Hustle harder!!!!

Mercy, what a last few days. Just one thing after another. The small dinner party was a success, and I’m about to grill myself a hot dog, because why the hell not.

I think I had some ideas about blogs, but at the moment they have fled my brain. I should write these down. My to-do list routine is holding out, long past when I generally abandon them. But there’s something, what’s the word, centering about sitting down Sunday night or first thing Monday, turning to a fresh page in the diary, and making the list: Job 1, Job 2, personal. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn: Write it all down.

In the meantime, a question for you Californians: Where is the mine in California from which these guys are dug? Lay-deez and gennlemen, the CEO of WeWork:

Neumann is the kind of chief executive who sees pies in every sky, so it’s not surprising that even after a $14 billion step back, he calls the relationship with SoftBank “very, very, very, very positive.” While he’s known as a fierce and unpredictable negotiator whose bargaining tactics include tequila shots, he’s also always ready with a pep talk about finding your purpose, doing what you love, and making people feel less alone. Neon slogans on WeWork office walls implore you to “Hustle Harder” and “Get S#!t Done.” (More of the slogans, found in photos on the company’s website, are cycling below.) Neumann told a reporter in 2017 that WeWork’s 11-figure valuation had less to do with its revenue than its “energy and spirituality.” In a recent promotional video, he intoned, “The single most powerful word is the word ‘we.’”

…“Everyone wants to know what ARK is. I think it’s going to be amazing,” Neumann says one morning last month at WeWork’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Throughout our conversation, he’s at ease making grand statements, as if the dreary details will fall in line later as long as the vision is bold enough. He’s also hungry. It’s just past 11:30 a.m. when a male assistant in a black baseball cap delivers a shallow gray ceramic bowl with brown grains and a spoon. “I haven’t broken my fast yet,” the 40-year-old CEO says apologetically, instead of using the word “breakfast.” He’s clearly a big fan of the oats, sourced from Dan Barber, an “amazingly interesting” farm-to-table chef developing grains with “amazing qualities.” (These are high in fat.) Neumann invested in Barber’s seed company, Row 7, last year.

My editor and I looked at one of the Detroit WeWork spaces when we were expanding last year. It was as advertised above — very slogan-y, very go-team-y, and there’s free beer. It was also pretty expensive for what we wanted. The space was tight, and the walls were glass. There was a therapist in one of them; when I expressed amazement, the guide said, “she has curtains.”

So I’m not surprised to hear that the CEO appears to think that dreary details will fall into line later as long as the vision is bold enough.

We stayed in our cruddy suite of offices, and it’s fine.

I hope this week is easier than the last. I expect it will.

Posted at 9:12 pm in Popculch | 38 Comments
 

Dumb guys.

Monday and Tuesday have fulfilled their early promise of being insanely busy, but now, we may be entering a bit of a glide pattern, which is to say, there’s nothing on the calendar, but I just remembered I have a Game of Thrones dinner party to host over the weekend.

Eh, not to worry — good friends, and just two of them. It’s the dragon-egg cake that I’m worried about pulling off.

Kidding.

I don’t know what else to do when state legislatures, including my own, are falling over themselves to craft the most draconian anti-abortion legislation, in hopes of getting to be the first through the door of the Supreme Court. Might as well think of baking.

One of my colleagues said the speaker of the Florida House referred to women as “the host body” several times on the floor, while professing his — you knew it was a man, right? — devotion to protecting the contents of that body, or at least what’s in her uterus. Not that he could find it with a headlamp and a Gray’s Anatomy:

This is centuries’ worth of an attitude that, though conception might be a biological miracle, it’s also a gross one, filled with pudge and sludge that — la la la la la! — decent people are allowed to run screaming from. Plenty of folks are willing to treat fetuses as precious citizens, but seem to regard the bodies that nurture them as embarrassing slums. At a party, I once saw a new father proudly call his new kid a “princess” and his wife a “champ,” but then showily cover his ears when the wife mentioned the word “placenta.” As if the placenta wasn’t precisely what had allowed Princess to thrive.

…If you view postpartum women as “fat,” then you might be inclined to see women as slightly less disciplined. If you don’t know what a placenta does, you might start to think your wife’s body is just gross.

