Man, how do you people who garden on the regular do it? We embarked on a long-overdue project this weekend — replacing the landscaping in front of the house. This involved tearing out the ancient arborvitae, holly and yew bushes — can’t forget the pachysandra — then tilling the beds and adding 14 bags of enriched soil, so as to provide a soft bed for what comes next. Which is largely TBD, although it includes a hydrangea and this bush that is sorta lilac-y, but not.

I haven’t done hard labor like this in years. Can I just say this? They call those fuckers Chinese yews because the minute they’re planted, they start sending their taproot to Beijing. It’s a long way to China, so it works on adding girth as well as length. The arborvitae and holly bushes came out fairly easily, but Alan had to use a Sawzall on the yews, down in the hole he dug out around them.

And that’s the way the last two days went — lots of digging, sweating, chugging water and Sawzall-ing the fucking yews.

Oh, and all the pachysandra in the world can kiss my ass. But it’s all stuffed in one of eight separate leaf bags at the curb. I got to use the Sawzall on the arborvitae, because it is super-boring and should all be killed. It felt good to rend one limb from limb and put it on the curb.

That was part of the weekend. I’d hoped to get to at least some Movement events — Movement being the techno fest — but no dice. So many of them are held at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., and after a day of yanking yews, I decided I was better off sleeping. Crazy, I know.

I need to include some links, but as you might imagine, I was only on the internet long enough o bathe in Jared Kushner’s tears. Started reading Jeffrey Toobin’s great On the Nightstand book, and more later on that. For now — bed.

Posted at 9:57 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

The grind goes on.

Ugh. A…not grueling day, but a frustrating one. Lots of dry holes, unreturned calls, all that stuff. And deadline is approaching like death, so double the frustration. The people you meet when you don’t have a cattle prod, know what I’m sayin’?

And yet, as you newspaper people know, sometimes everything can come together at the last minute. You just have to be patient. And then you have to panic. Because it’s important.

But at the end of the day, there is little that a grilled pork tenderloin, asparagus, roasted potatoes and a big glass of wine can’t fix. I was out last night for a bit — met a couple friends/colleagues for drinks overlooking the river, where we relaxed deeply, laughed loudly and downloaded an app to settle bets over the passing freighters. In the middle of this the Comey news landed. Truth be told, I didn’t pay attention to it until afterward, and it was like a really bad fart in the room, which perhaps explains my frustration last night. Is this ever going to end? Of course it will, but I fear not before I forget what it’s like to spend days, weeks not thinking about what’s happening in Washington, because I trust the nation is in, if not good then at least competent hands.

Times like these, we need our friends, we need our laughter overlooking the river. I hope you have something where you live — a river, a lake, an ocean, the healing water from which we all came. And friends, or family.

What do I have for you to read tonight?

There’s this, which has been around for a while, but worth your time — Laurie Penny on Princess I’s book:

Ivanka does not directly call herself a feminist; that plays badly among the base, for whom those of us who believe in justice and equality are baby-killing, castrating, terrorist-sympathising man-hating riders of the vaunted cock carousel. The word “feminism” does not appear in the book; the phrase “my father” appears thirty times, and “brand” or “branding” fifty-nine times. While we’re counting words, in a book about women balancing the demands of work and family, the word “nanny” appears only once. Ivanka has at least two of these, plus other household staff, which you’d think would make it a lot easier to attain this model of feminine self-production and reproduction. However, this book is part of a marketing strategy pitched to sell one of the world’s richest and most powerful women as everywoman—she has problems just like you do, after all. She worries about how to manage her time. “Get some servants” is not yet an acceptable motivational hashtag, but give it four years.

For your science nerds: How the Soviets turned a wary fox into a friendly dog in only 56 generations:

“How to Tame a Fox” sets out to answer a simple-seeming question: What makes a dog a dog? Put another way, how did an animal that started out as a bloodthirsty predator become one that now wants nothing more than a nice belly rub and the chance to gaze adoringly at a member of another species? In the late 1950s, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev decided to address this puzzle by taking the unheard-of tack of replicating the domestication process in real time. He and his colleagues took silver foxes, widely bred in vast Siberian farms for their luxurious pelts, and made them into friendly house pets. It was a deceptively simple process: Take the puppies from only the friendliest foxes, breed them and repeat.

