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Life & Events > Michigan Worries and Belongings

Michigan Worries and Belongings

I just got back from Michigan. I was there for about 9 days.

For those of you that don't know, southeast Michigan is the worst place in the country right now. The housing market is way past horrible. Over the last 6 months (with all the foreclosures) the median cost of a home in that region has been 6,000 dollars. TOTAL. The unemployment rate is up over 11%, and there is a possibility that another 2% is on the way.

I spent most of my life there, and developed friendships much stronger than most family bonds.

Being there for the past week, I saw two images of the place in obvious conflict with each other. The first is a picture of an area trying to expand, trying to flourish, and trying to survive during a bad time. This image can only meant to be seen by people who did not grow up there.

The other is the one that the cities themselves are hoping get ignored. The movie theater I worked in during high school, closed. Angelo's Pizzeria closed. Showcase Westland, gone. All over the area restaurants and gas stations... banks and grocery stores... closing, re-opening, changing management, changing ownership, changing names... The place might not be DYING, but it's definitely convulsing.

I moved out here to Connecticut a couple of years ago now. By every criterion it was the best time I could have left there to come here. My job is secure, and my house is nice and big and warm. My kids are in one of the best school systems in the country. The people I have met out here are nice. A bit wrong in the head politically and pretty darned reserved, but still nice.

There are a lot of downside to being out here also. The food might be the biggest. Being in New England the seafood is amazing. It's fresh and cheap and it's everywhere. Everything else, however, is substandard.

I've been doing a great deal of thinking for the last few months about the concept of belonging. I can remember a short while back I was telling Laura how I didn't really feel like I belonged out here. I still feel the same way, and likely will for the rest of my life.

However, what was strange over the past week was how this same feeling was mimicked in Michigan.

It isn't the people. I still have a great time hangin' with the guys, drinkin' home brew and making a kamikaze run. Millers is still a staple and hitting a bucket is mandatory. Talking about how the liberals are ruining the country and speculating on whether the Big 3 are going to make it.

It's the place. It doesn't feel like home anymore. I can drive down my old street and it's foreign. I swing by my old office and it's empty. Stop at my old bar and they don't know me anymore. Even the old ball field. It's still there, but stepping onto the dirt is strange. My feet are too big, or my head seems like it's too high in the air. Even sitting on my grandmother's deck. It felt more like a friend’s house than the home I spent so many years in. That feeling saddened me greatly. Even the multitudes of photographs on the walls. Although they inspired general feelings of nostalgia, those feelings were for the people in them... not the places they were taken.

So I have the intense feeling that I don't belong in the place I used to live, nor where I live now. What makes this feeling so acute is how completely I felt at home back there. Having that, and then losing it... that kind of leaves a hole.

It isn't a hole I have any burning desire to fill, which is strange. I am not looking to run back to Michigan and try to reconnect. Although I have very little optimism that I could ever connect with this place in nearly the same way.

What I am leading up to is my underlying worry for those back in my home state that are trying to stick things out. Michigan is not on the 2-year comeback trail. It is a decade away from any kind of full turnaround.

The relationships I have with my friends are important to me. But like I said, I worry. I worry that the next time I want to go visit the people I know, it will have to be a world-wide tour instead of heading to Michigan to watch the Red Wings game. I am relatively sure that none of them WANT to move, but by now they must be getting pressure to have a backup plan.

Any of you guys ever need anything; any of you need a place to stay while looking for that backup plan, anything you think I might be able to help with, don't ever hesitate. You all know where I am.

If I have one piece of overly cynical advice, it would be to not jeopardize your future by sacrificing the chances you still have. Michigan is not a ship that you are the captain of, and clinging to it because it is all you've ever known is just smart enough to be stupid. Nothing that any of us do can or will change what that state needs to go through to be safe and secure again. Take care of your families, take care of yourselves...

And you've all got a friend over here that is willing to help.

posted on Apr 27, 2009 3:51 PM ()

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