Uh-huh. I can’t believe some of these bumpkins are writing legislation — sponsoring it anyway; I’m sure it’s written by lobbyists for the anti-abortion cartel — about women’s bodies.

So here, if you want to feel sad, at least feel sad about something beautiful — this lovely essay about the death of a beloved horse:

If there is such a thing in the world as a good death, Roany had one. It was almost as if he had heard Mike’s offer, looked at his watch, and said, Alright then, Wednesday, and how about in that stand of spruce on the other side of the hill? What I’ve always said about Roany is that he was a horse who never wanted to cause anybody trouble, and he remained that horse till the last second of his life and beyond.

Late that night, I watched the Perseids burn past my bedroom window, and imagined my old Roany up there, muscles ­restored to their prime and shining, burgundy coat alongside the white of Pegasus, both of them with their heads held high, and galloping.

With many apologies to our own Charlotte, who lives and writes there, some of these latter-day Western writers can bore me. It’s almost a formula: Some very specific observances of the natural world (a Western tanager alighted near my face, then flew off into the scrub pine, etc.), perhaps mixed in with some oblique references to personal heartbreak (the day we lost the baby, a blue norther roared down from Canada), mix, remix and go fishing. But this one is just right, Perseids and all.

Here’s something I wrote, free of Western tanagers, but there are Canada geese and a blue heron: Trash fishing in a zombie hellscape.

And that’s about it for me today. I’m so tired. Happy hump day.

Posted at 9:35 pm in Current events | 82 Comments
 

Mother’s Day. Whatever.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m coasting into the homestretch. I had a good one, which consisted of Kate making me breakfast — coffeecake and fruit salad — and the three of us sharing a bottle of champagne. She went off to band practice, I read for a couple hours, finished the laundry and that was that.

This to me is how a holiday like this should be observed. Apparently I am wrong.

My social-media feeds are clogged with what I think of as performative Facebooking (or Tweeting, Instagramming or whatever). Performative Facebooking is when one uses a social-media platform to produce a picture of one’s life that underlines how cool one is, how accomplished, how lovely/handsome one’s spouse and family is, how much fun you have, every day, all the time. Your Halloween costumes are the most creative, your holiday decorating the most merry, and you have nothing but a good time, all day every day. Time to work out! Time to watch a soccer game! Sunday Funday! And so on.

Behind that wave comes the won’t-somebody-think-of-the-less-fortunate posters. Before you post that picture of you and your children, think of the people who struggle with infertility. Or whose mothers are gone. Or who are estranged. Or whatever.

And then it’s over, and we all wait for Memorial Day. Thank you for your service. Honoring the dead who gave their lives so that we might be free. And so on.

How was everyone’s weekend? I worked for about half of it, which wasn’t so bad, as it was mainly outside, plus writing, which I don’t mind. Watched “Chernobyl,” the new HBO miniseries, which was horrifying. Saw my baby girl before she heads out on tour for a week with her band and new college degree. And that’s about it.

And I don’t think I have much too blog. Here’s something I wrote Friday, after going to a birthday party for the IRS. It was more interesting than I thought it would be.

I’m sure the president did something horrifying over the weekend, but I tried to stay away from the news, for the most part. Oh, wait, except for this one:

President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

I think we need to emigrate. All of us.

In the meantime, enjoy the week ahead.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

Post-its.

Woo, it’s been a minute, I guess? One day it’s Sunday, and you blog at your leisure because you’re lining up your ducks and packing your workout bags for the week ahead and all that, and the starter’s pistol goes off and the next thing you know? Thursday evening.

Right now I’m feeling like downloading all the post-it notes in my brain, so here goes:

** I no longer watch “Jeopardy!” but will start again once this James Holzhauer guy goes back to Vegas. He’s taken all the fun out of the game, at least for me, so someone let me know when he flames out. I hope Alex Trebek outlasts him, and I’m not entirely sure he will.

** I was listening to a radio show the other day that featured a state legislator, and he lied his lying ass off. Then I listened to an NPR chat show about the Georgia abortion legislation, and the right-to-lifer lied his lying ass off. I am very very tired of being lied to, and I’m very very weary of polite radio hosts who either aren’t prepared enough to say, “Buddy? You are a lying liar,” or simply won’t do it because that would be rude, or something. We need to have the entire BBC over here to do some in-service work here for their colleagues on this side of the pond. Because those folks know how to call a lying liar what he is.

