The nourishment in familiarity

Saturday found me in Detroit, the city where my long term relationship with the US began. I landed at Metro airport the night prior and having continued to lead a team in Detroit even post my initial stay I know this large airport very well. As I made the drive north on Southfield through Dearborn past Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, Ford Motor Company’s World Headquarters and with my first apartment close by I again felt comfort in knowing where I was going and the sense of the local vibe; very different to the feeling that I get when I go to someplace new.

My trip coincided with the 14th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise, representing ‘nostalgic heydays of the 50s and 60s, when youth, music and Motor City steel roamed Woodward Avenue, America’s first highway… The Woodward Dream Cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union. North American cruisers from California, Georgia, Canada and all points in between caravan to Metro Detroit to participate in what has become, for many, an annual rite of summer. ” (Source –

A rite of summer indeed, to ‘go cruising’ means something quite different in Detroit this weekend, here it is a call to action – to take the roof off your car, put on your sunglasses and drive slowly down the 16 miles of Woodward Avenue with all the other classic car enthusiasts and keen onlookers. There are two lanes appointed for ‘cruising’ however based on enthusiasm around this event often the full four lanes of Woodward are comprised of the wonderful spectacle that is Dream Cruise.

There are stationary moments too, along the route sit many displays, either created from the ‘parking lottery’ system that enables you to park your classic car for people to admire it more closely and to get good sniff under the hood, to sponsored displays of the car companies; this year Ford had 45 Mustangs parked up together to represent the 45 year anniversary of the pony car. In support vendors sell their wares, from t-shirts to greasy sliders along the Woodward stretch that encompasses 9 different neighborhoods. As I walked through a section of Woodward in Birmingham at 10.30pm on Friday evening it was fun to see that even Jax carwash, a business that has been open since 1953 was full of people drinking cocktails spilling out onto the street, absorbing the atmosphere and action around them.

This weekend Woodward Avenue rewound time and paused, even the ever present modern police force with their brightly lit patrol vehicles paled against the impact of the history that surrounded them; it felt as if everyone was in unison, infused with nostalgia. Given my own state of familiarity I started to be curious about what being nostalgic actually meant and discovered that it describes ‘a longing for the past, often in idealized form’, and I wondered if that were true here. I wondered if this crowd of people brought together by this common interest in classic cars were actually longing for a day gone past or whether they were like me, just really happy and appreciative to get a glimpse into a time before our time or to get the opportunity to recall memories and share what had come before.

The visit to Detroit was a short one, I made my way to NYC last night and my feelings of familiarity were heightened, arriving in NYC always feels like coming home to me. Even though I only lived in Manhattan for a couple of years I had been visiting NYC for many years prior. But when I look, there isn’t a longing, it isn’t nostalgia, for me it is more about remembering who I was when I lived here, catching moments of my ‘other self’ in the walks I take, the buildings I see (or no longer see) and at the restaurants I choose to visit. I am offered familiar glimpses into the past which if I were honest I meet with both smiles and cringes. I now realize that my familiarity with places I have lived or have an affinity with is more than just about ease and comfort, if I look really really closely familiarity has a function for me; shining a light on milestones in my story and journey, becoming what I believe is a nourishing barometer of growth.

What do feelings of familiarity mean for you?

© The Red Barn Cooperative – Working together to nourish lives
A Red Barn Coaching initiative

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