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Detroit Blog

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My sister in Windsor sent me a link a couple weeks back to the Detroit Blog — I’ve been slowly going through his archives. All things Detroit are interesting in general, but perhaps more so for me because I grew up a Detroit interloper, exploring some of the heartbreaking ruins and generally being overwhelmed with a city that is impossible to figure out, then returning each night to the safety of Windsor across the river (which might as well be 1000 miles wide, in terms of the difference).

The Detroit Blog is what Detroit has always needed, a person in love with the city, who explores it’s nooks and crannies and does for Detroit what Ninjalicious did for Toronto. The anonymous author finds relics from these buildings and either photographs or scans them, and puts them on his blog. Recently they tore down the “Motown Building” (not the original Hitsville USA house/museum, but the 1920s building the company moved into before they departed for Hollywood in the 1970s), one of many things lost in the quest to make downtown Detroit presentable to Superbowl fans (a discerning bunch, certainly). Before the building was lost, he went in a found the everyday life of a lost America, including Marvin Gaye’s dry cleaning receipts.

It’s a bit like a small scale, less academic-minded Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin’s massive, unfinished monograph of Paris in between the wars (and psychogeographic masterpiece). Detroit was called “The Paris of the Midwest” before the fall, after which it was called “The Beirut of the Midwest” (Beirut itself was once called the “Paris of the Mid-East” before the 1970s civil war). Toronto has never been called the Paris of anything — and thank God. Seems like bad luck.

Interesting too are the author’s observations of Detroit municipal politics, where the controversial mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the self-styled “hip-hop mayor,” was just reelected in a contested election, preceeded by a vicious campaign (ads talking about lynching that make Paul Martin’s Liberal “attack ads” seem cute). He rules from a “secret service sized” security detail that sails through the city in a fleet of Cadillac Escalades. Sometimes I pass our mayor walking on the sidewalk. Long live Toronto.