I Want to Walk the Streets of Detroit

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I don’t want to talk about the economy or the weather. I don’t personally care about Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I am tired of hearing about the ups and downs of the auto industry. I want to walk the streets of Detroit. Detroit, forbidding and welcoming, gritty and sophisticated, opens her arms to any voyageur who wishes to take the chance that there might be a glimmer of hope in her streets. Hope, like a battered child who waits in the doorway for a simple hug, from someone, anyone.


So I walk. It is February and it’s freezing outside. I am a Michigan native, so I know how to handle this. I throw every ounce of winter gear I own at it and drive with my husband, to Detroit Winterfest. We park in an empty garage one block from the festival. Where are all the cars? Crowds? Do you think they parked somewhere else? It’s freezing out. I wonder if I should have worn my ski pants? We walk to the festival down quiet streets past stately art deco buildings that speak of a better time. 


I hear music in the distance, and detect the aroma of campfires and carnival food. I then enter into a world that can only be dreamed up by people desperate to have a good time in spite of it all. I am surrounded by a village of large white tents and smiling, but mummified people. The sign on the building boasts of wine tasting, okay, we’re starting out just fine for me. Let’s save that for the final act. What else is here? Hmmm, sled dogs, ice sculptures dripping in the momentary sunshine that reflect the names of our pride, Red Wings, Pistons, Tigers, and our pain, Lions. Then of course our benefactors MGM, Motor City Casino, and Greektown Casino. 


Inside our first tent there is music. Not just any music, but damn good music. Jazz. A small crowd gathers, whites and blacks. It’s better to watch the crowd than the band. The white people stand as if anchored in place, nary a bob of the head or tap of the toe. They listen and appreciate in the only way they know how—silence. Not one black person stands still. Their movement flows through them like a command from on high. The one tall skinny guy with the long pony tail does a Jamaican jerky dance step that looks like my childhood hopscotch. The homeless lady frenetically moves with the music in an awkward shiver. All the toddlers bounce up and down with excitement. There is bobbing and swaying and smiling. Lots of smiling. At this moment, it doesn’t matter who texted whom or whether the bills are paid at home. We are gifted with momentary amnesia. I feel a part of this temporary salve on the big wound of our lives here. I begin to move with the music.


In the second tent we watch a movie. It is about 600 years of history on Macinaw Island. This isn’t even a good movie, but I am impressed with the ups and downs of the past, the hardiness of the Michigan people and how they have overcome tremendous obstacles. Can it be that we can pull out of just about anything with our heads held high? Is it possible that we can proudly say we are from Detroit, Michigan again someday? The audience watches until the final credit. This is about us. This is our home. We choose to stay.


Moving along outside I check out the happy families sliding on the snow slide, skating together, snowshoeing, and toasting marshmallows on raised campfires provided for safe fun. For a moment I regret my empty-nest status . . . nah. There is a boy in a rock band in the rock and roll tent who makes a guitar sing. His proud mom hands me a sticker and I compliment her son. She blushes with pride.


It’s time for wine. We enter a small establishment teeming with people and a take a seat at the bar overlooking the festivities. Before long we are chatting with our fellow wine tasters, Canadians and Americans enjoying a good sip and pretending we know something about what we’re doing. As the alcohol increases, the pretense wears off and there is unashamed laughter. Those crazy Canadians! Those crazy Americans! I could stay here forever and never run out of things to do.


It’s on to the food tent before we become inebriated. Good God, the Polish guy from Downriver is here hawking his pierogi and kielbasa! My husband and I settle on some warm chowder. I finish with an Indian potato filled pastry with a zingy sauce while my husband checks out the Irish shepherd’s pie. Ah, comfort food.


It’s time to leave, my body and soul are filled. I am warmed to see that black and white, Canadian and American, urban and suburban can come together on a cold winter’s day to enjoy and replenish themselves with music, food, drink, talk and laughter without even one mention of a text message economic prediction or statistic. We leave our bank balance and mortgage behind and walk the streets of Detroit with pride, because Detroit is home.

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