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Detroit (Part 1)

by William J. Hughes, January 2, 2014

Day 1 — Opryland

Detroit. MOTOWN. Before they tear down old Tiger Stadium.

Several years ago a friend of mine and his dad returned to the family’s early roots in East Lansing, Michigan. My friend’s been kicking himself ever since for not having gone to Tiger Stadium. So near to Detroit on that trip and so foolish not to have gone. Ty Cobb played there. Enough said if you are a sports fan.

I am, a sports fan, and, like everyone, a fan of free time and travel. A fan of my country’s history and geography.

I’m going to meet my friend Tim in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s there on business. It’s as close as he may ever get to Detroit again. We can do geography and history between Nashville and Detroit in a day of driving — about 600 miles. Friends and Tim’s fellow-workers are funny. “You’re going to drive from where to where?” Come on, just rent a car and just go…

We’re going to go north from Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Tim has called back to me in Sacramento to forewarn about the Opryland Hotel. 3000 rooms, baby, an entire eco-system indoors. It’s the Truman Show he tells me. I can’t wait, a journey into an America. A Thursday through a Sunday, no business, no airport hotel, no garage parking, no itinerary but Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio to Detroit. No family, no ordinary expectations of time off. Tim’s dad is now beyond taking such a trip. Me, me, I volunteer.

Flying in over the Volunteer state, black thunderclouds like a late afternoon on Bald Mtn., plane-killing lightning striking out of the purple-black clouds, searching for a target. Ahh, back home, back east from California, where the eastern muggy August weather can serve up a tornado or a thunderstorm of torrential tonnage.

We’re down on the ground in the “greenest state in the land of the free…” about a minute before they have to cease airport operations.

Tim told me about the Opryland shuttle. So, no problem finding its pick-up point, rain pouring down through the under construction holes in the airport construction, a lot of electrical power out in the terminal.

I’m expecting a min van of some sort, waiting in the wet with a few other people. No way ya’ll. It’s a tour bus capable of cross country stuff. 3000 rooms begin to take effect.

Pouring rain as the big bus takes you away from Nashville. I want very much to go into town, the Ryland Auditorium/Theatre. The grand Ole Opry itself. I want to go to 14th Ave., their “tin pan alley.” I want to go to the Hermitage home of Andrew Jackson. There won’t be time, the bus taking us away from Nashville. Maybe a look see in the morning before we head north for Detroit. Tim’s been into town. That may have to do. Detroit is what matters.

What’s the matter with the good folks of Tennessee? Look at this god-awful place, placed in a place that’s outside of everything. Could be anywhere USA, Branson, Missouri. Make believe Mississippi, a shopping mall of music, enormous on an enormous scale, a Monticello on steroids, fake and a façade, smack next to the concert hall that could be some Sun Systems or some artificial intelligence architecture,

I’m sorry, Tennessee, but it’s a joke, a sham. Glad to tell you, Tennessee. I’ve been to Memphis, Shiloh, Lynchburg, Chattanooga, Chickamauga and Lookout Mtn. I’ve been on the Blue Ridge. This has no relation to any of that. None. But what can you expect from “country music?” Certainly not the music of my country. Oh, yeah? Well, just listen to Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and the Band.

Here’s the rather laughable lobby, carpet and wood, vast, choked full with business folks, everything sort of dead. But there’s a rain forest just beyond. Tim did not kid me. I’m already registered. “You’ll need a map to find the room.” I do, everyone checking in checking their map.

Out across through the rain forest, across the bridge over a bar below, a bar behind, a bar above, a pianist out on a balcony above playing a near-dead version of the Tennessee Waltz, all of the above under glass, an enormous feat of engineering skylight hundreds of feet overhead.

