Downtown Detroit

September 9, 2011

A quick plug: My first public speaking gig is now less than two weeks away!  I created a “See Me at Whole Foods” link at the top of the page that has all the details.  So click on it, and RSVP.  I wanna see you there!

I have strong feelings about the city of Detroit.  While I’ve never considered myself a Detroiter, as I’ve never lived within the city limits, it’s always been there, not that far from my childhood home in one of its northwest suburbs.  It’s a major American city with a long and rich history (it’s the oldest city in the Midwest – founded over 100 years before Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee) that has given the world everything from mass-produced automobiles to Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross to the ice cream soda.  The first regular radio reports were broadcast from Detroit, and Detroit was home to the first paved road, the first tri-colored stoplight, and the first urban freeway.

You don’t hear many good things about Detroit in the news; it has a pretty bad rap.  Detroit has plenty of huge problems, and people tend to say plenty of terrible things about it.  I’m not one of them.  I like to think that Detroit will, one of these days, get out of the slump it’s been in for past 40 or so years, and rise again as a place where people will want to live and want to visit.

It’s easy for me to be positive – I live 2,000 miles away, unexposed to the crumbling infrastructure, the poverty, the rampant unemployment.  I just don’t think that being negative is very productive or helpful.  I have fond memories of Detroit from my childhood, and have heard many more wonderful stories from my father, who grew up there.  You may think me naive or unrealistic, but I think the city has a lot of potential, and I will always root for it.

My attitude towards Detroit are best reflected in this 1985 television commercial produced by the local ABC affiliate.  It’s dated and super-cheesy now, but it used to air all the time, and I remember loving it as a kid.  And since I’m sharing local commercials from the ’80s, check out this one for the Detroit Zoo, which is one of my favorite commercials of all time.

Thank you for indulging me in my little pro-Detroit rant.  It’s been on my mind because yesterday I headed downtown to meet up with a buddy for lunch.  Matt is a friend from high school who lived in Los Angeles after college, then moved back to Michigan with his wife and started a family.  He’s the author behind The Dad Scene, a funny and smart blog chronicling his experiences as a first-time father.  Matt is a tremendous writer, so you should definitely check it his blogno, really, check it out.

Matt works at Compuware, a software company that moved their world headquarters to Detroit about 8 years ago.  Their building has an impressive atrium that rises up 16 stories, and that’s where I met Matt:

We apparently just missed a doggie fashion show in the atrium that wrapped up minutes before we got there.  I hate when that happens.

Here’s the both of us:

For lunch, we headed a few blocks away to Vicente, a Cuban place that Matt likes. 

I’ve had Cuban dishes before, at restaurants that featured cuisine from across Latin America, but this might have been my first visit to a full-fledged Cuban restaurant.  Everything on the menu sounded good, but I settled on the Pan con Bistec, a pressed sandwich with skirt steak, swiss cheese, grilled onions, mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  I considered having them hold the cheese and mayo, but decided that since I eat Cuban food so rarely, I should enjoy it as it’s intended.  My sandwich (with a side of plantain chips):

Matt’s sandwich was similar, but with chicken:

I love a pressed sandwich.  They’re dense and flavorful, and this sandwich was fantastic.  It was also huge, and both of us ended up eating only half.  We boxed up the other halves to take with us, but as we walked back to Matt’s office, we were approached by two homeless women who asked if we’d consider sharing, so we gave the food to them.

After I parted ways with Matt, I did something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I rode the People Mover.  The Detroit People Mover is a rather silly example of mass transit.  It’s a 3-mile-long monorail that encircles downtown Detroit and doesn’t really go anywhere.  No stop is more than 10 blocks from any other stop, so it’s not very efficient for commuters, but for someone like me who just wanted to see a little more of the city, it was perfect.  Here comes a train now!

I took some pictures from the monorail’s windows (it was gray and rainy, so they’re not great).  Here’s Woodward Avenue, which extends from the heart of downtown all the way out to my neck of the suburbs:

The old Wayne County Building:

The skyline, looking east from Joe Louis Arena (where the Red Wings play).  The towers on the right are the Renaissance Center, which I’ve blogged about numerous times before (most notably here and here, and it’s featured in my Skyscraper Collection):

I like that picture because you can see raindrops in it.

Time to get international!  This is a picture of a totally different country – it’s the skyline of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is directly across the river from Detroit.  I took this picture specifically for my trainer Craig, who grew up outside Windsor and asked that I say hello to it on this trip.  Hello, Windsor!

Finally, one of Detroit’s most famous landmarks, the 8,000-pound statue that honors Detroit resident Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937-49:

OK – bedtime for me.  Gotta hit the gym in the morning!

Keep it up, David!


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