Stephen Mack Jones, author of the August Snow series, shares his favorite things about Detroit. In this eight part series, Jones talks classic cocktails, historic buildings, Joe Louis and everything in between.
The Gentle Giant: A Fable
Once upon a time in a city called Detroit, there lived a gentle giant. His skin, stretched over a glorious gathering of muscles and noble features, was the color of buttery caramel and his eyes held a similar gentleness to the deer of a nearby forested island. While one might expect a giant such as he to speak in thunderous roars and fearsome growls, this particular giant’s voice was soft—even shy. Some might even say his voice was that of a reassuring lullaby, capable of calming a troubled child or world-saddened adult. As is the case with all stories of giants, some swear to his possession of special superhuman powers; in this case, that the giant carried the deafening crash of storm clouds in his left hand, while clutching a quiver of blinding lightning bolts in his right.
The giant spent much of his time fighting other giants. These were not fights caused by one giant insulting another giant’s mother, or one giant calling another giant a stinky-poo-potty-head. No, these fighting giants mostly liked and respected one another. They simply fought because the little people had convinced them they could make lots of gold by punching each other for the little people’s entertainment.
One day a low, dark cloud rolled over the land from coast-to-coast and beyond the horizon: the cloud was made from the breath of a mad king from another land. He shouted to the very sky he had darkened, “I will rule the world! There will only be me and people like me! All others shall perish!” or some such nonsense. To prove the superiority of his people (who really didn’t much like him either), the mad king shouted, “Send your biggest, strongest, meanest giant and I shall send mine! In the battle between them, I assure you, my giant will utterly destroy yours!” Or some such twaddle.
The gentle giant from Detroit agreed to meet the mad king’s giant in a fight.
Things did not go well for our big friend: after ten hard rounds where sweat and blood rained down like a savage spring rain, the mad king’s giant—swollen, bruised and barely conscious—won.
“You see! I—we—are superior!” the mad king shouted. (He knows no other way to communicate but to shout, seeming to believe the louder he was, the taller he became.)
The gentle giant from Detroit felt sad that he had lost. He felt he’d let everyone down. All the little people. The black ones. The white ones. The red and yellow ones. All who inhabited the land of his birth. And so, another fight between the goliaths was arranged.
“You think your brown giant has a chance of winning this time?” the mad king shouted while on tippy-toes. “Never! This time my giant will show no mercy!”
Staring at his opponent this time, the giant from Detroit thought only of the little people and the hopes and dreams of their children, all of whom wished to no longer live under the dreaded dark clouds spewed by the mad and murderous man-baby king. And in the first round with the whole world once again listening to the blow-by-blow, the gentle giant from Detroit released all of the thunder of his left hand and all of the lightning of his right. And down went the mad king’s giant like a felled oak.
To this day, there is a monument to this brown giant in Detroit. Designed and executed by prominent Mexican American sculptor Robert Graham, it is on Jefferson Avenue and Woodward and is shaped like the giant’s legendary forearm and fist, which once told the entire world that no man is above another. Some might say the cast-iron monument is just about the size of the real giant. That is, of course, up for debate. What’s not up for debate is its dedication to the “Brown Bomber”: Champion boxer and US Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Louis Barrow.
John Wayne was never a cowboy and he never served in any branch of the US military.
Get over it.