Community chest

Oct 18, 2006 at 12:00 am

Best improvement to downtown architecture
Renaissance Center

General Motors may be on the verge of losing its claim to being the world’s leading automaker, but the company deserves to be No. 1 in our hearts for the work it’s done at the RenCen since buying the towers. Specifically, the removal of those fortress-like concrete bunkers out front has transformed the structure from forbidding to inviting, turning that stretch of Jefferson Avenue downtown into a true showpiece.

Best public improvement downtown
Detroit RiverWalk

We’re big fans of Campus Martius Park, especially when some music or other event packs a crowd in the heart of downtown. But if we’re pressed to name one thing about the emerging downtown that speaks to the soul, we’ll say the RiverWalk. It’s to eventually stretch three miles, from Joe Louis Arena to Belle Isle, and we can remember being excited when the first segment from the Joe to Hart Plaza opened in 2001. Now we can follow the riverfront from the Joe to the Ren Cen and beyond. With the cement silos east of Ren Cen removed after years of talk, we can see a riverfront scene only imagined before: a city behind us, a city before us, the calm of the waterway, Belle Isle to the east. Plans are to open 75 percent of the path by spring and celebrate progress on the ambitious plans — which includes plazas, pavilions, parks, a 35-foot circular labyrinth and more — with a festival in July. It seems criminal that Detroit never opened this up to the people before. We’re so moved when we stroll there that sometimes we even stop dwelling on that past. (See more about the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy at

Best neighborhood time forgot

In Detroit, between Michigan Avenue and Porter Street and the Lodge and 16th Street, lives a quiet and friendly group of cops and Irish nuns, rockers and real estate agents, artists and accountants. Neighbors mow each other’s lawns and look after each other’s cats. Kids squeal with delight in the summer, occasionally barging into strangers’ living rooms asking for ice cream. It’s the city’s oldest neighborhood, founded by Irish immigrants, and many of the elderly residents, including those on “Maltese Row,” grew up in the well-loved, candy-colored Victorian homes they still inhabit. No-fuss barkeeps at Nemo’s and LJ’s Lounge are stationed to de-stress you with a good burger or beer, and those at the Irish restaurant Baile Corcaigh will warm you with meat pie, soda bread and a huge piece of heavy chocolate cake. The air smells like another era. A few streets couldn’t be more happily situated.

Best abandoned hospital
North Detroit General Hospital
3105 Carpenter St., Detroit

Located on the scenic Detroit-Hamtramck border, this ghostly beast singes the eyes with bad graffiti art and busted out or boarded-up windows; it fills the nostrils with indefinable smells that fall somewhere between old socks and dead possums. The brown-hued blight, which closed in 2000, saw a brief reawakening in the hands of Eminem, when it was all lit up in a scene in 8 Mile. Now, neighbors shake their heads and roll their eyes when they stroll by this place, usually on the far side of the street. They say the hospital has become a shooting gallery for needle-enthusiasts and a crackhouse for those on the opposite end of the drug spectrum. There’s your health care, kids!

Best news for a troubled landmark
New owners for Detroit’s Turkel House

Detroit’s Palmer Woods area is a stately neighborhood of architectural showoffs, with the exception of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dorothy Turkel house. Screened from the street by foliage, the property has suffered because of its famous architect’s rigid sensibility, years of deferred maintenance and the vagaries of the real estate market. But things are looking up for the beleaguered property. The house, which had been for sale since last year with an asking price of $420,000, was bought by Norman Silk and Dale Morgan, co-owners of Blossoms flower boutique in Birmingham. Lovers of all things Wright should be thankful the pair intends to restore the home to its original condition. Neighbor and Faygo heir Phil Feigenson says, “It was vandalized and vacant for quite a while. ... I only hope the new owners enjoy it more than the other people.”

