Saturday, August 02, 2014

Visiting Downtown Detroit

Although I had only a few hours in Detroit, I was eager to get a sense of its historical trajectory.  That a great city has many square miles of now uninhabitable structures is not really a surprise, as North Americans did not always build with the intention their structures last hundreds of years.

Huge swaths of urban acreage all across the industrialized east are well past their pull date.  You'll see this in Baltimore and from any train window in the northeast corridor.  I don't see this as an apocalyptic crisis, more just physics at work.  Rust never sleeps as they say.  Decay happens.

That being said, it's ironic that "the big three" (Motor City's car companies) colluded with government to wipe out city rail systems and pave over everything, to insure the motor car's monopolistic dominance of the landscape for almost a century.

Now that we've burned through over half the fossil fuel, the costs of maintaining all that infrastructure have become prohibitive and North Americans are fighting a losing battle against pot holes and shrubbery poking through pavement.  I'm glad our Mazda 2 had robust suspension as we bumped our way through the decaying streets (and broken parking meters) of downtown Detroit.

I mention parking meters because that first one, Friday morning, ate two quarters but gave zero time, so I moved to another one that ate two quarters for 30 minutes credit, but gave no credit for the third or fourth quarter.  Tara tried a dime.  No dice.  We were out of change.  I came back to find a $45 parking ticket on my windshield.
Downtown Detroit is indeed blessed with these decaying empty gigantic buildings.  Some may be restored or are being restored, but others just need to come down, or stand there as tourist attractions for people like me.

While on the topic, I told Tara my belief was the Twin Towers of NYC were built with a self destruct system as a prerequisite for anything that huge needing to come down someday, not because of any tragic catastrophe but because all buildings have a half-life.  Ditto Building 7.  Now that David Chandler is a member of Multnomah Meeting, we're likely to have more such conversations back in Portland.

We also stumbled across a protest, against the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle Eastern war zone, where the British drew some lines many political world maps still show to this day (not Fuller's).  Violence against ethnic groups is not a new phenomenon and North America swelled in population precisely because humans were fleeing persecution in the more populated areas of the eastern hemisphere.

Once humans were crowded together in America, that same ethnic violence arose.  Humans have a violent and ugly past and present.  I'm not especially proud of this species.  I understand why many religions consider us a "fallen" experiment (as in "failed").  The angels mock us with good reason.

Detroit does have a bit of a rail system they call a People Mover and there's a futuristic station downtown amidst all the urban decay, providing a stark contrast between the new millennium's early days, and the one gone by.