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 CafĂ© 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?

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