Category Archives: Detroit 2006

The Day After – Tour of Detroit

I awoke at 9:30 this morning. Local time, of course. Took me about five minutes to get my bearings. I think an sms message actually woke me up, but I am not sure. I got out of bed and felt the stiffness – I am really getting too old. I began writing some of the trip up. I didn’t want to pay for Internet at the hotel; but I still had so much time that I eventually thought: “At least let me see what it costs.”

The Hyatt’s Internet is WLAN, provided by T-Mobile. They have various plans – including a $29.95 annual plan. What would have been interesting to me then was a $6.00 for 1 hour payment option – the best was that this variation came with a “first day is free” promotion. Unfortunately this was when I discovered that my mobile showed 11:00 while my watch showed 12:00 – the hotel’s alarm clock confirmed the 12:00 and I began to get ready; Joel was supposed to pick me up at 12:30, and all my gear was just sitting around as I had dropped it the night before.

68I got ready and checked out; by 12:30 I met Joel in front of the Hyatt and he proceeded to give me a little tour of Detroit. The downtom area, with a burned-out train station, and a complex of five towers. Forgot the name, have to check with Joel. We returned to Club Bart to meet with Corey, hit a local Taco Bell and finally the guys dropped me off at the airport.

Security at the airport was uptight as always. This is the first time I had to get out of my shoes for the xray scan. Alright, if it makes them happy. The whole checkin, security check, and walk to the gate (A60, if you know the airport) took maybe 15 minutes. As I write this I am on LH443 – with the same nice crew as on the way here – and enjoying the Business Class one final time.

Overall, it was a really great trip and I am very happy I flew over for their show. And on the danger of repeating myself: If you haven’t done so yet, [check out their show](http://www.coreyandjoelradio.com). Thanks to Misters Hall and Fragomeni for the great two days. If you ever make your way over the Big Pond, I’d love to return the favor.

Things that Go Bump in the Night

71After the Live Show and the tour of the palatial studio, Corey and Joel agreed to drop me off at my hotel (thanks again, guys). However, we did decide to stop for a Detroit classic, a Coney Island joint. I wouldn’t call it a restaurant. I’d be hard pressed to name a place that’s still open on a Friday morning at 3:00 am, except maybe a central station McDonalds.

I gather that it is comedy tradition to go to some really bad place for an early breakfast after a show.

74Joel ordered some pancakes with syrup. Corey and I had so-called Coneys, which is sort of like a hot dog, except that it has a lot of chopped onions and I think some chili too. I don’t even want to remember; that thing was foul. I think I managed to eat three bites. The sausage must have consisted of slaughterhouse garbage. The roll was probably the least bad part of the junk, but unfrotunately utterly ruined by the horrible sauce that was liberally dumped onto it.

Joel’s pancakes weren’t bad, but of course they weren’t great either, and he had poured all of the syrup he got on them, making them basically inedible. “No trees were involved in the making of that syrup,” he laughed. Those drenched pancakes were probably the sweetest thing I had tasted in several years. It hadn’t really sunk in yet, I guess, but I really **was** in America now.

The Palatial Studio

125The Live Anniversarry Extravaganza – Corey & Joel Radio Show Episodes 61 and 62 – had just ended, and everybody was leaving. Things get a little hazy in my memory as I type this; at this point I had been up for about 30 hours and the night before I had caught maybe 3 hours of sleep. You see where I am going: Despite a heavy intake of Coke (the soft drink, before any rumours get started) I was really drowsy. I remember that things ended relatively soon after the show was over. Corey & Joel did the cleanup, and I milled about a little. I remember discussing PJ’s bit with some people – it seems that most agreed he was out of line, though the Holocaust jokes didn’t really offend many people. Be that as it may, I do remember some guys were talking to me. A black dude, and a big italian guy. Was that Sal? I can’t remember but I think it was. There were also three really tiny girls, who couldn’t have been old enough for a bar, who tried to talk German to me.

