The academic year is rapidly coming to a close, and I find myself getting more and more anxious about returning to my hometown. Dearborn, Michigan is only about 45 minutes outside Ann Arbor (20 if I’m in a hurry) but it’s like an entirely different beast to me. A beast I’ll have no choice but to enter the belly of in a mere 22 days.

 I don’t mean to sound so melodramatic, but I am genuinely dreading my return home, and the four long months I’ll be spending away from my friends, away from my professors, away from sidewalks flooded with passerby. It was in the midst of this growing apprehension that I was challenged to explain how to define my hometown in three images, keeping in mind the photos Dearborn has set aside for the public domain. But as I’m faced with this rather irrational, I do admit, fear of returning home, I’ve decided to modify the restraints of the challenge and attempt to use images entirely scavenged from the web to somehow communicate the complicated feelings I feel for my hometown. It’s definitely a very personal entry and a bit more lengthy than three photos. After putting this rather extensive portrait of my hometown together with pictures I’ve taken from a variety of online sources, I considered taking my own pictures and making a photoessay on Dearborn that’s all my own. But I don’t want to. I don’t want a biased eye behind my camera. These photos are the unbiased children of internet contributors. Uncovering and arranging them was difficult enough.

 

 This is one perspective of Dearborn. The clocktower building is located in Greenfield Village, the huge historical attraction that serves as Dearborn’s most beloved pride. I look at this photograph and find it inspires feelings of uneasiness and adventure. I suppose this is what I wish Dearborn was: something interesting and lively and unnerving and exciting, like some haunted town from a fantasy novel. I’m not denying that Dearborn is haunted though. Dearborn is haunted by something far more dispirited.

 

 

 

 

 
We’ve entered Dearborn’s true grounds. A quiet, sleepy little piece of Suburbia. A family town, as they say.


 Strip malls litter the landscape like broken rubber bands. They really are a modern marvel. This particular strip mall (within walking distance of my house) brings a wealth of culture to my community. Where else
 
 can you go to the post office, eat Chinese, buy a new computer, do your grocery shopping, buy sweaters for your plus-sized mother, purchase batteries from the dollar store, do your taxes, buy discount tennis shoes, and get a haircut?


 So many boarded-up buildings. When I was younger I used to get excited whenever a store or restaurant closed. Maybe they’ll build an ice-skating rink, or maybe they’ll open a new movie theater. But you don’t have to be that old or wise to know that nothing’s going to replace the abandoned businesses anytime soon. The picture on the right is of a combination Krispy Kreme and Baskin Robbins that opened a few summers ago. It was open when I left for college. Closed for my return.

 
But I’m not being fair. There are plenty of signs of hope and prosperity in Dearborn. Take Sacred Heart Elementary School. Open since 1973. Nothing stops them from holding mass on Sundays and having pancake breakfasts, not even being located on one of the busiest roads in Dearborn. Their students know their 10 commandments, and have recess in a parking lot.


 
 This is the Dearborn Inn. Nicest hotel in the area. My mother tells me I’m going to get married there. Of course she assumes I want to get married in Dearborn.

Miller’s is that restaurant that locals will always tell visitors to Dearborn they absolutely must must must eat at during their stay. They’re known for their scrumptious $9 hamburgers, served on napkins. If under 18, you must eat there with a parent.


 Fairlane Mall…the immensely huge shopping center you risk your safety shopping at. Past 6 PM, police patrol the mall, checking IDs to make sure all shoppers are 18 and up. Some are eager to turn 18 so they can dance at the club, while in Dearborn you need to be legal to hit the mall. Not that people are dying to shop at Fairlane. It’s amazing how this picture on the mall’s web site makes the center look so cheery, so bright, and so safe. The mall is none of the above.

The Star Theater shares a parking lot with Fairlane. Outside looks like a fairy tale. The inside…well, maybe a Brothers Grimm fable. They ID after 6 too.

The other Dearborn theater.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Where all the young Dearborn people go to hang out. There’s nothing really else to do in the city, so everyone sees about 2 or 3 movies a week in the summer. Catch is–this theater is in Canton about 20 minutes away.


 
 
 This is one of my favorite pictures of Dearborn, because it’s of a park I’m rather fond of. There are these huge, huge hills overlooking this huge grassy field surrounded by trees and bike trails and wilderness. Too bad the bridge crosses the Rouge River, famous for being intensely polluted. There’s a reason the water looks foul.


 The moment the world turned its eyes to Dearborn. This proud moment of Dearborn’s history was all over the papers and the web. Bretton Barber’s legacy will not be forgotten. I once looked up
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Dearborn in a huge, leather-bound encyclopedia-like book to find Bretton’s smug face greeting me.

Dearborn, of course, is also known for its large Muslim population. When I was growing up, I would admire this building’s architecture and beauty. I’ve heard this mosque called an eyesore more times than I care to remember.

The 50’s McDonalds. Center of Dearborn’s elementary school social scene. I can’t even imagine how many hours my 2nd grade self spent crawling around the playhouse with my friends. Or how many french fries that equals.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Henry Ford’s name is like a deity in Dearborn. Ford field, Henry Ford Hospital, Ford Road, Ford-tel, Fordson, Hank High. We don’t have statues of Stalin–we have statues of Ford.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Look at how far the auto industry’s come.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 I live in a neighborhood called the Ford Historic Homes District. The houses were built in the early 1900’s and housed Henry Ford’s first factory workers. They’re the kind of homes you fill with antiques and other testaments to the past. I tried to find a picture of the houses online, but all I could find was a link
 
 to merchandise endorsing my neighborhood. How wonderful it is to have one’s home glorified forever on the made-in-China T-shirts of the obese.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Dearborn Homecoming is this 3-day carnival during the summer where former residents of Dearborn get together, catch up, and talk about the old times. Only most of the people at Homecoming never left Dearborn in the first place, and they enjoy talking about the old times every weekend.


 Dearborn is a city preoccupied with the past. Greenfield village, the 50’s McDonalds, neverending high school reunions. Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean you should flee away from the real world and reminisce in times when things were easier, things were better, and people were happier. Why dwell on the past and stop yourself from building a future that’s even more awesome that the good ol’ days when you were prom queen and your family had three cars and you decided to live in Dearborn forever and ever? Why ignore the fact that the city is sick? Either rid the city of its illness, or get the hell out of there before you catch its sickness too.

 Hong Kong is my favorite restaurant in Dearborn. Skip out on Miller’s and try their egg-drop soup.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 The “no” on the “no vacancy” sign has been removed in this photo. There are always vacancies. They tore down this motel last summer. Never built anything in its place.

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