way back when *h and i were first in the process of moving to seattle, i remember doing a post comparing detroit and seattle. lots of things struck me as very different then, and now that we have been here for 2 years (!) i can tell you this:
after a recent trip back to detroit lots of things still do!
i actually almost typed that sentence as: after a recent trip back home…
so i guess that gives you a glimpse of where my head is.
i didn’t really realize how detroit-y i still am, although it should be fairly obvious, since i still refer to myself as a detroiter with alarming frequency. i am learning the geography of seattle and the cadence of the west coast, and the culture of seattle.
i know how to shop in stores that treat plastic bags with criminal contempt and how to deal with rain that doesn’t require a jacket or an umbrella (which is most of the seattle rain, believe it or not). i found myself actually wondering where i would be able to buy organic produce once i got to detroit, and marvelling at the idea that there are stores that not only don’t carry organic stuff, but whole geographic regions where that isn’t even weird.
i get mentally prepared when i drive for the fact that, at any random moment in seattle a car will stop short in the middle of traffic to allow for a street crossing by any species, be it human or otherwise. i sometimes wonder if there is a question on the washington state driver’s exam regarding how small a being has to be before you are not obligated to stop and give it right-of-way to cross illegally and unsafely in the middle of the road. for real, i wonder sometimes if people stop just in order not to smash bugs on their windshield.
i have adjusted to sharing the road with bicyclists, who have an entire vocabulary of hand and arm gestures to signal their intentions about what type of accident they intend to cause next. being from “not here” i understand none of this sign language, so i just try to stay like 900 yards away from anyone wearing spandex and a helmet. even if they aren’t on a bike. but since i now live here, i actually utter phrases like, “i really respect people who want to conserve more of the planet’s resources by biking to work! i just wish i had the discipline to do that!” okay, maybe i said something like that once to see how it sounded. mostly i enjoy being able to haul vast amounts of groceries in my midwest-imported SUV, but at least i have been seattle-ized enough now to feel vaguely guilty that i don’t feel more guilty…
enter the detroit trip.
first of all, we were introduced once as “a family from seattle”, and i was like, “WHAT????? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY??????????????? UM, YOU KNOW WE ARE DETROITERS, RIGHT? WE JUST MOVED TO SEATTLE LIKE TWO YEARS AGO…”
hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. that was strange. a bit forceful for no apparent reason.
exhibit two: we were driving and this guy in a tricked-out SUV made an illegal turn and cut us off. and he wasn’t tentative about it, either. he just pulled straight out, like, “ya- i know you all are gonna stop for me!” and i was like, “ya! now THAT’S a detroiter! look at that attitude! i LOVE that! he thinks he owns the road! people here are so aggressive- don’t you love it?” and *h was looking at me like i was bonkers- and i think i was a little bit… because nostalgia for big-time dysfunction = big-time dysfunction…
exhibit three: detroit has road signs. they may have a lower literacy rate than seattle, and their schools may be worse, and their crime may be higher, but they know how to mark their roads so you can understand where you are and where you need to be. several times i was tempted to take a road just because it was clearly marked, the same way you want to eat the last piece of cake even when you are too full, just because you know that if you don’t eat it now, there will be none left when you really do want it. but i kept myself in check, and was rewarded with yet more clearly marked roads. detroit may not have much to envy, but city planners, if you are out there hear this: detroit and its suburbs know how to put up good signs. seattle, not so much at all. which kind of leaves me wondering, if detroit does it, can it really be that hard???
exhibit four: coffee coolada. yes, i have mentioned this from time to time here, but i will say it again. coffee cooladas from dunkin donuts can rock my world, and they have them in detroit. oh yummy von yum. cheaper than crack and way more legal. and that’s all i need to say about that.
exhibit five: detroiters will fight you. they may or may not have a good reason, but if you mess with a detroiter, they won’t stand for it. people in detroit are not oatmeal and white rice; they are jalapeno and fire ants. this keeps things interesting. it keeps you on your toes. it’s not like everyone in detroit is a loose cannon, but it’s like watching my big fat greek wedding instead of a documentary on concrete. detroit has passion. this is a double-edged sword. detroit can make my heart sing and fill me with pure joy. it can also cut me straight through. i forgot all of this until i went back. i was coasting on a cloud of total love in detroit, and then i got a splash of ice water from the other side. 20 minutes later, the love was gushing again. it can be crazy-making for sure, and its intensity can be way too much at times, which is why i think it’s awesome that the metro detroit area has some of the most unbelievably breathtaking nature in the universe. you can be in the pit of hell and then drive 15 minutes and you are in heaven.
if i thought about it more, i’m sure i could think of more things to tell you, but this is just a smattering of the ramblings of my mind. in some ways the two cities are so different that in one store i literally looked in my purse to see if i had any “american” money. it was like a scene out of you know you are confused when… and in some ways, it’s all seemless. there’s a different vibe and a different rhythm, but it’s relatively easy to switch back and forth as long as you know both places. a few things were jarring, only because we forgot what we knew, and then we remembered we knew and it was so crazy that we actually lived there before… i guess that’s how *h feels when we go back to england…
on the way back from the airport to our house in seattle, i was very happy to see our kids and the animals. but i had literally no sense of coming home.
i have made really good friends here, and in some ways i love them more in a short time here than i love a lot of people back in the D. i have a super community in seattle, and the people have gone out of their way to be warm and kind. because seattle in general is wacky, people here accept us for who we are. we can be very comfortable being our real selves, and that isn’t a small thing. if we had to leave detroit (and i think we all know it was getting to be time to expand our horizons), i think this is probably the best possible place we could have come. my kids love it here, and they have really made seattle their home.
but for me i think i will always be a detroiter.
i don’t know if that’s god or bad, and i wasn’t even 100% aware of it until we went back.
but, dysfunction and all, detroit and i are paired for life.
and i think i wouldn’t have it any other way.