Pig’s Head Meets the Head Pigs

I’ve been paying more than a little attention to the debate about just what to do with the Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees. There’s a strong chorus demanding that the whole lot of them be broomed for being asleep while the malevolent Larry Nassar molested hundreds of young women Spartans.  Only those with a lump of coal for a soul are not repulsed. The natural reaction is a demand that Nassar rot in the deepest hottest region of hell and that the heads of all those in charge should roll.

But I also can’t ignore a feeling that there but for the grace of God go I.

Michigan has fifteen state universities. The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University are considered “flagship” universities because of their much larger campuses and student bodies. The very prestigious and fiercely non partisan Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan observes;

Michigan’s 15 universities are independent schools.  Each university board, irrespective of elections or appointment, is given general supervision of the institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds.  Each board elects a president of the university as often as is necessary under its supervision.  The three flagship schools are given autonomy in their governance and operations.

Each Michigan university is governed by an independent board, but the means by which members come to serve on the boards of the flagship schools is different from how members come to serve on the boards of the other 12 universities.  The Michigan Constitution provides that UM, MSU, and WSU are to be governed by independently elected, eight member boards.  The Constitution later provides that the 12 other state universities are governed by their own eight-member boards that are appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Michigan senate.  This makes the UM, MSU, and WSU boards accountable to the voters.  The boards of the other state universities are accountable to the governor.

The political bug bit me hard in the Detroit elections of 1969. I got involved in the political campaigns of Richard Austin for Mayor and Carl Levin for City Council. Austin lost and then went on to become the longest serving Secretary of State in Michigan and the first African American elected to state wide office. Levin won and went on to become s Michigan’s longest serving member of the U. S. Senate).

In 1972 I was a sophomore at Wayne State University’s Montieth College; a 70’s hippie who owned one suit.   I came up with the audacious idea of running to be a member of its Board of Governors. My high school classmate and political fellow traveler, Ed Bruley encouraged me. Ed has come to be a campaign impresario in Macomb County electing a very liberal David Bonior to Congress in a very conservative district eight times. The story of this campaign will be told at some future time. We were frighteningly unsophisticated as this brochure shows. But with perseverance I became one of the eight members of Wayne State’s governing board.

Michigan’s Constitution charges university governing boards with the general supervision of their institutions and the responsibility of appointing the President. Some believe that trustees should appoint someone they trust and believe in to be President and then let them run the university and stay out of his or her way. There is a very strong tradition in the academy of academic freedom. While the Board of Governors officially grants tenure and promotion to university faculty that is a mere formality. The tradition requires deference be given to the peer review protocols of any academic evaluation. If the board ever rejected a recommendation from the President and Provost for tenure or promotion or if they ever granted tenure or promotion to someone who didn’t have the appropriate recommendation there would be a riot.

Board members are volunteers. They serve without pay. They do not have their own staff. They are completely dependent on the President and his/her administration in providing the information that is the basis for decision making. The MSU Trustees likely only knew what President Lou Anna Simon and members of her administration chose to tell them. The operative question is that of Senator Russell Baker during the Watergate hearings. “What did the President know and when did (s)he know it”. I would add. When should she have know it.

Members of the “flagship” universities are only accountable to the voters. That’s a good thing. Imagine a time in which political forces begin to impose outside influences to academic judgments. Oh, how about a mandate that every political science major be required to read Ayn Rand.  Preposterous? Not in this political environment.

About the pig.

Early in my tenure as a Wayne State Governor I faced a proposal to abolish my own beloved Alma Mater, Montieth College. It received a temporary reprieve. But clever students engaged in some (with hindsight) fun political theater. When a vote was taken raising tuition a protester came forward and placed a pig’s head on our table. “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon” they chanted. The photograph taken by Milard Berry captured the moment and appeared on the front page of the Detroit Free Press the next day.

Detroit’s alternative weekly The Fifth Estate also ran a similar picture. I was referred to as Swineheuser. I was not happy at the time. But it brings a smile today.  To my right is Max Pincus. He was a colleague but he was also a mentor. From time to time people would say unkind things about me because of my youth or inexperience. Max always had my back.

