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, November 26, 2003

Too sour to blog lately. Saturday my team lost an important hockey game to a rival team, 3-2. Their players kept trying to hit my semi-healed broken collarbone, either to severly injure me or to goad me into retaliating and taking a penalty. Neither happened. But I'm still furious about that game - my team played like absolute crap. Sort of like the Red Wings are playing right now.

Sunday our urban explorations were largely a failure. The buildings we targeted were simply too well boarded up to get into. We inadvertantly broke into some empty renovated lofts in Capital Park, but that wasn't quite what we were aiming for.

We got into one building we'd already been in, but my camera is still acting up since getting filled with dust in the National Theater, and the SmartMedia card won't open up now. So I have no pictures to post yet, at least not until I get a specialist to try to retrieve the data on it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Seems the city is trying to get deadbeat property owners to clean up their rotting downtown hulks before the Superbowl in 2006. Good luck with that.
Speaking of the Superbowl, the plan to build enough hotel rooms in the city for Superbowl visitors is quickly running out of time.
Meanwhile, the Freep finally caught on, about a month after it happened, to the fact that the Kern's clock is back downtown.

A room with a view

It was a good weekend for urban exploration.

We began at the National Theater, a nearly century-old, small, Albert Kahn-designed vaudeville theater that used to be part of a thriving theater district on Monroe in the early part of the 20th century but is now the only building remaining from that era. Last week I’d noticed that the front door was slightly wedged open, and based on a sighting of that last week, we went there this weekend.

Unfortunately I miscalculated, and neither of us could fit through the small opening in the door. But luckily enough we found a wide-open hole that had been boarded up in the side brick wall big enough to step through that now was open. We were in.

This was by far the dirtiest place we’ve been in. The air was laden with suspened dust particles, so thick that they showed up like snowflakes on almost all my pictures, few of which turned out well. In fact, dust got into every little nook of the camera, causing me many problems that I still can’t quite solve. When we emerged we had a thin layer of white powder covering us from head to toe.

The lobby was still nice, covered in Pewabic tiles, with the doors and ticket counter still largely intact. The rest of the place was another matter. The stage had rotted out from water damage and had developed huge holes in it. It was a rainy day and we could hear the steady trickle of water coming down from the ceiling, splashing onto the stage. The upper floors of the back rooms were covered in a three-inch layer of pigeon shit.

There was talk a few years back by various local groups of renovating the theater, but judging by the extensive damage we saw it seems nearly impossible.

We had a quick lunch at Lafayette Coney Island, and noticed as we were walking out that some sort of vehicle had plowed into a streetlight and right through the boarded-up wall of the Lafayette Building, a massive structure I’d always wanted to get into but couldn’t because it was the best fortified abandoned building in the city. And right in front of us was a bus-sized hole. We went in.

Wouldn’t you know it, the crash occurred in the one part of the building sealed off from the rest. We basically had access to a two-story empty room. Very disappointing. We left.

Next stop was the 15-story Lee Plaza, an art-deco apartment building built in 1929 somewhat removed from downtown, over on the Boulevard. Closed for about a decade, its decorative lions heads masonry had been pillaged several years back and sold to unscrupulous developers in Chicago, who incorporated them into a renovated apartment building there. Though some have been recovered, many more are still missing. This was by far the most difficult building to enter. We had to climb through a small hole in the cinderblocks that cover all the building’s openings. The hole we found was about 7 feet off the ground, about two feet wide, and ringed by thick screen inside on which our clothes got caught, leaving us dangling in midair in broad daylight. To top it all off, the opening is directly visible to the traffic on the Boulevard.

Nevertheless we made it in. The ballroom was still impressive, as was most of the ground floor, including the so-called Peacock Alley, a barrel-vaulted hallway with an ornately decorated ceiling. A piano rested on its side, strings still intact, in the middle of the ballroom. The higher we climbed, however, the more damage we found from vandals and the elements. The upper floors had whole walls missing (some thanks to pillagers), exposing the apartments to the weather.
We got on the roof, but were somewhat limited by the canyon design of the copper roof, which limited views of the city below. Even when we could get a glimpse, the thick fog that had rolled in effectively shrouded everything but the nearest few blocks.

I climbed a shaky ladder to the copper roof, took a few photos with my now-filthy camera, and we started heading down back. Occasionally we'd find something interesting, like dried flowers still hanging on a bare wall, or a room full of dozens of prescription bottles of pills with one lady's name on all of them.

