It's strange to just open the passenger door to a car sitting in your driveway, get in and say, "Meredith?" and then be off on an adventure together.
Most of the people I've gotten to know in Detroit I've gotten to know while in a car. Which I guess is appropriate for the Motor City, though I'm honestly not trying to be cute about it. That's just how I keep getting to know everyone. My first day in town, a wonderful woman named Meredith picks me up in her Hyundai at eight in the morning.
We drive through the streets that emanate radially from the center of Detroit like they do, as Meredith points out, in Paris. At every turn, there is another building that is shocking with its beauty etched in decades-old stone. There are many abandoned structures throughout this large city, but not so many anymore in the downtown area. Even Meredith is surprised every now and then as we turn a corner to see a new restaurant in a space that was recently empty. "Oh, I guess that place is open now," she keeps saying.
We eat breakfast as she tells me her version of the story of Detroit. "The failure of Detroit is the failure of America," she says. I am terrible at taking notes, not ever wanting to seem like a journalist, so I only manage to write down, "The failure," in my notebook before resuming eye contact.
Meredith is a lovely stand-in for Nico. I expected Nico to be in Detroit by now, but I think he's stalling. He texts from Miami that he has to go to New York for his mother's birthday before he can come to Detroit.
I first met Nico at a house show in Portland. I still am not sure if I know his real name or what he does for money or how he gets around the country so much, but there are probably people who wonder the same things about me, so people like us should probably stick together.
Three weeks ago, Nico left me a breathless phone message saying he was up late thinking of how he could ever possibly show me the real Detroit. Now I am here in this town, his town, and he knows I am here, and he is not here. I text him saying I need him to show me the underbelly, and he says he'll be here in two days. I ask him for dinner recommendations, and when I don't hear back for a few minutes I jokingly tell him that I'll just go ahead and butter my bread with the knife he's stuck in my back. This is how you need to talk to Nico.
Meredith shows me almost as much of Detroit as you would expect your own mother to show you—if you have a good mother—yet Meredith began the day as a stranger to me. She buys me breakfast and lunch and spends seven hours of her day taking me everywhere, all because two days earlier I happened to mention to a friend of a friend of a friend of hers that I was on my way to Detroit.
It is December but it is not snowing, so she drives me around Belle Isle and Indian Village; stops and idles her car so I can go look at the impossible pewabic tile of the art deco-meets-Native American ceiling of the Guardian Building; walks with me up three escalators in the new Westin Hotel in the Book-Cadillac Building just to see the conference room. "This all used to be empty," she says with wide eyes. "They've done such a great job."
We walk around the Fisher Building in New Center. It feels like being a kid and walking around your house the morning after your parents had a fancy party. You just gaze in wonder at how it ever made sense for things to be so lavish and beautiful, and the great times that you missed out on. You kind of wish everyone would wake up and tell you about it.
Detroit has had such an exaggerated and embarrassing downfall that it is easy to make the city emblematic of the country's problems. If the failure of Detroit is indeed the failure of America, as Meredith says, then we might as well make the metaphor for the failure of America be something like, say, reinforced concrete. After all, there is no substance that has the requisite tensile and ductile strength to support heavy machinery quite like steel-reinforced concrete does. The long ridged poles, or re-bar, that run throughout it give it the power to hold up entire industrial centers. So when America needed to produce large quantities of automobiles in the early twentieth century, the factories of Detroit had to be enormous and strong, of Romanesque proportions. When a world war came and Detroit was called upon to be, in the words of FDR, "the arsenal of democracy," reinforced concrete was the only thing that could build the factories that allowed the workers to produce machines of liberation and destruction.
The problem with a material that can withstand anything is that it's really hard to tear down once you don't want it there anymore. I drive up to the Packard Automotive Plant the next day with Andy, another Detroiter who, though I meet him at a coffee shop, feels compelled to illustrate his points by driving me somewhere. The plant is enormous, the size of a community college. It was built in 1903 to manufacture luxury Packard cars, then Studebakers, before it closed down in 1958. It is now hollowed-out and covered with layers of graffiti. A security guard follows us as we start walking around. "Just don't go inside," he warns us. The property was recently purchased for $400,000 by a Spanish man, and everyone is curious about exactly what he's going to do with it. When you tear something like this down, compared to construction, the process must be more like war, with all the unexpected variables that come with that. A city full of these structures is a city full of impending battles that no one has the energy to fight.
