Greektown and the Auto Show

by Weam Namou

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Over twenty years ago, when I was a student at Wayne State University, my friends and I frequented Pegasus in Greektown. We loved their traditional Greek cuisine and music, the staff who mostly had a Greek or Arab accent, the open kitchen and cozy atmosphere and the periodic shouts of “Opa!” and the flame that we worried would catch our long Mediterranean hair.

But Greektown was not always Greek. In the 1830s, German immigrants settled in that area. Little by little they began moving out and in the 1880s Greek immigrants began taking their place. By the 1920s, the area was becoming primarily commercial rather than residential, and the Greek residents began moving out. Yet their restaurants, stores, and coffeehouses stayed put. In 1960 the Greektown neighborhood was reduced to one block, beside it the big Greek Orthodox Church that was founded in 1910.

After I had kids, I just couldn’t get to Pegasus as easily as when I was single. I think I might have gone without a genuine Greek dinner for a period of two years. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case for over a year now. Yesterday was one of those special nights where not only did I enjoy a dinner at Pegasus but I also got to go to the Detroit Auto Show for the first time in my 32 years living in Michigan.

The first auto show was held in Detroit in 1907 at Beller’s Beer Garden at Riverside Park and since then annually except 1943-1952. It was renamed the North American International Auto Show in 1989. Since 1965, it has been held at Cobo Center where it occupies nearly 1 million square feet of floor space.

We took the People Mover, an automated system that encircles downtown Detroit, to Cobo Center. It was packed with people trying to get to the Auto Show. Last time we rode it on a Sunday afternoon it was empty. The Mover costs $12 million annually in city and state subsidies to run. In fiscal year 1999-2000 the city was spending $3 for every $0.50 rider fare, according to The Detroit News. The system was designed to move up to 15 million riders a year. In 2008 it served approximately 2 million riders. I wish it was always as busy as it was yesterday – like the transportation systems in cities like New York.

The car show was a wonderful new experience for me, despite not having a big interest in cars. My brother said that the show has come a long ways since he last attended over ten years ago. Who knows – maybe one day all the corrupt people will be gone and Detroit will be at its peak once again!

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