Ruins of the Golden Age...

Quick- when I say Detroit… What are the first things that pop into your mind? The Big Three Auto Makers, the Tigers, the Red Wings, Crime, Violence… Did I hit the nail on the head?

On Saturday- Kirin and I went out into the big world on our first official photo oriented road trip! We chatted; we bonded even more than before on the long stretches of highway on our way to Detroit. I’ve only been there probably once that you can even count, and then it was for a hockey game on the far western edge of the city. This trip took us through the heart of the city, or rather what could be considered the heart on Hospice Care.

Being a born and raised Michigan girl, I know I have fallen victim to the concept of “Detroit is big and bad and scary…” But after this weekend- I can honestly say I have a new bundle of feelings for that town in the lower right corner of the Mitten.

The main location we stayed in, is the neighborhood of the photographer (we’ll call him MG) we drove there to have shoot Kirin. MG lives in a former industrial building on Watson, one block from the main drag Woodward, in the Brush Park District. Brush Park in its “golden era” was filled to the brim with wealthy industry types living in beautiful solid red brick Victorian manors, mansions, and castles. 

In the 1980’s the city of Detroit started it’s down turn into the drug addled, violent “Mad Max” lifestyle so many of us assume as fact today. In 1990- the population of the City of Detroit was 1.0287 million people. The Big Three were still doing great and the town, while rough on the fringes, was still a busy city.

In the 2000’s the “take back the city” effort took hold and the majority of those beautiful mansions that had beyond fallen into disrepair started getting demolished by the 100’s. By now, the majority of them even still standing by the grip of their mortar had fallen prey to a term most of us know as “Devil’s Night”. “Devil’s Night” for those that don’t know- is the night before Halloween when violence breaks out in massive amounts, and any amateur arsonist with a gas can and a pack of matches raises hell in the vacant buildings by burning things to the ground. Or in the case of these beautiful homes- gutting them almost beyond livable conditions. By 2010- the city’s population has dwindled to 778,002 people within the limits.

I say, almost beyond livable conditions, because as Kirin and I witnessed Saturday- the homeless have taking these dilapidated carcasses of what was once a gold era for the city as their homes- shelter from the storms, the heat, and the glaring eye of the general public. As we drove to a photo shoot location through the city, up Woodward Avenue- we would pass tiny communities built around single streets with homes most only see in affluent California- sprawling compounds where the wealthy hide their indiscretions. Not a half block from their cul-du-sac made of money and luxury cars is a vacant hotel being used as a crack house- across Woodward from that- three abandonded, burned out, boarded up churches with homeless seeking shelter with nothing more than a thrown out pillow and carpet padding.

All of this started sinking in- settling in the pit of my stomach. Outside of the four square blocks around the Fillmore Theater, Comerica Park, the Fox Theater, Cobo Hall… life isn’t life anymore. Life is survival. I was sad. The smell of death filled my nose. Not “death” by way of, “something is totally dead over there...” No, it was the smell of car exhaust and decaying brick. The deeply sad sight of dressed up, drunk, and stupid Jimmy Buffet fans making their way along the sidewalks to their concert, while ignoring and shunning those poor unwashed souls begging for a dollar.

The Flynn House in Edmund Park

The back side of the Flynn house, according to MG- this has happened in the past two months, and no, we probably shouldn't have done a shoot in here on the third floor...

Proof of residence...

Detroit isn’t a city anymore. Detroit is very much like the rotten shells of the golden era in Brush Park, Edmund Park… You can look at it and let the sorrow those streets are filled with. Or you can look at it as a snake. Snakes shed their skin as they grow and transform- becoming something more beautiful in the long run. But how long does the run have to be for this city?

I’m not scared of Detroit anymore. Not at all. Instead I feel sorry for it. Even more so- I am furious with how the largest city in our state has been mortally wounded and left to die on the side of the progress’ highway. As a resident of our Mitten State, I am ashamed that more cannot or will not be done. Renovating a Victorian house or two isn’t help. I don’t know what would be help at this point; I just know they aren’t getting any at all. For fuck’s sake- over half of the city’s firehouses have had to close because of the condition of the city and our bullshit state legislature not funding them. Sure- Obama “bailed out” the auto makers, for all the fucking good that did… What about the city itself?

Detroit is and once was a pillar on which the foundation our state was built on. That pillar is about to crumble into oblivion, folks. What then?

The Ecumenical Theological Seminary in the "Golden Era"

The same church now... Dead and cold with progress gleaming in the distance...


Popular Posts