Millard Berry took this picture and holds its Copy Right. He has graciously given me permission to post it. Please check out his work here. He is both a photo journalist as well as an artistic photographer. We have been musing about the fact that we are not as young as we once were. Dear millennial friends, don’t take yourselves or others sooooo seriously. Things will look differently. You have my promise.

Resolute

My friend Nancy Nall Derringer’s blog is annoying because it usually sends me down some internet rabbit hole or another chasing her insightful observations. This time it had to do with one word resolutions.

A few years ago, novelist and NN.C internet-friend Laura Lippman started a New Year’s tradition: The one-word resolution. No long lists of overly optimistic goals, sure to be abandoned by January 23, but just one word. A verb, obviously, since a resolution implies change, and you can’t change without taking action.

I can’t remember what all of hers were; one-word resolutions are personal enough that if they aren’t yours, they’re not exactly memorable. I took her up on it, and remember a few of mine. Focus, for one. Finish, for another. Breathe was the year I got more serious about my fitness regimen; most of the breathing was deep or fast and accompanied by a quicker heartbeat. Last year’s – Twerk – was a total failure; I just don’t have the lumbar suppleness anymore. But if you take it metaphorically, I guess I did some twerking. Kinda.

What single verb would you choose to guide positive changes in the New Year? I’ve got two. I’m borrowing one of Nancy’s. “Finish” And I’ve got one of my own. “Connect”.

It was many years ago when talking about my son’s struggles with a school counselor I first heard the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  These were pre-internet days but I was practicing personal injury law at the the time and I knew my way around the library at Wayne State’s Medical School. After about an hour of reviewing the literature I was dumb struck. These researchers weren’t just talking about my son – they are also talking about me. ADD folks can be impulsive, be poor in time management, have difficulties staying on task, have trouble multi-tasking and be poor in meeting deadlines. We are also capable of hyper-focus. We can be keen analysts because we can see several sides or outcomes to a given situation. And that “impulsiveness” can also be the ability to take risks where others would hesitate. I believe my brain chemistry has actually assisted me in whatever success I’ve had. We need to get rid of the word “disorder” and call it something else.

All that said “Finish” is an appropriate one word resolution of 2018. I’m going to pick two or three projects I’ve started and abandoned and attempt to Finish them.

I’d also like 2018 to be a time to “Connect” with friends, acquaintances and family members with whom I’ve had little contact lately. If you are one of these I would welcome your reaching out to me. I’d love to get coffee or a drink this year.

What’s your one word resolution?

Please share in the comment section.

Saw the film “Darkest Hour” this week end. It’s memorable quote “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Words can be powerful.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

 

 

Sixties Sh-t

The Beach Boys came up on somebody’s play list this week end and an early 30 something friend lamented; “Not that Sixties Shit!”

Now I’m a child of the Sixties and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are musical geniuses. But it got me thinking. Yes, there is some stuff from the Sixties that is truly shity and I remembered this.

It’s dated 1971 but as Hunter S. Thompson observed the 60’s didn’t really end until Nixon beat McGovern in 1972.

The voters in Alabama go to the polls today to decided between someone who prosecuted the murders of four young Black girls and a serial child molester. I’ve learned not to make predictions these days.  But Alabama senior Senator Richard Shelby gave bedrock Republicans permission to not vote for Moore.

“(W)e call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”
Shelby said on “State of the Union” that he’s not sure who will win the close election race in Alabama, but he added that “the state of Alabama deserves better” than Moore.
Taking this seat from the Republicans makes a true Senate majority so much more likely in 2018.
There have been a lot of bitcoin in the past week.  It’s price – of just under $17,000 is leading to speculation about whether there is a bubble. That’s up from a price of $4,000 in October. I had an conversation with a friend who has five bitcoins wroth about $85,000. Professionally, I give investment advice to people. How would you answer his question; “What do you think I should do?. At one time I had 15 bitcoins but gradually cashed them in”. Didn’t I a say a few paragraphs ago I don’t make predictions. You can bet the moment he acts on any advice from me to cash them in for more conventional investment they would double again.
 Got to get up early and see how the new “used” Snow Blower works.

