i leaned my bike against the chain link fence surrounding michigan central station. from a distance, i hadn't noticed that the beautifully tragic building was decorated with a barbed wire border. determined to explore the abandoned train station, i ignored the "no trespassing" signs and examined the fence for possible entrance locations. i was squeezing my skull through a small opening when rational me took over, sending a shiver down my spine as i considered what my plan for escape would be if i found unpleasant company inside. somewhat dejected, i hopped back on my bike just as a truck full of someone else's family pulled up next to me:
"excuse me, is there another train station?" i smiled at the image of trains plowing through the decrepit building behind me and told the middle-aged man about the amtrak station near midtown. "but why did they stop using this one? why did they let it get like this?"
i pondered who "they" were and shrugged. "not sure why they shut it down in the first place, but now it's in such bad condition the city says they won't fix it up. too expensive. someone would have to buy it and use their own money to make it into a museum or something." it occurred to me i was repeating verbatim what dad told me as we drove past the derelict station last night. i never checked his source.
the man looked dissatisfied. a young girl in a fur-lined coat continued gazing at the building from the backseat. she sighed audibly. the engine idled. "where is everyone?" the man asked as if i had personally promised him the year's biggest party. "this is supposed to be downtown. the big center. but i don't see anybody around."
i wondered how much the downtown area had resembled this train station prior to super bowl 2006. with tall buildings and tree-lined streets in mind, i directed him toward woodward avenue. "how will i know when i'm there?" he questioned.
"you'll know," i countered. "it's not a huge downtown area, but it's very nice. it's just sort of...condensed."
"why? where did all the people go?"
"i don't know. they thought it was too dangerous and they left. they went to the suburbs and moved away. but they're coming back now." i still wasn't sure who "they" were or why i was talking about "them" with such authority.
"dangerous? how?" i stared at him blankly, mentally reviewing all of the unflattering press detroit has received. he seemed more interested than concerned. "i come from russia and we hear that this city is getting very nice but it used to be bad. how?" i started to respond, recalled recent readings on stalin's soviet union, and settled it with a shrug. he thanked me for the directions and drove off.
i just smiled and rode toward canada.
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