Last week's trip to Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, while jammed into too tight of a time frame, will forever live with me, even if I never return but as I have said, I believe I will be moved to the Midwest, at least the majority of my physical belonging, by summer's end. Describing Detroit is difficult simply because it is many worlds orbiting around an over three-century long history. Detroit is vastly interesting and complex, a cultural mosaic that is as American as apple pie, Thanksgiving Dinner and of course that All-American icon, the automobile---the Ford Motor Company and the City of Detroit forever connected.
A real estate agent kept asking "where did I want to start my search?' Given I knew nothing about Detroit, other than idle rumor presenting itself as fact, I picked a street named after that famous fighter for civil rights, Rosa Parks Boulevard, and started driving into the possibly the greatest urban devastation on the planet. That it was both startling and unforgettable goes without saying the obvious. As I drove past miles upon miles of collapsed buildings and destroyed landscape I imagined a shocked Rosa Parks riding beside me.
"Well Rosa, what do you think about all this?"
"Joe, I think that despite all rhetoric to the contrary, the civil rights movement has failed to accomplish what we set out to do. While you now can sit anywhere on the bus you want to, if the bus takes you home to what looks like a bombed German city during WW II, I don't see how much progress has been made since the 1950s."
"Rosa, are you saying that racism is at the heart of this amazing neglect of a major American city?"
"I sure enough am! If Detroit had been majority white this would not have happened. They let this city die because all the whites were in the suburbs. What we see should only have been written in a science fiction novel, and not manifested before our eyes in the 21st Century."
And with that Rosa Parks vanished, and I was left alone in the rent-a-car to contemplate upon a modern American disaster. How long will it take to rebuild, if ever, this crumbling, burned out shell of a city? 20 to 50 years is my guess but I doubt if Detroit as a whole will ever be rebuilt. While the area near the art museum is rebounding, the rest of city appears to be clearly deteriorating minus any real effort to stop it.
I was told there are $350.000 condos in the DT center. Again, it is clear that while the rich are only getting richer, the poor in Detroit have been assigned a living hell. If you don't believe me, then you too fly to Detroit and drive those insane miles down Rosa Parks Blvd. You too will see the huge abandoned cathedral, stained glass windows broken out, past splendor now open to wind and rain and snow. Unbelievable.
My New Cab
I now have another car, a 2011 Crown Victoria, as my new 1092. I was going to describe all the "headaches" involved in putting it on but given that I again running out of time, let it suffice to say that the mistakes of others resulted in me going nearly insane as usual. I will say that the City of Seattle was not the problem, and Jan, doing the final meter test, was as usual, friendly and cooperative. And the car has been dubbed Gabriel, after the angel, by "She-who-can't-be-named." Yes, good, Gabriel, please protect us all, sheltering all who enter 1092 beneath your protective wings.
Saturday night, finding myself late in the north-end, and not wanting to go all the way back DT to the Honey Court, I ate at that longtime Chinese establishment, the Rickshaw, joining all the usual patrons who were singing Karaoke. The place is dark anyway, given there are no windows, so there I sat, trying to read the NY Times while regaled by mostly bad American pop music sung by Rock & Roll hopefuls better left to the Rickshaw and other such dives.
Looking around, it was obvious I was surrounded by those I usually meet post-bar in the cab. They all appeared to be having a good time. Me, I was eating a too dense egg foo young and mediocre "deluxe" won ton soup. I too enjoyed myself, immersed as I was in current American "let's drink until we drop" culture. Be glad they take cabs instead of driving home themselves. I know I am.