House stuff.

Even allowing for the usual bitching and moaning, this has been an exceptionally gloomy winter. Warmer than usual, which means little or no snow, and clouds, heavy clouds, for days and days and days.

So yesterday was sunny, and we spent all day indoors. Alan rented a steamer to clean the kitchen-floor grout, and rental agreements don’t care about the weather.

Plus, it was cold. But the floor looks great, brand-new. Almost offsets the looming expense of the basement repairs, but what are you gonna do?

Lately I’ve been thinking about selling this house. Not selling-selling it, but having it in the kind of shape where if we had to sell it, it would be sellable. It reminds me of the two-day house hunt that led to us buying this one, a blur of a weekend where we walked through every house in Grosse Pointe in our price range, and saw so many tragedies. Hideous carpet that was brand-new, obviously thrown down to make the place sellable, and why the hell would anyone do that? Why try to guess at the prevailing carpet preferences of the market, when you could just stipulate that the seller will install new carpet of the buyer’s choosing, or adjust the price to allow for — which is almost certainly what the market of that time would have wanted — restoration or installation of hardwood?

There was an old-people house where everything old people tend to stack on a dining-room table had been thoughtfully relocated to the dining-room chairs, as though someone was holding a dinner party for dozens of old magazines. There was the cat-pee-smell house. There was the bedroom painted for a Red Wings fan, and I am talking the reddest red you ever saw, a four-coats-of-primer red. There was the bungalow where a woman with bipolar mental illness had lived, with every home-improvement project half-done — the floors half-refinished, the woodwork paint half-stripped. Her estate was selling after her suicide.

Then, this place, which was Acceptable. We’ve redone every room by now, and it’s finally pretty much the way we want it, which means it’s not for sale, but sellable.

Staging is the big thing now, of course. Some friends with a big, expensive place to unload went that route. The stager came through it like a good-taste tornado, took out half the furniture, put a bunch of big paintings on the walls, all that. She even put her own stemware in the glass-fronted cabinets. Fresh flowers everywhere. Our friends checked into a nice hotel in Birmingham (the Detroit suburb, not the Alabama city) for the weekend, and came home to an asking-price offer on the kitchen island. Contrast that to some neighbors who listed at what agents call an “aggressive” price point and couldn’t even slap a fresh coat of paint on the dusty-rose walls. It sold, but for far less than they started at.

Real estate is like a religion for some people in this country, but not me. However, I peek in at the churches from time to time.

I’d throw in some links at this point, but I saw a few of J.D. Vance on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, and it was disheartening enough to put me off politics for a day or two. For shame, Ohio, electing this husk of a man. For shaaaaame.

Posted at 8:31 am in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Dropping shoes.

While the rest of the country waited on the Georgia indictment, we had a state-level one today: The pro-Trump losing attorney general candidate and a state legislator were both indicted by a grand jury today. The charge: That sometime after the 2020 election, they and others convinced a number of township clerks in rural Michigan to turn over their voting equipment, which they then took to various locations, disassembled and tried to reverse-engineer the “vote-switching” they claim stole the election from their guy.

If they were any stupider, they’d have difficulty brushing their teeth.

From the NYT story (gift link):

The charges against Mr. DePerno, which include undue possession of a voting machine and a conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to a computer or computer system, come after a nearly yearlong investigation in one of the battleground states that cemented the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president.

Former State Representative Daire Rendon was also charged with two crimes, including a conspiracy to illegally obtain a voting machine and false pretenses.

Four felonies for the big guy. All this was known before the nominating convention last year, but the party still made him their nominee for AG, widely considered the most vulnerable of the three executive offices up for re-election. (Incumbent Dana Nessel has made some mistakes. She also got a little overserved at the UM-MSU game.) They nominated him anyway. All three – the governor and Secretary of State being the other two – were very fortunate in their enemies, and won by wide, comfortable margins.

Some might ask, why did the clerks turn over the equipment? One of the individuals who accompanied DePerno had some sort of bullshit title and organization that sounded official, and wore a sidearm. Nothing like cop energy to intimidate a government official. Some wouldn’t go along with it, though, and bless ’em.

And now, as I write this, I see that the Trump indictment has been unsealed. Let us all discuss that, then, in this storm of falling shoes.

Oh, but before I go, I need to ask you southwesterners: Are these worth buying? I know the Hatch legend, but they always seem a little soft and ready to spoil, probably because Michiganders don’t know what to do with them. Do they travel well?

Posted at 6:31 pm in Uncategorized | 72 Comments

Snow day.

