letters written during a short residence in an incredibly posh hotel that still tries to keep its casual atmosphere by not making me feel badly about my chili’s to-go bag, part one.


you may not know this (i’m not sure why anyone but me and possibly my mom would), but i traveled to detroit, to a place i’ve never been before, to attend a conference i’ve never attended before to talk about these three women, all of whom wrote travel narratives that i wrote my paper about.

the symmetry is not lost on me.

so i pay homage to them, and the other women who make of my crazy life a career, by ever-so-humbly following in their footsteps.

part one

driving into detroit i was struck by the presence of two very contrasting emotions.  michigan from the air is beautiful. the fall leaves are just hitting their peak, and i missed those colors.  every time i saw a bright red tree, seemingly on fire, my heart thrilled.  as i drove into rochester, i saw a tree that with its yellow seemed almost an explosion of sunshine and i involuntarily grinned.  i saw lake michigan for the first time from the air too, and almost wasn’t sure what it was, it was so big and grand.

driving through detroit, though, i felt the weariness of a city that seems depressed.  i don’t mean that in the very economic or political ways that it could be (and has been) used in recent days.  i mean that every city has a feeling. new york makes me feel alive in a way that i’ve never felt before.  los angeles feels schizophrenically split into worlds that don’t make sense as a whole.  raleigh feels small and crowded, contradictory yet true.

detroit feels tired.

and yet, as i drove, i felt incomprehensibly drawn to it.  i rebelled against it, at first.  i wondered if i was looking for things to love, rather than just responding to it.  i think the opposite is actually true. i never thought i would like detroit.  detroit is…detroit. it’s the city of car factories and motown, of industrialization and henry ford.

it doesn’t seem to be my kind of town.

i’m not really saying that it is. but there’s something about it that forces you to look beyond its dirty, tired exterior to see beauty beneath it all.

the rundown homes alongside i-94 make me sad, testify to communities that desperately need attention.  and yet they are built of the most beautiful brick that i’ve ever seen, commanding a sense of strength and perseverance that homes that dilapidated don’t usually convey.  these homes have character and desperately want to be loved.

sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

and amidst all of the industrial north of the detroit area, there are little glimmers of amazing. like the two story barn that i pass on my way to the hotel, that’s old but still remains, still painted with advertisements and a testament to the history of this area.

so, i’m not sure if i really love it here. i don’t know that i would want to live in detroit. but i’m struck by the way a place has its own personality and how, if you pay attention, a place can teach you something.

we all ought to look beneath the surface more often, you know?

even when that surface is a three-story tire.

i’m not kidding.


3 Responses to “letters written during a short residence in an incredibly posh hotel that still tries to keep its casual atmosphere by not making me feel badly about my chili’s to-go bag, part one.”

  1. A Super Girl Says:

    I’m so glad you’re seeing below the surface of the D. It’s not your average city, that’s for sure…but it does hook ya.

  2. rexnerdorum Says:

    Writing about traveling to present a paper on women who wrote about traveling? I think that’s *ironic*.


  3. I surfed over from Copper Boom and saw your post. I’ve never been to Detroit, but what you describe sounds very much like I felt about Cleveland. It’s a gritty place that I would have loved to see at its height, but even with all the empty warehouses and old railyards the city was still somehow charming. Especially now that I’m in FL, where most cities seem hyper-planned and brand new, places like Cleveland and Detroit at the very least remind me there was a world before 1950.

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