There are many things you can say about Detroit, but boring isn’t one of them. Life here is rarely dull or uninteresting. It’s too crazy to be.
Detroit is at a fascinating point in its long and complicated history. Recently emerged from bankruptcy and on the other side of a devastating economic collapse that nearly killed off the auto industry, the city in places has more economic vitality and energy than it has seen in decades.
At its best, the city’s longstanding creative undercurrent bubbles to the fore, remaking little pockets all over the city into something fresh and interesting, a hint of promise. People express more interest and excitement in what’s happening here than I ever remember, and forces and investment dollars are slowly drifting back into the city after more than half a century of doubling down on car culture.
Yet Detroit is always tempered by hard reality: It remains a badly impoverished ghetto, marred by mass unemployment, a collapsing education system, violent crime, abandonment and hopelessness. The vibrant Detroit of old — the industrial engine that powered America and built the middle class — failed spectacularly, ripped apart by racism, disinvestment, suburban sprawl and many other things. Now we’re trying to figure out how to reinvent ourselves.
Music helps make everything go down easier, so I mostly try to share what I love and know about it. I got rid of my old AC/DC and Foreigner albums in fifth grade when my friend Steve moved to my neighborhood from southern California and introduced me to skateboarding and his older brothers’ crate of punk rock LPs. Shortly thereafter I discovered the Electrifying Mojo on local Detroit radio (here he is doing a rare and reportedly impromptu interview with Prince in 1986). I even got in to country music from sitting in all those bars in Tucson.
Former journalist turned corporate communicator and speechwriter. 5-foot-7. Balding.
Photo by Andrew Duthie