Folks, if I was confused and not paying attention at this point I am really, really sorry. But I am getting old and pulling off allnighters is getting tough for me.

As we were leaving, the guys and I decided to have a late night breakfast. First, however, Corey and Joel wanted to drop their equipment off at the Compound. My chance to see the palatial studio! That place where magic happens every week – where no fan had gone before.

The compound is hidden carefully in an inconspicuous street in Ferndale. You wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know where to look. Even if you did, you’d then be confronted by security – armed guards with big dogs (all named after hosts of crappy podcast comedy shows, too). Of course, with Joel driving the limo himself and Corey along too, they just nodded and wished us a good night as we entered.

A gravel road, lined by carefully-sculpted trees, leads up to the little cluster of buildings that is the heart of the compound. We stopped in front of the main building, and immediately a tiny Japanese gardener began to rake the gravel road, obliterating the signs of our arrival.

“That building on the right,” Joel said, “is where Kristina and the other chicks live. We can’t enter the girls’ apartments. We’d have to come back tomorrow when they’re all out, if you want to see that.”

“That’s alright,” I replied. “I don’t sneak into girls’ bedrooms; that’s just wrong.”

The lobby of the studio had been recently renovated and expanded. “None of this was here when we started out,” Joel explained, taking over the role of the tour guide. “We really worked our way up to the top, and we’re not afraid to show it.” The lobby is tastefully designed and consisted mostly of marble, with polished floors and many classic elements such as pillars. Stained glass windows in the ceiling would allow colored light to filter in during the daylight; but this late at night there was only the low, warm, indirect light of hidden lamps. A large fountain dominates the lobby.

“Did you see the fish,” Corey asked. I hadn’t. And indeed, there were japanese gold fish in there, their scales hand-painted. “Each of those costs over 50 grand,” he showed off. I nodded; I had heard these fancy fish could command an insane price. “Heff has a Zoo, we have these Fish,” Joel threw in.

We continued through huge mahagony double doors and walked through several corridors. There were corridors and doors leading off in several directions. “Editing rooms, secondary studios, we even have a special effects department down that way,” Joel explained. “But we’ll keep this tour short, I think we’re all tired. You are welcome back any time if that stuff interests you.”

Finally, we entered the inner sanctum – Studio #1. “We’ve expanded this a lot since we started,” Joel explained. “This was a trump development; we now have over 70,000 square feet of studio and office space. We need every bit, too. We’ll probably have to expand again next year.”

The studio’s layout is classic; a round table for the guests, with the microphones in the center. Several notebooks were hooked up there too, for use during the show. One corner had a couch – “We use that when we want a more comfortable atmosphere,” Joel explained. “That’s also where we spanked Nadia.” On the opposite side was one huge bed. “And that’s for the bitches. We do get bitches in here sometimes.”

Behind sound-proof windows are the control rooms for the sound technicians. I nodded, impressed, not knowing anything about the world of audio-engineering. Joel veered off into a technical discussion for a while, and I am afraid I zoned out a little.

“And finally,” Joel ended, “we have one more thing to show you. The hot tub.” He led us through a door opposite the entrance. We had reached the back of the building; from here one has a nice view of the rear part of the compound. Shielded by huge hedges there it is. “This is show 22,” Joel said as he and Corey lifted the cover. Steam rose into the cold Detroit night air.

“I don’t even want to know,” I laughed.

We returned inside, and I posted a short message to the boards – from Joel’s chair in the center of the palatial studio. I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to gloat. I’m sorry I called all of you forum guys “suckers”.

Finally, we decided to call it a night. The guys agreed to give me a ride, and we left the compound again. Behind us, the guards secured the premises for the night.

