house - so much to say, so little space..

the city of detroit never recovered from the double blows of the 67 riots and the big three car companies unwillingness to adapt to a changing world. there are other factors involved, of course, and i am by far no expert. the simmering standoff between the city and the suburbs (played often as black vs. white), with stupidity and recalcitrance on both sides, is the reason detroit hasn't come back to the land of the living cities. to oversimplify perhaps, and maybe raise a few hackles, the (mostly white) suburbs, with the money, would (have) contribute(d) to the rebuilding of the city if it was done "their way", and the city, with an 83% black population and one of the first black mayors in the country [coleman young, elected in 1970 and serving an unprecedented 20 years], was not eager to relinquish their control. i use the conditional past tense because the suburbs have largely established a lifestyle routine which doesn't need the city for much (other than an odd tigers/lions game - the pistons are based in the burbs now), and it feels to me like the city has been left to fend for itself. sure, there's lots of shininess going on in the heart of downtown (maybe a mile square) - gm bought the renaissance bldg and compuware moved their headquarters there a couple years ago, supposedly signaling a renaissance that just hasn't seemed to happen.

if you look outside the cluster of tall buildings from the first photos, you see a different city. and it's tough. and sad. and to me, inexcusable. those with no money have no voices and can't be heard.

in the city. there are two (2!) bus lines run by SMART, with routes a million miles long, so they are always late, sometimes by hours, and frequently just don't appear. i know, i had to ride them back in the day. there are no taxis to speak of and the ones that are, are shifty as hell. the 'people mover' is a child's play elevated subway 3 miles long that goes to places you could walk to anyway in downtown.

i drove through major swaths of the city that felt isolated as a desert island. people are born, live and die there and it feels like there is no movement out or in. these houses in the pictures are a tiny tiny representation of all that are left standing, for years, to turn into drug houses rat havens and impromptu homeless shelters. i recognized houses still (barely) standing from 10 years ago, and i'm sure some have stood longer. and next to each one is a house and a neighborhood, with kids, just holding on.

from talking to people, every single person told me how tough times are in michigan today. real estate prices are plummeting and jobs are scarce. they are going through a true recession quite apart from the rest of the country. with that lack of a head start, it's not stunning to discover these relics standing.

but it is heartbreaking

when i visited, i certainly had the luxury of staying in wonderful people's houses, with air con and roofs (rooves:) w/o holes. i went on lakes in boats and stopped at the w.bloomfield starbucks nearly every day. there's a lot of life and a lot of spunk and a lot of great times around, but the bitter reality is there is another new orleans buried out of sight in a major american city, with people who, through no fault of their own, are living in third world conditions.

i love detroit, and detroiters are some of the most straightforward, honest and down to earth people i've met (if you can characterize a region), and i've done a bit of traveling, especially around the country. it was hard for me to leave when i did, because in the small store i ran i had people, regulars, of all colors intermingling, talking, becoming friends for life. i knew that in that microcosm, the city and suburbs could 'get along', with just a little communication.

here in new york (with its fair share of problems to be sure), feels like that hard work is already a fait accompli, and especially here in queens, where each ride on the 7 is with a rainbow of beautiful strangers.
i so wish that for detroit, with all my heart.

6 comments so far...

PimpDaddy July 27, 2007, 09:53 PM
Wow.... Really really great story!
insky July 29, 2007, 10:37 PM
thanks, pd. do feel the need to shout this, at the same time no one wants to listen. buried like the rest, in a country that's let this happen, and is willing and able to let it go on...
PimpDaddy July 30, 2007, 08:40 AM
I can understand that. Things like this can be really frustrating.
donna August 01, 2007, 04:08 AM
The compassion of a storyteller--the (in)humanity of the story. heartbreaking.

Read this and must've had it still in my mind, because I came across a passage in a book I just finished that struck and drove me back here. I'll have to paraphrase a bit, but here goes: We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Discord and enmity can only be fought by showing equal bonds of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

A beautiful passage to my mind. Does it oversimplify a most complex situation? Perhaps. And yet, that simplicity holds the ultimate power.

PimpDaddy August 01, 2007, 10:56 AM
I think you're right
celt January 27, 2013, 01:37 PM
Wow, I'm from Australia and I have so enjoyed reading your story! Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story, it made me so sad for the people over in your country, how they have to suffer in these conditions. I too hope hope Detroit can be restored to the way New York is. I remember a little over a decade ago NY was really bad, now its doing well, restored to a much nicer community, more friendly and maybe this gives Detroit some hope even if it has been 50 years since Detroit went bad. I can't compare the bad area we have here in Australia to the bad area over there in the US, but the bit where you said "that in that microcosm, the city and suburbs could 'get along', with just a little communication..." reminded me a bit of where I live, is roughish, but I have met nice people in the shopping centre as well as the really nasty rough low-socio economic people who reside around here but the only thing I can say is we are lucky we have a gun ban here so we are likely not to be shot here, more likely a bashing or a yelling of abuse or just plain rudeness from the rough/nasty ones. I just really hope the US can achieve a full gun ban, that may be the very start of improving the country. I would love to see people in the US pulled out of poverty and to feel safe again in areas like Detroit.
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