For 300 years Detroit has blamed its woes on a red dwarf named Le Nain Rouge. The crimson figure is said to be the harbinger of bad, the destructive force behind all that goes wrong in the city. So, for the past few years in the spring Detroiters hold a parade that keeps him at bay for the year to come. Because what better way to rid ourselves of a mythological beast?
With the city seeing a revival, we thought we'd chat with Le Nain Rouge about whether this annual cavalcade has been keeping him from his ghastly deeds or if the renaissance is all part of his evil plans.
Metro Times: A few years ago you were doing a bang-up job in your role as resident ruckus-causer; now it seems like you've been having a harder time. What's the deal?
Nain Rouge: Uh ... have you ever had the feeling that things are going your way when they really shouldn't be, like you were lucky or someone was looking out for you only to discover that no one was? Like a false sense of security just before the other shoe drops? Like maybe there was only one shoe? Like maybe the Lions will go all the way? No, I guess you haven't. Sleep tight, Pollyanna. Everything's totally cool. I'm not running the long con, worming my way into your minds in ways you won't see coming. None of that is happening. I'm not under your bed. Promise.
MT: Do you have any big plans for causing major catastrophe this year?
Nain Rouge: Oh, someone has plans for Detroit's demise, but you'll never see it coming unless you walk past a mirror. The seeds of my dastardly plan have already been planted. When I reveal it, it will already be too late to stop it. This year it won't be an outside force like an emergency manager or a polar vortex. The thread is already unraveling now — Detroit is ready to set against itself.
MT: How much of the ruckus-causing do you actually do versus how much you get blamed for?
Nain Rouge: Ruckus sounds so flippant and fun. My mechanizations aren't a ruckus — they are a soul-crushing. If I took credit for everything I did, you wouldn't believe me because Detroiters have to believe that there is no plan. They have to believe that this city's failures could only be accidental because no plan could be that utterly complete.
Deep down, everyone gives in to glimpses of it. "A $45 parking ticket at 9:55 p.m. is part of the conspiracy, right?" "They won't turn on the streetlights because they hate our neighborhood." "The city is out to get me. No, that's crazy!" Or is it?
How much am I responsible for? Think about it this way, when a butterfly flapping its wings causes the hurricane on the other side of the world, no one ever thinks, "That butterfly must have been pissed!" I am tormenting the perfect city where crazy spreads like wildfire. It's glorious. I am the butterfly who flaps hurricanes your way because I really don't like you.
MT: You've been a legend in Detroit for three centuries. How do you keep up the mystique?
Nain Rouge: Red Viagra.
MT: Mayor Mike Duggan: Friend or foe?
Nain Rouge: I am the boogeyman that keeps you stuck in an unpleasant status quo because I've convinced you that when you follow any leader in any direction, things will only get worse. If I answered that question, you'd know whether or not he was headed in the right direction. What will really bug you later is whether or not I got him thrown off the ballot or put back on — or both?
MT: We noticed some counter-protesters at the parade with signs like "Red dwarves are people too!" I guess what I'm asking is, "Can't we all get along?"
Nain Rouge: I'm glad you asked this. I mean, it's a free country and all, but I'm generally way too busy taunting the losers on my way to Cass Park to deal with these losers too.
Let me be clear, knuckleheads: Dwarves are people. Le Nain Rouge is not a people. I am a mythological creature. I am the legendary Nain Rouge of Detroit, the Hobgoblin of Horrendousness. I am the embodiment of everything that holds Detroit back. I am the itch you can't scratch, the cockroach that will survive Detroit's implosion. I am the bad breath of ill wind. I am Cadillac's folly, the champion of intolerance and fear and frustration. I am the utter antithesis of hope, the architect of Detroit's despair and discontent. I am myth incarnate and most assuredly "not people."
MT: Everybody seems to think you're a devil, but you're really a dwarf, right? Or are you a gnome? Is there a difference?
Nain Rouge: I'm not the devil. That's a religious figure. I'm more of a goblin or an imp. I prefer the term "dastardly American."
Marche du Nain Rouge starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 22; the parade begins on the corner of West Canfield Street and Second Avenue, across from Traffic Jam & Snug.