This house is not a prop. It's an actual fraternity house near downtown Flint. It's been there since the early nineties. It has parties with more than 300 people.
Let's be honest, the recent attempts to re-brand Flint as a college town seem a little far-fetched. It sounds a bit like an intellectualized AutoWorld scheme. Watch videos like this and you have to wonder if Flint boosters are just begging Michael Moore to make another movie about their earnest but lame efforts to promote the city. (Note to Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce: Endless cliches and really bad techno do not connote progress.)
But during a stroll down Garland Street one day I happened upon an actual fraternity house. Theta Chi. I was stunned. I know, I know...GMI/Kettering has had frats forever, but this was right near downtown and it looked a little like Animal House, not like those low-slung ranch-style numbers near Ballenger Park and Mott Golf Course.
I was fumbling for my camera when an actual fraternity dude stumbled onto the front porch, announcing that he'd been up for 24 hours straight watching episodes of Lost. Then another "brother" emerged. And another. They all seemed to be getting a fresh start on the day at about noon. I looked around to see if I'd wandered onto a film set. I was half expecting someone to offer me bong hits, but that didn't happen. Instead, I got a tour of the house, including the strange "Room of Large Woodshop-Class Paddles," which they call the Chapter Room. They pointed out that their next-door neighbor has a toupee and allegedly sells pianos. (No idea if that's true; I just played along, not wanting to provoke people who spend large amounts of time fashioning wooden weapons.)
My favorite part of the tour was the half-eaten birthday cake that looked like it had been there for a few weeks. There was some exposed piping in the ceiling leaking into a bucket near the table. It all seemed very collegiate to me. And the knowledge that there's a group of smart, funny guys — with reasonable standards of cleanliness — living near downtown was really encouraging.
When I took a tour of the UM-Flint campus with Flint Expat Randy Gearhart a few days later, we both remarked how, well, collegiate the campus looks, especially the expansive lawns near the dorm on Kearsley Street. When I was living in Flint, I was never exactly sure where UM-Flint started and ended. Now, there's no doubt when you're on campus. I'm still not convinced that Flint can become a college town like Ann Arbor or Columbia, Missouri, but parts of it are definitely shaping up as a place where youngsters can hang out and pay lots of money for a degree. That's a good thing.
Now if we can just get some of the Communication majors to help the city and county produce less embarrassing promotional videos.
David Bainbridge (left) and Cade Surface (Right) and a fish (Above) they caught with their bare hands in the Flint River. Cade did not coordinate his shirt with the fish for the photo; it was just a happy coincidence.