Confession time: I’ve never been entirely comfortable writing these monthly columns. I prefer to be more of the wizard-behind-the-curtain type of editor, leaving the printed words and images — the magic, when they’re done well — to speak for themselves. But since I’ve been doing it this long, I guess there’s no harm in writing just one more. This will be my final letter to you as editor of Hour Detroit.
When I took on this role two years and one global pandemic ago, I was still a relative newcomer to Michigan. My family had moved here a year earlier from D.C., and while my wife was born and raised here — and through her I had developed some fantastic friendships here — I still had a lot to learn about being a Michigander.
That’s one reason I was so excited to take this job. What better way to immerse myself in the life and culture of southeast Michigan than to lead its premier city magazine? And before COVID-19 sent us all into our bunkers, I relished the opportunities the job afforded me to get out and meet Detroiters who are pouring their hearts into new ventures, passion projects, and the general betterment of the city. Those encounters, and the stories that emerged from them, taught me that the much-touted spirit of innovation and resilience I’d heard so much about was not just feel-good Detroit lore. Having spent long stretches living in both Boston and Washington, I can attest that the energy and civic-mindedness here — in a city that has faced more adversity than most — are unrivaled. And there’s a uniquely, quirkily Detroit character to it all.
But I think I learned even more about the city during our days of confinement. As author Desiree Cooper prophetically wrote in an essay for our first issue after the pandemic’s onset, “People worry that this pandemic will halt Detroit’s long-awaited renaissance, … but it also may do something that trendy redevelopments have not been able to accomplish: knit us together as one metropolitan community.”
Evidence that she was right could be seen in how the community rallied behind people and businesses that were hardest hit by the pandemic — and how those businesses responded in kind. In fact, one of the most remarkable revelations for me came when it was time to compile this year’s roundup of best new restaurants for our March issue. The dining industry had been crushed by state-mandated shutdowns. How many new restaurants could there actually be? As it turned out, a lot! The number of culinarians who had either turned pandemic adversity into opportunity or persevered to see their previous plans through to fruition was astounding. Even more remarkable was the number of them, including Restaurateur of the Year Maxcel Hardy, who were building a contribution to the public good into their long-term business models. That is the true spirit of Detroit. Witnessing it and helping to celebrate it has been a thrill.
So why am I leaving? I guess I’m part of the so-called Great Resignation of 2021. After more than 30 years (yikes!) in journalism, the pandemic helped me realize it’s time to pause, focus on being present for my family, and just generally figure out what I really want to do when I grow up.
But also, after a two-year, on-the-job crash course, I think I’m ready to bust out and enjoy Detroit not as my work, but simply as a patron — and as a Michigander. And as I do, I’ll look forward to learning even more about the city through the pages of this magazine — enjoying another editor’s magic from the comfort of home.