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November 18, 2004 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-18

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4B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 18, 2004
FORGOTTEN GATEWAY
MICHIGAN CENTRAL DEPOT AN OSTRACIZED MEMENTO OF A ONCE-GREAT CITY

The Michigan Daily -
Well, that's like, your opinion, man |w it h A d a m R o s e n

ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR AND HOL

By Alexandra Jones
Daily Weekend Editor
Getting inside Detroit's Michigan
Central Depot, the city's 91-year-old
abandoned train station, isn't easy.
The 18-story beaux-arts neoclassi-
cal train station is located downtown
near the corner of Vernor Highway
and Michigan Avenue. The most
obvious point of entry is the front
- snip an opening in the chain
link fence, cross the courtyard with-
out being seen by the cops, and
you can walk right in through the
front door. You can break into the
building next door - formerly a
warehouse for the Depot, then a
book depository for Wayne County
Schools until the building burned
- and crawl through a long, narrow
tunnel that leads to the pitch-dark
parking garage.
The entrance of choice for us
- the safest, easiest and most direct
-is really just a hole in the ground.
Since January 5, 1988, when the
last train pulled out of the station,
creative explorers have dug out the
ground under one of the garage's
locked steel doors, bent the -door
under and piled the dirt in front
of the opening to hide it from the
road.
As we drive down Michigan
Avenue, I lose my confidence - this
happened last time, and I won't
feel right again until we're in the
lobby. I eye the blocks of shops with
boarded-up windows, the abandoned
restaurants and pay-by-the-hour
motels, the cute two-story houses
with charred fronts, and try to sup-
press all the terrible things I've

heard about Detroit.
I come from a large Southern sub-
urb of nowhere, a small city made up
of shopping centers and split-levels
spreading out from a cluster of old
money mansions stuck next to near-
segregated slums. There, stores and
businesses don't have worn signs
written in mid-century fonts; the few
old buildings that haven't been torn
down are unused, stuck out of sight
far down in southwest Raleigh. I look
around and just can't believe that
nobody lives in any of these pretty
old houses. But I'm also shocked to
see people walking casually down
the street, kids playing basketball,
an old white guy riding a Segway
- a Segway - by the Wayne State
University campus.
My fellow urban explorers (who,
to their credit, are both area natives),
don't help much. "Detroit's one seri-
ous piece of shit," says Forest. "This
is a dead city," agrees Shaun with a
shake of his head. Hie's been in the
train station dozens of times, he's
climbed the tower on the roof and
picked out his favorite room on the
eighth floor - the unofficial leader
of our expedition.
I try to calm down. Don't worry,
I think. You've been there before. It
turned out fine. It was amazing.
With an offhand comment about
carjacking, Forest parks his little
Honda Civic on a side street next to
the dead-looking warehouse behind
the train station. Bright signs from
restaurants in Mexican Village
reassure me a little, but that's not
where we're going. I see a man
hunched intently over some debris
on the ground nearby and what little

resolve I've built up vanishes. Last
time, stray dogs happened by and
I almost couldn't keep going. But
now there are three of us, not just me
and Shaun like before, and this time
I'm not the newbie. I catch up with
them, who already crossed the street
over to the wide bank of rusted steel
and exposed brick that makes up the
back wall of the parking garage.
Someone drives by just as we're
scrambling up to our makeshift
entrance - we flatten ourselves
against the corrugated steel and wait
till they've passed.
Shaun disappears into the garage
first. I'm next, then the camera, then
Forest. It's a few degrees cooler in'
here, and besides a tiny slit of after-
noon seeping in under each door, all
you can see is a dense, clothy black.
I latch on to the sleeve of Shaun's
jacket, and Forest - after snap-
ping a few photos of our entryway
- tentatively puts his hand on my
shoulder.
We walk like this, Shaun pointing
out dangling cables and uncovered
manholes with the flashlight. Still
held by fresl fear, we slowly move
a few dozen yards until we hear a
voice coming through the ceiling.
Someone says "Oh crap," but we
all heard it, and we all freeze at
the same moment. There's definitely
someone above us, and I'm really
ready to go back.
Shaun decides to lead us to the
ramp that goes to the waiting room,
where at least there'll be a little
daylight, and scout ahead to the
passenger tunnel, which is hidden
behind grated windows. He can't
See STATION, page 5B

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Michigan Central Depot as seen from the back - the last view of the
outside before entering the darkness of the parking garage.
-ff

