Monday, March 24, 2008

The Mysteries of Michigan

by Karen D. Swim

"Try to find forms of literature out in the world and see how they work in fiction. Letters to the editor, recipes in cookbooks, lists. Look in different places for language and characters, and you'll get inspired by writing not usually considered literary."
-J. Robert Lennon

I have only lived in Michigan a short time. I can write with ease about my home of California but have not yet quite absorbed Michigan. I've decided to make an effort to really get to know this unfamiliar place. Michigan is so different from California. I have too often only noticed what was missing - traffic, an abundance of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's markets, smoke free restuarants, earthquakes and Santa Ana winds- and failed to fully appreciate what is present.

Lennon's quote inspired me to begin to absorb Michigan into my bones. This week the focus is on high drama. Just as I was beginning to miss televised car chases, the Detroit Mayor's office serves up enough drama to script a soap opera for the next year.

A rumorored party at the Mayor's Mansion that ended in a fight between the mayor's baseball bat wielding wife and an exotic dancer who was later brutally murdered on the streets of Detroit. An investigation shrouded in secrecy with missing documents and reassignments or firing of police officers eager to get to the truth.

A torrid affair between the mayor and his chief of staff (now former) denied on the stand but later revealed in steamy text messages. Thug contractors who gained multi-million dollar city deals. An assistant police chief hungry for power who colludes with the mayor and his staff behind her boss' back.

All of this in a town where people call soda "pop" and 19 year old waitresses call customers "hon." A place that sometimes moves so slowly I wonder how they dare call it a city.

It all seems surreal as I gaze out the window at the sun shining brightly on the barren trees. I spy a mallard standing at the edge of the semi-frozen pond seemingly assessing the conditions. Corruption, scandal, and murder all seem impossible on a day like today.

Yet, this is the Michigan I'm coming to know. It is not enough to judge it by the surface for so much more is happening behind the scenes. Just as the morning sunshine will soon give way to scattered snow showers, this town will soon reveal its secrets and I will be there absorbing it all.

What does your town have to offer? Have you absorbed it in your bones or are you merely observing it from a distance?

Photo Credit: lonebluelady, Flickr


Bob Younce at the Writing Journey said...

I'm a Michigander who spent a dozen years as a Hoosier, and has found himself back in Michigan for the past decade.

Do try not to judge the whole state by the state of affairs in Detroit right now. There are some amazing and beautiful parts to Michigan, as well. I live near the Saginaw Bay, which is just gorgeous in the fall. The Holland Tulip festival during the summer is a sight to see. The waters in Lake Superior are the clearest you'll ever see.

On top of that, most folks here aren't corrupt and all of that.

Still, there are parts of Michigan that can chill you right down to the bone, and I don't just mean the harsh winters.

Words For Hire said...

@Bob, thank you so much. I will have to put the Holland Tulip festival on my list of places to see. In the coming months, I hope to share more of my impressions and experiences. Please check back in and let me know if I'm on track! I don't want to miss all the good things the state has to offer.


Anonymous said...

As you know, Karen, I'm all for fully engaging with the environment that surrounds each of us. Maybe if you got a camera and started looking for the photo opportunities that surround you daily, it would help you to get in touch with a Michigan that you could begin to call your own.

PS Did you like the first step of my (very!) thinly veiled mission ;-)

sexy said...