Opinion

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By Peter Werbe

HAVING SEEN COUNTLESS EPISODES OF ANTIQUES ROADSHOW ON PBS, many of us dream that there is something hidden away in our attic or basement worth a fortune. Or, at least a surprising amount.

Could that painting, sculpture, doll, furniture, jewelry, or even those vinyl LPs bring in some big cash? One site lists The Beatles’ 1968, The White Album, with its original cover, first issue, at $10,000-$20,000. Whoa, I swear I have one. I’m going down to Found Sound used record store on W. Nine Mile Rd. tomorrow with my copy!

At the high end of old, a 1963 Ferrari GTO sold recently for $70 million, the most ever paid for a car. A portrait of Jesus by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, broke all records for artworks selling for $450.3 million at Christie’s in New York. That would be almost half a billion dollars for oil on canvas!

IT PROBABLY IS WORTH REMINDING OURSELVES at this point that all of this occurs in a world where, according to the United Nations, over 800 million people across the planet are undernourished. The main cause is poverty. And, poverty is all about distribution of wealth; how everything is divvied up. Here’s the way it shakes out:
• Half the world’s net wealth belongs to the top one percent,
• The top ten percent hold 85 percent of the wealth1
• The top 30 percent hold 97 percent of the total wealth.

Oh, those greedy, evil one-percenters! Just who are they? Well, along with the really, really rich 2,200 billionaires, the world’s one percent also includes most of us. In the U.S., if you make $50,000 individual income, you’re a 27-percenter making more than 73 percent of other Americans. Check your standing at graphics.wsj.com/what-percent.

World-wide, that sum puts one way up in the one percent. Of course, we’re not the core of the problem. It’s the one percent who maintain their loot (word intended) by controlling law and armies, and command wealth so great that they can buy cars and paintings worth millions but which assures poverty and hunger for others.  A personal note: These columns pretty much write themselves. I just start and let them flow. In my mind, I envisioned this to be a piece about collectibles and why things from other eras are so cherished.

ON THE FACE OF IT, supply-and-demand dictates price levels. If there are only a few of something and the demand is great, well. .. up goes its worth. But, why is there a demand for things like old street-and-factory signs, century ­old bottles and household items, every imaginable item that a few years ago before the fetish for the old would just have been tossed? Maybe because the era we live in brings so much anxiety and stress; where the future seems fraught with peril rather than promise. So, the past is mythologized to be a time when everything worked much better. Spoiler alert; it didn’t.

There was always a passion for antiques among some, but collecting doilies or clocks was usually the purview of grannies. (A different era then; now grandma is at the gym!)

Nobody thought to save things because they anticipated their growth in value. For instance, people who went to Detroit’s fabled Grande Ballroom between 1966 and 1972 each week got postcards and posters designed by the great rock artists of the era like Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren. Their original Grande printings for classic rock shows featuring The Who, MC5, Pink Floyd, and The Doors, now command
thousands of dollars (although reproductions simply because the majority of people discarded them after the concert as being out of date. If everyone had held onto theirs, they’d only be worth a couple of dollars.

From the same era, John Sinclair, MC5 manager, poet and writer, published a mimeographed circa 1965 magazine, This is Our Music, which the Detroit Artists Workshop Press sold for 50 cents. At the Fortnight Institute gallery on New York’s Lower Eastside late last year, it went for $300!

Also offered at the gallery was a complete set of Guerrilla, a revolutionary culture periodical co-­published by Sinclair for two issues as a tabloid with Detroit surrealist Allen Van Newkirk. Then, Van Newkirk alone produced four large format, single-sheet editions as a “Free Newspaper of the Streets.” Van Newkirk would often use copies in an “intervention” at a public reading of “a bourgeois poet” by running down the aisle of a venue shouting, “Poetry Is Revolution,” – echoing a headline from one of the sheets – and throwing them into the audience.

Van Newkirk’s free street sheet, now nicely framed and under glass, was going out the door of the Fortnight for $2,500!

HOWEVER, ANTIQUE FANTASIES ASIDE, you’re probably more apt to be disappointed than rewarded since just because something is old, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. I began looking through my books finding ones I thought could be worth a goodly sum. Particularly tantalizing copy of Arthur Koestler’s 1941 bestseller, Darkness at Noon, with a copy being offered online at $800!

I gathered up some other likely prospects and brought a box full to Martha Sempler’s wonderful Library Bookstore on Nine Mile Road across from the record shop. After Martha perused the Internet (something she’s usually averse to doing), she gently burst my bubble. There were several copies of the same edition in good condition going for $16 ! In other words, you can ask for whatever you want, but that doesn’t determine a book’s market value. She offered me her usual generous price for the books I brought, but I declined and decided to gift them out to friends and relatives.

