Mark Binelli is an author of some pretty great books, most recently “Detroit City Is The Place To Be.” It’s one of few new looks at Detroit that doesn’t take the easy way out. I highly recommend it. He was gracious enough to let us reprint a few paragraphs and we are trying to find a good date this summer for him to come out and tell some of his stories in First Container.
Here’s a little nugget:
“Detroit is 139 square miles and shaped roughly, like an outboard motor. Looking at a map you might also think of an anvil, but mostly because the northernmost border, the famous 8 mile road, traces such a perfectly planed line. My own return to the city began at the edge of downtown, in the Eastern Market neighborhood. Though best known for its weekly framer’s market, Eastern Market remained primarily a distribution hub for wholesale food: produce, imported dry goods, meat from several working slaughterhouses
I’d made regular deliveries to Eastern Market for my dad as a teenager, and when i pulled my rental car onto Service Street, which ran behind the building housing my new apartment, I realized I’d navigated this very alley many times before, years earlier, in on of my father’s knife delivery vans, dropping off (as i recalled)newly sharpened meat grinder blades, which resembled little starfish and spun around in the grinders gullets. Butcher & Packer, a supplier of restaurants and meat markets, was still in business, just down the block from my new place. A key component of the Butcher & Packer inventory had been an assortment of premixed spices for seasoning sausages. Twenty years later, I could immediately conjure the pungent, curried, funk of the place.”
I like this piece for several reasons, most obviously that it takes place in Eastern Market. It’s a place people go to every day. People work there. And lots of them work hard. They have done so for generations. Eastern Market has produced and distributed food for the city since the 1800′s. It’s also got old brick streets, strange smells, painted over windows, and stellar graffiti. It’s a place that a writer who had been away for 20 years wanted to return to.
I also left Michigan 20 years ago (and returned). And though I didn’t ever deliver products for my dad to Eastern Market, I can say with certainty that the first time I visited the market I knew I was home.
Everyone goes to Eastern Market. They work there, shop there, and now even just meet for coffee! They are from the suburbs, the hood, and Chicago, and Berlin! They are black, they are white, they are all the colors and all the sizes and like everything from fancy imported cheeses and trendy bulk aztec grains to iceberg lettuce and a deal on oranges.
Eastern Market is a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, and people, all colliding with their different backgrounds and experiences. We aren’t actually creating something new so much as rising from the energy thats been growing in this spot for generations, and from the new energy pouring in through people like you. And that feels awesome.