Dee-Troit Michigan – 1973

I lived in Detroit for a couple months in 1973, while I was ‘vacationing’ from the Marine Corps. I lived in an 11 story tall ‘flop house’ on the North edge of Downtown. My room was on the 7th floor. On one side of the room was a ceramic sink, a chair with a small table and lamp, and a window that looked out on the open center of this huge square building. I could have called it a ‘courtyard’ if it didn’t just bottom out at the 3rd floor roof, which was littered with garbage people had thrown out their windows.

The other side of the room was the thin mattress rolled out over a metal frame bed. The old school kind, with the mesh of metal wire ‘loops’ that held the mattress up. I used to do my laundry in that sink and then lay my clothes out flat between the mattress and the mesh. By morning they would be dry and ‘pressed’. Just cause you live in a flop house doesn’t mean you can’t look your best.

THE Bathroom was down the hall, around the corner, and down the hall some more. There was one community bathroom for each floor. Yeah, I took my sponge baths from my sink as well. I tried to save my business til I got to work, where the bathrooms were clean.

There was no TV, no Radio, no Air Conditioning. It was a hot summer and I would often find myself sitting in my window listening to other people sitting in their windows. It was like a huge party line, only no one was using a phone. People would talk from window to window. Every now and again a conversation would get loud and someone would tell people to shut up, which would start a round of people yelling at each other. Sometimes stuff would get thrown, adding to the mess below.

But then again, it only cost me $17 – a WEEK! I got a job working at the Roy Rogers Roast Beef Restaurant on the North side of downtown. Walking from the ‘Hotel’ to my job reminded me of Olongapo, Phillipines. Lots of the people were armed and dangerous. You had to be on your guard all the time. Kids would come by and slap your pants pockets to see if you had change. If they heard change, they would beg for it. I did my grocery shopping at the corner liquor store. I never had any real problems and only a couple times where it could have gone differently.

There was that one time when the girl I was seeing called me up one morning . She said she was relieved to hear my voice. When I pressed her she said she had seen the morning news. I guy matching my description was found in an empty house with his hands tied behind his back and shot once in the back of the head. She said she was afraid her Uncle had found out about us. It turns out her Uncle was a criminal Kingpin. He was killed later that summer, gunned down as he stepped out of his Lincoln Continental.

Then there was the “Super Fly Incident”. For those of you who don’t have a clue, “Super Fly” was a very popular figure of the time. So Black, So Cool, He’s Super Fly! I don’t really recall the specifics of Super Fly’s ‘outfit’, but I recall he had huge bell bottoms, super wide lapels, and an oversized color matching hat. All in bright neon colors. Never saw the movie, just passing on what I know.

One day a SuperFly look-a-like came into the restaurant. The manager pulled me aside to point him out. She said, “He gets whatever he wants. He doesn’t pay. Don’t open the register when he is there.” I took over the cash register. When he got to the register I said, “That will be $5.42” or whatever the total would have been. He smirked at me and said, “I don’t pay”. I said something about whether that made him a mooch or a thief, and then it got heated. We were about to throw down when the manager came running up from the back and separated us. She ordered me back in the kitchen and asked him to just go.

He went outside, but hung out in front of the place. The manager tried to cool me down telling me he was a dangerous person. Well, I was a combat Marine and I wasn’t ready to cut him any slack. One of our girls was outside talking to him now and she was getting the bad end of it. I went outside and told her to go back inside. Then I told him he needed to move on, that I didn’t want him in front of MY restaurant. He backed down and left.

A day or two later I left Detroit. While I had been there I had gotten a lawyer and drafted my 6 page Petition for Discharge from the Marine Corps, and it was time to go back. I packed up my gear and stuck out my thumb.

A few weeks later I got a letter from the manager of the restaurant. She said that the day after I left 2 men came looking for me, by name. She said they were both wearing business suits and that they scared the hell out of her. She said she felt very happy that she had no idea where I was. I never did find out who those guys were, but “no one” knew I was in Detroit. I don’t know whether her Uncle DID find out about us, or whether Super Fly farmed out his heavy work. I guess we’ll never know.

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