You’re never too old to learn new stuff, and it wasn’t until I moved to Detroit a year ago that I learned about urban exploration. Which is? Trespassing in abandoned buildings, for purposes of just looking around. (Urban explorers have a code of conduct similar to that of those who explore wilderness. Unfortunately, there are bad apples, many of them armed with spray-paint cans.)
As you might imagine, Detroit is the Mecca of this practice. No other North American city has the number and variety of abandoned buildings, many of them architecturally significant and most badly secured. There’s a hotel of some sort next to Alan’s office that’s just standing wide open; when you walk by you can smell the building’s exhalation of mildew, rot and something else — wino, I guess.
I talked to a few urban explorers when I wrote a story earlier this year on Flickr for Hour Detroit magazine. Lots of them post their pictures there. Because this is pretty obviously illegal, some keep a lower profile. (And some don’t care who knows, because when people leave abandoned buildings wide open, they’re asking for this sort of activity.)
But one of my favorites is the anonymous journalist who runs detroitblog and posts accounts of his explorations there. What a find he had recently, exploring the Donovan/Sanders building before its demolition earlier this month. This is where Motown’s studios were housed — after Hitsville U.S.A. but before they pulled up stakes for L.A. Detroitblog apparently found Marvin Gaye’s office, and posts a couple of items found there, including a “be right back” note in M.G.’s handwriting, and a bill for his wife’s fur storage at Hudson’s; it cost $7 to store and insure a “yellow coat with lynx tuxedo collar and cuffs” in 1967.
Detroitblog notes that Mrs. Marvin Gaye c. 1967 was the former Anna Gordy, Berry’s sister. The breakup of their marriage years later is a pretty good story by itself, but whether there was any inkling of it in the abandoned office in the Donovan/Sanders building, we’ll have to wait to find out.
One thing that’s clear is, Anna Gordy Gaye loved coats made of dead animals: In the handful of documents I grabbed from Marvin Gaye’s overturned desk were receipts for his wife’s purchase and/or storage of an autumn haze mink coat, a Russian sable coat, a chinchilla coat, a chinchilla hat, a tiger coat, a morning light mink coat, a dark brown dyed baum marten shrug, and a tip-dyed sable coat, in addition to business cards from various furriers around the country.
Tiger. Wow. It sure was a different time.
Mindy wrote earlier today and said I haven’t been talking much about the dinner menu lately. Oh, but all I need is a little encouragement, doncha know? Tonight: Crock-pot beef stew, salad and crusty bread. I don’t need to tell you it was good, do I? But I just realized I don’t remember removing the bay leaf, and it wasn’t in my portion, or Alan’s portion, or the stuff I put in Tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch. Those crock pots are amazing, aren’t they? They can tenderize the cheapest cuts and vaporize the bay leaf.
Yesterday: Beef stroganoff. I seem to be self-medicating an iron shortage. Tomorrow: Spaghetti. Just because it’ll be Thursday.
Any more bloggage? Sure: Defamer shows us why women larger than a natural C cup shouldn’t go braless. I always thought that gal was sorta half-trashy, anyway.
brian stouder said on January 18, 2006 at 11:02 pm
Actually, Defamer is sorta acting as Defender for Ms Barrymore’s abundance.
Now I’d concede that her outfit maybe wasn’t the best choice for a national broadcast of a faux Formal Event –
but those that would knock her (so to speak) might also admit that, if you were in a mall and a non-famous woman with her build and a similar outfit walked past on the right, and some attractive waif with a ‘pneumatic’ (to use the article’s term) rack walked past on the left….
most folks would be looking to the right! (or at least, I would be!)
colleen said on January 19, 2006 at 12:33 am
Thanks for linkage. I LOVE checking out those urban exploration sites. Maybe I suffer from Nancy Drew Poisoning, but the idea of poking through abandoned buildings really appeals to me.