** To those who wondered, in the previous post comments, why anti-abortion groups make endorsements for offices that have nothing to do with abortion, here’s why: They are playing a long game, and they want to know who their friends are before they need them. City council members may have zero impact on abortion policy, but city council members are ambitious, and may run for the state legislature when they’re ready to move on. If dogcatcher were an elected position, the local right-to-life group would send all the candidates a questionnaire about their beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life in utero. The infamously disorganized Democratic party could learn a thing or two. And I wish they would, instead of digging up old columns written for college newspapers by 19-year-olds to scour them for ideological purity. Meanwhile, these bills that are under consideration in Alabama and Georgia are horrifying. How many abortions do you think the president has paid for in his life? I’ll put the over/under at…five. And take the over.

** To you “Game of Thrones” book readers, I say this: I don’t care if the latter seasons of the show are disappointing you. The books disappointed me, and I quit midway through the third one. The series was a victim of Harry Potter Syndrome; after a taut beginning, the later volumes started to sprawl all over the place, and were terribly overwritten. But they were successful — they were a cult — and all the publisher wanted was MORE. So honestly, I welcomed the TV show, with all those subplots dropped or trimmed. Admittedly, this last-episodes wrap-up is kind of a mess, but blame your guru, Mr. G.R.R. Martin, who presumably had something to say about it. Tying up this saga is no small feat. Once it’s done, I’ll happily move on to other things.

** I count 10 eggs on this guy’s plate, and we can’t even see the entire plate. WTF, is this the Cool Hand Luke breakfast special?

** I’m going to recertify as a lifeguard this summer, because who knows when that will be my only job possibility? In the meantime, everyone should read this: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning.

Now I have to get ready to go out for a bit, so I say to you, my friends? Adieu. Good weekend to all.

Posted at 7:30 pm in Current events | 21 Comments
 

Circles.

One of the baby gifts we received when Kate was born was a pair of infant-size slippers, kind of like those puffy down-filled ones L.L. Bean sells. She was born in the fall and didn’t walk until the following summer, and I wasn’t much for shoes in those early months, but they were cute and their oversized puffiness looked silly on her wee feet, so we put them on her sometimes on chilly days.

Also, they were pink.

So in those early months, during those long stretches where you basically just sit around holding your baby, we would sometimes sing The Big Pink Shoe song to her, which as I recall, was to the tune of “Tequila” and owed a lot to Peewee Herman. I’m doing my big pink shoe dance / I’m wearing my big pink shoes / My shoes are biiiiig and pink, yeah / And I got my big pink shoes on, yeah!

(Our skill with lyrics was also seen in the Poopy Diaper song, which was mine alone.)

Anyway, in recent years I keep noticing patterns as Kate ticks off her milestones. For instance: I went to see the Rolling Stones in Cleveland Stadium the summer after my high-school graduation, and she went to see the Rolling Stones in Comerica Park the summer after her high-school graduation, made all the more remarkable by the fact we graduated exactly 40 years apart.

Anyway, this happened on Friday. Note the shoes. (Doc Martens.)

I guess the next step in these closing-circle patterns is for me to die or something, but I hope to hold that off for a while.

It was a nice ceremony. The university, like many, divides the transition into two parts — a smaller one for the school or college or major (where you get to hear your name read aloud), followed by a larger one for the whole class (where you don’t). Friday was for the School of Music, Theater and Dance, so it featured music and dance, and the performances were very theatrical – one was a piece for two electric bassoons, and it was extremely so. Christine Lahti was the main speaker, and she worked blue, in that she described a job she was offered where “all I had to do was fuck the two directors,” followed by another story of being so depressed by it that she pulled herself out by vowing to “prove every one of those motherfuckers wrong.” Some of the parents seemed a little taken aback, but their graduates were probably the ones who studied violin, which doesn’t include swearing, except in practice that doesn’t go well, and maybe not even then.

The ceremony was so nice that we skipped the Big House the next day, allowing Kate to keep her four-year streak of never setting foot in the country’s largest football stadium intact. Actually, I think she did end up going, so as to celebrate with her housemates were were graduating in other majors. But we had complications, and didn’t. That was fine. It was overcast and cold.