Is there a lesson in all of this?  Well, one would be, we should fight to abolish the glaring wealth inequality here and around the world.

Second,you might want to save everything, but that means you’ll be carting around piles of junk all your life hoping it will be worth something someday.

Maybe the best advice comes from a line in the old Bob Dylan tune, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” – “Don’t follow leaders; watch your parking meters.”

Especially in downtown Ferndale. I said that.

Peter Werbe is a member of the Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

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By Rebecca Hammond

THE FERNDALE MONARCH PROJECT BEGAN IN MARCH 2015 WITH A SIMPLE GOAL: Adding milkweed to the yards and parks of Ferndale to begin replacing habitat, the loss of which has been dooming the species. At the time I tossed the idea out on the FB Ferndale Forum, with John Hardy leaping in with help and support I didn’t even know people raised monarchs indoors.

A friend shared an article with much-repeated advice: Since only ten percent of eggs laid in the wild make it to the butterfly stage, search for eggs and raise some yourself. This seemed a sound idea. And raising them turned out to be fun and gratifying, if at times nerve-wracking. Caterpillars and butterflies may look alike, but they do not act alike. Their varying behaviors drove lots of us up the wall with worry. Letting them handle their small lives on their own, assuming they knew what to do, was hard for us modern, in-control humans.

THE HOBBY GREW, with many of us almost obsessively gathering eggs and sharing them and our successes on social media. We converted others, and assumed we were doing good. Then the unthinkable happened: Two science-based organizations, The Xerces Society, and Monarch Joint Venture, rocked our world. According to them, we have actually been putting the species at risk, and haven’t even helped it.

In the wild, monarchs usually lay one egg per milkweed, caterpillars do not live in crowded conditions, and the open air of their normal habitat helps keep diseases to a minimum. There are predators; wasps, spiders, ants, even birds, but the huge numbers of monarchs that used to exist did well enough with those risks. It was humans that began dooming them, with development, pesticides, “roundup-ready” crops.

Not all organizations agree that the risk of sending diseased butterflies into the wild where they might infect a mass of wild monarchs is real or dire, but to my surprise, none recommend raising monarchs indoors, either. I’ve shared Monarch Watch’s clear instructions many times (wishing anyone discussing raising monarchs online would do the same), and just assumed that since they were telling us how, they were telling us to. No, like every other major monarch advocacy group, they agree that while raising them might be a nice hobby, especially fun for kids, it’s not helping the species regain its former numbers. The only thing that can boost those number of additional milkweed stems needed, especially in the upper Great Lakes region, is at least a billion. But we can’t raise them back to species health in our homes. And as some of the scientists in these groups have stated, we don’t attempt to save other species, the Kirtland’s Warbler, say, by raising them indoors.

Certain “social” (as opposed to science-based) monarch pages are full of posts about diseased caterpillars or butterflies. Usually the poster asks how to cure them, or turns them loose anyway. Some ask how to keep them alive indoors, maybe until spring. The goal of doing a small part to save a wonderful species seems abandoned, the practice personalized, the butterflies treated as pets. And in this focus on individual people raising butterflies, the need to plant more milkweed is rarely mentioned.

I RECENTLY MADE TWO TRIPS TO POINT PELEE, one resulting in viewing massed monarchs at the tip, maybe 7,500 of them. The other trip, a week later? We saw two, less than I’d seen in my front yard that day! But a side trip to a wonderful place called the John C. Park Homestead, a farmstead on Lake Erie, led to a conversation with a staffer who directed me to some shrubbery that was full of monarchs. She was thrilled. They’d never seen them there in large numbers before. And she told me something surprising: the park had applied for and received a permit to raise them next year. A permit? Yes, raising a Species of Concern requires a permit in Ontario. Permits seem to go to educational organizations, and the numbers of eggs and caterpillars is limited. How many can Ontarian raise without a permit? One.

This time of year gives us our best opportunity to make a real difference, because there are stands of mature milkweed all over, in parks, rest stops, along roadsides, and one pod can contain as many as 300 seeds. Green pods are fine if the seeds are brown. And if you want easily-separated seeds, you want to pick the pods before they explode and the fluff starts drying. The whole inner works comes out looking like a pinecone, and the seeds flick off the damp clump easily. You can even do this indoors. Wait a week longer, and your house could resemble a snow globe.

Goldenrod is the second-most important plant to monarchs, because it and New England Aster give the butterflies the nectar they need for their long flight to Mexico. Scatter some of those seeds, too. Pick some flower clusters after the blooms dry and shake them out in some goldenrod-free areas. And look for our seed-exchange box in the Ferndale Library.

