Showing posts with label travel log. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel log. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2017

Motor City, Baby...
















36,000 miles in the air and I shovel a tiny bag of pretzels down my gullet followed by a tumbler of Diet Coke.  I'm hoping the young lady chewing cud next to me thinks I either have allergies or a coke habit when noticing clumped mascara and puffy eyes, accompanied by a snotty nose.

I know what you're thinking - who is this celestial beast and how can I get her number - but trust me - that would be the wrong move today.

Before boarding this tin bird in the sky I spoke to one or more men who seem genuinely interested in pursuing more than just pussy and, instead of that filling me with hope about the future or leaving me flattered by the seemingly nice men, I am instead irritated and, ultimately sad.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said it was better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, but Selena Gomez professes the heart wants what it wants - and if I have to choose between classical wisdom and current pop princessdom, well that is an easy choice to make.

Though my bougie bitch biases don't allow me to consider anything without a passport stamp 'travel,' I have been afforded the opportunity to visit a new city in a new state. One about which I've been curious for quite some time but never had the time, resources or motivation to check out ... until now!

Detroit, Michigan will be my destination for this long weekend and I am ready to explore the D.

As we make our descent into our final destination, seat 22F offers me the opportunity to gaze at the bedazzled topography of this Midwestern city at night.

It looks like a vast expanse of black velvet and jewels and I begin to debate whether or not tonight will be for solo exploration, or solo bedtimation - it really all depends on how long it takes to get to the hotel I would imagine.

I'm not sure how long bars are open in this state but I know I generally close for business before midnight regardless of zip code.

By the time we actually touch down I have grown exhausted and am not at all prepared for the hike through DTW's enormous airport, replete with an indoor candy apple red tram.

After hiking through the airport I descend upon baggage claim, and my driver for the evening Eddie, who met me with a tiny electronic screen emblazoned with my name, save for the E., acting as a stark reminder that as we age, so do our eyes. After deciphering the all too familiar 10 letters, I load into the back of a big black sedan and set off for the Detroit Foundation Hotel.

This vehicle not only acted as a means of transport for me to my destination, approximately 30 mins away, but also as a platform for an impromtu therapy session ... for Eddie.

Lots of ground was covered from Eddie's military childhood to the death of his first wife all the way to his youngest daughter and her proclivities.

I'm not pretending to not be a willing, if not at times, eager participant in such conversations but I am not sure what about it me that allows people, strangers, to open up so freely and intimately. It is both a gift and a curse.

When the subject turned to why I had been speaking Spanish on the phone when we met I gave a brief synopsis, casually referencing my 30th birthday, for which I threw myself not one, but two Quinceneras, to which Eddie reacted with great incredulity.

He continued to insist I looked like I was in my late 20s (as opposed to mid-30s) as he casually referenced directions in which to walk and explore while dropping me at the hotel. The foyer had excellent lighting and not even that discouraged Eddie from insisting again what a youthful visage I possessed.

Thank you Eddie for making me feel good on a day where I'd been feeling anything but. I was so flattered that I almost found myself down on bended knee, not to join in solidarity with the NFL, which I would in a heartbeat, but to propose marriage!

Riding so high on flattery, I didn't mind that room service was not available and made my way through the hip and spacious lobby of DFH before riding the elevator up three floors. It was then that that I became officially bitten by the excitement of a new destination.

This fervor was quickly drained when I entered my bathtub-less room and caught sight of my thighs in the unforgiving overheard light in room 306. Back to reality, back to bed.

And tomorrow. Back to work. Work in Motor City, baby!






























The morning comes far too soon and I rise to the sound of Matt and Hoda, having not turned the tv off from the night before, a luxury I am not afforded in my own home.

I dress to the sweet sounds of Camilla Cabello pop and locking on the Today show and nervously head downstairs.

Each and every time I'm on a press trip I get first day jitters - who will my classmates be? Am I dressed appropriately (probably not)? Do I understand normal social decorum under such circumstances? You know – typical.

