Weekly reader responses

Pipeline feedback

Last week's cover story dealt with controversy brewing over Enbridge, Inc.'s 62-year-old oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Reader Danielle Todd wrote:

Just a quick note to thank you for such excellent reporting on Line 5. It is such a clear outline of what is going on and it really opened my eyes up to an issue I was less familiar with. Happy holidays!

Whose Detroit?

In our Dec. 2 issue, we ran "How to make peace with the suburbs," an excerpt from writer Aaron Foley's new book, How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass. It inspired others to comment with their own experiences:

While I agree with some of the author's thoughts (I have not read his book — only what was published in the Metro Times column), much of what I read was ... just crap.

I'm a Jewish male, 40 years old, whose family (but for my generation) were all born, raised, educated in, and helped build the Detroit that the author talks about.

My family left after the riots — as the author spelled out in the feature. Their businesses were burned and their families no longer felt safe raising their families in the city.

The things that I remember about Detroit — from my parents' eyes and echoes, grandparents alike, all long deceased — might help to illuminate a different perspective in regards to the author's narrative.

1980: 5 years old and I'm already playing trumpet. My dad, a Detroit and Oak Park cop, drives me to the parking lot of Baker's Keyboard Lounge on Livernois and Eight Mile Road. I can still hear his voice in my mind's eye: "Kid — keep at it and play here one day ... Then you'll know you've made it."

1982: In Lafayette Coney Island. "If you ever eat next door I'll never forgive you."

1984: Tigers win the World Series and my father is the happiest man in the world — and via that so was I. Remember the peanut guy throwing us a bag — then one on the house for being regulars at the game.

1987: My dad drove me past a factory and told me that my grandfather used to own it, and that he was the manager. "Kid, your life — and mine — would be a lot different if they didn't burn it down." (We grew up in poverty.)

1990: I start sneaking into jazz clubs and finding musical mentors in the nightclubs of Detroit.

1991: Start valet job at Roma Cafe, which I kept for over five years — still like family to me.

1992: Marcus Belgrave and Donald Walden take me in as a student in their jazz program at CCS.

1993: My dad dies at the age of around 45.

1994: Mom, same.

1995: Move to Detroit for the first of many times on and off.

1998: I walk on the stage of Baker's Keyboard as a headliner for the first time. My father's voice is clear in my mind and I had to suck up some real tears that I didn't want the audience to see as I heard my father's voice...

1999 or so: Ray Charles' manager pulls me off stage (playing at the Michigan State Fair) in Detroit and brings me to meet Ray Charles, who tells me that he "always knows when he is in Detroit." When I tell him I didn't understand, his manager whispered in my ear that Mr. Charles had thought his opening band (my group) based on our soundcheck was a black band. When he learned that we were all 20-something white kids he was shocked. He laughed and smiled like only he could. "I always know when I'm in Detroit" is what he said. He then asked for a copy of our CD.

I will leave out all of the violence that I experienced while playing professionally in Detroit for many years.

Today: I live in Sylvan Lake, Mich. Not on the lake — yet.

I'm in Detroit every weekend as I take my boy there — just as my dad did for me.

Every time I see the high rises from the freeway I still get that feeling — electric and so special.

The same that my dad instilled in me.

He was proud of Detroit. He showed me everything that he could. He taught me how to act best he could while I was in the city — in case I ran into trouble. (Which could happen anywhere, especially in any major city in the world.)

I am proud to call myself from Detroit. I consider myself from Detroit even though my family raised me in Oak Park. I am a Detroiter.

My father (bless his soul) would roll in his grave if I said or thought anything else.

As he should.

He put "Detroit" in me. Not through his words, but through his actions. As is what true Detroiters do. I am a Detroiter.

I don't know, maybe the kind that the author speaks of in Metro Times? And there are a lot more like me ...

Who are moving back to the city that their fathers and forefathers grew up in and helped to build. To build the Detroit that they know, that the author quoted here knows:

Give them a fucking break.

That would show that you are more "Detroit" than the almost 300 pages illuminated in part here.

Cary Heller, Sylvan Lake (via Detroit)

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