Motor City Memoir
Monday, December 1, 2008
  Dave Mesrey introduces the series
My friend Gary Glaser has a tremendous track record as a filmmaker; he's won Emmys, Tellys, and dozens of other awards. This project won't likely win him a wooden nickel, but I'm sure glad he took the time to help me document some of these stories before I forget 'em all.

In the meantime, just scroll down, have a look around, and let us know what you think.
And come back periodically. We'll add more content as our schedules permit.

—Dave Mesrey
(P.S. If you should experience audio or video trouble, please just refresh the page. That oughta do the trick.)

David Mesrey writes:

My initial idea for this series (what
ever it is) was just to have something to share with my kids and my grandkids. However, there aren't any little Mesreys terrorizing the world yet (count your blessings, folks). So for now, I'm stuck sharing these stories with you.

We should've titled this one "Put Me Outta My Mesrey."

I look like a petrified cab driver on his first day on the job. In Beirut.
Or, perhaps, like Stephen Stills at Woodstock: I'm scared shitless.

I'm not too comfortable in front of the camera, as you can plainly see, but I do warm up to it on occasion.

Here, I'm cruisin' with Gary in my tricked-out '91 Corolla down East Outer Drive in late 2007, just a few blocks away from the so-called "Shap House" at 5800 Nottingham, where I lived from 1969 to 1987.

"Shap," as you'll see in later episodes, is the code name I used as a teenager for my dear schizophrenic

This is the neighborhood where White Boy Rick cut his teeth sellin' crack in the 1980s. Where guys really did walk the streets with plastic shower caps on their heads while they waited for their Jheri curl activator to activate, where they cradled oversize boom boxes to their ears, listenin' to Fab Five Freddy and the Electrifying Mojo, and where they pedaled around on the most tricked-out, pimped-out bicycles you've ever seen.

It's where, as a 9-year-old boy, I befriended an 8-year-old neighbor named "Wah-BEE-yo," who I ran with for a few years before he moved away and they boarded up his house.

One day in the summer of 1979, just before he moved, "Wah-BEE-yo" came out of his house wearing a red T-shirt with black letters that read "WILD BILL."

I asked him why it said that, and he just stared at me incredulously.

"Cuz that's my name," he finally said (as if it needed explaining).
Only then, perhaps, did I begin to comprehend Ebonics.

In the midst of all this lived the irascible, irrational Shap, and after my father died, she became the man of the house — and she ran it with an iron fist. You don't fuck with Shap.

The white kids in my school knew it, and the black kids on my block knew it. She was a hard-drinkin', chain-smokin, polio-riddled wretch who plodded along with a broken gait and a permanent scowl. Her angst and her anger were almost cartoonish in their transparency.

If Shap showed up unexpectedly while I had friends over, they'd take refuge in my closet till the coast was clear. Or, if logistics allowed, they might climb out a window and scurry off to safety.

And if Shap pulled up in the driveway while I was hoopin' with the brothers in my back yard (on my 8-foot rim — alley oop!), everybody'd jump the fence and run for cover, while I had to stay and face the music.

"I don't want any goddam niggers in my yard!" she'd tell me.
Yeah, well, I didn't want any goddam Shaps in my house either.

But I was an only child, and Shap always got the last word.
She came from the Sparky Anderson School of Management:

"It's my way — or the highway, punk!"

Although I had no siblings, I did have plenty of roommates. I shared the Shap House with six cats and, at times, two dogs, all of whom seemed to eat better than I did.

That was my neighborhood.
And that was the Shap House.

Let's take a little tour, shall we? ...

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