What just happened?

Now that. Was an election.

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the results come in for the last 12 hours or so, marveling. There’s Kentucky, but there’s also my little home suburb here. The most overtly conservative candidates for city council, one an incumbent, finished last and next-to-last in a five-way race for three seats. (Which is to say, neither one will be raising their right hand at the next meeting.) That’s Grosse Pointe Woods, reliably red. In G.P. Park, which has been trending blue for some time, there’s now a progressive majority on their council, with two conservative incumbents sent packing. G.P. City elected a progressive mayor (a woman, no less) and an actual progressive lefty gained a seat on the G.P. Farms city council.

All of this would have been unthinkable just four years ago. Everything is changing.

One of the losing candidates in the Woods was a young man who ran a campaign right out of the 2004 playbook. He promoted his degree in public administration from Liberty University. He used “family” in his campaign tagline. He said he works in federal law enforcement, but when I asked him directly which branch, he refused to answer, pleading the Hatch Act. OK, then! Moving on!

Local elections are the ones where I have almost always crossed party lines, and ours are nonpartisan. Competence in running a small city — or in our city-manager system, overseeing the running of a small city — can be found across the political spectrum. But when you blow all those dog whistles, I am outta there. And the Hatch Act? Please. As a friend of mine commented when I told her this, “If they haven’t thrown Kellyanne Conway in prison yet, I think he’s safe.”

So, a good day for Dems and non-Trumps of all stripes. Someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has to be sweating right now.

I was also interested in what happened in Fort Wayne, which I see Alex covered in the comments on the last thread. You may not have seen this column by the publisher of the morning Journal Gazette, though, an open letter to a council candidate who eked out a tight win:

Your large postcard featured you gripping a baseball bat and included, in capital letters, the phrase: “BEAT THE MEDIA.” There were four references to The Journal Gazette, the only media identified by name.

So yeah, invoking newsroom violence in a tight-knit business community? Sure, that’s just fine. More:

During the election cycle, the editorial board does make recommendations in local races. It is always our intent to inform and share our insights based on both our news-side coverage of the candidates, our observations and research, and our interviews with them.

This year, you did not respond to multiple requests to meet with our editorial board before the May primary election and, again, before the general election. You also did not respond to calls from a news reporter preparing an election preview story. All were opportunities we provided you to identify the issues you considered most important and to explain to our readers, many of whom are avid voters, your plans for addressing those issues.

Don’t show up for your endorsement interview, don’t return reporter calls, then send a mailer like that. These people are simply awful.

Health care is a winning issue. I think that’s the takeaway.

What happened in your neck of the woods?

Posted at 9:57 am in Current events | 26 Comments
 

A quickie, and a snapshot.

I set a goal to clean the entire house yesterday and pretty much accomplished it, but it sapped my energy at blogging time and so, no Sunday-night blog.

But fearing that interest in the last thread may be flagging, here’s a new one. Some things to consider:

E. Jean Carroll is suing the president. For defamation.

Can you imagine, in some not-so-distant past, hearing that the First Lady of the United States would be visiting your child’s school, and that announcement causing a flipout/meltdown? Of course, this is no ordinary FLOTUS, either.

One more Morocco picture. We were walking around the port in Essaouira, I was trying to frame this gull, and said, “Hey, gull, look over here,” and it did. Just then, one of its colleagues flew through the frame as the shutter fell. Like I said: Hard to take a bad picture over there.

Posted at 12:33 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

Here, kitty.

If you all will indulge me a little longer, another photo post from Morocco. Today’s subject: Cats.

Feral cats are common in Morocco, and elsewhere; I recommend a charming documentary about the cats of Istanbul, called “Kedi.” (Kitty, get it?) It’s not exactly the same in the Moroccan cities we visited, but similar — cats are everywhere, entirely wild, not entirely pleasant to consider what their lives are like.

They’re skinny, dirty, some with mange or eye problems. No one pets them, although some soft-hearted souls might feed them from time to time. One rubbed on my shins at a shop, but most kept their distance. We saw more in Fez than in Marrakesh (I theorize most had been run over by scooters). The Essaouira cats proliferated by the dock and port, where they competed with the gulls for fish guts.

If you’re a cat lover, you’ll get lots of pictures. But don’t try to touch them; they’re not that kind of cat.

