Capturing the culture that makes Detroit what it is.

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June 2014

The Twisted Shamrock

in Around Detroit by

In 2005 Jim Monahan opened the Twisted Shamrock in Ferndale MI. The Twisted Shamrock is a store that specializes in Celtic wears, goods, and items. I think it’s one of the coolest stores in Metro Detroit.

In 2006 I worked at Harmony House in Berkeley MI (my favorite job ever, because it was working at a record store). Working at Harmony House one of our constant customers would always visit wearing these hats I felt were too cool. I asked him where he bought the hat? He told me the Twisted Shamrock in Ferndale MI.

Celtic Caps, Twisted Shamrock owner Jim Monahan, Celtic Art
Celtic Caps, Twisted Shamrock owner Jim Monahan, Celtic Art

Since then I’ve bought five of the caps myself. The Celtic (driving/ walking) cap comes in a mix of styles. The wool caps are generally worn in the winter. The linen caps are often worn in the summer. The patch caps have a mix of patches that are exclusively of their own. All the caps are hand stitched, and individually made (so when you buy one, you’re the only person that one). For years my favorite hat is the black and grey cap from the Twisted Shamrock. This has been the center piece of my fashion for years.

The Twisted Shamrock also carries a mix of jewelry, figurines, scarves, and art. What’s special about the store to me is Jim’s understanding of Celtic history. This week visiting the store he shared the history of crests, names, and Corktown’s impact on Metro Detroit. Jim’s background in the corporate world prepared him to open the Twisted Shamrock with a modern business acumen applied to a family business. His travels throughout the US always peaked his interest in Irish stores. Cities like Boston MA, Chicago IL, and New York City NY have a number of Celtic stores. Recognizing the Irish presence in the Metro Detroit area he saw the value in the Twisted Shamrock.

Celtic Caps, Me and Lola Damone at Dwele's Birthday Party years back & I'm sporting my Celtic cap, Celtic sweaters
Celtic Caps, Me and Lola Damone at Dwele’s Birthday Party years back & I’m sporting my Celtic cap, Celtic sweaters

Click the following link to visit the store online: Twisted Shamrock. I believe it’s one of the many international gems Detroit has to offer. If you visit the Twisted Shamrock I also suggest asking Jim about any item you’re interested in. I’m sure he will share insight into whatever you plan on buying.

The Twisted Shamrock is located at 276 W 9 Mile Rd Ferndale MI. Open Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 7pm; Friday 11am – 9pm; Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sunday Noon – 5pm

What if … Detroit hosted the 1968 Olympics

in What if ... by

Currently, Brazil is receiving international attention for hosting the World Cup. In 1968, many of Detroit’s politicians, businesspeople, and sports enthusiasts envisioned a similar spotlight on the city. Detroit made a bid to host the 1968 XIX Olympic Games, however, Mexico City was chosen as the host site. The 1968 Olympics were held from October 12th through October 27th. Detroit native and basketball legend Spencer Haywood (of the Pershing Doughboys) led the US team to a Gold medal. George Foreman made his world introduction taking the Gold as a heavyweight boxer. Perhaps most memorably, US Track & Field legends John Carlos and Tommie Smith delivered the iconic Black Power fist pose during the medal ceremony. I believe if Detroit had hosted the 1968 Olympics, it would have changed the course of the city’s history and further influenced national and global politics and culture.

 

Spencer Haywood, Tiger Stadium, John Carlos & Tommie Smith
Spencer Haywood, Tiger Stadium, John Carlos & Tommie Smith

1968 was a pivotal year nation-wide. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Richard Nixon was elected as US President. The tragedy of the Vietnam War carried on, highlighted by the TET Offensive. These events impacted America in various ways, but all were interconnected to the struggles against American injustice. The Civil Rights Movement challenged the hypocrisy of American Law, strategically appealing to the empathy of White Americans via a shared sense of injustice. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a catalyst for the blossoming Black Power Movement, generating a more aggressive focus on building independence and solidarity amongst Black Americans.

