Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pale Rider Revealed

Tom Wirt provides photographic evidence that Flint is at least a one-horse town.


I have to admit I was always a little skeptical of my sister Marty's claim that she met some guy in downtown Flint once riding a horse and wearing a Mexican poncho. I thought it might be some sort of Clint Eastwood fantasy. She even had a name — John Kotarski.

Keep in mind that Marty claims she can't remember anything that happened to her before the 9th grade and, at 15, regularly drove the family car to get to her driver's training lessons, which seems slightly illegal, even in a car-loving town like Flint.

But Flint Expatriate readers have backed her up on this one. It seems the urban cowboy lived on Avon Street and even had a fictionalized children's story written about him in The Flint Journal. And, as I should have expected, Tom Wirt even has a photo of the horse nibbling grass in a Flint backyard. I find it hilarious that Tom lived next door to the horse, but never met John. I guess when you live in Flint and your neighbor has a horse and a poncho, you just assume he also has a rifle and it's wise not to ask too many questions.

So Marty...I apologize for doubting you, but I'm still not buying the story that you smashed up the family station wagon trying to avoid a squirrel in the Powers' parking lot.

And John Kotarski...we expect to hear from you soon.

Here are some more details from Macy Swain
...

"Oh, I knew John Kotarski well, and yes, he was a big East Village character. He did have a horse, boarded via a grandfather clause on Avon Street. In the early 80s I wrote a serial Christmas children's story for the Flint Journal featuring a fictionalized version of Kotarski -- I think I named him Cliff; when the story finished, on Christmas Eve, John and his horse Ali rode through downtown in the Christmas parade. One famous story about him was when he tried riding the horse into Doobie's and was forever after banned. He's now happily married to an Ann Arbor academic. I don't know if he still owns any places in Flint. Yes, he did gut a place on Second Street. Remember when the "sheet people" rolled through town? I had dinner with them in that place on Second Street -- some young lovelies were feeding a long-haired guru brown rice. Really, really strange. John put them up for a couple of weeks. He was a bit loud and overbearing but had a good heart and I was and am fond of him."

Marty's original question...
"Does anyone know anything about a guy named John Katarsky? He was kind of a hippie lawyer (supposedly) who left the profession. When I met him he had a roller skating rental kiosk in downtown Flint. When you rented skates from him he also offered you a glass of wine (whatever). He was quite eccentric and he rode around town on a horse and wore a Mexican poncho and a hemp woven hat. NO...I am not dropping acid! He's a real guy!"




13 comments:

  1. Hey, Macy -- wasn't there an offbeat sorta guy named Kotarski that owned a couple of houses on Avon near Second Street? As I recall, he gutted a bedroom on the second floor in order to have a cathedral ceiling in the living room. This would have been '83 - '86.

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  3. I meant "offbeat" in a good way, GS -- no malice intended. I'm a little "offbeat" myself.

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  4. Oh, I knew John Kotarski well, and yes, he was a big East Village character. He did have a horse, boarded via a grandfather clause on Avon Street. In the early 80s I wrote a serial Christmas children's story for the Flint Journal featuring a fictionalized version of Kotarski -- I think I named him Cliff; when the story finished, on Christmas Eve, John and his horse Ali rode through downtown in the Christmas parade. One famous story about him was when he tried riding the horse into Doobie's and was forever after banned. He's now happily married to an Ann Arbor academic. I don't know if he still owns any places in Flint. Yes, he did gut a place on Second Street. Remember when the "sheet people" rolled through town? I had dinner with them in that place on Second Street -- some young lovelies were feeding a long-haired guru brown rice. Really, really strange. John put them up for a couple of weeks. He was a bit loud and overbearing but had a good heart and I was and am fond of him.

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  5. Oh, I knew John Kotarski well, and yes, he was a big East Village character. He did have a horse, boarded via a grandfather clause on Avon Street. In the early 80s I wrote a serial Christmas children's story for the Flint Journal featuring a fictionalized version of Kotarski -- I think I named him Cliff; when the story finished, on Christmas Eve, John and his horse Ali rode through downtown in the Christmas parade. One famous story about him was when he tried riding the horse into Doobie's and was forever after banned. He's now happily married to an Ann Arbor academic. I don't know if he still owns any places in Flint. Yes, he did gut a place on Second Street. Remember when the "sheet people" rolled through town? I had dinner with them in that place on Second Street -- some young lovelies were feeding a long-haired guru brown rice. Really, really strange. John put them up for a couple of weeks. He was a bit loud and overbearing but had a good heart and I was and am fond of him.