Best alternative to the gym
Punk Fitness Detroit

These days, your average gym looks more like a flashy nightclub, complete with thumping bass lines and a plethora of thick-necked cologne-drenched knuckle-draggers with their requisite cheesy pickup lines. But fear not, as there’s a distinctly Motor City alternative out there: For almost three years now, professional fitness instructor, local music fan and kick-ass mom Julie Hecker has been creating her own special brand of fitness with an edge. By now you’ve most likely heard of it: a 90-minute cardio and toning class conducted in a bar, to a soundtrack that largely consists of local punk, garage and rockabilly bands. Hecker — who’s married to a local musician and whose oldest son has already started a band — is truly committed to supporting local groups, festivals and performers via her classes and her mailing list. The only thing bigger than her biceps is her enthusiasm for all things Day-twah. Oh, and it’s a damn good workout too — you’ll definitely be sore the next day, and it’ll be worth it. See a list of class times at

Best Belly Dancing Instructor
Shelley Brantley-Kuhn

Swaying and wiggling in front of mirrors and rows of women, this petite blonde of French and English heritage teaches the art of belly dancing to women who line up for her beginning and advanced classes. Kuhn, 49, learned belly dancing as a teen, instructed by a family friend, and started dancing in area nightclubs at 18. For seven years in the ’80s, she traveled the Middle East as a performer at clubs and weddings. For a decade, she’s nurtured the talents of about 150 would-be dancers a year in classes at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. Her brochure says belly dancing improves muscle tone, posture, stamina, flexibility and grace. With Kuhn’s predominantly Egyptian style, her emphasis is on good posture, balletic moves and shimmies. Pull some of those out on the pop music dance floor.

Best extreme use of the hair follicle
Hair Wars

Now a Detroit tradition, Hair Wars is the end-all-be-all of hair shows — the stylists themselves are referred to as “hair entertainers” and the shows are often more elaborate than your average music video shoot. Founded in 1991 by local DJ and nightclub promoter David “Hump the Grinder” Humphries, this epic hair show has grown to an international phenomenon (they just appeared on the hit TV show America’s Next Top Model). Both local and national stylists duke it out at the big event, displaying larger-than-life hair creations and creating elaborate skits with heavy choreography and outlandish costumes. Past Hair Wars luminaries have included Big Bad D., a former pro wrestler who hunts alligators when he’s not creating three-foot headpieces made of human hair, and Mr. Little, who produced a full-on Matrix re-creation along with spinning, flying, flipping, full-contact hair cutting.

Best community ritual to adopt
The makeout party

If it works at Central Park, why not Belle Isle? Gallup Park? Kensington? A call goes out from organizers on Myspace or some similar forum in the cause of “shameless kissing in public.” A bar offers pre- or post-rite drinks as a lubricant. More serious exhibitionists are told to contain themselves (or get their own darn thing going).

Best place to pick up both food and people
Holiday Market
1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak

This Royal Oak market is already tops in the area for procuring fine cheese and cuts of meat. But pay attention to the shoppers browsing alongside you, because chances are you’ll like the cut of their jib too. Baskets always seem to be more popular than carts, and their contents usually allude to a shopper’s relationship status. (Seven packages of 90-second rice screams, “Cook for me!”) Holiday’s aisles also offer plenty of opportunities for impromptu conversation — tasting stations abound, and the polite jostle for deli counter position allows everyone to show off their goods. As they ramp up their plans for a major renovation, Holiday Market’s brain trust might consider adding a bistro. Why not keep the hookups in house?

Best place to pick up a new best pal
Michigan Humane Society Detroit
7401 Chrysler Dr., Detroit

Perhaps much of the Detroit MHS renown stems from its now-defunct stint on Animal Cops, which aired on the Animal Planet television network. And it’s true, this inner-city nonprofit shelter sees every aspect of the animal condition, from gaping gunshot wounds and unbridled parvovirus on dogs, to cats either burned to the bone or frozen within an inch of their lives. It makes you wonder about your fellow man. But there’s also plenty of redemption too, like seeing a new guardian come to tears of joy over his or her new pet, one that’s been rescued or saved. The MHS does grueling work, to be sure, but is, ultimately, contributing to the greater good of all concerned. And adopting a living, breathing creature with real personality and charm is easy. The MHS adoption package includes sterilization, vaccinations, a medical check-up, behavioral evaluation and more.

Best chance to see Detroit history on stage
Malice Aforethought

The idea is to bring to the stage one of the fundamental dramas of Detroit history: the landmark trial in which prominent African-American physician Ossian Sweet was charged with murder after firing into a threatening, all-white mob that surrounded his home in the neighborhood he and his wife had just integrated. The NAACP recruited Clarence Darrow, arguably the most famous attorney of the era, to take what looked like a hopeless case before an all-white jury. Arthur Beer, professor of theater at University of Detroit Mercy, heads up the production of Malice Aforethought Feb. 2-18. We’re optimistic about the drama, but doubt it won’t pass muster with our favorite local historian. (See below).