By 1968, Detroit was deeply entrenched in both movements. Only one year earlier, the 1967 Detroit riots (or, as many here refer to it, the Rebellion) had driven a wedge throughout Metro-Detroit that continues to divide the region racially, culturally, and economically. Hosting the Olympic Games a year after the most devastating and costly American riot could have created an environment primed for healing, solidarity, and cooperation throughout Metro Detroit. The City of Detroit would have had to address the blight and ruins from the 1967 riots. This influx of contracting would require significant community engagement. I believe that with the involvement of the community, the voiceless feeling some Detroiters had would have begun to be addressed. Hiring, contracting, and planning within Detroit’s economy could have jump-started the process of finding solutions for the damaged communities affected by the 1967 riot.

The international presence throughout Detroit would have created even more opportunity for economic recovery and growth. I find that Detroit culture is often neglected by Detroiters, but history has shown that our food, music, and design of all kinds have impacted the world. Tourism and international business play a major part in that cultural exchange, and hosting the 1968 Olympics would have brought unprecedented global exposure to Detroit’s unique culture. In 1968, Motown Records and many subsidiary labels were at the heights of their success. Bob Seger was a year away from releasing his first album “Ramblin Gamblin Man” (my personal favorite). Aretha Franklin was reaching further musical success with two album releases and hit songs. Culturally speaking, Detroit had a feel and look that would have captured the world in a single visit.

Olympia Stadium, Robert DeNiro in 'Raging Bull,' 1984 Detroit Tigers
Olympia Stadium, Robert DeNiro in ‘Raging Bull,’ 1984 Detroit Tigers

In 1968, Detroit sports were held in three locations; Cobo Arena, Detroit Olympia Stadium, and Tiger Stadium. Legend has it that Cobo Hall and Arena were built in hopes of landing the Olympic games. The Detroit Pistons began playing basketball at Cobo Arena in the 1960s, soon after it was built. Detroit Olympia Stadium hosted the Detroit Red Wings, and the legendary boxing match between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta that inspired Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.” Tiger Stadium was recognized historically as one of the best baseball stadiums in the world. At the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, the Tigers took the field for over 80 years. In 1968, Willie Horton and Denny McLain led the Detroit Tigers to won the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals mere days before the Olympics started. Imagine the local, national, and global impact of the world witnessing the Detroit Tigers win the World Series only weeks before Tommie Smith and John Carlos delivered their historical Black Power salute in the very same Tiger Stadium. The pride and economic influx amongst the citizens of Detroit  may have tipped the scales to enable the healing between communities to begin.

Motel Connection: Song Backgrounds

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

Summer of 2010 I was an active member of the 1440 Collective Studios. The 1440 Collective was named after it’s address which was, 1440 Gratiot Detroit MI 48207. It was also located where some of Detroit’s techno music history took place. Techno Alley is the alley way where the entrance for the 1440 Collective was. Techno alley is also the home to many of the parties, events, and techno music production of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

“GO” – Song blueprint with Khary WAE Frazier Vocals

“GO” – Uscita Mix featured on Motel Connection’s “Vivace” album visit www.motelconnection.net to hear, buy, and experience the music

The way many American baby boomers view Detroit as the home of the Motown sound, European Generation X’ers view Detroit as the home of Techno music. The white and blue home located on Detroit’s West Grand BLVD (Motown) is to soul music, what Techno Alley is to electronic dance music.

Juan Atkins, Mike Banks, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson birthed techno music in Detroit, in the 1980’s. Many of the parties that founded the music took place in Techno Alley where the 1440 Collective was. Derrick May ran a studio down the street from the 1440 Collective. We met in 2009. Since our introduction he’s been supportive, and an inspiration. Derrick’s advice, and the serenity prayer, are my foundation for life. Here is the advice Derrick gave to me that encourages me daily:

“When we began making Techno music many people didn’t understand it so they didn’t like it. We loved it, and continued making it. Overtime our audience grew. It was a mix of college kids, street kids, and artists that felt the music was a culture of their own. We all felt we were on our own. As we grew older the college kids, street kids, and artists became movie producers, gallery owners (shout out to my friend and mentor Kevin Hansen of the Johonsen Charles Art Gallery), and international business people. As we all gained access to popular culture we carried our music with us.” Derrick May

Derrick May, Kevin Hansen, 1440 Collective
Derrick May, Kevin Hansen, 1440 Collective

That advice encourages me to create my music with love and integrity. When I find myself lost seeking attention, popularity, or money for my music I remember to stay grounded. If Derrick, Juan, Mike, and Kevin could create a music genre, I can create my own sound.

