by John Corvino
Okay–it’s time for my annual “Stop whining about Detroit” column.
You know who you are. You just went on vacation in (pick one:) Chicago/Toronto/New York. You thought everything there was SO COOL. And now you’re depressed to be back.
I’m here to tell you to get over it. Detroit has its challenges, to be sure, but one of them is attitude, and your negativity isn’t helping matters.
Let’s start with a few simple points:
Yes, Chicago, Toronto and New York are cool. That’s why you decided to go on vacation there. They have a number of things that Detroit doesn’t.
But keep in mind that you were on VACATION there. People who actually live there have to work and pay bills and deal with their own set of local problems, too.
Also keep in mind that if you lived there, you might not have quite as much money to spend going on vacation. A friend of mine lives in Chelsea, Manhattan. He spends about $1200 a month for an apartment the size of my vestibule. And my vestibule has better natural light. I am not exaggerating.
Maybe it’s because Detroit once rivaled Chicago/Toronto/New York in economic power that locals feel the incessant need to compare it to those places. Pick three of the best cities on the continent, and most cities are going to pale by comparison. But we actually come a good bit closer than some. One day, try comparing Detroit to Boise, South Bend, or Waco (though I’m sure they have their charms, too).
Better, yet, stop comparing Detroit to other places and start appreciating it for its own sake.
A sign along Woodward advertises “the only Miami-style nightclub in Michigan.” What does that mean? That the drinks are overpriced? That the patrons use too much self-tanner?
Here’s an idea: how about a DETROIT-style nightclub in Michigan? That would be cool.
The “grass is greener” attitude infects everything. A few weeks ago, I was getting my hair cut. The guy in the barber chair next to me had just returned from Chicago, and he griped, “Detroit’s starting to realize that it’s less Chicago and more Cleveland.”
I don’t think it’s either. I think it has its own unique charms. And I say this as someone who has lived in, as well as visited, many nice places. I grew up in New York (mostly Long Island, a short train ride to Manhattan). I did my graduate work in Austin, Texas, which consistently ranks in lists of “Top Cities in Which to Live.”
But I happen to like Detroit.
I like its rich history, its grand architecture, its ethnic diversity, its indomitable spirit. I like its manageable size and its reasonable cost of living.
I like its seasons, even as the weather gives us constant surprises. The winter perma-cloud used to get me down. Now I find its annual reappearance comforting, though I also take delight in the bright sunshine that occasionally breaks it.
I like the fact that, despite some marvelous recent downtown development, much of the city-proper feels raw and unedited. Pre-packaged cities bore me. Some of our suburban downtowns are beginning to feel like overgrown shopping-mall food courts (I won’t name names).
And yes, I like being a gay man here. True, we don’t have Boystown, Church Street, or Chelsea. If you want to meet other gay Detroiters, you have to put a little effort into networking. But the resulting connections have greater depth and strength than those more easily found.
Besides, the less obvious gay subculture means more freedom to carve out one’s way. Live where you want, wear what you want, do what you want. As a gay man, you can even eat carbs here! Try consuming a cookie in West Hollywood sometime.
I once commented to a fellow Detroiter that our region has many assets, if only one is willing to look. He responded, “Yeah, but it’s like shopping at Value City: occasionally you find something cool, but you have to slog through a bunch of crap first.”
He meant this analogy as a criticism, but I thought it actually captured some of Detroit’s charm: Detroit is gritty and unpretentious, but it can offer great value if you’re willing to put in the effort. Enjoy it for what it is, or work to make it better.
Please save the date: on Thursday evening, July 26, I’m going to be presenting my lecture “What’s Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?” at Wayne State University. This time, it’s going to be professionally recorded for a marketable DVD, so I’m hoping for a huge live audience. It’s free and open to the public, at 7 p.m. in General Lectures 100 (northwest corner of Warren Ave. and Anthony Wayne Dr.). Bring friends!