Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love Letter to Michigan

Dear Michigan:

You have taken a beating in the news for the last couple of years. The recession hit you long before it hit the rest of the country. You've had one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation, the Big Three came close to failing, and Detroit has been dubbed once again the murder capital of the country, if not the world. Kwame Kilpatrick's antics haven't helped either. Your shame was spread across the front pages of newspapers and featured on CNN. I am sure, Michigan, you want to hang your head and hide behind Canada.

I am here to say, Michigan, raise your head. I have lived many other places in my past, New England, France, and Chicago to name a few, and I love living here. You have a thriving arts community, music, museums, theater. You are incredibly ethnically diverse. Your naturally beauty is unsurpassed. Sports fans have a lot to choose from and frankly, you have some up and coming industries that everyone seems to forget about in the shadow of the Big Three.

First of all, let's talk Detroit. No one seems to be able to get past Detroit when it comes to talking about you. Detroit is like any other city, some places are good to go, some places are not. If you don't go to the Cass Corridor, you will probably be OK. Detroit has a lot to offer. Unbelievable dining (rumor has it Michigan has one of the highest number of master chefs in the country) in pretty much any cuisine you can imagine. Just to list a few: Ethiopian, Greek, Japanese, Russian, Polish, Mexican, French, Italian, Korean, Chinese. Speaking of food, what about Eastern Market? That fantastic kaleidescope of locally grown produce and products beckoning me on Saturday morning. We always go nuts and buy way too much when we are down there.

Detroit has a thriving arts community with theater, music, galleries, museums, and more. The great thing is if you live in the suburbs of Detroit, like me, it's all about 30 minutes away. No having to drive for a couple of hours like you do if you live near New York, or God forbid, LA. In 30 minutes you can be down town at the DIA (that would be the Detroit Institute of Arts for the foreigners) taking in a new collection, or at the theater enjoying the latest show. There are smaller events and places too numerous to even mention. Let's just put it this way, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you will never be bored living here. There is always something to do or see.

I also contend that Detroit has the best music scene, with a big variety of different types of music. Everywhere else I travel, on the radio it's all hip hop, rap, and pop with a couple country and christian music stations sprinkled in. Not Detroit, we have classic rock, classical, adult alternative, jazz, heavy metal along with the others already mentioned. Michigan is the birthplace of Motown and it still shows with an awesome music scene.

One of the main things that contributes to your arts community is the ethnic diversity of your population. In any given day, I will see a Jewish yamulke, a Muslim head scarf, a Sikh turban or an Indian sari. It is so common to hear someone speaking another language that it doesn't even register. My daughters friends are African American, Indian, Hispanic, Asian, German, Jewish, Hindu, Christian. She is truly color blind. Yes, we have racial tensions, but there are very few communities where all of these different types of people live together. It makes for a rich and interesting life.

The cool thing is that once you are done with the city, if you drive 30 miles from downtown, you are basically in farm country. Michigan is essentially a rural state. There are hundreds of square miles of town, county, state, and national forests, parks, and recreation areas. If you like the outdoors, Michigan is for you. We have the longest shoreline of any state in the US, so any water sport involving liquid or frozen lakes is popular here. Swimming, fishing, boating, ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing are just some of the normal things people do here. I'm sure people have thought of other more exotic pastimes to get them through your famously long winters.

The variety of habitats and natural features here is stunning. Not only do you have the aforementioned farm lands, but there are second growth forests where people hike camp, and hunt during the season. On the western side of the state is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park with sand dunes that stand over 400 feet above Lake Michigan. There are also wineries Up North (in the fingers of the mitten) and on your western side. Not to mention golf courses, which although are not necessarily a natural feature, are beautiful and a lot of people play.

And, by the way, how cool is it that anyone that has a hand has a map of you? Where else can you say, "I'm going to the thumb" and everyone knows exactly what you talking about. I can point on my hand and show people precisely where I live. Try that with California!

Sports fans have four professional franchises to pick from, the Detroit Tigers (baseball), the Redwings (hockey), the Lions (football), and Pistons (basketball). The feeder team for the Tigers, the Mudhens, is located in Toledo. If your taste in sports is not covered by the professional teams, we have the Big Ten University of Michigan with all the teams you could possibly want to watch. The rivalry between U of M and State is highly entertaining. If you wear blue and maize to Lansing on the wrong day, you are in more danger than walking the Cass Corridor in Detroit!

The Big Three have been in the news a lot lately. People who live outside your borders probably think that is the only industry here. To be sure it dominates, but is not the only one. Battle Creek has an up and coming bio tech industry, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are busy attracting companies from Chicago. Whirlpool, which has always been based here, has just recently decided to build it's new world headquarters in Benton Harbor. The film industry is bustling. As a matter of fact, the HBO show "Hung" is filmed on the lake I live on. The number of movies being filmed are too numerous to mention. We are more than the auto industry and anyone who doesn't realize that has grossly underestimated you and your population.

So Michigan, what I have to say is this: You may have taken a beating in the news and a lot of people outside the state can't think past the mayhem in Detroit and the economy but I know that you have the resources both natural and human to be great. I really love living here!

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