Saturday, October 30, 2010

Haunted Houses

No trick-or-treat here. 


They're not pretty to look at.  But they're spectacular to photograph.  Some of Detroit's most haunting, abandoned houses await demolition. But here they stand, within a two-minute drive of Woodward Avenue, at the heart of city's cultural center, home of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Science Center, the Wright Museum of African American History, the College of Creative Studies, the Detroit Public Library, the Detroit Historical Museum, Wayne State U and the Detroit Medical Center. 

Look at it this way:  what other city in America has more open space available and more potential for economic redevelopment and revitalization?  

Hey, Happy Halloween, and thanks for driving by. 

Photos: M & V Henoch

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fast Turtle Crossing

It's crazy, I know.  But I did it.  I've gone and committed the next thirty days to "writing a novel."  Hmmm. What constitutes a novel starting from zip to finito in thirty days is any one's guess.  According to the organizers of this literary marathon, November is National Novel Writing Month.  To join the 150,000 writers and wanna-bes already signed up for this ruckus, all you have to do is post 50,000 words of your choosing onto their site by midnight, November 30th.  

Writing 50,000 words in a month amounts to 1667 words a day.  Seems doable.  Sort of.  As long as I don't take the exercise too seriously. No turning back.  No editing.  No agonizing over just the right word in just the right place.  

I look at it this way:  it's novel writing -- as opposed to writing a novel.  Anything goes.  Anything can happen.  It's not a contest.  It's a personal challenge.  There are no prizes for the "best" or the fastest or the "longest" 50,000-words.  And I assure you, no one will be reading or judging my words, unless I say so, and care to share them at some point in time.  As of this moment,  I don't have a story that needs to be told burning in my soul.  All I have is this notion, an impulse to just wing it. A wild turtle crossing, indeed.

Video Source:  My thanks to pwoehiker on YouTube.  Google "turtle crossings" and you get plenty of pix, videos and stories from turtle-lovers on the road to everywhere.  The rare creature in the video looks to me like a tortoise with hare legs. Who knew turtles could walk about on all fours like that?  And notice: he's (or she's) not only crossing at top turtle-speed, but turning. Up the road,  heading off into the sunset.  Suicidal?  Or a free spirit?  Turtles know where they're going.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Recap

The Service of course, went off without a hitch.  Twins L and Z, working in tandem and perfect sync, were relaxed, poised, clear-voiced.  And yes, indeed, they were well prepared and in command of their service.  In evidence and duly noted were all the instructions and minor adjustments from the run-through on Friday. 

Standing at the bemah, (the podium) L beamed at her audience, while Z stood in dignified composure.  Both maintained their proper distance from the mic in order to be heard. Both impressed with their Hebrew chanting.  In fact, the pianist later remarked that Z should seriously consider singing... (his response:  nah, not one of his many interests at present.)
The Proud Parents  E and D added their wonderful remarks, beginning with an appropriate quip from E that she was wearing waterproof mascara.

The Party  A joyous, boisterous affair, the Ultimate Birthday Celebration with 50 kids dancing with the DJ, 100 adults shrieking around tables, that's a Bar Mitzvah, for you.  On the menu: something for everyone, a s’more's bar, custom-made pasta, fun in the photo booth, and just the right amount of wine to go around for the adults.   Altogether, a once-in-a-lifetime birthday Z and L and we will never forget.  Snippets of conversation, not nearly adequate to call a visit, but enough to leave heads spinning.

The Morning After Even more food, more celebration.  D and E's friends, J and M,  hosted a lavish brunch, buffet tables groaning with deli, baked goodies, homemade coffee cakes, strata, luscious desserts, salads, and all the usual complements to bagels.
The Long Goodbye As E likes to say: WASPs leave and never say good-bye. Jews say good-bye and never leave.  That old joke holds true from me.  Somewhere between the caffeine and carbs and the conversation, I get stuck like a fly, buzzing around the room, never quite ready to get on the road. M gets impatient with my excruciating long goodbyes, actually walks out the door without me and waits in the car in self defense.  Can’t say that I blame him.  We have a four-hour drive to get home. Back in Detroit, there will be no gatherings like this, not any time soon. No sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces to drop in for brunch, or for an afternoon chat.  So what can I do?  With my heart scattered to the wind, with family all bidding adieu, going their separate ways in Chicago, or back to Cleveland, Sarasota Dallas,and St. Louis, I  throw a kiss  . . .  to the road  
humming . .  . hava nagila, hava nagila, hava nagila,    
In case you were wondering:  here’s the translation of the ubiquitous Hava Nagila

