Pants (The First Installment)

For one week in August I took an energy efficiency class up in the Bronx. I headed “up North,” riding my bike the 10 or so miles from midtown Manhattan through Times Square, alongside Central Park and on into that Other Borough.  On my back I carried a pack with a notepad and pen, a sack luck, a water bottle and a change of clothes.

I’ve often thought that if I could play God or Mayor for a day, my first task would be to demolish the highways. As in the city of Detroit, neighborhoods in the Bronx have been bi-sected pureed and splayed out by highways. Back in the 70’s people paved over neighborhoods and truncated others with the myopic hubris that justified those roads as quite literally a means to an end (the end being Manhattan in the case of the Bronx, the end being The Suburbs in the case of Detroit).

With highways come overpasses, and that commute was the first time I had occasion to cross over a pedestrian overpass in New York. In the sweltering heat of that baking city in late summer, I carefully navigated around what appeared to be human feces* and entered into that beleaguered borough. Continue reading “Pants (The First Installment)”

Bike for Your Rights


“Don’t Let Special Interest Groups Tell You Not To Let Bureaucrats Tell You What Size Beverage to Buy”


Times were tough in New York following Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly-contested anti-soda campaign, which waged war on the sugared-beverage rights of peace-loving not-quite caffeinated-enough New Yorkers. For the uninitiated, I’ll inform you that the mayor’s idea was to ban soda cups over a certain size to make a small splash in the fight against obesity.

Continue reading “Bike for Your Rights”

Doc’d Up

greencardIn the waiting area of clinic 4E at the Detroit Medical Center, women in various stages of pregnancy and early motherhood are leaning against walls, sitting on plastic “kiddy” chairs, and pacing around the rows of empty chairs around them. They are waiting for their name to be called, and they will wait for hours. They’d like to sit in the chairs, but will not, for fear of bed bugs.

There are a number of unavoidable symptoms of pregnancy: swollen feet, morning sickness, drowsiness, sure. But parasitic insects? They have no part on that list.

Continue reading “Doc’d Up”

Swimming in Detroit

In the third lane of the YMCA pool at 8:47 last night,
I was treading water,
pleasantly buoyant and alone.

And though I’ll never know for sure,
it occurred to me in that moment:

I am the only one swimming in Detroit.

Detroit Dinner Party Confessions

“I’m divorced”

    It happens

“I’m black”

    No problem

“I’m gay”

    We accept you

“I’m atheist”

    That’s alright

“I’m Christian”

    That’s ok too

“I’m moving to the suburbs”


Young People, Short Memories


In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president to lead the nation of South Africa. His election marked the end of the racist Apartheid system, and his party was the African National Congress, the ANC. In the years since, the ANC has never lost the presidency, though power has been passed down to 4 different men over that time. For many South Africans, the ANC is synonymous with freedom from apartheid, and they will support it unwaveringly for life. To them, the choice at the voting booth is not between one party or another in a free South Africa, but between their liberators and Someone Else, and that is really not a choice at all. Continue reading “Young People, Short Memories”



When you move to a large city like New York, you join millions of others who make it their home. Whether you know it or not, you are affirming their choice to live there and they are validating you right back. Your collective presence is evidence that you’ve selected a desirable location, and that means something. Continue reading “Defiance”

Light on Blight

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I grew up in a sweet, serene, safe community: a bastion of purity in small-town Michigan. We had no world-class issues. The police blotter in the local paper was comedically innocent: “raccoon topples garbage can,” “local man double-parks van.” But not too far away, trouble loomed large. Detroit, with its towering tombs was a shame to our state, replete with evidence of poverty, racial conflict, failure. We could not be proud of it so we pretended it did not exist. We could not fix it and so we ignored it.

But it turns out, problems do not solve themselves. Untended, a cancer grows, and a city cannot be surgically removed. Most with the option to do so have retreated and put up a nice tall fence.They take comfort in a combined dosage of nostalgia and finger-pointing- “there’s nothing we could do.” Yet there is a growing coalition of loyalists and adventurers with the temerity to return to that place we have long since disowned. Our denial can only continue for so long.

Not unlike my home state, I have a parts of myself I would rather not face. A rough, unpolished side that, for years, I tried to hide, wish away, bury. The greater heights I reached in my career, in my personal life, the harder it became to face the grit below. But that is part of me too goddammit, and it remains.

With these thoughts in mind, I have taken my imperfect self to this imperfect place, the city of Detroit. I will face and embrace those unpolished edges which I tried so valiantly, so vainly to avoid. New York is a skyscraper, unwilling to face it’s flaws because they seem so far away from such haughty heights. New York is denial. Detroit is a smokestack, honest and brash in the face of faults so evident no one can pretend they don’t exist. Detroit is acceptance.

Detroit and I, we are flawed but full of potential. I cannot take back those years of neglect, but I can try now to make amends. I will shed light on those dark corners, long ago left behind, discovering the truth they’ve waited so long to share.

With my faults I can never be perfect, but without them I can never be whole.