December 22, 2006
I was reading “The Black Dahlia” by James Elroy while I was moonlighting as a security guard at Russell Industrial Center. At 5:31 pm Chris Mihailovich was still in his office, which was directly behind the security booth, when three black males walked in the front door. I got up from my seat and asked, “How can I help you gentlemen?”
The man in the brown leather bomber jacket and who dressed nothing like the other two pulled out a .45 automatic. I instantly put my hands up and my head down. He came around the half wall toward me and put the gun to my head. The three men were shouting things like “Don’t move!” “Shut the fuck up!” and “Where’s the safe?!” But I think they were saying all that for show, because it was apparent that I wasn’t moving and I wasn’t speaking and they only asked about the safe as they were leading me into the back office with the gun to my head.
Chris had heard the yelling and was standing at his office door. He looked at me first and I think was about to ask what the hell was going on when bomber jacket guy turned the .45 on him and said, “Open the safe!” One of the other men who were behind me put something hard against my head, while bomber jacket moved towards Chris. They moved us into Chris’s office. While they kept yelling at Chris to open the safe, the man behind me put me on my knees in front of the desk.
Chris was slow to react to the demands of the robbers so bomber jacket shot two rounds directly next to me. One of the slugs bounced off the ground flattened by the concrete underneath towards my face. I could feel the heat off the slug as it came close and then I turned my eyes toward the gun that had been fired see it still smoking. At this point I figured and accepted that Chris and I were going to be killed.
The Shots put Chris into action, a little. He said “Please don’t kill me, I have a wife and children” and “There is no money in the safe.” The gun man didn’t care and told him to “Move. Open the safe.” So Chris went over to the alarm by his back office door and started turning it off. The gun man didn’t seem to grasp what was going on and while Chris turned off the alarm the gun man shot him in the leg.
Bomber jacket and one of the other men dragged Chris into the back room and toward the vault, while the third remained with me and kept his “gun?” to the back of my head. And at that point I wasn’t sure if we were going to die now. I figured if they left me in the front office I might live, but if they moved me to the back office I would surely die. I mean they weren’t wearing masks and they obviously had no issue with shooting someone, leg or not, it takes a lot of gumption to pull a trigger while pointing it at another person. Well I think so anyway.
Then the man behind me told me to get up and he walked me to the back room with the hard thing to the back of my head. When I got back there I saw Chris sitting on the floor next to the safe. He was handing the gun man the keys to the vault so they didn’t have to use the combination. And he was begging, begging for his life and our lives and for his children sake and asking them to not to shoot him anymore. I wondered if I should be doing the same as I was directed to kneel once again. Should I have begged for my life? Should I have begged them not to kill me? Didn’t they know that Lindsey was at home waiting for me to walk in the door at 11pm without a gunshot wound? I didn’t think so; I figured we were already written off. I asked myself what I would do if I was the one robbing the place. Leave no witnesses is what kept running through my mind.
So while the guy behind me took my wallet and emptied my pockets (nothing in my wallet except credit cards and nothing in my front pockets) I began to wonder if I should make a run for it. I figured we were surely going to get shot in the face or head, so I wondered if I made a break for it and kept my head down, maybe just maybe, I would get shot in the back and maybe live. I figured Chris was done for and nothing could save him now. Just as I was thinking about this the man who was behind me was suddenly gone. He had run to the front to check for police or something. This gave me a little courage and I took a few quick looks around. There was an exit door directly behind me to the outside. But the man behind me came back and told me not to move again.
Bomber Jacket and the other guy finally got the safe open. Chris was crying now and still begging and pleading for his life and his wife and his children. I think he was sure they would kill him once the safe was open and so was I. Like Chris had said. Nothing was in the safe. Some rolled up quarters and pennies and a change bucket. The bucket maybe had a hundred bucks in it.
Then the man behind me was gone once again. If I was going to go it had to be now. I put my left foot up and was getting ready to turn when they left. All three men ran out saying “Let’s go! Let’s go!”
