Detroit… properly pronounced “deh twa”, is a French designed city that rests on the Detroit river. The French design has all of the roads radiating out from the center of the city, in contrast to the grid of English designed cities. The first thing I noticed about Detroit was the building height. The sky felt wide open and expansive above. You had a sense that one could take flight or that unknown possibilities existed. I could see the stars above my friend’s house when I arrived in the middle of the night.
The second thing I noticed about Detroit was the intensity of the abandoned urban sprawl. I was taken on a personalized tour of the city and saw miles upon miles of abandoned factories and houses. The reason I was given for this: The “white flight” that happened in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement. The city was still recovery from that and it happened 60 years ago. It was also hit with the collapse of the auto industry in the 2000’s.
Local businesses struggled to establish themselves amidst all the governmental red tape. Imagine the worst DMV experience ever and then let that DMV office run a city but with worse service. The motto of the self-employed here is “Detroit Hustles Harder”.
Sean and I decided to spend a day indoors relaxing in onesies and catching up. He is an old friend from my hometown and we hadn’t seen each other in 20 years. I have to admit there is something so comforting and grounding about spending time with someone from the same time period and same hometown. The groundwork of understanding is already in place, so the language that we use to communicate was already very similar. We had a lot of catching up to do.
Our lives followed different paths, but we came to the same conclusions on many topics… particularly regarding human nature, what it means to wake up, the state of the world today, the environment, personal responsibility, sovereignty, and ideas about the raising and education of children. Namely that raising children is not about teaching them who to be, but facilitating their process of becoming themselves and teaching them how to navigate this world by being a steady presence in their life.
The day was filled with laughter, good food, and video games. In the evening we even played some Mario cart online with his daughter.
The second day we had a couple of missions: 1. Find some way to set up an interactive art station to destroy a giant Covid-19 collage I made. 2. Check out a bundle of properties he was thinking of purchasing. 3. Do a driving tour of Detroit.
The driving tour was the backbone of our adventures. We quickly found ourselves at “Tangent Gallery”, a very eclectic artist and event space. Sean introduced me to the owner Joe and we had a nice chat. Sean elbowed me to ask about destroying the art piece there during an event the next day, so I began…
“Joe, I have this piece of art that I made. It’s about 6 feet by 2 feet and it’s a collage of covid-19 art made of images from The Economist during March and April of last year when I was in lock down.”
He waited patiently.
“I was moving out and had this piece and I didn’t want to just throw it out… so, I was wondering if we could turn it into an interactive art piece and destroy it here tomorrow night during your event?”
He perked up, “Oh destroy something? Yes, of course, that’s right up our alley.”
And so it was settled…we made arrangements for the following evening to have some kind of “foreplay” destruction that would climax in burning the piece.
After tangent we went to check out some properties Sean was interested in buying. The first one was abandoned and the front door was open. We grabbed headlamps and went in to inspect. It felt like stepping into a scene from Fallout 3. I was anxious and excited about the activity. He inspected the house and determined that it had “good bones” and was a project but, workable.
After that we had dinner. We pulled up to what looked like another abandoned building on the outside. The open sign wasn’t even on but when we walked inside it was a super posh restaurant with fancy glass wear and well-dressed servers. I felt slightly self-conscious in hiking boots, joggers, a side pouch, and my police jacket.
The food was incredible. For a moment we were transported to a place where an Italian and Mexican mash up make sense. When we left, the familiarity of the stark sky, hot dry sun, and dusty streets enveloped us like a child’s blanket.
Kayaking down the river outside of Ann Arbor. Being in nature is such an underrated blessing. My mind went completely blank. My cup emptied and the majestic space of nature filled me up.
When we passed under some electrical cables, Sean pointed out the sound and the feeling of being pushed by the magnetic current. It was actually suffocating. I felt something pushing on my chest and the feeling remained until I was a good 10 feet down river from the lines.
Closer to the end of the trip, Sean was scrounging around trying to find a deer carcass from the last season and I attempted to pause my kayak by grabbing a branch only to dump myself and everything I had into the 40 degree water. What a rush!! I laughed so hard as I pulled the kayak out of the river. I peeled off my soaking clothes and finished the trip in the bottom layer. Felt so good to have the sun on my skin after the unceremonious baptism.
That evening we returned to Tangent to socialize and destroy art. Being as it was the first real random socializing of the year since lock down, the air was joyful and apprehensive. I think we all forgot how to communicate a little bit.
And then we destroyed art. Click Here To See.