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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Visiting a Re-Emerging City: Detroit

Hi y'all,

I know some of you who read my blog will think when you read the title, "Detroit? Who would want to visit that cesspool with crumbling buildings and a city that is bankrupt!?" Well, I was there in May and let me tell you, it's re-emerging. Yes, there are some sections that are crumbling, but there are a lot of nice areas still and there are things to do in Detroit. And since signing off on the bankruptcy deal in October; Detroit is expected to rebuild and young people are really taking advantage of that.

I put together a book for Christmas to give as gifts and I wrote the following from my trip in May:


hen I was 24 years old, for reasons I can only explain and a few people that can understand, I decided that I would move to Detroit. I had not been there yet, but as a pre-teen and young teenager I always wanted to go to meet Eminem or Twiztid or whomever and would be a famous writer there. "BECOME AN INTERN FOR THE TIGERS" or "SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT WANTED," I can still see those words of the Facebook and Indeed advertisements so vividly. I was a new college graduate and I sent my resume off and expected to say adieu to King of Prussia by the end of February.

But, there were apparently other plans as I wasn't considered at that time or never heard back. I fell into a deep depression and decided to try retail in King of Prussia for a few months to transfer to Detroit or Roseville; I had decided on Roseville because I want to do suburban living and the kind folks at said Roseville was the most transit friendly suburb. Yet, I never heard from retail in King of Prussia and decided, "I might just have to take the plunge and move."

So here I am at 24 and half sitting on a bus leaving Toledo, Ohio. After a three hour delay in Pittsburgh, I had just spent a total of twelve hours on Amtrak; I was tired, yet I was excited and I knew sleeping would be out of the question even at 8:30 in the morning. I still had the Faygo this older black woman gave to me as we entered the Toledo station.
“Welcome to Detroit Baby Girl,” the older black woman had said to me as she showed me two cans of Faygo. “Would you care for one? My husband, who is in the service, and I moved to North Carolina a while ago and our kids still in Detroit send these to us.”
“Sure, I’ve never had Faygo, but I’ve heard of it and always wanted to try it,” I reply with a smile.
“Which flavor would you like?”
“Grape, please!” She hands me the grape Faygo and I thank her. I open the tab and it’s a sweet, lightly carbonated grape drink. I love it. We started talking and I told her I was planning to move; that is what prompted the trip and of course to sight see. She smiled and told me about her children that still lived in Detroit even though she and her husband had moved to North Carolina.
Our train was an hour late and we were told we would have to wait another two hours because the bus left. As we were talking about everyday life and the joys of Amtrak travel, we heard one of the Amtrak employers announce: “Attention! Riders going to Detroit, attention! A bus came early, so we will be boarding to go to Detroit very soon.” The older woman and I both smiled—fate was on our side. Everyone around us sighed relief too—it had been a long trip and everyone was excited to get to their location. Everyone boarded the bus with great speed and with that, we exited Toledo quickly.
I put on my iPod, listened to Twiztid and sipped on my grape Faygo. I loved car and scenery watching out of the window. The sights of Upper Ohio and Michigan were breathtaking—a clear mid-May morning with the white fluffy clouds sitting in a clear blue sky. Even the trees were alive with beauty after a long, snowy winter. I was excited to see the "Welcome to Pure Michigan" sign, but the driver was going too fast to snap a picture. As "Down With Us" was flooding into my eardrums, I spot a dozen "Detroit" signs and my heart races and flutters; surprisingly through Monoxide's rapping I can hear the driver announce we're only 20 minutes away from Detroit.
I'm overjoyed now as we pass signs instructing drivers they can go to Lansing through this exit or Canada through another exit and I try taking pictures of some of these signs. I am a weird photographer at times, but I've always loved taking pictures of road signs for scrapbooking purposes. Then, lo and behold, we're stuck in traffic and I see the beautiful buildings of Detroit's landscapes. It wasn't how the media said it would look like and those who had never been to Detroit before thought it would look like, the buildings looked to be in good shape, at least when you entered into Detroit. I loved the art that welcomed commuters into the city.

I shut off my iPod and begin talking to people around me. The bus starts going again and sadly he is going too fast to snap the picture of the water tower that read "Welcome to the Motor City" in Cadillac lettering with a pretty mural of the Supremes and Motown painted onto it. I continue talking to the people around me and I'm surprised to hear this one gentleman was moving to Detroit to retire and he was happy to be here. I told him I was looking at apartments in Roseville to move. I mentioned that I am a writer and he asked if I heard about Project Write a House. I told him I had back in January, but hadn't heard any more updates. I started talking to an older woman and she just said, "I should welcome you to your new home!" She was very nice and sincere, which was a nice change.

