I spent New Year’s weekend in Detroit, hanging out with very dear and very old friends. We took in Electric Six at The Magic Bag in Ferndale, something I had done several times before. The last time was at least a decade ago, before covid. It was also before Detroit’s latest renaissance.
On January 1, I found myself right downtown with a few hours to kill before catching a train across the river in Canada. Being New Year’s Day, it was quiet. It was also unseasonably warm and very foggy. All these elements factored in to make it an Immersive Detroit experience.
I also had a belly full of American Coney to burn off, so I decided to explore the newly created playground at Woodward and Jefferson.
The new Motown Sound?
It has a rock climbing feature and several stainless steel instruments with mallets attached. I sampled them, created a few notes, and dreamed of a few kids playing here, taking their first steps toward becoming Motown’s next music geniuses.
The Fist is right there too. Here’s a pic with the RenCen in the background, showing how foggy it was that day. At this point the fog had begun to lift a bit! It was a gift from Sports Illustrated to the people of Detroit and The Detroit Institute of Arts. It symbolizes Joe Louis’ fight against Jim Crow (segregation) laws, and points to Canada for a reason.
Hart Plaza is right across the street, so I took a deep dive and explored a lovely park that I had been by countless times but never really explored. It was an excellent decision.
The park is part of Detroit Riverwalk, regarded by many as the best in America. The Detroit River has always attracted me. When I lived in Windsor, I used to take a break from my life and sit on a bench near it. It always brought solace. This visit was like old times.
The Gateway to Freedom
The picture at the top of this post is of monument erected to recognize the Underground Railroad. It is entitled The Gateway to Freedom, and it really struck an emotional chord with me. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fog, maybe being New Year’s Day, or maybe it was because I was leaving friends who I don’t see nearly often enough. Who knows.
Here I was, enjoying a soulful little piece of The Land of the Free, The Home of the Brave, a place I have been visiting for 35 years, and there is a monument to those who sought freedom across the river, in my country.
These days, the most prominent feature of the Windsor skyline while standing on the Michigan side of the Detroit River is a giant red CASINO sign, which you can see in the top left of the photo at the top. <insert your own joke/witticism here>
The “Edmund Fitzgerald church”
On this day, the tiny icebergs flowing south down the Detroit River struck the metal buoy and made it sound like a bell ever so often. The icebergs seemed to be enjoying themselves by doing so, a bit like kids riding bumper cars.
A couple of hundred yards east was the Mariners’ Church. Years ago, a different bell “chimed 29 times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald”1.
Bonus Pic: Michigan Avenue in Dearborn
I had the pleasure of driving along this street a few times on this trip. A few establishments had their building covered with a “blanket of lights”. Here’s just one of many.
1 Lyric from Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The song made it to #1 in Canada and nearly did the same in the US.