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Cycles of change (9/22/2010)
Little bar on the prairie (9/15/2010)
Down on the corner (8/25/2010)
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Metro Retro (10/6/2010)
Metro Retro (9/29/2010)
Metro Retro (9/22/2010)
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE SUNRISE
Lawn at Grosse Pointe Academy, 171 Lake Shore Rd., Grosse Pointe Farms
OK, we can't decide. Last year we sent you to the M-39 to I-96 interchange. Which had an enormous downside: There's nowhere to stop, so you've got to time it just right. A member of our FOBO (Friends of Best Of) convinced us this is the one. His nomination note: "I nominate the benches on the lawn at Grosse Pointe Academy (they have peace and love carved into the wood) on Lakeshore Drive or the church right next to it. I tell ya, that place draws people at the crack of dawn like the angels gathering in that movie with Nicolas Cage called City of Angels." Among the notable runners-up this year: The eastern tip of Belle Isle.
BEST WAY TO IMPROVE DETROIT CITY COUNCIL
Change to a district system
Why change from an at-large to district system to choose Detroit's City Council members? Don't get us started. 1) Currently, there are vast swaths of the city in which no council members live, while in others, council members are practically neighbors. 2) A district system will be an opportunity for up-from-the-neighborhood candidates who don't have the kind of citywide name recognition that counts today. 3) District campaigns will culminate in the kind of focused debates that you'll never get in an 18-candidate, 9-winner general election. ... And skipping to the end of our list: Look at the council now and tell us how things could get any worse. (Unless, of course, you don't want to lose the entertainment value of the current arrangement.) The best way to make sure this change occurs is hook up with the do-gooders at councilbydistricts.org.
BEST ADDITION TO DETROIT'S POLITICAL VOCABULARY
The verb meaning to vote for less than a full slate of council candidates. Somehow, using all nine of your votes has come to be seen as a civic duty. But you maximize your vote by only voting for the candidates you truly care about and know about. Until the system is changed, it's a strategy worth thinking about.
BEST HOPES FOR THE 2010 DETROIT CITY COUNCIL (SO FAR)
Gary Brown and John Bennett
We're still a ways from the summer primary for the Detroit City Council and haven't sorted through all the 350 or so candidates (another reason to subdivide the city into districts) for 18 general election berths to compete for nine council seats. But two hopefuls particularly deserve attention: ex-Detroit cops Gary Brown and John Bennett. Brown is responsible for helping bring down the corrupt Kilpatrick administration with the whistle-blower lawsuit he filed after being wrongly fired from his job heading the Detroit Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit. Bennett refused to knuckle under when suspended for creating a website critical of the department and the Kilpatrick administration. Both men are smart, stalwart and honorable, and Brown in particular now has a smattering of name recognition, which, let's face it, matters immensely in this contest. With Detroit cruising toward ever-more-dire financial straits, we need them, and other reformers like them, on the council now more than ever.
BEST TARGET FOR CONSOLIDATION
SMART & DDOT
Every time a suburban SMART bus whizzes past a potential rider in Detroit, and we see the look of either confusion or frustration on the part of these wannabe riders as they stand their with arms waving to no avail, the lunacy of this region having two separate bus systems — the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Suburban Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit system — is made apparent.
BEST EXAMPLE OF PRIVATE-PUBLIC FUNDING FOR A REALLY WORTHY PROJECT
Woodward Avenue light rail
In March, when Detroit's quasi-governmental Downtown Development Authority voted to kick in $9 million toward construction of a 3.4-mile light rail line stretching from Hart Plaza to the New Center, it added to a pot that already contained significant contributions from private-sector stalwarts such as Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, Compuware's Peter Karmanos and the Ilitch family. Add to that a reported commitment of $35 million from the nonprofit Kresge Foundation and you have funding for about half of a project expected to cost $120 million. Hopes are that construction will begin this year on this key component of a regional system, including Detroit-to-Ann Arbor rail, that could become a reality in the next few years. Throw in the Obama administration's high-speed inter-city train plans and our prospects of being railroaded never looked so good.