On Saturday, I watched the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race, made more so by Maximum Security’s thrilling stretch run, where after leading from the start, he was seriously challenged and then found another gear, pulling away to win by one and half lengths. That sort of heart isn’t in every horse, especially on a sloppy track. To see his rider giving his post-race horseback interview in clean silks (everyone who ran behind him was streaked with mud) was remarkable.

And we all know what happened next. And I suppose that by now we all know this happened after that:

It was a disappointment, for sure, and I’m not at all satisfied that the best horse won, but in my humility, I trust that race stewards and those who enforce the rules know what they’re doing. There were 19 horses in that race, a huge field. I had no idea it had anything to do with political correctness. But what do I know? Less than the race steward-in-chief, evidently.

I hate what this country has become. After the 2016 election, a philosophical friend of mine said he was choosing not to be (too) alarmed. The United States, he said, was like an aircraft carrier, which needs miles of ocean to execute a change in direction, and there were so many things that would be even harder to change — the federal bureaucracy, for one. Congress would play its part as a check and balance. We’ll look back on this era and wince, but little real damage would be done.

It helped a little. I thought he might be right. I don’t think that anymore. I think we’re in very big trouble.

But this is a joyful weekend, the sun is shining, and I plan to enjoy what’s left of it. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 126 Comments
 

Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.

Tuesday can eat a dick. It was one of those days. But here I am, so let’s hope for better things today.

And once again, the world has rushed ahead of my capacity to think of anything to say about it. Shall we go to the links? No, one story:

We’ve been having some issues with our basement. Nothing terrible, no flooding, but seepage and some cracks that indicate it could get worse if we don’t do something about it. So a parade of professionals have been trooping through, delivering estimates. They range from $900 to $10,000, to give you an idea of how fucked-up basement work is.

Anyway, the other day one rang the doorbell. He was 20 minutes early, and Alan — whose responsibility this is — was still selecting which underwear to put on for the day, so I went down and let him in. Opened the door expecting the usual basement-company rep, which is to say, a youngish man with a logo’d polo shirt, chinos and a clipboard, maybe in one of those cases with an iPad.

This man was far older. Coal-black suit that had seen better days, and coal-black hair, ditto. The hair did not match the face, which is to say, not a thread of gray anywhere. Ronald Reagan hair.

But he was very nice, introduced himself, and I let him in, introduced him to Wendy and showed him to a seat in the living room. Went back upstairs and informed Alan that Sheldon Adelson was downstairs waiting for him.

As it turned out, he had an explanation for his startling appearance. He’s a Johnny Cash cover singer. His most recent gig was in Port Huron, and “they paid me handsomely.” He sings ’60s/’70s-era Johnny, and doesn’t care for the Rick Rubin era, although he was impressed that Alan knew about it. He left us with an estimate and his CD. We listened that night; he’s not bad at all, although we cracked up when the third track opened with, “This song is dedicated to” and the name of the basement company, which I won’t name because Google.

This town. It still cracks me up.

So! To the bloggage!

Years ago, when I lived in Fort Wayne, I met the author of this column. He was a friend of a friend, and a very nice guy. He had recently married, and his wife was sweet, notable for her amazing ginger-redhead coloring — a true coppery red and that pre-Raphaelite-angel skin that looks almost translucent. They had a baby named Henry. I saw Larry once in a while, at parties our mutual friend would throw, and at one of these events I found him sitting alone and struck up a conversation. “Where’s your wife?” I asked.

“She died,” he replied. Hoo-boy, that’s something you don’t want to hear. Later, I heard the story of what happened, which is detailed in the column. It’s a terrible story, but I think he came away with the right lesson. He doesn’t name the disease, but I heard it was malignant melanoma (that skin, so unsuited for the sun). One of the worst cancers you can get.

Anyway, he went on to become a champ single dad, adopting several more kids and appearing on “Oprah,” where his widowerhood was mentioned, but not the story behind it.

Paul Krugman gets to the heart of something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but never really moved to the front. After opening with an anecdote about Stephen Moore, the president’s nominee for the Fed board, shit-talking the Midwest, he notes:

This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.

But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.

Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.

Mm-hmm, that’s right.

