Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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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.

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.

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.

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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