Archive for June 4th, 2011

I saw a neat story on the evening news about one city’s response to being listed by Newsweek as one of America’s top ten dying cities.  The people of Grand Rapids, Michigan got together to create  a video promoting their fair city and created quite a stir with a terrific piece of film.  It’s one continuous 9 minute shot rolling through the city of Grand Rapids with over 5000 of the residents participating in different scenarios as they lipsync to a live version of  Don McLean’s American Pie.  There’s a little bit of everything here, from football players and firetrucks to fiery explosions and helicopters.  All accompanied by hundreds of guitar toting residents, all strumming along. 

This struck me first because I love continuous, uncut shots in movies.  Think of Henry Hill’s entrance into the nightclub in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas or the amazing scene from the Dunkirk of WW II in Atonement.  These are incredibly intricate shots requiring a vast choreography in order to preserve the continuity of the scene.  It can take months of planning for a relatively short shot.  With this in mind, the Grand Rapids film is a pretty remarkable video,  given the fact that all of its performers were amateurs who completed the whole thing in about 3 1/2 hours.

But it also hit me because I have lived in and near a small dying city for my entire life.  We, too, were once part of that band of industry heavy cities that spanned the northeast and midwest.  Cities that saw their factories close or relocate, causing huge portions of the population to flee to seemingly greener pastures.  My city’s population is about half the size it was at its peak over 50 years and there are no signs of it ever recovering that loss.  It has left a huge hole in the area that goes beyond the sheer loss of people.  There is a loss of momentum, a loss of vibrancy and a loss of confidence.  The remaining folks start picking at the things that are lacking and forget the things about their home in which they take pride.  The entire area ends up with a feeling of general malaise. 

So to see the people of Grand Rapids exhibit their pride in their own battered hometown was a wonderful thing to see.  I think there’s lesson here somewhere.  Maybe it’s that making lemonade when all you have are lemons thing.  Sounds simple but we all too often forget to try to make the best of what we have, instead lamenting what we don’t have.  So kudos to you, Grand Rapids.  Your lemonade is tasty!


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