When I was a youngster, there was a place that was kind of like my secret garden. A gritty garden that wasn’t my own private place or even at garden at all. Ok, so secret garden is entirely the wrong example, but you get my reference. And no, not Detroit, (that was later). It was Royal Oak! Royal Oak was like the Enchanted City for me.
The receipt of my driver’s license (complete with toothy, braces-wearing grin) signaled a new era for my friends and me. We’d pile into Little Red, my inherited Blazer, and head to Royal Oak for a day of adventurous nothingness. A typical day (sometimes) included, but of course was not limited to, wandering the streets, watching the trains go by, eating at the restaurants and going into the music stores – where we generally didn’t buy anything. So basically, loitering. And back then, for those of you who just said “Royal Oak, gritty?” yes, back in the day, it was a little gritty, the crowd was a bit different and there weren’t as many nice new buildings, that’s for sure. But it was wonderful.
A few years later when the drinking age fell upon us, and then add a few years, we hung out in Royal Oak in an adult capacity. It was then when I began really saying, “I can’t wait to move to Royal Oak.”
The years floated on and then finally last fall (as in 2009) I went off on a house hunting adventure. I was out to find the perfect tiny bungalow in Royal Oak. My visions of grandeur were not unreasonable, I was fully aware that my perfect bungalow would probably be one of those houses you’d have to squint at really hard in the dark to consider it a passable, or even livable, home. My price range was low and in Royal Oak that meant I was getting a tiny fixer upper that probably didn’t have a garage OR a basement. It also meant the freeway was a three-minute walk from my front door. I did end up putting a bid on a house; it wasn’t in Royal Oak, but only a mile away in Madison Heights. In the end, and after a mountain of paperwork, I lost the bid to an investment buyer who then flipped it.
If my story had a moral it would be two-fold. First, that patience is the most important virtue one can learn to have and second, that timing is certainly everything in life. My timing was way off because my sights were clouded by my own impatience. Oh hindsight, look what you’ve shown me!
Ok, so fast forward to exactly a year later and there I was – walking in Royal Oak – but this time sans Realtor, checking out apartments. Somewhere between the lackluster Amber Apartments and overpriced but fancy Village Green Apartments I came to a surprising realization. I realized that my 10+ year love affair with Royal Oak had faded into a dusty memory. I didn’t quite believe myself at first, I mean this is the city I cut my teeth in, where I perfected my parallel parking abilities. It had been so good to me! But it happened, I started to see the city without the stars in my eyes and realized that it had been such a fun place to go for so many years, and certainly still is, but that I kind of grew out of it.
I didn’t want it to be true! I didn’t want to believe that I had moved on from Royal Oak! For a month or so after I looked at those apartments, I still kept the Living in Royal Oak Dream alive. But then, finally, there was no way I could ignore the fact Royal Oak just wasn’t It for me anymore.
The cease and desist order I put on my Royal Oat apartment living (unless suddenly I could live right downtown in one of those amazing lofts with floor-to-ceiling windows for only $700 per month…) created a wonderfully freeing feeling for me. So I knew I did the right thing!
Even so, and after having said all of that, if you ask me what I think of Royal Oak I will still gush about how wonderful it is. I will go on about how I love the restaurants and the quirky boutiques and the people who also enjoy eating on the patios in the summer. I still have a great fondness for it, I just don’t want to live there anymore. It’s no longer what I imagine when I try to imagine Kim+Future. And after 13 years, I guess I can’t be surprised that I’ve grown up.