I met Derrick because Kevin Hansen told me he ran a recording studio down the street from the 1440 Collective. In 2007, 08, and 09 I was interested in networking with anybody I thought who had access to resources. So the summer of 2009 when I saw Derrick driving down Techno Alley I flagged him down, and introduced myself. Derrick walked into the 1440 Collective after our introduction and purchased my ‘Preaching to the Choir’ album. The next day he came back to the 1440 Collective, and gave me a review of my album. He liked some songs, and didn’t like others. Overall he was impressed with my skills as an emcee. He told me “with what you’re doing you need to get your music to Japan.” I told him I have no idea how to get a Japanese audience. He suggested using the internet, and building my network. We exchanged phone numbers, and he insisted I explore the world music market.

A year after our introduction Derrick May called me, and told me he had an opportunity. He introduced me to Motel Connection. “Wae, it’s an Italian Techno/ Rock band looking to work with a Detroit emcee. I’m suggesting you. I’m going to text you an email address, and you should make this happen,” Derrick May. After Derrick sent me this message I responded two months later. Derrick called me again to tell me I was bullshitting, and wasting time. I was musically depressed. It was many expectations I set for myself that were not reached. I found it difficult to move forward as an artist. After Derrick’s voice mail I emailed Gigi (manager) of Motel Connection.

Motel Connection is an Italian band made up of Samuel, DJ Pisti, and Pierfunk. All three are member of other Italian bands. All three are also based in Turin, Italy (interestingly enough Turin is the Italian Detroit. Turin is a city that came to prominence during the industrial age of the twentieth century now seeking a new identity). Motel Connection’s music is a mix of styles. This mix blends a sound of manipulated vocals, instruments, sound efx, and tempos to create a signature style. Motel Connection’s audience is a core following of underground Italy, Australia, and Great Britain that tirelessly stay abreast to their music. The rhythms and melodies found in Motel Connection’s sound is unlike most dance music.

“GO” – Song blueprint with Khary WAE Frazier Vocals

“GO” – Uscita Mix featured on Motel Connection’s “Vivace” album visit www.motelconnection.net to hear, buy, and experience the music

After I emailed DJ Pisti of Motel Connection he sent me the music to two songs in a week’s time. When I originally heard the music it was a challenge to match it’s style with my own. In a month’s time I sent back both records. DJ Pisti loved the songs. Motel Connection agreed to use the songs on their next album. After touring, contracts, mixing and mastering Valentine’s Day 2013 the “Vivace” album was released. I’m featured on the songs ‘Go,’ and ‘Know.’ I love both. As an artist I found it exciting to hear how Motel Connection interpreted my recordings.

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Know

in WAE Music by


PRESS PLAY AND HEAR THE MUSIC

Know(thatherhythmandsoul)

Song Performed by Motel Connection featuring Khary WAE Frazier
Music Composed, Arranged and Produced by  DJ Pisti of Motel Connection
Lyrics by Khary WAE Frazier
Song featured on Motel Connection’s ‘Vivace’ album 2013
visit www.motelconnection.net  to buy the song and album

INTRO

Sounds make up the music . . .The music is the songs . . .
And the song … the songs is lifestyle, what we do and who we are . . .
and for me . . . it is Life . . . the style and way it’s right

CHORUS 

Know-that-the rhythm-and-soul-is-for-mostly
Those-that-are-taking-control-of-their-own-reach
Know-that-the rhythm-and-soul-is-for-mostly
Those-that-are-taking-control-of-their-own-reach
Go with the flow
As it rolls
Through the mold
Don’t oppose
The unknown
Cause its worth all the gold
As our compass will show
We’re in motion for more
Through the beats and the notes
This the freedom of soul
VERSE ONE

When you listen – you can hear the reasons believing
Everything you heard has a meaning for keeping
Silence in the pocket and pieces with speeches
this a platform to reach them and teach them
// so I got to speak on it,  and Be on it
Take a stance and never leave on it
With melody and a message
Through the head knod hope you can get the essence
In the key of life songs as a reference
Mind on my money, hearts in my efforts
// . . .As I do it like this
You may wanna dance as words see fit
Kind of different, . . .different what I spit
This is a canvas for a brush with big
Death, Life, Love, and is
Speaking on now rights wrongs I did
VERSE TWO

