Two weeks ago, at the end of a well-needed staycation, I took a family trip to Detroit with my father and brother. I have never been to the place and have heard the worst from family and seen the worst in several documentaries about the riots and financial decline of the area. Included were sight seeing and visits to family on my dad’s side of the family. Our first visit was to the Motown Museum. The facilities were not the roomiest, but that made it unique as well. We saw a short film, saw Studio A, the main recording studio and Barry Gordy’s upstairs apartment with original furnishings. I forgot our guide’s name, but she was awesome. There was singing and a little dancing too. The museum has a gift shop, which is mostly t-shirts, but I found a nice tote bag for my mother. I got to see the type of homes in the area, well, the ones that were not falling apart, of which there were many. I love pre-war brick homes, and the ones in Detroit are LARGE. We went to the Riverwalk, but it was the end of the day, and the last thing I felt like doing was walking, but it was a nice place to get a cold drink and sit down.
The Tigers were in town for the weekend and downtown was just as vibrant as Chicago is, but I have been told it is only like that on a game day. Comerica Park is built so the upper deck is only about a story over the street level. You can probably make eye contact with someone in the upper deck. We went to Greektown to eat, but there was nothing very Greek about the area, oh well. My meal was underwhelming and expensive. I ordered a half barbecue chicken which I swear is smaller than a quarter chicken from Harold’s. We stayed at the airport Marriott, which was clean and modern-two words you want associated with a hotel. They even offered hot breakfasts in the lobby/restaurant. The next day, Sunday included a visit to the Detroit History Museum. I had a great time even though I did not see the entire facility. They had 100 year history at-a-glance exhibit and a live demonstration of a body of a Cadillac being attached to the chassis. I felt like a little kid again! Next, we went to the Heidelberg Project. I call it public art/urban fun house. A resident from the area who returned from the army in the 1960’s saw how the city had declined. There were masses of found objects incorporated into remnants of homes and trees. Houses were painted with colorful polka dots and numbers. The welcome house allowed you to write in it for a dollar, so I jumped at the chance.
We tried a a different barbecue place for lunch, RUB, and I was happy! They have what I refer to as ghetto fish. It is basically any fish with a cornmeal breading, not beer batter or that panko mess. I was in heaven-I had a catfish sandwich drizzled with hot sauce.The last stop before we left was a drive around Belle Isle. It reminds me so much of Jackson Park here. Everyone was there, picnicing, sleeping, fishing and playing at the beach. It even had a preserved, woody area as well. The signage could have been better though. When we were ready to leave we kind of couldn’t get off the island. Panic set in slightly, and we began looking for any place we could make a left turn. We found an opening and my fear of being lost in the woods of Detroit disipated.
I have not highlighted the depressing blight of several neighborhoods, but I saw it. We have downtrodden neighborhoods in Chicago, but the blight is at a sadder level in Detroit. Many homes just sit falling apart, since there are no funds to tear them down. But what makes it hit home are abandoned churches and schools. When I came back from the trip, it was announced that the city had filed for bankruptcy. Not good at all. But something about that trip made me feel good. I cannot put my finger on it. Maybe it felt like Chicago in a way, but I definitely see myself going back again.