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Where the Wild Things Aren't
February 18, 2009 5:15 AM   Subscribe

Detroit's abandoned Belle Isle Zoo, beautiful disaster.

I've never been to Detroit, but it sounds like the epicenter of decay.
posted by punkbitch (68 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
nice find... I haven't been to the zoo since it closed, but it was one of the nicer aspects of Detroit at one time, it is a shame to see it like this.

I would advise folks that wandering around there might not be the best idea nowadays.
posted by HuronBob at 5:20 AM on February 18, 2009


Miles and miles of perfectly adequate chain link animal enclosures abandoned so the former mayor's friend could pocket $1 million to build one on the opposite side of the island for 20 inbred European deer.

I just love this sentence. It encapsulates city politics just about anywhere in the country.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:25 AM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Screw zoos. They should all be closed. Nothing they do can't be done elsewhere or through other means. I see nothing disastrous about cash sinks like this being closed.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:38 AM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


You could have a zoo at home. Just ask the lady with the monkey. doh!
posted by a3matrix at 5:43 AM on February 18, 2009


Coincidentally, there's noting you're doing with your kidneys that can't be done elsewhere through other means. I think you'd miss them if we took them away.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:45 AM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


That entire Sweet Juniper blog is great. Detroit is such a screwed-up city. It astounds me to no end how bad parts of it really are, and how great and hopeful some of the people there are despite the pervasive awfulness. It could be so much more.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:49 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This was such a cool little zoo. When the main zoo was, well, a zoo, with tons of screaming kids, homicidal strollers and wall to wall crowds near the animals, the Belle Isle Zoo was the perfect 2-4 hour zoo. It was quiet, you could get close to the animals and the staff often had time to talk. We used to go down a few times a month.

About the "20 inbred deer"...not close. There were a few hundred fallow deer, loose on the island, but the city decided to kill most of them and just save a few in cages. They didn't even save the meat for the soup kitchens.

Yet another reason I hated Kwame even before he got caught (and got off).
posted by QIbHom at 5:59 AM on February 18, 2009


The zoo in Bamako, Mali, looks a little like that, except it's still open.
posted by pinothefrog at 6:04 AM on February 18, 2009


I wonder how much it would cost to buy it and convert into a private residence. Is it really on an island?
posted by oddman at 6:12 AM on February 18, 2009


wonder how much it would cost to buy it and convert into a private residence. replacement for Gitmo. Is it really on an island?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:31 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It doesn't take long for nature to start reclaiming an area. It has such a dooms day, post apocalyptic feel to it. All it needs is a bunch of people dressed in rags screaming "OUTLANDER!!!"
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:36 AM on February 18, 2009


some of my best riot memories are from Belle Isle.
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Give it another 3 months.
posted by spicynuts at 6:45 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was sad when this zoo closed. I used to take my kids there all the time. Unfortunately, the ticket sellers, guards, and concessions workers were really rude, so we stopped going. It just wasn't worth the hassle. I remember thinking that they were running off people they needed to support the zoo.
posted by DaddyNewt at 6:50 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I grew up near Belle Isle, and spend many hours at that zoo. Have lots of home movies of it from when I was a kid.

A good percentage of the downtown buildings shown on The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit were places I regularly walked by, before they were ruins.

One of the best descriptions I've heard of Detroit: It's a company town. But the company left.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:57 AM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


clavdivs: Riot memories? Share some.
posted by a3matrix at 6:59 AM on February 18, 2009


Forget Chernobyl, I want to see a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. type game in Detroit. Running from junkies and police through the wasteland...
posted by Meatbomb at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2009


north fishing pier, saw a mini-riot. about 150 people, three stabbings, numerous broken bones.
posted by clavdivs at 7:15 AM on February 18, 2009


Meatbomb, you want Baltimore for running from police and junkies. The Detroit police don't do anything if it doesn't involve arterial bleeding, and you've got more crack heads than junkies by far.
posted by QIbHom at 7:17 AM on February 18, 2009


At what point does Detroit simply become abandoned? When does entropy become too much? I am fascinated by these Detroit photo essays and the beautiful squalor and history of demise and decay they contain.

