The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

Detroit : Compressing Reality

Anyone who knows anything about the city of Detroit and its history will recognise that I have squished time and space and people in telling this story. I kind of think of it like the foreshortening in large murals which look correct from the proper distance but quite distorted when examined at close range.

Or maybe it’s like those maps I used to see in Ireland which depict America as being New York and LA as two thirds of the country. It may not be geographical accurate, but it sure feels true.

One example, the people of the first generation: Grandfather, Grandmother and Eddie Powell are in their late twenties in Act I (1924.) So by the ending in 1973, Eddie Powell and Grandfather would be seventy five. And yet Eddie is still working the line. As Chorus, he has to still be there.

The house is in a very nice tree-lined middle-class neighbourhood on the East Side (Chene Park?) right across the boulevard from a new auto plant. Such things actually did occur in some areas of Detroit and adjoining suburbs like Dearborn and Warren. But not on the East Side, which was always a bit lower class.

And truthfully even places where this symbiosis did occur, did not move upscale with the fortunes of people like Grandfather. In fact, their slow decay did not start with the riots of ’67 but rather as soon as the workers migrated north to man the factories. People like Grandfather were moving to Grosse Pointe or the suburbs even before the war.

And that’s important because the second generation (Stanley and Irene) were able to take over those really beautiful houses because their value did not skyrocket as they have in our time. Those houses were built with unbelievable materials and quality by today’s standards (even modest homes had solid oak and mahogany floors everywhere!) What kept them affordable was the churn of the working classes moving in. The irony is that these homes were so well built that one could, even as late as the nineties, purchase a literal manse for a fraction of the cost of a newer, poorer quality bungalow in the suburbs. So as people like Grandfather became more successful and headed for greener pastures, they left perfectly wonderful homes to the next generation. This is quite different from today where neighbourhoods seem to be endlessly replenished with McMansions by people of similar income levels.

The biggest ‘whopper’ of time and space compression is the finale in 1973. The groundbreaking ceremony is supposed to be something like the Renaissance Center. But RenCen wasn’t done until a few years later. And the whole conceit of the Son trying to market his development scheme on the same site as the factory—a metaphor of trying to revitalise Detroit by replacing the auto industry with something new—never occurred. In fact the whole idea of RenCen was to being a revitalisation of the downtown and was intended primarily as a place for even more auto industry stuff. It was thought that the key to fixing Detroit was sprucing up the waterfront. There was not a glimmer of thought given to doing that kind of development anywhere else; and certainly not as a replacement for an auto plant. In 1973? To paraphrase a Ford slogan, Cars Were Job #1. The Son’s desperate gamble for personal success is actually my own wish-fulfillment. But as of this writing such a thing still hasn’t been attempted. White people (and money) go elsewhere. The places where factories used to be are now empty lots. And the homes that might’ve been across the boulevard? Burned out shells.

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