Tag Archives: Detroit

Don’t Give Up The Fort ► A Pastoral Letter

One block south of 8 Mile is the intersection of Gilchrist Street and Hessel Avenue

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Dear Pastor Kenny:

Remember the fort we built in the backyard behind my garage on Gilchrist?

I distinctly remember scrounging some of the lumber for it from the excavation ditch that later became the Southfield Freeway. I can’t remember who was with me that day, you or Dean Donaldson, but if it was you, it’s safe to admit it. The statute of limitations on that crime has long expired.

It was a pretty sweet fort, as I remember. With the liberated plywood as a roof and walls, it was water-tight when it rained. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out in there, but I spent more. There were many times I’d sit in the fort reading comic books. It became my refuge away from my sisters. As you may remember, I had 4.

My old backyard showing the room my father added to the
back of the house, taken on August 2, 2016. The first thing I
noticed was that the cherry tree next to the garage was no longer
there. It was beautiful in the spring and you could sit on the
garage in the sunshine and pick cherries all the doo dah day.

Did you ever wonder why we still don’t have that fort to sit within and ponder the world?

I destroyed it in a fit of pique.

My parents were bothered by the mess we left behind and ordered me to clean it up. I walked across the street and tried to get you and Dean to help me. Neither of you could be bothered, so I decided the fort had to go. With tears in my eyes, and filled with childish rage, I ripped it apart within minutes, demonstrating how shoddy we were at fort building and how I can, at times, be my own worst enemy.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In the last 8 months my life has been on a metaphoric fort busting bender, until I find myself beached here 13 miles from the beach — right back where I started.

Don’t give up the fort.

Just when things seemed at their lowest ebb, I hastily prepared another of my epic Road Trips to visit Pops. Knowing we’d meet again on my swing through Michigan, I had a lot of time to think over what I wanted to ask you during all of that driving. I was telling my friends along the way, most of whom have read my previous Pastoral Letters, that I was going to see you again. Most of them also knew of my troubles of late. I started to make the joke that with all that was going on in my life, I needed to be Pastor-ized.

Your house still looks picture perfect, Ken

I had hoped to meet you in our old neighbourhood, where your house still looks picture perfect. However, time constraints meant we only had a small time together and I was on vacation, for the most part. I didn’t mind traveling to Ann Arbor to meet you.

I wanted to share everything that occurred since the beginning of the year, but we certainly didn’t have time for that, so I shared the highlights lowlights — including the heartbreak I experienced just days earlier in Toronto. I even told you the joke above about needing Pastor-ization. Then I popped the question that had been on my mind since I left Florida. It started as a far more complex question, but during all those miles on the road it became simpler and simpler until I boiled it down to 10 words:

“What is the answer when Jesus is not the answer?”

Your answer was very Zen: Connections.

I am still processing what that means for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that not all connections are real connections. Nor do I really want to be connected to all those who are connected to me. The contradiction is that my writing at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, as well as my oversized presence on the facebookery and Twitterverse is all about making connections to many people I have no real connection with. Heavy, eh?

On my most recent road trip in front of my
former Kensington Market house on Nassau

IRONY ALERT: The person/place I truly wanted an improved and stronger connection with has gone cold and I have no idea how to rekindle it.

Ken, your other suggestion — to get back to Drum Circles — is a good one. Pops’ hospitalization kept me busy since early June, and there was no time. One of my favourite ones is tomorrow. It’s the monthly Drum Circle where I actually composed most of my first Pastoral Letter to you. However, here’s another contradiction: I’m not a joiner.

Speaking of joiners, I have always . . . what’s the correct word — envied? coveted?– someone who has a God to believe in. When life turns to shit, there’s an entity to pray to. Atheists don’t have that. Without those connections of which you speak, I’ve got to tough it out on my own.

The last time I believed in something bigger than myself was, in reality, not all that long ago. It was only last year and I wrote about it in a previous Pastoral Letter which I titled Before and After Synchronicity. Now I’m not sure if what I believed was real. It all seemed so right and this feels so wrong.

I no longer know what to tell the crows.

I hope it’s not another year before we see each other again, Kenny, but I expect it will be. In the meantime, feel free to reply. I told you that I write these more for myself than for getting a reply. However, this time I’d love to read your thoughts.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

A Civil Rights Champion Born ► Throwback Thursday

Happy Birthday to Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, born on this day in 1913. On December 1, 1955, at the age of 42, Parks refused to give up her seat to a White person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, triggering the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It lasted just over a year and, finally, integrated the buses in that southern city.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a defining event in the country’s history. There had been other attempts to integrate buses (which you can read about in the Wiki essay Events leading up to the bus boycott). However, this one attracted national attention and led to the Supreme Court ruling that the laws behind Montgomery and Alabama’s bus segregation were unconstitutional.

