Monday, November 23, 2009

City, City Bang Bang

The late, great sportswriter Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times used to be one of the best at skewering towns across this great country. I haven't been to nearly as many burgs in the United States as Murray visited during his wonderful career, but I HAVE been to my share of cities around Metro Detroit and outstate...

We'll start with Pontiac, which would be a terrific town---if this was 1956. When a bus stops in Pontiac, everyone gets on, no one gets off. There's a road somewhere called Pontiac Trail, which isn't so much a street name as it is a warning. The overall mood is like a drab winter's day, only worse. The town is full of ghosts of businesses past. The city would make a mint if they erected toll booths at the borders and charged people to leave.

Then there's Taylor, where half the population is in-bred. More people sleep with their teeth in a glass than in their head. It's a great place to go if you're a producer for "The Jerry Springer Show." The official city song is "Dixie." After driving through Taylor, you have to change your clothes to get rid of the bacon stench. They park more cars on the front lawn than a valet at the mall during Christmas season. It's so bad that Southgate makes fun of it.

I used to live in Warren, where the only thing more crooked than the politicians are the police. If they didn't have the GM Tech Center, the city's IQ would drop like a lead balloon. The home of the brick ranch. Houses weren't built in Warren, they were pressed. Even Wal-Mart high-tailed it out of town. Warren has more motels and gas stations than the Ohio Turnpike. The next good night out in Warren will be the first. The city has as much culture and enrichment as Benton Harbor on a bad day.

I grew up in Livonia, the whitest city in America. You'll see grains of rice that are darker. The welcome mat for new residents includes a DNA kit. It's the only city I know where you have to pass a genealogy test before you can move in. They tried to bring Broadway-like entertainment to Livonia via the George Burns Theater, but the residents liked their tri-levels more than culture so it closed. The problem with Livonia is that there's nothing to do after 10:00---in the morning. Livonia is where you go if you want to see what the demographic of Detroit was like in 1944. The biggest attraction is the Awrey Bakery. By the way, when was the last time you saw any Awrey Bakery items on your grocer's shelves?




I live all-too-close to Royal Oak, which thinks it's Greenwich Village's long lost brother. It's a great town to people watch in---if you're Diane Arbus. There are more freaks strolling the streets of Royal Oak than all the circuses of this country combined. The real estate and homes are more overpriced than Nordstrom's. Royal Oak is a wonderful place, if you're into paying $1,400 a month for a 900 square foot bungalow. $1,700 if you want a bathroom. Royal Oak borders Ferndale, which is like Boy George bordering Clay Aiken.

Off I-275, around Ford Road, is a city called Canton, which is where to go if you ever wondered what Canton, Ohio would look like without the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Canton wasn't founded, it sprouted. Like a weed. Canton is four shopping centers, 10 strip malls, and a Meijer's. If it was a movie, it'd be "The Stepford Wives." No one goes to Canton unless they have a shopping list. You wonder if the residents are only living there because someone has something on them. Canton is as intoxicating as alcohol-free beer.

Then there's Southfield, which isn't a town, it's one big freeway exchange. People only pass through Southfield because it's on the way to someplace far more fun and interesting. It's the only city around that's so stuck up it named a freeway after itself. Someone should tell them. Southfield has it all, if you're planning on spending no more than an hour. The city has more concrete than Manhattan and less pizazz than Al Gore. Southfield is a perfect place to live if you want to keep your smart, cultured, refined friends away from you.

So...where do YOU live?

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