Click below for a lovely little interview with David Maraniss about his book, Once in a Great City. It touches on several of the themes (and even a couple events) found in my novel, The Bone Garden, which will be going out on submission later this month. Though it’s not my hometown, I love Detroit. It’s my parents’ hometown, my extended family’s hometown, a city that looms large in my imagination and to which I feel an intrinsic connection. I can’t wait to read Maraniss’s book.
Most of my lifetime, Michigan has been bleeding population, largely the result of the collapsing manufacturing sector as factory jobs were outsourced to other countries (this largely as the result of decisions made by millionaires who just weren’t satisfied with all they already had). We’ve been enjoying a slow but steady recovery over the past decade thanks to some savvy marketing and a few sane, practical politicians, adding jobs, revitalizing cities, reimagining derelict factories and warehouses as loft housing and small businesses and incubators. We’ve been attracting a lot of good press, a lot of tourism. Sure, we’ve had some spectacular failures — but the harder the winter the more glorious the spring.
Actor, playwright, and musician Jeff Daniels is just one native Michigander who knows the true value of living here. And PBS News Hour did a nice little segment on what he’s been up to in his small hometown of Chelsea (which they describe as being an hour west of Detroit, because everything in Michigan is described to outsiders in terms of its proximity to the Motor City; it’s also about an hour southeast of Lansing). Hope you enjoy it.
On this day twenty-five years ago I was ten years old and getting breakfast at a friend’s house after a sleepover when there was the distant sound of a large boom and a shiver under our feet. I thought it must have been a small earthquake. I didn’t know it then, but a gas tanker on the Saginaw River had just exploded.
Plan A was to let the fire burn itself out, so the inferno raged for 36 hours before authorities decided that they needed to try Plan B and actually fight the fire. For days after, I could see a plume of black smoke that faded slowly to gray. Even after crews thought the fire was out, it reignited and had to be suppressed again.
It was one of those things you remember because it seems so otherworldly. Explosions happen in movies, not real life. Miraculously, only one life was lost, an Iowa sailor who drowned while swimming away from the blast.