The Grande Ballroom in Detroit wasn't destroyed in the 1967 riots, but images like this one of the city came to be because of that terrible week in July 1967. (Image used under Creative Commons license.)
I was 16 in the summer of 1967. I'd just got my driver's license. My boyfriend lived at the other end of the block. We lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, an affluent, all-white suburb on the edge of Detroit. My father worked just a few blocks from the area where the 1967 Detroit riots broke out. I was comfortable going into the city for shopping, museums and entertainment.
But the week of July 23, I heard gunfire in the distance as I lay in my safe, surburban bed. Detroit erupted in riots that have been ranked among the worst in U.S. history. For five days, the city was in insurrection. First the state police were called in. Then the National Guard. Then President Johnson sent in federal troops.
Tanks rolled through the streets of Detroit. Forty-three people died. Hundreds were injured. Thousands were arrested. Thousands of buildings were burned. Families were left homeless.
In the end, the greatest casualty of that week of rage was the city itself. Detroit, once the powerhouse of American prosperity, died a slow, agonizing death after the riots. The number of plans to stop the decline and turn the city around were without number. None succeeded.
Today, 48 years later, there are some tentative signs of life, but the most robust revitalization plan will never bring Detroit back to what it was.
The Detroit police touched off the riots. They had a reputation for brutality and racism. There were few minorities on the force and minorities bore the brunt of out-of-control behavior.
But it wasn't the police who bore the consequences of the rioting. It was everybody else.
This is the Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem.
This is my first SMHRB diary, so I'm going to start by introducing myself.
Hi! I'm Elsa. My user name reflects the fact that my surname starts with an "F." My expertise comes from my efforts over the last seven years to rehab run-down houses and turn them into rentals. I'm decidedly over 60, and most of what I know about home repair I've learned recently.
I didn't start out to be a rehabber. I had a desk job for most of my adult life. I was a copy editor at a daily newspaper for the last 23 years as a wage slave. I got into rehabbing when my parents died (Dad in late 2007 and Mom in early 2008) and I came into a modest inheritance.
The date of my inheritance is significant. Think back to what was happening in late 2007 and early 2008 -- the great financial apocalypse. I was watching my 401k turning into guano; real estate prices were cratering; my own home equity evaporated overnight. In 2008 I was starting to shift my thinking from "what's happening now" to "retirement time is coming." In short, my financial prospects were terrifying.
Having a bit of cash on hand inspired me. Real estate prices were insanely low. Houses that were valued at $120k in mid 2007 were now selling for less than $20k. The stock market looked dodgy at best. So, I invested my inheritance in houses. Not all at once, mind you. One at a time. The houses I bought cost between $11K and $17k. In each case, I put $20k-30k into them and rented them out.
Fast forward to spring 2013. My employer laid off my entire department (the copy desk) and I was out of a job for the first time since I was 17. As soon as the initial shock wore off, and my abject terror at the prospect of never having a regular job again subsided, I was filled with the most exhilarating optimism I have ever experienced.
For the first time since becoming an adult my life was entirely my own.
I decided to invest a big chunk of my 401k in rehabbing another house. I hadn't bought a house for several years at that point. I started going on regular outings with my real estate agent in search of my next project.
At that point, the real estate market in my area had started a gradual recovery. In fact, existing home sales were booming in my community. I put in offers on no less than five houses -- only to lose in a bidding war each time.
Yeah, that's me.
Then, one fine late-July day, I was out riding my bicycle. I cruised past a sad-looking brick bungalow with a for sale sign and my fate was sealed.
I whipped out my cell phone and called my agent, who, as it turned out, was in the area finishing up a showing. He arrived 10 minutes later. The asking price was just $10k -- a clue that this wasn't going to be a minor rehab job. I had recently bid on several houses of similar size and construction that ended up going for more than $50k. My agent called for the lock-box code, but we ended up having to wait for about a half hour before the listing agent got back to us. In that time, several other interested buyer groups showed up. A house that cheap generates a lot of interest.
We went through the house as part of the crowd of potential buyers. Apparently, the place had just gone on the market -- less than an hour before I cycled by.
The day I first laid eyes on the house. Yes, that's
my bicycle in the driveway.
The inside was horrifying. Several people went in and shuddered, then left immediately. I mean... it was nasty. There was a hole in the roof. You could stand in the living room and look up to see the sky. There were four inches of standing water in the basement. The place stank and there was exposed insulation handing down from the ruined ceilings. That tree you see at the left of the picture was actually a weed bush grown over 30-feet tall. It had caused the hole in the roof.
