It’s not about the press. It’s not something in the papers. It’s everyday, little moments, meeting friends in passing on a street in the middle of a perfect summer day.
People ask me all of the time why I live here. Why I feel the way I do. A dogmatic, almost frenetic love and energy for a place that was written off a long time ago as a goner. A place that is getting glowing reviews, and media love from all over the country that most people still don’t believe, and others see as embellished.
For the most part it is.
It’s a city that is so hard to love sometimes, and yet, impossible not to. Usually in the same sentence, and most definitely in the same day.
I’ve been trying to write this for awhile. I don’t know if I’m doing that good of a job. But, at least I’m trying.
Detroit is a city of extremes. Extreme decay, extreme growth, extreme dark, and immense pockets of light. Everyone here works their asses off.
No one works just one job. They work three. Or five. Most work on Saturdays. If not for themselves, then in a park or Greenspace, a basement, or a woodshop, volunteering their time and energy for someone or something else.
The barrier of entry is simple: just live here.
Just try. Take a chance on a place that isn’t like anywhere else in this country. It’ll be hard, be we can promise you it will be worth it.
Where else do you have full moon organized bike rides that take over and fill the streets, parties on rooftops of buildings built decades ago, movies outside broadcasted on the side of someone’s apartment building in the heart of the oldest neighborhood, full-out black tie cocktail parties with the mayor, a demolition party with ten year old Cabernet in your friends kitchen (bring your own sledgehammer), jazz and drinks in a true speakeasy that has been restored to former glory, raves in abandoned buildings, outdoor concerts in the back of two blighted buildings slowly coming back to life, beach side birthday parties on an island between two countries, wine tastings in your neighbors shop that hasn’t opened yet, picnics and a slip n’ slide in front of Michigan Central Station, or 2 dollar cheap drinks and karaoke in a dive bar that doesn’t have an actual address (that we know of).
That’s what a weekend looks like in Detroit. Every weekend its a mixture of those things, with a few variations and exceptions. How can you not fall in love with that?
We have issues here. I’m not immune, nor unaware of them.
I’ve gotten my prized Schwinn stolen from the back of my apartment. I’ve been frustrated by the fact that when I need an ingredient for a pie and its past 8 pm, I’m out of luck because all of the grocery stores are closed. I’ve called the police and had them never show up. We have pothole riddled streets that have taken the life of two tire tubes, and dented my rims on my un-stolen bike. But we have bike lanes now at least? But now people drive in them.
Streetlights still don’t turn on, and abandoned buildings are scars on an almost full street that remind us of where we came from. And how much farther we still have to go. Driving outsides of the bubbles of neighborhoods all of my friends and I live in, you are transported to the Detroit that most people see: Empty, cavernous buildings, some half burnt. Hookers on corners, and 8 lanes of pavement: empty. Blocks of urban prairie and few houses. Main stretches of Woodward are dark, and drug deals happen right in front of party stores. Graffiti litters wall after wall of these former historic fortresses.
Living here isn’t convenient.
Living here changes your priorities.
It’s the sense of community, its the “we’re all in this together”, it’s the excessive amount of inspiration to see so many people doing what they love, it’s wide open spaces that strike us as promising and full of potential, not full of sadness and loss, it’s the vision that carries us. And the sense that we are all on the verge of something great that is bigger than all of us. It’s the feeling that this city, for better and for worse; belongs to us. We have a responsibility to it, and we will never give up on it.
That’s why we live in Detroit. And that’s why we want so badly for everyone else to, too.
Co-Founder of BareBones Detroit