Goodbye, Old Friend…

So I’m getting rid of my truck in favor of a new-to-me truck.   I bought it in 2005 from my dad when I got back from Iraq and paid cash.   It’s a ’97, but at the time it had somewhere in the neighborhood of 45k miles and was in great condition.     Today it’s pushing on it’s twentieth year on the road and about to fall apart.

Every year for the past five or so I tell myself “hopefully I can get another year out of her…” and faithfully she delivers.    I’ve put about 100,000 miles on it in those ten years (not bad at all, really) but the truck is really starting to fall apart.    Let me think of all the things that are wrong with it as we speak:

 

  • the brakes just started squealing.
  • the tires are bald.
  • the cupholder broke off when I had to slam on my brakes eight years ago and sent my dog flying into it because some guido asshole failed to signal to me his intentions to turn.
  • the air conditioner doesn’t work.
  • the running boards are about to rust off.
  • the handle on the gate doesn’t work.   You have to use pliers or a screwdriver to make it work.
  • Even if the gate did work, it’s so rusty that the latches don’t hold sometimes.
  • the weather strip broke so rain and snow gets in.
  • there’s electrical problems so the rear drivers side light panel always goes out.
  • there’s a lot of rust on the body.
  • A battery leaked on the inside and ate up the interior carpet.
  • the bed liner is coming unattached.
  • the heater leaks.

 

…and that’s all I can think of for now.  I’m sure there’s more.   I’m sure there’s more that I don’t know about and would have found out sometime in the near future.

To be honest, I took some pride in the fact that I had an older vehicle (although admittedly I think I crossed a threshold and it got to the point where it was kind of embarrassing in some situations).   I liked that I didn’t have a car payment and I felt that it said something about me that even though I could’ve afforded a newer, nicer vehicle I opted to shun and sneer at consumerist pressures in a world where we’re told that we need a new vehicle every three years or so.

I have travels, investments and savings to show for the first six or seven years I owned that truck payment free and well, maybe more than anything peace of mind from the past three years or so to show from it.     Well, I guess theres’s been times where the truck has given me some headaches.    It seemed like it completely went to shit right about the time my (ex) wife left me.   To be honest, I lost more sleep over the fact that my truck was falling apart than my marriage.  I knew that having a paid for vehicle was a good thing and would continue to be a good thing as long as I had it.

Tomorrow it’s going off to an auction.   Honestly, I’m glad I’m getting rid of it that way instead of having to sell it.   Even though people in the market for a truck like that expect some things wrong, but can you imagine having to look someone in the eye and rattle off that laundry list of everything that’s wrong with it???

Hopefully it spends the rest of its life in as a fulfilling and dignified manner as my old truck deserves.   In the meantime, I’m hoping that in ten years or so I’m able to look back on another old truck that I paid cash for years ago and think about how much value I got out of her.

 

 

Russia’s New Conservative Allies in the US: The ‘Alt-Right’

Here’s a really good article from Russia Insider on the ‘alt right’ in general and the adoration for Russia that generally comes out of the American alt-right.

 

Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Vladimir Putin and something of a Russophile.  I think there’s an idealized vision of Russia that many people in the West with a similar worldview to mine have.  We think of an austere land where people have a strong connection to their folklore, faith and soil.  A place that has never been touched by the hands of cultural marxism, neoliberalism and soulless consumerism.   A place so cold and grim you have no other choice but to be strong.

Ok, so in reality Russia probably isn’t the right-wing wonderland that many people imagine but in practice they do act as a counterweight to a lot of the things that the US/Team West does in the world that we disagree with.    Lots of places aren’t happy with our intervention, but Russia is about the only place in the world with the teeth to back up their disapproval.

Although I consider myself a good, red-blooded American I’ve found myself cheering Russia outfoxing our leaders several times in the past decade or so.   Russia invaded Georgia?  Probably not the nicest thing they could’ve done, but Georgia kinda had it coming and we shouldn’t have made any deal with Georgia to back them.   We’re about to bomb the shit out of Syria?  Putin stepped on Obama’s dick really, really hard and refused to back down.  I truly believe that man deserved the Nobel Peace Prize (Vlad, not Obama!) for that and if I ever met the guy, I’d thank him for saving us from our leaders.   Problems in the Ukraine?   The Russian government called ours out on their hypocrisy and continue to do so – Putin has put our politicians on roast in quite a few of his public speeches….and many Americans like me laugh a long with it.

