Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hopeful Rebound

Prelude

Canada and the U.S. (United States) have comparable traditions, customs and practices. We speak matching languages, eat and enjoy the same food, drive identical vehicles, watch similar sports and our governments fundamentally function as a democracy which consists of conservative and liberal ideologies.

I have never been a world traveler but always took pleasure in journeying to the U.S. Throughout my life I have visited Austin, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Daytona Beach, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach and Rochester.

One of my favourite cities is Detroit...I know what some of you are thinking...is Puritan fucking nuts, DETROIT ? I can understand some folks shock and disagreement, especially if they read the article in www.infowars.com - "Detroit has gone from being the greatest manufacturing city in the world to a global joke." The story was significantly realistic and sad.

The write up mentioned "Motown's" population has greatly dwindled, almost 2 million to 700,000 in the past few decades. Thousands of abandoned houses have been torn down but still have tens of thousands of abandoned dwellings that remain standing, which some of them have sold for as little as one dollar...WOW!!

Close to half the population is functionally illiterate and 40% of street lights don't work. The Police Dept. has been reduced by 40% (five will get you ten the Fire Dept. is in that equivalent circumstance) and the average response time for police calls is 58 minutes...dam scary.

To make matters worse Detroit's Mayor Kwane Kilpatrick (2002-2008) was sentenced to 28 years in prison for a corruption scandal. In 2013 the "Motor City" filed for bankruptcy...$17 billion, which was the largest in U.S. history.

We all know "Hockey Town" has been struggling for a long time. I have visited "Motown" on a number of occasions and always had a pleasurable experience. Let's face it, every big city has it's "zones", some a good, some are not so good.

It all started back in the late 1980's and early 1990's when my ex-wife and I would travel to Dearborn Heights, Michigan to visit her aunt and uncle...R.I.P. and God rest your souls. Dearborn Heights is a small blue collar suburb fifteen miles west of "Hockey Town". At that time the population was approximately 60,000.

We would always cruise into "Motown" riding the "People Mover" (an above ground rail transit system) and visiting "Greektown" which is a historic commercial and entertainment district dominated by many Greek themed restaurants.

We attended sporting events such as a M.L.B. (Major League Baseball) game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox at the now defunct Tiger Stadium. I was amused by the urinals in the men's washrooms, they were long, white, horizontal troughs.

I recall watching an N.F.L. (National Football League) exhibition match between the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.

There were additional sporting events we could have appeared at but there weren't enough tickets for everyone. I remember one instance my ex-wife's cousin had great tickets for the Tigers and New York Yankees and the seats were awesome...along third base line. But again, only four tickets for six people. I could have seen the game but my attitude was...if all of us can't go, I'm not going either.

Even back in those days Detroit had considerable economic and urban blight...the city was quickly decaying...there were certain areas you could "tour" and different locations you would avoid. Nevertheless my ex-wife's relatives always showed us a delightful time...without fail, fantastic American hospitality.

The next time I set out for "Motor City" was for a three day "getaway" with my E.A. (Executive Assistant) in 2003. It was the American Thanksgiving and we "scored" tickets to the traditional Thursday Detroit Lions Thanksgiving day football game. To generate more excitement for myself, the Lions were hosting my favourite team, the Green Bay Packers at their new stadium Ford Field.

It is a magnificent indoor North American football facility replacing the Silverdome which was the previous home of the Lions. Ford Field opened in 2000 and has a capacity of 65,000. Directly across the street is Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers which also opened in 2000. The ball park also has the appearance of a beautiful sports complex. I haven't taken a seat there yet, but hopefully it will happen soon.

We checked into the Pontchartrain Hotel (now Hotel Crown Plaza) on Wednesday (they day before the game) around 12:00 p.m. It was roughly one mile from Ford Field across the street from Joe Louis Arena the soon ex home of the Detroit Red Wings of the N.H.L. (National Hockey League).

Since we had a small fridge in our room I inquired where I could purchase beer. Not thinking I could have probably bought beer at our hotel bar. Regardless of that, I was told there was a bar across the street behind the hotel that sold beer for take out...I was flabbergasted and amazed...I couldn't believe it, take out beer at a bar.

The first thing that entered my non-liberal mind was not as many stringent, ridiculous and authoritarian rules for alcohol in Michigan to what I'm used to in "McWynne Wonderland."

A very good friend of mine who lives in Calgary, Alberta told me some pubs in Calgary and British Columbia bars also have a take out policy on alcohol. What the fuck is wrong with this province, mind you alcohol is just one of many issues that need to be overhauled in this White Trillium territory.

I walked into the bar and it was crowded with customers who appeared to represent a combination of blue and white collar lunch time crowd. I purchased twelve bottles of Budweiser "pints", I can't remember the price but it was appropriate.

The owner of the bar and I started to "drum up" some conversation and he asked me if I wanted tickets to the game. I replied I already have a pair. He showed me his tickets...they were better seats than mine. He displayed a seating plan of Ford Field and my seats were high corner end zone in the upper deck...you could say the nose bleed section. His tickets were on the five yard line and twenty-five rows up. I gave him forty dollars and we exchanged tickets.

