Detroit. This might be better called the Failure of the Millennium. But as I happened upon it during this week, and so - solipsistically informed - I launch into Detroit for The Failure of The Week. Dream a dream of decay. See yourself in the mirror. Imagine the fall. Detroit. Failure of my Week.
It is like the span of a life. A human's life. Or let's say - as a result of medical success - let's say a super-human life that spans 100 to 150 years. A child born out of fire. Detroit. 1805. A fire that flattened the town.
Then comes along a dreamer, a patriarch and a plan. A guy named Woodward offers up the grandest paean to the future of industry. The most beautiful woman in the world was about to get born. But before the woman, first a child, giddy with ringlets and possibility. Wide boulevards and toys and dangers and wild parties. And then the teenaged years where strikes almost stopped the exuberance. Teenagers can be such downers.
A city that was central in the proud story of the underground railway. And this is important for a whole lot of reasons, but primarily reasons of freedom and prosperity. Glory days are days that lie ahead when the road is paved with gold and promises.
Detroit. A city that gave us the picture of our future and sadly our demise. Detroit got through its teenaged years and after the 2nd world war (where the motor city did extremely well) fully formed adults with the best taste that money can buy... lived large, lived grand, lived well, and this lady of the lake was devastating in her charms, in her humour, even the timbre of her voice, the purr of a motor car rolling off the assembly line. Fordism at its height.
In a moment before Ford motor cars were the only thing you thought of when you heard the word Ford. In a moment before Ford started to conjure pictures of a president stumbling off a plane or celebrities getting clean. It was a different time. A different moment. Failure was lurking but success was keeping it in the shadows. Rivera showed up but even he couldn't put a dent in the never-ending party.
And then with menopause came the burnings. Devil's night in Detroit. Unemployment and Arson. Great friends. Everything hot under the collar and an hysterical flush in the cheeks. Men started leaving town. Who wants to stay with a woman perpetually on fire. A woman who squandered her dowry dancing all night long, nothing left to burn. So off you go.
But there was an up and up. There were admirers who remained and who gloried in the newness of this fading moment. (Or this is one way of telling the story at any rate) And with this moment the the long awaited redress of the racial imbalance. Black America. Detroit. Why did this have to happen when the industry left town?
Why is it so beautiful sad there? Why does it appear to be empty? In the 1950's there were just shy of 2 million people there. Now there is something like 750,000. The vast majority of Detroit's citizens are of African American descent. There is a lot that is right about that Except that there is no employment - or very little. And a walk down any street will tell you this same story. And what's more - along with a lack of people - you will notice something else too, a lack of shops. There are almost no stores in Detroit. Downtown Detroit. But there is lots and lots of parking. This old lady will set you and your wheels up nice. This old lady will give you a tumble that will remind you of how it all used to rumble. This old lady will show you what the ravages of time can do. This old lady. When you park in this town you can feel it all run through you. What a dame.
If you want to park in the most amazing place then I suggest you hie thee to Detroit. You can park inside what was once a grand - beyond grand - theatre and you can stare up at the moulding and the archways to prove it. It is other-worldly. This beautiful woman that was. It is Detroit. it is Beautiful. It is the story of a life. Of a Human life. a super-human life. It is a story about Failure. You cannot run from it. You cannot hide from it. But you can visit it. and I suggest you do. Detroit is where it is at. The future is now. Detroit can fill you in.
We need our elders. We need to sit in the dying of the light. Fail. But for God's Sake Fail Better. Fail as though your life depended on it. Because it does.