BEST INTERSECTION TO AVOID
I-94 and the Lodge, westbound
First, a little good news: No metro Detroit intersection made the Forbes Top 100 list for the worst intersections in the country; metro New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago virtually owned the list developed by the traffic-tracking firm Inrix, which bases its conclusions on, among other data, what it gathers from 800,000 commercial vehicles equipped with GPS tracking devices. Overall, the Detroit-Livonia-Warren area ranked 19th in congestion; using Los Angeles as a standard of 100 percent, D-L-W scored 12 percent. And this area is at its worst on Fridays, 5-6 p.m. at Exit 215, heading west on I-94 from the Lodge interchange. The intersection is congested an average of 20 hours a week with an average speed of 16.8 miles per hour. Don't you feel better having all GPS data to confirm what you've known for years?
BEST JOURNALISTIC PUBLIC SERVICE
Detroit Free Press
As much as it galls us giving a coveted Best Of award to a competitor, circumstances compel us to do just that. For the past two years, the Detroit Free Press, with reporters M.L. Elrick and Jim Schaefer in the lead, has been steadfast in its efforts to force public disclosure of information surrounding former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's secret deal with two ex-cops in the now-famous whistle-blower case they brought against him and the city. First the paper fought to get the terms of a secret side agreement released. Then, after somehow acquiring transcripts of incriminating Kilpatrick text messages that were at the heart of that deal, the paper fought a court battle to have the texts officially released, continuing the effort even after the mayor had resigned in disgrace. And, just for good measure, the paper and one of its other reporters, David Ashenfelter, are currently fighting in federal court to keep from naming confidential sources in another matter. We figure the numerous awards the Freep has snagged for the Kilpatrick coverage, including the Pulitzer announced on Monday, won't be complete without an MT Best of Detroit honor. At a time when newspapers seem to be closing weekly, it's more than impressive to see the Freep committing such a high degree of resources to these kinds of battles — in effect putting its legal resources where its mouth is. It is a reminder of why we need newspapers in the first place.
BEST LEFT-LEANING WEB-ONLY NEWS SITE
The folks running The Michigan Messenger balk at being described as quasi-lefties, but, occupying some of the same territory ourselves, we like the site's liberal undercurrent. The reporting is thorough, occasionally controversial. It keeps a sharp eye on environmental and gender issues (among other things), and keeps putting the feet of Michigan politicians of all stripes to the fire. The site also serves as an alternative new-media model; instead of being a for-profit company, it is part of a network operated by the Center for Independent Media, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that survives on support from foundations and private donors. However you define it, though, it's a welcome addition to the state's media mix.
BEST EXAMPLE OF AN INDEPENDENT BLOGGER RAISING HELL
The former daily newspaper guy has kept his hand in the game with his blog joelontheroad. His biggest scoop came last year, when he reported that Matty Moroun's Ambassador Bridge Co. had occupied part of Detroit's Riverside Park. As a result of that report, the city looked into the issue, decided that Thurtell's reporting was on the mark, and took the Bridge Co. to court, where the dispute continues to play out. Joel's also been pursuing the Rouge River as an environmental story, a subject that he's also written about in the pages of the MT. Wayne State University Press recently published the excellent Up the Rouge! Paddling Detroit's Hidden River with text by Thurtell and photographs by Patricia Beck.
BEST SIGN AT A VETERINARIAN'S OFFICE
Jefferson Veterinary Center
11300 E. Jefferson, Detroit
A few miles east of downtown Detroit, the facts about fur and feathers appear: Groundhogs can climb trees and swim. Robins can fly up to 30 miles per hour. April is microchip month. Those are the kinds of things you can learn from the sign outside of the Jefferson Veterinary Center. Technician Christine Thieman works each month to come up with some catchy nugget of knowledge for drivers, cyclists and bus riders traveling on the busy east side thoroughfare. Veterinarian Alice Marczewski started using the sign for "fun" a few years ago. "If we get some business, so be it," Marczewski says. "But I hate marketing." Each month Thieman researches animal trivia for the billboard. It's not easy. She tries to be seasonal — hence the groundhog factoid that appeared in February — or she'll remind pet owners of animal care needs when it's heartworm season or anti-cruelty month, for example.