According to the National Archives

Mrs. Parks was not the first person to be prosecuted for violating
the segregation laws on the city buses in Montgomery. She was, however, a
woman of unchallenged character who was held in high esteem by all
those who knew her. At the time of her arrest, Mrs. Parks was active in
the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP), serving as secretary to E.D. Nixon, president of the Montgomery
chapter. Her arrest became a rallying point around which the African
American community organized a bus boycott in protest of the
discrimination they had endured for years. Martin Luther King, Jr., the
26-year-old minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, emerged as a
leader during the well-coordinated, peaceful boycott that lasted 381
days and captured the world’s attention. It was during the boycott that
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., first achieved national fame as the
public became acquainted with his powerful oratory.

Parks was not the quiet seamstress that history tends to remember. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

At the time, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. She had recently attended the Highlander Folk School, a Tennessee
center for training activists for workers’ rights and racial equality.
She acted as a private citizen “tired of giving in”. Although widely
honored in later years, she also suffered for her act; she was fired
from her job as a seamstress in a local department store, and received
death threats for years afterwards. Her situation also opened doors.

Shortly after the boycott, she moved to Detroit, where she briefly found similar work. From 1965 to 1988 she served as secretary and receptionist to John Conyers, an African-American U.S. Representative. She was also active in the Black Power movement and the support of political prisoners in the US.

After retirement, Parks wrote her autobiography and lived a largely
private life in Detroit. In her final years, she suffered from dementia. Parks received national recognition, including the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman and third non-U.S. government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda

Detroit honoured this Civil Rights icon by renaming 12th Street, where the 1967 riot occurred, Rosa Parks Boulevard.

Pastor Kenny Responds

Pastor Kenny. Pics stolen from his facebookery.

A Response to Your Pastoral Letter (Or How One Pastoral Letter Begets Another, Begets Another, Begets Another)

I’m a FB neophyte, so it took me quite a while to dig out your last pastoral letter once I had a little time to respond to it. I’ve not known how to respond to your pastoral letter because I wasn’t sure if or what might have been expected of me.  Was it an invitation to dialogue? In what forum?  I was just a little befuddled.  SO I figured, heck, I’ll just write something down on word doc and if Headly wants to publish it, so much the better.

I am going with Headly at your request, though I knew you as Marc.  I think we lost regular connection before you became Headly so it was good to hear your story about how the name came [about] and took.  Ken or Kenny works for me. Only my sisters, Marilyn and Nancy call me Kenny, so it reminds me of my past. (The name, btw was ruined by association with Barbie, and if it’s not too insulting to a fine musician, Kenny G. Nobody seems to name their kid Kenneth anymore.  Someone told me in Scottish (?) it means “handsome,” which [may] also account for its unpopularity. Who would want to name their kid “handsome”?  Alas. Mark has fared much better as a name, and the variant Marc (short for “Marcus”?) is a little exotic, given that we’re in the 1950’s Tom-Dick-Harrry-Mary-Deborah genre of Wonder Bread Names to begin in. But I digress.

I must say I have been honored by your interest in my little LGBT soap opera. Spreading the word about Letter to My Congregation, being interested, curious, sympathetic.  But it has also been comforting to reconnect a little bit with my Gilchrist past through your reaching out. 

Pastor Ken Wilson with wife Julia

My wife, Julia, grew up in Holland Michigan, where her dad still lives in the house she grew up in. (Her dad was an English Professor at Hope College.) She can go back to the house and stay overnight, as we have a few times since we got married.  Recently, at her moms memorial service, she met all sorts of people from her growing up years—people who babysat for her and for whom she babysat, teachers from high school, old friends.  It helped me realize how the decline of a city like Detroit can disconnect you from your past. 

Going back to the old neighborhood recently was stunning—urban blight such as I’d never seen just a few blocks South of where we grew up. Such an empty feeling. And no one from the old neighborhood to share it with. So reading your posts—especially your history of the Detroit riots—triggered all sorts of memories for me. Thank you.

One of the things I’d forgotten was just how racist things were growing up. You reminded me what it was like to grow up Jewish—and it all came rushing back, the horrible jokes about Jews, and Blacks, and Poles, and well, non WASPS. I remember being warned by someone not to attend a Catholic Mass because they spoke Latin and you didn’t know whether they were saying bad stuff or not.

