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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.


Monday, September 29, 2003

Off the Wagon

Friday had band rehearsal after work. Screamed myself silly, then headed home. Stopped at the Comet bar, despite my no partying pledge. One beer turned into six. Ugh. Was supposed to stop by C’s house and say hi, but forgot.

Saturday was a painful day-headache wise. I couldn't come up with anything productive to do, so I drove around the city awhile, taking photos of the slums. Visited Heidelberg finally, and got this shot of the OJ house before Tyree covers it with pennies. At night I coached hockey until after midnight, then home for much-needed rest.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Pass the Kleenex

Well, autumn has clearly arrived in Michigan. There are hints of gold and yellow on the leaves, and the mornings are cold enough to make the morning shower unpleasant. It was 46 degrees when I got up this moring, for cryin’ out loud.

And I’ve got a cold, another harbinger of the colder seasons (which in Michigan is everything but June, July and August). So does everyone around me. My voice is raspy and shot (well, raspier than usual) and the band is supposed to practice tonight. I’m antsy to go out and do something, yet everyone else is sicker than I am and in no mood to come out and play. So the weekend looks bleak so far. I keep meaning to go down to the Heidelberg Project and get some good photos, but the light outside has been terrible all week, gloomy gray cloudy light that makes all photos look dark and dull on my cheap digital camera. Hoepfully something good will spontaneously occur to brighten the doldrums that the week has been so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Back in business

They finally gave up trying to fix my work computer and instead bought a new one. Now I'm spending all my time trying to restore all my settings, remember all my Internet bookmarks and recover as many iTunes songs as possible. But the resolution of the characters on screen is all fuzzy, and it's making me dizzy.

The Free Press did a write-up of Tyree Guyton and his Heidelberg Project, and his new plan to cover a house with pennies.

Monday, September 22, 2003

End of Summer

Summer ends tomorrow, hopefully when I’m asleep (the official equinox is at 6-something in the morning). And all I can say is good riddance. I normally love summer, but this summer the gods were clearly out to get me. What started as the classic party summer turned into its opposite, with me rotting in the apartment, convalescing from innumerable illnesses, infections and a devastating (and still-unhealed) collarbone break. Summer’s over? Summer can’t end fast enough for me.

Friday night band rehearsal, then we went downtown. Pumpstock 2003, an annual concert put on by the Town Pump bar, was happening. Rather than pay the $12 admission, we stood outside the gate and listened from there, basically as close as the admission price would’ve gotten us. We’d watch one band, then head off to a bar between sets. Saw the Paybacks, the Fags and some other band that has the same guitar and drum setup as our band but without the charm and talent that we perceive ourselves to have. Went to the Bronx, Comet, then Secret Bar, which is apparently still secret and not discovered by the hordes of new workers pouring into the downtown area.

Saturday I got to go to Joe Louis Arena to see the Red Wings in an exhibition game vs. the New York Rangers. Which is to say that it was really about five Red Wings and 18 rookies facing the New York Rangers. The Wings got smoked 5-2. No matter - at least I got to attend an NHL game for the first time in a year. I won the tickets at the hockey rink where my team plays, and I took C to the game as payback for him taking me to a Lions exhibition game last year. The tickets normally cost about $60, that's $60 for an exhibition game. Beers were $7.50. Yikes.

After that coached my team to a 5-2 victory in a game that ended at 1 a.m. Didn't get home until 3 a.m. Tired all day Sunday, watched the Lions lose yet again.

My work computer is still kaput, and the cheapskates that run this place are dithering about getting me a new one. Meanwhile, it's taken me five times as long to type this because the computer I'm using right now is as fast as one of the old TRS-80 computers from the 80s.

Temporarily out of order

No blogging lately because my work computer imploded, and it's where I do most of my blogging. Will post from home tonight on my, ahem, dial-up connection.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Clean livin'

I need a break from partying.

The thing is, before my injury, I balanced my partying tendencies with a huge amount of athletic activity. Now though, I'm sedentary, yet still party as much as ever, which is making me John Belushi, essentially.

Not after this weekend. I registered a 9.7 on the hangover scale after a 12-hour Friday night that began with band rehearsal, then a show at the Old Miami, then more aimless wandering about town, finally back home with the booze woozies.