Even when you cart away the last scraps of a building, and it is indisputably gone, how do you think the ground feels after having had such a burden on it for so long? How ready is that ground to jump back into another marriage with a giant structure, or for that matter, to support some sort of organic life?
I am renting a room for the week in a house in the beautiful Boston-Edison neighborhood. My second night in town I am weaving around the city with my new housemate Lindzy. We eventually end up downtown at the Cuban cigar shop where she works. She shows me around the first level and then takes me upstairs to the VIP lounge, where there is a bar and several small rooms where people are talking.
The air is full of sweet cigar smoke. I hang my coat in a coatroom and we sit on a leather couch and fall into a conversation with two elegant gentlemen smoking cigars waiting to get on a conference call. I try to determine what kind of conference call happens at nine on Friday night, but they are coy about it. I ask them what they think of Detroit, expecting them to check my optimism a bit. One of them, named Bertram, starts by pointing out that there used to be a requirement, repealed a decade ago, he says, that city workers had to live in the city. Now he wonders what detriment occurs when people come to work jobs downtown and, when they reach the point in life when they decide to have kids and plant roots, they feel like there is nowhere in the city that makes sense for that, so they move out to the suburbs and take their potential long-term community commitment and school-building property tax money with them.
His friend David shakes his head when I tell him I've already been to the Packard Plant. "Why is that one of the first places people go to?" he wonders, but then minutes later uses it to help illustrate his point. "Look at a place like that factory," he says. "When that is built, there is a community of workers that surround it. Those people need houses, and grocery stores, and schools and churches. When the plant goes away, those parts of the community die off, too. You can't just look at one thing and separate it from all the other things it touches."
Before they get on their conference call, Bertram gives me an itinerary to follow the next day. I start writing it down in my notebook although I know I'll never be able to follow it all, especially since it begins with, "Get up at 5 a.m. and go to the Eastern Market and watch as the men bring in goat heads."
If you spend any time at all in Detroit, you will invariably start talking about gentrification. It is a subject lurking in every city in America, but in Detroit it is laid bare to shocking degree, like a patient who has been cut open on the operating table. But what are we talking about when we talk about gentrification? It's a word that is usually said as an epithet, as though we were talking about a cancer eating away at our authentic neighborhoods. But gentrification is deceptive, because if it is a cancer, then what a shiny, promise-making cancer it is. It's a cancer that many people gladly accept and support, even if they are secretly grumbling about it.
The word originally referred to the gentry, or the noble classes, and what they do to a run-down urban area when they put their economic focus on it. It has obviously become packed with many more connotations. In her book about the drastic changes in the city of San Francisco, author Rebecca Solnit writes, "Gentrification is just the fin above the water. Below is the rest of the shark: a new American economy in which most of us will be poorer, a few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable." I spin these words around in my mind as I drive around Detroit. I disagree with the negative future it paints, one in which we are not in control of what happens to our cities. Power is not faceless. It is often inefficient and stumbling and awkward. To assume that people with influence are creating a sweeping inevitable change for the worse is to give them too much leeway. But the metaphor of the shark is important to consider. The direction of the American economy, where wealth is in further disproportion than it ever has been, is what we should be talking about rather than what kind of coffee shop is opening up on our street. In my mind I match up Solnit's quote with these words from Noam Chomsky: "One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins."
We are doing this to ourselves in the gentrification conversation when we focus only on what our coffee shops look like. It ultimately doesn't matter whether you like exposed beams or artisan light bulbs while you drink, in my case, a chai latte. That debate is harmless, and missing the point. On my fourth day, I go to a coffee shop near Wayne State with Lindzy and as soon as we walk in the door I say, "I feel like we just stepped into Portland." I say that because for the first time in Detroit I feel like I'm in a place that is not true to the city. The coffee shop is full of people, and almost all are on their laptops. The interior has a finely-polished industrial style, making us feel like we are building empires when we are just staring deeper into ourselves. But look at me, caught up in talking about the aesthetics of a coffee shop when I meant to talk about gentrification.
