Monday, January 30, 2006
SuperBowl mania is starting to heat up, and I can't help but wonder how the city is going to handle it. Supposedly, they've cleaned it up, fixed the eleventy billion smashed windows and blasted buildings you can see, oh, just about everywhere. I don't know, I was there for the Auto Show on January 15, walking around and taking photos like this (click for big):
These are all from inside the National Theater on Monroe St. Bear in mind that this is not in some outskirt of Detroit, far removed from where SuperBowl folks will be. This is right in the middle of downtown. This was along the route we walked to get from Greektown where we parked to Cobo Arena where the Auto Show was. This building is on a main road and it is in the middle of the city.
Granted, we had to sneak under some boards like bloody criminals (or really stupid art students) to get in and take photos, but even with the boards you could see this giant, gorgeous old theater (I believe it used to be an adult theater at the end, but that's neither here nor there, the architecture is incredible) just sitting there, rotting. In, and I can't stress this enough, the center of the city.
I haven't been downtown in the 15 days since then, so maybe they've done... something. But this isn't an isolated building; much of downtown Detroit is exactly like this. I just don't know how Detroit is going to clean itself up to any appreciable degree, I really don't. I wish I had time to get downtown and have a look.
I'd been downtown a few times much earlier this (school) year, before there was even a hint of getting ready for the SuperBowl beyond tearing the living daylights out of major highways.
Here was the Climbing Poetree poetry slam I went to with a couple art students in the Cass Corridor. It was, to put it mildly, amazing, and I don't even like poetry slams. The people there, both performing and watching, were incredible, and I was with a couple kids who really know and love the city for itself, which is so rare for Detroit.
That said, it was in the Cass Corridor and it was in the middle of the night. There is no way in hell I would have done this if I was not with people who, as I said, knew the city really well. I'm not as terrified of Detroit as a lot of people seem to be (and it's usually people who have never so much as set a toe downtown who claim it's the most crime-ridden city EVAH and you can't walk a meter without getting mugged), but I'm not stupid. I would not recommend that any Steelers or Seahawks fans go wandering blithely into the Cass Corridor on foot in the middle of the night.
This here is Greektown at right around midnight. Greektown is pretty cool, it houses a bunch of restaurants, including Plakas, the Coney Island where my family has to eat lunch before every Thanksgiving Day football game. Next door to Plakas is the most kickass Greek bakery ever and everyone needs to go there because it is beyond good. As you can see, it's actually bright and active in the middle of the night, unlike the vast majority of the city. This is probably in part because the Greektown casino is, as one might expect, right there.
For more BCRS Detroit experiences, you can check out my shots from this year's Auto Show or some shots from a night game at Comerica Park. For the Ford Field experience, you can check out this past season's Thanksgiving Day football game.
If you want to see the crumbling nature of the city, I highly suggest you check out the photostream of SNWeb. He basically goes around sneaking into all the falling down, brokeass buildings of Detroit and photographing them. The sheer quantity, if nothing else, is impressive.
There's plenty of charm in Detroit, if you really want to find it, and there's no denying that some places are gorgeous, like Comerica or Ford or the Opera House. But as someone who grew up with Boston as the closest city, let me tell you, it's no Boston. It's no New York or Chicago. Hell, it's no Pittsburgh (I like Pittsburgh, funky architecture). I really hope it acquits itself well this Sunday, if only because the city could really use some widespread belief in its potential. I really do. I just don't see how they're going to pull it off.