CEO, The Rudin Group
Posted: February 26, 2011 06:49 PM
This is the 20th anniversary of my move from Detroit to New York City. I traveled on a one-way ticket from Detroit's Metropolitan Airport to New York's LaGuardia airport. I left behind the city that had been my home for my first 30 years. I did not look at what I was leaving behind in Detroit, but I was focused on my future in NYC.
The city of Detroit that I left behind 20 years ago was burned out and bruised, and since then, it has declined even further. Brad Anderson recently filmed a movie, "Vanishing on 7th Street," in Detroit and claimed, "If you are doing an apocalyptic movie, Detroit is the place to go. The streets are devoid of people and the vacant buildings are endless."
In fact, there are no longer traffic reports within the city of Detroit. There are simply not enough cars and people to fill the large geographic expanse that is the City of Detroit. Sadly, I read the negative press as Detroit wrestles with itself to figure out how to reinvent itself through rezoning, bringing in new industries like filmmaking and trying to figure out how to retrain its workforce.
It was with much pride that I watched the Chrysler commercial with Eminem during the Superbowl and saw the familiar images of Detroit as they flashed across the screen. The commercial itself was lauded because of its spirit of renewal. But for me, the images of Detroit reminded me of my Motor City soul. Although it was Eminem who first made "8 Mile" widely known, for me that was simply where my grandmother lived; 8 Mile Road is the imaginary dividing line between the city of Detroit and the surrounding northern suburbs.
There were some images in the commercial that resonated with me, as they represented my Detroit-- for example, frescos from the Detroit Institute of Arts. These famous frescos were created by acclaimed artist Diego Rivera and feature images of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Edsel Ford (who commissioned the work) and William Valentiner (Director of the DIA at the time). These men were contemporaries and influential on the artistic, technological and industrial roots of Detroit. Cars define the Motor City, not because Henry Ford invented the car there but rather because he invented the method of efficient manufacturing: the assembly line. His goal was to mass-manufacture and mass-market his cars so that his workers could each drive a Ford car. Although most people know that Detroit has one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, the reason is not widely known. It was Henry Ford who brought them to Detroit: because Muslims did not drink alcohol, they were more reliable as assembly line workers.
Growing up in Detroit as the daughter of a Teamster attorney, I was keenly aware of the car/industrial culture as well as the management/labor tension. The Big Three automakers (Chrysler, Ford and GM) were like big battleships, almost unstoppable and unable to easily change course. They were strong and mighty. During the MidEast oil crisis of the '70s, each of the Big Three automotive companies had two parking lots for their vendors: a near parking lot for those driving American cars, and a far parking lot for those driving foreign cars. The first car that I had was a Plymouth Duster with an awesome stereo and eight-track tape player. This is my Detroit!
Another important part of Detroit is the African-American cultural imprint. Detroit was the last stop on the Underground Railroad -- the escape route for slaves during the Civil War -- before Canada. Many African Americans stayed in Detroit without ever crossing over to the border (the only place where the U.S. is north of Canada.) The Fist of Detroit, "Brown Bomber" Joe Louis's fist, was shown during the commercial. Downtown Detroit is also home to the Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings play hockey. Another important image in the Chrysler commercial showed a gospel choir, central to the culture in Detroit, from which Motown music was an outgrowth. Aretha Franklin was the daughter of a preacher. Many Motown artists grew up attending large churches with active choirs and were influenced by the music they heard. The original home of Motown Records, "Hitsville USA," was also located downtown, near Wayne State campus. I would drive by it almost every day in my car with my Motown music blaring. The soundtrack of my Detroit years is a combination of Motown music including Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, and others. But I also listened to the music of homegrown Detroit rock-and-roll artists like Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder, Ted Nugent and Grand Funk Railroad. This is my Detroit!
