Oz and Detroit

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Thinking about children’s books led me to think about Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book:

“O is for Oz. Do you want to visit the wonderful far-off land of Oz where the wizard lives and scarecrows can dance and the road is made of yellow bricks and everything is emerald green? Well, you can’t because there is no land of Oz and there is no Tin Woodsman and there is NO SANTA CLAUSE! Maybe someday you can go to Detroit.”

When I moved to Detroit in 1968, it seemed like a magical place to me. Every time I turned down an unfamiliar street there was another car plant. Many had been designed by the firm of Albert Kahn, a legendary industrial architect, and they were beautiful. The Detroit Art Institute had the Diego Rivera frescoes of industry in Detroit, which are still there, though most of the factories are gone, torn down. I’d go to Greek Town, which is apparently a tourist trap now, but was a genuine Greek neighborhood, full with taverns full of Greeks. I’d buy a bottle of Retsina, bread and cheese and to to Belle Isle, a park in the middle of the Detroit River, and sit under a tree and eat and drink.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if someone had given me the choice of going to Oz or going to Detroit, I would have been hard put to make a choice. As a kid, I would have picked Oz. As an adult, I think I would have gone for Detroit. Those Rivera murals are wonderful, and so is Belle Isle and Retsina.

And so was an Albert Kahn factory, lit up by the night shift, shining at the end of an unfamiliar street.