Thursday, July 31, 2008

Detroit Staycation: The Detroit Zoo

When was the last time you visited our Detroit Zoo
Did you know that the Zoo is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this weekend?

Precursors to the Detroit Zoo included a circus at Michigan and Trumbull in 1883, across from what the site of Tiger Stadium. But it went broke, and the site was converted to a horse auction building. The Detroit Zoological Society began in 1911, working on acquiring land. Twice land was purchased, but was sold to commercial interests at a profit before a new zoo could be built. Finally in 1916, the Society purchases 125 acres of land along Ten Mile Road in Royal Oak just west of Woodward. Development of the land and purchasing of animals was financed by loans from Detroit Zoo Society members. The official opening of the present Detroit Zoo finally occurred on August 1 1928.

From its beginning the Detroit Zoo has been one of only a few zoos in the county with barrier-free animal exhibits. Today, our Detroit Zoo also has free-flight aviaries for the birds, and has maintained the architecturally significant buildings and exceptional grounds.

The mission of the Zoo is to have a healthy and enriching place for the animals, and educational as well as entertaining for the human visitors which number over one million every year. There are lots of activities for all ages at the Zoo going on this weekend for the 80th Anniversary celebration, as well as fun things to do all summer.

It is up to us to help keep the Detroit Zoo the excellent Detroit attraction that it has been for 80 years. This Tuesday, August 5, there is a 0.1-mill proposal on the ballot for Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. This is a 10-year millage request which would cost the average homeowner just $10.00/year. If can read this blog, you can definitely afford $10/year. Please support our Zoo by voting "Yes" on the millage this Tuesday, August 5th; and I'll see you at the Zoo!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Op-Ed: 12-Step Program for Detroit Step Four

Every Wednesday, there is an Op-Ed piece about Detroit, and I am working on a series about a "12-Step" Program for Detroit. Not about our city's "leadership", but about the regular people who live and work in Detroit. Detroit and Detroiters are more and better than the current crop of "leaders"; and it is up to us to help to make Detroit what it can and should be.

In the the first post of this series, I asked if Detroit needed "emergency surgery". As the weeks have gone on, issues "up top" have actually gotten worse. So, each week we examine ourselves and how we can be the ones we have been waiting for.

Step Four involves taking a " moral inventory of ourselves" this is a good time to take an inventory of Detroit, the City. What is right and good about the city? What has gone wrong? We can we do to fix what's wrong and improve upon what's right? Sometimes it's good to step back, take a deep breath, take a walk on the Detroit Riverwalk, and just do a mental exercise.

Often people say: there's so much to do, there are so many different groups doing different things, and I'm only one person, I just don't know where to start!

One place to start is with a group that works to bring together all of the diverse organizations in Detroit: ARISE Detroit! ARISE is an acronym that stand for "Activating" "Resources" and "Inspiring" "Service" and "Empowerment".

The goals of ARISE Detroit include helping citizens to become aware of the network of community organizations and services and getting people involved in making Detroit and its neighborhoods and communities to work better.
This Saturday, August 2 2008, is the annual Neighborhoods Day for ARISE Detroit; over 100 different activities will be taking place all day in every part of the City, including Highland Park, and even reaching out to Southfield and West Bloomfield.
Luther Keith, the Executive Director of ARISE Detroit, has a vision about Detroit that correlates with the purpose of the current Wednesday Series on this blog: that Detroit can be a city where children and families are safe, healthy, and strong; and that the City and everyone who lives and works here has a spirit of hope, gets involved in community service, and realizes that we are the true leaders in Detroit.
For a excellent way to take inventory of Detroit and to find organizations where you can be of assistance, attend the ARISE Detroit activities near you this Saturday. You will be sure to find a way to get involved. See you on Saturday; and I look forward to your comments here.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Bike Licenses Needed in Detroit!

As I posted a few weeks ago, the Detroit Police Department was going to start enforcing a 45-year-old ordinance requiring pedestrian bikers to have licenses. The purpose, said Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings after a protest was scheduled, was to help retrieve stolen bikes.

However, at this time of economic tightness, many people thought that fining someone $55.00 because they didn't have a $1 license was just a money grab by the Detroit Police Department.

Today, however, the Detroit City Council voted to repeal that unpopular and controversial ordinance. So cyclists in Detroit are safe from being ticketed by the police, but probably shouldn't call them if their bike is stolen.

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Shopping in Detroit: Zaccaro's Market

See my Squidoo version of this article here...

In many urban areas, it is difficult to find high quality grocery stores in the neighborhoods. In Detroit, however, there are several grocery stores that are filling that need. It is not necessary to go to the 'burbs for the freshest food selections, although there are wonderful stores all over the Detroit Metroplex.

