A Patriot is Born- Hamtramck, USA

 

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As a multigenerational caucasian-American, I have lived my life in a position of privilege relative to many other Americans. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most of mine have been met, and I enjoy the luxury of being able to quibble and complain about relatively minor offenses. It’s always been hard for me to really wrap my head and my heart around a positive notion of America. I usually hedge. I focus on our racist past towards native peoples, african-americans, non-christians and non-whites. I focus on our shortcomings in health care, environmentalism and education relative to other countries. I focus on our ego-driven militancy and subversion of other governments. It’s hard to feel the love.

But, since I moved to Hamtramck, I become unexpectedly and enthusiastically more patriotic than ever. I love that this community exists, I love that it exists in America, I love that I get to be a part of it.


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Mulberry Grass

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Oh I would walk with you
through the mulberry grass
’til our toes were painted blue
and your fingers brush my hand.

Sit me down by the tree
when our legs don’t want to stand.
You can strum, I will sing
in our new two person band.

But you don’t play that song,
not for me,
not anymore.
I wonder
what the music all was for.

Let’s just let the hours go
though the bird calls in the day.
Let me feel, with eyes still closed
that you’re mine and here to stay.

But you don’t spend you time,
not like that,
not anymore
I wonder
what the magic all was for

Goodbye Goodwell’s

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The following is a conversation that my friend Margo Dalal and I had about the closing of Goodwell’s Market. 

Michele: “Pocket sandwich with avocado and cheese.” For an indecisive person, figuring out lunch can be a difficult prospect. What I loved about Goodwell’s is that I always knew what to order and, when lunchtime rolled around, I always knew where I wanted to go. So when Goodwell’s closed its doors abruptly and without explanation about a month ago, it left a bad taste left in my mouth. And if the conversations I’ve had with dozens of other Detroiters this past month are any indication, I’m not the only one feeling a little hurt, a little sad, and a little hungry for more than what we got when Goodwell’s went goodbye.

Margo: I am not angry that Goodwell’s closed, I am upset that I could not help, even if I wanted to. I am sad that there is one less place where Detroiters, new and old, could come together for an affordable and healthy snack. One reason I really loved Goodwell’s was the diversity in their customers. I loved to eat there and people watch, have a nice conversation with a kind senior gentleman, or sit outside and spontaneously see people I love.

Michele: First let me say that Goodwell’s doesn’t owe me anything, not really. They were a for-profit business that gave me what I paid for every time and more. But, while there is no explicit violation, an unspoken social contract was broken with this abrupt departure. When a business establishes itself as a gathering space for community, when it becomes a mainstay of affordable, healthy, mindful food, we come to rely on it and that trust should be rewarded with open communication. Continue reading

Silent Auction

img_4909Detroit’s Largest Missed Opportunity

(originally published in a similar form by Occupy.com)

Last month, the ACLU filed suit against the Wayne County Treasurer (WCT) for foreclosing on owner-occupied homes. The lawsuit has been anticipated for years, and could dramatically affect the fate of thousands if it successful halts the auction sale of those properties, but, even so, it would only impact one tenth of the tax foreclosed properties headed for auction since most occupied homes in the auction are already vacant or are occupied by someone other than the owner. Most occupied homes in the auction are not owner-occupied, and most protections (including due process)
apply to owners, not renters. In some ways, the greater tragedy lies in the foreclosures that go unchallenged because the protections most occupied homes in the auction properties that exist apply to the owners so most of the injustices aren’t even considered illegal. 

The Wayne County Tax Foreclosure auction is regarded nationwide as an opportunity to by Detroit homes on the cheap, but the people who have the most to gain (and the most to lose)­ in the auction– the current residents– often have the least access to take advantage of it.

Lack of information is a chronic problem throughout the foreclosure cycle, and affects renters far more than homeowners­– the auction passes noiselessly over these homes, and their residents, with no lawsuit or cover story to capture deafening silence to the people inside. Continue reading

New York Is

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 11.48.39 AMNew York is a line at the airport taxi-stand, 50 people long, filled with strangers each going somewhere but incapable of considering the prospect of coordinating destinations with the somebodies around them.

New York is a special machine for fixing traffic lights, making its way down 7th Ave.

New York is two homeless people cuddling between a clean-looking sheet on the steps of a church. Fast asleep, at noon.

New York is a large glossy coated dog who represents his owner the way flashy cars do in other urban landscapes.

New York is a mother walking with her son in a stroller that is being pushed by another woman with darker skin.Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 12.03.31 PM

New York is an entire wall filled with beautiful doughy bagels, nonchalant in the normalcy of abundance.