When you’re feeling sad and stressed, you can hardly do better than five minutes with Tom & Lorenzo. Rosamund Pike should have checked with them before getting dressed.

Night, all.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments

Aging in a new place.

Well, that was a relief. Four days away was just about exactly what I needed, even if the cottage did have wifi and I was able to read the news. Alan told me early on that he didn’t want to hear about our president or anything else emanating out of Washington, and I mostly honored that request.

I didn’t tell him about the French hack. I had a feeling it wouldn’t come to anything, anyway.

It’s weird traveling to northern Michigan these days. Passing through Cadillac, we saw a billboard proclaiming WE LIKE OUR PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! It flew by too fast to get a photo, sorry. I used to remember going up north as a series of increasingly deep exhalations, as the air cools and clears and the landscape turns green and rolling. Now I feel like I’m entering enemy territory, with so many towns looking so down on their luck, and the gas station/minimarts, all of which have some version of “family,” “America” or “pride” in their names. It occurs to me that putting “family” in a market name is a way to indicate they sell groceries as well as beer; “party store” is the Michigan jargon for a mostly likka-and-snacks emporium. Still. What’s the other side’s equivalent of the American Pride Family Market? The Diversity Emporium? (Under the name on the sign: “Bathrooms for all!”)

But it was nice to get out of town, where it rained and rained and rained; up north it was dry and sunny, if chilly. We drove over to Frankfort, on the big lake, to see what we could see. We saw Lake Michigan, and we visited a microbrewery/restaurant called Stormcloud, which I bet they’re very glad they didn’t name Stormfront. Had lunch there, and was surprised by the size of the crowd, still a good month before the season really starts. Well, the food was good, and a tabletop sign advertised a spelling bee that very night, open to all. Man, was I tempted, but we took the long way home and spent the evening reading in silence. Alan had an Elizabeth Strout novel, and I found this at the local bookstore:

I’m unfamiliar with Ian Brown, so this is one case where the cover blurbage sold me, and I’m not sorry I read it. Sixty looms for me in November, and I winced at many things between these covers. Currently, I’m ashamed to say, I’m obsessed with examining photos of women around my age and deciding whether I look older or younger. It is a supreme waste of time, un-sisterly and betrays a lack of character, and yet? I cannot stop. Ooh, age spots! She has age spots at 57, on her hands no less, and I am age spot-free at 59! #WINNING. It’s crazy; I never worried about my looks before, because one of the very few advantages of being basically average is, you never really go up or down. Oh, you can have a “makeover” at a cosmetics counter and learn that, for a mere $125 worth of products and 45 minutes every morning with brushes and paints, you can look a little bit better, but really? It’s not worth it. So why am I suddenly noticing these things? Because death is lurking just around the corner, that’s why. One of my old boyfriends recently died of liver cancer, and another has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s! For fuck’s sake, these are rattling events. My high-school class is having yet another of our endless reunions this summer, and the last one (40) was full of In Memoriams and moments of silence and all the rest of it. I’m not that old yet, at least in my head. I went surfing last summer, goddamnit.

Brown is refreshingly honest about these and many other insecurities, and the book was a nice diversion. Back to Neil Gaiman next. (Why are people so hot on Neil Gaiman? He’s OK, but I don’t understand the worship, frankly.)

This was the view from the porch:

The Betsie River, sliding on past, like the river of time itself.

Maybe this is why I pay so much attention to the news. To distract myself from my own mortality.

Now the week ahead yawns, with good news from France and the usual fuckery out of Washington. Let’s have a good one.

Posted at 7:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 113 Comments


I swim for exercise three mornings a week. Swimming doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but a swimsuit is essential, unless you work out at one of those old homoerotic men’s health clubs where they won’t let women in because swimming is a nude sport. (Don’t laugh. They exist.) I’ve experimented with various suits, and found one that works for me. Speedo’s list price is high, but if you watch the sales, you can find closeout discounts or, mirabile dictu, a BOGO sale.

As it happens, last week’s BOGO colors included one I bought last summer, before I headed for California. That suit is about done, but I loved the color, so hey, I’m in for round two. You want to know why swimmers have green hair and dry skin? Behold, the power of chlorine:

If you’re reading this Wednesday and I didn’t die overnight, I swam this morning. Don’t have time or motivation? You just aren’t Princess Ivanka, then:

It’s in her description of her daily life, in which she somehow — until the election, anyway — managed to run her own company, serve as an executive vice president in the Trump Organization, train for a half marathon and spend time alone with each of her three children. Absent locating a wormhole in space, there’s really only one way to find time for all of these commitments, and that is with the help of staff. Yet her household help barely rates a mention in this discussion.

