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
 

No blog today.

This is not our house. This house is two blocks away, however. We had a storm last night, a big one. So we have no electricity and no Internet and this is being voice dictated to my phone, uploaded via cell towers.

A substantial crew was trying to cut this monster apart, and a substantial line of neighbors was watching them do so. Some had brought picnics. They said no one was hurt, which is good.

I will leave you to the weekend and I hope you all enjoy it. We will see what the country looks like on Sunday. I hope I have electricity by then.

Posted at 7:22 pm in Uncategorized | 83 Comments
 

Lions on benzos.

We appear to have turned yet another corner, or descended another step, into the hellscape of 2020 – the Justice Department is now fully operating as a wing of the Trump organization. At least the prosecutors in the Roger Stone case have resigned.

I have a friend who periodically remarks how much 2020 is going to suck, in the runup to, and perhaps entirely beyond, the election. All I can think in reply is, as of 11:59 p.m., we’re one day closer and hence, one less day of suckage.

So, the other day I found this story in the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, on Jordan Peterson, a Canadian…something-or-other. College professor, philosopher, “polarizing Internet celebrity” who rose from obscurity a couple years ago. Honestly, I’ve avoided learning any more than I had to about him. I know he’s popular with conservatives. He tells young men to clean their rooms, advice I 100 percent endorse. He has problems with feminism, probably because, well, I don’t know why, but here’s my guess: His clean-your-room advice is also accompanied by an exhortation for men to take their rightful place at the head of the table? Seriously, I don’t know. Tried to watch a YouTube and found his Canadian accent distracting, and the fact he’s beloved by people I mostly can’t take seriously sort of sunk him in my book.

But anyway, he’s been feeling poorly. After a run of personal tragedy (wife, cancer), he became addicted to benzos, and now he’s gone to Russia. Why Russia? Because apparently his daughter is nuts and by nuts I mean nuh-tzz. She lives on a diet of beef, just beef, calls it the “lion diet” and advocates others do the same. This includes her father, I remember reading. In fact, the daughter says, he was first prescribed benzos after suffering “an autoimmune reaction to food.” This may be the reaction where he ate something like a cookie and claims he didn’t sleep for 25 days. Not “slept badly,” but “did not close his eyes and slip into the unconscious state the rest of us know as sleep.” For nearly a month. Yes.

Maybe you’re thinking, this family sounds nuts. I absolutely agree. But it gets nuttier.

She said the family sought alternative treatment in Russia because they found North American hospitals had misdiagnosed him, and were prescribing “more medications to cover the response he was experiencing from the benzodiazepines,” Mikhaila said. “He nearly died several times.”

She and her husband took him to Moscow last month, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and put into an induced coma for eight days. She said his withdrawal was “horrific,” worse than anything she had ever heard about. She said Russian doctors are not influenced by pharmaceutical companies to treat the side-effects of one drug with more drugs, and that they “have the guts to medically detox someone from benzodiazepines.”

Jordan Peterson has only just come out of an intensive care unit, Mikhaila said. He has neurological damage, and a long way to go to full recovery. He is taking anti-seizure medication and cannot type or walk unaided, but is “on the mend” and his sense of humour has returned.

This man is truly a philosopher for the Trump era. Maybe he’ll stay in Moscow.

What else is happening tonight, besides the New Hampshire primary? The Westminster dog show! Which I cannot watch because no cable, but I’m pulling for all the dogs. May the best one win. Apparently the golden retriever pulled off an upset in the sporting group, so who knows.

As for me, I slept terribly last night and am headed for an early bed.

Posted at 9:02 pm in Uncategorized | 79 Comments
 

It’s Super.

Lovely Sunday. The actual sun came out for a while, the temperature topped 50 degrees, I got work done and a workout, and now I’m watching Alan tie flies and listen to KCRW as I wait for the Super Bowl to start. There’s a meat loaf in the oven, because MEAT. There are chips in the pantry, a ripe avocado in the fruit bowl. Low-rent guacamole may be on tap. And the groundhog didn’t see his shadow. I ask you, does life get better?

Well, of course it does. But this’ll do for today.

Listening to KCRW. That is, of course, the public station in Santa Monica, which means we could hardly be more bougie at the moment. But just being able to listen to it in Detroit is one of those sentences I never would have understood just a few years ago. Here’s another, which I heard just the other day: “Buster” — the speaker’s parents’ dog — “is an influencer now. He has more than 3,000 followers on Instagram, and now people send him free stuff. Like his new collar.”

I think Wendy could be an influencer, but I don’t have time to “curate” her “brand.” As it is, just typing the usual blizzard of hashtags these things require to become influential would probably give me writers cramp.