Saturday I coached my team's hockey game (an unfortunate 3-3 tie, with the other team scoring on us with only 13 seconds to go in the game), and again went out drinking with the boys. It's one thing to pound beers after playing a game, when the adrenalin is rushing through your veins. The beer merely brings you down to normal. But without playing, you merely become drunk. After a miserable Sunday with dehydration and headaches and the Lions losing big, I think I need to pursue some quieter, and more importantly, more sober activities, at least for a week or two. Then again, we'll see. One phone call from a friend with an offer of something interesting to do, and I'll be back out again, buzzed as ever.

Completely missed the Detroit Festival of the Arts. Yawn.

I did, however, go visit the Heidelberg Project, a street that local artist Tyree Guyton basically turned into a giant artscape. Years ago, at the height of blight in D-town, Tyree took an abandoned house on Heidelberg Street and nailed a bunch of baby dolls and baby doll parts to it as a form of protest and also for art's sake. It was visually stunning. The city went ballistic, and thus began a process where he'd decorate an abandoned property and the city would demolish it. A PBS documentary on Heidelberg came on as I was sitting in a booze coma, reminding me that I hadn't been over there since April or May. And since I haven't put a photo on the site in a while, here's one of his Face of God pieces.
It's a beautiful project, and it's managed to survive two hostile mayors, irritated neighbors who weren't happy about living in the middle of an artscape, and the usual ravages of inner city Detroit. At some point I'll have to post more photos of the area, if only because they will add so much color to the blog.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Memories

Friday night I went out with an awful ex-girlfriend I swore I’d never go see again. But I haven’t had a girlfriend since I got injured in July, so...

Saturday I went to the Dally in the Alley. For non-natives, the Dally is a street fair that takes place in an alley behind some apartment buildings near the Wayne State University campus. It consists of college kids, frazzled neighborhood hippies, people selling their wares at small tables, lots of local bands (really the only good reason to go there), restaurants selling their eats, a table here and there of earnest kids promoting ridiculous outdated political theories, loose dogs, stray bums, and others that could be classified as miscellaneous. In other words, same as last year. And the year before. I prefer the Fourth Street Fair, which I unfortunately had to miss because I was in a hospital bed in shock, on morphine, with a badly broken collarbone.

This weekend, Detroit seemed a lot like the old Detroit. I drove by Cass Park, and a man wielding a pipe started yelling at me to fight him, apropos of nothing. A few minutes later, another guy, this time on Second Avenue near Temple, began yelling "What you want?" at me in a threatening tone, walking fast towards my car. The next day, walking to the Dally, a guy came out of nowhere, aggressively asking me "What did you say?" even though I had said nothing. Times like this make me want to carry a baseball bat with me, not out of fear, but out of anger that miscreants like this have the nerve to interrupt my minding-my-own-business state.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Good story and photogallery in the Freep about Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's possible decision to revamp the architecturally stunning old Michigan Central Depot train station to use as police headquarters. Where former Mayor Dennis Archer would tear down, at least Kwame is trying to preserve. I'll at least give him that. For now.

Update (2-13-04): Then again, maybe I was wrong. The MCS thing hasn't had any movement, and he's trying like all hell to tear down the Madison Lenox without proposing anything at all to replace it.
Update (2-27-04): Whoops, spoke too soon. Apparently there's now a deal in the works to renovate the damn thing. Like everything in Detroit, minds get changed so often that it requires seven contradictory updates before the full story emerges.

Rollin' on the river

Found out at the last minute about Illuminate, a party at the Garden Court Apartments on Jefferson at Joseph Campau, sponsored by the Metro Times. The event was intended to showcase downtown city living, with local restaurants (Vivio’s, Atlas, Harry’s, etc.) providing samples of their cuisine and drinks, and local artists’ work decorating the walls of each room. Read: Free food and booze.

The lofts were nice, and the hosts gave tours explaining local amenities and such. Though for a true sense of downtown living they should have also provided the derelict who will urinate on your lawn and smash your car window to steal your CDs, as well as the thug who follows you home, menacingly shouting at you. Also, the rent was up to $1,600 per month, a bit steep for living near the river nowadays. Ten years ago, maybe.

