Wrung out.

The governor opened the pools, but it’s looking as though our own won’t be opening. Although who knows, maybe it will. The problem will be finding lifeguards at this late date, but again – no one knows anything. The summer will be long and hot because it always is, but it’ll also be uncharted territory due to…well, you know. Everything. Murder hornets. Whatever.

We got a tip this week that arrestees after one of the demonstrations — and there have been demos nightly, all week — were taken to Little Caesars Arena for processing. I typed up a brief story, and added a paragraph at the end about the symbolism of nonviolent protesters (these were curfew violators) being taken to a sports stadium, invoking Augusto Pinochet and his use of the national stadium as a prison camp. I thought it was at least worthy of a mention, but my editor cut it. Honestly, I had to laugh; I don’t generally get too attached to my work for Deadline. But today, the arena’s social-media staff posted this, and the comments are…not good:

And now, dunno about you, but at week’s end, I am whipped. There’s this, though, which I leave you with in hopes it will break over the weekend and at least offer some comic relief:

If you like, you can read my story about how the dailies are killing it with live-streaming of the protests.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 3:42 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 27 Comments
 

An open wound.

What a sour mood I find myself in on this…Tuesday. Too much work to do, and the temperature is spiking at close to 90, even as we speak. I was going to take a bike ride, but decided to have a Campari spritz instead.

Don’t feel much better. But it would probably be worse if it made the world better, right?

Anyway, I feel like I’m forgetting the lesson I learned in newspapers, i.e., never say it can’t get any worse, because it always can, and does. After the weekend, I could hardly believe Trump could go lower, but what am I saying? The bottom of the barrel can always be scraped a little more. Monday’s disgusting display, followed by this:

And I’m sure more is to come. Five more months of more. Maybe four more years after that.

But Monday. Watching Ivanka in her stilettos and fucking million-dollar purse – what do you need to buy between the White House and the church behind it that you needed to tote that little accessory along, hon? The press secretary in her toy-soldier outfit. And of course the president, who handles a Bible like he’s never seen one before. And the fellow travelers in the churches. Every one, every single one… I’m out of words, at least polite ones. Or even stern ones.

And then, this. Before my eyes resolved what I was looking at, I thought these were ants or something, being gassed by an exterminator. But no: American citizens.

And every time some shithead like Jimmy Lileks wrings hands over buildings, or windows, or whatever, I just want to scream.

So I need to stay off certain parts of the internet for a bit. Do my work and let the rest go by.

You lovely people, on the other hand, are great. So carry on.

Posted at 7:27 pm in Current events | 75 Comments
 

Unrest.

What a terrible weekend. Demonstrations both nights (good thing), followed by the window-smashing and general mayhem (bad thing). The curfew went into effect an hour ago, and the police started firing tear gas and moving the crowd back shortly thereafter. I expect the window-breaking and so forth will start any time now.

It’s getting worse by the night. The first, the police seemed fairly tolerant; Kate walked in the first demonstration, which was peaceful. The organizers wished everyone a good night, and many people went home. But many didn’t, or maybe more showed up, but whatever happened, the window-breaking started at nightfall.

That was the night similar action took place in Fort Wayne and cities all over the country: Peaceful start, violent finish.

The outside-agitators line is being sold, and if the details are true, it holds up — most of those arrested were not Detroiters, and from the photography, most weren’t black, and in a city that’s more than 80 percent black, well, it stands out.

Saturday was uglier, and the same pattern: Peaceful protest, ugly end.

The Freep noted as much:

Following a script seemingly set the day before, protests in downtown Detroit and in many cities nationwide began Saturday afternoon with crowds of peaceful marchers voicing chants about racial justice.

But after dark, those crowds were less peaceful. In Detroit, Friday night’s protest had become tense and led to arrests, and it even involved a fatal shooting, although that was later determined to be unrelated to the protesting.

Saturday night was worse. Participants threw rocks and fireworks at police, refusing to disperse until hundreds of officers converged to use tear gas and make dozens of arrests, according to reporters at the scene.

Saturday was the night they pepper-sprayed reporters, too.

Again, this is a majority-black city, with a majority-black police force. They’re not perfect, but they haven’t had a major brutality case in years. This isn’t Minneapolis. But some people just want to fuck shit up. And the police are getting surlier as this drags on. I hope things calm down, but I don’t know that they will. Lots of people with time on their hands (unemployment), lots of people with energy to spend (confinement), lots of people just mad at everything (Trump). It’s a bad combination.

