Tag Archives: Detroit

Detroit Rock City

guitar

I’ve had more than my fair share of jobs. I’ve been working since I was 15 and honestly I don’t have a good excuse for why I’m not a millionaire after nearly 30 years of employment. I’ll chalk that up to questionable choices and poor planning.

I suppose in time I will write about all of the hats I have worn. For now it’s suffice to say that my varied experiences have made me a well-rounded guy and that certainly helps with my role as an educator as well as my writing.

Recently a friend (and former boss) posted something on Facebook that took me back, back to my early 20s and my time at Detroit’s State Theater (now a Fillmore Theater, rebranded and absorbed by the Gelatinous Cube known as Live Nation).

It will always be The State Theater to me. A 1925 Renaissance Revival style movie house, this beautifully restored theater provided the backdrop for many of my misadventures. It was a pirate ship of sorts. I have a love for architecture and old buildings, and I can point to my time at the State for stoking that fire. The sub-basement was right out of Frankenstein, with huge belt driven fans for an ancient air conditioning system and the projection booth still had the original projectors. They were behemoths. So many hidden rooms, passageways, and secret places. I’m fairly certain there was a ghost or two. Just take a look at these nifty pictures and tell me you wouldn’t want to LARP a Cthulhu horror mystery there.

I began as a doorman/bouncer but eventually made my way backstage, working as a stagehand and also serving as the video director for a good chunk of my time there. My time as a stagehand has ruined me for live shows. I spent too many shows watching from the side of the stage or the soundboard. Standing out in the crowd, just a regular dude, is something that I still have difficulty with. I am a spoiled, petulant man-child.

Below is an almost complete list of shows I crewed (thanks to my friend’s post…he called them up via this database). I have a story for every one of them (another book to write). I’m sure that I am forgetting a few (+/- 20). For now, I just like looking at the list and keeping those adventures to myself.

Any favorites of yours on my list?

I look at this list and think, DAMN I LUCKED OUT.

Continue reading Detroit Rock City

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Interim.

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Gethesmane Cemetary is a small, forgotten field near Detroit’s City Airport. Broken and fallen tombstones fight for space amongst a chokehold of weeds and overgrown grass. Dirt and mold conceal the names etched on the stones. No one is buried here anymore. Few come to visit those that were.

It is appropriately quiet here. In the distance, I can hear the faint heartbeat of a city on life support. I am looking down upon a grave with my father’s name on it.

He’s not buried here.

Two years before he was born, my grandparents had a child that lived for only a few weeks. It had my father’s name. When the child passed, they kept it for the next male child. I am told that at one time this was common practice. To me it seems somewhat morbid.

Dad never made a big deal out of things like this. As far as he was concerned, it was always his name.

He’s been gone for three years now. His ashes are with my stepmother, who keeps them close because she needs to. One day she might put them to earth, or spread them to the winds. Dad doesn’t mind waiting.

There’s already a grave with his name on it anyway.

Photo Credit: DavidFrutos via Compfight cc

The Best Hit Men Come From Detroit

carolinaFor my friends that are fans of classic Hollywood, Film Noir, and crime stories — a wonderfully researched post on Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang and hit man farm system.

It’s written by my good friend Carolina Bertrand, an accomplished gal. We are currently co-authoring “Torch” which will be published by Room 1331 Publishing and Media in early 2014

Give her some love!

http://pauldbrazill.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/guest-blog-imported-from-detroit-the-muscle-by-carolina-bertrand/

I Almost Died A Lot

When I was very small
My mother took me to the lake
Out I floated, inflatable raft
Then I slipped.

I didn’t know how to swim
And down I went. Once. Twice. A third time.
Thrice is a bit much.

But she dragged me to shore.

