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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Year-end Impressions/DayTHREE: Notwithstanding, there is always beauty

Street Scene/Fall in Indian Village

Much of what I have experienced so far in Detroit is the greater downtown area. At times life there seems vacant except for festivals but it is also is where the larger surge for commercial and residential renewal is happening.

Within Downtown and slightly farther out are also the historic Detroit neighborhoods. The suburbs. Still in Detroit although I continue to be amazed by those who do not consider themselves part of "Detroit," when they are. The names are intriguing (NOT in any geographical order here): Indian Village, Grosse Point, Northwest, Southwest, Eastside, NW Goldberg, Corktown. Mexican Town, Hamtramek. Boston Edison, Palmer Woods, Brush Park, Eastern Market, New Center, Midtown and Downtown.

I've traveled many of the above and probably others when I didn't even know where I was. Some sound like a developer's romantic dream. Others representative of an earlier pragmatism.

What I've found so far: there remains character to each community as it evolves over the decades, often into something else. Boston Edison is lovely, a quick left off Woodward just short of Highland Park (also a community but a separate city) on a drive north, with resplendent trees and lovely grounds. Or almost for the hints are there of a future that presently does not foretell as much hope as before. Similar to parts of Manhattan in the '70s: one block is perfect, the next not so safely traveled.

That said, I am in awe of the houses and the communities. In Lafayette Park, Mies Van der Rohe designed the most beautiful townhouses. Cranbrook Academy further out enticed world class architects and designers who left their mark on the city, visible if only one looks for it, mixed in with signs of wealth and culture of an earlier age but, in many districts even still beautifully respected and kept up by new classes and cultures. In Palmer Woods, a mixed racially, culturally and beautiful suburb with community gathering together for music, for support and culture.

Palmer Woods, above Seven Mile

Eastern Market and Midtown are lofts rivaling some of those in New York. In Corktown and elsewhere is energy and life - Slows BBQ! - reminding me of early Soho in the 80s. In Brush Park, many beautiful homes in dis-array BUT many also in renovation where the unattended gardens fight back themselves and demand a beauty uplift.

Brush Park, Spring

In the Northwest, the site of my original family home, there is community and neighborhood.

I feel the pull of an urban/suburban city. A place with a vibrancy yet to discover in anticipated visits. Perhaps even a new home in this mid-west milieu that doesn't yet resonate with me, a child of the Southern California beach, with its reputed "mid-west values" and industrial strangeness. Yet one that all of me wants to further explore.

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