I've been back forty eight hours, flying in over lush squares of green. The shades varied from forest to chartreuse- along the way showing us infused hues of spruce, lime, kelly, and many more than my California eyes are used to seeing. Even crop circles of green looking like pop art from the sky. The color of the midwest is green.
Dad and I ran errands on Thursday. We went into downtown Flint and strolled past his old office building. I nodded to the security guard now positioned in front. Our destination was lunch in the basement of the (1911) Masonic Temple. We've been going there since the 1970's, and only the color of the painted walls and the pricing on the menu have changed. I am certain that both the clientele and the servers are the same. Even with the new prices, which are the result of a mathematical non-rounded calculation, my $4.62 Cobb salad represented an excellent value.
Errands with Dad is like being with the mayor. Everywhere we went, he strolled through as if he owned the joint. I guess being a prominent CPA in a small town for 49 years, you're bound to know a few people. He ducked into the kitchen to remind the manager of an upcoming event to be catered, was recognized by a half dozen people at the Farmer's Market and dropped in on two clients just to say hello on the way home.
It is both intimately familiar and terribly strange to be back. Farmer's fields of my youth are filled with houses. Businesses I recall are vacant lots. Buick is gone. The assembly plants, the engineering building, even the sixties modern white marble Administration building- they are gone. Bulldozed. Empty lots. The company that made the town is missing. It is a visual shock. The Nineteen story Genesee Towers, tallest in the city, is vacant and barricaded. The top story was the University Club, where we used to dine overlooking the lights of the city while being attended to by white jacketed waiters. The little town recently described as the third fastest dying city in America is indeed under dramatic change.
But the town is far from dead. Tomorrow, my folks are volunteering to man a water station for the 28th running of the Bobby Crim race. There are 15,000 entrants this year. Tony and I ran in 1985. I still have my picture at the nine mile mark.
I am so relaxed here, among my tribe. These kind midwestern people with their warm smiles and blue eyes. Each time I leave them it gets harder. How will I leave them this time?