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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Brush with fate

Robert Watson pulled himself up by the hair follicles — for real

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Watson with his brushes in his home barbershop.

There's not an empty chair inside the barbershop this afternoon. Whole families are here at the lively InZone Barber and Beauty Salon on Gratiot, just north of Eastern Market — men in the chairs, women under the hair dryers or at the nail tables, and children on the plush couches in the middle of the room, looking around and watching, listening. You can barely hear the classic funk and soul playing through the speakers because the noise from the conversations is so loud.

A Saturday at a big barbershop in Detroit like this one is more than just a quick stop for a haircut. It's a social event, a gathering of friends. Then a stranger, Robert Watson, steps in. 

The 32-year-old man carries a little cardboard box. He's making the rounds of black barbershops in the city to peddle, one by one, hairbrushes that he invented. It's the coldest of cold calls.

He approaches the chair closest to the front door. "Hey, brother," he says to a freshly shorn man. "We got the hottest thing on the streets. We're from Detroit, a local black manufacturer." This is his slogan all afternoon. Being a black business owner from the city still carries a lot of weight in Detroit.

What makes his brushes different is their curve, which lets more bristles touch the scalp at the same time. "They work better than the regular brush on brothers' hair," Watson explains. "A lot of black guys can't get the wave, get the ripples, because it takes so long to brush. But with this, in like a week or two, you're there."

At each station, the customer and barber take the brush, look it over, listen to the offer of a $15 brush for only $10 today, accept Watson's flier and promise to later check out his products online. During this short visit to the shop, two guys reach in their pockets and buy a brush.

"See, that's how it works," Watson says after walking out of the building. "You don't get everybody, but you get a few."

And so a long afternoon of street sales has begun. It's a job with full-circle significance. Watson did street sales years ago too. But back then he was selling drugs, fighting for sales turf, trying to burn down a rival's house.

"I ran the gamut of crime," Watson says. "I was for real. I wasn't out there playing."


Watson was a good kid with good grades who got into the University of Michigan to study finance, but he dropped out of school because he saw, like many kids growing up in the city, that you can earn more selling drugs now than chasing a career through college while waiting for a payoff later. It didn't take long for him to learn the ins and outs of Detroit's drug world: 

Like how almost all hired arsonists, the "pyro artists" as they're known, are women. "Maybe 'cause they're less prone to getting caught." 

How the guys at the top of the supply chain, the ones selling the keys of coke, are usually clean-cut nerds. "Because you have to be smart to do it."

And how amazing crack is when you first smoke it. "The first time I smoked crack, I tried to sell my TV. It's so addictive, but you feel like Superman, like bliss, like you can't stop smiling. So you chase that."

He had guns pointed at his face, served stints in the county jail, and searched for the right pyro artist to put someone else out of business. "I just knew how to make money, but it was like you're gonna have to take somebody out if you want to get ahead," he says. "I was like, what am I doing this for? Like, what's the end objective?"

After his partner wound up arrested and the coke supply dropped off and the weight of his escalating involvement got too intense, he broke down and checked into a drug treatment center, hoping to start over. He wasn't even 22 yet. 

He credits his faith for his second chance. "I cried out to the Lord, 'cause I was like, I don't believe in no white Jesus, but man, the devil had me in his clutches and I was going down fast," he remembers. "I was like, 'I need you to come and get me." 


Sweet Billy's Barbershop on Gratiot is an uninviting place. Its sign is down-home and hand-written. The building is old and small. And when Watson tries to pull the front door open, it's locked. 

A barber walks up and peers out at Watson and his cardboard box. "We're OK," the barber says gruffly without opening the door. "Do you know what we got?" Robert replies, eagerly. "You got them brushes. I seen them before," the man snaps back. And he walks away. No sale. No entry even. 

A dejected Watson walks down the block to Edward's Barbershop. Just as small. Just as locked. Like Sweet Billy's, this isn't a luxury spa like InZone, it's just a place for a quick haircut. In fact, the farther away from downtown Watson travels up Gratiot, the more barebones the barbershops get. At this one, weathered newspaper clippings are taped to the walls, and old sports photos from long-retired athletes fill the gaps between them. The place is old and musty. The barber opens the door and lets Watson in.

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