The Smartest Man in the Room

I’ve come to believe when one has lived long and accomplished much we should not mourn their passing but celebrate their lives. And that’s what I want to do here; celebrate the amazing life of David W. Adamany.

This is not an obituary. You can easily find several including here and here with a summary of his remarkable career in urban higher education.

It was my great privilege to serve for 16 years on the Board of Governors of Wayne State University. For 8 of those years David was the University’s President. It was once observed that the only real role of a university board is to choose the President. That’s an exaggeration but there’s some truth to this. Boards are involved in matters of broad policy but it’s the President who runs the show. David ran quite a show and I had a ring side seat.

David was the smartest man I’ve ever known. He had a keen intellect, near photographic memory and an incredible ability to instantly analyse any situation. But my admiration came from his values. These were the overall context and motivation for his work. He believed in excellence. He practiced it himself and demanded it of everyone else. He believed in the University’s urban mission and took to heart the fact that many of Wayne’s students were the first in their family to go to college. Without  Wayne State a university education would not have been available to many young Detroiters. Less than a dozen years earlier I was one of those kids.

The chairmanship of the Board was usually for a one year term and rotated among the members. As it turned out I was the Chair when David’s predecessor resigned. I co-chaired the search committee. This was 1981 and the the country was in it’s worst recession since the great depression. As the saying goes when the country gets an economic cold Detroit gets pneumonia. Wayne State faced deep cuts in it’s funding. This was not an attractive job in the national academic community.

I first met David in the Marriott hotel across the street from the Rosslyn Station of the Washington D.C. Metro.  There is a reason I remember this. The Board flew to Washington to interview several candidates. At National Airport while the other board members were lining up at the Taxi stand my colleague former Michigan Governor George Romney (yes, Mitt’s dad) punched me on the shoulder and said with a grin, “Let’s take the Metro. I think we can beat them to the hotel”. Now George had also served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and knew Washington a lot better than I did. Off he ran carrying his suit case with me trailing behind. We didn’t beat them but we came close. When we emerged at the top of the 207 foot escalator (one of the of World’s longest), their cabs were pulling up to the hotel entrance.

When the Board unanimously decided to offer David the job it fell to Executive Vice President Ed Cushman and me to return to Washington to negotiate the terms. We spend most of the day in David’s condo near DuPont Circle. As we talked about the University and economic conditions in Detroit David quoted to us the Michigan State Constitution, the terms of our union contract with the AAUP and the University’s Code of Procedures. This was my first real exposure to this renowned Constitutional Scholar who never, EVER, showed up unprepared. He was intrigued by our offer but he had a dilemma. He candidly explained that he was sitting on a offer to serve as Provost at Princeton. “I can spend a few years at Princeton and then be a President just about anywhere. I can also serve as President at Wayne State during this recession and never get another job”.

In hindsight I’m not surprised he chose us. The work was harder and the challenge was greater – and that was David.

David Adamany and me at my final meeting as a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

David Adamany and me at my final meeting as a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

During his tenure as Wayne’s President David was the subject of much gossip about his personal life.  The prevailing “wisdom” of the early 80’s was that it would be very difficult for an openly gay man to lead a major institution dependent on the legislature and donors for its success.  It’s not that David lived life in the closet. His particular version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was more like “don’t brag, don’t deny”.  The Board of Governors knew. But we were so overwhelmed by his leadership in that very difficult time no one thought it was relevant.

We are inevitably shaped both positively and negatively by the people we are fated to meet. My work and friendship with David Adamany is one of my life’s blessings.

Sing We Noel

So much news this week end.

The most disturbing is the shooting of four teenagers at Noel Night in Midtown. This is a holiday event attended by thousands of people. Our first thoughts are to those who were injured.The good new is that none of the injuries are life threatening. But that does little to mitigate the extraordinary disappointment that a 45 year old family tradition would be tarnished by gun violence. It’s unlikely that the shots were random. But we don’t know. Detroit bashers will have their moment. But most of the Twitter Traffic is upbeat. Andrew Ellison captures the consensus.