The house had been sitting empty, unheated, for five years, I found out by chatting up neighbors.
A couple of pictures:
A nasty little kitchen.
The living room of doom.
To move the story along, I put in an offer and I got the house, though I paid quite a bit more than the asking price. It was still very, very cheap.
I closed in the first week of August and started demo the very next day.
The first thing that happened is we took down the overgrown bush that ruined the roof.
The guy with the chainsaw is my handyman/general contractor. I'm going to call him "M." M and I have been working together since the second house I rehabbed. I couldn't do what I do without him. But we are decidedly an odd couple. M is of the Tea Party persuasion. We tend to have hilarious political arguments when we're working together. I'm not sure he thinks it's as funny as I do, but it does keep things entertaining. M taught me to use power tools without hurting myself. At the end of the day, he's my employee and friend -- the kind of friend you can't resist setting off on another rant about Obama's evil plot to outlaw light bulbs.
When I rehab, I do what I can and what I can't I generally farm out to M. I've learned to respect my limitations. I'm not going to work on the roof. I'm not going to drywall a ceiling. If it's a big paint job, I'll hire M because it would take me four times as long to do it myself. Time is money.
The second day of the project was interior demo. I hired my sometimes helper "B." B is a musician who picks up extra cash doing odd jobs. When I can get him, I enjoy working with him. He's the anti-M -- liberal to the core. But I can't get him regularly. His health is iffy and if I say, "Come on over and give me a hand tomorrow," chances are about 50/50 that he'll actually show up. He's cheaper than M. I pay him $15 an hour when he's working. (That's my minimum wage. I even pay that to neighborhood children when I occasionally hire them.)
B helped me tear out the cabinets in the kitchen, and I tore out the disgusting carpet and pad in the living room. The hardwood underneath was unsurprisingly ruined. Five years of water falling on it from the hole in the roof was the culprit. I pulled down the ruined ceiling dry wall and called it a day. I was exhausted. (And so was B.)
For the next week, I entertained estimates and bids from a variety of specialty contractors. You could walk around the place now and actually see the problems that had to be fixed. My regular plumber gave me a "I'll do right by you," bid, and I couldn't tie him down any farther than that. Sadly, it was my last time hiring him because by the end when he finally presented his bill, I didn't think he'd done right by me.
M took on the roof. I got estimates from four companies, but M's price was the best -- by several thousand dollars.
The kitchen stripped down.
The scope of work was as follows:
New hot water heater
Take out wall between kitchen and living room and install beam across opening
Repair plaster and drywall
New flooring in kitchen, living room and hall
Do "something" with the upstairs room
Refurbish stairs to upstairs
New cabinets and appliances in kitchen
New garage door
New toilet in bathroom
New doors and storm doors front and side
Miscellaneous rewiring to bring it to code
New cement driveway from house to sidewalk
I wanted to keep my rehab cost under $50k and get it done in 30-45 days. From the list above, you're probably saying, "Right... and I can build the Taj Mahal on my lunch hour with pocket change." You're right. I was being wildly optimistic. It went over budget and WAY over time.
This is way too much story to tell in one diary. It was an adventure like none other I've had in my life. It went on for three months. So, I'll be continuing the saga in coming diaries. But here's a spoiler. The result was spectacular.
Here's a taste:
You might want to scroll back up and look at how the kitchen started.
I had an interesting experience this morning. I think the Adobe Corporation is spying on me. Am I paranoid?
I'm working on a little personal publishing project that needed a couple of graphics. It was nothing complicated. Just a couple of diagrams that amounted to simple polygons with measurements noted to the side. (See illustration)
I don't have anything like Autocad (does anybody use that anymore?) or even Illustrator on my desktop. And the shapes function in my word processor wasn't going to do the job.
But I do have a subscription to Adobe Photoshop's cloud-based program. I wouldn't normally subscribe to software. I believe in owning. But Photoshop is very expensive, and I just can't afford to buy the CS suite. It's the photo editor I'm most proficient with. I'm really good with Photoshop. So, even though I could use something more consumer-, rather than pro-oriented, I like having Photoshop at my fingertips.
I bought the subscription after my ancient personal copy of Photoshop stopped working. (Yes, I paid for it once, about 15-20 years ago. But to keep it working you have to keep buying updates and $250-$300 a year got too expensive after a while.)
