Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Ruins of Detroit

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.


Brother-in-law Bill said...

Not sure of the spelling, but was the pottery place Pewabick? If so, I know where you were.

Andy Whitman said...

Yes, that was the place, Bill.

Pilgrim said...

The size of the physical devastation is mind-boggling. Will it end up on the scale of the Japanese earthquake or tsunami?

nancy (aka moneycoach) said...

I've been weirdly obsessed about Detroit for the past couple years and in fact referenced it in my blog post today

Last time that happened it was Vancouver's downtown eastside where I eventually bought a small condo and lived and loved passionately (people, men and the place itself!) for 10 years.

Here's a pretty interesting and hope-filled documentary about it I know it was sponsored by Corporate but I still think it's a worthwhile series)