As a fan of history, I always wondered how great cities became abandoned how they sunk from Imperial capitals to provincial towns with scattered relics. Watching Detroit succumb to corruption, industrial collapse and malaise certainly gives me an inkling, a rough analogue. There were no massive refugee emigrations from Detroit people have just crept away, drifted away as the town became less and less viable. I know real lives and real suffering are occurring because of Detroit's decay, but on the macro level I find this endlessly fascinating.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:44 AM on February 18, 2009


As a fan of history, I always wondered how great cities became abandoned how they sunk from Imperial capitals to provincial towns with scattered relics.

try Vance Packard VS. Lewis Mumford... sprinkle in some Eddie Gibbon and Y Gasset
and here is a partial recipe for your fascination.
the only thing Imperial about Detriot was the British and the Impalla
and Mo-Town
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 AM on February 18, 2009


At what point does Detroit simply become abandoned? When does entropy become too much? I am fascinated by these Detroit photo essays and the beautiful squalor and history of demise and decay they contain.

I say we all put up $1000. There have to be about 50,000 MeFi users, right? $50 million should buy up the city. Then we can have Fun Flash Fridays and parades and longboat regattas and everything. Come on!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:59 AM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Wow, that actually brought tears to my eyes. My elementary-school classes used to go to the Belle Isle zoo for field trips. It's weirdly affecting to see it abandoned and overgrown like that -- something about mortality, something about seeing so concretely that the things we humans build don't last forever.

... Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.


MasonDixon, you might be interested in the Shrinking Cities exhibition that went up at MoCAD a couple of years ago.

And Pastabagel, I decided a long time ago that if I ever win the lottery, I'm buying up Detroit and transforming it into a new utopia. Dutopia? Nu-troit? I'm still working out the details. But if you want to start now, check out these fine properties under $500. You have to be able to pay the back taxes, though.
posted by ourobouros at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a similar theme there's a nice little documentary called Detroit Wildlife that looks at nature reclaiming parts of downtown Detroit. I'd like to imagine they just let the animals from the zoo go and they've found new homes in abandoned lots.
posted by pb at 8:08 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


check out these fine properties under $500. You have to be able to pay the back taxes, though.
posted by ourobouros at 11:07 AM on February 1


It's a funny thing about back taxes, if you buy a lot of the properties all at once, the local government may cut you a deal. In other words, if we buy in bulk, we might be able to persuade them to forgive the tax debt.

So hypothetically, let's say we did this. What would Metafilter put in its town center? Libraries? Community vegetable gardens? A park? How about a town square encircled by locally owned businesses? If the country's going into a depression, we might as well be jobless in a utopia.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2009


Also, let's say we did buy a big chunk of the city. Which part should be buy? Assume that the 50,000 Mefi members includes people skilled in demolition, construction, and the trades.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:24 AM on February 18, 2009


Sad as they can be, the nerdy little kid inside of me loves these urban exploration stories. I remember growing up reading my brothers' Dungeons and Dragons books and being disappointed that "real" dungeons don't exist where you could go exploring and find cool, forgotten things, just like in the game. The slowly decaying Detroit hits all those juvenile notes of wanting to go on a real-life dungeon crawl. In fact:

DM: After your defeat of the gnomes of W'all Stuhrete by burying them under a pile of gold, you travel through the frigid wastelands of Eau-Haio. After a long journey, you arrive on the outskirts of the necropolis of D'Tro.

Cleric: Ugh. What happened here?

DM: There are many legends. Some stories say that the demon N'fta overflew this area, from the north to the south, sucking the willpower of the inhabitants along with it. Other tell of a race of hybrids from the east that invaded these lands. Your quest is to find the source of the evil and destroy it.

Mage: We enter the city and explore.

DM: The city is filled with decrepit buildings. Some of them look as if they have been set afire and allowed to burn.

Cleric: Dragons?

DM: Mmmaybe. Signs dot the road, advertising cheap prices for fire-damaged buildings.

Cleric: Perhaps we could pick up some cheap investment properties.

Mage: No. We have to invest in the people of this land.

Cleric: What does that even mean?

DM: -Rolls Dice-

Cleric: Not another Wandering Monster check.

Mage: I'm the first African-American magic user in history.

Cleric: What?

DM: You're conversation has been noticed. A great three-headed beast rises from the ruins of a nearby factory.

Cleric: What is it? Do a Lore check.

DM: -Rolls Dice- The mage remembers a snippet of conversation overheard in a bar in Cleve - It is the dread monster Forgmchrys.

Cleric: Know-it-all.

DM: Mage, it is your turn to act.

Mage: I put on my robe and my wizard hat...