Nothing like having everything cancelled for snow, then waking up to…not much snow. And nothing really falling. However, the weather radar informs me it’s just a pause, and the real walloping will come in a couple hours. Whatever. I have nowhere to be, a stocked pantry, and am thinking…lentil soup. Maybe some apple crisp. Maybe an apple cake. Depends.

We went to the Strand bookstore in New York, of course, and browsing the stacks made me miss the days when every city of any size had an independent bookstore, or just a bookstore, period. It was Little Professor for me, growing up, then a host of others. Borders was wonderful in Ann Arbor, and even Barnes & Noble fit the bill. All gone now, another casualty of the internet. There’s a home-furnishings store where my local Borders was, and B&N’s space here is now a grocery for orthorexic eaters, which is to say the vitamin aisle is as long as any other, and a jar of organic mayonnaise — the only kind available — costs $6.

It’s a small jar, too.

Alan bought a book at the Strand called “Cocktail Codex” — he’s become quite the bartender in his retirement — and spent a chunk of yesterday paging through it, before looking up and saying, “Apparently I need a centrifuge.” Ha ha, he’s not buying a centrifuge on my watch, but come summer, there may be some interesting fruit syrups and infusions on offer at Alan’s bar. But nothing requiring a centrifuge, I can assure you of that. Many of these drinks are garnished with a dehydrated slice of fruit, but we’re not adding a dehydrator to the arsenal, either.

Me, I bought a collection of horror/fantasy/sci-fi-adjacent short stories co-edited by Neil Gaiman. This is a genre I’ve avoided most of my life, with a few exceptions, one of them Neil Gaiman, although I stop well short of total fangirl status. His ideas about gods, lower-case, are interesting, but ultimately I prefer reality. The story collection is about what you’d expect from a story collection — uneven. Bright spots, less-bright spots.

That seems to be the theme of the week so far, innit? Expect something, get less, shrug.

At least it was better than “August Snow,” which I picked up at a Friends of the Library $1 sale and almost immediately soured on. It’s the first of a crime series set in Detroit, highly praised, now in its third volume and already sold to Hollywood. Annnnddd? I kinda hated it. For one thing, I’m tired of the standard setup for these things: A hero who is somehow freed from having to work a regular job ($12 million lawsuit settlement from the city, in this case), leaving him time and cash to have adventures. But he’s special, an ex-cop or ex-soldier, or ex-SPECIAL FORCES or some other macho hitch, which gives him a facility with weapons and a dead-eye aim. Introduced to this character, you just know he’ll meet bad guys and overcome them with his basic decency and dead-eye aim, but the pleasure is in the execution, and by the time this one wheezed to an ending, I was done.

But why did I sour on it in just the first pages? The author did not respect local geography, and this brings up a question for you readers of fiction: How important is this to you? I was brought up short when, as the character drives down East Jefferson out of downtown and headed for Grosse Pointe, he passes the Kronk Gym. Wait, what? The Kronk is — was — on the west side, and was always on the west side. Detroit is a very east side/west side town, and relocating one of its well-known institutions to another part of town, just to make a picturesque drive more so, strikes me as heresy, or at the very least, distracting. I mean, why not move the RenCen to Southfield while you’re at it.

Now. I know some people differ on this. To me, if you’re going to set your story in a city, and make that city’s history and landscape part of its fabric, you owe your readers some authenticity. Some license is granted; Jeffrey Eugenides invoked the name of a real Grosse Pointe street (Middlesex) and put a fictional house on it, in his novel of the same name. Laura Lippman created a small, fictional pocket of a real Baltimore neighborhood for her main character to live. This doesn’t bother me. In “August Snow,” the author invents a whole new Grosse Pointe (GP Estates) and even that didn’t bother me (although it looked, based on the description in my mind’s eye, more like Bloomfield Hills), but when he fictionally decreed that the entire community somehow sits on the Detroit River? Sorry, I’m out.

Also, the typos, oy the typos. Barack Obama’s name is misspelled, and that’s all I’ll say about that. Also, when the main character rousts a drug dealer and finds “a couple dime bags of weed” in his pocket, which actually made me guffaw.

OK, then. Time to put on the sneakers and have a little bike ride in the prison gym, i.e. the basement. Happy snow day to all who celebrate. Consider a slow-simmering soup for dinner tonight.

Posted at 9:09 am in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

New post, just because.

