You have found the detroitblog. This is about my wanderings and debaucheries in Detroit, as well as observations, news, commentary and ramblings about the city itself. I love Detroit, even the old Detroit of blight, waste and emptiness. Hockeytown. Motown. I grew up here, had my best times here. It's my town.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Fixin' a hole

The Metro Times has an article about the Madison Lenox Hotel and preservationists' attempts to prevent its demolition:

"Detroit’s Historic District Commission has had the building under a “demolition by neglect investigation” since June 2001. The process could lead to civil action if the building’s owner, Ilitch Holdings, fails to repair the structure."

Basically, a giant hole opened up in the roof, and the Ilitches never bothered to patch it up. What began as a small hole grew huge, allowing water to pour into the structure, causing massive internal damage that conveniently backed up the Ilitches' assertions that the structure is irreparable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Long time no blog

Not much blogging lately, a problem I plan to address soon. I've been somewhat down on blogging lately, largely because some sniveling snitch narc seemingly tattled to someone in the city about our breakings and enterings into abandoned buildings, because immediately after writing about those adventures I found that the entrances we'd used (and described) had suddenly been boarded up, despite having been wide open for months or years before that.

I obviously shot myself in the foot by blogging, but jeez, is keeping a responsible, athletic adult out of harmless skyscraper exploration really the top priority for the city of Detroit right now? So, lesson learned - I won't be describing any of these skyscraper adventures until well after the fact.

Update: Well, I should amend that and say I won't post about these explorations unless it's a place I know I won't be going back to. I just can't help myself - I take all these photos for a reason; no point in not showing them to others.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Though details are sketchy, this is so Detroit. Not just one, but possibly two different vigilantes at the same scene:

Police say a man in his 20s went on a rampage along Plymouth Road on Detroit's west side, attacking several women with a pipe.
Police say at least five girls or women were attacked before some local residents decided to take action in what they referred to as Detroit-style street justice, Local 4 reported.
A woman, who chose to remain anonymous, says she tried to run the man down with her car after she apparently witnessed him attacking a girl.
"So, I started towards the man, and he started running, and I was trying to run him over. Then, two men in a car came by, and they shot him," the woman said.

More from the Freep.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Please don't shoot me

We finally got busted breaking into buildings.

We were in an alley behind the Madison Lenox Hotel, and I was looking up as D was about to leap from a window, and suddenly a cop car comes flying up to my car, slams on the brakes, and the cop gets out and draws his gun. I put my hands up and yelled, "I'm unarmed!" He didn't care. "What the fuck are you doing in there?" he asks. "Nothing! Just taking pictures" I reply. The gun is still out. "I got enough trouble with the bums goin' in and out of there," he yelled. D sheepishly climbs out of the window, and luckily the cop tells us to move on without ticketing or arresting us. But damn, the week had just begun and already someone is pointing a gun at me.

We got into the Lenox part of the complex. The hotel interior was not as cool as expected. An unrepaired hole in the roof had caused years of interior damage that left plaster from the ceilings on the floor, plaster crumbling from walls, and water damage everywhere on the upper floors. Little was left in the way of artifacts. A lot of newspapers and magazines from the early 90s were in there, left right when the hotel finally closed. Obvious signs of squatters were all over the place as well. We went to the roof, but had to be careful because 50,000 suburbanites, and hundreds of police to protect them, were swarming the area because of the Lions game. Bad day for exploring.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Apparently I'm on the verge of using my alloted daily bandwidth, so if there's blanks where the photos should be, that's the reason. Check back later if that's the case.

Breaking and entering, part two

Jeez, it turns out I took 170 photos in the building we broke into. I hadn't realized. Nor did I understand the amount of work it would take to process all of them until I was well into my seventh hour of sitting at the computer, uploading photos from the camera, which is so freakin' old and half-broken that I have to upload them pretty much one at a time. Only about a fifth turned out to be spectacular, another fifth were garbage, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle.

