Work History, Part One

February 28, 2017

I started off working, the way most people do.

I grew up as the eldest of nine children, seven boys and two girls. There were always chores to do around the house.  Some of us got to climb the ladder up into our apple tree and our pear tree and pick fruit. That was interesting.  Pear pie is very tasty.

One of my first outside jobs was to help my Aunt Mary clean up her classroom.  Then there were seasonal jobs.  I’d make a few dollars shoveling snow or raking leaves.  I used to help my brothers with their newspaper routes.  I never had my own newsboy job though.

In late 2011.

In late 2011.

In August 1969, I got a part-time job at the Monteith Branch Library here in Detroit.  This was the closest library.  Yet it was still a good half an hour walk away.  I worked at Monteith though part of high school and all through college.  My grandmother had been a librarian there.

This was my first real job.  I got a Social Security Card.

The people who I worked with were really nice. I learned a lot about library work.  It was like a little family, a friendly work experience.  My cousin Joe also worked there for a while. So did my brother Matt.

I’d shelve books.  I’d read the shelves to make sure that the books had been shelved in the right order.  Then there were special projects.

There was some trouble too, including robberies and disruptive oddballs. Then too, I lost my two front teeth in an accident, in the library basement.

It was built in 1925 and opened in May 1926.  It’s a great old building and it’s the largest Detroit branch library.

There were secret rooms and odd details.  I loved the break room, the little auditorium and the rooftop.  The furnace rooms in the basement were unusual too.  There was a wild old furnace. There was a dumb-waiter that we’d use to move books from one floor to another. It was a sort of “books only” elevator.

I got to program a film series there.  I chose the films and projected them myself, mainly to audiences of children. Many years later, one of them recognized me on the bus.  He told me how much he and his friends really loved those programs.

After I graduated, in 1976, I stayed on at the library for a while. My last day was in November of that year.  I worked there for over seven years.  It was great working at a library.  I’d end up returning to library work eventually, in my late 40’s.

After that, I worked a series of odd jobs.  I did a lot of landscaping. This was hard work.  I remember struggling to lift a tarp full of soaking wet leaves up into a pickup truck.  They’d get quite heavy.  There were two or three landscaping companies that I worked for.

The one that I was at longest was with Mr. Pilorget.  He was a French Canadian and a boss who worked as hard as his workers did.  You had to keep up a good pace but he was fair.  It was like my early gardening jobs, but much more intense.

I worked at the WCCC book store when it was on Woodward, near Wayne State.

Occasionally, I worked at Little Harry’s restaurant on Jefferson as a substitute dishwasher. They’d feed you a nice meal first, then you’d get to work.  This classic Detroit restaurant was knocked off the map by a pancake chain.

At one point I had a job working at a car wash for a dollar fifty an hour.

I tried out for the post office.  I went through training but the machine was going too fast for me.  It seemed like a sort of high speed/ intelligent robot job.  I couldn’t cut it.

The fact that I spent 1977 and 1978 doing “sporadic work” enabled me to go on two extended hitchiking trips.  The 1977 trip was the longer of the two, the only time that I got out west.

At Christmastime, I’d work the all night shift at the Circus World toy store in the Eastland Mall.  Some of my friends and siblings worked there too. We’d clean up, stock the shelves and so on. Sometimes we’d help unload the truck.  There usually wasn’t much time to play with the toys.  This went on for two or three years.

Working in the Factory, My brother Dennis and I.

Yes, as I always say “The things people do for money!” Then “What does money do for you?”

This photo is of my brother Dennis and I back in 1979 or so.  We worked at Drive-All Manufacturing.  It was a smallish factory or “shop.”   It was on Conner on Detroit’s east side.  I started on Valentines Day 1979.

We worked the boring mills and gear shavers.  We painted parts.  Sometimes, I cut the cardboard boxes into sections and I did “drip paintings” on these.  I made scrap metal into little sculptures as well.

a factory painting (on brown cardboard)

It was hard work and messy work.  The boring machine was the easiest.  It would slowly enlarge a hole in a metal case.  You just had to watch it and turn the crank ahead, to speed it up toward cutting the next section.

The gear-shaving machine had a milky liquid pouring over the gears, as the sharp edges got rounded, bit by bit.  That job always ending up giving you a lot of little metal splinters. That was uncomfortable.

I was there for over two years.  I believe that they closed their small Detroit shop  and that’s why I had to leave and look for another job. This was in 1981 or 1982.

To be Continued/ Part One of Three.

Working the drill press. Button by Dennis Greenia.

