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Detroit: all the way down the Telegraph Road

Detroit: all the way down the Telegraph Road

Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy has been discussed in countless articles, both the how and the why of it.

One thing nearly everyone agrees on is that it’s been a long time coming. Just how long? Well, if you’d like a musical interlude, just listen to this song “Telegraph Road” by Dire Staits (and read the lyrics).

The song was first performed by its composer Mark Knopfler and the band in March of 1981, thirty-two years ago. Knopfler, who was born in Scotland but grew up in England, reports having written the song during a visit to—of course—the city of Detroit, driving along Telegraph Road and thinking of the rise and fall of the city.

Note in particular the last stanza:

I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
And I don’t want to see it again. . .
From all of these signs saying sorry but we’re closed
All the way down the Telegraph Road.


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Since this is a legal blog, can anyone opine on the legality of a State judge issuing an order to withdraw a Federal Proceeding. Isn’t that claim more properly brought before the Federal Bankruptcy Judge?

Humphreys Executor | July 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

I’m by no means and expert in bankruptcy but I can’t imagine the state court order will withstand even cursory review. I agree that the bankruptcy court is quite competent to address issues arising from the Michigan Constitution and Michigan law.

    To my non-expert eyes, it seem that once the Bankruptcy has been filed, the Plaintiff and the State Court were bound by the automatic stay provided by 11 USC § 362. Perhaps a Bankruptcy Law specialist might put his or her two cents in. On the surface it seems the State Court should have referred Plaintiff to the Bankruptcy Court.

Up next: In “honor” of Treyvan, Barry will announce that he’s having the Feds bail out Detroit.

It’s all about solidarity, doncha know.

Daniel Hannan gets it.

Now have a look at the uncannily prophetic description of Starnesville, a Mid-Western town in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged.

“A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars. It looked as if blind hands had seized whatever fitted the need of the moment, with no concept of remaining in existence the next morning. The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town. A shell of concrete, which had been a schoolhouse, stood on the outskirts; it looked like a skull, with the empty sockets of glassless windows, with a few strands of hair still clinging to it, in the shape of broken wires.

“Beyond the town, on a distant hill, stood the factory of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. “

[…] Now here’s the really extraordinary thing. When Ayn Rand published those words in 1957, Detroit was, on most measures, the city with the highest per capita GDP in the United States.


He also wrote:

These rust covered factories
Were once home to me
But my home is the road now
Thanks “Roger and me”

A nice ironic twist to this story considering the Dire Straits link , per wikipedia :

The city’s name originates from the Detroit River (French: le détroit du Lac Érié, meaning the strait of Lake Erie),

Dire straits indeed!

bob aka either orr | July 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

The ironic part is that relatively little of Telegraph Road is in the city of Detroit… only about 2 1/2 miles in the northwest corner (the whitest part of town). As you go south, you go into Redford, Dearbornistan Heights and Dearbornistan.
And that area was part of the original power base of the Levin brothers (Sen. Carl, Rep. Sander) before they fled the city to go north into the largely-Jewish neighborhoods in Southfield and, later, West Bloomfield.
Detroit was going to depopulate somewhat, as nearly every city locked in from growing via annexation has. The children of the large families of back in the day had to leave to find housing outside the city. But Coleman Young’s distaste for white folk in the aftermath of the 1967 riots certainly didn’t help.

    I grew up a block away from Telegraph in Southfield. The worst area as you indicated is in the Brigthmoor section at Telegraph and the Jeffries freeway. The rest of it is pretty typical and not that bad. There might have been more closed stores in the early 80’s when Dire Straits was there but I was seeing that all over the country at that time.

    It is interesting (and frustrating) reading all of the postmortems from the left and the right. Everyone is fitting the Detroit story into their template but nobody really knows what went down unless they grew up here.

      Milty in reply to KRoyalll. | July 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Grew up in Warren, four miles from Detroit’s border. Don’t know what you saw differently KRoyalll, but the story of government corruption and Hizzoner’s (Mayor Young) “distate for white folk,” as ‘bob aka either orr’ delicately put it were definately two of the largest drivers of Detroit’s fall, even if there were many other factors. Hizzoner believed he could chase out the white “upper middle class,” and he did…he just didn’t expect the African American “upper middle class” to follow them out. Who knew that those with money will escape high crime, corruption and horrible schools, even if they aren’t part of the white flight.

        bob aka either orr in reply to Milty. | July 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

        Born in Detroit, first lived in 6100 block of McClellan. That’s now gone for I-94 (the quick escape to Macomb County).
        Then we moved to 10 Mile at Hayes (on the East Detroit side – Warren was the next block, Roseville was the other side of the backyard fence).
        What amazes me is that the old Packard plant is still standing. It’s been 57 years since Packard produced a car in that factory (my dad was among the final layoffs at that plant). We left then, but – up until a few years ago – had kinfolk in Roseville and kept up with what was going down, down, down.
        In 1990, I went back on my own to see what things were like. My (admittedly very youthful) memories were of going into a great metropolis down Gratiot Avenue. I re-took the trip. Even then, it was culture shock. And obviously, it never got better.

      Karensky in reply to KRoyalll. | July 23, 2013 at 5:44 am

      KRoyal I left back in the glory days of Young Boys Incorporated and the judge that gave the father and son probation after they beat, to death, a Korean guy driving a Honda. Seems they were heading to their local pub when the guy driving the Honda cut them off in traffic. They followed him to a bar, got out of their pickup with baseball bats. They then beat him to death. In court they pleaded that they were temporarily insane with worry over losing their jobs to Japanese auto makers.
      Babuy Detroit and all that it has come to represent.

My friend used to bicycle from Lincoln Park to his grandparents’ house on Eight Mile Road when he was a kid. That would be 50 years ago and it was ten miles away. No one even considered that there was danger in doing that. Now you can’t even imagine what that bombed out city looks like. We support and visit a conservative Christian school for inner city kids so we drive up there every few months. It’s unbelievable. You can drive for miles and never see a living soul; you’ll see lots of graffiti and burned out buildings though. Unbelievable.

Everyone is fitting the Detroit story into their template but nobody really knows what went down unless they grew up here.

That’s quite a statement…

considering the people that still live there defend it as a great city, and those that have left opine they had no idea how bad Detroit was until saw “normal”.

Wooo, Springfield!