A few years later, away at camp
In the bitter winter, I ventured a lonely lake
I chose to walk on the ice
After school specials be damned

Through the ice I went
No one to see me

Somehow I pulled myself out (some movie taught me how to do it)

In college, headed to a party
Everyone loaded and laughing
Especially the driver, what a punk
He flipped the damn car at 90

Being drunk paid off
As I flopped out the window

Cut up, but I scraped by. I left a few pints behind.

Sitting at the bar, having a few
A downtown Detroit restaurant
Suddenly yelling, a gun
It was a robbery, hands in the air

Nobody move, he says
So some asshole moves. Thanks.

Gun goes off just past my shoulder

One night I found myself on a roof
Seven stories high, look at that skyline
It was night, and I was stupid
I fell off the back, should look when I am going
Only 60 feet, instead of 150

Broke a hip and my pride. Pride still hurts.
But survive I did

Later to be the punch line of jokes. Maybe you heard a few.

A year later, only a damn year
A violent storm, a tornado in fact
Tears through the house
I hid in the basement

Lost everything I owned
But a bag of clothes. That I had packed for the weekend. Convenient.

It was a close call.

Then there’s the time that fell after
I don’t care to share details
I can tell you that I
Made bad choices, the killing kind

Truly, it’s a miracle that I made it
If life were fair,

I’d be dead.

Two, maybe three times over.

If I were a cat (A Tom Cat), I’d be down to my
Last life. 9 of 9. (Rough calculation)
But I fear that it might be
Whittling away

Being nickel and dimed by fate
And age.

It’s a list of nonsense:
Late onset food allergies, hives
Teeth falling apart (I get cavities now)
Plantar fasciitis.

Now I got a goddamn podiatrist.

Hemacromatosis – big word, big boy.
(Hey! There’s a cyst in my liver. They tell me this happens all the time)

Other bullshit, and bullshit to be named later.

The slow death of minor inconveniences, maladies, risk factors, possibilities.
I think that my last life will be taken by a collection of annoyances.

A lazy hatchet splintering small chips until tree
Number 9
Falls over.

Photo Credit: [ henning ] via Compfight cc

What’s This? Oh, it’s Just Another Award.

Hey there – Tina’s Mommy Time was kind enough to think of me and threw me a Liebster award! Thanks Tina!

The award is for blogs with less than 200 followers, and although I have more than that, the tight group of bloggers that has had my back this past year falls under the limit, so I am going to go ahead and accept this sucker. Ha!

There’s four steps to this monster:
1. List 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer the nominator’s 11 questions.
3. Choose up to 11 nominees with less than 200 followers and ask them your own questions.
4. Inform them of the awesomeness.

Ok, here’s 11 things about me.
1. Becoming a teacher was the best choice I have ever made. I have had the privilege of getting to know so many great kids and have had the opportunity to share what I have learned about life so far. For those of who have known me a long time, we could say if that I had been famous, this would be the last 20 minutes of my True Hollywood Story.
2. I have a book about to come out: Leather to the Corinthians. Of course, if you are reading this blog, you already know that. It’s all I have been talking about. Moving on.
3. I have a great cat who I secretly think only loves me for the tuna cans she gets to lick clean whenever I make my lunch.
4. Sometimes I firmly believe that the forces of the universe conspire to annoy me.
5. I have been on the local news twice. The first time I pretended to be a professional video game player that had won over $50k in tournaments. The reporter never fact-checked a single thing that I said and it ran the very same night. The second time I was on, I was interviewed buying pazckis in Detroit the day before Fat Tuesday. It must have been a slow news day.
6. During tough times I have turned to various cooking jobs to pay the bills. It turns out that I am a lighting-fast breakfast cook. I seriously rock the house. Problem is that I absolutely hate line cooking. Yet another aspect of my life that could be considered ironic.
7. I fell off a roof once. It was about a 60’ drop. I fractured my hip in three places. I laid there for a day and a half until someone found me. When I die, God is going to rewind that part of the tape several times – just for giggles.
8. For some strange reason, during key points in my life, I have heard Bon Jovi songs playing on the radio. Of all the musicians I thought might provide the soundtrack to my life, Bon Jovi ain’t one of ‘em.
9. Sometimes, I am too easily impressed by people.
10. I don’t use a stunt double. So far, I have almost drowned twice, flipped over in a car accident, had a gun go off in my face, was bitten by a poisonous spider, fell of a roof, and survived a tornado. That’s 7 out of 9 lives.
11.The first record I ever bought (it was a 45) with my own money was The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah.” The second 45 was Toto’s “Rosanna.” For a second there I sounded really cool, right? Then it all fell apart.

