Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Making Sense of Detroit"


A RELEVANT ESSAY

An essay written in 1999 by David M. Sheridan, "Making Sense of Detroit," for Michigan Quarterly Review, is more relevant today than when it was written
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=mqr;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0038.301;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1;g=mqrg

Sheridan outlines the cycles of Detroit's history, from dystopia to utopia. It's hard to think of another American city which in little more than 200 years has had such exhilarating highs alternating with devastating lows. Detroit has been knocked down more than once. This is always followed by dreamers seeking to impose their vision upon the ruins. Which is certainly happening now. Whether this is bad or good is open to discussion.

I have a selfish reason for recommending Sheridan's essay, in that it describes an essay of my own about Detroit-- one which seems no longer available, but must be archived somewhere. I'm mentioned far down in the body of the long piece, not as a writer, but a bartender, which I take as a compliment. Do I have credibility to speak about Detroit? My essay; Sheridan's remarks; my own history are evidence that in some small way, I do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Classic Movies in Detroit?


YES!

Detroit has classic movies, shown on the big screen in actual movie theaters. Detroit Literary has seen in recent weeks "White Christmas" (possibly the corniest film ever) at the Redford Theater on Lahser Road, and "The Apartment" (a truly moving flick) at Cinema Detroit on Cass Avenue.

NEXT UP: The witty and cynical "All About Eve" this weekend at the Redford; starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and George Sanders, with a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe. Expect DL to be there!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Detroit Writer Celebrates!


Detroit-area writer Kathleen Crane celebrates her nomination by NEW POP LIT (www.newpoplit.com) for a Pushcart Prize.

Stay tuned for her upcoming collection of stories, Aloha from Detroit. Guaranteed to be exciting!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Detroit Writers Wanted!


AS CO-EDITOR at the hottest new literary site around, New Pop Lit (www.newpoplit.com) my mission is to help discover exciting new writers. Writers with artistic ambition, energy, and edge. Writers who want to join us in reviving literature.

Can the much-beaten down but recovering and soulful city of DETROIT and the talent it contains help us do that?

THAT, Horatio, is the question we seek to answer. Send us your writing to newpoplit@gmail.com and your art to newpoplit3@gmail.com.

Join us in creating the New New!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bad Week for Detroit Metro Times?

Is the Detroit Metro Times simply having a bad week?


FIRST, there's the cover story about Dan Gilbert and his Quicken Loans empire. I like a good takedown on occasion. I've written a few myself in my life, and been a subject of more than one. What has to be said about Ryan Felton's long article about/against Dan Gilbert is that he doesn't make his case.


The impression given to this reader after plowing through the piece is that A.) after 40,000+ transactions, a handful of bad loans were made. (None of them mind-boggling. On the order of an applicant claiming income of $14,000 a month when it was actually $8,000-- which for most people is still impressive.) In this complicated universe it's impossible to achieve perfection. B.) Dan Gilbert's biggest fault according to Felton is being in the loan business, period. Which is like condemning all ships because the Titanic went down.


Again, this is the impression Felton's trying-very-hard article gives out. In it he asks why Gilbert and his p.r. staff are spending so much time with him. When one reads Ryan Felton's article, the question answers itself.


SECOND is the essay by Ari LeVaux titled "Hipstocracy," a defense of hipsters via discussing their brunch habits.


Who is Ari LeVaux? Apparently Ari LeVaux is an upscale food columnist based in Albuquerque!


Uh, Metro Times-- Michael Jackman and Company: Is this really the person you want discussing the hipster phenomenon in a Detroit-area periodical?


On the issue of hipsters in cities like Detroit, Arizona food columnist Ari LeVaux misses the target. (Lots of missed targets scattered around the MT offices right now.) The question of hipsters and why some people don't like them isn't about brunch. (Brunch!) It's about gentrification. From Brooklyn to South Philly to, now, Detroit, hipster invasions bring with them an inevitable steep increase in rents and prices.


Previous influxes of young whites into Detroit's inner city, from Plum Street hippies in the 1960's to the punks and anarchists, starving artists and writers of the 80's and 90's, sought to blend in with the colorful diversity of the Motor City. Not displace it. In the Cass Corridor of the 90's, watering spots like Third Street, the Bronx, even Cass Café were diverse in every possible way. Which was the point. One sat at a bar alongside prostitutes and professors, the homeless, crackpot philosophers, or bikers, of every color, class, and age demographic.


Speaking of brunch-- a couple weeks ago I happened to visit on a Sunday morning a noted hipster hangout. My brother, who lives in northern Macomb County-- in no way an upscale individual-- dropped in on me downtown. In his car we took a tour of the area, looking for an open spot for coffee and a donut. "There's a place!" A waitress sat us at a table. We took one look at the menu. "Uh, let's sit at the bar!" we said. Maybe we were there at the wrong time-- but for brunch, the small establishment was thoroughly segregated by class, age, and race. Not very urban.


I'm talking about impressions in this post. I was given the impression of young gentry bringing their tastes along with them. An image entered my head of British Imperialists of the 1890's, imposing home upon their quite different new neighborhoods.


I have nothing against hipsters. I know a few of them-- here and on the east coast. Good people, all in all.. I also know a few quirky young low-rent artists types. What makes a city is having a mix of types. Segregation, including self-segregation, is something many of us ran away from.


Detroit's strength is its authenticity; its edginess. Its diverse mix.


Or: If Detroit is to become just another Brooklyn, how depressing is that?



Monday, November 10, 2014

Ongoing Gentrification of Detroit

I made two minor discoveries this past weekend which cause me to question what's happening in Detroit's Midtown.


One was finding that the Biggby Coffee outlet on Woodward Avenue has shut down. Unlike some other spots, the Biggby shop was not chic, overpriced, or in any way upscale-- and had a diverse, multiethnic clientele.


The second discovery was stopping into the Cass Café on Saturday night with a friend, and finding a small crowd. When I lived in the Cass Corridor in the 1990's, the Cass Café was not only the most upscale saloon in the Corridor (back then spots like the Bronx and Third Street Saloon were total dives), it was invariably packed on weekends. Or even week nights. There was always quite a diverse mix of people, ethnically, in age, and in profession-- Wayne State professors mingling with low rent characters, including a host of starving artists, musicians, and writers.


Where has everyone gone?


Presumably I walked into an anomaly-- that usually the Cass Café is packed, and I happened to hit it on an off night.


It remains a very cool place.


I'll have more observations about the local scene in upcoming days.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Back in Action?


(Pictured: Recent 9-11 ceremonies in Campus Martius park.)

With its author in Detroit, and now involved in an important new project-- www.newpoplit.com-- will this blog revive itself? Stay tuned for more posts. We hope.