Located on Woodward in Midtown Detroit just north of Mack Avenue, Zaccaro's Market, owned by Northpointe Food Ventures, brings to Detroit a new shopping venue for wholesome, locally produced

fresh food and deli items.

Zaccaro's has several departments within its store, including bakery items, fresh seafood and meats, imported cheeses, and local and imported wines. There is a large selection of natural and organic foods as well.

The interior of Zaccaro's reflects the historic building in which it is located, and the location right on Woodward makes the store accessible by both private and public transporation, as well as within walking distance of everyone in Midtown. There is a parking lot in the back of the store.

Catering is available, and as a part of its mission to be an integral part of the community, Zaccaro's Market also has various events thoughout the year.

Yes, right here in Detroit, you can shop in a beautiful grocery store for the freshest food items and a full delicatessen!

Detroit's Specialty Food Market and Cafe'
3100 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 832-3400 Fax (313) 832-3401
Open M-Th - 8-8 pm, Fr-Sa - 8-9 pm, Su - 10-5 pm

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Detroit Neighborhoods: Urban Living at its Best in Midtown

The Midtown Neighborhood in Detroit, which includes the University Cultural Center, boasts a rich history, and is a shining example of the exciting redevelopment efforts in the past several years. If you are looking for a disverse and walkable community that is both old and new, it would behoove you to think about locating to Midtown Detroit.
Midtown is a large area in, naturally, the middle of Detroit, bordered roughly by the John C Lodge Freeway on the west, the I-75 Freeway curving around on the south and east, and the I-94 Freeway on the north. Within the 2-square-mile radius of Midtown, there are two radio stations, three historic inns, eleven art galleries, thirty-five restaurants and internet cafes, six museums, nine theatres, a hardware store, a dry cleaners, grocery stores, specialty shops, and bookstores, a world-class medical center, a major university, and lofts, townhomes, and apartments.

In the early 20th century, the Midtown Area was centered around the automobile industry, and was filled with auto dealerships; especially on Cass Avenue.

Beginning in the late 1800s, many of the libraries and museums of Detroit were built in the area, ostensibly to be close to what was then the original Detroit Central High School (built in 1858 as the first public high school in Detroit and Michigan) and what became Wayne State University, Michigan's only urban research university.

The Cultural Center is aptly named because of the concentration of many of the city's museums and art galleries. The Main Detroit Public Library is located on Woodward, and is right across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Also in the Cultural Center: the Detroit Historical Museum--which has the very popular "Old Detroit" exhibition, the Children's Museum School, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Center for Creative Studies, the Friends of First Living Museum--featuring a live reactment of the Underground Railroad, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and the Detroit Science Center. There are also over a dozen theater and performing arts venues and other educational institutions, including the Max M. Fisher Music Center--home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the IMAX Dome Theatre, and the Detroit School of the Arts.

Today, Midtown is exploding with both commercial and residential properties both for purchase and lease. Lofts rebuilt from historial commercial buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries, new condominum townhomes, updated carriage houses, and refurbished mansions in the Brush Park Historic District are all available.

For more information, visit the website of the University Cultural Center Association.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sold Out! Jill Scott in Detroit at Chene Park

We took a long walk around the park after dark...we found a place for Detroit jazz/fusion lovers to spark...

On Sunday July 27, Chene Park was packed and rockin' for the Jill Scott Concert!

Just about every paid seat was filled; people were in their lawn chairs in the spacious and meticulously maintained green spaces, and lots of lucky boaters parked their watercraft on the Detroit River.

The night was perfect; the weather was perfect; the venue was perfect; Jill was perfect! Major props to North Philly!

Opening for Jill was an awesome musician named Bilal Sayeed Oliver--also from Philly--we could have listened to more of him.

You can get Jill Scott's latest album, The Real Thing, here; and Bilal's wonderful jazz/soul/fusion album, Soul Sista here.

Check out the remaining artists slated for Chene Park, and have some wonderful staycations right here in the "D"!

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BestSeller in the Family!

My daughter, Samiya A. Bashir, is an award-winning author and poet and one of her latest books has been listed on a best-sellers list for poetry. Samiya is a Cave Canem Fellow and a founding organizer of Fire & Ink.

Samiya's work has been reprinted internationally and she has read her poetry to audiences across the U.S. and in Europe. Samiya has won numerous awards for her poetry since serving as Poet Laureate of the University of California during her studies, and continues to teach creative writing to adults and children. She graduated from UC-Berkeley with honors. You can follow her art and commentary online at Scryptkeeper, and P├źnz (it's pronounced pants) a year-long, daily group art blog she shares with Senalka McDonald, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, and Ana-Maurine Lara. She currently resides in Austin, Texas.

You can get more information about her book, Where the Apple Falls, by clicking the link or on the sidebar.

