Saturday, August 9, 2008

Manage your expectations

There are many kinds of love, I have learned.

As I finish growing up and become an irresponsible adult (responsible is boring), I am of the opinion that the most useful kind of love is the one that sees all faults and remains unmoved.

I suppose that's where my relationship with Detroit is at right now -- a city I have adopted as one of my favorite places in the world, mostly because it deserves better. You know, it was only one of the largest and important cities in the United States for a very long time, and it only changed the world.

Most people say I'm setting myself up for disappointment, but here's the thing -- I don't expect anything from Detroit, other than for it to be itself. This is because I know it is essentially broken and, as such, all but incapable of meeting any non-negative expectations that people might have from a large American city.

What makes me happy is when the city shows any sign of life - any at all - in spite of being expected by most outsiders and many Metro residents to be useless, unable to do anything other than continue its rather dramatic collapse.

Perhaps the continual need to manage one's expectations means that the relationship is unhealthy, but so far I have yet to be disappointed or hurt. Over seven years of visiting and reading and studying and meeting the people who make living here tolerable, I have heard every complaint, every warning not to get my hopes up, every awful story. At this point, there are very few areas of the city that I have not seen, from the increasingly normal downtown to the most wasted moonscapes that used to be neighborhoods.

My eyes are open, to be sure. What has happened is tragic. What is happening isn't really helping matters. And yet, the more time I spend in Detroit, the harder it is to leave.

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