The other day I was pedaling down a tidy eastside street off Mt. Elliott near East Warren when I spotted this “Free Detroit Souvenirs” sign. It was placed in front of the only nasty house, on a block of fairly well-maintained places that reminded me of farmhouses. So I swung around, pulled up in front to take a photo, when all of a sudden I hear this voice yelling out from behind me, “Hold on, hold on, what do you think you’re doing?”
I glance over my shoulder and I see this older fellow, with longish gray hair waving his arms back and forth as if to say, “No, time out.” I could tell right away that this guy was a real character.
“Taking a picture of this sign,” I said to him while pointing at it.
“Ah, I put it there as a joke,” he said walking toward me. “I like to take stuff out of abandoned homes and put it here, it’s something a little different.” he told me.
“Very cool.” I said knowing he wasn’t listening.
“Where the hell did everybody go?” he asked while standing in the middle of the street with his arms open. “Look around here, you’ll see street after street with little or no houses left.” he said.
“Where the hell is everybody?” he asked raising his voice.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but riding through these eastside neighborhoods I see blocks with little or no homes, basically open fields that seem to stretch for miles.”
“My point,” he said boisterously, “where the hell did everybody go?”
I shrugged my shoulders as I held my hands out, palms up.
“How many miles do you ride a day?” he asked loudly.
“I don’t know, around 50- 60 per week,” I said.
“50 – 60!” he said surprisingly. “Are you retired”? He asked.
“No, laid off.” I said.
“From where?” he asked in a demanding voice.
“A advertising agency.” I told him.
“How old are you,” he asked “60?”
“No,” I said, thinking to myself, “Do I look 60?”
After telling him my age, he said, “Jesus, you work most of your life and that’s what you get! Just like everyone else in Detroit. Yep” he continued, “I was in the tool and die business most of my life. Same thing, everyone got laid off. There’s no jobs in that industry anymore. All gone, just like the people who used to live around here.”
During our little conversation, another older gentleman happened to be walking by and two younger guys, who appeared to be restoring the house next door, came down the porch steps and were walking toward us as well. All of a sudden the character I was talking with yelled out, “I don’t believe it!”
“What?” I asked a little concerned.
“There are five white guys on this street, all at once!” he said shockingly loud. “I don’t believe it,” he said again while smiling.
The older man walking by ignored him, and one of the two young restorers kind of rolled his eyes and said “yeah.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at this weird scene.
As I was getting on my bike to leave, I said to him, “By the way, do you live on this street?”
“Sure do, see that yellow car down there?” he said pointing down the street, “That’s my place.”
So I ride off in that direction to check it out. As I approached his two-story house, I took a good look, and I cracked up. Right above his front door hung a sign that read “White Trash”.
I wonder where he found that.