Driving into Michigan, I missed an exit and drove a spot on Gratiot Avenue. I looked at its layers of age and color like my grandfather often eyeballed fields of corn from the gravel-edged pavement of a county two-lane: with a wonderment that makes for some unsafe driving. Before I found 94 West, I drifted beneath a series of traffic lights that either no longer functioned or operated part-time.
My glimpse of that stretch is a poor basis for an impression. Still, as I drove through it and the twilight, I felt as though I was tunneling through a future archaeologist’s dream. Or the setting of a movie with no heroes–something like the beautiful, understated opening of John Huston’s Fat City. I thought of the song “Highway Patrolman,” and how its author sang ‘Michigan County’ when he ought to have said ‘Wayne County.’
Later, back at the apartment, I told my wife about a building I’d seen off of I-75 that was at least fifteen stories high and missing most of its front wall. It looked like it’d burned apart. Sara looked at me like I started talking about a particular cactus in the desert.
Almost everything I know about this part of the state comes courtesy of general bits of news and what my grandmother told me about her Depression-era childhood. It seems I have an 80-year wide image gap to bridge.