You may know of me from my chart work, or from a book I wrote about currency trading that was pretty popular a few years ago. However, my first gig in the finance industry was as a Series 7 stockbroker. After obtaining the required licenses, I was sent to company HQ for two solid weeks of training. HQ just happened to be in downtown Detroit.
Walking to work on Monday morning, something was amiss. The city had everything you’d expect – buildings, traffic lights, etc. The only thing missing was people. You literally could’ve played touch football on the main streets during rush hour. A skyscraper loomed nearby, but as we approached, it became apparent that it was abandoned.
On Day 1, the instructor bellowed, “I understand we have some guys from Philly in the room today. I want you to see something.” He produced a replica of the Stanley Cup; Detroit’s Red Wings had defeated my Philadelphia Flyers to win the coveted trophy. “Here, this is what it looks like!”
Even though the joke was at my expense, that may be my most positive memory of those two weeks. Someone noticed a trail of blood near the dorm. Not far from HQ, a trainee had been robbed, ignoring the warning that we should travel in groups. Apparently, wandering around this town in a suit and tie wasn’t the smartest move.
After a few days, people began to quit.”It’s bleak,” said my friend Pete. “I’m leaving.” It never occurred to me to quit, but I could see his point. This place was lawless. I jumped on a bus to see where it would take me.
People love to use the term “war zone” when describing devastation, and I’m sure you’ve seen the images of Detroit’s abandoned houses and ruined neighborhoods. What you can’t tell from those images is how the damage goes on and on, mile after mile. Every city has run down areas, but except for a few square blocks in the downtown area, Detroit looked like the ruins of a lost civilization. This was over 15 years ago. I began counting the days, hours, and minutes until my departure.
How do we prevent “the next Detroit”? Unlike so many self-anointed experts, I don’t know the answer. I can only sympathize with people who wake up every day in a city that crushes your soul.