I am a very proud Mommy!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The History of the Model T in Detroit

If there is any one thing that people around the world identify with Detroit it is the motorcar.

Many people have the incorrect idea that the modern car was invented by Henry Ford. In actuality, there were many different inventions and inventors of what would eventually become the gasoline-powered motorized automobile, including plan drawings by Leonardo da Vince and Isaac Newton. It is almost universally acknowledged that French inventor, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot perfected the very first self-propelled vehicle for the road in 1769: a steam-powered, three-wheeled vehicle used by the French army to move artillery. It had a top speed of 2 1/2 miles per hour, and had to stop every 10 to 15 minutes to build up more steam.

For the next hundred years or so, there were many attempts to improve upon those initial attempts with steam powered and electric powered vehicles. Although for many more decades, streetcars and trams continued to be electric-powered, the internal combustion engine eventually became standard for self-propelled automatic motor cars. All of the early cars were hand-made one at a time, which made them very expensive and available only for the wealthy. Ransom E. Olds was the first mass producer of automobile on an assembly line with the original Oldsmobile.

What Henry Ford did do for the automobile industry, after he worked for several years trying to perfect a personal self-propelled automobile and building race cars, was two things: 1) he perfected the moving assembly line, allowing cars to be built much more efficiently and cheaply so that the average person could afford one; and 2) he perfected the modern factory complex and pay structure with his revolutionaryand controversial $5.00/day salary, because he believed that the people who built the cars should be able to afford the cars.

The Model T, first built in Detroit in factories on Mack Avenue and Piquette Street, as well as in Highland Park on Woodward, was the first reliable and reasonably priced personal transporation vehicle. By 1918, fully one-half of all cars built in America were Model Ts. By the early 1920s, Ford completed the construction of the world's largest industrial complex: the Ford Rouge Plant in Dearborn. All components necessary were brought to the plant by rail and streamboat. Foundries made the steel, and eventually everything needed to build the car was actually assembled from the raw materials right at the Rouge Plant...the ultimate in mass production. It has been widely rumored that Henry Ford said that people could get the Model T in any color they desired, "as long as it's black"...

The Model T started its nineteen-year production run on October 1, 1908, on Piquette Avenue in Detroit, building a total of 15,000,000 automobiles. Only the Volkswagen Beetle had a longer run of a single model.

With the mass production of the Model T, and the changes in modern manufacturing and worklife rules, Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company helped to bring about sweeping social changes in America and the world. As the Model T celebrates its 100th anniversary, Ford Motor Company (now headed by Henry Ford's great-grandson Bill) and other American car companies based in Detroit struggle to maintain their positions in the today's global economy and with $4+/gallon gas becoming commonplace.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happenings Only in Detroit: The Detroit Princess Riverboat Staycation

If you've lived in Detroit long enough, you remember fondly summer excursions to Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park on the Bob-Lo Boat with Captain Bob-Lo! (Obviously, I remember!)

In the years since Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park closed, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to bring back the "Bob-Lo Magic". For those of us who remember, it is a toss-up of which was more fun, the rides at the Park, or the voyage down the River by way of Amherstburg Ontario on the boat! (Remember, Bob-Lo is actually a part of Canada...always has been...)

Well, Bob-Lo Island is now a marina resort community (still only accessible by boat or plane), but we in Detroit can still experience that cruise up and down the Detroit River under the Ambassador Bridge by booking a lunch or dinner aboard the new Detroit Princess Riverboat.

The Detroit Princess is a true riverboat, with five levels (the top two levels almost totally outside), and perfect for summer fun. Both lunch and dinner public cruises are available every day of the week in warm weather; charters are available for private parties and special events.

If you are looking for a great way to enjoy your summer in Detroit with family and friends, cruising the Detroit River, seeing the beautiful sights of the skylines of both Windsor and Detroit, book a 2 1/2 hour on the Detroit Princess. Unlike Gilligan and the SS Minnow, you'll be back on land in less than 3 hours!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today's "Betcha Didn't Know This About Detroit": The World's Only Floating Post Office!

Just about every day of the year, even in winter, the Detroit River has long and low freighters making their way around the Great Lakes. Of course, the freighters have people working on them for long periods of time...did you ever wonder how the workers got their mail? (View a live Detroit River webcam and see freighters going up and down the River in realtime...)

Betcha didn't know that Detroit has the world's only floating United States Post Office! Located just south of the Ambassador Bridge is the headquarters of the J.W. Westcott II Mailboat. Founded in 1874 by Great Lakes Captain J. W. Westcott who originally used just a rowboat to deliver orders to passing vessels, the company began its unique and official mail service in 1895.