Monteith Branch Library:

Drive-All Manufacturing:

Election 2016: Take Three, What Do We Do Now?

January 2, 2017

We the People

There’s a new reality in the United States of America.  We have to deal with it whether we like it or not.  We ignore it at our own peril.  The people who ignored it on election day helped to bring it about.  The new regime can’t destroy America as easily as they would like to. Yet they can cause enough damage so that it may take the rest of our lives to repair it.

The cabinet choices leave nothing to the imagination.  Any attempt to win people over or meet people halfway seems to be discarded. Many of them appear to be amateurs, never having held office or served in any other leadership positions.  Others have records of incompetence and are prone to making mistakes.  Where, exactly, is the new administration coming from?

Some things will become evident right away.  Others will take a few years to figure out.  But for now:

First, we are still at the early stages of the troubles.  It’s a sort of civil war. The other side has been fighting it for eight years. They did everything they could to thwart Barack Obama. They even fought against things which were truly in their own best interest. This was mainly done through the Republican Congress. They’ve blocked over 500 bills, some of which would have helped the disgusted and angry electorate.  For them, throwing the baby out with the bath water has become a way of life.  I wonder what they’ll say yes to instead of no.

Now, the humanitarians, environmentalists, feminists and pacifists must come together to struggle for what they believe in.  In doing this, we need to do all we can to keep it a non-violent conflict. This is extremely important.  We don’t want a lot of death and mayhem.  We want to be part of the non-violent protest tradition. Yet we must join the fight.  You can have a war against war.  You can fight for respect and for justice.

The antagonism between the two Americas has reached an extreme point.  If there’s not much violence as yet, there’s a disquieting threat of violence.  Violence is in the air.  Yet violence is what we’re trying to prevent.

Some of us want to reach out to our fellow citizens across the political divide.  Do any of them want to reach out to us as well?

Second, this is where the “checks and balances” system of the USA will receive one of its most intense tests ever. The immune system of the body politic will find itself exposed to a series of diseases.  Will the country as a whole remain healthy?

The voice of the majority of the people will find a way to make itself heard. The Republicans can’t change the laws of this country very easily. We must make sure that they strictly follow the laws that are on the books. The news media need to be thorough, vigorous, honest and forceful.  The people and the media should interact and work together.

Third, we need to formulate some solid responses.  There are things which we can do as individual citizens.  We can act in concert with and collaboration with our fellow citizens. Attitudes and stances can be of consequence.  Actions and networking are even more important. Here are some ideas:

  1. Murder, torture, cruelty and exploitation are continuing problems for the human race. Some enjoy it or glory in it, or pretend to do so.  Others take the opposite path.  We disdain war except for the rare, rare times when it becomes unavoidable.  Violence is only really necessary in self-defense.   If someone’s trying to kill you, you fight back or try to run.  It’s difficult to deal with.  It’s hard to really make a difference.  Yet we need to try.
  2. I’ve also stressed elsewhere that we need to celebrate, promote and live within the truest sort of absolute reality.   Living in a false and delusional reality can lead to nothing but trouble.
  3. Be aware and wary.  Search out the truth and share it, promote it. Search out important things which have actually happened and are happening.
  4. Keep after your representatives to do the right thing.  They’d like to be re-elected in most cases.  Keep the pressure up.
  5. Donate time, energy and money to groups and causes that will resist the more destructive parts of the oncoming agenda. These include groups which help women, children, poor people, sick people, retirees, immigrants, the LGBT community (and others who’ll be threatened in the next four years).
  6. When you see people who feel that it’s OK to be a bigot once again, don’t give them get away with it.  I’ve seen plenty of evidence of this, both in media reports and in my own life. People feel “re-entitled” to attack, swindle and insult immigrants, women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Middle Eastern people and more. You may get a chance to help someone.  Be careful and try not to risk your life.  Yet if you see something, say something.  Some seem to glory in “political incorrectness”
  7. Appeal to the young people and try to bring them into the cause.   They have the most to lose, through the ravages of climate change and through serious economic and educational challenges.  Not “Give me mine now!” but “Posterity Now!” Show young people that a lot of us really care about what happens to them.  Give serious consideration and respect to future generations as well.
  8. Keep reminding the new administration that we’re living under a rule of the majority of the people by a minority of the people. There’s no way that they have any sort of real mandate. Make this known.  Find further proof and evidence of this and tell people about it.  They won largely by sheer luck and by a series of irregularities.
  9. We need to try to reach out to the new administration and their supporters as best we can.  Reaching out to the common, everyday people on the other side is important. They’re not all ideologues, bigots and worse.  Some of them have a more complex sense of humanity and may be willing to listen to reason.  We need to try to persuade or convert people from the other side.  At  least, maybe we can reduce some of the discord.  I think we’ll have better luck with the common people than we will with their leaders. You never know though. We’ll see what happens.
  10. One of the most difficult things will be to try to accept and respect people even as they refuse to  accept and respect you. This isn’t a matter of taking whatever comes.  We’ll stand up and take a stand. We’re not sheep, wimps, masochists or losers.  We’re strong and unique women and men.   We’re not going to let our civil and human rights be taken away.
  11. Some of us still listen to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”   Like Lincoln in ways, we’re trying to stay out of the ugliest partisan bickering and accept the others as best we can. Yet we need to try to prevent whatever we can prevent. We need to find imaginative, ethical ways to resist the new administration’s agenda and temper its impact on society.
  12. We artists will have a part to play as well.  Good writing, poetry, music, drawing, painting dance, theatre and cinema will thrive and surprise us.  Creativity often rises to the challenge in difficult times. This can serve as both healing balm and as inspiration.
  13. I’ll add more to this as it comes to me or as people share their ideas with me. Happy New Years and Good luck!  
We the People.