DM: That takes a full round action. Cleric?

Cleric: I invoke my patron deity.

DM: Okay, but that requires a karma check. If you fail, St. Reagan turns into zombie Reagan, and you can't invoke him for a full election cycle.

Cleric: -Rolls Dice-. 18. I pass. Right? I can't even remember if I'm trying for high or low rolls anymore.

DM: You pass easily. The gipper stands beside you, you walk with his grandfatherly manner.

Cleric: I cast Divine Bailout - I mean Intervention.

DM: -Rolls Dice-. The beast becomes sleepy, it's heads drooping on their long necks. It returns to the ruined factory - but its sleep is uneasy. -Rolls Dice-.

Mage: Another Monster check?

DM: Your battle with Forgmchrys has awakened the slumbering spirit of the evil that plagues this land. A shadow arise from the very city itself and takes the form. The god R'c'ssion has found you.

Cleric: Disbelieve. I roll to disbelieve.

DM: -Rolls Dice-. You fail your saving throw vs. Reality. R'c'ssion advances.

Mage: I cast Mordenkainen's Greater Stimulus Package.

DM: You don't have enough spell points to do that.

Mage: What do you mean? I have 59. That's more than enough.

DM: Some of those spell points aren't really on your side.

Mage: Goddammit. Fine, I cast Mana Link with the Cleric so we can share mana.

DM: That requires the Cleric's cooperation, Cleric -

Cleric: No.

Mage: What?

Cleric: Just no.

Mage: Son of a bitch.

DM: You still have an action left, Mage.

Mage: Fine. I cast Lesser Stimulus Package.

DM: -Rolls Dice-. A bright cloud of shimmering light envelopes the beast. It seems to be working - the creature is spreading out, as if it's slowly dissipating. Or is it growing?
posted by logicpunk at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2009 [64 favorites]


I would advise folks that wandering around there might not be the best idea nowadays.

Oh please. Belle Isle is a perfectly fine place to wander. It's ridiculous comments like these that make other people think Detroit is some sort of apocalyptic video game. It's not. There's 850,000 people living there, trying to make a living. Many of them, are trying to make their city better; not an easy task given the constraints of working in a city with 25 percent unemployment and a completely hostile bureaucracy.
posted by ofthestrait at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


I really, really dislike the idea of traditional zoos, but I do have fond memories of the Belle Isle Zoo as a kid. Especially the aquarium, which I thought was totally bad-ass.

These days Belle Isle is a pretty scary place. (As is the vast majority of the city save the Campus Maritus area.)
posted by fusinski at 8:57 AM on February 18, 2009


Belle Isle is a perfectly fine place to wander.

The hell it is.

Look, I love the city as much as the next guy, but if you're wandering around places where there are not cops on every block, you are rolling the dice. It's not apocalyptic, but that's only because zombies aren't real and your chance of survival are statistically higher. That doesn't make it safe.
posted by fusinski at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2009


I believe this is the abandoned zoo. You can make out the vaguely-conical-arched things over the boardwalk, seen in the seventh and eighth pictures of the FPP link, towards the eastern end of the zoo.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2009


Look, I love the city as much as the next guy, but if you're wandering around places where there are not cops on every block, you are rolling the dice.

It's this type of attitude that is killing Detroit. Belle Isle is one of the largest parks in the area. It's crowded every day in the summer time. I'm not going to say that crime doesn't happen there. Murders do happen there and it's a popular place to dump bodies; mainly because it is an isolated island in a city that doesn't have enough police to properly patrol it (although I have noticed the cops do shut down the bridge to B.I. after 10pm more and more). But if you are looking to visit a park during the daytime or even the evening, you shouldn't be afraid of going to Belle Isle. People are not waiting to mug and kill you at the entrance, and you shouldn't be infecting people with that kind of mindset.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:10 AM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Really interesting topic and what might have been some cool photos.

