STILL IN DETROIT
A SCHIZOPHRENIC WORLD
It’s a bit surreal. For once, the word is not overrated. My host Eric is taking me around Detroit. He knows the city well. He’s a wealth of valuable explanations and knows which streets to take.
It’s fascinating how you pass from one extreme to the other within two blocks. Going from a city so desolate and abandoned that it seems to have been bombed, with mostly black residents that look tired, worn out, damaged, in the image of their environment… to pockets of an ideal and lush Frank Capra–esque America. Pockets where real mansions with manicured lawns coexist with schools whose windows have been shut-close using ugly plywood boards full of graffiti. This is a caricature, a microcosm of what it feels like to undertake this journey: diving in a schizophrenic world.
Please, do not misunderstand me. This is not to blame the rich (or white) population. Or the black one, for that matter… We all know that such circumstances are always and often much more complex.
We’re off to the downtown area, GM headquarters, Ford Hospital, the university, all of which act as an island with vibrant economic activity in the middle of a field of ruins.
Eric tells me that each every meager recovery measure easily becomes the front page of local newspapers in a somewhat pathetic way, whether it’s a building about to be restored here, or a new start-up coming soon there. As would do any small provincial town eager to attain the status of a great city!
And then, all of the sudden appears this incredible museum, the “Detroit Institute for the Arts”. Although I’ve only seen the contemporary art section, it has a beautiful collection with international standard. However, it is absolutely deserted, even though it is free for citizens of Detroit. Perhaps people have other priorities…
This reminds me of “The Omega Man”, this 70s post-apocalyptic movie depicting the last human man left in a populous city of “post-bombing” zombies.
That same evening, I film Jerry: a shy and broke astrologer. He gives a chilling reading of my “zodiac” that leaves me stupefied, me, a non-believer. The house smells a bit of stale tobacco. The carpet absorbs the odours. He and his wife are the picture of the perfect newly in-love couple, so much it looks like they are over-doing it a bit. Then, it’s Eric’s turn. He comments through his meal, a health sandwich that he eats alone and standing in his a beautiful empty house…. I listen.
I am not doing too bad getting around, starting to get used to the car (I usually don’t use a car in my daily life). I cruise around throughout the city. A “talk show ” on the radio is painfully trying to dissect biblical quotes that condemn sex change… I drive past a huge golden mosque, dilapidated and shabby garages, billboards about shady-looking lawyers…