I landed in Detroit at 11am today, on a weekend visit to see my sister before heading to Seattle and California to visit family, and ultimately head back to Vietnam in about 2 weeks.
One of the first things that immediately struck me is the similarities to Columbus, Ohio, where I was born and lived until I was 13.
There’s an air about the midwest. The city feels familiar.
The way the streets and the landscape are… it’s a little different then what you get on the East Coast. It’s flatter, wider, more open.
And there’s a distinct vibe that Columbus and Detroit share, that distinguishes them a bit from the vibe I get between Baltimore, Philly, or New York City.
But perhaps the most glaring difference, looking past the rough patches in the streets and the signs of decay that are inevitable in Detroit, is the charm in the people.
There’s a warmth to the people in the midwest. A collegiality and familiarity that’s… whatever the opposite of “subtle” is. It strikes you immediately and undeniably.
It’s kind of crazy how different it is.
After moving to DC at 13, I really came of age and grew up an East Coast guy, complete with the sarcasm, arrogance, entitlement, and self-importance that comes with growing up in the nice suburbs outside an East Coast city.
After college, I lived in New York City for about 2 years.
Growing up on the East Coast and living in New York, I never necessarily subscribed to the “New Yorkers Are Assholes” trope, since that East Coast edginess was my “normal”. It was my baseline.
So New Yorkers aren’t necessarily assholes. It’s just that people in other areas can be really fucking nice.
And that’s what’s hit me here in Detroit.
After landing this morning, my sister took me to the Eastern Market – an open air farmers market a 10 minute walk from her apartment in downtown Detroit.
After buying all the ingredients for our lunch (a nice stir fry) on our 30 minute stroll through the market, we made our way back with ingredients in hand.
When we arrived back Anna’s building, 3 folks joined us in the elevator, each of us getting off at different stops.
We were to get off last, and on the way up, when their time came, each of the 3 people getting off tipped their hat to the remaining passengers, and bid us to “have a good day”, and to “take care.”
Typing it out now, it seems like such a silly thing to notice. One of those things I imagine it’s easy to take for granted growing up in a place where such fraternal gestures are the norm.
But it was noticeably different, and it was nice.