My FIRST COLUMN FOR FERNDALE FRIENDS, at least ten years ago, was called “Leave Your Leaves,” and was about the benefits of allowing leaves to rot on the ground. My formerly-sandy soil is now rich and filled with worms. Leaving leaves seemed worth it for this reason alone. Avoiding the environmental cost of the leaf trucks was another plus, since they’re usually diesel and usually very low-mileage. Now a number of researchers have pointed out that leaf litter is full of moth and butterfly eggs and even chrysalides and cocoons, and a number of things birds like and need. Leaving your leaves, or raking them into your flower beds, is so multi-­beneficial, I hope it’s soon the norm.

Becky Hammond lives in Ferndale and changes her mind as situations warrant.

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Judge Rudy Serra

By Rudy Serra

Q: I HAVE A JUDGEMENT AGAINST SOMEONE and they still refuse to pay. They drive a nice car, have top-of-the-line phones and computers, and constantly spend money on expensive jewelry. What can I do?

ANSWER: A court speaks only through its written orders and a judgment is an order of the court. Unless it is enforced, it is only a piece of paper.

The practice of “collecting” on a debt is now highly regulated. Debt collectors are subject to many limitations.

The process of getting a court “judgement” is one of the steps that must be taken to collect a debt without the cooperation of the debtor. Once you have the judgement, there are other steps required.

Before you can get the court to help you seize property, you need to know where it is located and who really owns it. The court rules provide a “creditor’s examination” procedure to allow creditors to question a debtor under oath about bank ac-counts and other assets. Titles to vehicles are easily proven and other personal property can be connected to the debtor in other ways.

Assuming the target of your judgement is “collectible” and you know they have valuable personal assets not real estate), you usually must wait 21 days after the judgment is issued. Then, you can go back to the judge who entered it and file a “request and order to seize property.”

A “request and order to seize property” applies to “personal property” and allows a court officer or deputy sheriff to seize the defendants’ personal property, such as cars, tools, jewelry, business equipment, cash and bank accounts.

The order allows the court officer to sell property after ten days, deduct their statutory fees and expenses, and return the remaining funds to the plaintiff. Court officers and deputy sheriffs sometimes are involved in property seizures and often do such work by contract. Some counties have a unit in the sheriff’s department for this purpose. The amounts deducted are spelled out by law, and again, other requirements exist to seize real estate.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcome questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to rudy.serra@sbcglobal.net. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

By PETER WERBE

ACROSS THE CITIES SERVED BY FERNDALE FRIENDS, lawn signs are displayed welcoming immigrants to our communities. What they proclaim are an echo of he familiar words mounted on the base of the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor. . .”

In Ferndale, Oak Park and beyond, the signs on our lawns state in three languages, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” These public pronouncements define communities committed to diversity, tolerance, and a charity of heart.

The “mighty woman with a torch,” as the full poem reads, reaches 305 feet into the sky, calling out a welcome to the “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” to our shores.

Wonderful words, but rarely honored as we are witnessing today at the U.S. southern border. American history wasn’t much better on welcoming immigrants to our country either. In fact, from the first wave of European migrants, the new arrivals were despised and discriminated against.

Other than those from Northern Europe, many of our ancestors were accused of being the source of crime, disease, and social unrest, much in the way those from Central and South America are today by some. Although, it is well-known that current immigrants commit less crime than those born here, this doesn’t stop right-wing politicians from whipping up frightened Americans with images of criminal gangs and job theft.

The lower crime rate is actually somewhat surprising. Earlier ethnic groups often were disproportionately represented in law-breaking. The Irish (part of my heritage) were the targets of great discrimination, giving rise to signs saying, “No Irish need apply” at job sites, leading to lives of poverty and high crime rates.

Following their mass migration here in the 1840s and ‘50s, so many poor Irishmen were hauled off to jail that the police vehicle employed was dubbed a Paddy Wagon, using the word which became an anti-Irish slur stemming from the nickname for Pádraig (Patrick when Anglicized). And, just as the racist stereotyping of all Muslims results from the actions of a tiny fraction of those of the faith, so too were Irish thought to be more loyal to the Pope in Rome than their new country.

This was reinforced during the 1846-48 U.S. ware against Mexico, when hundreds of newly arrived Irishmen were gang-pressed into the American army. Hundreds of Dubliners deserted from the U.S. war of aggression and fought on the Mexican side, organizing themselves as the St. Patrick’s Battalion. These “red-headed fighters” battled American troops alongside the Mexican army from Metamoros to San Diego, finally falling to “the cannons from Boston,” as David Rovics’ lyrics puts it in his song about the Battalion. (Available at DavidRovics.com.)

