There are times I truly miss being a G.A. — that’s old-fart-journo-speak for “general assignment reporter.” You never know what’s going to turn up. I had plans to spend yesterday relaxing with my kid, maybe cleaning the house. The phone rang at 8 a.m. with news the Detroit Police dive team was going to spend the next two days fishing cars out of the river. Plans changed.
A little background: In May, this same team was doing a training dive at the point where Lake St. Clair joins the Detroit River, preparing to recover a car, when the team leader discovered what seemed to be a hand, reaching up from the bottom. It turned out to be a bronze sculpture that had been stolen several years earlier from a local institution, part of a rash of outdoor-art thefts in the area. At the time, we told the team leader to call us the next time they went looking for a car, thinking a tick-tock on how they work would be a nice feature for my journalism students.
Of course they had to call only hours ahead, too little time to scramble a team of overscheduled college students. But I was able to go, and I don’t know about you, but to me, the great thing about journalism is the permission you get to watch other people work at interesting jobs. I could have watched these guys all day, and in fact, that’s pretty much what I did. The 60-ton heavy-duty tow truck alone was a marvel; it looked like you needed a master’s in engineering just to run the thing.
The divers were trying to clear at least 14 and as many as 16 (sonar was unclear) drowned cars from what must have been a popular dumping spot, once upon a time. A patch of riverfront land that had been the site of your standard-issue 20th-century poison factory — metal plating with casual environmental standards, shudder — stood empty for years, and if you took the time to drive or push a car through the weeds to the riverbank, you found a nice open area with no seawall and 15-20 feet of water ready to swallow the evidence of your insurance fraud, no questions asked.
The divers went down in teams and strapped up the axles or frames, and the truck operator ran the winch. The wrecks came up groaning and dropping vast cauldrons of mud and crawfish. As soon as they cleared the water, the gearheads started calling out models and years. Several fell to pieces as they came free; a Ford EXP, second cousin to a Mercury Capri I once owned, lost its roof and necessitated a second dive to retrieve the rest.
And once they were on dry land, photo ops galore:
What interested me the most: Even in that stew of heavy-metal waste and pollution, nature is always trying:
Those are salamander eggs — mudpuppies. Ah, well — based on what crawled out of those wrecks, there’s no shortage down there.
Note the zebra mussels, an invasive species that first entered the Great Lakes in the ballast water of oceangoing freighters. They have played havoc on treatment-plant intakes and other underwater structures, but have had an undeniably positive effect on water clarity; I’ve heard many long-time Great Lakes anglers say the water’s never been cleaner.
So that was yesterday. Today I’m giving blood. In consideration, I’ve gone off all my over-the-counter analgesics for the last 72 hours. Man, do I feel old.
My TV now has to stay off for two reasons: The still-unplanted corpse of Michael Jackson, and the governor of South Carolina, who has now raised humiliation of his wife to a high art. I’m with Josh Marshall — just go be with her, already.
As for Miguel Jacko, the NYT lead says it all:
Nearly a week after he died, Michael Jackson still has not been buried, new complications have arisen over settling his vast estate, and his will has given up tantalizing details, including his choice of Diana Ross as a guardian of his children if his mother were unable to care for them.
I think his family is dragging their feet because they like the publicity. I fully expect him to be stuffed and mounted by the time this is over.
To the gym and to the exsanguination table after that. Back in a bit.