Monday, November 02, 2009

What is Right With This Wronged City

The following was created and originally posted on the blogsite of the Flint Institute of Music (, 11.2.09. It was great fun to be asked to submit a piece for the site. I love FIM and the whole Cultural Center. If you haven't experienced it lately, make it a point to do so over the holidays!

Having lived in the Flint area most of my life, I can recall with uncanny clarity conversations with a number of transplants, all who came here due to a job transfer or married someone from this apparently shrinking quasi-metropolis. Each time, I was feeling rather sheepish as they described their circumstances. I nodded reluctantly, ready to begin my apology for their unfortunate circumstances.

Granted, I was young, and had spent a great deal of time humming Tracy Chapman’s song about climbing into “a fast car … We leave tonight or live and die this way.” After all, who would want to stay in Flint?
To my surprise – shock the first couple of times – those transplants weren’t hanging their head. In fact, they looked me square in the eye, smile on their face, and shared utter elation about having moved to a city that the world clearly misunderstood. A former colleague moved from Toronto – Toronto! – and explained that he liked living in Flint so much more than his life in the cultural, entertainment and financial capital of Canada. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. What he and another transplanted co-worker shared with me on separate occasions is their dismay of the negativity associated with the fourth largest city in Michigan.

In both cases, and all the other similar transplant conversations I have had since, the Cultural Center tops the list of what is right with this wronged city. From the landscaped pristine presence to the truly vast residential offerings of the Sloan Museum, Buick Gallery & Research Center, Longway Planetarium, The Whiting, Flint Youth Theatre, Flint Institute of Arts and Flint Institute of Music. What’s not to like, the happily transplanted ask?

It’s in those conversations that my mind wanders back to Flint’s reality – a long line of celebrities who have graced the stage at Whiting, from Joan Rivers to Capt. Stubing (sidenote: The Captain - Gavin MacLeod – gave me his pin from the Great Wall of China! I had admired it on his hat, he took it off and gave it to me! Ya can’t get that in Toronto!!) The beloved field trips to Sloan and the Planetarium, my own children performing ballet and on instruments on the stages of the FIM. The lines aren’t New York City long nor is the instruction inferior to the Famed School of the Performing Arts.

It’s all right here.

It reminds me of the old television episodes of Mork calling Orson (Come in Orson…). A seemingly normal creature – ok, somewhat normal! – lands on earth and begins walking among the humans, learning their ways, studying their habits. The creature interacts with all sorts of characters – be it grumpy old men, a hip old lady or a young woman wishing for something more for her life. The expectation is that Mork will discover that earth is an inferior world to neighboring Orc. His reports to his boss, however, describe just the opposite. Mork, in fact, likes earth more than he likes his own home planet – and he doesn’t want to leave – much to the chagrin of Mindy who really would like nothing more – at least until Mork lands on the scene.

Daryl Hannah once said, “It's not necessary to go far and wide. I mean, you can really find exciting and inspiring things within your hometown.” And while it seems strange we would take to heart something from someone who once played a mermaid, sometimes the Good Lord uses what He’s got in his medicine bag to heal blind eyes to the truth.

Thank God for the mermaids, the aliens, and in my case, the transplants who just may have been sent here to slap the blinders from our eyes and teach us something about ourselves!


Diane said...

I want to read it! Where do I find it?

Diane said...

Tim wants to travel from Toledo to visit the Flint Institute of Art this weekend! What timing to read your comments right now.