Back to KCRW: We just heard a sponsored-by tag for a “medical intuitive.” Which made Alan, the former health writer, ask what that might be. A quick Wiki, and we have our answer:

A medical intuitive is an alternative medicine practitioner who claims to use their self-described intuitive abilities to find the cause of a physical or emotional condition through the use of insight rather than modern medicine. Other terms for such a person include medical clairvoyant, medical psychic or intuitive counselor.

Oh, wonderful. I see some of them work by phone. I wonder if he could tell when I’m constipated, over the phone from Hawaii.

I understand why so many people hate doctors; our medical system almost requires that they be jerks. FWIW, the closer a doc gets to primary care, the more I like mine. My family-practice guy and gyno are great, and I was relieved that the orthopedist the first guy referred me to is also great. But I kissed two ortho-frogs before I found him, and there have been some real schmucks along the way. That said, I don’t think my arthritis can be cured through essential oils. but a massage would be nice.

However, paying someone to intuit what’s wrong with you is pure Goop-shit.

A little bloggage? Sure.

Bad news, Columbus: Leslie Wexner is about as bad as you’d feared he was:

Victoria’s Secret defined femininity for millions of women. Its catalog and fashion shows were popular touchstones. For models, landing a spot as an “Angel” all but guaranteed international stardom.

But inside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.

Ed Razek, for decades one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, was the subject of repeated complaints about inappropriate conduct. He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one’s crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Executives said they had alerted Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands, about his deputy’s pattern of behavior. Some women who complained faced retaliation. One model, Andi Muise, said Victoria’s Secret had stopped hiring her for its fashion shows after she rebuffed Mr. Razek’s advances.

The atmosphere was set at the top. Mr. Razek, the chief marketing officer, was perceived as Mr. Wexner’s proxy, leaving many employees with the impression he was invincible, according to current and former employees. On multiple occasions, Mr. Wexner himself was heard demeaning women.

I know, I know: Abuse at a cheap lingerie company? You don’t say! Still. Look at a picture of those two grizzled geezers standing next to each other and struggle to keep yourself from barfing. Time’s up, indeed.

The other big thing happening this week is, of course, the ultimate debasement of the party that once called itself grand and old, but I have a feeling we haven’t seen the bottom yet.

Don’t have the gorge to talk much about that now. I’ll just leave you with…this. And see you later in the week:

Posted at 6:29 pm in Uncategorized | 70 Comments
 

Roofs.

I’ll be doing some miscellaneous mop-up posts from Morocco, although I am now back in the land of plenty — plenty of water, of water pressure, of a cloud cover so dense you doubt the sun exists at all, and, as Donald Trump is still president, of maddening bullshit.

Anyway.

We learned that when you rent a room in a riad, which is any building structured around an open courtyard, you are first shown to your room, and then to the roof. The roof is one of the attractions of riad life. Here I am enjoying Marrakesh roof life one morning:

(Pardon the lack of a pedicure. After Labor Day, I lose my patience for nail polish.)

Here’s the reverse angle, where I was sitting:

Nice place to lounge, eh? That low wall in front of my feet is the one that surrounds the open-air courtyard, so no one falls in and goes splat. The Marrakesh riad took the extra step of putting an awning over the courtyard, although it rains very little there. But the courtyard has wooden furniture, and I expect birds could be a problem. The view looking down into the interior:

Very nice. A couple of ficus-type trees next to a water feature, quite soothing. I’ll say this for riad life; you tend to stagger home after a day or even an hour of battling Marrakesh medina street life — the noise, the hustlers, and of course the goddamn scooters — step through the door and really feel like you left it behind. It’s nice, a design that makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, back to the roof. The French couple whose stay overlapped with ours took their breakfast up there, probably so they could smoke afterward. In the mornings, it’s quite pleasant at this table:

Then you step to the edge and get a sense of what’s below:

A rare quiet moment, there — most of the shops haven’t opened yet. This was a Saturday, so the kids weren’t in school. Note mama or grandma on her scooter. We stayed in a very un-touristy part of the medina; not so many Westerners along our close-by streets. You can see the building across is another riad, and if we lift our gaze a bit, you can see what looks like another well-appointed rooftop a block or two away; if you look closely, you can see a pigeon coop there, too. (P.S. Pigeons are for eatin’ in Morocco, but I didn’t have one.)

Looking left from where I was standing:

And no, I have no idea how you determine a property line in any of this chaos. But fortunately, it’s not my problem. But this is where we ate kebab sandwiches a couple nights instead of enduring the grueling Jemaa al-Fna, and listened to the final call to prayer. We bought them from a seller about a block down; he didn’t speak English, but fortunately at least one or two other customers knew enough to help us order. Yes, onions, yes, “spice,” yes very delicious. The French pastries we bought for dessert were easier — just point and hold up fingers for how many.

