"Let's go to Ann Arbor, and see the train station before it closes," Dad told me. We didn't take many trips, and seven year old me was very excited for a weekend away.

We didn't have much money — to the point neither mom or dad owned a car — and I knew the bus routes of the east side by heart.

Trips were even harder to come by, and were by train. Our usual "weekend away" was what'd on Instagram people would call a "staycation" today, rooming in the hotel across from the shuttered Book Cadillac.

Entertainment was him making up stories about the statues on the facade of the building after a dinner at my mom's favorite restaurant, Flaming Embers.

via Detroit Street View

My memories aren't perfect of the Michigan Central of the early 1980s, but I remember an immense, worn-down space and very few other people interested in taking the train. Dad would go on about "how they don't make them like this anymore."

To be fair, he was right about that.

I wanted to make noises because it would echo so much, and wishing I had brought some pans to bash around. I remember the grand lobby feeling like a drafty old house that hadn't gotten the love it deserved.

Michigan Central in 1980. Via Wikipedia.

That was the last out-of-town vacation we'd take as a family. What I didn't know is my mom was on the way out; she passed away three years later. The spirit of my Dad, at least toward me, died shortly after.

In later years, he told me he took me to the station because he was sure it'd be demolished. "Don't fall in love with Detroit, it'll break your heart. The city is dead. I wanted you to see the art inside, because the station will come down."

Now, I've not third-party verified anything he told me that I'm about to tell you. He's gone now, so I can share that he liked drugs, and I don't know how much of this is unreliable narration through a psychedelic prism.

But as he told it, a neighborhood he loved, the Plum Street artists block, was demolished to make room eventually for the DTE Headquarters; and Cass Corridor was left to the crackheads. His military medals were stolen on a city bus.

He said he loved Detroit, but he didn't feel the city loved him back, and so he left. He held a deep grudge against his mother who still lived in the city — and I spent a lot of time with her.

Some of that was about fear, and some of it was about pride. "Am I not good enough?" was something I heard at a birthday party that I sneaked away from on the 25 Jefferson bus (now the 9), headed home to go to the peace of riding my bike while there yet was another fight between him and my grandmother.

You often do the opposite of what your parents say, and in this case — I had to believe in Michigan Central.

I had to believe that eventually, this hulking structure that is the visual reminder for so many that Detroit WAS great, and would get redone. I can't find it, but I said years ago Michigan Central's best shot is as a corporate campus and hotel of some sort.

There would be all sorts of minor storylines over the years. Police headquarters? Flirtation with demolition? The installation of cheap windows? Is this where the RoboCop statue will go?

(Where the hell is that thing, anyway?)

When I heard Ford had bought the train station, I was ecstatic in 2018. I knew this was it. I still have my laptop sticker from covering it. Nobody else knew why I placed it dead center on my machine, but if you've made it this far — you know why.

So when I stepped in to the completed facility for the first time a few weeks ago, I was weak in the knees.

It was the first time it felt dry inside. The tiles sparkled, the floors squeaked. Every detail felt like a dream. I was in awe. But I kept it together; there were like 20 other people there (including a few of our podcast contributors).

On Thursday night at the concert, I did not keep it together.

I spent time with so many wonderful people, but when that concert got going, I found myself crying. It wasn't just fixing the architecture. Buildings are supposed to have people in them, around them. It was alive. This was 20,000 people showing love, and some of the best music our state has to offer. Jack White. Diana Ross. Eminem. J Dilla.

A family reunion, complete with foam plates, if you had hit up a food truck.

Now, I'm not naive. I know this doesn't "fix" the city. There's been progress, but there's still so much work to do.

But what it does is show that great things can be done. However you view it, there's no doubt that the re-opening of Michigan Central is the marker of a new chapter for Detroit.

Detroit has a reputation for "grit." That works great for the Lions and some other things. But Detroit is also grand. Grand Boulevard truly did live up to its name.

Detroiters have swagger and are the most beautiful people on the planet, and we deserve buildings that match that.

We can now ride by on Michigan Avenue, and we're not looking at an empty hulk.

We're looking at exciting hope. Something grand that we all can be proud of.

And yes, Dad, wherever you are — It's not been easy, but I'm still in love with Detroit. And it's still very much alive.

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