Downstairs Liz immediately knows who I am and greets me warmly as the intimate group of ladies I will be spending the weekend with assemble in the lobby.

Our first destination is Parks and Rec for a buttery breakfast where I, unfortunately do not encounter either Ron Swanson or Tom Haverford but I do get sustenance in a very hip eatery replete with a young man clearly destined in another life to be a Britney backup dancer who proudly displayed his ‘Bae’ ring to me upon request.

At breakfast my small group is joined by Deanna who has truly found her calling as the official welcoming committee to Detroit. Her enthusiasm for her hometown is palpable and her knowledge is vast, despite her not loving my question about the disenfranchised as she prattled on about stadiums and revenue. 

After our meals are consumed she is kind enough to bring us to our next destination at grown up camp by way of artist Lisa Spindler's studio downtown. 

Lisa Spindler is an artist who is a native Detroiter and a pioneer (a term her friend was kind enough to grant me with as well) and remained loyal to her city. She is a single mom of three with a unique energy and long dark hair and... she is dope as fuck. She is a cool and beautiful urban hippie with a large black and white print of a woman with SWV nails and a Queen Bee tattoo on her fingers that I am eager to hang in my own home.

With a little time to kill before our Uber driver arrives we peruse some of the shops popping up downtown, including Detroit is the New Black an establishment that is part hair salon, part hipster rodeo and who I partially want to sue for copyright of a term I have been throwing around far too loosely for over a decade, but wistfully perused fluorescent bags and onesies as Kid Cudi serenaded me. I decided upon purchasing an overpriced v-neck from a mohwaked girl to commemorate my trip to D-town and pretend to be as young and hip as I can for as long as possible.

Before long our Iraqi driver appeared and we cruised through town filled with single standing structures that have plenty of room to breathe, surprising all of my bunkmates with it's spacious layout. Chit chatting away with the driver helped pass the time and, before you knew it we had arrived at our lunch destination - Selden Standard. 

When entering the establishment one cannot help but observe its clean northern Scandinavian design which was ironically the perfect place to meet yet another kind PR soul, Amber rose - who was striking with her own Norwegian (I would later find out German) beauty. 

Amber and I discussed the public arts programs this city has to offer briefly before being interrupted by our server for the afternoon, Andrew, who listed off today's specials with ray bans almost as firmly affixed to his head and the gel made his hair.

After ordering the oh so fancy sounding vegetable carpaccio, which really just meant raw vegetables beautifully displayed on plate, the subject matter turned to dating and Amber shared her story. 

The food was beautiful with flourishes or red and yellow abounding, I was, however, left underwhelmed with my meal. That being said, the free tampons in the bathroom almost made me forgive them for the unforgiving light and raw veggie galore.

With lunch finished we were off to explore midtown which seems newly populated by artisnal whatchamacallits and locallly sources whositwhatits. When walking into the main shopping area I couldn't help but notice an adorable 21 year old out side of a restaurant at which he was employed, his youthful exuberance glowed almost as brightly as his flourscent sneakers. He was a journalism major at Wayne State, just down the rode and it took me aback for a moment to realize I was part of a journalist posse for the weekend. 

Midtown housed Shinola, which had been discussed all day but being embarrassed of my ignorance I didn't understand until we entered the clean retail space fraught with overpriced simplistically designs and a ping pong table in the back. The hip atmosphere almost intoxicated me to the point of wanting to spend $30 on a canvas journal (in Michigan!), but I resisted.

Third Man Records, Jack White's brainchild, was located just next door. This bumble bee yellow and black record store, performance space and recording studio is impressive, charming and well worth a gander. Across the street City Bird called to me with its beautifully sculpted tchotchkes that no one needs, but everyone wants. $30 poorer I exited with some tiny trinkets, enough to maintain some of my traveling traditions with loved ones, satisfied in having done so. 
























As meandering continued I got my 50th compliment of the day on my colorful flock, this time from a breathtaking beauty behind a register, and it occurred to me - black is the new black seems to be the Detroit fashion motto.

