The Cass Corridor of Detroit is like the skid row. Cheap hotels, drug rehab center, the homeless and residents of the cheap hotels. You will find alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, mentally ill people and people down on their luck. Some are Vietnam Veterans who can not make it in society because of the war wounds, post hypnotic stress syndrome or drug and alcohol problems acquired during the war. Some lost their jobs and families because of their addictions. Some are were put out from the mental health facilities because the were not "a threat to themselves or society." The problem is that many can not cope with society or hold down jobs because their minds are not functioning properly.
They survive with odd jobs, begging, returning pop bottles for deposits, looking in garbage cans, prostitution and stealing. Life in the streets is survival of the fit. (not fittest but fit) The old and weak are subject to being robbed. The sad part is that they don't have anything to steal.
There is a good side. The people are real
people. They are not phonies unless they are conning someone.
Most do not sit there and cry about their situation but go out and do
what they can to survive.
Most of the drug addicts can not be trusted but many have a good heart. I will not sit here and tell you that they are the way they are because of our society. They are the way they are because their parents were that way, they got in with the wrong crowd or because they like getting high. Crack is the worst drug around. It is the most addictive drug out there. Crack ruins more lives and kills more people than any other drug.
There are many sad stories about how they got there. There are many sad stories about what happens to them there. People found dead in alleys, dumpsters, vacant buildings and lots. People frozen, shot, stabbed, beaten or those who overdosed on drugs. Some get AIDs from sharing syringes when they shoot up.
I met many people that I enjoyed being with. Some of the best friends I have had were street people.
My first experience with the streets was in 1963 when I was in the Navy. I was in school at the Great Lakes Naval Base outside of Chicago. On weekends I would go to Chicago and stay in the Y or the Pacific Garden Mission. I spent most of my time in the arcade (on the pool tables) and in the streets. I hustled pool with a friend who had a good stick. I was not to good.
When he was in the Army he was a martial arts instructor. He was jumped by three guys and they died in the fight. He got 3 years in Fort Levenworth for manslaughter. He had a wife and 3 kids. He was an ex-con and had a dishonorable discharge so he had a hard time getting a job. All of the money we won went to him and his family.
I met a pregnant prostitute and he and I helped her out. We bought her shoes and some clothing. Part of my pay went to helping her out. I went to a ship at Key West, FL before the baby was born. I got a letter from her after the baby was born and she said she named the baby after both of us.
Before I go on I have this word of warning to prospective johns. If you pick up a street hooker the odds are that you will get robbed and possibly killed or seriously injured. The street hookeer is always in danger of being picked up by a rapist or killer. Street prostitution makes it hard on the women who are not prostitutes. If they are in a neighborhood that is known to have prostitution they are propositioned by johns. Street prositution should never be legallized and efforts by the police to stamp it out should be increased, especially in the neighborhoods.
I have known a lot of street hookers. Most were addicted to crack of heroin. Many were cross addicted with alcohol. Now we are in the mid to late 1990s Detroit and Inkster, Michigan streets. Many of these young women were clean and very careful not to get venereal diseases or aids. The made sure the johns used condoms and they supplied them to the johns. Since this is not a X-rated site I can not go into detail.
Many of these women were my friends. If they needed someone to talk to I was there. I was not a john. I was a person the could go to with their problems. I did not have money for them I had an ear, advice, a shoulder and I was someone who cared. Some even referred to me as their shrink. If they wanted help to get off of drugs I was there as a voice of reason. Being a reformed drunk helped. I also had a lot of experience with drug addiction. (With the exception of a few joints, I did not use drugs.)
Johns would come to me and ask me about a hooker and I would say that I had no experience with them sexually but do not go to sleep. The next day they would tell me that their money or something was taken. I asked if they went to sleep and they did. I told them they were warned and the girl was just doing her job.
One of them took off with $150,000 that a john had in a brief case. She had to get out of town fast but had the money for a get away. Last I heard she wasn't caught.
I was waiting for a bus a man told me that he won $7,000 at the casino in Windsor. Why was he waiting for a bus. He picked up a lady and went to the hotel. He woke up and his money was gone. He reached for his cell phone and it was gone. He went in his pants pocket and his car keys were gone. His wife bought him the car two weeks before. No insurance. My thought was DON'T GO TO SLEEP.
