By Walter Wasacz
This morning (Thursday), on probably the coldest morning of the late fall, I decided to go for a brisk walk. I had an 8:30 meeting at Cafe 1923, which is about 14 blocks from my house. This is not unusual for me, nor should be for anyone who lives in the city. I call it the “Hamtramck Rules.” Meaning, if my destination is in town I walk or ride my bike.
Walking in Hamtramck neighborhoods year round is not difficult. I’ve done it in deep snow and during the heat of mid-July. It’s good physical exercise and a productive use of time. It’s also a perfect social exercise — better than running or cycling in this regard — because you can meet other people out walking, shopping, doing work outside their houses or businesses, studying, reading, buying and trading stock online at the coffeehouse.
I experienced all of the above today in my roughly one mile of walking. I ran into Richard, with whom I talked about non-motorized trails that inevitably will connect Hamtramck to other neighborhoods in Detroit (yes, inevitable is right: in terms of value, economic and social, nothing makes more sense than to build connective urban tissue using trails leading to concentrations of density); I talked about personal finance with online trader George, who had some tips on stocks that might be worth exploring and investing in; with Faina, I talked about an idea for a local festival of the arts that would feature innovative performance elements while rethinking and practicing the kind of urbanism I’m writing about here.
Later, I plan on a shorter sprint up to Caniff for some food shopping at Bozek’s, possibly Al-Haramain, maybe get a carryout dinner at Royal Kabob. To my mind, the corner of Gallagher and Caniff has become an ideal destination for produce, dairy, baked goods and prepared foods.
All of Hamtramck, if you can put your heads around it, is readymade for human-scale traffic that makes the car largely locally unnecessary. Not that there is anything wrong with a car when it’s needed. But it isn’t really needed in the kind of village we’re so fortunate to live in.
My cousin from Poland, via Coventry, England and now studying in an exchange program at the University of Windsor, has walked this city with ease, instinctively finding stores that carry what she’s looking for, sidewalks that lead to new adventures, buses that can take her downtown, where she can grab another bus to go across the river to Windsor.
I have a friend who takes walking to the level of art form, discovering a route that can lead him from Hamtramck to Mexicantown on Detroit’s Southwest side on foot; or cycling to Belle Isle or downtown from here for exercise and fun.
One of my neighbors walks her dog from central Hamtramck to the Power House neighborhood just north of the city, along the Bangladesh Avenue corridor (Conant) south of Davison. It’s not that far at all, when you consider the distance for only a few moments.
It takes commitment and desire. That’s it. It’s affordable and the rewards to psychological and physical health are endless. Try the “Hamtramck Rules.” There’s a great chance you might like it.