It made me feel ashamed. Using the N-word was strictly forbidden in my family. Same with anti-Jewish rhetoric. But talk of “Injuns,” “Krauts” and “Japs” was tolerated. Now I’m ashamed. But I was also ashamed because of my forgetting. Forgetting how bad the Christian participation in anti-Semitism was in that era. Remembering how my late wife Nancy and I came to visit you in Toronto talking all our Jesus talk without remembering how your ears would have heard Jesus talk, having been called, as was common in that time, “Christ killer.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to associate the Jesus that I’m so ga-ga over with that kind of treatment from people who claim to be part of the religion he started. I have to admit, it’s a pretty reasonable thing to judge a religious figure by the behavior of the religion that he founded. So I can’t blame you for not picking up what Nancy and I were laying down in that trip to Toronto. 

Pastor Kenny’s very important
book, which got him thrown out of
the church he founded 45 years ago

By the way, it was fun to talk about that Toronto trip and to hear you say that you found it kind of interesting despite the fact that the God talk went on a little too much for your tastes. New converts to anything are a trip and I imagine I was one too. You should hear me talk to my friends who show any interest in my Fitbit. I get enthusiastic about things and want the whole world to adopt them. (Say Headly, have you tried the Fitbit? It’s amazing how it helps you be more active—I walk so much more now that I have one of these little wonders.)  But I digress again. I think you bring the elementary school of me, the Kenny locked up in Pastor Ken. 

I do know that there’s a connection between the mistreatment of the LGBT community and the Jewish community. In much the same way that anti-Semitism was tolerated in the Church for millennia—based on a handful of biblical texts taken out of historical context—a handful of texts taken out of historical context have propped up teachings that are harmful to vulnerable sexual minorities. The Second Vatican Counsel—which took place while we were growing up in Detroit—signaled an important reversal on this. Now there’s virtually no respectable Christian tradition in which it is OK to refer to Jewish people as “Christ-killers.”  Maybe the same reversal is underway today when it comes to sexual minorities. I certainly hope so.

And drum circles. I found it fascinating that you’ve gotten into them.  I’ve always thought they would be a blast.  I walk through the Diag sometimes and there’s a drum circle happening. They don’t seem to be looking for people to join them, but I’d like to. I always think of you now when I see them.  The feeling of connection with other people that happens with a drum circle has got to be pleasurable. You could do a lot worse for a communal spiritual practice than a drum circle. He said, approvingly.

OK now I have to figure out how send you this word doc via FB. Oh crap, is that even possible? 

Grace and peace to you, fellow pilgrim and pastoral letter writer.

Editor’s note: Kenneth John Wilson is my oldest friend in the world. We grew up together on Gilchrist Street in Detroit, catercorner from each other. We lost track of each other in the early ’70s.

Last year I was made aware that Pastor Kenny is shaking the foundations of organized Christianity with his book A Letter to my Congregation, which argues for full inclusion of the LGBT communities in all congregations. We have since reconnected to my extreme happiness.

There has been some slight editing of this Pastoral Letter for clarity and spelling.

Sunrise to Canton Road Trip Report #1

A road trip of 3,000 miles starts with the first coffee at my local.

Apologies to the regular readers of the Not Now Silly Newsroom for no updates. It’s been a hectic trip so far.

I left on the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research 8 days ago and I’ve not checked in here, tho’ my facebook profile’s been full of it.

The northern leg of the trip was not without its challenges. The first problem I encountered was a leak somewhere in the air conditioning drainage system. While the A/C worked fine, the passenger side of the Buick POS started to fill up with water. The carpeting was soaked and I decided to run without the air in order to let it dry. But, it was hot. Real hot. Hot enough that I had to turn on the air again.

The next problem was all on me. I somehow miscalculated things and arrived a day early in Ohio. I called my friend — who was part of the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research — that I was supposed to meet in Centerville (“A real nice place to raise your kids up.”) to tell her I was 2 hours away. Considering she wasn’t expecting me until Thursday, she was quite surprised. Luckily her schedule was flexible and we met at an Asian restaurant for lunch.

However, that meant I was still a day ahead of schedule and my next visit in Columbus couldn’t happen until Thursday afternoon, just because. Considering I had already driven some 1,200 miles and 20 hours, kipping in the car for 4 hours in northern Georgia, I was totally bagged and needed to sleep. So, I found an inexpensive Days Inn in Dayton to spend the night.

Funny story: Because the car also has a security issue I decided I had to take everything into my room. It took 3 trips and it was very hot. When it was done I fell on the bed exhausted and took off my shoes and put my feet into a giant wet spot on the carpet immediately beneath the air conditioner. This was the exact same problem I was having in the car.

