Dundee  4 13 2013 c


I like the freedom here … I actually like how screwed up it is. I work every day to help fix Detroit, but if we ever complete the job, I’ll find somewhere else to go.

The alley.  The building.  In the neighborhood where I served 6 years.  The picture’s from a year ago when I had some time to revisit while Gail was speaking at a youth conference near Detroit.

The man who likes Detroit freedom is Matthew Naimi and I know what he means.  It’s the way I felt during my days in Detroit.  I felt as if the city’s screwed up condition was liberating.

Sure, there were times it was absolutely frustrating.  Dozens of tires dumped on my lot, and before Mr. Clay could arrange for someone to haul them away here comes a city inspector who ticketed us for the tires.  The fight would have cost more than the ticket.  We paid the ticket and we paid the hauler.  I wonder where he dumped them.

What I found liberating was that there were no rules.  The rules don’t work in Detroit, East St Louis, west side Chicago, Gary and countless other screwed up places around the USA.  No they don’t.  And because they don’t, you are free to.  The screwed up places have been abandoned by the rule makers.  They make the rules, but no one’s playing by them.  So, they take their ball and go home.

Naimi understands the downsides of being in the largest American city to declare bankruptcy.  He also knows Detroit is a good place for someone like him.  Who sees SCREWED written all over a city.  And loves working every day to help fix such a messed up place.

Dumped tires.  Sure, frustrating.  There are worse things.

Gail really likes this quote from one of our long-gone Generals of The Salvation Army, Arnold Brown -

The frontline of The Salvation Army must always run through the agony of the world.

Where the brick wall ends in my photo is a small indented area which held our dumpsters.  One night I opened one to shove in cardboard boxes and as I did a rat jumped up, ran along the cardboard, my arm, down my back and disappeared into the night.  I don’t like rats, for eight years killed big ones with a stick in Chicago (another story).  I would have bad dreams about rats; some peripheral movements still put me into heightened alertness.  But that night, the lightness.  As it ran across me.  Filled me with wonder.

I think Mr. Naimi is the kind of person who looks for the frontline.  Read more about him and others in Hanging a Shingle in Detroit.

I think some of you are also frontline people.  These days, I’m looking for people like you, who look for the frontline.  If you’re that kind why don’t you drop me a note.

Temple Gardens April 2014

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Originally posted on Vox Nova:

Nine years ago the science fiction writer John Scalzi published a blog post entitled Being Poor.     It became very popular and was reprinted in a number of venues.    It consisted of a series of short statements that attempt to encapsulate what being poor in America really means.  The list is long, but here are a few examples:

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal. [In 2005 the Federal minimum wage was $5.15.  ed.]

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

View original 1,003 more words

A newspaper began appearing on my desk once a week soon after I arrived last summer in St Louis.

You do know that I am old school.  I do appreciate a real newspaper.  One that you can spread out on the table while munching Grape Nuts.  Coffee spills.  No problem.

The St Louis American.  “Missouri’s largest, most widely read weekly newspaper.”  Started in 1928.  The African-American community in St Louis is it’s target population.

I am liking James Ingram’s columns.  The most recent on our breakfast table titled Lynchville, Illinois in honor of this year’s 200th anniversary of a town just across the river from St Louis.Lynchville

If really in luxury mode I like to spread a print newspaper over my head as I grow drowsy and doze.  The microclimate around me is warm, soothing.  Dampening noise.  Dimming light.

Lynching is perhaps the ugliest thing about America.  It is product of a period in American history between slavery and the civil rights movement.  The nation shifting uneasily as it tried to wrap its centuries-of-slavery attitude around the new reality.   America, 1870s to 1960.  Almost a century long American tradition.

Lately I’ve driven some of the roads in Missouri.  People are pretty decent.  but then I’ll see the stars and bars.

