Sunday, February 22, 2009

Detroit, Detroit

Where do I begin when it comes to Detroit?


Basically that might be the easiest way to say it without going into some large explanation of why Detroit is what it is. I could talk about the racial riots of 1967 being a key factor in the problems here. I could talk about all of the racial tensions that exist in metro-Detroit. I could talk about our former mayor who is a criminal and served time in jail and now lives in Texas and about the election we have to have next month to replace him until the "real" election in November, because the city can afford THAT! I could talk about the fact that the school system is beyond broken and the school board is so embedded with corruption that it is millions of dollars in dept and the schools have very little if any necessities such as toilet paper. Or I could talk about the city council and what an embarassment they are and the fact that a sixth grader knows more about being responsible for your actions than members of council...or you can just watch it on Youtube, search Monica Conyers debates 8th graders! Or I could talk about the crime and the fear that consumes me at times about the amount of robberies, assaults and such that continue to escalate as the economy plummets. Which then could prompt me to talk about the city's dependency on the American auto industry, but we all know about that (most of us personally).

So yes, I could talk about all of this and if you want more to read on such issues, here is the link to Ruminations of Rimka, a blog written by a very articulate womyn (who was born and raised in Detroit) whose entries are always stimulating and interesting. Her particular entry about Detroit will definitely stir some emotions in you, whether you may agree with her or not. And you can look at the spread that was done recently in Time magazine.

Instead I want to tell you about my story. I want to talk a little more intimately about why I have a love/hate relationship with Detroit. Why it fills my heart with warm fuzzies one minute and the next makes me want to throw my whole set of Caphelon through my kitchen window. Why in the winter I despise it and in the summer I could never imagine living anywhere else. Why I dream of a "new" Detroit and at the same time dream of getting the hell out! I moved from the suburbs to the city of Detroit. It was almost seven years ago that we instantly fell in love with the house that we now occupy. It was an innocent trip to the city to visit my soon to be sister-in-law a mere six months before our wedding. During that visit we drove through the neighborhood, stumbled upon a house we fell in love with and within months we were living around the corner from family.

Prior to moving we had talked about it on numerous occasions and the interest we had to be a part of the rejuvenation of Detroit. We both consider ourselves city people and even though Detroit wasn't and still isn't much of a city, we had hope that one day....if people like us continue to move back, then maybe it has a chance. We were optimistic and young and maybe even naive, but we were hopeful. And there are days that we still shine with optimism and hope, although not as often since the dire conditions in Detroit seem only to be getting worse by the day.

I often wonder why the hell do we stay? Why do we pay thousands of dollars in city taxes for no city services? Why do we live in an area that offers little of what is truly important to us: recycling, descent funded public schools, public transportation, thriving local commerce? Why do we live in a city that is so corrupt, so mismanaged, so broken? Why do we live in a city that continues to be proud of being the underdog? If I hear one more politician or reporter say, "The great city of Detroit..." I might actually put a pan through one of my beautiful windows. This city is not great. This city is okay, maybe even good on days, but far from great. Some may disagree with me but go to Detroit and then go to any other metropolitan city and it will be quite obvious that we are FAR from greatness. Yeah, we have made some major strides in improving this city, there have been numerous investments and businesses over the last couple of years, but drive down 6 or 7 Mile between the Southfield and Woodward and you will get a clear understanding of Detroit. You will see so much of it as it appears to be; a third world country. You will see that even though so much development has been done in midtown and downtown, so many neighborhoods are still forgotten about and neglected. So many people shoved to the side and so much despair, poverty and blight.

And then I stop myself... and on good days I can do this and I force myself to look at what Detroit has to offer me. I look at my beautiful home that I know we could NEVER afford if it were in the suburbs. I look at my yard and gardens that continually expand over the double lot and offer a prayer of thanks for the bounty and rich soil that I have settled upon. And then I look at my neighbors... to the left, to the right, down the street and I cherish the fact that I KNOW them. Not just their names and faces, but who they are and what is important to them. They welcomed us with open arms full of pizza and Krispy Kremes when we moved in. They cherish my children as if they are their own family and some have answered calls in emergency situations and dropped everything to offer us their help. I look at the neighborhood in which I live and I am constantly in awe of the community that exists within it's rough, city surroundings. A community that is diverse, family oriented and tightly-knit. People watch out for each other here. The suburbs did not offer us that and I don't know any friends in the burbs who live in the same type of community. And I look at all of the grassroots movements that are taking place here revolving around urban agriculture and art and it is promising and gives me much hope.

I also think of everything I love about this city.

Saturdays at Eastern Market. Urban Farming and Homesteading with the Detroit Agricultural Network. The DIA. Yummy breads and baked goods at Avalon. The walnut lentil burgers at Cass Cafe. The beer and gourmet pizzas at Motor City Brewing Works. Food, music and bowling at The Majestic. Free concerts in the summer that always have amazing lineups such as Concert of Colors and Festival of the Arts. Rafael Spice. Seeing shows at The Fisher Theater, Fox Theater, and St. Andrews. The memories of our wedding at Sweetest Heart of Mary. Buying gifts and tent sales at The Pewabic House. Taking walks in the summer on The Riverfront and enjoying it's beautiful Carousel with the kids. The Book-Cadillac restoration. The amazing music scene. The Motown Museum. BBQ and Caesar salads at Slows Bar BBQ. Food at it best as far as I am concerned when you eat at Traffic Jam; did I mention homemade cheese and ice cream? Garden parties at The Whitney. Hours searching shelves at the 5 story book warehouse: John King Books. Buying unique gifts at Bureau of Urban Living, Flo, and The Spiral Collective. Stopping in for a reminder of Paris and Montreal at Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes; my mouth is watering right now just thinking of their crepes!

And the list continues to grow.

There are a lot of good things about Detroit, and I hope and pray that it continues to make great strides for the sake of the good, honest people who live here in the city. The people who have committed themselves to staying around and raising their families here because they hope and believe in all that it could offer. I would like to say that we are those people, but I would be lying. We do love Detroit and we will always be committed to helping this city reach it's potential, but I would be lying if I told you that we are going to stick it out no matter what. That is just not possible for us at this point in our lives. But for now 3-1-3 BABY!!!

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