The view from my room. Look, there’s Pop’s Diner!

They were great about giving me a new room, but the new room was on the other side of the building AND on the 2nd floor. So, I loaded up the car, drove to the other side of the building, and lugged all my crap up to the second floor. By the time I was finished I just went to bed, even tho’ it was only about 6PM. I was spent.

The next day I met up with a friend in Columbus, Ohio, I’ve known online for many years and who was a stop on the original Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research. Only a family emergency kept us from meeting again last year.

Then, Detroit the following day. I’ve been doing some deep research on a number of topics. I have been given entree to a world that few people get to see from the inside. This will become a long Not Now Silly Investigative Report, which I’ve already started writing. Hopefully, I can finish it before I get home, but you never know.

Additionally, I’ve been researching the National Shrine of the Little Flower, which will be my next post, and the Viola Liuzzo Playground and Homestead for another article. I’ve already been in touch with her daughter Mary and hope to get a phone interview with her while I’m here.

Tonight I’m going to a Drum Circle in Detroit at the corner of 7 Mile Road and Woodward. I can’t even imagine something like his happening right there. Just this week:

[I]n Detroit, a task force of federal, state and local police agencies
executed a dozen search warrants and made two arrests along a two-mile
stretch of Woodward and nearby streets, from McNichols north to 8 Mile,
Detroit police said. The agents targeted homes, a gas station and other
sites where police said suburban heroin buyers had been driving up to
buy heroin almost as easily as making a run for coffee.

A drum circle right in the middle of that? I’m so there!!!

While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist Street Hung On

The little house I used to live in.
Pops bought it for around $3,000 in 1957.

I left Detroit in 1971, but my parents stayed in the little house I used to live in for the next several years. I returned to Gilchrist Street frequently for visits until my parents moved 2 miles north, out of the city, into Oak Park.

Despite my parents having moved, I continued to return, year after year, decade after decade, from one millennia into the next. It seems almost a lifetime ago because it was. I rarely visited Motown without dropping in on the old neighbourhood. Gilchrist was my talisman. I was looking for truths that remained hidden, especially from me. So, I kept returning, reaching for something just beyond my vision; just past my memory. I was looking for something I never found.

This provides me with an overview to chart the devolution of a neighbourhood in a way that most can’t. I watched my old neighbourhood become infected with the disease that destroyed so much of Detroit, ‘Merka’s first throwaway city. It’s no accident I have been calling Detroit ‘Merka’s first throwaway city for almost 2 years. It was a case of “Out of sight, out of mind.” Until Detroit’s bankruptcy was announced — and an Emergency Manager appointed to oversee the democratically elected city government — most people had forgotten Detroit even existed.

Just one of hundreds of houses like this in my old neighbourhood

I can still recall my first memory of what would come to be called Urban Blight in later years. It was a large, mixed-use, yellow-bricked building on the surface/ service drive, viewed from the John C. Lodge Ditch. There would have once been apartments on the upper stories with storefronts at street level. I was 14 or 15 when it was boarded up. It remained boarded up for more than 30 years that I recall. Then the Lodge fell into disuse as the highway used to get in and out of downtown from the ‘burbs, so I don’t know what happened to it in the last 2 decades. For all I know it’s still there. Or, it may be gone by now, just another building missing from Motown’s landscape. But for me this building was far more iconic of Detroit’s road to ruin than the Michigan Central Station, which I had only seen in pictures.

White Flight, Urban blight, and Demolition by Neglect — in that order — are the major forces which have helped to destroy Detroit, the once proud Arsenal of Democracy. People tend to peg the fall and decline of Detroit with the 1967 Riot. However, they are shocked to discover it began almost immediately after Germany and Japan surrendered at the end of WWII.

Racial strife was so common in Detroit in the ’40s that propaganda
posters were made to warn people not to give comfort to the enemy.

There had already been several warnings. As I have written in The Detroit Riots, the 1863 Riot set the stage for most of what came after. That was a White Riot determined to eradicate Black folk from Detroit. In 1863 Detroit was such a new city, it didn’t have a police force yet. The rebellion had to be put down by the army. When the Detroit Police Department was formed soon after, it was tasked — IN THE INCORPORATING DOCUMENTS!!! — with keeping Blacks in line. And, Detroit Police took that oath seriously, right into the 1970s.

