It started routinely enough; I mowed my lawn and was trimming along the fence when someone I never saw put a cigarette out in my hair. Then my arm. Then my legs. All I was feeling was burning on my body. Yep, stumbling into a hornet’s nest will do that to you.
Flailing like a madman, I ran to the house, making sure I didn’t carry any of the beasts into the house with me. After I took stock, I realized that aside from a few painful welts, there was no real damage, so I went on with my business.
After dinner, we followed a friend downtown to watch him DJ. This was where things got interesting.
If you’ve been to downtown Detroit you know what I’m talking about when I mention boarded-up skyscrapers. Detroit has entire sections of downtown that are all but abandoned; Bowie wrote “Panic in Detroit” about them. The club we went to was in one of these areas.
We parked in an alley behind the bar. I was a bit worried about the car being stolen, as there was a cockroach the size of pony on the wall in the alley, and I think he was debating whether or not he could wrestle the keys from me.
Entering the back door of the bar, we were greeted by the leering face of a madman, screaming “Drink, you bitches!”
This was the owner of the bar.
“He looked a lot like Che Guevara, drove a diesel vanAt one time, this place was amazing. It had vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, a balcony with seating, and a decent sound system.
Kept his gun in quiet seclusion, such a humble man”
- David Bowie, Panic In Detroit
This was before the owner gave up and stopped cleaning the place.
The place smelled of mold. The tables on the balcony were buried in beer bottles, and we noted that a newspaper on one of the tables was two weeks old. Trash piled up everywhere, and the phone behind the bar sat off the hook, the receiver half hidden by a pile of paper. The lights on the balcony were out, and half the bulbs on the chandelier were burnt out or missing.
For a moment, I wondered if I’d had an allergic reaction to the hornets, and was in a coma somewhere.
There were 10 people in the bar; six were the DJs, one was the owner. He told us to go behind the bar and take what we wanted. We could pay him what we thought we owed at the end of the night. Then he smashed a bottle against the wall.
"He laughed at accidental sirensThe rest of the night proceeded as uneventfully as this place could be; our friend played a surreal set, bouncing from James Brown to Iron Maiden to Depeche Mode to Skinny Puppy to Dead or Alive. It was the perfect soundtrack to this place, where the owner stopped back to chat, turn the music up or down, or throw bottles and light bulbs at the wall or the DJs. Handing me a bottle, he instructed “the key is to throw it so it drops just in front of the DJs. If you throw it too hard, you could hit the window. Trust me, that was expensive.” I, however, declined to chuck a bottle.
that broke the evening gloom
The police had warned of repercussions
They followed none too soon
A trickle of strangers were all that were left alive"
- David Bowie, Panic In Detroit
As we talked to this manic guy, the story began to take shape; he had simply given up on the neighborhood, the bar, the city; he'd stopped cleaning, and was planning on closing in a month. Until then, it was anything goes. Drink up the bottled beer, the kegs aren’t working and I’m not fixing them. Nope, you guys drank the last of the Newcastle, how about a Heineken?
All in all, it really felt like we had found a bar that was closed, snuck in, and made it our own. Or that we were in some Mad Max movie, living it up in a post-apocalyptic city. It’s not a bad place; you should check it out before it’s gone, if you can find it, and if your idea of a good night out is to pretend you’re in Berlin after the war.
Note: When we left, the giant cockroach was still there, guarding our cars. I apparently misread his intentions, and for that I apologize.