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Tyler Fernengel - 'DIG 96' Behind The Scenes In Detroit

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Tyler Fernengel met up with DIG's Andrew White and David Leep in Detroit to shoot for his interview in DIG 97 'Youth Of Today' and now you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what they got up to. See Tyler's full interview and photos in DIG 97, out now!

Detroit made perfect sense as a destination for issue 96. I have a passion for all things economic, and Detroit is the optimal case study of the detrimental effects of suburban sprawl, the consequences of mechanization, globalization, tax-based urban zoning effects et. al. Also, I’ve spent time researching the mutually destructive feuding between the codependent management and working class within the auto industry (“You Unions are draining our resources!” vs “You designers didn’t create cars for us to build that were worth a shit!”). I heard the laws are loose there, which suits me well- a Red Bull event coordinator once told me when approaching the city to do a massive scale snowboarding event in the city the officials didn’t even have forms for them to get permits, it was just a free-for-all. Combining the intellectual components and lawlessness with the breathtaking landscapes of urban decay, I found the allure of this city irresistable.

All this to say, I still didn’t even mention to the BMX scene! After I saw Tyler Fernengel’s impressive Osiris edit a couple months back, he jumped the top of my list of Wee Dicks to shoot for this issue. He assured me there was plenty of spots to hit up, and endless abandoned architecture to tour. We rode most days with the local scene, headed by Cory Wiergowski as point man on #themichiganvideo. I brought along my close Nashvillian Pat Morse, and met with Senior Contributor/Web Editor David Leep and made camp at Tyler’s mother’s home. It was an amazing week of exploring on and off bikes, and I plan to return sometime.

Some strictly personal observations/reflections: Detroit really is desolate. It seemed like maybe only half of the houses were occupied. The rest are dilapidated, some as a result of abandonment, some- as local Dane Wild explained- are intentionally fire-blasted by the community because they are active ‘rape-houses’, ‘crack-houses’, or both. The wait time for a potential murder in-progress can be more than an hour. Consider other crimes less violent and their wait is only lengthened- if cops bother to show up at all (“Oh, your house got broken into? But nobody is hurt? Ok so what do you want us to do about it?). While driving in Detroit, there is self enforced traffic laws since half of the street lights are not functioning as a result of unpaid city power bills. And while pulling up to a stop, always leave enough space ahead of your car to escape a situation if ‘shit goes down.’

The architecture around town is stunningly gorgeous. Detroit was a renaissance city in the 1920s with lots of cash to throw at constructing beautiful buildings. There were many times that I was taking in dilapidated abandoned buildings, and thinking how this design is something you’d see in a gaudy Las Vegas casino trying to recreate that bygone era of wealth and class in that roaring wave of American industrialism. There’s a photo in this slideshow that clearly shows the Deco styling of an abandoned building (slide 13).

Detroiters are extremely proud and protective of their city. There is a hopeful demeanor to them that I witnessed, and nobody I met their would give such a damning report of the city as I just did (though I hope they will not disagree with it - and certainly not take offence as this is one outsider’s observations). Getting to hear stories from the locals, from the BMXers to the DEA agent who lives next to the downtown Brush Park trails, was truly impactful. I think a perfect example of Detroiters resolve to continue on in the face of a crumbled city is their self-initiative to remark the exact lines on the demolished Tiger Stadium and play pickup games.

I wouldn’t hesitate to visit there if given the chance, you will not be disappointed. - AW


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