We the People

This is likely my final blog post related to politics in this space   For similar future posts, check my new blog, which includes Political, Social and Environmental studies and comments, post 2016:

George Lackoff, an important and sensible voice.  I’ll write more about him in my new Political Reality blog:

The Indivisible Guide, also an important take on the whole mess:

Some interesting takes on the “What Do We Do Now?” puzzle:

“And there is Truth in the Old Saying, That if you make yourself a Sheep, the Wolves will eat you.” Benjamin Franklin

Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861.  He was taking office and still trying to prevent the Civil War:

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The Rise of the Humorless Trickster

December 6, 2016


There’s a new trend that’s going on around the world.  People rise to power by lying and by fooling people.  They know how to stir people up.  They’re good at manipulating smoke and mirrors. There are other ways to rise to power. Yet this remains an extremely popular one.

Now, it’s happened here at home.

There’s a trickster who loves to break the rules.  He prefers to make up his own rules. People buy it too.  They stand in long lines to buy it.

He’s the “crown prince” of miserabilism.

He seems to be the very personification of the death culture. Everything that makes money now is at the center of his life. The Earth itself and the fate of future generations seem to hold no meaning in his heart.

He seems to disdain, maybe even despise, everyone who is different from him: the poor, the lower middle classes, people of other races, gay and transgender people, artists and even women.

Yet he can’t escape his humanity in ways.  He seems to have learned to make exceptions, especially for his friends and family.

He fooled the “other team” into helping to promote and publicize him. He tells the most outrageous lies and stories and millions of people don’t care. They can live with it. They don’t realize that they’ve been tricked or else they don’t mind being tricked.

I’ve been a trickster myself, I admit it.  I usually love a good trickster.

In this case though, I’ll have to make an exception.

Most tricksters use jokes and humor to get what they want.  This one has broken the rules by being a humorless trickster.  He never seems to tell jokes.  If he does, it seems that he only jokes behind closed doors or when he thinks that the microphone is off.

Usually, humor is part and parcel with being a true and absolute trickster.  One needs to laugh at and with much of the world and much of life.  You need to be able to laugh at yourself.  That why the phenomenon of the glum and grumpy trickster has caught me by surprise.

Some people  think that he’s too dangerous to joke about.  He’s seems to have transcended humor itself.  What role can humor play in dealing with such a grim and gloomy trickster?

I still haven’t heard his laugh yet.  I’ve heard it described as a bit hollow and even frightening.  There are some sounds that you try to avoid hearing, for as long as possible.

He who laughs last laughs best.  Lets hope that the trail of tears along the way doesn’t get to be too overwhelming.


Election 2016: Take Two, What Happened?

November 30, 2016

Early voters at San Francisco City Hall filled out long ballots as they cast their votes one week before the election. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

People who hate government, who are firmly against government are going into government.  People who disdain or disregard the U.S. Constitution (and other laws of this country) may soon themselves forced to or persuaded to follow those laws.

Then there are those who wage war against democracy.  If you fight hard enough against democracy, with a small d, eventually you’ll hurt Democrats.  It may come back to hurt Republicans as well.

How was this done?  It’s as if they’ve found ways to cheat or to rig the game beforehand. To do so, after the fact would increase the odds of being caught or exposed.   Yet if they do so “legally” than does that make it more right or more fair?