I ask Lindzy what she hopes for her city. She admits that she feels uncomfortable in new places like this. "What I think about when I drive around is... love," she says. "So many people grow up not knowing how to love themselves. What I want for people more than anything is for them to know that they are loved, and that they can love others. That's how things start to get better, you know?" Her sentiment is so pure that it looks like almost nothing when I write it down, but I know she is closer to an idea that will actually create a better city than someone with a sketch for a new waterfront.
I'm still waiting for Nico to arrive in the city.
"You sonofabitch," I text him.
He responds with several suggestions of places to go and people to meet.
"You don't understand Detroit," I tease him.
"You can return the favor by ignoring my advice," he says.
I go to a concert by myself at a new cafe in downtown Detroit called Trinosophes. Some players from the surprisingly vibrant Detroit Symphony Orchestra are playing works by modern composers. A saxophone and marimba piece by Steve Reich fills the cracks in my heart with wonder as I sit on a couch in the back of the room trying to wish away my travel fatigue. I never understood the minimalist style of composers until a few years ago when I saw Philip Glass' music used in a piece of modern dance at the New York City Ballet. His repetitive but slowly-evolving structures made so much more sense when beautiful bodies were spinning and twirling within them, pushing them forward. And now, as I hear the sax-led piece by Reich, I start to understand this music in a different way. It is architecture, and architecture, even if you've never studied it, has had a greater impact on your life than you've ever realized. The architecture in Detroit dominates the psyche of the city in an inspiring way that is rare anymore, and the music of minimalist composers matches it so well. Structures that you can get a sense of, that repeat in understandable ways, but slowly change so that there is some movement, so that the energy doesn't get trapped, so that not everything is in a perfectly squared-off box.
It's remarkable that two of the things America did best in the twentieth century were perfected in Detroit: music and cars. Henry Ford found a way to maximize every minute of his workers’ efforts and every inch of space in his factory so he could produce cars that were consistent in their quality and easy to duplicate. This is the beginning of a long march to what Rebecca Solnit says is our grim future, that of everything being "faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable." Somehow Berry Gordy took this blueprint and applied it to music, but instead of creating something soulless and bland he created Motown, which produced the most exciting, inspiring, and danceable music of the twentieth century. He was working his own type of assembly line, and he knew how to assemble the people who had the right skills to make the music that he knew people wanted to hear.
Detroit is living with the ghosts of those two industries. With car manufacturing, the mess is everywhere. Not just the hulking carcasses like the Packard plant, but the way that the city is spread out on such a grand scale, making it hard to fully inhabit now that so many have left. The ability to relocate so quickly, to get in your car and change your scene, has probably helped with the dismantling of communities in America. You no longer have to commit if you don't want to.
And if the city is haunted by the ghosts of the auto industry, where do we see the ghosts of Motown? I go to the studio where every Motown song was recorded: Hitsville, USA. I just want to stand in that studio and try to get a sense for how they operated. Of course, you can't just walk in there without having to take a guided tour through the rest of the house, which takes an hour. The tour guide is too cheery, pushes too hard, like she's leading a jazzercise class. "Don't you love this MUSIC?!" she keeps cajoling us. Well, yes, everyone does, but we love it because we came to it, not because it was forced on us.
Berry Gordy found a way to make art on an assembly line, not as a statement against that process, but just as a way of making great art. The office and the studio at Hitsville were open twenty-four hours a day for a good decade. It would be so fun to be out on the town in that era and decide to head into the studio to shake a tambourine on what could become a seminal track. Or, I don't know, it probably wasn't that idyllic. Maybe everyone was worked to the bone. You'd never get the gritty details from the tour. There was definitely a strict method to how the music was made and the standard applied to everything: "Would you buy this song with your last quarter," Gordy would ask his team, "or would you buy a hot dog?" If you said, “hot dog," they'd have keep working on the song until it was undeniable.
It takes an hour for the tour to lead into the actual recording studio, which is smaller than most studios I've been in. The tour guide forces us to sing "My Girl" and do the Temptations shovel-digging moves. Two people beg out of the tour right before we start and I feel too guilty to leave, but by the time we get to the chorus I'm glad that, if I'm being forced to do something at eleven in the morning, at least it's this.
Music's vitality has undeniably faded. It is once again made on an assembly line, but nobody is looking out for the soul. Not even the musical soul, just the soul soul. Perhaps it's because computers have allowed everyone to map out every measure and correct every drum beat that music doesn't have the same ability to stir you to action. Or maybe it's just that there is so much else going on in the world, that you would never consider buying a song instead of feeding yourself.
