Archive for the 'Detroit' Category

22
Nov
12

Celery and onions

The official start of Thanksgiving every year was not picking up the turkey and Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and canned cranberry sauce from Farmer Jack’s (as we called it back home). It was not the raucous bus ride home from school on Wednesday, the freedom of a four-day weekend spread out before us like a feast. It wasn’t even the America’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcast from downtown Detroit.

The official start of Thanksgiving was always the aroma of celery and onions sautéing in butter as my dad started cooking the stuffing for the turkey. It was better than an alarm clock or a nudge to the shoulder to draw me, groggy and pajamaed and rubbing my eyes, from my bedroom.

A lot of recipes start out that way, sautéing onions, celery, some herbs. But no matter what we’re making, no matter the time of year it is, that scent — heavy, sweet and ambrosial — always means Thanksgiving.

Continue reading ‘Celery and onions’

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05
Jan
12

The 12 Ways of Christmas: the lights

[Part 8]

This is disgusting to me now, but it would have delighted me as a kid.

It wasn’t December if my family and I were not driving around looking at other people’s Christmas lights.

We started in our own neighborhood, admiring the wild and colorful houses, and the simple monochromatic houses in white, gold, red, blue. In my little kid’s logic, I always assumed the blue houses must be Jewish. Or something. Just a feeling. I wanted to say so, but it seemed rude. I never knew any Jews growing up—at least none that I knew of.

My mom and I especially loved the ones that looked like gingerbread houses with sidewalks lined, every angle of the roof highlighted, doorways and windows lit. Our house should be like that. I studied them carefully as we slowly passed, making mental notes between audible gasps every time a new extreme came into view.

I really appreciated the people who did their trees. Those were the ones who really cared. Random placements among the branches were popular one year. Then our neighbors began to include the trunks, too. A few years later, a tightly wrapped cluster of lights on the trunk with a contrasting color densely filling up the branches was en vogue. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: the lights’

02
Jan
12

The 12 Ways of Christmas: Santa at the mall

[Part 6]

It took a black Santa to introduce me to White Guilt.

My parents were savvy enough to tell me that the man in the red suit and the white beard at the mall was not really Santa but one of his helpers. I mean, you can’t expect him to be everywhere, right?

It was just a proxy. A Santa of convenience.

So, I was fine with the charade, playing along with the stand-in pretender to make my parents happy—and hoping desperately that somehow my Christmas list (compiled mainly from the Sears Wishlist catalog, complete with page numbers and item numbers,  and my subscription to Nintendo Power magazine) would find its way to the real Santa’s fulfillment department.

I never much liked sitting in Santa’s lap, but I also don’t remember ever crying like some kids did. It was just strange to sit in a stranger’s lap. To smell his breath. To pose for a stranger taking my picture. (Little did I realize at the time how similar this would be to experiences later in life at the DMV.)

Let the record show, I was never fooled by the dark eyebrows of some of those impostors. They were much younger men pretending to be old men. And they probably weren’t properly jolly, either. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: Santa at the mall’

27
Apr
11

A Mister and Mister Mystery

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny

Alternative lifestyle bunnies are also available as Mr. & Mr. Bunny or Mrs. & Mrs. Bunny.

The Easter Bunny came early to our house this year. A couple of weeks ago FedEx delivered a mysterious package to our house. In the box was an inviting bundle of mylar bubble wrap, shredded paper, packing tape and a card in a sealed envelope. I set aside the card (You only open the card first if someone is looking!) and dug through the packaging to find a melted ice pack and a plastic bag containing two chocolate bunnies.

The bunnies had bright little blue eyes and wore green chocolate overalls. They came packed with some jelly beans and a few foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.

I opened the card — “Happy Easter, Jeff and Eric!” — but there was no sender. Luckily my mom solved the case for me later that day when she left me a voice mail to ask if I received them.

Before I returned her call, I looked up the website of the chocolatier she ordered them from, Gayle’s Chocolates. I didn’t see a pair of bunnies in green overalls, but I did find a similar item: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, a boy bunny in green, and a girl bunny in a rather silly looking pink and purple cape. Secretly I was glad, because the boy bunny was much cuter than the girl bunny. (But then again, of course I would say that.)

And then I spotted the disclaimer: “Alternative lifestyle bunnies are also available as Mr & Mr Bunny or Mrs & Mrs Bunny.”
Continue reading ‘A Mister and Mister Mystery’

21
Aug
08

Rock and Rubble in the Motor City

There is a fantastic little site that everyone with an interest in urban decay should check out. It is called The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

It is a particularly delicious oxymoron, because they are in fact fabulous — in their grandness and in their sadness, documenting the “agonizing path” of the city through the ’90s.

As the site itself asks: “What went wrong?” and “Where to do we go from Here?” An entire online community has risen out of this site to debate these questions — the DetroitYES project, a discussion forum about the city’s problems and its future.

I am from the suburbs, but I call Detroit my home. I am not a baseball fan, but I wear a Tigers ball cap, because it is a piece of home, and it connects me in a real way to a place I have not lived for more than 13 years.

My home town has seen some rough times. Anyone with family there has heard stories of the fabulous 50s, the riots of the 60s, white flight and the decay of the following decades. Detroit city government is a mess and has been for decades, with one bright spot: the term of my last great hope, Dennis Archer. It is rife with cronyism, loyalism and blind racism, all at the cost of the citizens, who number fewer and fewer year by year. And the latest exploits of its current mayor, effectively stopping the course of local government, are not helping matters much.

But it’s a tough old town. Down, but not out, as they say. What fueled this site’s inception, and the community that has grown around it, is a clear love for the city. Not just the city of Detroit, but “the city” as a concept. It is worth saving and it is worth remembering. And in looking back at the former grandeur and pride of Detroit, we can begin to draw inspiration, and we can begin to hope that a phoenix will one day rise from the rubble.




the untallied hours

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