Thursday, August 27, 2009

"The Courage of Detroit" by Mitch Albom

There are several writers that I particularly admire:

  • C.S. Lewis for the way he portrays religion.
  • John Irving for the way he portrays religion in the stark but paradoxically comparative way to Lewis.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien for the world he created. [All the world's Harry Potter devotees would do well to take a step back in time and read his works.
  • Mitch Albom for every word he has ever written about Detroit.

Never heard of the last guy? Don't worry... You will.

Mitch Albom is primarily known for writing Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Well, at least outside of the Metro Detroit area. They're two respectable books in their own right loved by millions of Oprah devotees the world over. And by "devotees" I mean "soccer moms". Of course, you probably already knew that.

Sure those books are a little schmaltzy and certainly touching. And, sure, they were wildly popular at the time of their respective releases; each spending several weeks on The New York Times' Best Seller list. And, sure, the made-for-TV movies did quite well (so I've read) when they aired. But non of those reasons are why I like Mitch Albom.

Mitch Albom, for nearly a quarter of a century now, has lived and worked in the city of Detroit writing for The Detroit News and Free Press. I remember when I finally started to understand the gravitas of his quality of writing when I was in middle school and looking forward to his weekly Sunday column in the sports section. He wrote and still writes about the Pistons, the Red Wings, the Tigers, the Wolverines, and the Lions. Rather, he wrote and still writes about my Pistons, my Red Wings, my Tigers, my Wolverines, and (admittedly) my Lions.

Very recently, I got into a spirited conversation (go figure) about the merits of the state of Texas versus those of Michigan. I saw my fellow debator's point: about why she had so much pride for her state. I encourage everyone to be proud of where they are from, where they're at, where they are going (even if they don't always know where that is). I don't appreciate folks using words like "douche" when they are ignorant about a situation. And, yes, I use that in the academic sense in this case. I've been called many worse things in my lifetime. Water off a duck's back, really.

I love my home state. Ask Langford. He'll tell you I never shut up about the place. Find me a place with more refreshing summer nights. I dare you. Find me a place where 85 miles hours per hour on the freeway may be fast enough for the center lane. I double dare you. Find me a place where you can get Vernor's on tap. I triple dog dare you. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And, still, I know I will never be as good of a writer as Mitch Albom or ever be able to express how much that state and that city has shaped me. So, I'll let him do it.

Thank you, Mitch, for being incredibly talented. Thank you for influencing (to this day) how I would like to be able to write. Thank you for continuing to support the city of Detroit and really the entire state when so many of us (myself included) have up and left. But, really, thank you for being an incredibly talented and gracious man. Detroit The world needs more folks like you.

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