As an aside, when condemning Russia’s inexcusable annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we should consider the massive territory theft of Mexican territory—California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Putin’s moves are small change compared to that.

Other immigrating ethnic groups fared no better, being seen by the native born as people constantly under suspicion of crime and political radicalism. This included groups such as Jews (part of my heritage) and Italians, who upon arriving provided enough of their members involved in both to maintain stereotypes.

Although only an infinitesimal small number participated in criminal gangs, Italians in the Mafia and Jews in mobs like Detroit’s Purple Gang, they were often held to be representative of the entire nationality. For instance, in 1908, the New York City police commissioner claimed erroneously that half of the city’s criminals were Jewish.

Many Jewish immigrants were members of communist, socialist, and anarchist groups during the early years of the 20th Century, fueling anti-Semitism and a perception of disloyalty. Some recently arrived Italians were part of violent anarchist groups that carried out a string of bombings in the WWI era, including targeting Wall Street, and the homes of the U.S. Attorney General, and oil magnate, John D. Rockefeller.

Legislation such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1924 gave lie to the Lady of the Harbor’s call to “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”

PEOPLE NOT WELCOMED, HELD IN CONTEMPT, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, and stereotyped, find it difficult to integrate into their new homeland – which is why the signs appearing on our lawns are so important. In the tumultuous days of the early 20th Century, there was no one to say, “We’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

The early immigration waves came as a result of wars, famine, and poverty, and it is no less so today with those crossing the border from South and Central America. Rather than erecting a wall as a ridiculous way to stem illegal immigration, how about enacting a hemisphere-wide minimum wage of $15? Workers from Detroit to Guadalajara would see a rise in their standard of living and the corporations which currently benefit from paying slave wages would pay for it.

This alone would go a long way towards staunching the poverty and violence that is endemic to poor regions and cities, and could end the tide of migration. The poverty and violence of a century ago and that of today is what impels waves of immigrants to flee their homeland.

A huge redistribution of wealth in the form of an increased wage might mean that Richie Rich Guy won’t be able to buy a second Maserati or own his own island, but prosperity for all is the key to having stable, livable cities and countries.

So, let’s keep those signs up until our brothers and sisters from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America are allowed to take their place in our society in the same manner as were our forebears.

Peter Werbe is a member of the Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

 

By Rebecca Hammond

 

LAST SPRING I BOUGHT A BEE HOUSE AT ALDI, being Aldi-priced into an impulse buy I didn’t really think would pan out. And last summer I was right. Although an occasional firefly hung out during the day, no bees showed any interest.

This May, mason bees found the house and got to work, and were as engrossing as birds at the feeder. They spent about a month filling almost every cavity, each now containing 4 or 5 larvae, each plugged with mud. The bees will not emerge until next summer. I noticed that they didn’t work in any form of bad weather. Maybe they have a union.

I recently watched a mother squirrel trying to get a half-grown offspring into a nest cavity in a silver maple. She crossed the street looking like she was wearing a fur stole, and ran up the maple, to spend long minutes stuffing the young squirrel into a hole it had no interest in entering. I was certain the hole was simply too small (she reminded me of a back-packer trying to get a sleeping bag into a stuffsack) but once the baby was in, she went in, too. Days later, small squirrels spent hours playing near that hole. Why that one young squirrel left the nest so early, and even crossing the street, I’ll never know, but it didn’t escape Mom. Our big, beautiful trees are wildlife assets. Our big oaks, especially, not only provide wildlife housing, but caterpillars that feed birds and their broods.

We have a bird house that has sheltered chickadees for almost 30 years, and they need thousands of caterpillars for each brood. We don’t, as recommended, remove the old nest each year, but we did have to repair a wooden house nearby, and found inside a perfect bagel-shape of cat fur and moss, fur from our 22-year-old cat Gizzie (we put the winter’s fur combed from her out every March), moss from who knows where.

So when spring cleanup at our cabin left us with a sheet of moss removed from a concrete step, a furthering of the habitat here seemed possible. Just bring the moss home, tear it up, press it down and keep it watered for awhile, right? Wrong. Robins, even in our fairly moss-free world, knew from the get-go that worms live under moss, and they tossed it around as they do leaves. I refuse to be thwarted by robins, so began holding the moss down with rocks, then poultry staples, 3-inch common nails with “washers” cut from a hummus lid, and finally T pins. All this does is make robins more creative. I now have hundreds of tiny pieces of moss that I hope soon become uninteresting. Online recommendations for getting moss started include putting moss in a blender (!!!) with water and buttermilk, and dumping the slurry here and there. This just seems mean to moss, possibly necessitating a Society for the Protection against Cruelty to Moss. But maybe the person who dreamed this up had robins.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVEN’T SEEN A NEIGHBORHOOD RAT since about 2015, they are still abundant in parts of Ferndale, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol dispenses advice and encouragement. Group leader Laura Mikulski messaged me this: “As a grassroots community group, we came together after a Ferndale neighborhood group met with the city and weren’t satisfied by the information from the pest control company the city brought in to address how to eliminate rats. They offered poison in heavy bait boxes as the only solution besides typical preventative measures. Myself and several founding members of the group had been trapping effectively for years, and decided coordinating efforts would be a more holistic, environmentally conscious way of eliminating rats.”