The ladies and I had briefly touched upon my encounter with the last time I went on a full fledged press trip, or at least close to last, and how it had resulted in a deep and meaningful love connection, minus the Chuck Woolery and cool geometric graphics. This, of course, left me drawing parallels here, in this new city, enjoying this new experience. When you're in love everything reminds you of that person - they're a constant in your heart and mind and when that is over it is profoundly painful and achingly sad. Unfortunately, Detroit is not one of the 8 cities we got to experience together - maybe next lifetime...

Anyway.

We were in Detroit during Detroit Design Week, by no accident I am sure, and this offered us a series of sights and sounds that would not be typically available. Like, Pony Ride. A hip and confusing name to describe what I believe is a pop up convention of sorts featuring art and housewares and technology. 

I cannot speak with any authority on this, of course, as as our group became divided for several reasons the three remaining sat outside in the sun next to a mural-ed brick building for quite some time before we ponied up (see what I did there?) and purchased some extraordinary Sweet Potato Sensations by way of cookie and brittle and called an Uber, only to later realize that the tent we'd been 15 feet from was where the actual action was taking place. Nevertheless, the treats were delicious and Sunny D welcomed.

With some time to kill before our swanky dinner plans the threesome decided collectively to visit Detroit Institute of Arts Museum downtown. Unfortunately before reaching out destination we were cursed with the worst driver known to man who not only didn't know his way around Motor City, he also didn't know how to drive. Feeling weary and car sick we exited the Audi to a palatial estate known as DIA housing many works of art while functioning as one itself.

As we entered the foyer we were flanked by tables with by and large children and their chess sets heavy with concentration. It was beautiful. Then we made our way through the open air museum, stopping by the Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement which consisted of three consecutive rooms splashed with gorgeous color, including the eye color of the security guard in that particular room and a DIY component.

leisurely stroll down to Kresge Court reveled Alice in Wonderland chairs with sky lit natural beauty and salty nuts to order. 

A real, human conversation was had - something that always brings me a sense of peace and joy without any Christmas connotation and we were off yet again, this time with a young Yemeni man leading the way and sharing his story of young marriage and a move from NY to DT. 

We had an hour recess and I attempted to use this to my benefit by taking a quick power nap, shoes in the bed included, before motoring downstairs where I thought taking out my braids and slapping on some lipstick would be enough of a transformation for day to night - yet all of my ladies were in brand new ensembles...

Always the beast of the ball, we headed to Standby, a hip downtown eatery tucked into an iron and mural lined alleyway with Frank Ocean warbling to a tiny room filled with white people and black leather.

The breathtaking Nubian queen serving as the hostess greeted us and brought us cocktails while we waited. Mine was a "Pretty Lady" and to have it brought by such a pretty lady this tequila treat was quite special. After approximately two sips we were seated and my beverage remained untouched as I dug into an enormous plate of fish and chips, breaking my meat fast and absolutely breaking any fried food rules as it was the only edible thing, for me, on the menu and... quite tasty!

I have to admit, though I was skeptical to spend a weekend with 4 white women its actually been quite lovely. These women are smart and kind and, to be in the company of women far better traveled than I is an true honor. That being said, I seem to be the only one who has done it solo, so bully for me - or poor me - depending on how you choose to see the glass.

As we meandered our way through darkened downtown at night we were in search of a bar by the name of Bad Luck, and that is exactly what we were having. When I spotted a maintenance worker replete with neon vest and garbage pail I took the opportunity to ask if he could assist with directions. I, very casually referenced him as homeboy to which he chuckled and we managed our way back in the direction from which we came, spotting a darkened and skunky alley way on our left with, what to the naked eye, would look like a service entrance but - to the tragically hip is the entrance to speak easy Bad Luck.

After the curtains part you're met with mellow yellow lights, cushy banquettes, easy hip hop and ridiculously intricate cocktails.

A few beautifully presented cocktails and lengthy convo about integrity and social media had - my go to soap box speech  - and it's back through the now chilly night in Detroit where only the occasional glance from a passerby warms me up.

Turmeric tea from the lobby bar at The Foundation Hotel was a must before bed and would have been an entirely pleasant experience were it not for the self involved booze hound in front of me who clearly didn't think my sleepy time ritual was as important as her slutty time one.

Before the night ends one of the woman with whom I have had the pleasure of spending the evening, a stunning 53 year old - assures me that I will never be old because of my spirit, as all the nightcap I needed and left me with just one more thing to do.

Climb into bed with my laptop and cup of tea contended, if chilly. And off to dream land to contemplate my future.




































Taking full advantage of amenities offered in a wonderful hotel stay I spent the morning lounging and dressing to 'Say Yes to the Dress,' a show I had not seen before and don't need to again, though the experience was equal parts saddening and amusing.

Downstairs I was greeted by my T-Swift like squad for a dairy free smoothie and a good cry with my new Henriette adjacent homie, Amber - because that is super profesh, right? As we were chatting she took a beat, looked me square in the eyes and asked me what I wanted to see, sensing I hadn't yet seen it. And I point blank said - grit. Where is the hood? Where are the black people? This is Detroit and I am all for your Renaissance, but this city has lived and breathed long before Lululemon set up shop, and THAT is what I want to see. 

She racked her brain for a moment and promised to get back to me.

I got her digits and figured getting a beautiful woman's digits is ALMOST as good as a foxy dude's.

After breakfast we made our way to Eastern Market where we unloaded from the minivan driven by a mother of 6 in front of Red Bull House of Art. According to local lore is is the only one of it's kind so we were feeling lucky to get a look.

As we entered the urban artifice we were met first by a beautiful black dog and I was hooked. She was sweet and wanted me to throw her a ball. What more could I want? Next we met her owner and our tour guide of the facility, who's cool guy demeanor conveyed no emotion, but who's knowledge of his facility, and of art was vast. 

Evidently there are only 3 artists in residence at a time and we got to take a peek at their works in progress before descensing down the stairwell into the belly of the beast that echoed the feelings of Egyptian tombs before making our way to the small gallery space that housed an amazing quilt, some embroidered jackets and these gorgeous wooden hands filled with crystals that I wanted for my own.

The hands allowed enough distraction, as did our cute tour guide, from the strange Gwar Sex toys on display and before you knew it, we were out!

Down the colorfully bricked street was the actual Eastern Market where we got to see one of the artist's in residence's work being installed and where we got to sample homemade tarts (none for me, of course) and senior citizens jamming on the 1-2 with the Godfather soundtrack on the xylophone.

Antiques and artisnal honey can be sourced at this open air market that was buzzing and full of life on a Saturday afternoon. As I wandered down a side street looking for the source of BBQ smoke accompanied karaoke I found my new BFF for the moment, Bobby. A Detroit native who owned a blues club and had no shortage of chit chat topics about his beloved hometown. It is always these sorts of interactions that leave me glad I have tried someplace different and spoken with someone new.

Talking to Strangers - the 45th option for my biography title.

The ladies have grown hungry and it seems the group has decided it is time to leave, despite the fact that I could have hung at Eastern Market all damn day, so we are off. This time driven by a strange and humorless Armenian driver who meanders through the vast expanse of dilapidated palatial estates and it took all of my strength not to ask him to stop so I could shoot this first glimpse at the 'real' Detroit. At least according to me.

The neighborhood made him nervous but it made me glad she he found it hard to believe this was our destination of choice as we single file lined our way into Rose's Fine Food, a quirky little solo structure that smells of bacon, bread and heaven.

It is over this hand crafted lunch that I casually mention that MAYBE the art curator with whom we met was cute and the ladies attack it like an errant bone at the pound - immediately attempting to pimp me out and purchasing a calligraphy set for the handwritten wedding invitations - which they all laid claim on immediately.

Women are so crazy. And wonderful.

