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Civic pride 

Best movie line about Detroit

in Airplane!

Detroiters have become accustomed to Hollywood's cheap smack-talk. Jabs at Motown come via a boatload of mainstream films such as Working Girl, Grosse Pointe Blank, True Romance and The Goonies. But this line from Airplane! tops ’em all: Ted Striker: [flashback] I remember when we first met. It was during the war. I was in the Air Force stationed in Drambui, off the Barbary Coast. I used to hang out at the Magumba bar. It was a rough place, the seediest dive on the wharf. Populated with every reject and cutthroat from Bombay to Calcutta. It was worse than Detroit.

Best church names

In no particular order, as culled from the Yellow Pages

Jaws for Jesus; Fully Persuaded Church of the Apostolic Faith; Meeting the Needs of God's People Outreach Ministry; Straight Gate Church; Old Pathway Oneness Apostolic Church; Outreach Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God, Inc.; Chain Link Ministry For Christ; Faithful Mount Triumph; I Am Temple; Puritan Avenue Baptist; Cleansing Springs Missionary Baptist; Pillar and Ground Baptist; St. Mel's Catholic Church; Leap of Faith Community Church; Precious Blood Church; Last Days Ministry; For Such A Time As This Ministry; More Excellent Way Cathedral Church of God in Christ; The Lord's Team; Holy Ghost & Fire Deliverance; Power House Temple; Strictly Biblical; Military Avenue Church; Beam of Light Spiritual Temple; Encouragement Corner Ministries; Tell It Like It Is Ministry.

Best local TV show

"Detroit's Most Wanted"

Cable Channel 6, various times

OK, so the production values ain't so great, but no channel surfer could be disappointed with the content. Bad lite-jazz plays as this public service spot unfolds. The number of murderers at large is astonishing. Their photos appear in grim progression as an alarmingly upbeat announcer blurts lines like: "Earl Smith (pause for dramatic effect) Murder and sexual assault!" Some of the photos are predictably unflattering. But a disconcerting number of them look like full-on fashion portfolio shots. And we get the sinking feeling that somewhere, some tot is yelling, "Mommy, Uncle Earl is on the tay-vee again!"

Best place to hang with deadheads

Elmwood Cemetery

East Lafayette and McDougall, Detroit

313-567-3453

The roads and graves aside, here is your only glimpse of what Detroit’s hilly landscape looked like before the Cadillac conquest and all that followed (including the 1763 Battle of Bloody Run at the cemetery pond where Chief Pontiac and the redcoats (cq) got it on). Names out of our geography — Canfield, Joy, Lodge, Woodbridge and Buhl, for instance — dot the landscape. Some 29 former mayors, Coleman A. Young included, are here, along with other folks both noteworthy and forgotten, who have been arriving since 1846.

Best bottle return

Kroger’s

33300 W. 14 Mile Road, West Bloomfield Township

248-737-7280

Michigan’s refundable bottle law is a mixed blessing. Sure the money is great and really adds up after late-night house parties (often giving you enough for a pizza the next day), but taking back the stacks of stinky, cigarette butt-filled bottles for your refund can be tiring and gruesome. Even with the invention of the bottle machine that does most of the work for you, that doesn’t necessarily stop it from being a filthy procedure. Kroger’s in West Bloomfield Township offers up a quiet, clean area with unjammed-up machines, no lines and hand soap-aplenty, combining to make it the most enjoyable return in the metro area.

Best grassless urban park

Pope Park

Joseph Campau, downtown Hamtramck

Make sure you bring lots of sun block and an umbrella. While offering up a lot of colorful characters and semisolitude from the often-hectic city lifestyle, one thing that Hamtramck’s Pope Park doesn’t offer its inhabitants is the usual landscape befitting of most parks — grass. You can bask in the shade of the statue of Pope John Paul II which was erected in honor of his 1987 visit, feed the pigeons and in general get a hell of a lot of sun.

Best place for mullet sightings

Downtown Hoedown

Hart Plaza, Detroit

Mid-May

Flannels and 40s of Bud give Detroit’s annual Downtown Hoedown true back-country flair, but perhaps the best reason to attend the free country music fest is for an entertaining eyeful of mullet, aka, the ape drape, the Tennessee waterfall, the mud flap. Hart Plaza becomes a magnet for drunk-off-their-ass, Camaro-cut honky-tonkers. It’s an even better place to get at least one hearty gratuitous laugh. Eat your heart out, Billy Ray!

Best local music festival

Concert of Colors

Chene Park, Detroit

Mid-July

You started small in 1993, just one show on one stage on one day. But, baby, look at you now. You’re a whole weekend’s worth of fun and music; a marketplace with crafts and goodies from all over the planet; a gathering that bridges cultures, colors and communities. We’ll even forgive Chene Park’s dubious acoustics because we love you like we do.

Best place to perform a glowstick enema

DEMF

Okay, look kids. We've had it. Put those goddamned glowsticks away before we do something really, really nasty. They're not cool and they're annoying to the point of forced insanity. We don't care how entrancing those waving little glowing buggers are to your chemical-riddled brain; put them the hell away or you won't need a night light anymore.