Hello from Madrid. Can’t really blog without a proper keyboard, but here’s a new post for your abundant conversations in my absence. Also, a picture of an amazingly gruesome Jesus in the cathedral in Segovia, taken yesterday. Home by the weekend! See you soon.

On the base: “By his stripes we are healed.”

Posted at 4:05 am in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

The current outrages.

Man, it’s been a long week. I can’t tell whether it’s the dog, the cough or that I wrenched my knee on…Tuesday, I guess it was, in this blurry smudge of days. Some of you have Good Friday off, which makes me throw back my head and laugh and laugh and reflect I’ve never had Good Friday off in my life, except maybe from school.

Journalists get fewer holidays than anyone, because we all gotta work at least some of them.

But honestly, I don’t care. I could always quit. And I’m not quitting yet.

So. A friend gave me a copy of “Blood, Sweat & Chrome,” with a very long subtitle that boils down to “an oral history of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.'” It’s been a while since I saw it, so I booted it up on Amazon Video Monday night, just to refresh. Then I remembered the GOP county delegate conventions were also being held Monday night, so I skittered between post-apocalyptic adventurer Max and GOP-convention Twitter, and it was a little hard to tell the difference:

Admittedly, that was the wildest, but that’s also the key MAGA county, Macomb, just north of us. The woman you hear on the video is Mellissa Carone, the messy-updo lady who was one of Rudy Giuliani’s star witnesses after the November 2020 election here. She’s gotten hard into politics in the aftermath, although she was just disqualified from her run for the state House, for submitting a faulty affidavit with her campaign finance report. She’s vowing to fight. We’ll see how that goes.

Macomb County is where the so-called Reagan Democrats were born, and you can see what they’re doing now – fighting viciously amongst themselves:

What is one to do, observing such a spectacle? I’ll tell you: Not a damn thing. Other than note the resemblance between some members and Immortan Joe.

I’m so tired. I need to get out of the house more. Plus there was a police shooting in Grand Rapids week before last that is just now starting to be felt elsewhere, so there’s always a story in front of my face about it. Plus Trump endorsing Meemaw’s grandbaby, Elon Musk bidding for Twitter and Dianne Feinstein has full-on dementia. Is there no good news to be had in this rotten world?

Well, there’s this comedy bit:

OK, you all. I’m done for now. Happy Easter, and I promise I’ll be better next week.

Posted at 5:17 pm in Current events, Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Another few days.

Well, this has been a week, for sure. Actually, a week plus a few days, but whatever.

What a beautiful city. What a beautiful world. Lately we’ve been stopping to look in the windows at realty offices, scanning the posted listings for apartments, etc. And dreaming.

For about $1,500 Euro a month, we — OK, I — could have a tiny garret somewhere in Paris, your basic wee-living-space-with-a-sleeping-loft deal, in a halfway decent neighborhood. For 1.3 million Euro, hell, we could own it. I say I could have this space, not we, because this would require the sort of tight living space that’s hard for more than one person to inhabit. Ah, Alan, I would miss you, but you could visit your wife here whenever you wanted, and outside this box stall-size space? Would be Paris. But if we wanted to stay together all the time? Well, that would require a lottery jackpot. So we’ll keep dreaming.

The first week, we bagged peaks, as the mountaineers say. Louvre, Pompidou Center, Pere Lachaise cemetery, Eiffel Tower, all the stuff you have to see. The second week, we’ve decided, will be more casual, and today we moseyed to the Ile St. Louis for a stroll, lunch and more strolling. Lunch was a splurge, and we’re footsore at day’s end, so we’ll stay in, drink another bottle of wine, read and listen to the ooh-wah sirens rising up from the pavement outside. It works for me. I’m sleeping better than I have in a while. The espresso after lunch helps keep the afternoons active, as does the wine.

Overall, it’s been lovely, watching the people on the street, finding amusements where we can. We saw a string quartet in a gothic church, the wrapped Arc de Triomphe, the Global Citizen set at the Eiffel Tower. Global Citizen was some sort of round-the-world concert thing, this and that artist performing on stages here, in Los Angeles, other places. It was free to attend, but no way was I waiting in line to see Ed Sheeran and Elton John, and I’ve been served pieces of the performances on Twitter since everyone played over the weekend. That was the night we saw the quartet, and as we ate a late dinner afterward, watched the satellite trucks roll down the quay road.