I ran to Chris and told him to hold on. He was bleeding – from where I had no idea. I ran to the phone and dialed 911 and told the woman on the other end the address and that someone had been shot and to send an ambulance. While I was on the phone, Joe and Marina (tenants) ran in with their heads ducked low, I pointed toward Chris and told them to take care of him. Seconds later I ran back to Chris who said “I’m bleeding a lot. Am I bleeding a lot?” I said “No (like it was a dumb question) Chris I’ve been shot before and this is nothing.” Marina looked at me with an awe of shock, but that is why I had said it, I was lying and didn’t want Chris to go into shock. Then Chris asked me to call George.
I called George and then I called 911 again because it had been about five minutes. Then I heard the siren and I ran out to meet them, but they were driving the wrong direction so I hollered and waved and they stopped and came back. Once they got inside they found Chris and one of the officers clicked on his radio “Confirmed shooting, dispatch an ambulance.” This caught me off guard, but I knew that Detroit was a dangerous place and that the police do at least 50 to 60 runs a night and those are only the one that involve a gun. Everything else unfortunately gets ignored. Especially around the holidays.
After the cops got there it was everything you would expect it to be. The cops questioned everybody they could and the lead detective took my statement long hand. I wondered why he didn’t have a laptop to do this with. It would surely go much faster. Lindsey had brought me a coffee while the detective took my statement. I had called her right after in the confusion to tell her to cancel my credit cards and that Chris had got shot. That was it at the time and later she would tell me how unhappy she was with a phone call like that. I got home around 10pm and got into bed. I didn’t sleep much, because I was thinking the robbers had my license and address. I though about buying a shot gun, but I looked over to the couch and saw Sealy my Doberman/Rottweiler mix of a dog and knew she was much better then a shotgun. I fell asleep at 2am while playing with Lindsey’s hair.
December 23, 2006
I went and saw Chris at the Hospital. I hugged his wife and kissed Chris on the forehead. I made jokes that this was an unpaid vacation he was taking and about to take. He will be laid up for a couple of weeks. I found out that he had been shot three times and that surprised me. I guess when you are in that situation you seem to be unaware of how many shots are getting fired. At least five were fired at Russell that day. Before I left Chris took my hand and said “I thought we were dead. Somebody must like us up there.” And he pointed his eyes to the heavens.
The police have taken little action so far, but I can’t blame them. Someone got shot, but he lived. No doubt other people that night had gotten murdered and those cases are more important. The owner of Russell hired a Private Investigator to move the case along. He has questioned me several times. I think I saw on his notes that I am in his Top 5 List of being involved with the crime. Fair enough. I was there and I didn’t get shot. This robbery was an inside job. Funny thing it wasn’t inside enough for the person to know, whoever planned it, that there was only a bucket of change that will now change at least 5 lives forever. The robbers will probably get caught or shot or arrested for some other stupid crime. Chris will always feel the ach in his leg on cold days from the three holes the 45 created. And I…I will be left to wonder why I never begged for my life that day.
Eric Novack is the author of "Killing Molly," http://www.elitistpublications.com/books.htm founder of Elitist Publications, and the former editor of thedetroiter.com…lit section.
I once described Crystal Lake to long time friend and Crystal-lite herself as being “almost idyllic” she turned and corrected my statement – “is Idyllic” she said.
After almost 30 years of summering at Crystal it has become the annual definitive punctuation point of my life, as each year comes around to meet the next. Savoring our Michigan summer (you know, more busy than any other time of the year) doing summer things between those towering holidays. For many of us our “New Year” starts in September with the beginning of school or simply the unstoppable change in the weather. With Labor Day looming we get into summer activities with a vengeance.
At home like most folks I am never without something to do next. It is only away from home – on holiday at the lake that I am compelled to do true physical and spiritual rejuvenation. At the lake I am removed from work, my shop, and the ever-needy house, thus providing the opportunity to shift, for a moment into neutral.
