Wednesday, January 23, 2008
What happens when the money goes away
Here's one of the images that haunts me.
I grew up in industrial Michigan, just about the time when the factories were closing. I remember these monstrous buildings, four blocks long and a block wide and four stories tall — surrounded by chain link fencing, with all the windows shot out, and grass growing up through the workers' parking lot.
At one time, the owners and managers and foremen at these factories had enough money to patronize businesses like the one above — the Michigan Theater in Detroit. Now there's not even enough money around to fill it as a parking lot for downtown workers.
My dad was, and my brothers are, working-class guys. It's jobs like theirs that used to support these cities. Now, retired, they complain about how all the jobs have gone to Asia (but love that they can shop at WalMart and buy the bargain barbecue grill that was made for 65 cents an hour in Indonesia). How can we build a better sense of cause-and-effect that allows us to speak of the abandonment of the Michigan Theater in the same sentence as the developer home and the six-dollar plastic resin patio chair?