Before I start I just want to point out the excellent words in the sidebar written by Anchorman Stephen Clark of WXYZ Channel 7 Detroit. Stephen is the ringleader of the #backchannel on twitter, and an all round super nice guy. Big thank you Stephen.
This entry is about how I ended up here, and a few other weird things.
When I finally settled down to live in the Detroit area in 2002, some would ask the question, “Why?” For the regular reader you’ll know my Wife is a Michigan girl and the choice of us being here was a no brainer. But meeting my future Wife was not where my Detroit connection started.
For me my link to Detroit began almost subconsciously. I’m a big music fan and love all sorts of music and back when I though I was hip and trendy (O.K. I’ve never been hip and trendy!) my friends and me were in a constant battle to have the latest sounds. So when I bought the record Detroit Techno, I’ll be honest, it was nothing to do with Detroit, it was the word Techno that sold me. And there is some great tunes on that record. Tunes that I would play in my car as loud as I could driving around my home town. I know the timing wont work out very well, but if you use the sound from the first video and watch the second video you may get a rough Idea of what it was like for me as a reckless eighteen year old.
Again notice a 1949 Dodge driving around my home town of Bury St.Edmunds! O.K. it’s not the best shot video, but it gets the point across!
I would listen to Inner City a lot, Kevin Saunderson, and look at the picture on the cover that showed the Detroit skyline. It was 1988 and I had no clue that I would ever go do America in my life time, or Detroit for that matter. Of course back in those days I knew all the stereotypes about Detroit, and If they’d have had the Pure Michigan campaign back in 1988 I still think I’d have gone on holiday to Great Yarmouth!
Again back in the old days I’d have believed a statement like the one to the left. But as they say you need to find these things out for yourself. So I still had no plans to come to Detroit!
The 80s went, the 90s came, and I plodded on with my life, until one day in 1997 I decided to buy a computer, a real one! The most powerful machine I’d owned prior was a Commodore 64 (I miss those days), so a real computer that I could work with, write the book that was inside me that had been trying to burst out of me. Of course the first thing I did was hook it up to the internet. In 1997 the internet may have been in black and white, compared to how it is now. The wee, beep, beep, brrrrr of the dial-up would be constantly going in my house, as for some reason I would get bumped off after thirty minutes. It must have been fate or something, but within ten days of falling into a Yahoo chat room I began chatting to this wonderful lady from Michigan, and yes, I’m now married to her. Back then it was unheard of, internet dating! Now every one seems to do it, My Wife and I were one of the first to be told that we must be nuts!
So here I came, I saved my pennies, and in March of 1998 I came to Detroit for the first time. I came for two weeks and stayed for a month! During the first few weeks it really didn’t sink in that I was in America. I was here, but I guess I just couldn’t take it in. All the American flags , did tell me where I was, the miss spelling of the word Tire bugged me, it uses a Y people! The flags as I understand it are all there so that pilots don’t get confused and bomb the wrong country!
Then one day during my visit, Dawn decided to take me down to the Detroit Institute of Arts, a great place to visit, though don’t kiss too much in front of the artwork, it sets alarms off. It was a chilly morning, the previous day being in the 80s, Michigan weather! So as we were walking along Woodward I noticed the steam rising up through the man-hole covers. It was that sight that stopped me in my tracks. Wow, I’m really in America. A small town boy, born and raised in Bury St. Edmunds. Hmm that’s a good line, someone should make a song about that! I’d seen the steam before, but it had been on TV in some old cop shows and now here I was seeing it for myself. I suppose I could have just looked up at the tall buildings and that may have done it too.
Alas due to the American authorities wanting me to have a proper visa, I had to return to the U.K. The next four years were the most horrible I’d had. I had visited Detroit and I loved it. Detroit is not scary folks. Yes every big city has its bad areas, I could take you to places in London that are worse than parts of Detroit. The City has been to hell, it has been run down, but it is trying to come back, The Detroit 20/20 project is a great move in the right direction.
I returned to America in 2002 and now live and work here full-time. I am one of those foreigners who have come over here stealing your jobs. There are plenty of jobs out there folks, really there are! I love going downtown to watch the Tigers play, I love greektown casino, I love going to Pizza Papalis, or the Monroe Street steak house. There is something about being in that area that just makes me feel good, almost like being home. Detroit has some great things going for it and if you find something great about the city, make sure you share it with everyone! Detroit is not where the weak are killed and eaten. But you can get some really good stuff to eat!
Whenever we go downtown, or for that matter even close to downtown, we have to stop at the Astoria. Actually sometimes we don’t stop, sometimes someone just jumps out of the car and runs in, while the driver goes around the block a few times. The cakes and pastries there are fantastic. I would sample each and every one of them, but a) it would make me sick and b) I think the management would be upset about teeth-marks in all their products.
I love their eclairs. Perfect, I have to always get three, two for right away and one to follow those two!
So here I am, 25 years-ish after buying the Detroit Techno album, here I am. I would say it’s a dream come true. But that would just be corny!
To finish up though, I was wondering if there is someone growing up in Detroit, who bought the Long Blondes song, Last Night on Northgate Street, and ended up living in Bury St. Edmunds? Stranger things have happened!