Relaunch. Renew. Re…commit.

20 February, 2012

When I started this blog nearly six years ago, it was intended to be a heartfelt commentary on the trials and tribulations of a historically-Midwestern guy making a jaunt to the West Coast.  If you were to tell me that, less than a year later, I would be making the journey back to the midwest to start a three-year journey through mounds of strategy coursepacks and research papers on poverty alleviation, I would have dismissed your tomfoolery with a curt psh.

Then, if you were to tell me that, in the course of those three years, I would wax philosophical while in South Africa, reaffirm my purpose while developing a farmers cooperative in Jamaica, and move to Detroit — Detroit?! — to work for a highly-prestigious consulting firm, I’d show you that the definition for guffaw in the dictionary would have a photo of me next to it.

THEN, if you were to tell me that, only eighteen months after graduation, I’d have kinda sorta lost my way through the rat race of moving to a downtrodden city, starting an unbelievably intense career, and pursuing a long-term relationship…I’d be frightened to think of the prospects.

Well, it happened.


Patrick Carnes writes in his revolutionary book Out of the Shadows that graduate school is the first place where people encounter the challenge of  “proving one’s self in an arena where every inadequacy is evaluated”.  To a Christian that has embedded himself in a community of non-judgmental believers, even the process of applying to these programs — and receiving an impersonal rejection — can be a daunting task that ultimately shakes your perceptions of self-worth to the core.  For others, the constant need for approval from friends, family, etc. can have the same effect.

When I first read this passage by Dr. Carnes, I immediately flipped through the pages of my recent life story and had an “A HA!” moment: my brain was rewiring itself in a way that made me believe that I could achieve my way through life.  And my relationships — with others, and even God.

My recent circumstances showed me, clear as day, that such an attempt was nothing more than a charade.  Throughout Scripture, there is a clear indication that works are an essential component of the Christian’s service to God and others, but unless derived from a heart of service and adoration for the Creator, they are lifeless.

Lifeless.  Going through the motions due to overburdened work environments, stress, or simply trying to ignore the still, small voice begging you to be at peace…it’s easy to do.  But it’s neither life-giving nor sustaining.  We forget the profound responsibility we’ve been entrusted with — to love God, others…and ourselves with reckless abandon.


This morning, I sat in a coffee shop in Detroit’s Mexicantown district, chatting with my friend Dan Sadlier.  As we shared stories of challenge and hurt, a simply profound dialogue took place:

“Dan, I still hurt.  I hurt a lot.”

“…I know.  But lead through it.

…Lead through it.  It can mean so many things, and at this present time it has some profound, specific applications for my life.  But it aligns directly with a verse that has been on my heart for the past few weeks, one that inspires the crippled man to get up and walk, and one that compels all of us to RISE.

Awake, o sleeper,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.  — Ephesians 5:14 

The Chrysler Ad: Frame by Frame

10 February, 2011

Updated 6 April

By now, you’ve probably read the press and followed the buzz on Chrysler’s two-minute epic advert during the Super Bowl.  I was one of the tens of millions of viewers that caught a glimpse during the broadcast, and one of a few hundred thousand that got a slight lump in my throat.

But many viewers, including my Detroit-living self, weren’t completely aware of everything they were actually seeing during the spot.  So, I figured I’d break it down frame-by-frame and offer some commentary, links, and background on all of the glorious bits of the D being showcased here.

(Note: I’ll continue to update the list until it’s complete; if you have insight on some of the empty timeslots, please let me know (either via comment or twitter) and I’ll include it.)

0:03 — Interstate 75 North, mile marker 39, near the Detroit suburbs of Lincoln Park and Allen Park.

0:04-0:09 — I believe we’re seeing the Marathon Oil Company — or Detroit Salt — plant at Fort Street and I-75 near River Rouge. The sign for “J.L. Lasser Crane Company” was actually digitally altered — J.J. Curran Crane Company actually exists.

0:10-0:11 — Clearly on a northbound trend here: I-75 North, mile marker 44, just having crossed over the bridge past River Rouge.

0:12-0:13 — Unknown. Speculating that it’s somewhere near Wayne State’s campus because of the radio tower in the reflection of the window panes.

0:14-0:15 — The old Detroit Edison plant on Willis Avenue in Midtown.

0:16-0:17 — Unknown.

0:17-0:19 — Detroiters know this well.  It’s the old flagpole from Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull in Corktown.

0:20-0:22 — Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit.  The modern-looking building in the background is the Compuware Building.

0:23-0:25 — Unknown, but I *think* they’re heading toward the Wayne County Building on Randolph Street, Downtown Detroit.

0:26 — Unknown. Somewhere in the vicinity of the People Mover.

0:27-0:32 — Monument to Joe Louis, located at Jefferson and Woodward, near Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit.

0:33-0:35 — Diego Rivera’s famous fresco, Detroit Industry, found at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Midtown.

0:36-0:37 — Unknown.

0:38-0:41 — The Penobscot Building near Campus Martius.  At the time of its completion (1928) until 1977, it was the tallest building in the city. (Thanks, Russ Hickson!)

0:44-0:46 — Marshall Fredericks’ Spirit of Detroit, Woodward Avenue, Downtown Detroit.

0:47 — Eminem’s bling. (Any coincidence to the fact that the previous clip was of a sculpture designed by a guy named Marshall?)

0:48-0:49 — St. Josaphat Church at I-75 and Warren.

0:50-0:51 — Unknown.

0:52-0:53 — Unknown. I’ve been looking all over the internets, trying to figure out which Detroit-area high school has the Fighting Aces as a mascot.  Thoughts?

0:54-0:58. Yep, that’s Metro Detroit’s very own Alissa Czisny, US National Champion figure skater, showing off her stuff at Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit.

1:00-1:01 — Unknown. Possibly on Woodward by the Shops at Kresge?

1:02 — Looks like that dude’s crossing at Congress and Woodward in Downtown Detroit.

1:03-1:05 — On the bridge to Belle Isle.

1:08-1:09 — Unknown.

1:10 — Unknown.

1:19-1:20 — Unknown.

1:22-End — Fox Theatre, Foxtown.  An icon of the city, a staple of the Motown movement.  The choir selected for the commercial is the “Selected of God” repertoire; they apparently were selected in a nationwide competition.


For those that claim Detroit is a city devoid of character, look no further than the twenty-eight incredibly diverse venues listed here.  From this, fires that create steel were borne.

Humbled, and All That Good Stuff

30 January, 2011

Honestly, I never expected this.  Yet I’m not surprised.

A week ago, I posted this brief little reflection on my battle with Hodgkins at age 13, and I decided to establish a somewhat unorthodox goal to celebrate it.  I shared it on my facebook wall and Twitter feed, hoping that my small network of friends and family would spread the word.

Well, the word caught on fast, and within a few days I was in contact with Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ, that found a bit of interest in the story.  And the next thing you know….BAM.

Social media has taken on a variety of roles in its young life, from serving as a protest platform for Iranian students and dissidents to, well, discussing things we all hate.  But in this world….EVERYONE has the opportunity to make their voice heard, and in some cases, your own voice is carried by others much further than you expected.

And that’s what has really happened here.  And it’s really all good.

My goal through this effort is not to publicize my life experiences, nor do I expect sympathy for what I endured.  There’s far too many people suffering from a variety of cancers that deserve our attention, our thoughts and prayers, and our donations.  The time for my receipt of these things passed seventeen years ago, and now it’s time for others to experience the same overwhelming tidal wave of compassion and determined giving that I was totally fortunate to receive in the past.

So.  Thank you to all that have given so far, and thank you to those that will give.  Every small amount counts.


$30,000 for my 30th Birthday: Make It Memorable

22 January, 2011

In a few short weeks, I’ll hit that little life milestone that seems to strike fear into the hearts of men: turning 30. Honestly, it doesn’t faze me much, besides wondering on occasion why I nearly demand at least six hours of sleep these days.

Now, I had given some thought recently on the concept of giving and how we tend to offer up presents, well-wishes, and whatnot to celebrate significant accomplishments in our lives.  It’s a good thing to remind others of our appreciation for the substantial events that occur in their lives too.  So, I recently thought about how I would want others to celebrate my 30th birthday with me — if they so felt like it. 🙂

What came to mind was this: I wanted to celebrate the avenues that have been a humble, immense blessing to me over these years.  My parents, my family, my friends — yes, all worth celebrating infinitely, and I try to do so every day.  But I wanted to find something unique, perhaps an event or cause that I don’t always reflect upon, but deserves to be uplifted.  And I think I found it.  But first, a quick story.

…four days after my 13th birthday, in 1994, I was diagnosed with a mid-aggressive stage of Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancerous lymphoma, that threw my whole young perspective on life into flux.  In the six months of intensive chemotherapy that ensued, I discovered that this battle wasn’t just between my body and the disease: a small army of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and community members took up arms alongside me.  And we won, convincingly, to the point that it has never chosen to rear its ugly head again for seventeen straight years.  Without this network of support, bolstered by an incredible network of researchers working diligently to find solutions to combating this disease, I truly wouldn’t be here today.

I reflected upon this a few days ago, as the 17th anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, and I realized that the greatest gift I would want to receive is to watch others acknowledge the importance of the work being done to help cancer patients and survivors like me.

So, here’s my wish: In the next three weeks, up to my birthday on February 10th, I want my network of peers, family, and friends to give at least $30,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The LLS is one of the leading advocates for research, patient information, and survivor support for those affected by these cancers.  My family was blessed to have these resources during my trial, and it would be an honor to have us all support, in some small way, the efforts they undertake to bless others.

Giving is simple: just text HFC to 90999 and a non-recurring $5 charge will be added to your mobile phone bill. If you prefer to donate via other means, read up on those at

$30,000 is a lot. It’s 6,000 people giving five bucks (there’re my math skills kicking in!).  So, spread the word.  Tell your friends and family to give a few bucks.  I don’t even need to know who gives — in fact, I WON’T know who gives — but if you want to send a note over stating you did, I’ll happy oblige with a “thank you” and perhaps even a kiss on the forehead if you really demand it.

Thank you, in advance, for making my 30th birthday a little more meaningful than a stack of “over the hill” cards. 🙂



The Best of 2010: Back 2 Life, Back 2 Reality

25 December, 2010

What a year it’s been.

Last year, around this time, I was enroute to Antarctica and preparing for my final semester of grad school.  Since then, I’ve visited all seven continents, started a new job, and ate balut. I’m personally most proud of that last one the most…

But I also moved to a new city, one with both heartbreak and promise, opportunity and frustration, progress and failure.  So, here’s to an all the more exciting 2011, but before that, let’s give a hand to this past year by celebrating The Detroitists’ Best of 2010:

Best New Read: I scoured a few books during my travels this summer, but one that stood out was Buttertea at Sunrise by Britta Das.  Reading it prior to my journey to the Land of the Thunder Dragon brought a whole new perspective on what I was witnessing.

Best Song of The Year: In a stunning coup, Shakira’s now made the list two years in a row, however — sorry, babe: I’ve moved on to another rockstar/celebrity crush (to be revealed later), but your song “Waka Waka” carried me through the streets of Cape Town more times than I could count.

Best Rockstar/Celebrity Crush: I was introduced to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a flight home from Sydney.  And since day one, Sweet Dee, aka Kaitlyn Olson, has won over my heart.  Yes, she’s married — and to her co-star that plays Mac on the series — but she can berate me any time she feels so inclined.

Best Moment: I was in Cape Town, at some random bar, watching the USA-Algeria match with a handful of fellow Americans.  And then, Donvan scored — and a worldwide fan base went into a frenzy.  I almost lost all of my possessions in the madness afterwards, but I didn’t stop smiling until the heartbreaking loss to Ghana days later.

Best Road Trip: Renting an RV — and almost getting it stuck — in the Bronx and driving it to the Penn State game.

