November 20th, 2016

krazy koati

We're unwanted strangers, exploited and dangerous

While we were away at Pinburgh the neighborhood changed forever. Last year a block of the street opposite our hipster pinball bar closed down, taking with it Emil's, possibly the oldest restaurant in Lansing. (There's another restaurant that makes very nearly the same claim.) This was for redevelopment, to knock down buildings nearly a century old and put up something with much less charm or visual appeal. If the consent-manufacturing session the developers had at our hipster bar was accurate, the buildings were in appallingly bad shape to the point that renovation was impractical.

Anyway, things had stood more or less unchanged apart from fewer buildings in the neighborhood having things in them from late October 2015 through summer. And then shortly before Pinburgh they put up those temporary fences that block off sidewalks. The suggestion was certainly that something would happen soon.

It happened while we were away. The whole block, apart from two buildings in fair shape and with paying tenants, was demolished. We got back to find a big, gaping emptiness where landmarks of the neighborhood had been. It was disorienting to see. It still is, even a few months later and after a lot of construction vehicles have apparently moved piles of dirt around.

A few weeks after this I noticed a canvas sheet over some of the construction fence. It had an elephant's head and the name ``Rajje's Taphouse''. Another canvas said ``It's A Circus In Here''. Obvious question: the heck, exactly? Apparently Rajje's Taphouse is one of the planned occupants of the new building. The owner wants to put up a bar that uses some of the fixtures that had been prominent in Emils, including some elephant-head figures. And that would be unobjectionable overall, even admirable. Except for that name ...

Rajje was an elephant for the King Shows and Circus. In September 1963 the elephant got loose from the show. Lansing residents, mostly school kids, started chasing the elephant, as if that were going to lead to anything good. The animal ran through a department store and was chased by the police for another two miles. Police shot and killed the elephant.

The bar's owner said he wanted a name that connected to a fun piece of local history. You know, the fun piece where Lansing residents hounded an elephant to its death. I'm going to go ahead and assume he also spearheaded the Bath Schoolhouse Bombing Tapas Grill. And he's hoping to get in on the 1966 Race Riot Grilled Cheese And Tomato Soup Express Counter. Just, yipes.

Trivia: The full-sized electric locomotive Edison's laboratories developed in spring of 1880 drew 110 volts at 75 amperes, transmitted through the rails. It allowed the train to produce about 11 horsepower. Source: Edison: A Biography, Matthew Josephson.

Currently Reading: The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel, Jodie Archer, Matthew L Jockers.