The weekend before that was a mixed bag. Boys' night out with C turned out to be just that - no girls anywhere, really. A quiet night in D-town. Watched the third period and overtime of the Red Wings game at Hockeytown Cafe, reminding me why that place sucks: Drunken hockey know-nothings screaming at nothing at all, overpriced beers and TVs cranked too loud. Hung out at the Bronx briefly, crashed a birthday party at Bar Bar, had a lavish meal in Greektown, then slept. Hungover next day; despite that I still got a goal in my hockey game that night against a team that assigned two players to slash the hell out of me each time I was on the ice. Out nearly all night afterwards with two Russian girls and a teammate.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

A Rock and a Hard Place

Went to the new Hard Rock Café in the Compuware building last night. It was exactly what I expected, but worse. The memorabilia was pure shit. Barely any Motown, little sign of Stooges or MC5 except on a few framed poster reproductions, but lots of Scott Ian (who?), Dan Brewer (who?) and tons of Bob Seger. Yes, he’s local, but Jesus, is this not called Motown? Apart from a Diana Ross dress, there was little evidence that this city used to basically supply half the top ten singles for a decade. No John Lee Hooker either, no smaller label Fortune-type artists either. No White Stripes even. Ooh, but they do have Eminem’s nasty pants.

An hour and a half wait for a table. No big deal, we only wanted beers. Had a couple of Guinness, at $5.29 each (?) walked around looking at the walls covered with Goo Goo Dolls and Phish stuff (Phish? Goo Goo? you’ve got to be kiddin’ me), then left. Silly place full of silly stuff and silly people. Watched with amusement the suburbanites staring skyward because they've never seen tall buildings before.

Went to the Bronx afterwards to erase the Hard Rock experience. Pacman game ate my quarters. I punched it, got my quarters back along with 6 free credits. The bar owner frowned on this, and said so. Fix yer machine, then. Had to end the night early, had to be up for work at 6:30 a.m. Fuzzy head this morning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

It seems vigilante shootings are a trend lately in Detroit.

"The attempted carjacking and robbery occurred outside the Cheetah's Lounge located at Eight Mile and Grandville roads, according to police. A bystander who witnessed the incident fired shots at the suspects, killing one of the men, police said."

Monday, November 10, 2003

Played my second hockey game with my team since the injury. But this time I still had trouble breathing because of the flu, so I had no speed at all. On the plus side, I managed to get a goal, giving me three points in two games. On the downside, we lost the game to a team that wasn't good at all. We're playing like the Red Wings lately, losing games to teams we should be easily defeating. Terrible. These losses are going to haunt us when playoff seeding time comes around.

In like Flynn

Finally over the flu. In fact, I was healthy enough again to go out exploring with D. Last week, while downtown, I did a bit of scouting and found, shockingly, that there was a wide-open door to the Fort Shelby hotel on Lafayette. On a previous occasion we went by and found that the front door had been chained too loosely, so that with a little bit of manipulation the door could be opened enough to squeeze in. But that day we were too tired, and planned to come back. We saw a woman across the street blatantly staring at me as I tested whether I could squeeze through the door, but I wrongly hoped it would amount to nothing. Well, upon returning we found that someone had apparently been notified and had gotten to it and tightened that chain up, so no entry. Until a couple days ago.

Not much to find inside. Some paper memorabilia, but the place had been picked over pretty well by scavengers. Most of the plumbing had been torn out, and the ceilings and walls had disintegrated, leaving mounds of powder all over the building.

At this point in our urban explorations we're like pros - masks, gloves, tools, drinking water, phones, cameras, notepads, etc. Still, getting out was hard, because we didn't want to pop out onto the street just as a cop drove by. A quick peek and suddenly we were out. Still, a cop came along and did a U-turn at the sight of us carrying bundles of paper, wearing gloves, and covered head to toe in dirt. But he moved on without busting us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

There's talk of renovating the Statler Hotel, one of the largest abandoned skyscrapers that that comprise Grand Circus Park.

Monday, November 03, 2003


Goddammit, I've been leveled by the flu. It started seemingly as a cold last week, then blew up on Friday into bed-confining flu just bordering on pneumonia. Haven't left the apartment in days. The alarmed doctor I finally went to put me on Cipro. The only drawback is that one of the side effects is insomnia. So now I still feel flu like, except now I feel like I've been on a coke binge all night. No sleep.

It was all made worse by me finally playing hockey again. I'd been practicing, felt confident and then told my team during the week that I'd rejoin them Saturday. Then I caught the flu. But oops - too late to change my mind. Saying I can't play hockey because I have the flu is like saying I can't play hockey because my diaper has a hole in it - it's a pretty wimpy excuse in the world of hockey. So I slogged through it, managed two assists in my debut, but also played with a fever that caused me to sweat like my helmet was raining on my face. And I was on the ice for two goals against - sorry, goalie.

One the plus side, I didn't go to work today, and maybe not tomorrow. On the downside, I'm bored and sick, and I'm using up all my sick time at work, and I prefer to save those days for fake illnesses that allow me to take spur-of-the-moment time off.

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