Thursday, April 30, 2015

Detroit, Michigan

When we left Maumee, Ohio we were bracing ourselves for the "big city"- Detroit,Michigan.  And as we drove down the freeway with the sparkling high rises on the right,Kid Rock's song "Detroit, Michigan" was running through my mind.  As I looked around I thought, oh it's not as bad as everyone portrayed it-Detroit looked like a typical metropolitan city.  The gleaming signs for the MGM Grand; the bluish silver windows on the towering skyscrapers reflecting the sun and the white puffy clouds. Yes this is Motown, just like Kid Rock was singing about. And then I glanced over to my left and there right along the freeway were the scenes he wasn't singing about.  Neighborhoods or the shell of neighborhoods left behind. Row after row of crumbling houses; broken windows;piles of destroyed houses. And every once in a while a home inhabited by someone, holding on to whatever was left of the neighborhood. A little ray of hope in an overwhelming display of hopelessness.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  How could this be in America ? Land of opportunity.  And then I remembered the time I spent in New Orleans back in 2007. Almost a year after Katrina and when I arrived sections of the city still looked like Katrina had just hit-destroyed homes; piles of garbage; businesses boarded closed. This looked eerily similar,but a force of nature hadn't caused what I was looking at in Detroit-a force of man did this.

And yet everywhere we went, sprinkled in among the hopelessness were pockets of hopes.  A little playground filled with flowers and colorful jungle gyms for the children. The park was empty when we went into the restaurant for lunch, but when we came out, it was filled with families and kids playing-here-right in the middle of downtown Detroit.

Mudgies Deli , home of the best sandwiches anywhere-stop and check it out if you are in Detroit

Our family took us on a little tour of the downtown area after lunch and I was curious to see the old train station since it was such an imposing building on the skyline of Detroit.  Unfortunately the razor wire keeps you from getting close to it. There is a deal going on right now to make this area a huge park area including restoration of the train depot.  The depot has become an international symbol of the decay of Detroit and I understand why. There is a small homeless community that has taken root around the station, I wonder where they will end up when the improvements happen.

Since Mudgies Deli was in the middle of the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, we took a little tour of the neighborhood. Again it's so incongruous seeing the blight and then driving down a street and seeing these sweet little historic houses inhabited by people who are making a go of it, one way or another, in the middle of the city.

This composition struck something in my heart-the old boarded up wooden building; the beauty of the brick church and the towering skyscraper of glass windows-a little window of historical progression ?

An amazing place-we enjoyed the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibit ; on a Friday morning it was busy with busloads of school children and tourists. 

I so wanted to look away as we passed empty apartment building, wondering what happened to the people who used to call this place home. And if we turned down just one block we would stumble on the huge inhabitied mansions.  I can't begin to describe the emotions I felt that day-hope; hopelessness; amazement at the beauty; amazement at the desolation; a profund sadness that this is the country I live in and I'm not doing anything about it. That's what embarrasses me and makes me feel shamed. I look and shake my head and go on.

Detroit is bouncing back,slowly, but still moving in the right direction.  More restaurants are opening; more activities are happening and bringing people to the parks and streets. Detroit has a Blight Removal Project composed of 84,641 structures-that's a lot for any city much less one struggling from bankruptcy. 

So when in or near Detroit-do what you can-support the local businesses and arts.  I know so many people are afraid of getting shot or robbed-seriously use your common sense-know your neighborhood. And when you get a minute go and listen to Kid Rock's song "Detroit, Michigan". It will remind you of what Detroit was and can be again.

Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Ya heard about Marvin Gaye, we got him
Can I get a witness?
Talkin' bout Hitsville USA we got it
How sweet it is
We got those fine, fine super Supremes
The kind of girls ya see in your dreams
When ya hear our thunderin' sound
Ya know it comes from Detroit town
Talkin' 'bout Rosa Parks we sent her
Talkin' 'bout Henry Ford the inventor
Talkin' 'bout Aretha yeah we got her
The Queen of Soul
Bob Seger yeah we got him
And that old time rock n roll
Slim Shady set the world on fire
The Big Three baby and the finest cars
George Clinton's P Funk all stars
We spend our days on the line and our nights in the bars
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah
Detroit, Michigan, oh yeah
Detroit, Michigan, yeah

Happy Trails and safe travels to all my friends. And please share your ideas ,if you have them, on what we can or should be doing to save our cities and neighborhoods.


  1. Looks like a great trip. Did you boondock in the city?

  2. It is sad to see such a great city in such decline, but yet your photos make it beautiful again. We stayed at the Ponchartrain Hotel right across from Cobo Hall and ate at the restaurant on the top floor, overlooking the city at night. That was in '82. Then I was back again for the big robotics show in '86. Both times, (we / I) had time to spend at the Renaisance Center and waterfront. We were also back on two other occasions to go to Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. Such wonderful places. Reading your stories, and seeing the photos from your enhanced perspective bring back good memories, but when we head out to ful-time in July, our goal will be to stay as far away from the cities as possible, and literally explore the "grass roots" of this great country, the way Charles Kurault used to. STay well and travel safe...especially in that area!

    1. They tell me Detroit is coming back and we did see signs of that,but restaurants and hotels draw tourists, the neighborhoods are the heart of the city and we didn't see a lot that gave us hope for them. Thanks for the feedback you have given me,really appreciate it.

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