First, there’s the issue of gerrymandering.  As implemented, it seems blatantly anti-democratic to me.  It’s a way of enhancing one group  at the expense of another group.  It’s gone too far. As Jessica Post of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said on NPR this week “So the voters have much less of a stake when the politicians are picking their own voters instead of voters picking politicians.”

Second, there’s the whole Citizens United issue.

Third, there’s the Supreme Court weakening the Voting Rights Act. This led to extreme anti-democratic action.  How much and was it enough to effect the election?  Well that’s a subject for further research.

Then too:

  1. People believed lies and fabricated news stories.  This effected how they voted.  I’m talking about exaggerations, distortions and things made up entirely out of whole cloth.  This came from both dubious media sources and from major candidates.
  2. Talk radio helped to swing the election.  It did so, with an able assist from its twin, a biased and unprincipled internet.  There was also a special “honorable mention” to reality TV.  As we’re all about to find out, just because you think that someone would be good at playing a president on television does not mean that they’ll be a good president in real life.
  3. Hillary Clinton was smeared and attacked as few candidates ever have been.  This went back to the people who started hating her and attacking her when she was first lady.  A lot of this was based in lies.  She could have been a saint or a charismatic superstar and people would have refused to vote for her because of her gender.  I’m sure that there was some of that going on as well.
  4. That said, she could have run a much better and smarter campaign.  Her remark “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up…”  That may have cost her a state or two right there.  It doesn’t matter that it may be true, to a point.  It was bad politics.
  5. That said, hate helped win the election.  Those who are bigoted, scared and suspicious had their tendencies confirmed.  Just look at the rise in hate crimes and bad behavior since election day.  Bigotry goes hand-in-hand with “America first” jingoism.  They’re two peas in a pod or two sides of the same coin. Then too, there’s the matter of an African American president giving way to the “whitest of whites.”  Yet more than half of America refuses to hate.
  6. Low voter turnout played a major part in the outcome of the election.  Estimates place the turnout at less than 50% of the voting age public.  This is one of the lowest turnouts in quite a long time.  Part of the problem is likely tied to some Bernie Sanders supporters who refused to vote for Clinton.  Others just took it for granted that Trump wouldn’t win.  To all those who came out to vote for Barack Obama but stayed home this time, I hope you enjoy the next four years.
  7. The FBI director influenced the election by saying he was investigating Hillary Clinton.  The last letter especially served to energize and encourage Trump supporters and to discourage Democratic voters.
  8. This is mere anecdotal evidence, but I heard stories of priests and preachers insisting that their flocks vote for Trump.  They called voting for Hillary Clinton a “mortal sin” and a path to hell. I don’t think that there were many preachers insisting that their congregation vote for Clinton.  People look at one or two issues and can’t see the wider, more complicated picture.  There may be little to this, but it’s one more thing that may have swung the election. What about the separation between church and state?
  9. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons for this loss.  I may add to this post as others reveal themselves to me.  Or not.

Then too:


Citizens United:

The Voting Rights Act:

You don’t have to win to win! The Electoral College:

James Comey’s last minute surprise:


Who are these people?  They can’t all be that evil or that stupid:

I’m for the recount.  It’s good to know for sure whether the count was crooked at all or not:

Oh well:

Sore Loser!  Oh wait, he won, right?

Election 2016: Take One, Three Cheers for Reality!

November 12, 2016



Detroit, 9am or so. November 8th, 2016.

First of all, we need to find some sort of united sense of reality. It’s as if there are two different realities in America.  Half of the people are largely living in a fantasy world with little relation to any objective truth.  We need to try to convince or persuade them as to the very nature of existence.  We need a more unified and cohesive fabric of being.

Most of us can agree on the basics.  We breathe in and out, hopefully without difficulty. Most of us see the world in full color and in three dimensions.  Most of us walk and talk.  We live on a planet called Earth.  The planet is part of a solar system and a universe.

Most of us believe that a human being is an animal or closer to an animal than a plant.  Yet some people firmly believe that human beings are plants, plants that can walk.  How can we persuade them other wise?

There are cases where shell-shocked soldiers are convinced that the war around them is a sham, a “movie” being staged for them and them alone.  People firmly believe that the 1969 moon landing was a fake, that we never really went there.

Numerous tragedies have their deniers.  People can believe or disbelieve practically anything.  Conspiracy theories are contagious at times.

Yet if you believe in a lie or an illusion, if you believe in it passionately, with your whole being: this will not it make it true.