Best independent historian who keeps us on his e-mail list
Paul Lee

Paul Lee directs Best Efforts Inc., a professional research and consulting firm in Highland Park, and for those lucky enough to be on his e-mail list, he shines the light of a dedicated researcher on fine points of African and African-American history, from the doings of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to CIA dealings in Africa. One missive will eviscerate muckrakers’ claims that the CIA poisoned Paul Robeson; another will lambaste the mainstream press for so elevating Rosa Parks’ heroism that it’s removed from any meaningful context; many harangue journalists and historians alike for not working from primary sources. Lee, in keeping with his high standards, tells us “Best Of” items like this are “rankings invidious, inherently unfair and purely capricious.” He considers himself just one among many unsung local historians, including underground railroad researcher Sharon Sexton and film historian James A. Wheeler.

Best candidate for clemency
Kylleen Hargrave-Thomas

You don’t need to be a bleeding heart to see the crying need for justice in the case of Kylleen Hargrave-Thomas, a metro Detroit woman convicted in 1993 of murdering boyfriend Joseph Bernal. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole. We first wrote about her case more than five years ago (“Hanging by a nail,” April 24, 2001) and have been following it ever since. Shortly after our first story appeared, a federal judge found that Hargrave-Thomas’ original lawyers were “manifestly and flagrantly ineffective.” They interviewed no witnesses, conducted no investigation and mounted virtually no defense. Had they done so, said the federal judge, it’s likely she would have been acquitted, considering the prosecutor’s flimsy circumstantial case. A new trial was ordered, but the prosecution appealed, and an appellate court, on a 2-1 vote, ruled against a new trial. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. In 2005, Gov. Jennifer Granholm refused to grant clemency. Hargrave-Thomas’s lawyer has filed another appeal, but the mother of two should not have to wait for those slow wheels of justice to grind. Forget about fears of being perceived as soft on crime and do the right thing, governor: Set Kylleen free.

Best evidence in support of open government
Rackham Golf Course deal

After conducting secret negotiations and soliciting no competitive bids, the administration of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked the Detroit City Council to approve sale of the city-owned Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods to an undisclosed developer for $5 million. Once word finally got out that the course was up for sale, others, including the city of Huntington Woods, started driving the price up. By October, the city was considering an $11.25 million bid — showing a) just how much of a sweetheart deal Kilpatrick was willing to enter and b) how much better it is to have public business discussed in the open. (Update: A judge ruled last week that Detroit can sell the land to a developer for the $11.25 million, but it has to remain a golf course. We’ll see what happens.)

Best example of the Detroit Police Department being misused
Detroit cops as Greektown Casino parking attendants

The offices of the Metro Times are across the street from the Greektown Casino, so we see this every day: Detroit cops directing traffic on casino property. Sometimes we see them moving the signs that say the valet parking is full. Seems to us that a joint pulling down a million bucks a day could afford to handle its own traffic issues. And it’s not like there’s nothing better for the folks in blue to do, things like finding killers and crack dealers and rapists.

Best Evidence of the City-Suburb Divide
Fenced canal along Alter Road

It’s a moat and a chain-link barrier. Running from Jefferson Avenue to the Detroit River, this canal provides a watery divide between the city and Grosse Pointe Park. The fence probably does keep some dogs and children out of the water, but the medieval-style security can’t help but scream “Don’t cross here.” Technically the land on both sides of the canal is Detroit. But as Grosse Pointe Park begins along the backyard edges of the houses along Alter’s east side, the canal is a de facto barrier limiting “crossover” traffic between city and suburb. Just one bridge along the one-mile stretch takes car, bike and foot traffic into the Detroit neighborhood, and that street, Korte, has blocked access to GPP’s Windmill Pointe neighborhood.

Best way to revitalize southeast Michigan’s economy
Rapid transit

Some regions in the country — particularly Southern California — are on a fast track toward building transit systems using trains powered by magnetic levitation. Many more regions have built light rail lines and are already reaping the economic benefits as a result. But in southeast Michigan, progress toward rapid transit remains slow; the shackles of road-first thinking prove difficult to shake. But if you’ve been reading MT’s “Roads not Working” series, you know that for us to remain economically competitive, construction of modern rapid transit systems is imperative. The studies pile up, the debates drag on, and we fall further and further behind.

