Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's the Word?

Just curious, in your household do you call them "Replacement Referees" or do you call them scabs?

Buick Graffiti

Two friends recently bought a house on the south slope of Bernal Heights in San Francisco and we spotted these oil change records scrawled on the basement wall last weekend. The previous owner was clearly a Buick Man (or Woman). Let's just ignore the Olds reference.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Flint Artifacts: Elks Street Carnival 1902


The Policing Power of the Federal Reserve

Flint's struggles with crime are well documented. In fact, according to F.B.I. statistics, it's the most dangerous city in America. Despite the dire statistics, Flint's police force continues to shrink as the city attempts to erase a budget deficit in an era of declining tax revenues and economic stagnation. Police headquarters isn't even open to the public on weekends.

If only Flint could borrow some protection from the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. Each one is a private corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. And yet, in 2001, the USA Patriot Act granted the private banks domestic policing powers.

Pam Martens of AlterNet reports

Section 364 of the Act, “Uniform Protection Authority for Federal Reserve,” reads: “Law enforcement officers designated or authorized by the Board or a reserve bank under paragraph (1) or (2) are authorized while on duty to carry firearms and make arrests without warrants for any offense against the United States committed in their presence…Such officers shall have access to law enforcement information that may be necessary for the protection of the property or personnel of the Board or a reserve bank.” 
The police officers are technically known as FRLEO, short for Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Officer. The system has its own police academies for training, their own patch and badges, uniforms, pistols, rifles, police cars and the power to arrest coast to coast without a warrant. They have ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and a recruitment ad campaign with the slogan: “It’s about respect and recognition from your peers. It’s you.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Legend of Captain Bubblegum

Longtime reader and frequent commenter Smurf's Inc, also known as Wurstside Warrrior, raised the specter of the notorious Captain Bubblegum way back in 2008. Yet we never really got the full story on this Flint legend. There was talk of attacks via mopeds and horror films, but no real information. Here's some background from Smurf's Inc:
I first became aware of Capt. Bubblegum sometime during the early 80s while attending Walker School (or was it Walker Learning Center?) One morning as the buses arrived from all over the city, the kids who arrived on bus #212 from the northwest side were terrified. Scared silly. Hysterical. They reported that a man wearing a superhero outfit had chased them. If memory serves me he struck at both Pierson and Selby. After our teacher interrogated the students it turned out that others had experienced run-ins with this character before. 
Fast forward 8 or 9 years. An outlandishly dressed street person appears on the corner of Ann Arbor and Court St. He doesn't move for weeks. Sitting on a milk crate he is christened Capt. Bubblegumhead... or was he. I assumed this was just some stupid name my friends came up with until...
1994 finds me working at Al Kessel's Al E. Oops Soul Food Cafe. Yeah, I know, that is a story in and of itself. Anyway, one of my fellow dishwashers is a Black Muslim kid by the name of Termikius.
 
Termikius was a fixture for years at Pierson and Clio hawking copies of Farrakhan's Final Call newspaper. Uhhhh so, one day he regaled me with a story, the confirmation of the existence of Capt. Bubblegum. A few years previous he and two buddies were pursued by a guy on a moped screaming "I'm gonna kill you". Termikius wasn't ashamed to say that he and his pals were in a state of total horror. After all, they were being hunted down by Capt. Bubblegum!!! WTF?!? I implored him to tell me more. Another co-worker chimed in as well. This superhero gone bad was a well-known freakazoid on the north side. Allegedly he never actually caught his prey, but if he did would we ever really know?
So let's solve this mystery. Anyone have some reliable info on Captain Bubblegum?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Industrial Gothic

More Industrial Gothic images from the flood of 1960 in Flint.