Tim told me: “You’ll see a sort of fake Savannah setting as you come in.” Sure enough, Beauregard’s Restaurant and a few other set up antebellum buildings like Vivian Leigh on the back lot was about to make an entrance onto the upper veranda. “That’s fine, miss Leigh, but can we try it one more time?” I can’t find our room. No way can I find the room. I’m in the right quadrant, standing at an illuminated map in a sub-orbit lobby trying to guess as to where to go. The elevators are out due to the big black storm that continues to bang away outside in Tennessee.

Some couple from some state helps me out. Some couple from some state had helped them out. “OK, yes, I see. Thanks.” Because of the elevator outage everyone’s in the bare stairwells. It’s sort of fun. Sort of.

Now that I’m on the right floor in the right wing, it’s just a long carpeted corridor like any upper scale motel, door key like a credit card and I’m in.

Been in one you’ve been in them all. Standing out on the little balcony, there’s Beauregard’s right there all colonial and pinkish and Colonel Crockett and President Jackson. The easiest way to find the room would have been to just climb up the balconies below me right up to it, avoiding the labyrinth below altogether. It’s quite the sight from up here four floors up. A shopping mall to country and western’s soul. That’s why it has no soul.

Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee

Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee

I have about an hour and a half before Tim returns from his business meeting. Shower and change clothes. Unbrace myself for the delightful dallying in one of the many bars. It will be like being indoors twice. No, not like, it will be.

Oh, man, it’s oh so much, standing on the bridge in the rain forest, running water and vegetation everywhere. Those nuts out in the Arizona desert in that Biosphere should try this on for size.

Let’s try on this bar, circular and sort of Roman columns, or rather Georgian columns, round and plantation white, the Oracle of Delphi’s patio.

We pause on our balcony to make fun of the fake view. Phew. 7:00 a.m. and we’ll be up and gone. Something fine — a fine Americana time awaits us.

Sitting at the circular bar, a circle of tables inside the inner circle of columns. “Jack Daniel’s on the rocks with Seven-Up please,” sitting next to a lady in a leopard blouse, southern accent, chatting it up with a couple of business guys from Philly. How can I tell? I’m from Long Island.

Now wait a minute. I’ve only had one Jack Daniel’s but is this bar moving? Take a sip and take a calculation. Yep, sure enough, checking with the leopard blouse and the guys from Philly. It is moving, merry-go-round bar slowly, ever so slowly. Just what I imagined I’d be doing in Nashville. Not exactly hangin’ out with Waylon and Willie and the boys… Around we go, the bar and its stools moving, the table patrons moving. Wow, grits kitsch.

Wow, Ms. Leopard Blouse is from Charleston, South Carolina, the boys from Philly having moved on. She’s a Daughter of the Confederacy. Oh, man, 8:00 p.m. in the Opryland Rain Forest of Good and Evil. I know it’s Savannah but you can stretch.

I stretch out my stories of Vicksburg and Shiloh and Lynchburg, Tennessee (home of the Jack Daniel’s distillery for you corn cobs who don’t know). Charleston and Savannah. I’ve been. I know. She’s got that honeydew accent. She’s an importer — exporter, a bit Zsa Zsa and a bit cracker.

We’ve both had a few. We both want to. But I’ve got to meet Tim. Sorry darlin’ like some country lyrics.

“Timmy!” Not sorry at all because here we are, in Tennessee, in Nashville, at the Opryland Hotel, on our way to Detroit through Kentucky. “Billy!” Formalities of goofing on the whole place so far. So now let’s get out into the whole place, amazed and giddy at the fact that this is how our journey begins.

Our journey begins through all of it, Timmy leading the way like a Lewis or a Clark or a Crockett leading the way down the white rabbit’s hole.

There are rivers and Italia and Rome and Rome and colonial and tropical and gardens and no sky. I feel like I’m inside of a painting where the paint and the canvas are certainly real but the entire composition is not. It feels like one of those grand murals from those grand Europeans who found our American west so grand. Grandstanding.

We stand and gawk at the engineering marvel of all of it. Like building a ballpark. But, we are not, I repeat, not in Tennessee.

