Friday, June 08, 2007

Detroit

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been trying to find housing in Seattle, which is roughly an hour and a half from Olympia, so much time has been used up.

Anyways, thought I'd post something on Detroit, which is the area I'm from. Detroit is going through some really, really, rough times right now. The Big Three have been destroyed and with it the remaining industrial base of the area, which has roughly 2.5 million people. It's so bad that the Detroit Free Press ran an editorial about a month ago saying that innovative small businesses would be the way for Detroit to move forward. When newspapers say that you know that the area they're talking about is fucked.
Innovative small businesses are something that small to medium sized towns use to revitalize and build their economies, not major metropolitan areas. It's like asking Chicago to revitalize, not that it needs it, with some tech companies and a few small factories that make chairs. It's not exactly going to serve the needs of that city.

But the downhill slide has been going on for a while. It's been going on for as long as I've been alive, in fact, and I'm in my late twenties at the moment. The strange thing was I didn't realize that the Detroit area was generally worse off than most other cities until I left the Detroit area, going first to New York City for a little while, then living in small towns but traveling all over the place, then moving to the general Seattle area, or as they call it the Sound, referring to Puget Sound, where everything from Olympia up to, well, up to the northern Seattle suburbs is included in that.


When I was growing up and living there the perception was that the outside world just didn't understand the Detroit area.The bad press about Detroit, blew it off. Not real. Detroit itself was viewed as dangerous but the general consensus was that it was no where as near dangerous, or shitty, as people were making it out to be.

I was actually born in Warren Michigan, the same city that Eminem was from. That's where my mom grew up. Eight Mile, if there ever was a movie that gave a bad impression of Warren, that was it. Warren is actually the third largest city in Michigan and is divided between the lower half, roughly between eleven mile and eight mile, that's run down, and the half from there on up, which is a regular, mostly working class, town. It's not that bad.

Yeah, but getting back to Detroit as it actually is and my perception of Detroit while living there, there were things that just weren't there that are normal in other places, like a downtown. Detroit's former downtown is a ghost town, despite sporadic attempts at revitalization. The only real cultural area isn't in the city of Detroit itself but is in Oakland County, which borders Detroit on the north. Woodward avenue is the place, going from eight mile roughly up to fifteen mile, with innovative restaurants over on side streets, nice record stores, cool clothing stores, coffee shops, bookstores, that sort of thing, as well as two independent cinemas.

Neighborhoods are another thing. In Seattle, in other places, definitely in New York in the form of Queens and Brooklyn, there are a series of neighborhoods that make up what the city is. In Detroit you have little oases of neighborhoods interspersed with an enourmous number of broken down and abandoned houses as well as streets where people are desperately poor and where the name of neighborhood really isn't appropriate.

Anyways, it was a revelation to find out that other mid sized cities and metro areas weren't like this.

Diametric opposite of Detroit=Portland Oregon, although I haven't been to Northeast Portland, which is the rougher area.


***on edit. I lived in both Macomb county and Oakland county, which are the two major counties directly north of Detroit, and thinking about it people in Macomb county definitely were afraid of Detroit, but the reasons unfortunately were more racial than anything else. Macomb county was and is the county of white flight for people who are less affluent, and for years enforced an informal segregation through real estate agents with regards to everything from lower middle class houses on up. This general sentiment only got worse, much worse, after the riots in '68.

The irony is that I actually went to Detroit itself more, actually got to know it more, in about three years of living in Oakland county than I did in the sixteen years I lived in Macomb county. The irony is even deeper when you consider that Oakland county, which is the much more affluent of the two, actually has better relations with Detroit than does Macomb county, which is much more like Detroit itself than Oakland county could possibly ever be.

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