For some time now, I’ve been mulling the idea of writing a piece on the Fearsome Wildlife of Detroit. Nature is red in tooth and claw everywhere, but I’m convinced it’s a little redder here. At least by the standards of the Midwest; we’re not talking Montana here.
I’ve mentioned the comeback of the pheasant in inner-city neighborhoods, where they find the vast unmowed plots of vacant land a fair approximation of their native prairie. Coyotes long ago found their way to the outer suburbs, and surely a few have followed rail lines or the riverfront or some other efficient route into the city, where many tasty pheasant live. When I did that rowing camp in July, the coach spoke of seeing fox at daybreak along the river.
But there’s more spice in the stew. The other day I stopped in the Eastern Market, where a collarless pit bull bitch, pendulous teats waving, trotted right through the middle of the place, a bowl of some sort clenched in her jaws. (There was a woman in Fort Wayne who walked a pit bull through our neighborhood sometimes; the dog was never seen without a stuffed crab plushie held in its mouth. Must be a breed thing.) A TV reporter told me that several times she and her crew had to wave off the 11 p.m. live standup on breaking news in the city, because the wild dogs were menacing them.
And don’t even talk to me about the black squirrels. After three seasons of observation, I’m convinced these suckers are genetically modified for extra craftiness and boldness. A while back I noticed one on the street outside my house, acting oddly — it kept jumping on and off the tire of a parked car. After about five jumps, it had figured out how to get from the tire to the fender, and up the windshied to the roof, where it entered the car through a two-inch gap left by a cracked window.
I thought the neighbors might want to know a live squirrel was plundering the car, so I went over and knocked on the door of the house the car was parked in front of. It wasn’t their car, but we watched together as the squirrel emerged from the car with a slice of stale pizza in its mouth, taken from a Little Caesar’s box on the floor of the back seat.
And, of course, we’re the birthplace of “Animal Cops.”
I’m interested in what happens when all these critters get together, the coyotes and the pits and the ballsy squirrels. I’m thinking it’s pretty amazing. I’m thinking it’s Sharks v. Jets. I’m thinking that observing such things will probably require a blind, an infrared camera and hours and hours of freezing my butt off. For 50 cents a word, maybe not.
I had a job interview in Houston last summer. Didn’t get the job. (The job didn’t get anyone; it was reabsorbed into the company, I think. Just so you know I’m not a total loser.) Well, thank God. Although I’m kind of sorry I won’t be covering it — I’ve never done a hurricane before. I would take a vow not to call them “whirlygirls,” as Travis McGee does, from back in the day when they all had women’s names.
Over at the DetNews, Nance gets her rant on.
Mindy said on September 23, 2005 at 7:31 am
My car gets 25 mpg and is a gas glutton compared to the econoboxes I drove for many years. But I managed to overcome my shame and buy it anyway, dang me, because I keep my cars longer than most people keep their spouses. For four years it’s been used sparingly; my driving habits have changed very little during these times of increasing gas prices. At the time I bought it, it was the only car on the road that came directly from the factory equipped to meet California’s strict emissions requirements. This still amazes me. Excellent gas mileage isn’t the only way for a car to be environmentally friendly.
Nance said on September 23, 2005 at 7:49 am
My Passat is no Prius, but it gets about the same mileage as yours, and will sit in the mid-30s on the highway if I keep it on cruise control and stay around the speed limit.
What absolutely chaps my ass is reading a story — I’d link to it, but it’s in the Columbus Dispatch, which allows no non-paid access — that says Americans are finally spurning the SUV. One of the people interviewed is a guy who’s favorably impressed (!!!!!) by the Hummer H3 (!!!!!!!!!!), because it gets 16 MPG in the city, as opposed to the H2’s 13. I kid you not.
Randy said on September 23, 2005 at 9:40 am
Here in the Great White North, our gas spiked at $1.25 per litre a few weeks ago, and pardon my woeful math, but in gallons and converted crudely to US funds it would be like paying 5.50 per gallon in a US city, I’m not aware of what your current gas price is – di it get that high? Here, it has dropped about 20 percent in the last two weeks.
Anyway, there has not been one story about how people can change habits or save money, or just generally use less gas. Instead, the big story was about how the gas companies might have to buy new signage, since the current ones are not equipped to handle prices of a dollar or more. Riveting, compelling stuff…
mary said on September 23, 2005 at 10:30 am
I’ve got a four year old VW Beetle, and it’s not as good as the 84 Honda I had when it comes to mileage, it’s about three times as good as the huge hogs I see all over the parking lots around here. The whole SUV mythology has always baffled me. They aren’t safer. They don’t actually hold more cargo than a minivan, and they’re ridiculously inconvenient to park, garage, and get kids in and out of. I can do a Costco run in the beetle. A major costco run if the kids aren’t along. I car pool in it. Ok, the tall kid gets a little mashed if he sits behind the driver’s seat, but life’s tough. Before the hurricanes we in California were paying close to three bucks a gallon. Why? Demand we were told. It wasn’t all coming from China, was it? Maybe it was the four ton hogs hauling one person, probably talking on a cell phone, from the exurbs. Maybe a 150 mile round trip getting 9 miles to the gallon. Spewing crap into the air, burning oil, necessitating more freeways, more parking lots.
