Thursday, December 31, 2015

A trip down memory lane

While back up in Michigan, I took the dogs and my nephew, The Spud, downtown Detroit for a few hours.

This was my old apartment. Ground floor, just behind the white Jeep. In the early 1990s, I was paying $250 a month, utilities included, for this one bedroom apartment just off the Wayne State University campus.
For most of my stay there, I lived with a gal who was probably the hottest looking Harley Davidson mechanic that ever existed. I'm not sure how it happened, but I took her home from a bar one night and she stayed for five years. But she cooked food, did the laundry and kept the place spotless, so I just shrugged and accepted it until she got too crazy during my first year of law school.

This was the store I used to shop at every day. The owner, Les, used to love my dog, a Golden Retriever named Brandon. every day we'd go in together and he'd sit up and beg until Les gave him a pretzel sick out of the big jar on his counter. Then Les would fold my newspaper up and hand it to Brandon, who'd carry it home in his mouth. We did this daily for years.

Sorry guys. No pretzels. Les reportedly died years ago. Someone else runs the place now, and it's not even open today.

I used to swim Brandon in this pool. Now there's a sign up that says "No dogs". Coincidence?
Wayne State Student Union.
The Undergraduate Library that they were building when I left. They named it after Dean David Adamany?! Hey, Alumni Association? Don't call me asking for money no more. He was a tool when I was there.

The flag pole on Gullen Mall.
Twenty two years ago, I put a sticker on it protesting the city's mistreatment of police officers Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn following the death of a crackhead named Malice Green who fought them when they tried to arrest him. That sticker was there for a long, long, time. Here it was in 2007, fourteen years after I stuck it there.

Back then, I held a rally on campus to raise support for these two officers. It drew a couple thousand attendees, including protesters who came by bus from as far away as Cleveland. And from that day forward, I could do no wrong as far as the campus police were concerned. And to be fair, I put them to the test a time or two. I was the lone conservative activist on campus during the both the Budzyn and Nevers days and the first Gulf War, and I was pretty quick to engage radical leftist groups when I found them. I got hauled off by the campus cops several times, but not once was I actually arrested. Instead, they usually drove me a couple of blocks away and then dropped me off and told me to go home for the day. I liked those guys.

The sticker is still there now, just recently painted over. Typical union painter work--they couldn't even be bothered to scrape or strip it off. It's still there under that paint. Maybe I'll go back with some paint thinner next time.

I took the dogs into the book store to buy camera batteries and a coffee mug. Don't know why Murphy is slouching but they were very well behaved.

Old Main, the original building that was once Wayne University.
I was a Teaching Assistant in the Geology Department there once. I got that job by having the third-highest grade of all Geology 101 students that semester. I got that grade by dating MY Teaching Assistant.

On Woodward, we have the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Arts. I used to have a membership there and I loved it's galleries. But alas, I got into a shouting match with a couple of their security guards one day over a piece of art that I might have touched. (It was a modern art sculpture that's supposed to move.) I quit going for a while over that. Much the pity now.
Right across the Street is the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. I used to check books and videos out here all the time. Man, you want to see an ornate and impressive building...It's a reminder of how much money the city used to have back before the Democrats took control and drove it into the ground.
Next door to that: the Detroit Historical Museum. Another great institution. Their exhibits are phenominal, especially a huge model train set that runs around much of the basement.
Here's the old 49 room Hecker Mansion on Woodward Ave. at Ferry. When I knew it, it was still owned by the Smiley Brothers Music Co., but the family let it go to seed and Detroiters, as is their wont, got in and vandalized and looted it pretty badly before a law firm bought it and renovated it again. Now Wayne State University owns it, having paid a reported $2.3 million for it.

Here's an abandoned building on West Lafayette Street that I remember well. It's the old Detroit Free Press building. My father worked there for many years. I worked there briefly in the early 1990s too.
I remember the sound of the huge three-story high presses in the basement, and the smell of hot lead plates and ink. But one day they stopped for good as a result of the costs of a protracted union strike and the building got quiet. The presses were hauled out and scrapped, and eventually the offices moved out, too. The paper still prints, but not here. They share press time with their former competitor, the Detroit News, whom they now operate in conjunction with under a Joint Operating Agreement.
I found an open door off the old loading dock behind the building. Had I not had Spud and the dogs with me, I'd have gone inside for one more look around.

