28/07/11

NOTHING TO DECLARE

What was it? A No Parking sign? Part of a car? A cleaver? A map of the great lakes? I found it in the street while running over piles of dead fishflies in 95-degree suburban Detroit heat. Then I carried it like the Olympic torch in my sweaty palm for another 4 miles and collapsed in my father’s kitchen. I suppose we have to take it home with us, said M. It was added to the stockpile of miscellaneous debris I had collected so far for the annual import: baking powder, vanilla, various bottles of vitamins, some old aprons, a stray baseball, 9 pairs of new underpants, a souvenir plastic replica of the 1952 Wienermobile in the Henry Ford Museum, an advertisement for the long defunct boat to Bob-Lo. 3 weeks later I surreptitiously wheeled our bulging suitcases under the Nothing to Declare sign, expecting the bored German customs guy to pull me aside and demand a cut of my treasure. He didn’t even say welcome home.

15/04/11

GOING TO THE BEACH

I learned to swim at a beach on an island in the Detroit River. Across from the Uniroyal Tire plant on Jefferson. In 1980, the year of the dubble-whammy – my parents’ divorce and Ronald Reagan’s election – Uniroyal closed the factory. On our way to the beach we would see the mural of stylized rolling tires that to me were donuts with wings. As I grew up the paint peeled off. The property became a de facto toxic waste dump. But, my mother says, Don’t worry! It was downriver from the beach, they tested the water, I’m sure it was fine. In 1985, the City of Detroit tore down the building complex that had been built in 1906. The people from the suburbs were happy they could finally see the river on their commute downtown. I missed seeing the donuts as I drove past the huge empty lot every day on my way to Cass Tech High School, which later was also abandoned and left to decay. Then some french guys came and made beautiful photographs of what remained.

05/10/09

I SAY YES! TO PUBLIC ATTENTION

One of my mother’s sisters wrote to me the other day, If I know anything after all this time, it’s that the attention we get is rarely related to anything other than our knowing how to get attention. She should know. This is a woman who used to run marathons with helium balloons tied to the ends of her braids. And she’s just one of seven; when they’re all together there’s usually a fistfight for control of the microphone. I generally take more after the other side of the family, the shy pessimists.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling the exhibitionist urge, hence the blog, which I intend to fill for all to see with the ephemera that’s too good to throw away, the detritus that’s been rescued from oblivion and the miscellanea that remains. So here I give you one of many prized possesions: a gold foil embossed matchbox, empty, ca. 1979, from the aforementioned Aunt’s shop. This was a fantastic place where you could eat ice cream, sign up for a 10k run and buy a kazoo printed with her motto, Say Nice Things about Detroit. As my daughter’s kindergarten teacher remarked with the sneering disdain of a true New Yorker, Detroit? Yeah, that’s a good place to be FROM.

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