That’s from the NYT review of her new book, “Women Who Work,” which sounds about as lightweight and information-dense as other books of the Trump brand. I’m glad the mommy wars are over, truly I am; as a combat vet, I’m thrilled that today’s new mothers aren’t guilted by the ones who choose a different path. I think of that time as a benefit of the Clinton economy, when expensive cigars were burning, salaries were still pretty good and a lot of middle-class women could actually quit or downshift their jobs into something that allowed them to spend more time at home with their young’uns. The next administration put a stop to that once and for all; I know lots of women wished they had a second income when their husbands were thrown out of work during the financial crisis.

So choose your path, and God be with you, but you can probably do it without Princess Ivanka’s special brand of vapid advice, I bet:

But here’s what really matters about parental leave, as far as Ivanka Trump is concerned: She seems to still believe — as she did during the presidential campaign — that Americans ought to be paid for it. She waits until the penultimate page of her book to say so. But she does. (She talks about affordable child care, too.)

These final pages were written before Nov. 8, 2016. (Trump says in the preface that she turned in her manuscript before she knew the election results.) And what’s remarkable is that she wrote them as if she thought her old man was going to lose: “We need to fight for change, whether through the legislature or in the workplace.”

Well, her father didn’t lose. Ivanka Trump now has a formal White House role, as a special adviser to the president. She has security clearance and an office in the West Wing. She has access to the ultimate C-suite. At any moment, she could walk in and demand her father put forward a plan that mirrors precisely what she provides her own employees: Eight weeks of paid maternity leave. By European standards, that may be paltry. By American ones, it’s extremely generous and a very big deal.

Don’t bet on it.

There’s also a sympathetic profile of Princess I in Tuesday’s edition. It left me unmoved.

Folks, this may be the last update for the week. I’ll be running crazy errands to get ready for our trip this weekend, and can’t commit. If there’s wifi up there, maybe some pictures. Otherwise, I’m ducking out with a clean conscience.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and I’ll likely see you Monday.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 151 Comments


And justlikethat, the weekend is over. Kate is back from school, summer plans still unformed, despite her best efforts. She was literally home for 90 minutes before taking off for the U.P. with a friend, I guess because the highs are going to be in the 40s for the next few days and who doesn’t want that kind of weather in May, right? But she’s home, and it’s nice to have her here, at least for an hour and a half.

This will be a short week for me here, too — we won a weekend at a cottage on the Betsie River in a recent charity raffle, and we’re taking it, plus a couple more nights, at the end of this week because why the hell not. But I hope to have lots of pictures, too.

I don’t know how I forgot to mention Tom Thumb Donuts in the last entry, although it’s been ages since I’ve seen one. They were always a must-stop at the Ohio State Fair, and it’s been ages since I’ve been to that throwdown, too. I covered it for the paper one year, and ate a bag a day. Tom Thumbs were mini doughnuts, and half the fun was standing, mesmerized, in front of the window on the booth, watching them go through their manufacturing process – seen here – then walking around the midway, working your way through your allotment, maybe trying to spot Miss Citizen Fair or just inhaling the unique aroma of a big state fair — manure and junk food and sweat and hot pavement all mixed together and not nearly as bad as I’m making it sound.

I wonder how the fair is doing these days. It used to be the single biggest thing in a kid’s summer in Columbus, but I imagine it’s been screwed up one way or another. Too expensive, too big, too much to police. It was fun for me, both to attend and later to cover. The assignment came soon enough after my time as a teenage patron that it combined the best of both worlds – I get to go the fair and write about whatever I want, and there’s an air-conditioned trailer office and the paper is renting me a golf cart? Best fortnight of the summer.

But now it’s still springtime, and the lambs and calves that will be shown in August are new in the barn. A friend of mine here in Detroit has a duck flock in her back yard, and is so overloaded with eggs that she brought a case of them to a local bar on Friday night to sell. I bought a dozen. The eggs are thick and the yolks big and pudding-like, almost a neon orange. I recall Coozledad’s observation, some years back, that ducks will basically eat anything, and vow to cook them thoroughly, but Saturday night’s duck-egg spinach soufflé was delicious with a prime ribeye.