There is also the food of Detroit -- the longtime rivalry of the next-door Coney Island restaurants: hot dogs with "skin" slathered in "loose" chili, onions and mustard. American Coney Island and Layfayette Coney Island battle today for the top dog and "loose" hamburger (chili in a hamburger bun). In Detroit's Greektown, you can yell "oompah" to saganaki -- cheese grilled in brandy and lit on fire! If you are thirsty, there is the famous "pop" (soda) of Detroit -- Vernors Ginger Ale (the oldest soft drink brand in America) and Faygo Red Pop. Or even drink a Stroh's beer. Also, pizza is a Detroit staple, with two successful chains beginning there: Little Caesar's and Domino's.
Fondly, I remember going to Sander's, which was an old-fashioned fountain shop, when I was growing up. Typically, they served water in paper cones that fit into the tin bottoms. Sander's was famous for their hot fudge cream puff. It's a pastry filled with cold vanilla ice cream and hot Sanders fudge poured on top (mmm...). And I almost forgot Sander's bumpy cake -- chocolate cake and frosting with "bumps" of buttercream between the frosting and cake!
While I was growing up in Detroit, fall meant going to the cider mills for freshly squeezed apple cider and piping-hot greasy donuts. You could smell the apples a mile away! Hudson's (now Macy's) was my favorite destination for shopping and lunch. Usually on Saturdays, we would go to Northland Mall, the first mall in the country and the location of my first job. We would go to Hudson's for their famous Maurice Salad, with its creamy dressing, slivered pickles and turkey. It was often imitated but never duplicated. And then there was the classic Detroit/Chinese dish: almond boneless chicken. I have never seen it served anywhere else except Detroit. This is my Detroit!
I could go on and on, but here is a random list of things that I think of in my Detroit: Ambassador Bridge to Canada, going Up North, water skiing on the lakes, the Detroit Zoo, Greenfield Village, ice-fishing in a shanty, tobogganing and sledding, Bob-Lo Island, Tiger baseball and the 1968 World Series, the Detroit Pistons, cruising Woodward Avenue in the summer with the windows down and the music blaring, Hudson's Thanksgiving Parade, Freedom Festival fireworks, summer nights at Pine Knob open air music theater, Pontiac Trans-Am, the "mile" roads, short humid summers and long snowy winters. This is my Detroit!
For 20 years now, I have been living, working and raising my own children in metropolitan NYC. I have never much thought of myself as an "ex-pat" or what it meant to leave Detroit -- until now. There was something about seeing that commercial that triggered a flood of great memories and nostalgia for my Detroit. I realize that my Detroit lives on in my memory and that the future city will be a newfangled version of what I remember, perhaps even unrecognizable to a former hometown girl. Although they can change the physical borders and the types of industries that support the state, I think that the soul of Detroit will remain.
Cue the Temptations' "I'll Be Doggone" and bring on the Coneys! Let's sit back and watch Detroit, like its own Tiger baseball team, come roaring back.
Follow April Rudin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aprilsadventur
Fans Throw Support Behind Queen Of Soul
Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer
Special Report on Aretha http://www.clickondetroit.com/video/26081384/index.html
Music Video: ”Good News”
POSTED: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
UPDATED: 7:36 pm EST December 9, 2010
DETROIT -- An outpouring of prayers continues for Detroit's legendary Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin as she battles cancer.
Local 4 News has confirmed that Franklin is suffering from pancreatic cancer.
According to a family member, the award-winning singer is recovering at Detroit's Sinai Grace Hospital, where she underwent surgery in late November.
The family member also said the surgery was successful and that Franklin was walking, talking, laughing and showing a sense of humor.
WATCH VIDEO: Fans Support Aretha Franklin
WATCH VIDEO: Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer
“The surgery was highly successful," the family member said. "God is still in control. I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country. God bless you all for your prayers."
Those who know Franklin have shared stories about working and spending time with the singer.
Brian and Mark Pastoria run Harmonie Park Studios in Detroit and have recorded music with Franklin.
Inside the studio is the microphone she used to record her most recent albums.
Mark Pastoria was there during her recording sessions and won a couple of Grammys for his efforts."Sometimes you can't believe you're there, but then you have to realize you have a job to do so you get out of that mode," said Mark Pastoria.
He showed off a picture he took with Franklin and Burt Bacharach inside Franklin's home. The picture was taken in her foyer where they recorded a track for her "So Damn Happy" album.