Now the nominator’s questions:

Baseball or Football?

Hockey. Crap, that’s not an option. I will cast an honorary vote for Baseball, as it was my father’s passion. You can actually read about that here: Lessons From my Father.

When you’re writing, do you prefer to sit down with a drink or food?

Coffee. Always and forever. Nature’s energy drink. Food is a rare visitor when I am writing. I tend to forget to eat when I am really into it.

Do you write out your blog post before typing it up?

Sometimes, depends on how much work needs to be put into it. Interestingly enough, the less work I put into it, the more people seem to like it. What a pisser.

How old is your oldest living relative?

87. That’s all you get.

Last show you watched on TV?

Sons of Anarchy. One of those shows I have meant to get to, finally did. Been watching the episodes in bunches. Great show.

Favorite cologne or perfume?

Whatever the wife is wearing, naturally.

What was the make/model of your first car?

78 Ford LTD. Two door DETROIT beast.  Bought it for $370. True story.

Alan Tudyk as Tom Lucas. But would he truly commit to the role?

Who does your family say you most look like?

I dunno about family but I have been hearing  Alan Tudyk a lot lately. I think I will cast him in the movie of my life, but he will have to shave the dome.

Favorite website (not a blog)?

Io9 – best damn Sci-fi geekdomery available.

What’s the best part of the holidays?

The food. I like to eat. Some days, it’s all I’ve got.

What made you start blogging?

I just wanted to put it out there. My blog is not nearly as focused as many. I’ve tried many different types of posts. It’s interesting which ones people like, and even more so, which ones they don’t. Most of the blogs who follow me have way more traffic and a lot more followers. There are days where I would like a lot more followers, but I don’t have any plans to start writing posts just to generate traffic.

If there is one thing I can promise, is that I will stay true. With my book coming out, I have been blogging mostly about that. I am pretty much ready to get back to poetry, rants, and short fiction posts to be honest.

Here’s my nominees!

I have no clue if they have less than 200 followers. My guess is that they all have many more than that because they all rock. I’m going to pick some amazing blogs, mainly because I like them and I want to see their responses :P.

Here we go:

Only Fragments
EternalDomnation
SciFi Jubilee
An Empty Space
Life Revelation
Wonderings
Jensinewall

and…Poetry Weekly

Ok now here’s my 11 “questions”:

1. If you were a cereal box mascot, which one would you be?
2. What’s the worst thing you did when you were a kid?
3. You have 24 hours to live. Now what?
4. Your house is haunted by the ghost of a dead celebrity. Tell us about it.
5. Tell me a fantastic lie.
6. You’re a cannibal (just go with it). What’s your favorite recipe?
7. I just pushed you to the ground and took your lunch money. What are you going to do about it?
8. Have you ever spent the night in jail? Any regrets?
9. You can tune a piano, but you can’t tune a fish. Discuss.
10. What’s the oldest can or package in your pantry? Why haven’t you eaten it already?
11. Racecars and old magazines. Chewing gum and a ball of twine. Bananas and Heavy metal. Which do you choose and why?

Ok, that’s enough – visit all of these blogs and stay awhile.

Lessons From My Father

A somber week of reflection, for sure…but sometimes that can be a very good thing.