The results of this week’s election have me convinced that half of the United States of America is living in some sort of “alternative reality.” Sometimes it opposes what most of us take for truth. Sometimes it runs parallel to it.

In art, we can support and even encourage alternate realities.  Yet in real life we must strive for the deepest, truest most complex sense of reality.  We need nuanced and detailed thinking.  We need research and facts, true facts.  We need to know what is, is.  If we don’t, we’re all going to be in deep, deep trouble.  All of us.

Stakes are high.

A house built on rotten or shoddy foundations will not stand.  It will crumble and collapse.

We don’t want half of the country to bring the entire house down upon all of us.  The antidote or solution to this is, to me, in part, this call for reality.

People, please!


I could just end it here yet I need a short “afterword.”

I just wrote this in the middle of the night.  Like many of us, I’ve been having trouble sleeping.  I was only going to get six hours of sleep anyway, so why not four?  This text was in my head “Write me.  Write me.  Why bother sleeping?”  To me, this text is an alarm or a clarion call.  Yet it’s only the first of many steps.

Believing in a false reality leads to fascism and tyranny, as often as not.  It can be very dangerous.  Is there any way that we can be on the same page, at least? 

Of course, having a shared reality is not as simple as it sounds. When political and social things enter the picture passions flare.  Emotions distort things.  Yet how can you keep them out  of the picture?

Then there’s morality.  There often seems to be two opposite moral systems in play here: people really seem to believe things like death is life, killing is health, cruelty is kind, destruction is progress and so on and so forth.  It’s shocking that it really has become so divided, so bizarre.

Yet even through political and moral confusion, we ought to be able to agree on some sort of reality.  If we can’t do so we’re all in trouble, big trouble.

Left and right, rich and poor, many of us want the same things: a better life for ourselves and those close to us, a better country, a better world.

None of these things fall from the sky.  We need to work and struggle for them.

PS Then there’s the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence!  They’d love to put those through the shredder or throw them under the bus, at least in part.  We need to make sure that they understand these documents and follow them.

“All One Nation” versus “All One World”

October 31, 2016


It’s always seemed to me that the United States of America is an experiment.

The ones who were already here were (and still are) treated very badly.

The ones who were brought here, as slaves, were also treated unfairly and horribly.  This too has had reverberations that still continue today.

Reparations are due to Native Americans and African-Americans.  When will this happen?  Which form will it take?

I hope to explore this in a future post.


Found, New York City, August 2015.

The United States of America has been a sort of experiment: immigrants from every country in the world move to one specific country and try to get along.

They try to do more than get along.  They try to enliven and enlighten each other.  It’s like the whole world coming together in a laboratory of sorts.

We don’t always get along.  Sometimes, like now alas, things even get to be pretty toxic and confusing.  People get to be delusional. They refuse to face the deepest, truest reality. Things are often bad, yet we can create wonders and marvels.

How can anyone descended from immigrants be against immigration?  You need to be sensible about it, true.  You can’t let everyone in.  We can’t embrace everyone in the world who’d like to live here.  Yet if people are fleeing from prison, war, injury, starvation and death, this should be considered. We should take in as many people as we can.

You do need to try to keep some people out, especially if there’s solid evidence that they may be truly dangerous.  Yet don’t forget that we’re the quintessential nation of immigrants.

If this country cuts itself off from the rest of the world, it will come back to hurt us, sooner or later.

It’s “All One Nation” versus “All One World.”  The ideas compete and wrestle.  The noble idea here is that if all of the peoples in the United States can get along and do great things, maybe all of the peoples of all nations could do the same.

Some of us hope to transcend the pessimistic idea of the human race as a problem species.  We people are good for a lot more than just stealing, exploiting, raping, lying, murdering, making war and all of those things.  I think so.

Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: More Photographs of the Exhibition

September 23, 2016
The first showcase, assembling outdoor events from Bob-Lo, to the Goose Lake Music Festival and back to Detroit again.

The first showcase, assembled outdoor events from Bob-Lo, to the Goose Lake Music Festival and back to Detroit again.


This is also from the first "mostly outdoors" case.  It includes matrchbooks, ticket stubs and material on the Jefferson-Chalmers "Concerts by the River" series.

This was also from the first “mostly outdoors” case. It included matchbooks, ticket stubs and material on the Jefferson-Chalmers “Concerts by the River” series.


These first five cases have been taken down.  These photos are just for the record.  Whether you saw the show or not, they’re worth a look.