I knew addicts (male and female), dealers, drunks, mentally ill and those down on their luck. They did what they could to survive and in the case of the addicts and alcoholics to keep their addictions satisfied. Many were homeless others lived in cheap hotels in the Cass Corridor. Early in the morning some would meet at a restaurant to pass out handbills. A guy would pick them up with a truck and take them to the neighborhoods. Others would do odd jobs for the businesses in the area. Some would beg and some would pick the garbage for food and bottles for the deposits. Some would steal and others were hookers.
I spent a week in Wayne County Jail. While waiting for my bail hearing I met 30 to 40 inmates. Waiting for a cell I met 30 to 40 more. I was in 2 cells while I was there and met 10 more in each cell. So I met 80 to 100 inmates. The ones that did not make bail all had one thing in common. They were poor. If they were not poor most would have made bail. If they were not poor most would not have done anything to be there.
I am not going to blame society. Many could not get jobs because they lacked education. Some high school graduates can't read. Some never finished school because they did not have the support of their parents. For some the only way to survive or take care of their families was selling drugs, conning people or stealing.
The official unemployment rate is low. That includes only those who lost their jobs and are looking for work. The street people are not included. They are among those people who are considered to be "unemployable." They are not even statistics. They are the forgotten people. They are swept under the rug.
But, alas, what can be done? More rehab
centers? Might help but they have to want rehab. Some
need to be in institutions. I see missionaries in the
neighborhoods but I did not see them in the corridor. The
Salvation Army is there and there are soup kitchens and some
Before I moved downtown I lived in my office in a neighborhood that was pretty nice. At night it would change. You would see the homeless and the hookers. They were there during the day but more noticeable at night.
There was a young man who looked like he was around 20. He was about 6' 6". He was quiet and really didn't bother anybody but at night he would be hanging out by a bar. When people came out they would see him and his size and the blank look on his face would scare them.
I don't think he was dangerous. He would stand for hours in one spot like a statue. The Police decided to get him out of the neighborhood so they picked him up and dropped him off out of the city. By the time they got back to where they picked him up, he was standing there.
He would go into the party stores and gas station markets and get cookies and cakes and eat them right there. He would put the wrappers in the garbage and walk out. No one would say anything to him.
One day he was found in the dumpster. The word on the street was that a store owner or owners did it.
One of the hookers used to stop and talk to me every once in a while. One night there was a knock on the door. A man said she was in his car and needed help. I went to the car and she had metal sticking out of her leg and had a wheel chair. She was a victim of a hit and run down the street. (A few hookers were lost that way.) I brought her in and called a cab for her. I gave her some money to cover cab fare and a night in a motel.
I didn't see her for a while. The cab driver brought her by. He took her in. I haven't seen here since.
The police would have decoys. The hookers were usually not real good looking and you could tell many were crack or heroin addicts. The police decoys were good looking, clean and did not look like addicts.
I saw one on the street standing on the corner. After an hour or so she came into the coney island. There were three of us watching her. As she walked in we all said, Hi Officer, how is it going out there?"
She said, "How did you know?"
I said, "You look to good to be a hooker. The johns look at you and know you are a cop. If you want to catch the johns you have to were dirty clothes and go a night without sleep so you look like you are an addict."
The next night they had a Asian cop out there in hot pants and a short tank top. I saw him in uniform a few times before.
As a side note. In Inkster where I tended bar the police would set up a decoy operation. The catch car would be parked in the bar lot to penalize me. They would pull over drunk drivers and get them to plead guilty to solicitation so they would not lose their drivers license and have higher insurance rates. The figures looked great for the decoy operation. I am willing to bet that 90% pf the busts were drunk drivers.
Now we are downtown:
There is a man in my apartment building with one leg. He has two wheel chairs. One is electric which is used to go to the store. The other is manual which her uses for panhandling. He lives on the 12th floor. My apartment is next to the stairway. I heard a banging on the stairs. I went to the stairway and he was crawling down the stairs dragging his chair. The main elevators were out so I told him to go to the freight elevator and I would call down to have it sent up.
This man gets around. I see him on the street a lot. He moves along and when people come by her holds his hand out for money. He is one of the lucky ones. He did not lose his leg because of drug addiction so he gets disability and Medicare. Many of the ones missing limbs are drug addicts and homeless. When it is warm they live in the bus shelters.
I saw one man with one leg and no crutches. He would hop to his spot and sit on the side walk and beg. There is a young man with no legs. He gets around laying on his stomach on a mattress that is on a table top on his wheel chair. He gets around pretty well. I haven't noticed him begging. The sad thing is that most of them are there because of drug abuse.
