How fitting, the weekend that Detroit takes its rightful place atop yet another list of Most Dangerous Cities — please, let’s save the “We’re number ONE!” chant for later in the morning, shall we? — that this story is the hey-Martha talker in our household:
The two gas stations had rivaled for years. They stood across an intersection from each other on Fort Street in Detroit, where even a penny’s difference was enough to lure customers.
And so came the price war: One station dropped a cent or two, and the other grudgingly followed.
But the seemingly petty back-and-forth escalated Friday, ending with a fatal bullet in BP station owner Jawad Bazzi’s head over what police say was a 3-cent difference in the cost of regular gas.
Nice bit of scene-setting there; that’s the story in a few sentences. But the details are so rich:
The two stations are holding firm at $2.96 a gallon, this when the prevailing price elsewhere in the area is in the $3.15-$3.20 range. From what little I know about gas-station economics, those are loss-leader prices; you’d best sell a lot of cigarettes to make up the difference. So it’s probably fair to assume the situation is tense already. And then the Marathon station owner, Hussah Masboath, drops the price to $2.93. Three cents! They might as well give it away free.
Bazzi walked across the street with a couple of employees to confront the Marathon owner and his posse.
“His posse.” I like how hip-hop slang is now creeping into sober newspaper reports.
The confrontation turned physical. Punches were thrown. A baseball bat appeared on the BP side, and connected with a Marathon employee. That’s when the gun was drawn. Two shots later, Bazzi, the BP owner, is dying on the ground. The police arrive, the Marathon station becomes a crime scene, and the yellow tape goes up and business is over for the day.
Are you ready for the punchline?
After the shooting, with the competing station closed, BP’s price per gallon increased to $3.09 for regular.
The Freep story, linked above, is better-written, but the News gets the name of the Marathon owner and this precious detail:
During the brawl, someone swung a baseball bat and the pole that Masboath used to change the numbers on his sign.
The pole! They didn’t even have time to put it away. Some stories you don’t read as much as watch unspool on your mind’s theater screen.
Could it have been a coincidence that, the day I finally got to see “Idiocracy,” I learn this unwelcome news?
As for “Idiocracy,” I have mixed feelings. There’s not much of a story there, the plot is thin; it really only exists to serve as an angry argument against stupidity. But who can’t be on board with that? I laughed out loud more than once; how can it possibly be worse than, say, “Deuce Bigalow?” This Esquire story gives you the gist of the film’s pathetic history, but I’d say you should see it just for the thousands of sight gags, throwaway lines and other details that will be with me for some time. (Let’s put it this way: I will never be able to watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with Kate again without thinking of “Ow My Balls!,” a big hit in 2505, apparently.)
As usual, YouTube is on the case. The movie’s setup is here.
An exhausting weekend, capped by Kate’s birthday party Sunday. I always think of the last eight weeks of the year as the Three Hurdles of Fall — Halloween, Dual-Birthday Fest and then the biggie, Christmas. I’m two-thirds done, but the last one is always the one most likely to send you sprawling.
On Saturday, a packed freeway sent me off onto surface streets, and for the first time since I’ve lived here, I saw the famed ruins of the Packard plant:
It’s one of the best-known urban-exploration sites in Detroit, because yes, folks, it is wide open, and people trek through it all the time. If you’re a Flickr member, search “packard detroit” in tags for a truly remarkable set of pictures. (No, I didn’t go in. I was alone, for one, and someone told me a story not long ago involving a photographer falling through a piece of rotted floor there and breaking both legs. I’d love to explain that one to my husband.)
Final bit of bloggage: A hung jury/mistrial for the cat assassin. With his peers hopelessly deadlocked at 8-4, the outcome prompted this comment from the defendant:
“I’m not surprised,” said the defendant, James M. Stevenson, founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society who was charged with one count of animal cruelty for shooting the cat last November with a .22-caliber rifle. “It reflects the attitudes of people in the United States — there are cat lovers and others who love biodiversity, including birds.”
I doubt he’ll be stashing his ammo in the future.
And so the week commences. Have a great one.