[Editor's note: Say hello to Chris Yokel. Chris is a poet and a teacher (as well as a self-proclaimed part-time stickfighter) and he's one of the newest voices at the Rabbit Room table. Give him a big welcome. We're excited to have him aboard.]
A few weeks ago I woke up to a powdered-sugar dusting of snow on the ground, rolled out of bed, and opened up my computer to Facebook. The headline, “Why I Bought A House In Detroit for $500” caught my eye, and soon I was engrossed in the story of Drew Philp, who at 23 decided to purchase an abandoned house in Detroit in an area that many people are deserting as the city slowly crumbles into chaos. He and his neighbors rebuild their homes, grow vegetables, raise chickens, start schools, build ice rinks in abandoned back yards in the winter, and generally create community in a place that most of the nation has consigned to hell. They are doing something amazing in the face of despair. As he says at one point in his adventure, “It was the first time I really felt I was bringing something back to life, like performing CPR on a corpse that just took its first greedy gasp of air.”
There’s something strangely and fascinatingly pioneer about his story, like a 21st century explorer plunging into untamed wilderness, except this “wilderness” is one of America’s best known cities. Drew and his friend share a Promethean moment of glee when he turns on the electricity in his house for the first time. It feels like something out of a history book, and yet, when have I ever been so simply happy over something like that?