And now, yes, we are back. The laundry is done, the fridge is mostly restocked, and I’m going out for a new electric toothbrush to replace the one that died the day before we left. What crazy shit will happen in the week ahead? God only knows.

Posted at 12:41 pm in Same ol' same ol', Uncategorized | 29 Comments
 

Essaouira. (All the vowels!)

Essaouira — now I can hear my nerves sighing again. This is the Morocco I could get used to. The Mendocino of Morocco, with 90 percent less hustle, bustle, hustlin’ and bustlin’. Our Airbnb looks like a Ridley Scott film, blowing curtains and all, a pre-restoration riad that nevertheless is beautiful in its decay.

There’s one other resident. Pretty sure it’s the guy who owns the bookstore downstairs. This seems like the sort of message he’d post:

Today is our last day just to wander — we travel back to Casa tomorrow to catch our flight(s) home, routing through Germany this time, but ah well. Air Canada’s more reasonable fares made this trip possible, so I can’t complain. What will we do today, now that we BOTH HAVE COLDS? I’m thinking the beach, and a repeat visit to the grungiest, but best, fish restaurant in the world:

That’s actually looking away from it — gives you a sense of the neighborhood, which is the port of Essaouira. The opposite view would show a few tables, a few umbrellas to shade the punishing sun, a table covered with a tray of ice, and a grill. You walk up, select your fish from an iced array, and they throw it on the grill. No special orders, no fancy sides, just a tomato salad and fish so fresh the ink on its last will and testament is still wet. The port’s cats hang around for a few tidbits, and while Alan disapproved, Reader, I threw a few their way. Yesterday it was lemon sole and some sort of sea bream. Today, we’re thinking that, plus sardines and some prawns, although great big prawns kinda gross me out with their dirty assholes and all.

I’m also savoring the stuff I like about po-folks’ traveling: The way you get a sense of a neighborhood after a few days, figuring out the coffee situation in the kitchen, strolling out early for pain au chocolate and tissues; I’m happy to say that with a few phrases of travelers’ French, pointing and smiling, I’ve been able to successfully manage all my shopping, with the possible exception of yesterday’s quest for decongestants, which turned up something like eucalyptus something-or-other, i.e., useless.

Alan will be up soon, so I’ll send this off to the ether and enjoy the view from Ridley Scott’s well-dressed film set a little while longer.

Safe travels to us. Next update when all the laundry is done.

Posted at 4:12 am in Uncategorized | 31 Comments
 

Marrakech. (Or Marrakesh.)

How is Marrakech different from Fes, you’re perhaps asking. In a word: More. Add an -er or an -ier or a “more” to everything, and that’s Marrakech. Faster-moving, louder, crazier in every way. Pushier. Hotter. More exhausting.

But we’re here, and we’re making our way. We’re staying in low-cost riads because we’re not in Madonna’s 60th-birthday party entourage, which means the taxi drops you at the gate to the ancient medina, and the person from your guest house meets you and escorts you the rest of the way, your bags going bump-bump-bump on the bricks or cobbles. Remember I mentioned that in Fes, you mostly walk, but there are also donkeys and occasional motor scooters? OK, with the -er intensifier mentioned above, in Marrakesh there are LOTS of motor scooters. Mopeds, Vespa-type scoots, even full-size motorcycles and they are not messing around. Five minutes on the street, and your heart is in your mouth, having witnessed 17 near-miss accidents that somehow never happened, praise Allah.

I’m talking THAT’S A GRANDMA OH GOD or WATCH OUT FOR THAT OLD MAN, or HELLO THERE’S A HEAD-ON COLLISION ABOUT TWO MICROSECONDS FROM HAPPENING or, from this morning, DUDE THAT IS A BABY IN A DAMN STROLLER YOU CANNOT PASS CLOSE ENOUGH TO STIR HIS CORNSILK HAIR LIKE THAT, and yet — this is all day every day. It’s just the way things are, and I guess people are simply used to it, because mothers let their children toddle in the streets and the only person I’ve seen being treated for any injury at all was a woman, a tourist, about my age, and it looked like she’d just twisted her ankle or something.

I’d include pictures, but the internet here is very very slow, so.

And you don’t even want to hear about the roads outside the medina, which are simply insane. To all of the above, add full-size cars, buses, horses and speed.

We haven’t yet seen the famous square, the Djemaa el Fna, in its full after-dark glory, but in broad daylight, it is a carnival of tourists and animal cruelty. On this, the guidebooks are clear — do what you want, but be advised that for every dirham you flip to a “snake charmer,” you’re supporting a racket that takes cobras, extracts their fangs, sews their mouths shut except for a small slot for their flicking tongue, then waits for them to starve to death, upon which they’re replaced. The “monkey men” are handling Barbary macaques from the wild, poached by criminal gangs and similarly abused. There were only a few out early today (it’s Friday, the Sunday of Islam), and yet there were fat Western tourists posing for photographs with both. Probably Russians.

