It took some effort to get behind the computer to write this week. For two reasons:
1: Time is passing fast it seems and there is always more to see and more interesting people to meet. We are still on bikes and this city is big!
2: In the time between other activities we are behind the computer already. But not writing or reading interesting stuff. Instead we are searching, calling and getting more and more frustrated.
Last week we wrote about the artist as an entrepreneur. And about how great it must be to have a large building here. We received some enthusiastic reactions from Dutch people. Not surprising, it does sound great. In the land of endless opportunity however, things are not always like they seem.
(We have been discussing of what would be the effect of more people buying property here that are not from Detroit. Yes it's very cheap compared to the Netherlands. Most of the property is sold in auction. Think of Berlin for example or NDSM. It was all built up and started up by locals, artists and other creative people, who had no money but a lot of energy. Now prices have gone up with the growing demand, and spaces have become unaffordable, especially for the local community. Fast increase of the value of land could be devastating for the community that already lives here. On the other hand, what artists can do here, could be a boost and a contribution to the community. But we are going to write about that later)
If you are struggling with more urgent, daily problems, talking about 'gentrification' can come across as trying to be a smart ass. What concerns most people that we meet casually is how they are being fucked by 'the system'. We got a little taste of that this week. We are frustrated because we want to drive a car. It seemed so simple: buy a cheap car, insure it, get it registered in your name and drive away! I don't want to discuss all the ins and outs now, but I can tell you that this is NOT POSSIBLE. At least not in Michigan which has the most outrageous insurance rates (think of 10 x dutch rates) and most complex regulation of all states for foreign drivers. All those happy roadtrippers must have been smart enough to not start their trip in Michigan. We have spend this week sitting in offices hearing only 'I'm sorry sugar, but that won't be possible'. To be honest, we are experiencing luxury problems. And on the other hand it has given us some insight in how this system works, how hard it must be when you actually live here and have to deal with this crazy bureaucratic system when you want something like a house, a car or hit a rough patch.
We heard more then once of people that had bought a house in Detroit. The city just continuously reclined their requests for water for years. So live without water or even plumbing and ask your neighbor to fill that jerrycan. That is how you get things done around here. I think it is good that we dived into the less nice department. Having thrown the phone around the room and saying not so nice words to insurance people this past week, (warning, cliché coming) it made me realize how privileged we are in the Netherlands. Yes paperwork is horrible in any country, it might even be the definition of paperwork, but consider this next story.
Yesterday, being very grumpy after another day wasted behind the computer, not seeing anything of the world outside, we decided to go to a bar and have a lot of drinks. Our new american friends decided to bring us to a somewhat strange party that was called ' FIX MY FACE'. Arriving at the bar it turned out to be a fundraiser for medical expenses. A local fashion model got badly injured when a part of a house collapsed on top of her. She survived (and was hosting the party in a neck-brace) but the damage done to her face made it impossible to start working as a model any time soon. So she lost her income and her medical expenses went through the roof. Asking around, most young people told us that they only got insured recently because of Obama-care and they had been really lucky nothing had happened to them. Otherwise their future would have been filled with medical bills they would not be able to pay for. It seemed so absurd that, if you have an accident, it takes selling vodka, tattoo vouchers and half-naked pictures of yourself in a bar, to pay to have teeth again. All this information, soaked in a pool of beer, was whirling around in our heads: insurance, uninsured people hitting insured people with cars, market driven prices, adding second drivers, paperwork, collapsing houses, government, liability, no-fault, credit cards...blurp blrufg.. pf..