Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


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Whiting Hotel Confidential: Drunks, Ghosts and a New Beginning for a Legendary Dive

Mike Morey - May 27th, 2004
Hangout central for the underbelly of Traverse City society, drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised and disoriented; these are the denizens of the Whiting Hotel. That’s what I thought when I started working there in fall of 2003, I also thought this is going to be interesting, and I was right on both counts.
Going in I wasn’t exactly a Whiting virgin. In fact far from it. I’d stayed there briefly eight years previous and as a result of some inappropriate behavior, (enough said), was on the notorious NO list; a purple plastic notebook filled with at least a couple hundred names of people no longer welcome at the Whiting. The owner at the time -- Sharon -- being a kind and forgiving woman hired me nonetheless…couldn’t stay there but I could work there is how I saw it.
I remember seeing the film “Blue Velvet,” with it’s pretty and perfect town, hiding a dark and violent world barely under the surface and thinking, “That’s Traverse City.” “Jaws” isn’t a bad metaphor for this place either, especially around Cherry Festival time. Tell yourself what you want, but bad things happen here in our pretty little resort mecca. Affluence may hide desperation but it sure doesn’t erase it.
Shortly after starting at the hotel I was sitting next to one of the residents at the library computers. Britney’s a young girl who at the time lived with her mother at the Whiting and is, (by a long shot), one of the most interesting people I met during my tenure. She did tarot readings at the hotel and also had a notebook filled with the criminal record printouts of many of the residents. But that day at the library as we both stared at the computer monitors she turned to me and asked “Why do you work at the hotel?” “’Cause I need a job,” I started to tell her when she interrupted with, “ I know….but bad things happen there.” A truer statement was never made and bad things did happen there, maybe the worst being that I became someone I didn’t like very much.

HOUSE NAZI
I started out full of empathy and compassion for the residents and ended up as the house Nazi -- ‘You are outta here NOW.” Thing is, when I came in, considering where I had come from, my view was that I could easily be where these people were. Without sobriety and some good fortune and family-- and considering I was officially barred from staying at the Whiting -- god knows what bridge or plot of earth I’d be under. So when a drunk was passed out on the stairs I’d help him to his room; when some crazed lady needed to talk to a person instead of the walls, I’d be there; or worse yet, when some young girl or guy came in, kicked out of their home and filled with shame, I’d make sure they knew they weren’t freaks or losers -- just somebody in a place anyone could be living in under the wrong circumstances.
The history of the Whiting I don’t know so well, only that it’s over 100 years old and was a fancy-ass place back in the day. There had been a bar and restaurant downstairs where the original front desk was located, and a large staircase leading upstairs. That desk is now upstairs at one end of the large lobby that at some point had an unfortunate Alpine-themed makeover, the faux stucco now yellowed with cigarette smoke.
There are two floors and the upper one is a literal maze. Even after months there on occasion I’d have to escort pizza delivery guys upstairs cause it was too difficult giving directions to some of the rooms. Along with the redecorated lobby, at some point in time the hallway walls were partially lined with bronze/orange foil wallpaper depicting Elizabethan renaissance fair types frolicking about. Also, somebody at some point got hold of some turquoise paint and hit up some of the walls with it.

NEW DIRECTIONS
I didn’t really see into many of the rooms until Goodwill Industries took over in March and we started moving people around. They’re all different and most of them were okay, but some of them were unbelievable. It was appalling to see what people lived like.
One old guy had lived there for years and it took a couple of weeks to convince him to move into another room. He thought that if he wasn’t there to drain the continually filling sink from the leaky faucet it would flood the place, and didn’t understand that the reason he had to move was so that the plumbing could be fixed. I saw his room and was sickened that he’d lived for years with a foul caved in mattress, piles of trash and a toilet sinking into the floor. There’s a huge amount of shame that comes with alcoholism, and some of these people felt lucky to have a roof over their heads and were afraid to complain about anything, even though they were paying rent. He was one of the residents that I couldn’t even describe -- they only appeared when rent was due; a ghost.

GHOSTS
Oh yeah, and the Whiting has ghost stories too, the most popularly perpetuated one being of a little boy who’s seen from time to time disappearing into walls. He carries a ball and wants to play. One resident claims to have been visited by an incubus who sprinkled rose petals on her bed. Fact and fiction blur at the Whiting, but personally I saw no ghosts.
No one ever ended up at the Whiting as the result of a lot of good life choices but they did land there as a result of having no choices left. Some people I came to really care about and respect -- people who’d been Mack-trucked by life, but whose sense of self and force of will kept them going nonetheless.
But for the most part my empathy and sympathy vaporized. I got sick of drunks; I got sick of drunks who scam charities in order to have a roof over their heads while they drink themselves to death. These local churches that fund people week after week have no idea that most of these people could be working but choose not to, and I don’t only mean the drinkers, there are very few people that are actually in need.
So towards the end of my employment there, the underbelly appeal of the Whiting became lost for me and instead of helping drunks to their rooms I was calling the police and throwing them out. Social work is not in my future.
Goodwill Industries runs the hotel now and they have admirable plans for the place; turning it into a low-rent starting point for people reclaiming their lives. The hotel is clearly in a state of transition and will never be what it was. My concern is that emptying out the hotel will only put more people on the streets. The other day I ran into one of the guys I evicted with the aid of the police. I seriously doubt that he remembers me bent over him -- as he lay passed out in bed -- yelling, “WAKE UP GET OUT.” When I asked him where he was living, he told me “Oh here and there.” I decidedly felt like an asshole.
 
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