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  • Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor

    Detroit home-girl Lily Tomlin will perform at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 14. A press release reads, “Get together with Lily Tomlin for an unforgettable night of fun and sidesplitting laughter. “Tomlin is amazing” The NY Times and “as always a revelation.” The New Yorker This unique comic artist takes her audience on what the Washington Post calls a “wise and howlingly funny” trip with more than a dozen of her timeless characters—from Ernestine to Mrs. Beasley to Edith Ann.” “With astounding skill and energy, Tomlin zaps through the channels like a human remote control. Using a fantastic range of voices, gestures and movements, she conjures up the cast of characters with all the apparent ease of a magician pulling a whole menagerie of animals from a single hat.” NY Daily News “Her gentle touch is as comforting as it is edifying.” NY Time Out She has “made the one-person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today.” Newsweek Her long list of awards includes: a Grammy; two Tonys; six Emmys; an Oscar nomination; two Peabodys; and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Find more info here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor

    The Detroit Metro Times, Detroit’s award-winning alternative weekly media company, is proud to announce the recent hire of Valerie Vande Panne as Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning independent journalist and Michigan native, Vande Panne’s work has appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among other publications. Previously, Vande Panne attended Harvard University and was a regular contributor to The Boston Phoenix, and a news editor of High Times magazine. She has spent years covering drug policy among other subjects, including the environment, culture, lifestyle, extreme sports, and academia. “Valerie understands our business and what we expect to accomplish in Detroit. She has an excellent sense for stories that will move our readers, as well as experience with balancing print and digital content. I’m excited to have her at the paper and trust her leadership as we move forward,” said Detroit Metro Times publisher Chris Keating.

    The post Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’

    She welcomes you when you enter Detroit, from every direction, with the one word that might just be Detroit’s biggest philosophical question: Injured? Joumana Kayrouz is deeper than the inflated image watching over Detroit, peddling justice to the poor and broken of the city. This Wednesday, Drew Philp takes us behind the billboard and into the heart of the Kayrouz quest. (And all of Brian Rozman’s photos of Kayrouz have not been retouched.) Check out MT‘s cover story, on newsstands Wednesday!

    The post Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt

    There was a fire in an upstairs apartment at PJ’s Lager House on Monday evening. No people were hurt, although three cats belonging to the tenants died after CPR. The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. during a show featuring Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band, Curtin, and Jeffrey Jablonsky. “We just smelled smoke and someone yelled everyone has to get out,” 33-year-old Nick Leu told MLive. On the Lager House Facebook page in the early hours of the morning, a post said, “We at PJ’s lager House would like to thank everyone for their care and concern. Also, a very big THANK YOU to all who stepped up to do what they could this evening. The fire was contained to the upstairs but due to water damage in the bar, we will be closed until it can be assessed. Everyone is safe and we will keep you updated.” A later update read, “Update from the big boss. Since there was no damage to the stage side of the bar, the show will go on tomorrow! You may have to enter through the back door and there may not be a large selection of booze but we are going […]

    The post Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt 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 The Sugar Clouds’ Partners Don’t Do That (They Watch and be Amazed) (Wax Splat) is a nostalgic look at the psychedelic days of ’60s grooviness. Even the album cover looks like a lava lamp. The male-female vocals have a sort of Jefferson Airplane feel, and the songs are blessed with both sugary sweet pop melodies and a garage-y earthiness. The story of the band’s formation is rather interesting; the two vocalists, Greg and Melissa Host, are a divorced couple who wrote the songs in their living room. The band is still together, so this divorce was a hell of a lot more civil than any we’ve ever known of. Steffanie Christi’an has friends in fairly high places. Her new Way Too Much mini-album is being put out by Nadir Omowale’s Distorted Soul label, and she is also a regular feature on Jessica Care Moore’s Black Women Rock revue. Maybe the choice of cover image isn’t the best – she looks a bit like a Tina Turner tribute act here. But that can and should be […]

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

  • Detroit councilman: Increased parking fines an ‘anti-growth strategy’

      There’s at least one city councilmember who’s less than pleased with Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to increase all parking violation fines. Councilman Gabe Leland, whose district represents the city’s west side, issued a statement today, calling Orr’s plan a potential “deterrent” to attracting people to the city. I don’t believe the argument to raise the parking ticket fines from $30 to $45 and eliminate the $10 early payment fine are justification for this action. The emergency manager’s order to increase ticket fines places city government inefficiencies on the backs of our residents who need to do business in downtown and other parts of our city. And, this will increase the barrier for people to frequent Detroit-based establishments; likely to be a deterrent for some to shop and dine in our city. Leland suggested implementing a plan that maintains current rates for fines and reduces operating inefficiencies to collecting parking fines. “In my view, generating revenue by increasing fines when residents from neighborhoods must go downtown to get licenses and permits, attend court appointments and do other necessary business, is the wrong direction,” Leland said. “…Additionally, generating revenue using fines when we are trying to grow this city and attract […]

    The post Detroit councilman: Increased parking fines an ‘anti-growth strategy’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Flower power

A family florist stays alive despite a fire, dementia and loss

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

Photo: Detroitblogger John

Patricia Duff inside her home flower shop.

