Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Road May End In Detroit

I moved to Detroit ten years ago today with the help of my dearest Angela who drove the U-Haul filled with all my earthly possessions for almost all the way here (she made me drive for five long hours in which I thought we might die at any moment). Upon entering the city, it was gray and rainy and a man stood on his front yard, urinating in what passes for broad daylight in this gloomy time of year. Nobody could understand why I was going -- my boyfriend had moved here for work, but he wasn't offering any ring for joining him, my family and friends lived in Texas, and I'd been told tales of lawlessness and debauchery about the city proper which thrilled me to no end. I'd never been to Detroit, but Ang had, several times to visit a boyfriend who ended up moving to Texas to be with her. You don't have to stay, Michelle, she said, optimistically hoping I'd change my mind. But I didn't. And she understood given that she was the only person in my life who gave me any help whatsoever with what everyone else thought was a "fucking retarded decision brought about by the devil" (Hank) and other assorted opinions along the same lines, too numerous to list here. We had to stop and refill the U-Haul with gas about a hundred times, and we'd always get some yoodle talking to us, asking us the same question, Why are you going to Detroit? To which Angela, ever the romantic, would answer, For love!

That was the correct answer, of course, but what I didn't count on was falling in love with the city. I watched it out my window every morning and night (what else does an unemployed writer in a city with no friends, a boyfriend at work all day and night, and nothing but time to write do?) and thought about my life. I'd gotten through some hard things, but those things had passed, leaving me in a rare period of rest where I didn't worry so much. Now that I was in what is routinely billed as the most dangerous city in America, I didn't fear for my safety, didn't jump at every noise, didn't worry about harm coming my way. The closest I got was when I went to buy Thomas Merton's Seeds of Holiness and almost got mugged going into my house, but the mugger slipped on ice, leaving me to enter and shut the door on his ass with great rapidity. Thank you bad Detroit weather! Detroit proved to be every bit as difficult to navigate as some had predicted, but I loved it so. Some of the worst things in my life have happened here -- my late twenties and early thirties did not prove to be the smooth ride those first few months were. Don't stay there too long, one of my friends said. You'll start to look like all those Yankees. By which she meant hard and worn, she said. But I've always loved that look. I see my face and see that I indeed do have a different look than when I came. George Orwell says by fifty, we have the face we deserve. But I would put it a little differently -- I have earned my face. It's a bottom-line face, a face that wouldn't launch a rowboat much less a thousand ships, but it's my face, you see, and I love it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now." Paul Simon

Cocktail Hour
Detroit Hustle
one shot of Hennessey
one shot of Scotch
Pour over a glass of tonic water and ice.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday! Thanks to all for the sweet comments and e-mails. I'm behind on my correspondence, but will get caught up very soon. And to the wonderful Totall, the books are in the mail! And sorry about you getting kicked off the Christian board on account of my writing. I'm a deeply religious person, but not a traditional one. No matter what your belief system, we all need to come together in love and respect.


Brian in Mpls said...

The Detroit Hustle sounds delicious.

Yankees looks hard and worn? Who knew?

Detroit is lovely and so are your shoes.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but your booty could launch an armada.

Wrong Way Corrigan said...

They have a great fair in Armada. I was winning the backwards running race when I fell down due to too much speed.

Cheri said...

I love living here because of the difference in communities yet we are all united as "Metro Detroit." From the poshness of Grosse Point and Birmingham to the trendy Royal Oak and then to relaxing Roseville and St. Clair Shores, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Detroit itself is a special occasion only destination, be it for the bars or restaurants, sports venues and concerts, and it holds its own mythical aura of times long since past. My mother was telling me yesterday (on a random drive through the city) that it used to be packed with people when her mother worked for the government building, people rushing in suits and ladies in white gloves and hats on lunch breaks.

In the Civil War era slaves from Texas and Alabama and Georgia traveled north to Michigan to escape into Canada, risking it all in hopes for a better life. Your life brought you here, or maybe it was an escape from your old life. Whichever it is, or even neither, I'm glad you came!

