I chose Flint.
I was a late bloomer, as they like to say, but really I was just scared to death about moving out of my parent’s house. Moving out made me an adult in full and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
I am still not sure.
I moved out at 27 when I finally realized that yeah, I was ready to be an adult and needed the privacy and space to BE one. I decided to move on a Wednesday. I looked at one apartment in a small town about a half an hour away from where I grew up and I was moving in that Sunday.
It was time to grow up.
I spent five years in that small town, living in an apartment I could afford and which afforded me the luxury of privacy. It was a trashy complex, no doubt. I caught the guy across the hall from me chasing his girlfriend around in the middle of the night, drunk and throwing bottles at her. Scared me to pieces. Enough that I grabbed a knife and wondered if I needed to intervene. I called the cops instead.
There was the mother of several kids that would use a shopping cart to transport her groceries back to the apartment then abandon it in the yard of the complex. She was also great at letting her daughter run off and then stepping out to yell MARIIIIIIIIIAH at the top of her lungs.
It was really trashy.
I was lucky to get out before anything bad happened to me.
At leasy physically.
Ah, but a young guy out dating for the first time in his life finds a lot of emotional potholes along the way.
I was in Flint visiting a friend and heading to check out a large football field here in Flint where Malcolm X once spoke as well as John Kennedy as he ran for President. As we made our way to the field we were stopped by a local guy that I knew from his management of an all-ages alcohol free rock club. I had known the guy casually since I first started hanging out in Downtown Flint at age 20, when I would frequent the Capitol Theater. I was around 31 at this point though and still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Many of my friends lived in and around Flint, and the arts group I was a part of called Flint home. I was always there it seemed liked for one event or another. The guy I know stopped his truck and pulled up to us and asked me where I was living these days. I told him and he started laughing.
That was when he hit me with the punchline – he had an apartment coming open in the same building where the friend I was with lived. I should move in.
My initial feeling was to laugh it off.
I HAD a place.
But I didn’t love that first place. My relationship with the neighbors who I had called the cops on (PS – said cops carted him away to jail for a bit that morning) was icy and I had caught the fella espousing some loud tough guy talk regarding me so it was probably best to get while I could.
It took a couple months for the apartment to finally come open, the tenant dragging his feet despite not being up on rent. I rented it having just seen it once. I was made lots of promises of work that’d be done, of new carpet, and paint, and a washer and drier that took four years to get, and an outlet for the bathroom – which awkwardly had no ceiling.
Few of those things came to pass but it didn’t matter.
I had found a new home.
I was finally in Flint.
When I moved into the place the front door was boarded over and you entered from the back of the place.
Flint was still a ghost town at the time but there were signs of life. I worked and kicked around the Downtown scene and there was a bunch of us that were starting to do things – music shows, art shows, festivals. A lot of that sprung from the arts group I was in but that group inspired others and suddenly there were a bunch of weirdos populating the downtown after work hours. Suddenly we were filling the bars until late. Suddenly the monthly art walk was about more than just three art venues.
Downtown was a blank canvas waiting to be painted.
We painted it.
Wild and loud and free.
Right and wrong.
I helped start a writer’s group and feel deeper into love for writing than I already was.
I met new people.
I went out.
I found myself as Flint found itself anew.
My friend who I shared much of my life with and I programmed a horror film festival at a mutual acquaintance’s high def television store. Those two years were two of the initial seeds that lead to what we would later create.
As our group brought in new people to the area the all-ages club re-opened and helped breathe new life into the local music scene. Then there was the opening of an alternative gallery which was courted from the West Coast and brought to Flint to open. This was when we knew things were changing. This ushered in an era of alternative art, of fashion as art, film as art, and on and on. It inspired and challenged all of us. The space didn’t last long but its legacy is part of the revival of Flint’s Downtown. It poured gasoline onto the fire we had been creating.
The arts group expanded to a point where a lot of the original members began branching out to spread their wings to see what they could do on their own and I was one of those. I had done all I could with the group and needed a change.
So I changed.
My apartment was my home base.
I wrote, wrote, wrote.
I began to paint.
I had friends over for nights of movies or ridiculousness on the roof.
My apartment was a loft style with lots of open space where the bedroom was part of the living room. There were no windows but there were stairs to the roof. It was weird, especially when I got a job downtown where I worked around no windows as well, but it was home.
I met my future wife in Flint when I was part of the local film festival for a year.
We met through a mutual friend over candy and booze.
I started to put together what I called Punk Rock Rummage Sales with friends at a local bar, inspired by the similar shows another friend did who had, it turned out, been inspired by our arts group to start her shows.
I helped put together author events.
I helped create a seismic shift in the art scene here when a few of us got together and put on alternative art shows in the building some of us lived in. Guerilla Art shows we called them because they were not at a gallery and were meant to be fun and free and open to all. Our art shows opened the door to others to invade the monthly art walks and suddenly what had been a stodgy event became more carefree and fun.
Suddenly people of all ages came out.
I discovered self-publishing and started putting new books out.
I painted more and more.
I collaborated with artists and other authors and photographers on art projects.
I worked, lived, loved, and played in Flint.
I met someone through a job that inspired me to want to help people.
I grew up, as much as I ever will.
I sat on the roof of the building where I lived and talked about the Zombie Apocalypse with friends for hours and hours at night under the stars.
In 2011 I started a horror convention with friends with the goal of bringing something like that to the city. Over the years we had conventions, art shows, music shows, movies under the stars, fundraisers, book and author events, mixers, and a film festival. We evolved as we needed and we have survived.
I found my friends in Flint.
I found myself in Flint.
I found my life in Flint.
It wasn’t a perfect city but it was ours.
I lived in a building right in the middle of Downtown so when the streets closed down for the huge classic car show, or the motorcycle show, or the road race, I was in the middle of it.
I’d work next door at the screen-printing place, sweating and tired but loving the atmosphere of tens of thousands of people in our city, having fun.
It was during one of the rummage sales that I heard about a house for sale from a friend.
It was for sale through their family member.
I should check it out.
It was a seed of the future, planted by my future wife who found out about the house first and asked our friend to tell me.
We still live in that little house.
This new home is where I have written thirteen books.
Where I have made two short films.
Where I have painted and photographed.
Where I podcast with friends and by myself.
Where I have a life.
Where I love and am loved.
I found Flint at the dawn of its new rebirth, it’s re-awakening.
I found it just as I was finding myself.
I found Flint full of like-minded people who wanted to change the world and themselves.
People passionate about the arts and the city.
I found Flint full of love that broke and healed my heart.
I found Flint bursting with passion and life from artists and creators and event planners who wanted to be a part of reviving a great city once more.
I made some of the greatest friends of my life in Flint, lost some amazing friends, became loved and hated, and found that the world is bigger than the small town I grew up in.
I found myself in Flint.
In the end though, I didn’t choose Flint.
Flint chose me.