A Cast of Characters


The man with the cane was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with us on the sidewalk, thanks to our terrier’s habit of leisurely sniffing every little thing along the way.

He caught up with us again, just as we unhooked the leash from our old girl’s collar. “Freedom,” he said, his voice a bit wistful, as he watched her streak off into the grassy expanse. Lawns dappled by late-summer sun and long evening shadows touch a bittersweet chord.

We tend to think of landscape as trees and buildings, hills and sky. But people are part of the panorama. Every morning, the sun calls “action,” and we step into view on cue.

I thought about people as landscape elements a few weekends ago when I was riding a bike around downtown Detroit — something I’d never done. It occurred to me that we locals are what travelers see when they come to town. Visitors are the cameras; we’re the action.

This summer, Detroiters clamored for a glimpse of the various movies being filmed here, gathering to watch fictional dramas unfold on the same streets where we’re treated to real-life scenes every day.

The mere act of having lunch at a sidewalk café gives people something to look at.

The same is true of the clothes we wear. From the guy who’s a regular fixture on my daily path, who hangs out with his chest bared and gold medallion exposed a la Saturday Night Fever, to the impeccable weekday-morning mavens shopping at Somerset South, style is entertainment.

This issue’s fall-fashion section showcases the classic drama of black and white. We also offer three pant/sock/shoe combos for men, looks that could lend a visual subplot to business meetings and dinner dates.

When I look at our pages, I imagine non-Detroiters being a bit surprised at the sophistication in a “heartland” publication. We know better, of course.

But that’s the fate of the Midwest, a subject we explore on page 82. Midwesterners, the story says, are more likely to look a passerby in the eye and say “Hello.” I like to think that’s true.

Consider The Truman Show-style bit parts played out every day in the “action” of neighborhoods.

The man we met, whom I suspect is recovering from a stroke one valiant step at a time, moved on from our friendly sidewalk encounter to another scene farther down the block. As he neared the corner, a young girl passed by on her bicycle, greeting him in a happy, high-pitched sing-song voice, “I hope you’re enjoying your summer Mr. …” Her voice trailed out of range as she cruised off, the rest of her words seeming to drift toward the next season and a new scene.

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