, and I hope I never again have to watch a movie about a car race where a wife watches from home, her face lit by the TV screen and making various expressions of concern, fear and elation.

Primary coming up in 48 hours. We’ll see how that goes. I have no prediction, if you’re wondering.

Posted at 6:31 pm in Current events, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Customer service.

I feel like I spend more time apologizing here than actually writing anything of interest. Last week was about as bananas as weeks get for me, at least one that didn’t involve some sort of tragedy or truly bad luck. No, it was all plain old work, just work, plus an extracurricular event on Friday night that I was involved with executing. Everything went well, but it was just one of Those Weeks — never ahead, always juggling 10 different things, dropping lots of balls but scooping them back up and trying to get them aloft again.

At one point Friday, I realized I had two text conversations going, a Google hangout, an urgent email dangling in reply, and, AND, a third separate text conversation with the cable company, which left me vowing that this time, no kidding, I am fucking DROPPING cable internet because Xfinity sucks so bad.

Long story short: I carried a bag of trash out to the cans and found the cable line drooping to about the level of my chin. Some utility crews have been in the neighborhood trimming trees away from power lines, doing their usual job, which is to say, not quite the work of a trained arborist. A limb must have knocked it loose. We still had cable, but probably not for much longer.

Xfinity makes such a mockery of customer service. I can feel my chest tightening just thinking about Friday. It used to be, you called a number, made your way through a decision tree, and ended up speaking to a heavily accented woman in a call center far away across the Pacific. I would ask where they were, and they would always deflect, but from their accents I deduced: The Philippines. But those days, those crazy days of yore, are gone forever. Now you must communicate with these individuals via text message. And because they aren’t using Apple’s iMessage, this means thumb-typing, not my strong suit. Fortunately, there’s a workaround, I forget what they call it in the OS, where you can type on your screen, cntrl-C, and then paste it manually on your phone. Laborious, but effective.

Are the people you are texting with in the Philippines? No idea. They could be on the moon for all I know. Based on their replies, which ranged from perfect answers to a standard question — no doubt copied and pasted from a script — to broken English on non-standard ones, they’re almost certainly not in the U.S.:

Comcast Care Chat: Rest assured that once the technician goes there, all your frustrations will stop so you will finally have your peace of mind.

Long story short, the line was fixed, but the guy restrung it differently, so it’s probably going to come down again when we have the giant dying oak tree removed from the back yard tomorrow. Speaking of things that tighten my chest. There’s losing a tree that’s probably close to a century old, for starters, and then what it will cost: The price of a decent vacation.

So at the start of a month, when the stock market is tanking and public hysteria is rising and Rush Limbaugh, that ignorant pile of crap, is telling people that it’s the common cold and anyway, that doctor talking about this disease like she knows something? She’s Rod Rosenstein’s sister, you know:

No wonder I’m in such a foul mood.

But by this time Wednesday things should have slowed down considerably, so look for more then.

In the meantime, here is a very strange story that I kept expecting to go in a different direction than it did. The headline is Miranda’s Rebellion, but it’s really about the agonies of a southern homemaker who can’t stop the bells clanging in her head:

It is white women in the Deep South who have remained [Republican] loyalists, the research showed, giving Trump 64 percent of their vote in 2016, a figure that did not include Miranda Murphey, who had first started reevaluating her politics after the election of Barack Obama, even though she had voted Republican.

“It was all the comments I kept hearing, like, ‘Change the channel, I don’t want to see that black face,’” she said. “It was always that he was black, not that he was liberal, not that there was a problem with some policy. I always thought being a Republican meant supporting the military and lower taxes, not being racist and ignorant.”

Then came Trump, who Miranda found so morally repugnant that for the first time in her voting life she wrote in the name of the Libertarian Party candidate and went to bed expecting that good and decent conservatives would do the same. She woke up realizing she was wrong. Church members had voted for Trump. Her parents had gone for Trump. Phillip [her husband]: Trump.

Miranda made a new friend at the start of the administration, and I kept waiting for her to leave Phillip for Liz, but that didn’t happen. But it’s a very good story, and I recommend it.

Also: Mayor Pete is out. So there’s that.