Hava nagila x3  Let’s rejoice
v’nismeha   ...and be happy

Hava neranenah x3  Let’s sing
v’nismeha      ...and be happy

Uru, uru ahim!  Awake brothers
Uru ahim, b’lev sameah   Awake and be happy

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ready, set . . .

Mazal tov to Z and L today, B'nai Mitzvot!   
(Photos taken yesterday at the "rehearsal.") 

Reading verses from Genesis, (Vayiera ) in which Abraham negotiates with G-d to save the righteous of Sodom -- exploring themes of hospitatity and social justice.

Four generations of family and friends are in town to celebrate. 
(More to come.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's so special?

I’m a Jewish mother. As Jewish moms are wont to do, I like to brag about my kids.  
Z and L aren’t my kids, but hey, they’re close enough. Z and L are my sister’s grandkids -- my nephew’s twins, which makes me Z’s and L’s aunt - uh, great-aunt, to be genealogically technical.
Bragging about Z and L involves high praise for their parents, as well. D and E are devoted parents and fierce advocates for their kids when need be. 
This coming Saturday, Z & L will be called together to the Torah, as we say, on their 13th birthday, to celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvah -- B’nai Mitzvot, as we say.   
Together, they have studied and prepared for this day. They have learned the Hebrew prayers - the liturgy of the Shabbat service in which they will lead the congregation.  They have learned trope -- how to chant their portion of the Torah reading this week, a few verses from the chapters called Vayiera in Genesis).  They have prepared their commentary (d’var Torah) and written their thank you’s, all part of the ritual as it has grown over the generations from a Jewish rite of passage into a major social event.  Over the course of the weekend, there will be numerous occasions, both casual and formal, for gathering of friends and family, culminating in a party with 140 guests on Saturday evening.  
No doubt over the course of the weekend, we will hear the word “special”  spoken many times over.  After all, a double Bar/Bat Mitzvah is special in its own right.  
The words “special” and “normal” have always confounded me when we talk about children in general, and specifically, when people ask me about L and Z.  You see, to me Z and L. are both special  - and normal.  Both have needs, albeit different.  As every set of twins are “exceptional,” so too, are L & Z, having been born with the unique benefit of the other.  The fact that L was born with Down Syndrome, no doubt, pushes Z forward.  And the fact that Z is not “Down” pulls L up.  
I can still recall the music of Z&L’s first conversations in baby-babble in which they seemed content and in perfect sync with one another at a Thanksgiving dinner.  At thirteen, pulled in their separate ways, like normal sibs, they can push each other’s buttons. But the two of them together still share a dynamic which continues to be a wonder and miracle to me, and that, too has everything to do with their parents, the choices they’ve made as a family, and all the people they’ve let into their lives.  I don’t know a family more open, welcoming and inclusive than theirs.  
Now here comes the real bragging part.  
To visit my nephew’s family on any given day is to jump into a whirlwind of planned activities. There’s the usual extra curricular stuff -- piano, Hebrew, Sunday school, Summer camp.  And sports. Lots of sports. Z plays hockey. L is a figure skater. With three years under her slim belt, L has competed and won medals in the Illinois Special Olympics. Through that activity the whole family has been involved in supporting L’s additional role as a Special Olympics Global Messenger and speaker.  L has also played the lead roles in two productions of Chicago’s Special Gifts Theatre. 
I love that Z is a chess whiz, (read that chess, not cheese whiz) who can beat the pants off of me, while Lauren can kibitz with the best of them, spotting the moves I miss. I love that Z is a voracious reader. And I love that L of late has begun to write lyrical “memoirs,” songs and poetry on scraps of paper and notebook pages that her parents have begun to collect and assemble.  I love that Z saves his allowance for a skateboard and video games, and that L spends her allowance on manicures. 
I also love that Z and L are a blending of their parents traditions. How many baby Christenings have you attended where dad recites a Hebrew prayer? Where is it written that potato latkes can’t be on the menu Christmas Day?  Theirs is a Jewish/Catholic household covering the bases, so to speak, and I believe Z and L are all the richer for the sharing and understanding - and gentle negotiation -- that is the fabric of their home life.  
Next weekend, there will be lots of fuss, lots of food, lots of outfit-changing, lots to catch up on family news, with enough mazel tov’s to go all around. A “special” occasion for all of us. Come back in a week or so, and I tell you about it.  
And thanks for dropping by today.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Signs of Life in Ford Country

