12 March 2010
My hometown makes the newspapers yet again
The last time, it was the Economist, in a surprisingly positive piece titled Detroit's emptiness: The art of abandonment. Yesterday it was the Guardian with Detroit: the last days.
"Terminal decline": an apparently fascinating subject. But when I was growing up, in the 1970s, people spoke of a Detroit "renaissance." My parents took me downtown to see the Renaissance Center when it was first built, in a rare trip into the city (we lived in the suburbs; as far as I know my mother has never willingly crossed the city line – the famous 8 Mile Road – since 1967). The "RenCen," to me, was the height of sophistication: it had shops, an indoor waterfall, glass-walled elevators, a rotating rooftop restaurant. In between the shops and the rooftop restaurant were hundreds of offices, full of great views for all the Vice Presidents, Senior Partners, and assorted Head Honchos (Head Honchoes?). One 4th of July I watched the annual fireworks from up there. When we came back home from dinners out in Windsor, Ontario (where we often went to eat at the Old Fish Market), the RenCen dominated the city's skyline. Remember the film with Harrison Ford based on a book by Scott Turow – "Presumed Innocent," maybe? There are a couple of good shots of the RenCen in that film.
However, I don't really think Detroit ever had a "renaissance." It kept itself going, somehow. But the run-down wig shops on Woodward Avenue, next to the empty bulk of the old flagship Hudson's department store, said it all....
The Guardian piece is really just an ad for a film, Requiem for Detroit? (the question mark is part of it), directed by the author. It was commissioned by the BBC and will be shown on BBC2 this Saturday evening.