The Corey and Joel Radio Show Aniversarry Extravaganza

As soon as you enter it you notice that Club Bart really is a weird setup. It is a tiny place, maybe a dozen tables or so, I didn’t count. The bar is basically built into one corner of the main room, and behind the bar, and maybe the same height as the bar, is a tiny, tiny stage. You’d probably not get more than three people up there if you tried. A waitess was just serving at a table next to the door. I stood there, not really knowing what to do next. I figured she’d tell me, and she did. Friendly looking chick, a little belly, way too much cleavage for my tastes.

“Good evening, can I help you?” she asked – or something similar to that effect.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m actually here for the show tonight.”

“That doesn’t start until ten or something,” she said.

“Yes I know, but it was either staying in the hotel or coming here. I take it none of the guys are here yet?”

“No, do you have Joel’s phone number?”

“No, but that’s okay, I’ll wait. Besides, I’d like to eat something.”

“Great, just have a seat I’ll be with you in a minute.”

I didn’t have to wait very long. I ordered Bart’s Melted Cheese (which turned out to be pretty good). As she gave me my food some time later, she pointed to her back. “There’s Joel now.” I had already noticed, however. Joel pretty much looks like what he looks on the photos. Maybe a bit shorter than I had imagined.

I kept sitting there, chewing my cheese sandwich. Unknown to me, Corey had actually recognized me. “I think that’s Nils there” – but Joel had discounted that idea. “I thought since you had commented on show #60 earlier, there’s no way you could be in Detroit,” he later told me. The guys milled around a little before I revealed myself and handed them the Toffifee I had brought for them. The guys actually made me a gift too, with autographed headshots and a huge stack of CD’s – some Chicken Ranch stuff, but also assorted -leftover- Comedy CD’s. They’ll go into my iTunes within hours of my return, guys.

65They did the show prep, while I mostly talked to producer Tim. Guests kept coming in. I was introduced to everybody, and they were all a pretty nice bunch of people. I do remember Rob and his girlfriend, and of course Corey’s girlfriend (Amy, I think, is her name; for those of you who follow the forum: it’s not Homeless-G). I also met Kristina – recipient of many Muff jokes – who is really nice and really cute; don’t judge her by the photo Corey & Joel put on the site after the show she was on!

About every other guy I was introduced to offered to buy me a drink. A typical conversation then went something like this:

Joel: “Nils is our fan, he came from Germany just for the show.”

Person: “Oh, that’s awesome. When did you get here?”

Nils (glancing at my watch): “About three hours ago.”

Person: “And how long will you stay in the States?”

Nils: “About twenty-one hours from now.”

Person: “Oh.” A pause. “So you really just got here for the show?”

Nils: “Yes.”

Person: “Let me buy you a drink.”

Club Bart was actually somewhat crowded by the time the show started at 10:30 with a failed attempt at an announcement. Then it followed the familiar format – one after another, a bunch of comics came on and did their bits, before getting interviewed by the guys. They did two shows, and the whole thing worked pretty well; there was more of a crowd even at the very end compared to their first Live show. I won’t sum up the show; go listen to it – it should appear next week on [Corey and Joel’s website](http://www.coreyandjoelradio.com). I do have to distance myself from the Nazi and Holocaust jokes at the end of show #62. I guess I’ll just have to accept that this is a taboo that I have been conditioned with during my youth, and that other cultures (or those that wish they were one, as in the case of Americans – ha! take that!) this is not the case. I guess Joel and PJ could have killed with their bits if they had gone to Tehran with it.

The shows ended at – I guess – something like 1:30 am. That wasn’t the end of the night, however – it did [go on for a while](/2006/03/24/the-palatial-studio/).

Edit, March 30th, 2006: The live shows – episodes #61 and #62 – have been published.

Airport – Hotel – Club Bart

38Finding my out of the airport was easy once I had given up on finding any type of shop there. I had forgotten the travel power socket adapters I had bought the day before. The little bastard pieces of plastic and metal were still sitting on my couch at home.