Lo and behold, so good to see a concept car back on the road - or at least parked on the street where I live. Like spotting the first robin perched in a bare tree after a long, cold winter, to find a new Explorer in camouflage does the heart good.  
As for the classic T-bird parked in the driveway next door?  Correct me if I’m mistaken,  the flip up headlights date it back to early 80’s.  There you have it in a passing glance, an icon of the city’s true and abiding love of autos.  

I’m not a reader of Car and Driver or a follower of Motor Trends. Rarely do I  take note of cars, new or old,  coming or going, one way or the other.   But these days in Detroit, you can’t help but notice:  the city is coming back to life on wheels.  Car carriers have returned to the road, hauling shiny new vehicles. The volume of rush hour traffic in the morning has perceptibly increased over the summer  - we’re almost back to respectable levels of congestion.  Apparently, the sales figures for the quarter  are starting to confirm the turn-around for  the Big Three, with Ford and GM in the black for the first time in years.   In an article published just yesterday in the New York Times, Bill Vlasic reports a glimmer of hope:
“Recent surveys of consumers by CNW Research show a marked change in attitudes toward Detroit by younger buyers in particular. Three years ago, more than 40 percent of new-vehicle shoppers under the age of 30 said they would never consider a Detroit-made product. Now that figure is 32 percent and dropping steadily.”
Is Detroit refueling, really?  Time will tell.  For more go to:

(and thanks for driving by) 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So much to read. Not making a dent even in my own collection. For book notes and brief reviews from time to time, I've added a Book Shelf to this site. For my latest post, please turn to the new page on the navigation bar above. And thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Facing the Page

One thing about blogging: as insulated and singular as it feels, as the words go down on the screen, my window is open to the world. I can hear the traffic. Beyond the real voices of my neighbors outside, the basketball bouncing on the pavement, a dog barking – there’s the clamor of the Internet, ever present, a connection I’ve chosen to make, subject to the inquiry and surveillance of anyone out there who happens by.

And with that comes my own curiosity – a prevailing need to know, an intense desire to grasp something new every day. No matter how mundane my topic, knowing someone out there is searching and possibly finding this makes the pursuit all the more interesting. Say I were writing about something as boring as changing a light bulb, and here you are, on the same page with me -- I have the obligation, would I not, of knowing something about light bulb-changing, and advising you, perhaps, that you could save money on your electric bill (approximately how much TBD with a quick Google search) if you changed your conventional incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, or better yet, LED fixtures. And let’s say, you were searching for more than straightforward information. As the writer in charge, I would want to add color or humor or something of value to further illuminate the topic for you-- or poof, you’d turn off the light and be gone.

But I digress. The lighting in your home is your business. My business is facing the page.

I’ve been blogging (and not calling it writing) for a number of weeks now. As I mentioned in a previous post, I started the blog at the encouragement of my friend, Ann. ( see Fact or Fiction ).The other day, Ann upped the ante on this “writing thing” in a post on her blog, Lake E Writer.

Go… she suggests, or casually just drop in – to a website called NaNoWriMo – NaNo what? (Sounds like a respiratory disorder when you say it fast. Stands for National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is a community, a non-profit org that fosters writing and writers. Judging from the cheery demeanor of the site, they sponsor all sorts of literary merriment and madness. Joining them involves a commitment to write a novel – in a minimum of 50,000 words – in 30 days in the month of November.

