Thursday, April 14, 2011

Detroit Wrap-up

This week I've been writing about my travels in and around the Motor City, and I've used these posts to inspire conversations with my students about a range of topics: the transformation of America's cities, the intersection of scholarship and tourism, and the role of academic inquiry beyond the Ivory Tower. Monday introduced a video about Detroit ruins, Tuesday featured the Michigan Central Station, and Wednesday focused on the Heidelberg Project. Today I thought I'd wrap this blog series up with some images and memories that don't fit into any particular narrative.

I begin at Johnson's service station on Junction and Kopernick, a jaunty deco burst of auto-enthusiasm set in a sea of dreary red brick. This place recalls the pleasure of chance discovery that happens when I allow myself to get lost in a city. Right turn, left turn, right turn, random direction - and repeat. And suddenly I'm looking up at this white tower, its ersatz battlements and chevron runes meant to evoke a stylized version of the past. Today Johnson's is a cheerful thumbs-up to the motorist who doesn't have time to read architecture any more deeply than a passing glance. Take pictures soon; you never know how long it'll look this good.

Later on, as I'm taking US 12 west out of town, I come across this sign for Yellow Tigers Karate School. Actually this is my second visit. The previous day I'd stopped to take a picture, but kids were coming and going - and parents were waiting with the anxious, focused eyes of folks who know that a few lessons in karate are little protection against these streets. Taking pictures near their kids is a pretty stupid idea. So I abandon my plan, only to return the next day. The light is lousy and I must cross a Frogger-maze of fast moving cars to get here, but I will snap a shot of this badass dude bringing some righteous thunder on a truck because, well, because he can! No way I'm passing this place up twice.

Finally there's Miller's bar in nearby Dearborn. I recently read that Miller's serves one of the best hamburgers in America. And since I can't load up on Slow's Bar B Q [their spelling, not mine] for every meal, I figure I ought to check the place out. Now in case there's any confusion, Miller's is a bar that happens to serve some of the best burgers in the nation. Yep, there's a grill and there's the steam of patties lovingly pressed, but not too hard. So I savor a Pabst and wait. A few minutes later the bartender plops down a doorstop of meat that's packed in a hearty but otherwise unobtrusive bun. No special spices, no gimmicky sides in this joint. Just good meat. Thank goodness they don't charge by the napkin because this is a wet ride. It'll take days to unclog my motor after this visit.

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