And Drew B….yeah. they needed to be hoisted up. Real or not, they shouldn’t ride that low.
mary said on January 19, 2006 at 1:43 am
We had a supper last night that was surprisingly good. Trader Joe’s hot dogs (the uncured ones), baked beans (good canned ones, I confess) crusty bread and butter, and a salad. I was fed weenies and beans every Saturday night as a child, and I hated baked beans as a result. This was a wonderful combination on a cool night. The hot dogs taste like the ones we used to get from the German butcher shop when I was very little, and B&M baked beans are really a lot better than the icky ones we had back in the dark ages.
Adrianne said on January 19, 2006 at 9:19 am
Nance, I’m a recent convert to the crockpot (got one from Dave for Christmas). I’ve been pot-roasting up a storm. And beef borguignoning. This weekend: some kinda veal stew.
And I like Drew’s breasts! Leave the lassie alone.
Dorothy said on January 19, 2006 at 10:15 am
I upgraded to a programmable crockpot about 2 years ago and just love it. I don’t use it every week, but when I do, I’m always so grateful for it. My fave recipe is “English Beef with a Twist”, which cooks stew meat in beef broth, with added curry powder, pepper and powdered ginger. The last half hour you add sour cream, horseradish and corn starch and it’s to DIE for. I made it on the stove one night just to try it, and it was still a darned good dinner.
Mindy said on January 19, 2006 at 10:46 am
My latest kitchen gizmo is a six-quart roaster oven. Someone on Amazon refers to hers as “Mr. Nesco” and I see why. It’s wonderful. Roasts chicken beautifully and frees up the oven for dishes that must be baked at a different temperature. And there’s no greasy spatter to forget about that will set off the smoke alarm later. It works as a slow cooker as well, and that’s my next test for it.
As for exploring abandoned buildings, the book that inspired me as a kid to enter old places uninvited was Harriet the Spy. After reading it the fabulous old abandoned mansion in my town became impossible to resist. It was very easy for ten-year-old me to break in and have a little look-see. What a sight! It had enormous rooms and the most incredible staircase Enjoyed myself thoroughly until I found where some animal was stashing his kill. Dried bones, fur everywhere, bloody paw prints, the whole bit. Nearly killed myself trying to flee. After this I switched to touring houses under construction late at night. Same thrill but no dead animals.
Several months later the place was bought by a cop who dedicated himself to restoring it. Many years later it was cast as the home of Cloris Leachman’s character in the movie Prancer, but the best parts of it weren’t filmed.
MarkH said on January 19, 2006 at 11:33 am
I wonder if Barrymore would have the nerve to dance on Letterman’s desk the way they look now. How quickly things change. At some point you have to realize you can’t get away with everything…
Carmella said on January 19, 2006 at 11:59 am
I’m sure I read several years ago that Drew had a breast reduction…. Does anyone else recall that?
Danny said on January 19, 2006 at 12:22 pm
Being a guy, I know the expectation is that I will comment on one part of this thread and not the other. Well allow me to twist your expectations.
This week I got high praise from my wife for fixing one of the best dinners she has ever tasted: white slamon marinated with olive oil, vairous bell peppers, onions, olives, etc (Trader Joe’s), mixed brown and white jasmine rice made slightly sticky, salad, warm crusty sourdough bread, gewurztraminer.
And…and… I make the lunches, typically salad, and my wife’s coworkers sampled and remarked that it was quite gourmet: mixed greens, broccoli, cucumbers, all topped with penne mixed with oilive oil, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Oh, and I put a few sliced jalapenos on the top for spice.
basset said on January 19, 2006 at 12:35 pm
English beef sounds good, how much of the ginger and so forth do you use?
and being a guy I will do the obvious and comment on what you’d expect… they don’t do a thing for me. now the detroitblog car show models are a whole different story… but women like that don’t exist in real life.
