Detroit: A City of Two Emotions
I was at the vegetarian restaurant the other night called “Seva” on Forest Avenue, just off of Woodward Avenue in Detroit, not far from a Church's Chicken joint.
There was a hip, integrated crowd and there was a half hour wait. I was thrilled to wait, just knowing the restaurant was brimming with business.
It was just another example of Detroit rising from the ashes, a heartening site in a worn area of the city . It made me swell with joy.
Moments later, I had to pause and remind myself of Detroit’s city government, which is chin-deep in economic hell, where the most basic of services are being cut. Sorry, but when you get past 40 or 50, you start to think about how fast the ambulance will get there if you happen to have a stroke or a heart attack. A slow response just doesn’t cut it.
When friends from out of town ask how Detroit is doing, I really have to pause before answering.
Some point to the Chrysler ads that make Detroit sound hip and cool. Some point to the healthy auto industry earnings. So I sometimes put on a happy face and say: “It’s doing well.”
But truth be told, there are little pockets of hope and big pockets of despair.
A few days after going to Seva, I read Detroit News columnist Laura Berman’s column on the very same subject entitled “Tale of Two Cities.”
“To the young, it is a city of the possible, where cheap rents and imagination can spawn a future,” she wrote. “For so many others, who have lost their jobs or homes, who have been victims of crime or lost opportunity, Detroit is a one-track Darwinian struggle to outwit and survive the city's many calamities and liabilities.”
I can’t help but feel the constant emotional swing of the city, the pull between hope and despondency.
I was at the Avalon Bakery on Saturday, just off of Cass Avenue, near Wayne State.
The crowd flowed. The warmth permeated. There was a feeling of vibrancy.
Then I traveled down Second Avenue. At one juncture, the homes were big and magnificent. At plenty of other spots, though, the houses were delapidated. I turned to my friend Buddy Fenster and said, “It looks like there was a war and people were killed.”
He said to me: “People are getting killed all the time.”
All that being said, those of us who love the city, whether you live in the city or suburbs, are endlessly confronted with mix emotions. Vibrancy and death. Hope and despair.
I still root that hope prevails.
I really hope.