I first met you when I was 16. And, like all awkward first encounters, neither one of us uttered a word.
I was in my mom’s van when I missed an exit and ended up barreling down I-75.
As I looped Jefferson Avenue, I got my first glimpse of you. Not of the buildings, riverfront or the iconic Woodward Avenue stretch, but of the man standing on the corner with a sign that read, “I am worth it.”
From that day on, I wanted to learn more about you.
At first, I just looked from afar with curiosity. But, after landing a job downtown, I have spent the last six years watching you wake up every morning.
I’ve learned you’re one hell of a sports fan. There have been wins and losses for the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings, but you always show up and throw the biggest party for the rest of us. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve cheered and shared a beer on the rooftop of Bookies or Harry’s.
I’ve also learned you like to wine and dine. My taste buds fell in love with the Brussel sprouts at Roast, the sliders at Green Dot, the bacon-wrapped dates at Le Feria and the world-class chicken shawarma at Bucharest. I’ve also spent many evenings with you ordering those “fancy” drinks at Iridescence and Coach Insignia. Oh, and I’ve consumed way too many coneys to count.
I’ve learned you love theater, concerts and art. The Fox, in all its glory, is iconic. The Redford Theater is possibly one of the most romantic places to catch the classics. I’ve spent the day exploring street art with you at the Heidelberg Project, and found my favorite oil painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts (It’s “The Lily Pond” by Charles Harry Eaton, by the way).
You’re well-read, and have lived to tell some of the greatest stories in history. You moved me when I stood in the streets where the 1967 riot took place. I was fascinated reading about how Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant revolutionized manufacturing and have kept the “Detroit Almanac” on my bedside for years. And, yes, I have read those Kwame text messages.
You’ve given the world Motown and set a beat that will be followed for many years to come.
My favorite part about you? You keep giving. It’s not always in a tangible way, but the mere fact that you still exist, is inspiring enough.
I could go on, but I’m sure you’re busy opening your presents.
So, Detroit, happy birthday and congratulations on your 313 years. I’ll make sure to crack open a Vernors and have a slice of Sander’s Bumpy Cake on your behalf.