If you have not been to Detroit, it is hard to explain what it feels like to be there. There is limitless potential, endless frustration, and desperation. There have been countless TV specials on the city’s decline and the history, but to understand the city itself, you have to walk it. Talk to people and see. It is an education just to be there.
Unemployment is high, the American dream is forgotten. There are few people on the streets, those you do see keep their eyes down. Everywhere you look there are buildings in disrepair and squatting has taken over. Land is easy to come by but money is not. Talk with locals about the unions or the car industry and you are bound to end up in a heated discussion. There is talk of rebuilding the Red Wings arena and even that is contentious, the city is bankrupt.
Within all of this, there were my grandparents. They bought their home after the war, in the late 1940s. They were square dance callers and worked downtown as they began their family of five. It was the definition of success until the race riots of the 1960s. As everyone around them left, crime went up and the value of their home dropped, they stayed. Eventually new, diverse, and hard working neighbors moved in. By then they had money to leave but there they stayed, in the center of the melting pot.
On our visits, our family would get more culture in a week then our suburban neighborhood provided in a year. It is still the same as we saw this weekend when we gathered to celebrate my grandfathers life in the place that he loved. Detroit showed us a great variety for authentic food and fun characters. There are artists tagging walls and street musicians playing on trash cans. Go to Eastern Market and you will buy some fresh veggies and meet a true Detroit cross section. We went feather bowling, visited the Heidelberg project, and cruised the downtown redevelopment for brunches and dinners. I bought some new pieces at Pewabic Pottery and went to the Motown museum in time to see it was sold out. On the way back to the car I saw a dilapidated building titled “Glamour House” with a spitting image of the Breaking Bad trailer next door, it was just to perfect.
I am sure I have some of those details wrong but you get the idea. Not to bore you with travel stories or my family heritage, but this city is something to see and care about. I know that Detroit travel destinations are not a hot topic but if you get a chance, go. Be a witness to all that is happening and has happened there.