Youth is overrated. Look, I’ve seen pictures of those younger buildings that have begun popping up around the neighborhood in recent years, causing so much head-turning commotion. The new Detroit is what I hear them saying. Frankly, I’m not impressed, and if I sound cranky it’s because I’ve earned it. I was built in Detroit circa 1898, I’m still here, and I’m still turning a few heads myself. Score one for old Detroit when things were…
Well, wait a minute. Now that I think back on it, not everything was so great back then either. I mean, some of it was simply splendid, the kind of beautiful that only Detroit can be. And if you live here then you already know. But then there was the ‘other’ Detroit, always hovering just off to the side, in sight but out of sight at the same time, like a phantom evil twin. The twin the family rarely talks about.
The truth? Detroit has always been a Tale of Two Cities, living uncomfortably side-by-side. The black and the white, the East Side and the West Side, Warren Connor and Palmer Woods, the unparallelled architectural artistic brilliance interrupted by wide swaths of burnt out vacant lots and boarded homes, the startling compassion all too often drowned out by the mind-bending violence, the rhino-thick skin pierced time and again by needles of paranoid sensitivity.
I have watched this perverse duality expose itself repeatedly right here in my own neighborhood, now called ‘Midtown’ in its most recent incarnation, and which is now one of Detroit’s most popular and lively locations. But if you turn back the clock a decade or so, the word ‘lively’ might still apply, but the word ‘popular’ would no longer be in evidence. Back then, ‘Midtown’ was the Cass Corridor, home to a wide variety of colorful characters and activities, all mixed together in an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of desperation, perversion, hopelessness, and various competing definitions of survival. Truth be told, Cass Corridor is still just around the corner. The name may have changed, but Detroit is still Detroit, and I’m old enough to remember Cass before there was even a Corridor, so I could tell tales. And I will, but in time.
This is simply an introduction. I am the El Moore, and pleased to be your host.