I can rant with the best of them on this topic. I just flat don’t understand the worship of the auto. It’s a very expensive religion in so many ways.
joodyb said on September 23, 2005 at 10:33 am
That’s astonishing, Randy (i’ve got $2.49 in the Twin Cities this morning). Global fuel price paradigm gives me a migraine. Here in the U.S., gasoline is like bread and milk: you bitch, but you pay the price. And I’d gladly pay that price, given Americans are losing their lives and their children. That was an exceptionally inspired rant, Nancy; you could have campaigned on that 50-cent gas tax your own self, had you been in the right place and time (few if any politicos bothered to frame it so succinctly, and it was something everyone knew, deep down, in March 2003). Come to think of it, John Kerry looks like a bigger loser every day, especially this week.
Mindy said on September 23, 2005 at 10:43 am
Loulou said on September 23, 2005 at 11:29 am
Gas was $2.79 in Albuquerque, NM yesterday. It cost me $27 to fill my tank. It was $3.05 recently. When I go out I try to do all my chores at once and do them in a logical sequence. I would walk more places, but usually I go out to buy groceries, call in at the library, buy “stuff” from Home Depot…couldn’t carry it home anyway. When I see those Hummers though I feel like sabotaging them.
brian stouder said on September 23, 2005 at 12:02 pm
See � I thought the responses would all be about animal stories and Rita. But I’m outta step once again�.oh well.
Animal story: Day before yesterday a lost racing pigeon flew through an open overhead door and into our (northeast Indiana) warehouse, and simply perched on the shipping desk. Apparently he had decided he was quite lost enough, and was done flying (I say �he� because, clearly, he hadn�t stopped to ask directions) A fellow walked over and picked him up, placed him in a box, and then we called the zoo. A fellow from the zoo came out and got the bird, and by using the data on his legband (and Google) determined that the pigeon was from New York state(!).
Hurricane Rita: My fine young son moved down to Baytown Texas 2 months ago. Baytown is on Galveston Bay � and was looking to have a very hard time thanks to Rita. He and his group evacuated in two vehicles � and burned � a tank of fuel in 20 hours, and made it approximately 60 miles to Katy TX � which is just west of Houston�s beltway. There they opted to halt � not wishing to chance running out of fuel and being stuck in the open. But they have a hotel room � and the storm has seemingly shifted northward enough that things are looking less ominous than they were last night.
Nance said on September 23, 2005 at 12:31 pm
Brian, about two or three years ago I found a racing pigeon hanging around the FWN parking lot, too weak to fly, living off the crabapples that were falling from the ornamental trees there. I called someone from the local racing-pigeon club, and he came out and caught her. He looked up her band data, and she was from much closer — Maumee, Ohio. All he did, he said, was feed her up and let her rest for a few days, then set her free. That’s the etiquette. He said a trip to Maumee would be a piece of cake for her.
I hope yours has the same good luck.
brian stouder said on September 23, 2005 at 12:37 pm
Regarding the Chronicle story on this morning’s bus fire, I was struck by the strange unpredictability of the ‘news’; that is to say – the television news product that we have seen over the past 2 days.
If you had to choose –
a seat on an airliner hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour and forced to make a smokey, sparky landing on fouled landing gear –
or a seat on a bus crawling along a freeway at much-reduced speed, which somehow developes a mechanical fire –
which would you have picked?
Dorothy said on September 23, 2005 at 9:18 pm
Re: gas (sorry Brian – no animal stories from me today) – I bought gas on my birthday (8/31) for $2.45 a gallon. Hasn’t been anywhere near there since. It’s going for $2.79, on average, here now. ‘Here’ being Greenville, SC. But I have a feeling the Rita effect is going to hit us soon and it will again be over $3 a gallon.
My kids were stunned to hear I was paying about 67 cents a gallon when I started to drive in 1973. BTW – I drive a Malibu. We had leased Blazers in the past, but no more SVU’s for me. Them days are OVER.
brian stouder said on September 23, 2005 at 10:15 pm
Happy belated birthday, Dorothy!!
I began driving in 1977 – and honestly I have no idea what I was paying for gas – but it wasn’t much; certainly it was well below a dollar per gallon.
But I remember going for a ride with a neighbor girl when I was a bit younger – and she gassed up with a $5 bill – and got change back! (and it was a powder blue Ford Fairlane with round tail lights)
The only time gasoline has gotten my attention was on September 11, 2001, when I was driving home from work and saw my first panic-buy line at a gas station (it was lined up out of the lot and down the street – which I thought was stupid at the time, and still) – and then after Katrina when the word was out on the radio that the price had “shot up” – except at one station that was hopelessly lined up.
The price went from approxinately $2.70/gal to $3.20/gal – 50 cents or less than a 20% spike – which pales in comparison to what NIPSCO is about to do to us for natural gas this winter
alex said on September 24, 2005 at 10:13 pm
Seems to me, back in ’78, I knew a place I could get cigarettes for 45 cents a pack, and gas wasn’t much more per gallon. (I was actually driving about four years before that, but as a twelve-year-old I didn’t make it a habit to go into town for fuel. I merely picked up friends along country roads so’s we could inspect our pot plants piggybacked on cornstalks and imbibe on the ditchweed we’d bought somewhere else.) Inflationwise, cigarettes and fuel are still neck and neck here in Hoosiertucky, with fuel only recently just catching up. In Chicago, cigarettes were over six bucks a pack before fuel ever got to be over two bucks a gallon.
Earlier this year, now being a cuntry boi again, I went and dumped my Jetta and bought a full-size pickup and now pay fifty to sixty bucks to fill ‘er up. Couldn’t live without it–all the lumber and stones I haul were creaming my little Veedub–but paying out the ass like an Oz convict.