Posted: Mar 6, 2011 10:32 pm
Thanks again to everyone for your tips and suggestions. Detroit was wonderful. I wish that I had been able to stay longer, because there were so many things that I didn't have time to do. Hopefully I'll get to go back sometime soon. I completed all of my research, which was the most important aspect of my trip. I ended up spending most of my time at the Public Library and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The staff at both of these establishments were very friendly and helpful, especially at Charles H. Wright where the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable while I was performing my research.
Unfortunately I didn't get to go to most of the record stores that I wanted to, but I did stop by UHF in Royal Oak - which was fantastic. They have an excellent selection, decent prices, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and clean records in great condition. I picked up the Psychedelic Aliens' Psycho Alien Beat LP, Child Bite/Big Bear split 7", and a back issue of Down Beat from the 60s. I also stopped by Burn Rubber while I was in Royal Oak. It's a small store but definitely worth checking out. I also made a stop at Bob's Classic Kicks on Woodward. The people there were super friendly. Anybody with a passion for sneakers should make the effort to hit them up if you get a chance.
I'm really glad that I made it to Hitsville which was awesome. I also drove past Fox Theatre, the Joe Louis fist, Hart Plaza, and traveled along the great stretches of freeway where Black Bottom and Paradise Valley used to be. I wish I could have made it to American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney, but at least I got to Athen's Coney Island in Royal Oak. I also made sure to get some chili cheese fries before leaving the city.
Thanks again to Rayultine for the tip about Real Detroit and the Metro Times. The issue of Real Detroit that I picked up had the Best Of everything in Detroit from the best bar with a patio to the best attorney.
While I was in Detroit I noticed some of the same tropes at play in that Chrysler ad: a rivalry with bigger cities like New York and Chicago; but also the spirit of determination, strength, and a will to succeed. Detroit is busted but unbowed. These tropes run counter to the overwhelmingly bad press that has surrounded the city since being named murder capital in the 80s. I haven't completed all of my research yet, but I already feel that I have learned some valuable lessons about race, class, the historical discipline, and the nature of major American cities. I learned that you can't fully understand the history of a place that you've never been to; that visiting the place that you are studying can allow you to appreciate its history on a whole new level and that living in that city opens up an even deeper level of understanding. I think that living through certain historical events can also earn oneself a unique vantage point but I don't believe that it is essential because I think that a historian can adopt a useful perspective by being personally removed from the event as well.
I also realized how complex the issues in Detroit are. It's easy to read about Coleman Young and look at Detroit's history in an idealized way that favours residents living in neighbourhoods below 8 Mile and demonizes everyone who abandoned the city, but I realized that the white suburbanites have their own side of the story which also deserves some attention.
I went to Detroit with many preconceptions, but my greatest impressions of the city were of how friendly and nice everyone I met was, and the feeling of a sense of optimism. It's all love in Detroit.
I haven't finished all the reading that I plan to for my paper, but I noted two passages that I thought people here might enjoy while reading through Coleman Young's autobiography, Hard Stuff, which isn't all that entertaining of a read but has been invaluably informative and useful for the purposes of my research.
Monday, one of the old union hands, Pete Perry, informed me that the strike had been broken while I was off satisfying my urges. "Son," he said, "the human race is perpetually involved in two separate struggles-the class struggle and the ass struggle. If you want to make a difference in this world, it's important not to get your struggles mixed up."
I've always considered it a necessity to have a new car and decent clothes. Some people might regard this as a middle-class affection, but if they do, fuck 'em.