Canada: Detroit’s Southerly Neighbor

Detroit RiverDetroit is the only major city in America, people will tell you (even if you haven’t asked), where you drive south to get to Canada. The southerly orientation of our otherwise-northern neighbor is due to an odd strip of Canada that squeezes in between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. That strip extends all the way to the outskirts of the Motor City. There, just across the Detroit River, is the city of Windsor, which is located in Ontario, which is a province of Canada.

You can stand at the bottom end of Belle Isle—a Detroit city park on a small island connected to the rest of the city by a bridge—and observe, if you are so inclined, the goings-on in Canada just a stone’s throw away. (You are not encouraged, however, actually to throw stones.) That man jogging along the path just across the water there? He’s a Canadian.

Why is it so striking, this Canadian proximity? One answer is that we’re in Detroit, and Detroit, more even than other American cities, seems to be so very much an American city. Perhaps this is because of Motown, that most American of American Pop music. Perhaps it is because of cars, American cars: General Motors, Chrysler, Ford. [Read more…]

Prime Time Secrets

Recently I completed work on the first season of The Americans, a new FX drama about Soviet spies posing as D.C. suburbanites in the Cold War heyday of early 1980s America. My prior job was on Boss, about a ruthless Chicago mayor desperate to hide and survive at any cost an equally ruthless degenerative disease.

Loath as I often am to watch TV at night after a day spent creating it, I am hooked enough on Breaking Bad that ahead of its final chapter this summer I’m catching up on back seasons of the saga about a terminally ill high school chemistry teacher who puts his lab skills to use in the crystal meth business to secure the financial future of his family.

But I’m way behind on Mad Men, about a 1960s ad exec whose primary marketing campaign consists of maintaining his fabricated identity.

What gives with all the secrets that form a kind of landscaping in prime-time television? [Read more…]