Monday, July 12, 2010
Broken dreams. Monday, July 12, 2010.
“I walk this empty street / on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams / where the city sleeps and I'm the only one and I walk alone.” – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Green Day
Detroit, home of the collapsed automobile industry, has been hit harder by economic hard times than any city in the nation. But nothing can prepare you for the sights of Detroit’s inner city – miles and miles of blight that look very much like the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Boarded-up and windowless business, homes and apartments line many blocks. Other blocks are simply empty space and weeds, where buildings used to be. And every broken down building we saw piques my imagination: Who had built it, and why? What investment did they make at the time? What had been their hopes and dreams for the structure? And what happened to cause it to be vacated?
You see, no one ever builds a building with the expectation that someday it will be burned, collapsed, or allowed to slowly deteriorate and be filled with rats. Every home, however humble, once housed a family excited to move in to their new dwelling. Every business building, whether a store, restaurant or tavern, represents the dreams of the original builder, who served customers and patrons.
More than perhaps any other city in North America, Detroit represents a broken dream. When Henry Ford opened his factory in 1914, paying employees the then-unbelievably high salary of $5 a day, a golden age was ushered in. Generations of families thrived and lived in relative wealth due to the automotive industry and its various spinoffs. “Motown” was alive and prosperous.
Today, only ghosts remain in many factory buildings and houses, and even the people who would have had memories of better times have left. Many of those who have stayed behind live in squalor. What once was a shining beacon of materialism and success is now like an unkempt graveyard. Time passes. Sometimes things don’t go as we expect or hope. Perhaps someday these areas will thrive again. Until then all we have are our imaginations of better days.