I arrived back at the hotel with twelve cold "Buds" and new, improved and upgraded game passes. Strangely enough the owner of the bar was Canadian...he lived in Windsor, Ontario,

The game was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. but we arrived at the stadium via taxi an hour and a half before kickoff. The reason we appeared that early is quite simple. I coached football for numerous years at different levels. I basically taught myself about the x's and o's of the game. Whenever I attended any professional game I would always be there early to watch both squads warm up and performing the pre game drills. I would try to pick up some tips I could utilize for the team I was coaching at the time.

Fox Television Network N.F.L. Sunday was televising the game. James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long were the pre, half time and post game analysts. It was "cool" watching the maquillage artists "touching up" the celebrities make-up and assuring their hair and wardrobe was neat and proper during television commercial breaks.

A 16 oz. plastic bottle of Labatts Blue beer was (as I recollect) around six dollars. According to Forbes Aug. 20/14 a twenty oz. bottle of beer is $8.50...the Lions and the Dallas Cowboys are the most expensive in the N.F.L. when it comes to buying beer.

I still find that fairly reasonable for a sporting event considering how we are taken advantage of and gouged, any which way but right in this frightfully nerve racking province called "Yours To Discover."

We saw a Green Bay touchdown pass right before our eyes. Although the Packers lost 22-14 it was still a splendid game and I witnessed Favre and "The Pack" live.

When I think of it now my E.A. and I had a splash of naivety after the game. We couldn't locate any taxis so we walked back to the hotel. It was 4:00 p.m. and the streets were desolate and deserted...like a ghost town...we were the only people in the area.

The locality was classified as downtown and there were a considerable number of buildings that were dilapidated...story goes the city was in an urban renewal phase. Anyway, it was enlightening and we returned to our hotel safe and sound.

The hotel prepared a lovely and absolutely delicious Thanksgiving dinner for their guests...an all you could eat buffet. The menu consisted of oven roasted turkey, creamy mash potatoes, homemade dressing/stuffing, thick brown gravy, kernel corn, sweet green peas and baby carrots, macaroni salad and cole slaw and warm soft rolls. For desert there was pumpkin pie and chocolate cake...all that for $20 a person.

A meal like that in Ontario, and for that price, I really have to laugh out loud in an unsavory fashion and then say NEVER...only in our dreams. The overbearing and inflexible marketing boards and selfish and power hungry politicians who operate this empire won't allow it...the tax payers NEVER get a break.

A few times we would be sitting in our hotel bar taking pleasure in drinking our adult beverages and smoking cigarettes...sadly the state banned smoking in all restaurants and bars in 2010. However an article in Michigan Radio Jan. 27/14 said State Representative Tom McMillin wants to loosen Michigan's smoking laws, allowing smoking on patio bars and other outdoor area.

During our last night we were very surprised to encounter folks from Youngstown, Ohio in the hotel lounge. You are probably saying, so what, big deal Puritan. It was a big deal. My E.A. lived in Youngstown for three years back in the seventies...her ex-husband received a full ride football scholarship to Youngstown State University.

We drank together, traded some stories and had a few laughs with the Youngstown bunch. Unfortunately they stated that the one time working class, university and steel town had also deteriorated like Detroit.

Nevertheless "Motown" is making a slow come back. Several new hotels, restaurants and art galleries have been established for the revitalization program for downtown.

An article in Yahoo News (Dec. 17/14) said businessman Dan Gilbert moved his company "Quicken Loans" headquarters to the city and has more than 12,500 team members working in the downtown sector. He has also invested $1.5 billion in restoring downtown.

The Detroit Red Wings will be moving to a new arena in 2017 called Little Caesars Arena. Besides the rink there will be a 650,000 square foot sports and entertainment district. It will also include mixed use neighborhoods and new residential and retail outlets, located just a few blocks from Ford Field and Comerica Park.

The Detroit Pistons of the N.B.A. (National Basketball Association) are contemplating moving their team into the downtown area also. They presently play at Auburn Hills which is a suburb thirty four miles north of "Motown."

The District Detroit (April 28/16) reported the Little Caesars Arena will be a cornerstone of the District Detroit, a $1.2 billion live, work and play development fueling the city's redevelopment.

My last visit to Motor City was 2003. You might conclude I'm writing this "piece" for Detroit's tourism...I wish that was the case...there would probably be some sort of gratuity for my editor "Uncle Block" (who created and designed my blog) and I for our effort.

I would really like to see "Motown" make a comeback. The regeneration of the city won't happen immediately...it will be a substantial lengthy process for the metropolis to achieve their once proud culture again.

Epilogue

Detroit isn't for everyone...obviously it's not a tropical paradise. Some individuals say it's unfavourable and distasteful because of the municipality's deterioration over the years...I think it's a great place to visit and if you have friends or relatives residing there, even better. It is a superb sports town and has numerous attractions and lovely restaurants. Hopefully the city will make an abundant, thorough and full recovery.

The End

The Harvenut Puritan Project
Puritan will return with Changeup

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