With time now to reflect, I cannot believe how many interesting things were in that building. We could've spent days in there. Lots of doctors' and dentists' offices, with instruments and outdated chairs and vials of blood and chemicals all still in place. Whole floors turned into art galleries, with dozens of canvases and sculptures left behind. Some of the simplest things in the building were beautiful, like certain floors whose rooms were each painted in different, bright colors. The paint that had slowly peeled over the past two decades gave a strange beauty to the walls. And little design elements, such as strange, purposeless shelves and trim, once again testified to the fact that they don't make buildings nearly as beautiful as they used to.

And for an abandoned building in Detroit, it was surprisingly undestroyed inside. Usually, between the vandals, taggers, thieves, sqatters and pipe-strippers, nothing is left behind. Of course, there were some floors where people emptied all the drawers and cabinets of their contents, and left them strewn all over the place. And on other floors taggers had gone berserk. But other floors still had files intact, carpet still in place, posters still on the wall, records still in a stack, glass doors shiny and whole. I took nothing more than a couple of old Detroit business cards I found on the floor for businesses that haven't existed in 40 years. In general, neither of us moves or takes anything but paper memorabilia in these buildings; the only real souvenirs I wind up with are photos.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Breaking and entering

On Sunday Dan and I busted into a huge skyscraper. I'm reluctant to say which one, because the last time I posted the name of the building I busted into, it was sealed up two days later. Anyway, it's a 35-story building situated on a corner, and it was pure hell getting into it. Anyone who knows the city can guess which one it is, and after I'm sure I'm not going back in, I'll add the name.

First we had to bust into another building next to it, climb five stories, then squeeze our way into a 13-inch wide gap in the board blocking a window. We squeezed through and bam! we were in.
We spent five hours exploring each floor. The building was like a time capsule of the early 80s, which is when most of it (and most of downtown) was finally vacated. Lots of documents, magazine, newspapers, receipts and pamphlets everywhere.

Each floor was different. On the ninth floor, an artist or artists painted every wall, in addition to leaving behind dozens of canvases. Some floors were virtual pigeon coops, others were barren. Some had records and books scattered everywhere, others had nothing but millions of papers thrown around. Old dentists' and doctors' offices still had all sorts of medicines and chemicals on shelves. Some had 50-year old tooth records for patients long dead. The glue holding the ceiling tiles had slowly melted over the past 20 years, and the tiles had fallen to the ground and disintegrated. Other explorers had made their way through, some tagging the windows with graffiti visible from Woodward. After several hours we found the elevator machinery room, and in there, a very small doorway leading to the roof. It was like reaching the summit of Mt. Everest to us. We were filthy, dehydrated (note to self: bring water next time), and exhausted. We sat and enjoyed another stunning view of the city, one that gave us vertigo every time we looked over the ledge. I took a photo of the neighboring David Whitney building, and could barely fit it all into the frame. We celebrated and agreed that this was our new Sunday afternoon activity for the foreseeable future.

I took 165 photos on the digital camera, and will probably post some more when I get the time to process them. I managed to get only a couple before passing out from sheer exhaustion last night.

I also note that we're not the only ones breaking into abandoned skyscrapers just to look around.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Article in the Free Press on the stalled redevelopment of the absolutely shabby riverfront.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Breakin' the law

I've become one of those people who breaks into abandoned skyscrapers. I always wanted to, but could never find a friend with enough - what's the word? nerve? balls? stupidity? - to do so.

Detroit is unlike any other large city in that its downtown area is largely abandoned. Every city has some degree of decay but nothing matches Detroit. There's a number of 30-plus story buildings that have sat empty for decades, standing ghost-like above the empty streets below. They're giant time capsules, often retaining decor that hasn't been seen since the 1970s. They're utterly intriguing.

I was walking past the Capital Park Building on Griswold on Friday and just on a whim pulled on an always-locked door - this time it was open. I went in, alone. It was the lobby of a building with closed shops on the bottom floor and lofts on the nine floors above. It didn't seem like anyone lived there, at least not legitimately. I made by way up the steps; each floor was locked or empty. The fourth floor was open; I peeked inside. It seemed to have been taken over by skateboarders or graffiti kids. They had colored light bulbs, old signs tacked to the ceiling and a skateboard or two near the door. I kept climbing, got to the top floor.