However, the warnings that should have been headed were those in the 1940s that indicated the races in Detroit were never going to get along. As Black and White soldiers were fighting Fascism overseas, those who remained on the home front fought each other. During the war Black and White southerners migrated to Detroit to take up jobs in the defense industry. Racial problems began almost immediately. As I wrote 2 years ago in The Detroit Riots:

When the Feds announced a housing projects [sic] for Detroit, on the edge of a traditional White neighbourhood, the local community assumed it was for their own kind. When it was named the Sojourner Truth housing project, Whites protested. The government reversed its decision and decided this would be for Whites and it would find another location for a Black housing project, even tho’ it would retain the Truth name. Then Detroit Mayor Edward Jeffries, Jr. got involved and the Feds reversed their decision again: This housing would be for the Black people of Detroit who desperately needed housing. On moving day Whites protested, turning away the first families. It was months before people would eventually move in.

That was just the appetizer. Less than a year later there was a wildcat strike at the Packard Motor Plant after the company promoted 3 Black men to work the line. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

In early June 1943, three weeks before the riot, Packard Motor Car Company promoted three blacks to work next to whites in the assembly lines. This promotion caused 25,000 whites to walk off the job, effectively slowing down the critical war production. It was clear that whites didn’t mind that blacks worked in the same plant but refused to work side-by-side with them. During the protest, a voice with a Southern accent shouted in the loudspeaker, “I’d rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work next to a Nigger.”[7]

Then came the 1943 Detroit Riot. That was really the beginning of the end. White Flight began the minute it could. It started when peace was declared, increased as prosperity reigned, and became a wave when vast subdivisions were thrown up north of 8 Mile, outside the city limits. White Flight only became a tsunami after the 1967 Riot.

Two houses on Biltmore Street a few doors down from The Millers

Today Detroit’s population of 700,000 is a fraction of its 1950 peak of 1.8 million. Entrepreneurs are buying up whole swaths of Detroit for wholesale gentrification. Tens of thousands (!) of abandoned structures are slated for demolition by new blight removal programs. Urban farms are being planted where houses, parks and schools once stood. Detroit is being transformed and what it will become is anybody’s guess at the moment

Returning frequently, I watched the urban blight grow over the decades. It was as pernicious as the mold and mildew that attacks houses in the south. It kept nibbling around the edges, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, until it reached my old neighbourhood just on the northern edge of Detroit, immediately south of the famed 8 Mile Road. Then I watched as it infected block after block of the square mile I lived in bounded by 8 Mile and 7 Mile Roads, with Greenfield and Southfield to the east and west. Now, in that square mile are hundreds of homes boarded up, burned up, or missing entirely.

Danny Harris. of the Gilchrist Block Club, cutting the grass

As the years took its toll on Detroit, something unexpected happened to Gilchrist, the street I grew up on: NOTHING!!!

While every surrounding block had anywhere from 3-10 destroyed homes per block, Gilchrist — from Pembroke Avenue to 8 Mile Road — still appeared to be in pristine condition. While I watched blight strike everywhere else in my old neighbourhood, somehow this half mile stretch of Gilchrist was spared.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Obviously I didn’t drive up and down every street in Detroit on my 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, but I must have driven some
20-30 miles just up and down the streets in my old neighbourhood. I saw no other half mile stretch that appeared to be untouched
by blight except this 1/2 mile stretch of Gilchrist. There were small stretches of nice, but not a full half
mile of it.

TO BE FAIR: On closer inspection there are a few boarded up houses along Gilchrist, but because the lawns are kept neat and tidy, they don’t jump out at you the way they do on the other blocks. And, there are far fewer of them on Gilchrist.

While taking pictures of my old house I ran into Danny Harris two doors down. Mr. Harris is a member of the registered non-profit Gilchrist Block Club, a kind of “Keep Gilchrist Beautiful” community group in operation since 1984. Harris was cutting the grass of the house at the corner of Hessel. While he lived closer to Pembroke, Mr. Harris walked his lawnmower 3 blocks to take care of this patch of grass. Perhaps this community volunteerism is what spared Gilchrist from the same fate that’s affected all the other surrounding blocks.

Retired Detroit police officer Robert Miller on Biltmore Street

Biltmore, one street to the east, has no block club. Just around the corner from where Harris cut the grass live Robert and Kim Miller. The Millers bought their home 28 years ago and watched the block slowly crumble around them. The two houses pictured above are just a few doors down from the Millers, whose front yard is a testament to how a little landscaping and care can make all the difference.

Robert is a retired Detroit Police officer who paid for his home about what Pops got for his when he moved to the suburbs. At the time the neighbourhood was solidly middle class, but changing demographics rapidly as the first blocks in this neighbourhood were “busted” in the mid-to-late ’70s. That’s when White Flight would have begun in the area, accelerating over the years.