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm 48. Surely I don't deserve to be this ugly? Sigh. What will I deserve by 60?

Ropinator said...

A comment for the quote. America used to be called the country of the opportunities here.

Cheri said...

What's also ironic is that one of my best friends just found out that she's definitely moving to California within the next month and I'll be driving with her across the country... hah!

the walking man said...

I've lived a few other places than Detroit but I always wound up back in this fucking city and if I don't get lucky I will die in the son of a bitch.

10 years now huh? Kid; all total i never spent ten years living any where else, a year or so here a year or so there and then back to this dump. I even had places in NYC and Berkley and a good job in Berkley CA that I quit on day 91 and came back here for love only to be divorced three years later, broke, without my kids and nearly back breaking child support payments.

This is my Mineral Wells. I know ever corner from 8 and telegraph to the street where Detroit ends and Dearborn begins and Telegraph to the river bridge over the Rouge that separates River Rouge from Detroit

That said this is my town, this is where I was born , raised left and came back to.I lived through riots and world championships and one world championship that caused a riot. There isn't one goddamn suburban thing about Detroit. Except I carry my 180 dollar glasses in a brooks brothers hard shell case which is just like down town where the suburbanites go, a Brooks Brother down town forty yeas in the making hiding 1/2 of the most racist area in the nation.

Don't be fooled Cheri into thinking there is some kind of unifying factor between north and south of 8 mile. It doesn't work that way and if you read what you wrote you will see that I am agreeing with you, suburbanites come here to play but then leave for the safety of mostly vanilla land.

While I live here sometimes play at poetry here, never go anywhere here without at least my steel in my pocket and ain't scared to walk the streets of anywhere at night because people of Detroit know that you might die if you fuck with someone from Detroit. Some of the suburbanites got the look but few have the lack; money, shit and most of all fear.

They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere they must be talking another kind of it because if you can live in Detroit, especially being White, well everywhere else is a walk though a dime store because here even the cops will kill you before they tell you what they want just to save their breath,

Congratulations for the time you lived in Detroit Michelle, you lived and didn't get assaulted because you didn't salt your walk (which is a Detroit trick by the way)

But just remember rule one is still:

"It's better to have your shit with you than to have to go home and get it."

and one question for you the fuck you know what Detroit looks like? Ever live here?

There used to be 1.9 million people here now there is 850,000 and my old lady and I are two

Brian you one of the 1.`5 million that left?

I am Detroit, it is a dump full of little pockets of not dumps, but it is my dump and i think I 'll stay a bit longer.



no poseur posts today on Michelles anniversary eh?

paul said...


Cheri said...

Mark... I know. That's why I said that Detroit, for us suburbanites, is a special-occasion place. I wouldn't last five minutes living in Detroit.

the walking man said...

Cheri...not criticizing your words they were honest and true


Cheri said...


I know =D

eric1313 said...

I need to straighten up my act, or I'm gonna truly be one ugly mo fo in twenty--er, 19 years...

My God... Orwell always seems prophetic to me. Surely this can't be true. He has to be wrong about something.

Glad you are who you are.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle
Lovely lovely view and post as always and an extra special something to celebrate, your tenth year in Detroit. You are the best thing about our fair city in decades and here is to many more memorable years to come. To your vigrous humorous blog and most especially to you dear Catholic girl, a momentous Bravo!

Pythia3 said...

Wow - a decadent decade in Detroit! It's been ten years already? I think I must have met you during your second year here - but, whatever, the time certainly has flown by (leaving many changes in its path).
I think you were / ARE the wind of change in my life . . . I've been whirling around from cloud to river to mountain and back to cloud again for the last ten years. You just might be my "Fairy Tempest."
Well, we are fortunate and blessed to have such a beautiful, creative, dynamic, magical energy in this city.
So glad the fates landed you right here.
Lindy :)

Pythia3 said...

PS That "energy" I was referring to is YOU, of course!