John’s Carpet House is not a place to shop or a place to buy carpet. In fact, it’s not even a house. It’s a gathering place for many of Detroit’s finest blues musicians who come together on Sunday afternoons to jam and play the blues… good electric blues, with a lot of soul, played in a mowed section of an open field on Detroit’s near eastside.
At the corner of St. Aubin and Frederick streets lays the carpet. It’s spread out under a Chestnut tree and on Sundays it’s filled with a number of Detroit music legends doing what they do best; playing the blues. Big Time Pete, who’s been organizing this event since John’s passing a few years ago, kicked off this year’s jam session by inviting “Harmonica” Shah, guitarist/singer/harp player Kenny Miller, drummer Stixs and others to last Sunday’s session. And they came to play!
Despite last Sunday’s cool, damp weather, bikers, chess players, assorted neighborhood characters, groups of people barbecuing, and bicyclists like myself, found their way to this isolated section of the city where pheasants roam, to hear some exciting down home blues.
“They’re playing some hot music man, but not as hot as it’ll get come summer,” said a guy standing next to me. “You gotta come back man,” he added.
The Sunday jam sessions are free (donations welcome). They start at 3 p.m. or so and continue until the sun sets in the west. Musicians are invited to stop by and, from what I understand, some real blues gems are known to sit in for a song or two.
They’ll be playing the blues in that field through the fall. Look for an outhouse on Frederick Street near St. Aubin. Once you find it, you’ll discover some great Detroit blues musicians.
“The Heart of Darkness” – by Joseph Conrad
Conrad’s masterpiece and most famous work, was written in 1899 as a three-part series for a magazine. It was published as a novella in 1904. The story’s is based on a boat trip Conrad took through the Congo during his time as a sailor. The main theme of the book is colonialism and its effect on the natives.
The main character, Charles Marlow, gains employment with a trading company dealing in ivory that operates deep in the jungles of the Congo. The story follows Marlow as he trudged overland to an outpost where a steamer he’s to command is waiting. Along the way he encounters Africans working in chain gangs, dying of diseases and starvation. Arriving at the outpost, he finds his steamer has been mysteriously wrecked. While waiting for it to be repaired he hears of Mr. Kurtz, a highly regarded and successful ivory trader living in an isolated outpost. Marlow learns from those living at the outpost that Kurtz, who works for the same company, can be viewed as a rival. They hope Kurtz will die in the wilderness because of his ruthless, oppressive control over the natives.
Once the steamer is repaired, Marlow heads up river with ivory hunters to find Kurtz. The river winds it way through dense jungles where natives can be spotted through the thick growth, watching as they pass by. The ship is eventually attacked by spear throwing natives, and many on board are killed. Later, Marlow and crew come across a Russian adventurer that knows Kurtz. He tells them Kurtz has become a chieftain, worshipped by the natives, that participates in diabolical rites. Marlow finally gets to Kurtz, who is dying in his outpost surrounded by rows of human heads mounted on poles, and carries him to the steamer for the trip back to civilization. He dies along the way and is buried in a muddy hole along the river.
Upon his return to Europe, Marlow visit’s Kurtz’s fiancée and lies about his death in order not to destroy her idealistic view of him.
The book can be read as a pure adventure story or as a study on European imperialism of the late 1800’s. Some find the story racist and barbaric, but I don’t agree. I view it as a reflection of the times, as I understand it, where it was common practice for European explorers to seek out treasures in far away lands, no matter the consequences. To me, “The Heart of Darkness” is about exploitation and greed, and the horrors they breed.