Living at water’s edge makes one keenly aware of how weather controls our lives and Crystal being directly adjacent to Lake Michigan is at the mercy of the big lake’s weather tantrums. The weather typically rolls in from the west and as the biggest bully in the school yard it can easily overpower the daily onshore breeze. Without an overriding system however there is an unmistakable daily pattern of calm mornings breezy days and windless nights. A westerly breeze starts around 10am as inland Michigan begins to radiate the heat of the sun. Sometime after 7pm the trend reverses and the wind subsides as lake and land temperatures equalize.
Evening is the time of greater bird activities, Hummingbirds, Goldfinches, ducks, all come to the feeders and the flowers. Black capped chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Nuthatches, and the Grosbeak, make their rounds in due time.
On an especially fine day the reading chair begins in the sun, soon however it’s too hot so we slide under the shade tree. Hour after hour with the Westward drive of the sun we move a yard or two at a time finding the optimum shade spot each time again. On an especially fine day we read, we eat, we nap, we read, we eat, we nap, and we read.
There are times when the temperature is perfect with doors and windows wide open, it’s as if you don’t need a house, you wish it could be like this always. There are other days that make you stay indoors or take the famous road trip around the “Real” Michigan countryside.
And like every event of every day, good or bad, the time at the lake must pass.
We drive away, say goodbye to the lake, and return to the world that supports these momentary respites.
Tom Carbone is the Arts Calendar Editor of thedetroiter.com and an avid supporter and contributor to the worlds of fashion and device.
It’s a perfect summer day – for once not unbearably hot in the middle of the day and the humidity has dipped. The sky is a delightful dappling of sun and clouds. I’m up at my folks’ house some good distance north of the D, and I’ve convinced my dad to join me on a bike ride down the former rail road tracks now converted into a run, walk, ride path.
There’s a bit of hesitation beforehand, as we both acknowledge just how much work we have to do. It’s true. I have articles to write and he needs to get preparations for the coming school year in order. Despite all that, we take advantage of the day, the opportunity, and dig the bikes out of cobwebs where they’ve sat since last summer and head out.
The trail is a mix of rocks left from rail days (as a very young child I watched trains go down these tracks, and later, before they pulled up the rails, balanced along them on walks), difficult at times like sand to plow through, smaller bits of gravel, and areas completely grown over with grass. As we ride, grasshoppers continually leap out of the way of our onrushing wheels. It’s like setting off spring loaded mines, as the insects exercise their gift of brief flight, usually darting away from us but at times crashing right into us – as if weaving through an asteroid belt.
The landscape is every shade of green from trees to grasses to pond plants, punctuated by pinks and yellows in the form of wildflowers. Red tinged Turkey Foot grasses reach high over our heads. It’s a moderately short ride to the nearby village of Dryden – where we stop for an ice cream cone. You wouldn’t know to look at it today, but Dryden was once a thriving, vital though small town. At the time when this railroad still carried people and goods across the state, Dryden prospered with hotels, restaurants, and much more. Today the town is a shadow of its former self, even as more people are building houses in this area, the downtown is mostly vacant, with a gas station and a few restaurants, like this pizza joint turned diner, turned a little bit of everything – the Hen House Café, where we get our ice cream.
It’s interesting, having come from this Smallville and now residing in Gotham, those worlds, only an hour car ride apart, couldn’t be more different. Surveying the town, I can’t help but see possibilities here – a gallery, studios (cheap rent), after all a town named after a poet (John Dryden) ought to stay true to its roots, right?
(Curious about Dryden? I was. Check out these links:
The ride home takes us within inches of a Great Blue Heron, which majestically lifts off a tiny river running under the path, as we approach. Its prehistoric looking wings stretch wide as it pushes off into the woods in the distance. Turtles basking on logs in the water, leave their sunny perches upon hearing us, slipping into the cool dark waters. (Later that day, I would help one of their brethren cross the road as I drove back home.) Dragonflies, bright red, dart through the air.
The trip is short, in two hours, we’ve returned home and our respective jobs left to do are still there waiting for us. But somehow I think we’ve done something more important – this conversation between parent and grown child, this reminder of how amazing our world is, if you slow down enough to look.