The Convention Center is actually overwhelming, a carpeted Roman concourse that’s embarrassing in its scale. If it was beside a real river beside some real streets it would dazzle. But in here it’s a department store, with its own river and its own waterfall I might add. Gulliver meets Truman Show.

And I think you could get a river ride down on that dark, cold, created river below us. And I do mean below us. We’re actually up a few floors on a Roman veranda above, never, ever land. We of course both agree. Never, ever would we come here on our own. But when in Lego Rome. Let’s drink! Let’s drink Jack Daniel’s!

Somehow, across Tom Sawyer’s Island and Huck Finn’s Peninsula, Tim has led us to the Jack Daniel’s Bar, a theme park to the Lourdes of Lynchburg, Tennessee, barrels and hardwoods and brass and a noble slab of a bar, but…

Again, I’ve been in Lynchburg, within the distillery. I’ve sipped at the Holy Grotto where the pure water glides out. I’ve stood on Lookout Mt. and that Missionary Ridge — where Sherman first glared into Georgia. This of course then is right up next to nowhere.

Tim and I wish we were listening to the Band singing, choiring, chanting “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” down along the Natchez Trace somewhere other than here. We toast to that. Man, you just can’t ruin Jack Daniel’s, no matter where you put it. We toast to that. We find a few other toasts to toast.

Weird is everywhere. We’re inside, indoors, but it’s night, artificial night, with a breeze blowing through the dark bushes. It’s very, very odd as we make our way through the now nearly deserted island empire to a sports bar stuck in some distant galaxy quadrant of some Bourbon St. corner of all this.

One sports bar and you’ve seen ‘em all, all televisions and make-believe bleachers and bartenders dressed like referees. It’s have a beer and then go eat before it all shuts down for the artificial evening. Doesn’t it all sort of shut down anyway, doors locked so Truman can’t escape? We’ll drink to that.

We’ll have dinner in the Cascades Restaurant, the submerged restaurant, all tacky and grotto-like. A slab of prime rib for each of us, each slab like a map of Texas. Dig in, literally, with a little more Jack Daniel’s to enlighten the delicious load of it.

Well, it was quite the delicious load of all of it. We’re near our room so, minus any bread crumbs, we’ve found our way back.

 

Day 2 — Heading North

7am and the manor house library lobby is already full of guys with golf bags. Let’s get out of here right now, no desire for breakfast in here — out there somewhere will be a pancake house or a ham and egg house which we intend to sublet to let out our belts over lots of fried forbiddens. No muffin on the run and decaf to go. Oh, no, relax, eat hardy, southern, any style. Kentucky comin’. Never been in… I wonder…

I wonder why I forgot to get my driver’s license renewed? I know why. I don’t own a car. I forget sometimes. We don’t skip a beat at the lobby rental desk. Tim can handle the whole drive. I think he wants to handle it all. Someone’s got to captain and someone’s got to change the tape cassettes.

Detroit. I 65 out of here, north past Bowling Green, Kentucky, cutting over east at Smiths Grove on State 68 to Glasgow to scenic 31E, then north to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

Our car’s in the massive lot. It’s a silver gray something or other. Its tank is full. Howdee! Good-bye-dee!

The morning is clear, with clouds, with blue. I 65 north out of Nashville, Tennessee. We got it. We’ve got the enormous sprawl of Opryland in the rear-view, the side-views and all across the rear window. Does it? Did we? I guess it does. I guess we did.

Got I 65 and the drive gets good right away through good ground, with a good, ample, colorful, rain-washed forest, with good shale meets sandstone meets real rock Tennessee bedrock stickin’ out from beneath the forest floor. Heading towards Bowling Green, Kentucky. Feeling good.

Waffle House somewhere near Simpson, Kentucky, like the black and yellow Waffle House sign was the Statue of Liberty upon first viewing. Well, it is a liberty. The liberty to indulge.

