(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay is one of the greatest songs in history. Otis never got to hear it. Give me three minutes to tell you why.
Detroit in the 1980s wasn’t a city as much as it was an Art Deco fistfight. Us residents had a genuine gangster for a mayor in Coleman Young. There were more guns in the city than people. We’d survived racial tension and full-scale riots. No one was ever harder on us than we were. We used it. We turned it into fuel. That sentience became attitude and that attitude became manifest destiny.
We were proud to wear the black hat. We were happy to be villains. A new bad guy had emerged. It seemed the city itself was an evil entity and we were its nasty minions. Like our hall of fame point guard Isiah Thomas said, “We wanted your whole city to shake when we walked through the door.”
The city was the backdrop. The fictional idea of a dystopia was out the window. There was a real dystopia. About an hour north on I-75 from Toledo. The Motor City.
It was every single place you looked. It was set down in the written word by the Dickens of Detroit Elmore Leonard. It was in our athletics. The Bad Boys. The Bruise Brothers.
The games in Detroit were less athletic competitions and more alley fights.
This was evident as far back as the 1960s from a cultural standpoint. New York and L.A. were cultural America, but out of that emerged artists like the MC5 and The Stooges, the first blast of proto punk.
We were on the map for all the wrong reasons:
We survived this. We survived Coleman Young. We survived ourselves.
We are Detroit. We helped build this country and we drove it to work. We’re still here, ready, hungry, unwilling to take your shit.