11 January 2010
I love Michigan, and I love Ann Arbor, but I would not be here, the way I am today, were it not for the city of Detroit. As far back as I know, my family has been a product of the city. My grandmother was a Foxette (a dancer at the Fox Theater) during the roaring twenties. My mother got her teaching degree at Marygrove College, my dad worked for the auto industry throughout the majority of his adult life, and for the past two years I have been working with community organizations in Detroit to improve its residents' health through better access to food and physical activity.
Visiting the city inspires a complex array of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Seeing the old train station in southwest Detroit, for example, is both majestic and tragic. It is monumental not only in its scale but also in its representation of the city's grand history and demise. Spend a day touring Detroit with someone who knows it and you will fall in love with its beauty and blight.
The challenges are there, but the more you listen the more you hear about the opportunities. The magazine, Edible WOW, just ran an article about Avalon Bakery’s community driven approach to running a business. My roommate just told me about a Burlesque show she went to in the city this weekend, “It was a great time. The dancers weren’t, you know, god’s gift to man or anything, but they were cute and the performance was artful. I had a blast!” The New York Times just wrote a piece about the wave of entrepreneurship running through the city: Burton Theater, a new independent film theater housed inside an abandoned school house; a Creperie called Good Girls Go to Paris; a hair salon called, Curl Up and Dye. These new businesses combined with the awe inspiring Architecture, the Diego Rivera mural at the art museum, the River Walk, and The Hot Club of Detroit’s gypsy jazz concerts- I could write about all that the city has to offer for hours. I could elaborate for paragraphs about why the BBQ, beer, and bar tenders at Slow’s BBQ make me want to do more than just lick my fingers after a meal. Yet still, I’ve barely even brushed the surface.
If Detroit were a bottle of wine it would be one made of the finest tasting grapes. It would be made of the grapes that were starved a bit while they were growing. The ones that had to work extra hard to survive, but ended up with an even richer complexity and depth of flavor, thus making the final product, the wine, more robust and delicious upon maturation.
This is what I'm going to miss most about the mid-west and about Detroit in particular. It’s not always the easiest place to live; the sun doesn’t shine everyday, the streets aren’t flooded with young adults, and the ice doesn’t scrape itself off the windshield. But there is a tenacious spirit, a craving for authenticity, and a reverberating pride in ones community that keeps the people pressing on even through the most challenging of times. Wherever you live, it’s worth taking a trip to the city of Detroit. Above I mentioned just a few of its treasures, but if you really want to have fun, go forth and explore the city for yourself!
Posted by Julia