Indeed, with waffles and eggs and pancakes and sausage and bacon and biscuits and grits and java and toast and juice and maple syrup and honeysuckle dripping from the lips of all the waitresses. That sound, those voices, those area accents that send you south, comfortable in a place that’s not the place or places you usually come from.

It’s a waitress convention, young ladies being trained while the senior honeysucklers keep a parental eye peeled.

Indeed, sunshine, yellow, soft as an egg yolk. We lap it up, food first, ambiance, southern comfort on the side, locals and us yokels crowding the counter and the window tables.

Let’s ride. Not exactly Cpt. America and Billy from our generation’s most famous motorcycle pair, but it’s going to be an easy ride on up to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Log cabin? We shall see. We’re interested and excited that we’ve added this, somewhat unexpectedly, to the itinerary.

Enjoying the lovely open rolling road but we’re already ready for Kentucky two lane. Bowling Green and exit off the main four lane. Bowling Green — beautiful words aren’t they? The Everly Brothers sing beautifully of it. The songs of the open road.

Passing Bristow and Oakland, Kentucky. It is a small planet. Smiths Grove coming up. Turning for Glasgow and appointments north.

I plug in the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans. Are you kidding me?

Perfection.

The Blue Ridge Parkway in northern Virginia. Now that’s perfection, almost to the point that at some point along its perfect route you want to see a pecan roll or a gas station. When we turn north at Glasgow onto 31 E we both get the feeling, right away, that we’re on some interactive Blue Ridge Parkway, two rolling traffic lanes rolling in between forest and farm; ripening tobacco, an eerie yellow, the lush, overhanging forest foliage sparkling with colors and the heavy, drying, browning tobacco, hanging upside down like bats in some beautifully stoic, well-worn, red barns.

Beautiful countrysides, golden crops, small white houses, gentle hills, blue sky, white clouds, everything sharper, more defined in the quiet of the late morning quiet. We made ourselves some good luck coming this way, in among some stone walls now, in among some Shiloh rail fences, under a rising forest arboretum, the sounds of James Fenimore Cooper filling the car.

We have to stop and get out of the car. Tobacco patches like eerie vegetables, all the patches in mom & pop proportions. We’ve all seen the vast vineyards back home in Napa and Sonoma. Industrial strength. I think we both expected something like that here in tobacco land. But here it all seems a bit more share-cropped. I know that’s a terrible word, a terrible image, but man, oh, man, the American south. It does things to your imagery, right out of its historic reality.

History, right away up the road, beautiful, tidy wooden sign and wooden rail entrance into a sleepy hollow. Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Yes, that Abe Lincoln. Our president during the pre-share-cropper imagery. It’s breathlessly hot in Kentucky in August. The sleepy hollow is breathlessly quiet.

Hot, dead air hot, but there’s ample enough shade in the lovely glade, taking our time on the sidewalk pathways, down across the browning green grass, along the bony split rail fences to a spot where Mr. Lincoln’s cabin may actually have…

It’s all very subdued and very quiet, the deep blue sky with the typically circling black birds.

Not your typical resting place for a presidential log cabin. Up a not too grand but certainly grand enough flight of monumental steps there stands a big, square mausoleum block of a Grant’s Tomb Lincoln Memorial monument. Do you actually go up there? Sure, there are people coming out from inside the Greco-Roman monument. Up we go, slowly, hotter than hell.

The mausoleum’s glass front doors are open. We step into an American Thing, into an American Chamber, the likes of which neither one of us has ever seen. There inside the cool, shadowy chamber, all by itself, sits a log cabin. It’s as if Davy Crockett had been buried in Rome.

It’s Abraham Lincoln’s cabin, the one he was born in, a living campaign slogan, a campaign tradition by so many jerks over so many years that you don’t actually realize that someone was actually born in a log cabin. In the cool library-like interior we have to blink our eyes to be sure. Yes, it is a log cabin inside a crypt. Fortunately there’s a park ranger inside.

