JD Allinder

Apocalypse Wow!

In Posts on August 1, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Keep Ypsi Ghetto

Though Jane and I walk most afternoons in a natural setting, like some of the place I’ve written about, we walk in the city every day, too. Our schedule is two hours at lunch on the trail and an hour in the evening around town. We’ve covered just about every inch of Ypsilanti on our walks and are intimately familiar with the better neighborhoods like Normal Park, College Heights, and the Historic East Side. We know all the alleys of downtown, Depot Town, and the student ghetto. We even sometimes snoop through the township neighborhoods as far east as Ford Blvd. I’m equally at home in the city and the country. In fact, I’ve always longed for both simultaneously. The only place I’m not comfortable is the suburbs – too middle-of-the-road, indecisive. I like extremes: hot/cold, black/white, city/country.

I rescued Jane from rural Bath, Michigan, where I’m guessing she was someone’s abused, bred, and discarded hunting dog. Besides being a country girl, she was pretty skittish and high strung when I adopted her, and the city freaked her out. She was definitely a fish out of water. The first thing we did the day she came home with me was walk down Michigan Avenue. She jumped ten feet at the sound of every passing truck, but I held on tight (and held my breath) and kept at it.

Today Jane’s an expert city dog. We use the 50-foot leash around town, and she moves seamlessly between a coiled-up heel at my knee and greater liberty where it’s appropriate. She’s especially fond of overgrown lots and alleys, and one of our favorite places to walk is south of Michigan Avenue between River Street and Huron River Drive. It’s an abandoned tract of property bordering the river where time stands still.

Jane Ghetto

There’s an empty strip mall, winding roads, and two or three of what appear to be disused factories. It’s really bizarre, because it’s this enormous stretch of city property left completely to its own devices. It’s creepy and post-apocalyptic – the perfect setting for a zombie movie – but there’s also a certain melancholy beauty to the decay. It’s illustrative to me of the transience of our culture, a reminder of how fluid civilizations are. Our empire is crumbling like countless others before us, and Mother Nature is reclaiming her turf.

Urban Hunting

I’m completely comfortable exploring urban decay, and I’ve been fascinated by it since childhood. I like it. (I far prefer the bombed-out, cracked-out New York of the ’80s to the Disneyfied, glass tower, family-friendly theme park it’s devolved into.) There’s a stark beauty to things and places left behind, forgotten. And the trash lives on. You can’t kill it. It returns to nature. It becomes repopulated by birds and vermin and frequented by prostitutes, drug addicts, and assorted homeless people and eccentrics.

Keep Out

If you walk south of this particular property and cross the river, you come upon an overgrown park, ball fields, and the shuttered Ford plant. This place is really strange and always colorful. Hookers in platinum wigs mix with men drinking and fishing by the river and hipsters and Phish-heads playing disc golf.

Urban Decay

Lately there’s been a group of Asian men (I think they’re Vietnamese) playing an interesting game that’s sort of a cross between volleyball and hackey sack.

volley sack

They play really loud Asian pop music and let their children run around unattended. To add to the surreal feel of this place, the ground is covered in the late afternoon with feeding groundhogs. Not just one or two, but dozens. (I fell into one of their holes the other night. I’m lucky I didn’t break a leg.) The whole scene feels like a David Lynch film, like it shouldn’t be happening in real life. But you know, it is happening in real life. It’s my life. And as bizarre and unconventional as it is, it’s beautiful and strangely comforting and valuable. I often forget that I’m a participant in this post-urban subculture sprouting on the grounds of capitalism’s failures. I think I’m just observing everything, taking pictures, and making mental notes. Then someone speaks to me – like the obese man on a go-cart who passed me last night tromping over an overgrown baseball diamond, or the biracial pre-op trannie meth-head I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago sitting in the weeds reading (apparently stolen) junk mail and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes – and I realize that I’m a player in this absurdist masterpiece.

Rise Up

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  1. I have to tell you I love reading about your adventures with Jane in and around Ypsilanti.

  2. Thanks for the nice comment, Tara!

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