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.