My happy Detroit
Growing up in the 1970s, summers were everything. My mother’s garden was in full bloom, and it seemed every day brought new bounty, ripe for harvesting – tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, even grapes that were too sour for snacking, but perfect for making jelly and homemade wine. Every Fourth of July, my uncle and his family would come in from Chicago. Uncle James always brought his hand-crank ice cream maker, and we kids lined up for a turn at the crank. Daddy would buy a case of ribs, but Uncle James always brought his own from the Chicago butcher shop he managed. I never tired of listening to my mother and her brother argue over the best way to season and cook ribs. While the ribs were on the grill, we would play Motown hits on the record player another cousin brought over for the occasion.
You might be surprised to learn that this idyllic scene happened in, of all places, Detroit. Ever since Detroit filed bankruptcy, the Internet has been flooded with articles describing what went wrong in the city – most of them devolving into political finger-pointing. Still, the common narrative paints a clear path to ruination: Detroit’s decline began in the 1960s and was hastened by the 1967 riots and white flight, from which the city never recovered. The 46 years between 1967 and 2013 are treated as mere ellipsis points.