Detroit: A Massive Reader Guide

Posted on August 1st, by Justin LowRes in 20. No Comments

Man, this could have been so great. Right now I am the King of the World.  Mr. DiCaprio and his sinking ship don’t have anything on me.  I am not in a sinking ship. As I sit on the roof of Detroit’s old train station and gaze upon the beauty below, I know that my possibilities are endless, and that new life is budding in my city.

Say “the train station” to anyone in the city and they will know exactly what you are talking about.  The train station is a mammoth abandoned building blocks from Tiger Stadium.  Its sheer beauty and grandeur is overwhelming.  You forget where you are when you look at it.   To step inside, which many curious adventurers have done, is to conjure images hundreds of people bustling about this landmark.  This is where the weary traveler first entered my city.   This was Detroit’s welcome mat.  Now it is the perfect snapshot of Detroit’s legacy.  The feeling of my city.  The vitality of my city.

You’re already feeling the itch to explore.  I know.   I have felt that itch.    There is so much going on.  There is so much that people don’t ever see.  Visitors usually go to one event or another and escape post haste.  Who wouldn’t, right?

“Did you see all of those decrepit abandoned buildings?”
“Does anyone really live here?”
“What a horrible and dangerous place this must be!”

I have heard the talk.  They are so wrong.  So wrong.   Start at the train station and move into the city.  You will begin to understand.

From the train station, you can slide into Corktown, Detroit’s oldest community.  Its charm is apparent immediately.  Need a bite to eat? Check out Eph McNally’s, a sandwich shop devoted to Charlie’s Angels and other 70’s “chic.”  From here you’re just blocks from historic Tiger Stadium.  This is a can’t miss.  It will soon join the train station as a landmark pegged for destruction with the advent of the new stadium.

From the Stadium, a quick cruise up Michigan Avenue will find you face to face with a five story tall Barry Sanders.  That’s the Cadillac building.   There are no people inside it anymore.  It stands as a sick monument to what was (and you wonder why Detroit music makes you feel the way you do).   The Cadillac building is on the corner of Michigan and Washington.  This is another fine example of the burgeoning regrowth of my city.  North on Washington is the recently revitalized Grand Circus Park as well as the David Whitney building.   One step inside the Whitney Building and you’ll see that not all of Detroit’s structures are empty.  This one in particular is home to many offices and stores.  The owners are proud of where they live and operate.  I suggest going up to the third floor and peeking into the windows of Karl Schmidt’s Post Century Decorative Arts.  The showroom is filled with works by some of the most famous designers in the world today.  The showroom isn’t the only thing on the third floor of this building, however.  It is also a stop for the notorious Detroit People Mover.

What could be one of the biggest wastes of tax money, could at the same time be one of Detroit’s greatest charms.  A monorail-esque system resting 20 feet in the air, as a suitable means of mass transportation it is severely lacking. The People Mover travels in a loop around an area covering less than two square miles.  It is a constant source of amusement for those watching it pass by.  However, many of its critics have obviously never ridden it.  Not only does it get you within comfortable walking distance of most of the main attractions downtown, the tour and view it gives of downtown Detroit far surpasses anything available from a car or on foot.

For all of the People Mover’s seeming futility, it could actually be considered a vein connected to the heart of Detroit.  For example, if I’m downtown and need to get to Kinkos to do some printing, I hop on it and it takes me there (for less than bus fare, no less!).  If I need to get a bite to eat, well, Greektown is just a few short stops away.  When I need to shop for clothes it will drop me off within walking distance of Spectacles, where the hottest in hip hop gear awaits.  So before a joke is made, remember that as many of Detroit’s aging structures succumb to years of decay, this one is here to stay. This is one that with the coming of the Casinos, will see a greater purpose.

Casinos are coming to Detroit, and like everything else in the city, opinions are decidedly split on the subject.  My city can’t wait much longer for a true revival.  Its lips are turning blue, and vital signs are weak.  The Casinos could be just the financial shot in the arm Detroit needs.  They are going to add to the already busy nightlife, residing right on the scenic waterfront.  To witness my city’s waterfront nightlife firsthand, I suggest a ride down Jefferson Avenue on any given Saturday night around midnight.  You will be there until at least 2:00.   But this isn’t a bad thing, it is Saturday night and my city doesn’t go to sleep when the clubs close.  For instance, you can go to Korie’s in the Griswold Lofts every Saturday for Menage A Trois.  The likes of Theo Parish and Kenny Dixon Jr. (the sounds of hot box) regularly grace patron’s ears.  Quite simply the finest house music you will find.   If that’s not quit your flavor, not a Saturday passes when you can’t find a “party.”  Either option embodies the feeling of my city.  Completely different yet both completely Detroit.  Detroit music has serious edge and complexity, as well as enormous amounts of subtle, hidden beauty, much like the city that spawns it.  Moodyman would not be Moodyman without the Detroit attitude, flavor.  Innovator would be a much different album without the Detroit in it.  The people who love this music would be of different mind if they didn’t have some of Detroit in them.  It seems that the message is that once you’re here, once you’ve experienced my city, there are parts of you that never leave.  Like seeing the ocean for the first time, the mind always wanders back to the waves of Detroit.

With massive rebuilding, such as Detroit is now seeing, there is always an element of change.  Many of the abandoned buildings have to come down.   Many have already fallen to the wrecking ball.  The new stadiums alone are bringing down blocks upon blocks of buildings, including the old YMCA.  The Hudson’s Building (yet another wonderful landmark) is being ripped away bit by bit until its scheduled day of execution by implosion.  The very things shaped the attitude that is Detroit are being ripped to the ground in the name of progress.  You can’t help wondering if many of them could have been saved.  The falling of the Hudson’s Building, I see as a harbinger of many things to come.  Like all things, as the city changes, so will its people.  We will grow along with the city.  We will be torn down and we will rebuild ourselves, identifying with the old and embracing the with an eye to progress and a heart for history.