Derelict Detroit (V)

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How The Hell Did This Happen?

IMG_5131Today we took a drive down Woodward Avenue, from Russell’s place in Pontiac all the way down to downtown Detroit.  It is a breath-taking trip that takes you deep into the dark and disturbing heart of urban decay.

Woodward is an eight-lane boulevard that rolls through tony suburbs like Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham.  At one point the road crosses over a highway and enters Detroit proper, and the landscape changes.

IMG_5177Countless structures along this major road are graffiti-covered, burnt-out, gutted, weed-grown, collapsing.  It is riveting and immensely powerful and jaw-dropping, all at the same time.  You can’t help but reflect on the loss of wealth and the loss of hope that accompanied this slow-moving, terrible disaster.

As the miles rolled by and the sad vistas passed, I had one simple thought:  “How the hell did this happen?”  Was it the hubris of the domestic auto industry?  Was it political corruption and incompetent local government?  Was it poorly conceived “urban renewal” projects that took money away from places where it could have made a difference?  Or was it just titanic economic forces that decreed that once-mighty and wealthy Detroit was due for a fall?

I’ll post more pictures about our journey down Woodward Avenue this afternoon and tonight.  But still I wonder:  “How the hell did this happen?”

Back Out

Yesterday morning I woke up in the accustomed 4:30 a.m. time frame, yawned with catlike pleasure, rolled over to get out of bed — and felt a hot, stabbing pain in my lower back.

It’s weird when you go abruptly from pain-free to painful.  It’s almost like being in a dream that suddenly turns into a nightmare.   You wonder what you did to suddenly make your spine and back muscles so uncooperative.  Was it a sudden twist as you rolled over to put your feet on the floor?  Was it some kind of unusual physical exertion the day before?

Whatever the reason, it’s your fault somehow, and you’ve just got to deal with it.  I’ve had back problems before, so the coping patterns are familiar.  You move gingerly hoping not to experience that crippling flash, and you walk in a slightly hunched over, zombie-like way, and you pray that whatever happened goes away without too much time or trouble.

It’s an incident that also is a helpful reminder.  Those of us who are lucky enough to have moderately good health can’t really appreciate what it is like to live with constant pain.  I’m grateful that this happens only once in a great while.