Sometimes it feels like this guy looks out for us more than our own politicians do….but in reality I know that he’s just looking out for Russia’s best interests….which amazingly enough, often aren’t too dissimilar.   We’re concerned about terrorism and stability in the Middle East.   We’re concerned about Europe’s economic health.   Both nations are (or “were”) interested in space exploration.   We both have mutual energy concerns.  We are both beginning to look to the Pacific for our futures.   We need to cooperate on the Arctic.

Although we have a lot of reasons for dialogue and cooperation, our leaders aren’t interested.   The Bushes and Clinton administration honestly just kind of gave Russia the cold shoulder.   This is maybe understandable given how recent the Cold War was, so I can see a reluctancy to get too cozy.   Russia was also a complete basket case for most of this time though too…

The Obama admin has been outright hostile to Russia since her resurgence and challenge to *complete* US hegemony in the world.   The whole Pussy Riot ordeal several years ago seemed like a concocted scheme to demonize Russia at a time when Putin had some really, really tough questions for Obama over Syria.  I remember he cancelled a meeting over “humanitarian concerns”, i.e. in protest of the alleged treatment of LGBTQLMNOP Russians.   I don’t use the “I was so embarrassed of my country!” statement lightly, but I was when Obama ranked the meeting with that bullshit excuse.  I also recall a meeting that happened between Obama and Putin where he tried to stare down Putin – bitch, please!   Putin would fuck you up!

Anyways, one of the big selling points of the Trump campaign to me is the idea of treating Russia like a friend or at least civilly.    Every other candidate including Bernie Sanders has called for anywhere from increased sanctions and more mean words to Russia all the way up to World War III.   Although Trump gets the “reckless” label, I really believe that Hillary would be a lot more likely to get us into a tangle with Russia.

As of very late Russia has been the boogeyman in Democrat circles, as they were just accused of leaking the emails that have been giving the DNC so much grief recently.   They say that Putin’s people are endorsing Trump.    While it’s probably a deflection tactic to see if they can get people worried about Russians over the content of the emails, I could see why Putin would want Trump in office, just because his foreign policy talking points are much less antagonistic towards Russia as the alternatives.

Putin has publicly stated that he wants no involvement in American internal affairs, but I don’t doubt that they would try something if they really wanted to affect the outcome.   If Putin’s dudes are actively trying to take down Hillary, again, I’d like to thank him for saving us from our own politicians.

 

Pence for Vice President. Yawn.

 

Last Friday Donald Trump announced Mike Pence of Indiana as his vice president.    Honestly, I’m a little disappointed.   I hoped it would be someone that made the ticket feel a little more like an “insurgency” within the GOP.   I understand that a guy like him is probably comforting to the kinds of Republicans that are “wary” about voting for Trump….and comforting to the donor class so I get it.

The other thing is that with Pence he takes on some GOP baggage that he didn’t have before this.   Pence has been pretty outspoken about the gay thing, which doesn’t play well with a lot of people and Trump so far has been outside of that discussion for the most part.

I recently drove through Indiana and noticed a “Welcome to Indiana.   Our bond rate is AAA” immediately after crossing from Illinois.   Ha ha.   So maybe the guy is good on spending and economic issues, or at least has a sense of humor enough to dig at Illinois.

 

 

Will The Rio Olympics Be A Shit-Show Or What???

Brazil, constantly lauded as “the country of the future” was given a golden opportunity this decade to showcase the country to the world with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.   Both events obviously are probably THE two biggest events in the world.   It’s a big deal to land one, let alone two in such a short period of time.

All I’m hearing about Brazil’s preparations are that they’re sorely lacking and there could be some real hiccups in making the 2016 Olympics a success.   I guess it makes sense.   When Brazil took on these challenges, they really were up and coming.   Everyone was talking about the “BRICs” and Brazil was the “Green Dragon” to China’s Red Dragon that would be the next big thing on the world stage.   Today?  Well, Brazil is probably worse off than they were a few years ago after being rocked by scandals…and low commodity prices.

