By Walter Wasacz
In Model D this week, we ran a story written by Steve Panton, a Hamtramck resident who operates the 2739 Edwin art space.
Sometime last year, I mentioned to Steve that I had developed a modest set of what I call “the Hamtramck rules” for walking to destinations within the city. If I need something from Polish Market, Bozek’s or Al-Haramain, I walk there. When I fill a prescription for my mom, I walk to Hamtramck Drugs at Jos. Campau and Trowbridge, then often pop over to Detroit Threads on the next block and see my old friend Mikel Smith.
I will walk up Conant close to a mile to dine at Aladdin or around the block to Skipper’s Bar at Conant and Evaline — where I walked last night to meet with novelist Michael Zadoorian about research he’s doing for a new book.
But Panton takes it to an entirely different level. He really grabbed my attention when he said he often walked from Hamtramck to Southwest Detroit for dinner at one of his favorite Mexican restaurants. Well, wow. He also frequently bikes from here to Belle Isle, where he laps the island before heading back home.
(Incidentally, that image reminds me of stories former Mayor Robert Kozaren would tell about walking from Hamtramck to Belle Isle in his youth for picnics and other events. He walked south on Conant until it merged into Mt. Elliott, then veered left on E. Grand Blvd and followed it all the way down to the island. Kozaren never drove and could be seen walking daily around the city.)
The closest thing to Panton’s passion for walking that I’m familiar with is British author Will Self’s seemingly impossible walk from England to New York, and in his marathon hikes around Great Britain. He writes about these in his books Psycho Geography and Psycho Too (illustrated by Ralph Steadman, who some might recall supplied graphics for many Hunter S. Thompson books and articles).
The first walk was aided by plane travel across the Atlantic, bookended by a walk from central London to Heathrow Airport and another from JFK to Manhattan. Those are long stretches of ground to cover over often inhospitable terrain for walkers (mostly rail lines and expressways).
Self’s template for urban exploration comes from the Situationists, a Paris-based critical theory and revolutionary art movement of the 1950s and 1960s that came up with a practice of wandering streets and alleys looking for memories and other invisible artifacts.
Try it some time. It’s fun. There is some incredible history around here to snatch up, even unconsciously, as you move through this old city’s streets.
The point is, however you do it, walking can inspire. And Hamtramck is the perfect place to put this inspiration into practice. Read Panton’s piece here: http://www.modeldmedia.com/features/artofwalking111.aspx and marvel at its simple beauty. I do, over and over again.