The United States Senate passed the what the Pod Save America guys call the Donors’ Relief Act.  I hope rank and file Republicans will someday realize that they constantly vote against their own economic best interests. Good Grief!

And finally the news that Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has plead guilty to lying to the FBI. Slate Magazine does a very good deep dive on the implications for Flynn, Trump and, interestingly, Vice President Pence.  They have this hopeful conclusion.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a famous problem in prosecutions and in academic game theory. A prisoner (or more illustratively in this case, a defendant) knows if he holds out against making a deal, and if all his co-defendants in other jail cells also hold out, they will all go free. However, if he holds out and another defendant confesses and implicates him, he will get a much worse sentence. If everyone confesses, everyone gets something in between.

So, the dilemma here is whether to assume everyone is holding out or whether to assume someone else is confessing to get a better deal. Up until now, only a very small figure—Papadopoulos—had confessed, not enough to make any central figure rethink his assumptions.

But now that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller, all bets are off. Everyone knows the next few cooperators will get deals, but the later you cooperate, the worse deal you get. The last (and biggest) co-conspirators get no deals at all. Flynn’s deal could be a moment that breaks the silence, and opens the gates for others to cooperate with Mueller to get a deal while there are still deals on the table.

Happy Monday everyone. I bought a wreath with lights for the front door. I’m not sure what kind of decorating I’m going to do inside, but I need to do my part to lighten up the outside so the neighborhood sparkles for the holiday.

 

 

 

 

Open the Pod Bay Door, Hal

I thought  political junkieism was a benign addiction. It no longer is. I’m not much of a television watcher but National Public Radio and the New York Times have been as welcome and as natural a part of daily life as sunlight.  Politics is my fantasy football. Not so much anymore. And you can probably guess why.

The news is literally depressing.  I cannot count the ways; the incivility, the racism, the sexism, the lies, the calculated actions that divide society rather than unite, the robbing of the poor and middle class to further enrich the wealthy. What churches, schools or parents espoused these values when we were growing up?  Taxing graduate students on their free tuition? Eliminating the $250 deduction teachers can take when they pay for classroom supplies?I cannot hear his voice without cringing yet I cannot silence him.

A little perspective. We once had a President that talked like this in an exchange with New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Out of the blue I asked, “Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?”

Obama’s tone changed. “I love him. He’s one of my favorite philosophers.”

So I asked, What do you take away from him?

“I take away,” Obama answered in a rush of words, “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”

Trump would not have understood the quote much less have the ability to actually read one of Niebuhr’s books.

 One way I’ve reduced the vexing noise is tuning into Podcasts. Chief among these is “Pod Save America” with former Obama White House staffers  Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor .  They describe themselves as “a political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane”. YES!

In a recent New York Times profile observed.

Like conservative talk radio or Fox News, “Pod Save America” is an authentic partisan response to the perceived failings of the mainstream media. While many conservatives hate the mainstream media for its supposed liberal bias, many liberals have come to despise what they see as its tendency toward false equivalence — a grievance particularly inflamed by the coverage of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Liberals don’t want a hermetically sealed media ecosystem of their own, so much as one that does away with the pretense of kneejerk balance: a media that’s willing to say one side is worse than the other. “I screamed at the TV a lot in the White House,” Favreau says. He and his co-hosts particularly loathe the bipartisan on-air panels of blabbering pundits that cable networks deployed during the election. “If there is one way that I would sum up what the 2016 election was on cable news,” Lovett says, “it was world-class journalists interviewing morons.”

And it’s a reality check.

“Pod Save America,” to its hosts and its listeners, is a twice-weekly reality check. “I think that when you have a president gaslighting an entire nation,” Vietor says, “there’s a cathartic effect when you have a couple of people who worked in the White House who are like: ‘Hey, this is crazy. You’re right, he’s wrong.’ ”

And a call to action.