When the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008, the opening ceremony was absolutely amazing.   The 2012 opening ceremony in London was, well, pretty fucking weak.   Out of all the things Brittania has to be proud of, doing a presentation about the fucking NHS?   Come on….  At any rate, when contrasted with Beijing four years earlier it made me think that one world was vigorous and up and coming while one was flaccid and running on fumes.   I wondered if by the time 2016 rolled around, where would Brazil be on the world stage?

Scandals and corruption are nothing new in that part of the world, but the Rousseff administration really must’ve crossed the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not down there.  Amiss the dysfunction, it sounds like they haven’t been able to put together what they needed to do for the Olympics.

To be fair, a lot of people down there didn’t want the Olympics.   It’s great for some people and brings in a ton of money, but it’s said that the “regular people” are hurt by being forced to pay for the massive infrastructure updates that lead to a short term burst in wealth for some people….and then these buildings and such the people pay for sit and rot after they’ve served their purpose.   I guess I see the angle of how it can be seen as a vanity project to bring the Olympics over a real boost to the economy.   If you can only handle X amount of people now and you need to bring it up to Y to host the Olympics, how do you sustain the difference between X and Y afterwards?

Last month there was an article about Brazilian police officers holding signs at the airport saying that tourists weren’t safe.   While I’m sure there’s some Latin melodramatic embellishment to their claims and some personal interest in making them seem more valuable (I think they were striking? I’m not sure), crime is a huge problem down there.  I’m sure they’ve been pretty heavy-handed dealing with it leading up to the Olympics, but I have a hard time believing that petty crime won’t be a not-so-petty problem down there.

In addition to buildings and such not being completed or realistically on schedule to be completed, I’ve read that larger infrastructure projects such as mass transit updates, sewers, roads and cell service haven’t been satisfactory updated.    I believe the HMFIC of the Olympics went on record recently saying that this is the worst prepared Olympics he’s ever seen.

Oh, and it sounds like there’s going to be some…um… environmental problems, too.   The section of the coast where they plan on doing the sailing events has problems with extremely high levels of human sewage.  That’s not exactly safe or pleasant.

…And there’s the Zika virus.  You’re going to have people from all over the planet going into this area with the virus and then those people are going back.   While not exactly an end of the world scenario, there could be some very tangible consequences of the Olympics coming home with some unfortunate tourist(s).   There’s been travel warnings hinted towards and I’d imagine if Brazil didn’t have so much at stake there would be a more clear “yeah, don’t go here” message than right now.

I understand that corruption is a way of life down there.   I also understand that the kind of money they thought would be flowing in when they took this on isn’t panning out due to low commodity prices.  Brazil runs on commodities, namely agricultural ones.   There’s also the budding oil industry that has had management problems (Petrobras!) as well as sinking oil prices making it harder to break even.   It hasn’t been smooth sailing for our Brazilian friends, but hopefully they surprise us.

As for me personally, I’m hit or miss with the Olympics.   There’s some events I really dig, others not so much.   Unfortunately it seems like they like to give priority to the ones I don’t care about.  I’m sure I’ll tune in for the opening ceremony at least and catch some of it here and there.

The Harrows of Spring by James Howard Kunstler

I just finished the fourth and final installment of the World Made By Hand series by James Howard Kunstler, my favorite energy skeptic, misanthrope and architecture critic.   As a big fan of the previous books, I figure I’ll review this book.

Each book takes place in a distinct season in Washington County, New York in the aftermath of a major economic collapse where fossil fuel energy has become scarce to nonexistent.   The citizens of the United States have endured plagues, terrorism and well, each other leaving a world distinctly different than the one we know, where “modern” people are forced into a lifestyle similar to that of their great grandparents to cope.

The final book begins in the spring, a tough time for our ancestors – the food stores from the past season are dwindling, there are few new crops coming in (namely a few edible weeds) and livestock are often in the child rearing stage or too young to be of value.

The main source of conflict in the book comes from the Berkshire Republic in Vermont who come to Union Grove looking to absorb them into their new federation that has formed in the vacuum of the virtually non-existent United States of America.    Kunstler gave us a sneak peak a few months ago of one chapter of the book, the first interaction between a couple New Faith guys and the “Berkies”.    Basically, these guys are like present day social justice warriors and maybe Bernie Sanders supporters – it just dawned on me how similar “Berkie” is to “Bernie” and of course the Vermont connection.

