Sunday, December 23, 2012

Raising the Periscope

When first we moved to the Detroit region and were still just contemplating buying a house in Grosse Pointe, an astute, wise lady and high-ranking editorial figure at Gale Research (the reference Publisher) made a face and sort of stuck out her head, a gesture indicating, Are you sure you want to do that? And then she said, “Nice, yes. But there isn’t any shopping around there. You’ll find yourself forever traveling west.” Yes. That turned out to be true.

If Time has memories, Detroit, the city, and its most prestigious flanking suburb—but originally the first place where the French founders of this metropolis first built their dwellings—are regions that Time has forgotten. This isn’t where the action is. Hereabouts we still live in what seem to be the 1950s. Decorum still has its place. The schools perform. The other day we contemplated the projected plans of the City of Grosse Pointe Farms to “beautify” the town with literally more than  a dozen projects. Our Pier Park, with a grand view of Lake Saint Clair—dark blue waters,  bright sunlight, and white sails majestically beating their passage—Pier Park, already lovely and richly equipped, is getting yet other additions. Another consequence of our location here is that the mass and roar of Modernity is virtually unheard.

Yesterday the quest for an unusual object, to be precise a white-trimmed black Speedo one-piece bathing suit, caused us to raise our periscope. The change in image is appropriate in light of the product. I’d polled Sports Authority by telephone and discovered that the product we were seeking was only available in Auburn Hills, 45 miles and in that traffic an hour away. In that experience, both going and arriving, we did discover where the action around here is. It is way to the West and North. Vast masses of people, ocean-sized parking lots, creeping traffic. Reminded us of other trips. One took us from Detroit to Seattle in the 1990s, another from the United States to East Germany in the 1960s. One globe. But, to change the image again, different times. The globe’s face is dappled. Dark place and still—bright places and noisy. And those who live in each of these places think it’s the same all over. But it isn’t.

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