The J.W. Westcott has its own ZIP Code (48222), to send mail to a vessel, one just addresses the mail to the vessel in care of the the "Marine Post Office, Detroit MI 48222". If you need to send an invitation to your next party to a sailor on the Detroit River, you can find the schedule of the freighters from the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, where you can also view a live webcam of the freighters on the Detroit River.
(All MailBoat/Westcott Pictures by Jim Hebert)

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12-Step Program for Detroit: Step Three

Welcome back to our 12-Step Series on how we, as Detroiters can bring healing to our City ourselves. We are more than our fractured leadership. We are better than the media often portrays us. We determine what our City will be and can be.

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God"...
Most 12-Step Programs are God-focused; this series of posts will not be. The 12-Step Programs started with Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s, and have been very successful. The foundation of the 12-Step Programs is to focus on one issue or problem and to overcome denial of the problem and distractions that might keep one from overcoming or fixing the problem.

While acknowledging the value and importance of God in many peoples' lives, and giving due respect to the principle tenets of the original 12-Step Programs, in this series of posts, we are going to focus on the power within ourselves to bring about the changes we desire.

Here in Detroit, the main problem seems to be that of dysfunctional leadership. Between the dual scandals of the Detroit Mayor's Office and the Detroit City Council, as well as the continuing problems with the Detroit Public Schools, it would seem almost hopeless that the leadership and resulting non-accomplishments of any city's main institutions could keep Detroit afloat, much less thriving.

But the purpose of this series is to admonish us to take steps ourselves to make Detroit the City it should be. In coming weeks, I will be publishing some of the comments from you, from us about ideas for using our own power to bring about positive change. Start thinking about it...

What power do you, what power do we have? What can you, what can we do besides wring our hands and complain? We, meaning those who live and/or work in Detroit can do several things...

1) Make our leaders accountable. That means informing ourselves on what should be done by a certain leader or group of leaders, and then taking steps to make sure that those things are done. In our system of government, the leaders work for the people, not the other way around. They are public servants; we are the "bosses"! I would love to read in the comments section your ideas for reminding our leaders that they work for us...not for themselves.

2) Work to make your neighborhood better. Detroit is a beautiful collection of neighborhoods, but not all neighborhoods are beautiful. Saying that we are in tough economic times here in Detroit is an understatement, but what can you, what can we do to improve our neighborhoods? Have you noticed that vacant lots or medians on boulevards haven't been taken care of by the City recently? You and your neighbors, we, might have to mow and clean up the trash ourselves. I would love to read your ideas in the comments section for helping to keep your neighborhood beautiful.

3) Work with a child or group of children not your own. The children are our future, and even if you don't have school-aged children yourself, what happens with Detroit's children and the Detroit Public Schools affect you both now and in the future. There are many direct and indirect ways for you to help out a child or group of children not your own. I would love to read in the comments section your ideas to directly or indirectly help Detroit's children be the best they can be.

Remember, when leaving your comments, we already know what the problems are, we are seeking solutions; and not just any solutions, but solutions that you, that we, can bring about. I look forward to hearing from you, from us!

(All Pictures courtesy of Google Images)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shopping in Detroit: Pewabic Pottery

When it's time to remodel your Detroit home, whether it's old or new, you'll want to schedule a visit to Detroit's own unique Arts and Crafts Design Studio and Museum: Pewabic Pottery, located on East Jefferson.

One of only three of the original potteries in America founded during the Arts and Crafts Movement, Pewabic Pottery has been in existence since 1903. It is now nationally renowned and home builders and home remodelers alike realize the pride and added resale value inherent in having "made by Pewabic Pottery" design elements in their homes.

Pewabic Pottery was founded by Mary Chase Perry Stratton in a stable on Alfred Street. In 1908, the studio moved to its present location in the beautiful custom-designed (by William Chase Stratton) Tudor Revival building in which it still is located. In 1991, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark; and is the only historic pottery in Michigan.

Pewabic Pottery produces tiles, ornaments, gifts, gardenware, and historic reproductions and adaptations. Custom installations are all over the world, including many national landmarks and government installations.

The work of Pewabic Pottery is well known for its unique glazing of its tiles and other objects.

Today, the in-house designers and artists work with homeowners and architects to create custom tile designs for public buildings, private corporate offices, and private homes.

Pewabic Pottery today includes a museum with tour schedule, an education center, design studio, workshops and exhibits, and an online store.

No matter what design idea, you'll be sure to find something to enhance
your home or office at Pewabic Pottery.

The next time you ride the Detroit People Mover, make sure to notice the "Arts in the Station" murals at the Times Square Station. The murals, designed by Tom Phardel, were specifically commissioned for the 1987 opening of the Detroit People in honor of Detroit architect and philanthropist W. Hawkins Ferry.

Pewabic Pottery is open from 10 -6 Monday through Saturday, and 12 - 4 on Sundays.

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