I’m looking over the weekend’s news, and am feeling a little numb. Another propaganda rally, another jaw-dropping foreign-affairs blunder, another enormous march in Washington against the status quo. How can it possibly have been only 100 days? What are the next four years-minus-100 days going to be be like? I think I really need this long weekend; I’m going to try to ignore the news and hope we don’t start something with North Korea. The cell service is probably pretty spotty up there, and for once, that’ll be a blessing.

Got a link to share? Feel free.

Posted at 7:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments

Done in nine seconds.

I love it when a source suggests meeting for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. This means I can have a doughnut because duh — Tim Horton’s. I rarely eat doughnuts, because they are basically heroin for a sugar junkie like me. I need to detox, but before I do? One more delicious sour-cream glazed from Tim’s.

Sour-cream glazed are my absolute favorite, combining that little tang of sour cream with the sugar overload. My prejudices: Sprinkles are wrong on doughnuts, as is chocolate. Yes, I said chocolate. My mother raised me to believe you don’t eat chocolate before noon, and I’ve never been able to eat a chocolate doughnut in the morning with an entirely clean conscience.

And if you start eating doughnuts, any doughnuts, after noon, you have a problem.

What’s your fave doughnut? Beats bitching about the president, if only for one day.

I don’t have much bloggage, going into the weekend, because I’ve been working on something else and reducing my poking-around-the-internet time. Here’s an L.A. Times photo gallery of a number of national monuments the Trump administration is casting a stern eye at, because wouldn’t the American people really rather have a golf course?

Also, I used to start the day with the L.A. Times crossword, done on the laptop of course, but they changed the interface and I fell out of the habit. Then I realized that if you load the mobile site of the NYT on the laptop, I could do their mini-crossword on a proper keyboard instead of thumb-typing. I generally get it done under 30 seconds, and on Thursday? 16 seconds. I doubt I’ll ever beat my all-time record of 9 seconds, but go ahead and try.

I’m so tired I may walk into a wall on my way to bed. Hope you don’t, and have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 108 Comments

So, this happened.

New thread, and this picture of me and Pilot JoeK after lunch today:

Today was also J.C.’s birthday, so let’s wish him a happy one.

Me, I went to the Schvitz tonight and am too relaxed and warm to do much of anything other than go to bed.

Posted at 10:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments

Frog music.

Grocery shopping is suddenly so complicated. Remember being able to buy a whole chicken, cut up? My local Kroger no longer carries this exotic fare, just the beloved-by-yoga-moms boneless, skinless chicken breasts; chicken “tenderloins,” i.e., fingers; and once in a while there will be a sale on whole thighs. Even drumsticks are something you have to hunt for. And so now my food shopping expands to three venues — Eastern Market for vegetables, Kroger for yogurt and canned stuff and vegetables like onions and potatoes, because while I’m sure Alice Waters can tell me there’s a reason I need to fill my farmers-market bags with artisanal onions and extra-special potatoes, to my proletarian mouth regular old white onions and Yukon Gold potatoes do pretty well for almost everything. My third stop is to the specialty grocery here in G.P. that has better-than-Kroger-grade meat.

It must have been a grumpy weekend, you’re thinking. Yes, sorta. But this helped:

That’s Kate, playing the MacBook Air and Ableton, and her classmates, playing similar machines, except for the guy on the right, who was playing a theremin.

The puppetry procession was Julie Taymor-type big-ass puppets on sticks, the music the final product of Kate’s electronic chamber-music class. The weather was perfect, and we found a parking place. Can’t complain about Saturday.

Sunday brought this, however:

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post last year.

Yes, back by (unpopular) demand — the war on drugs!

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Because it worked so, so well the first time, right?

I can’t even. Let’s hope the week goes better than last.

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments

Until death do you part.

The other day I told Alan that if I opened a dog restaurant, I’d call it The Bowl. Or maybe just Bowl. More modern, that one. He replied that if he opened a dog restaurant, it’d be fine dining, and he’d call it Squirrel.

We will have been married 24 years in May, ladies and gentlemen. This is what we’ve been reduced to. Dog restaurants and complaining about the president.

What would a cat restaurant be called? Can Opener.