“Pease refrain from touching the cabin.” So reads the sign behind the cabin that keeps us away from the logs and the mud mortar that hold it all together. The ranger helps to explain.

“Yes, it is. This one is President Lincoln’s cabin.” We hear her all right, the cabin right at hand, in the religious shafts of light that slant down from the gothic window boxes above, the cabin a bit more copper in color than a wooden brown, the mortar mud a bit white, a bit chalk, a bit brown. It’s about as square around as us modern’s rustic work shed out back.

Back in 1911 when this stone temple encasement was provided for the preservation and protection of Honest Abe’s they used to dismantle the cabin and show it around the country. That’s just a beautiful bit of information and imagery that the ranger has furnished us.

Not so beautiful a bit of imagery to imagine four people, adult size and children size, actually living in this cooped, cramped and dingy space, a narrow hearth to supply the all in one of what we all have one in our abundance.

Tim and I are staring at the stumpy wooden chimney stack, imaginary smoke pluming out from the inside alive during the dead of winter. They just couldn’t make people, make an American frontier history like any of this today. Thank goodness, and thank you family Lincoln and many, many more of our tribal-type ancestors for literally braving life like this to give us our over abundance.

From this to Gettysburg to Ford’s Theatre. Any, any type of on sight to events rivets you to it, your vision and your bones.

Cool your bones, a cool, cool shaded spring down among the dark shale rocks below the grand monument staircase, after our thanks to the on-sight ranger, after she’s informed us the sixteen Romanesque windows above the cabin inside the crypt are… Well, can you guess? 16th president of the US of course… Of course she had to tell us, too, cooling off now in the absolute silence beside the cool, cool spring.

We’re native born, right? We need a cool, cool, cold soda.

Refreshments can be had at a souvenir stand that could have been President Teddy Roosevelt’s home in the Dakotas, or a boy scout camp’s main dining hall, not too big, not too small, nothing but darkened wood, with a flat, fine American veranda. Inside it’s a polished plank floor and darkened beams, Abraham Lincoln shapes and forms and card and documents no one could ever have foreseen, and yet, to all of us today they all seem quite normal. I pick a few postcards and an enlarged Lincoln penny about the size of a beer coaster. Ahh, crushing pennies on the railroad tracks of my youth. Yeah, you surely can feel like your own Huck again here in this environment.

Coke cans together out on the veranda, enjoying the country comfort shade. There are a few cabins close by, meaning very early-on motor coach cabins when the country was younger, now long out of use. I guess this veranda we’re on was the lodge house. Can you picture those early motor coaches making their way to Hodgenville, Kentucky? We can.

We best be on our way. Just a bathroom stop at the off to the side and out of the way unassuming and not very venerable visitors center. A brief pass over their postcards and a moment to pause and consider what we’ve wanted to ask since we left the log cabin inside the monument. Are you sure it’s his cabin? How can you be sure? We leave all that’s well enough alone, driving, somewhat reluctantly out of the shady glade of history. Oh, no entrance fee. A shadier glade of history.

A little more seriously, out of our shady trance and as slowly and yet as quickly as we can, north.

Sure we can: Knob Creek Farm, Lincoln’s boyhood home, just up the two lanes from his birthplace. Uh-oh, could this be the beginning of a Lincoln Stuckey’s, something now every mile or so that may not have really been so, just a long list of imposter spots now as Abe begins to move and grow? We stop.

It’s a bit odd compared to what we’ve just visited, a bit more Reptile Gardens in South Carolina on your way to Florida than national monument. A bit ramshackle and over-run with amateurs and a complete howling family from a large white RV already stuffed into a grown-up version of the cabin we just left. We’ll leave the howling family with his cabin.

But this, under the shade of the broad overhanging branches, across an arthritic, splintered rail fence, across a deep green meadow to a deep green tree line. Yanks on this side, Rebs in the tree line. It’s Shiloh and Antietam. And we know what became of them. We suffer in silence.

