Saturday morning market.

Haven’t done one of these for a while, but how often do you see a turnip as big as your head?

bigturnip

Posted at 9:34 am in Detroit life, iPhone | 20 Comments
 

The grand canyon.

Remember what I said the other day about making room in your life for delicious foods of all sorts, because they are wonderful? Today I had to attend a Thing — you know, a Thing — that included a “light breakfast,” according to the invitation. I arrived to find fruit, bagels and doughnuts.

Had a little fruit, ignored the bagels, because if you can’t toast a bagel, what’s the damn point? Most of the doughnuts were the sort I don’t like — chocolate-frosted, sprinkled — but there, nestled among its less-appetizing brethren, a little spotlight from heaven fell on my favorite doughnut of all time: Sour-cream glazed. Hello, beautiful, I thought, and selected it for my own.

I don’t mind telling you that eating it was like manna from heaven, if a little overpowering. I’ve been eating eggs and spinach and yogurt and protein-y breakfasts for so many months, I’d forgotten the simple, now-verboten joy of the Homer Simpson special. My heart soared like a sugary hawk. The program started. Ten minutes into the keynote, my eyelids grew heavy. That sucrose is one powerful drug.

Back to eggs tomorrow. I don’t need this sugar-crack stuff.

So. I was surprised to see myself Twitter-tagged on this story, until I read it and realized one of my tweets had been cited as evidence of the little-known cult of fans of the big-vagina subplot in “The Godfather.” Not the movie, the novel; Francis Ford Coppola wisely left those pages on the cutting-room floor when he wrote the script, although Lucy, the possessor of the oversize vagina in question, is in two brief scenes. As I think we’ve mentioned here before, it’s a strange little diversion in a badly written novel about organized crime. Lucy is one of Connie’s bridesmaids in the wedding, and is filled with shame because her vagina is SO BIG — how big is it? — it’s SO BIG that guys can’t even feel it. But Sonny Corleone has a giant Italian sausage and can please her. He first does so at the wedding; she’s the bridesmaid he’s seen banging against the wall, early on. His death at the toll plaza devastates her, until she meets a nice doctor in Las Vegas, who does vagina surgery on her and tightens her up again. They get engaged.

I read this when I was old enough to know what sex involved, but before I’d actually had any, and I can’t tell you how much this concerned me. Could I, too, have a giant vagina? How would I know? Would I be like Lucy, and just have to glean it from the grumbling of my unsatisfied boyfriends, who would mutter I was “too big down there?”

Do you start to understand how women’s minds work? Find us a topic, we’ll figure out a way to worry about it.

I tweeted the story to Laura Lippman, who once told me she, too, remembered Lucy. She replied: “Meanwhile don’t forget Puzo’s other valuable lesson — the best sex in the world is had by a Sicilian virgin on her wedding night.” We’ll save that analysis for another day.

Today’s unfortunate ad placement. You newspaper people know how this stuff happens. They are endlessly amusing to me.

Finally, some of you who read Bridge know that one of the services we provide during election season is fact-checking campaign ads, mailers, etc. — political speech of all kinds. You are certainly welcome to rummage around the Michigan Truth Squad section of our site, but I call your particular attention to this mailer, which encourages voters to call the candidate and complain about Obamacare. But the number given rings at the bedside of the candidate’s 91-year-old mother, who is in a nursing home. You think you’ve seen ‘em all, and then you see another.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen one of the six “Say Yes to the Candidate” spots, we did that one, too. You may spot a familiar prose style.

Happy downside of the week, all.

Posted at 8:25 pm in Movies, Uncategorized | 75 Comments
 

Our changing language.

The other day one of my co-workers wondered how in the world someone got the great idea of naming a town in Michigan Climax. What were they thinking? Didn’t they know they’d be a butt of jokes forever after, another Intercourse or Blue Ball (both of Pennsylvania).

I pointed out that history takes a long time to arrive until one day it’s here, and it’s within my lifetime that people even started talking about sex out loud, much less using words like climax to describe what happens during it. Fort Wayne had a mayor named Harry Baals; my father went to grade school with a girl named Lucille Buttlicher.

“I wonder if there’s a town somewhere named Money Shot,” he mused. Let’s not go there. It’s a dirty, filthy enough world already.