Now, on paper, Robert Miller’s house on Biltmore is worth the same $30,000 that he paid for it. However, he can’t even get offers on a house in a neighbourhood where hundreds of homes are abandoned and crumbling. He and his wife have their eye on a gated-condo complex in Novi, Michigan, with amenities, where they will be moving within the next 6 months. They’ll leave the house to their daughter, hoping that eventually the neighbourhood will stage a comeback. It can hardly get worse.

However, no comeback for Gilchrist Street because Gilchrist never left. I’ve watched this street for the past 40 years. It hasn’t changed. It hasn’t become blighted. It hasn’t suffered the same fate as miles and miles of Motown housing tracts. Gilchrist may offer clues to Detroit’s revival, provided the city’s not gentrified beyond recognition.

Yet visiting my old neighbourhood never fails to make me cry. This time it was my Junior High School that got to me and began the waterworks. Last year Coffey Junior High School was still in operation. Now it’s one of many schools closed as Detroit’s population, and tax base, can no longer support so many schools. However, the scrappers have already started to strip it of anything and everything of value.

This is why, for me, Detroit represents the total failure of ‘Merkins to live up to the lofty words about equality inscribed in the founding documents. Everything that subsequently happened to Detroit happened because of systemic Racism and White Flight. Your mileage may vary, but I contend that if people learned to live together decades ago, Detroit would not have become ”Merka’s first throwaway city.


Unpacking the Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research

Panorama of the 8 Mile Wall, behind the houses on Birwood in Dcetroit, Michigan

The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was full of surprises. Surprises are the delight of a loosely planned 3,000 mile drive. All told I figure I drove some 65 hours, with a week in the Canton Township, Michigan, area in the middle. Sunrise to Canton Township alone is about 24 hours of straight driving. Most of my various hosts gave me a driving tour of their town, with me driving, adding another 12 hours to the overall trip.

What I learned on this trip, but really should have learned last year: There is no adequate and reliable way to update Not Now Silly from my Windows Phone. Next year I’m going to make sure I have a laptop, making updates much easier. As it is I only managed to post a three “A Note From The Road” posts. Either I had trouble with connectivity or I was surrounded by people, which wasn’t conducive to spending time posting. Here are the very few I managed to post:

A Note From The Road #1
A Note From The Road #2
A Note From The Road #3

A former nightclub in Steubenville, Ohio, once owned by The Mob.
Dean Martin had no choice but to perform here early in his career.

Aside from all my research in Canton Township, Michigan, I have enough other material to power several future Not Now Silly posts. These include, but are not limited to, the 8 Mile Wall; Morgantown‘s favourite son, Don Knotts; Ruin Porn, Gilchrist Street, and Coffee Jr. High School; Medical Marijuana in Michigan; highway driving in ‘Merka; and other sundry writings as I get to them.

Driving 3,000+ miles in ‘Merka is always an interesting and eye-opening experience. One thing I learned last year, but which was reinforced this year, is that every family has family drama. I heard of several this year, all unprompted, just like last year.

I took more than 1,200 pictures on the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research and not all of them in Canton Township, Michigan. I have already posted several photo albums on my facebookery:

The saddest part of the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was to see my old neighbourhood. Every year when I visit I notice the Detroit blight has grown since the previous year. In recent years it has crept into my old neighbourhood, nibbling around the edges. Now it has infected dozens and dozens of houses in just the square mile bounded by 7 Mile, 8 Mile and Greenfield and Southfield on the east and west. This includes Coffey Jr. High School, where I went along with all my sibs. Coffey has been closed and the scrappers have already trashed the building.

I joined the rank of scrappers when I stole a number of architectural glass blocks and distributed them among my sisters as mementos of their youth. My experiences in my old neighbourhood will be a Not Now Silly Newsroom Investigative Report. Coming soon.

BONUS: I left Sunrise with 2 books: the one I was reading and the one I would read next. I returned with 13 more than I left with because so many people gave me books on my travels. My friends really have me pegged and know what I like.

Finally, I would like to thank all my hosts.The joy of these road trips is being able to meet friends and readers along the road. Without these stops, it would be a long and boring drive. Without these stops I wouldn’t see towns and cities I normally would drive right past. Without these stops I wouldn’t get personally guided tours. A huge thanks to each and every one of you. I hope to see you on the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, already in the planning stages.

Here’s the latest look at the little house I used to live in:

Here’s the latest listen to The Little House I Used To Live In:

A Series of Tubes ► Unpacking the Writer

He went that away!!!