But the worst was when I saw a horse slip and fall in the traces on the slick tile pavement. Horses can handle city pavement fine (ask any mounted cop) when they’re properly shod, but I expect that would require more money than a carriage driver can afford, or is willing to pay.

The horse successfully regained its feet, but ugh.

In other news, I’m listening closely to the calls to prayer, and am starting to pick out individual words in the chanting. Last Sunday it just sounded like moaning, but now I can hear the Alllaaaahu ak-baaarr, so that’s a start. And listening closely is sort of required, as there are lots of mosques around the older parts of the city, and that’s where we are.

Now back at the riad, reading “The Nickel Boys” and catching up on news from back home. I wish I could say it hasn’t come this far, but alas, it has.

Posted at 12:10 pm in Uncategorized | 43 Comments
 

Fez. (Or Fes.)

The thing about the medina is, it’s old. Old means narrow streets, some so narrow two people can’t walk beside one another comfortably. Sometimes it looks like this:

A quiet street. That’s the one that leads to the riad where we’re staying. It leads, after many turns and a couple of dead ends until you learn the way, into one that looks like this:

That’s the main road. Still pretty narrow, but depending on the time of day, hundreds, maybe a thousand or more, will pass along it. Most will be walking. Some will be pushing wheelbarrows piled with goods for the businesses within. Some will be driving donkeys or mules, ditto. Some will be on motor scooters, and no, I’m not kidding. And in the midst of it all, it goes something like this:

(Fade in generic Arabic music — ouds and percussion and a voice singing in that mournful-sounding, wobbly way that could be anything from a story of lost love to anything, really. No, don’t fade it in; crash it in, because we’re diving in.) “Bonjour madame come and see how we make the rug. Family business! Best price!” “Attention!” Look around, here comes a donkey or more likely a wheelbarrow because wheelbarrows don’t eat. “Madame, sir, are you looking for restaurant? I take you to restaurant, good food, good price.” Then a door opens, and it’s not marked, just a door, but there may be another door behind it, or maybe three doors, and out come 20 children — school’s out! And these kids are amped up, and running and darting everywhere, and now there’s a scooter and oops a tour group of Asians or Germans, and I’m pretty sure the Asians are Chinese and I know the Germans are German, because they’re saying “Was ist das?” and I’m not that dumb. Their guide is in a djellaba and kisses one of the Germans, man-to-man, big hearty laugh and they set off for their next stop, maybe the metalworkers souk or maybe the leather tanneries and my feet hurt and I’m sweating and you don’t dare stop because someone will try to sell you something and I’ve already bought a purse and two scarves, and maybe paid too much but I didn’t mind because it was still cheap and I’m a rich American and I’m finding I kinda enjoy the dickering, at least if they make it fun, and they do: “Sister, I have already given you my best price, you are stealing from me,” or the guy with one arm who sold me the scarves. “I don’t like the shiny,” I tell him; it’s a nice scarf but metallics aren’t really my thing, but he says, “I make you promise. You believe this Moroccan man. You wash in cold water two times and no more shiny. I promise.” And I laugh and then Alan walks up and I say, “This scarf is Fez blue. The Moroccan man made me a promise. Fez blue — very special,” and we both laugh and the man laughs and he says, “Your wife is good woman, you are lucky man. You are Rambo man!” And I give him about $10 for what I could probably get him down to $8 or even $5 for, but now it will always be my Fez blue scarf and shit, he has one arm and what am I going to do, win this one? And yes, this is all one paragraph but IT WAS A ONE-PARAGRAPH KIND OF DAY, YOU FEEL ME?

As we were finding our way back to the riad, I looked up at the tour group passing us single file going the other way, and coming toward me, unmistakable and unmissable: A man wearing a MAGA hat. Reader, I have no shame in admitting, as he passed me I barked “Fuck that MAGA shit,” and a woman ahead of me turned and smiled and I wish I could have played that one over the loudspeaker on the nearest minaret, because WHO DOES THAT? Here, of all places? Disney World, fine, I wouldn’t say a thing. But here? Talk about the ugly American.

He didn’t stop, I didn’t stop, we couldn’t stop — the medina has its own flow and you fight it at your peril. But I sincerely hope he heard me.

What else? Feral cats are as common as squirrels in Michigan:

Although there are other creatures:

This was near a poultry seller, and I’d bet that chicken is in a pot by now because they ain’t for decoration around here. Go to my Twitter or Instagram and check out the goats’ heads if you don’t believe me.

And that’s it for now because this is supposed to be fun, not a chore, and dinner time is approaching. Over and out from about a mile from here:

Posted at 1:17 pm in Uncategorized | 34 Comments