Man I’m known for the truth
In these words . . . I can speak what I do
So my crew keep it loose
Ties worldwide on the block like you
And I don’t think nothing of it
A blessed man humble a lost one becoming
Fools have eyes bigger than their stomach
Gotta control what does and doesn’t
. . .Dimes come dozens
wanna change up what was that wasn’t
. . .(Now) Ain’t that something
I live in the now cause reality is constant
. . .As the world keep spinning
Misunderstandings make us seem different
. . .As the fears draw distance
Why I see myself and in a world that isn’t

 

PRESS PLAY AND HEAR THE MUSIC visit www.motelconnection.net  to buy the song and album

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Driving for Dairy Fresh Foods

in My Detroit Story by

In 2004 I began a career as a truck driver.

My father is a CPA. For over 30 years he’s developed an entrepreneurial practice focused primarily on developing computer programs that handle tax, accounting, manufacturing, and staffing needs for businesses. Along with developing this expertise my father has built the practice of Greg Frazier CPA with long standing relationships of individual, corporate, and non-profit corporate tax return clients.

In 2003 he offered me an opportunity to work along-side him preparing tax returns. To learn tax preparation I attended Lewis College of Business for Accounting, and H&R Block’s tax preparation course.

After attending H&R Block’s tax preparation course in Southfield MI I worked a tax season at H&R Block in Northland Mall. While working at H&R Block in Northland Mall, I learned the amount of money jobs paid annually. Teachers, fast-food workers, retirees, plant workers, and retail sales people all had me preparing their taxes. Truck drivers stood out to me. Everyday I’d find some guy my age wearing Girbaud jeans, Timbaland boots, and Champion hoodies earning over $40,000 a year. I was jealous of every one of them.

In 2003 my passion was in hip-hop music. When I saw guys my age dressed in hip-hop earning $40,000 annually I easily made a decision to become a truck driver. This was against my father’s better judgment. I finished out the 2004 tax season working for H&R Block. After tax season I worked part-time at Pizza Hut in Dearborn Heights MI delivering pizzas. Earning the $2,500 down payment for trucking school from minimum wage work is one of the most disciplined acts I’ve ever accomplished.

Mexican Fiesta Restaurant, Honeybee Market, Kai Sun Market
Mexican Fiesta Restaurant, Honeybee Market, Kai Sun Market

Completing trucking school I learned how to operate an 18 wheeler. I got my CDL/ Hazmat driver’s license (I still have it today; it’s my worst case scenario life circumstance). I began working for Werner Frieght Trucking based in Ohio. I worked for Werner for 3 months, and returned home. Upon returning home I was hired by Dairy Fresh Foods.

Dairy Fresh Foods is a local food distributor founded in Highland Park MI. Dairy Fresh Foods is now based in Taylor MI. Monday to Friday I drove to Taylor MI beginning my day at 5:30am. I generally wrapped up my day at 5:30pm. The traffic usually added an hour or two to every work day.

Dairy Fresh Foods is a family based business run by Joel Must. The influence of the family and Jewish culture were very prevalent throughout Dairy Fresh Foods. Dairy Fresh Foods facility was organized with freezer warehousing, refrigerator warehousing, dry-good warehousing, and truck docks. Drivers worked days, and warehouse loaders worked nights. Every morning at 5:30am (before summer’s sun rise) I generally picked up truck 2548. (FYI: the summer of 2005 the music I was playing was Mike Jones, The Game’s Documentary, and Mariah Carey’s Emancipation of Mimi. I’d be in my truck turning down Mariah Carey’s ‘Shake it Off’ at red lights in the fear of being laughed at by others in traffic).

Dairy Fresh Foods relates to Detroit internationally, because Detroit has a diverse mix of restaurants and markets. My first day working at Dairy Fresh Foods I delivered food to Hamtramck MI. I was trained by Anton. Anton’s family lived in Hamtramck. His parents were first generation immigrants from Croatia. Seeing the way Anton related to the store owners in Hamtramck MI made me feel out of place. It was the opposite of ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1980’s television show I loved as kid). Miles away from my Detroit neighborhood was a world I knew nothing of. The markets in Hamtramck were filled with spices, foods, meats, and snacks I’ve never seen. Most notably in Hamtramck was a mix of chocolate candies from different European nations. German, Romanian, British, and French chocolates all have specific tastes I learned to understand.