Why no poisons? “Because the second-generation anticoagulants are being proven to kill pets and wildlife over long periods of time. While pest control companies say that lethal doses of bromadiolone is impossibly big to achieve death of a pet, the sad fact is that second-generation poison bio-accumulates within animals, and eventually kills them. In wildlife populations studied in California, they’re finding that the poison can last eight months in the liver of animals, giving predators and pets alike ample time to consume more than one rat, and really skewing the possibility toward eventually poisoning. Due to predator secondary poisoning, rat populations flourish unabated. Remove the predators, and rats can repopulate ad nauseum.” I’m hearing screech owls, and neighbor Dan Tanner just got a wonderful shot of one taking off from a power line, and I concur. Let the predators live.

Erika Sandberg added a cautionary tale on the Rat Patrol Facebook page: “We don’t use poison, yet my dog still got into some. Other than a stressful afternoon and an unplanned vet bill, everything should be fine. But if I hadn’t witnessed her grabbing the poison, my dog probably would’ve eaten the whole thing and started unexplainably bleeding a few days from now. Thank you for discouraging the use of poison. I for one really appreciate your efforts. Poison is a selfish means of pest control as it impacts so many more than just the intended target.”

This is a banner year for monarch butterflies, both in numbers people are seeing, and in those planting milkweed and raising caterpillars indoors (where they are much more likely to survive). Raising monarchs is easy and close to foolproof. Some of the happiest people I know at this moment are currently raising their first families of caterpillars, and sharing the experience on social media. If you want plants, eggs, or caterpillars, find the Ferndale.

Rebecca Hammond lives with her husband Phil on their mini-sanctuary in Ferndale.

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I HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY DISINTERESTED in doing the things that in the past gave me joy. I opt out of city gatherings, preferring to stay home and paint or gar-den. I began to worry about what could be wrong and why I just didn’t want to have “fun” anymore.  Chief Collins’ retirement party is a prime example. I love Collins, and wanted to go to show my respect and to see everyone. Yet, as the day rolled around: First, Virginia called to say she wasn’t going. Then I too backed out. For what? Stayed home and knitted. Huh, that’s not good.

While having lunch with my Timmy, I mentioned I didn’t want to have fun any more. He said maybe my ideas of having fun had changed. After all, nothing stays the same. Huh! I remembered how in my youth, fun meant all night parties, and the back seat of souped-up Chevys.

Then, I was a doting housewife and mother, whose idea of fun was to make cookies and sew dresses for my little girl. Later, it was work, and building my business. I immersed myself in real estate. No parties, few friends, just business transactions. I was having fun. Wheeling and dealing is kind of heady.

After the end of my second marriage, I went on a sort of spiritual/self improvement journey: Attending lectures and services at Church of Today, learning how to improve myself and be in tune with the universe. I stayed devoted to my business during this time.

After retirement, I became more interested in the community, working on a variety of commissions, and socializing and working with movers and shakers in Ferndale. I loved attending and helping with the various events: the Pub Crawl, Blues Fest, Foundation events, and especially the campaigns and elections.

But now I am happier with a few friends, and quiet lunches, and chats. Senior meetings where everyone knows me, and share the same problems and worries I have. I look forward to days without meetings so I can play with my garden or paints, or read. So, it turns out that I still like to have “fun.” The nature of “fun” has just changed.

It is interesting that some interests from phase to phase remain. I still work on my spiritual health, and any mention of real estate still perks me up. I still love baking cookies. And, I am still passionate about local politics.

Looking back at all these passages was interesting. Try it. Take some time to reflect on where you have been, and who you were. Your memories may give you new insight into your successes and failures. Then look at today and see how different it all is, and yet, some things remain. It is intriguing.

So, go out and have fun!

Jeannie Davis, 248 541 5888

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MEDICAL BANKRUPTCY

By Rudy Serra

Q: I AM EXPECTING SOME LARGE MEDICAL EXPENSES and I think I might have to go to bankruptcy as a result. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Even with insurance coverage, a serious medical issue can lead to poverty. Limitations on benefits, co-pays, and out of pocket deductibles can leave a consumer with insurmountable debt.