The Cross and the Lynching TreeMuch smaller and useless in creating a warm soothing microclimate is my copy of James Cone’s The Cross and The Lynching Tree.  Instead of drowsiness, innervating.  I am awake.  I feel mournful, eloquent, hopeful.  As Good Friday approaches us, dark and silent, Lynching Tree accompanies.

How long and how much and how will justice get done?  

78,000? 90,000?

How many empty houses are there in Detroit?  A major effort is underway to find out.

My son John took this photo of an abandoned house behind Detroit Temple Corps near Dexter and West Chicago.  Stripped of its bricks like many other houses.

My son John took this photo of an abandoned house behind Detroit Temple Corps near Dexter and West Chicago. Stripped of its bricks like many other houses.



Stephen Henderson’s editorial in today’s Detroit Free Press explains as clearly as I’ve seen why Detroit has entered into bankruptcy and, if all goes well later this week in court, how it will help Detroit.

The virtue of bankruptcy is the ability to start over. If Orr [emergency city manager Kevyn Orr] is successful, Detroit will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change — for the better.


United Way of Greater St. Louis mobilizes the community with one goal in mind: helping people live their best possible lives.

Orv Kimbrough came on board last summer as the new Executive Director for the United Way of Greater St Louis.  His newsletter last week included this new mission statement for UW.

Orvin Kimbrough

Orv also writes of the region.  That St Louis is an entity beyond official city limits.  We are discovering it’s so with the challenge of failed school districts in the region.  The new Stan Musial Memorial Bridge on I-70 over the Mississippi.  Economic realities tying all 90+ municipalities together.  Good and bad, they are all signs of a way of seeing St Louis bringing together more people.

Eudaemonia, a fancy NT Greek word for well-being.  Do cities, urban regions, exist for the flourishing of its people?  I believe they can.  I also believe in a God who can.

I have come so that you may have life to the full.  (John 10:10)


Gail says she saw the trailer for the new RoboCop directed by Brazilian filmaker José Padilha.  She wasn’t impressed.  Me?  I’m a sucker for these urban dystopian themed shows.  The 1987 RoboCop?  Loved it.  An urban epic like The WarriorsWarriors

Here’s Manohla Dargis’ NY Times RoboCop review.  He tells us that an update of “RoboCop was always going to be tough, if for no other reason than the original’s irony, and its future-shock visions have become today’s reality, from the downfall of Detroit to the embrace of privatization, the use of high-tech artificial limbs and the triumph of propaganda over public discourse.”

Today’s reality.  If you spend time today in some American cities you just might accept the Dargis analysis.

Here’s more stuff you’ll enjoy at RoboCop Wiki.


I’ve seen references to it but never visited Detroiturbex until tonight.

Lowell Boileau’s Fabulous Ruins of Detroit is still my favorite, but Detroiturbex offers tours, an index of locations, and a quick slide show to answer “what happened to Detroit?”

Who can answer that question.  But Detroiturbex offers some great photos and an attempt to try make sense out of what has happened to Detroit.

To make sense. Not an uncommon pursuit of peoples who have experienced cataclysm.

“Your holy cities have become a wilderness … all our pleasant places have become ruins” (Is 64:10-11)


The Detroit Free Press relayed a 24/7 Wall St. blog post reporting Detroit is on the list of US cities where people now drive less.

According to a study by Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the growth in households without a vehicle provides evidence that Americans are less dependent on cars than in the past. Sivak’s research also indicates that, per capita, Americans own fewer vehicles, drive fewer miles, and consume less fuel. While the number of households without a car rose nationwide, from 8.7% in 2007 to 9.2% in 2012, figures by city differ dramatically.

Which American cities have the highest numbers using public transportation, walking?  In the Midwest:  Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee rank highest.  Conspicuously absent from the list:  cities from the South.  New York City:  over half of NYC households do not own an automobile.

What’s fueling this trend?  Urban layout, walkability and access to quality public transportation.  Important factors in cities becoming less motorized.

detroit traffic


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