Anthony Bourdain #2: Detroit
By Michael Moriarty
Of all places to examine?! Third Millennium Detroit, Michigan.
I was born and raised there since April of 1941!
Didn’t make Manhattan my long-term home until 1970.
Now? It’s a Ghost City!
Enough skyscrapers to make it a onetime urban giant.
But now?! It hurts.
Seen through the eyes and piercing understanding of Anthony Bourdain and his editors?! There are depressing sights.
But then again, there is Detroit!
At one time, millions of people lived there.
There are only a little over 800,000 lost and broken lives.
For some reason I cannot lift still photographs from this film exploration of both a dying and immanently dead metropolis.
Here’s a still photo of the damage done to the abandoned Packard Factory!
During World War II, there were 33,000 people working for Packard.
“Detroit’s great ongoing tragedy,” as Mr. Bourdain describes it.
He was, of course, and the remaining Detroiters are apparently not far away from his own suicidal tragedy!
I find his personal report, on what I now call The Death of Detroit, a preview of things to come for his own, much swifter ending at 61 years of age! He even accuses himself, during this documentary, of “Wallowing in (Detroit’s) ruin porn!”
Throughout his multi-series exploration of the world, Mr. Bourdain almost speaks proudly of his wallowing in crack cocaine, alcohol and some of the more pornography-filled cities in the world.
I am, to be utterly frank, a great fan of pornography.
I was also, for utterly too long a ten-year span, a cigarette smoking, bourbon and beer-drinking dipsomaniac.
I, however, had a heart-attack and spent two straight months in a hospital, trying to recover.
Why did I recover and live, so far, for an additional 15 years? I quit both smoking and drinking as well!
Thank God, during this depressing look at today’s Detroit, for the pride and sense of humor at that city’s Duly’s Place, a diner that serves “Coney Island Hot Dogs” – open 24 hours!
Anthony, if he’ll excuse the familiarity from wherever he is now, likens the Duly hot dog experience to a “symphony”. With, as the background music demonstrates, a full chorus! A simultaneous reminder of Detroit’s lost majesty!!
Now comes the examination of “Detroit’s spectacular corruption and mismanagement!”
To help describe the history of Detroit’s swift hurtle from heaven to hell is Adolf Mongo, “political strategist, oracle and survivor”.
His analysis of the problem?
The greed of politicians.
Were there, “Are there good guys out there,” asks Anthony.
“There are a lot of good guys out there!” declares Adolf.
“They don’t wanna run for office!”
“Why,” asks Anthony?
“You gotta take the garbage along with it!”
Then Anthony asks us, the audience, “Can Detroit turn things around?”
He answers his own question with an emphatically demonstrative, “No!”
He likens Detroit to Chernobyl!
That, however, was a nuclear accident!
The unrelenting death of Detroit could never be labeled as “an accident”!
Nor could Mr. Bourdain’s suicide.
Did Anthony Bourdain suddenly become as pessimistic about himself as he does during this examination of Third Millennium Detroit?
He had to have grown dark and despairing!!
But why? Despite his addictions, Mr. Bourdain, particularly in his last year, never looked or sounded as hopeless as Detroit!
If he’d only gone to Alcoholics Anonymous!
“Let go, let God!”
He never believed in God.
His only God?! Without any excessive grandstanding?
So, in a way, he became his own Mayor of his own Detroit.
What is most heartbreaking is our doomed hero’s tribute to the “strength of the survivors in Detroit who won’t give up!”
He not only gave up!
He executed an extraordinarily gifted human being.
Yes, he should be going to jail for that.
Anthony Bourdain personally witnessed and recorded the history of a complete loss of faith in their city by an entire metropolis of what was over two million people!
How can he allow himself the criminal luxury of losing faith in not only himself but Life itself?! And do so, after his extraordinarily lucid commentary on the ongoing suicide of Detroit?!?!
Then off “Tony” goes – apparently he doesn’t mind the diminutive of Anthony – with his wonderfully affirmative Detroiter, Charley Rudolf, to an art gallery that also doubles as a restaurant.
Charley calls the art gallery “a garage”; but he’s the soul of optimism!
This episode is such a loving portrait of a profoundly wounded Detroit, I tear up far more often than I’d like to.
I begin to envy the heroes and heroines who stayed in Detroit, regardless of the millions who have abandoned her!! They speak with a joy and tireless commitment to bring Detroit back to life!!!
Lily Tomlin, a born Detroiter like myself, said, “I left Detroit when I found out where I was!” That was years before the beginning of Detroit’s Great Collapse.
Now, decades into that collapse, the tenacity of Detroiters who refuse to give up on their city?!
A part if me is obviously very jealous.
I pray very tenaciously for their success!!!!
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.