Get Well, Stewie, or, Why I’m Moving Back to Michigan

I can pinpoint the exact moment Michigan’s gravitational pull officially reeled us back into orbit. We were lounging on a hotel room bed during a post-Thanksgiving getaway to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and for evening entertainment, all we could focus on was hunting down a pirated web feed of that night’s Red Wings game. Since then we’ve only missed one regular season game. And I’ve started sending the injured Red Wings get well cards. Metaphorical point being, if you’re a fan of anything, and it carries on long enough, eventually you just don’t switch teams.

Last year we moved to Portland, Maine pretty much on a whim. In retrospect, it had less to do with Maine and more to do with escaping a beautiful but small town in northern Michigan that had closed in around us after living there a little too long. We’ve now been in Maine for almost a year, and most of it has been amazing. Notable perks include: $5/lb lobster that is so ubiquitous you can even buy it at the Walgreens that’s two blocks from our house; Mainer accents, which in their most extreme forms are still — even after a year — barely intelligible to someone from the Midwest; and an awe-inspiring coastline that’s decorated with dozens of quirky coastal towns, each with roadside stands selling everything from fresh blueberries to a bounty of awesome flea market crap you don’t need.

But around the time of that Portsmouth trip we started to get itchy feet. Emily and I are both blessed to have freelance jobs right now, which gives us the freedom to live anywhere we want. The corresponding curse is that you never know when that contract-work freedom is going to dry up, so we’re determined to live it up while we can. And so that weekend in Portsmouth was as much about scoping a new potential place to live next year as it was about relaxing.

Portsmouth is a beautiful town — like Portland, it’s right on the ocean; full of hip places to shop and eat; and close enough to Maine that you can still get cheap lobster. But rents were high and by the end of our second day there, we had already started to feel it wouldn’t be the site of our next adventure. So we checked out of the hotel and got back in the car to head north to Portland, where — in fumbling around in the car for our Maine map — I grabbed the Michigan map by mistake. There across the crumpled, ripped bottom right corner was the word: Detroit.

“What about Detroit?” I said to Emily. “I mean … to live next year?”

Saying the word “Detroit” out loud was like uncorking a deep secret well of Michigan pride that, once let loose, became impossible to quiet. Almost instantly we were romantically fantasizing about what life there would be like:

“It’d be so perfect because there’s so much going on and yet we’d only be four hours from your parents’ house up north if we need to get away!”

“We could get season tickets to the Red Wings!”

“Houses cost $40,000!”

“Okay, we wouldn’t have the ocean and wild forests of Maine, but trees growing out of abandoned buildings: That’s a pretty kickass side of nature!”

And so on. I think we were so excited that Emily even called her mom that night to tell her we were thinking about moving to Detroit. She responded first with shock, and then with a kind of muted support that suggested she was hoping her daughter hadn’t lost it. Since then the initial excitement and romance of the idea have given way to head-scratching and pragmatism: Do we really want to pack up and move again? Should we make a go of it in the city proper, or start in one of the seemingly safer, immediate suburbs like Ferndale or Royal Oak? Are trees growing out of abandoned buildings really enough of a nature fix?

But after thinking about it for the past couple months, our minds have now justified what our hearts wanted do back around Thanksgiving. And the answer to that question — the “What about Detroit?” question — is a definite “yes.” We’ve realized our impulse to explore a new area this past year has really been more about trying to find an area we could call home. And Michigan is that for both of us. Like I said: Once a fan, always a fan.

So on April 1st, we’re heading back. And not in the tail-between-our-legs sort of way, but full of pride and excitement that comes from knowing that I can wear my Red Wings jersey every day and not be known as “that guy.” Still, moving back will mean answering the “why” question a lot over the next year. So we’re starting this site to help answer that — both for ourselves and for others who choose Michigan as a place to live. It’ll be a collection of essays, interviews, photographs, and points of view that tries to steer clear of sappy, grand narratives and generalizations about what “life in Michigan” is like today, and instead present some real, entertaining and sometimes hilarious snapshots of the people actually living there.

So for my first post on Found Michigan, I’ve been practicing my answers to the “Why Detroit?” question. Based on the handful of times I’ve had the conversation so far (mostly with people looking to rent our apartment here in Maine), I expect it might be a harder, more awkward conversation than the “Why Michigan?” one. So I’m preparing answers that’ll get me in and out as quickly as possible. Here’s what I have so far. Please send us yours.

Lou’s Top Six Reasons for Moving to Detroit

“Sick of missing Red Wings autograph opportunities at Meijer.”

“Starting a photography project shooting racy nudes inside Detroit’s ruin porn hot spots. Plan on titling it ‘Porn on Porn.’”

“Makers of Portlandia series rejected idea for spin-off series The Other Portlandia, but bit on Detroitopia.”

“Playing the role of ‘Young Creative Transplant No. 12’ on upcoming episode of Detroit 1-8-7.”

“Eminem Chrysler 200 commercial really spoke to me.”

“I turned 30 this year. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re 30 — move back home?”

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