October 02, 2014

Cemetery season

I used to think people visited cemeteries in October because cemeteries are "spooky" and you know, Halloween or whatever. But as I get older, wiser, and less bratty, I've come to embrace cemetery visits as part of the season, like pumpkins on doorsteps and trips to the cider mill. I hope I'm lucky enough to die peacefully in my old age, in the fall, so my loved ones will always have the good fortune to visit me when the veil is thin, the cemetery at its most beautiful, the chill in the air invigorating after the happy stupor of summer.

I first visited and wrote about Beth Olem, the secret cemetery inside of a GM plantthree years ago. It is one of the strangest and loveliest places in the city, and I often find myself telling people how to get there. (It's usually open twice a year, on the Sundays before Rosh Hashanah and Passover, but you can call Clover Hill to confirm.) This year, my friend Alissa went for a visit with her family and took some photos, which ran alongside an excerpt from my original post in Model D. (You can read the original post here.)

Historically and spiritually, Old Redford Cemetery fully belongs to Redford. But a quirk of annexation means that geographically, half of this cemetery belongs to Detroit. I wrote about this cemetery and the pioneers buried there as part of my quest to visit every cemetery in Detroit. (Even those that are only sort of in Detroit.)


Preservation Detroit Cemetery Tours - Saturdays, Oct. 4 - 25

Visit a different cemetery each week with the most knowledgable cemetery tour guides in town: Mt. Elliott (10/4, guided by retired cemetery director Peter Buchanan), Woodmere (10/14, guided by author and cemetery super-volunteer Gail Hershenzon), Woodlawn (10/18 and 11/1, guided by history tour powerhouse Kathy Marcaccio) and Elmwood (10/25, guided by me!). Pick your favorite or collect 'em all. These always sell out, so buy your tickets in advance. My mom already did! (Hi, Mom.)

Good Tyme Writer's Buffet - Saturday, Oct. 11 @ Public Pool

I'll be giving a short reading on the topic of "Records" at Public Pool, an art gallery in Hamtramck. Their current show, "The Last Record Shop," is a collection of imaginary album covers for fictional bands created by real artists and that sounds amazing. I haven't finished writing what I'm going to be reading, but you can bet it's going to interpret this topic really broadly! Please join me and some other luminary local talent including Terry Blackhawk, Phreddy Wischusen, Steve Hughes, Jeremy Schmall, and Oneita Jackson. It's free! It's a potluck! SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.


Teddy Roosevelt, possibly in Detroit. 

Have you been watching The Roosevelts? Me too. This photograph of Teddy Roosevelt on the deck of a ferry boat (from the Burton Historical Collection) is undated. Was it taken in Detroit? If so, maybe it was taken in September of 1902, when, as reported in the book Detroit in its World Setting, President Roosevelt came here to address a convention of Spanish-American War Veterans. What do you think?

Footnotes for playoff season

Recent history: Phil Coke victory glove spike, 2012. 

It's OCTOBER IN THE D, y'all. I've been thinking a lot lately about how Tigers owner and pizza emperor Mike Ilitch is basically the Walter O. Briggs of our time: Ilitch has owned the Tigers for 22 years, he's 85 years old, The Tigers are playing for today and Ilitch is living for a World Series victory. Briggs was 68 when the Tigers won the World Series in 1945, but he was stricken with polio, wheelchair-bound, and was hanging on just to see the Tigers take it home. He'd owned the team since 1919. The Tigers were an old team in 1945; slugger Hank Greenberg was 34 years old. (Victor Martinez, my Tiger, is 35.) Both Briggs and Ilitch are problematic city-builders; Briggs was probably a way worse human being, a strike-breaker and a segregationist, but we have mixed feelings about Ilitch, too, and his surface parking lots, and his blighted historic properties, and his $650 million taxpayer-subsidized hockey stadium. Add it all up and you get a good feeling about our 2014 World Series chances, if for strictly poetic reasons. 

Anyway, here's an essay I wrote about Briggs a few years ago. You might also want to check out historic Tigers baseball sites that aren't old Tiger Stadium, or revisit Anna Clark's story for Grantland about Ty Cobb, who was, speaking of problematic, maybe the most problematic person to ever play baseball. Anna's story is still one of my favorite things ever written about Detroit. 

Urban archaeology in Detroit

ARCHAEOLOGY: It's not just for dinosaur bones. It's for cities and the people that live and have lived in them, too, as this interview with Krysta Ryzewski of Wayne State University's Department of Anthropology explains. A collection of artifacts excavated from beneath the Renaissance Center includes, among countless other things, a bunch of shoes, which is more intriguing than it sounds. The Unearthing Detroit blog documents the ongoing investigations into Detroit's archaeology and it's great.

ICYMI: Dan Austin on the farewell sail of the S.S. Columbia

I would rank in the top five questions I am asked about Detroit history, "What happened / is going to happen to the Boblo Boat?" Well, A., there are two of them and B., one of them is going to New York to be restored. (C., The fate of the second boat is uncertain.)

I barely remember the Boblo Boat, although I definitely sailed upon it. Maybe I was too distracted by the thought of the roller-coasters that lurked upon the island, which I hated but would inevitably be peer-pressured to ride, to commit much of that short voyage to memory.

It's still sort of tough to see this boat leave, or at least I'm sad that Detroit did not have the resources or the rally to save its own history, which will now be LITERALLY shipped to New York. On the occasion of its tug to Toledo, thereon to the seaway to olde New York, Dan Austin pens the fittingest of tributes to the presence of this boat in our memories & hearts. 

(A post-script: the role of the Columbia in a 1948 Supreme Court racial discrimination case.)