My main city of comparison for Detroit is New Orleans, another important American city with a strong black population that has fallen on hard times in the last few decades, losing a lot of its population. Both Detroit and New Orleans are now flowers that are in pots too big for them, adjusting to having all this room and leftover infrastructure. The difference is that Detroit's unmaking unfolded slowly over half a century. It never had a singular tragedy strike it, and it doesn't necessarily have any future tragedy hanging over its head. This is not true for New Orleans, which, while it wasn't necessarily thriving as a city in the early aughts, had its makeup irrevocably altered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Back to Rebecca Solnit: "What happens in disasters demonstrates everything an anarchist ever wanted to believe about the triumph of civil society and the failure of institutional authority."
Walking around both cities in the aftermaths of their respective downfalls is freeing, like being one of the few kids who made it to school on a bad weather day. Humans crave routine and structure to feel stable, but as soon as we get a break in that routine we feel alive again, connected to our ancestry, like we can do anything we want.
Of course, we can always do anything we want, can't we?
Other times I've felt that free feeling: in Alaska during the summer solstice, when it never really gets dark, and you never feel like you have to wind down your activities; in Berlin, on the U-Bahn trains, which are crowded with happy people even at four in the morning, most with a can of beer in their hands, singing songs, and you never feel unsafe; in Kerrville, Texas, at the three-week folk festival they have every summer, where if you volunteer on the staff you get free meals and drinks and you can pitch your tent on the ranch and you don't need to open up your wallet for almost a month.
It's nice to be in a place where there isn't a sign on every curb saying, WATCH YOUR STEP, where there isn't a warning at every threshold saying, YOU CAN'T BRING THAT HERE, where you feel trusted to be an adult and make your own judgments. Whenever I'm in those situations, while there might be a higher rate of general broken-ness in the infrastructure, everything feels safer, because at least I know that I am trusted to take care of myself.
This might be taken to a larger degree in Detroit than most Americans are comfortable with. At least recently, the average response time for Detroit police in the city was almost an hour. Streetlights are missing over many long blocks, and the public transportation system is almost non-existent.
But there is a freedom in that brokenness. More than one person referred to the city as a frontier, or the Old West. That is indeed the most inspiring part of Detroit, that you feel that maybe there is still a part of the American Dream available to you. The same dream that was cut up and put into boxes, shipped around the world and re-sold to you under a different name. In many places around the gigantic city, there are people repurposing old buildings, honoring the history and the character of the city, and making some new business work with their own hands.
The big difference between Detroit and New Orleans is that another Katrina could happen again in New Orleans any day. And if it doesn't, then the coastline will erode or maybe the city will just sink into the mud. It is hard to get truly excited about the possible future of New Orleans when in a very real sense there is no future for New Orleans. I find that it makes people a bit on edge and protective. Meredith, like everyone I meet in Detroit, is very proud of her city. "You should come here and do a project, you'd make a great Detroiter," she says. In all the time I've spent in New Orleans, I've only felt like an outsider. Here on my first visit to Detroit people are offering me the keys to the city.
I text Nico, "Why didn't you tell me Detroit was so great?"
He responds, "Which part should I have spoiled for you?"
It's possible I've come to Detroit with a different attitude than I've had in New Orleans. I can't possibly be objective about that. I've loved New Orleans deeply and been hurt so many times by the darkness there, and just as often lifted up again by the flip side of that same darkness, an insatiable desire to live in the world while we still can.
On my third day in Detroit a man named Paddy picks me up. I come outside to see a large Ford truck idling in the driveway. Finally an American car. I open the door and say, "Paddy?" and once again, I am off. Paddy looks like he could be a football player. It turns out that he was, at Boston College, and now he is an undertaker. His father was an undertaker and his uncle was an undertaker. His whole family was featured in a Frontline documentary called The Undertaking. I ask him for his story of the city. "Let's be honest," he says. "Detroit has a racist history." He takes me through the part of town where all the mansions are, and he tells me the history of each house, when it was built, whichever Kresge or Ford lived there, and when they inevitably moved out. Because they all moved out. There wasn't one singular disaster in Detroit like there was in New Orleans, but somehow the city was hollowed out. As Paddy tells it, it was not so coincidentally the exact moment that black people had money and started moving into the white neighborhoods that all the white people decided they'd rather live in the suburbs. Now those suburbs are wealthy, some of the wealthiest in the nation, bordering this once breathtaking city that has now been choked to death.