How were things where you were?

Posted at 10:22 pm in Current events | 51 Comments
 

Surreality on all fronts.

With the sun rising at 6 a.m. and warm-enough mornings finally here (you can say that again; 30 degrees of difference in about three days), I’ve been taking some early-morning bike rides again. Get my sweat over with first, shower and face the day – it works for me.

Sunrise is a nice time of day to be out, even when you miss it by, oh, 20 minutes or so:

And then I headed inland. Good shadows on a day like…whatever day that was. Tuesday, I think:

In between, I passed a woman on a street corner, that goes around one of the two nearby hospitals. She was kneeling on the sidewalk, hands clasped in what looked like fervent prayer, face upturned toward the building, eyes closed. A relative or loved one inside on a ventilator? Just a generic prayer for the “health care heroes,” as the local yard signs say? Dunno. The weirdest detail: A toy-sized dog, fluffy, sat patiently behind her. (I think she was kneeling on its leash.) Looked like a papillon, very well-groomed.

I’d have taken a picture of that, but it was a private moment. Don’t be an asshole. The world has enough of them.

As I write this, the breaking news – and there’s been so much of it this week – is the president’s executive order on social media:

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Trump said before signing the document.

While Trump has threatened such action for years, his signing of the order Thursday was precipitated by a decision by Twitter earlier in the week to mark two of his erroneous tweets with fact-checking labels. The small move set off a firestorm of tweets by the president threatening social media companies with regulations and other punishments.

I’m not sure why, but I started thinking about this one guy, who was included in the Bridge project on the political division of the state when I was there. He was an affluent gent in his 50s who retired early by being a lifelong cheapskate and loved the president with his whole heart. After the election, he joined Twitter. No profile, no bio, no cutesy name. He follows one, just one, account: @RealDonaldTrump. I believe at the time he said he wanted to read the president unfiltered. (Like you have to be on Twitter for that.) I wonder what Twitter is like when that’s how you’ve crafted your experience, eh?

As I recall, he was stupefied – unbelieving – that anyone could not see the Greatness that had been unleashed upon our land by Trump. And yet, sitting there reading the president, oh the things he must be learning. And now this.

November. November, November, November. It’s my birthday month. I’d gladly give up five months of my life and the whole summer and fall ahead to get this shit over with, now.

Then my editor calls and tells me he was driving downtown, just to check on our deserted office, when he saw a goose family crossing the street. Geese are unusual downtown, but the river was only a couple blocks away, and that’s probably where they were headed. Another motorist stopped, and the guy got up, rushed the flock, scooped up two goslings and put them in his shirt before getting in his car to drive away. That story wrecked me for the rest of the day. WHO DOES THAT? I’m still bothered by it.

So let’s part on a more humorous note with… this. As usual, the best stuff is in the briefs at the bottom. Especially the item about Mnuchin.

Posted at 6:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 79 Comments
 

Close quarters.

Reading all of your reminiscences about apartment life tickled something in my memory. This blog has been around so long I expect I’ve told all my stories. (God knows I’m not collecting any new ones.) But yeah, we talked about bad neighbors once before, in 2011. I don’t know if I ever told the story about how Jeff Borden drove out one tenant in the four-flat we all lived in, thereby transforming it from 3 cool tenants + 1 pair of tightasses into an entirely cool building.

The tightasses were a couple, as young as we were but born 70 years old, apparently. They hated loud music, but had a yappy dog they’d leave in the back yard while they ran Saturday-morning errands. They had the nerve – the nerve! – to pound a broomstick on the ceiling if Jeff and his girlfriend made too much noise in bed. They were awful. So Jeff started a campaign of psychological torture to persuade them they really needed to get a new apartment. He cut up a hot dog and buried the pieces, shallowly, in her flower garden; the dog did the rest. He had a mark on his stereo of the maximum volume they’d tolerate, and would crank it up. As soon as the door downstairs would open and the angry footsteps start up the stairs, he’d drop it down to the mark. There’d be a pause, and the footsteps would retreat. He’d wait 10 minutes, then do it again.

There were other techniques, but I’ve forgotten them; maybe Jeff will remember.

I, too, am probably too cantankerous to live in an apartment anymore. Many days I wish my current neighbors could only be seen with binoculars, but they’re nice people and I tolerate dual Albums of the Summer blasting on the Bluetooth speakers (neighbors to the north and west), not to mention the Maximum Volume Lawn Service on the east. Our house faces south. So far the street hasn’t offended.