The Riverfront area is a prime example of how things operate in Detroit. A decade ago the area was a thriving bar and restaurant district. It was one of the few areas in the city with several bars and restaurants within walking distance of each other. Then came tentative plans to build casinos on the riverfront. Mayor Dennis Archer told the owners of the businesses that if they refused to close and sell, he would use condemnation to seize their property and hand it to the casino owners. This essentially killed the area.

All of the bars and restuarants closed, and in Detroit, when that happens, it’s the end of the structure. Vandals tore out most copper pipes, (and tore out the walls and ceilings to get to the pipes), and there’s other structural damage to the businesses, especially the Soup Kitchen Saloon, once Detroit’s main blues bar. Now it’s almost beyond repair. And in the end the casinos were never built there. So with one move Archer killed an entire entertainment district and replaced it with blight. Well done. It now sits empty, overgrown with weeds, populated solely by the homeless, like dozens and dozens of other areas in Detroit. And though one or two bars have opened there in the past couple years, it hardly makes up for the willful destruction of an entire entertainment district.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Hockeytown


I sneaked out of work yesterday with a friend to go watch the Red Wings practice at a local hockey rink. They do this every year, before heading to training camp, and only a handful of people know about it and show up. So it's guaranteed front-row viewing. The downside this time is it happened at a rink I used to play hockey at three times per week, so it was rather depressing, since it was the first time back since my injury and also because the doctors tell me it'll be months, at least, before I can get back on the ice. Apparently the bones are not healing properly.

I actually got impatient last week with the pace of progress and went skating in full gear by myself at a hockey rink whose manager took pity on my condition and let me have a full sheet of ice. All that accomplished was proving that I've fallen totally out of shape since the injury occurred, though my shot was still very good. But the whole time I was skating terrified, aware that if I fell on the shoulder the broken collarbone would likely break through the skin, sending me to a whole new level of trouble. Luckily I'm a very good skater, so nothing happened.

So the good news is the Wings will start playing soon. The bad news is that, unlike previous years when we'd watch the Wings and then go play hockey ourselves, I have to remain sitting while my friends go off and play without me. Sucks beyond belief.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Dude looks like a lady

Now I realize why I couldn’t remember the other bar we went to on Friday.

The Temple Bar, at Cass and Temple in the seedy junkie/hooker district, has an art deco façade and a mysterious interior into which you need to be buzzed to be admitted. On our nights around town I’d always suggested going there, just to figure out what it was. C always insisted it was a transvestite bar. But I saw no evidence of this whatsoever, and persisted. In fact, several reviews I'd read described it as populated by "locals," which in this neighborhood means "relatively harmless derelicts." Finally, Friday night we, along with Dan, gave it a shot and went in, after months of arguing about what its true nature was.

For the record, C was right. I was wrong. Again, C was right, I was wrong. I cannot reiterate that enough.

We went in and there were two types of people and only two types of people there – gay black men, and giant black men dressed as women. The transvestites soon gravitated to the little corner of the bar where we, three skinny white guys, were playing pinball. Playing pinball in a transvestite bar on a Friday night. The transvestites were unseemly – they were like 6 feet 3 inches tall, with muscles like football players, yet all dolled up like women. Horrible. But since I insisted on going there, C and D insisted on staying. I made no further suggestions on where to go that night. Nor shall I for a while.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Saturday looks good to me

Went down to the Hamtramck Labor Day festival, saw Pas/Cal live (a bit of a disorganized show), wandered the crowds and ran into D and a group of girls. Hung out a while.

I was driving back home to regroup and passed C’s beleaguered house, turned around back and stopped in. The house has been broken into so many times that they just leave the front door wide open at this point. We played Michigan Rummy and drank beers. D showed up. B showed up with more beers. The makings of a night were coalescing.

We went to the Detroit Art Space to see the Ron Seger System, a guy who does Bob Seger cover tunes, of all things. It was pretty funny. He had the Bob Seger look down pat, leather vest, beard and all. There were about 15 people there in the audience, trying to seem hip. They failed. Rather than await the remaining acts, we left.