Finally, want to buy Patti Smith’s former house in St. Clair Shores? It’s quite something, and I totally would if I had the dough. (I do not have the dough.) Her son is the Realtor, which is amusing.

Let’s hope Wednesday fails to suck. On with it.

Posted at 8:24 am in Current events, Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

Out and about.

Thursday night I was invited to sit on a panel at a local bar/restaurant, an event sponsored by the local public-radio station, ostensibly to ask the grassroots what they were thinking about ahead of the Mackinac Policy Conference next month. I know the other panelists and the radio people, so it was a good time. Here we were; pic by my Deadline Detroit editor, who attended:

With any public radio-summoned audience, I always expect a higher level of discussion than you’d get from, say, mall walkers, but you still get the full spectrum of humanity, if you know what I mean. The No. 1 issue we discussed was road funding; Michigan’s have been neglected for years, and are at a crisis stage. This means a big tax to raise the $2 billion a year they will require for the foreseeable future, and the governor has proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon levy. That’s a hard swallow even for people who believe in it, and for Republicans? Of course it’s a non-starter in the legislature. We took a show-of-hands poll and found most in favor, with a few opposed.

“The governor has said that if you oppose this, you need to state what your solution would be, so would anyone like to offer one?” I asked, calling on one of the raised hands.

“The roads aren’t that bad,” he said, to guffaws from the room. Then he explained that the problem was people not calling the state highway authorities when they came across a bad patch, and anyway, he mostly drives on I-696, recently resurfaced, so he doesn’t see a need to pay so much for all the other roads awaiting action.

And if that isn’t the truest distillation of a certain kind of voter, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, and in line with the last thread’s comments, I was approached afterward by a woman with hollowed-out, imploring eyes. She kinda looked like Andrea Riseborough in this role (“Nancy,” in a film of the same name, weirdly enough), only with more hollowing and more imploring:

Her voice was low, but I picked out “greatest threat to health in our lifetimes” and a few other phrases. Thankfully, she just wanted a few seconds of time; the handout she pressed into mine would explain.

It was all about the radiation dangers of 5G internet.

So y’know, this stuff is going around. Put a pin in that, and then consider this:

We’re hearing a lot about civility these days, here and in Michigan, but my line is drawn: If this is the sort of rhetoric you support and cheer, I’m not going to be civil to you. And there are a lot of people who do, so where are we?

I fear there will have to be a 9/11-scale event to shake all this bullshit out of our skulls. I also fear it’s way too late for that. Although some people keep trying, like this lady; I encourage you to go over to Twitter and read the whole thread:

Oh, well. At least the NRA is suffering some public embarrassment. It’s the little things.

And now it’s a chilly but sunny day. I was going to lift some weights but instead I think I’m gonna put Wendy in the car and head over to Belle Isle for a walk along the river. Hope all have a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Fewer followers.

Hey. So how’s your week going? Mine’s OK, the usual roller coaster of I-don’t-have-time-for-this and Oops-forgot-I-have-to-do-that, but I’m maintaining. The incredibly detailed to-do list is working, for now. But messy.

So let’s just hop bunny-quick to the news. What is today’s outrage?

The president is mad at Twitter, yawn. Barack Obama has 106 million followers, Trump not quite 60 million. I’m sure that has nothing to do with his displeasure. Anyway, in a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey yesterday:

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

But Twitter long has explained that follower figures fluctuate as the company takes action to remove fraudulent spam accounts. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s work to enforce its policies, according to the source, who described the meeting as cordial.

Looks like Dorsey took off the stupid hat he wears in recent pictures, but did not put on a tie:

Well, I wouldn’t, either.

One of my favorite spots in Eastern Market is closing, because the area is changing quickly, and the new landlord appears to want more money from the deli than they’re willing to pay. The dispute is officially over a $50,000 floor repair; the landlord has spent $20 million buying buildings over the last couple of years, but is balking at a $50,000 repair on one of the market’s best-loved businesses. Anyway, I wrote a thing about it. Maybe you’d like to read it.

Finally, a story this weird could only come out of anti-vax land, or whatever you call it. Goopville, maybe:

This world is full of surprises, some of them involving anti-vaccine activists, sedated bears, and the small-scale production of literal fake news. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was working on a quick, weird story about an anti-vaccine activist in Florida who was attempting to hold a rally in her hometown featuring a drugged bear. As it turns out, that’s not the story at all. Here, instead, is a story about someone who worked extremely hard to generate a news cycle involving a rally that they clearly have no intention of ever holding and a real activist who had no idea her name was being used. The bear also seems to be fake, and—despite my initial, hopeful understanding of the situation—is not named Ron.