That said, I expect we’re headed for condo/apartment life eventually, although I’m hoping for a ranch house on a slab.

A long weekend, sorely needed. Saturday was warm and cloudy, Sunday hot, Monday ditto, and tomorrow, more of the same. I’m happy that it’s warm, but I resent that we were denied spring, going immediately from early April to July. That also said, we may have to turn the A/C on tomorrow. Work + computers = a need for temperature regulation. And it’ll be cooler later in the week. Knowing the way things have gone for us lately, the A/C will refuse to start and hello, get out the credit card for yet another major system repair.

Journalists swarmed over northern Michigan this weekend, as it was the first weekend the region was “opened up,” as we say now. And what happened? Two idiots who were symptomatic traveled in from out of state to visit family. They tested positive, and now six people are in lockdown. Idiots. This stay-home stuff is going to continue because of people like this.

Meanwhile, Kate the vegetarian is away from the house for dinner and I’m making a MemDay splurge: A USDA Prime New York strip steak, brought to medium-rare in the sous vide and seared on the grill. I bought it, plus two pounds of ground chuck yesterday, with plans to turn the ground into Sam Sifton’s Middle School Tacos, so Alan can pick at the leftovers for a couple days. Total bill? Forty-seven dollars. For three pounds of beef! Soon we will all be vegetarians.

Now, to figure out the sides. A good week ahead, everyone.

Posted at 5:56 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments
 

Plan B.

There are times when the pizza dough you put together for dinner simply fails. It sits there like a lump in a warm oven, not doing anything, and suddenly it’s 6 p.m. and it’s time for Plan B, which is Indian takeout.

Our TrumpBux arrived this week, so why not a $35 splurge on Indian! STIMULATION, baby!

God, what a week. You’ve probably heard that an entire city – Midland – was inundated this week. This, on top of everything else. I’ve only been to Midland briefly. But man, they didn’t deserve to have two privately owned, oft-cited, badly maintained dams collapse on top of them, for sure. I recall reporting over the years that pointed out there are literally dozens of dams in precarious condition scattered around the state, and it’s only a matter of time before more give way. We used to be a wealthy state; we aren’t anymore.

The photos from the scene are bizarre. When the dams gave way, the lakes they were there to create drained, too. So once-lakefront properties now overlook a mudflat hells cape with a few boats foundering on the bottom like dinosaurs in quicksand. And downstream properties are…not so much lakefront, but lake.

Man, I hate flooding. Fort Wayne taught me that. It’s like having a toilet overflow all over and through your house. Hardly anything survives a flood. And as I’ve said before here, it’s one thing to have your wedding album burn up in a fire, but it’s another thing entirely to find it at the bottom of a sodden pile of garbage, stinking like a sewer. Flooding is worse. There’s more trash to take out, for starters, and it all smells terrible.

So. As we lurch into the unofficial Beginning of Summer, I’m just…not feeling it. All those weeks penned in, a seemingly endless string of 42-degree days, and right now I have my windows open, but nothing feels the way it should. No swimming — pools are closed. All the summer festivals, cancelled. No vacation planned. The one thing I have to look forward to is a friend’s wedding, in October. Unless that venue, too, cannot get started back up again, in which case he’s going to Vegas and who knows, we might go, too.

Hate to leave with that bummer, but there you are. Don’t let it bring you down, though — here’s to a good long weekend, and a better-than-expected summer, just the same.

Posted at 9:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments
 

Crazy times.

The police arrested a “Detroit man,” a white real-estate agent living downtown, for what they called credible threats against the governor, attorney general, mayor and Rashida Tlaib. His Facebook page is public, and still is, and it’s interesting to see the outlines of his obvious-but-not-too-obvious mental illness – paranoia, threats, conspiracies, etc. It reminded me of something that’s interested me for a while, i.e., how mental illness is shaped by the times.

In fact, I think we’ve talked about this here before, how once, people claimed demons visited them in their sleep, usually having sex with them. Today, they’re more likely to claim aliens did it. A transparently obvious memory of, or reaction to, sex abuse of some kind gets wrapped in the trappings of the time.

We’ve also talked here about Edward Bodkin, the Huntington castrator (Google it). I still remember the debriefing from a colleague who’d just hung up the phone from interviewing the editor of Ball Club magazine. He was trying to get an idea why men would go to a grimy house in rural Indiana and willingly let someone cut off their testicles (free of charge, but you had to agree that the procedure be videotaped). The editor explained that some might have been transsexuals (we didn’t use terms like transgender then) who couldn’t afford sex-change surgery (we didn’t say gender-reassignment or gender-conforming then), and figured getting rid of part of the offensive anatomy was good enough.

