Enter Detroit

Enter Detroit

Not to boast, but on Tuesday I drove all day in order barely to move on the map. I left Ottawa, fresh McD coffee in the cup holder, at 3:43 am and arrived at the spectacular July 4 lineup on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit just after 1 pm. As stupidly big as Ontario is, I remind myself that Quebec is bigger. 

Soupir de soulagement. 

The drive went very well, mostly because I decided to apply what I’m sure will be a tidy sum to avoid crossing Toronto at rush hour. I scooted around the whole mess using the tolled but fluid 407 between whatever town comes just before Oshawa and Milton on the other side. The playlist somehow got stuck on Sia Essentials and that turned out to work just fine. 

Oh, and speaking of money, I have never been as happy to have taken the time and bother (and spent the $60 USD — cheap at six times the price) to get myself into the Nexus program. Dedicated, fast lines at customs are a thing of absolute, unadulterated beauty. Like a Coney Island hot dog that doesn’t give you heartburn. 

Detroit holds a special place in my heart thanks to a certain Beloved, but that’s not the only reason I like it so much, not even the most important one. I like Detroit because it’s so damn tough. It’s taken I don’t know how many punches in the last three quarters of a century and today, if you didn’t know about that history and carefully avoided the few neighbourhoods where the scars have yet to heal, you wouldn’t know it. Except for the civic pride that’s everywhere downtown. 

This is a city that got beaten up countless times and kept saying, “What else you got, fucker?” There is a will to thrive, to do well, to smile and be happy, especially in and around downtown, that is so thick you could cut it with a knife. 

As someone who’s survived some awful experiences and who is now determined to thrive, you could say this city speaks to me.

“Detroit? What on earth for?” is a question I get almost as frequently as “Alabama? You in Alabama?” when I go to Huntsville. 

I like going places that get me that kind of reaction, and not always for the same reasons. I love Huntsville because of its sense of possibility and its eagerness to just get things done and done well. It also has a joie de vivre that feels good to this Quebecer. 

I never go places to do touristy things, except this time for the Institute of Art and John King Books. I go places to see how people live and to absorb their vibes. I love getting to know them, what they do for fun, how they work, how they get around and what makes them smile. 

Did you know that downtown Detroit feels friendlier to this cyclist than downtown Ottawa ever did? They even have a bike share, c’est tout dire. It is also stupidly easy and inexpensive to get around by transit and also (I know, I know) by car. Parking by app is easy and inexpensive. 

Detroit is like the Andy Dufresne character in the Shawshank Redemption. It has chosen to get busy living. And man, does it show. 

Not just wish me luck with the Coney Island business.