Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I Almost Believed I Had Reached My Goal

"Walking down from the hills, I came to the outer precincts of Marseille. At a bend in the road I saw the sea far below me. A bit later I saw the city itself spread out against the water. It seemed as bare and white as an African city. At last I felt calm. It was the same calm that I experience whenever I like something very much. I almost believed I had reached my goal. In this city, I thought, I could find everything I'd been looking for, that I'd always been looking for. I wonder how more times this feeling will deceive me on entering a strange city!"

Transit by Anna Seghers


  1. Traversing roads pitted and potholed, I crossed the Burton city limits- an invisible, yet palpable barrier to those who can sense the decreasing density. A plain so vast marked by ticky tack wood frame houses, barren fields and greying strip malls- a sight not uncommon to industrial Midwest. Surprise is not an easy find in this land of routine and tedium. Excitement is repelled by neutralizing forces. All cities are magnets, but the dipole force east of Flint resists the extraordinary in a way most tenacious.

    Burton is that most American of all cities. Drab, dull, a bastion of sub-mediocrity… but still alive. The core of nothing that provides everything. Not every everything, but in this suburb sustenance can be found.

    Expecting little, I veer right into the lot of the Lapeer Road Market. Stepping out onto the cracked asphalt, I scan the grounds as if a sentry. A solitary Saturn SL sits under the sun. The wind is calm, but invigorates. Near the passenger side there is movement on the pavement. A flapping flutter and flurry of flimsy film. Hearkening me is a cheap plastic baggie, the extra thin kind you find at Dollar General. Anticipating, hoping, a positive charge courses through my nervous system. Adrenaline swells and rushes. Is it? It must be. It… it is. Yes… YES- inside this inconspicuous satchel is the better part of an 1/8th of ditchweed- seeds and stems included. Detritus like this is typically removed from sacks of weed, even that of the most middling quality- a signal that this was not the product of cartels of kingpins, but of the amateur enthusiast. The Basic Light 100s which drew me in are forsaken for a pack of Swishers and a can of Fosters.

    On the shore of Kelly Lake there lies narrow strand of sand. Certainly not the French Riviera, but at this moment in time, for this instance, a glorified retention pond eclipses the Mediterranean. The crisp chi-koo of a pierced tab breaks the brown din of 69 for a split second. Pausing briefly to absorb the energy, I spark up the blunt. Solar rays glint and glisten, miniature waves crest and crash inches away, and a breeze so electric shivers across the surface. Alas the spirit beckons. A long toke is held. Contemplation. Slowly, the smoke is released into the atmosphere. An atavistic kiss of the sky.

    Sly Burton, beguiling it is, you stood as tall as the greatest metropolis, indeed you rose to the occasion. This fraction of time you showed me your best. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, but in moments such as this what is born is the type of contentment, a form of peace that is more rare than finding a clutch of ganja.

  2. The Mayor of Burton tried to run Johnny Burke out of town for a lot less than the above hateful provincial rhetoric.

  3. Hateful? I said Kelly Lake eclipsed the ever lovin' Mediterranean fer crissakes. Burton stood tall, yes as tall as the greatest metropolis. These words are borne out of that rarest of emotions- pure, unbridled love. You need to scour the parking lots of Burton for some lost endo, my friend.

    Johnny Burke is the worst. Isn't he doing hate talk radio in Bay City now?


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