The trip was uneventful, the driver – a Mohammed – made small talk and complained about US customs and INS officials. Something about a young, abusive guest he had to drive to Canada once, who didn’t have her papers and pissed off the customs woman until the later stuck a camera up her snatch to check for drugs. In front of the security people, and the taxi driver.

By the time we arrived, I felt a bit of tiredness creep up on me. Forgot to ask the driver’s card. He was pretty nice and didn’t rip me off too badly if at all. I doubt he’ll ever read this, but I am sorry man, I didn’t mean to snub you.

The Hyatt itself was pretty nice, but it looked like it’s out in the middle of nowehere. This is a country where the car is the holy cow. Staff was really nice as well. Tamy, the receptionist, asked me whether I wanted to keys. I looked at her as if she was crazy.

“There is only me,” I replied, gesturing to indicate the empty air next to me.

“Well some guests ask for two keys,” she explained. My eyes narrowed. I thought the only reason for that would be if you want to give a key to some woman you pick up later. I didn’t say so, and just replied, “No, thanks, I won’t need that.”

The room was really nice, very spacious. Nice, big bed that I’ll only need about a third of. I took a shower, put on a new shirt, and went down again after a little while. At the reception, I ran into one of the really nice flight attendants from LH442. I didn’t recognize her at all at first; she looked totally different without the uniform. Much better too, but I didn’t be that kind of guy and didn’t mention it. I almost told her to come to the show – the topic had come up on the flight – when I saw she was with some guy who was waiting on a nearby couch. Don’t have to be a datewrecker here. Besides, I seriously wondered whether Corey & Joel would amuse flight attendants.

The hotel didn’t have a power socket adapter for me, so I went to the shopping mall across the street. If there was one white person in there – besides me, obviously – I didn’t notice them. And I did get some odd looks, too. Like a fish out of water, I guess. I did get an adapter at Radio Shack, for US$5.50. About what the whole set had cost me which I had forgotten at home.

I returned to the hotel and was tempted to ring Joel to see if I could get a ride to Ferndale, but I decided not to do that. I knew from what Tamy the receptionist had told me that a ride to Ferndale would be expensive. But I really didn’t want to be a bother and I figured it’d be more fun to just show up.

The taxi guy got a call ever minute – he seemed to be running a chauffeur business from his car – but he was nice enough. I still felt ripped off when he dropped me off outside Club Bart, but what the hell. I am a tourist, gotta fix the US economy by paying inflated taxi fares. Or, by the looks of this guy, sponsor terrorism.

I am just kidding.

We finally arrived at Club Bart; by now it was really dark outside. Club Bart, even from the outside, looks tiny. I paid the driver, and had him give me his number. Just in case. I stepped outside into the cool Detroit evening air and entered the Club.

Arrival in Detroit

Arrived in Detroit on time. Flying over the city showed already that this place is not very touristy. Typical American checkerboard city layout, sprawling as far as the eye could see.

There are two things you immediately notice about the Detroit airport. One is the horrible-looking, ancient carpet, and the 1960s feel it gives the place. The second thing is the signs that tell you where to go. They are blue, with white labeling – in what looks to me to be Chinese. No English. Nothing. Just chinese. There’s really only one way to go, too, so one might question whether you’d need signs anyway, but it’s quite strange that they’d have chinese-only signs. Maybe chinese people try to walk through walls if you don’t tell them what to do? Living in a highly-controlled society (or, a dictatorship, whatever) might do that to people, as George Orwell illustrated in “1984”.

A little while later, when there are actually choices about what way to take, the airport staff helpfully added Spanish text to the signs. Go figure.

Nonetheless, it was no problem to find the immigration section. The lines were short; I walked to one where the INS guy didn’t look too annoyed yet, figuring I might need a little patience on his part. In the background a martial announcer voice was talking over the PA. “All luggage must be processed before being transferred to connecting flights. Welcome to the United States.”

