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detroit…chicago…i’m pretty much a world-traveller

So, through a weird twist of events, I’m attending BlogHer in July and I figure since I’m going to a blogging conference, I should probably do some of that there blogging that I’ve heard so much about. (Aside: I’m obviously going through some pretty serious writer’s block and I’m trying not to freak out about it but…I’m freaking out about it.)


We were in Detroit over the long weekend for the DEMF (Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival for you squares). This was my sixth annual trip there and, as usual, there were many hijinks and good times and a few episodes of drama.

We drove there somewhat early on Thursday with our friends Adam and Carleton. We talked a lot about Pittsburgh and the state of music there currently (nutshell: fucking grim).

When we got to Detroit, our first stop was Archer Record Pressing. Adam had to pick up the latest release from Technoir and the husband was picking up the first release on the label that he recently started, Love What You Feel. The record is by a guy who goes by the name of Disco Nihilist and do you like how I don’t write here regularly for months and then I pop up with this entry about records and Technoirs and disco nihilists? You love me.


Anyway, Archer was a really REALLY neat place. We were too late in the day to see any actual records being pressed but the guy that owns/runs the place gave us a tour and a brief explanation of how records come to be.


That’s the husband checking out one of the records. It may not look like it, but I could tell that he was really excited to finally be holding it in his hands. He had worked really hard on it and it was something that’s he’s been wanting to do forever, so it was cool to capture this moment.


We stopped at this place, Simpson’s Records, which Carleton told us about. It’s been in business for over 40 years. Detroit has a TON of independent businesses. Because it’s so spread out and public transit isn’t very good, these businesses operate in markets/neighborhoods that consist of people of very limited means that need to attend to all of their shopping within walking distance (at least, this is what I could gather just from observing). So, these small businesses usually double or triple up their services. Simpson’s sells gospel records, candy and snacks, and you can get your taxes done there. We also passed a barbershop/barbecue restaurant, which sounds gross but I can assure you that the barbecue was outside, away from flying hair.

Carleton is from the Detroit area, so we drove him to his house before making our way to our motel. His mom is currently kicking cancer’s ass and she and I talked about my dad’s recent struggle. Then I made a cancer joke and I think, uh, it might have been too soon because she just kind of looked at me and I felt like the world’s largest jackass.

After we were settled in our room, we went in search of a place to watch the Penguin game. Weirdly enough, Hockeytown was closed. I don’t know what kind of managerial genius you have to be to decide to be closed during the Stanley Cup playoffs. But I had checked the PG’s list of Steeler bars and already had a back-up place that was likely to be Pittsburgh-friendly. I didn’t see any Steelers paraphernalia there and the bar itself was pretty butt, but they were showing the game and they were nice enough to turn off the Stevie Ray Vaughn garbage that they were blasting so that we could hear what was going on.

Friday was full of record shopping at Melodies and Memories and picking up various characters as they arrived in the city. Frank flew in from NYC, Kenny took the train from Ireland (not really), and another friend…we’ll call him Hot Mess, flew in from Atlanta. Incidentally, the husband had described Kenny to me as his Irish doppelganger and that turned out to be a creepily accurate description. Lookit:


Kenny, by the way, was rarely without a drink in his hand the whole weekend and never appeared to be the slightest bit intoxicated. He’s kind of my hero, especially considering my poor performance later on that evening, which we’ll get to in a bit.

We met up with other various members of the Pittsburgh/Pittsburgh-friendly crew for dinner at some touristy but semi-decent Tex-Mex place in Greektown and then started to prepare for our first night out on the town.

Since we had some time to kill we drove around Detroit for awhile, checking out various parts of the city that we’d never seen despite all of our trips there. You probably know that things in Detroit are not great. We saw a lot of heartbreaking poverty and so much evidence of the glittering Seventh City that Detroit used to be. The population is now around 800,000 which is roughly four times the size of Pittsburgh. So it still seems huge to me. But when you see all of the abandoned buildings, you realize that at some point not that long ago, all of those huge buildings were needed to house and employ all of the residents. And now they just sit there, neglected and unnecessary. It really hit me just how many people left, out of fear or necessity.


We also saw some of the most gorgeous mansions sitting on the most pristine lawns, just a few steps away from burned out houses, which are the playgrounds for children whose parents may or may not be watching over them.


Remnants of wealth and a healthy middle class represent the entire life cycle of capitalism in one city block. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful, because out of this, nothing is left but life and survival and tears and thoughts and joy. And as the festival always teaches us, wonderful music is born from that pain and joy.


Later, Hot Mess showed up at our room wearing a Corona tshirt and swimming trunks and bearing a bottle of cheap champagne. He was soon followed by Kent, our buddy who we hadn’t seen in two years!

The “official” kick-off parties weren’t really tickling our fancies but the husband had heard about a house music night at a club not terribly far from where we were staying. I was already kind of tired before we went out, so Kenny and I went to the party store two doors down where I procured some vodka and Red Bull. The elixir was effective…perhaps too effective. See, the vodka gets you drunk (read: rowdy), while the Red Bull wakes you up (read: hyper). Rowdy and hyper. Really not a good combination.

Since it’s getting late in the day and this post is shaping up to be rather epic, I’m going to slap a “To be continued…” here. But, here’s a preview:

My new photography technique is unstoppable.

4 comments to detroit…chicago…i’m pretty much a world-traveller

  • Sorry I have nothing brilliant to say but this was fun to read.

    Detroit seems to have so much potential. Like: 20,000 broke artists and other creative types could move there and make it paradise on the lake. Or 10,000…

    Not like the people that already live there can’t do it. Just that some more people could replace the people who are gone and utilize all its grandeur and history and such in new ways. And immigrants (I know some immigrants have come to Detroit).

    Anyway, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Economics is weird.

    • @ozma, I really hope that Detroit can sort of be reincarnated. I don’t know what it would take because there are A LOT of factors to consider and it’s a much more formidable revitalization than Pittsburgh, which is much smaller (both a blessing and a curse). But it’s a really awesome place and I feel so…protective of it.

  • arn

    Red bull and vodka. “It’ll get you drunk! You might even fight a …..!!” Ahem.

    Next time, try Red Bull and Hennessey. Very tasty.

    As per Hubby’s Irish twin, oh dear god, there must be a mold somewhere…

  • kdiddy.org » Blog Archive » detroit…chicago…i’m pretty much a world-traveller great article thank you.

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