BEST EXAMPLE OF GOOD SENSEINACONSERVATIVE
Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley's reliably Neanderthal political bent is one of the things we love to hate, because he is almost always completely wrong. But like a stopped clock (we'd say his Timex stopped ticking sometime in the 1950s) even the Nol-man can occasionally get something right. Which is what he did in a recent column urging that America wave a white flag in the senseless, ineffective and costly war on drugs. Declaring what's obvious — that "we've lost the war" — he says what's true of all lost wars: "Fighting harder and longer won't bring victory." Regulating instead of outlawing illicit drugs makes sense on so many levels, we're surprised Finley actually allowed reality to influence his thinking, but we're glad it did. It makes it easier for those of us on the left who have long held the same position to help institute change.
BEST REASON TO HOPE FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY HERE
$1 Detroit house
When they start selling houses for just $1, as a bank recently did with a foreclosed house on Detroit's east side, this much is certain: Things really can't go much lower. According to some reports, the median price for a home in Detroit is just $5,800 — meaning half the houses sold in the city go for less than that. So, where's the reason to find hope in all this? Well, when something hits bottom, there's no place to go but up. And if we haven't hit bottom yet, we're damn close to it.
BEST AD HOC DEVELOPERS
Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert
Money means power, sure, but curiosity is also power. Artist Mitch Cope and architect Gina Reichert, the husband-and-wife co-founders of the Hamtramck gallery-store Design 99, can't claim any grand scheme hashed out on paper with numbers crunched. They can claim a "What if? Why not?" sort of attitude. They're brokers, for sure, if only to say they're getting way broker by following through on a style of real estate development that puts the environment first, the community second and their own financial gain last: By Googling and then purchasing broken-down and shuttered homes in their northern Detroit neighborhood from the Wayne County auction list, only to resell at or near purchase price to artists-builders who care to repair them, they rank as an agency for real change.
BEST $100 SPENT IN DETROIT
The now-Infamous $100 House
Type $100 House Detroit into a search bar and press enter. Almost 2 million results turn up. You can hit the "next" button about 27 times before you'll come across a page of results that don't have at least one mention of the $100 house in eastern Hamtramck recently purchased by artist couple John Brumit and Sara Wagner, formerly of Chicago. At this point, they could stake an "As Seen on TV" sign in the front lawn. It's been on ABC's 20/20, CNN's Anderson Cooper stopped by, and the story has been featured in The New York Times. On the market for 70 grand just a couple years back, Brumit and Wagner bought the home, which had been ripped and stripped of all appliances and wiring and set aflame by careless squatters, for 100 bucks after being inspired by the abovementioned and Cope and Reichert. Forget the house. Theirs was arguably the best Benjamin that will be spent on PR anywhere this year.
BEST CANDIDATE FOR INTERGALACTIC AMBASSADOR OF DETROIT
This guy is everywhere! He's in print, on TV and radio, he blogs for Model D and the Huffington Post and his New York Times op-ed piece about the $100 house set in motion its worldwide fame. Barlow's also the co-president and executive creative director of JWT and somehow finds time to write fiction (his well-reviewed novel, Sharp Teeth, is in free verse, no less). Let's see, smart, creative, motivated — sounds pretty good, right? a relatively new transplant from Brooklyn, his devotion to the city is nothing short of inspirational. He has pragmatic understanding of Detroit's needs and a tight grasp on the potential of the city's artistic community and creative class. He's already doing the work. Can't the city give him an appropriate title?
BEST PLACE TO BID LOCALLY
Until a few weeks ago, only national companies handled the online auctions for foreclosed and bank-owned properties in the metro Detroit area. Enter the Bearing Group, a Grosse Pointe Park-based real estate broker. Owner Kent Colpaert set up bankownedbids.com as a clearinghouse, so buyers and investors could more easily find nearby residential and commercial sites for sale with a variety of prices and locations. A recent surfing expedition found homes with opening bids between $60 and $150,000. Brokers aren't charged for listings but buyers pay a 5 percent fee. The default charge is $375. The first auction, featuring metro Detroit properties, begins April 22, and ends in a week. Others are planned for the Flint and Lansing areas.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD PROJECT TO ADMIRE
The Farnsworth neighborhood, east side Detroit, between St. Aubin and Moran.