These photographs were taken by Jennifer Gariepy, unless otherwise noted.  Thanks to Detroit Mercy, Lutz Bacher and Dave Toorogian for their support and contributions.

This second showcase included material on Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood and on early jazz clubs.

This second showcase included material on Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood and on early jazz clubs.


This photo, also of the second showcase, included material on early Detroit jazz and blues.

This photo, also from the second showcase, included material on early Detroit jazz and blues.


The exhibit went well.  We had more people than usual coming through to see it.  It was great to have people in who remembered going to the old spots, back fifty years ago or more.


The third showcase focused on theatre and poetry.


The third showcase also included material deal with music performances and various restaurants and bars.


The smaller exhibition will continue until October 12th or so.  I’m doing a condensed/ greatest hits version in the two showcases on the far side of the first floor of the Detroit Mercy library.


The fourth case dealt primarily with alternative film series and lost movie houses. This photo is an overview of the entire case.



This was also in the fourth showcase/ The scroll on the left was a long list of 1940’s Detroit movie theatres. Various film series are represented here including Zoots and Naked Eye Cinema.

The show will continue in the digital realm both through these blog posts and through a facebook page.  In 2017 sometime, I hope to do at least two related blog posts.  First will be a rough history of the Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit.  I’ll mainly detail the years 1915 to 2015, around a hundred years.

The second post will explore various sites.  Some buildings have been torn down.  Some are being used for other things or are occupied by new businesses.  Others just sit there empty and abandoned.  Which is which?  Where are they now.


The fifth case included a variety of music venues including the Grande and the Flame Show Bar.  Photo by Maurice Greenia, Jr.



Photo by Maurice Greenia, Jr.





Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Photographs of the 2016 Exhibition

August 31, 2016

Around three months ago, I started organizing an exhibit called Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.   Putting it together has been a lot of fun and a lot of work.

It’s gone well enough.  I think that a lot of people have seen it.  This post attempts to document the display.  It will give an idea of what it was like for those who couldn’t get by to see it in person.

At this writing, you have about three more weeks.  The full exhibit should be on display until Thursday September 15.  After that, it will be up a bit longer, yet keep getting smaller, until it’s down to just 2 cases. That “greatest hits” configuration should still be up until October 1st.

New hours:

I never really put out a sign-in sheet or guest book.  So if you did see it, I’d appreciate it if you’d email me at or else just leave a comment here.

The first display case (below) featured events which took place outdoors.  These included the Michigan State Fair (at Detroit’s State Fairgrounds), the Festival of the Arts, the Fourth Street Fair, the Bob-Lo Boat, New Center’s Taste Fest and several more.

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Material connected with the “Fourth Street Fair”

The second case (below) celebrates Detroit’s early jazz scenes. There’s also material connected with Detroit’s lost Hastings Street/ Black Bottom neighborhood. The Graystone was one of the best known late, great jazz spots.  Thanks to Lutz Bacher for loaning the material on the Minor Key and the Drome Lounge.


The third case (below) features material on poetry and theatre venues. Included as an original flyer for an early performance by Lily Tomlin at the Unstabled Coffee House.  There’s also material on the Concept Theatre, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Horizons in Poetry series and much more.

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The fourth case (below) pays tribute to Detroit’s underground and repertory cinema scene.  Venues include the Tele-Arts Theatre and Zoot’s Coffee House.  Lost film series include the Cass City Cinema (held at the Unitarian Church at Cass & Forest) and the long running film program at the Main Branch Library.  It also includes a tribute to Detroit’s 1940’s movie theatres.


The fifth case (below) is a mixture of Detroit venues and events, mostly musical ones.  It includes material on the Grande, Bookies and various jazz spots.  There’s a photo of Smokey Robinson performing at Kennedy Square.

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The sixth case (below) is across the room, toward Livernois.  It’s the sole “flat case.”  A lot of the best and rarest things are here: a table drumstick from the Club El Sino, an ashtray from the Chin Tiki, material on the Detroit Artist’s Workshop, more on the Unstabled, an original ad for the Graystone ballroom and much more.

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The seventh and final case (below, two photos) also has a lot of interesting things.  It’s mostly posters, flyers and copies of old advertisements.

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A detail of the final showcase including material on the Palms-State Theatre, Bookies, the Zeitgeist, Alvin’s, the Freezer Theatre, the Poison Apple and others.  There are some copies of old ads for bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Detroit circa 1960-1961.

