I grew up in the small town of Lake Orion, “Where Living is a Vacation!” It is located on the north end of Oakland County. There was a time when life in Lake Orion was a vacation (there was also a time when they pronounced Orion correctly) as its lakes, rivers and forests served as the perfect setting for a resort town. Not only did the wealthiest people from Detroit have property here, but people from as far south as Florida would come here in the summer to escape the intense heat, and probably the alligators too. There was an amusement park with a wooden water slide, and it was a very happening place for families to visit during the summer.
Fast forward about a century and Lake Orion made a dramatic transition, from pure Michigan paradise to the 7th layer of suburban hell. As urban sprawl quickly eroded the forests, wetlands and farms of the surrounding areas of Detroit, fueled by white flight from the Detroit race riots in the 40s and 60s, and cauterized by L. Brooks Patterson‘s hatred of public transportation, Lake Orion has become a haven for one-dimensional, culture-less mouth breathers.
Not that there was a lack of interesting, worldly and cultured people in Lake Orion, but most of us had the sense to leave as soon as we were able. I had tried to run my own business in Lake Orion for a couple of years, but never quite achieved independence. In 2003 I was offered a job to work as an IT technician for a major supplier to Chrysler, and the job was in Fraser, so I decided to leave my bubble and moved to Royal Oak with some friends. At the time, Royal Oak was still a very cool place. It had a diverse population of people coexisting together with different world perspectives and points of view. Every day was like getting smacked in the face with culture. I started to have more empathy for people. I wanted to experience everything, learn about all the different cultures and expand my mind to understand different points of view. The two years I lived there were an amazing transition in my life that really shaped who I am today.
It wasn’t too long before I discovered Detroit. The funny thing is that I had been to Detroit a few times in the past. I was into electronic music from a young age, so I had ventured down to a few raves, and even made a few appearances at the infamous Motor Lounge. I had never really spent a lot of time there, however. I didn’t really get to know anyone or become a part of the scene. I was mostly a wallflower, just there to hear the music. But it was the music that brought me back to Detroit in 2005, when a new group of friends took me to the first rave I’d been to in over four years. I had one of the greatest times of my life that night and met a lot of great people; some of whom I am still friends with today. I kept coming back, almost every weekend, looking for parties, good times and good people. I would frequent places like The Labyrinth, Corktown Tavern and The Works. I would attend Dorkwave and Nightsneak parties, as well as Funk Night.
Since then I don’t think I’ve spent more than a couple of weeks away from the city. It became my home away from home, and throughout the years I have become more and more involved in the new renaissance that is happening. Memorial Day Weekend used to be a camping getaway for my friends and I, but I haven’t missed the Movement electronic music festival since my first time in 2006. I started to get into other music, and became a part of Detroit’s vibrant hip hop scene. I jumped at the opportunity to take up my childhood dream of becoming a DJ, and spun records in clubs all over the city.
Something started happening to me last year. I had been back near my hometown, living in Pontiac for about a year and a half. I was still driving south to Detroit a lot, and continuing to be a part of the culture, but it started to wear down on me every time I made the drive home. I was staying out as late as I could, looking for after-parties and even couches to sleep on so I didn’t have to go home. Detroit was pulling me in, closer and closer.
At first I thought that I just needed to get back to the Royal Oak area, assuming it was the long drive home that was getting to me. I was looking around for a place to live for a while, but getting frustrated because I couldn’t find the right fit. Then it hit me that the reason why I was having such a hard time was because it wasn’t where I really wanted to live. I wanted to take that final step, and move into the city. Detroit is my one and only love, and I couldn’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else. I want to become a member of the city’s population, vote in city elections, pay city taxes, take city buses, live, eat and breath the city life. So I’ve decided to make Detroit my home.
Currently I am working on getting a new job, and if it works out my office will be in Merchant’s Row. I am planning to get a studio apartment at The Leland, which will put me right in the middle between Downtown and Corktown, as well as walking distance from the bus depot and people mover station. I’m going to fix up my bike and ride as often as I can. I plan to walk and take the bus more as well. I’ll have my car with me, but mostly for transporting DJ equipment, and leaving the city. (Hopefully not too often) I am going to work my ass off, and become a part of the movement to bring Detroit back to greatness.
Despite everything the City of Detroit has been through, it still has a vibrant culture of art, music, innovation and invention. Detroit will see its renaissance through, and rise again to greatness. We will be the cosmopolitan city on the river, and once again our Bohemian city will be called the Paris of the Midwest. Designers, artists, makers, engineers, and people of all walks of life are starting to see the massive opportunities that the city has to offer, and we all want to be a part of it.
Some day I will look back on the time I spent in the great city of Detroit with pride at what we have built, and what we have accomplished, and be satisfied to have played my small role in the process.