My Detroit Fairy Godmother

My Detroit Fairy Godmother

“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.

Parking Man Sam

Parking Man Sam

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.

Ivan the Scientologist

Ivan the Scientologist

I had just settled into a glass of white wine at Great Lakes Coffee the other night, waiting for my iPhone to charge before hitting the road (on foot) again, when I was approached by a bespectacled man with the glossiest of hair.

Meet Ivan.

Ivan is a physicist who trained at UC Berkeley and Sussex University in England. He says his science background is of great help in understanding the teachings of scientology.

He was disappointed to find out I was a reporter.

“I am not allowed to audit you,” he said. “The Church of Scientology forbids us from auditing reporters, military personnel and policemen.”

Erik at Thomas Magee

Erik at Thomas Magee

I walked over to Thomas Magee, a new bar in Eastern Market, this Tuesday. It had been a long day’s work and I needed a beer. A Ghettoblaster beer to be precise.

I was met by a pretty cool team of staff, including Erik, pictured here, who is the owner.

Erik is from the east side of Detroit and his past seems to have involved a substantial amount of traveling due to boxing. He is a Newcastle football supporter (as in soccer) and has quite impressive niche knowledge about the game.

Erik said he wasn’t completely sold on me yet, but was willing to give me a try. After a few beers – yes, definitely more than one – and a chat with a charming firefighter, I headed home. Erik gave me a hug on my way out. Friendship may not have been there yet, but I felt sure I was off to a good start.

Danielle the Activist Mom

Danielle the Activist Mother

I met Danielle the day after Thanksgiving at a protest for better wages and working conditions in front of Walmart. The photo is therefore a few months old (note the telling lack of snow), but smiley Danielle sprang to mind today as I was immersed in researching a story on the labor movement.

Danielle lives just outside of Detroit, in Royal Oak, with her husband and children. She is the founder of a nonprofit group called Mothering Justice, my notes tell me, which seeks economic empowerment for Michigan-based mothers.

She told me the protest brought good memories back as she and her husband had met fighting for a hike in the minimum wage – in Florida, if my memory serves me well. I shall email her now to double check.

Spinning Robert

Spinning Robert

Robert gave me a ride today as I was on my way to interview a few people for a story.

Robert is from the west side of Detroit and says he loves his city.

“I love Detroiters. It’s like we have a chip on our shoulder and we want to prove we can do things better than the rest.”

Robert told me he ended up spinning in the best clubs in Seoul when he was in Korea with the army. “It’s like you’re a world class DJ when you go abroad, but in Detroit you’re one of hundreds, so you have no idea.”

Bundled Up Noah

Bundled Up Noah

I met Noah as I was walking east from downtown. I thought his outfit perfectly spoke for how cold it is in Detroit at the moment.

He told me he was heading home. “I’ve been out walking, trying to find something to eat,” he said.

People here have mixed feelings about the media. The impression, I have found, is that reporters either give a stereotypical rendering of Detroit’s demise or a simplistic, upbeat one of the city’s rebirth.

Just a few words exchanged with Noah made my heart break. It has broken a number of times since I moved to the city.