Welcome back, dear readers. For the uninitiated, Unpacking the Writer is the monthly series in which I pull back the curtain, just like Toto did in the Wizard of Oz, and reveal some of the inner workings of the mind of a writer on this series of tubes.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: I’ve been told, by someone in the know, that begging my readers to click on the adverts on these pages could vitiate my contract with Google Ads. Therefore, I certainly won’t do that ever again. However, I also realize I have no control over my readers. Some of them may click on the adverts without prompting. They are such mavericks that way.

WHEN I’M 62: Maybe it’s because I had a birthday earlier this month or maybe it’s just a function of getting older, but I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately. Facebook helps me rediscover the past through many of the Groups and Pages I’ve joined.

I’ve also been thinking about my past a lot lately and this series of tubes has also been helping me catch up with that. Through them, I have connected to people I knew 42 years ago. F’rinstance, I’ve reconnected with Jim Cox, one of my favourite instructors back when I was at Sheridan College. There are several stories I’ve started writing about my times at Sheridan College. Eventually, they’ll all connect up and I’ll publish it as a book, or magnum opus of some kind.

Jim is almost my oldest connection rediscovered on the Facebookery. However, that honour would go Leon Stevenson. I first met Leon back in 1971, or ’72, around the same time I met my 1st wife in what was then known as Cooksville, Ontario. [I don’t know if anybody still calls it Cooksville, but it was the first place I ever lived in Canada. I watched over the years while Cooksville was swallowed by greater Mississauga.] Leon went on to form several bands, one of which became The Extras. I’ve followed Leon’s career and we’ve run into each
other on and off at Music Biz functions over the years. The Extras had a number of hits in Canada, including this terrific Ska tune, which was more of an underground hit due to its subject matter:

However, novelty tunes are not the only thing The Extras are known for. They were also known for great tunes with silly videos, because that’s what people did back then:

Sadly, that’s as far back as I’ve been able to take the Facebook Time Machine. I can’t get past the event horizon that marks the transition between my life in Canada and growing up in Detroit.

When I first moved to Canada I tried to keep up with my Detroit friends. I’d visit my folks on Gilchrist Street some 10-20 times a year and, while I was back, would catch up with some of my Detroit friends. However, as Detroit visits became less frequent, I also noticed that my ‘Merkin friends had not really reciprocated by visiting me in Canada.

“No soup for you!!!”

Mark Levine, my band mate in Cobwebs & Strange, visited once. He rode his bicycle from Southfield, Michigan, to Oakville, Ontario, on his way to register at MIT. That’s the last time I ever saw him.

Kenneth John Wilson and his new bride visited once. In the couple of years since I had seen him Kenny had been Born Again. Most of the visit (or so it seemed at the time and in retrospect) was spent trying to convince me to accept Jesus Christ in my life. They even left me a Good News Bible, which I kept until about 10 years ago, when it became one of the few (cherished) objects left behind (no pun intended) in my last break-up (along with 3 other different versions of The Bible, which I loved showing people the contradictions. But I digress. Again.). I would love to see Kenny again and see whether he is still highly religious.

However, those were the only friends who visited me. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about and have grown quite nostalgic for the friends that preceded the Cooksville event horizon: Dean Donaldson, who drummed for Cobwebs & Strange; Craig Portman, whose family moved to California before I moved to Canada, and I lost track of him then; Jimmy Coblentz, a few years older, who had a fleet of Studebakers and — inappropriately — moved to Normal Avenue in Los Angeles; Terry Seissor, an occasional girlfriend who wasn’t happy to learn I was moving to Canada and getting married; Jeff Deeks, whose family was so convinced that he was a drug addict (he hadn’t discovered drugs yet) and I was a bad influence on him, that they shipped him down to live with his grandparents in Hernando, Florida; Kenny Wilson; and Mark Levine are all people I’d love to find again. If you have a clue where any of them absconded to, let me know, because I’m just not as good at cyber-sleuthing on this series of tubes as some people.

A moment in time in the Not Now Silly Newsroom

ALMOST QUIET ON THE CRAZY FRONT: Speaking of cyber-sleuths. It has grown relatively quiet since I published The Johnny Dollar Wars and started sharing the hell out of it. As of this writing it’s #6 on the Not Now Silly All Time Top Ten, with a bullet!

