My first real spring break vacation came to me sophomore year of high school. Every spring vacation in the past proved to be mundane before that fateful summer. Having never been anywhere for spring break I decided that year would be different. I would go on an alternate spring break to clean up the city of Detroit.
I awoke at school time, somnolent and drudgery on the day of our departure. awaiting a car filled with five other students participating in the feet, we all sat next to each other like a can of sardines, listening to talk radio and the news. It was an awful drive to the city. When we finally took a step out of the car I was relieved to smell the sweet scent of factory air and cold autumn leaves pierce my nostrils. Yep we were in Detroit. A man wearing jeans and a black sweater stood before us in the parking lot. He had paint covering him from head to foot, he was our maitre d for the evening. He said “ Hello, my name is Chad, I am going to be directing you on all your activities for this evening. This is always my favorite time of the year; because I get to have you guys come and help me with cleaning up the city. Were a nonprofit company so everything you’re going to see in my studio has been donated. Come on back to my studio were going to be making a mural today. We’re also going to be cleaning up the streets. And painting lamp posts and parking meters.” His studio was beautiful and strange at the same time. He had a garden that was surrounded by walls but their was no ceiling, in fact his whole studio was like that. His garden had glass strewn all over the walls with paintings of strawberries and poetry enraptured around itself. He has at least thirty murals all around the city but the one in his studio in my opinion was the most profound. It was a city with giant teddy bears, chocolate, and a jack in the box.
He split us off into teams. I chose to prime the light posts. The light posts were rusty and chipped all over. Every stroke of the brush sent chips and speckles of paint fling in my face. As I started to paint I couldn’t believe the incandescence that lied beneath these simple architectural structures. It was like a map that could only be seen underwater. The street lights date all the way back to 1884. Known as bishop lights, and some were 1916 pineapple streetlights. The lights originally held carbon arc lights then were transferred into electric fixtures. I couldn’t believe that the city still held light posts that dated back more then ten decades. As I painted the posts ever so often a fellow Detroiter walked by. Every single one of them was genial and showed me more gratitude then I had ever seen in my whole life. It was the most heart filled day of my whole life. And who would of thought that of all places in the world. There was a pit bull roaming the streets, I was on the side of the road next to a Mc. Donald’s and I was feeling like I was in nirvana. A man walked by and said I was the cutest girl with blue speckles on my face that he had ever seen. The primer had turned my face into a splatter painting.
Working with Chad and blight busters was amazing. The next day after I painted the light posts I cleaned up an abandoned burnt down home that was stocked to the ceiling with books. There was books in the bathroom, books in the pantry, books under the sink. It was the hardest work I ever endured. Lifting each book piece by piece wet, moldy, sooty, black books, into three separate dumpsters was enough to make me never want to do it again. (although I did do it again)
Walking on the streets of Detroit one could see forty five alcohol bottles lying next to a garbage can and have it cleaned up that same day. Just to see that same picture lied out before them of the previous day. Detroit is a misunderstood city. The day time shows an Australian gay pride parade. While the night shadows the raccoon men of the dumpsters. My vacation wasn’t like anything I have ever done before. It was rejuvenating, it showed me that you can find love in all places of the world. And it made me feel good to bring back the city that once presided about thirty years ago.
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