August 10, 2010

Motor City Brewers

Canon EOS 7D | Canon 35mm f/1.4 | Available Light
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I've always maintained that I am my own worst cockblocker. 

From time to time, a woman will find me attractive. I will think the same of her. Then I will start talking...

Within fifteen minutes of meeting said woman, I've usually managed to offer my treatise on politics, religion, race, gender and any other topic you can imagine that is widely understood as unfit for casual conversation with strangers.

In doing so I have usually managed to offend at least one of her most deeply held beliefs and she has consequently managed to not find me so hot any more.

I know most people believe that some topics are off limits; not to be discussed in polite company. I've never really bought into that. I feel like all questions, ideas, and opinions deserve to be scrutinized for truth - lest we accept an untrue belief as valid.

That's my mantra. And I don't attenuate it for anyone. Not even hot chicks. Because I secretly want to die alone.

Even though that could be easily avoided.

I could game the system. Intellectually I know the correct answer to "what church do you go to?" is "Second Third First African Baptist House of Faith in Him."

Sure, such a place doesn't exist but given the sheer ease with which multi-million dollar megachurches metastasize throughout this nation's neighborhood nodules of poverty, there's a good chance a church with that name may be christened by the time I finish saying the lie. 

If I was inclined toward guile, I could probably force my mouth to eject that fictional church as a pat answer, but like I said, even though I know better I can't help but tell on myself.

Which is what I'm doing with this photo...

You see, I love Centaur.  Centaur has been good to me. Its been my one and only for so long.

But one afternoon in July… I...  I...  I went to another bar.

I didn't plan it. It just ... happened. Really. 

What? The name? Ahh, come on baby, what does it matter what the... OWW! 

Ok, Ok! Its Motor City Brewing Works, ok?!  We are seeing each other now, and we care a lot about each other!

Part of the reason why I came to appreciate MCBW so much is a conversation I had with the manager, Zach, who you see pictured above (at his side is Kelly, one of the bar's friendly waitresses).

I used to live in the neighborhood where the bar is located. Zach and I started talking about the improvements that have been made to the neighborhood since I moved away.

An abandoned lot on the corner of Second and Willis where junkies used to strap-off and nod out is now a thriving community garden replete with a robust, diverse crop enclosed by a beautiful wrought iron fence.

Then Zach mentioned an improvement that was initiated by the people of MCBW and a couple of adjacent businesses.

They converted the weed-infested alleyway behind the bar into a beautiful pedestrian thoroughfare paved in bricks donated (or sold at a much reduced cost, depending on who you ask) from a company in Ohio.

Much like the aforementioned abandoned lot, the alleyway had previously been a harbor for sunken ships of the human variety.  Since it's been developed, there has been an corresponding drop in the unsavory activity previously common to the alleyway and the abandoned lot.

I asked Zach how much financial input the city had in the development. If I recall, he said the city gave its blessing, helped level the ground in preparation for the brick, but the thrust of the development came from the private business owners and members of the community.

I told Zach, that this is the reason why I started The People of Detroit. This is the kinda story that rarely gets told outside of the city, yet its a story that happens far more often than even residents of the city may know.

These folks took it upon themselves to improve the community they inhabit. From what I understand, it didn't cost much. From what I could gather, the project was funded by sweat, inventive thinking, and partnership more than anything else.

But they saw a problem and they addressed it. They didn't wait for someone else to do it. They didn't wait for a got damn team of weekend volunteers from a corporation to clean up their community.

They did it themselves.

Which is something the members of any community can do… soon as they realize they are their own worst cockblocker.

[View the weekdaily blog and meet more of: The People of Detroit ]

As a bonus, I've included some photos of the alley and bricks behind the bar:
The foundation of improvement
The reformed alley

Building a better community from the ground up, courtesy of Hockey Valley Block


michaellacombe said...

Probably your finest piece/post so far.

toni j said...

Another enjoyable read! Full of lively language and a positive message to boot - thumbs up! :-) I especially love when your introductory diatribes seamlessly transition into comical poetry at times: "...a harbor for sunken ships of the human variety."

The People of Detroit said...

Mike: thank you for commenting, man. This one felt special to me to. I really appreciate that, man

The People of Detroit said...

toni J: thank you, sis. the more emotionally vest I am in a idea or a story, the easier it is to write about.

I'm glad you got what i was doing there.. :)

Megan said...

I've subscribed to your blog for months, but never commented. I've loved it all.
Your work, your writing, your art, your curiosity... it's inspirational. I've fallen in love with Detroit many times over, and always again when viewing it here through your eyes.

Much luck on this unlucky day and all that follow,

The People of Detroit said...


So glad to bring you from out of the shadows.

I really really really love comments. I mean, cause I amuse the shit outta myself, but it really means alot when I discovered I've amused someone else.

And my hope for this project, is that it gives people a reason to love Detroit. Glad to hear its done that for you.

mallit18 said...

Wow, thats amazing AND I totally agree about stepping up and doing things yourself as opposed to waiting for someone else to do it because it more than likely wont happen. Great piece and Kudos to those who decided to be "The Change that they wish to see"! The alley looks amazing and I can't wait until I'm back home to check it out.

Abby Koning said...

I very recently discovered The People of Detroit and I wanted to say
thanks for this project. See, I'm moving to Detroit in a couple of weeks and I
have yet to hear a positive response when I tell friends or family where I’m
moving. I’ve only been to Detroit a couple of times, but your stunning
photography makes me excited to explore the city and learn from residents.