The City with a Hollow Heart

The Song of the Day:
"Getting Nowhere" by Magnetic Man + John Legend [Free from Chubby Beavers]

Old Slumpy
The Guardian recently ran a photolog article [link] covering the ruins of Detroit--the City with a Hollow Heart. The automobile industry's boom was almost a century ago. Since then, it's history has been a record of loss and catastrophe. I've slept in empty factories and migrated with camps of other bums from one ruin to the next, so many of these are near to my heart.
Old Slumpy: That photo above is "Old Slumpy". I like to call it "The One that Got Away"... because it got away. I'd heard about it, but never got to see it... not before it was demolished in '07. The William Livingston House was designed by Albert Kahn when he was 23 (back in 1893). There's a picture of it in a much better state (as well as history) here on Flickr.
Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension. The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires. This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time: being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things.
~Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
Farwell Building in Open Air
The Farwell Building by Jonathan Haeber

A Call to the Grave: I have a strange attraction to ruins, especially ghost towns. There are plenty of others who share the same attraction, so I'm far from alone in this. The contrast between living, modern civilization and decay really sets Detroit apart from other cities. Imagine walking down a busy New York sidewalk and passing a dead, decaying body on the street... and another skeletal remain just a ways down. It's eerie. These are the ghosts that hang over and throughout the city of Detroit. They quite literally haunt the place. A body is a much easier thing to bury than a building is.

The Streets of Detroit: In my experience, Chicago and New York have nothin' on Detroit when it comes to gangs. Most of the bums have formed gangs, and the colors you're wearing really mean something when on the street. The gestapo police force doesn't follow its own laws, so I count 'em in with the rest 'o the gangs. A tramp called Recon taught me how to guard my backpack and how to spot one gang member from another. The ruins fall under "territory", meaning one gang or another holds claim on them. The ones that are fair game to crash at are usually the ones that are toxic.

Asbestos & Company: Tramps are great sources of information for any new hiker who's just landed in the city. Whether that information's reliable is another question. I haven't seen a lot of the buildings that are shown in the Guardian's article, as many of them were on the black list... 'cuz they'd kill ya. Tramps pass on lists of what buildings are asbestos hazards and which ones are not. As the auto-industry used asbestos in their buildings AND their break pads, that pretty much counted out most of the old car factories... but that didn't stop Detroit from demolishing those buildings without taking any precautions to safeguard the population from asbestos poisoning [link]. With all the demos, I expect to find a much different city than the Detroit I last saw in '06.

Trip, Hip, Hop 'n Fade Away: The Motor City has one big thing still going for it... a long lineage of artists that broke new ground in music. Motown Records and Marvin Gaye inspire people everywhere to this very day. Hip-hop artists the likes of The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Eminem and Aaliyah all claim Detroit as their hometown. In electronic, there is an entire genre that grew up and out of Detroit--Detroit Techno.

And that brings us to the second song of the day...

Detroit Nocturnes: The producer Phylum Sinter heralds from the city of Detroit. His last album, "Detroit Nocturnes", features the ruins of Detroit Grand Central on the album cover. The sound itself carries the dark, gritty textures of the city and echoes its haunted spirit in each track. The song "Before the Sun Blinds Us", with vocalist Tamara Finlay, holds a special place for anyone with a nocturnal spirit. It's easily the shining star of the album. Enjoy!

[Update - 2011.01.22] Detroit really is cursed. In this post alone, the first song of the day was removed from YouTube by Sony... then, Justin Harris--the photographer behind the last photo [link]--moved it to private. Things kept falling apart as I fixed them. In a way, this really does sum up everything about The City with a Hollow Heart. On a brighter side, I was informed that Phylum Sinter is giving away the second song of the day from this post, so I've updated the link to his blog on Tumblr. I guess a light still shines in the dark depths of Detroit.