New York City, July 2017: Museums!

August 14, 2017

Last month, Jennifer Gariepy and I took the Greyhound bus from Detroit to New York City.  It’s always a long haul, but the return trip was nicer than the trip out.  Among other things, a belligerent drunk got kicked off of the bus (“I want my charger!  Who took my charger!”)

The New York Public Library

On Monday,  July 17, we started with the Main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, the Steven A. Swarzman Building.  It’s good to check your travel-bags for a while and to walk around, lighter. We spent a good while there.  It’s a lovely building.  There were displays on Love in Venice, Italy, and on old airline maps.  There was also a collection of vintage Winnie the Pooh dolls.  These were the actual stuffed toys owned by A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin.  After that, we walked around, ending up on 14th Street, then caught the subway to Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, July 18, we tried to find my grandfather’s old place on Baltic Street in Brooklyn.  It had been torn down to build a school. On the internet, it looked as  if it was still there.  Go see for yourself.

Then we got by the New York Transit Museum.  It’s in the same neighborhood.  It was pretty wonderful.  I’ll have to get by there again someday.  We were only there about half-hour and they closed for the day.  It’s built in an out-of-service subway station. There are old subway cars on the tracks.  You can go inside of them.  They also had vintage subway signs, ads and even a toll booth, as you can see. After that, we got back to Manhattan.  We wandered around, did this and that, and ended up at Canal Street.  We finished the day going through Chinatown and Little Italy.

At the New York Transit Museum

On Wednesday, July 19, we were mainly around the Chelsea and Meatpacking District areas.  A lot of galleries have moved there but we just got to one, to see a good  exhibit of work by Ray Johnson. He’s an interesting artist who was born and raised in Detroit.

Then we went  to the new Whitney Museum of American Art building. It was the first time I’ve been there.  There have open-air viewing decks where you can catch some breezes and see the city. Highlights included shows of work by Alexander Calder and Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica.  In the evening, we went and saw the band Les Sans Culottes play at the Footlight in the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens. They played second as  part of a program with 4 bands.

At the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

Jennifer at the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

A Calder stabile at the Whitney Museum of American Art

On Thursday, July 20, we went to the Brooklyn museum we saw Infinite Blue, an exhibit related to the color blue.  Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party has been on display at this museum since 2007, so we saw that. There was also an excellent exhibit, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.  This show is strongly related to two exhibits currently on display here in Detroit, Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion at the Wright Museum and Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement at the DIA.

Then, we got to the Museum of Modern Art where we saw Making Space, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction.  We were only there an hour or so, but we saw a lot.  The permanent collection is amazing. We also breezed through the Robert Rauschenberg show. The slurping mud pit and the robots were a surprise.  It included his work as a stage set designer, in collaboration with theatre and dance performances.  There were also films and posters related to New York City in the 1910’s.  It rained awhile, and the streets were shiny until it evaporated.  Speaking of the weather, it was a hot time in old New York.  Most days were in the mid to high 90’s.

The Brooklyn Museum

 

July 20, around 9pm

On Friday, July 21 we went to the Museum of the City of New York. There were good exhibits on salsa music in New York, protest and the 1980’s AIDS crisis.  To me, the most amazing show here was A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960.  I loved it.

We got to Central Park a bit, including the Conservatory Gardens, at around 105th street. Then we got to the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. We saw a lot of the permanent collection and the Irving Penn retrospective. We didn’t see as much as we wished because we had to catch the Greyhound back to Detroit.  After missing a year last year, it was good to be back.

It was nice to go around town with Jennifer.  Thanks too to New York friends, especially Bill Carney and Margie Catov.  It was great!