Pastoria recalled what it was like to hear Franklin sing.
"After she did a take, we just turned and looked at each other and he looked and me and I think he was more in awe than I was," said Pastoria.
Pastoria made a music video out of Franklin’s song "Good News" using images of Detroit Brian Pastoria also worked with Franklin and said doing so was like an out-of-body experience.
"To know her as a person, just lifts you up. It really does. She's a very special lady," said Brian Pastoria.
"I hope Aretha feels well and my thoughts go out to here and her family," said Mark Pastoria.
"I feel good knowing that when that people I do talk to that know her, that everybody's being positive. And you know, I know that that's Aretha's nature, and that's her spirit," said Brian Pastoria.
Send your well wishes to Aretha Franklin below
Aretha battling pancreatic cancer
Susan Whitall / Detroit News Music Writer
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is battling pancreatic cancer, The Detroit News has learned from three sources close to the singer's friends and family.
Franklin, 68, was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has earned 18 Grammys in her storied career. Her fiery, soulful voice and peerless musicianship has led to accolades like music critic Dave Marsh's remark that she is the "greatest female voice of her generation." With a track record of hits including "Respect," "Chain of Fools" and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)," it's hard to find anyone who disagrees.
Many who know her are hopeful. "We're all praying for Aretha, that she'll pull through this," said the Andantes' Pat Lewis, who toured as a backup singer with Franklin. "She has too many more songs to sing. She's still young yet."
It was only after reporters flooded her publicist with inquiries last Thursday that Franklin released a statement that she had successfully undergone a surgical procedure that day. Calling the surgery "highly successful," Franklin praised her "superb doctors and nurses who were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country."
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest a person can have, though about 15 percent to 18 percent of those with the disease can survive with surgery, said Dr. Elliot Newman, chief of gastrointestinal surgical oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center.
"Even though it's a small number, there are a group of patients who present with disease that can be cured surgically … if we can get it early enough," Newman said. Among the surgeries is the Whipple operation, which involves removal of the pancreas along with parts of other organs, and reconstruction so people can eat and digest food normally, Newman said. People are candidates for this when the tumors are small and not spread outside the pancreas.
"It gives people a chance to be cured of the disease," Newman said.
Interest in Franklin's health was heightened on Wednesday when the National Enquirer reported in its new edition that she had pancreatic cancer (although the tabloid incorrectly identifies her online as a "Motown" legend, when she actually recorded for Columbia, Atlantic and Arista).
As news of her illness spread across Twitter on Wednesday, tweets about Franklin poured in and "pancreatic" became one of the top trending topics in the U.S. Fans also posted messages on the Queen of Soul's Facebook page, sending their prayers and wishing her a speedy recovery.
Her publicist, Tracey Jordan, had no comment on Franklin's illness Wednesday.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited and prayed with Franklin on Sunday in Detroit, told The News that she was "recovering, and her spirits are high. She's doing very well. She's very prayerful. She's a woman full of deep religious faith." The singer takes daily walks up and down the hallway of her hospital, Jackson said.
Franklin has also spoken to Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who grew up near her in Detroit's north end in the 1950s. The two chatted by phone Sunday night when Robinson was on his way by limousine to the Kennedy Center Honors program in Washington, D.C. Robinson said she was expected to be released from the hospital soon. Robinson, whom Franklin has called her "sandbox friend" because they knew each other as children, called Franklin, he said, because it was the first time he had attended the Kennedy Center Honors without her.
WCHB-AM radio personality Mildred Gaddis, a friend, said it was enough for her that Franklin said she was recovering. "Anything beyond that is personal."
Brian Pastoria, who owns Harmonie Park Studios in Detroit, has worked steadily with Franklin over the last decade and said he was "crushed" when he heard about Franklin's health. "I kind of knew it already, but until you hear it, it's like, 'Wow,'" he said.
Franklin calls him personally, Pastoria says, when she wants to record, rather than going through managers. "She's pretty personal and hands on," Pastoria said. "When she works with us, she'll just call me and say, 'Brian, hi honey, I want to book the studio.' I have saved messages of hers over the years, 'cause it's just cool to have Aretha call you."
