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.
“What are you doing?” I shouted out to the men in the oddly shaped skates holding on to their batons.
“We are skate skiing,” the answer came back. “Preparing for the cross-country skiing season, which is about to begin. Can’t wait.”
Glenn and his crew were whizzing up and down as Alfie and I were happily strolling along.
“You’re a Brit aren’t you?” The question came as they whooshed past us a third time. I acquiesced.
“You must think we Americans are crazy.”
I smiled. Generally, I am the one to be branded eccentric. The role reversal was quite refreshing.
Tod is from Detroit, “born and raised,” he confirmed to me this morning. He has been doing security along the Dequindre Cut seven months now. “Trust me, I’m everywhere,” he told me when I asked about his patrolling techniques. “I’ll be here one minute, and the next thing you know, I’ll be over there.”
You could say he’s a bit like Batman in that way.
I am ashamed to say I met Tod pretty soon after my arrival. Alfie was illegally off leash and Tod rolled up and kindly asked me to put him back on. The same thing happened the next day. And the day after that. Eventually Tod made things clear, “you know I can see you on the security cameras, right?”
I blushed at my stupidity. He seemed forgiving. We’ve had good banter ever since.