Beauty and The Beast

There is something beautiful about Detroit. Its like those old decaying barns dotting the fields along country roads. They are slowly falling apart, beam by beam. Though they appear still, you can see the movement of their descent: the delicate bend of the rafters, the graceful sag of the roof. They are frozen in time with new life all around them: the grass at their feet, the vines winding up their floor boards, the highways full of cars excitedly racing to other destinations. That is Detroit. It is full of elegant decay and destruction, and surrounded by a buzzing of possibility.

Id heard about the desolate, empty streets, busted in windows, and burned out buildings. But never about the city’s dichotomy: the strange, zombie-like state (stray dogs ducking in and out of sight; rows of empty blocks with scattered, battered houses; unnaturally silent streets at night; deep struggle and penetrating poverty), coupled with a crazy injection of life (gardens popping up in empty lots; DJ parties in front of broken down buildings; a bustling, busy farmers market).

For those who have the socioeconomic means, there is a feeling that anything possible. For others, the feeling is just the opposite. For me, I see a crazy, broken down city that is on the verge of something. I’m not exactly sure what it is. But it’s that something that makes me want to come back and be a part of it.

I have a fascination with it that is maybe unfair to the people who have lived and struggled in the city their entire lives. To an outsider, whose worries growing up seem trivial compared to that of native Detroiters, the landscape is an incredible empty canvass. You can buy a house and a plot of land for $500 and start your own garden. You can buy a building for cheap, open a restaurant — and be a success. There is so much room for anything. Talk of need for the only (currently non-existant) no-kill shelter made me start thinking “maybe I should move here…maybe I could start that.” It all feels very romantic: Running to a town in need and creating life from the rubble.

But this is also coming from someone who didnt have to struggle in the way that those on the streets of Detroit do. I didnt have to worry that my neighbors would break into my house. I didnt have to constantly fear for my safety. The city is a very real, very gritty look at American life, where many are doing everything they can to survive. They dont have the means to do something that Im fantasizing about. So maybe it is an elitist mentality that makes me think I can create there. Or the opportunistic hope that I could be whoever I want there. I dont know. There is just something about it.