But like cats everywhere, they were excellent photo subjects:

They were silhouetted in every alley in the medina, it seemed:

I saw this one early, on the way back from the patisserie. He was breakfasting on a fish head:

Lots and lots of kittens:

They walk in and out of the businesses, most of which are open-air in some way or another. So you’d turn around and see something like this:

I really was hoping you’d order the shrimp, lady. We were sitting on the roof level of a cafe, and he was a little higher. He watched us for a while, then disappeared.

At our last place, in Essaouira, our host told us to close the door to the riad balcony at night, because otherwise they’d come into the apartment. He told a story about a woman who was staying there alone, and called in a panic her first night. “Someone’s trying to get in the door,” she whispered, frantically, and he ran over, only to find the front door locked. He let himself in and flew up the stairs, where she pointed to the balcony door: “No, there!” It was a cat.

Sure enough, that night, the balcony door rattled with something that sounded exactly like a paw, knocking, along with the usual plaintive meowing. No dice, kitty, but I fed fish leavings to a couple in the port the next day.

Maybe it was this one; this was in the alley outside our riad:

This place is so picturesque it’s ridic. I’m not even a very good photographer, either. It’s just hard to take a bad picture in Morocco.

And what happened on this side of the Atlantic? Just the president’s allies attacking a Purple Heart recipient because he speaks a second language. Just another day in the greatest and richest country on earth.

Here’s to Wednesday.

Posted at 8:41 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 48 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
 

Wakey-wakey.

Alan just slept through the 6 a.m. call to prayer from this beacon, as seen out our hotel room terrace. I did not. So a quick update here.

That is the Hassan II mosque, one of the largest in the world. We’ll go for an official tour in a couple hours. It’s in Casablanca, our first stop, although we’re not staying long — it’s on to Fez later today.

I regret that my photography skills did not capture the laser that beams from the top of the minaret, pointing to Mecca. A very modern detail, that — the building was only completed in 1993, and one reason non-Muslims like us can tour it is, it’s considered as much a national monument as a place of worship. Honestly, it’s the size of 1.5-to-2 times (insert name of the largest indoor arena in your city — Staples Center, Little Caesars Arena, etc.) It can hold thousands. Really looking forward to this, and will wear long sleeves for the occasion.

Last night, after a three-hour jet-lag correction nap, we ventured out for dinner, choosing to walk rather than take a taxi. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore — so much boiling life everywhere, scooters, cars, families out for a stroll. So many children, too, a shock after years living in graying Michigan. They’re all wearing Spider Man T-shirts, etc. a reminder that American culture may be corrupt and the Great Satan and so forth, but we can sure make a comic-book movie.

More later. I’ll be posting pix on Instagram, cross-posting to Twitter, so if you really want to keep up, you can follow me there — nderringer on the ‘gram, nnall on Twitter.

And yes, I saw the story about the video shown at the Trump event. I hope there’s an America to return to in a couple weeks.

Posted at 1:32 am in Uncategorized | 13 Comments
 

By popular demand.

Hello from Montréal. Our flight to Casablanca is late. But I hear the clamor for a fresh thread, and god knows what the Sunday shows will bring. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be across the pond. (I hope.)

Here’s Wendy with her dog sitter. She seems pretty happy:

Hope to be just as happy in about 12 hours.

Posted at 6:21 pm in Uncategorized | 20 Comments
 

So, so ready.

Alan lurched through the door last evening and pronounced himself ready for vacation, if only to get away from the country in a more or less constant constitutional crisis these days.

Couldn’t agree more.

What else, today? Not much. Just a to-do list a mile long. Why is it so hard to get out of town for a couple weeks? Of course, it doesn’t help that there’s a strike going on, which has blotted out the sun in Alan’s world for a month or so. It’s just hard to slip the surly bonds of earth, even for a little while. But stuff is getting ticked off the list, and one way or another we’re getting on the plane.

As to the constitutional crisis.

I’m so damn tired of all this stuff. The bonkers communications, the horrible family, the idiot enablers, the First Sex Worker, all of it. And this sort of thing, as well:

“Pathay.” Or maybe it’s “pathé.” I guess that’s fancy talk you learn in fancy-talk school.

And now we’re going to be seeing more of Trey Gowdy. Another reason to be so, so glad I gave up cable TV.

You guys can post the links today. Alas, I have to tackle this to-do list.

Posted at 9:23 am in Current events | 37 Comments