Doing better today, thanks. Got more sleep last night, for starters, and had a great swim this morning. My insomnia is worse than it’s been in a long time, and I’m not sure why. However, I do know that the first way you treat it is to get your shit right, your ducks in a row and just take better care of yourself. (A little melatonin can help, although it didn’t this week.) Do that before you call the doc for sleep meds. So, lentil soup for dinner, just one glass of wine, and all was better.

And then I woke up this morning and read all about Karen Pence, America’s second lady. He keeps a separate landline phone on his desk that only she has the number to. They exercised in the Indiana governor’s mansion on side-by-side treadmills (ugh, treadmills — go for a run outside, Pences!). And this startling detail:

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

I recognize this as a cornerstone of the “marriage retreats” someone in Indiana was always throwing. The takeaway from these is always to concentrate more on one another, and avoid even the occasion of sin by not having separate lives beyond what is absolutely necessary. While on the one hand I understand the impulse — one of the few beliefs I hold in common with most evangelicals is to focus more on your marital relationship than your children — I don’t believe this python-like, wrapped-together model is healthy, either. As the great Esther Perel counsels, if you don’t get some distance, even just psychological distance, you will absolutely lose your fire. It’s a paradox, yes, but true.

And pro tip: If just sitting across a lunch table tempts you away from your marriage, man, you have more problems than I can advise you on.

Yesterday I told you about Dustin and the Olds, aka all his favorite bands, not one of which has an average age younger than Medicare eligibility. So enjoy this story about adjacent demi-celebrity Old wife that he passed along today:

Donna Betts, wife of founding member of the Allman Brothers Dickey Betts, was arrested after deputies claimed a video showed her standing on her dock, aiming a 30-30 Winchester rifle at a high school rowing crew threatening to shoot them.

What I found most alarming was the mugshot:

Ever since I started covering my gray hair with color, I knew the day would come when I would tip into Ronald Reagan territory, where the hair was such a mismatch with the face that it would be jarring. Every time I get a touchup, I ask my colorist: “Is it time to start transitioning to silver? Soon? Next year?” She always says no. I suspect she’s starting to fib a little. Hey, we can’t all be like Deborah with her icy-white fabulousness.

Back to brainstorming dog restaurant names. Or horses! How about Hay, Baby?

Posted at 6:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Some snaps.

The American Health Care Act isn’t even seven days old. If they’d done their homework, it could be seven years old by now, more or less, but let’s not quibble. Not when it appears to be a dumpster fire, and the best Paul Ryan can say about it? Insurance can’t work if the young and healthy have to subsidize the old and sick.

I’ve actually heard others say the same thing. If you live long enough, you’ll hear people say all sorts of stupid things, but that one takes at least a big slice of the cake. Over the years, I’ve spent thousands in insurance premiums, protecting houses that never caught fire or flooded, cars that left my ownership with no more dents than they arrived with, etc. As Charles Pierce points out, that is the literal definition of insurance.

Oh, well. It’s nearly the weekend. How’s about some pictures?

Look who I saw in my back yard on Sunday:

He was back today, although I didn’t get a picture. This makes me think he might be roosting somewhere in the neighborhood, which makes me happy, even though my vet once told me not to be. They crow at first light, and not the cock-a-doodle-doo crowing of roosters, but sort of a harsh, hacking sound. So be it. Pheasants. They’re beautiful birds, and cool to have around. My own little wild chicken.

(Please, no cracks about the state of the yard. Alan doesn’t believe in the traditional, Grosse Pointe “fall cleanup,” in which every single leaf is bagged and toted away the first week of December. He thinks old leaves should lay on the flower beds. So far, the spring bloom hasn’t contradicted him. So it’s an ugly yard for us in the cold months.)

A gift from Basset, found in some old files:

Of course it was the Day Of, because the N-S was an afternoon paper, and in those days, there would have been plenty of time — and reason — to rip up Page One for such catastrophic news. I’m more struck that no other story above the fold was local. Back when your evening paper carried the news from everywhere, dammit.

Finally, a sign I see from time to time at the end of an exit ramp:

Not just any cans and pails, but metal ones. And plastic ones. Sold by the Canbys. In a bold, sans-serif font, too. None of this IniTech-type bullshit. I miss businesses like this. I should stop in and buy one of each.

This is it for me for the week. A good weekend to all.

Posted at 5:36 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments