Monday, April 19, 2010

The Case For Detroit

Have you ever seen the movie About Schmidt? It is one of the many movies I bought on the $1-$5 rack at a Blockbuster Video, that is, before Blockbuster became the Detroit, MI of chain stores. It never made sense to me that I could rent a movie for about $3, watch it once, not really like it, be too pissy to want to go back to the video store, accrue late fees and end up spending $25 on a night of disappointment. Just remembering large chunks of my life is free and equally upsetting.

Why not just by the shit movie and become angry on your own time. Remember, someone put up millions of dollars to have these movies made...fucking stupid isn't it? Well, AS wasn't really all that awful but Jack Nicholson and his wife in the movie had a plan to tour the country in an RV, it's always something I've wanted to do myself...someday.

Timing is everything in life, I believe that almost 50% of the time - which is a lot for me, I think...I don't really know. Anyway, I had a plane ticket to go to New Orleans, that same weekend Katrina hit, I'm planning on going back this year. Sometime I really want to see Missoula, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Nashville, the list goes on, but there is no city in America that is as interesting to me as Detroit. I have many questions about this city.

It seems as though Detroit will become the first American city to go completely bust and eventually downsize into a suburbs only community mesh. Those suburbs will grow, the buildings will be repurposed, people will flock back to the city and suddenly we'll all hear about how, "Detroit is back!" or "Detroit is making a huge comeback." But the people who remember how the city was during it's peak would likely say that Detroit is gone forever. But how does that happen?

Motor City and at the same time Motown! The only major US city (although 'major' may be in jeopardy) that looks south on Canada. It's a sports city; the Red Wings are one of the original NHL teams and as far as I know they are still amazing (I don't know very far,) the Tigers (MLB,) Pistons (NBA,) and if you're looking for something as luck-lorn as the city itself look no further than their NFL team the Lions. But none of this interests me all that much.

Just quickly glancing at the population you can see that while the city and metro section's population has dropped off considerably the region hasn't taken the same hit. Yes, the US car industry is slow to move and has been left behind by the rest of the world, so jobs left but people, 5+ million actually, still mean Detroit when they say; "I'm going into the city." That is what made me really interested in seeing the city for myself.

The media is shit. There is no way around the fact that they, as a body, don't serve the population. (It may be our fault for buying US Weekly over the local paper but nonetheless the media as a whole are feeding into their own failures.) The way we see Detroit on TV or on the internet is as a wasteland. Empty buildings that are falling apart, boarded houses, empty lots, just depressing shit. But we are never shown the areas that are still cool. I don't know if they exist but I have to imagine that they do. Yes, people have flocked to the suburbs but that doesn't mean there are hold outs who will tell you about the great things the city still offers.

I spend a good deal of time on reddit where may a Detroit post goes up and every single time there is a comment about how much better the city actually is, than gets credit for being. Now, I would still defend Albany, NY to people because I spent time there but not always with the fervor I seen on reddit. So who is going to do that story? Who is going to show us the hip bars near the river where white 20-30 somethings hang out after work? Who is going to show us where the hipsters are living? You know they are there...the city is ripe for hipster takeover.

Someday, when Detroit has been downsized there will be vinyl shops, microbrew infested dark pubs, little stages in 50 seat venues where bands will emerge again. My prediction is that Detroit will again become a music haven, just not Motown. This time it'll be white kids in tight pants. They will bring life back to the city and claim to have been there through the bad times, when in fact, they just moved from Williamsburg, Echo Park, Asheville, Mobile, or some other music city.

I just hope I get there for a visit before someone spills hipster into the city.

1 comment:

Exit 11 said...

I remember a great conversation you and I had about Detroit being the perfect place to move where we could create our own city. I was flying over and into Detroit on a layover recently and I had visions of what starting over there would be like. My vision included a 3 story house like the one on Chestnut St. in the middle of a rundown suburb that we got for practically free, 7 or 8 people living in this place, a band room, and a much cleaner kitchen than we had at Chestnut. Everyone would be creating their own income, not working for any other company and we would ride our bikes everywhere. That sounds nice, doesn't it?