If you're looking for symbols of Detroit's utter collapse, you need look no further than the old train station. The shattered remnants look like something out of ancient Rome. Vandals have managed to break every single window throughout seventeen stories. You could almost admire the sheer determination.
In some nearly forgotten era, passengers alighted from their trains, setting off in topcoats and fedoras through the monumental station and into a city bustling with industrial might. Now it stands abandoned and destroyed, home to vagrants and urban wildlife, and awaiting the wrecker's ball.
The class of visitors hasn't improved much either. I drove into the city and straight into the Downtown Hoedown, an annual country music festival in the shadow of GM's bankrupt but shimmering corporate office headquarters. Every redneck in a 150-mile radius was there in a cowboy hat, drunk, and yee-hah-ing in traffic before going off to piss on a parked car. I haven't seen so many white people behaving badly since the last Republican National Convention.
All of which made the click of handcuffs around my wrists that much more unexpected.
I photographed the depot as the sun set and was intercepted on my way back to the car by Harrison, a overly friendly but harmless local who described the tragic wonders inside. I couldn't help but notice the cyclone fence and concertina wire that rings the building, but he knew a spot.
We ducked under a hole in the fence and made no more than 20 feet before the siren and flashing lights. In surprisingly short order I was spread-eagle on a police car, then cuffed. In the fullness of time I was issued a trespassing citation for venturing onto Canadian Pacific Rail property.
I looked at the young cop, shook my head in wonder and could only laugh. "Wow. That's quite the welcome to Detroit."
He looked down and stifled a smile that seemed to say "Trust me, it only gets better."