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Monday, June 27, 2005

Conference in Detroit: Day 2

I may have spoken too soon yesterday when I said Detroit isn't as ghetto as I thought it would be. It would seem that the conference hotel where I'm staying is located in the General Motors headquarters building, the pride and joy of this city. As such, the city and the owners of this building have made visible efforts to separate us from the "ghettoness" of the city itself by placing guards everywhere around the perimeter of the building. When I wrote my entry yesterday, I had only seen the Renaissance Centre--which is essentially a monument to the (now-faded) prowess of GM--and did not fully grasp the magnitude of this city's "character".

My real introduction to Detroit was made last night after the conference festivities concluded and our lab went for dinner outside the hotel. Acoording to the conceirge, the only safe and entertaining neighourhood in the vicinity of where we were was "Greektown", several blocks north of us. Once outside, it didn't take long for me to realize that Detroit is really a city of drastic contrasts. In essence, this is a city that was once the industrial heart of America, but today is in rapid decline due to the failure of the "big three" American auto makers. The result of this boom and bust legacy is a city where beautifully crafted, brick-facade skyscapers from the middle of the last century stand proudly beside boarded-up, abandoned shops that are gratuitously covered in graffiti.

We walked on streets where the sidewalk had been inexplicably destroyed--yes, destroyed as in someone took a jackhammer to the asphalt--with no sign of planned repair. Along the way, we saw a countless number of Cadillacs and Chevys with the largest, shiniest spinning rims, blasting the latest hip hop singles; but we managed to spot only one Japanese car--a Nissan driven by a white family who wore facial expressions suggesting nothing short of primal fear.

After dinner at the "most happening district in downtown Detroit", we walked to a dimmly lit Irish Pub called the Cock and Bull. There weren't many customers at the establishment, but surprisingly, I felt that this was one of the best pubs I've ever been to. The waitress was super friendly, the drinks were riduculously cheap, and the 12ft ceilings were equipped with gentle fans that provided a cool breeze to beat away the 35 degree weather outside. But above all, I think the biggest drawing point at the Cock and Bull last night was the two state troopers who were having dinner at the table beside ours--everyone drank and was merry knowing that we would not get shot.

This morning, my labmate and I took a ride on the Detroit People Mover, a monorail loop that goes around the Detroit downtown core. When I get back, I will show you some pictures I took of buildings that looked like they had been bombed out by an aerial raid or some sort of concerted RPG attack. Seriously, I didn't know places like this existed in North America. At one point, we saw from the relative safety of the People Mover two people running and assumed innocently that they were joggers; but we later noticed that as soon as these "joggers" rounded a corner, they immediately stopped running and started walking at a more leisurely pace. Either these guys were doing time trials, or they were running from somebody. Nothing in this city really surprises me anymore.

Your Favorite Jerk


At Monday, June 27, 2005 9:57:00 PM, Blogger crazymadscientist said...

Scary, dave.

I remember my history teacher in highschool telling us about "major american cities" know its a big city when it ain't safe to be out past 5! haha

glad you're safe :D

At Tuesday, June 28, 2005 2:04:00 AM, Blogger arts_guy said...

I had friends who grew up in the Windsor area and can remember buildings in Downtown Detroit being set on fire for kicks.... That's probably why they looked like they really belong in downtown Najaf!

At Wednesday, June 29, 2005 5:14:00 PM, Anonymous moo said...

that sounds about right .. one minute you're in a respectable neighbourhood, u cross the street and it's like somebody's firebombed the block .. keep your doors locked ..

check out that soul food place on 8 Mile, and make a trek to Lafayette Coney Island ..

At Thursday, June 30, 2005 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Reformed Jerk said...

Hi moo,

Thanks for the suggestion :) But my friends and I decided not to venture to 8 Mile because none of us bought Kevlar vests at the duty-free shop on the way over. Next time, maybe. Thanks for dropping by, and keep up the good work with your foodie page!



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