Sunday, September 1, 2013

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young

On Sunday, Mark and I toured his grandparents’ old neighborhood. We slowly rolled up and down the street. There were a few abandoned houses and the charred remains of a big two-story that was probably the victim of an arsonist. We stopped in front of the house where Mark’s mom grew up, and I jumped out to take a picture. A neighbor’s door immediately flew open. A big white guy stepped out onto his front porch.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” he asked, sounding more exasperated than angry. He looked tired.

“We’re just taking a picture of the old neighborhood,” I yelled back, embarrassed that I’d needlessly alarmed another nervous Flint resident.

He turned and walked slowly back inside his house. As we were driving away, I looked back and saw him watching us through his front window. An encounter like this might have angered me the previous summer, prompting me to declare that this was still my city and I had a right to be here. But I understood the place better now. I didn’t blame the guy. He was probably just trying to unwind on a Sunday morning, hoping for a chance to let his guard down. I wondered if he ever wanted to quote Bukowski and just say “Life, fuck it!” and escape to California for a few weeks of relaxation in an apartment overlooking the Pacific, like Jan and Ted.

It seemed like a good time to end our Sunday drive in Flint. Mark needed to get back to his wife and young son in Grosse Pointe. “I’m really glad my grandparents aren’t around to see this,” he said as we passed another burned-out house, turned the corner, and drove away.

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City

1 comment:

  1. This is more disturbing than Ninny returning to see her house gone in "Fried Green Tomatoes". My relatives' childhood homes have disappeared like Ninny's, but this looks relatively recent. They probably thought, if I had just come back to look the year before, they would have had some closure. Very sad and disturbing.


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