In the most inconspicuous of locations, with all the charm of Fourth Street and a lot less of the traffic, a group of artists, musicians, socialists and urban farmers (for lack of more appropriate labels) are living relatively quietly and beautifully. They tend their community gardens, help each other rehab their homes and really aren't hoping their neighborhood will become the next Hamtramck or Hubbard Farms. They like it just the way it is — removed but not forgotten, like a dream.
BEST WAY TO PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN IN DETROIT
Walking Tours: Detroit Tour Connections: 313-283-4332; detroittourconnections.com; D
Tours: 1048 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-965-3313; dtoursdetroit.com; Inside Detroit Tours:
1253 Woodward Ave., Detroit; insidedetroit.org; Preservation Wayne: Preservation Wayne, 4735
Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-577-3559; preservationwayne.org
Ironically, the best way to take in the Motor City is on foot. Each of these four companies, most of which are nonprofits, can help in a major way, whether you're walking downtown or in the neighborhoods, whether you're going from historical marker to historical marker or bar to bar. Check out what each has to offer then lace up your sturdiest walking shoes.
BEST WAY TO GET INSIDE OLD DETROIT BUILDINGS WITHOUT TRESPASSING
Palmer Woods Home Tour, Palmer Woods Music in Homes
Yes, Detroit is famous as the place where modern day explorers spelunk their way through cavernous ruins, even in one infamous incident playing hockey and stumbling upon the odd dead body. But you can also get inside great old houses that are still the epitome of style and sumptuousness in the various home tours offered. The most elaborate and unique is the Palmer Woods Music in Homes series, now in its second year of presenting classy sounds (from jazz to world music) in the abodes of what was once referred to as Detroit's Gold Coast. Many of the homes are indisputably mansions, all of them are interesting and spacious. There are three more house shindigs before this season ends in June, featuring 1950s homes designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Robert Sarota, and a 1926 gothic revival built by W.C. Morris. For music there's jazz (the trio of Tad Weed, Spencer Barefield and Don Mayberry) and Euro classics (stars from the Sphynx competition and the team of Gabriel Bolkosky and Sarah Bob). Tours tend to sell out, but tickets ($30 each) were still available when we checked recently. There's also the annual Palmer Woods Home Tour (held the first Sunday in December since 1989, in which more than 1,200 visitors bundle up and line up to view homes as decked out for the season) and a preview bash.
BEST FREE JAZZ BUSKER
Eastern Market on Saturdays
"When it comes down to it, I got to make music. It's something inside of me. I'm going to play it at home or in a club. It doesn't matter," saxophonist Skeeter Shelton told our frequent jazz scribe Charles L. Latimer for a profile last year. At home, in a club ... or in Eastern Market he might have added. Which is where we find Skeeter some Saturdays. He's the son of the late Ajaramu, one of the founders of the seminal Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in the 1960s in Chicago. And Skeeter definitely follows in his dad's footsteps. The AACM, by the way, hated the term free jazz, which we use loosely (as always) here. AACM stalwart Lester Bowie once said the only free jazz was when you didn't get paid. In Lester's memory, and Ajaramu's too, drop some coin in Shelton's sax case and help stamp out free jazz.
BEST WAY TO RECYCLE DETROIT ARCHITECTURE
Architectural Salvage Warehouse
4885 15th St., Detroit; 313-896-8333; aswdetroit.org
This nonprofit came up in conversation the other day when one faithful rehabber commented that he considers them rather pricey. Still, when asked, "Where can I find a balustrade?" we find ourselves hard-pressed for another easy answer. The organization runs a successful (and legitimate) deconstruction and skimming operation, which means that they essentially disassemble homes that otherwise would be demolished — for maximum reuse of materials, or, when that's not feasible, to salvage doors, hardware and fixtures for reuse. "Our work is at the nexus of environmental protection and urban economic empowerment," the group says on its website.