Anyway, it’s funny. Me, I gotta run. Ciao!

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Media | 63 Comments
 

Spring is risen.

Well, finally it is spring, real spring. (Seemingly, anyway.) After a totally sucktastic Friday and Saturday (40s, rain), Easter was sunny and mild, a true miracle of resurrection. It might not last. It probably won’t last. I took the rosemary plant outside and put it on the back steps, and I will not be bringing it back in. If it dies, it dies. I’m tired of looking at it in the kitchen.

Winter is over by the decree of Nance. So let it be written, so let it be done.

And now it’s Sunday night, the forecast for the rest of the week looks well above freezing, and I might take my winter coat to the dry cleaner. Been smashing those little tasks on my to-do list the last few days. The secret: Actually putting them on the to-do list in the first place. Yes, that sounds like a no-brainer, but over these last few months of old-lady Swiss-cheese winter-depression brain, putting stuff on the list in the first place has seemed like a huge hurdle. My thoughts run like this, most days:

Yeah I need to do that thing before Tuesday and oh look this article on Twitter looks interesting I’ll put it on my reading list with the 9 million other things I’m going to read anyway I really should read this novel because remember I had that short-story idea that I wanted to get done by March? And now it’s April? Oh shit there’s that other thing, and the bathroom is dirty and did I feed Wendy? Did I pay the phone bill? Am I going to get high-speed fiber internet and knock $60 off that bill? Did I remember to eat today? Dumb question. I never forget to eat. This tab has been open on my browser for four hours, and the story that looked really interesting four hours ago looks considerably less so now. I’m going to close it. No! Don’t close it! You won’t be a well-informed person if you do.

How on earth do people keep their minds cruel and simple? With to-do lists, that’s how.

One story that did stay open on the browser long enough for me to read was this one, about Pete Buttigieg’s blight-eradication program in South Bend. It’s from BuzzFeed. (Sigh.) The mayor set an ambitious goal of tearing down or rehabbing 1,000 homes in 1,000 days. This, BF notes, “smacked of gentrification,” which made me stare off into space for a minute.

Gentrification. In a city with a population of 100,000. In Indiana.

Maybe the problem is, no one can actually define what gentrification is. My working understanding is this: The rapid transformation of a neighborhood, where the pace of change is so fast that rents and taxes rise precipitously and has the effect of driving out long-term, lower-income residents. Owners sell, cashing in on the rising-price market. Renters are less lucky, finding their rents rising out of reach. This often includes businesses, because who needs a dry cleaner when you can have a wood-fired pizzeria/bistro in the same space, paying triple?

It’s a real problem. Maybe it happened in South Bend. But I seriously doubt it.

Eradicating blight is not gentrification. It’s improvement. The problems come when people want to stay in their houses but can’t afford to improve them (or pay their taxes), but Buttigieg’s plan wasn’t just to demolish; it also supported rehab. The main oppositional sources in this story aren’t even that opposed, if passages like this are to be believed:

“I’m not sure we got that completely right,” Buttigieg told the Christian Science Monitor last week, specifically with regard to aggressive code enforcement.

The mayor did not respond directly to questions from BuzzFeed News. His campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, said in a telephone interview that a recent internal poll by Buttigieg’s mayoral committee found that 86% of respondents believed South Bend was on the right track. Schmuhl also noted that Buttigieg won his second term with more than 75% of the vote in both the Democratic primary and general election.

No one says that Buttigieg was guided by racial or sinister motives. (The mayor recently found himself explaining his 2015 declaration that “all lives matter” — a phrase that’s been used as a retort to the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.) But they also don’t buy his simplistic narrative, the story in which he’s the hero of a model program that could save cities like South Bend.

“Everyone wants to find a villain,” Williams-Preston said. “This is just how economic development happens. And I’m just constantly telling the administration: If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. And what we have always gotten in cities all across the country is displacement of poor people and people of color.”