Best place to rock

Planet Rock

34 Rapid St., Pontiac

248-334-3904

82 April Dr., Ann Arbor

734-827-2680

Whether you’re a novice climbing for the first time or an old hand, Planet Rock is a primo place to go scaling. The Ann Arbor facility is a cavernous 22,000 square feet with walls up to 50 feet high, while the Pontiac spot offers walls up to 55 feet high in a 13,500-square-foot space. Both feature motorized climbing walls (like treadmills, only a hell of a lot more fun) and bouldering caves. We say, rock on.

Best place to roll

Airborne Skate Park

28070 Hayes, Roseville

586-776-7500

In-line skaters, skateboarders and BMX bicyclists (on selected days) can all spin on in style. Airborne offers 22,000 square feet of thrills and spills with an 11-foot half pipe, a bowl more than 6 feet deep and a 14-foot vertical wall. A daredevil’s delight.

Best place to watch drug deals and hookers

McNichols and Woodward Ave., Detroit

This particular crossroads of urban blight seems to be the spot of choice for Detroit's hard-working ladies of the night, as well as pushers, pimps and other shady characters from the wrong side of I-75. For a late-night cruise, it's not exactly romantic, but definitely fascinating — just be sure to lock your doors and load your Glock.

Best jam session for singers

Bert’s Marketplace

2727 Russell St., Detroit

313-567-2030

Lug your axe to Baker’s Keyboard on Wednesdays to have jam session leader Teddy Harris Jr. tighten up your craft. Take that axe to Bomac’s Lounge on Thursdays to let it all hang out. But if you’re a singer, the place is to pipe is Bert’s Marketplace on Thursdays where a different vocalist plays host each month. "The Shadow of Your Smile," "All Blues," "Cherokee" — you call the tune and the resident SBH Trio will swing ’em so you can sing ’em all night.

Best place to hear street buskers

Greektown

Beaubien and Monroe, Detroit.

Judging by the small number of participants, busking isn’t a very lucrative occupation in Detroit. Most street-corner crooners who give it a go tend to gravitate to the heart of Greektown, where on any given night you might be able to hear tenor sax "Pink Panther"-isms or twangy acoustic guitar blues. People who pay their dues and keep a keen eye out for buskers might even be blessed with the rare sighting of a charming middle-aged transvestite who tears through Strayhorn’s "Lush Life" in a falsetto tender enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Best new use of inner city space (large-scale)

Downtown Detroit

Complain all you want about "it might not be enough" or "who really wants to move here?" but the Motor City core is on its way back, and big-time. From the Campus Martius to Grand Circus Park, from Ford Field to Comerica Park, from the Gem and Century Theatres to the new Orchestra Hall high school for the performing arts, big projects are happening, and so are a whole lot of smaller ones, including mucho lofts and condos. Coming soon: Streetlights that work (just kidding).

Best new use of inner city space (medium-scale)

G.R. N’Namdi Gallery

66 E. Forest, Detroit

313-831-8700

Proprietor George N’Namdi has taken over a large building complex just east of Woodward Ave., renovated nearly half of it for his gallery and drawn up plans for a project that includes gourmet restaurants, other galleries and a bookstore. As it comes together, it’ll plug in another great addition to the quality of everyone’s everyday life, and help bring back the fine art of walking from one spot to another in the Cultural Center.

Best new use of inner city space (small-scale)

Southwest Detroit Business Association

7752 W. Vernor, Detroit

313-842-0986

Sun pours through skylights made from car windshields. A small plane wing serves as a handrail. Steel joists and drive shafts form two crooked columns. Scraps such as these were used to renovate a 70-year old building for the nonprofit group whose mission is to revitalize neighborhood commercial districts — and these digs fulfill this goal. It’s one of Detroit’s best-kept secrets. Visit Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Best film series

Detroit Film Theatre

The Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-833-3237

Now in its 28th year (yes, that’s right), the DFT is simply one of the cinematic wonders of the world. Bringing us movies that we’d never see otherwise, in languages and styles we’ve never encountered before, it’s been the venue for breakouts, the place we saw our first Jim Jarmusch or Zhang Yimou masterpieces, our first Errol Morris documentary, our first Alloy Orchestra performance — along with restored prints of classics, retrospectives of great directors, premieres and all great things cinematic.

Best place to see planes, trains and automobiles

Henry Ford Museum

20900 Oakwood, Dearborn

313-271-1620

And Lincoln's death chair. OK, he didn't really die in the chair. He was merely sitting in it when John Wilkes Booth did the deed at — how eerie is this? — Ford's Theatre? The chair, fascinating as it is, is but a mote in the grand constellation of mind-bending stuff you'll see at the Ford. This is the Smithsonian Midwest. Seemingly everything under the sun, from prehistoric recreational vehicles and vacuum cleaners to the largest badass locomotive you'll ever want to see. And, of course, beaucoup cars. Plan to spend hours.

Best place to roll in your new set of wheels

East Jefferson, Detroit

You just got your new set of wheels. Of course, you want to style and profile, so you head down to East Jefferson. There’s always a crowd, so the traffic is slow enough for you to lean wa-ay back in your seat, pump your music and drive the dang thang. Except for the police telling you to speed it up, East Jefferson is the place to take your car for a Friday-night stroll.