Initially I was worried he’d make the Berkies too clownish, as JHK does with Southerners.  I didn’t feel that he made them out to be too much of generic caricatures of that kind of person.

Although I think the actual reoccurring characters of the book were a little flat other than Stephen Bullock, the interpersonal connections seemed a little deeper in this one.   I also think that some of the story was phoned in, I’m not sure if this is good or bad.   A few events seemed to just happen a little too fast in the book but looking back on it a lot happened.   It seemed to leave a few loose ends, but not the kind of “encore” loose ends to tie up.

The story line was a little bit more believable than the previous edition “History of the Future”, but I understand the point of making a character that can see a larger part of the country so I appreciated that aspect.

The descriptions of food are one of the big things people take away from the series and this one delivered and took a bit of creativity because of the lean time of the year.   Lots of food from the river, eggs, preserves and foraged stuff like mushrooms, fiddleheads, etc.   I liked the gourmet aspect of Stephen Bullock’s fare.

I thought it would be a little more grim in the food department.   There were shortages described in the book, especially of corn meal (a main staple) and green vegetables, as well as salt, a product of trade coming to a halt.

I don’t feel that it really concluded anything other than a calendar year though, but maybe that’s his point.   The relationships between the New Faith and the community has improved since the first book.  The town has improved with the opening of the hotel/bar/restaurant by Brother Jobe and the laundry, giving the place more life.

Even though the population was down since the “old times”, it’s mentioned in this book by one character that things might be “better than before” in Union Grove.   This sentiment plays into one of the main themes of the series, that although the world as we know it went to shit there’s opportunity for return to simplicity.   It’s hard not to read one of these books and not feel slightly envious over some of the experiences of the people – sailing on the rivers and Great Lakes to exotic locales (that are currently mundane), eating fresh and seasonal food, honest and meaningful labor and probably more than anything, the level of community that exists now that life has been reduced to the very, very local scale.

Overall this was a good read and a very nice finish to the World Made By Hand series.   Hopefully JHK finds a way to continue on with the world he’s created in Washington County, NY.

Getting Over My Prejudices…of Cycling

I got on a bicycle for the first time in probably four years yesterday.   After lots of prodding by Mary over the past couple years to go on a bike ride with her sometime (she’s more of a serious cyclist), I finally suggested it Sunday morning.

I *used* to like to go ride the trails.   My ex-wife was in to trail riding and riding as a means of transportation in the bicycle-friendly neighborhood she lived in before we lived together.   She knew a guy that cobbled together bikes and sold them on the side, and she bought me a single speed as a gift early in our courtship and it seemed like maybe once every week or two we would hit the trails.   Honestly, it was kind of a pain in the ass because from my house you had to drive to get to the trails and the trailhead we preferred was about 15-20 minutes away.   So once you factored in getting things ready, loading up, driving and going, it turned into an all-evening affair.    I always enjoyed it though, it was nice to be surrounded by trees and able to think and a nice day.

She got really into weightlifting…like really, really into it and it seemed like she lost interest in cycling or just no longer had time for it…so I fell out of it too.   As our marriage deteriorated, our cycling jaunts became less and less frequent.   I just lost interest in it, even though it was a real casual hobby for me.

Things have changed though.   The trail system in Central Iowa has always been good, but since the last time I got on a bicycle it has improved for me.   I can now be on the trail in about five minutes of bicycling from my front door.

Now Sunday we ended up getting rained on and turning back early, but just being on that trail for the 10-15 minutes we were made me appreciate my geographic location more.   In just a minute after being on the trail I was surrounded by forest next to the river and felt like I was “in nature”.   About five minutes from there is a really good spot for bald eagle watching (sometimes you can see about a dozen, usually at least one or two).  In ten minutes I could be at a AAA Stadium and catch a ball game and about 15 minutes right into downtown, where there’s all kinds of interesting restaurants, bars, venues, “events”, the farmer’s market, etc.

People pay a lot of money to be pedestrian-level close to those kind of amenities in every other city (and Des Moines) and it’s kind of cool to realize I’m not that far off from having that.   If I wanted to go somewhere downtown, it really would only take about 10 minutes more to cycle there than to drive, find a parking spot, walk from parking spot, etc.    Not a bad trade-off for being in a spot where I have enough space for a garden, chickens, trees, etc. without paying an arm and a leg for it.

