The flora (and concreta) of Chevy in the Hole. (Photo courtesy of Jar With Most.)
There are Flint residents. There are Flint Expatriates. And then there are the rare individuals that are both at the same time.
Jan Worth-Nelson — who blogs as Macy Swain — teaches at UM-Flint during the academic year and lives with her husband in San Pedro, California during the summers and holiday breaks. It gives her an insider's understanding of Flint mixed with the perspective of an outsider. It also means her blog, Night Blind, offers the duality of Flint and Southern California.
It's an intriguing mix that leads to some fascinating posts. Here's one describing a botanical tour of what was once Chevy in the Hole:
"The site is now a giant brownfield. I find it irresistibly ghostly and haunting.The contrast between the Flint and San Pedro posts shows that even though America has become homogenized by chain stores and strip malls, with bland exurbs defining the look and culture of the country, there are still unique regional differences out there.
"I took my 'Green Ink' students there on a bike tour a couple of weeks ago. Increasingly, it seems right NOT to drive a car when paying tribute to this fallen behemoth. Pausing to catch our breath on Bluff Street overlooking the acreage, we didn't have much to say as we took in the concretized channel of the river and the silent expanse where some of the fights of the 1936 Sit Down Strike took place and where millions of cars were banged out on noisy and oily assembly lines. Several mallards noodled along in the brown water. A red-winged blackbird sailed by. A remarkable single cottonwood did its leafy hula. It really is a cemetery.
"The brownfields of Chevy in the Hole are not really brown: there are many green things growing in the cracks and edges. I asked our tour guide, Christina Kelly of the Genesee County Land Bank, what they were. "Just weeds," she said.
"My biology professor friend Tracy Wacker, with her usual bracing candor, said 'The definition of a weed is a plant growing where somebody doesn't want it to. Looked at that way, none of the plants at Chevy in the Hole are weeds, because nobody cares if they grow there.'
"This is just the start of what I have to say, but in quick summary, when Tracy and I walked back to Chevy in the Hole yesterday, scrambled around a chain-link fence and poked around in the humid overgrowth on the cracked concrete and the river bank, she called out the names of least 30 different plants: rumex, chicory, bachelor's button, black nightshade, common mullein, curlydock, dogwood, catalpa, coreopsis, lanceleaf plantain, milkweed, dames rocket, buckthorn, bull-thistle, crown vetch. That's about half of them."
"Tomorrow is the Korean Bell's big day — one of only two in the year it is rung. Tomorrow the site at the top of the hill overlooking a wide expanse of harbor and ocean will be crowded with well-wishers, celebrants, politicians and ringers wearing white gloves. Today, it was quiet and enveloped in fog. At first I was the only one there -- what delight to be alone here. Then a hawk getting chased by crows. Then these two gulls. Then a long-haired guy with a long-haired dog. Then three gabby Korean men with a bottle of Windex and a red rag, polishing the plaques — for tomorrow, I suppose. It's one of my favorite places in San Pedro."
And sometimes, in a bar like Harold's Place in San Pedro, Flint and SoCal overlap a little.
"A guy sitting next to us didn't say a word to anybody. He poured beer into his glass an inch at a time and fastidiously sipped, savoring every swallow. But he gave the waitress some money to put in the band's tip jar.
"A round little troll about four feet tall wearing a huge straw hat ambled in with a black bag over his shoulder, hawking...straw hats, as it turned out. Nobody bought. An enterprising madame in lycra and a helmet parked her bike out front and tried to sell Debbie some body wash -- also unsuccessful, but still. The pleasantly unexpressive bouncer came and went. We ordered a second round. More people wandered in in teeshirts, baggy shorts and flipflops. Everybody seemed to know who they were.
"'Howdya like the band?' Debbie asked.
"'They're good. I liked the blues,' I said. I was thinking about other dives I've hung out in — The Tonga Club in Nuku'alofa, Hat's Pub and The Torch Bar and Grille on Buckham Alley, both in Flint, and I was thinking how good it felt to be sitting on Pacific Avenue in Pedro with a row of people bent over their drinks, heads nodding just so slightly to the music, which wasn't totally bad."