A few weeks ago, a bunch of us went for our annual bike ride to the Hare Krishna mansion for dinner. We detoured through Riverfront-Lakewood Park in Detroit. It was a mess — overgrown, strewn with trash, scary-looking. You can’t tell from this view:
But if I’ve set up the map correctly and you’re seeing the satellite view, you can see two boats, dumped there on the grass. One is just off the driveway, another at the northwest corner of the parking lot. Both have been stripped of every piece of sellable hardware, and graffiti artists have tagged them the S.S. Kwame (the former mayor now on trial for racketeering), and the Carlita (his lovely wife).
This got a big chuckle from the group, and we didn’t give much more thought to it until a few days ago, when my friend Laurie saw this column in Crain’s Detroit Business, comparing and contrasting Riverfront-Lakewood, the adjacent Angel Park and Grosse Pointe Park’s Windmill Pointe Park. They stand three abreast down the Lake St. Clair/Detroit River junction, although Windmill Pointe is behind a tall chain-link fence. (Residents only.)
She posted this on Facebook, and a member of the city staff piped up and said the Detroit parks are basically on triage, and that these two have been more or less abandoned. If you care so much, he wrote, why don’t you clean it up yourself?
Laurie thought about it for a while and said, “Well, OK.”
So last Saturday we rode our bikes down to do some reconnaissance. And what did we find? About a dozen people who live nearby, a bunch of mowers, a dozen stuffed garbage bags and a party going on. They hadn’t read anything in Crain’s. They just wanted to reclaim the park. And they’d made quite a dent, but it was a pretty huge job for just a few people. “If only we could get this place mowed,” one woman said. It turns out we could help with that. Remember the Mower Gang?
They showed up last night, at least 20 of them, on a variety of riding mowers, including the new Husqvarna donated by the company, who’d heard of their good work on behalf of the city’s beleaguered parklands.
These guys cook with the awesome sauce. In about two hours, they had that park mowed flat and were working on the Kwame and the Carlita. One guy had a Ford F-450 dually, and on the first try to dislodge Kwame from its years-long mooring place, snapped the tow strap. I got the feeling a guy who owns a truck that big doesn’t take failure lightly. He turned it around and pushed that goddamn boat a few times, and then someone got a chain, and before long he had towed it into the parking lot.
(Carlita came along a little more peacefully. A guy with a saws-all sliced that girl right down the middle. We’re hoping that lets the city pick it up easily.)
There’s still a lot to be done. The trash is pretty bad, and a few years’ worth of bait cans and tequila bottles can’t be picked up in a couple of hours. We’re going back on Saturday, maybe with a chain saw to get the last of the mulberry trees that are growing up through the seawall.
But even if we don’t, people can spend the last few pleasant weeks of the year in a pretty nice waterfront park. (You can click any of those photos and see them larger.)
So there’s that. Now it’s almost 11 p.m., and I just watched the debate. Sorry, but I think Obama was a little weak. Not a disaster, but he wasn’t on. We’ll see how the rest go. Meanwhile, some bloggage? Sure:
Our reader, and occasional commenter, Cathy D. had her phone stolen at a dinner Saturday night. She deactivated the phone, but the thing still works as a wi-fi device, and over the weekend discovered the thief was taking pictures, probably unaware they were being automatically uploaded to her Dropbox account. So now she has pictures of the thieves, but the recovery is still not happening. The local teevee station tries to get things moving.
Another amazing portrait of one of Detroit’s amazing characters by Detroitblogger John.
Like his house, some find Migo an unpleasant presence. He doesn’t wash, and he smells like it. He has an opening in his neck from throat cancer surgery, and to talk he presses a finger into the hole to create a hoarse, raspy voice underlined by an air-gasping wheeze when he breathes.
He’s bitter and complains about most things. And every minute or so, he turns his head and spits out a batch of syrupy drool. Sometimes it falls to the pavement, sometimes it drips onto him. He’s a spectacle.
And he simply doesn’t care. He’s had it.
“You can’t be decent,” he sneers. “You don’t want to be decent because these people are not decent. I say fuck it.” He pauses to spit again. Then he says, “I’m sorry. I don’t like to use bad words.”
That’s almost a perfect description. The only change I’d make is to delete “air” from the first paragraph.
Well, if he wants to go look at the river this weekend, he won’t have to battle tall grass to do it.