I forgot to mention one of the fun activities of last weekend: Alan seemed to notice I was glum, and took me out to the fights. Yes, the fights — boxing, at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, in the Jack White Theater. Our seats were lousy, but the place wasn’t that big, and for once, we were in a central-city event where the crowd was a pretty accurate demographic reflection of the city as a whole. Interesting, I thought, that the boxing crowd was more than 80 percent black, and yet mixed martial arts, which has put boxing in its shade, attracts a far whiter audience. For the record, I hate MMA — the first time I saw it I watched a bloody beatdown that looked like first-degree felonious assault, all while the guy on the next barstool told me how much safer it was than boxing. Whatever.

Anyway, it was a fun night. Eight four-round fights ranging from pinweight to heavyweight, and wasn’t that one a revelation — one guy coming in at 240-ish and the other at 300. I thought for sure the lighter fighter would win. It’s really hard to be quick on your feet when you weight 300 pounds, but shows what I know. The bigger guy landed one lucky punch and boom, TKO. It was like something on “Game of Thrones.” The pinweights — that’s under 102 pounds, smaller than my petite daughter — put up a lively contest, too. They both seemed to hail from a part of the world where children grow up on gristle and wild plants. I really don’t know how you can be a grown man, able to train as a boxer, and still weigh less than I did in fifth grade.

One hometown hero was accompanied by his Omega Psi Phi brothers, entering to their theme song, “Atomic Dog.” He won.

We really need to go to the fights more often. Tommy Hearns was sitting ringside, Buster Douglas was training someone. Celebrities.

So, a little bloggage:

Someday we’ll look back at this era of corporate worship and wonder why we didn’t tie these folks to a whipping post: Two assholes argue over whether they can trademark the word “how.”

A good, simple explainer on the significance of the Supreme Court choosing not to engage with same-sex marriage. TL;DR? It’s over.

Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 10:42 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 52 Comments
 

Size 10 revisited.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but as of today I think it’s official: I have successfully lost every pound I gained during my pregnancy, and am back to what I guess you’d call fighting trim. (I’m a welterweight.) I think they tell you that at the OB’s office at your first post-natal visit: “Nine months to gain, 18 years to lose.”

But of course, when I finally dropped the baby, the placenta and all the extra blood I was carrying around, I had 10 to lose. Then it was 15, then 20 — you know the drill. Our culture makes it easy to be fat, my individual psychological profile (“eat your feelings”) makes it even easier, and I can’t even say when the corner was turned and I started taking better care of myself, but just in case you’re in the same place, here are a few things I learned along the way:

** Ninety percent of weight loss is getting your mind right. If your head isn’t in the game, it won’t work. And for me, that basically meant giving up. I stopped thinking in terms of “by this date, I want to weigh that much” and approached it more like an alcoholic: Today, I’m going to take care of myself. Just today, not tomorrow, not next Christmas. You will have many days when you fail at this. But as long as you succeed more often than you fail, the successes will add up. This weight loss was about 30 pounds, but took the better part of two years. There were a lot of failures along the way.

** There’s no way around this, but at some point you will have to become something of a hunger artist. My aim was always to arrive at the next meal hungry but not ravenous, and trust that the smaller portions I slowly grew accustomed to would satisfy me. I’ve mentioned many times that our culture keeps making everything bigger, and nowhere is this more true than in portion size. Restaurants pile our plates high, and we become accustomed to it, and soon this is the model at home, too. You don’t have to eat that much; the restaurant is dealing with economies of scale that don’t apply in your own kitchen. But you have to get comfortable with occasional tummy-rumbles, that’s all there is to it. If you’re hungry at 5 p.m., have a tall glass of water and a few almonds and ask yourself, “Can I put up with this for 90 minutes? Until dinnertime?” I bet you can.

** Exercise is great, but unless you’re training like an Olympic athlete, it’s still the lesser part of the battle. Controlling your eating is. What exercise will do is make your body look much better once the fat goes away. The last time I weighed this much I was a size 12. Now I’m a 10. I think it has to be because of all the weight training and yoga and cycling and swimming. And exercise, besides making you feel better and stronger, can come in handy at other times. A few weeks ago, I was having a bad day, part of a bad week and not the greatest month, either. I was in a mood to destroy some Haagen Dazs, maybe a pizza, maybe both. Scowling at myself in the bathroom mirror, I reached up to brush my hair and something resembling a small mouse scampered under the skin of my arm. Holy shit, it’s a muscle, I thought. And went for a bike ride instead.

