I took a day trip to Detroit last week, and I have no joke about it. I actually enjoyed my time in the Motor City.
Whereas others like to use Detroit as the poster child for what's wrong with big-city politics, the U.S. automotive industry, and public education, I see the city as one that may be down, but has the potential to rise up. Commercial high-rise buildings may be empty, but they remain standing, ready to be redesigned and reused. Other abandoned structures can be razed, creating a blank canvass on which city planners can draw up a new future.
A couple of friends and I drove up last Tuesday to catch a Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox game at Comerica Park. We had made a similar trip to Cincinnati two years ago to see the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, and this was an attempt to re-create that fun. We succeeded.
Comerica Park is a great addition to the family of new Major League Baseball parks. The exposed steel beams are a great contrast to the cement structural elements that dominated 1970s stadium design, and the brick wall in the outfield seats is a nice homage to building materials used at the turn of the century. The stadium actually provides a view of the Detroit skyline, embracing its urban environs, whereas stadiums such as the White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field put up huge scoreboards in the outfield to hide the city view from patrons. Of course, the Comerica Park has all of the amenities that other modern parks have—wide concourses, cup holders, huge scoreboards, and a plethora of concession choices. If not for the fact that beer costs $8.50 per cup, the day might have been perfect.
Perhaps most interesting to me is Comerica Park's location on Woodward Avenue. I had heard about the Woodward Dream Cruise, but have never seen it in person. However, seeing the road itself gives you an idea of just what the spectacle could be like on a balmy day in August. Like I said, the thoroughfare may lacking in commercial development, but this main artery is still vital to the town's existence.
Just down the road that evening, we went to see some bands play at the Magic Stick . I won't bore you with the details of Split Lip Rayfield, Cracker, and the Reverend Horton Heat, but I will tell you that a guy in Split Lip Rayfield plays an upright bass made out of an old car gas tank. It sounds as awesome as the visual of this unusual instrument is.
Outside of the T-shirts shouting out support for "pychobilly" and distrust of hippies, I noticed plenty of people wearing clothing emblazoned with "Detroit" on it. These weren't tourists who picked up cheap wares at a nearby truck stop; these people were wearing work jackets and T-shirts with references to Detroit. They wanted people to know where they are from and where they intend to be. It was a display of hometown pride for the hometown crowd. The rest of America can make their jokes, but these Detroiters really don't care.
Detroit and manufacturing have much in common. People take them for granted, while both have contributed so much to the development of this country. Hopefully, both will receive the recognition and good fortune they deserve.
(I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my afternoon of featherbowling and Belgium brews at the Cadieux Café on Detroit's lower east side. Oh yeah, try the mussels and pomme frites. You can't go wrong.)