Then off to Bar Bar, mostly because they stock Guinness, then to Bookie’s on Washington, which commits a mortal sin by not stocking Guinness. Hangover melting away, new buzz rising. Ahh.

We later wound up at the Sugarhill Lounge, located on Oakland between the Boulevard and Clay. The Sugarhill is an all-black bar in an all-black neighborhood in a nearly all-black city. It’s safe to say that few white people have been in that bar in recent years. There’s no reason for them to go there. But my friends and I don’t know any better, so we deliberately seek out places like this. We've been going there most weekends of the summer, and they welcome us with open arms, for whatever reason. This time, I brought a camera in to capture what I could of the essence of the place.

What's striking about the place is the decor - it hasn't changed since the mid 1970s, nor has the jukebox, which is one of the most likeable things about the place. It's all soul. The largest visual element is fuzzy velvet paintings from the 1970s of nude black women on the walls. They're astonishing in person. The photo, unfortunately, captures only a fraction of their glory.

Three-day weekend

Friday I went to a party in Royal Oak that was a complete nonstarter – about 25 guys and about three girls at some house nestled in the middle of nowhere. I stayed barely an hour, talking to the one cute girl there, then headed to Hamtramck, to C’s place.

We went, on Dan’s suggestion, to some little bar in Hamtramck so obscure I don’t even remember its name. After a quick beer and snarling looks from the grizzled old locals inside, we left. We went into Harry’s on Clifford but it was so dead we sneaked right back out. Bar Bar – closed. Park Henry bar – closed. Comet Bar - open but no off-key karaoke blaring out it's doors What’s going on? Why so dead around town?
We found some watering hole somewhere, but for the life of me I cannot now (Tuesday) remember where we went (sheepish look on face). At the end of the evening we had a drunken cheeseburger at Honest John’s. We were so buzzed we started ordering all sorts of extras on the burgers: bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise, different chesses, etc. The waitress grew impatient. We grew bleary-eyed. Ate and left.

End of summer (unofficial)

Alas, summer seems to be over, particularly yesterday, (Labor Day, which is considered to be essentially the end of summer around these parts) when the high temperature barely managed to climb into the sad 60s. After a summer of warmth and shorts, those 60s feel a lot like 40s. Clouds and all-day rain don’t help, either. And I missed most of summer with an arm in a sling. What a fabulous year so far.

Can't buy me love

Is there a new method to picking up street prostitutes that I'm not aware of? In the old days, we'd sit on the porch of one of our apartments on Cass or Third Avenue, happily drinking our beers and watching the older men from the suburbs drive around and around the block, literally dozens of times, until they found that special hooker. But lately I've seen the johns parked, sitting in their cars, apparently waiting for delivery. Is there a new curbside service I'm not aware of?

Case in point - I got out of the car Sunday to take a photo of some old apartment buildings at Second and Charlotte, and I noticed an older guy sitting in his Lincoln Town Car, and when he spotted me, looking in his direction and pointing a camera, he became apoplectic. First he shifted a bit, then did a classic double take, then he went all St. Vitus' Dance on me, hopping about in his carseat in an almost pantominic display of "startled incredulity," then he hightailed it out of there. But he didn't really leave; he just kept circling, waiting for me to leave the area.

Here's a guy risking all - family, car, etc. for a little lovin' and some jerk with a camera appears out of nowhere and starts snapping pics. Of all things that could go wrong, this probably was not on his list. He must still be scratching his head about it. Was I sent by the wife to spy and produce evidence? Was I some vice cop prepping for a big bust? Was I one of those vigilantes who publishes photos of johns to shame them?

But before these burining questions could be answered, I found another john sitting by the curb in a nearby neighborhood, apparently doing the same thing. Later I saw what appeared to be a third example of this phenomenon. Isolated incidents or a trend? The jury's still out.

Ugh

Just got back from the doctor's office - it seems my broken collarbone is not healing. The two ends of the bone are not becoming reattached to each other. So I'm guaranteed to miss half the upcoming hockey season. Very bad news. I'm utterly depressed and stuck at work.

Nobody is more physically active than me, and I’m reduced to a couch potato, a state I loathe. Nobody is made happier by playing hockey than me, and I’m stuck on a bench, coaching, telling others to do what I should be able to hop on the ice and do myself.

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