They say Detroit is not for sissies, and though Sailor Man is not a sissy, he flirts with his inner sissiness every time we go visit my family. He also flirts with his inner brat by making snarky comments when I try to assure him that we’ll have a good time, he responds with “the only sure thing in Detroit is someone is going to get shot” (totally ripped off from “Arli$$”, never should have introduced him to that show).

I usually start off the trip by confusing Sailor Man with visits to the numerous and scary aunts, uncles, and cousins he can scarcely keep count of. I keep telling him it’s simple: just call every guy you meet Jimmy and you’re either bound to be right 75% of the time or since they’re my family, they’ll be drunk enough to assume it’s an endearment. The women are even easier. Call everyone you meet Mary and you basically got it covered. Mary Pat, Mary Kate, Mary Beth, Mary Ann, Mary Ellen, etc. We’re Micks, our social interactions do not require the level of thinking you might use in say, rocket science or quantum physics.

When Sailor Man gets really mouthy, I take him for a drive downtown, deep downtown, to the scary sections where I lived in college, drank in my twenties, and am easily remembered in any number of frightening and poorly lit establishments where the men are rough, the women are rougher and bartenders have billy-clubs slung in their belts. I’ll take him to the Gaelic League, down from the old Tiger Stadium, where we’ll look at decades of family pictures on the wall, he’ll see the room where I used to take Irish step dancing lessons (this is back when Irish step dancing didn’t suck like it does now, thank you, Riverdance), and we’ll drink questionable liquid from dusty bottles that will be guaranteed to melt the fillings out of your teeth or at least do some fairly serious damage to your tonsils.

The scary drive through downtown usually subdues Sailor Man at this point. I think he fears I may turn a sharp left and throw him from the car to be left on the corner of a crack neighborhood, so he tends to quiet down and behave. At this point, I usually get charitable and start showing all the good stuff, the architectural tour sort to speak. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Edison Park, Indian Village, Mexican Town (Xochimilco Restaurant!), we’ll go to Belle Isle, Eastern Market (Saturday Morning), the Detroit Zoo, and Greek Town. I nearly died when they detonated the old Hudson Building downtown a few years back, what can you do? If there actually is one thing you can be sure of in Detroit is if it’s wonderful and historical they’re sure to tear it down. Not unlike Erie in some ways…

Back in the 1950’s Detroit was referred to as the Paris of the Midwest. It seems hard to believe these days, but it’s like viewing an older home, you can still see the “good bones” and if someone were to bother to put the time and money and some serious elbow grease into the woodwork, she’d be the best house on the block.

I may no longer live there, but I am an ardent fan and fervent supporter of the old Motor City. Do not bad mouth the town to me or I will kick you in the teeth.  Every place has its ups and downs, the good with the bad, and Detroit is no different. There’s a lot of good there and people seem to forget about it amidst murder rates and Halloween fires, so let me remind you: Detroit is the birthplace of the auto industry, Motown Records, KISS, Bob Seger (don’t start with me), Iggy Pop, the White Stripes, Madonna, Tom Sellek, Robin Williams, Francis Ford Coppola, MC5, Aretha Franklin (even if she’s now a debt dodging slum lord), Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Gilda Radner, Elmore Leonard, Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, Stevie Wonder, and Rosa-don’t-tell-me-to-move-to-the-back-of-the-bus-Parks. Just to name a few…

Beat that. 

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