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August 29, 2013 - Image 55

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-08-29

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P i


n 1954, my grandma painted

Palmer Park. The oil on canvas,
as described in the Detroit News:
"Palmer Park dressed in green and
dotted with picnics and happy chil-
dren is summer recalled by Detroit
painter Marjorie Hecht."
The work showed at the DIA's
51st Exhibition for Michigan Artists
in 1961, hung in my grandfather's
pediatric office and then brightened
the clinic at Children's Hospital until
it mysteriously disappeared.
In 2010, I painted Palmer Park. The
latex on brick isn't an inch closer
to the DIA now than it was when
we painted it, but the concentric
circles are brilliant in color, if not
artistry. And the effort (by Summer
in the City volunteers, not
me) kept the corner of
Pontchartrain and Merrill
Plaisance looking good
even after Gatliff Pool
didn't reopen the follow-
ing summer.
Grandma hadn't been
to Palmer Park in 50 years,
so we picked her up one
morning, headed down
Woodward to an undis-
closed destination, and
found the park dressed
in green and dotted with
picnics and happy chil-
dren, all but two of whom were not
her great-grandkids.
Less than 48 hours earlier, (great-
grandson) Judah and I arrived in
Palmer Park for J-Cycle Ill, just in
time to ride zero miles of the 14-
mile route through historic Jew-
ish Northwest Detroit. Once we
reached our daily quota of sweaty
Jewish people in tight-fitting shorts
— a rather generous quota, I might
add — we walked 40 feet over to
the Detroit-style grand opening of
Palmer Park's new state-of-the-art
Splash Pad.
What is a Detroit-style grand
opening? Like a Detroit-style any-
thing, something goes wrong and
then a group of passionate, com-
passionate people come together
and end up making it better than it
ever would have been if everything
had gone according to plan.
In this case, a broken water main
threatened to leave the hundreds
of assembled children high and
dry. I was only responsible for one
of those children and was com-
pletely unprepared to deal with the
existential wrath stemming from his
bathing suit kept from fulfilling its
natatorial mission.
While city workers repaired the
pipes, firemen came to the res-


cue — firemen who have not had
much to smile about lately — and
sprayed their hoses (not directly)
at the kids to the sound of near-
deafening (happy) screaming. And
then, before Judah could eat both
Batman- and penguin-shaped ice
cream from the free ice-cream
truck, the fountains were flowing
for the future firefighters.
If I didn't know better,
I would assume that the
entire splash park was
powered by the laughter
of children. Pretty close,
though — a motion
sensor shuts the water
off when no one is there
(which is rare) and turns it
back on promptly for the
next activated aquatic ad-
venture anytime between
10 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
Lear Corporation
funded the entire Splash
Park and was, deservedly,
the toast of the town, especially
because they pulled off the entire
project in a matter of weeks and
fed the 3,000 people who came out
Sunday. But the real story is about
People for Palmer Park, a neighbor-
hood nonprofit whose members
put tremendous energy into turn-
ing a liability into an asset.
Importantly, none of this matters
at all to small, soaked children, a
posse of whom put the playscape
through its paces that morning.
During the pauses in splashing,
Grandma Marge gave me three
messages to give to you:
1.If you have her painting, give it
2. Don't wait a half-century (or
rely on stolen artwork) to enjoy the
beauty and joy of Palmer Park; and
3. Seriously, where's the painting?
Time will tell how much this and
future winters resemble the 60-year-
old Detroit News caption:"Soon the
landscape will wear winter white and
ice will still the duck pond's ripples.
Then the picnickers will turn into skat-
ers, who take hot refreshments inside
the big white house. Although the
park's mood changes with the season,
its ducks remain the same. They're al-
ways hungry and admirers are always
inclined to feed them."


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