Today 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.
Countless 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?”