Today I had the pleasure of visiting Detroit’s Northwest side. I could go on about the bomb-ass Caribbean food, Soul food, fair trade coffee and Marvin Gaye records I purchased there. But I can’t go into too much detail because you readers would have no incentive to buy the Guide to Detroit in December…Hah. Anyway, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever visited Northwest. If you talk to my co-worker, Kit, you’d know that we already visited the area this very same week. On Monday we spent three hours driving around the damp, less familiar streets of Northwest. We were on a “Field Research Tour,” which normally involves absorbing the atmosphere of various business, chatting with customers and employees and writing guide entries for our internship project. Except on that day, it was pouring rain and we were trying to visit a bunch of businesses that were closed.*
*Ignorant readers might chime in here with a stale quip: “No surprise everything is closed! That area’s a ghost town. YuckYuckYuck!” Let me explain why that statement is just flipping wrong. These businesses were not closed for good, they just follow this somewhat annoying, seemingly city-wide trend: small businesses are pretty much NEVER open on Mondays. And those same business are usually are closed Sundays, too.
I have no problem with the whole Detroit-Small-Business-Weekend thing. I mean, everyone deserves a two-day weekend, right? This whole experience just made me wonder: does every observer who writes about the city like it’s just some dried-up oil town seem to visit Detroit on a Sunday or Monday?
Maybe the average uninformed visitor who ventures to a vibrant section of the city on a Monday takes a look at some of the buildings that have fallen into disrepair. They couple that observation with the few pedestrians they’ve seen. They jump to the conclusion that the area is in dire economic crisis and has virtually no residents. Is that assumption too far from the stories they hear from other news sources? Perhaps not. But what if the observer had visited on a Friday, a Wednesday, or stayed the whole week long? How might their perception of the city have changed? I bet they would have noticed the same difference in the sprinkling of mid-afternoon traffic I saw on Grand River on Monday, versus the flood of traffic I saw today. I bet they would have stopped to chat with Paul, the glowing Barber/amateur photographer who posts up in front of his Lahser Road storefront Tuesday–Saturday and greets each pedestrian. I bet they would have seen the city for what it is: a community.