March 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
I subscribe to Detroit article alerts through the New York Times. It’s a good way to make certain I receive at least one email a day. These alerts usually follow with the headlines of some politician being under investigation or another school district failing to come close to their annual budget. I was forwarded (by the NY Times) their article last Tuesday where they reported census numbers for the city of Detroit. In Ms. Seelye article there feels an almost happy undertone to which they can again show that Detroit is still the ole trusty “failed city”. Even before finishing the article I was tired of this recent lack of insight and perspective and I went back to read some more of Jerry Herron’s work, a man actually living and believing in Detroit.
Sure, the NY Times over the years has a view of Detroit as a failure in process. A failure because it was the city that invented and defined the American middle class. A failure because it built the infrastructure for an explosion to the evil suburbia. Because instead of it promoting millions of autonomous economic bits the city nurtured condension into a few large complex systems of production lines and assembly plants. It failed because it could not keep it’s best and brightest young people in the city. It failed because it didn’t follow the formula for city centers in the way every single major city does (at least east coast). It failed. It failed. It failed.
But……. isn’t the middle class kind of an important social invention? Is not Detroit extremely successful in raising up one of the most densely diverse and populated regions in the U.S? Didn’t it promote early efficiency in manufacturing? Shouldn’t we be grateful of the brain drain Detroit bought and developed? Wasn’t it the city where the African American families could make a good wage, buy a home and car, raise a family? Isn’t Detroit still in the heart of the single most productive and resource rich regions in North America?
The city of Detroit is still shrinking, we get it New York Times. But the Detroit metropolitan area is growing, and has been. I really am tired of the media’s creation “decay porn” industry that Detroit, Flint, Gary, etc. are the poster children for. And although I really like seeing the city in commercials and shows, I’m tired of being told by those same shows that Detroit is some cold wasteland of empty lots and rusted metal. It’s aggravating to watch that Chrysler commercial asit portrays their all black tinted windowed urban tank speeding along in thumping silence as it blows along the familiar freeway signs and monuments of a freezing cold Detroit. Or the gritty cop show Detroit 187, showing a jagged camera bumping along Detroit’s potholed roads as its characters continually race after the young street kid or knock on the door of the rich baron’s home all the while bracing for the constant cold and gray. You would think this is hell unless a person had been there for a baseball game in August.
The sun shines in Detroit, and the city should be viewed as at the beginning of the next cycle rather than relic of what’s wrong with everything or a romantic decline of civilization. Don’t believe everything you read.
My good friend, a candidate in the urban planning department, has a terrific blog where he examines both Detroit and Wayne County in a much more indepth and insightful way.
January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I hope we’ve learned enough from this period in history I like to call “the Great Regression”. I definitely have to believe that the dependency we had/have on credit has adjusted our national psyche into the healthy belief that if you don’t have it you don’t spend it, that buying gold isn’t just for grandpa, and purchasing a home is not an investment but a security. I want to believe in the unemployment rate going down, consumer confidence going up, the price of milk keeping pace with inflation, and my ability to buy new shoes when the many holes form to make one giant hole. I really want that American Dream back for crissakes.
The news that we are buying cars, splurging again on Christmas gifts, vacationing, and having early retirements is uplifting. And after coming across this article
I reflected more on my experience in the now passing recession (I hope!!)
Last year at this time I visited the annual Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Center in downtown Motor City. Car shows are, face it, a fun experience. I had gone to countless oldies shows, the kind that line little Main St. in every town in every state. I even went to the Portland Auto Show on two occasions. Mostly, I love the chance to wander around like a diplomat of the people, kick the tires and sit behind the wheel of a car that will never be in my driveway (unless it’s a Rolls, then I have to get permission to even look at it). So, to go to the lauded Detroit Auto Show meant I was to experience the show all others try to live up to. The Detroit Auto Show, where the new models are unveiled in flamboyant displays of debauchery and neon. I was excited.
First off: The Cobo Center is, on sight, horrid. I don’t care if it can fit the entire country of Jordan inside. It. Is. A. Monstrosity. inside and out.
Inside I saw what I would expect. There was some amazing cars but none that I went crazy about. None that said to me “the world is changed”. What I found most interesting was the depressing attempt to being optimistic about the show, about the auto industry, about the automobile itself. Reading about this years auto show I feel cheated. Last year I could physically feel the proverbial nail in the coffin of the newly acquired GM and Chrysler. Nothing was presented, it was parked. The big luxury brands of the industry (Audi, BMW, LandRover, Jaguar, etc.) appeared to have brought out their model from 2009 because I believe I saw my dentist driving the same model two years ago. Sadly, the most talked about car there was the Tata from China, a gas pinching tin can that was meant to be the Usonian car for the new working class of some country that still had more bicycles than people. I wouldn’t drive that car in 99.9% of America, not only would I fear for my life on the road, I would fear for my psyche off it. And I drive a Honda Civic.
Let’s just say the show was pretty bad, and to top it off I ventured to the basement where a replica synthetic parkway had been installed in order for the masses to test drive electric SUV’s around in silent curves and bends. I thought someone had died. If there were people there I met them all and I was down there for five minutes.
So, this brings me to the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, which I did not go to. With the news and numbers coming out of the automakers this year I can imagine it’s a bit more upbeat. There are reports of grand unveilings, Toyota CEO’s being seen for the first time in a decade, and people really excited that their demand is being met by the industry. GM is a real company again and Ford posted profits after seeing the fruits of its restructuring, cars are getting better gas mileage and Oprah is giving away hundreds at a time, plants are reopening around the country and quality seems to have finally become a concern again. I turn to MSNBC, touting Mulally as savior of Ford and the market responding with 52 week highs.
I’m not sure if this means the recession is over for the car industry and I’m not sure I really want it to be the way it was way back in 2006. I like the lean car company, the company that cares about quality over quantity. And if that is priority then it should be celebrated. Tear down Cobo Center, sorry Albert.
December 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
Detroit, ah Detroit I hardly knew ya.
Stumbled across this website via a good friend and fell in love with the work done by a few photographers and errant law breaking trespassers. The site hasn’t been updated since July of 2010, but hell – there are so many images to go through that it feels to be constantly updated.
Now that I live in Texas I reflect more on my time spent so close to Detroit. I ventured the half hour drive in on occasion, but really there was little that drove me there. Albeit I’m not much for the scene there, which there is one, and I had very little exposure to even the Ann Arbor hamlet I called home for three and half years. The Cobo Center is a block of cold and heartless arrangement downtown. Woodward is a graveyard of strip malls. Detroit is a romantics wet dream, full of ruin and rust, the chance to at the same time fall in love with a masterpiece such as the Penobscot Building and then feel the abusive juggernaut of organized chaos at the Heidelberg Project(s). A person can literally find a building and squat in it, the wild west turned in on itself and able to house the decade’s wave of poor artists and idealist professionals. It is said Detroit will be back, and it is said it will never be back. Millions are being invested in green technology manufacturing and in courting the movie industry. As the concrete erodes at some of these factories and churches it’s hard not to believe Detroit can go any lower. A city of such conflicting and beautiful conundrums makes it hard to look away from and not have some pains of abandonment.
For more visit the guys at detroiturbex