Down in the Motor City

“You will never walk alone. In the shelter of each other we will live…”

Jars of Clay, ‘Shelter’

This past weekend was awesome. I headed down to Detroit mid-afternoon on Friday for a costume fitting, which was followed almost immediately by a friend’s birthday in Ferndale where I was finally able to meet her husband and adorable boys. The brownie sundaes were pretty tasty as well.

Those two things would have been cool on their own, but Saturday I had the opportunity to meet a really great group of people through two Detroit-centric events – Photowalk Detroit and the Epic Tweetup.

I’ll admit it. I was slightly nervous about Saturday. The photowalk came first and I had exchanged a grand total of one tweet with someone I had never met in real life to get more information about it. It was, however, an opportunity I couldn’t resist. For all her fallen grandeur and tarnished reputation, Detroit has its own beauty if you take the time to look. I would say I’m biased by the proximity with which I grew up to her, but we rarely came down to the city when I was a kid.

I won’t deny that Detroit has its problems. There are homeless and jobless.

Empty storefronts.

Beautiful buildings allowed to fall into disrepair.

That’s the part of the city so often seen in the news, but in the course of our walk we encountered people in the midst of their lives. It actually started with this bride’s arrival at the church kitty corner to our gathering place – the first of four wedding parties we encountered.

There were also families getting  an early dinner.

Children playing under the watchful eye of their parents at the waterfront.

Art – inside, outside and on the side of buildings.

The most important thing to be found, though, was the spirit of the people who want to see Detroit thrive again. They were out on that photowalk with me.

They also gathered that night at the Magic Stick for the Epic Tweetup, a celebration of Team Detroit’s winning the SXSW Chevy Roadtrip Challenge earlier this year.

Yes, it was a big party and there were a number of people feeling that the next day, but it was more than that. Somewhere around 500 people gathered from Detroit and beyond for this celebration. Introductions were made. Friendships were started. Business cards may not have made their way out of people’s purses and pockets much, but connections were made that are already being strengthened. There’s a magic in that.

For myself, I’m really glad I was able to be there and a part of it. I met some awesome people and I look forward to seeing them again and where all of this leads.

You don’t have to believe me alone about all of this amazingness. Here are some links if you’d like to see and read more about last weekend’s events.

Photowalk Detroit Flickrstream

#EpicTweetup Flickrstream

What #DETChevySXSW DID for Detroit

Getting EPIC in Detroit: #EpicTweetup

On Networking, Business Cards and the Detroit #EpicTweetup

@bchesnutt and @cbarger’s rendition of ‘Soul Man’

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave Peckens
    Sep 01, 2010 @ 00:34:01

    Wow. Excellent post. I’m glad I read this *and* had the opportunity to meet you. Come back to the D anytime!

    Reply

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  3. Todd J. List
    Sep 01, 2010 @ 00:52:50

    I’m sorry I missed the Photo Walk. It looks like you found plenty of subjects for good pictures.

    Like you, I’m from Michigan, but I didn’t grow up around Detroit. I can count on one hand the number of times I visited the city before leaving for college.

    Now I live on the fringe of this city’s sprawling suburbs, and I’m developing an appreciation for the beauty and wonder that Detroit offers. The people I have met and the friends I have made have a lot to do with it.

    It was a great pleasure meeting you at the Epic Tweetup, and I hope to bump into you again soon.

    Reply

    • alainarkraus
      Sep 01, 2010 @ 18:17:57

      It was great to meet you, too. The people definitely make a difference. Despite the bad rap it gets, I’ve always found the people I’ve met in Detroit to be a friendly, welcoming group.

      Reply

  4. Becks Davis
    Sep 01, 2010 @ 01:12:28

    It was so great to meet you! As Dave said, excellent post. Thank YOU for coming to Detroit and becoming a part of our community. Because, yeah, you’re in this community now too. Keep us posted on when you’ll be back in Detroit.

    Reply

    • alainarkraus
      Sep 01, 2010 @ 14:53:55

      I will! I’ll actually be down in the next couple of weeks, but I’m not sure what the shooting schedule will look like since it will be for extra work on Transformers 3.

      Reply

  5. Nate Riggs
    Sep 01, 2010 @ 11:48:26

    Alaina,

    This is a cool post and thanks for the mention. I’m a closet Jars of Clay fan and used to see them live at the Alive Festival in Canal Foulton Ohio years back. The quote is so relevant to what’s happening – not only in Detroit, but with an entire generation of us “socially integrated” folks. I dig that.

    [also – really killer shots. You capture a lot of emotion in those :)]

    Reply

    • alainarkraus
      Sep 01, 2010 @ 14:51:08

      Thank you and you’re welcome :)

      The song it’s quoted from is actually the title track off of Jars of Clay’s new album and it was just too fitting to not include. The album doesn’t come out until October, but there’s a livestream on HearItFirst.com through tonight or tomorrow if you’d like to hear their new tracks (I’m loving ‘Small Rebellions’).

      Reply

  6. Deborah
    Sep 01, 2010 @ 17:09:58

    Great pics Alaina! Sounds like you had an awesome weekend!

    Sorry I missed seeing you at photowalk and the tweetup. Though it’s great to chat on Twitter, hope can can meet in real life again soon. We’ve got some great ideas for upcoming Michigan Usability meetings, and hope we can plan some for the Lansing area so you don’t have to travel so far.

    Reply

  7. Dominique
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 01:23:43

    Great pictures! And didn’t you just love the Guardian Building?

    Reply

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