Industrial Gothic


I got a package in the mail today from artist and author Tom Pohrt that included a collection of Kodachrome Stereo Transparencies labeled "Spring '60 Flood." I scanned a few to get a better look and discovered these eerie, hauntingly beautiful images of Flint when water ruled the Vehicle City.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Daddy Strikes for Us Little Tykes



Brett Herron, a Flint Expatriate who lived on Stevenson Street and graduated from Northern High School in 1990, reports from the front lines of the Chicago teachers' strike:
Months ago I vowed if we went on strike, my son Ian would march with a reproduction of the famous "little tyke" sign. Ian picketed, marched, and participated in rallies every day of the Chicago Teachers Strike. Actually, he first began protesting back in December at 6 months old. Anyway, during the strike many people asked about the sign and the original image included on it. I really enjoyed educating Chicagoans on the Sit-Down Strike and connecting good ol' Flint to the Windy City.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Flint Photos: Bread and Circuses

The year is 1968 and young Dave McDonald (known to readers as Slick) is at the grand opening of Feke and Yott grocery store on Ballenger, picking up a free bag of Bozo Bread handed out by none other than Bozo himself. The Feke and Yott was next door to the old Yankee Store, which in latter days became Zody's and, eventually, Rollerworld. With his corduroy coat and matching hat, Dave is indeed slick.

Flint Voters Weigh In on Penalties for Pot


Marijuana will have a place on the November ballot in Michigan. Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, writes:
Voters in four Michigan cities will decide this November on municipal ordinances seeking to legalize or depenalize local marijuana offenses. 
City officials in Flint, Michigan most recently approved a citizens initiative to amend the city code so that the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis paraphernalia by those age 19 or older is no longer a criminal offense. 
Proponents of the ordinance submitted over 1,000 signatures from registered Flint voters to place the proposal on the November ballot.
Michigan's medical marijuana laws are in flux. The state supreme court is considering a case that questions whether patients can sell marijuana to each other, an issue that cuts to the heart of how dispensaries work. The state legislature has bills pending on the issue. Flint recently extended its moratorium on new dispensaries. 

A new book on marijuana, Super-Charged: How Outlaws, Hippies, and Scientists Reinvented Marijuana by Jim Rendon, provides a deep dig into the topic, with plenty of detail on how California's dispensary system does and doesn't work, the science behind the claims of medicinal efficacy and lots of up close interviews with growers, breeders and dispensary operators. And, on a cautionary note for those hoping to cash in on medical marijuana, in places like California that have become a magnet for growers and dispensaries, prices have crashed and plenty of those hoping to make their fortunes have gone bust.

Flint Artifacts: Flint Institute of Barbering Briefcase


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cities Past and Present: The Photography of Jiang Pengyi

"Unregistered City No. 1," a photograph by Jiang Pengyi.


I thought these photographs captured the abstract nature of Flint that exists in the minds of many expatriates, especially those who left when the city was thriving and haven't returned. There's the Flint you remember living in — a happy place burnished by nostalgia — and then there's the Flint of today formed only by news reports, dire statistics, and your imagination. This abstract Flint isn't a real city, it's like a decaying architectural model locked away in a warehouse. But the shiny, prosperous Flint you remember probably isn't real either.

The photographer, Jiang Pengyi, is interpreting the intersection of the past and the present in a very different place: "My photographs of city, still objects and massive skyscrapers reduced to miniature sizes communicate my recurrent themes of excessive urbanization, redevelopment and demolition in the Beijing city."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Flint Photos: Family Gathering in Evergreen Valley


Flint Expatriate Joe Dennis passed along this photo of a family gathering on Wood Lane in the Evergreen Valley neighborhood around 1975, possibly at Thanksgiving. It includes Joe's parents, aunt and uncle, grandparents, and older brother. That's Joe in the high chair on the right. Joe's father, Dr. Benjamin GDennis, seated at the head of the table, was born in Liberia and taught both sociology and anthropology at UM-Flint. He held a dual Ph. D. and was recruited in 1970 to help form the Africana Studies program. Dr. Dennis retired in 1992, the same year Joe graduated from Flint Central. "He was a great man," Joe said.

Flint Photos: Dale and Dan Kildee

Congressional candidate Dan Kildee (left) presents a lifetime achievement award to his uncle, Rep. Dale Kildee, who has represented the Flint area for decades, at the recent Michigan Democratic Convention.

Friday, September 14, 2012

That's Genesee Towers with an "S"

Why is Genesee Towers plural? There's only one tower. Was there supposed to be another one? I'd always thought it was simply a self aggrandizing naming scheme based on the dubious rationale that it's two buildings stacked on top of each other with an open-air space between them. Anyone have the facts?

Chop City: The Shape of Urban Life

 A map of Berlin from above.

What would Flint look like if it were "dismembered, dissected block by block, the blocks then categorized, sorted and stacked by shape?" NPR's Robert Krulwich looks at the work of French artist Armelle Caron, who deconstructed and rearranged some of the world's great cities.


