Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Memories of Detroit - Bob Seger

It's not easy being Detroit. After the glory "Arsenal of Democracy" days, this city began to decline.

After the 1967 riots, the city never recovered. There are many reasons and lots of blame to go around.

But there is another side of Detroit - a forward looking city - trying to heal itself and forge a new future from the ashes of its past.

Enjoy Bob Seger singing "Stranger in Town" with these archival photos of the Motor City in happier times for the people of Detroit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New and Improved CPR Technique

Spend five minutes and learn how to save a life. This procedure does not require certification or mouth to mouth, and it has a higher success rate than the traditional method.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Silent Killer - Heart Disease

Over the weekend, another former classmate of mine from the Class of "66" passed away from a heart attack. The sad news came on the heels of spending Sunday afternoon in the emergency room with a friend of mine who I hadn't seen or heard from in a couple of years. She called earlier in the day and was in the neighborhood, so she decided to drop by.

After about fifteen minutes of visiting, she started feeling faint and proceeded to develop chest and back pain, with labored breathing, sweating, and a tingling sensation in her extremities. While my wife who is a nurse took her blood pressure, I gave her two aspirins. Then the anxiety set in. That was enough for me - I called 911.

I live in a town with excellent emergency medical response services. Before I got off the phone with 911, I could hear the sirens roaring up my street. With suspected cases of heart attack, always call an ambulance rather than drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. An emergency medical team could be saving a life on the way to the hospital.

My friend was held overnight for observation to check her blood enzymes, the tell-tale sign of a heart attack. All of her lab work came back negative. All she could do was apologize for ruining my Sunday afternoon and not waiting to see what happened before we'd called the paramedics, etc. That's crazy talk! Wait for what?

There must be something about October. Eleven years ago, almost to the day, I took a ride to the same hospital on a Saturday night. Actually, my date for the evening brought me to Grossmont Hospital for a magical evening in the emergency room. Luckily, I got there within what doctors call "the golden hour." After a successful quadruple by-pass operation, I've been good to go for over ten years. Not everyone is fortunate enough to get a second chance at life.

My sincere sympathies go out to the family and friends of James Beebe, and to everyone who is grieving over the death of a loved one. Do your family a favor. If it has been over a year since your last physical, make a doctor's appointment. The life you save may be your own!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Detroit Public Library - Main Branch

Before I left town on my last trip to Detroit, I made an unexpected stop at the Detroit Public Library on Woodward Avenue, located across from the Detroit Institute of Arts. I had seen the main branch of the library many times from the steps of the museum, sometimes with students in tow and sometimes on visits with family or friends. The main building was constructed in 1921 in the neoclassical style, like many of the government buildings in Washington, DC and around the country.

After my book tour was finished for Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, I had about a dozen surplus copies I didn't want to take back on the plane to San Diego, so I went over to the library hoping to donate a couple of them for their collection.

I explained my luggage situation, and the librarian at the fiction desk gladly accepted both books. I offered more, but she said maybe an autographed copy that the librarians could pass around would be fine. I walked out to my car, got another novel, and returned.

Seems in the short time it took me to walk out to my rental car, one of the other librarians walked by the fiction desk and saw my novel on the counter. She told the fiction librarian that she had just been reading about Zug Island on her computer, probably my website.

"The author was just here and he should be coming through the front door again any minute now," she was told.

By the time I returned, there were four librarians waiting for me. They were all smiles as I greeted each of them. They wanted to know more about my book and why I wrote it. I went into auto-author mode and gave them a shortened, informal run through of my book talk.

John Norman Collins, aka John Chapman
When they asked me about my next writing project, I told them I was in town doing research on the John Norman Collins - Co-ed Killings of the late Sixties. They showed an avid interest in that subject. Only one of the ladies was old enough to remember these murders. This topic seemed to fascinate them, especially the brutality and cold case aspect of these serial killings.

I want to thank all librarians for being guardians of the printed word, and these librarians in particular, for their kind words of support and encouragement for my success. It was truly unexpected and appreciated.

If that wasn't enough, I imposed on their time once again and asked if they might distribute my remaining ten copies of Zug Island to other branches in their library system. They happily agreed.

As it turned out, I had accumulated so much data and research for my next book, that I paid an extra $50 in overweight baggage charges to take it all home. But it was worth it. I got some great material.

Thanks again, ladies. Meeting and talking with you was one of the high points of my trip back home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Allen Park Historical Museum

One of the happiest surprises on my recent trip to Michigan was the discovery of the Allen Park Historical Museum, a converted farm house built in 1888, located on Park Ave. in a residential neighborhood. Most of the artifacts in the museum are scattered around the house and belonged to the family who originally lived there.

