The dead guy frozen in ice was found in the Detroit Public Schools book depository building. I should have picked up on this yesterday, but I was rushed and disorganized as usual, and it wasn’t until later that I remembered: This was the building whose contents and criminal decay were photographed by Jim from Sweet Juniper (and, to be sure, about a million other professional and amateur shooters, urban explorers, blight tourists and various slumming gawkers). He put together one of his typically thoughtful posts about it, which got Boing Boing’d, Fark’d, Metafilter’d and Web 2.0’d to a fare-thee-well, culminating in one photo running in Harper’s Magazine last year.
The post was also featured on some racist websites, used by its proprietors to show what happens when you let “them” run their own school systems, and Jim responded to that with a follow-up post that describes the building and how it got to the state it’s in. It’s pretty long, but it’s probably the best single explanation of how decay happens and why it persists in this city, and it boils down to: It’s complicated.
What’s most important for purposes of looking at the How and Why of the Dead Guy is probably the building’s most recent chapter, when it was sold to Manuel “Matty” Moroun, whose hip-pocket, one-phrase media description is usually “reclusive billionaire.” Moroun owns — yes, owns outright — the Ambassador Bridge across the Detroit River, which carries
70 25 percent of all the freight that moves between the United States and Canada. Some people think a crossing that important should be in the public’s hands — and if you’re thinking this sounds kind of like “Chinatown,” you’re not alone — and efforts have been underway on both sides of the border to bring this monopoly to a halt. Moroun is opposed to this, of course, and has taken steps to preserve his holdings, including buying key real estate parcels near the bridge, one of which is the building where the dead guy was found.
Moroun has no motivation to either demolish the building or even secure it. Like a lot of structures built around that time in this city, it’s solid to a fault. (You did know one of this area’s architectural innovations was the invention of reinforced concrete, didn’t you?) It would cost millions to demolish and he doesn’t need it demolished, and so, writes Jim:
So for seven years, Moroun’s company has held a permit for the demolition of the former Detroit Public Schools book depository, but he has done nothing but neglect the building. …Instead, because this is Detroit, it just sits there. It is left unsecured, open to scrappers, looters, crackheads, graffiti artists, suburban taggers, vandals, prostitutes, and local bloggers.
I imagine it’ll be secured now — at least for a while; the Freep today ran a photo of the perimeter fence being repaired. The Freep, having been beaten on this story, is pushing the city’s defense, which is: We responded to the 911 call and found nothing. Now that Kwame Kilpatrick, beneficiary of much Moroun campaign cash, is gone, city officials are blaming Moroun for the incident, for failing to secure the building. I’m sure this will still be playing out long after the dead guy is or isn’t ID’d and laid to rest in whatever potter’s field the city is currently using.
This is interesting: The News story today doesn’t mention Moroun at all. It, like yesterday’s story, was written by Charlie LeDuff, who also had a coup of sorts late last year, when he lured the reclusive billionaire from under his bridge for his first interview in forever. It was, not surprisingly, a pretty respectful one, and didn’t touch on this issue. (He does mention the building adjacent to the book depository, the infamous Michigan Central Station, which Moroun also owns. He claims he can’t tear that one down, because it’s a historic landmark. No word on whether that applies to the book depository, probably because it doesn’t.)
This is getting complicated. Like most things around here.
Anyway, there are many more links in the ones I’ve already given you. The link to Jim’s follow-up post is to all his depository-tagged posts, including the original. A quick Flickr tag search for “detroit book depository” will take you to hundreds of photos of the place. And for those of you puzzled over the headline for this post, it’s a reference to “So Much Water So Close to Home,” a Raymond Carver short story about the problem posed by a dead body. It was one of the threads in the movie “Short Cuts,” for you film buffs.
So. A little bloggage:
I suspect the maternity wedding dress is nothing new — what else is an empire waist for other than fetal concealment — but still, here’s a story about the latest styles.
And while we’re stealing links from Jezebel…now there’s a talent competition.
Why we have a health-care crisis in this country: Because there are doctors who will implant eight embryos in the uterus of a woman who already has six children. Remember that the next time your insurance premiums go up.
Have a good weekend, all. I hope to.
ADDED: Oops, almost forgot. When the Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George Bush, Alan said, “You wait. They’re going to put up a statue of that guy.” Not quite, but close. Alan would like you all to know he told you so.