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11:07 am: Detroit

I had the opportunity (ha!) to spend a few days at my grandfather’s house in Detroit this week. He’s been dead for years, and the care of the property has fallen to me. The house is a two family brick structure with independent street numbers. Three bedrooms, a dining room, a living room and a kitchen on each level. Current assessed value, according to the city, is $24,000. Salable market value is less. Comparables in the area have been going the last couple of years for $10k. It’s near 7 mile and Woodward. Check it out on google maps. If, in the satellite imagery, you see a car parked on the street, odds are good that it’s worth more than most of the houses.

This is the next block over, last summer:

This is one of the worst neighborhoods, in one of the most blighted cities in the country. Unlike Flint, Detroit clings to life. A dense urban art and cultural scene has sprung up. In its defense, I did see a couple of police cars while I was there. That’s new. Also, the mayor is not currently indicted. That’s good too. Just a couple miles up the road, Royal Oak is flourishing.

I talked with a shopkeeper who sold me some truly awesome t-shirts. He commented that Detroit needs to turn from an “industry,” back into a “community.” I sorta like the image.

I have a tenant. She’s a member of a community of Catholic nuns – living a life of service in the city. I treasure the opportunity to interact with them, and to occasionally do something worthwhile for them. I treasure it so much that I can usually shut my eyes and not worry too much about the rent. This time, I was able to get a little basic home repair done. I fixed an electrical circuit – bringing the basement lights back online. As I was doing the work, I had strong flashes that the most immediate translation of “Lucifer” is “Light Bringer.” There I was, in some sort of urban hell, playing Prometheus to the clergy. You can’t make this stuff up.

In the evenings, I slept in the bed that was my mother’s when she was a little girl. In the summertime, with the windows open, I’ve heard gunfire through those windows. Out back is the tree under which my parents got married. This time of year, I shivered and turned up the space heater. The furnace for the upstairs unit is off for the duration – and I have no interest in the adventure of getting it fired up.

While I was doing my repairs, I realized that I needed a common electrical component. I had already been to the hardware store (a good 20 minute trip each way), so I went back into my grandfather’s little workshop, dug around in the drawer labeled “electrical, small.” I found what I needed and I got the lights on before I had to catch my plane. Thanks grandpa. He, at least, left a well organized mess for me to deal with. I guess it’s better than the alternative.

Life is an adventure, to be lived to the fullest. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.


[User Picture]
Date:March 12th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
This is a lovely start to a non-fiction "story." Dense with interesting facts, light on analysis; the insights are embedded in the details.

Just observing.
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