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MARTHA SEZ: Back it up baby, back it up

February 16, 2012
MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Well. I might as well start right out by telling you that the Chrysler ad you all saw at half time during the Super Bowl game last Sunday - the one with Clint Eastwood? About Detroit? My nephew Aaron Dylan Allen made that ad.

Aaron was also the creative director for the Eminem ad a year ago. There is really no way to disguise the fact that I am bragging about my nephew, so I've decided just to go for it.

Aaron never did live in the Detroit area, but the Allens have lived in Detroit and its environs since they got off the boat several generations ago, when Michigan wasn't even a state yet.

I am impressed that Aaron has created these ads, both of which generate strong hopeful emotion for the comeback of Detroit. And I'm delighted that Carl Rove is complaining so much about the Clint Eastwood ad. Way to go, Aaron.

I love the Detroit footage. One fleeting image, especially, haunts me, an image that was also in the Eminem ad a year ago: the front of a massive old building, all that remains, the rest fallen away, the empty windows showing only sky.

Once, returning to Detroit after a long absence, I drove past a building at the corner of Harper and Brush where I'd lived years before. It had been a big, sturdy brick apartment house, with fireplaces and hardwood floors, built around the turn of the nineteenth century.

Or, I drove past all that remained, a brick front, its windows filled with blue sky. Seeing this once-solid edifice reduced to a fragile, one-dimensional shell unnerved me. I turned the car I was driving into a one-way street, going the wrong way.

Coming toward me were four lanes of Detroit traffic, going fast. Detroit drivers always go fast. I was paralyzed.

Two black men were passing on the sidewalk. One of them looked over at me.

"Back it up, Baby. Back it up," he said, so calmly, so reassuringly, that I did. I backed the car out of the one-way street and the four lanes of traffic rushed past. The two men continued along the sidewalk and I sat shaking in the car, a Pontiac, as I recall.

It is hard to believe that Aaron was born out West, where he has spent his whole life. I swear he carries some genetic memory of Detroit in his cells.

More Michigan name dropping. Some patriotic Americans have complained about Mitt Romney because he speaks French. Not all the time-nobody is claiming that - but just that he knows how.

Once, at the Ausable Inn in Keene Valley, I was speaking with a couple from Montreal.

"If a person who speaks two languages is bilingual," the man said, "what do you call a person who speaks only one language?"

"Monolingual," I replied. I know my Latin root words.

"No," the woman said. "American!"

There is some truth to this. Some people think it's unAmerican to speak anything but English. Spanish is bad, they feel, but French is worse. Remember when people were ordering freedom fries instead of french fries? I can't remember why right now. What is important here is that George Romney has been caught on videotape speaking French, which is considered by some of his Republican base to be a shameful act.

In defense of Willard Mitt Romney, who spent his boyhood in Michigan, I will say that he can't help knowing French. Mitt attended Cranbrook School for boys from grade 7 through 12, and there is no way he could have graduated without learning that language.

I know this because for three years I attended Kingswood, Cranbrook's sister school. (I warned you I was going to drop names.) There is no way to avoid exposure to the French language at these schools.

Mitt Romney was in Mrs. Brown's dancing class, which my sister and I also attended. He was the only 13-year-old boy who was taller than the 13-year-old girls. He never asked me to dance, and my sister says he never asked her to dance, either. So, Michigan nostalgia notwithstanding, I do not feel obligated to vote for Romney. He has no hold over me.

In closing, I should warn you that Romney in all probability also knows Latin. He can't help it. He went to Cranbrook. It's not his fault.

Happy Valentines' Day, and have a good week.



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