Around this time of year, the
resolve and character of
many students will be tested.
A challenge has emerged that will,
in the end, separate the men from
the boys, the strong from the meek.
No, I'm not talking about trying to
rush the field after the football team
pulls one of its greatest victories
against Michigan State in my four
years as a student - thanks to the
compassion of the Ann Arbor Police
Department, you will be maced,
beaten and arrested for trying such
a simple expression of student pride
- nobody has a chance in that con-
test.
I'm referring to the madness that
is the Ann Arbor housing search, a
process so competitive and emotion-
ally charged that, in the final hour,
will ultimately result in a shockingly
excessive amount of erratic, ridicu-
lous behavior andsneedless estrange-
ment of many friendships. You think
I'm joking? I wish I was.
Consider this: For the past month
or so, dozens of groups of students
have shown up on my doorstep to
check out my humble abode: a seven-
person house in a prime location on
Central Campus. One group of guys
told us that they really, really liked
the house. They liked it so much, in
fact, that they camped outside of our
realtor's office since Saturday morn-
ing, waiting, like a bunch of hippies
gathered outside of Jerry's shrine, in
tents and sleeping bags. The realtor's
office opened on Tuesday. Tuesday!
Even worse, they weren't the only
ones fortified (NOBODY was get-
ting ahead of them) at the office. At
least four or five more groups were
waiting in line, anxiously trying to
seal the deal on their dream house.
The only saving grace of this ordeal
is the fact that Campus Corner was
just across the street - if you're
going to camp out, why not have a
little drink, right, canteen boy?
Aside from generating absolute-
ly absurd behavior, the student's
terminal search for housing often
results in soap-operaesque drama.
You want to find out who your real
friends are? Go hunt for a seven
bedroom house on Greenwood. My
original plan to live in my fraternity

house (or crack house, they can be
used interchangeably) fell through
at the end of freshman year after the
house was. condemned and all of the
sophomores living in it were evicted,
so with three weeks left of school I
had to find a house - and fast. With
22 of us trying to figure out where
to live and with whom, the life was
not easy.
After finally discovering a house
suitable enough, we decided to draw
room picks. However, one of my
roommates and close friends decided
at this time to inform us that if he
drew the smallest room, he wouldn't
be living with us anymore, leaving six
of us to saddle a seven-person rent or
try to find a new house in the middle
of finals week. Of course, I got last
pick and landed the smallest room
while he got the second biggest. If
you're reading this right now, buddy,
I lied, I'm still mad at you, and I want
my $20 back! Good thing for him,
at the time I took the high road and
forgave him for his incredible selfish-
ness. Sadly, rapprochement such as
ours does not occur often - I still
know many girls who are definitely
not as close as they used to be before
they began looking for housing, even
though their whole fiasco occurred a
few years back.
In another development, a girl who
wanted our house this year, after find-
ing out that we couldn't sign our lease
over to her, handled the situation in
the most mature, utmost respect-
ful way - she had her mom call my
roommate and bark at him to "give it
up." Unfortunately, he couldn't give
the poor girl anything but an invita-
tion for a date, but, after losing her
prospect of living at our house, she
soundly declined. And she was so
flirty when she thought she could
have our lease ...
All of this, of course, begs the
question: Why do people care so
damn much about where they sleep at
night? My only guess is that many
people have an idealized image of
exactly what their dream house -
like their future mate, except perfect
houses don't require dinners at the
Olive Garden - should be like, and
if someone gets in the way of their
dream, it's fair game to step over their

face with a golf cleat in order to turn
the dream into reality. Perhaps the guys
camping out for three and a half days
saw visions of beautiful women flow-
ing out their front door, practically beg-
ging to enter "the pimpest house on the
block." Maybe my friend saw himself
incapable of building the ultimate home

dear

all
evari-

theater system in my tiny room, and
shuddered at the idea of being unable
to host his nightly X-box tournaments.
Maybe the group of girls who had one
of their mothers call us liked the way
our stained carpet matched their blinds.
I- guess in life, some important ques-
tions must go unanswered. Like, is

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U-M Computer S
Michigan Union, grou
(734)647-2537
www.showcase.itcs.ur
Sale ends December 22, 2004

FOREST CASEY/Daily
The station's waiting room was recently used as a set for the upcoming film "The Island." Along with handwrit-
ten signs numbering each floor, the production crew left behind this pile of rubble swept into a symbol.

FOREST CASEY/Daily
A view of the station's back wall through a window on the 16th floor.

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