When we exited the bus, the woman directed me how to get to some eating places and she also introduced me to her family. The family was very nice and they welcomed me as well. She told me which way to get to one bakery, but I messed up the directions. I had all intentions to the go this café people on various blogs suggested, but I stopped at Motown Coney Island instead. Although the experience was good overall, service was slow. I felt like an outsider and I suppose is why the service seemed slow. The waitress wasn’t overly friendly, but she did recommend the chicken and waffles. I ordered those with a glass of orange juice. They were good—almost tasted like the chicken and waffles I had nine months earlier at Miss Shirley’s Café in Baltimore, Maryland.
When the waitress plopped my platter in front of me, I asked her some direction questions and it was small talk since the restaurant was getting busier. The black man that was asleep next to me throughout my stay, woke up and we talked for a bit. He was friendly, although his voice was soporific. Yet, despite his drowsiness, he recommended some fun and neat places to check out around Detroit that are on the bus route, directions and where to catch DDOT on Cass Avenue. I thanked him. I paid my $10 bill and walked out the door to head to Cass Avenue to catch DDOT to Hitsville, U.S.A. or the Motown Museum.
Downtown Detroit is beautiful. The wait for the bus wasn’t long and it was only $1.50 to ride. As I rode along West Grand Boulevard to go to the Motown Museum, I was happy to see that West Grand Boulevard was nice and kept up. I will not lie and say I was expecting to see dilapidated buildings, but I didn’t see them until I arrived to Eight Mile Road to go to Roseville. When I stepped off the bus and crossed the street, I took in the scenery of Berry Gordy’s old house and where the Motown greats would have entered to record their hits “My Girl” or “Stop! In the Name of Love” and a bunch of other records that made history. As I snapped the pictures, I realized it was time to go inside and immerse myself in the history of the Motor City.

Motown is music for all, he said, white, black, blue,
green, businessmen, teachers, cops and robbers too.
I was reluctant for our music to alienate anyone

their voices in songs and debates, over airwaves, won,
giving records as gifts, their girlfriends are wooed.
He stands on the hardwood floors looking at his crew,
asking if these songs sounded like hits before bidding adieu.
Always honest; though their hunger pangs weighed a ton.
Motown is music for all, he said,
Written to be understood, as a lesson to you
instead of by others that assume and eschew,
God gave us a chance to do things we’d never done;
reaching dreams through multiple number ones,
smiling, his dream and ambitious breakthrough—
Motown is music for all people, he said.

You can't base your life on other people's expectations. -Stevie Wonder

Of course, this is only the beginning. I was amazed by Hitsville, U.S.A., now the Motown Museum, where Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and all the Motown greats recorded. Sadly you are prohibited from taking pictures inside the museum, but the experiences are good enough. We were taken around the whole museum - we saw the outfits, the records, the office and of course we went into the recording studio where we sang "My Girl" much like the Temptations did (okay, we weren't that good...). It's $12 and the museum is opened Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am - 6 pm. You don't need reservations (thank goodness, when I went... I was getting off of Amtrak from a 17 hour trip... I was looking grungy and tired; they held my bags for me... they do have a coat check!), but the last tour is at 5 pm. Hitsville, U.S.A. is a must.

I also went to the Detroit Zoo and had an amazing time! Opened daily from 10 am - 4 pm from November 1 to March 31 and 9 am- 5 pm April 1 to Labor Day (10 am - 5 pm from Labor Day until October 31), the zoo is also opened rain or shine. I paid $26 for my ticket and $10 extra for some perks like the merry-go-round, the train that goes around the Zoo and other things the Zoo offers. You definitely need a few hours here because there are so many things to do. I loved going through the Australia exhibit, where I was greeted by many friendly kangaroos. The monkeys and walking the many trails that could get you lost in the Zoo, was also a great time. I wouldn't mind getting lost there - being secluded by trees and ponds, it was gorgeous!

Sadly, I didn't have time to see a Tigers game at Comerica Park (when I go back, I want to see), but that is recommended as well as the Henry Ford Museum, Greek Town, and the Downtown Area. The Downtown Area has something called the Detroit Mover, which is really neat. Most of the good restaurants like Slow's, SocraTea, Seva Detroit (vegan restaurant) and the eclectic tastes are found between Downtown and Midtown in Detroit. Prices vary, but most of the prices are affordable.You can also go to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is a 10-15 minute commute.

Since Detroit is called the Motor City most assume you MUST drive there. Although it's true for some areas, DDOT is reliable and it gets you to most tourist locations. DDOT is $1.50 to ride; $2 if you want to go into the suburbs. There are two bus lines: DDOT for Detroit and SMART for the suburbs. The way it works is up until 3pm, SMART only goes to 8 Mile Road. You'll have to get out at 8 Mile and then catch DDOT into the city limits. After 3 pm and until a certain time, SMART will go into Detroit. Other than that, DDOT and SMART are reliable; they're pretty much like public transportation in any city and metropolitan areas.

I would definitely recommend taking a few days to check out a re-emerging city. It has a lot to offer!


  1. Replies
    1. I guess I'm called free-spirited for a reason. :D Tomorrow I'm writing about Milwaukee.