Thursday, October 25, 2007

Enter the humans

I haven't posted yet about my trip to Detroit, although I've been back since Sunday. Today's the first day I'm feeling somewhat normal, and even now it's pretty abnormal, as I've been off the caffeine for a day and a half now and keep wanting to make myself a fresh-brewed glass of iced tea.

There's so much to say about my six days in Detroit; where do I start? There are three big reasons that I went out: to see the abandoned structures of Detroit; to play a game; and to spend time with my friends exploring the abandoned structures and playing a game.

People have been saying that downtown Detroit is slowly being built back up. The biggest, newest thing in the city's history is a casino. I pretty much hate casinos. There are many abandoned schools, houses, factories, and churches, but not many abandoned casinos. (Hey, send me a link so I can gloat! ;))

Nonetheless, even with Detroit slowly rebuilding (A newspaper article that I read during my visit predicted 2022 as the year of The Motor City's recovery), there was plenty to see. There are still lots of abandoned sites, many completely accessible by simply walking through the area that was once the front door. I could've spent several more weeks there and not been bored in the slightest. Detroit was our playground for six days, and I'm thankful for that time.

I do get easily spooked in abandoned sites. One of my friends recently asked me if I felt the presence of ghosts in any of the places that I visited. The answer: No, not really. I'm afraid of the living people that I might meet during my explorations. For example, in one space, a man screamed bloody murder. His heart was being yanked out of his chest, and since we couldn't see him, we could only assume that the yanking was figurative. This happened in a space filled with light, yet it was terrifying to me.

In another instance, I saw figures moving down a hallway, at which three of us were at the end of, installing an artwork. As they got closer, I couldn't stand the suspense any longer and approached them. They had been unaware of our presence and stood completely still as I walked towards them. Everything was cool, but 45 minutes later, a fire blocked our entrance/exit, and I think it was these hooligans that set the fire.

One somewhat early morning found a couple of us exploring the residential neighborhood of Highland Park, one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Detroit. We found a fantastic house to use during our scavenger hunt, only to return a day later and feel completely unsafe with the number of loitering males located immediately next to the site.

So, for me, it is the humans that are scary; not the buildings. Sure, asbestos, lead paint, uneven floors, and holes are all things to be aware of in an abandoned building, but they're not fear-invoking on an immediate level like humans.

Devil's Night is on October 30 in Detroit, and it is a day known for burning buildings. Signs were stapled to many abandoned sites stating "This building is being watched. Stop Halloween arson, call [phone number]". Mischief and the smell of gasoline filled the air, and I wouldn't be surprised if some Detroiters mistakenly thought that our group was comprised of pyromaniacs. Some previously-burned buildings have now become empty mounds of grass and dirt, while others stand on display half-charred. There is a history of burning buildings in urban areas - most notably, the Bronx - and there are many reasons behind the fires. Insurance claims and vandalism tend to top the list. In Detroit, law-abiding citizens in poor areas have burned crack houses down, and structures have been lit so that they are demolished quicker. Sometimes the houses are older wood and brick structures and sometimes they are made of different materials. I'll be thinking of Detroit this Tuesday.

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