I don’t have to explain to my genius readers — and certainly not to Ashley, raging defender of New Orleans — that no one really gives a crap about urban America anymore. As long as we have Broadway, as long as we have major league baseball in a downtown stadium with a nice sports bar nearby, that’ll do for most of us. Most of the U.S. lives in suburbia now anyway. Certainly the registered voters do. And you know what that means.
Certainly I do. But my suburb is cheek-to-jowl with one of the most notoriously dysfunctional cities in the United States, and let me tell you, reading my morning newspaper is rarely boring.
If you’re a boxing fan, you probably know about the Kronk gym. It’s where trainer Emanuel Steward shaped Tommy “the Hitman” Hearns, where dozens of lesser-known pugilists have trained and fought. If you saw Out of Sight, there’s a great scene with George Clooney, Ving Rhames and Don Cheadle, shot there. (Cheadle remarks on the famous thermostat setting preferred by Steward: Boiling. Keeps everything loose.) Like virtually everything else in Detroit, it’s struggling. Correction: Was struggling. Now it’s on the canvas, most likely KO’d.
What did it? A losing string of boxers? Competition from a better operation nearby? If only. No, someone stole the plumbing:
The thieves broke into the boiler room Sunday night and stole all the copper pipes, cutting off water to the gym, which forced it to close for the foreseeable future. …The rising price of copper has sparked increasing thefts of pipes, wire, even the coils in air conditioning units in Detroit and around the country. The price has more than doubled in the past year, and has been hovering around $3.50 a pound this month on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
And that, perhaps, explains another curious item, in yesterday’s paper. It was in the news digest, which is, in my experience, the place to spot news before it’s news. Everything starts small; big stories are born as tiny paragraphs:
A 24-year-old man, who police said most likely was trying to steal electrical cable, was found electrocuted in a field in southwest Detroit on Monday. …(A police spokesman) said area hospitals also have reported an increase in treating people for electrical wire burns.
The cable thefts, the story notes, are the reason for power outages in the area. Listen to the morning news, and every so often you’ll hear of a Detroit school closed “due to a power outage,” the announcer says. The power seems awfully iffy in some neighborhoods of Detroit. Now we see why.
It’s not exactly the butterfly-typhoon connection. Actually it’s a lot closer. Thieves steal infrastructure, and institutions that depend on the infrastructure collapse. The price of copper is up, and therefore children will miss school, young men will have one less opportunity to work out their aggression in a controlled, socially approved setting, thieves will die in fields trying to get a piece of the action.
And what is threatening the fabric of America? This week? I dunno. Probably gay marriage.