Not to death. Death is what happens when there is no more living to do. Death is irreversible. Paddy was an assistant coach for a high school team when a few years ago a young player committed suicide, and since Paddy is an undertaker, he was the one who tended to the body and helped the grieving family find a way through. He wrote a slim little book about it called Warrior. He calls it a breviary, after the fashion of Catholic literature that helps people to find a structure for their grief. It's a book that is meant to be held with you in your coat pocket for comfort, something to turn to when you need hope. That is where I have kept that book since he gave it to me.
He drives me through different sections of Detroit than Meredith took me because Detroit is enormous. He takes me to abandoned houses in fields that are just a short walk from the stadiums where the Lions and Tigers play. He buys me breakfast at Clique Restaurant, which is so overflowing with people talking excitedly to each other that we have to wait ten minutes for a table. It's so strange to think about the common impression of Detroit as being a ghost town. You could certainly aim your camera at the spooky abandoned house on a block that is otherwise empty because all the other houses were torn down years ago. You could also point it at the counter of the diner where people are still gathering every day. Storytellers need to find an emblem and tell a narrative that people are ready to hear. But how truthful is that, if the city comes back to life, if the city never really died at all? You have to be careful where you frame the picture. Certainly Detroit was once a city, and now it is a town sitting in the footprint of a city. Most large cities don't have wide open fields and empty houses. Las Vegas probably has every square foot spoken for. But that doesn't make Detroit any less vital. It doesn't feel like a ghost town at all. It feels like the frontier.
Paddy is not at all what I expected when I first met him. He turns out to be a poet and a gentle man who, although he is around death every day, is just as afraid of dying as I am, if not more. After he drops me off at home, Paddy texts me a quote from Simone Weil. "Human existence is so fragile a thing and exposed to such dangers that I cannot love without trembling." I thank him for loving his city.
I text Nico, "Coming in tonight?"
"Landing at six," he says.
I tell him I'll be at a dinner at Salt & Cedar, a printing press in the Eastern Market. Leon and Megan, the couple who run the press, occasionally host dinners in the back room of their space. Their building gives me more hope for Detroit than anything I've seen. They've collected beautiful letterpress prints, old pieces of machinery, stones and glass, and placed them lovingly around their home and business. If a city becomes depressing when beautiful pieces crumble, it becomes beautiful again when loving people collect those pieces and arrange them. We just need someone to assert some order, to line pieces up in rows, to let us know that it's not all chaos. I asked a man named Marc that I met back at that new café Trinosophes what should be done with all the blight in Detroit and his answer surprised me. "Leave it there," he said. "It tells a story. Leave the Packard Plant there. How are we to understand our history if we always try to knock it down and clean it up?" Detroit has such an unusual opportunity for large-scale art and use of land for creative expression rather than just utility. Maybe in twenty years we'll be disappointed at the chances that weren't taken, about how everything eventually became a coffee shop. But the potential is there now.
The dinner at the printing press is very small. Just me and two others until three blonde women from the suburbs show up. Two of them are taking the other to this dinner as a surprise for her birthday. They are all tall and blonde and gorgeous, happy to have a night out together, coming in with loud voices. I am sitting in the corner thinking about all the places I've seen, initially unable to meet their energy. I start to appreciate them by considering that, of all the places they could have taken their friend for her birthday, they decided to have a small dinner at a printing press. I hit it off with one of them whose name might be Jessica. She has brought a large bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila, which I later determine must have cost over a hundred dollars, and she generously pours it for me whenever my glass gets low. This is in addition to the Chardonnay given to me by the server Bertram (who is the second Bertram I have met in as many days, after the warm gentleman at the Cuban bar.)
