Detroit Part I


Our Trip to the "Midwest"

Brief Rehearsal for the Wedding

After playing at an evening wedding ceremony in a string trio, I had a long night ahead of me. As soon as I came back from the gig, my wife and I had dinner, and then she packed me off on the plane for my midnight flight from Tacoma, WA.

The destination was Detroit - the town where I was supposed to have grown up, and first got married. In this trip into the past, I was to be joined by my son, who would be driving out from Buffalo, NY.

Aaron, an urban specialist, had never lived in Detroit. He looked forward to my recollections, I believe, but he also had a consuming interest in the history of rust-belt cities and their peoples.

Hopping on the plane, I was still thinking about the wedding job, so sleeping that night was probably not going to happen. A three-hour layover in Chicago had me pretty much washed out by the time I deplaned at Detroit Metro and Aaron picked me up, around 10:30 AM.

But seeing both my son and the old city revived me for a spell. We drove to the Eastern Market where he had breakfast and I had a coney island, since breakfast was not on my personal timeframe yet. The Eastern Market was a large Farmer's market on Detroit's near East Side. I explained that as a boy I thought it was called the "Easter" market, partly because I associated it with holiday commerce.

We only had two days to explore the town, and Detroit proper is about three times the area of Buffalo. This is only a personal trip, not an in-depth journalism piece.

The major streets were supposed to be coming from the city center in spoke-like fashion. We drove up Grand River, the thoroughfare going up the Northwest side. Amid all the skyscraper shells and fields of razed houses and buildings, we must've passed where Olympia Stadium once stood but we didn't notice. Northwestern High School, my mother's school, was probably still there, but not the original building.

Memories rushed through me as we went past the familiar sites. I remember driving with my mother to some bus stop to wait for Dad coming from work as manager of the downtown Washington Blvd. Stouffer Restaurant - that building now vanished without a trace.

Once on the northwest side, we turned right onto Hubbell street to head north to see Cooley High School, where I graduated in '64. My first wife, Aaron's mother, also went there, although I didn't meet her until we were both beyond high school.

Built in 1928 by Donaldson and Meier in Spanish Renaissance style. Supposedly the insides have been mined pretty bare by "scrappers".

Our sneakers sunk into the deep snow as we walked aroung the building. It was boarded up, but the exterior seemed in fairly good shape. Architecturally, this was one of the nicer schools I ever attended. Very often, we walked 2 miles home.

This is the closest I will come to a high-school reunion: the building. Because I can't see myself hob-knobbing with people I was only ever peripherally acquainted with, at an advanced age, where the purpose would be to reminisce about our youth.

I suppose some of us might have lived up to our big dreams, or at least would be able to bask in some past glories of the social scene. The teachers must be all happily in their graves.

Since we were nearby, we decided to go on to the neighborhood I lived in starting in the fifth grade, near the corner of Puritan and Southfield. It's still in pretty good shape.

To Be Continued