A refreshingly minimal travel book arrived in my mail box last week: Wildsam’s Detroit field guide. Without photography or any of the traditional guidebook devices, the pocket-sized volume weave interviews, anecdotes, personal essays and stunning design into an impressionistic companion to one of America’s most interesting cities. You can count the guides in the Wildsam series on one hand: Detroit, San Francisco, Austin, Nashville and, most recently, New Orleans.
Here are some images and excerpts from the Detroit book:
From p. 90: “The Village” by Rollo Romig,
It’s not as if we spent two decades cowering in fear. Our neighbourhood was North Rosedale Park, on the northwest side, and for nearly two decades the beautiful things about living here easily eclipsed the crimes that finally drove us away. But the crimes and the beautiful things were never easy to disentangle…”
p. 24: “Mower Gang”
In 2010, mower-in-chief Tom Sardine and his band of volunteer grass hounds first took to the urban prairie. Riding and pushing their way across dozens of unkempt and forgotten parks and playgrounds, the crew has taken grassroots initiative to a whole new level. Today, the mower gang cares for 90 spaces, meeting every other Wednesday, and annually doing a 24-hour “Mow-town” marathon.
Present-day Detroit was the third main settlement locale for the Ojibwa tribe, after Montreal and Niagara Falls.
p: 40: “Message to the Grass Roots” speech by Malcolm X, Detroit, 1963
You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There is no such thing as a non-violent revolution… Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise…”
p. 49: “Two-way Inn”
Onetime brothel, dancehall, village jail and dentist’s office, this corner spot now raises $2 Stroh’s (local brew) to the ghost of Colonel Philetus Norris, the original builder of the rickety building.
p. 28: Films and series set in Detroit: 8 Mile, Bird on a Wire, Freaks and Geeks, Home Improvement, Robocop, The Virgin Suicides…
p. 36: “It is easy to understand the concern and disgust over the grotesquerie and even blasphemy in the Diego Rivera murals… Undoubtedly they contain communist propaganda… The murals certainly cannot be taken seriously. But they might be kept as historical curiosity…” –Detroit Free Press, 1933 (on the Rivera mural unveiled at Detroit’s Institute of Arts)