There is a Desert Storm Veteran in my building. He talks to himself. He sees me in the street and will start talking to me. It would be about nothing. On the rare occasion that he talked sense you would get his story. He always asks me if I have coffee to give him.
One day he was in his room yelling and throwing things. His neighbor called the police. They knocked on the door and told him to open the door. He said no. So they left. A few minutes later he went out side and they were waiting for him. They took him to the VA hospital.
I was on the bus. There was a big guy in front of me. He had a football helmet on. He was talking into his hand. I figured from the conversation that he was a secret agent. He told the agents in a car to pick up the spies in the 69 red and white chevy.
Many of the street people belong in institutions. They do not have the ability to live in the outside world. They do not take there medication and some seem to be dangerous to themselves and possibly others. Many are drug addicts and/or alcoholics. Some are hiding from the world.
I was waiting for a bus and an old guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. I gave him the cigarette and he started preaching. He started off with holy roller, moved to Judaism and worked his way to Islam. Then he started complaining about how he went to prison for killing a white guy. He said that if he killed a black guy he would not have gone to prison.
The bus came just as I was starting to worry.
There was a guy walking down the street holding his pants up. It was cold and he had long johns on. He had a belt but he wanted to be in style with his underwear showing. This was on the Wayne State University campus. It is in the middle of Detroit and they have their own police force.
The WSUPD pulled up in two cars. One cop pulled his pants down to his knees and tightened the belt so he could not run away. They went through his pockets and found nothing so they left him there with his pants belted around his knees. He stood there for a while then started walking down the street with his knees belted together.
As a sidebar, Detroit has more cops than I have ever seen. They have the Detroit Police, Wayne State University Police, Wayne County Sheriff, Michigan State Police, Transit Police, US Government Police, US Marshals, Border Patrol, US Postal Police, FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, US Coast Guard and maybe more.
I was in a door way of a vacant building when two drunks walked by and they did not see me. One of them tripped and said, "Jesus Christ."
I said in a deep voice, "Yes, my son. May I help you?"
I have never seen two drunks run so fast.
I was on a bus. We came to a stop and an old guy got on.
He asked, "Does anyone have a $1.50. I have to get to the VA hospital."
One guy in the middle of the bus said, "I have a ticket you can use."
The old guy said, "I can's get a bottle with a damn bus ticket!" and he got off the bus.
The bus driver laughed and said, "I will remember him and he will never get on my bus again."
Before I went broke I lived in an upscale neighborhood of Detroit. I would go to the drug store and an older man with one leg would be at the entrance. People would say hello and give him money. He would thank them.
Whenever I came by I would give him $5.00 and we would talk for a while. He was a diabetic and one day he told me they had to amputate his right arm. He asked for my phone number and said he wanted to call me from the hospital. He wanted me to visit him while he was there.
I didn't see him for a while and asked about him. No one knew anything. Finally he was back at his space. Because of his heart they could not amputate. A month later he died. Some of the people that helped him made sure he had a funeral and a head stone. I did not know until it was too late. I was sad that I missed it and when I think about him I miss talking to him.
The reason for this story is to let you know that these are people and many are good people. This man was a good man and I feel that he touched many people. He had a family that he had not seen in years. He lived alone but he was not alone.
© Copyright 2001 Lee W. Gaylord
Living in the hood and being a gray haired white guy there is one main rule. Never show fear. I have been close to death a few times and I do not fear death. My legs are in pain when I walk so I am not afraid of pain. It also helps that I am a big man.
I am 6' 1" tall and weigh between 275 and
Another thing is always look like the kind of person others do not want to mess with. Do not put up with BS and do not back down. My street name is the Crazy Old Man. Many times giving the impression that I am a crazy old man saved my butt.
I was walking down the street and 4 teenagers came up to me.
The first one asked, "Where are you going, old man?"
"None of your business, young man." I answered.
The second asked, "Are you a cop?"
I laughed and answered, "No."
The third got to the point, "Give us all of your money."
My answer explains my street name, "If all four of you don't get out of my face right now I am going to kick your young asses."
The fourth exclaimed, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
The four took off.
A girl was walking down the street. A boy came from behind, grabbed her chain and ran.
He was running by me and I tripped him. He dropped the chain and I picked it up and gave it back to her.
I was sitting in a coney island around the corner
from my girlfriend's house. The high school kids were coming in after
school. There were two guys sitting behind me that were about 16 or
Ne Ne, my girlfriends daughter, who was 14 and looking like she was 18, came in.
One guy said, "I would like to get into Ne Ne's pants."