What is absent from the podcast, significantly, is any of the usual liberal squeamishness (or, depending on your point of view, principle) about using media as a tool of partisan advantage. Liberal activists point regretfully to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who in their Comedy Central heyday were happy to savage Republicans but refused to champion Democrats: In 2010, the pair drew some 215,000 people to the National Mall a few days before the midterm elections, only to keep the rally strictly nonpartisan. “Pod Save America,” by contrast, isn’t afraid to, as Ben Wikler of MoveOn puts it, “actually touch Excalibur.” At the theater in Richmond this month, shortly before bringing Northam and the rest of Virginia’s Democratic ticket onstage, Favreau asked the crowd: “Is everyone registered to vote? Is everyone going to be doing phone-banking and canvassing? Because if not, you have to leave.”

Bless you, Boys!

What are your favorite Podcasts?

Too Damn Many Mikes

Since the very beginning of Christianity the church honored saints. Originally these were individuals who were martyred for their faith. They were thought of as particularly holy or devote and very likely in heaven. In the tenth century the Catholic church began a more formal process of canonization.  To be canonized one had to overcome the arguments of the advocatus diaboli  – literally the devil’s advocate.  Detroit’s own Father Solanus Casey will be “beatified” at a Mass at Ford Field on November 18. This is the next to last step before being named a saint.

I mention this because if you grew up Catholic your parents were obligated to name you after a saint. Each of the saints have a day of the year designated as their  Feast Day and St. Michael’s feast day is September 29th.  This day is otherwise know as Michaelmas and traditionally associated with the beginning of autumn.  Michaelmas also marks the beginning of the season for the sitting of the Courts in England.  Our Supreme Court honors that tradition by convening on the first Monday of October each year.

My patron saint isn’t ever a person like St. Patrick or St. Joan of Arch. He’s an archangel if you believe in such things. Catholic Online says:

Saint Michael the Archangel isn’t a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title “Archangel” means, that he is above all the others in rank.

St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we know from scripture and Christian tradition.

  • The first is to combat Satan.
  • The second is to escort the faithful to heaven at their hour of death.
  • The third is to be a champion of all Christians, and the Church itself.
  • And the fourth is to call men from life on Earth to their heavenly judgment.

Given the second and fourth responsibilities I’d just as soon he not show up for a good long time.

I grew up as Mike. And that’s what my family and the people who have known me the longest call me. About 15 years ago I was involved in a film project in which they already had a Mike. So I was dubbed Michael to distinguish the two of us. It stuck. While I don’t really care what you call me if you ask my preference today I’ll say Michael.

There are too damn many Mikes! I attended a small all boys Catholic High School with a graduating class of 81. Eighteen were Mikes.  There’s even a rock band Too Many Mikes I’m all about a moratorium on naming boys Mike.  Last year Mike Trapp made a YouTube video on just this subject. I’m with Him.

A School House Rock notion of democracy is that the voters chose their politicians. But with Gerrymandering it’s the politicians who choose their voters. On Tuesday SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, arguably one of the most important cases of the season. Here’s a wish for some hope in a season of political Lamentations.

A shout out to my high school classmate Mike Hovey as he begin his long awaited retirement today.

Watch the video. It will make you smile. Happy Michaelmas Day everyone!

 

 

 

Black Day In July

I’m republishing this Blog post I wrote two years ago.

Every generation has those “where were you when…” moments we associate with historical events. For Baby Boomers it’s usually one or more of the evil string of political assassinations of the 1960’s; JFK, RFK, MLK. But everyone who lived in Metropolitan Detroit in the summer of 1967 knows exactly where they were and what they felt.

In the early morning hours on July 23 the Detroit Police raided a “Blind Pig” operated at Clairmont and 12th street on Detroit’s west side. A Blind Pig is an after hours drinking establishment. It was hot and humid night. Confrontations between the police and patrons and other onlookers escalated. The whole thing devolved into  one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in the history of the United States.  Wikipedia provides a concise summery.

To help end the disturbance, Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in the 82nd Airborne Division. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. The scale of the riot was surpassed in the United States only by the 1863 New York City draft riots during the U.S. Civil War, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Most of the damage occurred in Black neighborhoods. Stores were looted and set on fire. Snipers were on roof tops shooting at will. Most of the business were white owned. Black owned business with windows signs that said “Soul Brother” were spared.

soul brother

Why?