As for me, here’s to an easier week for me, you and everybody else. Wash your hands.

Posted at 6:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments
 

Clean and sober.

I’m now approaching two weeks without alcohol, and the results so far are dispiriting.

I’m sleeping better, feeling better, and have lost a couple of pounds.

Every year I do this, my body edges closer to the all-out declaration that I should really quit drinking. And let me remind you: I am not a heavy drinker, or even a moderate one. I’ll have a glass of wine as I make dinner, and another one with the meal. When I go out, I generally stop at two if I’m driving, and rarely go over three. A friend’s son describes himself as a “three-beer queer,” apologies for the slur, but that describes me perfectly.

But there’s also this: I like to drink. Not to get drunk, mercy no, but for the feeling when a shitty day just ended and you schlep your tired ass to the bar and order something, it doesn’t matter what, and just realizing, as the glass is halfway down, that things have improved. The tension begins to drain away, your shoulders loosen and your mood lifts, even incrementally. You still have all your problems, of course, but they don’t seem so daunting. Everything will work out, like it always does. Noisy children are no longer a DRILL THROUGH YOUR SKULL, but just small people who are legit members of the human family. You have, dare I say it? Perspective.

Of course it doesn’t last. Everyone knows this. A couple years ago I had a long sit in a bar during Dry January, and a party came in for the bloody mary brunch — about six or eight young people doing what young people do on the weekends, i.e., not clean their houses or drive kids around or whatever. They were loud and happy, a condition that seemed to peak at the second round. After that, one or two got louder, one or two got quieter, the laughs were harsher, the conversation more repetitious. That’s booze for you.

Oh, well. Enjoy dry January if you’re doing it. After the first week it isn’t even all that hard. Lately I’ve been treating myself to a LaCroix with a shot of Pom Wonderful and maybe a squeeze of lime. Feels special without being sinful.

On to the bloggage, then.

Just one piece today, a story of how one Facebook group dedicated to trashing Michigan’s governor went off the rails. I hope you’re not feeling optimistic about the human race — I hope you’re not halfway through your drink — because I have some bummer juice to offer here:

The public group, “People vs Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” was rapidly growing, attracting nearly 9,000 conservatives of all kinds – elected officials, veterans, firefighters, law enforcement officers, educators, pastors, business owners, political candidates, militia members, blue-collar workers, and your garden variety trolls.

Metro Times identified dozens of recent posts promoting or threatening violence, primarily against Whitmer, U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Elissa Slotkin, American Muslims, and Dearborn. Hundreds of comments were posted each day, and many included vulgar insults against women, Muslims, Democrats, and LGTBQ+ communities.

Tlaib, who is a Muslim American from Detroit, was a common target of the vitriol.

“She needs a bullet between her eyes,” Spencer Hayward wrote.

Note that the Metro Times actually named names of people posting such things, which led to one being fired on Friday. Here’s his response to the writer:

I’d disagree that this is about “indoctrination.” It’s about pig-ignorance, pure and simple. But may God bless America, cuz we sure do need it.

OK, gotta make dinner. No cocktail hour. And prep for the week ahead.

Posted at 5:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Pine needles.

The tree is at the curb, the bulk of the dropped needles swept up – we’ll be finding them in nooks and crannies until July and beyond – and gift boxes have been collapsed and in the recycling. The holidays are o-vuh, and I for one kinda like this time of year.

I’m not drinking, I’m at the gym more often like the cliché that I am, and I’m glad that the here-have-a-chocolate-covered-thing has abated for a bit. I went to Target the other day and they had already hung up the St. Patrick’s Day socks.

Maybe we won’t be in a nuking war with Iran by St. Patrick’s Day. A girl can dream.

We may actually also be legit war criminals:

Aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters traveling with him the spirit of a Twitter post on Saturday, when he said that the United States government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance.

Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but Mr. Trump said Sunday that he was undeterred.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” the president said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

Remember when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan on the old silk road? That could be us.

I’m so depressed about this. The cabinet should be sending texts to one another with the phrase “25th amendment,” but I seriously doubt that’s happening.

Have a good week ahead. Let’s take it day by day.

Posted at 8:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 20 Comments