Thoughts About Detroit

The First Essential Scary Truth

I have a bone to pick with John Cale. 

Cale, the former bassist/viola/keyboard player for the Velvet Underground, released a tune back in 1972 entitled ‘Fear is a Man’s Best Friend.’  After the events of the past few months I am here to tell you the song is either purely hype or the work of a dangerously deranged individual who enjoys living in a burning building.  I couldn’t listen to ‘Monkey’s Gone To Heaven’ by the Pixies after 9/11 thanks to a few lines in the second verse (…everybody’s gonna burn/we’ll all take turns/I’ll get mine too) and I can’t listen to Cale’s a statement of purpose at this time.

Such are the varieties of life as the economy keeps falling in its thus far vain attempt to find a bottom from which to bounce up.  It’s so bad out there that the price for a single line of cocaine has dropped to $2. (WCBS AM 3/4/09 12:41pm) Of course, certain places are worse off than others and the area that is worst off is Detroit, Michigan.   

Admittedly, in my 40 years on the planet, I can’t remember a time when my hometown was doing well.  The metro area, even in the affluent sections, always seemed somewhat depressed, angry and resigned to its fate, whatever that maybe.  I used to think it was the lack of sun.  Due to the cities location, sitting on the straights that lead upward to the three largest bodies of water in the Great Lakes basin, the warm airflow from the Gulf of Mexico hits the cold airflow from Northern Canada.  The result is one of the cloudiest pieces of real estate in the world. 

However, the recession the rest of the country is in has become a full-fledged depression in Detroit.  This may be because the city has been in a recession for nearly 30 years or perhaps it’s because the auto industry has finally collapsed under it’s own dysfunction.  We will probably not know the causes of the whole debacle until the histories are written in say 50 or so years.  What fascinates me is the sudden national interest in the city of Detroit.  From Bill Maher to anchors on CNN and Fox, all of a sudden the city of my birth has gone from national joke to national poster child.  Detroit, which used to be feared, all the hit men in film noir flicks come from Detroit, is now being coddled.  It got me thinking, though, just what my fellow New Yorkers thought of when they heard the name of the city.

I decided to pose this question to some hardcore residents of NYC: what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Detroit.  The answers went from the odd to the predictable.

Dave Bergen Manager Maxie’s Grill:  Basketball – the Detroit Pistons.

Ray Villone, Captain 3 Star Michelin Restaurant – Cars

George S – Service Manager 3 Star Michelin Restaurant – $18,000.  Can you believe that’s the price of a house in a top American city?

Susan Crain Bakos – Top Sex Writer International Sex Writer in 2008 – Urban Decay.

Johnny C – Centerfielder on my softball team – an old movie called The Man From Detroit.  It’s about the mob hetman that always got the hard job done.

Albert – bartender in a Union Square joint – Motown.

Bobby from the Block – noted East Side street guy – Who the fuck cares?  It’s not New York.

Although I’m happy to see Detroit in the national consciousness, I wish it were for the right reasons.  You know, the Detroit Tigers are the World Series Champions!

Don’t shake your head in disbelief that city needs whatever good karma it can get – ESPECIALLY after the 0-16 dump the Lions took.



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