When I bought my house four years ago, I chose the city it's in because I could afford an actual house there, and not just a shack with flowers to disguise its categorical difference from the neighbors. The goal was just to Get A House, all of my own, that wasn't waiting for me to eventually pack up and leave it. A house where I could spend all day crying, when that was what was needed. Where my dog and my cat weren't guests in someone else's house, or undesirables requiring extra deposits; where they had a full home. And me, too. I wasn't interested in saving up any longer so I could buy more house in a better neighborhood; I just need My Own Place.
So there's this little town (Hamtramck) surrounded by a Big Bad City (Detroit), a two-mile square island of immigrants and Chicago-style housing and a dive bar on every corner. The lawns are neat and tiny, the streets full of donut smells at 4:30 a.m., and the people old and Old World. Biscuit-shaped ladies in babushka's and black stockings carry groceries home from market. People still eat real bacon, and eggs fried in the fat, for breakfast. You can't find skim milk anywhere in town. I fall on the slimmer end of the community spectrum. I bought the first house I looked at.
Neighbors who smile; the luxury of not turning a head when I go to the store, or to eat, wearing pajama bottoms and dorky shoes; a sturdy 1920s home waiting for me each day, smiling it's enormous front porch at me: these were enough to make my happy home. But Hamtramck had surprises in store for me. My first year, I found a building painted purple, a giant ant head on its side. There, I fell in love with improvisation, and have since graduated from Second City. Artists lurk in unlikely places, and I've found an open mic where I hope to read for the first time. And at The Senate I drink $1.25 Pabsts with a handful of brilliant old folks while we play word games or watch Jeopardy.
Every winter, when I'm shoveling my front walk alongside my neighbor in her saree, and we smile at each other with warm nods, because she doesn't speak English, I marvel at the fascinating place that's become my home.
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