It’s sappy, I know, but every time I hear that song, “Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon” by Harry Chapin, I get a bit overly sentimental and have to call up my dad. We all rush around and involve ourselves in important things. I don’t suggest we let them slide. Only that on a perfect day, we don’t hesitate, and realize that some things are more than just important, they are essential. I’ll always treasure this day, and the work will get done. Somehow, I’ll even find time to write one additional article. – Nick Sousanis
For the companion piece in spring time, please click here.
And for a walk through Cranbrook in late spring, please click here.
Jane Jacobs would like Woodbridge neighborhood. The great urban activist and author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” would appreciate the density, life, and diversity here. Philosopher and urban planner Lewis Mumford might appreciate Woodbridge too for the many layers of history and culture that are observable, from the remnants of earlier ribbon farms expressed in the property lines to the dramatic block forms created by a gridiron intersecting with the Grand River spoke of Judge Woodward’s plan, and then of course to the current cultural efflorescence in 4731 Gallery, 555 Gallery, CAID, and the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit. And while my perspective is quite similar to Jacobs and Mumford, my objective is to record something that neither of them could see even if they were alive today – buildings that no longer exist.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are some of the finest records documenting a city and buildings over time. Published for an assortment of years from the 19th century to the mid-20th century, these maps show outlines of blocks and buildings, and often note the number of stories, the materials buildings are constructed of, water lines, and the name of business enterprises (if applicable). The purpose of these maps originally was to assist insurance companies in issuing policies for properties without having to make costly visits to the sites themselves. Having outlived that original function, today these maps have an active after-life, serving as time capsules and showing how cities and the urban form have changed – by comparing maps of different years and observing the changes that have occurred from one map to another. Detroit’s collection of Sanborn maps amounts to 26 volumes with a total of 6,450 sheets, documenting several different years between 1884 and 1951.
Before turning to the Sanborn maps, it is useful to first define the area to be studied. A visitor to the block in Detroit bounded by Forest, Avery, Lysander, and 12th (today called Rosa Parks) might see a handful of homes, widely spaced from one another and a large institutional building whose initial function is unclear. The careful observer might even notice how the block is divided into three sections by an alley running north-south and Lombard Terrace running east-west which meets the alley near the middle of the block. Lombard Terrace has sidewalks on either side but these are overgrown by grass and other vegetation so that they are almost completely hidden from sight today.
With our geographic area selected, we now ask, what do Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps tell us about this block? The Detroit 1897 Sanborn, Vol. 2, Sheet 18, shows a fairly dense and concentrated urban form. There are approximately 20 detached freestanding houses lining Lysander, Avery, and Forest. Then along 12th and either side of Lombard Terrace are three rows of stacked flats.
A simple comparison of these maps with aerial photographs provided by Google Maps shows the block radically transformed between 1897 and 2006. Almost all of the original buildings are gone, except for three houses that still stand on Avery. And a large institutional building is at the corner of 12th and Forest with a parking lot on the site previously occupied by four homes and the row of stacked flats located on the north side of Lombard Terrace. One might then reasonably wonder how 85% of the buildings vanished between 1897 and today?
The Detroit 1951 Sanborn, vol.2, Sheet 90, offers help. This map shows the block fully built-out, and large print letters over the institutional building with the words “Danish Brotherhood Building – Lodge Hall” and in small words “stage and scenery.” So, apparently the large building served as home for a fraternal organization. Then from the period between 1951 and 2006, most of the remaining buildings were removed, including all three rows of “stacked flats” along Lombard Terrace and 12th.
For the conscientious observer, wanting to know more about buildings that no longer exist and how they appeared before they disappeared, one other source of information proves quite useful. In 1976 the Detroit Urban Conservation Project photographed and documented buildings of historic significance in the central city and most historic areas of Detroit. While the 1951 map shows many buildings present, by 1976 several of these buildings are either gone or were not photographed. (A complete inventory of buildings with photographs may be found at www.isaacdavid.com/thedetroiter).