Calumet Farms, acres upon acres upon other neatly groomed and neatly fenced acres of thoroughbred meadows. There, there’s a few of the royal residents, chestnut as can be against the pure white fences.

That’s about all we can see, then there’s a strange black castle on a strange hill like some miniature golf course prop all blown up, then we’re stuck in some city-side traffic. And we have to make a joke: “which is the capital of Kentucky, Louisville or Lexington? It’s Frankfort of course and there it is indicated out to our left as we head north to Cincinnati, Ohio on I-75.

Definitely the end of tobacco road, flat cultivation on either side of the super road, take-out and motels as told by the tall billboards on their tall towers. Anywhere in America. So what do you do on a road you know? Just go, go. MOTOWN — the whole damn country.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Famous Cincinnati, Ohio, sitting beside one of the previous highways across America, all of a sudden industrial from a lot of pastoral behind us, across the mighty Ohio on a drab, industrial steel bridge, Riverfront Stadium, a soup bowl of 70’s architecture, artificial sport right at the river’s edge. Home once to the Big Red Machine. Yeah, right — but not right now. But as I write this Ken Griffey Jr. is now a member of the Cincinnati Reds. We’ll see. After all, isn’t this trip about baseball? We’ll see the Reds in a new stadium soon. Thanks to the baseball gods, and the interest of our generation, for giving us back some of our brickyard baseball history. Even the Tigers up where we’re heading.

We go right over the river and right past the construction site of a new football stadium. Cincinnati Bengals. Detroit Tigers.

Cincinnati is not new, rust belt around the collar a bit; but we only get a bit and we are beyond it all, on ahead to Dayton and Toledo.

You’re never beyond it all in this Ohio corridor. This is where a lot of the stuff for America is made. Making pit stops for cakes and other crap from the rest stop candy machines.

Not exactly big belching industrial machines belching black smoke; more like nice industry, everything, everyplace looking like they’re making washing machines, inside buildings that look like washing machines.

And then there’s GE, General Electric of Dayton — a vast right wing conspiracy if we ever saw one. Vast, like an updated Los Almos encampment. It’s GE’s aerospace space. Makes sense. Dayton Flyers. Two brothers, owned a bicycle shop? Seems to us they flew a plane somewhere in the Carolinas, and here we are flying up through Ohio at about 75 MPH. The Wright flight? Average speed about nothing? Baby-boomers away!

Not too far away up north is Toledo, Ohio. Thunderstorms close by out across the wide green waves of agriculture, a rain shower blowing across the interstate, semi tractor trailers on either side and up front. Jose Feliciano singing his funked-out version of the National Anthem in Tiger Stadium at the ’68 World Series. We’re comin’. We’re oblivious of the rain.

A complete rainbow like mother nature’s Gateway Arch. A mosque from out of the nowhere of the silver and black storm, minarets as tall as lightning rods atop a skyscraper tower, the mosque black and white, large enough around its black and white dome to satisfy anyone in Istanbul.

Toledo is near. Wasn’t Cpl. Klinger of M.A.S.H. from Toledo? Wasn’t he of Arab descent? We’re not kidding about that. We add to the equation of just more Muslims in America anyway and we have a major league bow to Mecca outside the rubber tire Mecca of America.

Cars, cars, all our CARS. Here’s where they make the tires for our cars? I’ve been by Toledo at night, heading west on I-80. Whatever they’re making, they’re making plenty of it, industrial torches like the legions of Rome marching in the darkness.

Today’s darkness is coming. I keep saying let’s stop at the next, but we just keep going, out and around Toledo. Lake Erie is out there somewhere in the gathering gloom.

We’ve gathered up almost all the miles between the Opryland Hotel and Detroit. Were we really there, back there? We’re hungry. In the darkness now the developments, the unusualness of the events in the emptiness around us fill us with a sense of real wonder.

