Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Teaching Christmas a Lesson

What's the logical thing to do when you're bored at Christmas? Apparently, you trash the outdoor decorations at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in dear old Frankenmuth, where even the 7/11's look like a Bavarian ski lodge.

LaNia Coleman of The Bay City Times reports:
Frankenmuth Police have arrested four Genesee Township men, 17 to 21, in connection with the Christmas Day vandalism that caused about $40,000 worth of damage to 75 statues at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

“At this time, all suspects are cooperating with investigators,” said Police Chief Donald Mawer. “It is still unknown as to the motive for this crime.”

Flint Expatriates T-Shirts in Lapis Blue

Due to popular demand, artist Jessica Lynch is making the official Flint Expatriates t-shirt available in a new color — Lapis Blue. (Check out the color to the left with a different design.)

You can only get the original slate gray color in XL at this point.

And, yes, I realize that the official Flint Expatriates t-shirt doesn't actually say "Flint Expatriates" anywhere on the shirt. It's really more of a t-shirt ode to Flint than a branding opportunity.

I don't make any money off these shirts. Jessica covered all the cost for design, labor and materials, so she needs to sell the shirts to make her money back.

Go here to order the shirts.

And go here for more info on how the Flint Expatriates t-shirt came to be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Even the Abandoned Bars Aren't Safe

The oddly agrarian style of the Bottom Street Bar, abandoned but still standing. (Photo by Thomas Wirt)

Another fire, another unexpected vista. (Photo by Gordon Young)

I had another one of those now-familiar disorienting moments when I drove by the site of Chevy in the Hole earlier this month and discovered that the Bottom Street Bar was gone, along with the nearby bank, both victims of arson. (This used to be the Sundown Lounge, perhaps The Sundowner. Hard to remember.)

You can now stand on the edge of the rubble and see Hurley Hospital across the vast, empty plain bisected by the river.

I never stepped foot in the place, but it holds a prominent spot in my memory of Flint. If you happened to be driving on Chevrolet during a shift change when the traffic backed up, you could come to a stop directly in front of the bar door, which was often propped open during the summer. This was a big thrill for me as a kid. I loved mystery books and I imagined that it was the kind of dark, smokey place where somebody could get murdered. (Perhaps somebody did over the years.) This is how I discovered that it was acceptable to drink at 7 a.m. in Flint.

Me: What are they doing in there?

Mom: Drinking.

Me: In the morning?

Mom: They just got out of work. It's night time for them.

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A Flint Expatriate Christmas

Gordie Young (Flint Powers Class of 1984) and Pat McFarlane Young (Flint Central Class of 1948)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Halo Burger Send Off

An important message via the Halo Burger Lovers Facebook page:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Flint Photos: W. Paterson Street in 1967

Another gem from the archives of Tom Pohrt.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flint Photos: Whiting Auditorium at Night

Flint Photos: Interior of House on Dayton Street

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Community Presbyterian Church Bulletins

Thanks to Tom Pohrt for these Flint artifacts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Bars

Rube's near the corner of Chevrolet and Flushing recently closed.

But the nearby Ambassador Bar survives.

Flint Expatriates on Facebook

Flint Expatriates has a Facebook page if you're interested. Go here.

Donate to Neithercut Elementary

Want to help a Flint school with a donation that will go directly to a specific classroom need? Go here.

Flint Photos: A Block of W. Dayton Avenue

All the houses on a single block of W. Dayton Street between Proctor and Lawndale Avenues in Civic Park.

Flint Photos: Corner of W. Patterson St. and Milbourne Ave.

U.S. Census: One of a Kind

Michigan is the only state in the union that lost population in the last decade, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight speculates on what it means for Michigan's congressional districts:

Michigan (−1 seat) As in Ohio, many Michigan districts have lost population. The districts with the largest population losses, the 13th and the 14th, are Democratic-leaning parts of Detroit, and Republicans are in control of redistricting, which would seem to give them an edge.

