In the winter of 2014 I found myself on a half broken Greyhound rocketing towards Chicago at midnight. Looking out the window at infinite white plains and cold blank air, the full moon stared back at me and questioned itself. The Hound made heavy aching sounds as the bus driver held tight to the wheel. Her posture was stiff and I could tell she was nervous, something had gone wrong. We'd left Jackson, Michigan about an hour before and it'd been around 10 degrees. With the sun down out in the open desolate farmland, the temperature had dropped to negative fifteen.
There were less than twenty people on the bus. Some college kids from Ann Arbor had jumped on and were sleeping. From what I could see only the bus driver, myself, and an Amish couple were awake. No cars passed us and besides the stars, there was only three twinkles of light out on the horizon. Me and the driver were very concerned yet the Amish couple seemed very relaxed. I observed them to keep my stress at bay. I asked myself, "Do they know if this bus breaks down we're fucked? Are they so docile because they don't know the sound of mechanical failure? Or maybe their faith is so strong there alright with whatever happens?". I was content with that last answer because it was cinematic enough to convince me everything was going to be okay. Then out of the blue this little Amish women pulled out a giant bag of doritos and began to eat them and not in a normal way. She started off slow and then began to savagely waste them like an ungodly peasant. There are only two possibilities, I thought. Either she doesn't get to eat processed food on the farm and she’s getting her fill while she’s off the reservation or she knows we're in deep shit and has lost her composure. I resigned as long as Father Amish kept his cool, I was gonna keep my cool. But then he threw a chip in his mouth. At that moment I knew I had to go deeper to the safety of my thoughts. Back to where I had just come from, The D.
I spent a week in the Detroit area visiting family. Most of my time was spent west of Detroit in Dearborn but I spent time all around the city. These pictures were taken from a car as these areas were not ideal for walking.I kept vigilant with my 40mm to find metaphors that I could later ponder over when I had time to think. A great feature of East Coast cities is the age of the structures. Sure, Detroit is a baby compared to other world cities and has had less up keep but in the grit and decay lies a message. The archaic brick and crumbling art deco scream the city's heyday- when it was the world's main exporter of automobiles and an epicenter of music and culture. The sharp steel and hard brick were a testament to both the American worker and the American Dream.
The collapse of Detroit was brought about from both internal and external forces. The cities dependency on automotive production, an inability to diversify, long standing political and racial tension, union disputes, outsourcing, the rise of technology, financial mismanagement, depopulation and multiple economic collapses led to the city,s demise. Driving through town in the bitter cold, there was some disbelief in witnessing the structural collapse of an American city. Looking out the window a chill went down my spine as my understanding of the country changed. I think about that ride more often than I would like to. That change in me is what made the city a gem- it's naked and cannot mask itself. Detroits message is larger than Detroit. Driving into downtown there was a blatant visual trope no one could miss. Boarded up shops and failed commerce looked inward to a preserved heavily policed metropolitan area. GM headquarters stood resting on the Detroit River, a gleaming citadel bailed out by the Fed. "The Emperor Has No Clothes" would be an understatement, The Emperor is cold, naked and has frostbite.
I found myself waking to the sounds of civilization and a woman's tired screeching voice over the bus intercom. We were moving slowly, maybe 40 mph and I watched traffic move around the bus and merge back to a seamless form heading towards massive glass columns. Most of the passengers slept the whole ride. The Amish couple had fulfilled their munchies and were asleep. The bus arrived in downtown Chicago around three a.m, coasting in on the Hound’s broken leg.