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  6. Hi Cooley's Dictum,

    Sorry I gave the impression that I thought you were demonstrating malice - I didn't think that at all!

    It was about the only thing I remember about the man. Probably shouldn't have blabbed his personal business from 35 years ago ... yikes!

    From what Macy wrote and my dim memories, I'd say "offbeat" is the perfect description.

    Cheers

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  7. In 1983 I lived on Avon Street. I never met John Katarsky, but I suppose he must have been next door neighbor. Here is a picture of the famous horse: http://flickr.com/photos/92726077@N00/3165602670/

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  8. I wonder if the grandfather clause (or the large-ish area in which the horse - horses - roamed) is still there. I lived there from about 1976-80. This would have been at the dead end, near Walker School.

    The guy with the horse I remember was on the cover of one of the earliest issues of East Village Magazine, with horse and sulky. I would say he was pretty old then, but he was probably only about the same age I am now.

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  9. I lived on Thomson St (1 block over from Avon)almost directly opposite from John's in the 70's. I could see the horse paddock and barn from my house through the Kearsley Manor parking lot. Very clean and well maintained. It was pretty cool to look out my window and see a horse grazing...in Flint.

    It shocked me the first time I saw John and his sulky cruising up and down the streets of the neighborhood. John typically made quite a show (hat, poncho and all)and stopped a lot of traffic back in the day.

    I remember John very well too. He was always very nice to us kids, and would often stop the buggy and let kids pet the horse. "Just stay away from the teeth" he'd tell us....

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  10. Tom Wirt probably lived next door to the guy that borded John's horse. If I'm not mistaken, bad earyly memorie and all, the guy who borded the horse was pretty famouse for glueing the soles of shoes to the bottoms of his feet because he didn't like to restrict his feet and be confined to traditional shoes. (I think we were dealing with the element of a little hippie lettuce but, I digress...)Yea...he didn't like restrictive clothing either and wore like a pair of really tight cut off shorts, and of course the soles of some shoes or boots glued to the bottom of his feet. He thought it was a great invention. As for Cooley's comment about Johns bedroom, he's right. He created a kind of loft and had a rustic wooden ladder to access it. He also had no inside walls in his house. Oh...they were framed out but there were no walls, which created quite a stir one night when he told me he was going to take a bath. (again...I digress:-) I absolutely loved the guy for his excentric, far out Zen like exsistence. I did run in to him in Angelo's Coney Island when I came back to Flint for my 10 year high school class reunion.
    The story of the "Green Bomb" Station Wagon and how I smashed it up will come later:-)

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  11. Hard to believe that there's all this discussion about John and his horse and nobody's mentioned the time he brought it into Doubie's...

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  12. That horse was mine before John bought him, and before me, it was owned by the family who had the stable and room for three horses in Flint. Another girl in the neighborhood, Michelle (I forget her last name) was also a co-owner of Alazon (a Mexican Creole and former race horse). It's a strange and wild story, the family who owned the property was definitely not your Ozzie and Harriet variety. And the old man was an exhibitionist who lived to wear next to nothing claiming it helped him "breathe" since he had emphysema. He was an odd and basically harmless guy. But you could still have a horse in the city at that time and teen girls flocked to that stable. I'm sure the clause is no longer in effect, because once the horses were gone, the clause would be void. We lived a block away from John, who was a friend of my family's. I was relieved when he bought Alazon, I had already moved away to college. But then john told me Alazon was kicked by another horse in the paddock where he boarded him and this shattered a front leg, which could not be repaired. A sad way to go for a strong horse.

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  13. I am enjoying the stories about this character called "John Kotarski"

    In fact, I recognise some of the tales myself.

    Here is a link to some photos of Al Azan with captions.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/kotarskij/FlintPhotos?feat=directlink

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