Michigan’s current boundaries were already pretty decent for Republicans — and some of their strongholds have lost population, too — so while they can work to improve the odds that the lost seat will be a Democratic one, they may not be able to guarantee it. For instance, they could try to force Democratic incumbents Dale Kildee and Gary Peters, now of the 5th and 9th districts, to compete against one another — but that might render the 11th or the 8th districts, now held by Republicans, more vulnerable.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flint Photos: MLK at Wood Street

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flint Photos: Christmas Spirit on Illinois Avenue

Flint Photos: Humboldt Ave. at W. Rankin St. in Civic Park

How fast does an abandoned house deteriorate in Flint? I posted the photo below this June. I took the two photos above three days ago.

The Contradictions of Civic Park

Two Civic Park classics — one on its last legs and another looking just fine — sit side by side on Delmar Street, which is all but deserted now.

Flint Photos: Saginaw Street in the Snow

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Raking It In With the Red Wings

Ever wonder how much money Nemo's bar, located just a few steps from the site of dearly departed Tiger Stadium, makes on a night when the Red Wings beat the Canadiens? I'm not sure of the exact amount, but it's so much they don't even bother with the cash registers. The money just gets piled wherever there's some open space behind the bar until the rush is over.

The Flint Diet

I vowed that on this reporting trip to Flint I would eat better. That means salads, vegetables and all that. I've been pretty good so far, but things went south today at lunch. I guess no matter how good your intentions, sometimes you just find yourself sitting in the parking lot next to Jazz Hair & Nails on Flushing Road near Ballenger eating a coney and a fried Twinkie. It simply can't be helped.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Retro Flint T-Shirts for the Holidays

Each holiday season Flint Expatriate Shawn Chittle opens a retro t-shirt shop with proceeds to benefit the Whaley Children's Center. This year he has recreated 16 vintage Flint shirts that he owns. It's only open during December, so this is your brief chance to get a custom-made memento of Flint landmarks like Smith-Bridgman's, Ace Record Exchange and many more.

Go here to order shirts.

To promote the store, Shawn will be running a weekly trivia contest at The first person to correctly answer the trivia question each week via email gets a free t-shirt of their choice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman! In Flint!

I'm in Flint on a reporting project and had a chance to meet local photographer Sarah Reed today. She's creating a series of Flint photos based on classic movie posters that are a must-have for Flint Expatriates. Here's the first, and it's available here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Venn Diagrams for Flint Expatriates

Can Venn diagrams be used to simply sum up complex situations. This Venn by Jessica Hagy at captures a lot of the emotions swirling around Flint. But it also leaves out much of the nuance that defines the feelings of residents and expatriates alike.

Perhaps a more elaborate Venn — like the one below that attempts to capture "Things That Are Bad" — would be in order for Flint.

"Things That Are Bad" Venn Diagram courtesy of Click to enlarge.

Thanks to grumkin for this idea.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Corvair Mania

A Corvair 110 convertible, somewhat worse for wear, spotted this morning near my house in San Francisco. (And lest readers think Flint Expatriates is more profitable than I've indicated, that's not my house in the background. Mine would probably fit nicely in the garage of the house in the photo.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wounded Technology

San Francisco In Stasis

UPDATE: Here's the reverse view of the photos discussed below, taken from the top of Bernal Heights with the radio tower directly behind me when I took the shot. The gas station mentioned is just to the left of the street in the center of the frame. Downtown San Francisco is in the distance.

A constant theme of Flint expatriates is the radical change Flint has experienced throughout its history. In addition to the boom and bust economic cycles, the place has physically changed so much that former residents who return after a long absence hardly recognize it.

Given the dynamic nature of San Francisco, where I've lived since 1996, I'm regularly surprised at how little certain parts of the city have changed over the years. It's hard to find places in Flint that don't look radically different than they did 20 years ago. That's not the case in SF.

Need an example? Check out these two identical views of the north side of the Bernal Heights neighborhood where I live. (My house is on the other side of the hill.) The shots are from the newly launched Bernalwood blog, which offers an excellent and often unexpected insider perspective on the neighborhood.

Bernal Heights in 1953. (Photo courtesy of the Cushman Collection at Indiana University)

Bernal Heights in 2008, which is pretty much how it looks today. The gas station is still there, as is the tile-roofed cleaners. The hill has a few more trees and a taller radio tower. Otherwise, the neighborhood has been amberized. (Photo by Todd Lapin)