on the road: detroit, mi

detroit has always been a fascination to me. we never grew up going there, other than their airport, but after reading both lipshitz six, or two angry blondes and middlesex (both of which, i highly recommend) my interest was piqued. dating josh only fueled that fire (he grew up about an hour from detroit, in ohio), as did all the photo pictorials you see in of all the abandoned buildings in the city–there are few sadder images in all of photography, in my opinion. in the beginning on our relationship, josh was living in east lansing, michigan and i flew up to spend new years with him. i flew into detroit and while driving out of the city, i saw all the signs for “8 mile”…”so, wait, that’s…..a thing???” yes, dear, meghan, it’s most definitely a thing. after that, talks of spending some time in detroit became a constant conversation. fast forward a couple years to the phenomenon that is the book of mormon and it’s virtually impossible to attain tickets. when a tour stop in detroit popped up on the screen (and it hadn’t yet been released for purchase, meaning, it wasn’t sold out), we considered our trip planned. which brings me to my little city guide: 8 hours in detroit.

we actually stayed at josh’s family’s lake house about an hour west of the city, hence the 8 hours spent in the city. i’m aware that’s a miniscule amount of time to spend in such a great city, but don’t worry, we only scratched the surface and can’t wait to return.

i have spent time in pretty much all of the major us cities: new york, chicago, dc, san francisco, la…they’re great, however, none of them have captured my heart like detroit has. it’s gritty, oh man, it’s gritty. in fact, at one point we had missed our turn and had to make a loop through a few blocks that had us both hoping we didn’t run out of gas or drop a transmission or something. i’ve never seen a place that has such stark contrasts. one block is a historic building with a full functioning theater and gold inlays in the floor and the very next block, 5 out of the 6 houses are missing windows and occupants. i was also struck at how much of the city, some of its landmarks, have been immaculately preserved. all of the glitzy theaters still bear their sparkly marquees. the general motors headquarters building is one of the most interesting i’ve seen (and i lived in chicago!). the whole city just screams 20s/30s to me. right down to the bathroom at the fisher. there are no modern abominations (yet) and because of that, it’s refreshing. detroit…..has spirit.

detroit is like that kid you knew in high school who you know meant well and you know had a great heart, but constantly made bad choices and let those choices take advantage of him. the poor kid just can’t catch a break. i firmly believe, however, that detroit is not dead. i believe it’s going to get the break it deserves and it will once again resurface as the great city it really is.

here is how we spent our short day in the city. i highly suggest all aspects and encourage people to visit this gem of american history. i feel detroit has spent too long as the black sheep of american cities. sure, there are spots that visitors aren’t encouraged to go, but there are plenty of really amazing places for families to see. i’ve spoken about it before and detroit is no exception: i will never let fear of the unknown (or preached fear from others) get in my way of experiencing this amazing country/world. and neither should you.

highlights:
1. spirit of detroit (corners of woodward and jefferson) // commissioned in 1955, the gold sphere in the figure’s left hand represent god and a family is in his right hand. “The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.”
2. joe louis fist statue (also, corners of woodward and jefferson) // commissioned in 1986  as a dedication to the famous boxer, it represents the power of his punch both inside and outside the ring. it’s also been the site of racial protests throughout the years.
3. miller’s bar (23700 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, MI) // josh and i go to extreme lengths for great burgers. miller’s is no exception. after finalizing our trip to detroit, there was never a question of where we’d have lunch. when i say this place is no frills, i mean it. no plates, no menus (seriously, do NOT ask for one…trust me), the only toppings available are on the table (pickles, mustard and ketchup, though you can request raw onion from the kitchen), no checks (it’s all on the honor system as you recall your order to the bartender) and the waitresses are required to wear skirts. it was great. so great.
4. fisher building (3011 W Grand Blvd) // also home to the fisher theater where we saw the book of mormon. i can pretty much guarantee this place hasn’t been touched since it was built in the 20s. it’s art deco in style and fab-u-lous. oh and the show itself? there are no words.
5. the heidelberg project (3600 Heidelberg St.) // oh my heavens this was weird and so wonderful. in 1986, after growing tired of seeing his childhood neighborhood being burned and vandalized, he decided to employ his artistic talents and turn his street into living, breathing artwork. tyree guyton still lives part-time in the polka dot house (his mother lives there full time) and can often be seen at the project. we had the chance to speak with him, which was really cool. i don’t think josh knew what to expect when i told him were i wanted to go (it’s far from the most comforting neighborhood) but we both left with smiles and a confused brain, trying to figure out what we had just witnessed. i saw someone describe it as falling down the rabbit hole…so accurate. the first house we saw was covered in stuffed animals and the last was painted, top to bottom, with numbers. it’s definitely one of the happiest works of art i’ve had the pleasure of walking through.

like i said, we literally scratched the surface of things to see in detroit. we already have a list (roast, fox theater, moca, dia, kid rock music lab, and the motown museum just to name a few) made for our next visit, which i hope isn’t too far away!
i sum up my visit very simply in that, it was like that really great first date that ended in a kiss and plans for a second.

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