Tonight on Marketplace, host Kai Ryssdal tells the story of Leah Moss, a 23-year-old Michigan State grad who ignores offers from friends to sleep on their couches in Chicago and instead commits herself to her city, Detroit. Fully committed, she starts a men’s luxury lifestyle magazine, Jack Detroit, which after much community support and a$10,000 financial boost from kickstarater.com bottoms out after a year. And, like Kai tells us, “She was faced with this irony: that a magazine everyone hoped would change the narrative about Detroit, fell victim to that same bad news story.”
Now, this story makes references to “the Jill of the month wearing only a men’s dress shirt”; it includes the phrase “venture partners”; it uses the word “mobilizing” at least once. If I want to avoid crying in public, I might think about the words “mobilizing” or “venture partner” or “men’s luxury lifestyle magazine.” Yet, I’m in the car on the way home to see my bathing girl and her cooking dad and just bawling. What happened was Leah’s magazine went under but six days later Detroit Venture Partner’s offered her a job as a “community catalyst”—someone whose specific job description is to encourage other young people to commit themselves to the struggling urban metropolis.
I love hormones. There is absolutely nothing about this story that should make anyone who isn’t thirteen weeks pregnant cry. But awash in estrogen, I heard a new kind of fairy tale where the hero is a place and the happy ending is a group of strangers. There’s a young girl, fresh out of her honors college, and all her friends move on to the big cities—the ones surviving the recession. She decides to stay and commit to something bigger than herself. She tries really hard. She wins money and support, and her hopes are high. Still so young, she fails publically. She’s in debt over a dream, and worse than that, she learns that reality beats innocence every time. You can’t rewrite the story if you’re only a character.
Yet, as she entered the deep long sleep called “failure,” the city she was looking for came and found her. It said, “Leah! Oh, Leah, let down your hair from your studio apartment! We want to rescue you!” Then, Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capitalist firm trying to rebuild Detroit, caught her in its arms and awoke her with the kiss of a yearly salary and called her its beautiful catalyst. We always suspected there was a good reason why Beauty loved the Beast.
The moral of the story is that whenever I think about Detroit, I think of ugly, empty tenement houses leftover from the days when the assembly line was a fresh idea and the “A” in Model A still stood for America. But Detroit has lost its way, and it’s hard to believe in anything that doesn’t know where it’s going. This same Marketplace segment said that the VC firms trying to rebuild the city actually have to ship in coffee houses and organic hair products and dry cleaners in order to keep away brain drain. Yet, this twenty-three-year-old Literature major decides she might help revive the town with pictures of hot women and a few catchy advertisements. She stays when everyone else leaves.
What I love about hormones is that they make everything look glossy and ripe. Through all the tears, everything always looks a little wet. I’m sure there’s a tidy physiological explanation for why hormones help build babies, but my explanation is that we need hormones in pregnancy to help us see that the world is at once damp with sorrow and glistening with joy. Working on this little one, I see more hope and hurt in everything from conversations in the donut shop to the image of the young moose all alone eating dead shrubs outside of the post office. It’s a chance to see what’s good, what needs to be fixed, and what I can do for my prince or princess to make a hero out of a home.