His transistor radio always in his right shirt pocket, the left pocket reserved for cigarette ashes.
A Brief Little Detroit Ditty –
Detroit founded by the French in 1701 with the establishment of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac’s settlement known as Fort Ponchartrain, remained under French control until 1760 when British Major Robert Rogers took control of it as part of the treaty to end the French Indian war (part of the seven years’ war).
Once known as the Paris of the west and proclaimed for its architecture, two hundred years later, only small remnants of the French remain. Drive through the city and you’ll see many streets (Gratiot, Livernois, Riopelle, La Fayette) named after early French residents, but little else to remind you of the previous French presence.
Detroit is also the city where my grandparents, Jack and Hankie, both grandchildren of immigrants, (one Irish – Jack and one Polish – Hankie) grew up, met and fell in love.
In addition, it’s the home of my favorite marathon.
The Detroit Marathon –
In 2015, the Detroit marathon started with the crossing of the Ambassador bridge, into Windsor, Canada and back to Detroit via the tunnel (under the Detroit river).
It’s an international event, established in 1978, featuring the half and the full marathon distances. The full meanders through Detroit’s iconic neighborhoods, Mexicantown, Greektown, Corktown, and Indian Village. Click here to check out the Detroit Marathon – https://www.freepmarathon.com/
The year I ran (2015), the grand homes of Indian Village (listed on the National Register of Historic places in Detroit, Michigan in 1972) truly WOWed me, as I checked off miles 17 and 18.
Miles 20 through 22 see you on and around beautiful Belle Isle. A spot Jack and Hankie once ice skated while dating, before marrying in 1940.
I’m from here! Pointing to the spot on my palm that marks the point where I grew up, just south of Detroit.
Jack and Hankie moved to the sod farm in the late 1950´s having left Detroit a few years earlier.
Just outside of Detroit they lived their lives and filled it full. From Jack’s D-day +10 landing and their subsequent 3 year seperation, 3 babies, a successful sod farm business, annual military unit reunions, square dancing, and the death of their only son – they lived then they died.
Often we would drive through Detroit and ride by the old house, now long gone. One of many swallowed up in a storm of blight.
Grandpa talked very little of the war but he talked a lot about sports. His transistor radio always in his right shirt pocket (the left pocket reserved for cigarette ashes).
Cool fact: his sod (grass, turf) once filled Tiger stadium.
I’m From Here –
Michigan is special.
Everything in Michigan is better. Everything! Winter, spring, summer and fall. And last but not least, the Detroit marathon.
It’s a fast and flat course except that bridge (to Canada) and the oddly placed hill near the finish. It’s not really a hill but it’s so out of place for Detroit, that it will crush you if you let it.
Aiming for a 4:25 in 2015, I managed a 4:35:24. Hoping to run this awesome race again in October 2020. Goal – 4:20 the year I turn 55 (2020).
The Detroit Marathon finishes on Fort St. after a stretch on the river walk.
Fort St. was Jack’s go to route. Born in 1917, he would often just take Fort St. to and from Detroit, opposed to the faster I-75 route.
Just Imagine…this generation and what their lives must have been like. The changes that took place from 1917 to 1970 were rapid and must have truly seemed amazing. Born at the end of World War I, surviving childhood amidst the Spanish flu of 1918, experiencing adolescents during the great depression of the 1930’s, and sent off as young adults to World War II, returning to a world now on fast forward.
I imagine he (Jack) would have dropped me off and picked me up for this race – cigarette in hand, big smile on his face.
The 15 minute drive home would have been both wonderful and excrutiating – infused with stories and smoke (windows rolled up, he would smoke one cigarette after the next, filling the car with smoke and irritating my eyes). We are who we are, and oh how I would treasure one more smoke filled car ride.
I’m from here (pointing to the spot on my palm).
If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you (Michigan Motto).
I hope you enjoyed this sweet look back. Blending life and running.