Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm a Believer

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. We didn't go down there frequently. We rarely drove farther than half an hour's radius during the weekdays and on the weekends, we traveled up north or were playing with my cousins. We didn't have a lot of money, so going to the city was not anything that we did.

Of course, my mom took us to a Tiger game. I remember my grandma taking the Editor and I to the RenCen for lunch and eating in the rotating restaurant at the top (it didn't rotate fast, but enough that when you went to the bathroom, your seat was in a different place when you came back).  I remember one trip to the Eastern Market with my cousins as a tween--the first time that I ate pistachios and string cheese.  I recall maybe half a dozen trips to theaters downtown for concerts and plays.  A trip or two to Greektown and Trapper's Alley. A hockey game at the Joe.  Trips to Cobo Hall for the Auto Show, the circus, and going to see the 90210 cast when I was in high school.

It just wasn't a common event for us to come downtown and unthinkable to go anywhere else in the city. But, that didn't stop us from feeling like Detroit was who we were. I was oblivious to the racial tensions between the city and the suburbs. Nobody ever told me about the riots. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I knew my mother rode through downtown in the midst of the riots on a return trip from visiting her aunt. How scary that must have been for my grandparents to drive their teenage daughter through the violence. I've never asked my mother what she felt at that time or even what she knew. I really ought to. I was shielded from a lot of it.

I didn't know how dangerous the city was, nor that Devil's Night was not common everywhere. I thought it was normal that people burned down the city the night before Halloween. How would I know different?

Then, the people of Detroit started to reclaim their city in earnest around the same time that my eyes started opening.  Things like Angel's Night were born. The Casino's came and with that new hotels and restaurants.  And I grew up and started listening to the news.

I also left and had no intention of ever going back. I didn't think Detroit or Michigan had anything to offer me. I even took (and passed) the New York bar exam upon graduation from law school. I applied for jobs in NYC and DC.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wanted to go home. There was no place was quite like Michigan. No place like Metro-Detroit.  Detroit had problems, but my heart was there.  Where else can you find a collection of local diners that specialize in greek food and chili dogs?  Where else is the home to the Big Three? The birth of the American middle class? Where else can you find people with the heart and determination of Metro-Detroit? The love for professional sports even with out winning? The history and the future? No where, but here.

I was offered a job in a firm downtown. I accepted. My dad was not happy. He didn't feel it was safe for me to be downtown. (In his defense, he had been carjacked in a bad part of the city, a couple of years before I started working downtown.)

I have been working in downtown Detroit since the fall of 2002. I love it. I admit that I don't get to see a ton of the city, but I've discovered more and more through the years. I am not blind to the city scape that at times resembles a hockey player's smile, but improvements continue. Detroit still has its problems. It has a lot of work to go to make it great again, but it is on its way. I love Detroit. I love working here. I love looking out my window and seeing Canada across the river. I love energy of the people I meet in the city and the excitement so many have for its revival. While I still live in the suburbs, I still consider myself a Detroiter. I'm excited about the future of this city and proud to be part of it. I'm a believer.


  1. Yay you!!! Got all teary-eyed.
    I don't think I'll ever go back to Michigan, but it's still a big part of who I am. :)

  2. This is a very nice tribute to Detroit!

    Happy mother's day! Hope the DQ and TRex serve you breakfast in bed and dish out lots of hugs and cuddles.


  3. Awesome post about our hometown. Despite moving away 10 years ago, I'm still a believer. Detroit always held a place of magic in my heart when I was growing up (experiencing most of the things with you), and it still does even though I live far away. I'd love to come home again--for good--some day ... maybe I will.


Having a child with a CHD is like being given an extra sense---the true ability to appreciate life. Each breath, each hug, each meal is a blessing when you've watched your child live off a ventilator, trapped in an ICU bed, being fed through a tube. Each minute is a miracle when you've watched your child almost die and come back to you.
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