Gospel singer Vickie Winans, who performs at yearly revivals at Franklin's father's church, New Bethel Baptist, was "hurt" by the reports that Franklin has cancer. "That's devastating," she said. "I love Aretha. I pray for her every single solitary day."
Staff Writers Kim Kozlowski, Adam Graham, Oralander Brand-Williams and Leonard N. Fleming contributed.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101209/ENT04/12090433/Aretha-battling-pancreatic-cancer#ixzz17cTRoUAj
Deborah Lynn Sabino
Deborah Lynn Sabino: Singer's talent brought joy
- To those who knew her, Deborah Lynn Sabino was a voice you could not forget. Whether singing in nightclubs, in a church, or around a family piano, she made people stop, look and listen.
The 26th Annual MarathonFor Meals-“You’ve Got a Friend” For The Capuchin Soup Kitchen
The 2nd Annual MarathonFor Meals for Gleaners Community Food Bank ofLivingston County
(Detroit, Michigan) – For the 26th holiday season in a row, Detroit radio icon and grass roots anti-hunger activist, Bob Bauer will set up his semi and RV in a local parking lot in an effort to feed the area’s hungry by collecting non-perishable food and cash donations. The difference this year is that, when he finishes the first drive, instead of packing up and going home for the holidays, Bauer will move “Camp Two Fires” to a second location and start all over again!
Drive #1, The 26th Annual Marathon for Meals – You’ve Got A Friend, a food drive for the benefit of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, begins Friday, November 26th, the day after Thanksgiving, and will run for 15 days until Friday, December 10th. The Detroit area drive will be located in the parking lot of The Premier Lanes/New York, New York/Diamonds and Spurs Entertainment Complex at 33151 23 Mile Road, just east of I-94 in Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township .
The drive comes on the heels of the release of a remake of the Carol King classic, “You’ve Got A Friend” by a well known group of Detroit musicians including:
- Vocalist-Thornetta Davis
- Silver Bullet alumnus-Charlie Allen Martin
- Ty Stone
- Jimmie Bones-Keyboardist for Kid Rock’s “Twisted Brown Trucker Band”
- Detroit rock veterans:
o Dave Edwards – “The Look”
o Paul Kramer
o James Simonson
o Skeedo Valdez
o Stewart Francke
o Carolyn Striho
o Barbara Payton
o Jill Jack
o Dan Hess
o Bianca Keitel
The project was Produced by the Pastoria brothers, Brian and Mark, and their Harmonie Park Media Group and comes at the request of the Yaffe Group for the benefit of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. “I volunteered my time for the CD project and thought it would be a natural tie-in with my annual food drive”, Bauer said. “The interpretation of this Carole King classic by these Detroit artists is an inspirational piece that lets those in need know that they are not alone”. Sales of the CD/DVD package will benefit the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. An announcement regarding the availability of the CD/DVD package is forthcoming.
Drive # 2, “The 2nd Annual Marathon For Meals for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Livingston County”, a food drive for the benefit of the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Livingston County, begins Monday, December 13th and runs for 12 days until Friday, December 24th, Christmas Eve. The drive will be located in Downtown Brighton at The Mill Pond Park outside of the Patrick Financial building, 714 to 868 West Grand River. For 12 days, Bauer will live in the parking lot collecting non-perishable food for the Gleaners food bank for the 2nd year in a row. Bauer says, “I’ve been a resident of Livingston county for almost 6 years now and when I found out that Livingston county was the hardest hit county in Michigan I felt we just had to do something … this is my home”. The first drive last year netted over 30,000 pounds of food and is this year’s goal as well.
“Our goal here”, Bauer continues, “is 30,000 pounds in each drive … 60,000 pounds in all! I’ve been doing a food drive here in Southeast Michigan for 26 years … The need has never been more noticeable than last year … and it continues this year. It should be pointed out that 46% of the people in need are children.”
Information about both drives and the CD/DVD are available at The 26thAnnual Marathon for Meals - You’ve Got A Friend facebook page and at Udetroit.com.
