There may be nine million stories in the naked city, but there’s also just one. I expect most people would say Detroit’s story is encapsulated in its nicknames — Motown, the Motor City, the Arsenal of Democracy. Those who could stand to read a few more sentences might insert the decline of its industrial base and uncertain future. Me, I think it all boils down to race.
Take this picture:
It’s not precisely the border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park — the legal line is behind the row of houses to the right. But that is the last street in Detroit, as it gives way to the Pointes. That waterway is a canal that runs up from the lake, and the houses on the left side back up to it, on the Detroit side. When our Realtor drove us by, I said, “A fence? You’re kidding.” He chuckled and said, “Some people call it the moat.”
True, it’s not a fence with, oh, locked gates. You can get around it here and there. I took the picture from a bridge. But as a psychological barrier between the black city and its white suburbs — water and a fence — it’s hard to beat.
I rode down Alter Road, the one in the photo, to see where the waterway ended. It runs below a bridge and into Lake St. Clair just south of Windmill Point, the prettier of GPP’s two lakefront parks. This is where you could once find the Lakeside Trailer Court, now scorched earth. There’s a city park down there, filled at noon with fishermen. There’s a bait/party store (do fishermen need anything more than bait and beer?).
And there’s the usual decay. Detroit is usually described in terms along the lines of “a burnt-out shell of a city,” and that’s not far wrong. But I can’t help it — there’s still something alive in the place, and it makes itself known in the strangest ways. Alan was driving to work the other day and a cock pheasant ran across the road in front of him. A pheasant! At first I thought it had to be an escapee from some Grosse Pointe plutocrat’s personal zoo, but no. Turns out they’re making a comeback in the city. Why? Because so many structures have been knocked down and returned to grassland, it’s…pheasant habitat. Go figure.
On the down side, we also have, oh, feral dogs. That find abandoned bodies. But pheasant, too!
I forgot to mention that when I crossed over the line from the suburbs to the city, at that very moment, the iPod tossed up a Dr. Dre track, followed by Smokey Robinson. Either my iPod has GPS, or it’s smarter than I am, or…it’s Jesus Christ. Jon Carroll parses the religious iconography of your operating system.
I don’t know if some of these crackbrain ideas the religious right is floating are trial balloons, but if so, it’s time to start taking aim. Take this particularly moronic column in the L.A. Times about the burgeoning “pharmacists’ rights” movement. Note the flying leap here:
I once worked in a philosophy department in which one of the professors was active in NAMBLA, the controversial North American Man/Boy Love Assn. The secretary, a deeply religious woman named Judy, was assigned the task of typing up his man-boy love book manuscript and sending it off to the publishers.
She came close to quitting, but she was the sole provider for three children. Finally, she held her nose and typed one-handed.
I think of Judy when I think about the issue of whether pharmacists should be permitted to refuse to fill prescriptions at which their conscience balks. The conscience of some pharmacists balks at birth control and morning-after pills.
Note: Taking birth control pills, and expecting a pharmacist to fill a prescription for same, is equated to man-boy love. Who ARE these people? And who gave them the keys to my country?
It goes on: What you should ask yourself in this case is not whether you think people should have access to birth control, but whether you should be required to do things that violate your deepest convictions. Should a soldier be required to torture prisoners, for example? Should he refuse to do so if ordered? Birth control = torture. I can’t stand it.
I don’t read celebrity bios as a rule — with exceptions — but I’m especially not going to read Jane Fonda’s. But this review was a hoot, especially the dirt on Ted Turner: Turner calls Fonda the day after her divorce from Hayden hits the newspapers to ask her out on a date. She demurs. He calls back three months later, and she accepts. She appears in a black miniskirt, halter top, and spike heels, and Turner becomes so frantic that he has to excuse himself six times during dinner to use the toilet. On their second date, at Turner’s Montana ranch, the billionaire pleads, “Come on, why don’t we make love? Huh?” When Fonda relents, Turner squeals, “Hot dog!” Fonda says little about the prostrate aerobics that follow, though she coyly alludes to the spurting fountains of Versailles. After nine years of marriage, Turner dumps Fonda for what he charmingly refers to as his “backup.”
“Hot dog!” Now that’s one I’ve never heard before.
