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    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

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  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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A day of rest

The backroom of a little Detroit shop becomes one man's oasis

Photo: MT Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

MT Photo: Detroitblogger John

Mike Shirdel with his prayer beads.

Thirty-three prayer beads lie strung in the loop that hangs softly in his hands. Thirty-three times he threads them between his finger and thumb, telling himself with each bead that God is great.

This is how Mogtaba Shirdel, known as Mike, passes the afternoon nowadays, in the quiet backroom of his store, Mike's Antiques. It's a custom he brought with him from the old country.

"As you can see, nobody comes," says the 70-year-old Iranian, pointing to his front door, which faces Morang Drive on Detroit's east side. "Maybe one or two, they just come in and walk and go."

Shirdel has the ways and looks of an Old World gentleman — dapper and traditional, yet gregarious and warm. He's got a thicket of salt-and-pepper curls, wears a loose wool scarf thrown gracefully around his neck, and says things in a Persian accent with an elegant lilt.

Times are tight and business is slow. Gas bills are too high to put the heat on, so he wears a jacket and scarf when he's in the shop. Same goes for the electric bill, so he relies on the soft winter daylight that pours through the windows. And after 23 years here, his landlord has the building up for sale, making every day part of a countdown to a closing date that Shirdel doesn't yet know.

"It's just a hobby now, that's all," he says. He doesn't like being alone in his apartment all day, so he hangs around the shop, sipping Lebanese tea brewed in a charred teapot on an old stove in the corner. The voice of an Iranian television newscaster beamed here from halfway around the world shouts from the television. And he thumbs his beads, one by one, waiting for customers, waiting for the last day.

But he likes it like this. It took a lifetime before he could take it easy like this. You might not know it, seeing him sitting back with one leg softly draped over the other, that he spent most of his life working himself ragged, trying to make it in America, then just trying to make it.

IN TEHRAN was good until the mid-'60s, when his father's semi-truck business went bankrupt and the family went broke. Shirdel suddenly had to support two old parents and seven young siblings on a high school education. And there were few opportunities at home.

"You talk to the friends, they say America is a gold mine," he says. So he blindly came to New York City alone, at 26, with $300 in his pocket and not a word of English in his vocabulary.

He slowly picked up the language by looking things up, one word at a time, in a thick, Persian-English dictionary he took everywhere. He'd translate words he saw on subway posters or overheard on TV, or he'd pull it out when someone said something to him and painstakingly try to figure out what it meant. He still has it, all cracked spine and torn pages, on a shelf in the back room.

The man was born to work. His first job was at a textile plant, but then he took on extra jobs at coffee shops and restaurants and delis and a movie theater. He drove a cab too, and later a limo. He'd even take one-day jobs through the local employment agency sometimes, just to earn a few more bucks.

"If you don't work hard, you don't get nowhere," he says. "You have to work, hard work. I done everything because I take care of my family, send them money," he says. "I always hustling."

At one time three of his jobs overlapped, leaving him working from Friday at 6 a.m. to late Sunday night, with an hour break between each. He'd take naps in hotel lobbies or on the subway in the sliver of time between jobs.

This schedule soon unraveled. He once passed out head first onto the table at a restaurant during a date with a girlfriend, he says. Then he excused himself and took a nap in the bathroom. And there was the time he fell asleep for 24 hours straight without knowing it and missed a whole day of work. It cost him one of the jobs. He just went out and found another.

All the while he'd pay his bills and send whatever money he had left back to his family in Iran. He didn't go to movies, rarely went out to eat, never went to clubs. He admits he missed out on a lot in life because of self-denial for his family.

"I do anything for them," he says, his eyes tearing up. "Anything. The family is the blood in you; it's something you cannot forget. You grow up together, you live together, you eat together, you sleep together. All of this stays with you, it's part of you. So if you can do something for them and you don't do it you're a disgrace to God. A lot of people don't understand that."

One day
a woman at the airport got into his cab. "I look at the mirror and she's looking at me in the mirror," he says with a wink. "I had the big curly hairs. I was young." They swapped phone numbers. Months later he married her.

She was from Detroit and convinced him to move back here. Once again he plunged into work, starting a limo service and buying rental properties for income. He initially got the shop as storage space for things he'd need for his houses — screen doors, windows, toilets. After he'd cleaned it and carpeted it, though, he changed his mind. "I said, well, it's too good to put the toilets there." Instead he started an antique shop with a few items he had on hand.

His marriage fell apart and he lost his properties in the divorce, leaving him with little more than his store. He moved into it for 13 years, living in the back room until just recently, settling into being an antiques dealer. But he sold it not long ago to pay some bills. In a few years he went from being a landlord of several properties to a renter of one.

Now, after years here, he has the familiar Detroit misfortune of owning a shop in a neighborhood that started out one way and has now ended up another, very different way. Before, the area was middle-class, and people living nearby had a taste for antiques, or had old houses full of old things they'd sell him.

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