Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Been Quite A Year


One of my early Detroit memories was of writing Christmas messages in cards while drinking Kool-Aid spiked with vodka and watching the blue of other people's televisions from my second-story flat. My then-boyfriend had gone to bed early, and the city was totally quiet, a hushed snow coming down. It was my first year in Detroit -- I'd been here about three months and struggled to think of something to write about my experience. I'd been alone more in those three months than I had in the last ten years, long hours spent writing and reading, thinking about things. It wasn't the kind of experience that lent itself to the Christmas newsletter form -- Hello Everyone -- It's been quite a year! I moved to Detroit and . . . And what? I'd just gotten a job scheduled to start at the beginning of the year at a social work center, so far out of my chosen field of work it would make people go, huh? The pay was just enough to keep my car from getting repossessed. That wouldn't work as news either. After finishing up the tumbler of my drink, I settled on "Happy Holidays, love, Michelle." Brilliant stuff from a writer, huh?

When I came to Detroit, it was raining, a slow kind of drizzle that fell from the sky in smoggish rainbow colors. I loved the color and fell in love with the city because of it. At first, everything was difficult -- getting around, finding things. The post office had bullet-proof glass, making it hard to mail anything bigger than an envelope. Even the Kentucky Fried Chicken had bullet-proof glass that kept me from getting my favorite food with ease! I had to wait for the box to glide around and pull it out of its protected space. Where would I write these things? Or as Chekhov might say, To whom shall I tell my grief? But it wasn't grief, it was love. Of course, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I wasn't the prettiest or the most special. I just wanted it the most." Marilyn Monroe, on success

Cocktail Hour

Drinking reading suggestion: The Root Worker Rainelle Burton -- this great novel is set in 1960s Detroit and all about hoodoo and incest -- scary as hell and the kind of book you won't be able to put down!

Benedictions and Maledictions

Congratulations to Forrest Whitaker on his Golden Globe for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. If you haven't seen this movie, go see it! Do not, however, take a date!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The night I drove into New Orleans with a U-haul trailer behind my Camaro it was storming, without rain but with wind and a sky cracked and filmed by sheets of lightning. The air was so alive that my hair stood up (static, you know), and I felt I was in for some excitement. As it turned out, the feeling was prophetic.

Anonymous said...

It is my home and has always been the place I always returned to. Even though it is filled with guns and violence and drugs and poverty beyond belief, no work and that bullet proof glass (actually 2 inch plastic) everywhere, it is my home.

Not the suburbs where 94% of the caucasians live but Detroit. I remember many of those night when the snow fell blanketing the noise and people inside waiting for it to stop so they could go out and clear their walks, something way back in the 60's the city used to do with a small sweeper that ran down the side walk, as the snow plows would come and all you had to was dig out your driveway. Detroit is still a city of changes.

I Love Detroit, really love it and I don't know exactly why. When I was born the population was 1.7 million and now it os less than 900,000.

I watched the smoke from the '67 insurecction rise into the air about 5 miles from my house as a 13 year old and will never forget the army half tack that came down my street leveled their rifles at a bunch of kids sitting on the porch and telling them to get inside the house the city was under marshall law.

Three days later when peace (as the government called it) My brother organized a bike trip through the riot area ten or so of us from 14 to 10 years old all white kids riding our bikes through and seeing the carnage on 12th street that left 43 people dead, the same number that were killed in the race riots of 1943, and the next year in '68 when the tigers won the world series.

I remember the forest of for sale signs that appeared when the first Black family moved in to the neighborhood and then in the blink of an eye the whole area was black with store front churches and hair salons.

Then came the plastic and the Arabs that had the capitol to buy all of the businesses that had been white owned and then liquor stores on every corner.

But every winter at least once there was that heavy snow that made everything quiet for awhile, even in the years where Detroit was called the "Murder Capital of the Worl" that snow still came and things were silent.

I think them that love Detroit no matter if they live in city or suburbs love it for it's tenacity to survive anything thrown at it, and relate to it becuase within themselves there is that same tenacity to overcome anything.

No one will ever make T shirts or bumper stickers that say I love Detroit, Instead it's "Detroit where the weak are killed and eaten"

It is my home and Michelle even though you got smarter than me and got yourself a place aways outside of the danger zone I am happy to call you a Detroiter because you share with us that live south of 8 mile; all that makes us different from the rest of the people of the nation.

You are Detroit. Now you have years worth to write for your annual christmas card list. which reminds why the fuck ain't I on that list? Is it because i don't send any out? That's a part of my detroitness.

peace


I swear no matter what; this is the only post I will make today here, unless someone talks really bad about my home.

Oscar Winner said...

I will NOT see "The Last King of Scotland." I read your review of this film, Michelle, and the film could never equal the quality of the art in your review. Your review was a literary masterpiece, Michelle. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Of course, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Is it? I guess it is, sometimes. I'll have to think about that one a bit more.

Anonymous said...

I live in the burbs....I've lived there for 22 years... I like going down to Detroit though, there is something about downtown Detroit that is just fantastic!

Paul said...

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JR's Thumbprints said...

Solitude comes with a price, but sometimes with less obligations. I remember you talking about seeing all those televisions and all I could think of was: what were all those other people doing? Were they enjoying their solitude, or were they with someone, and if they were with someone, were they wondering about what it'd be like to break free?

Anonymous said...

I have a similar experience when I sit down to blog and I can't think of anything to post.

I still need to see "The Last King of Scotland." Whitaker's acceptance "speech" last night was very moving, and now I want to see the film even more.

Miles said...

I will NOT drink Merlot!

Anonymous said...

Its been 6+ months in DC and I've got bupkiss. Although I can't write about work so that has a lot to do with it.

Laura said...

I never understood the Christmas newsletter thing. I mean, the people I send cards to know what I've been up to all year and they really don't need a letter to remind them of it. So instead I just send cards with Merry Christmas and all my love on it and then I enclose the latest family photos. That's about as good as it gets for me.