A Sense of Place


Thinking he was too big and too blond, he spent his life haunted by suspicions that he didn’t belong in his family.

And so earlier this season, James Robert Barnes, the middle-aged Kalkaska, Mich., man who felt like a misfit in his own childhood home, became a fleeting media sensation as the hoped-for adult face of a New York toddler who was kidnapped in 1955.

DNA testing dashed his fantasy and quickly silenced news reports headlining what might become the juicy story of a mystery solved.

Being odd man out chafes like ill-fitting clothes — sleeves that won’t reach our wrists no matter how vigorously we tug at the cuffs. Lucky are the people who are comfortable in their skin — and their setting. They may say that the clothes make the man, but in reality, we’re shaped by context. People make the place and the place makes the people.

“Walk a mile in my shoes,” is the sage advice for understanding our fellow man. The same goes for a city, or a neighborhood. To understand a place, get out and put some mileage on the shoe leather (or rubber, as the case may be).

You can read about Detroit on our pages, but, like “dating” online, the proof comes in person.

Whether this is your birthplace, your adopted city, or a way station to some hoped-for better fit, getting familiar with the lay of the land feeds a truer sense of self. Our special 26-page City Guide offers inspiration for 365 days of metropolitan excursions. Included in the guide is a reminder that hotel lobbies have, for years, served as classic meeting places.

New York’s Algonquin Hotel, for one, was made forever famous for the collection of journalists, editors, actors, and press agents that regularly lunched at what became known as the Round Table. That witty midday crowd included Dorothy Parker, who once said, “Take care of luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.”

Getting out and around is a necessary luxury. Start now with the outdoor options, because it’s just not time to let go of summer. We’ve got car shows to visit, fresh local produce to buy, and baseball games to watch.

It’s time to find our “place in the sun.” Unlike the movie of that name, in which a young man conceals his working-class background in the hopes of trading up in love and social standing, we can embrace where we came from, where we are — our old English “D”NA.