There was some delay in front of me because an old woman didn’t quite understand the instructions. The INS guy was patient with her – good, I had made the right choice. I waited. Somewhere, a tough black woman in uniform was yelling at people to stop using their mobiles. Rule #1 if you want to enter a foreign country: Always, always do what the signs tell you to do. At least until you passed the border controls.

A few minutes later, it was my turn. I immediately made a fool out of myself for forgetting to answer the rear side of the Visa Waiver form – a mistake I feel is pretty telling, considering the quality of the questions on that side. Have I ever been a terrorist or a member of the NSDAP? Sure, I’ll just say “yes” to these.

After I had managed to go through three pens (one of theirs, and two of mine) to answer all questions, and my forms were actually filled out completely, the guy went on to the interview section of the procedure.

“Are you here for business or personal reasons?”

“Personal.”

“How long do you intend to stay?”

I glanced at my watch. “About twenty-five hours.”

He looked at me. “And then you’ll leave again?”

“Yes.”

“Going where?”

“Back to Frankfurt.”

“What do you do here for just one day?”

“Well these guys I know are hosting a comedy show tonight and I figured it’d be fun to drop by.” I trailed off a little, realizing I must sound a little strange.

He paused just a beat. “Let me see your return ticket.”

I handed him the passenger receipt. “Don’t have the actual ticket yet, as it’s an electronic ticket,” I apologized.

At this point I was wondering whether he’d flag me as “suspicious” or “insane”. However he did take my fingerprints and my photo and stamped the approval on my visa.

“Isn’t that a little strange to come here all the way just for a … a what?” He asked as he handed me back my passport.

“Comedy show,” I replied and shrugged. I figured I might as well tell him about my employer; that usually helps people to understand a little better. He remained sceptical.

“Well,” he said. “Enjoy your show then. Welcome to the United States.”

“Thanks,” I told him. “If you wanna drop by, it’s at Club Bart in Ferndale at 10.”

“Believe me,” he laughed. “I’d love to see a show that someone’s flying over from Germany for. But I’ll have to stay here.”

We bidded each other farewell and I entered US territory.

Over the Atlantic

32I am pleased to announce that my departure went without a hitch. I am currently about half-way to Detroit, blogging at 11500 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. I am connected via Lufthansa’s on-board Internet plan. It’s 27 US$ for the entire flight, but of course I just **had** to give it a try. It does work fairly well, but as expected it’s pretty slow. There are also disconnections now and then. It’s easy to set up (you really don’t have to configure much except disable your proxy settings, and set your notebook to use the Connexion WLAN) and well documented via the Lufthansa on-board magazine.

I don’t think anything gets filtered out. I am ssh’ing to my private servers without problems, so you could always tunnel whatever you want to access. Since anybody on the plane can listen in on what you’re doing, and since the connectivity is run by Boeing and thus routed via Seattle, using some form of encryption (vpn, ssh, whatever) is a very good idea. I’m still blogging directly though – but I’ll have to look into setting up an SSL host for this sort of thing.

26Unless you’re on a budget, it’s pretty neat to have Internet on board an airplane. I think I am getting used to it pretty quickly… hopefully, other airlines will offer comparable solutions.

Finally, as an aside: If you book Business Class, you even get a power socket for your notebook. This isn’t available in Economy, however.

Itinerary

77I’ll make a small end-of-the-week trip tomorrow. If all goes well, the schedule will proceed like so:

Thursday, March 23rd:

* Go to airport, 10:30 local
* Departure Frankfurt, 13:30 local on LH442
* Arrival Detroit, 16:40 local
* Check in at hotel (Hyatt Regency Dearborn), about 17:30 local
* Corey & Joel’s Live Show at Club Bart, 22:00 local
* Crash exhaustedly at hotel

Friday, March 24th:

* Sleep late
* Departure Detroit, 18:30 local on LH443

Saturday:

* Arrival Frankfurt, 8:30 local
* Arrival at home at 9:30 local

That’s 13400 kilometers in 47 hours. Cross your fingers.