Shitstorm 2014

A retrospective


Poorly staged re-enactment. - LEE DEVITO
  • Lee DeVito
  • Poorly staged re-enactment.
Metro Times' intrepid copy editor Dave Mesrey typically tools around town via bicycle and bus. (He's green like that.) He shows up in our offices every now and again, sits around talking to the ball himself, and collates paper edits copy like a crazy person seasoned pro.

He also plays the kazoo.

(We blame these guys.)

Sometimes he catches our typos; sometimes he just fucks things up. (We're not really sure what he does.)

As the snow fell over Detroit last week, Mesrey found himself in a reflective mood.

It was no ordinary summer weatherwise for anyone in these parts, and our copy boy was no exception. 

Having just washed ashore from the debacle of August 11, Mesrey looks back on the perils of public transportation in the midst of Shitstorm 2014.

(Just to think it all began on a non-eventful morn.)

Monday, August 11, MT HQ 

It was late in the day, and we'd just put another issue of the Metro Times to bed. In the rapidly sinking/shrinking parking lot outside our Ferndale offices, I pulled my cap down low and hopped onto my rickety trusty old Schwinn, bound together (the bike, not me) by four bungee cords and some strategically placed zip ties. 
(Me, I'm bound together by duct tape and chewing gum.) 

I had little idea what lie ahead.

I'd missed the weather report that morning and found myself ill-prepared for the Shitstorm of the Century.

No umbrella, no rubbers, no nothin'.

Around 8:30, as darkness fell upon the land, I pedaled east along Drayton Street and then south to try to catch the 710, hot on the heels of Michael Jackman.

The buses, of course, are a crapshoot most nights, and I was hoping not to roll another pair of boxcars. Sometimes the bus is full, sometimes the bike rack is full, sometimes the bus cruises to a slow roll, stops, starts, jukes, and then accelerates again, leaving you grasping at thin air:

I plowed along Hilton on my old Schwinn, my laptop and personal effects cradled in the milk crate tied to my fractured rack. After I could pedal no longer, I waded through a river of knee-high mudwater, weaving my way through a sea of gawkers to the center of the shitstorm.

Though the rain had let up, Nine Mile and Hilton was awash with sewer water, cars and trucks backed up in every direction, their bumpers on the verge of submersion. There was no sign of Jackman, but every so often, a baby floated by in a basket.

One man waiting for the bus insisted he could see it in the distance. That's it by the bowling alley! That's it, baby. But even if those headlights were no mirage, that bus wasn't going anywhere — and neither was anybody else.

A vision quickly came over me.

A vision of a strange, but familiar face ...

I knew I never should've moved to St. Clair Shores. 

But that's where I hang my hat now, and like little Baby Moses, I just wanted to get back to the crib.

Alas, it was not in the cards.
The only way I was getting home was if Airwolf came to the rescue.

So with no sign of Michael Jackman or Jan Michael Vincent, I went in search of higher ground. 

Bedraggled and bewildered, a creature void of form, I headed west toward Woodward.

No dice. 

There I was, an old man with broken teeth, stranded without love.

It was the sort of thing that happened to me all the time as a wayward teen on the east side of Detroit, and I hated to put anybody out. (Just ask the Tranchidas, the Narduzzis, the Pelleritos.)

But it was time to make the call.

"Hey," I said. "You up for company?"

"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the shitstorm."

Tracy offered me her couch for the night. All I had to do was get to Eight Mile and Livernois. 

As I sloshed my way back toward Woodward, an exhausted man in oversized waders dragged himself from the water by the railroad tracks. 

"You alright" I asked.

But he didn't understand my question.
The man was hopeless and forlorn.

I turned and headed south on Hilton, the waters flowing over my crankshaft. But dry land was just a few miles away. 

Somewhere south of Nine Mile, I stopped to talk with a couple who were trudging their way north through the muck.

"How bad is it?" I asked, gesturing toward Eight Mile.
The worst was over, they said, but the road was full of mud. 

It was all starting to remind me of the great flood of '78 or '73 or whenever that was, the night my father took me to see the trotters at Wolverine.

I-96 was a river that night, the water rising to the handles of my father's old red Maverick just beyond the racetrack. I dozed off in the back seat somewhere around Brightmoor, and when I woke up we were sitting in our driveway in Morningside. We must've floated home.

But now with my father and his old Ford a distant memory, I had to fend for myself.

I started riding again, this time with purpose, and I built up a head of steam.
As I pedaled furiously through the floodwaters, a line of stalled cars began to cheer me onward.

"Come on in!" I shouted. "The water's great!"

I was making great progress, and I could see dry land ahead.
I was moving like a tremendous machine.

Then I hit the curb.
(Which is probably when I lost my wallet.)

I was catapulted forward, then starboard, but I managed to keep the bike — and my laptop — from toppling over. The water was knee-high, my feet squishing in my waterlogged shoes with every step. Gangrene was setting in. 

Now, normally I love a rainy night ...

... but this was getting ridiculous.

I waded my way onto the sidewalk and, with one final push, I washed ashore on a relatively dry side street. I climbed back on the bike, covered in filth, and rode the rest of the way without incident.

When I got to Tracy's house, desperate for hot tea or a hot shower, I found her basement was flooded, everything drenched but the cat atop the rafters.

It watched in silence as we began to haul Tracy's belongings to the curb.

A minute later, my phone rang.
It was a man calling to tell me he'd found my wallet floating in the water along Hilton.

I didn't even know I'd lost it.
I thanked the man and arranged to pick up my wallet the next morning.

It was time to crash.
I managed to get some sleep, but poor Tracy was up all night managing the damage to her basement. 

It was an ugly sight.

Now beginning to wonder how my basement had fared in the flood, I was ready to go home.

With my clothes still soaked, Tracy was kind enough to loan me some casual ladywear: a T-shirt, sweatpants, and a bright pair of Jesse Pinkman tennis shoes left over from Halloween. 

Dressed like an aging skate punk, I hopped back on my bike in search of my waterlogged wallet.
I found it in short order and offered the good Samaritan a token of my appreciation.

The wallet was intact, but like my shoes, it was completely soaked, my paycheck withered and worn. 
I stuffed it in my backpack and rode back toward the center of the shitstorm. After a little wading and a little waiting, I finally caught the elusive 710.

On the way home, we hit all the roadblocks and the red lights and the detours. We stumbled across the usual potholes and the usual suspects: the bag ladies, the blue collars, the pot peddlers.

The eastbound lanes of Nine Mile are so chock full of holes, the buses so thoroughly battered, after a while you feel like Artimus Pyle.

Our commute was not a smooth one, but it could've been worse:
All in all, I'd say, it was a very large event.

When I finally made it home, I was amazed to find the only damage from the storm was a small leak in my kitchen ceiling and a little bit of water in the basement.

I'd lucked the fuck out.

I knew I needed to get my check to the bank, but that would have to wait.

I was burned out from exhaustion.
Blown out on the trail.

Plus I should've known right then and there my ATM would fail.

These were First World problems, though, and I knew it.

Tracy had a foot of water in her basement.
My friends Matt and Renee had four feet of water in theirs.

Me, I had a pair of ladies' sweatpants.
I took them off and stepped outside for a smoke.

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