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As some of you know, I've been talking about going to Detroit for a while. The city fascinates me and I needed to see the "ruin porn" before any more damage was done. From the number of photos I took, you'd think it was the best place I've ever gone; this report was hard to get together. So I booked a quick trip around 4th of July weekend and the weather cooperated with mostly sunny skies and moderate temperatures. I was a little nervous having heard the typical horror stories including the latest about a rash of carjackings while filling up at downtown gas stations, but I forgot to buy pepper spray and drove my brand new, bright red rental car around with no problems. Had to make a Walmart stop on the way into town cuz stupid me forgot my plastic bag of liquid products then the 2nd stop was at Duly's Place for a Coney Island hot dog (this is a big thing in "the D"). Cool old school place, decent dog (I was starving). Then as I made my way to Mexican Town, I ran into Donut Villa which was on my list (love me a good mom & pop donut shop but this was just fair) then Lupita for a single taco. Skipped the highway so I could drive by the infamous Central Station and at this early stage of the trip, I was still kind of nervous to leave my car and take photos, both cuz of the horror stories and didn't want to look like a vulture tourist. But I did it anyway and snapped other random photos cuz the scenery is really quite amazing. Made my way to the lovely Inn on Ferry Street where I had a beautiful big room, quickly ran down to nearby People's Records, regrouped then took the Inn's shuttle service to a place by the water for happy hour (full food report here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/982098). That wasn't so successful (lame bartender) but I had plenty of time to piddle around thru town since it's light out til 9:30 in Detroit. Walked 4.5 miles with detours and snapping a zillion pictures along the way. Hit the pretty waterfront, downtown up Woodward Ave., looked for one dive bar but ended up at another, the Old Miami with their amazing backyard, stopped in the Whitney cuz the 1894 building was so beautiful (and this bartender made up for the crappy one at happy hour). Plus a woman complimented me on my watch there and two girls driving down Woodward stopped to compliment my earrings. Weird.
On the 4th I had a nice breakfast at the inn then wanted to zip into Windsor Ontario, but with it being a holiday, there was no zipping. And I'm not sure why I felt the need to see Windsor so much, there wasn't much there. Walked around, hit Dr. Disc records, got an iced coffee and got hassled on the way back into the States then almost got crushed by a tourist bus (and after honking my horn, I only got the automated voice asking me what I wanted to do. I kept yelling 'radio' but nothing was changing by pressing buttons. Finally it came back on and I was never so happy to hear Bruce Springsteen in my life.). I made it onto the highway and enjoyed downtown Ann Arbor (had another donut, hit a record store) then hung out on Kristin's show at WCBN (http://malfeasant.us:40/Junk/SOUND/Kristin/TightPants.wcbn.2014-07-04.mp3). She's a former Bostonian and roommate of long ago LRC'er Morgan. Played a set of music on her show then we went to a nice happy hour in downtown A2 (that's what they call it). Later we went to a BBQ that a station member was having at his amazing house. It was the usual assortment of community radio DJ's, saw some amateur fireworks, had a drink downtown and that was my quick time in Ann Arbor. Took the slower way back to Detroit on Sat. driving on Michigan Ave. the whole way, thru Ypsilanti (had to stop at another donut place), past tons of run down places, got an early morning slider at the long-standing Telway, and eventually made my way to Eastern Market, billed as the largest farmer's market in the US. Sat. is the big day but I didn't buy anything there. I then made my way way out Woodward Ave., past a ton of dilapidated buildings, past the infamous 8 Mile, to this section called Ferndale (on pretty 9 Mile) where they pipe in Joe Jackson and other new wave tunes which was fun. The Rust Belt art market was cool plus Found Sound records had good stuff. As I got back toward downtown, I walked thru the gorgeous Fisher Building (still up and running) then checked into the Westin Book Cadillac (where I got a good Priceline deal) to wait for John arriving from DC.
He dropped his stuff off and my plan was to hit Greedy Greg's BBQ which I'd read about ("the best BBQ you've never had") and had been on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows. He's only open on Sat. from 4PM til the food runs out. We go out to that not so nice part of town and see a house with a tent but nothing going on. Bummer. Drove back around and here comes Greg so we ask what's up. He figured no one would come after having BBQ's on the 4th so we were SOL, but we did get our pictures taken with him. We were starving so hit another Coney Island dog place where some dude was looking out for my shiny car as we ate inside. Took the tour of the Motown Museum with a very exuberant guide but people got into that. Decided on this very cool deco jazz venue Cliff Bell's for dinner that nite. The interior was amazing but my phone doesn't do well in that lighting so no great photos. Food was good, bartender ignored us, and I didn't even mind the upbeat jazz from some French guy. Wandered around downtown and ended up at Grand Trunk Pub, a former railway waiting room where I bought a T-shirt and had some funny photos with people from a wedding party.
Sun. John needed to see Central Station then we headed to the other side of town for the Heidelberg Project, an area where they painted some of the rundown houses and installed all this weird art (shoes and clocks seem to be popular). We were starving so just got brunch at a place downtown that wasn't crowded then the iced coffee I got happened to be at this café that was in the documentary "Detropia". Below the one time beautiful Wurlitzer Bldg across from the still alive and well opera house. We stopped at Hello Records on a beautiful street in the Corktown section then drove back to find Temple Bar cuz we'd noticed how cool it looked. No one was there on a Sun. afternoon except the nice girl bartending, a cat and a dog. That evening we went to a craft cocktail bar Sugar House where they offer a huge list of classic drinks. Then Polish Village Cafe for great pierogis and Hungarian goulash. The Hamtramck section is its own separate town within the Detroit city limits with a few cool options for bars. Checked out Motor City Bar where they had pool tables and the burgers looked good but the music sucked. Another place that bands play at, Smalls was closed so went to Jumbos on 3rd St. to play pool and ended up chatting with some nice locals. They don't lack for bars in the D.
Monday was more "ruin porn" including the club Grande Ballroom (where the MC5 played), Lee Plaza and James Scott House then it was time for the Coney Island hot dog taste test. Both Lafayette and American Coney Island have been downtown for about 100 years and I needed to contrast and compare. Lafayette had the cool old look but it was kind of depressing and the employees seemed bummed out. American was way brighter and shinier but the folks working seemed psyched to be there and I actually preferred their dog. They're both cheap eats. Wandered around downtown some more, went into the beautiful Guardian bldg, hit the waterfront and Hart Plaza, walked thru Greektown where the casinos are, stopped at a cool coffee place Roasting Plant while it poured then a snack at Jose's tacos. That evening we hit the acclaimed Roast restaurant in our hotel for happy hour and I spent my best $3 for fried chicken livers w/ polenta. With a nice grapefruit cocktail for $5, it was a great buy. Walked over to the after work hangout Buhl bar to meet John's friend Mark up from DC. I decided we should eat the famous burger at the divey Bronx Bar but the fried pickles stole the show. Had to show the guys the cool backyard at Old Miami then John and I ended the night at a bar I actually hadn't heard about, Northern Lights Lounge which was super cool; 50's look, great furniture, nice patio and we played shuffleboard (my first time!). Tues. we headed to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn where an exhibit "Women Who Rock" was going on (just okay) and Mo Rocca was interviewing people there. Got some Arabic food for lunch (cuz that's what you do in Dearborn) then off to the airport for our respective flights home. I'm really glad I finally got to Detroit and if I had unlimited time (and $$), I'd definitely go back.