After three courses and some wine, Leon, the co-owner of the press, shows us how to sew a book together. By this point I am drunk enough to be playfully teasing Jessica, a married woman with children, but who is still tall and Nordic and gorgeous and who must have a heart beating inside of her. When Leon has stitched together two signatures of the book and is showing us where to put the needle next, he says that we must be sure to, "split the V," which leads me and Jessica to point at each other and bust up laughing. Leon, a hard-working Liam Neeson-type of no-nonsense man from South Africa, asks what exactly he said that was so funny. I try to salvage my dignity by selling out the women. "Well," I say, feigning class, "Apparently these ladies think it's funny that the letter V happens to be the first letter of the word 'vagina'."
Somehow Bertram comes over and has the patience to basically sew my book together for me as I am too sauced to figure it out. After we are done with the books, I try to show Jessica how to swing dance as I play a Kermit Ruffins song from my phone. When she has trouble mirroring my steps, I jokingly take off her knit cap and throw it at her. At a certain point, as frames start to go missing from the film projector in my head, the three ladies get in a cab. I run outside and shake Jessica's hand goodbye, certain I'll never see her again. Maybe her name wasn't even Jessica.
After all this, Nico finally shows up in my life just after the women leave. "What happened to you?" he says as he looks around the space. "Detroit!" I say and raise my arms to hug him.
We go to the bar next door where Leon insists that I have coffee and we unspool after the dinner. I try to tell Nico about the ladies and how whats-her-name wouldn't mirror my steps. Nico looks at a girl across the bar and says, "That brand of lipstick she's wearing is called e.l.f."
"What?" I ask, looking over at her. "How do you know?"
"I just know," he says.
"If you go up to her and tell her that you know her brand of her lipstick, I will..."
Nico looks at me expectantly.
"I will carve a statue of you."
He goes over and talks to her, and it turns out she indeed is wearing that kind of lipstick and they even know some friends in common and I have once again become irrelevant to Nico, which is fine because my night is done.
We meet the next day, my last in Detroit, at the Heidelberg Project, a brightly-colored block of buildings and art installations. It looks like a small slice of Burning Man plopped down in East Detroit. The day is gray and drizzly, and it feels a bit like we going to the funeral for something. There are boards everywhere with colorful clocks painted on them. Sometimes the numbers on them are all jumbled up, like someone shook everything up and time has not recovered. There is a frame of a house with strings of vinyl records hanging down like vines. We talk with Nico's friend, Tim, who carves sculptures of cats out of long wooden poles that he rescued from some old building as it was being demolished.
Tim tells us about the spate of arsons in the neighborhood, how they seem like retribution for something, but people can't figure out what's going on. He tells us about all the things he's lost, the woman he once fell in love with who told him to go sketch the trees on Belle Isle, and how years after he had seen her, he heard a voice in his head telling him to go sketch the trees on Belle Isle, and when he got back from doing that and tried to talk to find her he learned that she had just died. We shake Tim's hand and walk with our heads bowed down the middle of the street, which is painted with bright polka dots.
That night I sit in a bar with Nico talking about girls. At one point, I lose his gaze and I can tell he must be looking at a girl over my shoulder. "Give me a dollar," he says. "Please." He goes over to a girl and asks if he can buy a cigarette from her. She offers him a cigarette and refuses the dollar. He gets her name before the guy she was sitting next to returns from the bathroom.
"Let's sing a duet together," he says when he gets back to his seat next to me. Karaoke has just started up unexpectedly in the bar. "What song could we both possibly know?" I wonder. After we cross a half dozen possibilities off the list I say, "Oh, we should definitely sing something from Motown. Maybe we can heal this city. How about 'My Girl'?"
When we get up on the mics, it turns out that Nico doesn't know the song as well as I thought your average Detroiter would. Maybe it's just because I practiced it the day before in Hitsville, but I even have the dance moves ready to go. A table full of people in front of us clap along. Even when two people are mangling the vocals, these songs still kill.
I think about a few days earlier in my stay when I ate dinner alone at a Polish restaurant in Hamtramck, an ethnic neighborhood. The only two other customers were at the bar talking about the recent trade that sent Orlando Cespedes to the Tigers. "He's got a hell of an arm," one of them said. A song came on the sound system and one of the men pointed out that it was an old Motown song, but one that no one remembers: "I've Got That Feeling" by Darrell Banks. "It's got all the elements," he said, "But somehow it never caught on."
In my mind, that's where the people in this town sit every night: on barstools, talking about the local team, wondering if it would really be so impossible for Detroit to crank out just one more hit.