R.I.P. Brother Jeffrey Strouss
Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
25Trip End Sep 05, 2007
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My trip to Detroit has been sponsored by the Yippie Museum in New York City to enable me to attend and take part in the first national convention of the new SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] organization spearheaded by youthful members of a new generation of college students with a social purpose. I'd participated in a benefit show staged at the Yippie Museum Café by NYU SDS members in May, and I was eager to see what they were up to.
When I got to Detroit, though, it proved impossible to make direct contact with the organizers. Adam Brook had attempted several times to try to work out the details of my appearance at the convention with the appropriate persons but had gotten nowhere, and now here I was-all the way from Amsterdam-without a clue as to what I was supposed to do. Nor could I locate any printed information about the event; although I knew they were gathering somewhere in Detroit for the weekend, I couldn't figure out where.
A communication arrived from my old friend Alan Haber in Ann Arbor, an original SDS member and life-long peace activist who wanted to connect me with the convention people and help find a place where I could contribute to the gathering. They finally suggested that there might be a spot where I could read a poem on a program slated for the Trumbullplex theater space on Sunday night, but I already had a commitment for Sunday night and couldn't make their event, so the speculation ended at just about that point.
It was sad to see this assignment turn into nothingness after so much anticipation on my part, but it made me remember how difficult it had always been to interact with the student radicals of the first SDS way back in the day, and now here it was again. But I'm like Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch when I get to Detroit, and I decided to make the most of my free ticket by enjoying the extra time with my family and friends and go on about my business, as always.
On Thursday night I made my first of many stops this trip at the Buzz Bar in downtown Detroit. The Buzz Bar is in most ways the successor to my former Detroit stronghold, the Music Mednu in Greektown, which was doomed when the building's owners decided to replace the Menu and the Athens Bar, the extremely venerable cop hangout next door, with a huge upscale restaurant at the corner of Monroe and Beaubien.
The Buzz has the R.J. Spangler blues jam session on Tuesdays, Ms. Thornetta Davis and her band or the Brothers Groove with Chris Codish, James Simonson and Skeeto Valdez on alternating Wednesdays, and the Larry Fratangelo jam session on Thursdays. Damn near everybody I hang out with in the Motor City congregates there on the weeknights to sit in or just hang around, and while I was hanging I got asked up on stage to do a number with the cats.
Larry Fratangelo is a world-class percussionist who's been featured with George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Was (Not Was) and literally scores of Detroit recording artists going back 25 or 30 years now. For the sessions on Thursday nights he has Skeeto on drums anchoring a fine collection of skilled and very soulful players, and I had a ball sitting in with them.
Friday night was free, and Saturday I rode up to Ann Arbor with my old pal VW Frank to attend the memorial service for our dear friend and counselor Jeffrey Strouss, who had passed away from a heart attack the previous weekend. I knew Jeffrey through VW in the first place; both had suffered massive strokes in recent years, although Frank is well on the road to full recovery while Jeff had been going downhill for quite a while.
I guess I can say it right out now that he's passed on, and this is what I remarked at his service when asked to speak: Jeff was an attorney who could not only defend you on a dope beef but could also get you some pretty intense weed as well. He also grew some incredible plants in the basement of his house just outside of Ann Arbor, and he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know-and I know a lot of them. I called him my Brown Buffalo, and we shared a great many drug-fueled adventures over the years.
I could talk about Jeff for a long time, but let it suffice to say that I'll always miss the hell out of him. In fact, it was my plan to spend the first three days of August visiting with him, his son Jamie and his companion Marilyn Richason at the house because I knew he was starting to fade and I wanted to spend some really good time with him before it was too late, but all of a sudden it was already too late, and I had to attend his memorial service instead.
The memorial service was followed by a beautiful all-day party at the house that drew most of his closest friends, who were legion, and we had a ball enjoying Jeff's largesse even though he had already left us. He was a guy who was generous beyond measure, and his friends-like myself-are all better persons for having known and loved him. Rest In Peace, my Brother.
September 1, 2007