Showing Detroit some love (in the Washington Post)

One of my favorite things to do when friends or family come to town is show them only-in-Detroit places like Hamtramck Disneyland, or my favorite installation down the boulevard at MBAD’s, or any of the other thought-provoking, puzzling, inspiring, or fantastical outdoor art pieces overflowing the city.

I was beyond thrilled, then to have the chance to share some of those things with Washington Post readers in their Sunday travel section recently. Have a look!

Outdoor art feature for the Post

Dark Times in Detroit? Not in its outdoor arts / By Dana McMahan for the Washington Post

Bring back that loving feeling

I dread going to our Detroit house.

Thinking about the house twists my stomach in knots.

When people ask how things are coming they get a grimace and a “don’t ask.”

The contractor, let’s just go ahead and call him Glen, is the looming dark force behind all of this. Remember dementors from the Harry Potter stories? He’s that. The havoc he’s wreaked and resulting stress has sucked all but the barest glimmer of joy from my soul when it comes to our Detroit house. When nightmares about the house aren’t plaguing me, I’m awake trying to think of anything but the problems with Glen.

The long story short is we’re yoked to him because he financed part of the house purchase price as well as the cost to renovate. Not only has he not done the promised work on time, properly, or completely, leaving us with who knows what resulting problems and cost to redo the wok, he’s tacked on an egregious bill that nearly doubles the sum he quoted for electrical and plumbing work. There’s more, a lot, but I’m not inclined to go into the whole tale just now. We have an attorney working for us now, a very kind gentleman with a telecopier number on his letterhead because he’s of another generation, and even though we can’t afford him, we can’t afford to not have him. Glen won’t respond to the attorney’s letters (and has long since stopped responding to us) so we’re going to have to escalate things. Meanwhile, our second floor is unexpectedly and suddenly empty, and even though I’m barely over the reeling exhaustion of rehabbing the first and third floors, and Brian has no more vacation time, it’s time to start work on it now. And it needs redoing from the ceilings to the floors and every inch in between down to and including the two dozen window blinds (caked as they are in five years of nicotine). We didn’t budget for this any more than we’d budgeted for an attorney. So. Lots of stress, lots of worry. Not a lot of those loving feelings I came to Detroit with.

And that is what makes me angriest of all — that one person can strip me of the boundless enthusiasm that brought me to Detroit. But you know, you can always go back to wisdom from mom, and my mom has always taught me that other people can’t make me feel anything. I’m in charge of that. So, while I am utterly helpless when it comes to this cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-assed, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed, sack of monkey shit (Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?), I am the only one in control of how I respond.

I’m sitting in the Louisville coffeeshop where I work, and out of the slew of vinyl they have on hand here, somebody decided to put Rodriguez on the record player. “Sugarman” brings back memories of the summer of work, of friends, of challenges overcome, of nights in the back yard by the firepit, of the frisson of excitement that attends coming up over the rise to the Detroit skyline. Over our party weekend we drove friends around our Detroit, Rodriguez on the stereo as we showed them the city we loved, and they fell in love, too.

So next week we go back to Detroit, to our house. And here’s what I’ll remember. It’s our house, the house that lets us be part of Detroit, which is all we ever wanted, anyway. There will be work, and struggles, and likely a horrible showdown with Glen on this trip or at some point, but in the end, it will still be our house and our dream, and I’m not letting someone steal that loving feeling.

lovedetroit