by Russ Forster
I was actually born in the city, but I ended up becoming a teenager in the SUBurbs of that city. My parents blamed it on the city's SUBstandard schools. I believe that my true nature has always been urban, though, and thus I was lucky to have grandparents who never saw the need to relocate to the land of SUBdivisions. My grandparents were a welcome connection to the city where I was born; a city I came to know and love as a spectacularly seething cesspool teeming with life so much more interesting to me than anything blandly predictable SUBurbia could offer.
And my grandparents, particularly my grandfather, were responsible for introducing me to the urban underworld of the SUBways as well. I got a thrill every time the train tracks would slope steeply downward toward the earth, into a SUBterranean world of screeching darkness. My grandfather filled my young head with stories of how the tunnels were dug during the WPA years, and he always knew exactly when the train was barreling underneath the river. I loved to think of all that water above me like some kind of womb-in-waiting, and yet it completely terrified me.
My grandfather would use his clout as a nearly blind elderly man to get us into the front of the first train car, so that I could pretend that I was driving the train downward to hell and parts unknown. Perhaps those hellbound trains were where my interest in underground SUBcultures first began, steeped in vomit and urine and grinding noise and numbing silence and a million untold stories of hardship and success, pain and celebration.
THE DETROIT PEOPLE MOVER REPORT 3/6/02
After growing up on the subways in Chicago, moving to Detroit and having the closest thing here be the cutesy-wootsy People Mover was quite a shock. The Detroit People Mover (or DPM) is a Disney World style light elevated train that goes in a mile-radius loop around downtown Detroit. To call it "Public Transportation" would be like calling a twin-prop Cessna an "International Travel Device", but even though the DPM is like an outrageously expensive Lionel train set, it does have its charm. I took a ride recently in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, and though I could count my fellow passengers on the fingers of one hand, it was a fun way to catch some snapshots of a beautiful Detroit day on my silly new digital camera. In the course of the 10-minute loop the People Mover travels, you DO get fabulous views of the Detroit River (and the Canadian coast on the other side), the inside of Cobo Convention Center (a particular thrill when the Annual Auto Show is being prepared), the Joe Louis fist sculpture, the Spirit of Detroit sculpture, the futuristic walkway tube by Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park and the Detroit Opera House, and plenty of huge abandoned (but once grand and glittering) structures that still litter the downtown landscape. And there is some fun commissioned art adorning each of the stations on the loop. And it only costs 50˘!
It was ironic that when what was once the world's tallest department store building (the Hudson's Building on Woodward Ave., cite of the MC5ıs 'Fuck Hudson's' protests of the late '60s when the department store chain refused to carry the band's KICK OUT THE JAMS album because of the foul language on it) was demolished, part of the building fell on the DPM track, incapacitating the system for several months. Did anyone complain about the lack of service during that time? Maybe a few Red Wings fans grumbled about not being able to use the train to get to their cars after a particularly drunken hockey match at Joe Louis Arena, but generally the shutdown went amazingly unnoticed. Yet people were excited when their beloved People Mover was opened again. The DPM might be a completely ridiculous and unnecessary example of misguided Detroit city-building initiatives under the hideously corrupt supervision of former mayor Coleman Young, but it's OUR ridiculous testament to human folly. YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?