Sober Springtime in Flint

I spent Easter in Flint. I’m from there. The beautiful people were not at Wally’s Supper Club for the brunch buffet. Although, I was probably not at my most bon ton either, tucking into ambrosia salad and kielbasa casserole with a zeal that rivaled the other diners at the all-you-can-eat affair. It occurred to me yesterday morning, when I woke with a sugar hangover, that I had washed it all down with at least a quart of ice water, poured out of a plastic pitcher from a waitress who’s been working at Wally’s since Jesus wore sandals (to use an Easter themed cliché), without asking if it was tap or bottled. A question that is, as the world knows, significant in Flint these days.

I don’t even think they serve wine at Wally’s, but that would be a solution to the water issue, I suppose.

I resisted posting a photograph of the billboards that say in English and Spanish: BOILING THE WATER DOES NOT REMOVE LEAD! I didn’t stop to take a picture of the National Guard representative in full camouflage dispensing water on the corner just outside of downtown. On some level it is more embarrassing than anything else. To be from Flint is like being from a periphery country. It takes its position (alongside its big sister city Detroit) on just about every list of U.S. cities with the worse reputations.

And unfortunately, the city was beginning to look hopeful: the Farmers Market, a refurbished Saginaw Street and the saving grace of the University of Michigan and the Mott Foundation taking over the derelict buildings on the main drag. There have even been robust crowds at the downtown ice rink and the trendy restaurants that have cropped up beneath the long standing Flint Weather Ball.

There is plenty of bottled water. Although bottled water is not what’s needed long term and the disposal of all that plastic is going to present another problem… The biggest hits are being taken by those who always take the hits – the poor, the children and aged, the disenfranchised and the ignorant. I feel for the people who invested in the dream of a refurbished, thriving Flint. Those who bought homes in the partially gentrified Gaslight Village or purchased a home anywhere in the city. Who’s going to invest in Flint now? What are their houses worth now?

I do not presume to understand the nuances of the Flint water crisis. But I am from Flint. Something I have just become confident enough to admit. For many years I told people I was from outside of Gross Point (way, way outside, right?). I hate that I am from a place that is forgotten or controversial for its misfortune or the subject of yet another Michael Moore documentary.

I have some great memories of downtown Flint. Some wonderful memories of growing up off West Court Street. I am grateful my mother has well water and that on an Easter holiday the sky was blue over my hometown…

Today I’m not drinking because there is plenty of bottled water.

How come you’re not drinking?