Sunday, October 25, 2009

Detroit pride

My father was born in Yonkers, New York. Him and his siblings before him. He was born in 1938, and the future wasn't in New York

The future was Detroit.

Our entire Cooney family, grandfather - grandmother - seven kids - great uncle - moved to the motor city because of the promise. The future. The motor city offered a good living for the common man. No special education needed.

This happened before Detroit was great, before unions even existed. There are pictures of my Great Uncle Dick* with Jimmy Hoffa when they were fighting to create the unions. My family was there, they helped build the automotive empire.

While my grandfather and great uncle worked for the big three not all their children followed in their footsteps. A few did. My father was a rebel, he went to college (and grad school) against his father's wishes. My grandfather told my dad he was a fool to go to college, that it was a waste of his time. He could make a great wage at an assembly plant, tuition was a waste of money.


Despite all this so many years later I graduated from high school and went to GMI and worked for General Motors.

Not out of family pride. Hell no, out of greed. I read somewhere the best wage out of college was in engineering, and I wanted to make money. And also believed I could do anything I wanted, so why not make some green?

Well obviously my life and my goals changed. I realized that money means little to my happiness and that I felt more alive living in NYC than anywhere else I had been.

But despite this by god I still love Detroit. I am obsessively defensive and loyal to the city. Maybe it explains my love of the underdog...or my image of myself as one. I am fiercely proud of having lived in such a tough place, and manically protective of its reputation at the same time .

There are so many amazing things about this city, historical details that still put me in awe. Yet its current economic state prevents the rest of the world from seeing any of it. People visit Memphis because of Elvis, as depressed as it may be. But no one, and I mean NO ONE visits Detroit.

So here I live in gotham loving my life, but feeling such a strong connection to a city with no hope. Then I saw this:

And I took the magazine from my doctor's office. to read the article associated with the cover, and read these words...

"The neighborhood where I lived as a child, where for decades orderly rows of sturdy brick homes lined each block, is now the urban equivalent of a boxer's mouth, more gaps than teeth. Some of the surviving houses look as if the wrecker's ball is the only thing that could relieve their pain. "

My god, if only I was that eloquent. Exactly what I long to say to those who don't understand what Detroit is now.

Yet here is this article, which accurately describes the entire downfall of the motor city. Big and little pieces. The history I live but have such a hard time explaining to the rest of America.

Please, if you are the least bit curious read the article and the month long introspective. Not because of me, but because we all learn from our mistakes.

Here there is a city that within a century was the promise of the world then became the ruin of the nation....I think we all need to learn how to avoid repeating that same history.

(Hello dot com bust?)

* Uncle Dick really his name, Richard Cooney. Dick was the common nickname, and never diminutive when it came to him.

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