** That said, be kind to yourself. Make room in your life for Haagen Dazs and pizza, because both are wonderful. You can have them, just not the whole thing, and not every day. Understand that winter happens, and you may not want to leave the couch for weeks at a time, and that’s OK, as long as you get back into it come spring.

** Finally, go for a walk every day. What MichaelG said about the people of Barcelona is true: Walking, and walking tall and with a nice forward stride, is just the most natural, pleasant, simple physical activity human beings can do. It’s why we stood up from all fours in the first place. It enables us to see the world, smell it, meet the eyes of others, experience the weather, all that stuff. It elevates your heart rate, but not too much. It’s an anti-depressant. Sometimes I pick up a weight at the gym for one reason or another think, “I used to walk around with this all the time. No wonder my feet were always killing me.” I walk a lot more now. For this I have Wendy to thank.

And that’s all I know. I think I’m going to stop losing for a while, see how the maintenance goes, and then reassess in a few more weeks. I feel great, honestly. My knees, the ones the orthopedist said were overdue for replacement a year ago, still hurt, but not as much – I don’t even take ibuprofen. But that’s about it. And I just ate some macaroni and cheese. Just not very much of it.

So, some bloggage?

The Building Detroit program, a city-run ongoing auction of blighted, yet still restorable, houses, has been going on for a while now, and is generally considered a success. Online bidders pay peanuts for places and agree to fix them up within a certain time frame. I encourage you to click the link and explore the variety of places being offered. Detroit boomed in the 1920s, and many of the houses date from that era with its lovely, sturdy architecture, but I’m also struck by the homelier places. There are a couple houses up now that are 700 square feet, maybe 800. Someone raised a family in that house, maybe several families. They stood in line for one bathroom. They never thought they didn’t have enough, even though the house was an ugly box. And there are thousands upon thousands of places like those in Detroit’s 138 square miles. Even if we could figure out a way to turn water into oil, if we could spark a North Dakota-style boom here, people just don’t want to live like that anymore. But remember: The failure of Detroit is due to? Yes, DEMOCRATS.

Somehow I think this story about a man rescued from a floating hamster wheel, says everything you need to know about a) runners; and b) people who pull stunts to “raise awareness” of things. But you be the judge.

Big week ahead, and deadlines still have to be met, so expect the usual scantiness.

Posted at 4:03 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

It’s heeeeere.

EBOLA IS HERE. EBOLA IS HERE. PLEASE COMMENCE PANICKING IN THE STREETS.

I don’t know what else to say about ebola. Tell me there’s a disease in this country that makes you bleed from the eyeballs, and all I have to say is, “How is this different from PMS? Really?”

All jesting aside, I hope this isn’t the beginning of “The Stand” or anything. In the meantime, here’s some reading material:

The deportation of a dangerous illegal immigrant here in Detroit:

For five months, Teresa wasted in a Calhoun County jail cell, some of that time in a maximum security section, where she was placed with armed robbers and other violent criminals. She lost weight; she lost hope. Last week, just as family and friends mounted an effort to plead publicly on her behalf, she was again handcuffed and deported to Montenegro, the homeland she doesn’t remember.

“I do not even know where I am,” she said in a telephone call last Friday, her first day there. “It is surreal.”

Through a series of circumstances and events, most not of her making, Teresa Pecovic is experiencing the kind of culture shock few of us could imagine —dropped into a place travel guides despair of recommending, with limited language skills, and little chance for future reprieve.

A letter to George Clooney from an Arab guy:

Incidentally, now that you will have an Arab wife who advocates for Arab rights, if you were ever going to run for political office in America, you definitely cannot now. Unless, of course, you move to Dearborn, Michigan, where you will be swiftly elected mayor with 99.9% of the vote, Saddam-style.

One of the best condemnations of the machinery behind the Concussiongate fiasco came from my old pal Dave Jones in faraway Harrisburg. You should read.

Later, all.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events | 122 Comments
 

Remain in light.

This weekend was Dlectricity, a biennial festival of light installations and other twinkly art up and down Woodward Avenue and thereabouts. I took my camera, but my friend Dustin has a better one, and an enormously better eye, and captured this:

dlectricity

That’s Rodin’s Thinker, for those who aren’t familiar with the Woodward face of the Detroit Institute of Arts. It only looks like he’s wearing a baseball cap.

