Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Detroit Rock City

So, I guess I'm grudgingly finding a use for Tumblr. It has its merits. I guess. People put up lots of pictures there for me to look at, anyway.  This search, Abandoned Detroit, has been a lot of inspiration in my writing of The Last Song. Best Abandoned is one of the specific Tumblrs (tumblr pages? Tumbles? Rolls in the hay? Whatevs.) with some of those images. is a very well organized site that documents the marred face of the city. Urban Exploration images have always interested me, and prior to this year, my ruined city love affair had been Pripyat. One would be remiss in calling Detroit "abandoned"; it is not. According to recent articles I've been reading about the impending bankruptcy default goings on, the city's resident population has dwindled to 700,000. It was 1.8 million in the Fifties, and this article in the New York Times points out that Detroit's population downshift in the last ten years (237,500 people) was greater than the amount of people who left New Orleans after Katrina (140,000).

The possibility of Detroit's bankruptcy is also fascinating to me. I don't know what happens when a city goes bankrupt. It is $19 billion in debt (I also see numbers like $11.4 billion instead, and saw $200 billion once but perhaps that was a typo?), a number so large that it isn't even real money any longer. It might as well be WoW gold or Final Fantasy XI gil or seashells. It's too much. I feel lucky it isn't my responsibility to try and fix it, because where do they start? They do have an Emergency Manager for the city, Kevin Orr, who has a planned tour of the city to drive the creditors around on, to show them what Detroiters (I see this word a lot reading these articles; I don't know if it's what people actually use, or if it's just news speak) see every day, what they live every day. One article I read said that Detroit might have to resort to auctioning museum objects, or maybe even zoo animals.

Auctioning zoo animals? Seriously? I don't think that would be the most responsible husbandry. Considering there are still places in which there are tigers at truck stops, I can't say out of hand that it would never happen, but geeze. (Plus, there's already at least one abandoned zoo in Detroit, on Belle Isle, though I believe they moved the animals before closing those gates)

An uplifting Detroit debt story I did see lately? Jack White paid off the tax bill for the Detroit Masonic Temple. Since 1939, it has been the largest Masonic temple in the world (according to the Wikipedia article). This building is a delight to have "discovered" in the manner that I have, safely at home on the Internet, and I look forward to learning more about it.

Detroit is one of those places that I feel is (or has been) a valuable resource for this country. I think "Detroit" and I think of the automobile industry. I think of Rosie the Riveter and others working on the homefront in WWII (I read a freaking awesome book called The Narrows, by Alexander Irvine about people working in a Golem factory in Detroit during World War II.)

I wonder what this city could accomplish, should it rebuild, repopulate. Wouldn't it be awesome if, say, Tesla Motors decided to open a factory there? Who do you think we need to talk to, to get this going?


  1. I read your post with interest as I live just south of Detroit. No doubt, parts of the city are not pretty. Lots of abandoned homes, big lovely homes in disrepair. Lighting is the pits, the Mayor and Council have been less than optimal on occasion and yeah, there are weeded lots and decaying structures and crime and all that bad stuff.

    And really good stuff. There's the Riverfront and Comerica Park, Ford Field and they're talking about building a new arena for the Red Wings. And a new bridge to Canada. There's the Detroit Institute of Arts and casinos, arts and Mexicantown, Eastern Market. . . a lot of potential in and around the city. A lot of buzz.

    Detroit is primed, right now, for a reinvention. We'll see what happens. Keeping our fingers crossed.

    1. Thank you very much!

      The bad in Detroit is certainly what the news likes highlighting.

      I do dearly love hearing good stuff too, though. If it was all tragedy, people would leave however they could, even if they had to walk. So I appreciate your comment, truly.

      And my fingers ARE crossed. I want to see Detroit come back. I want American industry to turn its motors back on. I want the people there to succeed.