Detroit Death City

Detroit is dead.

Long live Detroit.


There she is, just past the dying belches of the River Rouge, full of dust, death, glory, and concrete. Detroit. Your temples of wealth, viewed from the chain-link fence of the overpass, never fail to inspire. (Edited. Original photo by Bobby P.)

At 80 MPH on I-75, the looming skyline of Detroit glows with promise. A mishmash of quasi-religious Art Deco skyscrapers and geometric, functionally perfect ’60s edifices, it represents the dreams of a bygone America. A country built to last forever and tragically outdated only a few decades later.

Welcome to the Motor City, the home of planned obsolescence.

A city where implosion and bankruptcy is progress

A city where complete failure is an opportunity for reinvention.

A city strewn with the dead, the final battleground of those that foolishly assumed corporations and governments were beholden to will of the people.

Yes, I’ve read, watched, and even taken part in the positive story of Detroit’s renaissance. Buildings, once empty and forgotten, now serve up crepes and BBQ. Historic neighborhoods all but forgotten bloom with life. Quicken Loans moved downtown, offered my mom a job to hawk loans.

We like the happy stories, the stuff that tell us we don’t have to change, that it all works out in the end.

Hey, I don’t doubt that Detroit has a bright future as a small urban theme park. The bombs of disinvestment dropped on the Detroit front for decades by the powers that be have cleared the way for the tanks of the erstwhile hipster. Well-trained and well-oiled, the hipsters are planting their flags of novel homogeneity upon the ruins as you read this.


If bricks could talk. What promise does the future hold? (Edited. Photo by Bob Jagendorf.)

In normal, working class neighborhoods like Mexicantown, however, population is down, crime up. The Mexican community inches west and down the river, to the suburbs. Some leave with a fight. Others, with relief. And that’s happening all over Detroit.

It’ a city of industry with no industry. To stay is to cling to mythology. I hate to personify cities, but Detroit – more than anywhere else – suffers from a messianic complex. People scavenge among the ruins for places, feelings, and ideas they can reassemble into self-confirming worlds of their own device. In order, I suppose, to save the city.

The Motor City, the industrial giant overflowing with homes and bars and bowling alleys, where every able-bodied man works on the line, is gone forever, buried under 8 lane monstrosities of progress. In its place is a brave new Detroit. Empty lots and dilapidated homes await modern redevelopment or a new lease on life as valuable “greenspace”.

The rest of the country shakes it collective head at Detroit. Why weren’t they smart like us? Why can’t they move on? Nowhere else does our old way of life look more forlorn, more antiquated, and more uneconomical. A new loft made out of prefabricated materials stands in stark contrast to old brick and crumbling concrete.

Detroit is dead.

Long live Detroit.


(Edited. Photo by Nitram242.)


2 thoughts on “Detroit Death City

  1. Damn, George, this is a scathing take on the city that you’ve spent so much time in and around.

    That’s not so say I don’t mostly agree with it.

  2. Growing up, I didn’t travel much to other states. And when I did, it was to the suburb of another city or a far off, exotic locale. Or it was a one day affair. I lacked the proper context to frame Detroit. Hell, until I owned a car, I’d barely even seen Detroit! Just the 8 Mile area and the sports venues.

    As I’ve traveled across the country, it’s really soured me on Detroit. It’s certainly an “interesting” city, but living there, I couldn’t help but think we’d all be better off if it was a real city. It’s downfall was a travesty, as it was so easily preventable. Detroit was destroyed by racial animosity and shortsighted materialism, not deindustrialization.

    To me, deindustrialization is biggest red herring in the Detroit story. Yes, as an industrial city, Detroit was bound to take a hit. But to be wiped off the map almost, despite being the center of a metropolitan area of over 4 million people? There’s just something rotten about the Midwest. The South Side of Chicago, for example, has been fucked and pockmarked since the Great Depression! These problems go way back.

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