Best public library

Royal Oak Public Library

222 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak

947-246-3700

This library firmly believes in the tradition of saving old valuables. It houses everything from old movies to magazines from the 1950s. It's one of the oldest library organizations in the state, dating to the mid-19th century, when Dr. Brewster allowed fellow Royal Oak Township citizens to turn his reading room into a book exchange. Today, the multilevel building houses more than 112,000 book titles alone.

Best park that has everything

Kensington Metropark

2240 W. Buno Road, Milford

248-685-1561

This place is perfect for those weekend getaways to the trees and water. It's one of the most beautiful areas in Michigan. The park has areas for barbecuing, a lake (including a concession stand) for swimming, picnic shelters, playgrounds, trails, a petting farm and many other amenities.

Best new attraction worth its hype

Polar bear exhibit, Detroit Zoo

8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak

248-398-0900

You ain't lived till you've seen a white, 800-pound Arctic carnivore do the American crawl over your head. With its see-through tunnels under the bear pond, the Zoo gives new meaning to creative habitat. The graceful creatures put on an unforgettable show, delighting kids of all ages while undoubtedly making the seals in the nearby tank very nervous. Bathing bears alone are worth the price of admission. Hey, do wolverines swim?

Best mall for elderly walkers

Great Lakes Crossing

4000 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills

877-SHOP-GLC

The megaplex will kick off its mall-walking program on Saturday, Sept. 28, 1-2 p.m. The mall, built in an oval shape, is a mile around and perfect for those early-morning get-up-and-goers. The kiosks act as hurdles, but the restaurants, play area and stores serve as eye candy to help pass the time while exercising those limbs.

Best Michigan vacation spot

Warren Dunes State Park

12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer

616-426-4013

For $9 a night, camp at the Warren Dunes State Park, where miles of dunes stretch along Lake Michigan. If you insist on electricity and a real toilet, the price is only $20 a night. Nearby towns like Union Pier are sprinkled with cafés, restaurants, galleries and inns. Need a break from the beach? Chicago is about an hour’s drive. It’s a great place to visit, but you might wind up wanting to live there.

Best Michigan tourist trap

The Mystery Spot

150 Martin Lake Road, St. Ignace

"Amazing!" "Weird!" Baffling!" These are only some of the words those lucky enough to survive their visits use to describe The Mystery Spot, which appears to have a unique sort of anti-gravity that upsets the proper functioning of the hand that controls the wallets of dazed tourists. The Mystery Spot's discoverers were so kind to share their discovery with the general public for only $5 a tour. Their compassion also inspired them to add such exhilarating attractions as a maze, mini-golf, an arcade, a gift shop and picnic benches. Wow, dad, are we there yet?

Best way to show tourists downtown

Detroit People Mover

At 50 cents a round trip, there’s no better way to provide visitors a tour of Detroit than the venerable People Mover. The art work — particularly that guy always there reading a newspaper — is fun, the view of the river spectacular, and some of the architecture amazing.

Best place to entertain out-of-towners

Heidelberg Project

Heidelberg Street (between Mt. Elliot and Gratiot), Detroit

This crazy, colorful collection of junk is the perfect introduction to Detroit. It draws attention to the city’s seemingly inescapable blight and, at the same time, manages to convey a wellspring of hope. The fact that its creator, artist Tyree Guyton, has made this neighborhood project thrive, despite the efforts of some city officials to bulldoze it, makes Heidelberg the quintessential Motown metaphor. From downtown, take Gratiot to Mack, turn right on Mack and go to Mt. Elliot, turn right on Mt. Elliot, go about a quarter mile and turn right on Heidelberg Street and behold. Or just follow the polka dots.

Best place to stroll for a fee

Cranbrook House and Gardens

380 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Hills

248-645-3149

More than 300 acres of gardens, ponds, lakes, fountains and sculptures make this magical destination perfect for a spring stroll or winter hike. The fall colors are breathtaking. But summer is great for sneaking a dip in the private pool north of the Lone Pine entrance. Admission is $5, $4 for seniors and students. The grounds are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun.

Best place for a first date

Detroit Zoo

8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak

248-398-0900

The zoo is the ideal locale for a no-pressure, no-hassle date. Dress is by necessity casual. The fledgling couple can wander from exhibit to exhibit, spending more time watching the playful animals (prairie dogs, polar bears, penguins, otters), speeding past the less energetic ones (rhinos, lions). The animals are can't-miss conversation pieces. If you can't amuse each other in this setting, you're doomed. It’s cheap, fun and a chance to see if any of the critters turn out to be more intelligent than your companion.

Best political spouse

Judy Bonior

Since her husband, David, won’t be a politician much longer (Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer Granholm trounced him in the primary and he finishes his 13th term as a U.S. Representative in December), it’s time to honor Judy. Like David, the feisty woman has dedicated her life to protecting the environment and the rights of minorities, women and workers. No doubt she and David will continue to fight the good fight.