I’ve always appreciated how close I am to “nature” here too.   Across the street and behind the neighbors is a pretty good size tract of forest that goes all the way to the river.   Just the other day I saw a baby deer in my front yard and there’s always birds of prey hovering around – yeah they threaten the chickens but it is cool when they land in my yard and you can see them up close.   We also have a ton of owls and the usual suspects like raccoons and possums for what that’s worth.   There’s a few underutilized parks within a couple minutes from me that I’ve always enjoyed to be in a forest for a while, although one of them is having trails paved, which I’m not into.

Anyways…  Another personal hurdle I’ve had towards cycling is that I’ve always viewed “serious” cyclists as assholes or at least recognize that they tend to have more of that bourgeois upper middle class thing going that sometimes I’ll give a knee jerk reaction to, for whatever reason.   I guess it’s just different kinds of people and really being around “serious” cyclists and being a “not so serious” cyclist makes me at least feel like an outsider.     Mary has a ton of friends from the “cycling community” and most of them I’ve met have been agreeable people, for sure.   I have gotten a lot better with understanding that “not everyone is like me” for better or for worse over the past decade and deal with personal differences a lot better than I used to, so there’s that.

Another thing that bothers me about cycling (and marathon running, for that matter) is it seems like it takes too much damn time for exercise.   If I want to lift some weights, I go in and within an hour or so I’ve got it done.   An hour on a bike is a pleasure cruise – a nice, light workout.   I’m not sure how some of these people that are competitive in these fields actually find the time to train.

Oh, I used one of Mary’s “fancy” bikes with all the gears and had a hard time really figuring out which ones to use and switching gears was like walking and chewing gum.  I kept hearing “keep peddling!”.   I just told her I was going to find a gear and if we hit a hill (which we do to go home.   I think I’ll cancel my flood insurance after actually feeling how high up I am) I would just “hard dick” it and peddle, a term that has carried me through and beyond my Marine Corps career.

I’m glad I did it.   Although I’ve certainly been on a bike before, it was a little out of my comfort zone for the day and using the trail near me can make a lot of trips more productive and fun.    Time to get over it and get on it….

There’s A Feeling of Civil War In The Air

Last night we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant and overhead from a table next to us “Oh man, I hope there’s not a race war”.   Admittedly the guy who said it seemed like a blowhard that demanded to be the center of attention, but there’s been all kinds of whisperings about things like that after the past week, which saw two black men being shot by police and then five police officers killed in Dallas by a Black Lives Matter member/sympathizer, along with several others wounded.

We live in a very divided country in many regards.   I’ve noticed that anytime any issue ever becomes the subject of national dialogue somehow it always turns into the same groups attacking each other, regardless of the issue.    Islamic terrorism?   Well, white people do bad things too and you’re racist!    The recent “issue” of transgender bathrooms turned into “cisgender hetro men molest children in bathrooms!” and such.   Hillary’s emails?   “George Bush did bad things too!”

Being more sympathetic (usually) to the conservative side of things, or at least being more anti-liberal in mindset might influence this opinion, but I see A LOT more foaming-at-the-mouth pathological hatred for “the other side” coming from liberals/the left.   For what it’s worth it also seems like those kinds of views have become more acceptable or at least more dominant in the public realm, to the point where some views people won’t express for fear of basically kicking a hornet’s nest.   There is a viable “tell these people to go fuck themselves” movement awakening in America though, which is probably a good thing as this is getting out of hand.

Anyways, the idea of having a “civil war” sounds a little far-fetched and people will certainly envision the Turner Diaries or maybe the more unimaginative might imagine the South rising up again and fighting the North or some other clearly defined geographical borders.

I just wonder if we’re going to see more ideological fracturing in the US and more terrorism from domestic sources – basically fourth generation warfare.   The shooting of the police officers in Dallas was an example, a big example, of terrorism against the state that was politically/racially motivated.   I wouldn’t be surprised if more events similar to that started springing up around the country, perhaps a shooting here or there on police officers, a racially motivated murder or two here and there (like that doesn’t happen already!), bombs, arson, vandalism, etc.