ObamaCare saved lives and prevented people I know from having to go bankrupt. The elimination, limitation or reduction of health coverage will result in an increase of such bankruptcies. Medical expenses are not the only reason for bankruptcy. Many consumers fear major losses in di­vorce, tax debts and other causes.

First, do not wait until the big expenses are actually levied. It is greatly to your ad­vantage to take certain actions before you are faced with bankruptcy. Before the court will allow you to file, you will be re­quired to obtain a certificate from a finan­cial planning organization such as “Greenpath Credit Solutions” so why wait?

Many credit counsel­ing organizations are non-profit. They work with you to avoid bankruptcy. Sometimes this even includes contacting your creditors and working out a better deal or you. Greenpath is not the only credit counseling agency approved by the bankruptcy court. Any of them will analyze your finances and work with you in advance to avoid bankruptcy. Since you are required to take this step anyway. it can be used as an effective way to avoid an even worse situation.

If you can’t avoid bankruptcy, you will want to hire a bankruptcy attor­ney. Almost everything in bankruptcy court is filed electronically and not just any lawyer can file with the court. You must be a member of a special­ized Federal Bankruptcy Bar Associa­tion in order to have access. A credit counseling agency can guide you to find a list of such lawyers.

If you have no medical insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid or Medi­care, don’t forget the FernCare Free Clinic. The clinic cannot change medi­cal costs you have already incurred. and can’t help with other sources of financial stress, but can provide free medical services to qualified patients. There are no residency requirements, co-pays or deductibles. Information is available on-line at FernCare.org.

By Peter Were

ON THE MEDIAN STRIP, WHERE NINE MILE ROAD CROSSES WOODWARD, there stands a replica of The Crow’s Nest, a high platform on which a vigilant traffic cop stood a hundred years ago, duty-ready to control the even-then heavy volume of cars. He was replaced in 1924, when electric traffic lights were installed and the road widened.

The Crow’s Nest presence speaks to the early realization of the deadly potential of these machines that are such an important part of our lives. Incredible safety improvements have been installed in the last 100 years, but getting safely from one spot to a destination can still be challenging.

Between cell phones usage (even hands-free), texting, tuning the radio, smoking, eating, farding (look it up), talking to other people in the car, different levels of impairment – and now the greatest distraction, the in-dash screen that looks like the controls of a jetliner – it’s amazing that our roads aren’t more like amusement park bumper car rides than they are. Add speed and one-ton plus vehicles and it’s no wonder our cars are so lethal.

SUPPOSEDLY, THESE DANGERS WILL ALL DISAPPEAR when the controls are taken away from us fallible humans and navigation becomes an automated process by an artificial intelligence that does only what it’s designed to do — drive!

Oops! Not so infallible.

Seems like HAL screwed up a little in March of this year, when Elaine Herzberg became the first pedestrian killed by a self-driving car after being hit by an Uber test vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. In 2016, a Tesla test driver was killed in the first fatality involving a self-driving car while watching a Harry Potter movie at the time of the crash.

These incidents echo the early deadly history of internal combustion-engine-driven vehicles. In 1896, Bridget Driscoll became the first auto fatality when she was struck by an Anglo-French Motor Car traveling at four miles-per-hour, as it was giving demonstration rides at London’s Crystal Palace. And, in 1899, Englishman Edwin Sewell was the first driver fatality when he was thrown from his vehicle and killed.

From those early beginnings, the slaughter on the roads commenced with a fury. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, today, 1.3 million people a year die in crashes world-wide. An additional 20-50 million are injured. Accidents, they report, cost the world a half trillion dollars a year.

What is the total number of deaths since poor Bridget got hit at the Crystal Palace? It’s hard to find a figure, but one can assume it’s in the tens of millions. That and the other lethal invention—the gun—has produced such a pile of corpses that one can almost view the two machines as population control! Plus, the auto figures do not factor in deaths resulting from pollution created from refining and burning petroleum products.

JUST AS WE TOLERATE THE SLAUGHTER CREATED BY GUNS, so do we with our cars. Just as many people love their guns, so do others of us express affection for what we drive. Queen sang, “I’m in love with my car; gotta’ feel for my automobile.” The murderous nature of guns is known to all. It’s their express purpose. Cars are supposed to take us from one place to another without racking up a huge toll in human lives and property damage. However, the blood and destruction autos create is, in a sense, a public secret. Everyone is aware of it. It’s like living in an earthquake zone.

