July 21st, 2013
When I was born at Detroit’s Jefferson Hospital in 1941, the city was the biggest manufacturer in Michigan. In fact, in all of the U.S.A. Oh, yes, in the world too, and, by the failure of economic news to prove otherwise from light years away, Detroit was the biggest manufacturer in the universe.
That was 72 years ago. A bail-out was merely a chore boat owners took on to keep their rowboats afloat off the shore of Belle Isle. The bankruptcy of a unit of government the size of a big U.S. city was still a short-seller’s wet dream. But we all know what happened, and none of us really know how we’ll get out of it. I feel a little bit guilty for not living there, but how do you beat San Francisco. Still, I do want Detroit to succeed, and I do want to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive and e-lim-in-ate the negative. So here goes.
Detroit has great ball clubs. For good or bad, you can’t successfully downplay the economic importance of great teams. The Detroit Tigers is owned by one of the all-time corporate good guys, Mike Illitch. He founded Little Caesars Pizza. He built a new Tiger’s ballpark IN the city, resisting the trend to locate in the suburbs. That done, he convinced the Detroit Lions (who had played for forty years in Pontiac) to build right next to the Tigers on Woodward Avenue. He bought the struggling Detroit RedWings Hockey franchise. He rebuilt the famous, but decrepit, Fox Theater and environs, hiring the homeless to do the work at better than minimum wage. I could go to Wikipedia and find his many more good deeds, but you might enjoy reading it straight up.
I have not yet found reason to revile the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder — usually a cinch for me when dealing with a Republican. So far he’s been doing all the right things, including hiring the very capable bankruptcy attorney, Kevyn Orr, as Emergency Manager. I’m not saying, with this much dirt to clean up, that some of it isn’t going to rub off on the corporate types, but at least for the moment I’m not spending my time looking for it.
Detroit sold 14 million new cars last year. That’s 19 cars for every resident of Detroit. Just think of it — your crack salesman: 19 cars. The guy who stocks the liquor shelves at the Mini-Mart: 19 cars. Your hooker: 19 cars. Her pimp: 19 cars — probably 3 of them Cadillacs.
And ex-mayor Kwayme Kilpatrick is in jail. Yes, Detroit is not afraid to jail a corrupt leader. It’s really too bad Wall Street isn’t in Detroit.
Salmon spawn by finding their way back to their birthplace in order to reproduce. I’m thinking it may not be too late for me to take a trip back to Detroit, swimming the streams entering and exiting the continental divide, tiring myself just as a salmon would. Up mountains, down mountains, crossing the plains by means of shallow swamp until, in the midwest, to find some less than legal way to make it to Detroit. Still, by surviving as Lewis and Clark did, gathering points that may be applied by some modern day gambling scam, I can arrive, an honorable son of Lewis and Clark tradition at the city borders. Then walk again to the city’s still standing Jefferson Hospital. “Nurse Jenkins,” I holler. “are you here?”