Trending
Most Read
  • Metro Times seeking stories of college sexual assault

    The Metro Times is looking to hear your experiences will sexual assault on a Michigan college campus — from anything to how many sexual assault prevention programs, rape kits or crisis centers you may have had access to, to how the administration or local law enforcement handled your experience. If you, or anyone you know might be interested in talking to a reporter at the Metro Times, please email us at college@metrotimes.com.

    The post Metro Times seeking stories of college sexual assault appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Get ready for National Tequila Day!

    Thursday, July 24th marks National Tequila Day, and forget everything you know about the beverage. Those nasty old “tequilas” of yesterday were find for doing body shots, but tequila has become something of a luxury spirit while few were paying attention. Have you tried all the varieties of tequila? Can you tell the difference between blanco, joven, reposed, añejo and extra añejo?  If your local bar doesn’t have the stuff that will help you celebrate this important holiday, there are several bars that cater just to the tequila fan. There’s Aqua Rum and Tequila Bar in the MGM Grand Detroit Casino in Detroit, as well as Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi, which offers more than 100 kinds of tequila, and Taqo Detroit, a new spot serving American-friendly Mexican fare and serving an astonishing variety of tequilas, more than 200 in all. Been waiting for a reason to drink up this south-of-the-border nectar? You got it. Guzzle responsibly.    

    The post Get ready for National Tequila Day! appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • DWSD to host water fair in wake of 15 day moratorium on Detroit water shutoffs

    In light of worldwide attention on its efforts to cut water service for thousands of Detroit residents, the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department said today it would host a Water Affordability Fair on August 2nd to explain options available to those facing financial hardship. DWSD officials said in a news release today the fair will be take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the department’s Eastside Customer Service Center at 13303 E. McNichols. The move came on the heels of growing pressure from opponents of the initiative and criticism from the U.S. bankruptcy judge overseeing Detroit’s Chapter 9 case. “Every customer that has come to DWSD with a legitimate financial hardship has not had their water service terminated,” said Darryl Latimer, DWSD deputy director, in a statement. “In cases where the water has been shut off, it’s been restored. We keep hearing at DWSD that there are poor people who are not receiving the assistance that they need, so we want to help them and we want to make it as easy as possible for the to receive that help. That’s why we created the Water Affordability Fair – ease of access and ease of assistance. We are here to […]

    The post DWSD to host water fair in wake of 15 day moratorium on Detroit water shutoffs appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Thrillist Names Detroit’s Motz’s Burgers Among Best in Nation

    The folks at Thrillist have again compiled their annual list of the nation’s best burgers, and Southeast Michigan, it seems, is well represented. Ranking alongside joints in major cities such as New York and L.A., is Detroit’s own Motz’s Burgers, hailed specifically for its Double Cheeseburger Slider. Via Thrillist: There’s nothing remarkable about the façade of this SW diner… it’s just a diner, like the hundreds of others in the D. The staff’s been there for years… and so have the regulars, who can’t get enough of Motz’s legendary smashed burgers. The formula’s nothing revolutionary: smashed, griddled patties with oozy cheese and onions that melt into the burger itself as it cooks. But it’s that unmistakable flavor of a well-seasoned griddle — which has also been here for years — that makes the difference. You can score big burgers with accoutrements, but this isn’t really a place to say things like “accoutrements”. Grab the old-school slider (the double cheeseburger one), and prepare for three perfect bites of Detroit’s finest. Flint’s Torch Bar and Grill also made the cut, most notably for its Deluxe Torch Burger with Bacon. Tucked away in an alley beyond the brick streets that used to mark […]

    The post Thrillist Names Detroit’s Motz’s Burgers Among Best in Nation appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • In what weird ways are you paying for school? MT wants to know!

    The Metro Times is looking for college students or graduates of Michigan colleges that used atypical means to pay for their schooling (i.e. sugar baby, selling underwear, military enrollment purely for school help, etc.). We are looking for personal anecdotes about the lengths you went to help pay for school, what came of it, your monetary situation, if the resource worked to get you through college and more. If you have utilized any one of these avenues, or know someone who has, please drop us a line at college@metrotimes.com.

    The post In what weird ways are you paying for school? MT wants to know! appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Kid Rock ordered to produce dildo in ICP sexual harassment lawsuit

    File under “WTF” — attorneys representing former Psychopathic Records publicist Andrea Pellegrini announced Monday that they have subpoenaed Kid Rock to produce a glass dildo as part of Pellegrini’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the Insane Clown Posse’s record label. Pellegrini claims the glass dildo was given to her by Psychopathic Records employee “Dirty Dan” Diamond as part of a larger culture of constant harassment in which she was called “bitch,” made the target of explicit sexual advances by Diamond and other co-workers, asked to procure automatic weapons for a photo shoot, and even encouraged to “deceive government investigators from the US Department of Labor.” On Friday, Diamond admitted under oath that he told Pellegrini that he had “a fat cock” and that he would “fuck the shit out of her.” The dildo, though, was “a work of art,” according to Diamond, and should not be considered sexual harassment. Why is Kid Rock involved? Diamond says when Pellegrini declined his dildo, he gave it to Kid Rock instead (presumably as a “work of art” and not a sexual advance). So now, according to court orders, Rock has 14 days to produce the glass dildo so the court can better determine if it is art or, well, a dildo. We will […]

    The post Kid Rock ordered to produce dildo in ICP sexual harassment lawsuit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

Calendar

Calendar

Search thousands of events in our database.