Most of us know someone who has been either killed or badly injured in an automobile accident. We have to pay thousands of dollars to insure our-selves against the death and damage we anticipate, so those destructive and deadly incidents aren’t really accidents at all. U.S. insurance companies know that close to 37,000 people a year will die in car crashes, hundreds of thousands will be critically injured, and billions in property damage will occur. They expect this and plan accordingly in terms of insurance rates charged and the payouts which will be required.

THE SAME IS TRUE WITH GUNS. We know there will be about 35,000 U.S. gun deaths in a given year, with 100,000 wounded. As mass shootings become the norm, schools, businesses, arenas, and concert halls make preparations for the next one.

The Ferndale Superintendent of Schools, Dania H. Bazzi, describes in her public talks the contingency plans the system has in place in the case of an active shooter situation. This is prudent given the proliferation of weapons and a culture of rage which combine to assure that these incidents will continue. It’s not a matter of if, but where and when.

How do we combat the toll these machines exact from us? Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether solutions exist. The toothpaste is out of the tube. We can’t get it back in. Our whole culture has the expectation and necessity of unlimited, rapid mobility. And, you know what the gun people say about their guns and their “cold, dead hands.”

We’ve done everything possible to make driving safer and still the death and injury toll is horrendous. We’ll probably look back on the period before self-driving cars were perfected as madness. Can you imagine trying to patent a machine today that creates a toll of death, injury, and property damage as it exists? “This is a great little machine, but it will kill and injure 125,000 people a year and cause billions of dollars in property damage.” Patent denied!

Guns? They offer only marginal utility as far as protection, but you can’t convince a gun owner of that no matter what the overwhelming statistics show. The Michigan counties with the highest percentage of concealed weapons permits are smaller, rural ones where residents brag about not having to lock their doors, so guns are more often a masculine totem or a hedge against the fear induced by watching the wrong cable news network, than actually providing protection.

In fact, if a gun-toting suburbanite really wanted to safeguard his family, rather than carrying a pistol with which he’s more apt to shoot himself or others rather than defend his loved ones, he would equip his passengers with NASCAR regulation helmets and flame-retardant suits.

SELF-DRIVING CARS – ONCE PERFECTED – MAY HELP, as would mass transit. Guns? There are 300 million of them out there including ten million AR-15s. While only a third of the population are gun owners, something like weapon confiscation isn’t a reality. Maybe we should all be issued Kevlar bullet-proof vests. Perhaps with those, self-driving cars, and NASCAR equipment, we’d be a little safer.

Sorry to joke about what produces so much tragedy, but this may be a classic case of laughing to keep from crying.

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

 

By Rebecca Hammond

NATIVE PLANT PARTNER-IN-CRIME MARLEIJA FOREY recently recommended on Facebook the book Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an inspiring phytophile (plant lover). This is the only book I ever read that I refused to completely finish, being too sad.

The author writes as both the holder of a PhD in botany and from her  Native American background, and revealssecrets of plants most of us are blind to. We do notice beauty from plants wec hoose for that purpose, and the hassle of removing plants we don’t, but relatively little is known in the scientific community about how they interact, even less outside it.

Four local (and rather different) phytophiles who are always on my social-media radar weigh in on plants in their lives:

FERNDALE RESIDENT GRETCHEN ABRAMS turned her yard native long ago, and recently discovered the health benefits of house plants. “I thought my house was too dark, so for years I have cultivated outdoor spaces, at home and in schoolyards. I love gardening and have studied much the impact on children, anxiety, ADHD, etc., only recently have I spent time learning more about house plants. I work at a historic house museum with 87 acres of land on Lake St Claire, and we employ a full-time garden staff that includes two horticulturalists. Since I knew much about the physical and psychological benefit of being outdoors, hiking, and generally spending time amongst the green, it only made sense that bringing the green indoors could have similar benefits. My research had confirmed this hunch. Now I can thrive on green and gardening all year long.”

ROSS SANDELIUS is about to go native. Finding an antidote to a stressful job a few years back when he stumbled on a few cardboard tomato seed pods in a clearance aisle, a few months later enjoying the harvest. A few YEARS later he found himself with 25 plants in five-gallon buckets, started from seeds inside. “From that point on, learning how plants grow and how they ‘live’ became a full-on obsession.” He and his wife Julie bought their first house last August. “This spring/summer is probably going to be a lot of landscaping, making flower beds and getting the first year of perennials in and situated. My goal this year is to get a solid foundation down. Figure out what the soil is like, what my realistic options are, getting everything as neutral and healthy (naturally) as possible.

“Some fun little projects are installing a screech owl box on a nearby tree, creating a specific zone for pollinators that provides food and water for them, starting a worm farm and laying down the groundwork for a water feature and turning my garage roof into a water reclamation system that will provide at least 50 per cent of the water for my garden. And I’m a nerd, so naturally I want to automate that as much as possible. I hope to learn how to strike a balance with my obsessive nature and channel that into providing a natural, balanced and sustainable environment for plants and animals around my house while also providing a stress-relieving outlet for myself and my wife.”