“I’m in, I so want to go there,” says Ann. “Anyone else? Come on, jump in, it’ll be fun”.

50,000 words in 30 days. I do the math, 1667 words a day. Not counting Thanksgiving, ‘cuz I’m already committed to the turkey, not to mention the stuffing. 50,000 words is a short novel, or a long short story -- or more realistically only the start of real work. No one at NaNoWriMo seems to care about the weight of your words, but they’re happy to count them for you, with little goal posts along the way, like a Walkathon or a Blood Drive. There’s no winner for the fastest, the smartest, or longest 50,000 words submitted. The prize is what do you think: a novel? As best as you can write one of your own.

But I’m a No-NoWriMo, I write back to Ann. My engine doesn’t run like that, I reply in my comment on her blog, noting that’s I’m using a panicky tone and exclamatory punctuation. The lady doth protest.

Next morning, I’m still thinking about the 50,000 words. I’m intrigued. I don’t have a story. But I have an image – perhaps the glimmer of a character that I can’t get out of my head. And perhaps that’s all I need to start. No one’s saying the writing has to be polished, everyone understands it can be 50,000 words of scraps and pieces, sketches, crapped out however it comes. “If you think it’s a novel, then it’s a novel,” the helpful NaNoWhammy people like to say. Righty-right,write. The challenge then is to go down that road, dig through the tunnel, and get to the other side. 50,000 words in 30 days, give or take the Thanksgiving turkey.

Am I talking myself into this madness? If you’re reading this and believe in fairies, clap! And I’ll hear you. And perhaps I'll believe in my own fiction, as well.

So Ann, I’m not quite ready to say with full heart and absolute certainty that I’m in, but hey, you got me thinking, and that’s a helluva start.

Dang this blogging thing anyway!

Oh yeah, and in the words of the NaNoWrito people . . . let me just add, if I were a song, I’d be a Beatles song,

Obladi Oblada, life goes on, bra!

Lala! How the life goes on

(As always, thanks for dropping by)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Only in Ann Arbor

Living within the gravitational pull of Ann Arbor, I report: sunny skies, high today in the 70's. Bloody Mary Bar opens at 9 a.m. Starting to party early, 200,000 fans will head bumper-to- bumper into Ann Arbor for the game:

Michigan vs. Michigan State 3:30 pm

110,000 will jam into seats in the The Big House. The rest will tweet, text and locate their favorite spots to park vans and plant butts in front of 52-inch plasma TVs, along with other tailgate essentials (both legal and banned), including porch couches*, chairs, tables, grills, kegs, coolers and. . . don't forget the grits and greens.

Today's Tailgate Theme: The Urban/ BBQ/ Graffiti
combining soul food, Southern BBQ with 40's of malt liquor. Graffiti T-shirts are also rumored for this event.

*Also noting: Ann Arbor's porch couch ban (? who knew) has recently gone into effect, though city officials have allowed for an amnesty period to allow residents time to dispatch their upholstered seating alfresco to a free drop-off, Oct 22-24.

Thanks for stopping by

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our network life: an infinite reflection

Try this: go to Google and search any three words that pop into your head, and see what comes up.

No matter how clever, pithy, or stupid your word combination, your search is likely to yield a dot-com, a blog, or an article on your “subject.”

I love this form of “research.” It’s superficial and amusing. And careful, it can be addictive. The Internet is a medium of powerful influence. Could it be dictating a new reality? Rewiring the way we think, see, hear, speak and spend our most valuable commodity, our time?

A social medium

In its vast expanse, the Internet can also be wildly disorienting, a source of unreliable information and cultural exchange as deceptive and mesmerizing as the infinite reflection of opposing mirrors in a dressing room. So what exactly are we doing knocking our Conehead brains into the mind-meld of the Internet?

Are we evolving?

Could we be interconnected “modules of a planetary mind” as Global Brain scientist philosopher, Howard Bloom, suggests? Are we a “multiprocessor intelligence,” adapting to a new social dynamic, a digital territorial imperative? Or are we merely browsers and shoppers, grazers following the algorithms and marketing strategies of the real moguls out there?

