Some Notes from Dearborn, MI

We are the bellwether species, that frog with the extra leg in the drainage ditch near the chemical plant that no one notices until the ground water is potable no more. Ford leveraged its factories more than two years ago. Two of my neighbors stand in their yards and shoot squirrels out of trees with bee bee guns out of boredom.

My neighbor, Jerry, is supporting his son who cannot find work as a digger of postholes and his wife who is in and out of work behind the counter of the white collar cafeteria of Ford’s Rotunda development complex. Jerry’s a retired Teamster driver living on a fixed income, stubborn about accepting money, but I manage to hide it in his tool box after he fixes the brakes or a belt on our car. I usually buy him a case of beer each week, and he shares a few while we throw horse shoes in my yard on Saturday afternoons. It’s getting late in the year for this kind of recreation though.

My next door neighbor, Drew, works in Engineering at Ford. We get nervous when we see his night blue F-150 in his driveway too many afternoons in a row. Ford has been perpetually slashing jobs for years now. So far Drew has been lucky.

Orville Hubbard was mayor of our town once. During the sixties, he and other city officials dressed like clowns to avoid being served papers on a civil rights infraction.

In early summer when the Red Wing playoffs are on, I like to sit and read a book with the window open and listen to the roars and cursing. One can keep pretty effective score this way.

There are at least a few empty bungalows on any given block. There are also those who, in a strange mess of logic, blame the UAW for the foreclosure situation.

Earlier last summer my neighbor, Jack, took a seed from his marijuana bag and germinated it next to the oak tree in his backyard. He is on social security and medicare and has applied for the medical stuff, but is still waiting. He passes sixty kidney stones a year and says this is the only thing that truly eases the pain. He transplanted it once it was established and stuck it in a painter’s bucket filled with potting soil. He mulched it in to retain the water and plant food he diligently feeds it. If you get caught downwind of it you can smell the cannabis now.

The year before my grandmother died, I bought a used Honda Civic from a lot here in Dearborn. I bought my grandmother a Gerber Daisy and a card on Mother’s Day and pulled up in front of her house for a visit. My uncle, Tim, charged out the door and threatened to slash the tires and kick the shit out of me. I gave my grandmother the daisy and the card and left.

My car is paid for. I feel a bit like a fool driving through Dearborn, MI in something other than a Ford. I promised my next door neighbor Drew I’d never buy another foreign car, and I meant it. I’m just waiting for this Honda to die. Last week he dropped some pamphlets in my mailbox with images of and information on the Ford Fiesta, the car he helped to engineer. It hits the market in 2010.

Auctions for foreclosed houses in my neighborhood begin with bids of $10,000. Some people say terrible things about those who wind up moving into the bank-owned properties. In the minds of neighborhood bigots, the minorities who purchase the homes are “A-rabs” and “Niggers.” You might view this as the quintessence of racism, but don’t kid yourself; it is merely its crudest and most apparent form.

I check the status of Jack’s plant from time to time. It has grown to about four feet tall, and the leaves seem a darker green than they did in the summer. If he is able to harvest it, it will be a victory of sorts.

The DOW nears 10,000 points this week, and Drew is on unpaid leave for a month. Jack sits on the cement stoop of his garage, bee bee gun by his side, smoking a hash pipe and glancing into the trees. The night blue F-150 in that driveway next door makes a ping each time an acorn hits. I wave at Jack as I approach the back fence, “Hey Jack, wanna throw a game of shoes?”