I grew up in the middle of the California desert. We had no phone, and our source of electricity was generators. I had to go to a national park to talk to my grandparents on my birthday from a pay phone. We had chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, guineas, dogs, cats, rabbits, and I'm sure there were some more animals peppered in there.
I have had an amazing life, one that people tell me I should write a book about. And I thought once I moved away from there that I would have nothing else to write about. That is until I got a phone call for a job in California. This phone call has made me think of the possibility of leaving this city that I have fallen in love with. And while I didn't get the job, it did put these thoughts in my head.
I have fallen in love with you. Slowly at first, then like a rock dropped into a pool; head first, fast and with ripples that touched every part of my body. My first visit to you was in 1997, I was a slow-talking high school freshman from Texas.
My high school cross-country coach lived in an apartment over Nikki's Pizza in Greektown, I came down to watch the Detroit Marthon. I knew nothing about Detroit history, nothing about the riots, segregation, the auto industry and the people. I'm not sure if back then I would have understood or cared about any of that. I just loved the sights, tall buildings, a ton of people, and good food.
I came in every once in a while, for a Tigers game, to run the Turkey Trot and to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But never really gave Detroit much thought. I went away to college -- two years at Ferris, one year at Ohio University and then I moved back home and went to OCC. I realized I needed a college degree from a four-year university, so I switched to Wayne State. The advisor said three more classes and I could have a degree in photography (those three classes turned into three years, and I loved each and every one of them).
So six months in Hubbard Farms, a summer in Italy and four years in Woodbridge, and, I thought I had to choose: Detroit or C.A.
C.A. -- Dream job. New beginning. Pay check, benefits, 401k. Sunshine. Snow only in the mountains and only when I wanted to see it. 80 degrees all year long, no more pit bull in a sweatshirt in the winter. Furthering my career.
Detroit -- my home, the only place I've called home since leaving C.A. 15 years ago. A 100-year-old house. A neighborhood filled with more creative driven people than I could ever imagine. Public spaces turned to art spaces at the drop of a hat. Being able to be a part of 15 different organizations on a level where I actually make a difference. Going to rooftop parties. Being able to be an artist. Being able to be a cycling photographer. Wanting to put on a USACycling bike race in the middle of downtown Detroit and then doing it. Being able to make a difference if I put my mind to it. Being a part of the planning team for a 4,000+ person Tour-de-Troit. Friends that show up when you need a sewing machine, PBR, or a bike ride. The feel of the new morning when I get to work and hear the church bells ring on Washington. The sunny days when it rains. Being a "local." Saying my favorite restaurant is a taco truck. Having people come in and say hi because they saw my bike outside.
I love you because you loved me first, you accepted me before I knew I needed it. Before I thought I wanted to live here, you enticed me, first with big-ticket items: sports and theater. But then you reeled me in with the small shops owned by people I call my friends. Bartenders who chat with you when you're at a different bar. The bike-able streets. The passion leaking out of every building new and old. The people who can see that passion and turn it into a reality.
I have seen bars change, food added to menus, some open, some close, some bring new life, some bring new problems, all of them bring a little more flavor to a city I didn't think could handle any more. I have watched parades as old as the Thanksgiving parade and as new as the Marche de le Nain Rouge. I have seen the birth of the future, and I am a part of it. It's right in my own front yard.
I fell in love with you. And I am glad I get to stay around for the long run. I am grateful for the people who found out about the job in C.A. and who wished me well. Those that knew that even though I might be leaving, it wasn't to leave Detroit, it was because I was trying to make something bigger happen. Even if you leave Detroit, it doesn't leave you.
As sad as I am to not be in C.A. on this cold day, I am thrilled to say that I am still a Detroiter. Thank you Detroit for making me the person that I am today. Thank you for adding another 100+ stories to a life that has so many already. And one that at the ripe age of 28 will see many more within your wide open streets. Thank you for being supportive to the arts and DIY crowd, these people are my friends and the people who will make you shine like the diamond that you are.