Following the money

Are you a fan of Writers in the Gawker Media network can clock up to 357 million pageviews a week. Are you a friend on Facebook? Facebook, the McDonald’s of the Internet, and its top destination, serves 690 billion pageviews per month. That’s more than 15 million pageviews a minute. (Please don’t check my math.) Twitter? Chirps at 6.4 billion pageviews per month.

...or blogging in obscurity
Thanks to you, and the three readers online at this moment, this site has stats only a mother could love. In its first month, Turtle Crossing had 700 pageviews. And my guess is that at least half of those “views” in the first weeks were probably my own, duh, until I learned to turn off the tracker on my browser. Still, even three hundred pageviews in the blogosphere seems incredible to me, especially when I see a small, but growing “audience” of accidental tourists from Canada, Brazil, Portugal, U.K, France, Denmark, Germany, Russia and South Korea. (So what are you guys doing out there, and how the hell did you find me? Are you a true reflection or an illusion in my mirror?)

Don’t get me wrong. I love voyaging through the Internet, flying solo beneath the stratosphere, in this ramshackle craft I call myBlog. And why not? This is myPersonalSpace, myFriendshipPage, myFritterAwayYourTime, my creativeOutlet, myEBayWatch, MyOwnSlogging attempt to virtually ... what, dance with the stars?

“From Blogs to Riches”

Google the words, “From Blogs to Riches,” and what pops up on the webpage in “272,000 results in .19 seconds” is another terrain worth exploring. Here you’ll find a snapshot of the American Dream in extreme. Topping the list are the stories we love to read: the stuff of online legends, the get-rich-quick schemes and start-ups, the empires built in garages and college dormitories, the tireless Oprah picks and Huffington Reports, the Julia & Julia’s megablog success stories pulled out of the recipe books, zen gardens, and grocery carts of desperate housewives and divorcees. The is our Pop. Our Culture. Our Fix. We are tuned in and wired for curiosity and compliance.

This is not a rant, or even a complaint. I’m just saying . . . we’re a networking species by nature.

Reality check.

As free-and-easy and democratic as AllThisSpace is, (noting that I mean democratic with a lower case, not referring to the party) the realm and the future of the Internet belongs to those who are light years ahead of the throng. The vast distinction between the haves and have-nots in cyberspace is money. Influence and power. And there always will be: those who’ve got it and those of us who in no-way-on-this-green-Earth (or on any virtual flight into the Ethernet) will ever get it.

And pure economics - fame and fortune - are not the only factors at work. Apparently, there’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Clay Shirky, an instructor at New York University, suggests a “network theory,” contending that there's a mathematical model dictating the way information travels inside groups of loosely connected people, such as users of the Web. In an article on the blog boom published in 2006 (ages ago by Internet standards) writer, Clay Thompson cites Shirky's power-law curve:

The power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: When we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. Movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. Investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. Popularity breeds popularity." Source: Blogs to Riches - The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom -- New York Magazine

“Social physics,” Shirky calls it. Like gravity, it’s one of those forces of nature. Imagine now: what will be. In the survival of the fittest.

(As always, thanks for stopping by.)

For more on Blogs to Riches:

Blogs to Riches: Perez Hilton Migrates Into Cosmetics, Fashion and Music

Rafat Ali: from blogs to riches Media

Blogs to Riches: Popularity and Traffic in the Blogosphere

Blogs to Riches - The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom -- New York Magazine

The Technorati Top 10

1. Huffington Post

2. TechCrunch

3. Gizmodo

4. Mashable

5. Engadget

6. Gawker

7. The Daily Beast


9. Boing Boing

10. Think Progress

Photo source: Ben Fry, New York Magazine

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

RSS feed?

. . . Spaghetti Tacos?
What kids want to eat. How 'bout you?

Apparently this dish is moving like hotcakes on the Internet this morning, via an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed from The New York Times Dining and Wine.
My thanks to Helene Stapinksi, writer; Francesco Tonelli, photographer.
My excuse? I burned my post last night.