The Conservatory Gardens in Central Park

Monday,  July 17, the New York Public Library:

https://www.nypl.org/

https://www.nypl.org/about/locations/schwarzman

https://www.nypl.org/about/locations/schwarzman/childrens-center-42nd-street/pooh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Public_Library_Main_Branch

At  the New York Public Library, closes August 26:

https://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/love-venice

the New York Public Library, closes September 11:

https://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/drawn-clouds-mid-century-airline-pictorial-maps

On Tuesday, July 18, the New York Transit Museum:

http://www.nytransitmuseum.org/

http://www.nytransitmuseum.org/exhibits-collections/exhibits/

On Wednesday, July 19, a Ray Johnson exhibition and the Whitney:

http://www.matthewmarks.com/new-york/exhibitions/2017-05-06_ray-johnson/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Johnson

http://whitney.org/

Calder: Hypermobility, through October 23:

http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/CalderHypermobility

Hélio Oiticica, to Organize Delirium, through October 1:

http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/HelioOiticica

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hélio_Oiticica

On Thursday, July 20, the Brooklyn Museum and MOMA:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Infinite Blue:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/infinite_blue

The Dinner Party:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/2675

We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Through September 27:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/we_wanted_a_revolution

https://www.moma.org/

Making Space, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,  just closed:

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3663

http://www.highbrowmagazine.com/7725-women-artists-and-postwar-abstraction-moma

https://www.janicesztabnik.com/single-post/2017/04/19/Making-Space-Women-Artists-and-Postwar-Abstraction-I-MoMA

Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, through September 17:

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3634?locale=en

On Friday, July 21, the Museum of the City of New York and the Met:

The Museum of the City of New York:

http://www.mcny.org/

A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960, through September 4::

http://www.mcny.org/exhibition/city-seen

https://ny.curbed.com/2017/4/21/15373562/todd-webb-photographs-mcny-exhibits

The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

http://www.metmuseum.org/

Irving Penn centennial, closed:

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2017/irving-penn-centennial

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park:

http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/conservatory-garden.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatory_Garden

A Celia Cruz Mural

If you click on a photo, and then backspace, you can enlarge them and then return to the page.

Detroit’s Fourth Street Fair 1969 (or so) to 2007

July 27, 2017

Ten years ago this month, Detroit’s Fourth Street held its final public block party.  That was in 2007.

I think that it started in 1969.  It could have been 1968 or 1970 though.  If I ever pin it down, I’ll note that here.

It was also known as the Positively Fourth Street Fair.  I never liked that because the Bob Dylan song Positively Fourth Street is pretty negative.  It’s a good song though.

I’ve performed there many times and helped with other things including planning and publicity.  There were plenty of other chores too, including 2 to 7 hours of clean-up on Sunday morning.  It wasn’t easy to put the fair on.

The fair ended for a number of reasons.  The same people put it on year after year and were getting burned out on the work.  The city was getting stricter that everything be authorized and licensed. They wanted us to dot every i and cross every T.  Then too, the character of the block was changing.  There’s a school on the block and another one nearby.  Some of the long-timers moved out and new people moved in.

I was sorry to see it go.  The fair was a unique and beautiful thing. If you never got to attend it, sorry.  If you did, you remember it.

From 2003 and 2005, from METRO TIMES archives and the late Sarah Klein:

https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/punk-rock-block-party/Content?oid=2176622

https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/fourth-street-fare/Content?oid=2181741

From Detroit Yes:

https://www.detroityes.com/webisodes/2001/04-fourth/01.php

There are a number of videos of the fair on youtube. If I find one that I especially like, I’ll post it.

1994.

My 2016 exhibition Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit included a section on the Fourth Street Fair:

https://artremedy20.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/lost-cultural-venues-of-detroit-i-was-there/

More on Detroit’s New Light Rail System

June 26, 2017

September 2016

Here are more photographs that I took during the construction of the QLine light rail system.  It was interesting to watch it being built, but I’m glad it’s finished.  One night, when I was walking home, I took some close-up shots of the machines and tools which the workers had been using.

September 2016

I’m always interested in the shapes, textures and colors of the equipment. This was the only time that I was able to get right up to the machines. Usually, it’d be dangerous to get too close.  At night, it seemed like this collection was asleep or at least resting before the next day’s work.

When I watched the machines and workers  in action, it could seem like they were engaged in a strange dance or ritual.  The human enters and interacts with heavy machinery in order to build.  Most of us have experience with heavy machinery when we drive our cars. Not me though.  I’m just a rider/pedestrian.

November 2014

This was the view toward Woodward from my bus stop on Cass.  The trash incinerator is releasing its bad air, off in the distance.  The construction lasted from late July 2014 to early December 2016, thus nearly two and a half years.  It was interesting to watch and to shoot.