Restaurants

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Nightlife

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

MT on Twitter
MT on Facebook

Print Email

Culture

Here comes Santa Claus

Christmas is weekly for the hungry folks on one volunteer's route

Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Detroitblogger John

Unlike another white-bearded guy, John Ratkov delivers all year long.


Santa doesn't look much different than the homeless people seated around him.

John Ratkov is at the Crossroads soup kitchen on West Grand Boulevard on a cold, misty afternoon, wearing a torn flannel coat with the stuffing poking out, faded baggy jeans and an old frumpy hat. 

But to those gathered here for a meal, he stands out. His stout build, his bushy white beard and his long white hair have earned him the nickname Santa Claus among them. His looks aren't the only reason, though.

Every Sunday, all year long, volunteers here pack up dozens of brown-bagged lunches for him to deliver to the homebound poor. Nobody gave him this task; it's something he came up with on his own.

Today's meal includes a thin bologna and mustard sandwich, a bowl of chili, a cup of lemonade, a banana and a sugar cookie. "To some folks that's a really good meal," the 64-year-old notes. And to some folks he really is like Santa — a cigar-smoking, van-driving Santa who comes around as predictably as Christmas does. 

With him today is one of his helpers, 52-year-old Renee Miller, who met Ratkov at another soup kitchen years ago. She was so moved by his self-appointed role as deliveryman to the poor that she offered to help. "It's just the right thing to do," she says. She helps load the meals into the van.

Ratkov worked for years in recycling, spent some time in prison, and when he got out he began serving others by giving rides, delivering lunches, visiting the lonely. It was partly to give him something to do, and perhaps partly to redeem his lost years. He's taken it upon himself to visit the worst parts of the inner city, places where the safety net and civic order have essentially collapsed, where someone like him is often all that stands between them and sheer desperation.

"I call myself an advocate for poor people," he says. "I just do what I can."

 

This charity work started years ago, when Ratkov would drive a few stranded poor people to meals at local soup kitchens. But so many of them began asking him for rides he ran out of room in his minivan. So he began bringing the meals to them. At first, Crossroads gave him eight lunches to deliver every week, then a dozen. Now it's up to about 45, and his list keeps growing.

There used to be others who also came to the shelter for boxes of lunches to deliver to the hungry, until one of them got caught selling the meals on the street and pocketing the money, and the soup kitchen canceled the practice. They made an exception for Ratkov, though.

"Santa's the only person we allow to do that anymore," says Janice Coleman, a Crossroads supervisor. "He's been doing it for years. We trust him. He's on the up and up. He's awesome. We love him to death."

Ratkov's weekly route is a tour of numbing poverty and poor health and enduring misery. Nearly everyone he delivers to suffers from something — a crippling injury, a terminal illness, extreme hardship. "You know how you hear on the radio they talk about 'below the poverty level'? They're about two steps below it," Ratkov says.

 

The first stop is a big old house on Mack near Chene, where a woman named Bernice lives. She needs a new lung, but her doctors are trying to convince her to simply die in hospice. She lives with her brother Bernard and her companion, Glenn, who takes care of her and who comes out into the cold rain and approaches the van meekly with an empty milk crate in his hands. Miller gets out of the van and puts three lunches in it.

Miller then heads home to take care of an ailing companion with prostate cancer and a woman now living upstairs who got into a disfiguring car accident, then was severely burned in a house fire. 

Ratkov picks up his other two helpers, Rosalyn Johnson, 60, and Donna Lowman, 63, who live in a senior apartment complex on Conner near East Canfield. Before they drive away, a man named Reuben walks up, and Ratkov wordlessly rolls down his window and hands him $10. This will happen several times today. It turns out Santa's the local bank in these parts, as well. 

"I loan them money from time to time, and then on the first of the month they pay me back," he says. He's known for handing out cheap cigarettes too, from a carton he keeps in the front seat. 

Though Ratkov is given the lunches for free, he pays for gas and smokes and these loans with his $588 monthly Social Security check and hit-and-miss income from a rental property in the suburbs.

There are constant interruptions along the route. Ratkov's phone rings incessantly with calls from people needing food, or rides, or loans. The Styrofoam cups of lemonade start tipping over as the van makes turns, and juice starts pooling in the bottom of the cardboard box and leaking onto the floor of the van. And at one stop a man walks up and grabs a lunch and walks away. Nobody knows him; he just saw something being handed out for free, reached into the van and grabbed one.

Santa's got a bad leg and walks with difficulty even with his cane, so at most stops he just pulls up, honks his horn like crazy until the recipient comes to the door, and his helpers take the food to them. Sometimes, before his van even stops, people walk up seeking a meal. They can recognize him from a distance.

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus