Friday, August 27, 2010

I Went to a Marvelous Party

My first official public appearance on my return to Detroit was at a summer soirée thrown at the Hanging Gardens in Midtown.

The Hanging Gardens project, as you may have heard, was undertaken by a group of volunteers from Team Detroit who created a vertical garden on the walls of the burned-up-but-being-fixed-up Forest Arms apartment building. When I left town the kickoff had just taken place.  The overall impression was a lot of green bags hanging from the windows of a burned-out building, which wasn't actually very exciting yet.

A party at the Hanging Gardens, then, seemed like the best time to check out the progress, and the perfect time to make a return to Detroit society.  As it were.

I arrived at the party in a pissy mood, having just left a friendly but rather heated discussion with a local developer about the value of authenticity (or as it devolved, "douchebaggery" vs. "funkiness"), and then the passenger window in my long-suffering ride decided to get a little flakey.  I really, really was not in the mood to leave my car with the window open, as I am sure you can imagine, so I hastily remedied that and headed into the party.

With the flowers grown in and the Forest Arms wrapped around a cocktail party in full swing, my bad mood evaporated.  It was as if someone had gathered a couple dozen of my favorite Detroiters and put them into one surreal, uniquely Detroit setting.  Which come to think of it is exactly what happened.

Oh I could name names, but all you need to do is read any issue of Model D, or pick up a newspaper or watch a documentary and you'll have a pretty good idea who was there.  Detroit movers and (until they get a drink in them) shakers.  A wide array of old-timers and newcomers.  And a whole slew of Team Detroiters, the folks who set the whole thing in motion.  All people who get Detroit and the possibilities life here presents.

The party was Detroit summer perfection.  A beautiful night, a smattering of funky furniture, no shortage of gossip - I mean, conversation - and food and drinks borne of this local food movement that is so awesome I can hardly believe it is happening here.

We wandered through the building, my friends and I, checking out the rehab work and we ended up on the roof, where the party had partially migrated.

It's been a long time since I've had a more authentically Detroit moment than standing on the rooftop of an empty building with a drink in my hand, watching Robert M. Nelson tell one of his ribald jokes through a megaphone to an appreciative audience.

Oh Robert, what would Detroit 2010 be without you?

I can't lie, in the chaos of wrapping up my loose ends in May I had my doubts about the merits of this project.  Seeing it in full bloom, this almost formal flower garden set against the reversal of a ruin, I now find it to be an interesting foil to the whole "nature reclaiming the city" meme.  And of course, it really is quite beautiful.  It's a great example of what some creative thinking can do to mitigate what might otherwise stand as a symbol of loss, rehabilitation notwithstanding.

If you happen to find yourself near the intersection of Forest and Second, take a few moments to walk around and enjoy the Hanging Gardens.  Like most cool things in Detroit, it won't be long before the moment is over.

I am, naturally, very grateful my homecoming coincided with such a unique experience at the Hanging Gardens; it reinforced everything I'd gleaned from my travels, and everything I was discussing just before the party. If I were Noel Coward I would write a clever little song to sum up the evening, but I'm not.  So all I can say is this: I couldn't have liked it more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Hey did you see this trailer yet?  Way more interesting than that Detroit 1-8-7 show trailer (what a disaster) and lots o' superfriends to boot!

Speaking of boots, I don't know much about these Palladium boots but if this documentary is as good as it looks I'm gonna have to buy a pair.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black and White

Tuesday nights Doggy Style may have ended but my YouTube OCD has not.  While I work on a post about something relevant and informative, why don't you enjoy this black & white video duo?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Pride Issue

In my last, long-ago post I think I made it sound like I was only going to be happy if I found things in SF that I like in Detroit, and I think anyone knows that would be a mistake.  San Francisco has many great things, and I suppose what I really meant is I needed to find the unique things about SF to enjoy just as I've found so many unique things about Detroit to enjoy.

Once I took a chill pill and just started hanging out, things fell into place.  Without belaboring the issue, I don't think I'll ever be in love with San Francisco like I used to be, the spark is gone.  But it's a really tremendous place and if you want to give me a six-figure job I will move there no problemo.

The first thing that really blew me away this trip was Pride.  I've never been to an SF pride, and I have to say it is mind-boggling how big it is.  I mean HUGE.  Coming from SE Michigan with our pearl necklace of Pride celebrations ... state-wide pride in Lansing, Motor City Pride in (ironically) Ferndale, Hotter than July Black Gay Pride ... it is amazing and scary to witness the sea of humanity that descends on the Civic Center in SF for Pride.  Literally people as far as the eye can see.  I only managed to snag a few pictures, but take a gander:

 We are everywhere. Especially MUNI.

 Hundreds and Thousands.  Just like Bronski Beat predicted.


Even my mom showed up. 

SF Pride is so big they even have a celebration the day before, Pink Saturday.  My hosts with the mosts threw a Pink Saturday party which was really my first chance to chat extensively with gay locals, nearly all of whom are transplants.

Think Pink!  And Drink!

Ball of Carnation.  That's what the world is today.

People who move to SF *love* SF, so it is always interesting to hear their stories (after reminding them that it is bad form to insult Detroit after I have said I like living there).  One guy who lived in NYC in the 70s and 80s said that what he really liked about San Francisco is that you can still reach out and touch the edge.  That's been lost in a lot of other cities.

Any of us in Detroit can probably relate, in perhaps a more immediate way.  As I said over two years ago after another SF visit:

There will be a time when there will be a Starbucks on every corner and we’ll talk with a dreamy look in our eyes about the great community that thrived at Café de Troit, where it seemed like everyone you met was making something happen in town. Lower Cass will get the Ilitch touch and we’ll laugh about the days of dodging crack whores and roosters on our way to Honest John’s. Corktown will turn into Birmingham and we’ll actually miss all those hipsters and Terry-oke at LJ’s.

As for finding the "spirit of Detroit" in San Francisco, that was kind of a bust.  I did get to meet Bob Mould randomly in a bar, which was awesome, and I saw a drag follow-up to Trannyshack that was literally unwatchable, but it's about the closest thing to a gay underground I found.  I do eagerly await the Detroit arrival of several SF trends:  the small-scale artisinal cocktail lounge, neighborhood chef-driven restaurants (Ann Arbor's contributions notwithstanding) and the Edison lightbulb in hospitality decor.  Maybe even all under one roof.  And sometime this decade.

In the meantime, it's good to have my travels over and finally be back in Detroit where - when I really want to - I can turn around and swim frantically back to touch the edge.
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