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  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face 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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