September 2015

Since opening day, I’ve only ridden the QLine once.  Early this month, after work, I went downtown for the opening of an art exhibition by the great Detroit artist, Charles McGee.  I took the train back to my neighborhood. On my three rides on opening day, I had to stand.  This time, I got to sit down and had a fine conversation with 4 or 5 people, only 2 of whom I knew.  It was fun, magical even.

Maybe it was mere chance, but it lifted my spirits.  I even felt a little optimistic.  I’ll try to ride the QLine now and then, even when they start to charge money for it.

An update: free fares have been extended until Labor Day

October 2016

If you click on the photos, you can enlarge them, then backspace to get back to this page.

April 2017

Building Detroit’s New Light Rail System

May 31, 2017

June 2015

I live in the neighborhood at the north end of the new QLine,  so it was easy for me to document its construction.  I took these photos when I was a passenger, riding in cars or buses and while I was out walking. In this post and in the next post, I’ll share some of the best of my hundreds of photos.

i_PTDC0020to

September 2015

The construction process was messy, and just getting around it could get pretty difficult. Sometimes you had to add ten or twenty minutes to your travel time.  One time when I was going to Main Library on foot I felt like I was in a maze.  Path after path dead-ended, and I had to retrace my steps and try to find another way to get from the street to the library’s door.

Although there has been some controversy connected with this project, including complaints that it serves an already thriving neighborhood, I can see why the line was built here: this stretch seems to have the best chance of succeeding.  The Woodward bus line has long been one of the busiest, most jam-packed lines in the city, and maybe this train could take some of the pressure off of the bus system.  And if the new trains can get enough paid fares, it would increase the chances of extending the rail line further up Woodward. It’d be great if there was a train going from downtown to 8 mile or even into the suburbs.

October 2015

I’m part of the target audience for this light rail thing, but I hope that the bus system continues to improve as well.  I haven’t ridden a bicycle in nearly ten years, and I don’t drive.  I get rides in cars more often nowadays than I used to, but the bus is still my main means of transportation.  I enjoy going downtown, but we’ll see how often I use the train. If there’s something special going on downtown, it’d certainly be handy and convenient to take the QLine.  I’m glad that they built it, yet I haven’t ridden it since the opening day.

s_earlynov_028too
November 2015
Still, I love a good train ride.  New York and Chicago have amazing train service, and riding the NYC subway is always endlessly interesting to me.

Currently, the ride’s free for one more month.  If you live in or around Detroit, come down and check it out.  Paid fares are scheduled to begin July 1, 2017.

An update: free fares have been extended until Labor Day

May 2016

More information:

https://qlinedetroit.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QLine

http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2016/09/take_a_peak_inside_detroits_fi.html

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170507/NEWS/170509857/qline-a-timeline

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170507/NEWS/170509858/qline-expansion-needs-a-champion-money

If you do facebook, I’ve an album of my construction photos, here:

https://www.facebook.com/maurice.greeniajr/media_set?set=a.1162862687086374.1073741856.100000879615013&type=3

Work History, Part Three

April 30, 2017

After Crowley’s went out of business, I decided to take a break.

I punched the clock at home.  In the morning I’d punch in when I woke up.  Then I’d punch out last thing before going to sleep.  I did this for many years.

I was a full-time artist, at last.  I did a lot of writing, drawing and painting. I started a series of oil paintings.  At least three of these were larger and more labor intensive than usual.  I spent over twenty hours on just one painting.

The “Spaceband” was new.  Along with four friends, I was developing that. I was also still very active with the puppet shows and the “Don’t Look Now Jug Band.”  It was 1999 and 2000, so the change of the century was also energizing.  I called it my “rehearsals for retirement.” I worked hard and got a lot done.

Then, like a snake in paradise, a health emergency came along.  I was in the hospital overnight twice in the year 2000 due to a bad infection. Thank you doctors, nurses and antibiotics. I’m still alive.

Then, of course, I was not making a living from my art.  Eventually, I sought further employment.  After a few false starts, I ended up at the Value City store in Warren, Michigan.  I liked the Universal Mall.  It had character, as malls go.  I especially enjoyed its excellent cinema, a dollar show which would actually show good films now and then.