With a band of well traveled women we decide to walk our way back toward civilization and take an enjoyable 20 minute stroll in the late afternoon sun down a major thoroughfare and through a very posh neighborhood called Indian Village where the homes were enormous, well manicured and reasonable priced.

It was exceedingly annoying.

We popped into the Red Hook Cafe, which of course made me think of Brooklyn, and offered some live music by way of Demetrius on his lunch break playing his adjusted steel drum that, for some reason, I found to be fascinating.

A few blocks over is Paramita Sound Vinyl Records where I picked up a James Brown 45" for $2 from a John Turturro look alike in leather sweats who happened to, totally pull them off!

Back in a car. Back to the hotel.
Back for a 45 minute recess before our next period.

Though I thought we were heading straight to dinner I was wrong, and we were instead heading way out of city center to Light Up Livernois for the Design Festival on Detroit's version of Piedmont Avenue (Oakland, CA for those not in the know). 

The street was flanked with local rappers and homemade jewelry. It felt far more community driven than midtown and I was glad that we got a chance to come through, and feel what - at least to the Michigan-ignorant me - like a more authentic example of Motor City living, albeit briefly.

Dinner tonight was to be consumed at Takoi. If you are thinking to yourself - I wonder what a place called Takoi is like - just imagine a nightclub in a shipping container.

Our meal was prix fixe as we were journalistic guests of honor and many many courses of classy cocktails and Asian inspired fare were brought in succession of one another. Only when truly gourmet food is served is my puerile palette more evident as I skipped out on anything creamy or meaty or cheesy and instead sipped on my Mexican Coke and stuck to the strictly vegetarian fare which I will say, was delicious and filling!

The gender neutral restrooms offer a variation of excellent selfie-taking light and the Ikea meets The Maxx decor made me feel right at home. 

We got a bit of history about the place from an eclectic cast of characters and when the wall behind me opened up to reveal a bearded DJ on the turn tables the Rockwellian portrait was complete.

At this point in the evening we were fed, full and had a variety of destinations we saw fit for our last night and our tiny clan disbanded as some went home and some walked across the street to 2 James, a cool whiskey bar that I wanted to buy a child's sized t-shirt for for my nephew James because what 13 year old doesn't need to promote alcohol consumption proudly on his chest?

As we sipped and sauntered throughout the well lit room I was met by a friend I had made earlier in the day and excited about being shown around for the evening by.

I bit my remaining ladies adieu and headed out with my hooded homie to ... the hood.

Home at last, home at last, thank God almighty I am home at last.

My escort for the evening must have been able to read my freckles in braille as he brought me to a dive Mexican bar that may or may not have been featured in Pee Wee's Big Adventure for, as I walked in I would be willing to bet the record came to a screeching halt.

A dim damp room with 4 Mexican men, ranchero on the radio and a single light bulb swaying to the beat above the pool table was just my speed and I felt happy, and at peace.

After illustrating that my pool skills were just as I had asserted when this outing was suggested earlier - terribly mediocre - I was promised another bar with another vibe.

A short ride to The Old Miami that had been described as a Vietnam Vet hangout and I was hooked.

How did this stranger in a strange land know that I would want both dirty Mexican dives and Old Man memories to fill my evening, and my heart.

Conversation and human connection carried my evening into night and soon it was time for bed and time.

There are moments in life when your worries and insecurities and sadness wash away, if only for a moment and you're allowed to just BE. Tonight was one of those nights and I was more than grateful that I was given the opportunity to experience this with this new friend, in a new city.

I had fallen in love with Detroit almost instantly and this evening was just the cherry on the top of my Michigan sundae.

One last night in a big comfy hotel bed was utilized to its fullest - why are beds you don't have to make always so much more comfortable?

Then, the morning came. All too soon.

Breakfast with my bitches (said with all due respect) and some girl talk with some intense fellow female insight in our shared car to the airport, and I was officially sad to leave Detroit.

But alas, back to NYC and back to reality.
Rhyme intended!