Check out the song & video of “You’ve Got A Friend”
I think it was my friend Rob Dewar who dubbed my dad The Big Man. No offense to Clarence Clemons, that other big man, but the name came to life as part testimonial to his size, 6’4”, and his large presence, his encompassing capacity for love and concern, his benevolent and instructive role in everyone’s life, and the depth of his acumen and intelligence. It was a Big Name, but he lived up to it and walked tall with it, gracefully and powerfully. We used to laugh and say we were gonna get bracelets that said “WWBGD” because he was never flustered or without direction. He was the rudder.
The Big Man. He was a giant of a man, an enormous spirit among us, imbued with a pragmatic optimism that in his mind made all things in this country seem possible. It’s something my sisters & I constantly heard growing up—“You can do anything in this country. You can come from nowhere.”
He believed that dreams were merely ambitions, and could be realized with work, friendship, teamwork and vision, yet he was keenly and emotionally aware that the starting line in this country was not the same for all of us. He was an egalitarian in this sense, although he worked in the framework of capitalism, and trusted capitalism until he saw it fall apart at the end of his life. Ultimately he truly placed his faith in democracy as the way to live together.
He didn’t intellectualize his sense of what democracy meant, or ignore it, or just live with it and enjoy its benefits; he and his generation DID something about it. As Mayor of our hometown of Saginaw in the 1960s, he was an outspoken advocate for civil rights. He championed a uniform civil rights policy for state and local governments so that there would not be discrimination against minorities among different municipalities. While mayor, he was also president of the United Negro College Fund, bolstering his belief in realized dreams through a concrete connection to public education.
He and councilman Henry Marsh worked with then Michigan governor, George Romney, to pass legislation at a state level to benefit minorities and inner cities. In October of 1963, the Michigan Conference of Mayors adopted their resolutions for an aggressive stand on civil rights which, among other things, called for equal employment opportunities and equal housing rights for all. I’m very proud of my dad’s commitment to civil rights, his commitment to equality, and his friendship with and support for Mayor Henry Marsh, his successor and Saginaw’s first African-American mayor.
I’m named after him. Growing up with the same name as a self-assured man with his place already soundly carved out in the social fabric of our town and state wasn’t always easy. Add to that the fact that my dad & I were entirely different as people, as men, and it was a confusing, sometimes angry relationship when I was in my late teens and 20s.
He was, however, far more understanding than he was rigid and didactic, and had been a musician himself as a young man—a drummer, no less. He loved his music as much as I loved mine, and once we grew toward each other, working to come to terms with it all—big band, jazz, rock and roll, each other—we found that we were both floating in the same stream of the Great Song, that incredible continuum of music that runs from Louis Armstrong and Billy May to James Brown and The Beatles with only changes in tempo, volume, lyrical content and whether it was a coronet or a strat in the 8 bar solo section. Of the many gifts he gave me, I most appreciate the love of music—a working knowledge of all the American music. Once we started to listen to each other, and each other’s music, everything improved. He went from urging me to sing Sinatra standards on Cruise Ships to getting why rock and roll was such a life-changing thing.
He once saw the legendary saxophonist Sonny Stitt, a fellow Saginawian, in an airport, and was proud that Sonny introduced him to his guys as “a drummer.” And he surely hadn’t played in years.
I think most of us sons try to impress and please our fathers, and either succeed and live with it or give up for the sake of self revelation and survival. I had to give up there for awhile, and just do my own thing in my own way, because I couldn’t find the words to explain to him what I was trying to do, trying to be, how the artist’s life is undefined and chaotic if you’re looking in from the outside, but often highly disciplined and ascetic in actuality.
We couldn’t bridge our differences for awhile: He understood and succeeded in big business; I saw it as manipulative and cold. He hated long hair; I grew it to my ass and loved it. He loved music and knew many musicians, but never thought of a musician’s life as stable or enduring--living as an artist was no way to make your way in love or family or career. He loved order, discipline and predictability; I’d always lived a disciplined life privately but courted chaos and unpredictability until my own kids were born. To impress him and earn his respect and acceptance, I had to reject him and his lifestyle.
