Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Lately I've been staying in a lot more than usual, which really isn't me. I'm not exactly sure why, it's possible my liver finally started communicating with my brain and is forcing some much-needed R & R. But it's been nice to watch some DVD's, get a little more work done, listen to some records and contemplate life. Which is exactly what I was doing last night, admiring that beautiful sunset, doing some work into the evening with a great view of those gritty, pretty city lights, and thinking this is pretty damn cool, this Detroit life I've got going for me.

And then I wake up this morning to a call from my building management letting me know my car was broken into last night. Good Lord, I haven't even had my coffee yet! So I go check it out and there's a broken window and the steering column is all fucked up because they tried to steal the whole car, not just the 79 cents in the ashtray like you get over on Park Avenue.

Now, I've had car break-ins in every city I've inhabited in my adult life. CD's stolen from a trunk in Boston. The entire wardrobe of a drag queen friend in Washington, DC ("What was stolen, officer? Um, well, about twelve pair of size 13 heels ...."). But the kicker here is that this is the third break-in I've had this summer (although mercifully the first involving significant damage). What the fuck is the deal?

So as I dealt with the car bullshit - by the way, kudos to the city for the crime easy-report system via 311, they were super nice and professional, and to my building's security, they chased down the guys and caught them - I started to feel weird that I wasn't fully irritated and ranting about leaving the city and being someplace normal. As I was talking to my sister about it I realized that even though this is a hassle and an insurance deductible I have to pay, it is leaps and bounds better than my life was when I spent a lot of time in the suburbs.

When I first moved back to the Detroit area, I lived with my brother in an inner-ring suburb for a bit. As a result of feeling like I lived in the middle of nowhere, I was constantly driving to get somewhere. So, well, you know, sometimes you get moving violations ... an illegal turn on red in Huntington Woods, 5 over the limit on the freeway in St. Clair Shores. And of course if you don't stay on top of that administrative bullshit you get tickets for expired tags and the like. And if you get those kinds of tickets, you get that triple-indemnity extortion from the State known as the "Driver's Responsibility Fee" which requires you to pay an additional fine at the time of the original ticket and again a year later. Sure. And God forbid you move and don't get your second fee notice, because then they will suspend your driver's licence. And after you pay that, if you didn't realize that you have to ALSO go to the Secretary of State to pay $125 to get your license reinstated, you might get pulled over five months later and be driving on a suspended license. And that's a whole new Driver's Responsibility Fee, $500 bucks for two years this time.

I'm not saying this happened to me, but in a hypothetical situation like this you could conceivably pay over $2000 in fines over two years. I'm just sayin'.

So when I thought about the big picture today, it all seemed like a relatively minor hassle. I can walk to work in 20 minutes, or else I can drive in five. Ditto most of my favorite bars and restaurants. Most of my friends live close by, and most new people I meet are really, truly interesting foks with cool jobs - no customer service reps or middle managers in my social circle, thank you very much - and an individualist outlook. There are great things to do everywhere right outside my spectacular apartment. And I've reduced my carbon footprint.

Some people would have one break-in and write off the city for good, and I get that. I can't help but feel that - for me, at least - it's as minor a hassle as someone else might have with paying $70+ a week for gas, or having to pay for lawn care. No, it's not ideal that this stuff happens with some frequency in the city (it's actually pathetic and fucked up). But when I really think about the alternative, $250 and two days without my car is a "responsibility fee" I can, begrudgingly, deal with.

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