While driving into Detroit last night to attend my first life drawing class at the venerable Scarab Club I had the feeling that I could be friends with the city.
With emptiness all around me I declared myself capable of managing my way to those enclaves where artists are trying to make something out of nothing. They are trying to decorate the city to make it live again.
For years now having lived in the greater Detroit area I've felt as if "the city" was a vacant and scary place. As if the dangers lurking there were in the shadows. I never saw people on the street unless they were in crowds scuttling off to a ball game or a concert, to rush out of the city again once the event was over. I never had the feeling that people actually live there. There has been much written about it and I'm not going to contribute any new prose to that which has been circling and apparent for decades.
But with last night's foray into the city I was trying to see my place in it. In with the art establishment where you have to be present to be considered. It seems to me that I have to win over the clusters of art intelligencia to be taken seriously. Joing in the groups that meet in the creases of the city seem to be the way of the art scene here.
The Scarab Club drawing sessions were lovely. It felt comfortable to be in a squeaky old building that reminded me of home. But outside a different reality.
Leaving for the evening, walking out to my car in its space, there was only space. My van was gone. Instantly my mind clicked into magical thinking, as if the van had just disappeared for a moment and would be right back. In times of shock its funny how your mind works. My mind was hyper aware of everything immediately around me, a leaf falling, people walking by, the kind of light and darkness the streetlights and shadows were.
The Wayne State University police were contacted and the practical necessities of filing a report and such like were welcome sanity to the surreal-ness of the scene.
My husband came to fetch me as my rescuer and champion. On the way home I visualised everything that was in my old paint bucket of a van. The drop cloths, work boxes and what-not that were of little value to anyone but me.
It's as if, I thought, now my van has gone walk-about with someone else against her will! Yet, in the end and in the new light of morning with tears streaming down my face for finally feeling the loss of the thing, I'm more upset by what the theft represents than the actual loss of a thing!
It represents my reluctance to be friends with the city. To hook my star to the possibility that it can help me advance my art in a place that needs so much more than tarted up buildings and well intentioned nonsense.
It has always been hard for me to reconcile myself to living here. In my weaker moments I cry like a child that wants to go home. My magical thinking helps me cope with stressful information. It's the magical thinking of hope. I don't see the need to decorate or admire the grit of the city. Painting it will never change a damn thing, but hope can if I can drive my way through it savvier than the last time. That is, when I get a car!