Best gay advocates

Triangle Foundation

19641 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit

313-537-3323 or www.tri.org

First things first: The Triangle Foundation doesn’t just serve gay interests. Lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons also benefit from the work of this group, which battles discrimination. Whether its drawing attention to hate crimes, or fighting anachronisms like Detroit’s constitutionally questionable "annoying persons" law — which, until TF stepped in, was being used by Detroit police to harass gays at Rouge Park — the foundation is always ready to enter the fray.

Best labor news

Labor Notes

7435 Michigan Ave., Detroit

313-842-626 or www.labornotes.org

Since 1979, the nonprofit Labor Notes has been an organization that puts "the movement back in the labor movement." It’s not an idle boast. Relentlessly progressive, Labor Notes produces a monthly magazine that, in their words, "reports news about the labor movement that you won’t find anywhere else." In addition, the organization holds a national conference every two years that attracts activists from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Mexico and abroad.

Best new slogan for Detroit Public Schools

Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy!

Best new slogan for Detroit

Our mayor can kick your mayor’s ass. Guaranteed.

Best bureaucrat

John Eddings

City of Detroit Ombudsman

If you have a question or complaint about city government, Eddings is your man. The jovial fellow, appointed to the 10-year, one-term post in 1995, loves serving Detroit’s citizens. He has held various civil service jobs since 1975 and claims to not have taken a single sick day. He uses vacation time instead. Eddings retires in December 2004, so catch him at 313-224-6000.

Best preacher

Dr. Charles Adams

Hartford Memorial Baptist Church

18700 James Couzens, Detroit

Jesse Jackson has nothing on Adams, who always provides a lesson in enlightened alliteration. At Coleman A. Young’s funeral, for instance, the pastor said that the former mayor fought racism and emerged, "unbroken, unbruised, unbent and uninhibited." He explained why his departed friend used expletives: "He would not stop cussing because his words articulated the feelings of those who suffered from marginalization, frustration and ghettoization. Adams is inspiring and entertaining. Services are Sunday at 7:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Best place to hold your nose

Michigan Humane Society Detroit Shelter

7401 Chrysler Drive, Detroit

313-872-3400

It’s no surprise that a shelter containing animals and their droppings should stink. But some days are worse than others. Weekends are particularly bad since crowds pack the place to pick up and drop off sad strays. The summer is also pretty ripe. Go adopt a pet, please, but take nose plugs.

Best Detroit golf course for Jekyll-and-Hyde golfers

Rouge Park Golf Course

11701 Burt Road, Detroit

313-837-5900

There are good, average and bad golfers. Some are all three, turning par-buster Jekyll to duffer Hyde — sometimes on the same hole. Rouge Park Golf Course plays into the minds of such whiz-bums. Cross the yawning Rouge River twice on the 440-yard first. The 11th requires a titanic drive and a midiron over water. Three short holes relieve, as the river waits suspiciously. Lose your balls here, even a club, but all return to Rouge.

Best golf course deals

(three-way tie)

Fern Hill G.C.,

17600 Clinton River Road, Clinton Township

586-286-4700

Hampton G.C.

2600 Club Drive, Rochester

248-852-3250

Southgate Municipal

14600 Reaume Parkway, Southgate

734-246-1358

A golfer who asks not "How many?" but "How much?" and angles for a higher score "to get my money’s worth" prefers playing with a light wallet. First, get a 2-for-1 golf coupon book (e.g., Michigan Golfers Map & Guide, PO Box 2612, Dearborn Heights 48123-2612). Then walk Fern Hill or Hampton for, oh, $15. Southgate Municipal is lively and cheap. Rates tumble like leaves in fall and spring. Senior rates abound. Play up that gray on top, then play all day for a 10-spot.

Best serenity

Belle Isle

off East Grand Blvd. and East Jefferson, Detroit

313-852-4075

Our Belle Isle has served many needs: Picnics. Runners. Grand Prix. Yachts. Serenity is sitting at a charred picnic table near a bush-lined pond. Friends, beer, a primitive grill flickering, cooking salmon till blinding sunset and mosquitoes descend. Again, at dawn, walk idly on shore pebbles, looking across to Waterworks Park – at the works of God and man in immense quiet. A whirring peaceful memory: riding round the island with close friends, 3 a.m., radio turned to WJR, just going on and on …

Best building to save

Book-Cadillac Hotel

Corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Boulevard, Detroit

Officially, the jury is out as to whether the landmark structure on Washington Boulevard is salvageable. But people who know about such things say there’s enough steel supporting the place to sustain a nuclear blast. The hotel that once played host to royalty and celebrities has been vacant for too long now, bringing down an entire neighborhood. Reopen the Book and the boulevard will blossom again. To learn more about the effort to save this venerable building, visit the Friends of the Book-Cadillac Web site at www.book-cadillac.org.

Best haunted theatre

Grande Ballroom

Grand River and Beverly, Detroit.