Thanks for stopping by, and do tell: what do you serve in a pinch?

For the full story:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Before what comes next

My post-in-progress today is not yet soup to serve.

But this just in, from M, my faithful news-browser, thumbing through The Opinions Pages of The New York Times.

"Change or Perish," writes op-ed columnist, Roger Cohen, in a meditation on technology and the pace of life, ever changing.

"Before text and tweets, there was time. . . before apps, there were attention spans" and so it goes, in a masterful display of wordplay.

In contrast, check out yesterday's TwitterBlog post from CEO, Ev Williams, leaving his post (in 396 words) to address issues of work life balance. Twitter Blog: #newtwitterceo

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Blue Water Ramble. Not today.

What kind of crazy is this? Sunday morning. Alarm set for 5 a.m wake up. The bikes are prepped and ready, one bundled into the car, the other strapped to a carrier on the trunk. Our layers of gear - helmets, shoes, gloves, leg warmers, knee brace, butt butter (really, don’t ask) -- have all been painstakingly laid out the night before, ready for our jump on the day. We grab breakfast - coffee, eggs -- the caffeine and calories and we need to wake up and power up. It’s 40 degrees, pitch dark, the forecast for the day is not the promise of blue water and clear skies for a bike ride on the shores of St. Clair, Michigan. According to the weather report, today will be overcast, temperatures in the low 50s with a 40 to 60% chance of rain.

It's 5:45 a.m. My husband, M, my partner in life and life’s adventures, has mixed his eHammer cocktails, stirred but not shaken in the water bottles he’ll carry on the bike. I’m still sipping coffee.

It’s pitch dark. It’s cold. M will ride 100 miles today - a “Century Ride” - his 4th for the season -- with a handful of others who will meet up with him at 7. I’m coming along for the ride. Opting for the shorter route, I’m signed up for this Blue Water Ramble thing for 45 miles. That’s 45 miles “in the saddle” peddling uphill and down on a bike -- riding with? No idea, really. Riding, why? For bragging rights. To say I’ve done it. For curiosity sake, for sheer aesthetics, to see the fall colors, and the blue water. . .no wait, it’s pitch dark. It’s cold. I occurs to me I’ve never had a flat tire, never changed one ever. I hesitate, I waver. Biking is no sport for worriers. “Where are my winter riding gloves, anyway?”

It’s 6 o clock and I’m still standing at the door. “Please, don’t go on my account,” M offers,“This is my crazy, not yours.”

I see the point, (eager to have found the point, actually) imagining all too clearly, slogging four hours through the rain, legs cramping, peddling for miles, tiring even before the stop for lunch. Cycling is M’s passion, not mine. Really.

“Be safe, have a good ride,” I tell him standing at the door. “Stay warm, have a good write,” he tells me.

Wimp. I say to myself.

I’m a biking wimp, it’s true. I say a little prayer every time I get on and off my beautiful Trek, noting that it’s the color of a harmless Creamsicle. “Stay up and stay on,” I pray, “and don’t break anything.” I’m a tough old bird, with the skinned and scarred knees of a 12-year-old. Truth be told, I’m a skittish rider, (always have been) and I’m only in marginal shape for a cold ride into the wind along the blue, blue waters of St. Clair shores today.

Biking wimp.

7 a.m. Still pitch dark. M should be pulling into St. Clair High School where the Clinton River Riders’ Club is set to start the event. There will be 1200 riders this morning, give or take the faint-of-heart and fair-weather ramblers, like me. Damn the forecast, I’m riding out the morning, spending a couple of hours on a hard seat - at my desk.

7:16 daybreak at last. And whady’know? A pale yellow and pink Michigan sky. Looks like it’s going to be a near perfect Fall-color day for a ride along the blue, blue waters of Lake Huron. Wimp!

The sun’s up. Rising higher, shedding dazzling light on trees. Not a soul out on the street. There’ a bright Michigan sky and a clear road ahead right outside the door. The Trek awaits downstairs.

Some kinda crazy, I take it for a spin.