But then he went off down a rabbit hole about the whole cult of body modification. These are people who simply don’t think the body they’re in is the one they’re supposed to be in. They’re not trans, just…unsatisfied. If there were a spectrum, at the mild end might be tattooing, with extreme plastic surgery closer to the middle, and at the other, people who use shotguns or saws or other implements to do enough damage to a limb that a doctor might have to just amputate what’s left. Because in their minds, they are amputees.

(You might put fitness freaks somewhere on that continuum. Rare is the person who is 100 percent pleased with every pore on their face, but I also think there’s a reason so much fitness activity is dressed up in the virtuous clothing of better health. Certainly it is better to be active than sedentary. But if you’re spending hours and hours a week in search of a different pair of arms, maybe you belong on that scale, too.)

Hoarding – was that a thing before the last 20-30 years? We’ve called people pack rats forever, but there’s something about the great, post-1980 age of Getting and Spending that seems to fold into hoarding rather neatly. Animal hoarding, ditto.

And so now we’re in an age when people in the highest offices in the land freely talk bullshit about American carnage and Qanon and pedophiles in pizza joints, and suddenly we have all these very suggestible, mentally fragile people making threats against the political enemies of those who, just to use one example, imply that a U.S. senator is a pedophile, and, well, you see what happens.

(The president’s eldest son, I have zero problems diagnosing from this distance, has extreme daddy issues and, I am sorry to say, these tactics won’t work to make daddy finally love him.)

Back to the guy who was threatening the Michigan politicians. If he hadn’t included the mayor, I’d think he also has…problems with women, shall we say. Actually, I will say it: He has problems with women. The other day I was emailing about this with a former colleague, who didn’t think the complaints about Gretchen Whitmer are motivated by sexism. I said, what are we to think when the expressions of those complaints are so often made with gendered insults? TYRANT BITCH, etc. Hmm? No answer.

Of course, part of the problem is, there are far fewer gendered insults for men. “Prick,” maybe. But even “asshole” doesn’t work; we all have them, after all.

OK, then. How was everyone’s weekend? We had one perfect day and one rainy day. Rode my bike on both. The Spotify mix tossed up “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” which is always amusing, and I regret to say that was the high point of Sunday’s ride, because then it started to rain and the now-predictable right-side lower-back pain came in right behind it. Saturday’s was better; I went with a friend and when it was over, got a couple of tall boys from a nearby likka sto’ and that was the cool down. We sat at opposite ends of a bench and talked about different types of feta cheese.

And Friday was our 27th anniversary. There was cake, there were flowers, there was a mushroom risotto. It was all quite nice.

And now the week ahead awaits. Let it be peaceful and healthy for all, but if Barack Obama’s gentle reproof in his virtual commencement address makes a particular skull explode, yeah well shit happens.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 121 Comments
 

More goobers.

Sorry about the midweek no-show. I find my energy, and mood, and energy, and sleep patterns…undulating this week. Time to go back on the bedtime marijuana, I fear.

In the meantime, there was another state capital demonstration in Lansing today. They string a big banner between the columns (you can see it here) that reads FREEEDOM. I assume the three Es are probably a reference to Mel Gibson’s big speech in “Braveheart,” because none of those people actually read books, I suspect. Everything is a pop-culture reference, and I’m missing out on pop culture, the older I get. Psst: I never saw “Braveheart.” A friend told me it was long as hell and “it takes Mel Gibson like 45 minutes to die,” and I noped out of that, oh yes I did.

But throw in video games and movies that I wouldn’t see at gunpoint, and half the time I feel just out of it. But at least I’ve read a few more books than these goobers. I listened to about five minutes of the speakers; one did a whole bit on the “admiralty flag” thing, which was a joke on “King of the Hill” years ago. Ai-yi-yi.

Meanwhile, one of these aforementioned goobers showed up with an axe. Not sure what it was about, but it was confiscated.

Oh, and look — he has a criminal record. What a nice man.

This is really getting to be an embarrassment. I’d say, “We’re not really like this,” but clearly, we are.

More bad news today: Our city pool won’t open on schedule, and probably won’t open at all. I was hoping they might have early-morning lap swimming at the very least, but it’s looking like no go. This sucks. I haven’t been in a pool since mid-March and god knows when I’ll be in one again.

