Too many years ago, back when Knight-Ridder was a going concern, the mandarins of the chain had a nationwide reporting project going, called Real Voters, or some such. I think this was 1992, when Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot were running. The idea was to use the vast resources of our chain to tap into the wellspring of the people’s wisdom, etc.
One of our reporters wrote a piece on three different couples. The young couple were worried; the old couple were worried; the middle-aged couple figured things would work out. And no, I don’t think this was a function of their age. The latter couple had seen a lot of shit, figured they’d see more, but they had jobs, a house and a decent life, and they were grateful.
I recognized them from the photo. I passed their house several times a week. They often sat in their garage, door up, in lawn chairs, drinks in hand, watching the world go by. They looked content with the world.
I think it was the garage-sitting that did it. Nothing like a seat among the comforting odors of the lawn mower and garden tools to instill a deep feeling of calm. At least in a Midwesterner. I know there are parts of the country where a garage is a rarity, but not here. I’ve waited out thunderstorms in a garage. I’ve sheltered in them. And I’ve enjoyed hospitality in quasi-garages converted to man caves.
Which is why my mouth dropped when I read this story in the DetNews, about “concerns” in Dearborn over too much use of garages as social spaces. It pushes cars out, “clogging side streets.”
Oh, puh-leeze. Garages are indeed social spaces in Dearborn, and have been for some time. Arab-Americans bought the little houses there, raised big families in them, and needed extra space for the usual reasons — to get away from someone bugging you, to invite in neighbors without going to a whole lot of trouble, and especially for smoking hookahs, which is very much a part of the social scene there. Those things put out more smoke than a three-alarm fire; you really wouldn’t want one in your house.
See this very amusing video, “Arab-American Cribs,” for an illustrative glance.
Of course there are toxic comments on the story — it does involve Arabs, after all — but a surprising number of supporters. Detroit was known for years for big families in small houses. Some people just got used to chillin’ in the garage.
Some good bloggage before I finish dinner:
American health care, THE GREATEST IN THE WORLD. Well, at least as it pertains to the bill. Especially for maternity care:
When she became pregnant, (Renée) Martin called her local hospital inquiring about the price of maternity care; the finance office at first said it did not know, and then gave her a range of $4,000 to $45,000. “It was unreal,” Ms. Martin said. “I was like, How could you not know this? You’re a hospital.”
Midway through her pregnancy, she fought for a deep discount on a $935 bill for an ultrasound, arguing that she had already paid a radiologist $256 to read the scan, which took only 20 minutes of a technician’s time using a machine that had been bought years ago. She ended up paying $655. “I feel like I’m in a used-car lot,” said Ms. Martin, a former art gallery manager who is starting graduate school in the fall.
Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion.
And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.
Neil Steinberg, stripped of most of his columns, makes his single count. On gay marriage, so be advised it’s satisfying for supporters, less so for others.
Finally, I mostly ignore my old newspaper, mainly because its content embarrasses me, most days. But spurred by Alex’ posting of a link over the weekend, I looked up the columnist who replaced me. Taking his cue from a right-wing website, he wonders if the military can survive “the pinup police.” The subhead is particularly witless, which I assume he didn’t write: Who will inspire the troops, now that they can’t ogle Betty Grable?
This is all pegged to an order by Chuck Hagel that military facilities be purged of materials that can be degrading to women. What a world these people live in, that they imagine barracks draped with Betty Fucking Grable. (The paper’s illustrations also included Rita Hayworth, as I live and breathe.) I’d like to post what I imagine is a more typical contemporary pinup — a Hustler Beaver Hunt winner spreading her shaved labia, with a buttplug inserted just for laffs — over the paper’s copy desk, and see how many people find it beautiful and inspiring.
I was embarrassed by this column, yes. But also pissed off. And ashamed that there’s a 20-year interval on my resume that says I worked for this fishwrap.