I had his name but none of his gifts, or so I thought at the time, and no one stood up to disagree. He was too overwhelming, too gracious, too confident, so gifted as a public person and only plagued with self doubt later in his life.
I remember when he & my mom came to my graduation day from college—I was young, angry and hubristic, and failed to recognize how important it was for them to have a kid graduate from college, a real regret now. In addition to that, the commencement speaker was Jim McDonald, then VP of GM, my dad’s employer at the time, so it was a momentous deal. In my disgust with all things bourgeois and straight, I thought it a good idea to wear nothing but socks underneath my gown, and hope the wind didn’t blow the gown to reveal my birthday suit. When I told my dad I was probably the only naked graduate, to my surprise he found it funny. He understood and loved my mom’s joyous eccentricity and recognized it in me I guess. But when he was 19, he was a Lieutenant in the Air Force, with a world of responsibility and war thrust upon him. There was no sowing of wild oats for him as a young man.
We tussled and struggled through my youth and early adulthood, always loving each other deeply but not understanding each other much. I was successful as an athlete in school, and he showed his pride and love and respect.
When I began playing music full time at 20, he didn’t get or really approve of what I was doing, when in fact, as it’s turned out, it’s almost identical to what he’d done: live in and love my own community, identify the strengths and weaknesses of my community, reach out to others through words and music, try and stay involved out front in a visible way with a message that says that each of us has a true connection to each other and profound singular value, even in our anonymity. The thought is then to help us all identify and change how we live together. He sought to change what he saw while accepting and building upon what was already good about people and place; I continue to try and do something similar. With music, sometimes the objective is just to make people happy or carefree, minus any political entanglements.
In my early 20s I recall playing one of the toughest joints in Michigan, out on Groesbeck Highway, a biker bar with a rough, drunk, mean, indifferent audience. It was smoky, loud, vulgar, violent, sexual, and if you rocked you went over. My kind of place at the time. My parents were always ridiculously loyal in coming to hear me sing or watch sports when I was a kid, and that night I looked out through the smoke and dust and humidity at a table in the middle of this joint to see my mom in her nicest evening dress and my dad in a suit after leaving some GM function. By the end of the night, they’d made friends with everyone around them, buying drinks and shots, listening to the band, having fun, never wasting a minute.
The men that came out of the Depression and WWII were stoic kind of guys. Their models were John Wayne, Gary Cooper, the austerity of Hemingway. My dad was gentle, sweet, patient and kind, but was not an exception to this rule of avoiding any mawkish display. Ever. Not a lot of random praise or expressions of love were spoken, so he showed his love through little actions or hand-made projects. When I was 11 he made me this large box adorned with Sports Illustrated photos of my favorite players in all sports—Walton, Unitas, Jabbar, Willie Horton, Namath. It took a ton of carpentry work, but was apparently easier than saying “I love you.” So be it.
Although retirement at 65 and the 20+ years that ensued were certainly no friend to him and his self esteem, it was a great gift of time for us. We grew to be closer than just father and son; we became best friends and confidantes. I called him or he called me 4-5 times a day for at least the last 15 years, and the same was probably true with my sisters.
When I was very sick with leukemia and going though a stem cell/bone marrow transplant, he would talk to me about sports, the great common subject, as if nothing was wrong, keeping me in the flow of daily life—a very important aspect of survival. And he would never flinch when the toughest questions came at him.
I remember one night, the two of us alone in my room, when I said that I was struggling so hard to survive and live, and it felt like I was losing. I said to him that maybe there’s a way to die as well as live and I should seek that, that acceptance and dignity. Can you imagine your only son talking to you about his own death? I cannot. But he just calmly agreed with me without dramatics, said that, yes, there is surely a way and time to die, but I should just keep giving it one more day and see how I went. It was such pragmatic encouragement…no histrionics, no exposed fear, just emotional consistency and the kind of faith that’s real, not pie-in-the-sky with religious nonsense and your worth tied to your right to live. He had emotional consistency by the truckload.