Do yourself a favor and break into the Grande Ballroom — the abandoned theater at the corner of Grand River and Beverly which houses the ghosts of the best rock shows to ever happen in Detroit. Under the leadership of the one and only Russ Gibb, the Grande was something of a second home to the MC5 and The Stooges and its hallowed halls saw performances by the greatest ’60s rock groups (including Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Canned Heat and Cream to name a few). When Gibb stepped down and the shows started to trickle out at the end of the ’60s it was truly the close of an era. Though now in danger of demolition, the Grande still stands at that corner for urban explorers willing to risk a minor ticket to commune with the ghosts of legends.

Best place for free radiation therapy

The Metropolitan Building

25-107 John R, Detroit

The glorious Metropolitan Building has served as a retail and manufacturing hub for jewelers and watchmakers. The 1925 architectural delight would be a perfect candidate for urban renewal, but unfortunately the previous tenants left a mess of radioactive waste — radium, the detritus of years of watch repairs. The Metropolitan closed its doors in 1979 and has remained vacant since. The city did make an attempt in 1997 to free the Metropolitan from its toxic burden.

Best vacant hospital

North Detroit General Hospital

3105 Carpenter, Detroit

No health care to be found here. North Detroit General, soon making its Hollywood debut in Eminem’s new film, 8 Mile, is the place you wouldn’t want to end up if you’re in any serious pain. Located on the Detroit-Hamtramck border, the hospital’s busted-out windows and glass-covered parking lots and sidewalks are perfect for re-opening any existing wounds. Be sure not to miss out on the milk-crate recliners and the stripped chunks of cars and colorful trash that line the entire grounds and seem to change and grow on an almost daily basis.

Best place for illegal, urban spelunking

Michigan Central Train Depot

Michigan Ave. at 14th, Detroit

One of Detroit's most haunting reminders of better days, the hulking, crumbling mass of the former train station is an ominous, haunted beauty. Adventure-seekers have been known to sneak onto the premises after dark, dipping under the barbed wire with single beams of light guiding the way. Though thrilling, this urban exploration is also highly dangerous. Aside from the risk of getting arrested, you never know when those old floorboards may give way.

Best and biggest non sequitur

The Wyland Whaling Wall "Whale Tower"

David Broderick Tower

10 Witherell, Detroit

One would think that the world’s premier ocean artist could realistically depict Detroit wildlife. There aren’t any humpbacks roaming our Great Lakes and the only Moby (sans dick) we know of appeared at Pine Knob in August. Homeboy Wyland created the Greenpeace tribute in 1997 to share the beauty of marine life. It's a lovely change of pace. Now if they'd just bring back that bitchin' faint silhouette of Barry Sanders.

Best place to see graffiti art

The Dequindre Line

St. Aubin, Detroit

Running Parallel to St. Aubin St. from Eastern Market to Jefferson Ave., the Dequindre Line is an abandoned set of railroad tracks that has become an ever-evolving canvas for Detroit graffiti artists. Inspiring explorations into color fusion and B-Boy attitude cover the walls of every overpass and abandoned car along the mile-long stretch. A fine alternative to stuffy galleries. Works range from elaborate creations to quickly thrown tags. Pieces in progress allow the observer to witness the creative process in all of its varying degrees. This constant flux provides a different experience with each visit.

Best place to watch birds

Pointe Pelée National Park of Canada

407 Robson St., R.R. #1

Leamington, Ontario

519-322-2365

Open all year, this Ontario wilderness park on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie is a stopover spot in the migration cycles of countless North American birds and butterflies, making it an ideal place to shut up and just look. Located southeast of Windsor, it's less than an hour from Detroit. Get out there early (like just after sunrise), wear comfortable shoes and leave your litter in the car as you partake of sublime encounters with the great chain of being. An info center and designated paths show you the way.

Best neighborhood for a walk

Corktown

Off Michigan Avenue, Detroit

Located in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, Corktown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, provides a safe and pleasant foot tour. Brightly colored lofts, houses and apartments adorn the streets, giving one the impression of stepping into a van Gogh painting. The few remaining ramshackle buildings are a reminder of the hard times, but the reclaimed and dignified buildings and lovingly tended lawns provide a triumph of spirit and an example for the whole city.

Best place to people watch

Detroit Metropolitan Airport

Sure your flight is late. Again. But rather than sulk about missing that connection in Chicago, settle in and soak up the scenery. Let your mind reel with questions about each passerby. Scrutinize the crowd for possible terrorists. Why is that dude going to Rangoon with no luggage? Actually, we don't care. We just love to say Rangoon.

Best view of Detroit from a car

Northbound I-75 at mile marker 46

There is no grander view of Detroit than when you are traveling north into Detroit on I-75 about three miles south of town. The highway rises onto an overpass that takes you above the industrial yards of downtown and magically, as you come to the height of the overpass, the skyline of Detroit and Ambassador Bridge dominate the horizon. In a word: majestic.

Best landmark

Uniroyal tire

Allen Park

That giant tire — 86 feet in diameter, in fact — along I-94 started life as a Ferris wheel at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Back then it had 24 gondolas and cost a quarter to ride. Now it just has a big nail sticking in it. Still, always such a treat to see we never tire of it. Get it? Tire.

