Detroit: Love it or laugh

Iron Teaching Rocks How To Rust installation at MBAD  African Bead Museum

Welcome to our party (check out this artist’s fascinating work)

There’s something that separates the people that laugh or open their eyes so wide I think they’ll pop out, and the people that love our plan. It sort of raised my hackles at first when people expressed their incredulity that we were house shopping in Detroit. Now we see so very many cool thing going on there – and so many people who quietly beat us to the punch of buying a house to rent to intrepid travelers — that in a weird way I’m kind of glad to still get the look of shock and the quickly masked expression that reads “you’re crazy.” It means we’re not too late to be part of the beginning of whatever you call what’s shaping up in Detroit (it’s mostly cliches that fall a bit short but it’s interesting just to round up the labels; one visiting couple dubbed the city the playground of the inspired and energetic).

Yesterday we told our accountant our plan. “You’re doing WHAT?” she crowed. She lived in Ann Arbor in the 80s, when her father worked in Detroit. The kids weren’t allowed to go into the city; it was too dangerous, her father said. She was fascinated — and to her credit, wants to come visit when we have a house. We ran into a friend last night and — as we do — mentioned our plans (which are on firmer ground now that we have the dreaded tax visit over; our entire savings for the house isn’t blown). My friend’s wife asked, to confirm, “you’re buying a vacation home in DeTROIT?” (there’s always a heavy emphasis on the second syllable when laughter or the look is going to follow). At my nod she unleashed peals of laughter. I laughed with her. I know it sounds preposterous. People buy vacation homes in Florida or on lakes or the ocean. Ones with money buy a pied a terre in Paris. We’re not ones with money. We’re rummaging around the house looking for things to sell on Ebay to help scrape up the money we’ll need. Anyone need a Nikon D50 and a couple of lenses?

But some people — mostly those who live in Michigan, and some close friends or those who also seek adventure in many forms — are intrigued by our idea and I think genuinely support us.  And we don’t mind the laughter anymore, but it’s also very nice to talk with people like that, people with whom we can have serious conversations about tenants and taxes and renovation.

We’re headed up to Detroit in early March to look at some more houses and spend a night or two at the Homestead, with the incredibly sweet and welcoming couple running it. They’re so very generous with their knowledge and input on our plan; after all they took it a colossal step further than we’ll do — they actually packed up and moved there full time (which isn’t really feasible for us). We hope this time to finally find a house that’s a fit, and start making this love-it-or-laugh plan a reality.

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