Just Saturday night in Minneapolis the Black Lives Matters folks shut down I-94 (if you think that as Eddie Murphy told you, “the only brothas in Minnesota are Kirby Puckett and Prince, you’re wrong) and had a huge standoff with the police that ended up in about 50 people getting arrested and somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 officers wounded, mostly from projectiles and such.

The thing about the Minneapolis protest that stands out to me though is that there were apparently Molotov cocktails involved.   Certainly iconic of revolution, but to me to actually employ one of these things is a real escalation from just throwing rocks or whatever is there.   It’s deadly force (yes, I know a rock can be too) and if it hits someone it can cause a lot of damage.  Sure we see them all the time in European / Latin American protests, but that seems to be a line that not many people have been willing to cross in the US of A.    It does give the protests a little more of a….. warlike feeling to them.

We will probably see various acts of “protest” online, such as hacking, comment bombing, etc and certainly a more bold presence from the “combatants” here and their supporters – on both/all sides.   Laugh about how “Facebook doesn’t matter”, but at the end of the day that’s how most Americans communicate and receive news these days.   If you can’t get on YouTube to watch cat videos without being bombarded by messages for this or that cause, that will have a psychological effect on the average American.

Recently there was a series of messages between BLM activists and some level of white house officials that claimed that they were going to try to create a ton of chaos this summer in order to shut down the GOP convention and declare martial law.    Well, it turns out these messages were fake but I think it went around enough and was believable enough that a lot of people will be bracing themselves for chaos and maybe more importantly, inspired to chaos.   Certainly some people who are sympathetic to BLM or whichever lefty groups are involved and doesn’t want the train to leave the station without them after seeing something like that.   So whoever created that IS acting just as irresponsible as the people seen as whipping up BLM into a frenzy in the media.

Hoax or no hoax, I think we’re in for an interesting summer.   When I got off work the other night and heard the radio going crazy about the shootings in Dallas I got a sinking feeling in my gut that nothing good was going to come out of this, a feeling that I haven’t had in the same magnitude for quite some time.   I guess we’ll see…

Trump Doesn’t Carry GOP Baggage

The other day I saw a meme with a picture of George W Bush that mentioned something about one of his administration’s email scandals that didn’t get him a lot of negative press.   The point of it was to suggest what’s been the liberal mating call for the past seven years or so – “Bush did bad things too!”.   No discussion of any bumps along the road during Obama’s administration is complete without some kind of reference to the failures of the Bush years and to be honest, that strategy usually works out pretty well.

In the 2012 election Bush was slow to give Mitt Romney any vocal support because they knew it could hurt him with some likely voters.  Ultimately Romney was seen as the heir to Republican failures in recent times and he embraced it.   It gave a sitting president material to go after his challenger and it worked, as the election results show.

It just dawned on me that Trump doesn’t have any of that baggage going into the debates.   Sure, there may be other baggage but they can’t really tie him in with the Bush years or any “establishment” Republicans because, well, they’ve all spoken out against him.   Some of them have even flat out stated that they refuse to vote for him.   He’s had both George W Bush and Mitt Romney publicly disavow him, which probably had the opposite effect on Trump’s numbers than Bush and Romney intended.

Hillary, on the other hand, is the heir to many of the failures of the Obama years.   Whether or not she’s the heir to her husband’s dirty laundry (NAFTA, weak defense, “hillarycare”, etc) might be up to debate, but she did always present herself as being a very involved First Lady and undoubtedly she had some influence in decision making.

I’m sure that if Hillary goes down the route of criticizing Republican decisions in the recent past, Trump might own some of them in order to put up something of a unified front from the conservatives.   Or he may not and say something like “I was busy running a multibillion dollar industry when this happened” and completely deflect it.   Or he might just find a way to throw it back at Hillary by tying her in with the same political establishment that created it.   Either way, this should be a debate cycle worth tuning in for.

 

I Finally Visited Detroit…

Ok, so I only rolled through town for a day and honestly spend most of that day at the zoo with my family and sitting on the Ambassador Bridge waiting to get into Windsor, Ontario just to say I’ve been to Canada.