It had been used to dump garbage. Squatters had apparently used the place, because human excrement was everywhere. Now, if I were a squatter, I would designate a corner of the living space as the toilet, and use the rest for living. But there were piles of shit everywhere. I mean everywhere, every two or three feet. I took a few photos, and, sensing that I wasn't alone up there, got the hell out.

Now I was all exited. I wanted to bust into every building in town.

That night we had band rehearsal again. We sounded good as ever. Went with friends to the Bronx, Lager House and the Comet. Home at 2:30 a.m.

Next day coached a hockey game in which my goalie let in nearly every shot he faced. The final score was 6-5. We barely won to remain undefeated.

Sunday I went back downtown to recheck the Capital Park Building. Damn, someone locked the door. No entry. Again, on a hunch I checked an alley nearby, and found a back door to an old Merchant's Row building. This time I was too jittery to go in alone. I drove to C's house, found D there and he quicky agreed to accompany me. Finally, someone else as interested in trespassing as I am.

We sneaked into the old Woolworth's department store, which has largely been gutted as part of the revitalization of the area. We explored each floor and slowly climbed to the top floor. And there we were, on the roof of a shopping district building that had seen its last customer decades ago.

I sat and enjoyed the view of downtown Detroit on a lovely sunny afternoon, while D threw small metal objects down to the empty streets below. We looked down, a film crew was shooting a movie in the alley. They were shooting take after take of a bunch of white kids acting black, with the alley as their backdrop to scary, scary Detroit. I was tempted to start dropping objects onto them; they wanted Detroit realism, how 'bout a bunch of industrial scrap falling on you from 10 stories up, but I decided against it. Also, they were blocking our escape door. One of them looked up and saw us watching; this must've freaked them out, because the whole crew - actors, equipment and all - were gone a minute later.

On the way back to the car I checked a door on a building next to the old Christian Science Reading Room, and whaddya know - it opened. We went in. This building, all lofts, was far more menacing. Someone was blaring hip hop from the fifth floor, the only floor with power, and had basically taken over the building. We sneaked past his floor and on up.

On the seventh floor we found a loft full of stolen goods. Why we went in I don't know, but we entered this apartment and began looking around. Just as we were stepping out we heard people yelling below. It's never good to stumble on someone's stash of stolen property, but it's worse when the thieves return to find strangers with a camera in the stolen property room. We froze, and stood on the staircase a couple floors above them listening for a few minutes. We heard someone leave, then took off. On the ground floor we heard some thug mumbling to himself, and since he must've already heard our footsteps and voices, we charged down. Apparently we scared him more than he scared us, 'cause he left at the sight of us, though he lurked in the area until we drove off.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Acting 101

Hello work? It's me (cough). Seems I'm (sniff) sick, and (cough) won't be able to come in Thursday or Friday, conveniently giving me a four-day weekend that doesn't eat away at my remaining vacation time (sneeze). See you Monday!

Ahh, the art of fake illnesses. The right voice tone, the perfect timing, and voila! Suddenly I'm roaming Detroit looking for someone to goof off with while my coworkers take up the slack (sorry!).

Unfortunately, everyone else had to work yesterday and today, so I'm solo on the free day off thing. Yesterday spend the afternoon visiting friends at work or as they were about to go to work. At one point snuck up to an unused floor of the Book Building and took in an absolutely spectacular view of part of the city's skyline, as you can see in this photo. Non-Detroiters, that water is the Detroit River, and the land on the other side is Canada. And that photographer is one happy employee on his day off.

Ate a bunch of food from various downtown restaurants, went on various walks, and later lazed in front of the TV. Not bad for a sick guy.

On a far less facetious note, N*** is still doing very poorly. He's in ICU, unconscious. The doctors said he basically tried to slow-kill himself by not eating and by drinking liquor day and night. Pitiful.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Go Wings

First televised Red Wings game I've seen this year, and they sucked all over the ice last night. Goalie controversies abound

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