Blog: Mariah Cherem

While kiosks and bulletin boards are still littered with those hangy tear-off strip fliers, they've been overshadowed by interactive web directories, where visitors can post reviews and find hip happenings. Give a shout-out to Mariah Cherem, Metro Detroit community manager for, who will be reviewing the benefits of community and sense of place.

Post 3: A Sticker on a Light Pole

In early 2001, I was finishing up at the University of Michigan's Residential College. I began daydreaming about where I would go and what I would do.  I thought publishing might be the route for me, and there were a few specific publishing houses in San Francisco that interested me. I sent a few emails, set up a few informational interviews, and took off for San Francisco to stay with friends and dip my toes into the job pool.

I had been to San Francisco a few times, but now I was looking through a different lens.  Each time I visited a place, I wondered if I could see myself adopting it as a regular hangout. Every time I heard people griping about high rent, I also took note.

I had some great meetings with folks at publishing houses. It looked like I may have landed a paid internship – a good step, if not a full job. West Coast options were seeming a little more realistic.

Something happened, though, which caught me off-guard. Walking into two different shops – one a vintage place, another a record store – I heard music made by people who I'd seen quite a few times at bars in Detroit. Miles and miles away, people were proudly playing records of bands that I could see just a quick drive away. I got a little excited, a little territorial (how did they know about this!?), but mostly, homesick.

I had spent the last two years of my time at U of M spending maybe as many nights in Detroit as in Ann Arbor -- meeting tons of people, downing Stroh's, and somehow finding myself in a band, playing a few shows. I'm not saying my band was any good – it was just supposed to be fun.  And it was.  We'd get yet one more excuse to hang out with a bunch of people and see some of them play, too. At that point it felt like you'd always see the same folks at rock and roll shows because really, it was one larger cadre of people who would either be there to see a show or playing on stage. It was fun, but what was it worth to me?  I was going to start all over on the coast.  Or was I?

I wasn't sure just what I wanted to do. At the end of my visit to San Francisco, I hopped into my shuttle to the San Francisco airport.  We stopped at a light. I looked to my right and there was a sticker on that light post… with a logo for a bar/music venue in Detroit: the Gold Dollar. It baffles me a little now, because I don't even recall the Gold Dollar having stickers. Maybe some band on tour made it themselves? I have no idea. But it got me thinking.

I kept thinking of home. The sense of place I had -- being able to watch and be a small part of what I felt was some of my favorite music being made anywhere at that point.  That sense of well – community -- forged by raw creativity (and yeah, some Vernors and whiskey). I felt like I knew in Detroit and all around Southeastern Michigan people that were taking projects, bands, art shows, small businesses – and making things happen. That was something I just couldn't leave.  There was too much positive momentum.  

Some might say I was being naïve, and also that that was a pretty specific time in local music.  Both are true to an extent.  But it's also true that I haven't regretted that decision. I've been fortunate to live for the last eight years amidst people who constantly inspire me – and music is still a part of that.

As Jeremy Peters pointed out in his recent Concentrate blog, music (among other forms of art) is a critical, but often overlooked part of our region and state's identity.  I don't think we realize how incredible of an asset this really is.  Live music, particularly, is a shared experience.  In my own life these shared experiences often breed a sense of community, and, sometimes, of place. Music, art, and its related sense of belonging -- being inspired by those around me – makes me proud to call this area home.  I have to believe I'm not the only one for whom this is important.

I understand -- rock shows in dive bars aren't everyone's thing. However – think about something that has inspired you locally – from a great festival to children's theatre. Due to Michigan's financial woes, some of the organizations behind efforts like these are more reliant on private donations than ever before.

If you can't give money, can you give time? Talent? Expertise? Don’t think of contributing in those ways as simple altruism. Though you're giving back, it's also an easy way for you to meet some amazing people and nurture and grow your own relationships and creative community.