Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Mixed Bag

Lauren is going to the airport this morning to pick up a friend of hers, and she just found out that the Southfield Freeway is closed because of a police chase and car crash. She'll have to take a different route today, but it really has me thinking about the kind of place we live in. Detroit's violence, decay and poverty are intolerable, and unbearable. Last week, there was an unsolved shooting on the Lodge Freeway that drew national attention. If you don't live here, or someplace similar, I don't know how you'd grasp what it's like. There are so many different reasons for the present situation that I don't want to bore you by running through the usual excuses; you can see it in the paper every day.

People in the burbs have a tendancy to stay there. There are many reasons people outside Detroit go into the city. They include hockey, gambling, employment, and the auto show. I used to work in the Renaissance Center, and I would go out every night after work downtown. I practically lived at the Majestic. My bachelor party was at Carl's Chophouse and two casinos. What I'm saying is, I liked being young and being able to hang out Downtown. Because of the abandoned factories and crumbling housing stock, Detroit has a Gotham City quality that lends it a sense of intrigue at night. The downside is the real menace of a lot of places, and having a child makes me progressively less interested in exploring that any further. Been there.

That said, I am extremely resentful of being in a place where the pockets of culture are surrounded by despair. Detroit has fine restaurants, a wonderful opera company, numerous opportunities to see live theater, interesting music festivals and lots of great rock shows. At the same time, I have gone door to door in the neighborhoods doing political campaigning, and the way a lot of people are living is extremely saddening. Many neighborhoods are not only in extreme disrepair, they are literally toxic to the people who live there, ruined by generations of industrial pollution. A lot of the people who have done and are doing the polluting probably live near us, and you can bet there are no factories nearby. Most people never see the real state of the city, because why would you? If you don't live there, there is not a lot of incentive to go. Lots of people don't have a choice though.

Maybe the Super Bowl will shine a national spotlight on our problem. I think that's a good thing; we need all the help we can get. Most of the problems that led to this situation happened before I was born, but people my age are dealing with this reality now, and I hope we can fix it for Noah. Living in San Francisco, which was not without its own problems, demonstrated that people don't have to live like this. There are alternatives, even if they don't involve organic produce within walking distance. How about creating a beautiful place to live, where you can go almost anywhere without worrying about shootings, random and otherwise? It's not like the Bay area is crime-free, far from it, but daily fear for your life wasn't part of the commute.

Look, we have our moments of levity. And where we live, things are nice, and safe, and probably non-toxic. I eat the (organic!) tomatoes I grow in the backyard. We are ten minutes from the cider mill, art movies, and at least ten different kinds of ethnic food. Call me naive, but why can't it be that way for everyone?

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Bree said...

Nothing can quite compare to the situation in Detroit, but even areas in Ohio are the same. Million dollar homes, nice markets and resturants, all surrounded by those same "pockets" you describe.
I will say after David and I had kids, we were really only willing to go as far as Ferndale for entertainment. If we went to Detroit, it was a rare and usually extra-special occasion, like for a concert, Second City or Greektown.
Even though it has it's problems, Michigan in and of itself has a strange draw and we still miss it despite the advantages of living in Ohio.

Kendra Lynn said...

I totally agree with you...Detroit really needs help..and maybe national help is the only way.
Although I grew up closer to Ann Arbor, I've been to Detroit for many different things, and have seen first-hand the decay and even some violence.
I hope there is help for Detroit sometime in the near future.

nancy said...

I feel the same way about Cincinnati.