Sunday, November 01, 2009

There's No Town Like MoTown

There's No Town Like MoTown: I'm back at it. Pummeling away at the city of my birth. Kicking Detroit when it's down may seem ungentlemanly, but it's been down for 50 or 60 years so exactly how long should we wait?

Despite everything, Detroit still has its cheerleaders. This is especially true in sports journalism. understands. They catalog all the ridiculous stories in recent months about how the spirit of Detroit lives on through the plucky, marginal successes of whatever local sports team they happen to be covering. The city may be going down the toilet, but we can still feel good about themselves because of our sports teams. This is the cheap, millimeter-deep trope that makes sports journalists believe they are writing something "important" or "relevant". My favorite line is in one of the comments: "Sports teams play an integral role in stabilizing cities. Few people realize Hartford actually ceased to exist after the Whalers left." Snort.

I blame Mitch Albom for this endless stream of blubbery, sentimental baby talk. (I could, and may one day, write a book about how headslappingly awful 99.3% of all sports journalism is.)

Of course, even our "righteous franchise", the Tigers (as described by Sports Illustrated), managed to crash in the end, blowing a seven game lead and ending up losing a sudden death playoff against the Minnesota Twins who had no reason to play well at all what with coming from a strongly viable city that isn't mired in depression.

The best comment on the Tigers situation came from the profane and hilarious twitter feed "S**t My Dad Says": "I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It's like God took a s**t on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

Meanwhile we nearly had a riot downtown over Hope-and-Change handouts when there weren't enough applications for everyone.

"People fighting over a line; people threatening to shoot each other -- is this what we've come to?"


After the applications ran out, some scam artists were selling photocopies of the originals for $20 each. They were doing a brisk business, even though the white original forms state clearly on the bottom: "Do not duplicate -- Must Submit Original Application."

Volunteers from the city of Detroit Planning and Development Department eventually handed out yellow photocopies themselves. Intended as temporary assistance to avoid homelessness, the stopgap help will be doled out after private agencies hired by the city ensure applicants meet program criteria.

"I'm not even sure the government will accept those applications," said volunteer Pam Johnson. "But it's almost like they had to pacify people. There was almost a riot. I mean, they had to call out the (Detroit Police) Gang Squad. I saw an elderly woman almost get trampled to death."

In Detroit we provide slideshows of our near-riots. Perhaps they should have handed out Mitch Albom columns instead.

And still, people try. Over at Jaunted (as good a travel blog as you will find; I have in the past contributed to their sister site Hotel Chatter) contributing editor Chanize makes a heroic effort to portray Detroit as a city with "a bad rap" and convince you it might be worth a visit. Clearly a journalist with ethics, Chanize doesn't tell a lie, and is therefore destined to fail in this task. Let's read between the lines in some choice quotes.

Even Hollywood has infiltrated the city, filming shows like HBO's "Hung," and making movies like "Red Dawn" and "Gran Torino" on its streets.

Hollywood has only infiltrated the city because they have been paid to do so by Michigan taxpayers. And to no good end, it seems.

Those still raising their eyebrows over Detroit are usually older folks still channeling 1967 riot memories...

Really? The '67 riots are what everyone is channeling? Not the world-renown murder and violent crime rates that have been pretty much persistent for the last, oh, 40 years?

Yes, Detroit is a bit messy--one street can sport beautiful new buildings, but a block away lies a condemned property awaiting its fate--either remodel or eternal eyesore.

Just "a bit messy". It makes it sound like all that's needed is for someone to pick up their dirty socks and run a Hoover through the city.

Get the skinny on "The D" by taking "The Good, The Bad and The Hopeful bus tour from Feet on the Street."

Let me guess: narrated by Mitch Albom.

The three-hour adventure visits the downtrodden East Side area, but makes a stop at the beautifully bizarre Heidelberg Project-an outdoor art statement of urban plight.

Chicago has Millennium Park and we have an outdoor art statement of urban plight. Aren't you glad you spent your vacation here?

Sounds silly, but in this town it doesn't hurt to make sure your rental car is an American model, if just to blend with the crowd. Rent a Hyundai and you risk getting it smashed. Just kidding. Sorta.

That, my friends, is Detroit in a nutshell. Soil your own nest. React with indignation to those who haven't. Violently act out. Rinse, Lather, Repeat. They barely build cars in Detroit anymore, yet people still behave like this.

Bear in mind, all this is in an article extolling the virtues of Detroit. And Chanize does list some decent things to see and do, but not a single one of them is anything remotely memorable. For that matter, not a single one of them is a reason to get out of your chair, never mind hop a plane. Of the millions of places around the world, and the thousands of places in the U.S., and the hundreds of places in the Great Lakes area, there is simply no reason to visit Detroit. But she gets an A+ for effort. Which brings me to:

Our advice? Ignore the naysayers and head to Michigan.

My pet peeve. Detroit is not Michigan. Equating Detroit and Michigan is like equating the Bronx and the Adirondacks. You should definitely visit Michigan. It is especially beautiful right now. Just don't go into Detroit. We don't, and we live right here.