The Rennaisannce Center, or Ren Cen. Built by Ford Motor Co. in 1976, it's now owned by General Motors.

The dogs are chilling in front of the fountain in Hart Plaza.
It looks much nicer in the summer when the water is on.
"Are we done here? We're done here."

Here's the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. And we have freighter traffic upbound.

Good timing. We got to see the tug Ken Boothe Sr. and it's barge, Lakes Contender. Launched in 2012, this combo is the newest addition to the Great Lakes shipping fleet. The tug is 135 feet long and the barge is 740 feet. The tug has two 5,400HP diesels for a combined 10,500 shaft horsepower.
Impressive, but I miss the old self-unloaders and straight-deckers.

This was new to me. A memorial to the labor unions that wrecked Detroit, screwed up Michigan's economy, and damamged America's ability to compete in the modern world. It's festooned with quotes from such leftists as former mayor Coleman Young, Eugene Debs, and Saul Alinsky, among others. The Spud liked the design, but he knows not the harm that unions caused.

Here's the Spirit of Detroit statue, dressed up to commemorate Michigan State, which is off to the Cotton Bowl this year, having trounced both University of Michigan and Ohio State this year. It was a very good year.
The Spud and the hounds pose by the statue.

"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral"
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald..."

These are the lyrics of the song by Gordon Lightfoot about to loss of that steel freighter on the night of November 10, 1975. (And yes, I remember that night too, and the reports the next morning about a ship, overdue and presumed lost on Lake Superior.) Well here's that cathedral, on Jefferson Ave. in the shadow of the Rennaisannce Center. They still hold a memorial service there every November. I went one year. It was incredibly solemn and moving. Officers and crew from many other lake ships were there, all in their dress uniforms.
I wanted to take pictures of all of the abandoned houses, but the demolishers have been busy. Mostly I found blocks and blocks of vacant land where burned-out houses used to be.
That includes this block, the 2300 block of West Warren Ave.
This was where the whole Malice Green mess went down back in 1992. For a long time, a vacant, gutted storefront had a memorial to that loser painted on the wall. It was the one small piece of Detroit that the local scumbags always kept clean and tidy. And they always repainted it, no matter how many times we some people threw paint on it.

It's gone now, Walt and Larry. It's finally gone.

Alas, Walt and Larry are gone, too. They've both since died. And other than me, I suspect that few people remember and even fewer people care.


  1. I also remember Malice Green. Really, what was his mother thinking? The kid was doomed.

    Also puzzling was that people could be so hungry for a hero that they turn a stupid crack junky into a saint.

    This is my earliest recollection of the power of "narrative" and the people living in the fantasy "It is a FACT because I want it to be a fact."

    Still shaking my head.

  2. You woke up a memory of either a school trip or a scout trip to one of the Philly papers and rows of linotype machines. That was a very long time ago.

  3. As long as there are good people in the world like you, people will care. Thanks for sharing such a personal post.

    Happy New Year.

  4. WONDERFUL walk down memory lane for Erin! Thank you! I remember it all, except the circle statue. Never heard of that. One of my brothers, an Iron worker and the only other conservative in the family, built 2 of the towers of the Renaissance building...all the way to the top. Blessings for 2016...we need a lot of them.

  5. What Brigid said.
    Happy New year, Buddy.


  6. Don't waste time with paint stripper. It would probably take off the lettering from the sticker. It's possible there isn't any left, anyway. If they sand blasted it prior to painting, the sticker would lose any coating, but would last quite a while itself.

  7. Thank-you for sharing these memories with us.
    Happy New Year

  8. Great travelog there Murph! Best wishes for a great 2016!

  9. It is fitting that the monument to labor unions looks like a Stargate, for all the factories and jobs they sent to far away places