I had to take the bus there. On Sundays, the bus didn’t go there, so had to walk for half an hour or more, to and from the bus stop.  I’d mainly clean and help stock the shelves. It was hard work but most of my co-workers were nice enough.

After working there for over a year, I managed to get a good job, a job that I’m still working at today.

At the University of Detroit Mercy Library, 2002

In late Spring of 2001, I applied at the library on the main campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.  By early Summer I was working there, back on the site of my college days, from age 17 to 21.  I did a lot of living between that time and now..

Yet I finally had a good job!  It’s my first union job and I was excited about that.   It’s been better pay and better benefits, as expected.

As per the format of this, I’m not really naming many names.  Eventually I’ll do a related post where I’ll do that.  Still I need to appreciate my primary superiors.  Betty Nelson taught me the ropes.  George Libbey is always ready to talk.  Dean Margaret Auer was wonderful to work with.  She stepped down last year and will be retiring from the University completely very soon.  She’s amazing.  The new Dean, Jennifer Dean is off to a fine start.

Aside from them, there are thirty or forty wonderful people I’ve worked with.  Most of them I’m still working with.  Some, I worked with directly.  Others are in other departments, but we get along.  I’m always glad to see them.  It’s a great team and feels like a family of sorts.  There are some surprising people, talents and personalities.  It’s a very good group and I’m proud to be part of it.

2009, the old check-out desk, in its last days.

It’s good to be part of the university community.  I do what I can to support and assist the faculty and the librarians.  It’s all about providing the best education possible for our students and giving them a good environment.

One of my main jobs is to work at the book check-out desk.  We had a very nice one (above) which came with the building.  In 2009, it was torn down and a new desk was built, closer to the entrance and exit doors.

Working in retail helped me to develop my people skills.  You have to deal with polite and friendly people as well as grouchy or upset people and everything in between.  This has served me well over the years, though it’s rare that I need to calm someone down or prevent an argument.

July 2012, putting in new windows on the first floor.

My other duties include some computer work, including putting items on reserve.  I didn’t know a lot when I first started so I developed my computer skills on the job.  Later, I also started doing more scanning and processing images.

I get to do most of the book repairs.  This is sort of fun for me, like solving a puzzle.  My hands get covered with glue.  There’s a real art and science to this.  You really get to know how books are made and what can go wrong with them.

Early on, I was entrusted with some of the lobby exhibits.  I’ve installed a great many interesting shows. 

I do various other jobs as well.  You have to improvise and be able to think on your feet.  I work most Saturdays.  Early on, I had to work late nights.   A few days a week, I’d work until 10pm.  The bus system was usually so bad I wouldn’t get home until after 11pm, sometimes closer to midnight.

My desk and work area, 2009.

I was at the library on September 11, 2001.  That day set the tone for much of the next few years.

We do our work day-to-day, yet the reality of our own lives and the life of the world always enter into it.  September through April are the very busy months. There are more classes and more students on campus an it gets very lively.

May through August are mainly the time for special projects.  I try to put together a good exhibit and to work hard on my book repair. Other things always come up too, such as shelf shifting projects and construction work. Things grow and change and there’s always something to do at a library.

In May 2003, I had two simultaneous one person art exhibits.  One of them was at the library.  The other one, Art Therapy for a Sick World was at the Zeitgeist art space on Michigan.  A lot of my co-workers came out to see my work and my performances there, on the opening night.

The Bargman Room on the second floor of the library, at closing time.

Over the years we’ve done so much.  We closed the Detroit Mercy Outer Drive library. and we opened a dental library at the dental school campus. We totally reconfigured the first floor at the McNichols and Livernois campus, where I work.  There are all sorts of other projects as well..

One other job that I do here is to maintain and update The Maurice Greenia, Jr. Collections, a webpage of my art, photographs and poetry. It’s an interesting process.  I’d like to thank the aforementioned for their support on this.  Special thanks go to Margaret Auer for believing in the quality of my work and that it should be more widely seen. Thanks to Sara Martin, who helped a lot early on and to Linda Papa helped teach me what to do and what not to do.

