January 2011: I am preparing for my first real visit to Detroit, the city of my birth. I am a Californian, where I have been since age one when my parents packed me into a car to seek fame and fortune in LA. It is strange to be defined by something unknown but when asked if I am a "native" Californian, I answer, "No, I was born in Detroit." It seems time to investigate what that means. So I have come "home" on my birthday to photograph Detroit.
This blog is part of an accompanying journal about the project.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
My parents would speak of Detroit during the war. Of the rations. Of a city where food was scare and they would travel over to Windsor, Canada for meat. Not much conversation and today, I wonder why or wonder what it was not what I was hearing. No one to tell me now.
Nevertheless, with only a few clues, I am curious about the relationship between the two cities. The two countries, touched by a river, a straight. People in Detroit today tell me of times when a small boat would simply land on the other side. Belle Isle is in the middle, easy for access even now
I made a mistake crossing back into the US border from Windsor in May by declaring when asked by US Border Patrol why I had traveled to Canada and responding that I traveled to Canada to "shoot' the Chinatowns. Luckily an agent with a sense of humor who asked how many Canadian Chinese I killed.
I am from a state, California, where the presence of another country, another people is a critical part of our culture. The Spaniards and Mexicans were here first. My parents made this history critical to my upbringing, pointing out the names of our land - Santa Monica. Palos Verdes. Los Angeles. San Bernardino. Our field trips were to the missions and my own elementary school was the third oldest in LAUSD, on historic Spanish land grant property and where we donned homemade mantillas and wide skirts in May to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. How then did the Mid-West, especially Detroit, approach, then and now, their proximity and no doubt symbiotic relationship to another country? And how does that factor into each city's existence today? I was told, unchecked, that Windsor Canada, perhaps because of its proximity and dependence upon Detroit, is one of the poorest regions of Canada.