It was a few years ago that I started to notice a particular type of billboard on our travels up north. Once the subdivisions give way to forests, they come fast and furious: A smiling old person sits in a wheelchair, while a young woman in a gaily printed medical-scrub top stands nearby, or perhaps kneels so as to look up into the old person’s eyes. In the big type, one of two basic messages:
When you think joint replacement, think (name of hospital) “Joint replacement” is interchangeable with “cardiac catheterization” or any other surgery unlikely to be performed on people under 50.
Your No. 1 choice in health-care careers: (name of community college)
What this tells any half-bright observer is that you’re entering an economic dead zone, a post-industrial (or, in the case of northern Michigan, post light-industrial) wasteland filled with old people who lack the will or cash to move. Or you’ve entered Florida, Arizona or North Carolina. But this is a signifier, as the proprietor of Gin and Tacos knows well:
Visit the website of any derelict Rust Belt city and search for references to the number of hospitals or the strength of the health care sector. It won’t take long to find them. It turns out that along with local government and, of course, prisons, hospitals are one of the few things that remain open when everything else closes. They may not have jobs anymore, but someone still needs to lock ’em up and occasionally stitch ’em up. The hundreds of Fast Company-style articles in the business media over the past few years proclaiming nursing as THE NEXT BIG THING in the job market always puzzled me… is it really a sign of the strength of our economy when the best job (supposedly) is to take care of the rapidly increasing number of dying old people?
When I went to New York last fall, I was amazed at all the strollers being pushed around Brooklyn, even as I knew Brooklyn is the breeders’ borough of choice. I felt like one of the old people in “Children of Men,” P.D. James’ novel about a dystopian future where all the women in the world have become infertile. Michigan is an aging state, even below the up-north regions, something our booming health-care sector indicates. I’m not quite one of those women who, at the sight of a baby, wants to run up and beg to stroke the infant’s downy-soft flesh, but I feel I’m getting there. This maybe the the grandma years asserting themselves, I admit.
But if I’m such a grandma-in-waiting, why did I seriously consider making this — “tatted up, overweight, half-ass English speaking gap-tooth skank ho” — my Twitter bio yesterday? This is from the woeful recent works of a local judge, who was booted from the bench yesterday, and you can follow the link to get the rest of the story, but for some reason that line stuck with me. Some people can really make a text message sing.
Oy, what a week. The cold is finally, finally breaking. Wendy and I worked at home today, and that usually means a morning/noon walkie, but we both stood at the back door and just scowled; as the misery drags on, we both seem to be getting weaker, not stronger.
And Opening Day is Monday. I can’t decide if I want to go to the office and behold the spectacle; it could be terribly ugly.
A little light bloggage: I’ve talked before here about urban farms in Detroit, really more like super-gardens. Here’s a charming story about a woman I know here, who raises ducks on four lots adjacent to her home. Actually, she doesn’t exactly raise ducks, but rather has them, and collects the eggs. At some point you can’t really say you’re raising livestock if you’re unwilling to swing the axe on the chopping block, and Suzanne treats her flock like friends. She has a B&B on one side of the complex, and if any of you are interested in visiting the Paris of the Midwest, I’m sure she can hook you up for a great price.
Otherwise? That’s it for me. Have a great weekend, all.