 

Detroit is a city that has gotten my goat for quite a while now, pretty much ever since I got into various forms of doom & gloom/alternative media.   It’s often been presented as the worst possible outcome for America and almost everything that gets presented about the city sounds like something out of a nightmare except for the occasional “Detroit is on the upswing!” posts about urban farming and/or hipsters moving in to take advantage of low housing costs.  I recall the “Ruins of Detroit” photoessay that made the rounds of the early alt-right sphere.  I’ve watched the political scandals unfold and read the steady stream of articles about basic services dwindling.   I’ve seen the message board posts about what’s going on inside Detroit and almost always pry anecdotes from people I know who lived there.   In fact, I’ve even written quite a bit on this site about Detroit.    Naturally I’m curious to see it.

I went there because Mary’s family is originally from the Detroit area and her 93 year old grandmother still lives about an hour away in the country.   She sprung this idea on me a few days before leaving and I didn’t want to go (traveling sucks with kids and it’s a pain in the ass for my dad to come over and take care of all of my animals) but I think I was persuaded by the possibility of finally seeing Detroit firsthand, as a day trip there was promised.

One thing about Detroit’s story that makes it so….sad is that Detroit apparently used to be a very nice place.   The average person could get a decent job and make a good living.   There was a lot of money from the auto industry and a nice civic/corporate parternship that made possible a lot of amazing public works.   The architecture was ornate and reflected a real sense of pride in place without being gaudy or too extravagant.   I noticed that her family really seemed to wax poetic about their old neighborhoods and their trips into the city in the past, but lament the fact that it’s become, well, a shithole.

I did notice that there was a lot more trash along the side of the highway coming into the city than you would expect in a more functioning city.  Although much of the “landscape” was blocked by berms along the highway, you could still see boarded up houses and lots where the woods have reclaimed abandoned homes.

Generally speaking it seemed a little more vacant than you would expect from a city that size.   There were fewer billboards along the road even than in other cities and traffic was lighter.    Even the downtown area didn’t seem as busy as it should’ve been.

I did get to see some of the famed abandoned factories that ring the city’s core, which was eerie.   They were beyond hope of salvage, covered in spray paint and often collapsing on themselves.   It really did look like something out of a war zone.   Well, a war zone with graffiti artists pulling up the rear.

The thing that went through my mind while seeing these kinds of huge buildings decaying into oblivion is how bad things had to have gotten to get someone to just give up such a big undertaking.   Someone puts a lot of blood, sweat and tears into putting up a big factory like that…or maybe more accurately, someone puts a lot of cash into one of those buildings.        At what point does someone just say “fuck it” and walk away?

I guess it doesn’t help that when you have a structure that holds a factory, there’s really not much else you can do with it besides have a factory.    We have a place in downtown Des Moines that was a Ford factory and an airplane factory but was eventually “repurposed” into a giant school building.   That’s worked out pretty good for this city, but what do you do when there are dozens or hundreds of factories shutting down in one concentrated area?   You can’t just turn them all into industrial-sized schools.

Could you turn them into housing?   Sure, but when the factories close the houses are “closing” too and fewer people are able or willing to buy houses.     I think we’re seeing the same phenomenon right now with shopping malls and big box retailers.   There seems to be  a scramble to unload these kinds of holdings as fast as possible and get some other kind of occupant there before they run out of possibilities.   If physical retail is dwindling, what can you do with a Best Buy building?   Someone can find something, but are there enough “somebodies” to fill up what’s there?  Probably not and unfortunately that’s made Detroit’s transition into a functioning post-industrial city really difficult.   If the blight could just go magically away and leave a blank slate, it would solve *some* of the city’s problems.   Not all, but enough to retool into something coherent.

I thought the downtown area was really nice.   As something of a skyline aficionado, I loved the ornate buildings that dot the downtown area.  Many of them had the art deco thing going on and stood out as individual buildings compared to what we normally see in newer cities.    The view of the skyline against the Detroit river and the Great Lakes on the Ambassador Bridge to Canada was amazing, but after having to sit there for an hour on the bridge (busy travel day!) I admit it ran it’s course to me.   Greek town and the stadiums in the downtown area all looked really nice, I’d love to catch a ballgame sometime there.

The zoo was really nice and reflected that era in Detroit’s history where they had a ton of cash and were ambitious with public projects.   There was a bit of malaise from the employees (and the animals since it was 90 degrees), but it was in good repair.   The neighborhood around it was really nice, which was good considering I was given some bad directions and getting around there – it’s always more pleasant to get lost in a place where you’re more likely to find a vegan cupcake shop than the plasma bank.