I hope to stay here for awhile.  Eventually I’ll retire and make art and write full time.  That’s always been my second job thus  I have my day job and my night job.  Together, they both keep me busy.

April 2017. The back view of the library and an empty fountain.

The University of Detroit Mercy Library’s home page:

http://research.udmercy.edu/

The Library’s Special Collections:

http://research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/

You can click on the photos to enlarge them, then hit the backspace key to get back to this post.

Work History, Part Two

March 31, 2017

At a Crowley’s “Store of the Month” party, 1990’s.

After Drive-All, I drifted a bit, working odd jobs.

Then, from 1985 to 1999, I worked at the New Center outpost of Crowley’s Department store.

I used to shop at the downtown Crowley’s store.  It had closed in 1977 and was demolished in 1978.  I remember riding the old wooden escalator there.  That impressed me.  I used to go to the downtown Hudson’s store as well.

When I first started working there, they were at the old Demery’s Department Store building, across the street from Lewis Artist Supply store.  Crowley’s had bought the Demery’s company and had moved into the New Center space in 1972.

I got to be elevator operator now and then.  That was fun.  I did this mainly when the regular “elevator guy” was on a break or on vacation. Customers would say “You’re the only guy I know who makes his living running people down.”

Primarily, I worked in shipping and receiving and in housekeeping. As the years rolled on, I did a lot more.  I’ve always told people “I did everything at Crowley’s except for sewing, selling and management.”

After about a year, in 1986, we moved out of the Demery’s store and into the New Center One building.   Employees rolled racks of clothes down the street.  We walked a lot of the merchandise to the new location.  It was only a few blocks away.

crowleystogreen

Crowley’s New Center Store in the old Demery’s building.

We moved into the New Center One building, across the street from the street from the Fisher building on Grand Boulevard.  We organized everything and carried on.  It was interesting setting up the new store and settling in.

In the new shipping and receiving area, there was ramp that was on an incline.  You had to push loads of goods up the ramp and onto the truck.   If this was something heavy, you had to use all your weight or have a second person to help you push it.  When you moved a pallet full of goods down the ramp, sometimes you needed to bounce it off of the wall so that it didn’t pick up speed.

Later, I became the maintenance man there as well.  That involved climbing up and down ladders to change light bulbs.

I’m sure that those ladders and that ramp help lead to my present arthritis in my knees. *

This bricked up doorway was the entrance to the Crowley’s shipping and receiving dock.

Then there was the housekeeping which could get to be very unpleasant. This involved sweeping, vacuuming, carpet cleaning and cleaning rest rooms.

Also, we’d have to strip off the old wax and put down new wax on the aisles.  When we stripped it, I’d have to scrape the wax build-up off of the edges with a putty knife.  We used those machines that have a round pad which spins around.  The black pad helped take off the wax.  The red pad polished, after the wax dried.

Like the factory, it was mostly good old manual labor aka a lot of hard work.  I continued to favor my dark blue work clothes, similar to those that I wore for my factory job.  At Crowley’s though, I had to launder my work clothes myself.  At Drive-All, they washed them for you.

Crowley’s was very social.  I had to deal with a large number of other people instead of just a few.  The customers were interesting.  I enjoyed people watching and interacting on the fly. My fellow employees were mostly a good lot.  Besides clothes, we sold handbags, hats, shoes, cosmetics, household goods and a few surprise odds and ends.

One a squirrel got in the store and caused a big panic.  I chased it out the door, carrying a cardboard box.

Celebrities would come by to shop.  These were mainly people staying next door at the Hotel St. Regis.  Redd Foxx walked though passing out autographs.  He’d pre-signed a stack of them.  I wish I would have got one.

There was a small display department and an alterations department.

Once, while sweeping, I found a $100 bill.  I heard that a cashier had dropped it and was in a lot of trouble.  Thus I turned it in.  They gave me a box of candy as a reward.  Since that happened, I’ve found well over a hundred dollars, on the streets of Detroit and New York City.

I threw tons of trash into this trash masher.  Bored white-collar workers would deposit their rubber band balls nearby.  I started to collect them.

I saved many mannikins from the crusher as well.  They let me have them and I’d walk them home, usually in sections.  Cars would honk their horns at me.

