Monday, November 11, 2013

Anthony Bourdain wraps up "Parts Unknown" with "Detroit" (and then Vegas)

Anthony Bourdain concluded his second season of “Parts Unknown” in Detroit (except for his jamboree in downtown Las Vegas, following the show). The main link for the episode is here

Bourdain portrayed Detroit, built into a major city in the ‘40s and ‘50s when the auto industry boomed, as having been viewed at one time as a “new Rome”.  It fell into ruins after racism, segregation, and unions drove companies out of the City and to some extent out of Michigan. But I recall that Detroit was seen as a prosperous place in the mid '60s, until the sudden riots of 1967.
   
Bourdain did show the new settlers, entrepreneurs who build interesting businesses (like film), and ate at a seafood restaurant where everyone who worked there lived in the city. Some of the restaurants aren't quite "legal" but are run out of homes as "poupusas".  
  
The empty green zones in the city are gradually becoming local farms, with vegetables grown for local consumption, since chain stores have left.  Ironically, this sounds like the sustainable living preached by pundits. 

  
Yet the documentary was filled with images of abandoned homes and factories.  A fire department company was populated with apparent volunteers who bought everything themselves and shared cooking duties.  Police coverage in many areas is spotty. 
  
There is a lot of criticism of the episode.  The Detroit Free Press asks if this is “ruin porn”, link 
  
I visited the city myself in August, 2012, mainly downtown, and along Seven Mile Road, and the freeways.  I recall having a Seventh Grade physical education teacher (back in the 1950s) who bragged about being from Detroit, and the Tigers.  That team went from 43 wins in 2003 to consistent appearance in baseball playoffs, and seems to be Detroit's bright spot.  Detroit's Comerica Park was the setting of an incident in the ABC series "Flash Forward".  .

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