Lunch today (the splurge) was fine. We read the reviews first and found a few one-stars, people complaining that the waiter refused to fetch a croque monsieur for their 4-year-old, “because we only serve French food,” or sneered at a wine order and said, “I’ll bring the wine that goes with what you ordered.” Our kind of place! For what it’s worth, they brought the wine we asked for. And the cassoulet was approved, probably because it was chilly and rainy outside. It was very good. I had the roast beef and the ubiquitous frites. Which were better than McDonald’s, my personal high standard.

I just realized that if you want to see some photos, I’m posting a few to Instagram, at nderringer. Easier than doing it here.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m thinking another museum. More food, more wine. Update at some point in the future. Au revoir.

Posted at 11:25 am in Same ol' same ol', Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Tapping out.

If anything, today was worse, in terms of news. After the horrifying charade of multiple states signing on to this ridiculous Texas lawsuit, today we had Michigan legislators seeking to invalidate their own state’s vote because they are terrible people Republicans.

I have to dip out of this madness and into something, anything that is sweet, frivolous and/or makes me believe people are good. So I suggest you start with Hank’s review of the new Bee Gees documentary. Anyone who remembers the Bee Gees from that mining-disaster single through disco era will enjoy it, he promises. OK, I’ll be there, too. Glad this detail made it in:

It is here that “The Bee Gees” makes an enlightening argument for the kind of musicianship that happens at the studio control board. It’s not so much about manipulation as it is a startling degree of precision and perfectionism. “Jive Talkin’,” a revelatory new Bee Gees hit in 1975, was divined from the rhythm produced by car tires speeding across a Miami bridge.

I have a friend who tells Uber drivers this when he visits Miami.

Also, here’s a sweet remembrance of a recently departed mother by the Freep’s long-departed religion writer. (He took the buyout years ago.) I was particularly impressed by the mother’s experience with depression, at a time when depression wasn’t nearly as well-understood as it is now, and her lifelong management of it. I read it in bed this morning. It’s worth your time.

Hello, weekend. Hope yours is good.

Posted at 8:42 pm in Uncategorized | 89 Comments

I give up.

I thought we might have a day to discuss Melania’s feelings about Christmas decorations before something else barreled into the center ring, but apparently we’re to be denied even this.

POTUS and FLOTUS have The Bug. The weekend awaits. See you on the other side. Discuss.

Posted at 4:55 am in Uncategorized | 83 Comments

A vulnerable moment.

Today’s census factoid: On any given day in Detroit, 72 percent of the population is smoking weed.

Actually, that’s true of the rest of southeast Michigan, too. It’s legal, so no biggie, but it’s still a little surprising for anyone who remembers the illegal days. Some people open the door and it’s just: Whoa. The good news is, it sometimes works to my advantage. I closed two cases the other night with people who were glassy-eyed. Others are plainly in fuck-off-Karen mode. I try not to have hard feelings. Sometimes that, too, is hard.

But the days pass, the shift ends, the dinner arrives.

So much news. So much, much news. In just the last few hours, the Justice Department decided that when the president said, well, it seems to go like this:

In a highly unusual legal maneuver, the Department of Justice moved on Tuesday to replace President Trump’s private lawyers and defend him against a defamation lawsuit brought in a New York state court by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

Lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Ms. Carroll and thus could be defended in court by government lawyers — in effect underwritten by taxpayer money.

Citing a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act, the department lawyers asserted the right to take the case from Mr. Trump’s private lawyers and move the matter from state court to federal court. The law gives employees of the federal government immunity from lawsuits, though legal experts said that it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president.

Unbelievable. And yet: Believable. The corruption isn’t even slightly under wraps anymore.

Bigger post planned for later in the week. Stay tuned.

Posted at 9:58 pm in Uncategorized | 85 Comments

Lazy, hazy, crazy.

Well, I guess it’s been a minute, yes? Sorry, but I’m just not in the mood to do much these days beyond what it takes to make a living, stay in shape and put food in my body. The MurderSun of recent days doesn’t help. Our spare bedroom/home office gets morning sun, and the neighborhood lost enough trees over the last few years that I keep the blinds drawn so I don’t poach in my own sweat, even with the a/c on. So I sit in my darkened room, reading the news of the day and stewing, not poaching.

Also, been busy.

Had to take Wendy in to get her teeth cleaned, an appointment overdue by about a year. Mission accomplished:

I’d skip to the bloggage, but honestly I’m a little overwhelmed by it, still. So let’s just call this a thread reboot and wish you all a nice weekend.

And yes, if you’re wondering, the title of this post is to inspire another ear worm in Mary’s head. Mmmm-wah-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Posted at 3:46 pm in Uncategorized | 61 Comments