That night he waved off the orderly who usually took me by wheelchair down to x-ray, and just talked about the Lions and how lousy they were (it was a Sunday in November) and how they’d been lousy since Bobby Layne, and did I remember Pat Studstill and Karl Sweetan and all the Lions that I’d loved as a kid. It was the most kind and humane thing anyone’s ever done for me. I was slumped in the wheelchair with a heart infection and no blood counts and couldn’t talk, but his soliloquy got me through the night. He stayed with me that night at Karmanos, sleeping in a tiny chair for his large frame, and woke with the same kind encouragement he’d given me the night before. He’d seen me through perhaps the longest, worst night of my life. And we both love the Lions to the day he died, good, bad or worse. It was our team, and a real bond between us.
I think at some point in the middle of his life he made it his code to ask about your life and times, your school, your work and family; it was a transgression to discuss himself in conversation, a betrayal of his stoic code.
I also think it’s fitting that his town, Saginaw, a place he loved and served and had to return to almost magnetically over the years, is naming a bridge after him now. It’s a real honor to him and his vitality. He and my mom and their generation extended a hand--they built relationships like bridges. They got stuff done—built a Zoo, developed relationships with Japan, built parks and a Civic Center.
Since he died, much has been written about his public life and achievements. Great men often don’t make good fathers. He would’ve scoffed at the idea of him as anything but just a guy, and I can’t imagine a finer father. He was to me just my dad, always there, a robust sense of humor always humming, always fired up to see you when you walked in to his place, and see his grandchildren and sons and daughters-in-law. As I wrote and recorded more music, worked at my career, and played different and larger shows, he expressed his pride and love for me at every turn. I gotta tell ya, although I had long ago stopped seeking his acceptance or approval, it felt pretty good once it was earned and expressed.
On the last night he was conscious, July 29, I sat on the bed, held his hand and said to him, “Dad, there’s so much love being expressed about you and your health. You’re the most beloved man I know, the most beloved man on earth.” With his eyes closed and mouth open, looking as if he was between worlds, he held up both hands and pantomimed playing a violin. The humor was there to the end—that act said to me: “Big fuckin’ deal. Stop blowin smoke up my skirt. I’m busy dyin’ here.”
For every moment but those last few, he was always busy living—with enormous vitality, kindness, humor, love and sense of responsibility that will remain unmatched in its unique confluence of gifts. He and his generation lived all the slogans we need to remind us to live—“I’m gonna live ‘til I die;” “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s easier crying in a Cadillac.” They didn’t need maxims; they were the Nike generation before there was one. They just did it.
On the morning of July 30, my sister & I held his hand and I put my hand on his chest, feeling his heart flutter then simply stop. That mighty and inclusive and loving heart just ceased working.
I have no idea what, if anything, happens to us after we die. But I do believe that, while life certainly ends, love endures in many forms, forever. If my dad were alive tonight I’d call him and read this to him to see if I got it anywhere close to right. He probably would’ve said, “Don’t let them think I went to Michigan.” Those Spartans, so touchy to the end.
I’ve been told it will get worse before it gets better, this ache in my chest, this desperate and sorrowful longing, this numbing distraction, the sheer physical part of missing someone no longer in this world. I’ve gone to call him several times, walked to his house many times since he’s been gone, as it was part of my daily ritual when he was alive and we were up north near his home. I don’t mind admitting I’m a grown man who is very much wayward, a grown man who has lost his footing and balance right now, because the gift my dad gave me when I was young and searching and angry and uncertain is this: he knew that all who wander are not lost.
CHRISTMAS IN DETROIT 3: Help the Homeless Through Music
Detroit’s top celebrities and musicians are joining together for charity this holiday season, lending their time and talent to “Christmas in Detroit,”a holiday CD set benefitting the homeless and the needy in the Metro-Detroit area. Christmas in Detroit is a unique 3-CD collection of 42 amazing songs by Detroit artists with recordings of both original material and classic holiday favorites. In addition to songs from the first two “Christmas in Detroit” CDs (1992 and 1993), 17 new tracks have been recorded by artists and personalities like Stewart Francke, The Hell Drivers, Devin Scillian, Jeff Daniels, Larry Lee & Back in the Day, Dave Edwards and rising stars Molly Hunt & Quentin Dennard. The new songs were produced and recorded at Harmonie Park Music by brothers Brian & Mark Pastoria over the last two months, with Mark mixing most of the 17 new songs.