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Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Naming Names

July 29, 2016


Jazz Ballrooms and Clubs: The  Graystone Ballroom, the New Arcadia Ballroom, the Vanity Ballroom, Danceland, the Eastwood Ballroom, Club Paradise, the Club Plantation, the Brown Bomber Chicken Shack, the Blue Bird Inn, Foster’s House of Jazz, the Frolic Bar, the Club Three Sixes, the Harlem Cave, Odum’s Cave, Cafe Bohemia, the Jazz Lab, the Mirror Ballroom, the Minor Key, Club Alamo, Club Basin Street, Club El Sino, Foster’s House of Jazz, the World Stage, the New World Stage, the Rappa House, Entropy Studios, the Serengeti Ballroom, the Detroit Art Space, the Bohemian National Home and more.

Specializing in the Blues: The Koppin Theatre, the Ebony Club, the Swamp Room (in the Mark Twain Hotel), the Forest Club, the Soup Kitchen and the Music Menu.

Taxi Dancing: Hollywood Ballroom, the Moulin Rouge, the Peppermint Lounge and more.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

Nightclubs: Mr. Kelly’s, the Cedars, Club 509, Joe Bathey Club, the Falcon Dining Lounge, the Club Zombie, Duke’s Supper Club, the Harem Lounge, the Twenty Grand, the Book Show Bar, the Rhinocerous Club, the Poison Apple and the Willis Show Club.

Rock n’ Roll: the Grande, the Eastown, the Michigan Theatre, Olympia Stadium, the Ford Auditorium, Cobo Hall (still there but no more concerts), the Motor City Roller Skating Rink (formerly a movie theatre), Bookie’s Club 870 aka Bookie’s, Traxx, Todd’s (with two locations?), the Neon Pit, the Gold Dollar and more.

Some Detroit spots of renown: the Flame Show Bar, Club Alamo, the Chessmate, the Strata Concert Gallery (on Michigan Avenue), Cobb’s Corner, Alvin’s, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Women’s City Club, Zoot’s Coffee House, the Cup of Socrates Coffee House, the Bittersweet Coffee House, the Art Center Music School, 404 West Willis, the Hoe Hoe Inn aka the Grinning Duck Club, Watts Club Mozambique, the Freezer Theatre, the Park Avenue Club Ballroom and more.

Theatres: The Cass Theatre, the New Cass Theatre, the Riviera Theatre, the Wilson Theatre (it later became the Music Hall), the Shubert Lafayette, the Concept Theatre Club, the Un-Stabled, the Vest Pocket Theatre, the Walk & Squawk Performance Project and many more.

Alternative Movie Programs and a few select Theatres: Cass City Cinema, the Tele-Arts Theatre, the Studio 78, the Studio North, the Studio New Center, WSU’s Wayne Cinema Guild, the Concept East II, Naked Eye Cinema and the DFC/ Detroit Filmmaker’s Coalition.  From a bit out of town Kinotek and the Windsor Theatre in Canada, the Punch and Judy in Grosse Pointe and the Royal Oak Cinema Society. There are too many great lost “regular movie theatres” to mention here. We’re down from 150 of them to just 1 or 2.


Jerry Lee Lewis played here in 1966 and 1967.

Restaurants and Bars which included  some live entertainment: Backstage, Baja’s, the Brass Rail, the Tropicana Bar, Chin Tiki, the Club 12 Show Bar, the Empire, Nance’s Bar, Trent’s Lounge, the Music Bar, Sportree’s Music Bar (two different places?), the Empire Bar, the Grand Duchess, 1/2 Pints, the Mermaid’s Cave, Chesterfield Lounge, the Aquarium Seafood Restaurant, the Drumbeat Club, the Diplomat Cocktail Lounge, the Dream Bar, the Comet Bar and more.

Other restaurants of note: Little Harry’s, Victor Lim’s, the 2-Way Inn, the Thai House, Stanley Hong’s Mannia Cafe and more.

Art Galleries which featured live performances: the Willis Gallery, Urban Park in Trapper’s Alley (in Greektown), the Detroit Focus Gallery, the Zeitgeist, the Johanson Charles gallery, 2-South, the Redd Apple Gallery and more.

Outdoor Festivals and Annual Event’s: The Festival of the Arts, the Detroit version of the Michigan State Fair, New Center’s Taste Fest, the Fourth Street Fair, Casa de Unidad’s Unity in the Community Concert Series, Jefferson-Chalmer’s Concerts by the River, the Detroit Rock & Roll Revival, the Belle Isle Kite-In and the Goose Lake International Music Festival.

Noted: the Cass Corridor Food, Co-op, the  Campus Treasure Shop, Bird Town Pet Shop, the Odd Shop and Showcase Collectibles.



