This is a long read, but worth it. This guy lives like maybe six miles from where I grew up. And where I grew up is nothing like as bad as it is where he is. I guess the Magic Racism Forcefield of Eight Mile keeps this chaos somewhat contained?
Spoiler alert: Detroit is the worst place in America.
Sign of the times - Culture - Detroit Metro Times
"I can get you anything you want, legal or illegal," he says. " Drugs, black market goods, anything. I can get you a helicopter. Guns. Grenades $5 apiece, real grenades. Anything that you want there's somebody willing to steal it. I don't care what you want. You want a tank? You can get it and probably for less than $5,000."
Alarmed by what he'd seen, he wrote impassioned letters pleading for help from the city's mayors and councilmembers, who dismissed him for living in a suburb at the time. "When I started tackling problems the first thing that came out of their mouths was, 'Well, you don't even live in Detroit,'" he says, "So, OK, fine, I'll move to Detroit."
He moved into a rickety old house at French and Gratiot, an intersection crisscrossing a wasteland. As a disaster relief worker he'd been to towns decimated by hurricanes or tornadoes. But he was stunned.
"I've been all over the world, all over the country," he says. "There ain't nothing like Detroit. There's really no way to describe it."
In his decade of inner-city life, he's amassed countless stories of social mayhem, snapshots of social collapse. Of hookers having sex on the children's playground he built next to his yard. Of looking out his window to see neighbors walking off with tools and extension cords in bright daylight. Of the neighborhood kid who's so well-connected he can get back just about any of your stolen things — for a price. Of tending to children shot by stray bullets while waiting for police and ambulances that sometimes don't arrive. Of the elderly woman across the street who won $6,000 in the lottery but was shot and killed the next night by a thief who wanted that ticket. Of that drive-by shooting that sent little kids running for their lives on a playground.
"There ain't no way you can fathom it," he says of his corner of the city. "There's no morals, ethics, standards. There's no connection between, basically, life that you see everywhere else."
He spent six years in that neighborhood before moving to his current home near Eight Mile and Dequindre, to what he thought was a better neighborhood in which to raise his own three kids. It was worse.
"Just constantly under attack every day," he says. "I wake up every morning to see what I got left. They sneak in through every crack they can find. Cut all the locks I had on an $80,000 shop in a 16-foot box truck. Everything is gone. Just gone. My snowplow was piece by piece. They took the hydraulics, they took the switch controls, they took the plow, and then actually the whole truck."
He says he's lost $50,000 worth of tools and equipment since moving here. "All this shit just empties out. I keep filling it up, it keeps emptying out. They're like vultures. They sit there and watch, they'll put one on the corner or something, and they'll sit and watch and watch and watch until the second you get in the car and leave or turn your back."
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