As X’s John Doe scolded many years ago, “Don’t forget the Motor City!” And, since I’ve always done as Doe commands, Detroit was on the table over a delightfully social coffee this morning, and I think our well-caffeinated imaginations have devised a proper solution to the current woes of this once-great city.
Like the word “blog,” “Motown” is a portmanteau (“motor” and “town”), and the city’s musical legacy runs deep and wide: John Lee Hooker, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Martha and the Vandellas, The Spinners, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin. Saxophonist Donald Byrd hails from Detroit, and of course, there’s the punk legacy: MC5, Iggy Pop (still got it), Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, and Suzi Quattro, with lesser-known bands such as The Necros and The Meatmen bridging the gap to the garage-rock sound of The White Stripes, The Von Bondies, and Electric Six.
Months back my dear friend John grew weary of the tepid solutions proposed by politicians and pundits alike, so here’s our proposal. Now, I’m not certain how we work out the pensions that should be paid (it’s a contract, and defended by the Michigan Constitution), but I think it’s possible.
Step one: Detroit as a geographical entity, alas, lacks natural barriers to development to the north, west, and south, and suburban sprawl thrived as the dominant paradigm in late modernity. Alas, it was much too late by the time folks realized that suburban life was long on promise and short on sustainability. With the Detroit River (and Lake St. Clair) along the east side as the natural border to Canadian neighbors, Detroit occupies a more natural location for secession. Detroit, a la Singapore, becomes a city-state.
Step two: Once the city-state is established, it can free itself from the cannabis-phobia just starting to wane in the US, and become the Amsterdam of the west, with pot salons and a plethora of bicycles. The urban garden scene of Detroit is already thriving, although the recent acquisition of 2000 lots for $600,000 by the Hantz Group may change things–we’ll see.
(Photos courtesy of http://www.organicandurban.com/.)
The city has a rich urban cultural center, plenty of decent roadways (they’ll need to turn the street lights back on, of course), and somewhat expensive homegrown bicycles, too. (Images from Shinola and Detroit Bicycle Company, respectively, below.)
Of course, this blog is not advocating smoking and steering, or smoking at all. One might imagine over time, though, that dope taxes could fund pensions galore. (I hear Amsterdam’s swimming in cash.) I would simply advise that the powers that be have, like rock in the late 70s, become ossified, and that we’re due for a punk-rock-esque paradigm shift.
Best of luck to all the parties involved. There will be blood, and tears, and a solution, let’s hope. Many thanks to Sloop John B. for the inspiring conversation and stiff brew.