PTDC0060too

The trash compactor still looks the same.

When I became maintenance man, I got my own desk and office. That was nice.  I changed more light bulbs, built racks, put up shelving and more.  I’d still have to help with the truck and the cleaning, but not all the time.

Most of the managers were OK.  In 1996, one of them even bent the rules a bit so that I could go to France and still keep my job!

Then there were the two horrible managers.

I used to vacuum the carpet area nearly every morning.  First I’d sweep up all the larger things, then I’d get to it.  The boss got really upset with me for having too many lights on. Every day, before I’d vacuum, I kept turning off more and more lights. He’d still yell at me “You don’t need this many lights!  You’re wasting electricity.”

One morning, I vacuumed the floor holding a flashlight!  It was pretty dark.  I thought this would appease him but he went into a fit.  I felt like Bugs Bunny trying to deal with Elmer Fudd.

Then there’s the other manager who’s always yell at me.  How mean was he?  In 1999, when the company went bankrupt, he told me “Well you’ve had a free ride for 14 years.  Now that you’re not with Crowley’s, you’ll be on the  streets within a year.  You’re going to join the homeless club.”

Those may not be his exact words, but close.  I didn’t become homeless.  Next month I’ll tell you what I did do.

To be Continued/ Part Two of Three

.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowley%27s

http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org/2010/05/crowley-milner-co-detroit-michigan.html

Crowley’s New Center Store. Employee lounge and vending machines, 1990’s.

Footnotes:

*Of course, my kneeling on the sidewalk to do hundreds of sidewalk chalk art drawings also were bad for my knees, but sometimes I’d sit or stoop as well.

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:

http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/detroit-reads/index.php?q=branch/monteith

Drive-All Manufacturing:

http://www.driveallmfg.com/index.php/company-history/

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

January 2, 2017
rko-palace-045-crowd

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:

https://realityworldblog.wordpress.com/

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

https://georgelakoff.com/blog/

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

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-crowd-sourced-guide-to-fighting-trumps-agenda

https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

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

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/nine-ways-to-oppose-donald-trump

https://theintercept.com/2016/11/09/donald-trump-will-be-president-this-is-what-we-do-next/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/12/how-to-prepare-for-donald-trump-presidency

http://www.mhpbooks.com/books/what-we-do-now-2/

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

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-20-02-0246

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.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln%27s_first_inaugural_address

The Rise of the Humorless Trickster

December 6, 2016

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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.

vintage-wide-swap-playing-card-dutch-children-in-_1

Election 2016: Take Two, What Happened?

November 30, 2016
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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:

Gerrymandering:

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/27/503489379/after-republicans-gained-from-redistricting-democrat-state-legislatures-look-to

Citizens United:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/21/5-years-later-citizens-united-has-remade-us-politics

The Voting Rights Act:

https://www.propublica.org/article/voting-rights-by-state-map

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-gutting-of-the-voting-rights-act-could-decide-the-2016-election/

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

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-popular-vote-presidential_us_582246c4e4b0aac62487dde9

James Comey’s last minute surprise:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/11/06/fbi-director-james-comey-clears-hillary-clinton-on-new-emails.html

Oops:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/hillary-clintons-basket-of-deplorables-gaffe

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-gaffes_us_5728d8efe4b096e9f08f43d6

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

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/rural-america-understanding-isnt-problem

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_presidential_election_recount_and_audit

Oh well:

http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2948-not-a-revolution-yet

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/12/post-election-spate-hate-crimes-worse-than-post-911-experts-say/93681294/

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/38360-trump-in-the-white-house-an-interview-with-noam-chomsky

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/17/american-neoliberalism-cornel-west-2016-election?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/12/donald-trump-conflicts-of-interests/508382/

http://www.alternet.org/economy/krugman-why-trumps-infrastructure-proposal-huge-scam#.WDYEQi9nUj0.facebook

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/robert-reich-donald-trump_us_583dfd2be4b04fcaa4d579c7?section=us_politics

Sore Loser!  Oh wait, he won, right?

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/27/503506026/trump-makes-unfounded-claim-that-millions-voted-illegally-for-clinton