I am from what was once called
The Paris of the Midwest.
Nugent called it the
Motor City Madhouse.
KISS just called it
Rock and Roll Capital of the World
felt kind of pretentious after
Motown Records left for Hollywood.
We never forgave them.
* * *
I rolled off the assembly line at
Wayne County Memorial Hospital
and rumbled over the potholes to
Northwest Hebrew Memorial Park.
Dad was a gravedigger.
Felt the sunrise glitter
off granite tombstones
and chased butterflies
through five foot flower beds.
My kidneys are the color of
Faygo Red Pop and Vernors ginger ale.
* * *
I am from the Motor City. I am made of
Fins and Chrome,
purring Fours and growling Eights,
assembly lines, union lines, unemployment lines.
’59 Bel Air, the car I came home in,
’64 Catalina. Dad’s first family car,
’69 LeMans, a sop to his wife,
’74 Monte Carlo, because his sons had their own cars.
My lungs bear the scars
of long trips in those cars
breathing Dad’s Lucky Strikes unfiltered
and the plastic stench of Mom’s True cigarettes.
Lively entertainment on TV:
’68 World Series Champs,
Lake Erie catching fire. Twice.
* * *
I am a West-sider,
far from the Dodges, the Fords,
and the other princes of the city.
At fourteen, I sailed Grand River Avenue
to iconic Eight Mile Road,
barreling down to Telegraph Road
where the poor-boys raced
for stoplight glory.
Like Bob Seger said,
East-siders raced on Gratiot Avenue;
they raced for pinks.
Buried in the back seat
of my brother’s Torino GT.
Choking on burning rubber
and nitro-methane fumes (you wish!)
351 cubic reasons to pee my pants.
Green light gladiators
in White Castle parking lots
chasing blond ponytails on Saturday nights.
* * *
Smokestacks tumbled to the
Japanese Auto Invasion,
when they finally got us back for
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At least that’s how it felt
in the unemployment lines;
squalling babies and nervous chatter of
Assembly Line Dogs and Shop Rats.
* * *
At 17 I ran to university, running from
The Murder Capital of the World,
where Mayor Young told frustrated Blacks
“Whitey in the suburbs won’t give us no money,”
and gangs slaughtered each other for turf.
Devils Night imps burned what little was left.
Today, they should put a Phoenix
on the front of City Hall,
as a few brave souls
turn the lights back on.
It’s tempting to go back
for a fresh start…
Originally published online at: www.iamfrom.org – a Julie Landsman project