BEST SPACE TO RETHINK
The Russell Bazaar
1600 Clay St., Detroit; 313-972-7009; russellbazaar.com
The Russell Industrial Center is a behemoth Albert Kahn-designed industrial complex that once churned out bodies for cars in the 1920s — today is full of other bodies, those belonging to working artists who churn on works of art in lofts and studios. The Russell complex well represents the complexity and prolific nature of Detroit's art scene. The Russell Bazaar, however, is another story. It's a flea market trying not to be a flea market. Its gaudy primary color paint job is horrific. And what's up with the flags hanging from the ceiling? What purpose do they serve? Whose idea was that anyway? The place cries out for better vendors. A salon? Really? Oversized white T-shirts with airbrushed names and cartoon characters? Is this the state fair circa '92? Cell phone holsters, porn, "Asian imports," dusty video games, tripe paperbacks and sequined Obama sweatshirts? Is that all there is? More important: Is this all there could be?
BEST TV HAIR
MEN: Stephen Clark, Channel 7 (WXYZ)
WOMEN: Jackie Paige, Channel 2 (WJBK)
Since we usually only see our nattering news nabobs from the chest up, it's what's on top that counts. (Gentlemen, please center your neckties at the top of your collars! How untidy!) In almost every way — voice, intonation, piercing eyes — Channel 7 lead reader Clark has a presence that screams "God made me an anchorman," but his hair cements (no pun intended) the image. It's a perfectly coiffed, air-dried helmet that looks as if it could withstand a tsunami. Paige, the winsome traffic adviser for FOX2, is framed by a magnificently thick blonde mane, as flattering as it is fascinating. She could just as easily forecast the weather: you can gauge how humid the day will be by how full her do is on any given morning.
BEST RADIO PIPES WE MAY NEVER HEAR AGAIN
Virtually no one is left in Detroit who can remember when Arthur Penhallow didn't command the afternoon-drive shift at album-rock WRIF-FM (101.1). BABY! How quickly things can change. After 39 consecutive years at the Home of Rock 'n' Roll, that gravel-dipped-in-honey voice — aural comfort food for a radio generation — left the airwaves in February after Arthur P. and station owner Greater Media failed to reach agreement on a new contract. While the nearly 2,000 friends on his Facebook page are championing grass-roots efforts to get him back on WRIF, apparently the Grand Poobah failed to sense the static in the air around him: In these economic times, even a legend can fall to the budget ax.
BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO PUBLIC RADIO SINCE ... WELL, WE CAN'T REMEMBER WHEN
Schedule shakeup at WDET
The hiring of veteran radio turnaround expert J. Mikel Ellcessor as general manager of Detroit's WDET-FM (101.9) last December may be remembered someday as the bridge that spanned the tempestuous gulf between outré music lovers and diehard news junkies while making our public radio station relevant again. Erasing many of the programming moves made by his charismatic but impolitic predecessor Michael Coleman, Ellcessor enacted sweeping changes to DET's lineup in February, adding the interactive news shows The Takeaway, On Point and Tell Me More while bringing the incomparable Ann Delisi back for eight hours of contemporary music every weekend. It's WDET's 60th anniversary, but the station is giving the gifts.
BEST PLACE TO GET LOST IN THE WOODS
25099 Farmington Rd., Farmington Hills
You don't have to travel a great distance to feel like you're in a faraway forest. Heritage isn't just another 211-acre park sprawling with playgrounds and picnic tables. It's also a lovely nature preserve with 4.5 miles of well-kept trails that are worth checking out. But you'll have to leave Fido and your Schwinn at home, because the trails are made for walking and jogging only. Take the river loop for a short scenic stroll through meadows, trees and wetlands. Then drop by the nature center to get educated about local wildlife and habitats. During the winter months, the park's trails are used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. But spring is prime time for a stroll where the leaves are rustlin' and the birds are singin'. Ah, serenity now.