In many respects this block is both tragic and hopeful, encapsulating the potential of Detroit. The tragedy of course is how people and their buildings came and went in less than a century, seemingly destroying evidence that they ever existed here – and that is the tragedy. Of course the potential may be seen in what still remains and what might be done with it. The Danish Brotherhood Building for instance might very well have a large hall or even performing space, and if adapted could serve a use complementary to CAID and the galleries located a few blocks away.
And if this block has a lesson to inspire Detroiters today, it is that everything lost is not forgotten, and even in a block as fragmented and broken as this life goes on and there is hope.
Isaac David is a preservationist who lives in Detroit. Find our more at www.isaacdavid.com.
I arrived early for the exhibition at Cranbrook, partly by design and partly by accident, and I took use of that time to explore the grounds. Something I never tire of doing, and feel a special attachment to, as my family came together in this place, and it holds a special sway in my personal mythology.
It’s raining, but lightly as I left the crowd walking towards the museum, and clambered down the gentle slope of a hill descending towards the ponds, cautiously at first, and then giving in to gravity’s pull and accelerating to a slight run the rest of the way down. The sounds are wonderful, a cacophony of red wing blackbirds, frogs, toads, and more. To both sides of me giant pines reached up to the sky, prehistoric like on either side of this clearing I’m on.
In the distance, the bright yellow blossoms covering a tree near the water, stood out strongly against the grey sky and haze that is the landscape this day. Approaching the water, the racket of the amphibians was almost deafening. The small pond is bridged by a spit of land and a boardwalk through its soggy center. The wooden walkway is springy, and so too are the cement pads on the not so solid ground within. With spongy, bouncy steps, I entered further. Dazzled by marsh flowers, brilliant in color and form. A pair of ducks approached me while swimming, and then jumped on land, and clambered but a few feet away, either unconcerned by my presence or more likely waiting for an expected handout!
I heard rustling in the grass and occasional significant splashes into the water, and realized I just might be able to get a glimpse of the source of this overwhelming singing.
I peered into the water to get a better look, and I saw them: swimming, gliding, resting, and SINGING!! One toad more or less posed for me – offering up a nice profile for the camera. His throat sac expanded to tremendous volume as he belted out his tune. And then, in resting, this air pouch would disappear completely into his throat. Ha! Such a noise from so small a creature.
I left the pond to walk up towards the mansion and its accompanying gardens. More color – the pink of tree blossoms. It’s here that I found myself a bit frustrated. As the child of an environmental studies teacher, I know that I once could identify the trees, the sounds, all of it to some degree. My mom taught me such things as a little boy, but on this day, it’s forgotten, and all I can do is appreciate the colors, the forms, the sounds, as I might enjoy a painting – an aesthetic appreciation with no analysis.
It’s at this point that I hear loud voices, and realize the reason there are tents up is that there is a wedding taking place. Whoops! I’ve almost wandered right into it, and decided to make a hasty exit. Though I note here, what better place than this spring symphony of song and color for a celebration of love and creation.
And so I finally headed back towards the museum, cutting through the manicured path slicing through the woods. In looking back, I saw the wedding party in the distance, and in front of me lay the rectangular arch leading up to the art museum, abstracted lion guarding the entrance silently. At this moment, for some reason, a wave of good feeling came over me, and perhaps I have better insight into the joyful singing I’ve heard.
And then there is the art show (which you can read a little bit about here), notable for its scale, interactivity and pure, unbridled creativity. Much so like my walk itself.
After the exhibition a number of us stood outside the museum conversing. The air temperature dipped, and a sound advanced towards us from the west. This constant patter kept moving closer and closer still, till finally giant raindrops splatted on the ground around us, causing folks to take cover below the museum’s arch until the brief pelting passed. Shortly after, the skies lit up – lightning split the air, forking its way across the sky. A spectacle, a reminder of the wonder of this earth on which we live. Art inside and out, and wonder in both. – Nick Sousanis
For L, with gratitude
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