No wondering where we’ll eat because there ain’t nothin’ but a Bob Evans. Bob Evans, whoever he might be, owns this stretch of the interstate. We need to stretch out before we take a darkness peek at Detroit. We know there’s a game tonight against the Anaheim Angels at Tiger Stadium. The stadium’s lights will guide us.

Inside Bob Evans is a country kitchen franchise crock. But the fried chicken and the pork chops and the corn on the cob are very good.

Let’s go, those stadium lights. There really isn’t much else to get a fix on as we close in on Detroit. It’s all dark and dreary in the dark on the way into the city. Neither one of us has ever been to Detroit — but we’ve heard all the dreary stories.

A big bit of carnival brightness all of a sudden. The bridge across to Canada like a casino welcoming you across to Nevada, the tall black bridge all lit up like a ship in port. We might go across but from here you can see the lights of Tiger Stadium in the near distance. The circle of booming lights is the only light we see.

Up off the off ramps and it seems like a city asleep, or dead, not much light except the stadium. No Holiday Inn close at hand, no Ramada, no Motel 6, nada, nothing as we cruise a bit on the broken streets.

It is eerie, not because we expected it to be but because it is, brick building shapes, city blocks, empty and soundless except for another large bank of lights, the only thing open for business in this district: the MGM Grand Casino & Hotel, big as a ballpark, one Detroit lion to another, their big lion logo all lit up, the whole desert tan temple of it taking up a few city blocks, apparently taking up all the electricity there is to be had in this part of town.

There’s a ghostly mob of people, mostly African-American, waiting to get in, standing outside in a line of Walt Disney World proportions. Where do they, where did they all come from? We’ve only driven through a patch of Detroit but Dogpatch, man, Dogpatch, the ghostly superstructure of the brand new Tiger Stadium, Comerica Park, looming up in the dark nearby. No bread, just circuses.

Not even a hint of a place where we might stay, so back on through the dark, industrial torches out to our right, Canada to our left. Back past the Bob Evans until finally a Ramada Inn lights up our landing.

It’s shabby. Nowhere near a dump but working on it while they work on reconstructing the front entrance. It’s indicative of the area? Shambles? We’ll see in the morning.

The room is quiet, like a barracks after lights out. We wonder if there’ll be some eventual commotion. A little celebration, a little TV, a few phone calls home, sleep.

One Response to Detroit (Part 1)

  1. Larry Livermore Reply

    January 2, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Great story so far, but Ty Cobb didn’t actually play in Tiger Stadium. His years were spent in Bennett Park and then Navin Field, which replaced it. My dad saw him play at Navin. Babe Ruth, too. Then came Briggs Stadium, which is where I attended games in my youth. Saw Ted Williams bounce a homer off but not over the roof and Mickey Mantle knock one off the upper deck just above where I was sitting. Don Larsen, the year after he pitched his perfect World Series game (the Tigers beat him anyway, despite Mantle’s homer), and Tiger greats like Al Kaline, Charlie Maxwell, and Jim Bunning, who’d go on to become an extreme right wing US senator (he was a lot more likable as a pitcher).

    I watched the Tigers all through the 50s and early 60s but they never won anything. I finally gave up on them, and sure enough, a year later they won their first world series since 1945. Tiger Stadium never resonated with me the same way Briggs Stadium did, although they were essentially the same thing under different names. It was a travesty of urban mis-planning to tear the old place down; it was one of the last sources of life and energy in a once-thriving but now nearly dead neighborhood. I still remember walking up Trumbull from the bus stop on Fort Street on game days, the stadium looming ever larger ahead of us and the air virtually crackling with excitement. The newspapers (there were three back then, the News, the Free Press and the Times) would sometimes print up a special front page for big games and newsboys would be hawking them up and down the streets, selling a ton even though everything else in the paper was exactly the same as the one you’d already read over breakfast.

    Detroit was a pretty hot town in those days, even if I spent most of my childhood and youth complaining about it. I look forward to reading more about Mr. Hughes’s visit.

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