The Detroit Paradox

 I woke up to bad news this morning: DPS will cut 2,000 jobs this fall to stay afloat,  someone died in a shooting on the West Side and in another incident a man was stabbed, a woman was carjacked by a ten-year old… These are not exactly chipper facts to go with your morning coffee. 


If I hadn’t read the news, I wouldn’t have known anything bad was happening. That’s because I also woke up to some great news this morning: The eggs I set under one of my hens are hatching, the cucumbers I planted ate starting to climb up the trellis, the field of garlic on a vacant lot is standing tall and the plums trees, also in a vacant lot, are heavy with ripe fruit: too many to eat. All the snap peas are ready, birds are chirping loudly and cheerily, as if it were the best day of their life. And best of all, it’s summertime! Today is the first day of summer and one of the longest days of the year.

Detroit GarlicDespite all the bad news, I remember why I love Detroit. It’s the absolute freedom of farming vast spaces of vacant land, of having bonfires in the middle of a city lot. It’s the countless birds chirping. It’s the wild, wild Midwest feeling where laws and ordinances have been flung to the wayside years ago: The city can’t even afford to fully mow it’s own vacant lots so my garlic field is safe from citation.

In any other city I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t get dolled up and drive five minutes to a fabulous cocktail party downtown and still dig my lunch out of the ground out back. People flock from all over the world to visit Detroit. So many people want to interview me about my garden from Holland, Sweden, Australia, South Africa … that it gets annoying. I just like fresh food. These tourists come to photograph the eerie abandoned factories, the urban farms, the artwork. Because it’s a city where almost anything goes. 

Despite al the bad news, I love living in Detroit. It reminds me of my home country: Belize, Central America. And while that’s a third world country, the decaying economy also lends residents a lot of freedom if they know how to find it. We could have the best turnaround team in the world on board to help fix the city’s finances, but we have to be real with ourselves: Nothing’s changing overnight and it may get worse before it gets better. So embrace the freedom. Stay informed, but focus on the positive.

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