BEST WAY TO GIVE BELLE ISLE A HELPING HAND
Friends of Belle Isle and Belle Isle Botanical Society cleanups
FOBI.org, 313-331-7760; BIBSociety.org, 313-331-7760
A discussed new master plan and fundraising conservancy for the island could be the best thing for the island since its name was changed from Île aux Cochons (a tongue twister for English speakers that translates to "Hog Island"). But whether the city and other parties involved can come together on that vision remains to be seen. In the meantime, maybe you — and you know who you are — can lend a hand by cleaning your own goddamn trash when you're there. And maybe the rest of us can lend a hand too with the hands-on efforts of groups like the Friends of Belle Isle and Belle Isle Botanical Society. Both groups are looking for help this Saturday, April 25. Meet the Friends at the casino to join their annual spring cleanup, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. They'll handle the supplies and a hot-dog lunch. Dress appropriately, and prepare to get dirty. Certificates available for students in need of community service credits. Meanwhile, the Belle Isle Botanical Society from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is cleaning the lily pond, with lunch provided there as well.
BEST WAY TO PRETEND YOU'RE AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Liberal Arts Building, Marygrove College
8425 W. McNichols Rd., Detroit, 313-927-1200, www.marygrove.com
The distinctive chimes ring out every quarter hour from the bell tower and spread across the canopy of trees and lush lawns that surround the Tudor Gothic buildings at Marygrove's campus. The Liberal Arts Building is the highlight, making the view from the campus entrance from McNichols more like a movie set than a detour from northwest Detroit. With the pointed arches, high ceilings, traceried windows, carved decorations, ribbed vaults and stained glass typical of the 1920s architecture, the Liberal Arts Building also sports a chapel off the back and the clock tower on top, reachable only by elevator and then a spiral stairway. The clock tower's four chimes are reproductions of those at Westminster Abbey, and each bears the name of an evangelist, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Marygrove, founded by nuns in the 1920s, has about 5,000 students in its undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs.
BEST PLACE TO BE DRUNK IN PUBLIC
New Center Area, Detroit, July 1-5
Remember to hydrate. Remember to apply sunscreen. Remember to arrange a ride home. Remember that everything is good in moderation. Remember a brown paper bag. Once you've got all that cemented in your head, you're set to get bent. The people-watching is out of control — the variety of characters that come out for CityFest is only rivaled by the Renaissance Festival, DEMF and maybe the Gibraltar Trade Center. Free music from local and national acts (De La Soul and Buddy Guy are among those slated for this year) and a monstrous mélange of munchies makes for six days of potential imbibing. You'll run into old friends and buy them drinks they don't want, you'll find your new favorite band and you might fall in love ... a couple times ... every day. Worst-case scenario: you spend too much money on food at vendors' booths, but at least you'll support the local independent economy, right? Cheers.
BEST PLACE TO WEAR YOUR LOVE BEADS OTHER THAN A DEAD CONCERT
The Sixties: A Decade that Defined a Generation
Lorenzo Cultural Center, 44575 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp,; 586-445-7348; lorenzoculturalcenter.com
It may have lasted a decade, but we're guessing that the '60s has been the subject of more inquiries — from scholarly to crackpot — than some centuries of our recently completed millennium. And if you're the type who either can't get enough of the era — or, conversely, if you want to know what the big deal is — there's another month of the Lorenzo Cultural Center's massive The Sixties: A Decade that Defined a Generation. A multimedia exhibition includes NASA highlights (yes, once upon a time, men walked on the moon ...), a retrospective of the civil rights movement's Freedom Summer (and men and women stood up for their rights ...) and psychedelic posters (... and some of them got stoned out of their gourds). Upcoming live events include performances by Bobby Vinton and Mitch Ryder (yes, it was a decade of extremes) and presentations on the origins of the Cold War and Plum Street (Detroit's short-lived answer to Haight-Ashbury) and the history of Vietnam (by award-winning author Stanley Kranow). Notably, much of the program emphasizes not the global phenomenon of the '60s, but the specific Detroit experience, from our answer to Dick Clark (Robin Seymour) to the stories of civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo and black publishing pioneer Dudley Randall. And most programs on the era of free love are,
in fact, free.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE KENTUCKY DERBY
Hazel Park Raceway
1650 E. 10 Mile Rd. (at Dequindre); Hazel Park; 248-398-1000; hazelparkraceway.com
Strap on your gaudiest hat, get your bets down, sip on a mint julep, and watch on the big screen at Hazel Park Raceway as the best 3-year-olds of 2009 make their Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. The world's most famous horse race is called the fastest two minutes in sports. It's also the raison d'être for HP's biggest party of the year. The track's barbecue pits will be stoked up for burgers, dogs and ribs from mid-afternoon on, and a live harness racing card will ensue once they've settled matters at Churchill Downs.
