Archive | August, 2013

Buy Detroit – now!

25 Aug

Detroit1

From ancient Athens to modern-day Antwerp, over the ages one word has come to define our cities: Commerce.

Traditionally, cities are the places where money flows. No longer, at least not in America.

Detroit has become the largest and most noteworthy of U.S. cities from which capital flees.

Oh Detroit, once so great and prosperous. How sad is your decline.

They say it’s foolish to call for a cop or an ambulance in bankrupt Motown. You’ll wait forever.

They say so much of the urban landscape in Detroit has been abandoned that people have taken to plowing it under and using it for agriculture.

Detroit2But Detroit was once an economic magnate that helped foster one of the largest migrations in American history. Between 1910 and 1970, over 6 million African Americans left the South. They settled in many places and Detroit – with its thriving auto industry – was high on the list.

Its closeness to the Canadian wilderness and the Great Lakes spurred economic development there from the very start. It boomed with the 18th century fur trade. Much later, when Henry Ford set up shop in 1903, Detroit truly came into its own, growing in the 1950s to 1.8 million people and becoming the fourth largest city in America.

Today, it has about 700,000 people and is the 13th largest city. From 2000 to 2010 its population fell by 25 percent. In addition to the incredible reverse migration and the massive loss of jobs, about 47 percent of all tax parcels are delinquent, which is why the city has really ceased to be a city.

Instead, it has become a disabled hulk that is $19 billion in debt.

This is all so bleak, especially since other cities face the same fate.

Detroit3In such times, I try to remember that life runs in cycles; that the dead do rise. I try to remember that the present is only the present and the future always brings change. I try to remember that those who bought Chrysler at $1 got rich.

If I were a person with money to invest in the long term, I would buy – steal, perhaps – Detroit real estate.

As you laugh, remember that the best financial advice ever given is the most difficult to follow: Buy low, sell high.

Prices in Detroit will never be lower.

It takes guts to buy low because most investors think only of the present. Without vision, there is no glory and little profit.

So to all those visionary investors – Warren Buffett, are you out there? – help bring back Detroit. Buy Detroit.

Buy Detroit now.

Do it before the Chinese. They’ll be over for sure, for they are the most patient of all investors.

Actually, the Hipster homesteaders probably will be first.

Look what they did for Brooklyn! They’ll test the waters, start slow; attract more of their ilk; bring the city back block by block; start a few small businesses. They won’t be looking for a return; just a lifestyle that they can create. It’s the new lifestyle that will bring in the investors.

We’ll all read about it in the New York Times or watch it develop on YouTube; they’ll be a Detroit sitcom; some of us, or our children, will eventually move there, paying rents that are no longer cheap but enjoying the comfort that even a city like Detroit can once again mean commerce.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

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Even the absurd and irrational have meaning

11 Aug

Firesign-Theatre-Dont-Crush-That-Dwarf-Hand-Me-The-Pliers-Cover

I drove by a Laundromat where I once washed my clothes and recalled an incident of vandalism in which I participated. It was more whimsical than wanton and did not affect the washing and drying of clothes. In a way, it benefitted the store’s patrons.

At the time I was living with two roommates in a yellow ranch house on a hill. We held two major parties a year. In the summer there was a pig roast with fresh corn and clams, and in the winter an inclusively themed Solstice Party.

The house was on a major road, with a town at both ends. We frequented a shopping center in one of the towns. It had a supermarket, a good pizza place and the Laundromat. Inside the laundry was a 3-foot square sign that we considered offensive. It read:

 

Absolutely no pizza pies to be eaten in this Laundromat.

 

In an attempt to express the seriousness of the message, the type was in red and “absolutely” was italicized. Some signs say “please.” This one did not.

Laundry signThe night before one of the solstice parties there was drinking at the little yellow house. I wasn’t much of a drinker but my compatriots made up for my shortcoming. While imbibing, we were trying to come up with a way to make the house more interesting. This was a time when one of our favorite things was listening to a comedy album entitled, “Don’t Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.” There was nothing on the record about either dwarves or pliers, and the nonsense and non sequitur of the title appealed to us. We saw it perhaps as a reflection of the times.

A eureka moment occurred around 2 a.m. One roommate grabbed a claw hammer and directed us into his vehicle. We drove to the Laundromat.  With claw hammer in hand, the idea man jumped onto the washers and violently tore down the anti-pizza edict. We drove back to the yellow house and nailed it to the front door.

This was our non sequitur.

In addition to setting the mood for our party, the sign removal was viewed as an act of liberation. People now could freely eat pizza during their mindless waits.

Pizza-Wallpaper-pizza-6333801-1024-768The party went well. In those days the little yellow house drew big crowds. Reaction and comments to the sign were favorable and convinced us we had done the right thing.

After the party we left the sign on the door. It said so much about us.

When the landlord came for a visit, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the sign. He also expressed great confusion. We tried explaining its purpose and meaning but it was like Picasso trying to explain his work to Michelangelo. The landlord was as offended by the sign on his door as we were by the sign in the Laundromat. He ordered it taken down.

Where that sign is today I cannot say. But I hope it is somewhere.

Looking upon wanton vandalism with older eyes, I cannot fathom why someone would destroy something of worth for no apparent reason. Still, I try to remember the laundry sign and the bafflement of the landlord and compare his bafflement to my own. As a result, the past and the present have become a lesson in life, crime, politics, culture and international relations.

The lesson is this: No matter how irrational something appears, deep in the heart of someone or some group, there is always a reason for it.

Lanny Morgnanesi

 

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