It's rare that I find myself growing emotional about a place. People, sure, all the time. But I actually found myself tearing up as Kate and I drove through Detroit a couple weeks ago. We traveled through downtown with our friends Phil and Lauren, then out E. Jefferson to some obscure (to me) pottery place that Kate wanted to visit. And in the space of five miles or so I saw both incredible beauty and architectural wonder and some of the most depressing ruins I've ever seen. One neighborhood -- Indian Village, maybe? -- was full of beautifully retored, massive mansions, while a block away I encountered what looked to be bombed-out buildings. There were ruins like the one pictured here everywhere I looked. That's not a melodramatic photo, nor is it uncommon to see grass and weeds poking up through the asphalt. It was eerie. And it was profoundly sad. I felt like the lone survivor after the nuclear holocaust.
My memories of Detroit all center around my aunt and uncle and cousins. They lived in Livonia. My cousins were a few years older than me, and they were the ones who had the Bob Dylan double-sided single of "Like a Rolling Stone" that blew my mind, and those great Mitch Ryder and Bob Seger singles, etc. To a great extent they informed my musical education. I can recall my aunt and uncle laughing in a good natured way when I told them, as a little kid, that I wanted to go to college. Why would anyone want to do that when you could start work at the Ford or GM plant right out of high school and earn a better living than any sissy college graduate?
I don't have to tell you the ending to that story, I'm sure. It cannot have ended well, and it didn't. But that's all bound up in my memories of Detroit. I love that city. I mourn for that city. It was good and heartbreaking to visit it again.