Friday, October 3, 2008

Take A Ride With Me

Detroit holds a special place in our hearts because when Emily and I took our first big roadtrip together – our honeymoon trip up to Lake Louise – the early Slum Village bootleg was just circulating, and we listened to it non-stop. I had dubbed it from Jake One, who had dubbed it from Mr. Attic or Moss, and we just about wore that fuzzy cassette tape out as we cruised through the back roads of Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia. It would be difficult to understate the massive influence the group's producer, Jay Dee, would have on hip-hop in the ten years following, before he passed away – but that's for another post. Jay Dee and Slum Village were from Detroit, a fact that in and of itself brought a whole new outlook, and it made me want to see the city that birthed their style. [And yes, obviously there are one million other bands and styles of music that came out of the D, arguably way more important. That's not for another post – that's for other blogs entirely.]

So the plan for Detroit, in addition to a burger from Miller's, was basically to drive around and see it. We didn't go to museums or galleries or search out the hip neighborhoods or even go see a show (we had a debate to watch anyway). We'll do all those things on another trip. This time, we just poked around and looked at the city.

Not sure you can really tell from these photos, but it feels like half the buildings in Detroit are boarded up, empty, or gutted entirely (the very top photo is the gigantic central train station, probably the biggest of the abandoned buildings, though there are also some empty office buildings downtown). This Is Not a Political Blog, but you need look no further than Detroit for reasons Barack Obama must be our next President. (Certainly Detroit politics could also use some change, but this Is Not a Detroit Politics Blog Either.) To say Detroit is crumbling would be a vast understatement—in 1980 there were 1.9 million people living here, but it's down to half that nowadays, the result of layoffs, white flight, and crumbling industry. (Additionally, and anecdotally, Mark Miller told us that business at Miller's Bar is down 25%, the result of 12,000 people being laid off at Ford recently. So the ripple effects are very, very clear throughout the region.) Obviously I'm no expert on any of it, but it makes sense to me that if we followed Tom Friedman's advice, a new initiative toward green transportation could provide jobs and revitalization for Detroit and the rest of the country. Barack Obama is the most likely of the two major candidates to move forward on that. It's heartening to hear today that McCain is pulling his campaign out of Michigan entirely; the state has gone Democrat for the past four presidential elections, but it's always close, and with Obama's money it will certainly go Lions blue again.

And all of that being said, as I've mentioned before, there are a lot of interesting things to be seen in the decay. Remnants from previous eras and graphic styles are everywhere, and in a weird way it's morbidly refreshing to see the old stuff, rather than some new condo obliterating every reference to the past. I hope the best for Detroit; I was glad to see the "before," and I look forward to the "after," if we can rise to the occasion of creating new industries, jobs and prosperity in this country. Getting back to Jay Dee and Slum Village, it's interesting to see where they were coming from—amidst all the decay and all the possibility, Detroit has inspiration for days.

Next up: central Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We'll mostly be camping for the rest of the trip, so I'm not sure about frequency of posts, but I'll see what I can do.

1 comment:

Lee said...

looks like a great road trip...speaking of Jake One, your ol' bud has a full page article in the NWLIFE section of the Sunday Seattle Times this week (I'll save it for ya')...his new album is getting lots of credible buzz for his talent...glad he hung in there.