“We received overwhelming interest from local musicians to take part in Christmas in Detroit. Their generosity is inspiring,” said Brian Pastoria, co-founder of Harmonie Park and Christmas in Detroit. “Some of these artists are household names. Others are soon to be.”
Proceeds from the CD will support S.A.Y. Detroit, a nonprofit organization founded by author Mitch Albom – who also writes and performs on the CD - dedicated to rebuilding the inner city one life at a time by funding homeless programs in the area. Christmas in Detroit will be released December 1 and will be available to order online at www.ReverbNation.com/ChristmasInDetroit for $20.00 and for purchase at more than 100 Biggby, National Coney Island, and Tubby’s locations in Metro Detroit. “This is who we are in Detroit,” said Albom. “When there is a need, we pull together. And with our musical tradition, when we pull together, something beautiful results.”
and at select Biggby Coffee locations and
Custom Framing & Design on Mack in Grosse Pointe Woods
Starting with extensive data, which showed that Americans began to change their borrow-and-spend ways long before the start of the crisis, we -- as authors of Spend Shift -- set off across the country to find people who were reinventing their lives in the wake of the "Great Recession." The stories we gleaned help us see how the crisis has rearranged our priorities, awakened our creativity, and reconnected us to the people and things that really matter. The faces of the Spend Shift suggest that the consumer is adaptable, business is adaptable, and the future is not as dim as it appears.
Torya Blanchard, Detroit. Owner, Good Girls Go to Paris
With low cost loans from the non-profit University Cultural Center Association, Torya Blanchard opened a tiny crepe restaurant to share her love of all things French with her hometown, Detroit. Serving low-cost but high quality meals Good Girls Go to Paris quickly became profitable. The shop also provides jobs and a light of hope in a city where shuttered shops outnumber those that are occupied.
Charles Sorel, Detroit. Owener/Raconteur, Le Petit Zinc
Charles Sorel opened his little French bistro, Le Petite Zinc, after moving with his family from Brooklyn to Detroit. He had been successful with his cafe in Brooklyn and wanted to try his hand in this new environment. This welcoming little eatery — something like a family kitchen where the coffeepot is always on — makes for the perfect start-up business in any community, especially one that is short of comforts. Le Petite Zinc offers, besides delicious French cuisine, cheer and optimism to its patrons.
Patrick Crouch, Detroit. Program Manager, Earthworks Farms
Patrick Crouch of Earthworks Farms has helped turn vacant blocks into productive farms producing everything from salad greens to jarred preserves. Earthworks not only feeds people in an area where grocery stores are scarce, it is helping to change the character of devastated neighborhoods, and raise inner-city employment. Crouch, who is sponsored by local Capuchin monks, teaches other city farmers which crops yield the greatest profit. He says a handful of properties now under cultivation will soon be profitable without any further assistance.
Scott Monty, Detroit. Head of Social Media, Ford. Dealership Owner
Although a large company like Ford is not where you would expect to find a nimble response to crisis, Scott Monty (left) moved the company toward openness and transparency. His goal was to start conversations with anyone who cared to speak to Ford. The Fiesta Movement on Twitter required that Ford actually allow people to talk about the car in a way that was “unedited, uncensored, unscripted,” said Monty. New products and not taking Government bailout money have also helped lift sales at Robert Thibodeau’s dealership.
Paul Savage, Detroit. CEO, Nextek Power Systems
Paul Savage, CEO of Nextek Power Systems is a pioneer in developing and providing direct current (DC) electrical equipment which provides a substantial increase in the flexibility, reliability, and efficiency of energy systems in buildings. By rekindling Thomas Edison’s original creation, a DC system can be scaled to cover one building or several city blocks, providing the lowest-cost off-the-grid light and power. Savage calls it simply “organic energy that’s made in Detroit”.