I might start a separate category for spots that were destroyed as part of the 1960’s destruction of the Black Bottom neighborhood. I might start a category for coffee houses. It’s good that I can go back into this and edit it and add things.

I’m not sure that I have everything here fitted into the proper category.  Some bars might be better described as nightclubs and vice versa.  Then I’m sure that there are great spots that I’ve missed or overlooked.  Any suggestions or observations would be appreciated.,_Detroit

As I said, Am I forgetting anything important?  Please Let me know.  I’ll keep adding to this.

Lost Spaces and Quiet Places

June 17, 2016

Two promos for The Mermaid’s Cave, an ad and a matchbook cover.


I’m currently organizing and installing an exhibition called Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.

This has me thinking, poetically, about lost spaces and quiet places.  Many of the buildings which housed them have been torn down or are sitting empty.  Others are inhabited by other businesses.

The Tele-Arts Theatre is now a nightclub.  The Michigan Theatre is now a parking garage. The church in which the Catacombs Coffee House was held sits empty and may end up being demolished.

I’m thinking about Detroit, but not just Detroit.  There are lost and missing places all over the United States and all over the world.  Ghosts and history both linger in the rubble.


I think about all the old joints.  They’d get pretty noisy and lively.  Sometimes they’d be jam-packed.

You used to be able to smoke.  Some people had comments wondering “how can the horn players play without gas masks?”

Bars specialized in beer, wine and liquor.  Coffee Houses served coffee, tea and snacks. Restaurants or Supper Clubs would offer both of these, plus meals.  You could usually get snacks or meals in the taverns too.

The music was often sublime.  Great figures in jazz, soul, blues, rock and more performed. They played and sang, spinning magic.  It was pure gold.

There would be dancing.  Sometimes they were dance clubs.  Other times “discreet dancing” would be allowed in normal bars.  With some music you had to dance.

There was sweat, a lot of sweat, especially in the Summer.  In the Winter you could find a spot and get out  of the cold.

People fell in love.  They got together and they broke up.  Some stayed together.

Lovers, friends and acquaintances rubbed shoulders or elbows and shot the bull.  Largely, everyone got along.  Yet sometimes there’d be fights or arguments.  When these got out of hand it could lead to shootings, stabbings and murders.

Some places were safer than others.  Yet some of those with the greatest music were often a little risky.  Sometimes you’d want a quiet, low-key space.  Sometimes you’d want something lively and even rowdy.

Leaving home and going out “on the town” was always an adventure. For some it was a regular thing.  Others went out less regularly or just on special occasions.

It all comes back to love.  People thrive in friendly, magical and conducive spaces.  They go to spots that they connect with.  There’s something in the air.  People love good music, poetry, cinema and theatre.  They love good company.  Great spaces breed great culture.

This relates to the idea of the cafe too.  The Paris model is hard to replicate. There was a lively cafe scene in Vienna as well.  There was a golden age of culture in New York too, in its way.  People talk, get together and connections are made.

It usually happens accidentally and often doesn’t last for long.  Yet some of us keep searching for it and hoping for it.  There a sense of a lost Utopia. You can practically taste it, but it’s just out of reach.

A vibrant and powerful cultural scene can change and uplift human lives. It can also help and revive cities and neighborhoods.

I’ve experienced several such scenes in Detroit.  I’ve lived in the magic and dwelled in autonomous zones.

They’re long gone now.  I keep trying to find something similar.  I haven’t much luck. Detroit has a lively arts and music presence.  Yet it seems to be divided into cliques.  Some of these work better than others.  Everyone has their own tastes and preferences.  The little pockets of life and energy sometimes take on a life of their own.

There are two are three spots around here which intrigue me.  They’re already good.  They have, at least, the possibility of mutating into something truly special.  Hopefully there are others as well.


From the collection of Lutz Bacher.  Early 1960’s.

Post Script:

It would be great to have a time machine.  You could go see people like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Cannonball Adderly, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Mary Lou Williams, Andrew Hill, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, the Velvet Underground, Griot Galaxy, the MC5 and on and on.

We have to settle for audio recording of films of concerts.  Some of us have our memories.  If we could replay our memories so clearly as if we were reliving them, than it would be like a real time machine.

Thanks to Dave Toorongian for the images here from matchbooks and old ads.

Thanks to Dave Toorongian and Lutz Bacher for loaning items for this exhibit.  

Thank you to library at the University of Detroit Mercy for continuing support of this and other exhibitions.


More information is on this accompanying facebook page, more images and related material: