Friday, August 15, 2008

No Way to Avoid It

(Ignore the first 30 seconds, then melt away in the velvety sounds of Smoky Robinson)

What other event can simultaneously motivate such polar opposite feelings of hate, love, appreciation, and revulsion? That is why there is only one, there can only be one - the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. Pull out your 1957 Corvette, throw on your tank top, club your local polar bear - the dream cruise cometh on Saturday. No act, be it of God or of Man, can cease it.

If you live remotely close to Woodward, you have been keenly aware of the Dream Cruise for many years now. The week leading up to the cruise results in significantly increased traffic on the road and significantly increased commute times home from work. Starting in the late afternoon and early evening for the whole preceding week, people pull up lawn chairs or sit on the hoods of their parked cars to watch the odd combination of classic cars, modern marvels, sports cars, and me driving home from work.

On Saturday morning and throughout the day, the world turns out in droves, packing along the curbs and into the lining restaurants to see the world's most dense population of Dodge Vipers and morons taking videos with their camcorders out of the back of their minivans and pickup trucks. If you have never, ever been to the Dream Cruise you owe it to yourself to see it at least once. If you have been to the dream cruise - well, that might be another story.

Personally, I am incredibly torn by the Dream Cruise. I truly value and enjoy the tangible, manifest history of the industry and culture for which our state is largely responsible. These vehicles and the companies responsible for them drove the population growth in our state and the wealth that we have enjoyed at different intervals of history. The people assembled to watch the cruise are individuals who, for one reason or another, value the car culture or just want to participate in one of the most significant Michigan events of the year. Furthermore, people travel from all over the world to participate, bringing money into the local economy and publicity to the state.

On the other hand, there are many things to dislike about the day. On the small scale:
  • Traveling on and around Woodward is a virtual impossibility for the entire day (not to mention the week leading up as discussed earlier)
  • Many of the attendees may not be the kind of people with whom you would like to share an aged bourbon and a discussion of Proust
  • The commercialization is just insane. Every single light post has a sign for 104.3 WOMC - "Your Official Summer Cruisin' Station"
  • The smell, oh the smell. A mix of human, car exhaust, warm booze, and more human
On the large scale, the Dream Cruise represents many of the things for which the Michigan automotive industry is currently reviled:
  • A complete and utter waste of gasoline derived from oil, which, for those of you who ride a bike everywhere, is slightly more expensive than fairy dust
  • Blatant disregard and Screw You to global climate change
  • A representation of the Michigan automobile companies' perceived or real inability to respond quickly and effectively to changing demand of the mass market
The Dream Cruise and what it represents are inextricably linked to who we are as the people of Michigan. There are many things to love and many things to hate, but either way, it is quite the spectacle. Please wear deodorant.


jhemak said...

all that said, you must (i think) admit it's encouraging to see folks coming together (across many neighboring communities stretching 10+ miles) to enjoy something together. my parents go every year because the cars bring back memories of their younger years. i think to a certain extent, it *is* an event for our parents' generation -- personally, i don't have a strong interest in it -- and i do agree with you regarding fuel. but, overall, i would consider this a positive event for the metro-detroit area, particularly in light of all the truly negative things going on right now.

Ken said...

Two things:

1) Good and fair comment. I think you are right about the positive communal aspects.

2) Thank you for reading the blog chronologically! Hopefully in a few moments you'll notice that earlier today I wrote a little bit about how I missed the boat on exactly what you are mentioning here. I think I probably overlooked some of the other positive things about the whole event as well, and I might try to write a little more about those in the near future.

Keep on rocking Hemak.