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    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.

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

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    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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Holes in the wall

A neighborhood bakery faces harassment, lonely days and gunfire

Photo: , License: N/A

Vasile Sirca shows off his bakery's breads.

The look on his face says it all. 

Vasile Sirca wears an expression of pure fatigue. He's standing behind the cookie counter at his store, Nortown Bakery, on Van Dyke by Seven Mile. He's the only one here, as usual. And he looks like he's been through a war.

"There are a lot of problems on this street. Lots of shootings," the 59-year-old says. "Long ago, it was a lot better than now. But the neighborhood change."

That's putting it mildly. Back when the store opened in 1939, it was a Polish bakery in a Polish neighborhood in the city's upper limits known informally as Nortown. Like much of the east side back then, Van Dyke was lined with mom-and-pop businesses, and the sidestreets were dense with single-family homes. 

Today it looks like a battle took place here. Grassy lots are missing their houses, ashes and cinders mark the shells of others, windblown trash lines the curbs and fences.

In the past decade, most people who had the means to move away did, leaving behind those who can't — the poor and the elderly, the career criminals and drug dealers. They're the ones who've put that look on Sirca's face.

He came from Romania to Michigan in 1980 and bought the bakery from the last in a succession of owners who'd got it after the original owner retired. He'd been a lifelong baker back home, and he freshened up the store's stale offerings by adding breads from his home country and imported foods from central and Eastern Europe. 

Detroit still had a fair amount of white ethnics in its neighborhoods back then, and this store became a convenient stop for neighbors wanting a taste of the old country. Here they could find Polish cookies and Yugoslavian jellies, Romanian sandwiches and Bulgarian peppers.

But there isn't a Bulgarian or a Romanian within miles of here anymore. Most of Sirca's customers are the few from the suburbs who remember this place or whose parents told them there's still that old bakery where they can get real European food. The rest who come in, the residents of this neighborhood, couldn't distinguish a Romanian bread from a cheap sliced loaf.

"The people, they don't know European breads," he laments. "'You don't have regular bread?' he quotes them asking him. 'What's regular?' he'll ask. "'Wonder Bread," is invariably the answer. 

"But this is like you make at home," he notes, holding a loaf the size and shape of a football. "It's salt, water, yeast and flour. That's all. This has no preservatives inside. This is bread the way it's supposed to be."

As the city changed and the little shops around him closed, Sirca's traditional little bakery became an anomaly among the dollar stores, the party stores and the other low-end businesses that cater to the inner city. And for whatever reason, its baker is a target.

"I don't do nothing to nobody," he insists. "But these guys are animals, you know? No respect for property, for life. They do it to you, they do it to me, they come in like gangs, man. They got guns, they shoot, and when you call the police in this area, forget about it. It's like domestic terrorism."

The story of his bakery could start with the dozens of stray bullets that have pierced his windows over the years. Or all his cars he's had stolen from out front — 10 so far. Or the snickering thief who came in drunk after one theft and brazenly asked for a cake to commemorate the car he stole.

It could begin with the thugs from the bus stop who gather inside when the weather's bad, or the ones who come in for a can of pop but won't pay for it. Maybe even the menacing neighbors who leave obscene or racist messages on his answering machine, threatening his family.

He could start by telling of the time he was in the backroom after hours, making dough, and a man used something heavy to smash a window to break in. A cursing Sirca ran out and chased him — with a machine gun. 

As he ran outside the baker came upon two cops sitting in their car, suddenly alarmed by this agitated Romanian holding an automatic weapon. 

"The policemen say, 'What happened? Is there a war?' I said, 'Somebody just tried to break in — you don't see it?' They say, 'I don't see nobody.'" So he was the one who wound up with the police's guns aimed at him. To him it shows how backwards things are now.

"You call them and they don't do nothing," he says of the cops. "If you call them for something they come tomorrow, or if I call for shootings, like last night around 1 o'clock was shootings in here in the back, but it's almost every day. What, am I going to call every day?" 

His front windows are covered with little yellow Guardian Alarm stickers. Not to announce that the place is wired. He used them to cover all the bullet holes in the glass. It's too expensive to keep replacing the glass.

He doesn't bother to cover the bullet holes in the walls and the shelves, though. "I got one here, and here, and I got one here," he says, conducting a walking tour of stray gunshots. "This one ricocheted, I don't know where they shoot. Then I got one there, then I got one in the window. ..."

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