I took this photo a few months ago at a release party for a new issue of Critical Moment, a local Detroit magazine written and run by Detroiters.
Upon arrival, I asked my dear friend Mike – pictured here selling beers to help raise funds for the entirely free publication – where all the women were.
It’s not that I do not like being at a party with lots of men, it’s just that the ratio of men to women was around 10 to 1. That did seem a little extreme, even for Detroit.
“Oh the women will get here,” Mike said confidently. “Just you wait. They’re still busy getting ready.”
I let the stereotypical comment slip. Mike is, after all, one of my most feminist male friends.
A few hours later, as women had gradually and steadily started flooding the room, I caught Mike’s eye. He knowingly nodded back. He had, of course, been quite right.
My new friend Ben and I walked into 1515 on Broadway after having a delightful lunch in Greektown a few Fridays ago. After buying coffee, Ben and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Scott and Scott’s marvelous yellow turtleneck.
Scott is temporarily based out of Corktown, although he will be flying back to LA soon. He is in the business of lending money to very wealthy people and helping them carry out large ventures.
“The big ham” is how he put it.
When he found out I was a reporter his face froze.
“You haven’t been recording me, have you?”
“Hey, I swear I am not coming onto you,” I heard a truck say as I was heading towards d:Hive in downtown Detroit for some background on a story. I braced myself for what was to come.
“I think your hair is awesome. Awesome.”
What a nice truck.
My very good friend Sara came to visit from New York last month. Sara is an award-winning Danish journalist whose extensive reporting on New York’s Stop-and-Frisk policies has been published in a number of outlets, including The Atlantic and AJA. Her two-week visit was part work, part play.
I was reminded of her visit and this photo a few days ago, when I posted a photo on social media of Alfie and me on a morning walk standing in front of a large, tagged, abandoned building – just a few minutes’ walk away from home. The post provoked mixed reactions. Specifically, one of my Detroit acquaintances was angry for the ruin porn representation of the city I was blasting to the outside world.
Avoiding to mindlessly fall into cliche is one of the main jobs a journalist has, I believe. In this city, which is going through such an extreme time, you have to constantly watch yourself. Sometimes reality challenges stereotypes, sometimes a snapshot of reality will confirm them. To the extent that it is possible, the job is to question and document, never to twist or spin.
“The more I spend time here, the more I feel like it’s so complex,” Sara confided in me towards the end of her trip.
I walked into Shinola – a new luxury watch and bicycle store based out of Detroit – a few weeks ago as I was doing some background research for a story I am writing for British media.
The staff could not have been friendlier, but Clarissa, pictured here, may have been my favorite. She told me she moved to Detroit a couple of years ago after falling in love with the city over the course of a weekend visiting one of her great friends.
Later that night, as I had hung up my reporting shoes and put on my bright blue suede stilettos for a party at the Red Bull House of Art, beaming Clarissa tapped me on the shoulder.
“Tell me the truth,” she said. “Were you in the shop because you were curious, or were you on the job?”
We smiled. No fool Clarissa.
Al famously lives inside the Packard Plant, an abandoned automobile factory, which stretches across 40 acres on Detroit’s east side. He is its unofficial caretaker and drives around in a white minibus.
Al is full of stories.
“When I was young, kids used to come into the city, wreak havoc, and then get the hell out.”
“But now, with all the nonsense that is being published in the media, nobody’s coming anymore. The kids in the suburbs are too scared.”
“Hello Miss Rose,” I heard from across the street as I was rushing to a lunch date at the Russell Street Deli in Eastern Market.
JJ was in town from Austin, visiting his brother. Not for long though. By the time I write this, JJ will have arrived in Singapore to record an album.
Recording an album in Singapore sounded rather important, I told JJ. “Anything I might have heard of?”
“A few of the records I made with my partner MC Breed went platinum,” he said. “Heard of 2pac? We made a track with him in the early nineties. Gotta Get Mine.”
I was strolling up Cass Avenue today on my way to do some background reporting with my fellow British partner in crime Hannah, when a store front featuring gorgeous shoes displayed across old wooden chests caught our eye.
Tanisha (pictured here) and her husband just opened Thrift on the Avenue, which sells super cool second-hand women’s clothes at affordable prices.
“You don’t have to spend a lot to look good,” I heard one of our new friends declare as I tried a succession of dresses and skirts on.
Classy Tanisha didn’t need to say much to convince me.
Minutes later – and after a few warm goodbyes – I was leaving the store with a new bright purple dress and some “D” for Detroit earrings.
Many a long-term Detroit resident has told me that the Cass Corridor was a hotbed for crime up until just a few years ago. The area has since been rebranded a part of Midtown.
“After this we are going to get a drink,” Justin announced to me as we made our way to Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern in downtown Detroit last week. “Because that, Rose, is what adults do.”
Justin and I spent time together on a Wednesday, but to Justin, who works unconventional hours at Ford, it was technically a Friday – the beginning of his weekend.
Justin and I met through an extremely close mutual acquaintance last September. Armed with what seems to be a very Detroit mixture of kindness, generosity and cynicism, he has had my back ever since.
Justin, in short, is my fairy godmother.
Sam, pictured here holding Afie, works at the parking lot opposite the Third Circuit Court on Gratiot in downtown Detroit. We see each other a few times a week and finally got a conversation going today.
Sam came to Detroit from Alabama when he was 13. He says things may be bad here, but he feels they’re still better than in Alabama.
“These things are always temporary,” he mused as we exchanged impressions of the city.
Before Alfie and I got on our way, Sam looked me straight in the eye with one last thing to say. “That’s not your real hair color. You dye it, don’t you?”
I laughed and confirmed his suspicions. Honesty for honesty.
Behind Sam are the remnants of a $300 million county jail project, which was halted last year mid construction.