Late last week, your columnist traveled to Detroit to see firsthand whether the rumors are true that the Motor City is indeed getting its mojo back. After all, the bankruptcy, urban flight, crime and decay that have afflicted this one-time jewel in the crown of American industrial might have become the stuff of legend — even if eclipsed by the downward slide of other American cities in recent years.

If Detroit can do it, others can too — or so the logic goes. With the big caveat that my observations are limited to the immediate downtown area, I am happy to report the news is good.

“You know, they might just pull it together this time,” lifelong resident Lucretia told me when I asked her if it were true things were rebounding.

A stroll down Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue or Rockland’s Main Street, bore out her optimism. Once-vacant buildings have been restored, and storefronts have replaced what not so long ago were the boarded-over windows of a city that time forgot.

The hotel in which I slept occupies a Gothic Revival building, once home to the city’s jewelers, which until quite recently had been vacant for 40 years.

Now a 65-foot Christmas tree towers over the city’s Campus Martius Square, beneath which skaters glide around a seasonal rink and shoppers stroll through an outdoor market boasting locally made goods. One sweatshirt that caught my eye read: “Detroit Hustles Harder” — as should we all.

Re-purposing the name of a one-time shoe polish company that went bust in the 1960s, Shinola today makes luxury goods like leatherwear and watches at its Detroit manufacturing center. And I witnessed real, live millennials, of the sort who might buy Shinola products, working on their laptops in downtown coffee shops.

But as we Mainers know, a little glitter on the coast doesn’t tell the whole story. Indeed, downtown Detroit is only seven square miles, beyond which sprawls much more. Yes, Detroit was Motown when the auto industry was humming along on all cylinders, but also, in more recent memory, the wasteland from which Eminem rose and gave voice to an angrier soul.

What drew me to this bellwether of American renewal was not my longtime fascination with Eminem, but a wedding. A lovely young dentist with whom I had worked in Iraq was marrying a native son. The ceremony and reception were held in a distillery where, in an earlier incarnation as a brewery, the groom’s father had once worked.

Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, is home to the country’s largest concentration of Arab-Americans. Before the Iraq war, Michigan elected an Arab-American, Spencer Abraham, to the Senate and, more recently, Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib to the House. Though the often-chilling lake effect produces climes nothing like the sun and sand of the Middle East, here, in America’s heartland, exists a different kind of revival nonetheless. The wedding I attended bore witness to this. On the dance floor, whiter faces of Northern and Eastern European stock joined Iraqi-Americans in the traditional khigga and other dances from region.

Whether subsidizing the auto industry or exporting democracy to the Mideast, American boondoggles – even those that sprang from the best of intentions — must eventually come home somewhere to roost. Detroit is home to such a convergence, and it makes the city fascinating to me.

For all the airy talk one hears these days about building back better, it is useful to think seriously about how that might look. For all the urban refugees — myself included — who have found succor in the Pine Tree State, a practical examination of what works and what does not can be found in cities like Detroit that are striving to get their mojo back.

With a new year just around the corner after a dispiriting series of years in the rear-view mirror, it is in such places one might find hope.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.