Connie said on January 19, 2006 at 1:04 pm
Danny, when you invite me leave the jalapenos off. My husband has been responsible for week night dinners for some years now. He had been doing it for a couple of weeks when I had to give some ideas on recipes that did NOT require a frying pan. His great meat loaf has a different secret ingredient and we are required to taste and guess. My favorite, not so much for its taste as for its wierdness: cheetohs.
And I think nobody has a right to judge or comment on anyone’s boob but their own.
Dorothy said on January 19, 2006 at 1:23 pm
“English beef sounds good, how much of the ginger and so forth do you use?”
The recipe is at home. I’ll try to remember to post it later – this weekend at the latest.
I am more than glad to let my hubby cook when he wants to. He actually won a “Father’s Day Cookoff” contest in Pittsburgh in 1998. There were 12 or 13 entries, and he was so glad he won the grand prize! He made Sort of Spicy Stew. Two of the judges told him the cornbread he made to go with the stew is what put him in first place.
Danny said on January 19, 2006 at 1:34 pm
That stew and cornbread sounds great, Dorothy.
Connie, my culinary acumen also has benefited from my wife’s tutelage. She can cook. Since being married, I have become a lot more intuitive in the kitchen.
Ricardo said on January 19, 2006 at 3:06 pm
After a high school dance, in 1967, some of us drove out to the abandonded Michigan state mental hospital in Plymouth. It was supposedly haunted, but it definately was spooky. I never had it rain so hard while driving that night. I’m sure that place is long gone.
It is nice to see little Gertie all grown up. Mariah Carey has grown up too, but with the help of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, I’m afraid.
mary said on January 19, 2006 at 6:30 pm
I just read that Wilson Pickett died. What a bummer.
ashley said on January 19, 2006 at 7:38 pm
Detroit no longer lays claim to best place for urban exploration.
Welcome to New Orleans, forgotten city of the Americas.
At least the French care about us.
basset said on January 19, 2006 at 7:50 pm
>>And I think nobody has a right to judge or comment on anyone’s boob but their own.
whether it’s OK to comment or not is open for discussion… but you’re not gonna tell me you’ve never had any kind of opinion on someone else’s personal appearance. judging is going to happen, even if it’s in your own mind.
alex said on January 19, 2006 at 9:50 pm
Wow–that Fisher Body plant photo on Flickr is probably the very place my dad toiled when he was first off the boat back in the ’50s. He lived in a Hungarian ghetto in a nearby neighborhood called Delray that as I understand it ceased to exist decades ago, simply abandoned, leveled and forgotten.
He said it was his job there and also a stint at a Swift meat packing plant that persuaded him he was going to college and law school. He described an incredibly colorful and diverse work force–immigrants of every stripe, as well as Americans of all sorts, many up from the south making money to send to the folks back home, at least those who weren’t drinking their entire paycheck or squandering it on flashy stuff. For all their diversity, he says, most had one thing in common: Indifference if not disdain for any sort of education.
I’ve always loved his stories of the plant. The newbies like him worked the hardest while the union stewards played cards and got drunk and took naps. Not that the hardest-working people were working all that hard either. Between the Cadillacs passing by on the assembly line, the workers mostly engaged in horseplay, bombarding each other with rubber plugs that were meant to be inserted in car bodies to dampen noise and seal out moisture. Most cars received none if any, he recalls, and likewise, when he was on the crew riveting dashboards into place, cars seldom received the specified number of rivets or anywhere near it. Although every day at least one car would get the food scraps from lunch tamped into its heating system just for kicks.
I find these stories strangely heartening after my mentally exhausting days at the office being confronted with the utter hopelessness and absurdity of business and government in this country. It makes me realize America’s probably not any more dysfunctional now than it was then, and somehow or another we’ll muddle through.
Danny said on January 20, 2006 at 10:11 am
Alex, that sentimentality barks against the comment you made the other day about corporate America feeding the outsourcing beast. Don’t get me wrong. I too and many of my fellow engineers bemoan the fact that a lot of manufacturing is fleeing to lower wage shores. Pretty soon, we may all work at McD’s