I’ll not presume to even attempt an answer to that question here.  Some things to note.  President Johnson appointed  an 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders known as the Kerner Commision for its chair, former Ohio Governor Otto Kerner. The take away from the report was; “Our Nation Is Moving Toward Two Societies, One Black, One White—Separate and Unequal”.  In short, an American form of Apartheid. 

Last Saturday I enjoyed a delightful visit to Camp Ozanam for its annual Alumni Day. That’s where I was in the Summer of 1967 working as a dish washer. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. While walking the camp grounds I thought a lot about that summer.

So here’s the thing. I went to high school at Sacred Heart Seminary’s Cardinal Mooney Latin School. We were all admitted there because we believed we were called to be Roman Catholic priests. The seminarians staffed the camps each summer.

There is this east side – west side thing in Detroit.  I am an eastsider.  I spent my formative years three blocks from the City Airport at Gratiot and Conner (look it up). When I was 14 I went to the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning and traveled across town to Chicago and Linwood to Sacred Heart Seminary’s Gothic campus. I rode the “Clairmont Through” line which went right passed the intersection where the riot started.  Looking at newspaper photos at camp I instantly recognized all of the businesses at that intersection.

Most of us had transistor radios then so we got the news of the riots as it happened.  My father was a Detroit Fire Fighter.  As news of arson and snipers came through I became increasingly upset.

Sacred Heart

The camp had one land line and when I got permission to call hone on it I was greeted with a recording that “no circuits were available”.  Many of our campers lived in affected neighborhoods. We choose to tell them nothing until the day the boarded the bus home.

When I came home at the end of the summer my father told me what he had decided.  I would no longer ride the bus across town.  I would become a boarding student living on campus and coming home on week ends.

My father didn’t talk much about his combat duty that summer.  He did talk about crawling under his fire rig twice when sinpers began to fire on them. He also told me about sitting in the rig across form a young national guardsmen and pushing the barrel of his rifle away from his face. Young Guardsmen: “What, are you afraid?” Dad: “Of that gun? You bet I’m afraid.”

When it was all over my dad and a bunch of other Firefighters vowed they would never go into anything like this again unarmed. Someone went to Ohio and bought several small caliber hand guns that were called Saturday Night Specials.  I was always aware that that gun was in our house. But it didn’t mean much to me.  The gun was under my parents’ mattress and the ammunition was in a dresser drawer.

In 2008 we planned to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday.  My older brother Ron came in from Seattle. All of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would be there.  He was not doing well.  Macular Degeneration had robbed him of most of his vision.  The side affects of radiation for prostate cancer made him chronically uncomfortable.  This strong proud man who enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17 bristled at the fact that he needed help using the remote for watching television.

Ron’s call woke me before 6:00 a.m. I sped the 70 miles to their house. A sheriff’s deputy’s car was in the driveway. Dad was on the back porch. The EMS had come and gone. Nothing for them to do. I sat with him until the people from the funeral home arrived. As far as I know that was the only time that gun had actually been fired.

Most people’s reactions to suicide is anger and that was mine. But this very proud ex-marine, fire fighter, carpenter and home builder was watching his independence and dignity slowly but steadily erode. I’ve come to regard it as a courageous act and a loving act.

Post Script: Canadian Singer, Song Writer Gordon Lightfoot was was in Detroit and confined to his room in the St. Regis Hotel on West Grand Blvd during the riot.  He saw a lot of the smoke and fire and did what singer song writers do.  He wrote the song “Black Day In July”  Predictably, a number of radio stations banned it. Ah, the 60’s

Here is a very nice YouTube video of the song with haunting pictures from that summer.

 

Call Me Lefty

Three weeks ago today I had arthroscopic surgery to repair a tear in two muscles and to reattach a tendon in my rotator cuff. The surgery required seven small incisions in my shoulder. I tolerated the ordeal reasonably well. I must confess that the first two days were pretty painful. The prescription Vicodin made me loopy but didn’t really do all that much to reduce the pain. But by day three I put the opioids aside and was reasonably comfortable using extra strength Tylenol.

The post surgical protocol is to immobilize the arm for a period of six weeks. So my arm has been in a sling with lots of straps and Velcro. I’ve been unable to drive, operating a computer is awkward, and I’m gradually learning how to do things with my left hand.