But did he take those with his phone? Not snark, serious question. I can't believe anyone posts photos that small online anymore. I can't see a thing.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


To each their own, I guess. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to park visitation, and personally, if I am looking to go to a park, I'm going to choose one where I have a much statistically lower chance of getting murdered. If you perceive that as my attitude problem, so be it--I can accept that. I'm still going to Stony Creek.
posted by fusinski at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2009


The yacht club looks to be thriving (or at least full of boats), which has to be a good sign, right? Yachts are the icon of superfluous wealth - if you really a practical boat, houseboats are where it's at (the slide is optional).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2009


I don't see it as your attitude problem. I see it as the anti-black prejudice of an earlier generation projected forward onto a whole new set of Detroit residents who categorically refuse to consider anything below 8 Mile unless they are safely ensconced in a fortress-like atmosphere. And I object to a mindless spreading of that mental stance toward the city, because it is no longer based in objective reality, but the reality that Channels 2,4,7 create, where everyday in the D brings another murder or another frozen body. The refusal of some metro Detroiters to participate in their central city perpetuates its downfall.

Incidentally, Stoney Creek has had its own crime problems, not unlike those of Belle Isle.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, the Detroit Yacht Club is still on the island and beautiful inside. A further downriver you can see the remains of the Detroit Boat Club, est. 1839!
posted by ofthestrait at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2009


Incidentally, those incidents did not take place in the park and you are being ridiculous.

Really, I love Detroit. I go there a lot to the Fisher, and to the stadiums, and to the restaurants. I still believe that it will turn around and I continue to spend money there and support the economy. My wife works downtown and we pay city taxes.

But, come on, man. You can enjoy the city with discretion but it is not sunshine and rainbows and there are real risks associated with "wandering" outside of the renaissance areas. Someone got murdered during the super bowl pre-game festivities outside a bar on the main strip, for crying out loud.

And prejudice doesn't cause black on black crime. And my attitude isn't killing the city--the fallout from the riots including, but not limited to, poverty and crime are killing the city. People holding on to burned out buildings and not doing anything about them are killing the city. Channels 2, 4, and 7 aren't murdering 400 people a year, assaulting 12000, and burglarizing 18000. Get real.
posted by fusinski at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2009


for what it's worth Detroit has ~2x the rate of crime as the rest of the country, nearly 7x the rate of murder and 5x the rate of violent crime overall.

I guess if you are worried about larceny it's the place to be though.

Which is not to say there are not a lot of well meaning, earnest and good people trying to save the city, but doing so would/will require quite a bit more infrastructure, retooling and federal aid then it currently gets. As someone said upthread, it is a company town, and when companies that make a company town dry up, so does the town.
posted by edgeways at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2009


Oh please. Belle Isle is a perfectly fine place to wander. It's ridiculous comments like these that make other people think Detroit is some sort of apocalyptic video game. It's not.
The last time I went to Belle Isle was on a Sunday afternoon in the late 1990s. Hadn't been there in ages, it was a beautiful late Summer day, thought I'd show Mr. Adams this little piece of island paradise in the middle of an urban area. We had a wonderful few hours, sitting on a blanket, feeding ducks, sipping some champagne we'd brought. Unfortunately, we waited until after dusk to leave and that's when all hell broke loose. As soon as it got dark, there was a mass exodus of cars trying to leave. We sat in line for over two hours trying to get to the bridge. And in the meantime gang bangers and other assorted hoodlums were jumping on top of our cars and others, threatening, calling us names (we were two of the few white people there at that hour). Fights broke out nearby, we heard gunfire many times, and I kept apologizing to Mr. Adams for getting us into this mess. I worked near Harper and Van Dyke for many years and shopped every day at stores where the clerk was encased in a bullet-proof glass "cage" and all transactions had to conducted through a lazy Susan, and yet I never felt nervous or threatened. But seeing this crowd mentality, where folks had been drinking all day and now had the cover of darkness and safety in numbers and no cops in sight...that was enough to keep me off of Belle Isle. (My boss at that company, though, took his lunch to Belle Isle many times per week - it was still an idyllic place during the day.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, couple three things—Detroit's decay is really compartmentalized, and it's actually better than it was in much of the '80s. So while you have chunks of weirdness (I wouldn't wander around the ass side of Mexicantown after dark), it's not nearly as fucked up as people seem to think. It's like thinking of all of LA as the ass end of South Central, and you don't really have the Cass Corridor at the height of its terror.

The weirdest thing about being in Detroit is how empty it is—you really feel the depopulation when you get out of the city center. And something that magnifies that feeling of emptiness is how pedestrian unfriendly it is.

But, say, Hamtramck is pretty nice, even though Highland Park is kinda ass and the area around City Airport can make you feel like you'd be killed and eaten.