The museum is a work in progress. It needs some funding support and many volunteer hours to get this place into shape. It has a showcase filled with local police and firefighter memorabilia, there's some interesting military gear, some vintage clothing and furniture, and some rare children's toys, long unused.

The docent of this museum is the great granddaughter of the original owner of the house, who built it during the Victorian period. To give some historical context about the era, this farm house was built the same year as the Jack the Ripper killings in London's East End.

My family moved to Allen Park, a suburban community fifteen miles outside of Detroit, in 1962, the year I entered Allen Park High School as a sophomore. I only lived there for three and a half years before moving to the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, yet I list this place as my hometown.

Recently, I've reacquainted myself with the city and some of my former high school classmates on Facebook and have enjoyed interacting with people I haven't seen or heard from in over forty-five years.

Life and time have separated us, but experience is bringing us back together. Many of us have become parents and are now grandparents; we have prepared, survived, and retired from our careers; and we now have time for other people and for ourselves.

We are lucky in our generation, which has seen more than its share of turbulent history, and we mourn for our family, friends, and colleagues who have passed into the great beyond. I find myself caring about people I barely knew back in the day, and that pleases me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Remembering The Michigan Murders

My main motivation for flying into Michigan last week was to interview half a dozen people who had first hand knowledge of and experience with John Norman Collins, the alleged Michigan Murders serial killer. It should be remembered that Collins was only convicted of one count of murder; that is what makes this case so enduring in the minds of people familiar with the facts. Once authorities had convicted their man in the Karen Sue Beineman murder, the murders of the other young women went into the cold case files.

My time in Ypsilanti was well-spent. I spoke with a woman who often rode on the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle, while he and Collins toured the back country on lazy summer weekends, in an area where all of the young women's bodies were dumped. She left me with several important insights that I've not read or heard before.

Then there is the bike riding buddy, who went with John to "check out" Peter Hurkos, the Danish psychic called in on the case, at his hotel in Ann Arbor. I heard a great story from him, which I'm saving for my book, that I'm certain has never been told before.

I also heard a chilling tale of a young Eastern Michigan University woman who was fixed up on a double date with John Collins. Apparently, they were going to a campus frat party and Collins was withdrawn and sullen. I asked my source to describe her sorority sister: quiet and cute, short brunette hair, slight build, and recently pierced ears. She fit the profile of the murdered women to a tee. This may have been the woman John confessed to, that he didn't believe in the fifth commandment - Thou shall not kill. I am getting her contact information, so I can confirm that when I speak with her.

The next day, I was interviewing someone else over lunch, and I noticed two older ladies sitting adjacent to us in a booth at Haab's, Ypsilanti's oldest and finest restaurant. I overheard them talking about the John Collins case in hushed tones. What a coincidence! I couldn't believe my good fortune, but that will be the subject of another post.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The John Norman Collins House

One of the most surprising and disturbing discoveries on my recent trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan, was that the house where John Norman Collins lived and may have committed unspeakable crimes against young women forty-five years ago, is now occupied by a sorority. I'm told that in 1990-91, a dormitory wing was added to convert the original home, built in 1870, into the Alpha Xi Delta house just south of Eastern Michigan University's campus.

I noticed one of the young women was on the porch getting mail, so I cautiously approached with my researcher, Ryan M. Place from Detroit, who was beside me. "Hello! Can I talk to you for a minute?" I asked.

"Sure," she said.

"Do you know any history of the house you're living in?"

She answered, "I think so.

Then we started talking. Two of her sorority sisters came out and joined us. I told them I was writing a book about the John Norman Collins "Coed Killer" case, and they opened right up to me, a total stranger with a story. I was there with another male, and that didn't send up a red flag.

Considering the subject matter of my research, the serial killing and sexual mutilation of seven young women in Washtenaw County, I would have expected these young women would have been more guarded with me. It bothered me that they weren't.

After examining the case, I don't think John Norman Collins was as clever as many people gave him credit to be; it is just that too many people are naive or stupid. That neighborhood is still murky at night and gives me the creeps to this day. Over this summer, Ann Arbor was plagued with a series of assaults and rapes on young U of M women walking alone at night, on or around campus.

Caution and situational awareness is everybody's business. Women, when you are out in public, predators look for weakness and advantage; then, they choose their moment and killing ground. When you walk or jog alone with ear buds that impair your ability to hear what is going on around you, that sends a flag up that you are vulnerable. Your music or cell phone call can wait.

Walking in high heels also marks you as a potential victim, especially if your are walking alone on a quiet street. The tapping of your heels can announce that you are by yourself, even before a would be attacker has you in his sight. Heels also hamper your ability to flee.

Common sense is your first line of defense. Tune into where you are and what is going on around you. Avoid becoming another statistic.