BEST BRIDGE BETWEEN THE CITY AND THE BURBS
The Night Move
The Night Move is an independently owned bus company run by a couple clever twentysomethings, that runs Friday and Saturday nights with stops in downtown Royal Oak, Ferndale and Detroit (Greektown). It runs from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.; it runs on biodiesel and offsets its carbon footprint by donating proceeds to Carbon Fund; it runs you around for $10 a night. Here's what you may be asking, though: "Why is their only Detroit stop in Greektown? You know who goes to Greektown on a regular basis? Folks in from out of town and people who only come into the city for sports or theater, that's who. Where's the Woodward and Warren stop? Why not stop at the Magic Stick, Jefferson Avenue or Fox Theatre?" Valid point. They do offer direct routes to Red Wings playoff games and Tigers games, as well as special events like Blowout and the Detroit Music Awards, which is cool, but making some of those stops more permanent would be a whole lot cooler.
BEST GUIDE TO YOUR YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Lessons from Oz by Julienne La Fleur
Sure the Bible, Koran and Gita have important insight about human nature and lessons for humanity. But so did The Wizard of Oz. And it had Judy Garland and songs. Author Julienne La Fleur, a Farmington Hills native and California transplant, manages to distill from the 70-year-old film classic a few dozen recommendations for a happier and more successful life in her colorful, 182-page book published last year. Movie still included. There's Auntie Em's instructive, "Stop imagining things. You always get yourself into a fret over nothing," to remind us that most of our worrying is probably needless. The Cowardly Lion's solo, "If I were King of the Forest," instructs us to imagine our futures and then make them happen. And naturally, there's the concluding admonishment "There's no place like home" which really needs no explanation. In between readers get help understanding people without brains, what it really means to kill for some shoes and how everyone has something hidden behind the curtain. And in case you don't believe our endorsement, know that it's recommended by MENSSA - the Millennium Establishment of News for Smart Scarecrows of America.
BEST WAY TO BREAK A SWEAT
Detroiters have been getting more and more serious about bicycle love in recent years. First came the flirtation. It wasn't love at first ride. No, it's hard to fully commit to a self-powered two-wheel approach when you're dubbed the Motor City, when coney dogs, cheap beer and Flaming Hot Chee-tos are local fare and, well, let's face it, there aren't too many bike-friendly paths. But flirt we did. After a couple dates, we started to grope the spokes and pump the brakes. One thing led to another and here we are ... With the HUB of Detroit — that funky full-service (not-for-profit) bike shop set in the pit of Cass Corridor — the seed was planted. Then came "bike gangs" such as Ferndale's Defying The Law B/C, and city-wide races like Alley Cat. Last year (almost to the day this goes to print) we witnessed the birth of Wheelhouse Detroit, a bike retail, rental and repair shop that lives right on the river and offers a wide array of bike tours that take riders through the architectural anomaly that is Detroit, through Corktown, Hamtramck, along the river and a number of others. A missing piece was put into place a couple years ago when the Dequindre Cut project was announced. The Cut runs along the Grand Trunk rail line, through Eastern Market, and ends at Detroit's riverfront parks. The paved, lit, emergency phone-equipped bike-walk-jog stretch from Gratiot to south of Jefferson will get its grand opening May 14.