Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flint Video: At Home in Carriage Town

Nathan Murphy: At Home in Carriage Town from Dude! (ironic) Productions on Vimeo.

I'm still wading through some of the footage I shot in June while I was reporting in Flint. As you can tell, I'm learning on the job when it comes to video, but this material might augment the stories I wrote for Slate and The New York Times. Or you may wonder why people trained as print journalists try to create video.

Rebecca Fedewa and Nathan Murphy were my closest neighbors when I was staying in Carriage Town. I saw them out with their two dogs my first day in Flint. I wanted to introduce myself, but it looked like they were just about to head inside, so I started jogging across their huge yard yelling "Hi! Excuse me!" Of course, they had no idea who I was and I probably looked somewhat deranged. (Note: Do not run at people you don't know in Flint.) Thankfully, they didn't turn the dogs loose on me. "When someone we don't know comes at us like that, they're usually panhandling," Nathan told me.

Once the awkward introduction was over, we got along fine and they were very patient over the next few weeks when I interviewed them repeatedly. Here's an excerpt from the Times article:

Seven years ago, Rebecca Fedewa and Nathan Murphy paid $90,000 for a property that takes up five city lots. Standing near the hot tub on the back deck of their two-story cornflower-blue house, the couple can take in their herb and vegetable garden, compost heap and the various fruit trees and berry bushes they planted in the yard, where their two dogs have plenty of room to run.

“I grew up in Lansing, and when I told people I was moving to Flint they were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” said Ms. Fedewa, 36, the executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition. “But we never had a lot of apprehension about moving here. When we lived in various suburbs, we were never engaged in our community at all.”

They decided to buy in part because she liked being able to walk to her office in downtown Flint. They haven’t been disappointed.

“Now we know everybody,” she said. “You have a hard time getting your yard work done because people stop by to talk. You really feel like you’re part of something.”

Mr. Murphy, a 38-year-old environmental policy analyst with the Michigan Senate Democrats who commutes to Lansing, says he sometimes gets surprised reactions when he tells people he lives near downtown Flint. He likes to respond that he has a half-acre of land and can still walk to the Soggy Bottom Bar.

“The entire time we’ve been here, the state has drifted through a recession year after year, yet things have slowly gotten better in Carriage Town,” Mr. Murphy said. “Now the rest of the country has caught our recession, but the big projects are starting to come through here and it seems like things are picking up faster than ever.”


  1. That place is downright rural.

  2. In terms of the reaction-trajectory of the video, the ending shot of several tons of salvaged masonry comes across as a humorous question mark.

    When it was previously discussed that he'd brought home enough masonry to build a mini-driveway, there was no mention that he either is Superman, or that among his yard tools are a front end loader and a dump truck.

  3. "You can always tell the pioneers, they are the ones with the arrows in their backs." --anon

  4. Too bad those people don't take care of their home better. I live near this place and think it looks terrible.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.