I’m a city girl. I decided that when I was 13 and after I had spent four days in Manhattan with my then 26 year old cousin. New York is truly the city that never sleeps, whether it be the cobble stone streets of SoHo or the town car crowded corridors of the Upper East Side. When I returned to Midtown a few years older and wiser, at 16, my image of New York City had not changed: all the glamorous people live in New York and the Midwest country folk live in Michigan, my home state. I had made up my mind that one day I would live in the city and work for the fashion bible, Vogue. I applied to Columbia in hopes of fast forwarding the little plan I had hatched to become a big city mogul. I am leaving today, I want to be a part of it, New York! New York!
But what had been lost on me all this time was that the same city magic had once existed only a short drive away from me in Detroit. When I was growing up, Detroit was wilting. The 1968 riots and fires did nothing to force the seeds of the city to open and germinate, but rather they burnt Detroit so badly that it could no longer bloom through the early 2000s. The Recession hit the automotive industries, the big three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), the heart and soul of Detroit, hard. Harder than any other city in the country. Poverty, violence, and corruption ran rampant down Woodward until it stretched miles up to the suburbs where I live. This is the Detroit that I came to know, yet I still harbored a sense of pride in our broken city. Somehow I had come under the impression that this was what Detroit had always been and always will be.
Now, another year older and wiser, I wish that I could have seen Detroit before the 2000s: when the population hit two million, when wealthy business owners and high ranking employees of those business’s carved homes out of the community in nearby neighborhoods, when street side parking was impossible, when the train station and other buildings were up and running rather than abandoned, when the Purple Gang were the baddest gangsters on the Lower East Side of the city, when the car industry was booming, and when anyone would have been proud to live in Detroit.
It was a beautiful city, Detroit. Maybe one day the beauty will come back to replace the ugliness that has spread like a manmade fire…