Best crime syndicate

The Purple Gang

The sons of Jewish and Russian immigrants, the Purple Gang started as small-time hoods on Detroit’s infamous Hastings Street. The moniker allegedly grew from a victim's utterance: "They’re rotten, purple like the color of bad meat, they’re a purple gang." Graduating from the ranks of street thugs, the Purple Gang built such a violent reputation that even Chicago’s Al Capone eschewed their turf. The gang achieved further fame when Elvis Presley sang, "The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang" in his 1957 hit "Jailhouse Rock."

Best unknown city

Wyandotte

Downriver often evokes images of rednecks, polluted waters and industry. And that’s a darn shame, especially for Wyandotte and its 28,000 residents. The blue-collar town, which sits about 12 miles southwest of Detroit, has come a long way. While maintaining its Mayberry-like atmosphere, it has evolved with the times. Coffee shops, art galleries and appealing retail businesses dominate its main drag, Biddle Avenue. Every third Friday of the month, stores and galleries are open late, giving the public a chance to meet the artists and shop. It’s also home to one of the state’s largest art fairs, has ethnic festivals, parades and other events all year long. But what’s best about this sweet city is Bishop Park, which sits on the Detroit River and is beautifully maintained. Give Downriver a chance.

Best local zine

Geek Monthly

Ann Arbor

geekmonthly@hotmail.com

With its cover-to-cover irreverence, Geek Monthly is a highly evolved product of both classic zine culture and dork lifestyle. Off-the-cuff humor and well-crafted illustrations inspire heady giggles about comics, superheroes, video games, horror movies, action figures and classic staples of the daily pursuits of the pure geek. Brilliant in concept, perfect in execution, Geek Monthly is available at local comic book stores and other geek harbors in Ann Arbor or by e-mail.

Best bartender-turned-rock star

Meg White

Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak seemed right that long-ago night for ribs, a three-chord shuffle and a cold one. Behind the bar was a short girl with long hair, moving to a jerky internal rhythm as she poured suds. We sidled up and asked for a recommendation. "What’s good with spicy food? Maybe something light but interesting, with a little flavor to it?" She smiled and offered a Red Stripe.

Best reason to think there’s hope for radio in Detroit

WDET-FM, 101.9

News without hype — thoughtfully done stories that get all the time they need to be told properly. Sounds that span all genres, cultures and countries. Show hosts who actually know something about the music they play. Want to listen to a station that assumes you have both a brain and an attention span? This must be the place. Just remember to pony up during a pledge drive; then you can enjoy the programming guilt-free.

Best rock radio host

Willy Wilson

WDET 101.9 FM

Friday Midnight-Saturday 5 a.m.

Every self-respecting fan of quality local music knows the drill: Get out of the bar on a Friday night (Saturday morning) and tune in to DTE. With Willy Wilson behind the microphone spinning a discerning mix of everything from local upstarts to deep, ageless treasures from the rock ’n’ roll canon, he should be regarded as nothing short of Detroit’s own John Peel. Pop a couple Percocets (cq) and listen until 5 a.m. We promise you’ll learn something.

Best sports-talk radio show

"Inside the Lockerroom"

WXYT 1270 AM

Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.

Forget the irritating doggie howls, the endless self-promotion, the juvenile sex jokes and moronic humor that dominate most sports-talk radio in Detroit. This is the show for the thinking sports fan. With former big leaguer Kirk Gibson and ex-Lion quarterback Gary Danielson teaming up with Eli Zaret, the show is insightful, provocative and intelligent — a rare commodity, indeed.

Best talk radio

"Inside Detroit"

WCHB 1200 AM

Mon.-Fri., 6-10 a.m.

You may not always agree with her, but you can always count of Mildred Gaddis to take on tough issues. With a politically astute audience, she pulls no punches when going after the powers that be. And you just know the Mayor’s office has her tuned in every morning.

Best morning radio show to be beamed in from somewhere else

Russ Parr Morning Show

WDTJ 105.9 FM

Mon.-Fri., 6-10 a.m.

With songs that vary from Prince to the Staples Singers, Russ Parr will get you rockin’ and rollin’ in the morning. He’ll also get you laughin’. Accompanied by sidekicks Olivia Fox and Super Ken on a show that originates in Washington, D.C., Parr is renowned for his uncanny impersonations, including all the Jacksons — Magic, Michael and Jesse.

Best comedienne on morning radio

CoCo

WJLB 97.9 FM

Mon.-Fri., 5:30-10 a.m.

With her shout-outs to the big girls and jabs about "Skittle-colored ’gators," CoCo serves up plenty of laughs to the sleepy-eyed folks downing that first cup of coffee. She doesn’t hesitate trading wits with her fellow radio compadres. CoCo is large and in charge and has a comedy club named after her to prove it. Do your thang, CoCo.

Best jazz radio host

Lopez Loving, "The Jazz Show"

WDTR 90.9 FM

Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Knee-jerk orthodoxy would give WDET-FM’s timeless Ed Love the prize, but truth must be told: Lopez Loving incarnates all of the great jazz broadcasting qualities. From his hard-edged, blues-inclined, always swinging play list (an awesome mix of modern jazz masters, particularly Cannonball, Coltrane, Miles and Jackie McLean, plus lesser-known stars such as Woody Shaw and more youthful fare) to his terse, hip delivery (keeping the blab to an absolute minimum), Lopez is the man.

