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Old 06-01-2013, 09:59 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
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Default The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

This guy doesn't get it either - church bells chimed....
n the song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” singer Gordon Lightfoot referred to the Old Mariners' Church on East Jefferson Avenue as “a musty old hall in Detroit.” He later changed “musty” to “rustic.” (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

Welcome, auto racing fans, to the city where a T-shirt proudly declares, "Detroit: Where the weak are killed and eaten."

We're just kidding about that, mostly, so don't worry. Besides, you'll be spending the bulk of your time on Belle Isle, which means you'll be commuting along East Jefferson Avenue, where you will quickly note that one of our leading industries appears to be Chinese takeout joints. Why eat sweet-natured tourists when we can have sweet-and-sour chicken instead?

The city that automobiles enriched, at least for awhile, has also built an economic base on liquor, cellphones and check cashing. Or anyway, that's how it looks within a few miles either way of the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix.

There is more to East Jefferson, though, than what you might notice through the cloudy window of a shuttle van.

The broad east-west thoroughfare is where a former mayor's girlfriend once pulled rank on a deputy chief of police. Where Gordon Lightfoot mildly slandered a noble old church and messed up the math in a lyric. Where most of the cool architecture can be found, for a change, on buildings that are still inhabited. And where, alas, you can't actually buy wontons and worms in the same location.

Jefferson isn't just an arm of Metro PCS, no matter how many orange and purple storefronts you see. It's the heart of Metro Detroit, or at the very least the pancreas. Clear a spot on the bus window with the heel of your hand and take a closer look.

No musty Mariners here

Many auto race mornings ago, the city's assistant director of public works was triple-parked outside the Clique Restaurant at Jefferson and Rivard. The Clique, the go-to spot back then for all the movers and salt shakers, is attached to the Shorecrest Motor Inn, where a sign advises, "Now offering weekly rates."

Not only was Annivory Calvert a vitally unimportant bureaucrat, she was the girlfriend of legendary Mayor Coleman Young, and far too grand a figure to heed a police officer's instruction to move her vehicle. When he finally ordered her out of her car, she began to drive away.

He reached through the open window to turn off the ignition, and she hit the gas and dragged him 50 feet. Ultimately, as he was fitting her with handcuffs, she declared, "You can't arrest me! I have diplomatic immunity!"

A deputy chief wound up collecting her from the precinct house, so apparently, she was correct. Fortunately, the era of mayors as royalty ended with Young — except for our last guy, who's in prison, but that has less to do with Jefferson and more to do with Franklin, whose picture is on the $100 bill.

The Clique sits half a mile east of Mariners' Church, immortalized in Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" as "a musty old hall in Detroit" where the church bell "rang 29 times for each man" aboard the ore carrier.

Informed by a testy parishioner that the church is not musty, Lightfoot has replaced the word with "rustic." As for 29 chimes for each sailor, that would be a total of 841 clangs, and even in that sparsely populated sector, the neighbors would have complained.

Fortunately, Lightfoot has artistic license, which is almost as good as diplomatic immunity.

Let's go fishing!

Jefferson is where a hotel's sign read, "Dare you to come on in," and where Chrysler used to churn out Dodge Omnis. (The company has moved on, and so should you.)

It's where a newer, spiffier factory makes Jeep Grand Cherokees opposite a side street called Terminal. (Don't worry: It's just a name, not a condition.) Where D Town Fish, Soul Food & Chicken ("You buy ... We fry") is back to making terrific wings after an unfortunate three-month closure: "There was a neighborhood incident," explains a manager, "that scared the old owner away."

And it's where a sign just west of McClelland turns out to be a crushing disappointment. "Chop Suey Live Bait," it says, but come to find out Tai Hing is long closed and Mama Bait has done only minimal exterior work since it opened in the same spot three weeks ago.

Worms are $2.25 a dozen there, minnows a dollar more. Me, I prefer Chinese food, and I guarantee you'll find some with minimal effort.

So enjoy your trips along Jefferson, and set aside any concern you may have about getting to and from the race.

Worst case, you'll get a little lost, and we have lots of places where you can find a phone.

(313) 222-1874

From The Detroit News:
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charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2013, 07:52 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

If Gord corrected it to "once for each man" then the phrase wouldn't have the same poetic Ring to it

If a serial murderer was convicted in the USA of slaying 25 victims, and upon sentencing, the judge said "you will serve 25 years, for each murder"

...would he interpret that he was going to be serving a total of 25 years or 625 years?
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

That's exactly right, jj. The meter would have been thrown off, sounding odd and forced.

Gordon, like all artists, has poetic license, but I never felt that he used it in this line. It always seemed obvious to me that the church bell chimed once for each lost sailor, a fitting tribute and a lovely and haunting bit of imagery. Plus, that's what actually happened.
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

that's what I thought too Jennifer...a wee bit of the common sense may have slipped in as
ding dong ding dong..
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

Common sense isn't
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Old 06-09-2013, 10:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: The Wreck - church bells in the musty old hall

Originally Posted by niffer View Post
Common sense isn't
Of course it is!!

bells and pills
OK I apologise for having bothered everybody again with my idiosyncrasy.
Oh do shut up hooligan there is no "t" in that word
The problem is that I just cannot help doing the mathS every time I hear The Wreck.
In a similar vein I am drafting this whilst doing my weekly pill bottle filling routine, and I have before me another, vaguely similar ambiguous absurdity , which again is a mathematical conundrum.
I have two bottles of medications here from the same drug supplier
one says with unquestionable logic and clarity
"Take 1 capsule by mouth once a day"
The other says enigmatically
"take 1 tablet three times a day"
Which is just not possible because once taken it cannot be retaken, unless I regurgitate it that is, neither does it specify which orifice to take it by.
Just like the bell ringing I know what it really means but this time there is not even the excuse of a missing comma!!
To close I will now present a supreme example of the confusion that ambiguities can and do cause. the famous "Four Candles" sketch from 1976.
In my opinion this is a great example of British humoUr by one of Britain's best loved comedy duos The Two Ronnies (Ronnie Corbett and the late Ronnie Barker)
I must have watched that thirty/forty times but never stop laffing at it

full details are on a wiki at:-
I meant no one no harm

"Sir" John Fowles Bt
(where Sir does not signify that I am a fully benighted Knight just a Bt which signifies a humble Baronet)

Last edited by johnfowles; 06-09-2013 at 10:29 AM.
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