Berlin reshuffled and rearranged.

Krulwich asks: "So which city looks craziest when it's all cut up? This won't surprise you, because it has been around so long, having been a world capital for over a thousand years. It's lived through the donkey/cart phase, the chariot period, the wagons with axles time, the bicycle, the automobile. It's been rejiggered, re-adapted, redesigned, realigned so many times, it couldn't come out normal."

What's your guess? Find out here.

Flint Expatriates T-Shirts Still Available



There's a whole new batch of Flint Expatriates t-shirts available in a new color — dark brown and aqua.



HERE'S THE ORIGINAL POST:

At long last, Flint Expatriates has official t-shirts, thanks to artist extraordinaire Jessica Lynch at Slow Loris Designs. They feature the infamous Genesee Towers, the Mott Foundation Building, the historic Vehicle City arch, the Citizens Bank Weather Ball, and my Grandma McFarlane's Buick Electra 225 all lovingly rendered on a slate gray American Apparel shirt in deep blue ink. The original art for the shirt is hand drawn by Jessica.

Click here to order your shirt now. Just click on the "For the Love of Flint" shirt.
 

Please note that I don't make a dime off these shirts. Jessica generously waived all her usual fees to create them, and she covered all the costs for materials and labor herself. That means she needs Flintoids to buy shirts to make her costs back and turn a small profit.

Umm, I sort of implied that she had absolutely nothing to worry about, proclaiming that Flint types were a proud and generous lot who would certainly reward an artist who took such a strong interest in the Vehicle City. I also mentioned that people who log a lot of time in bars tend to be free spenders. So don't let me down.

I first noticed Jessica's work when I was visiting my girlfriend's hometown of Anacortes in Washington state's San Juan Islands. Her drawings immediately reminded me of Flint, and I've bought several of her shirts over the years. I was even wearing one in a photo of me at Angelos that ended up The Flint Journal. (Very slow news day.)

Then I just happened to meet Jeanne Lynch, Jessica's sister, in San Francisco. We got to talking about Flint, and she suggested I contact Jessica about making a shirt. And, well, here we are.

How about a little more info on Slow Loris.
Slow Loris came to life in Oakland California in the spring of 1997. Inside a very small storage room (located in the back of a parking garage) of an old cannery building, the very first shirts were printed.

After graduating from CCA(C) in 1998, Slow Loris founder Jessica Lynch left Oakland and returned home to Washington state. Re-locating to Guemes island, Slow Loris continued to thrive, screen printing drawings onto shirts, paper and clothing for people around the world, and for touring bands like "Tv on the Radio" and " my Brightest Diamond." While keeping true to the hand made quality (no computers are ever used for design making)

Jessica had her "hands" full and in 2007 teamed up with good friend Arlo Rumpff. Arlo had been a fisherman in the Bering sea, and brought his hard working enthusiasm to Slow Loris just in time. He learned how to screen print, (he's better than Jessica now) models most of the shirts on the web site, and deals with a lot of the business side of Slow Loris, a part of the job Jessica was NEVER good at. Team Slow was now complete.


Any average workday in the studio consists of drawing, singing, printing, and beach walks with a bunch of dogs. There's also a pig named Marnie-biddles who likes to observe through the windows and get into things, (this makes Jessica somewhat crazy, but she still loves him). The adopted motto "feeling strong and not in a hurry" reflects the pride Team Slow feels standing behind a quality hand made product .

We screen print on Alternative apparel organic cotton clothing and American Apparel sweatshop free clothing, as well as various FLA (fair labor association) brands.

Click to enlarge all images.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Can You Do This in Your Buick LeSabre?

Made in the USA



Okay, given my past attempts to keep Flint Expatriates free from partisan political sniping, I know this is risky. But try to set aside your allegiance to Democrats or Republicans. And shelve your personal feelings — positive or negative — about Jennifer Granholm as governor of Michigan. Let's try and discuss this on its merits.

Flint Photos: Buick Service and Parts Building in the Fifties

The Buick Service and Parts Building, which later became Buick Engineering, on Hamilton Avenue in Flint in the 1950s. (Photo by Mary Fisher)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Singalong with Michigan



Flint makes an impressive appearance at 2:54.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Urban Alternatives House Lives On

The new Urban Alternatives House on Eddy Street in Flint.