At least it’ll be warm this weekend. Although rainy, too. Yesterday was sunny:

Hope yours is good.

Posted at 9:48 pm in Current events | 79 Comments
 

Our day.

Ah, Mothers Day. The day when I eat waffles made my someone else, which, I should add, I thoroughly enjoyed. And based on the several wire photos I saw from places that “opened up,” as we’re saying, today? I will be enjoying home cooking for quite some time. Yes, by all means, let’s all crowd into a tiny restaurant because free at last free at last, etc.

Y’all go first, Alabama. I’ll wait.

On the other hand, when I was thinking about this the other day, it occurred to me that maybe the first thing I would do if it were safe is, find a good Mexican restaurant with a liquor license, and split a platter of tacos with friends. With two margaritas, and maybe three if I’m not driving.

Someday.

Another weekend of misery, cold and sunny one day, less-cold and rainy the next. Went to the Saturday market for the first time in a while. Scored some ramps and green garlic and jumbo eggs, the usual spring haul, and I hope we’ll have a chance to enjoy them in the coming days. Most people were masked and it was fine, but a visit to the market without a stop for breakfast just isn’t the same. Just to sit over a plate of eggs, scrolling Twitter and knowing someone will be around to warm up my coffee presently was a pleasure I didn’t appreciate enough when I had it. Although, who am I kidding. I appreciated it every single week. Market Saturdays were the highlight of my week, finding my secret parking spots, picking out the beautiful food, enjoying a solitary breakfast. So I miss it all the more.

I’m afraid I don’t have any bloggage to recommend, having plowed through the profile of NYT magazine Val Kilmer and thinking, huh. So let’s just wait for the week to unfold and to be appalled by it, OK?

Posted at 9:02 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

A slog of a week.

And so we lurch toward the end of a…surprisingly unproductive week for me, although I have high hopes for Friday. I worry I’m losing my mind. I worry I’m losing my motivation. I worry I’m going to gain even more weight before this is over. I worry. I could use some therapy, maybe in the form of a socially distanced walk with the world’s best therapist, but I don’t think that is on offer these days, and anyway, I can’t afford it, and anyway, my insurance wouldn’t cover it, and anyway, fuck all this shit.

The governor extended the stay-at-home order through May 28. Alan informed me he’s work-at-home through June. Kate is itching to get a Real Job and move out, and I don’t blame her. It’s what I wanted at her age. All week long I’ve been reading, or editing, pieces about the policy/budget fallout of all this, and I realize just how long this is going to continue, and how bad it’s going to be.

So yeah, just a little out of sorts, sorry.

The latter half of today was amusing. My editor wants a story on what it’s like to date in a pandemic, or to be more precise, to kinda date. To look forward to dating. To flirt online, maybe. Since my dating days are over, I asked some younger people I know. Had one spectacular interview, with a woman, who informed me Zoom has a setting called “enhance my appearance.” But it’s hard to find sources. So today I went ahead and just installed a dating app and started trawling for subjects. I described myself as bisexual, I guess, because I said I was “interested in everyone.” I started Liking pics and pasting in a note that ID’d myself as a journalist, looking for sources. The first respondent was a woman, who wanted to know everything about me, then went dark. The second was a man named Rod. OK, then, Rod, here’s who I am, here’s what I want and…

…he said, “You’re a little old for me, anyway,” but he was willing to talk, and I have high hopes for our chat tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, the weather has turned south again. I got an actual, no shit freeze warning on my phone a few hours ago. Low of 28 threatened for tomorrow, and won’t touch 50 all weekend. And it’s Mother’s Day.

So. In the interest of getting out early, just two bits of bloggage today. First, a death worthy of a “Six Feet Under” cold open:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The woman attacked and killed by an alligator in a gated community along the South Carolina coast was visiting the homeowner to do her nails and was trying to touch the animal when it grabbed her, authorities said.

After briefly getting away from the alligator Friday, the woman stood in waist deep water in the Kiawah Island pond and said “I guess I wont do this again,” but the alligator grabbed her in its jaws again and took her under, according to a supplemental police report released Tuesday.

Of course the poor gator had to pay with his life. The whole story is fantastic. Read.

And as someone else on my Twitter feed said today, “Axl Rose owning the Treasury Secretary on Twitter was not on my 2020 bingo card.” And yet? It happened.

OK, then, I’m outta here and I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. I’ll be shivering.

Posted at 7:22 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments