Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oh my sweet Detroit - what happened?


There is a word in Portuguese that is often mentioned as one without a real equivalent in English: “saudade.” It essentially means longing, or homesickness, or emotional wishing-for, missing.

Sorry to say, I rarely, rarely have saudade for the United States. Sure, I miss my friends, but the country itself? – not so much. Even when Brazil drives me crazy with its high prices, under-educated populace and corrupt elected officials, I still do not pine for the days of living in the United States.
But at times my heart aches for the folks living in places I used to haunt. In this case I am referring to Detroit. I was born in Detroit. I went to school in Detroit (well, a block or two from the border of the City). My first real girlfriend (yes, I had a girlfriend) lived in Detroit. I loved Detroit.
But nowadays I’m sad for Detroit. It has fallen so far. I have saudade for how things used to be.

When my extended family lived in or near Detroit it was the heyday of the auto industry. The Big Three, we would say (GM, Chrysler, Ford). Almost everybody’s parent worked for the auto industry, or some other job supporting the industry. My grandmother used to joke that if she had a dollar for every slice of pie she served to auto workers in the diner she spent her working life in, she would be a millionaire.
But now things are different. Most of that is gone.
My brother and his wife moved to a cute little historic block in Detroit some time ago, bought an old Victorian house and refurbished it (Dan did a fantastic job!). They were one of the star homes on the neighborhood Christmas walking tour. But they saw the writing on the wall, sold the house, and moved to the country.
Now Detroit lays feral – or mostly so. Good luck my friends in Detroit. I know you are all rooting for success.

For a real taste of Detroit today – go take a look at the Sweet Juniper blog.

10 comments:

Rachel said...

That is sad...

Ray and Gil said...

This is too sad.
They have been moving factories out of the area since the 1950's.
I hope they could find a way to reinvent themselves and recover.

Ray

Gina said...

I echo everyone's sentiments - very sad. They are trying to get people out there though - one of my siter's riends went out there with her fiance because he got a great job offer, but she says she feels a little isolated and misses her friends.

Janice said...

As another Detroit native, I totally agree. YOur post made me remember how I looked forward to a summer "special trip" to Boblo Island. I googled it--only to learn that it closed in the '90s.

Jim said...

Janice - I remember taking school trips to Boblo... long time ago...

GingerV said...

just to the southwest of Detroit is Adrian MI, my hometown. there are some homes that look shabby, but the town seems to have missed this devestation. There were such beautiful places in Detroit - they should make it a huge federal reserve.... pump some federal funds in to creat a monument to how not to run a country.

Nina said...

I have family in Flint which is the same story, sadness what is happening. It seems like all the big businesses that made the u.s. are now turning their back. Somehow I think there is going to be unforeseen pay back.

Fiona said...

Wow. The pics of desolate houses is extremely moving. What a huge change Detroit has gone through. All the work people put into that area and now it's 'feral'.

Jim said...

Ginger - I went to Adrian many times. We had a Dominican nun in our family and the "Mother House" was/is in Adrian. Very pleasant place.

Nina - thanks to Michael Moore (I knew him before he was famous) we all know the tragedy that is Flint.

Fiona - the new Mayor of Detroit is talking about "down-sizing" the city. To actually move people out of near-abandoned neighborhoods and consolidating them in more successful zones. Then they can reduce city services to areas that have so few people in them. Wild.

Jana said...

I worked on a project in Detriot trying to revive public housing and make use of all those dead zones, attempting to turn them into usable argicultural space for locals to garden. Its still in the works but through public meetings we found it to be quite popular so I hope the project is still progressing. Those beautiful houses are like erroding headstones and its so incredibly sad. Thanks for posting, I think the world forgot about Detroit!