Danny said on April 7, 2005 at 9:31 am
Who ARE these people? And who gave them the keys to my country?
What I want to know is who is the cute toddler and who gave him the keys to the the computer! Holy Schnikies.
mary said on April 7, 2005 at 11:16 am
Now I’ll be ranting all day about another moron. People around here are barely over my Cornyn rants from Tuesday. Did you see he made a pathetic attempt to recant?
Danny said on April 7, 2005 at 11:58 am
Umm, yeah. The sky is falling.
Bushwick Bill said on April 7, 2005 at 12:07 pm
Off topic, but…anyone else notice the series of attacks on conservative speakers here in the Midwest? David Horowitz was attacked with a pie yesterday at Butler Univ. in Indianapolis. Bill Kristol was attacked at Earlham College in Rochmond last week. I believe a third conservative speaker was attacked at a Michigan college last week as well. Say what you want about conservatives stifling free speech, but it’s increasingly clear that it is the Left which seeks to stifle free speech, and they’re increasingly resorting to violence. Scary times. These leftist pie-throwers aren’t too many steps away from their Lefty brethren who murdered millions in the 20th century. I worry what their next step will be!
John said on April 7, 2005 at 12:16 pm
Are Eric Rudolph and Tim McVey two of these leftists resorting to violence?
Dan Abrams had this “moral pharmicist” debate on last night. This is a total crock. I am most concerned about the small town with one pharmacy or that some national chain decides to take up this nonsense.
juan said on April 7, 2005 at 4:40 pm
Bloggers (and commenters) of the world, just a tiny bit of unsolicited advice:
Before you debate your politics in print, for the love of GOD, take a couple of minutes to learn the top ten or so logical fallacies.
a/k/a: Debate 101
When you espouse ad hominem, or guilt-by-association, or Non Sequitur, or Undistributed Middle, you look as silly as the guy who says “That’s a mute point,” or “Irregardless.”
And when I violate these rules, you can take great satisfaction in humiliating me publicly and mercilessly.
Danny said on April 7, 2005 at 4:49 pm
BTW, in case anyone missed the reference in my first post, it was to all of “jillzilla’s” pictures that are coming across the flicker badge. The tyranny of the toddler.
4dbirds said on April 7, 2005 at 4:51 pm
Pies? Did someone mention pies? Hum, perhaps it is time to whip up that tasty Indiana Sugar Cream Pie.
mary said on April 7, 2005 at 5:56 pm
You make the pie, Dorothy and I will do the macaroni and cheese.
alex said on April 7, 2005 at 7:29 pm
What was Kristol doing at Earlham? A neocon merely setting foot in that place could be seen as justifiable provocation. After all, a bunch of pacifist kids try to go anywhere near him and they’re liable to end up in Guantanamo.
Laura said on April 7, 2005 at 8:41 pm
What? No Mitch Albom? And you’re in Detroit?
Dorothy said on April 8, 2005 at 6:09 am
Can never have too many pies, though, Mary. Count me in for mac & cheese, but me thinks a nice lemon meringue would be swell, too!
Nance said on April 8, 2005 at 8:59 am
Re: Mitch. I’m watching this story unfold with a certain cocked eyebrow, but no great outrage. It’s common knowledge he’s bigger than the paper, and nothing less than a tsunami will knock him out of the place. He’d have to get caught red-handed plagiarizing Frank DeFord while in bed with a teen-age girl AND a boy, simultaneously smoking crack.
But don’t count on that happening.
And, to be fair (and incredibly guilty), I had a confession to make: I’ve been listening to Mitch’s radio show, and I sort of … like it. He’s not my cup of tea as a columnist or author, but on the radio he comes across as a bright regular guy with no particular ax to grind. Which may say more about everybody else on talk radio than him, but there you are.
mary said on April 8, 2005 at 11:46 am
Whether we are eating the pies or throwing them, I think a nice mixed berry pie (they’re just as good using frozen berries as fresh…honest) is a good addition.
Bob said on April 11, 2005 at 9:43 pm
Re: the pheasants —
I read recently that somebody has proposed farming some of Detroit’s vacant land. Maybe they should open it up to homesteaders.
I grew up on a farm, and I still have a tractor and plow. Should I hitch the trailer to my pickup, load ’em up, and head that way?