July 26, 2013: There’s one Detroit memory in particular that novelist Kerri Schlottman recalls after all these years. Her childhood recollections of the parade at Hudson’s department store or a visit to the museum aren’t particularly clear. But growing up in Detroit’s suburbs in the late 70s and early 80s, Kerri saw the streetscape change dramatically en route to occasional family outings downtown. Of all things, the car ride into the city sticks with her.
“Most of my memories are of looking out the car window, driving down Woodward Avenue,” Kerri told me this weekend. “You’d go from these nice, well-manicured suburbs to seeing burned-out buildings, windows smashed out, graffiti. This was the mid 80s; the city had been in decline for quite awhile at this point. It was always so intriguing to me. I did not understand what happened and no one talked about it.”
“These memories are stronger than my memories of the events we were actually going to,” she said. “I just remember thinking, ‘What happened here?’”
It is a question those who care about Detroit continue to examine on the heels of the city’s declaration of bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. I’ve found the story of Detroit compelling as I consider the lifecycle of place, but I’ve been curious to hear more personal stories from people who feel a connection to the city. Beyond the financials, what does Detroit mean to the people who love it?
Kerri gave us one perspective. Read on for snippets of her conversation with Neighborhood Nomads.
May 30, 2013, Washington, DC: Have you ever lived in a city or town that is no longer alive? Are there places you remember from childhood or somewhere along the way that have simply ceased to exist? Can a place die and fade away completely or will always experience rebirth, in some form?
April 3, 2013, Washington, DC: Last winter, I published a post called Writing About Place: A Reading List where I planned to keep tabs on books and articles that spoke to the power of place. The idea was to create a resource of conversations about neighborhood history, urban studies, compelling travel writing — any content in which location is a living, breathing and central character rather than an afterthought or a convenient backdrop. It recently occurred to me that I haven’t done a good job at keeping up the list, let alone encouraging other neighborhood nomads to add their suggestions. So I went back into the Comments section earlier today to freshen it up and add some works to the tally. I invite you to do the same– if you’ve read something that hits the nail on the head in describing your neighborhood, your hometown, someplace you’ve traveled, or the overall power of place, share it with the rest of us by clicking here.
Pictured above: Some bookshops along the way… Clockwise from top left: Riverby Books on Capitol Hill, DC; The Depot in Mill Valley, CA; Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop, St. Louis; Inquiring Mind Bookstore in Saugerties, NY; Random Row Books in Charlottesville, VA; Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini.
March 13, 2013, Washington, DC: I leave the Atlas Theater on H St. Sunday night thinking about cupcakes and sweet potato pie. The night is mild and a taxicab pulls up immediately to the theater’s well-lit doorstep to drive us from the north side of Capitol Hill to the south. On the way home, we talk about cupcakes and sweet potato pie and other heavier topics sparked by the evening’s Our City Film Festival.
November 15, 2012, Washington, DC: I always have trouble with this time of year when the sun sets early and the temperature drops and those of us who are outdoor types accustomed to squeezing all we can into long, bright days are suddenly forced to find alternatives indoors. You’d think that after 30 some years, I’d be used to this annual transition but it’s still a struggle every fall. I struggle to slow down and to simplify. To cook more warm meals and drink more tea. To sleep longer. To do less. I have to remind myself that others throughout the neighborhood, too, are retreating indoors and I’m not missing out. I have to remind myself to be grateful for these shorter days that bring us back home.
So this is our home this days. This is my view of where we live, in this sparking city, in this eclectic neighborhood, in this warm little apartment.
Any advice for living simply and learning to appreciate shorter days at home? Share your tips in the comments below.
November 10, 2012, Washington, DC: My one-way commute to the office recently shrank from 35 miles down to six. While the work itself is similar in the new job, the lifestyle change is dramatic. I no longer spend the morning racing down the highway out of the city. I fill my gas tank once a month now rather than once a week.
It’s not necessarily hours I’ve gained — sometimes venturing six miles across D.C. can take the same amount of time as driving forty miles against traffic — but I have newfound options and flexibility. Mostly I take Metro and connect to a bus up the hill. Often I bike home on Bikeshare rather than returning to the Metro. Once in awhile, I drive. And I’ve made it a goal to run/walk home once a week — down Embassy Row, past the White House, and along the National Mall towards the Capitol. It’s the choices I enjoy. I appreciate spending less on gas and I appreciate how easy it is to incorporate city life into my day on the way home when I don’t have to worry about parking the car. I enjoy the flexibility that comes with living and working in places accessible to transportation alternatives, even if it means renting a smaller apartment in a great location.