So, a little bloggage:

I once assigned a long article on a digital movie pirate to my students, and in passing, asked how many of them illegally watched/listened and traded copyright material like movies and music. Nearly every hand went up. I asked if any felt guilty about this. All hands went down. Which maybe is why Hana Beshara, the woman profiled in this NYT story Sunday about the fallen proprietress of an online copyright-theft site, is still so unrepentant about her crimes, even after a prison term. Me, I’m baffled. Pay the artist! But we’ve discussed this before.

I don’t know if anyone else is watching “The Knick” on Cinemax — it’s a channel we hardly pay attention to, but Steven Soderbergh always gets my attention — but I think the most recent episode, “Get the Rope,” is one of my absolute favorites of any show this year. The series is about a New York City hospital c. 1901, and it’s fascinating for a number of reasons, from the spurting blood to the opium dens. The most recent episode was about a race riot, and perhaps captured the nature of riots, at least as they happen on television, with a small cast and not a lot of budget for extras, as well as any. If you want to discuss, feel free.

Book work continues, slower than I’d like. But expect fresh threads every day or couple-of-days for a while.

Posted at 4:35 pm in Detroit life, Television | 60 Comments
 

A bad case of Pretty.

So I was at lunch the other day, standing in line, waiting to order and pay. Things seemed to be taking a long time, and as I got closer, I could see why: The cashier was a flirt, and sort of all-thumbs. The credit-card swiper gave her problems, but she smiled and cocked her head prettily and seemed very bent on every (male) customer getting a few moments of her intense focus. She was no raving beauty, but she was cute enough, had a nice figure, a tight T-shirt, and the ineffable glow of Youth.

It was my turn. The bill was $9.81. I gave her a $20 bill and a penny. She stood over the cash drawer, staring down at it like she could transform it with the power of her gaze. (After all, it worked on the men.)

“I’m sorry,” she finally said. “What do I owe you?”

“Ten-twenty,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I really suck at math.”

“You’ve picked the right career, then,” I said.

I offer this anecdote mainly as a tiny glimpse of what it’s like for members of the non-pretty community to confront the realities of life, where a cute face, a snug T-shirt and an inability to make simple change qualifies you to be…pretty much anything, I bet. I guess I should be grateful she was only making change in an inexpensive restaurant and not running a nuclear reactor, but I bet there are a a few of her out there doing that, too.

A bit of bloggage:

Dexter and my other Wolverine fans, here’s John U. Bacon on the ongoing problems with the University of Michigan athletic program, and you might be interested. The football team’s problems have been well-covered, and this week a humiliating ticket-dump was revealed: Two tickets to the Minnesota game with the purchase of two bottles of Coke:

Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.

Michigan fans may be irrational about their love for the Wolverines, but they’re not stupid about their money. Their Saturday habit developed over a lifetime, but they can break it in a week.

I hear constantly from fans of other programs that their team is heading in the same direction. The question is, will other schools learn from Michigan’s mistakes in time to avoid Michigan’s troubles?

In case you’re wondering, yours truly was the unnamed colleague accused of lying in this bit of inside Bridge baseball. As you all know, I am a fearless teller of the truth. Yes, your ass looks fat in those pants.

Finally, not exactly an OID story (it happened in the Twin Cities just a couple years ago), but just one of the many reasons I love living here: Non-stop mayhem. Not that it’s good when infrastructure collapses and kills people, but life here is never boring, even for an adrenaline junkie. And OID would one of the first drivers on the scene be the Detroit Lions quarterback.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Outta here.

Not gonna lie: When I read this story, I could not help but think of our dear old Coozledad:

SILER CITY, N.C. — In Raleigh, conservative Republicans may be running North Carolina like they own it, but go almost anyplace in the state, even to this former textile town that looks like a movie-set re-creation of an older, more traditional South, and the political picture quickly blurs.

At Chatham Industrial Supply, a hardware store here, its owner, Richard Kernodle, grumbled recently about what he called the “liberal artists” who have moved to this city of 8,100 — opening galleries, throwing pottery and generally bringing the kind of lifestyle and politics one might expect 45 minutes away in the progressive college town of Chapel Hill.

Mr. Kernodle, 56, said that some of the newcomers wanted to paint murals on downtown buildings without securing the proper permits. They want gay rights taught in the schools. And he has heard a rumor that some of them tend their gardens in the nude.

The story was about how this red state is turning purple, and if anyone is a nude gardener, it’s you-know-who. Seriously, though, I guess this is what it’s come to — red states, blue states, and a lot of pissed-off people living in the purple areas. As well as nude gardeners.

