Detroit - The Squatters

Misadventures vol. 1, iss. 5

So you may have been wondering why anyone would willingly travel to Detroit.  Well, for me, an old friend invited me.  He's living in a squat with his girlfriend, a cat, and two other people.  The bathroom doesn't have a door, and there's only one working toilet.  They're  installing windows before winter, and the wood-burning stove hasn't been built yet - it will be constructed out of found materials.   It's not an existence most people would enjoy, and almost none would seek it out, but as Joel said, "I would rather have a hot, home-cooked, organic meal every night than a shower." 


My host, Joel

His girlfriend, Kara

The guy upstairs

Food and love

It's a good life they lead.  Mostly they explore the city.  Joel is working on opening a vintage store with a friend, so he goes thrift shopping regularly.  The guy upstairs is a handy-man whose main work mostly consists of rerouting electricity and water in squats so that those living there do not have to pay utilities.  He also sits on street corners with a cardboard sign and asks for money when the real work doesn't pay enough.  One night he came home with blood on his face and his hand wrapped in a blood-soaked rag.  He had been assaulted by a man who accused him of getting him thrown in jail.  "Yeah, man, I'm famous," he said, "well, not famous so much as known for having terrible shit happen to me."  I believe him.

A fire pit in the backyard provides warmth and a venue for entertainment

Really, it isn't a life too different from yours or mine.  The bills are lower, and the smell of body odor is a bit more prevalent, but they live life.  They have fun, they cook food, they work, they relax.  They have dreams just like everyone else.  Like playing badminton at night.  Perhaps their goals are a bit more achievable than most. Maybe that's a lesson.

Joel and I invented an LED birdie for night badminton

I could see myself enjoying the life they live. All in all, it's quite relaxing.  And inexpensive. The thing that struck me funny about Detroit is that the apartments rent for about the same rate as any other major city in the US. The food cost is a bit higher, and the booze is about the same. I can understand why someone would want to find an abandoned house to call their own. When there's no work, there's no way to afford life in that city. With no work, there's no money, and with no money there's no escape. One neighbor was selling everything in her house to get the money to move to Atlanta. "Anywhere is better than here," she said. I guess it depends on what you're looking for.