Love from (and for) the Rust Belt

One month ago, I left my beloved partners and patients at Grassroots Acupuncture Project in sunny, breezy, affluent Santa Cruz to follow my sweetheart to hot-and-sticky, broke-down-but-beautiful Detroit. She got a good job teaching here, and I was excited to move back to Michigan, where I grew up, and where my family still lives. They’re all several hours away, though, and we don’t know anyone in the city, and have been feeling sporadically lonely. We also don’t have any TV reception in our apartment. So, last Thursday, we headed over to a BBQ restaurant/karaoke bar in Eastern Market to join several thousand other folks to watch Senator Obama give his historic acceptance speech.

The festivities were due to begin at 5:00, and we arrived shortly thereafter, not realizing that the speech wouldn’t occur until five hours later. We were feeling shy and awkward and weren’t sure we’d stay the whole time. However, the time flew: we got roped into phone-banking; we were treated to a live performance by a local high school’s marching band; a young girl read Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech to the crowd; and in-between we listened to the convention speeches, sang along to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and chatted with the other folks sitting at our long table. One woman was particularly excited to hear that I want to set up an acupuncture clinic in Detroit; she wants to come in for treatment and bring her mother, too. Most everyone that I’ve met who learned I was an acupuncturist has responded with enthusiasm and interest, in contrast to coast-bound stereotypes about Midwesterners’ conservatism and narrow-mindedness.

Now, TV watching – like receiving acupuncture – looks like a relatively passive thing to do (unless, like most of us in attendance last Thursday, you have no compunctions about talking BACK to the television). But as those of you with CA clinics can attest, even “passive” activities become something different when done in the company of others. If it had just been the two of us watching the convention at home, I might have been able to retain more of my usual cynicism. But I can tell you that that crowd (myself included) loved the “regular folks” that spoke before Obama, and exchanged hi-fives over lines like the one about Smith-Barney; we loved Obama’s wit, his calls for both responsibility and compassion and appeals to common sense; and you couldn’t hear the end of his line about the Michigan auto workers who kept going to work after they knew their plant was to be shut down, because we were all cheering so loudly. Sure, that line was calculated to win the undecided in a contested state; but in a roomful of people who know that story first-hand, to hear it spoken by an African-American man while in an audience that was 90% African-American, it was deeply moving. It would not have been at all the same, watching it in my own private living room.

Times are hard here, and I know that a little acupuncture clinic isn’t going to help much, even if people do all get treated in the same room and some lovely group qi is created. In a city where one third of the people live below the poverty level, $15 is still not very accessible. But acupuncture is what I know how to do, and it sounds like if I build it, some people might just come. And I know I’d rather build it for the Barney Smiths than the “Smith Barneys.”

Author: noraneedles

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  1. Feel free to call on those

    Feel free to call on those lonely days.  My BF and I were in Mexicantown the other day, I didn’t want to stop by unannounced and I didn’t have your number on me, but we are always up for a pint of Smithwicks at the Gaelic League.

    A Detroit clinic would be so wonderful.  The first UU in midtown might be a good place to talk to people who are very familiar with the area.  I’ll help in any way I can.

    The Detroit synergy group is having a booth at the “Dally in the Alley” they might know someone who has some space.  I think a lot of people will get behind you on this.  I was too scared about starting a clinic at all to take on the difficulties of Detroit (I feel so lame saying that,) but I think it can be done

  2. good luck

    nora, so good to see you back on the forums and blog. sounds like you landed where you need to be and i am happy for you. i look forward to hearing about the fabulous new clinic you will start up – they will come, no doubt.


  3. Hey Nora, Congratulations on

    Hey Nora,

    Congratulations on your move. Sounds like an adventure. I have confidence that your little acupuncture clinic will make a big difference, even if you can’t treat everyone you want to due to economics. You will find a way to touch many people with community healing and that will invisibly spread throughout Detroit, and the world.

    I think I know what you are saying – an acupuncture clinic isn’t going to change the poverty line, by itself – but I maintain that it is impossible to measure the good that you can accomplish because that is an infinite stream of benefit.

    Have fun on your new adventure,




    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.</

  4. Butterfly Effect

    Nora, you wrote that “a little acupuncture clinic isn’t going to help much.”  I imagine that the principles of chaos theory will weigh heavily in your community clinic.  Just as one little butterfly’s flapping wings in South America can set-off a hurricane thousands of miles away, so too can your strategic placement of tiny needles in a few individuals who herald from an underprivilleged community set-off ripples of change throughout Detroit and beyond.  Maybe you and Linda can even coordinate a Free Friday for those who can’t afford the $15…

    “Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

  5. Good to know you’re starting to find your place there.

    It may seem like “a little acupuncture” but just watch those tiny ripples turn into a huge wave, with your iinclusive acceptance, caring and skill.  Go Girl!

  6. Welcome to Detroit, Nora!

    Welcome to Detroit, Nora!

    Please feel free to call or stop by. I’m only a half mile north of the D on Livernois. 

    Darlene Berger

    Community Health Acupuncture Center

    801 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220