The other one said, "Me to man, she is lookin
I turned around and said, "You are talking about my daughter. She is only 14 and if you or anyone want to try anything with her they have to answer to me. I will kick ass."
The both apologized. Ne Ne heard me too and she gave me a kiss and said, "I love you Daddy 2."
It was about 3am. I was waiting outside of the bar
after a night of pool for a cab.
Three guys in a van slowed down and pulled over to the curb a half a block away. The just stood there for a few minutes. I was thinking it was going to be a robbery and I was the only one to rob.
I looked at the van and I reached in my pocket with one hand an motioned to them with the other to come and get me. They probably though I was reaching for a gun and took off.
Another rule for the hood. If someone is coming toward you and they reach in their coat pocket, you reach in yours. Odds are that they will take their hand out.
I was walking in the worst area of the city. I just
left a bar and a hooker came up to me and asked, "Do you want to
I answered, "Sorry baby but I have a woman that gives me satisfaction."
She didn't want to give up which was a clue that this is a set up. She said, " I'll give you a free date in the alley. If you like it you may become a regular."
I said, "No thanks babe, maybe some other time."
I started walking down the street and I saw two big burley guys headed my way. They were both twice my size and I ain't no little guy.
The biggest one asked for a cigarette. (Before you are executed don't you get a last cigarette in stead of having to give yours to the executioners.) Then while I was giving the other guy his cigarette the biggest got behind me grabbed me and picked me up.
This guy had a way with words when he said, "This is a hold up?"
(Yea, right this is the quote of the book.)
I busted out laughing, "You are holding me up so I guess that means that this is a hold up."
While he is holding me up the other clown is going through my pockets.
I asked, "Could you just take the money and leave my wallet and the pictures of my girlfriend and daughter?"
He took everything including my key. Then he had the balls to say, "Is $5 all you have?"
(It's pouring down freezing rain and I am getting robbed by two moronic junkies.)
Trying to be helpful to this guy and his career I said, " What in the hell do you expect from an old white man in the Cass Corridor wearing an old coat and shoes with holes in them. If you are going to make a career of this you have to stop robbing old people and junkies like you because they do not have the money. Rob people with money. Go out of the hood and rob the rich folks."
They took off down the middle of the street which was a sheet of ice. Their feet were moving fast but they weren't. After falling 4 or 5 times I still beat them to the next street.
I was on the bus in the front seat. It was about
midnight. This guy, about 18 or 19, was trying to make time with the
girl. At first she was polite and listening. He then started going
off the wall and she turned the other way and started to ignore him.
He said, "Bitch!" and got up and went to the back.
I said,"Why is a woman always a bitch because she won't talk to an ass hole?"
She laughed and he turned to me and said something stupid so I gave him my famous leave me alone MF or die look. He went on to the back.
When she rang the bell to get of he got up. I told her that if he got off I would to make sure she was OK. She thanked me and got up. I got up with her and he sat down.
When we got to my stop I got up and he called me a fagot. I looked at him with my your dead meat look and said, "This is my hood ass hole. If you want to get off this bus and get the worst ass kickin of your life get off with me. If not sit your dumb ass down and keep your mouth shut."
The bus driver started laughing. The next night I got on the bus and it was the same driver. He laughed and said, "Thanks for making my night last night. It reminded me of the kid and the man about your age that were on my bus the other day.
The kid was bugging the guy and I could tell he was getting pissed. I came to a stop light and the man threw the kid out of the emergency window that was flapping open. The kid got up and headed back to the bus and the light changed so the driver took off leaving the kid.
I think the kid tried to rob him. No one asked and no one saw anything."
I have this ex almost brother in law. Verne was a
junkie and an alcoholic. You could mess with anything but his beer.
His life revolved around his beer. I never saw him without his beer.
He went to the party store, cashed his paycheck and bought 2 forty ounce Magnums. When he got out of the store a guy got in front of him and pulled a gun.
Verne was packing but he wasn't stupid. The guy
accidently knocked the bag of magnums out of his hands.
Everyone gasped. They all knew Verne would go crazy. First he started to cry. The robber looked like he was puzzled. Verne knocked the gun out of his hand, jumped on him and commenced to beat the shit our of him.
The cops came and started to pull Verne off the guy. The store owners came out and told the cops that he was the victim.
The cops pulled back and said, "Let us know when you are done so we can take him to jail."
Verne was packing two nickle plated 45's but he just wanted to beat the shit out of the guy.
© Copyright 2002 Lee W. Gaylord