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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” Also, “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” Because you can have the runs, 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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Solitary Man

A homeless man finds a version of serenity in the heart of Detroit

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

Photo: Detroitblogger John

Tom Bell in the yard of his home.

It's another spring morning in Tom Bell's backyard. Birds whistle from the bare branches above, squirrels jump through the crispy leaves below, and another day of being alone, another day of nothingness, lies ahead.

Bell is homeless, but only in the official sense. Because when he found this place a decade ago, he made it a real home.

He lives by the river in a tent he pitched atop a tall concrete mound, so high you'd never see him up there if you weren't looking for him.

"I have no phone, no address, no identity either," says the 56-year-old Bell, who's thin, with a shabby beard and a helmet of hair flecked with gray.

His hidden perch is next to a potholed alley, surrounded by a strand of clustered trees and a row of old warehouses left empty years ago. It's a neglected, forgotten corner of the city, one where he can live undisturbed by little else but the sounds of the weather and the animals that share his space. Yet rising from the horizon, just a handful of streets away, are downtown's towering skyscrapers. Bell has managed to find nature's serenity in the heart of the city.

Ten years ago he was living under a freeway overpass. Then, in his wanderings, he came across this mammoth concrete embankment, the remains of an ancient elevated railroad track. He climbed a tree to peek up top, surveyed the strange landscape he found there and decided this was the place for him.

"This is one of the best homeless spots I've ever seen," he says. He went from living in the shadows to basking in the sun, in a world all to himself. And with his find, he claimed one of the most extraordinary places to live a most extraordinary life.

He has no past to dwell on, no future to plan, no job to go to. For him, time is meaningless. The days blend into weeks that become years of sameness, and every moment is the pure essence of now.

"Man, everything's everything," he says. "Ain't nothin' changes. The sun go up, the sun go down. The sun go up, the sun go down. It's what they call just a regular day in the neighborhood."

has been homeless since he was 18 years old. That's almost four decades now. That's most of a lifetime spent living on the streets of Detroit.

"I tried to pay rent, always fell behind payin' rent," he explains. "Never could keep a constant job, never could keep a permanent address, so all that accounts for being relatively known as homeless."

Bell grew up on the west side, he says. But he doesn't like to talk about his life much. He went to high school, but says little about that. Doesn't say much about his family, either. He never married.

"I might be what's known as anti-sociable," he says. "If you can't find your kind you can't find your kind. Ain't nothing wrong with that, either. Seldom seen is good, just like all-the-time seen is good. I'm one of those seldom-seen types. I'm always reserved, laid up away somewhere."

Sometimes the only living beings he encounters are the animals living in this grove. He calls them his friends. "They run up and down the trees and all that stuff, raccoons and foxes and cats and different kind of things come up around here. I bring them food to eat, you know."

Four decades outside have taught him the ways of nature and made him intimate with the weather. "I've damaged my feet, close to frostbite. I actually did get frostbit, but it wasn't to the point to where I panicked about it. Some people, man, they actually have to lose it. That ain't good at all. You find out you need your feet and hands."

All those years of experience, though, don't change the fact it's still hard to live this kind of life. He eats at soup kitchens, collects bottles and cans for the refunds, and gets everything else from the trash.

"Being homeless is serious business," he says.

Getting to
his place isn't easy. His concrete hill is two-tiered, about 15 feet high. To get up top he's fashioned a series of ladder steps by nailing slats of wood between two close-standing trees that grow along the concrete wall. Once you climb those there's a braided iron cord that juts out from a crack in the concrete. You grab that to hoist yourself up to the first tier. Then you go up an old stepladder to the top of the second tier. And you're suddenly in his secret world.

He lives on a wide track of weathered old railroad ties stretching far into the distance. They've become smothered in the grasses and tall trees whose roots somehow cleaved the concrete and dug their hold deep. It's like a wild, overgrown park in the sky. "It's perfectly weird," he says.

By contrast, his home is so small he can't stand up inside it.

It's a makeshift tent that's about waist high, shaped like a triangle, made of thin plastic sheeting. He made two round windows fronted by chicken wire, and he fashioned a real wood-framed screen door that latches shut. The top of the tent is shingled with foamy material he found in the trash — one sheet of white, one sheet of black. He cut them into dozens of little semi-circles and arranged them in alternating colors, giving it the look of a quaint, miniature cottage.

Once that was done he tamed his landscape. He cleared some grasses, took down a tree or two, defined his yard from the wilds surrounding it. A little garden is guarded by a ceramic frog that watches over the plastic houseplants Bell put in the ground. A birdhouse, detailed and painted, dangles above the garden from a tall, shady tree. A painted wood bin with a hinged lid holds his food, and another smaller one holds his trash.

But his biggest decorative impact was the long mural he painted along the base of his man-made hill. One day he found several half-empty paint cans and some brushes thrown in the trash. He took them home and illuminated the plain gray concrete with a painting that's 20 feet long and 5 feet high. Split in two by a stenciled image of a chain, the top shows curled black waves against a glowing blue backdrop, while underneath are evenly spaced triangles with different odd designs painted in each. After years of hiding in plain sight, Bell decided to announce his presence here as garishly as he could.

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