Columns

2014.06.25 An odd year already, with six months to go

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

Most years, it takes 12 months to gather enough strange stories to do a year-end review, but 2014 is shaping up to be an exception. Why wait until December when I can share some stories now? I have the feeling that there will be plenty more by year’s end.

How much would you pay for a stinky, used wrestling shoe? For one Michigan woman, that number would be “zero,” but the wrestler who owned the shoe had a different opinion.

Police in Clearwater, Fla., announced in March that a Michigan tourist who had stolen an autographed shoe once worn by Hulk Hogan from the wrestling legend’s Clearwater Beach store had called the store and said she wished to return it. She had already returned to Michigan, but arranged for someone to return the stolen item.

I wouldn’t bother even mentioning this, except that Mr. Hogan valued the stolen shoe at $5,500. We’ve established that the woman was a thief, but asking $5,500 for a used shoe? Couldn’t that be considered attempted robbery?

Someone who might have gotten a better deal than what Hogan was offering was Peruvian investor Fernando Palazuelo, who purchased the long-abandoned Packard Motors plant in Detroit. Long abandoned? The plant produced its last car back in 1956, shortly after Packard merged with Studebaker. The Packard nameplate itself bit the dust in 1958.

Palazuelo bought the 3.5 million-square-foot facility from the Wayne County treasurer’s office for $405,000, which comes to less than 12 cents a square foot. At that rate, the estimated value of Hulk Hogan’s shoe would buy you over 45,000 square feet of the Packard plant. Then there’s the downside of the purchase.

The plant, located on Detroit’s east side, is a magnet for criminals and scrap metal thieves and has been deteriorating for decades. Palazuelo estimates his plans to transform the property into a mixed-use development will take 10 years and cost as much as $350 million. If he’s able to somehow pull it off and get the complex running again, I’ll buy the first 1958 Packard Hawk he’s able to build.

On a completely different subject, more and more colleges around the country are opening food pantries to aid students who can’t afford to eat after paying college expenses. An Associated Press story said that in the last five years, tuition has gone up 27 percent at public colleges and 14 percent at private ones, leaving some students “left to choose between eating and learning.”

The College and University Food Bank Alliance is comprised of about 50 college food banks around the country, including Michigan State. Nate Smith-Tyge of the MSU food pantry told the AP that there are at least that many more pantries at schools that don’t belong to the alliance.

Beth McGuire-Fredericks, co-founder of the food pantry at Stony Brook University in New York, said “How can someone who’s in college be someone who has a need like food?” Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, who called colleges who say they are helping students who can’t afford food “a little bit hypocritical,” added, “They wouldn’t need pantries if they hadn’t raised prices.”

A Sylvania couple probably wishes they couldn’t afford food after they got a surprise in their hamburger. In filing suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against a grocery store on Central Avenue, the couple claimed the “fully prepared gourmet beef hamburger patties with bacon in the center” they bought at the store contained something other than bacon.

 Instead, when they were eating the patties the next day, the man said “after steadily chewing” what he thought was a piece of bacon for a while, he removed  it  and “what he discovered to his shock and utter horror was that the object he had chewed was not a piece of bacon. Instead (he) found that a large glob of used, bloody, wound-soaked Band-Aids had been placed in the center of the hamburger patties.”

The alleged incident occurred on Feb. 18, 2013, but the suit was not filed until May 7, 2014. I suspect the couple had been gagging, flossing and rinsing for the intervening 14 or so months before going to court.

I think that’s a shocking enough story to close out the first half of 2014. Stay tuned for more astonishing news to come.

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