Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's hear it for Detroit.

(Is the title of this post a play on Deniece Williams' song, "Let's Hear It For The Boy"? Only time will tell, I suppose.)

I have a weird history with the city of Detroit. The town in which I grew up was a 90-minute drive from the Motor City, but a 3-hour drive from Toronto... we always watched Detroit TV stations because the Canadian stations were too lame; we zipped over to Tiger Stadium for games instead of going all that way down the 401; we Sunday-shopped in Port Huron even before you could Sunday-shop in Ontario. I've followed Detroit sports teams all my life, for better or (usually much, much) worse. And I'm a big fan of Motown.

...and not just the record company.

If you could make a fragrance called "Essence of Detroit," it'd smell like a mixture of 30-weight engine oil, the Supremes' hair relaxer, and whatever's dripping from Ted Nugent's crossbow — a quirky yet admirable mix, not something you'd necessarily call pleasant, and as quintessentially all-American as you can get. (I say this, of course, as a fiercely-proud Canadian.)

My family's always been pretty blue-collar. My dad's a retired pipefitter, my brother's a factory worker, and there are plenty of farmers to go around. I'm the odd one who went off and went to school and eventually to the big city, so I'm obviously viewed with a little curiosity whenever I re-make old acquaintances. So the saying goes, "You can take the boy out of the country, you can't take the country out of the boy" — well, I'd argue that the same holds true for an appreciation for the kinds of people who use their hands to make stuff. Useful stuff like cars, steel, wheat and corn, and not suspect stuff like, oh, let's say, I dunno, sub-prime mortgages.

I guess that's part of the reason I've always admired the whole idea of Detroit, even if good chunks of the place don't look too nice these days. The Big 3 are a mess these days, and Detroit's historically been a one-industry town. However, if there's one thing Detroiters are good at, as Mitch Albom says, it's figuring out a way to survive through tough times.

(Seriously, read that article; I know there's a focus on sports, but hey, it's from Sports Illustrated. What were you expecting, knitting?)

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