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Detroit: I’m sticking with you, kid

Today, I walked outside of my house to find my car on slate bricks and my tires stolen.

First, I feel I have to give you this cautionary note. Becks Davis of Detroit Moxie said it right: bad things happen everywhere.

It’s irritating that I have to think twice about posting this, knowing it might spark some kind of reactionary tirade on the “dangers of the city,” or its counterpoint rah-rah Detroiters who are just as far from the mark in their zealous defense. If I lived in New York or Chicago, I’d worry a lot less about the city’s image problems before sharing my story.

Here, bad news sticks.

Still, I feel like I have to say something, even if more questions come out of this than answers.

So hear me out:

Detroit is a study in contrasts. Obviously the blight and development (often laid on top of one another) come to mind. But for me, this contrast also means equal parts home and curiosity. I’m here because, despite this isolated incident of a vandalized car, I feel safe. Living in a place that’s totally unlike the cities I’ve lived in before keeps me creatively energized.

I moved into my Hubbard Farms apartment about a month ago. I was in Ferndale at the time, and wasn’t even planning on moving until I saw the house and instantly, irrevocably fell in love.

Call me a victim of my generation’s overwhelming nostalgia for what we never knew, but I love this house. It was built in 1926 and still has all of its original doors and woodwork. It feels lived in. I felt I could really live in it.

I’m not an urbanist snob, resorting to vanilla/parking lot clichés when I talk about the suburbs. Getting my tires stolen really stings. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider moving again, but there are indelible perks to city living – particularly this city.

My rent is unfathomably cheap for a historic district. I have a short commute (I might bike this summer), a lovely balcony porch, a library branch down the street, and (ecstatically) a very short walk to the local taco truck.

I kept thinking about what Patti Smith said about creatives and the cities they move to: “New York has closed itself off to the young and struggling… My advice is to find a new city.” She offers up Detroit.

My roommates and neighbors are all artists of some sort. Previous occupants of the building have become unexpected muses, too. Before I moved in, the College of Creative Studies was using my apartment as a gallery space. My roommates and I found a dusty folder of art history slides on our porch propped up next to a guitar stand. There was some kind of taxidermy installation in my freezer (which has since been bleached), and other art projects stashed in my closets. It’s hard not to feel inspired by the work people are doing here. You can say a lot about Detroit, but you can’t ever, ever say it’s boring.

So I’m staying in the city with new tires (and locks) on my car.

Here’s my question to all you Detroiters:
What makes it worth it for you? What are you getting out of living in the city, knowing it’s wealth of problems? In light of the census news, the folks at the Craig Fahle Show are wondering the same thing.

Comment here. Fill in the form there. Maybe get a spot on the radio. I’d like to hear from you.

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One comment on “Detroit: I’m sticking with you, kid

  1. I moved from CA to TX to the suburbs of MI, I hated MI, hated it… until I also moved to Hubbard Farms, I often tell people who want to move down here that if you don't care about your neighbors, if you hate pot-lucks, if you don't really care about what's going on, that you cant live in Hubbard Farms. It's full of the most passionate, amazing people I've ever met. After living there for a semester, I was hooked on Detroit. Now I live in Woodbridge. This neighborhood gives me the same sort of feelings, people out and about, meeting, living, working and just all around making it. If I ever move out of Detroit, I will move out of MI. No where in this state (and I've lived/visited most of it) can compare to the people that live in this city. I just recently wrote about in in a blog I write for Inside Detroit, http://www.insidedetroit.org/2011/03/23/detroit-p

    For me, it's the people that make Detroit worth staying. If you have a dream, Detroit is the place to start it. I wanted to bring a bike race to the city, I am, http://www.criteriumdetritcity.com. I found a need, and I'm filling it. It's not like that in most cities, in most cities you cant just say I want to do this and then you do it, most places you have to fight over a hundred other people who want to do the same thing. And the amazing architecture doesn't hurt much either.

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