Best alternative to alternative radio

The Internet

Screw the artists! Screw the RIAA! Forget the corporate music machine! Napster was just the beginning, and with the ever-expanding technologies of MP3 players, you can create your very own custom-tailored DJ set list for your computer at work or home. Hell, everyone else in town and their mother claims they're a DJ, so why not you too?

Best Web site about Detroit

Tie: www.forgottendetroit.com

and www.detroityes.com

David Kohrman and Lowell Boileau, creators of "Forgotten Detroit" and "Fabulous Ruins of Detroit," respectively, are waging their wars to save Detroit’s historical legacy. Both sites offer a glimpse of our city’s past, present and future with a wide selection of stories, photos and cultural ephemera. Dozens of sites on Detroit have sprung up in the past few years, but it’s no surprise that people are learning to love the originality and rich history on these pages.

Best spot for egregious cell phone abuse

Any sporting event or restaurant

It never fails. You want to enjoy a quiet dinner with your sweetie or take in a ballgame with a pal. Just when you’re really starting to enjoy things, some yahoo whips out a cell phone and starts to talk to somebody stupid about something stupid. It’s never an emergency — it’s just some show-off trying to prove how (self-) important they are.

Best place to get Medieval

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Dixie Highway (between Pontiac and Flint)

800-601-4848 or www.michrenfest.com

Surely we joust. Ribald wenches, naughty knaves, the queen and her court. Handmade handicrafts supreme, from swords to goblets to candles. Plus, the best barbecued turkey legs this side of Saxony. All this and more makes for a great time every year at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, held from mid-August until the end of September at the shire known as Mt. Holly.

Best pro sports franchise

The Detroit Pistons

No one can argue with world championships (as in three recent Stanley Cups), but the Red Wings are only the second-most-exciting club in town. What’s even more thrilling is being on board as a team shifts into gear and starts putting it all together — as in our beloved Pistons, what with a new point guard, a revamped front court, returning dynamos Barry, Robinson, Stackhouse, Wallace and Williamson, and a smart yet humble young coach. Now if they'd just move downtown!

Best stupid trade for the Tigers

Bobby Higginson for a vodka bottle and a crackhead to be named later

Mike, you traded your one good starting pitcher, Jeff Weaver, for some nobodies. You can’t fill the seats even when you give them away. You can barely make payroll. We can’t recognize most of the names on the roster. And where are all of the wonderful things that were supposed to happen in Detroit after Comerica Park was built? Why not just complete the demolition of this once-proud franchise? Not that anybody would notice.

Best trailer park

Flamingo Trailer Court

22600 Middlebelt Road, Farmington

Next time you need a dose of good old-fashioned kitsch, make a stop at the Flamingo Trailer Court. Its sign is a little piece of 1950s Americana, featuring two incandescent pink flamingos worthy of any Miami Beach shuffleboard haven. What it is, exactly, that distinguishes a trailer "court" from a trailer "park" is a mystery, but the semantic quandary only adds to the overall charm of the Flamingo Trailer Court.

Best parade

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Call us traditional, but the Thanksgiving Day Parade is the best. Whether you choose to watch it from the comfort of your living room or bundle up and head downtown to fight the crowds for some wholesome family fun, the parade is never a turkey. The grand finale with Santa is nothing compared to the clown brigade, which features corporate execs dressed in clown suits who spray the crowd thoroughly with silly string.

Best parade that’s not on Thanksgiving

Cinco De Mayo Parade

Clark Street and West Vernor, Detroit

May 5

Winding and grooving through the streets of Mexican Town, the Cinco De Mayo parade is one of metro Detroit’s most colorful celebrations all year. But a couple things make the marching fiesta a completely unique and cherished event to Detroiters. First, it is a festival that has the obvious love and support of the community that surrounds it. Even more importantly, the parade offers glimpses of what makes Detroit great: harmonious multiculturalism fusion and a spirited pride in the reviving neighborhoods south of Eight Mile.

Best Detroit statue

Gateway to Freedom memorial

Hart Plaza

Detroit is a city full of interesting statues. All of them are worth appreciation because they help to distinguish the city, but the one that deserves special recognition is the newest addition, located in Hart Plaza right on the riverfront. It is a statue commemorating the Underground Railroad that headed out of slavery and straight into the freedom of Canada. The location memorial — a bronze grouping of eight figures — as well as the history and characters represented there, could not have been done better.

Best Riverfront View

Riverwalk

Joe Louis Arena to Renaissance Center, Detroit

One of the best additions to Detroit in recent years has been the city’s riverfront promenade, which eventually will extend all the way from the Ambassador Bridge to the Belle Isle bridge. At least that’s what the hope is. But at least we have a start, and Detroiters are finally able to stroll along their river and enjoy the view. It’s a long overdue view.

