Never mind what Thomas Wolfe wrote, lately I’ve been somewhat preoccupied thinking about whether you can go home again. More specifically, whether I can. It’s not revisiting childhood memories or the influence of hazy, romanticized images from my youth that prompt my consideration.
It’s not family ties, either, as they’ve all gone. Not surprising, as hundreds of thousands of people have also packed up and left since I was born there. It’s my understanding that whole swaths of my hometown have essentially been abandoned. Services are sparse; once sound buildings and neighborhoods are now rotting and in shambles.
Detroit. I’m from Detroit. When I was born there, it was a major league city. Only New York, Chicago, Philly and LA were larger. Maybe it wasn’t as classy as those towns, but it was big and brazen and open 24/7 before that phrase was even coined. A trip to another country was just a short tunnel ride away. (And south–you have to go south from Detroit to get to Canada, a fact we kids delighted in knowing and showing off to non-Michiganders.)
Maybe I would have been a tomboy if I’d been born somewhere else, but the sports teams of Detroit had a hand in my development. Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, Pistons: I saw them all when lucky enough to land a ticket and followed their feats daily in the pages of the Free Press (we were not a Detroit News family). I’ll never forget seeing the green of the Tiger Stadium infield for the first time as we entered on the 1st base side, me straining to see if Al Kaline had taken up his spot beyond, in right field. And like every Tiger fan, I learned the inside of the game from listening to Ernie on the radio.
Detroit Public Schools not only taught us kids the basics, but insured we got a little culture along the way as well. They sent me to the Detroit Symphony Young People’s Concerts and to art lessons at the Detroit Institute of Arts. There, I was stunned by the Diego Rivera murals and stood in front of my first Van Gogh, staring at the thick brushstrokes in oil that made me know the importance of seeing an original.
While Detroit is a big part of me, I don’t talk about it much. Part of it hurts. I’m sad over what’s happened to it, what’s it been through, and what’s lost. America seems to have turned it back on Detroit. But then again, so it seems, have I.
Time for that to change, wouldn’t you say? I’m not talking about big, ‘move back to help rebuild the city’ type change. This is more of the ‘time to grow up and take back part of your lost self’ baby-steps kind of progress. About 46,000 of them or so.
In less than a week, the Freep Detroit Marathon opens registration for the 2016 running in October. I’m thinking it’s the best way for me to go home and reacquainted with my city. You can check it out here: Detroit Marathon The tagline is: “Detroit is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Yes; that fits.
Wish me luck?