DAVE ASSEMANY’S GARDEN in Pleasant Ridge is downright famous, locally. “As a 55-year-old man, I have found that gardening has not stopped being a major source of pleasure for me, but it has also grown to be a way that I interact with my community. My actual family is not into gardening or nature, but my gardening family is huge and brings me much joy and love. From a very young age I have needed to be outside as much as possible. I was fussing around in fields and creeks in Farmington where I grew up when I was barely in school. As I grew, gardening seemed like a natural way to channel that impulse. I get so much enjoyment just watching stuff grow. Even though I love showing my garden off, I would garden no matter what. I don’t do it for the results, as much as I love them, I do it for the process which brings me peace and joy.”
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Like Gretchen, MARLEIJA has been involved in community projects, working with several local urban-forestry groups. “I became interested in tree planting around 2012 when I went to my first planting with The Greening of Detroit. I thoroughly enjoyed the smell and touch of soil and walking through forests so it went well together.”

She’s now helping start The Social Forestry Project. “Our main focus in this very early stage of a new non-profit is to be the ‘hands’ for established environmental organizations throughout SE Michigan. An organization we have been close to, for instance, is ReLeaf Michigan. They have the space and the trees and we come in to do the dirty work. We are starting to focus on saving saplings and growing them ourselves. We are on the lookout for oaks, red maples, gingkos, sycamores, London plane tree, crabapples. We have a few amazing green thumbs on the board.”

Marleija got a pleasant surprise and headstart for this year’s garden when she cleaned out the space behind the garage last year. “Someone had been dumping their yard waste back there for decades and it was perfect compost. We’re going to put a whole bunch of hostas back there and maybe some ferns because it doesn’t get much light.”

Common vines wound through each passionate statement, especially gardening’s benefits for mood and health, and the opportunity for community service and connection.

From Braiding Sweetgrass: “In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Gratitude doesn’t send you out shopping to find satisfaction; it comes as a gift rather than a commodity, subverting the foundation of the whole economy. That’s good medicine for the land and the people alike.” All around us are people cultivating good medicine. I’m grateful to these four for sharing theirs.

Becky Hammond lives and gardens in Ferndale.

AS YOUNG PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT GROWING OLD, we all had things we feared about the transition. Losing our health, our agility, our looks, having to live on less money, being alone. These all looked so scary when we were in our 40s, and 50s.

But, in reality, as we reach and pass our 70s, we have encountered bad health and survived, learned to live on less money, we know our looks have faded, and accept our loss of agility.

Here is the secret: Losing our independence. That is it. That is at the base of all our fears. When we hear of one of our group moving into assisted, it is like hearing that that person has died. We all get somber, and quiet. That person is no longer independent. She cannot come and go as she pleases, she has to eat when and what someone else gives her, she lives under supervision. It doesn’t matter that our friend is 90-plus-years old or that she says that she loves it there. She has lost her right to make decisions, and that is so final.

Because of this, many of us tend to go to outrageous lengths to avoid asking for help. We don’t want to bother anyone. We struggle with heavy packages, climb on furniture to reach stuff, shovel snow, and in general tackle things we shouldn’t, just so we appear independent.

Virginia had a computer problem. The tech told her to bring it in. Problem? The computer was on her second floor. Not a problem for Virginia. She loaded it into her laundry basket, placed it by the stairs, scooted to the stairs, and nudged it down backwards, step by step. Clever? Yes, dangerous? Hell yes! But, she simply refused to ask anyone for help, although probably a half dozen would have. And I completely agree with her.

ONE DAY LAST WINTER, the garbage man left my cans on top of the snow banks. Totally inaccessible for me. Virginia made a suggestion, and it worked. I went out with a broom and banged the cans into the street, then went and collected them. I knew that I would only have to text my tenant, and he would have gotten them for me. But ask for help? Nope, not me.

Joyce goes out with a special shovel and gets the snow off her roof. Now, that takes strength.

I see my fellow seniors shoveling the free compost into small buckets in the back of their cars. They make several trips, taking three times as long as the job should take. I know why. They can’t lift and carry more than that bucket.

Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and ask, and I do. My son knows that if I am asking I have tried every-thing I can think. We are afraid of not being self sufficient, so we over-do.

Where am I leading with all this? I have no clue. It’s just the way it is.

So, the next time you see a little old lady doing something in a really odd manner, go ahead and laugh. We do.

Jeannie Davis, 248 541 5888