This isn’t a piece shitting on Detroit. Watch the video up there. I’ll talk more about it later.
Earlier this year, my friend Ryan and I drove from Toronto to Chicago for a road trip and made a detour through Detroit for a few hours each way. The first observation was that this city was a shell of it’s former self.
We drove no more than 10 blocks before we saw this beautiful looking building (it sort of looked like it should be city hall or something) for sale. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in most cities, buildings that look like that don’t have “For Sale” signs outside. The downtown area was surrounded by office buildings whose doors and windows were now replaced with soggy lumber and graffiti. The scariest thing about this place was not the fact that there were no people in any of these buildings, but the fact that there once was.
On our way back, we decided to drive through Flint, Michigan. We had heard Michael Moore talk a lot over the years about the hard times that his city had fallen upon, and there was a level of (morbid) curiosity that surrounded that area. We got off the highway and drove a bit to find the downtown of Flint. It took a while but we finally found the pretty nice looking cobblestone road that I assume was the main strip, with shops and malls and what not, all closed on a Sunday afternoon. We drove a bit more and could not find anything that was open, really. We got back towards the highway and decide to stop for gas at a BP, where the realest shit I’ve ever experienced happened.
We go inside the gas station and ask the clerk if we could use the bathroom. He replies “there are no bathrooms in Flint“. Ryan and I were kind of confused and were like, “do you mean it’s for customers only…”? The clerk bangs on his inch thick bullet proof glass cell that surrounds the cashier’s desk and says “THIS IS WHY WE DON’T HAVE BATHROOMS. You must not be from around here”. I said “No… we’re from Canada”, and with that fact alone he let us use his bathroom. He explained to us (in not as polite terms) that their bathrooms were usually a hotbed for intravenous drug users and there would always be needles splayed on the floor, and that he wasn’t going to sacrifice his safety to clean them up, just so random people can use the bathroom. He also warned us that there were probably needles around where we were parked and that we should be careful where we step on our way back. Needless to say, we got the fuck out of there.
So back to that ski video. There’s a lot of stuff lately that celebrates the “shittiness” of Detroit and also I hear a lot of my friends viewing Detroit as a cool hipster no-mans-land. It’s gotten to the fact that I feel like Detroit is now like “Hipster Cabo” for people to saunter off to and then return to their lives as mustache graphic designers. I couldn’t help but put my critical douche hat on when watching this ski video, so I’m just gonna break it down point form:
- Skiing and snowboarding has really taken on a level of hoodification in the last 10 years, and judging from the hoodie length these guys are no exception (See anny Technine bindings video for more examples).
- Skiing and snowboarding are by default, an activity of means. A full snowboard setup costs anywhere form $400-$1000, add in lift passes, clothes, etc. You’re most likely not poor if you snowboard or ski.
Therefore, this video consists of rich people that are acting like they’re from the hood (that are traditionally poor), doing a sport that only rich people do in a place that’s poor. There’s kind of a level of “I can do whatever the fuck I want” in any sport with jibbing/grinding but I feel that the people that are doing the sport usually aren’t as blatant about their wealth (skis, trucks, etc.). While it’s cool to look at, I get the vibe of “hey, we’re rich non-threatening skiers! you should be THANKING us for coming to your shit town and filming”.
There’s a clip in the video where they say that a truck is scouting them, and they pull up and there were guys in skimasks in the back, and how that really scared them and made them want to leave Detroit -BUT THROUGH THE SHEER POWER OF WILL AND DEDICATION TO THE CITY OF DETROIT, they’re going to stay and get this last set of tricks. I’m not saying that wasn’t a dangerous situation to be in. This entire post is about how Detroit has issues. But, just as a thought exercise, imagine you see a bunch of trucks and guys started to scout around a building in your area. You’ve never seen these people before, and they’re just shoveling snow beside a part of the building and you’re not really sure what’s going on. Wouldn’t you be kinda suspicious of what is going on? I’m just saying that you shouldn’t play the victim or exaggerate the danger in their video when you’re technically trespassing in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, where 70% of murders go unsolved (as of 2011).
Either way, I’m sure Detroit loves all the attention and any sort of money coming in to stimulate the economy of a place that’s kind of fucked up. However, I do think that it’s fair to treat this city in it’s darkest time with some sort of respect, and not just as a playground for people to mess up and then forget about.