She unwraps the pink lilies and lays them gently on the table. With a knife she trims one stem at a time, and the discarded pieces fall to the floor.

This used to be where she and her family ate together. Now it's where she works.

Patricia Duff and her husband Nat spent a lifetime selling floral arrangements at Byron's Flowers on Woodward in Highland Park. Then, in March last year, their century-old business burned to the ground in the middle of the night.

They didn't even know their building was on fire until it was long over. Patricia would unplug the phone before going to bed because Nat had trouble sleeping. And so they slept through the blaze. They learned of it only when her son's friend knocked on their door in the morning and changed everyone's lives with a few words of news.

Although everything they had in Byron's was lost, Patricia was determined to somehow keep the family business alive. And so her house became a flower shop.

"If we shut down we'd lose our business, and there was no way we were gonna shutdown," says Patricia, 68.

She called the phone company the day after the fire and had the store's phone number transferred to her house in Detroit's Boston-Edison neighborhood. She brought fresh flowers home from the wholesaler, put some in the fridge, put others by the window so they'd open their clenched petals when the sunlight touched them. There were customers waiting on arrangements, standing orders that knew nothing of a fire.

And slowly, she adapted to a new life.

"We don't have the same amount of business, but we have business," she says. "And we don't have the equipment we had, but we're still able to operate. And that's the most important thing."

Wholesalers cut her a break, letting her purchase things one by one rather than in bulk like she used to. Instead of buying invoices by the box she prints them one at a time on a home computer. Instead of ordering professional business cards she now gets them for only $1.99 for 500 of them if she leaves the printer's advertisement on the back of her cards. It's less than ideal, but it's better than giving up.

"We're really strapped for cash," she says. "We just try to cut corners as best as we can. It's a lot different, but it's manageable." Her kids Nicole and Damian help her out without taking any pay for it.

Some of her regular customers have found her new location, directed here by a banner the family hung along the iron fence that still circles the site of the fire.

Consultations are held in the living room, the solarium is used for storage, and the flowers get trimmed and arranged in the dining room.

Patricia wants to move back to the old location, into a new building. But the insurance company, she says, is dragging its heels on paying the claim until they finish investigating the fire. Meanwhile, the city is eager to clear the charred rubble still piled on the lot. If that happens before the investigation is done, though, the insurance won't cover it, and Duff gets stuck with a demo bill she can't possibly afford.

So she waits, works from the house, pleads with the city to wait a little longer, and hangs on day by day, trying to fulfill a promise her husband made to the family.

"The whole mindset is, in the black minority community there aren't any businesses that go on to the second generation," she says. "That has always been our goal. It's the continuance that's the most important thing, surviving to the next generation. So I want to keep my husband's dream alive. That's the reason why."

She has to keep that promise by herself now because he can't do it anymore.

Patricia and Nat
met in the late '50s. He'd come north from Alabama and was working at a car wash. She worked at the Dairy Queen next door. They were a mixed-race couple in a time when that meant trouble.

"It was very hard," Patricia says. "We were pulled over by the police a lot for being together. We were followed sometimes. There weren't many places in public we could go to."

Nat got his start at Byron's as a delivery driver and quickly worked his way up. "My husband would deliver them but he kept looking at the arrangements," she says. "Sometimes he would take them apart and redo them so he would learn. He taught himself."

The owner grew to love him so much that when he died in 1969, his wife was left with instructions to sell the shop to Nat, his longtime, loyal employee. The Duff family has run it ever since.

Patricia believes her husband's was the first black florist shop in the Midwest, and he was one of the first minority owners to belong to FTD, the industry's largest network. It was a lonely distinction.

"We would go to FTD conventions and he would be one of two black people there," she remembers.

They went through a lot together at the shop. There was the time robbers came in, beat the couple and threw them down the stairs, all for $200. The time when celebrants broke in and stole flowers to commemorate one of the Pistons' championships. The time a drunk drove his car right through the front wall of the shop. The time burglars broke in and rummaged through everything, all while the terrified family listened from the other room, where they had been sleeping after pulling an all-nighter before a busy holiday.

"There were a lot of things that happened at the flower shop, but we stayed," she says. "We're survivors."

Then came the fire.

Her husband
doesn't live at home anymore. He'd recently begun to slip into dementia, and by last year Patricia found herself taking care of him fulltime. The 70-year-old man had endured four strokes and open-heart surgery, and developed a host of other health problems that turned out impossible for her to handle alone. Last fall, she had to move him into a nursing home.

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