DETROIT -- This city, they tell me, is done.
Torn down by the self-interested. Looted by the self-serving. Done in by neglect of duty. Its people continue to go away. The only things to corroborate their time here are sagging roofs and ghost gardens that bloom unmanicured every spring.
At sunup, the commuters come. By sundown they retreat for their suburbs, careful to avoid the surface streets. At the golden hour, the city dweller too goes home and locks his door fearing the lawless will visit his porch.
Sometimes I hate this city and what has happened to it and those who caused it. Sometimes I wonder why I ever came back here at all.
When I feel this way, I don't run from Detroit. I find myself running to it and its crevices and corners and characters. It is still, despite its mammoth problems, one of the most magnetic places I have ever been.
I like to drink coffee at the firehouses. They are safe places inhabited by good men and women who sometimes have more concern about the neighborhood they serve than those living there. I have seen children in trouble to come to them for safety. The firehouses are open to the public and if you are a decent sort, you can get yourself a cup.
On Belle Isle is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservancy. It is free and warm and tranquil. You can sit alone with your thoughts under the glass dome and breathe in the moist air and scent of exotic fauna. When the wind blows, the greenhouse panes rattle like the chains of Christmas Future.
Belle Isle was designed by the same architects who created New York City's Central Park. And if you sit at the southern end of Central Park you are treated to a view of one of the magnificent skylines in America. The same is true at the southern tip of Belle Isle. You will see a beautiful view of one the greatest skylines in America but you will hear seagulls rather than traffic.
In Eastern Market, I go to Zeff's diner with my daughter for eggs and corned beef hash and then we go to Kap's, where the butchers let us inspect the hog carcasses and I can explain food and where it comes from.
Saturday is the big market day and I like to go to Bert's and drink Heineken and listen to the people sing karaoke. There is a semi-street man there with bad teeth who sings unbelievably competent versions of Journey.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is one of the country's finest and oldest. Orchestra Hall, in midtown, is one of its most acoustically perfect. You might go and listen. Not watch but listen. We nearly lost our orchestra because of disinterest. We have a second chance. Tickets are $20, about the same as a hotdog and two beers at Comerica Park and they don't mind if you come in blue jeans. As bassist Rick Robinson, a Detroit native, told me: "When the music stops we're left with silence."
On the east side of the city is Sindbad's restaurant on the water. They have the best calamari in town. Tender and lightly breaded, and out back a long curved bar and a wall of windows overlooking the marina. Back there you will find Tugboat Joe whom I like to visit. He is the keeper of the tug, which has won the tugboat races four years running. Joe and I will smoke and watch the water and he talks about how the walleye will be running soon. Sometimes, he gives me a goose egg for my kid.
Palmer Park is a nice public golf course at 7 Mile and Woodward. Just $12 for 18 holes I can't wait to make the turn for the 13th because a troop of red fox lives there in the bramble and one will occasionally sniff your ball as though it were a pickled egg.
The Bronx on Second has a good burger. The Dakota Inn Rathskeller on John R has good schnitzel. The Olympia on Michigan has good blues music and a better crowd.
Detroit is alive despite the problems. And we will get beyond them.
It is worth remembering that the Roman Empire is gone but we still have Romans. And they wear nice shoes, look at good art and drink coffee all day.
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