I am often asked, “What’s my deal with Detroit? Why do you love it so much?” I don’t need to ponder my response for a second and as I proudly stand a bit taller my answer is always the same, “If ya gotta ask, then you will never understand.” I come from a small town not far from the Detroit border, a town surrounded by the United States, to our south is Ohio and to our north is Michigan; Yes, I said the U.S. is north of my quaint little hometown. Detroit is our northern neighbour and we have always had a tight bond with that city. No one from my neck of the woods would ever ask what my deal with Detroit is, because they already know. Today, Detroit is like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s resiliency is palpable; but even before Detroit was known for it’s desolation, abandoned buildings, corruption, crime and horrific poverty, the love for that city always gurgled in each of us who were raised near that special place. For one simple reason; Detroit breeds hope, no one wants to see Detroit in the state that it’s in but accepts that’s exactly where it is and loves it anyway. We were raised in awe of Detroit, it’s big, it’s strong, it’s real and raw and it’s one heck of a powerful place that never proclaims defeat. Even after the city declared bankruptcy a few years ago; we all shrugged it off and said, it’s still a city on the rise. Detroit’s not done yet; It’ll make a comeback; just watch.
We were raised routing for the underdog of Detroit, we have always known, even among the nay sayers and without a shadow of a doubt that Detroit will rise again. More and more articles are being written about the city and the world is taking notice. Hipsters are coming in droves to revitalize the inner city, business is slowly returning with a new energy and the food scene is topping the charts with a sizzling modern vibe – all the while not kicking out the old guard that have survived the tough times and made Detroit what is it today. The soul food, the villages of the inner city, the music scene, the sports scene, all of it is getting dusted off and cleaned up attracting all sorts of much needed attention. I also respect the seedy underbelly of Detroit as it has many, many layers. And respect is what you need to give the city in order to survive it. You can’t just roll into Detroit and live like you do on the streets of Toronto or New York. You must respect that Detroit seems to have rules unto itself. It’s not pretty at times, but you feel something different in your soul when you’re in that city. It’s a kind of contagious energy that you begin to crave after you’ve gone.
Detroit attracts the best of the best. It hosts the best concerts, I’ve seen so many concerts in Detroit and nothing and nowhere ever compares to being in Motown for a concert. Detroit has spectacular theatres with amazing shows, the best hockey team and I get shivers when I think about the greatest baseball team to ever grace this planet; The Detroit Tigers. As a kid, we were constantly lured over the border to support our teams, shop, eat, dance and be merry. I spent a lot of time in that city and when I return now I can’t believe the breathtaking transformation of a city in so called peril.
Detroit has always portrayed the image of never give up; never, ever stop fighting for survival. I bought into that as a young child and Detroit has always been one of my favourite places, favourite cities to talk about and all time favourite place to defend with a bold confidence. We find beauty in all the ashes of the burnt buildings, we find hope in the images of the spectacular theatres and concert halls that have been striped of their ‘natural’ beauty and replaced with graffiti and destruction.
It’s a shame, don’t get me wrong, a catastrophic shame that washes sadness over me, but I also know there are people there that care and want for change. They believe in their city and the people that live there and today we are able to witness neighbourhood by neighbourhood being transformed into something residents are proud of again. Instead of giving up and living like savages, these residents have picked up brooms, hammers and watchful eyes and slowly have turned their communities into something to boast about.
If you’re still skeptical about the power of this place; Here is a story that embodies the spirit of Detroit and those that call it home. A young boy grew up in Detroit in the 1930’s a die hard Tigers fan, he had dreams like most young boys to become a professional baseball player. But for this particular boy, his only dream was to be a Detroit Tiger, nothing else would do.
After graduating high school he joined the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and after his return he was determined to fulfill his baseball dream. He ended up signing with the Detroit Tiger’s minor league team and played in the minors for a number of years but still had his eye on the prize of the major leagues. Unfortunately, his dream came to a screeching halt when he had a career ending knee injury. He went home destroyed but not defeated. While licking his wounds, the young man’s father encouraged him to get a ‘real’ job while living at home even though this young man still had the Tigers on his mind. He ended up helping out a friend who’s family owned a pizza joint in downtown Detroit without pay, just to get out of the house and make his parents happy. He quickly realized that pizza making wasn’t a bad business after all and took a leap of faith by starting his very own pizzeria. That leap of faith became an overnight success so he decided to open another one and another and another….today that man owns and operates one of the biggest pizza chains around. You might have heard of a place called….Little Caesar’s Pizza.
That business kept growing year after year so the young entrepreneur decided it was time to make old dreams a reality and since he can’t play for his beloved Detroit Tigers, he decided he might as well own them. He bought his favourite baseball team and then bought the hockey team too. Even today, he plays an integral role in Detroit’s revitalization. That’s a man who grew up knowing that giving up was not an option. That exemplifies the Detroit spirit of where there’s a will; there’s a way. That’s Detroit, it will never give up, it will never go quietly into the night. And neither will anyone who has Detroit in their hearts. We are all fighters and survivors – Guaranteed.