I have a feeling that since I now have some family connections to the area that I’ll probably be back in Detroit at some point in my life.   Hopefully next time I can at least spend a little bit of time there without kids and see more of “real Detroit” and most importantly, “Old Detroit”, one of America’s most storied cities.

PS:    Windsor, Ontario was a shithole too.    The small part I saw looked like a beat up American strip mall.   The one person I interacted with, the manager at the Tim Horton’s, was very polite though.

 

 

“Why Doesn’t Anyone Change Their Profile Pics to Turkish Flags?”

Earlier in the week there was a bombing at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.   The bombing was tied to ISIS and it killed something in the neighborhood of 50 people.

 

Immediately after the bombing, there were quite a few “Why doesn’t anyone care when terrorism happens in _____”, as there always is whenever something happens in the Western world.   Someone brings up an attack (that they probably didn’t know about either, btw) that happened in Beirut, Baghdad or whatever that didn’t get any significant media airplay and certainly didn’t get an outpouring of support from American do-gooders.

This question is more or less meant to be rhetorical, just making a statement how close-minded, racist, sheltered, etc. we are.    It never really gets answered, partially because it comes from the clickbait/SJW memes world and usually probably gets written off as “Oh, there’s little Billy trying to save the world again!” or whatever.    To actually answer it is pretty damn simple though…
No one really cares because it happens all the time.   An attack in Paris or the United States  doesn’t happen nearly as often as it does in these places that are basically war zones.   It really sucks for the people who have to live with a real, tangible threat of this kind of violence but people become desensitized to it if it becomes viewed as one of the hallmarks of that civilization.   If you were to plan a trip to Lebanon or Egypt, one of the first things people would say to you would be “oh man, watch out for terrorists!”.   When my ex-wife and I went on our honeymoon to Istanbul years ago, her mom cried because she was worried about us being in that part of the world.  Maybe it was a bit of an overreaction but it’s not exactly unfounded to worry.   It’s also worth mentioning that one of the color revolutions was going on in Egypt at the time.

So it gets called racism that people don’t care.  I think there’s something here, actually, but only in the sense that people identify and empathize more with people like them.  It’s easier to put myself (and yourself, admit it) in the shoes of a Parisian at a rock concert or even a gay nightclub patron in Orlando than it is a street peddler in Baghdad that winds up on the unfortunate side of a car bomb.   The situation in Turkey is a little different though, as the kind of people who would’ve been on the receiving end of this bomb were probably people that had a western-orientated consumer-based lifestyle that we would recognize.    I haven’t checked the nationality of the victims, but I’m sure plenty were probably European tourists that we would definitely identify with.   Even if they were all Turkish nationals, they would be people with one foot in a world we WOULDN’T identify with (Muslim, “developing world” and so-on) and one foot in a world we WOULD recognize (secular, democratic, consumerist, etc.   Turkey isn’t exactly a first world country, but in the grand scheme of the world, they’re doing pretty good).   Overall, people seemed to care a little bit more than if it happened in Ramadi or even Jakarta.   On this note, if it happened in Japan (which obviously isn’t white), I think people in the US would care just as much as if it happened in France because our lifestyles are so similar…and maybe they would be viewed as more of an innocent party than Western Europe/USA/Canada.

Now let’s talk Turkey…   For some reason Turkey has managed to raise the ire of ISIS, even though they’ve been accused of aiding them covertly against Assad in Syria.   It’s kind of a confusing situation, but I think that in the grand mile-high view of these terrorist groups, neo-ottomanism is a huge obstacle against eventually gaining an Islamic caliphate.   Also it could’ve been done to get Turkey to double down on terrorism and hit the Kurds/PKK even harder than they have been, since they’ve been one of the biggest hurdles for ISIS and a constant thorn in the side for Turkey.   Apparently once Russia entered Syria and Turkey shot down that plane, Russia made a huge showing of bombing the shit out of “assets” immediately across the border believed to be sponsored by Turkey against the Kurds.   Ha ha.

Anyways, yeah, it sucks that human life has different relative values but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if people “care” in Kansas that people are getting blown up in Baghdad – there are still places in the world where the kind of violence that is rare and notable in part of the world is an everyday occurrence and no amount of “awareness” will change that.

1 2 3 27