Archive for June, 2007

Wow…I thought I was down on this place…

I know this is older but man these people really hate Detroit. I can’t say I blame them. The things people often use to say Detroit’s “not so bad” aren’t all that impressive.

Trying to be positive…

After two rants, I had decided to try to be a little more positive. I don’t want to be that person. There are some things I do like here, beyond the usual family and friends (those that haven’t already left that is). Detroit has some great events that take place every summer including, but not limited to:

The Detroit Festival of the Arts has passed. It was June 8th through the 10th. Located in Mid Town, near WSU, the DIA, and CCS, it’s always got an interesting and eclectic line up of local and international musicians. When the weather is good, it’s probably one of the best events in Detroit (in my humble opinion).

Comerica CityFest (formerly TasteFest) is held July 4th through the 8th in the New Center area. With four stages and some major acts (at past festivals: Wilco, Jet, Carl Craig, etc.), this is often my favorite venue for live music in Detroit. Not much beats the atmosphere at the stage next at Lothrup and Second, this year called the Pure Detroit stage. Late at night with great, live, electronica, street dancing (break dancing), and an always interesting, large, mix of people, makes for a great night.

The Concert of Colors, taking place at the Max M Fisher Music Center, July 19th through the 22nd, has both indoor and outdoor stages. It used to be held at Chene Park, overlooking the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario, which was spectacular on nice evenings. The newer venue is good, but doesn’t quite have the same atmosphere. The line up, however, is as good as ever. One band I’m interested to check out is Fiamma Fumana, a group from Italy that I saw at the Festival of the Arts several years ago. The four members put on an interesting performance, mixing electronica, Italian folk, and traditional instruments. Great live, then, and hopefully now as well.

Arts, Beats and Eats isn’t actually in Detroit, or really even near Detroit, but it’s in the Metro area, so I guess it counts. Taking place over the Labor Day weekend, this festival always has a good mix of music, and a pretty decent art fair as well. It’s always absolutely packed, and sometimes the heat is absolutely un-bearable, though it doesn’t seem to stop anyone from coming. It’s also almost impossible to park anywhere nearby for less than $10 anymore (in the early years it was always easy to find close by free parking). In the past I’ve seen great shows by groups such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and the Twistin’ Tarantulas.

Of course there’s a lot of other things going on in the area (Dalley in the Alley, hydro-plane races, etc.), but these events are certainly some of my personal favorites.

Chicago

I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago for an extended weekend. Chicago is an incredible city. I always become depressed upon returning to Metro Detroit.

At one point Detroit was called “Paris of the West” for its architecture. Apparently, at some point in time, Detroit had one of, if not the largest number of pre 20s or 30s skyscrapers. I say at one point, because apparently we knocked to many down to still retain this distinction. Even though Detroit was called “Paris of the West”, Chicago surpassed Detroit in terms of population back in 1850. As of the 2000 census Chicago had more than three times as many people as Detroit. Not that population is a measure of how good a city is. I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon, and Madison, Wisconsin. Both have a lot more going for them than Detroit does.

My time in Chicago was mostly spent working about a mile and a half from the hotel. Although I did get around to check out my favorite places. Without a car it was no problem to go to the waterfront, hundreds (maybe thousands) of restaurant, MOMA, the Merchandise Mart, stores, and coffee shops. In fact all of this was done on foot. The only time motorized transportation was used was to get to and from the airport, which could be done by taxi, bus, or the “L”.

On Saturday night we watched the free fireworks show from our hotel. Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer, Navy Pier hosts a pretty decent fireworks show. The Chicago Blues Festival was taking place a short walk away at Grant Park. 800,000 showed up for the festival.

The lake shore path was packed with runners, roller-bladers, and cyclists of all ages and abilities. The water was filled with sail boats, power boats, and cruise boats. Swimmers were in the lake, the beaches were filled with people having picnics, playing volley ball, Frisbee, and of course laying out.

The sidewalks were filled with people walking to jobs, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, while cyclists were riding everywhere. Bicycle couriers were making their rounds. Restaurants all over the place have outdoor seating.

Is it any wonder that one might come home to Detroit a little depressed?

On a good note, Justin Verlander pitched a no hitter for the Tigers. Not that that makes up for any of the other stuff I just mentioned that Detroit lacks. I just had to come up with something.

First post

Well…what do you put in a first post on a site that you know will not be read by anyone anytime soon?

My family is sick and tired of my ranting about the state of Detroit, and Michigan. They are Sick of hearing me complain about what is, or more often, isn’t being done to make Michigan, and Detroit in particular a better place to live and work. I’ve been stating my belief that there couldn’t be a much worse place to live than Michigan. That the people, the companies, and the government are not progressive at all. Michigan’s quality of life is definitely lacking, to say the least. Mass transit? Right… Bicycling, or exercise of any kind? Yeah, you can do it…at your own risk. Walkable neighborhoods? Um…yeah…we have cars. Why would we walk?

Obviously my problem is not necessarily with the location. I like the lakes. The weather could be better, but truth is most places could have better weather. Most of the time it’s too hot, too cold, or too humid anywhere in the country, with few exceptions. No my problem is with an overall mindset.

Yes I’m generalizing, but I find it tough to meet people with similar desires for a decent quality of life (or even a similar definition of a good quality of life…mine doesn’t include good pro sports teams, strip malls, or mc mansions). I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon, Madison, Wisconsin, and Colorado. All had great livable communities, with recreational opportunities, parks, inhabitable downtowns, and progressive, forward thinking people.

Is it wrong to want that? Perhaps if we did fix that mentality, and put more emphasis on making Michigan and Detroit great places to live, more people, and more companies, would like to live here. I don’t think…actually I know, our problems, as great as they are are not caused by bad tax policy, but by the fact that young creative, risk taking individuals ( the type we want and need here) do not want to be here period. They start companies and don’t usually take into account the areas tax policies. If they did California and New York would be in our position, and everyone would want to move to Alabama. Our problems are also not insurmountable, but they require a complete change in our collective thinking.

So, you may say, why don’t you move then? Well, I might, but I’m here now, and my family is here. So are many of my friends. My business is here too. Also, I’ve discovered that there are worse places to live, and many of them. I want to make the most of where I live, but it sure is hard.