Best Barbie Doll import

Pamela Anderson

Obviously the reduction wasn’t enough. Pamela continues to spread her famous cleavage throughout the Motor City. With greased-down boobies and lace-up leather minis, the former "Baywatch" babe can be frequently spotted at Bleu, X/S and cruising the Nautical Mile. If you wear a wife-beater, your hair’s long and sing songs about pimpin’, you just may have a chance to appear in your own stolen home porno.

Best fashion trend to kill

Overdosing on cologne or fragrance

Wandering down Main Street in Royal Oak on a Friday night, one will literally choke on the pungent clouds of Drakkar Noir and Eternity that hang thick in the air. Geez, guys, just use a little dab — don't knock the chicks out with an overpowering wall of overpriced masculine stink. And ladies? When your special man leans over to nuzzle your neck with a delicate kiss, you don't want him gagging and sputtering, desperately gesturing for water to wash the taste of your perfume out of his mouth. Talk about a mood killer.

Best cure for city blues (aka best afternoon getaway)

Downtown Windsor

OK, Windsor isn’t the pastoral oasis we crave on a gray, dirty, down-in-the-dumps Detroit day. But the lovely Canadian city’s proximity might be one of the best things about Detroit. So grab your passport, driver’s license and birth certificate, if available, and head to Canada. The tunnel will spit you into downtown in 15 minutes. Once there, you can park and actually, gasp, walk. Shops along Ouellette, the city’s main street, are plentiful and there are plenty of pleasures in the area around University West, including coffee shops, numerous bars and a great Ethiopian restaurant. The park along the river will bring out the green in any Detroiter. Plus, for our money, Detroit can look its best from a foreign country. We’ll just leave it at that.

Best art museum (best collection)

The Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

313-833-7900

With its awe-inspiring Diego Rivera murals, its gorgeous Italian, Dutch and Flemish masters, its African treasures and stunning modern collection, the DIA wins hands down. Specific areas such as the American, Ancient, Islamic or Asian galleries are so intensely poetic that you’ll want to spend hours in each. And the Graphic Arts galleries keep expanding minds with show after show of adventurous photographs and works on paper, from Max Ernst to Robert Frank to Gordon Newton to high fashion. The DIA has no set admission price, but asks that students and children contribute $1 and adults give $4 — mere pittances for the value of what you are getting.

Best art museum (most intimate)

University of Michigan Museum of Art

525 South State St., Ann Arbor

734-764-0395

Impressive not so much for its holdings (world-class collections of Asian art and surrealism) as for its enlightened attitude and serious intellection, UMMA offers a year-round encounter with the sublime details of art. Hosting a series of fascinating, intimate shows (e.g. Joseph Beuys drawings, Monet waterscapes, ancient Chinese scroll paintings, Kara Walker silhouettes, etc.), this museum can almost be experienced in an afternoon. Don’t miss the traditional Japanese teahouse, where shakuhachi flute concerts and tea ceremonies take place each month.

Best art museum (most contemporary)

Cranbrook Art Museum

39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills

248-645-3323

This past year Cranbrook took a leap forward with its installation of the Dr. John & Rose M. Shuey collection, a gift of such overall quality and contemporary relevance that "leading edge" becomes a motto the museum can truly live by. Modern masterworks by Joan Mitchell, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and Larry Poons, among many others, combine with excellent year-round curating of the challenging kind to make the site a must-destination for anyone committed to the best of the new.

Best new gallery (city)

Tangent Gallery

715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit

313-873-2955

If the white, wide-open spaces of modern art turn you on, then Tangent (part of the mammoth new arts complex on East Milwaukee) is your best bet downtown. The enormous gallery project has just celebrated its first year of presenting big, blustery, color-mad shows by some of the most intriguing artists in Detroit. With mile-high walls and great expanses of floor space, Tangent can show virtually whatever it wants: large canvases, sculpture, installations and anything else its smaller cousins can’t.

Best new gallery (suburbs)

Susanne Hilberry Gallery

700 Livernois, Ferndale

248-541-4700

Relocating is often hard to do, but in the case of Susanne Hilberry’s new digs, the results are spectacular. Handsomely rethinking a 1950s light-industrial site, the gallery blends in with its green surroundings yet suggests all kinds of new aesthetic possibilities. Hilberry has created a base from which to represent her wonderful stable of contemporary artists (Richard Artschwager, Joel Shapiro and Elizabeth Murray, among them) and overnight becomes a model for anyone planning a contemporary museum in Detroit (wink, hint).

Best bar art

Cass Café

4620 Cass, Detroit

313-831-1400

It seems like many of our bar and restaurant owners fancy themselves armchair gallery curators. The result: Bar art almost always equals bad art. Almost. Sitting in a midtown bar and not being forced to look at your waiter’s girlfriend’s hackneyed attempts at aping Kirchner are few and far between. For relief, you shouldn’t look much further than the Cass Café. The shows (usually set up by midtown artist and former Creem art director Robin Sommers) are typically just as tasty as the restaurant’s avocado melts.

Best Detroit haiku

40s on Belle Isle

Abandoned house fires by night

Romance in Detroit

Best of Detroit 2002:

Celebrating capitalism
Party loyalty
Strong bodies
The wrong stuff
People's picks

Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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