Best group to join in support of mass transit
Transportation Riders United

Incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2001, TRU’s mission statement says it all: “Transportation Riders United is strongly committed to the ‘triple bottom line’: Our tax dollar investments must meet the test of being good for the regional economy, good for the environment, and good for the community as a whole. For Greater Detroit, the most important of these tests is that a public investment must be good at bringing people together, building community. One of the major reasons why Greater Detroit is one of the most segregated regions in the country is because it has what is commonly considered an ineffective and unreliable public transit system. By working on transportation policy, to encourage transportation investments that follow the triple bottom line, we work to build strong, diverse, transit-oriented communities in Greater Detroit. There is no better place on earth to take on this challenge than in Detroit, the Motor City, and the home to America’s Automobile Culture.” Find out more at

Best public transit commute
SMART route No. 635

This express bus runs only during the morning and afternoon rush hours, but if you live in an eastside suburb near the water, there’s no more pleasant way to get to and from work. It runs along Jefferson/Lakeshore from downtown to Harrison Township, with a splendid view of Lake St. Clair through much of the Grosse Pointes. Kicking back on the bus, listening to tunes, watching sunlight play across the lake’s shimmering water: We can think of no more serene way to begin or end the workday.

Best reason to ditch the car
Bike to Work Day

This spring, a group calling itself Detroit Bikes! challenged commuters to trade their six-cylinders for 10-speeds in a mass trek downtown called Bike to Work Day. The group, a project of the Motown-boosters over at Detroit Synergy, set up a travel itinerary down Woodward Avenue, allowing many who toil downtown to pedal their way to work — and back out afterward. Even if you’re a confirmed gas-guzzler during the week, joining a big ride like this may change the way you look at biking, and at the city. As one organizer said, “Going through a city at 40 mph, you don’t get a sense of what’s there, what quality of life exists. You never see the details. When we ride as cyclists, our perceptions are challenged by this new way of seeing.” They expressed hopes that the event would inspire others to imitate it next year, perhaps on such thoroughfares as Gratiot or Michigan avenues.

Best way to chill at Metro Airport
Dema Restaurant and Dema Bar

The Westin, 2501 World Gateway Place, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Romulus
We’re reluctant to mention this one because it’s served us so well. The Dema Restaurant and Dema Bar are on the lower level of the Westin Hotel attached to the new McNamara terminal. We’ve never encountered a real crowd, can’t remember waiting for a table and have always had prompt service. We’d hate to ruin it, so we’re hoping not too many of you actually use this item. It’s a little upscale for a bite on the run. But in the post-9/11 world where concessions are on the far side of airport security, it’s one of the few places at the airport where flyers and non-flyers can sup or sip together. Did we mention that there’s also a convenient security checkpoint for the hotel, although its hours of operation are limited?

Best way to get to Metro Airport cheaply
SMART bus No. 125

If you want to save the $40 or so a limo costs, or the $7-and-up daily parking fee, then SMART’s 125 Fort St. bus is just the ticket for getting to and from Metro Airport. The route begins and ends downtown, and buses run every day, meandering through the downriver communities of Lincoln Park, Taylor and Romulus. It takes nearly 90 minutes, so it’s not the way to go if you’re in a rush. On the other hand, the cost is just $1.50.

Best news for Ann Arbor
Jerome Vaughn

Detroit’s loss is Ann Arbor’s gain when it comes to radio news. Jerome Vaughn, who has been assistant news editor at Detroit public radio station WDET-FM since the mid-1990s, skipped down I-94 to take the news director job at WUOM, another public radio broadcaster. While in the D, Vaughn consistently delivered award-winning work. Along with being an outstanding journalist, he’s also a genuinely good guy.

Best radio format change

The folks who cover music around here might disagree, but the newsies on staff applaud the shift from tunes to talk during the day at WDET. After the morning news we get treated to a stellar lineup that includes “News and Notes,” which features Farai Chideya bringing a minority perspective to issues. There’s also the lefty perspective on “Democracy Now,” and a global view from the BBC’s “World Have Your Say.” Taken together, these and the other programs in the weekday roster are bringing voices and viewpoints that can’t be found anywhere else around here. Now, if they would just add a locally produced daily program, we’d have complete news-talk bliss.

Best free paper besides Metro Times
Between the Lines

Enter nearly any metro restaurant, bookstore, bar or coffeehouse, and racks of free papers will greet you. These can be divided, and judged, in terms of geographical area served, niche (music, GLBT, style/features, new age) or political slant. (Almost all lean left; the right-leaning mainstream papers will be outside in the coin boxes.) Between the Lines fills its niche and beyond. There is much opinion, performer and arts reviews, and humor in the 12-year-old GLBT publication. Charles Alexander’s “Parting Glances” and “Creep of the Week” are quick-witted columns. The paper’s coverage of the pro-gay and anti-gay positions of politicians is invaluable to voters of all stripes.