Two years ago today, my dad passed away. He was a young guy, only 61, and he died far too soon. As I have grown older, I have come to understand the lessons that he taught me and I now have a much fuller appreciation for what he left me. I have not been shy with sharing my feelings on my blog, but it will probably take more time for me to process my relationship with my father. For now, I would simply like to honor him by sharing a few of his truisms with you.

“A man must have a philosophy to live by, otherwise he is lost.”
Fairly literary, but Pops was a well-read and very smart guy. He told me this several times. As a kid, it didn’t matter much to me, but as I progressed through college, I started to get it. It wasn’t so much about having a moral compass, but about defining your worldview and sticking with it. I would later find myself sharing this advice with a few of my high school students.

“If I’m not pissing you off, then I am not doing my job as a father.”
Needless to say, I was not a happy subscriber to this mantra. When I share this with people, I often get a raised eyebrow. At first blush, it doesn’t seem that healthy an approach. In reality, it wasn’t so much about creating anger (although teenagers are hard-wired for that go-to response), but what he was trying to share was that parenting meant lighting a fire under your kid’s ass. It was about motivation. And that he did!

“Better a smart ass than a dumb fuck.”
I can thank my father for training me to have a quick, witty response to any situation. Dad could bust balls with the best of ‘em. He had a smart sense of humor and he loved to tease and I certainly have an affinity for that as well. Ask any of my former students. The greater meaning to this saying of his is really quite simple: be informed. Dad read two newspapers every morning, and books in the afternoon. If you don’t know what’s going down, it will go down right on your head.

“Sunday is the best day because of no mail. If there is no mail, then there are no new bills.”
I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?

“Baseball is the only sport where the defense puts the ball into play.”
I suppose that there is a metaphysical concept that could be pulled out from this, but let’s keep it real for today. Pops was a huge baseball fan. It was everything to him. Being from Detroit, he was a Tigers man, through and through – but he did have a soft spot for the Cubs. If I was ever at a loss for a gift, I knew I could always get him something baseball related and he would be happy. He could watch a game and predict every play. He could see the whole field and understood every nuance. Just an elevated understanding that is beyond my words today.

“The Rolling Stones changed my life.”
Specifically, the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He never explained to me why it changed his life, but in my mind, there are two possibilities. One is the cultural timing of the song, 1965. I think he would have been about 17 years old when the song came out. It was the mid-60’s, and the cultural shift of that time is well known. He certainly embraced it. There’s also the possibility that the deeper lesson, of finding meaning and contentment in the internal as opposed to the external, which leads me to…

“I don’t want to be a slave to my possessions.”
Ok, now he didn’t say this to me directly, but it was something that he shared with my stepmother when they first met. How many of us are slaves to our possessions? I can’t say that I am a free man. Not completely enslaved, but not free either. For several years, since the nation buckled under the greed of the big banks, Wall Street, and the rest of the insufferable 1%, it’s clear to me that if more people felt as my father did, we might not be in the shit house we are in today. Corporate America has us convinced that we need the bright and shiny toys, and is more than happy to let us sell our souls to have it.

“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”
Ok, I love the alliteration aspect, but this is still a completely “Dad” thing to say. Sure, it’s great advice, but total lecture material ☺

In mind, as I thought about writing this post, I pictured a richly written piece that would deftly invoke a strong portrait of the man. It’s way more concise and direct and not nearly as poetic as I had envisioned. I guess I will have to save that for my memoirs. I can’t take a thousand words and do anyone justice, especially a complicated guy like my father. These are but a few, and I have no doubt that as I grow older I will understand him in an even greater sense. Today, I will honor him by playing some of his favorite music as I reflect on his kindness, loyalty, wisdom, and intelligence.

Today’s playlist includes Pink Floyd, Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones. If you have a chance, give your dad a call today. I’m sure that he’d like to hear how you’re doing.

And if you’re pissed off at him, and really don’t care to call…remember…he’s just doing his job.