Monday, October 18, 2010

Detroit Breakdown

David Byrne of the band I so wish would reunite, Talking Heads, has a terrific blog that he updates regularly with well-written essays on topics like the end of news and street level travelogues, illustrated with his own photography. A recent post in particular enthralled me, from his bicycle ride through that bizarre post-city that was once a thriving, bustling, roaring metropolis, Detroit.

The grand, empty buildings, the huge movie palace gutted and turned into a parking garage, the remnants of the Packard plant, the missing buildings -- this is what happens when a one-industry city loses that industry and half its population including all of its affluent.

It's a ghost town of sorts, and credit Byrne for riding through. A selection from his prose (and the photos are haunting):

One passes by massive abandoned condos and apartment buildings. In New York City these days we see empty condos—shiny victims of the boom and subsequent crash—symbols of the bubble and its craziness. But these buildings are different. Some of them are at least 50 years old, some are grand and elegant, and they tend to look as if everyone just left one day, walked out (kicked out more likely) and now the wind blows through the glassless windows. Why are all the windows gone?

In another universe these empty apartments would be offered to the destitute and the homeless as cheap housing. But in a city where more than half the population has left, maybe there just aren’t enough bodies to fill these things anymore.

In one neighborhood I came across a flock of pheasants, calmly grazing on seeds in the fields between houses. In some places these would be hunted for sport or food. A local artist has a line of T-shirts featuring Detroit wildlife. I heard that a dad was about to take his kid hunting on the upper peninsula (UP) where they would encounter wildlife, but the kid’s first glimpse of a pheasant was in central Detroit.

There's some good points
Some bad points
But it all works out
Sometimes I'm a little freaked out
Find a city
Find myself a city to live in...

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