An entire generation of some of Michigan’s poorest human beings might be permanently damaged by the negligence of Rick Snyder, who did nothing as lead poisoned Flint’s drinking water. Maybe he didn’t notice because he was too busy buying this ornate Nordstrom box birthday cake.
The windows of the restaurant, I was told, had been “blacked out,” and there was security outside. The man who had rented it out, according to the person who first reached out to me, was apparently a wealthy politician who wanted to celebrate his wife’s birthday in private, far away from the prying eyes of his constituents, who were, at the very same moment, assembled on Main Street, demanding that he take immediate action to help the people of Flint.
As is generally the case these days, it didn’t take too long for word about what had taken place inside this lavish party to leak out. Within a few days, I’d be hearing about the ostentatious decorations, the banners, and the birthday cake, which, if you can believe it, was made to look like a diamond necklace draped over a Nordstrom’s box.
This was only days after Snyder was heckled so intensely for his scandalous non-governance during the Flint water crisis that he had to leave a bar—a bar next door to the site of this birthday party. You can understand why he wanted to have the windows “blacked out,” lest anyone see that he was actually enjoying a cake pressed into the shape of luxury store boxes, a Michael Kors bag, and a diamond necklace while his poorest constituents were drinking toxic sludge.
Look at the thing! The good attention to bad detail! There’s sugar tissue paper coming out of a sugar Chanel box. Is there a pair of confectionary gloves inside? What evil person’s Pinterest board was this lifted out of? What instructions were given when the cake was ordered? Was there not enough room for a Gucci receipt made out of sugar? Why not just make a cake that says FUCK YOU in red icing?
“I had no idea, like seriously no idea,” laughed Leavitt. “We delivered it to the West End Grill and put it down and I’m taking photos of the cake. Then Claudia, who was also working on the cake with me, looks up and sees Rick Snyder on all the photos in the room, and so we put two and two together. We knew that renting out West End Grill is not a cheap thing to do on a Saturday night, but we have a lot of high end clients. We just didn’t know this one was the governor.”
Sometimes urban crises are accidents. Sometimes they’re caused by gross incompetence. And sometimes they’re the result of neglect that borders on malice, a true disdain for a group of people who live somewhere else. A wealthy white man feeding a Michael Kors-themed cake to his wealthy white wife while poor black people 50 miles away have to wait in lines for clean water deliveries makes it a little clearer which kind of crisis we’re dealing with here.