I might have forgotten all about the feud by now had it not been for their reflexive attacks on me. Sadly — for Koldys — The Flying Monkey Squad, his sycophantic gang of ass-kissers that used to hound me on this series of tubes, is now reduced to just one: Ashley Graham, aka Grayhammy. While crossfire has diminished considerably, the war has not ended. Whenever a new skirmish breaks out I am reminded to share The Johnny Dollar Wars with more individuals. Then I set up a whole new series of timed click bait tweets, a simple process carried out with the flick of a button. All of this to push more truth about Johnny Dollar through this series of tubes.

The Johnny Dollar Depreciation Society is your place
for all the latest on The Flying Monkey Squad and
your daily adult requirement of Fox “News” snark!

Now, you’d think a smart guy like Mark Koldys — a former-Wayne County Prosecutor, fer fuck’s sake — would have figured out a way to end the war he started. Perhaps I give him too much credit. No matter, because I am content to keep this up as long as he and his Gang of One does. However, after slapping these fools down on this series of tubes for the past 3 years, would I grow nostalgic for The Johnny Dollar Wars if it were to ever end?

TWO MORE REASONS FOR MY MOTOR CITY NOSTALGIA: I’ve started making final preparations for The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research. This year there are already more stops planned and more subjects for research than last year’s very successful trip. I’ll be gathering more documents, examining more microfiche, and gathering photographs for the 2014 edition of the Road Trip.

The Purple Gang trying to remain anonymous

One of the topics I’ll be researching while up north is the history of Detroit during the 1920s through to the late ’60s for later chapters of Farce Au Pain (the long-lost book I keep promising to serialize in these pages). I’m still writing and researching parts of Farce Au Pain while I edit other parts. One never knows where research will lead. The story of Farce Au Pain is still taking unexpected turns in this series of tubes, but not everything can be found on the Information Highway, hence the The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research.

More specifically, I’ll be researching newspaper microfiche for articles on The Purple Gang. It surprised me that a person in Farce Au Pain, who will be introduced in Chapter Two, had a strange connection to The Purple Gang? And, who knew, that would lead to further research in Miami, a place I’ve been writing about for the last several years.

This series of tubes is an amazing place, occasionally filled with wonderful synchronicity like this, some of which make me shiver. This one had all my hairs standing on end. Get comfortable while we take a rest stop on the Information Highway:

Recently I was retweeted by the grandson of Meyer Lansky because I shared an article about his grandfather. Makes sense. No big deal, right?

This is where it gets weird. While it was accidental that the Tampa Times published an article about the daughter of the famous mobster just before Father’s Day, it was not accidental that I shared it. I shared it because Meyer Lansky has been on my mind a lot lately because that’s where the Purple connection led and I have been researching him for Farce Au Pain.

That’s why the last book I finished reading was “Mickey Cohen; The Life and Crimes of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster.” Lansky, not surprisingly, comes up 13 times in Cohen book. The next book I started reading was “The Purple Gang; Organized Crime in Detroit 1910-1945.” I’ve read it before and own it. I decided I’d read it again because it, and the Cohen book, are sources for “Farce Au Pain.” [For the record: Lansky only comes up once in the Purple book, but it was a different era.]

Without giving too much away [NO SPOILER ALERTS!] there is someone introduced in Chapter Two of “Farce Au Pain” who grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Detroit, ‘Merka’s first throwaway city. He was just in his early teens when the Purple Gang was a happening thing, but he was a cocky kid who would run errands for Harry Millman. [Incidentally, and almost besides the point, Pops was friends with Morrie (Morris) Millman, Harry’s brother. And, Morrie and Millie Millman are my sister’s Godparents, but I digress.]

As he grew up, Harry Millman paid for his education so he wouldn’t fall into a life a crime. He became a lawyer, so you’d have to argue whether Harry was successful, or not. That lawyer, almost 20 years later, connects Adrian (who you may all remember from Chapter One) tangentially to Meyer Lansky, who appears in “Face Au Pain” twice as often as he did in the book on The Purples.

It’s a series of tubes.

Headlines Du Jour ► Sunday, June 8, 2014

Howdy, Headliners. Today’s birthday boy is architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He made many Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:

Let’s get right to today’s Headlines Du Jour:












Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hello, Headliners! Today’s birthday boy is journalist Bill Moyers, who has covered more than one Headline Du Jour of yesteryear:

Let’s get right to today’s Headlines Du Jour:





At the height of his power, Henry Ford created a secret
army of criminals to rule over his burgeoning empire



How a 20-year campaign to
distinguish industrial hemp from
marijuana scored an epic victory











Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hello there, Headliners!!! Let’s spark one up for birthday boy Tommy Chong, who turns 76 today. Among other Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear include:

Without any further delay, let’s get right to today’s Headlines Du Jour:














Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.