Best tracker of the far-right right
Russ Bellant

For more than 30 years, Russ Bellant has been bird-dogging the right-wing movement in this country, exposing its machinations and the connections behind them. From the Michigan Militia to the Coor’s beer kin to our homegrown peddlers of soap and conservatism, the DeVos family, Bellant — the author of three books — has shed light on people who would rather keep the rest of us in the dark when it comes to knowing what they’re up to.

Best excuse for not sticking by the Tigers until now
Bitterness over the closing and slow death of Tiger Stadium

Mourning the loss of the Michigan & Trumbull diamond had some of us taking it out on the Tigers during the last six seasons. We refrained from buying giant foam paws and tattooing ourselves with the Old English ‘D’ in protest of the loss of a landmark. We boycotted the CoPa — a commercial cathedral dedicated to getting fans to spend money instead of appreciating the sport. But as our mourning subsides for the loss of a right-field upper deck that hangs over the lower, support pillars blocking the view of the field from many seats, and the smell of stale beer that followed us home from the ballpark, we now celebrate Detroit’s baseball team. Coincidentally, this awakening happened just in time for this season! Coincidentally. Really.

Best way to connect with the Motown muse
See Philip Levine at Wayne State University

We’re not giving you much notice, admittedly, but one of the grand poets of Detroit, Philip Levine, makes a rare hometown appearance Thursday, Oct. 19, and Friday, Oct. 20. On Thursday, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner talks about his writing and his Detroit roots (3 p.m. in the 10th floor conference room of the Maccabees Building at 5057 Woodward Ave., at Putnam). On Friday, as part of the Wayne State University Bernard Firestone Labor and Poets Arts Event at 7 p.m., he’s at Bernath Auditorium inside the David Adamany Undergraduate Library in the center of the WSU campus. He’s a poet who’s imbibed his share of “isms” (anarchism, surrealism, etc.) yet exalts in the power of plain talk. The critic Harold Bloom asked whether any American poet since Whitman had written such “consistently magnificent” elegies. Levine once said it took him a long time to be able to write about Detroit because “I had to temper the violence I felt toward those who maimed and cheated me with a tenderness toward those who had touched and blessed me.”

Best site to shoot your low-cost indie film
Vacant structure grab bag

Maybe it’s played-out to say it, but despite the publicity they get, our jumble of vacant structures should give any would-be Spike Jonze a location-shoot hard-on. That’s assuming you’re trying to film a post-apocalyptic action thriller on a sandwich artist’s budget, of course. Downtown’s gaping spires, the crumbly fleet of dejected Victorians flanking Woodward Ave., the crushing enormity of Fisher Body Plant 21 — we’re not encouraging trespassing, but any of these striking wrecks would serve as wonderful backdrops to your el cheapo remake of the 1977 Jan-Michael Vincent/George Peppard classic Damnation Alley. Just ask Michael Bay, who shot parts of The Island in our vacant structures with a budget vastly bigger than yours.

Best fest to fret over
Detroit International Jazz Festival

What began in 1980 as the Montreux-Detroit International Jazz Festival virtually invented the idea of big outdoor music fests in metro Detroit. And it has only survived by reinventing itself — and renaming itself — several times along the way. After foundering, again, for a number of years, it hit on a new formula in 2005 and continued to develop it in 2006. The fest has a new backer — Mack Avenue Records founder and heiress Gretchen Carhartt Valade. It also has a new format, music stretching from Hart Plaza to Campus Martius with vendors and other attractions along the way. The plaza is mostly jazz; Woodward has more R&B, blues and other related sounds. Crowds are up significantly. Why fret? The passionate and sometimes abrasive director, Frank Malfitano, was demoted to “artistic director” for the 2006 fest and then eased out the door afterward. Even those who had their differences with Frank recognize that his are big shoes to fill.

Best Pet in a Local Establishment
Thomas at Pewabic Pottery
10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit

He likes the countertop, the bins in the storage room and really any sunny spot to rest his 15-year-old furry figure. Thomas, the cat with honorary T-shirts and ceramic paw print ornaments for sale, wandered up to the east side pottery studio and gallery about 13 years ago and has been the feline-in-residence ever since. He has gray tiger markings over white fur and piercing green eyes that just dare you to disturb him. But if you do, and he likes you, he’ll rub and purr. He’s gentle with people, especially children, but when he spends the night out, he often comes back with scratches and scrapes — part of his right ear is missing from one of his adventures. The staff loves him but won’t confess how many pieces he’s knocked off the gallery shelves and broken over the years.

