Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Detroit

If you grew up in Newfoundland you have an odd relationship with Detroit. Since about the mid-80s it's where we received our primary exposure to the United States. Until satellite TV started catching on big time, it was pretty much our only TV exposure to the US. For those of us old enough, we can remember getting US station from Bangor, Maine (Long live The Great Money Money and All-Hit Videos), but for most it's Detroit.

And it's an odd exposure. I think for many Newfoundlanders the experience was one of "thank God we don't live in Detroit." When you live in an isolated place and you're exposed to Detroit's evening news, where it felt like someone was being murdered every other night, well, it was surreal.

I can't say I grew up liking Detroit all that much. For what we saw on TV it didn't seem like a very nice place. Plus, I hated all their sports teams. The Tigers, Pistons, Lions and Red Wings - never liked any of them.

But after the unending economic horror show Detroit has endured for at least the past five years, if not longer, it's hard to keep hating on the city. I read somewhere earlier this year that the area of Detroit that's been completely abandoned would be roughly the equivalent of a city the size of Las Vegas. Detroit is being gutted, there's no other word for it.

That's why I found this article in the National Post interesting. It's desperate times for the city, which requires desperate measures. Spending $100 million to basically rip apart abandoned building and homes and then consulting to see what citizens want to replace them with is something that caught my eye. There's talk of turning some of the land back into farms or wilderness areas.

I suspect if Detroit pulls this off, you might see it happen to other depressed areas, not just in the United States but also in other parts of the world. It's not often you get to watch a pretty bold social and planning experiment develop in front of you. Normally I tried to avoid paying much attention to Detroit and when I did, never thought much of the place. But now, now I'm curious how this will all work out. And for the first time, I'm kind of cheering for Detroit. They've had more than enough bad luck. It'd be nice to see them bounce back.

Last Five
1. Waiting around to die - The Be Good Tanyas
2. We might as well be strangers - Keane
3. Razz - Kings of Leon
4. Death of an interior decorator - Death Cab For Cutie
5. Some people - Hawksley Workman*

8 comments:

Megan said...

Ah, Bangor, Maine.

Clare said...

Much of Detroit has returned to wilderness already. The photos of vast neighbourhoods, crossed with roads and only a few derelict houses, but prairie like swaths of land, is strangely apocalyptic. And disturbing.

If I can I'll find the link to some of those photos from a friends blog.

Clare said...

As promised, here is a link to a post on Bootstrap analysis...

http://www.bootstrap-analysis.com/2006/07/more_on_the_urb.html

Way Way Up said...

Having lived for a number of years across the river in Windsor and visiting Detroit a number of times I can only say that I totally loathe the place.

Nancy Crozier said...

I grew up in Leamington, Ontario, 50 km southeast of Detroit. When I was small I wore a full brace on my right leg. The nearest place to get it adjusted as I grew was Detroit, so we made regular trips there from 1970-73.

Detroit was past its heyday and beginning its long, slow fall on hard times. But oh my, were parts of its downtown beautiful, especially to a little girl from Leamington. I remember craning my neck at the art deco and beaux-arts skyscrapers, the Motown building on Woodward Avenue, the boulevards...

WJM said...

There was a study once that showed how Canadians' perception of crime rates was shaped by whether their US network TV feeds came from Detroit or elsewhere.

Brian said...

We have the latest provincial study of Labradorian’s perception of crime rates, they are shaped by watching Here n Now and NTV news hour and a half’s.

John Mutford said...

I still remember Detroit commercials...