I am by no means sold on Mayor Pete (although I like him more than Bernie. Sue me.), but I hope the national news organizations covering him make an effort to fully understand the problems of Rust Belt cities with the sort of depopulation South Bend (and Detroit) have faced over the decades. They ain’t New York. Or even Chicago.

OK, it’s Game of Thrones time. In the week ahead, a visit from J.C., en route to the U.P. So that’ll be fun.

Hope yours is pretty great, too.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Media | 36 Comments
 

Inferno.

I guess the talk today was about Notre Dame, about which I have this to say: Very sad news. I really don’t know what else to add, but maybe this: What sort of people look at an event like this an immediately try to warp it into their paranoid world view, in which the Mooslims are responsible? I mean, have they ever read the police and fire briefs in their local paper? “Firefighters believe the blaze began in the roof space, likely started by a spark from a worker’s blowtorch” — that’s a sentence I have read approximately nine million times. As Neil Steinberg noted today: The roofers did it. The roofers always did it. Writing about another church fire, years ago in Chicago, he notes:

It’s ALWAYS the roofers. Do you realize how many public buildings burn during roof work? Two years ago, the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton caught fire. In 2002, we almost lost another Louis Sullivan building, the magnificent Carson, Pirie Scott Building downtown, when roofers set the place on fire, and exploding propane tanks sent burning debris showering onto State Street. In 1999, it was another black church, St. Stephen AME Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the city, that was burned, destroying the roof and charring the walls. I’m telling you, roofers are worse than the Klan.

OK, that’s a bit extreme. It isn’t always the roofers. Countless roofers are reading this now, with their coffee and doughnuts, waiting for the supervisor to show up, and if there were ever a group that could tar and feather a guy, it’s roofers. So we should recognize that other trades also torch the places they’re supposed to be fixing. In 1998, the 120-year-old Barrington United Methodist Church burned to the ground when workers repairing a window burned a hole through the wall. Old churches are generally tinderboxes that could be set on fire with an ice cube.

That said, roofing is a particularly nasty, smelly, extra-dangerous business involving open flames and hot tar, which burns like napalm.

Fires are scarce these days, relatively speaking; you can credit GFCI plugs and outlets, as well as smoke detectors. Where I live, we don’t have full-time firefighters. We have “triple-trained” “public safety” officers, i.e. cops with firefighting gear in the trunk. They handle EMS, too. We have the trucks and all, and a staffing system so the garage is covered and they’re ready to roll, but fire is, blessedly, less of a concern than it once was. But Steinberg is right — old churches, and lots of old buildings, are just waiting to erupt into flames. Add cutting torches, and it’s only a matter of time.

You just hope it never happens at a place like the Notre Dame cathedral. And then it does. And you watch these crabbed, broken, twisted, awful people try to fundraise off it. Not to rebuild the church, but to stoke the fires of paranoia. It’s so repellant. If I ever have to peddle fear to make a living, just shoot me in the head.

And in just about 24 hours, I don’t want to hear any more about fires. Especially Notre Dame. I’ve looked at all your vacation photos on social media. I’m full.

Someone asked why Michigan has the highest auto-insurance rates in the nation. A few mentioned no-fault, but that’s not it. No-fault insurance is like no-fault divorce: Better. Instead of “you got hit, let’s figure out who’s at fault and recover from him/her,” it’s “you got hit, let’s fix it.” Michigan does have an unusual wild card — our catastrophic-care law, which decrees that if you are injured in a motor-vehicle collision, you can get the care you need, with no cap. A good thing! But under the law, health-care providers can charge whatever they like for that care, and the catastrophic-care fund must pay. There’s no negotiation, no agreed-upon prices. So an MRI related to an auto accident may well be billed at three times what it would be in a hospital. It’s lunacy.

So it’s not the service that’s provided, but the way it’s provided, that causes the problem. It wasn’t implemented well, and it’s quite difficult to change.

I think of cases like this when I read about all the vital functions of government that conservatives want to delegate “to the states.” Clarence Thomas wrote in one recent opinion that the states could figure out their own libel laws. Um, have you ever been to a state, Clarence Thomas? Visited the legislature? You might be surprised.

Let’s just call this Mueller Report II Eve and be done with it. It’s going on Wednesday. Hump Day, and I’m going to bed.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Current events | 89 Comments