In the title story of Zadoorian’s The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, the protagonist rides a bus down Woodward toward the heart of the city. Along the way, he remembers where Polyne-sian restaurants—those wonders of the ’70s that tried to give us a sense of adventure with their fruity drinks, fake palm trees, wicker furniture, and waiters in Hawaiian shirts—had their short moments of life, between the 1967 riot and the crack epidemic of the early ’80s. He is the only white guy on the bus, and a drunk homeless person gives him grief for daring to ride “our bus.” The drunk turns obscene, and the driver kicks him off.
“For a moment, I try not to laugh about what just happened, but just can’t help myself,” the protagonist admits. A mother riding with a young child “looks at me, puts a hand over her mouth, but soon her head is shaking and she can no longer hold it in. Everyone on the bus starts laughing. Up in the rearview mirror, I can even see the driver smiling.” It is a wonderfully human moment but is also typical of Detroit, one of the reasons many of us continue to find ways to cherish that city.
Campbell and Zadoorian read from their new books at Shaman Drum on Thursday, June 11.
[Originally published in June, 2009.]