One more contributing factor—everyone I know who's left Detroit kinda plays up this romantic Goth decay, because it totally makes them seem badass. I remember being in Amsterdam and in France, wearing my Tigers cap, and people assumed that I was, like, Snake Plissken and that they should all buy me drinks and ask me about techno lest I go buck nuts and cave their heads in.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"lieutenant, what do those pulse rifles fire?"

-Ripley
posted by clavdivs at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2009


I take it there are parts of Detroit where chandelier polish and copies of Butler Weekly still fly off the shelves?

You know that episode of the Simpsons where Ron Howard is taking his kids to some kind of a special rich person's zoo? Apparently they really exist and aren't even that uncommon. Obviously not ones with Fantasmopotami singing twice a day but private zoos. Everything I've read about them makes them seem nuttier than Sun Myung Moon: religiously focused zoos, microbe zoos(less nutty), really racist ones in South Africa.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2009


Belle Isle is fine during the day. Before I left, I used to walk my dog there all the time. Always took out of town visitors there to see the Scott Fountain and the kite fliers.

I'm with ofthestrait. The incredible racism of the suburbs is 50% of Detroit's problem. The other 50% is endemic poverty, which is fed by the suburbanites who don't care how many people are jobless and poor, as long as they get theirs.
posted by QIbHom at 11:12 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I loved this link, thanks.

I lived across the river from Detroit for 4 years, doing my undergrad at UWindsor, but went over to Detroit every now and then for concerts or occasional shopping. It was scary walking back to the tunnel bus station after concerts, no question, and the city's bad reputation definitely scared us off of doing much else in the city. I hope one day that can change.

I wish I had visited here, though.
posted by patr1ck at 11:14 AM on February 18, 2009


The weirdest thing about being in Detroit is how empty it is

As an outsider looking around inside, that was exactly my feeling.

I was in town for a trio of Tigers/White Sox games last July with a big group of Sox fans, and was surprised at the emptiness's contradiction to both the folklore about Detroit and my conception of how a city should be.

To ofthestrait's points, it's gotta be frustrating to see a city that anyone could take--if they could just get enough people/support to take it--and have no one be interested.

All of this is to say, I'll vote for a Metafliter-owned Detroit in 2010.
posted by pokermonk at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ooooh we could start a commune with all the cheap houses and practice sex magick!
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2009


Murders do happen there and it's a popular place to dump bodies

Do you even hear yourself? I've now encountered a new entry for my Internet Bestiary: Detroit Apologist.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:28 AM on February 18, 2009


i want to live there and collect my own menagerie. i could be like one of these guys!
posted by Capt Jingo at 12:07 PM on February 18, 2009


Regardless of where this thread goes, and I really enjoyed the link, I am probably going to remember it most for the phrase "Internet Bestiary" and all that it connotes.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:23 PM on February 18, 2009


I remember the Belle Isle Aquarium someone mentioned upthread. Seeing the snapping turtle there was always a highlight. Sad to see all this go.

I did the majority of my running around downtown Detroit when I was a teenager in the late 70's early 80's. There were bad neighborhoods and I remember buying beer at the stores with the bulletproof glass and lazy susans. I don't know if things weren't so bad then or we were so totally clueless we just didn't notice.
posted by marxchivist at 12:25 PM on February 18, 2009


I'm not really sure what you mean by my being a "Detroit Apologist". I'm certainly not trying to whitewash the city's problems. I'm just suggesting that the attitude held by many in the suburbs (Detroit is not safe unless there's cops on every block around you) is a harmful one. Murders in the city happen. There's not a whole lot anyone in Detroit can do about it. I'm saying that the possibility of something bad happening to anyone exploring Belle Isle (or most of Detroit, for that matter) is fairly remote, unless you are involved in some sort of illegal business.

If suburbanites came to Detroit and saw the possibilities for the city, instead of blindly refusing to visit a place as harmless as Belle Isle (to say nothing of actual neighborhoods), the entire region would be a lot better off.
posted by ofthestrait at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2009


I decided a long time ago that if I ever win the lottery, I'm buying up Detroit and transforming it into a new utopia. Dutopia? Nu-troit?

Delta City. The name you're looking for is Delta City.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:56 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mo' Town!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2009


If suburbanites came to Detroit and saw the possibilities for the city, instead of blindly refusing to visit a place as harmless as Belle Isle...

... gang bangers and other assorted hoodlums were jumping on top of our cars and others, threatening, calling us names (we were two of the few white people there at that hour). Fights broke out nearby, we heard gunfire many times...