This Gin & Tacos post about the recent poll showing a healthy support for individual states’ secession sort of touches on that. I don’t want my own to secede, but if it does? Expect the price of cherries to go way up, and don’t be thinking any more silly thoughts about coveting our water. We’ll be the Saudi Arabia of H2O.

Oh, and this story, about a student strike/walkout in Colorado, is incredible. There’s hope for us yet.

The week lurches on. Hope you’re enjoying yours, if you aren’t lucky enough to travel with MichaelG.

Posted at 10:25 am in Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Flying up front.

I was reading MichaelG’s vivid account of his trip to Barcelona in the previous thread, feeling, as the kids on the internet say, all the feels – happiness, envy, nostalgia. It was the comment about flying first class that did it. I’ve done so exactly once, and it came via the way many people who don’t generally fly first class get on the other side of the curtain.

I was leaving Key West in September 1980. You Floridians know what September is like at that latitude. Miserable. It’s hurricane season, the islands drenched in the hot breath of the African coast, and even though there were no storms that week, I vividly remember thinking I have never been this hot before, and if I have anything to say about it, never will be again. I went down because I had vacation time and no plans, but two friends in the Keys. Gay men, of course. One, my dear old friend Jeff, is now dead and I expect the other one, his roommate Dennis, is too, but you never know.

Our last night, we stayed up all night, doing what you do in Key West, what we did all week: We started at one bar with all the other gay men and fag hags in town, then, as if on a signal, decamped for another bar, and then, as if on another signal, left for the place everybody closed down: The Monster. We danced and danced and danced and partied and partied and partied with the people who had become MY BEST FRIENDS EVER in the course of a week. They included one sweet young man, who’d come to the Keys from Wyoming, thinking he’d find an easier place to be gay there. He was hanging with some German guy, and there was a real cutie named Les, who worked as a bartender at the in-between bar and called me “baby.” Wyoming man paid me the ultimate compliment: “If I were straight, you’d be the woman for me.” How can you not love that? I did, but then, it was a very strange week in all ways. (I see now that he probably said that to all the girls.) Several nights in a row, walking home from the Monster, Jeff would see me to the door of their rented hovel and then peel off to have a nightcap in the baths, no doubt nurturing the virus that would kill him a few years later.

On this last night, we decided to stay up because my flight was at 8 a.m. and why not? What, you’re going to bed at 3 and then getting up three hours later?

I don’t even remember what we did, only that it was the hottest night ever, and Jeff dropped me at the airport around 7, with the sun rising on another steamy one, and I stumbled aboard the plane wearing sunglasses and the next thing I knew, the stewardesses were asking one another, “Do you smell jet fuel?”

Something was wrong with the plane. They had to send another one down from Miami, and I missed my connection back to Ohio, and in the rebooking, I heard those magical words: “We can get you there, but you’ll have to fly first class.” Have to! Really? I guess I can manage.

I don’t think I took off my sunglasses the whole time. Staying up all night does odd things to your perception, especially when you’ve been drinking for hours and hours. I wasn’t drunk, though — I’d gotten to that place where I seemed to be burning the alcohol at the same rate I was consuming it, the highly sought-after state of equilibrium.

The stewardess kept bringing me bloody Marys, anyway. Bloody Marys and food that was sort of edible and real silverware, not plastic. Plus pillows and blankets and a nice seat mate who could talk about this and that. It was all sort of “Miami Vice” years before the show appeared, and when they announced our descent into Columbus, I was sort of sad. I could have stayed on that flight forever.

Have a great trip, MichaelG. That ham you spoke of? I had a tiny scrap of it in Ann Arbor, at a snooty wine store that kept a couple in the back room. Don’t think of the per-kilo price, because all you eat is a little at a time. Just enjoy it.

So.

Today on the bus, I overheard two guys talking about bike routes from the Pointes to downtown, and I butted in and made some suggestions. They seemed surprised that this old bag was the one whose bike was on the rack on the front of the bus, and maybe this is why: There’s a gender gap in cycling. Well, damn, there shouldn’t be. Especially during a week like this.

I guess by the time you read this, the Scottish independence vote will be in full swing. I don’t know a lot about it, but my gut is with the No faction — the better-together people. Someone, make the case for independence, because I don’t see it being good for anyone now.

The blogger at Gin & Tacos lives in Peoria, and his local paper sounds a lot like the one I used to work for. The one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge now.

Enjoy the rest of the week, all.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 93 Comments