Best after-school hangout for kids aged 11-19
7375 Woodward Ave., Detroit

The 75,000-square-foot neighborhood development center YouthVille in Detroit is one of the most comprehensive and on-the-ball institutions in the entire city. At YouthVille — instead of being left to their own devices — Detroit youngsters can participate in an impressively wide variety of after-school activities and educational courses. And that the center embraces contemporary urban culture instead of pooh-poohing it ensures that the kids stay invested. For $25 a month, students can take classes that include hip-hop dance, archery, basketball, knitting, pottery, digital photography, GED preparation, Web site design, jazz appreciation and acting.

Best way to contribute to the greening of our kids
Camp Cavell
3335 Lakeshore, Lexington

If camp director Jill Laidlaw were any sweeter, we’d eat her with a dessert spoon. But even if Laidlaw were a big ol’ jerk, YWCA Camp Cavell deserves all the assistance it can get. This beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Huron has helped many an imperiled kid find solace via a commune with nature. Aside from their summer camp schedule and at-risk youth programs, Camp Cavell also offers family weekends and ladies-only retreats. Skilled tradesmen, generous souls and hard workers welcome.

Best person to fill the void left by Maryann Mahaffey’s passing
Still looking

Mahaffey, who died in July at the age of 81, served Detroit City Council for more than 30 years. She left behind a legacy that will be hard for anyone to match. Her combination of passion, integrity, gumption, progressive values and an unyielding commitment to helping those among us most in need provides a benchmark by which every other local politician should be measured. That this elderly white woman could pull in more votes than any other council candidate in a city that’s 85 percent African-American is both a testament to her dedication to this city and a sign of hope that the racial divide that so often plagues this region can indeed be transcended if our hearts are in the right place and the desire to fight for social justice is pre-eminent and unflagging.

Best community  improvement group founded by a John
Motor City Blight Busters

Eighteen years ago, John George got mad as hell and decided not to take it any more. Frustrated by the city’s failure to respond to his complaints about an abandoned house used nightly by crack dealers as a business place, he took matters into his own hands, buying plywood and nails that he used to shut the dealers out. Inspired by the success of that action, he went on to found the nonprofit Motor City Blight Busters, which, as its Web site ( points out, worked with volunteers from a coalition of community partners to “paint 684 homes, board up and secure 379 abandoned buildings, renovate 176 houses and build 114 new ones to make suitable housing for 1,160 people.” They also “demolished 113 houses with sledgehammers and people power and undertook 3,850 neighborhood clean-ups, that resulted in 1,550 dumpsters of trash and 70,000 garbage bags.” It is a remarkable achievement, and a sterling example of what a can-do attitude and determination can achieve.

Best Local Surrealist
Maurice Greenia Jr.

Oh, the memories. Maurice taking the stage during a poetry reading at the Old City Club and belting out what sounded like the opening stanzas of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” entirely in guttural animal noises. Maurice walking the Cass Corridor handing out the latest edition of his Poetic Express, a photocopied page dense with innocent figures and provocative words. Maurice covering the old Hudson’s Building with hundreds of chalk drawings. Maurice chortling on his kazoo with the way-out Space Band and the (twisted but) down-homey Don’t Look Now Jug Band. Maurice’s art shows at the Zeitgeist and his exhibits in the University of Detroit Mercy library. If you know Maurice, you have your own vignettes to add. If you don’t know Maurice, you surreally should.

Best haunted building
The Leland Hotel
Cass and Bagley, Detroit

Every inch of this beautiful but weathered historical structure is brimming with history – most of it on the grislier side. From the Purple Gang’s alleged shootouts in the impressive lobby to the whisperings of mafia activities in the now-abandoned bar where Hoffa used to hang, there are all sorts of things that go bump in the night here (and not just the goth kids who populate the hotel’s two clubs, The Labyrinth and City Club). Hotel employees have reported strange occurrences (the elevators stopping on certain floors, the occasional rush of freezing cold air in the middle of the summer) and even a few club patrons have claimed a ghostly encounter — which admittedly was the result of too much quality time spent with one of City Club’s notoriously heavy-handed bartenders.

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