On a different evening at Roof, this time well past midnight, two go-go dancers twirled like woozy tops, flanking a D.J. who was blasting Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” It was more lively than the night I arrived, which suits the space: it’s too sprawling for tête-à-têtes. Still, I later wondered aloud to a man I met why a lounge with fire pits, a 12-foot-wide HDTV monitor, and million-dollar views felt it also needed to throw in a couple of dancers in panties.
“Are you visiting from New York?” he asked.
“It’s the Midwest,” he said. “Welcome.”
In chapters on the markets of Chicago, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, MacLachlan tells the stories of the farmers behind them, and in some cases, the history and potential future of the market itself. Chicago's City Farm, for example, makes use of vacant lots in the city to grow vegetables, which they sell to local restaurants and through their farm stand—but despite fairly impressive production, they can't manage to break even, and have to rely on donations to stay afloat. The 61st Street Farmers' Market illustrates the challenges of starting a market in poorer areas of the city, where the residents with the least access to fresh fruits and vegetables are often also the least able to afford farmers'-market prices (though it helps that LINK cards are now accepted at all the city markets in Chicago).
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Detroit entrepreneur Marc Siwak is throwing a bone—a festering, disembodied femur, perhaps—to students of postcolonialism and critical race theory everywhere with his proposal to "revitalize" the economically depressed city of Detroit, Michigan, by installing in it a 100- or 200-acre theme park organized around the theme of "zombies." It will be called Z World Detroit. The gist is that white people with paranoid fantasies of the black ghetto—sorry, "international zombie-survivalist fans"—would enter a walled-off part of the inner city sometime after nightfall, and spend the evening practicing a little exposure therapy in the form of being chased around by "out-of-work actors" pretending to be the undead. The game doesn't end when you're killed; that's the point at which you yourself turn into a zombie. Then the question becomes, according to Siwak, "Can you kill all the survivors?" Afterward, "there will be a big barbeque . . . to swap stories and phone numbers."
The idea of providing economic stimulus to a famously poor, majority-black city with a theme park built around the idea of the zombie—a relic of Haitian folklore traditions whose earliest cultural associations, in the U.S., were with colonialism and slave labor—might seem a unique one, but consider the alternative. "I'm all for urban farming," Siwak told the Atlantic Cities, "it just doesn't happen to be my thing."
"It is a deeply troubled place, one increasingly falling behind its large urban brethren," he writes.
And don't count on that global-metropolis-on-the-prairie pipe dream to turn anything around: according to Renn, Chicago took a disastrous dive in the first decade of the 21st century, in part due to its probably "delusional" global-city strategy.
Renn's laundry list of what ails us includes population decline, job losses (the worst of the country's ten largest metro areas), a "terrible" business climate, huge government fiscal problems and debt, the lack of a macro-industry, a culture of corruption, and a power structure that "brings to mind the court of Louis XIV." But it could have been worse: he missed the shootings.
Toward the end of the essay, Renn cites Mayor Emanuel's appointment of former D.C. transportation head Gabe Klein to Chicago's top transportation job as an example of bringing in outsiders to dilute "the culture of clout." Maybe he didn't see this story about the city's new bike-sharing contract.
That was in 2007. By 2011 there was some liberal consternation over the fact that Obama—who did actually end up president—didn't join the protests in Wisconsin, where governor Scott Walker had proposed legislation that would enact the exact hypothetical Obama had posed four years earlier. The president's spokesperson issued an explanation: "I think that the president has different means of speaking out on issues and being heard . . . And, clearly, he did. He made his viewpoints known on the situation in Wisconsin, the need for people to come together."
Yesterday the people came together to retain Walker, who was up for recall, as governor. His challenger was Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett; Obama, for his part, released an 11th-hour video on the importance of voting, which mentioned Barrett. Obama also tweeted his support on Monday.
Amtrak is an unrelenting mess. And the Utah pie incident—I only made it through one bite—was like every other similar experience I'd had until then: gloppy filling, crust out of a box. I’d never had good roadside pie.
A few things: