Dear Detroit

I  first became obsessed with urban decay (no, not the eyeshadow) and its progeny, the Urban Exploration movement, when I was in college and read too much philosophy. While it’s unhealthy to read Walter Benjamin and Guy Debord exclusively and in tandem, it plunged me into a lot of weird internet journeys during my many sleepless nights; this is when I found the website Forgotten Detroit.

I am rooted in Detroit, Michigan on my mother’s side of the family. There my grandparents met and fell in love while attending Thomas M. Cooley High School, and my Grandmother never understood why I found it so entertaining to hear her speak of 8 Mile (thanks, Eminen). Built in 1928, Cooley High was closed in 2010 and now sits abandoned, a hulking monument to days when Detroit was healthy and children were everywhere. As with all forgotten things, Cooley High is now in danger of demolition.

How does this happen? How can cities of this size become spectral and how can we, as conscious citizens, raze the physical manifestations of our history when they become too difficult to maintain? I understand the discourse fed by explanations of socio-political migrations, demography and the export of industry to developing countries. I get it: Detroit has been left without a purpose, and therefore was left by its people. Buildings need a use, and Detroit has not the population to use them. This, for lack of a better sequence of words, makes me sad. Sad for my own family history that is disappearing and sad for future generations who won’t be able to understand our nation’s history by standing inside of it, by feeling granite with their hands, seeing stairwells with their eyes and KNOWING that architects are dreamers because they build something out of nothing, and dreamers built this country.

In short, I am obsessed with Detroit: what it represents and what still exists to be saved. I’ve even (half-jokingly) asked my Fella if he’d relocate from San Francisco to the Motor City. So far, he’s nonplussed and I can’t say as I blame him; this is my calling, not his. No, I don’t have any immediate plans to leave an ideal climate for one that’s depressed and trying to find its relevance in a century that has moved away from its strengths. But the thought is germinating, I’m open to persuasion, and the video featured below encapsulates, in a very beautiful way, my connection to the plight of this urban belle.

A Love Note to Jack White (No, Not That Kind)

From a Pitchfork article announcing his appearance on "American Pickers".
From a Pitchfork article announcing his appearance on “American Pickers”

Let me begin by stating an annoyance: it’s repugnant when I, a twenty-something female, admit to loving a male musician and people, namely other men, assume that I want to sleep with said musician, that it is firstly a sexual and secondly a musical attraction. So let’s just clear the air here. Admiration expressed in this forum or otherwise by Nostos Nic is purely rooted in the music, in the pitch and fall of performance, in the artistry of whatever is discussed. 

Now, with that said, there is no musical man I love more than John Anthony Gillis, known to us all as Jack White. First finding national fame as the backbone of The White Stripes, he continues to reinvent himself even though lesser men would’ve surfed that White Stripes wave into retirement. Selecting partners like Brendan Benson to create The Raconteurs, and Allison Mosshart to form The Dead Weather shows confidence in his own ability and a penchant to be challenged, simultaneously keeping his music and career fresh. With the release of his 2012 solo album “Blunderbuss” a mature artist emerged into the spotlight, free from the shadows of his Detroit garage rock shelter. 

The lesser mentioned ventures, however, are what most attract me to Jack White. The soundtrack for Cold Mountain–a 2003 Civil War flick starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Rene Zellweger–benefitted from the contribution of five beautiful appalachian bluegrass hymnals brought to life by White’s warbling. This started an impressive run in Hollywood that went on to include “Another Way To Die”, a duet with Alicia Keys that officially made him a Quantum of Solace Bond girl, and the recently released “Love is Blindness” from The Great Gatsby, the perfect distillation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essence into the 21st-century world as seen so distinctly by Baz Luhrmann. And, by the way, please note the presence of Academy Award winners in these movies and remember that White was/is a pasty garage rock kid from Detroit, the posterchild of American industrial decay. Plus, it doesn’t end there. Aside from making movie music, he’s also made cameos as himself in six films, including Coffee and Cigarettes, and played Elvis in the imminently forgettable Walk Hard (which I only mention because it’s ELVIS and I have to believe researching that role influenced his onstage persona).

Whether wielding a guitar or controlling a mixing panel, the artist who holds the reins of his/her career determines the outcome of the journey; hence why Jack White as producer is such a brilliant career move. His credits run the gamut from Loretta Lynn and Jerry Lee Lewis to the Von Bondies and the Dex Romweber Duo (an awesome and totally underrated band), as well as pieces for Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert. Not to mention, he produced a fair portion of White Stripes and Raconteurs records. Genius. If you want something done right, do it yourself, which is why he started his own studio. In their own words, “Third Man Records was originally founded by Jack White in Detroit, MI in 2001. In March of 2009 a physical location was established in Nashville, TN. Third Man Records in its current state contains a record store, record label offices, photo studio, dark room and live venue with analog recording booth. Almost all of our records are recorded, printed and pressed in Nashville, TN and produced by Jack White. In this fashion TMR strives to bring a spontaneous and tangible aesthetic back into the record business.”

Did you read that?! Analog recording booth delivering a spontaneous and tangible aesthetic. Now that is what I’m talking about. In all, the totality and execution of his vision is equalled by few, and seeing him live was one of the best experiences of my life. I know that’s a heady statement, and I mean every word of it. His swagger, style and showmanship reek of the King himself, Elvis Presley, but his music is imbued with the authenticity of, say, a Johnny Cash or a Hank Williams. His output could be described as frenetic were it not for the quality of what he has achieved, and, if that weren’t enough to love the man, he opened his own joint to further the common cause of good music in the fight against synthetic sludge.

So thank you, Jack White, you old pied-piper of musical integrity, you; this is a note of appreciation. 

Roberta Ilene (Carter) Clarke, Obituary Of

 

Roberta Ilene Clarke
Roberta Ilene Clarke

Roberta Ilene (Carter) Clarke, 86, passed away at her Temecula, California home in the early morning hours of April 3, 2013; she was surrounded by her family.

Bobbie was born to Edward Stacey and Carolyn (Valch) Carter in Fordson, Michigan on December 26, 1926. She was raised and attended schools in Detroit, and finished her academic career at Thomas M. Cooley High School. There she caught the eye of a burgeoning artist named Richard Allen Clarke, who penned her love letters until she paid him mind. The two were married in 1948, and began their family in 1952 with the birth of their one and only daughter, Janis. Three boys followed—Richard, William, and Robert—and the family found themselves in the west where the Clarkes settled into La Canada, a Southern California suburb.

The years to follow epitomized mid-century America. Family trips to national treasures, summers spent poolside with a menagerie of pets and friends, and cocktail parties for her husband’s advertising agency peers. A devoted mother, she was there for her daughter’s late-night high school sewing projects, and every one of her sons’ track-and-field matches, baseball and football games. Then this quintessentially stylish homemaker deftly transitioned into the role of working single mother in 1971. As a Travel Agent she saw the world after her offspring flew the coop. Traveling through Eastern and Western Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond, her sense of adventure came alive as she experienced the full spectrum of international offerings—no opportunity left untaken.

Her strength and patience were awe-inspiring, and she shied away from no task no matter the size. After moving to her happy home in Temecula in 1995, she forged herself a desert paradise where she landscaped her backyard with rocks carted in from blocks away in an apple red radio flyer. She taught herself to ski in her forties, and conquered the computer age in her sixties and seventies—tracing family history through genealogy websites, and forwarding her thoughts to family and friends through emails filled with helpful hints and bits of laughter culled from the Youtube universe. Ever the optimist and a romantic at heart, her retirement was spent tending her garden, which seemed always to be in full bloom; shepherding her expanding family, which grew to include seven grandchildren; and watching Hallmark movies, which spoke to her belief in happy endings.

Through all its peaks and valleys she crafted an impeccable life of simple refinement—one lived with intention, vivacity, grace and humor. The consummate perfectionist, never was there a hair out of place nor an ensemble askew; she oozed class and cultivated exceptional taste. She reveled in her role as mother and grandmother, and cherished every second spent surrounded by her progeny, the great loves of her life. Her attention to detail, her razor-sharp wit, that mischievous wink and the warmth of her smile made her a woman with no equal. The mold was truly broken when Bobbie Clarke was made, and this world’s song will never sing the same since she’s departed.

Bobbie Clarke
Bobbie Clarke

With heavy hearts she is survived by her sister, Donna Tiderington of Westland, Michigan, and all her children and grandchildren: Janis Meldahl, and her daughter, Nicole; Richard, his daughters, Jennifer and Ashley, and his wife, Diana; William, his wife, Mary, and their children, Margaux and Carter; Robert, his wife Alicja, and their children, Natalia and Allen. All of the above would like to thank the staff at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta, and Delta Hospice for treating Bobbie like family in her time of need.

To honor this amazing woman, a viewing will be held on April 8th from 4-8 pm at England Family Mortuary at 27135 Madison Avenue, Temecula, California, 92592. Graveside services will take place in the springtime sun at Temecula Public Cemetery—located at 41911 C Street, Temecula, California, 92592—the following day, April 9th, at 12:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the COPD Foundation (www.copdfoundation.org).