by - Russell Bauer

blind schooll

Yes, I have irritated people from Detroit with my excitement about their vacant structures. I'm not from Detroit, I'm from Pontiac, but my folks had good jobs and money to move out, so by age 12 I was in Davisburg, MI which I'm sure your all familiar with. At this point I identify as being from Lansing having spent the most cognizant decade of my life there, where I now own home and run an art studio.

I bought my house for 9,900 in October of 2008, the previous year the house had sold for 87,000, not that much was wrong with the house yet, a window appeared broken, but it was a double-pane and the inner one had not broken. I came to find out that the window was victim of a 'drive by shooting' teenagers were supposedly apprehended after they had shot out several windows with their pellet gun. It was not red tagged by the city, meaning I could occupy it immediately, which I did as soon as ripped out the excessively of soiled house diaper (carpet) lining the first floor, reviling the original oak flooring that was not-too-messed-up when they updated the furnace and re ran the heat ducts. The thing that pissed me off the most was that they poured a concrete slab inside a privacy fence, and against the house over the vinyl siding that was hung over the original painted wood siding, this is an injustice to a structure assuring rot and problems with pests.

My neighborhood is hardly ruins, there is some racial tension, but nothing compared to what is going on about a a dozen blocks to the west. Centered around an unsettling scene of Lansing's School of the Blind, I remember one day riding through the old school grounds stopping to over look the track, because they actually had a track for the blind students, with rumble strips on the sides, I can only imagine watching the races. To my surprise what was probably a 9 year old African-American boy began yelling racial profanities at me and running at me, not needing to make a scene I peddled on. This really should not have been too much of a surprise, the pillars on either side of the main entrance of the majestic main building appear to be the focal point of a turf war, bearing either swastikas or defaced swastikas depending on the tide.

school of blind

At when we see buildings that are being 'let go' we see two things: injustice and opportunity. It boggles the mind to think of how many resources are tied up in our structures. My house for example which I paid under 10k for is insured for 130,000 which is on the low end of what it would cost to rebuild. Many trees, concrete, steel, modified bitumen, vinyl, aluminum, glass, utility fixtures and appliances, the furnace alone would cost as much to purchase and install would cost what I paid for the house. Forests of trees were cutdown displacing countless cute little furry creatures ultimately suffering a slow painful death of starvation or the rapid execution of automobile. As far as we are concerned there is only one thing, and to harvest much of it to make something, only to let it lay to waste is just wrong. Banks have killed far more rabbits than I have, the only difference is that I actually acknowledge the rabbits appreciating their nutritious flesh, rather than having a third party point out that their relentless massacre would actually be considered by the economists a 'negative externality'. But as the housing bubble has broken and the banks been bailed out of their fiscal responsibility associated with their murderous activities there seems to be little we can do but look at the other aspect of these situations, the opportunity.


Detroit is unable to enforce a building code, there is just too much (infrastructure) and too little (money). At we are irritated by LEAD certification, which focuses on assessment of efficiency, actual efficiency being a different animal that might not 'score well' on their tests. We are therefore excited by a lack of building code entirely. The earth ship people in the southwest had to fight with municipalities for years to be able to do some radical construction techniques some of which failed and some of which lead to innovation. The prospect of a wild west in terms of structures is enticing to all who know their way around a hammer and garden rake, structural engineering, heating/cooling, A/C current and plumbing. Few can actually make the commitment to be in a place where they might have trouble finding a decent job. Not everyone wants to be an Urban Pioneer, but it does have global attention, I think Berlin in particular had interest, perhaps it is in their divided history and, which ultimately pushed to populous to their current state of being a at the leading edge of art and culture. The berliners can smell the culture baking, nearly ready for glazing, nuts and sprinkles.

Venture Capitalists have bought large parts of the city, but let it lay vacant, falling apart, no-one wants to go first, the first one will be vandalized, the first will be too far from the pay off. The timeline is still too long, for the capitalists, it is the eccentrics who are doing all the work, paving the way for the real money, with any luck they can own enough of their neighbor hood to maintain their identity after other realize the time has come for profit. When code can be reapplied. Retire now to a third world domestic city, buy the house outright, just don't show the money, blend in, sell your car and buy an older one, tv's go deep enough in the house that the glow is not visible from the street. The back door gets locked too, you probably have to grow your own food, form a cooperative with the neighbors, it was a region of industry there are likely contaminants in the soil, heavy metals at the very least, that empty lot is empty because the house burned down. They say that the way to deal with the pollution is to start to expose our selves to it in small amounts. We need to evolve to have a tolerance to live in our ever more concentrated levels of free radicals, a nation of awesome, full of freedom. Personally I don't believe in landfills, they allow us to lie to ourselves, push the rubbish out of site, pile it up where it can escalate to levels so toxic it will never be usable in our life times on this planet. Ankle deep trash everywhere, let the plastic see the sun, let the carbon chains be attacked by the wind and the rain, off gassing in plain sight, breaking the class lines. We can all throw our trash in the streets together, no longer having to look at the lonely bags of low end fast food packaging, I want classy litter too, Macy's bags and plastics stamped “organic” but not this cheap FDA organic, effectively owned by the corporations with pockets deep enough to employ the lobbyists, I want high end organic packaging littering the streets, the kind that can only be deemed so by the state of California. The climate will be nicer in Detroit, the winters keep getting more mild, there is water around, getting the filth out is still easier than desalination. And the salt mines are far more stable than the sink holes.

Exploit that which can be exploited while you can, just hurry up and get it before someone else does, because someone else will and they might not be as generous a pimp as you.

Some other good articles on the topic include:

John Patrick Leary's essay Detroitism

Paul Mullins, essay