Anyway, last year, I got an offer from Adobe for the full version of Photoshop, with several other coordinating apps for about $10 a month. Even though I hate the idea of subscribing to software, I decided it was worth it just to be able to go back to using my favorite photo editor.
So, this morning, I was somewhat awkwardly using Photoshop for a task that would be much better done in something like Illustrator or some other vector graphic program. But, I'm really good with Photoshop, so I did accomplish what I needed to do.
Then, I hear my email notification. I've got a spam email from Adobe telling me I could make graphics for presentations very easily with another program they offer.
I don't get a steady stream of spam from Adobe. This can't have been a coincidence.
As I use their cloud-based version of Photoshop, they are not only keeping track of the fact I'm using it, they're looking over my shoulder to see what I'm doing with it.
This may make me give up Photoshop. I love it for photo editing. The price is at a level I can handle. But I don't think any corporation has a right to look over my shoulder when I'm doing personal projects.
Of course there's no practical harm from this example. I just put one of the diagrams I made this morning at the top of this diary. It's a pretty generic thing. I might even have found a useable version of what I needed with a Google image search. Nobody is going to come after me because I'm drawing the shapes of pieces in a knitting pattern that I'm writing.
But I can easily extrapolate this situation to something that could be extremely harmful. For example: What if rather than drawing the shapes of pieces of a cardigan, I was diagramming my brilliant invention that is going to replace fossil fuel, save the world, and make me billions of dollars? Could Adobe steal my idea, cut me out and make the billions for Adobe instead? Could they inform on me to BP or Exxon and see to it that I can never get my product to market?
"The cloud" is the enemy of intellectual property. As the major software providers move to the cloud model, we are being denied the ability to use a computer for anything we would like to keep to ourselves, even temporarily.
I can't disconnect from the Internet and use my Photoshop subscription in privacy. I always save my final drawing or photo to my own hard drive, not the cloud, but I am still compelled to have it on their server while I'm working on it.
Cloud storage seems to make sense (depending on how you look at it) for photo storage. I've lost precious digital photos because of hard drive failure. Photos are large files and over a lifetime of taking snapshots you're going to need more and more storage.
But at the same time, we can thank the existence of cloud storage for a lot of embarrassing personal photos (of celebrities and regular people) that have made it into the public space.
I've never taken or allowed to be taken any nude photos of myself. Nobody wants that. Believe me.
But if I should develop a desire for nude personal photography, I ought to be able to indulge in it without fear that my photos are going to be on the bulletin board at the grocery store the next time I go shopping. The only way I can ever be sure of this is to make sure my photos are ONLY stored on media that I own and for which I can control access.
There's a whole type of laptop out there now that doesn't even have a hard drive. Just solid state memory holding the boot system. You can't use it without connecting to the Internet. I don't own a Chromebook, and as long as there are alternatives, I won't. When I boot up my laptop and start on the draft of my next great Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, I want to be sure that nobody is reading it until I'm ready.
The ACA is far from perfect. Like a lot of other people, I would like to see single payer, or "Medicare for all." The premiums on the Healthcare.gov policies are too high and the benefits far from as good as what I used to get through my (former) employer.
But make no mistake, the net result has been positive for me. I am better off today (especially today, Tax Day 2015) than I would be without it.
I have mixed feelings about that 10 Hours of Cat Calls video. Some of the behavior I saw in that clip disturbed me. Some of it looked pretty benign, to me -- YMMV. It got me thinking about my own experience, and one incident that shook me up more than a little bit.
I'm a woman in my 60s. I'm heavy set, gray-haired and few people's image of "beauty." That doesn't bother me. I am who I am, and I'm comfortable with myself. But my looks mean I don't have to deal with a lot of cat calls, wolf whistles or unwanted attention from men -- particularly young men.
I did have one disturbing experience, though. The year was 1980 and the scene was the Republican National Convention at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, when Ronald Reagan got the Republican nomination. What was I doing there? I was a college journalism student and signed on as an intern for one of the television teams covering the event.
Disclaimer: I am solidly Pro-Choice. What I am attempting to do is help other Pro-Choice people understand the viewpoint of the opposition. I believe that it is difficult to change minds if you don't fully understand where the other person is coming from.
The battle over abortion has stubbornly remained stuck in a sort of calcified trench warfare over the past 40 years. Roe v Wade was supposed to make safe, medical abortion a matter to be decided between a woman and her doctor. Forty one years later, we're still fighting for that goal and it seems we're losing ground, faster and faster.