The saga of the Urban Alternatives House continues, but this time there's some good news. If you remember, the project originally involved restoring an abandoned house at 519 Garland Street in Carriage Town with funding from the Genesee County Land Bank, federal neighborhood stabilization grants, and UM-Flint.

The goal was to create classroom space for university students, the community and visiting school children, according to the project website. The house would maximize energy efficiency and introduce sustainable, innovative ways to manage energy and water use. In the lot adjacent to the house a vegetable garden would be planted to encourage more active and healthy living and provide a demonstration site for urban agriculture.

The original home of the Urban Alternatives House (left) and the partially restored Jackson Hardy House (right) on Garland Street in Carriage Town.

"Special programs geared for K-12 students will be presented at the UAH," said UM-Flint Associate Professor Richard Hill-Rowley. "The focus of these programs will be on the science aspects of energy use and conservation. A premise behind these programs is the need to introduce ideas about climate change to these students and use the site to explore ideas of sustainability, walkable communities, and locally grown food."


The house at 519 Garland Street around 1900.


But the arson spree that swept through Flint in 2010 undid all the hard work that had gone into the project when both the UAH and the Jackson Hardy House were destroyed by fire.

This empty block was home to the planned Urban Alternatives House and the Jackson Hardy House. The empty lot next to the brick house in the background to the right is the former site of Third Avenue Fish and Chips.


Now, Professor Hill-Rowley has a new location and additional funding for the Urban Alternatives House on Eddy Street, near the old Central High School. “We sort of regrouped for a while and we had a lot of community support and I was anxious to see if we could still continue with the idea,” he said. “And this house was available through the (Genesee County) Land Bank and so it’s a different place. It’s a little further away from campus, but not that much.

“It’s a house that would do what we needed to do.”

Shaun Byron of mlive reports:

The objective of the program is to teach sustainable and green living, support environmentally friendly renovations for Genesee County Land Bank Properties and promote neighborhood stability. 
The total development cost is $429,840. Two-thirds of the funding for the project comes from the land bank, with another third coming from the university via foundations. 
“The house is still owned by the land bank and we are leasing the space. Because it’s federal funding, they have rules about the way they can lease the house,” Hill-Rowley said.

Flint Postcards: New Chevys


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smell the Mitten with Ben Hamper

Care to go on a two-hour excursion into the vast vault of sixties and seventies Michigan rock n roll with Ben Hamper?

Buick From the Air

 A 1910 postcard of the Buick plant.

Gerry Godin has a fascinating and well-researched compendium of Buick aerial photographs encompassing more than a century on his All Things Buick blog. The photos function as a timeline of Flint's economic fortunes, illustrating the rise and fall of the auto industry in the city.

The Buick factory complex in 1985.

All Things Buick didn't include this more recent shot by Gerry Godin of an old entrance to the Buick site, but it sums up the demise of the auto industry in Flint.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

John Kotarski and The Legend of El Azan

John takes El Azan for a spin on the Flint Public Library lawn in 1979. (Photo courtesy of John Kotarski.)


One of my favorite Flint Expatriates posts deserves another run. The story of Flint's legendary downtown horse and its colorful owner last ran almost three years ago. Here it is...


At last, the legendary John Kotarski has made contact and supplied a treasure trove of photos capturing a time when horses roamed the yards of Avon Street and the thoroughfares of downtown.

John wrote:

I am enjoying the stories about this character called "John Kotarski." In fact, I recognise some of the tales myself.
Kotarski with El Azan and Jill Ackles with Arthur Donaldson's Arabian on Avon and Second. (Photo courtesy of John Kotarski.)

The horses of Avon Street. (Photo courtesy of John Kotarski.)


Go here for more photos. And here are the original posts...


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

I ran a post in January called Pale Rider Revisited about the days when horses roamed Flint. (Full post is reprinted below.) Now we have an update on John Kotarski's horse, which we now know was named Alazon:

TRom writes:

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.
Here's the original post:

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 Kotarski? 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!"