While delivering food for Dairy Fresh Foods, I believe I went in every grocery store within a 50 mile radius of Detroit. As expected the Middle Eastern markets of Dearborn had a unique flavor. I remember many of the Middle Eastern markets keeping a stock of fresh dates, raisins, and nuts. The restaurants bought many of the premium cheeses that Italian and Greek restaurants carried as well. This commonality is sensible being that the Lebanese, Italian, and Greek restaurants all were founded in the Mediterranean.

The well known Mexican influence throughout Southwest Detroit had me delivering loads of cheeses, rice, and lard in Southwest Detroit. Dairy Fresh packaged 80lbs bags of rice and 40lbs blocks of Muenster cheese which stocked Xochimilco’s, Armando’s, and Mexican Town restaurants bi-weekly. All provide great food and service. I found my favorite Spanish restaurant in the Metro-Detroit area to be Mexican Fiesta on Ford Rd and Telegraph in Dearborn Heights MI. The Alvarado family that runs the restaurant was very kind, and always supportive of me.

Unique markets that specialized in specific food also exist in the Metro-Detroit area. Oak Park MI has a number of store fronts catered to Jewish cooking. The baked goods from all of these stores are exceptional. If you ever have the chance to buy an asiago bagel from a Jewish bakery I urge of you to enjoy the pleasure.

Troy MI, and Madison Heights MI, have a mix of Asian markets carrying mixes of sauces and spices. Today Sriracho is very popular. I’ve used and known of this Sriracho hot sauce for years, because of these Asian markets.

Westborn Market, Hiller's Market, Jug Juice
Westborn Market, Hiller’s Market, Jug Juice

The most interesting thing I observed delivering food was the way markets were kept dependent upon neighborhood. Naturally there were disparities due to wealth of the residency, but also in types of foods as well. Traveling the throughout Michigan closer to Mackinaw I found the farm based markets used the cook trend that’s brought Whole Food’s to prominence. Cooks managed stock and prepared meals for families. The markets in Birmingham MI were different than those in Ann Arbor MI. Comparable in regional wealth Birmingham carried larger stocks as opposed to the smaller store front feel of the Ann Arbor markets.

I believe the most well kept market I traveled to was Westborn market in Dearborn MI on Michigan Ave. The store manager was from Trinidad. He was the most observant, concerned, and thorough market manager I met while delivering food. Every delivery to Westborn market in Dearborn required a series of checks. Also in this process I witnessed the wash, care, and keep of vegetables, fruits, and produce. Other markets I remember being well-kept throughout the region were every Hiller’s market, Honey Bee market in Southwest Detroit, and Western Market in Ferndale MI.

Dairy Fresh Foods also carried unhealthy snacks. Liquor stores and party stores stocked up on jug juices, freeze pops, and pork rinds. Stores carrying these items were usually in the most impoverished neighborhoods in the region. The liquor stores in Detroit MI’s: Brightmoor, Mack & Bewick, John R & 75, East McNichols; Inkster MI; and Pontiac MI (far from Auburn Hills MI) all carried tons of jug juice. Jug juices are the small plastic juices with the wheel barrel design flavored by color as opposed to taste. These red, purple, green, and orange juices are found on the bottom shelf of soda pop refrigerators in liquor stores.

It would be such a duality to begin the day in Dearborn Heights MI, travel to a farm in Midland MI, and close my day on 7 mile and Hubbell in Detroit MI. In delivering foods I saw how similar people and cultures are. Also I had the chance to travel Michigan.

Michigan is a very beautiful state. I encourage everyone to visit Alpena MI, Traverse City MI, or Sault Ste Marie MI in the summer and/or fall seasons.

I believe Metro Detroit is a segregated region culturally for many reasons. Overall I feel people find a level of comfort in who and what they are use to. This segregation has developed world’s of cultural experiences with restaurants and markets. If you’re willing exit your comfort zone you can experience great food throughout Metro Detroit. I challenge everyone to visit a restaurant of the world based in Detroit.

FYI: I’ve often been asked about the cleanliness and safety of markets throughout the Metro-Detroit region and what markets I suggest buying food from. As a standard I believe you should not buy vegetables, fruits, or meats from any store with a Lotto machine.

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