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How we spent our winter vacation




Yes, we look forward as a rule. "What's next" is what we were all about when we launched Model D in June 2005, and "what's next" will always be our primary editorial mission. And, yes, we've gotten seriously tactical about that mission over the past 7.5 years. By necessity there is a lot of heavylifting and hard work going on in Detroit these days. Serious stuff, no doubt.

But we offer balance by encouraging that we all take time to create fun at the same time as we create inspiration, growth and innovation. Like keeping our edge by going out dancing with the international techno kids at the Leland Grand Ballroom, or crashing the opening of an all-female artist show at Public Pool, two things we recommend you do this weekend (see FilterD for details).

Before we get carried away with what's next in the near future, we thought we'd give you a small taste of our holiday experience, which each year gives us a chance to wind down and take in some of the best of what Detroit is giving.

Like a book release for Belle Isle to 8 Mile at City Bird, where I also finally scored Hidden History of Detroitwritten by my friend and colleague Amy Elliott Bragg, our director of custom programs. On New Year's Eve, I wandered around Campau Martius, taking pictures of skaters and the giant, sculptural 'D' piece by the fabulous Nordin brothers.

Indeed, some of us took to the road, including colleagues who checked in from Florida and New Orleans. In my case, the road came to me. Sebastian Meissner, a friend from Germany, knocked on my door and stayed a week in some spare rooms in my house. Sebastian is a musician, born in Poland, raised in Frankfurt, now living in Berlin. He's also a freelance reporter for Radio Deutschland and in love with Detroit from afar. He first came here on a techno pilgrimage in the early 1990s, later performing at the Movement Festival in 2006 (as Klimek).

He came back in December not for music but to look for a living oak tree that is supposed to be older than the city itself, dated at about 350 years, give or take. I think we found it, in an East English Village neighborhood, on a wet afternoon. It was down a long, muddy alley, and through a couple of backyards. A bit of a dicey venture. Yes, I think that was the one. But I can't swear to it. 

While the tree might work into his reporting, it was less interesting to me than the seeking of it, the desire to find this object and present Detroit in this sweetly obscure way to a German audience.

"I'm not interested in all this hipster bullshit every European reporter or researcher looks for in Detroit," he said. "I don't need to talk to Mike Banks (of Underground Resistance) or some other cool artist guy about ruin porn."

Sebastian took the bus, cabs or walked to his destinations, all the time hauling about 50 pounds of audio gear, plus a pro camera and a laptop. Impressive.

His interest in African-Americana took him to the Charles H. Wright Museum on several occasions. We walked around the Power House neighborhood in NoHam and met a young guy who asked Sebastian where he was from. "Berlin," he said. "Cool, man," the kid said, "I'm from Wisconsin." Contacts he made took him out nearly every night. He got drunk in Hamtramck bars he could not name. We walked around Corktown, cruised the Villages and the near East Side by car. Seven days went by in a flash, and he was gone.

After he'd left, I thought it a pity I couldn't spend more time with him. It was too short. But his connections were solid, he had plenty of chaperones. I wonder if he got a Detroit story a German listener would also get. But of course he did, I'm sure now. He worked his ass off and had fun doing it. That's the way to work a story in Detroit. There's a translation for nearly everyone.

We promise to keep working it all year. Happy New Year from us to you. Keep the party going on Twitter and Facebook. Let's all hang out here, there and everywhere and do some amazing things in 2013. 

Walter Wasacz began contributing to Model D in 2005 and has been managing editor since 2010.

Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.
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