This aerial view comes to us courtesy of Google Maps. The letter “A” marks the home in Detroit in which I grew up. We left there for the suburbs in 1984 and it’s been some years since I’ve actually driven through the old neighborhood, but I assure you that I can still walk down these streets in my mind’s eye and see a million details, recalling specific houses, streets, people, trees, smells, breezes, and cracks in the sidewalks.
Obviously, nothing so artificial and man-made as a city neighborhood can stay the same for long, but this was still a stunning sight. You may wonder what I could see from a vantage point as high as the one shown above. The answer is this: green grass. I see lots and lots of green grass. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; hey, who doesn’t like a nice lawn or a lush meadow?
My problem is that I’m seeing lot after lot of green grass where there used to be houses. In my childhood, there were hardly any empty lots. Now, I can see entire blocks that are almost half empty lots.
I can’t say that I was surprised to see this. By the time we left in 1984, house fires were becoming noticeably more common, and some of us even discussed at the time what the neighborhood might come to look like if this trend continued. Well, we’ve arrived in the future, and the future is green.
Ever the optimist, I find myself hoping that the current residents of my old ‘hood find enjoyment in these wide-open spaces; that they appreciate not being hemmed in on all sides by other houses. But the realist in me can’t help but think that if I were on the ground in that neighborhood today, I might not find a lot of joy in the air.