Saturday, March 28, 2009


Here are some pictures from my recent train yard safari:

I found some writing on one of the boxcars, but much of what had been written is rusted, faded or chipped:

This great, mysterious moon is the remains of what had once been a round sticker of some sort.

I really love this one:

During the last few years I've become obsessed with shooting and editing these kinds of photos. You could also call it an addiction, but I think those terms are too negative. I'd say it's a consuming passion, but that sounds a bit too lofty. In any case, taking photos like these is something I love to do. It's what I'd rather do than almost anything else. And the only bad thing about it is the time it takes. Time, and lots of space on my computer.

The hobby of photography isn't expensive, as it was when you had to buy film and pay for developing or darkroom supplies. Now you can shoot as much as you want and it doesn't cost a dime, but the mangement of all those images can be a bit overwhelming. I don't want to know how much time I've spent editing, organizing, uploading to share sites, and downloading to discs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The map of Detroit

I've been spending a lot of my time lately studying the map of metropolitan Detroit as if it's a puzzle to be solved. Where, oh where, within this puzzle might we fit? I study and ponder and examine the map, hoping an answer might miraculously appear: a nice little neighborhood where I'll be happy and BB's commute won't be too bad. But I'm beginning to believe that's impossible.

The problem with Detroit is that it's too damn big.

While I was studying the map I measured it. The greater metropolitan Detroit area is 80 miles across (from Novi to Grosse Pointe Woods) and 100 miles long (from Auburn Hills to Flatrock.) And most of that is ugly suburban sprawl.

There are some nice suburbs to the north, but much of this vast area is a soul-destroying, cultureless, wasteland.

We currently live at the southeast edge of the map in an area known as "Downriver." This is convenient for BB's work commute, but is otherwise not an especially desirable place to be. And, of-course, there is no mass transit in the Motor City. No train to ride from one side of town to the other - and that's really a shame, especially considering how huge the place is.

According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press you can easily fit Manhattan, San Francisco, and Boston within the city limits of Detroit with room to spare. The total area of Manhattan, San Francisco, and Boston put together comes to 118 square miles. The city of Detroit covers 138. The article also noted that those three cities have a total population of 3 million, while Detroit has only 900,000. (Forty square miles of the city of Detroit are now barren!)

I'm not too happy to be here, but here I am. And I'm not looking forward to moving again - my fifth move so far this decade! But since I don't want to stay where we are I have no alternative. I have to keep studying the map, exploring the territory, and searching for a new place to hang our hats.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My "Christmas" cactus is in bloom!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I spent yesterday afternoon in downtown Detroit and couldn't have picked a better day to be there. It was a gorgeous spring day with lots of people out and about. It was such a nice day that even Detroit seemed like a thriving, vibrant, happy place!

I went to Detroit to look at apartments. BB and I aren't sure if we want to rent or own our next home, and we're not exactly sure where we want it to be, so we're exploring all our options. The idea of living in an apartment in the city is appealing, but we'd have to give up a lot of space. The big question is: what would we do with all our stuff? And also: how much would we miss having our own yard?

I looked at two places downtown yesterday, a high-rise apartment and a new "loft" development on Woodward Ave. I also walked around a lot and took myself out to lunch. The result of this exploration is that I'm sure I'd like living downtown. There's a lot more going on in Detroit than you'd imagine & I've always been a city girl at heart. I LOVE the idea of being able to walk to so many things - restaurants, shops, cultural venues, the library, the YMCA, the river, etc... But, alas, the loft development is out of our price range and the high-rise was not as nice as I'd expected.

It was also unfortunate that my camera battery died right after I took this shot. I'll have to go back soon for a photo safari.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Station Agent

It was a gorgeous day, 55 degrees, and I finally got to spend some time outside with my camera. I shot 140 pictures of one of my favorite subjects: rusty, graffiti covered trains.

And then this evening we watched The Station Agent, a wonderful movie that won at Sundance in 2003. I don't know how I manged to miss this treat of a film till now. It's original, funny, and filled with great characters. I highly recommend it. (Though it was somewhat of an odd little coincidence to watch a film with so many trains in it after spending my day with trains!)

 You can tell it's Spring Downriver because the bait shops are open, the ducks are paddling around on melted ice-rinks, and classic cars and bikers are on the roads.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Long lost objects

I was looking at some old photos a few weeks ago and was especially interested in noticing the many objects that appear in them by chance - things like lamps, clocks, cars, phones, furniture, etc... It's interesting to see these things that seemed so commonplace at the time, but now are so nostalgic.

There are a couple of my childhood pictures that include my old toys. I had tons of toys as a kid, but all that survived are a baton, a sled, and a rocketship bank.

This got me thinking about things I wish I could see once more, and the first things that came to my mind were: My mom's big brown tea mug; my record player and my collection of 45s; my pink Schwinn bicycle; and my turquoise transistor radio.

It occurred to me that it would be interesting to ask people what two items from their childhood or youth they'd like to see again and why. I asked BB and this is what she said: "My metal pedal car, because I loved it and because they don't make them anymore." And, "My bellbottom jeans with the peace symbol I sewed on in 6th grade."

What old objects would you like to see again?

Monday, March 9, 2009

She did it!

BB climbed 70 flights of stairs yesterday - to the top of the Renaissance Center in Detroit - to help raise funds for the Lung Association. It's not that she's a big supporter of the Lung Association, but it was a challenge she was determined to meet, especially since a large part of her motivation came from the fact that I said she couldn't do it. When she first told me about this event I responded by saying, "You can't do that." I thought it was completely crazy and somewhat dangerous - I was sincerely worried for her health. I can hardly climb four flights without a racing heart and heaving lungs. I can't imagine 70. 70! But she did it. Amazing.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The last lump of snow (i hope)

It was warm enough to go out without a coat today, a fact that's got me practically giddy. I've survived another long, cold winter, which was especially hard for me this year, being in a place I'm not too happy to be.

I spent part of this glorious day sitting in a cafe' gathering my thoughts for potential blog posts. I have lots of ideas, but nothing I feel inspired to follow through on - yet. What I did instead was make a list of potential blog topics, some of which are:

Living in Detroit
Wishing I was really good at something
Lost objects from the past
Why I love Spring more than Fall
Public conversations
Regret (why does it get such a bad rap?)
Navigation devices
Writing and rewriting

So, if you're one of the many - oh, so many I'm sure - followers of this blog, that's what you can expect to find me expounding upon here eventually.