I'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements.
posted by Evangeline at 2:35 PM on February 18, 2009


"I'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements."

If it makes it easier, I've been to Belle Isle after dark tens of times, and the biggest complaint I had was that, yes, the traffic can get pretty bad. Usually, it was pretty calm and nothing much was going on. Occasionally there were kids out there yellin' and clowning. But I don't think Oriole has had a typical experience, and from my memory of her other comments about Detroit, she seems to have had quite a few experiences there that were horrifically outside the norm.

But then, I've definitely seen prostitutes there during the day, so what can ya do?
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on February 18, 2009


There are lots of stories about Detroit, lots of sides to the city. Sweet Juniper's blog tells a lot of them. this entry from yesterday is another good example.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:11 PM on February 18, 2009


logicpunk: Flagged as awesome.
posted by JHarris at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2009


Meh - prostitutes, shmostitutes. That I can handle. Oriole's story sounds like a trip through Jurassic Park on a bad day. But it seems experiences are wildly varied. I've never been to Detroit. I've got nothin'.
posted by Evangeline at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2009


While I'm all for the Mefi Compound, I'd prefer it to be somewhere warmer. I'm a bit of a hothouse flower hippie. Also, Detroit scares me. I don't scare easily, but walking down a street in Detroit one night pretty much cured me of any desire to ever be in Detroit again.
posted by dejah420 at 8:09 PM on February 18, 2009


Tim Burton's Jumanji
posted by Khazk at 8:57 PM on February 18, 2009


I don't know if things weren't so bad then or we were so totally clueless we just didn't notice.
posted by marxchivist


I don't think we noticed.

Granted, I lived in Detroit at a later date than you did (1997-2002). Detroit was my first city; I came there from a small town in North Dakota for college (CCS). Lived on Hancock/3rd Street (Dally in the Alley...that was MY alley!) I didn't realize until after moving away from Detroit that that wasn't how a city should be.
posted by Windigo at 9:12 PM on February 18, 2009


I believe this is the abandoned zoo.

Sheesh, don't you know by now that if you want to do virtual urban exploration, you have to use bird's eye view?
posted by dhartung at 9:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


But I don't think Oriole has had a typical experience, and from my memory of her other comments about Detroit, she seems to have had quite a few experiences there that were horrifically outside the norm.

Maybe my Belle Isle experience was not "typical," but I'm not exaggerating it in any way, trust me. I can't remember the exact date we were there, but it was during a time that the city or some other group was talking about charging a $1 per person admission to cross the bridge because the rowdiness was getting out of hand; they thought a nominal fee would make the island less of a hangout for bored youths. (The proposal didn't pass.)

I lived in Detroit for many years, and have roamed regularly through many, many parts of the city (primarily on the East Side) via auto, bus and bicycle. Most times it was all good. But anything I've reported about my experiences is the truth, and you're welcome to check out news articles/police reports/whatever to verify the so-called "wildings" on Belle Isle in the mid-to-late 1990s), the number of stolen cars stripped and abandoned just behind 6400 Varney Ave alone in the past eight years, the fact that the DDOT employees who were responsible for emptying the money collection boxes from buses had to be issued pocketless coveralls in order to prevent the alarming rate of theft, or even how some folks on hot summer days actually use a gun to protect the sole fire hydrant on their block from kids looking to flood the street, because they know if the hydrant gets damaged, it will take years to get fixed. It's all fact and a matter of record.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:04 PM on February 18, 2009


As to the mention of Snake Plissken, most of Escape from New York's location shots were done in and around St. Louis, MO. The director told his assistant to look for the worst blight he could find, and we sadly won. St. Louis and Detroit have a lot in common, though our blight is harder to pin down to something like automakers moving out.
posted by jester69 at 1:16 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of Escape from New York's location shots were done in and around St. Louis, MO East St. Louis, IL.

Very close obviously and maybe it's basically synonymous locally... but one gave us Tina Turner and the other gave us Ike.
posted by pokermonk at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2009


the train station was Union Station on the Missouri side of the river. The bridge for the final escape connected east saint louis and saint louis proper. The rest was predominantly east saint louis. It seemed easier just to specify St. Louis rather than breaking it down to subsets of the metro area.
posted by jester69 at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2009


Article about artists buying super-cheap houses in Detroit and doing art projects
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:23 PM on March 8, 2009


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