Buick: Big, Bold, Buoyant


Engaged Learning in Flint

Jan Worth-Nelson, director of UM-Flint's Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, talks about engaged learning, the future of higher education, and the college experience in Flint in the latest issue of Pillars.
I’m a long time Flint resident, not a native, but a person who’s spent virtually half of my life here now, which is a shock. And if you know my writing, you know that I’m quite obsessed with the whole subject and I’ve written about it a lot personally. I feel really strongly that Flint – because even today, you know, we’re in the national news again because of Claressa Shields – year after year after year, Flint has an uncanny ability to have significance at a national level. Many times, as we all know and mourn, for negative reasons. But this is a really important town in American history and in the national picture. We have been down way before everybody else got down. They followed us. Now we’re trying to hard-scrabble our way up. One would like to think that we’ve learned some lessons ahead of everybody else who’s trying to come back up. How does a town remake itself after tremendous collapse? You know, 570 arsons, having an emergency financial manager, having Michael Moore trash us time after time – although I have some affection for his work. How is it that a town like this could find our way into some better kind of condition? 
What does this have to do with UM-Flint and active, engaged learning? Everything. Because a university is supposed to be a place that helps people learn how to change their lives, right? So, we are right here in the hotbed of where change can occur, where transformation can occur. We have a responsibility, it seems to me, to help our students figure out how to make some sense out of everything that has happened in this town. It should absolutely be a thrilling and effective laboratory for transformation – personal and community transformation. There are some good signs. There are many discouraging signs. And you know, it’s hard to keep the faith, but if there’s any place where this should be explored and understood, and hopefully remedied, it should be right here at UM-Flint. So we need to get better at it and we need to be happily and joyfully involved in anything that involves that type of effort. This is the place for engaged learning to take place. This is the place. This is the place.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day

Fisher Body Plant #1 in 1937.
Go here for more great labor photos from the Detroit News.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Reuthers: Brothers on the Line




The great-nephew of UAW labor leader Walter Reuther has made a documentary about the Reuther Brothers who played such a key role in the Flint Sit-Down Strike.
Brothers On The Line explores the legacy of the Reuther brothers - Walter, Roy, and Victor - pioneering labor organizers and social justice statesman, and their remarkable leadership of the United Auto Workers union. Directed by Victor’s grandson Sasha Reuther and narrated by Martin Sheen, the film follows the brothers from their rise as shop-floor organizers in 1930s Detroit to leaders in collective bargaining, civil rights, and international labor solidarity. It combines rare UAW archive footage, personal photos, oral histories, and original HD interviews with a broad spectrum of labor, civil rights and political personalities. A timely tale of one family's quest to compel American democracy to live up to its promise of equality, Brothers On The Line is a dramatic blueprint of successful social action.
You can follow the film on Facebook here.


Here's a rundown of upcoming screenings:

Oct 5-7
(specific screening times not released yet)

Oct 16
Stranger Than Fiction @ IFC Center, NYC

Oct 30
Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film @ NorthWest Film Center, Portland, OR

There may be a November showing in Flint at the Global Issues Film Festival. Monitor the Facebook page for details.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Harden's Grocery: The End of an Era


Harden's Grocery, a neighborhood institution for more than 40 years on Industrial Avenue, is closing its doors. Sarah Wojcik of mlive reports:

Several regular shoppers stopped in to Harden's Grocery Saturday morning, including Melvin Hanson, 46, of Flint, who said he has been going to the store since he was five years old. 
Hanson said his favorite memories were coming to the store to discuss scripture with Henry and Minnie Harden, who he said were spiritual and good people. 
"I remember (Mr. Harden) as a giving man, but most of all I'd just pick with him about the honey buns," Hanson laughed. "I'd come in and he'd have the honey buns, and I'd say, where's my piece and he was like, we got plenty of them right here for 50 cents." 
Dion Jamerson, of Flint, said he moved in next door to the grocery store three years ago and often sent his children on grocery store runs. 
"I enjoyed talking to Mr. Harden when he was here – he was a man full of wisdom and knowledge and I learned a lot from him," Jamerson said. "(The store) is going to be really missed. They are some good honest people."

The Ol' Dixie Highway

We have a soft spot for maps here at Flint Expatriates, and this 1923 image of Dixie Highway is a nice one. (Click to enlarge) This is the route a lot of Southeners took to find jobs in the auto plants. And a lot of snowbirds went the opposite direction to escape the Winter Wonderland of Michigan. Basically, you used to be able to just get on Saginaw Street and drive until you hit Florida. (Originally posted on November 2, 2007.)

Flint or Ground Zero?


 Originally posted on September 14, 2007.