Paper recycling

Something’s different, but it takes me a moment to notice what’s changed. It’s kind of like the way the world looks different the morning after you’ve been out partying all night and you haven’t slept yet, and you haven’t quite figured out yet that it looks different because it snowed.

"Speak for yourself, Freak Girl," says the Lizard of Fun. "You haven’t noticed the redecorating I’ve done around here?"

I look around again. New elements start to hit me like snowballs in the face on one of those aforementioned mornings after.

"You did this?" I ask, as I notice the way the Metro Times has a zippy new look to its cover, a sleek new typeface, shiny new columns, fancy new layouts and spiffy new sections (and a fresh stock of adjectives laid in for the sake of Y2K preparedness).

The Lizard looks sheepish. "Well, no, not all of it. Um, actually, I think the paper’s art director and production people and even some of those crazy writers you work with had something to do with it. I’m just trying to get extra credit."

"So what was your contribution, O scaly one?"

The Lizard looks smug and points at a nearby mug shot. "Well, I chose this goofy photo of you to put on our wall."

I look at it and cringe, which makes the Lizard grin. "Think of it as my way of getting back at you for all those nights you got out the Polaroid and body paints when I was passed out and unable to defend myself."

"You didn’t like the impromptu tattoos?"

"So, hey, what’s with this redesign thing, anyway?" asks the Lizard, reddening and changing the subject. "I mean, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Unless, of course, it’s a poker game."

"Well," I begin, "it’s kind of like redecorating. You know, you start to get tired of looking at the same old red, velvet-flocked wallpaper, and start thinking about how fun it would be to replace it with some sleek new Mylar or something."

"Or you start to get crowded in by all the furniture you’ve collected, and you decide it’s time to move to a bigger house?" asks the Lizard.


The Lizard looks thoughtful. "So, given that redecorating is such a pain in the butt, what with having to move the furniture and all those ugly drop cloths and getting paint in your hair, not to mention other places, wouldn’t it be more fun just to get a new place?"

"Well, we didn’t have to move much furniture for this redesign," I say.

"No, but there are probably one or two readers who liked the MT the way it was, and they aren’t going to be too impressed with the way you’ve all redone it. If you ask me – and obviously you didn’t or things would be different around here – it would’ve made more sense just to start a new newspaper."

"What, and just abandon the old one?"

"Sure," says the Lizard. "Isn’t it a Detroit tradition to just forget about the old stuff once it’s no longer fashionable? I mean, it’s not like there’s anything really wrong with Plymouths, for example. And what about all those empty buildings downtown? Were they irreparably broken or something?"

"I think what happened was people decided to go and build new houses and stores out in the suburbs and smaller cities."

The Lizard looks at me like I’m finally buying a clue, even if it is on an expired credit card. "Bingo. So think of the possibilities – a new newspaper, new news to go in it, new readers, new ideas ... Just like a new subdivision!"

I shake my head. "New problems, new complications, new headaches ... not to mention, nobody can find your new address."

"It’s not about need, it’s about desire," says the Lizard. "Did we need another new shopping mall when they built Great Lakes Crossing? Noooo. Is there anything wrong with all the existing Targets and Best Buys and Bed Bath and Blahblahblahs that forces them to build more?"

"Well –" I begin, but the Lizard cuts me off.

"Don’t answer that, I’m getting rhetorical here. The point is, it’s fun to build shiny new stuff. Bigger! Better! It’s the American way!"

I point out that perhaps we could take a lesson from Norway, where developers have been banned from building new malls larger than 3,000 square feet outside of urban centers. The government’s reasoning was that if people were forced to reuse the space available in urban centers, they’d end up with the happy side effect of revitalizing those areas, thereby improving communities instead of abandoning them.

"So, they’re even recycling cities now, are they?" asks the Lizard, chuckling.

"Sort of," I answer. "Or at least, they’re redesigning them. Don’t you think Detroit could look at it that way?"

"Sure. And we could look at this redesign as a way of recycling the paper before it even hits the stands."

"Um, yeah," I say. "So, by the way, why does there have to be a photo of me and not of you?"

"Look closer," says the Lizard, grinning and holding up a PhotoShop CD-ROM. "I doctored up my picture a bit. Now, isn’t there something eerily lizardlike about your eyes?"

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