New York is a group of construction workers watching the final minutes of a Knicks/Heat game through the floor length glass windows of a 24-hour sporting goods store. Continue reading

Morning

IMG_1837Some days I wake up to the alarm-
groggy and irritated,
I crack my mind open just enough to unsheath the eraser end of my consciousness,
gruffly scrub out one or two or three of the items on the to-do list that my optimistic prior self had assigned,
and press “snooze.”

Some days I wake up restored-
I turn on all my senses before I lift my head
to the soft filtered light curtaining into the room
on the back of a cucumber breeze sprinkled with birdsong,
to the feel of my hands nested between my thighs, soft-on-soft,
to the awareness of my self,
with gratitude, with peace.

Some days I wake up afraid-
to leave my very bed, the prospect scares me.
I don’t trust myself to get through the day
without bringing harm.
In bed I am safe, out there, I dash my earnest hopes time and time again
with a thoughtless moment that drives others to follow, bringing me deeper underground.
Impulse, indulgence, waste, despair:
it happens to me like the weather,
though it is I who forms the clouds.
I know I can do without it
But I don’t know how.

On these days, I regard the ground warily,
still until..
the inevitable rise.
And face whatever the day may bring

Small Claims: A Slow Journey to Justice in the 36th District Court

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Originally published by ModelD Media

In the early morning light, a line of people slowly builds at the front doors of the 36th District Court. A bail bondsman in parachute pants stands patiently beside the line, waiting for the grinding gears of justice inside the building to churn out some clients for him.

The 36th District Courthouse is near the hub of Gratiot’s spoke, in an area that hosts an unlikely mix of functions: large-scale entertainment and criminal justice. Comerica Park and Ford Field are blocks away, and so is the unfinished jail, which is the possible site of a possible arena for a possible MLS team. The court itself is the subject of rumors about being turned into a hotel. Perfect. The sports-and-justice district brings an interesting variety of people here at different times of week and day. Sprinkled throughout are parking lots and hotdog vendors that are surprisingly well suited to both client bases.

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Birthday Dad

IMG_4701I was born on July 13th, a day that also happens to be my dad’s birthday. This incidental event has created a small but special bond between my dad and I, and it is reinforced every year. Dad isn’t one for nicknames but he calls me “birthday girl” (which I absolutely love) and in return, I usually make a bad joke about how I didn’t get him anything because how could I possibly outdo the best gift he’s ever received?

Even before I was born, my dad and I had a special connection, according to family lore. When mom first got pregnant, she and dad decided not to find out the gender of the baby in advance so they had to come up with two sets of names. It was easy to agree on a choice for a boy– Danny– but they couldn’t settle on what to name the baby if it was a little girl. Finally, they turned to the most reliable of arbiters and flipped a coin toss. Mom won. The baby came, it was a girl and my older sister was named Jessica. When the coin landed, the story goes, Dad said “I hope we have another girl so I can name her Michele!” This story is a family favorite in the “Careful What you Wish For” category, since my parents now have a total of five daughters, but in my view, the most important part of the story is that my dad picked my name, that I was special to him even before my birth, and especially so when I entered the world on his birthday.

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Mother-to-be, to be

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I was the first patient to arrive, but not the first person. The lights were on inside the dull concrete block building illuminating a receptionist, nurses, counselors and doctors as they set about their day. Those other cars were apparently for the protesters who positioned themselves along the road and beside the entrance, waiting for people like me to arrive. Apparently their conviction hadn’t quite hardened yet so I walked a weak gauntlet as they halfheartedly make the case that I’m going to hell.

I waited 19 years to lose my virginity and 4 years to have sex without a condom and 1 month to take a pregnancy test and 3 weeks to get this appointment scheduled. All things considered, the wait wasn’t long but the weight of this secret on my conscience these 21 days has been like a migraine of the soul, or maybe something like what it feels to be pregnant past the due date– skin stretched and streaked, back bowed and aching, kicked at from within but helpless to meet the implicit demand of the one inside knocking to be let out. I’ll let you out, far before you asked. I almost wish for the physical manifestation of this feeling to make itself apparent because the feelings are so much yet I have nowhere to place them. This is the lump that has been bearing down on my mind since the day the stick silently shouted at me like this feeble line of picketers who share many of my feelings but none of the perspective. Fuck them. Fuck me.

Inside, I sign in and take a seat, setting the wheels in motion for what will be a strange mixture of medical and social services. First is the ultrasound, a process I’ve never experienced but have witnessed 1,000 times in the fantasy realm of television. Hollywood is obsessed with the symbolic poignancy of glimpsing a grainy sight and a muffled sound of The Future personified. I am making small talk with the nurse about her daughter’s summer camp activities in an effort to focus my attention and to portray myself as a more balanced person than this experience alone might suggest me to be.

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