Today is the halfway mark. Three weeks down and three weeks to go.

I tried to shave with my left hand before the surgery but that wasn’t happening. So now for the third time in my adult life I’ve allowed my beard to grow. It’s looking a little scruffy and I’m sure will disappear the first day I’m free of my sling.

I’ve done the minimal amount necessary to keep the law firm going. I rather enjoy enforced leisure at home. Someone suggested I was practicing retirement. NFW!

I had no idea who Ed Sheeran was. But I am a game of thrones fan and now I know. Maybe this will be a trivia question next week

Good news and sad news out of the United States Senate. Thank goodness the Republicans couldn’t get it together and destroy the affordable care act. The fact that the law was drafted in secret never presented to a committee nor the subject of public hearings was pretty awful. The three Republican women senators were completely left out of the process. And guess who are principally responsible for the fact that it tanked? The sad news is word of John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis. Regardless of your politics you have to admire the man. One memorable moment from the 2008 campaign is when he corrected a woman who referred to Sen. Obama as a Muslim. The candidate in 2016 had no such class.

The media is abuzz with stories about the summer of 1967. Tonight I’m going to see the film 12th and Claremont. This is a collection of home movies from those troubling days put together by the Detroit Free Press.

In its aftermath business labor and community leaders got together to discuss a way forward. They created what they called an urban coalition named New Detroit Inc. I was very fortunate to begin my professional career as their director of public policy in the mid-1970s. Walter Douglas was vice president of NDI. He later became its president. He took a chance hiring me for this position at such a relatively young age. I will always be grateful for his mentorship.

Tomorrow is Friday. Hope your week ends well.

Hamilton, Hype and Life in the Third Act

You can turn off the music by clicking the Play/Pause button in the upper right corner.

Life’s Third Act includes mildly unnerving experiences. Like watching your niece/Goddaughter graduate from High School. Wait, weren’t you an infant that I held at your baptism just a few years ago?

San Francisco is among my favorite cities. It’s charm and quirkiness make it special. My brother in law Tom and his extraordinary wife Vicky live in the East Bay area in the town of Martinez at the end of BART’s yellow line. St. Patrick and St. Vincent High School is a very diverse place. We came to the court yard early to get good seats. The people watching was fun and so was the fashion show. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians easily outnumbered the White folks. And watching your child or grandchild graduate is a pretty good excuse to – well – go a bit nuts. Something I’ve never seen before was blown up baby pictures attached to the end of a stick like a picket sign that were waived from time to time. I guess it’s to let the graduate know his or her family is still here. Mercifully there was no commencement speaker. Just the usual remarks from the Valedictorian and Salutatorian with inside jokes and regret that they were leaving what had been their second home for four years.

“As we begin to call the names of the graduates please hold you applause until the end”. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. It didn’t.

Vicki’s mother is active as a volunteer usher and season subscriber in San Francisco’s theaters. She was able to score pretty decent tickets for the Sunday matinee of the wildly popular play “Hamilton”.  My 20 year old nephew, Jake had seen it. His critique? “In spite of all of the hype it exceed my expectations”.  I have to agree. It was one of the more exceptional performances of anything I’ve ever seen. But there was something about Jake’s  comment that stayed with me.

I’ve thought the word “hype” was an abbreviation of “hyperbole“; “obvious and intentional exaggeration not meant to be taken literally.” So if the play exceed your expectations then what you heard about it wasn’t really hype. It was true.  Another lesson of living in your Third Act is noticing that the meaning of words evolve.  Jake had it right. The Urban dictionary says one definition of hype is “A fad. A clever marketing strategy which a product is advertized [sic] as the thing everyone must have, to the point where people begin to feel they need to consume it.” That’s Hamilton!

Also had a chance to spend an afternoon with two Michigan ex pats and grade school classmates on Memorial Day. Just lunch and a couple of hours of meandering through Golden Gate Park. Lot’s of gossip about teachers, classmates, and the old neighborhood. Oh, and bitching about Trump.

In the song “My Shot” Hamilton sings “There’s a million things I haven’t done, just you wait“. I know what that feels like, even in Act Three.