Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Detroit: Hello, My Friend!

A photo of the city I call "home."

Detroit, my hometown, is in this "interesting" moment of both standstill and motion.  While the city, as a whole, is collapsing, there are small pockets in the city that are undergoing rejuvenation, thanks to gentrification (BTW, I don't think that all gentrification is bad, especially if it is happening in abandoned neighborhoods like many of the projects that are currently happening in Detroit).  The largest municipality to file bankruptcy in the history of American debt, you can find stories about Detroit's recent filing everywhere in the news.  From Time to The Economist and even Detroit's own newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, everyone's getting their bite of the story and offering their own interpretation. 

In all honesty, Detroit, at least in the neighborhoods, has been recreating itself for decades.  From the Heidelberg Project to the recent increase in film production tax credits, Detroiters have been invested in creating a new industry and newer, more sustainable sources of income since the auto industry departed many decades ago (I think that the Big 3 slowly started to strip away from us even before I was born).  Detroiters doing it for themselves is not a new concept.  It's just now making headlines because the city government is now getting called out for it's insensible and irresponsible practices over the past 30+ years.

For those who know me best, you know that I "call out" my city all of the time for mistakes and bad decisions.  Hell, isn't that what we do for the ones we love?!  

One way to call out my city is to embrace the things that I love about it.  A couple of days ago, I spotted a list entitled "32 Signs You Grew Up in the Metro Detroit Area" and found that I could not connect to anything on that list.  In response to that list, I've compiled this list of things that are special about Detroit.  You can interpret it how you like.  It can either be "you know you're from Detroit when" or "you're in love with the city if you've done five or more of these things."  For me, I claim this list to be "you can't claim Detroit as home until you've done at least 4 of the following."  For those who have lived in Detroit, were born in Detroit, or have visited Detroit more than once, which ones have you done?  For those who haven't visited Detroit before or lately, make sure you choose a handful of these and make time to do them while you're in town.

  1. Enjoyed a casual drive down Jefferson Avenue
  2. Attended a wedding on Belle Isle  
  3. Ordering a Hot-n-Ready from Little Caesars
  4. Never been able to get a table at Slow's BBQ
  5. Planned a trip to camp out at the Thanksgiving Day Parade
  6. Remembered when Macy's was Hudsons 
  7. Sang karaoke at Temple Bar
  8. Remembers Tubby's Submarines
  9. Remembers the Boblo boat
  10. Reps Vernors like you were hired as the product's spokesperson
  11. Had to decide between grabbing a coney dog at Lafayette or American 
  12. Attended a festival in Hart Plaza, yes even attending the UniverSoul Circus counts
  13. Either attended or watched the Dream Cruise on television
  14. Rooted for the Lions despite never bringing home a championship trophy
  15. When the Tigers' home was on Michigan and Trumbull
  16. Ate a sack of White Castle burgers
  17. Remembers, attended, or marched in the Broadstreet Parade
  18. Remembers the marching bands of King, Cody, Cass Tech, Cooley, Central, and Mackenzie High Schools (please let me know if I'm missing any) 
  19. Taken either a Checker or City Cab anywhere in the city
  20. Played an arcade game when you waited for your food at a Coney Island (this is a special shout out to my dad)
  21. Hung out at Northland, Eastland, or Fairlane Malls either on the weekends or skipped school
  22. Went to the Michigan State Fair and spent about $50 on a family of 3 (including admission and parking) prior to even stepping foot past the gate
  23. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts and spend most of your trip in Rivera Court (FYI:  for all residents of Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland County, due to a recently passed mileage, you get into the museum for free!  Take advantage of it!) 
  24. Get excited about riding the Detroit Zoo train
  25. Keep tabs on the meterperson (I have no idea what the proper name of this job is) in Midtown/Cass Corridor/Wayne State University area or Downtown to make sure that your car doesn't get a ticket
  26. Spend an evening at one of the casinos and don't spend any money
  27. Watch the fireworks either on television from home or along the riverfront
  28. Cannot recall when Carmen Harlan or Chuck Gaidica started their news broadcast careers
  29. Remember when Bill Bonds was on Channel 7 News
  30. Saw an episode of Kelly and Company 
  31. Danced in their living rooms to an episode of The New Dance Show or The Scene (now, y'all must also remember the dude who wore fishnet shirts on The New Dance Show!  He had one in every color of the neon rainbow!  "Don't hurt 'em!") 
  32. Shopped at a store in the Fisher Building or the Guardian building 
  33. Detroiters, please feel free to add your own!*******
For those who are current Detroit residents and are concerned about the state of the city, do at least one thing on this list.  At least, it will keep you engaged with others in the city and (even in a small way) participate in local commerce.  Trust me, that 50 cents on the People Mover or buying a small bag of Hot Better Made Potato Chips will go a long way.  Support your own!  For people who are vying Detroit as their future home, please consider how you engage with the city.  Think about where you will invest your money, both in a home and in commerce (shopping in the suburbs doesn't count).  Get to know your (future) neighbors.  Really consider where you're moving.  For those who are visiting Detroit, venture the city a little bit.  Don't let the (somewhat fabled) crime statistics keep you locked up in your hotel room near the airport.  Visit one of the historic neighborhoods, like Boston Edison or Grandmont-Rosedale, and enjoy its beautiful, breath-taking homes.  BTW, Grandmont-Rosedale is filled with people who love and adore their neighborhood.    

Though I may have rambled a lot, trust that what I've said here comes from an honest and loving place.  But, for those who may doubt what I have to say (especially since I don't live there now) and may want to dispute how I said it, know that I have love for my city and have faith in every bone of my body that it will recreate itself.  It doesn't have to wait for a "savior" (we see what's happening with the Emergency Manager).  We don't even have to save ourselves for we never perished.  For those of you who doubt Detroit, it's your loss.  For those who still believe, thank you!