Best New Food Find: My brunch spot of choice is now Mudgie’s in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.  It’ll soon be moving to Midtown, and I’ll likely be following suit soon (not because of Mudgie’s, though. 🙂 )

Best New Drink Find: Does the sweet nectar of Balut count? (ew.)  Otherwise I’d give a hat tip to Bell’s Hopslam.

Best New Bar Find: Atmosphere is critical in any watering hole, and while doing one thing right is always a positive in my book, doing something pure-batguano crazy deserved a super bonus!  So, if you’ve ever been looking for a place where you can get a shot of absinthe….served by midgets! — The Hobbit House in Manila is exactly where you need to be.

Best Surprise: Hello, Kobe Bryant.

Best Random Experience: I tried Couchsurfing for the first time this year, and was greeted by the utmost in friendly hospitality by my host family.  And I didn’t get assaulted or killed or nothin’!

Whew, It’s Been A While: Sunday Link-Fest

5 December, 2010

Now that I’ve scared off all six of my readers, it’s time I get this thing started up again.  Apologies for the long delay, but the life of a travelling consultant doesn’t bode well for constant blogging.

The Metro Detroit area has been abuzz with activity over the past few weeks, and with the holidays coming around the hits just keep on comin’.  It’s a glorious thing seeing all the activity around these parts, so to tack on to the fun here’s the Detroitists’ Link-Fest!

  • If you live in Midtown, you were probably visited by one of dozens of marching bands, carolers, or other random denizens during last evening’s Noel Night, an annual tradition that opens the doors of Detroit’s finest, uh, finds for one evening.  This blogger was especially impressed by the showing at the Detroit Public Library and Detroit Institute of Arts, but being visited by the Cass Tech Marching Band while dining at Traffic Jam was pretty dang awesome.
  • An interesting article on the state of affairs of Michigan’s public education system was in this week’s online Metro Times.  It would be a wee bit interesting if my friends over at the Skillman Foundation could offer up some perspective…
  • I love HOUR Detroit — really, I do.  Despite its often-offcentered approach to reporting on all things Metro (hint: I have good word that Birmingham is NOT the epicenter of the area, sorry…), here comes a pretty sweet feature on Joel Landy, a Midtown-based developer.
  • Find of the Week: do you like, uh, cougars and mullets and a whole heap of ridiculous fun that will make you call up your friends afterwards and scream “THAT JUST HAPPENED!!!”?  Boogie Fever is the place to go.  Prepare to be AMAZED.

More to come this week, hopefully….in the meantime, if you have suggestions for the LinkFest, tweet me.

LEAVE OUR GARDENS ALONE! :: Thursday Link-Fest

7 October, 2010

I finally snagged a couple of tickets to this weekend’s UofM – MSU football game.  You’d think that, after seven years and $[OMG] in tuition, I’d not only get free tickets, but Michigan would actually let me start at cornerback.  Hmph.

Here’s what’s eHappenin’ in the D today!

– Rep. Gabe Leland has introduced a bill that would exempt Detroit’s urban farms from the protection clauses in the Michigan Right to Farm Act.  Some claim it restricts the ability to open more urban farms in the city; others believe it allows the city to chart its own course.  I’m kinda sorting leaning toward the latter, especially considering Leland has been an advocate for bringing more local grocers to the city.

– This is old news amongst its residents, but the Detroit News makes note of an anonymous property purchaser buying up abandoned lots and buildings near the Masonic Temple.  This just keeps fueling speculation that Mike Illitch is planning to build a new sports venue in the neighborhood.  To say that such a plan would be a watershed moment for Midtown development is a gross understatement.

– While on the subject of Midtown, another “duh” moment for its residents but a “hmm!” for outsiders: the Sugar Hill neighborhood is witnessing an influx of artists, further driving up demand for work/live loft spaces in the corridor. (HT: Hour Detroit)

– Ding Dong, Kwame’s staying in jail.  My prediction: he still gets votes in the next election. (HT: Crain’s Detroit)

Got anything else you’d like to see on the Link-Fest? Twit me.