Thursday, July 28, 2011

Detroit Shout Out 1 - Duffield Public Library


Thomas Wolfe once wrote, "You Can't Go Home Again." I just returned from Detroit, and I wanna tell you, he was wrong. After more years than I care to admit, I flew into my hometown for a Zug Island mini-book tour and was warmly greeted with courtesy by everyone I came in contact with.

Detroit's Duffield Public Library on West Grand Blvd. was my first stop. It was 100 degrees outside and even warmer in the almost 100 year old building. An African-American woman in her fifties, walking on a wooden cane, braved the heat and climbed a flight of stairs where it was even warmer, just to hear me speak about the Detroit Riots of 1967.

I'm not going to kid you, this woman took me to school on the Detroit Riots. She was fascinating as she reminisced about being a twelve year old girl at the time.

"I was standing on my front porch watching people running towards the stores and others riding new bicycles in the opposite direction. I ran in the house and yelled up the landing to my mother. 'Mom! Why are all those kids riding new bikes?' She came down and looked out the front door; then she locked it. It stayed that way for a week. I remember it. It was hot, like today."

When my presentation was over, we kept talking as we carefully walked down the stairs and the ramp onto the steamy boulevard. My rental car was parked right in front of the library. "Can I take you anywhere?" I asked.

"No," she said. "I have a bus pass."

"I have new air conditioning and comfortable seats."

I think I made a friend. She needed to go across town to the main branch of the post office on Fort St., and she told me wonderful stories about the city as we drove through Detroit's almost deserted streets. She pointed out the new Motown housing development with streets named after Motown acts and stars. She told me about the gambling palaces that cleaned out some of the slums and then fleeced the people.

"You know," she said, "there are more churches in Detroit than anyplace."

"No. I didn't know that," I said as we arrived at the post office.

She thanked me for the ride and the conversation. I hadn't felt this connected to the city in over forty years. I am sad to say that I don't even know the lady's name. I hope she likes my novel.