I'm often discouraged by the way a woman's right to control her own body is treated as an extreme, liberal idea. Like most pro-choice people, I would fight to my last breath to prevent any woman who finds abortion morally repugnant from being coerced into an abortion. To my mind, that should settle it. The only women who should consider having abortions are women who are not opposed to abortion. If the pro-life side took that attitude, there would be no problem.
But the pro-life side simply can't possibly take that attitude, and therein lies the reason we can't put this argument to rest.
It was the summer of 1962. I threw a slumber party in my parents' basement. I was 10 or 11 -- I don't remember whether it was before or after my birthday that year.
We lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, an upscale suburb just a little way from Lake St. Clair. After several hours of listening to my collection of 45s, talking about the boyfriends none of us had yet, eating pizza, drinking Coke and giggling, someone had the idea of riding our bikes down to the lake to watch the sun rise. It was about 3:30 a.m. and my parents were sound asleep. They wouldn't have let us step out of the house at that time of night if they'd had any idea what we were up to, but none of us had any fear of being out on the streets.
So, this little gaggle of 10 and 11-year-old girls took off on our bicycles and rode about a mile down to Lakeshore Drive, where there was a narrow strip of grass between the road and the lake. We sat down on the bank and the sun came up in all it's pearly pink glory. As it was getting light, we hopped back on our bikes and headed home.
Before we'd got more than a block from the lake, we were stopped by a police officer in his patrol car.
Nobody was shot. Nobody was frisked. Nobody was Tasered or handcuffed. Nobody was even hauled down to the station to have our parents called.
The officer said there had been a break-in in the area and he asked for our names, ages and home addresses. We told him what he wanted to know (polite little girls didn't refuse to give their names to the police in those days), he chuckled a little -- having decided that we didn't seem like a bunch of house breakers -- and sent us on our way.
Naturally, we were all white and none of us had any fear of police, because we'd been raised to believe the police were there to protect us.
I'm not sure that story would be anything like my memory today. My little story sounds a bit like a fairy tale. The idea of a group of 10- and 11-year-old girls out riding their bikes at 3:30 a.m. would make most parents turn pale today -- even in an upscale community like Grosse Pointe.
Two days ago, a deal was reached on the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Authority that will allow the city's bankruptcy case go forward. Like most bankruptcy agreements, it involved a good measure of arm twisting and Hobson's choices. But it has the potential to benefit most of the people in southeastern Michigan who use water -- in other words, everybody.
1. The system will now be governed by a regional authority, the Great Lakes Water Authority. The authority will have six members: 2 from the city of Detroit, 1 each from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and one appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Oakland and Macomb counties cover most of the Detroit suburbs. Wayne is mostly the city with a few downriver suburbs.)
2. The suburbs will be contributing $50 million a year to repair and rebuild the system for the next 40 years, a total of $2 billion. That will finance $500 to $800 million in system upgrades and repairs.
3. Water rate increases would be capped at 4% a year for the next 10 years.
4. The authority will provide up to $4.5 million a year to assist Detroiters living below the poverty line with water bills.
5. The Detroit Water and Sewer Department will continue to operate and maintain the system's pipes and plants within the city borders.
6. All union deals with Detroit water workers will stay in place, though 900 workers will transfer to the new GLWA.
There's a rec-list meta tempest (perhaps in a teapot) going on today. It's all over a well-known poster and commenter who got banned yesterday.
I have only the barest understanding of the incident that led to the banning. I was off doing "important stuff" yesterday and never saw the diary or comment thread that set it all off. The individual in question is someone whose ID I recognize and with whom I've never had a problem. That isn't to say that this person has never caused a problem -- I don't read every comment thread in every diary, so a lot happens I never know about.
From my minimal understanding of the underlying kerfuffle, this well-known poster had a meltdown seemingly touched off by not getting enough recommends, but probably caused by something else that only he knows about.
I've been around here awhile. My UID has five digits and I've been a registered and reasonably active member since 2005. I first started reading DKos during the Kerry presidential campaign.
I haven't been engaged for every single day of those nine years. Sometimes I drift away and don't read DKos for weeks or months at a time. I've never done a GBCW though. I just don't read it for a while until whatever annoyed me dies down.
But overall, I've been engaged in political conversations here more than not. So, as an old timer, I'd like to offer some advice for staying sane while participating in online communities.
Follow me across the squiggle if you'd like some simple guidelines.
Welcome again to Saturday Morning Home Repair blogging, where we talk about fixing up houses, doing repairs on all the things in and around them that are supposed to work but don't, and sprucing our ...