Detroit is the asshole of the world … or wait; maybe that was Windsor, Ontario. I can’t quite remember. Either way, one of them is the asshole and the other is the armpit.
I do remember someone telling me that Detroit was just like “hell on earth.” I tend to believe that assertion. The city is certainly one of the strangest I’ve ever come across. After the black riots in the 1960s, businesses and people in general ditched the downtown for better and safer digs in the suburbs. Over 40 years later the Michigan city is still trying to draw businesses back to the centre with not much luck.
I had a friend who lived in a big mansion in one of the most dangerous parts of Detroit. To hear the word ‘mansion’ you’d think he’s rich, but he was just a lonely design student paying around $300 rent a month. Wow, what a deal right? Sure the place was nice, but it was the only occupied house for three blocks. This kind of made it a prime target for the roaming bums, drug addicts and assorted criminals passing by.
Many a night my friend would wake up to the sound of crackling. He’d wake up in a panic to notice that someone had set a car on fire outside his house. Fortunately, his little Volkswagen escaped the arsonists’ wrath.
I remember the last words I heard my first night sleeping in that house. They went something like this, “If you hear something that sounds like a zipper being undone, don’t worry. It’s just machine gun fire.” I thought it was a joke, but low and behold, the sound of zippers being undone somewhere on the Detroit streets wafted through my window.
Maybe it’s a testament to my bad luck, but I can’t recall a single time I’d been to Detroit without seeing a gun. I’ve never been robbed, beaten or murdered there, but I have seen some really bad dudes.
Being white, or blackly challenged as I call it, I’ve found that I was always treated very well. There is even the recollection of waiting at a red light and having a police car pull up beside us to tell us that because we were white we shouldn’t stop. And, by no means should we ever drive without our doors locked. It seems that traffic lights in some parts are known as prime targets for bandits robbing motorists and the ever-prevalent carjacking phenomenon.
Aside from that, it’s still an interesting experience and quite amazing to see abandoned buildings in what should be a bustling downtown core. It’s quite surreal, albeit creepy, to sometimes walk down the street in broad daylight and not see motorists or any other people.
One thing that must be noted, and I’ve been warned about this many times, is to avoid riding public transit. It is yet another means for robbery.