Back in the winter, I went to Detroit with Jhoan and our awesome friend Frances.
While we were there, we had a mission. Eat at Cass Cafe, and go to The Burton Theatre.
I wrote about it on this blog already.
What I didn’t mention was the extraordinary experience we had when I begged the ladies to let me go to Bob’s Classic Kicks. Not only do they have ridiculously gorgeous throwback and vintage shoes, they have a blog with all of their stock listed (as it comes in)! I didn’t even know where it was, but when we drove by it I quickly made my case to the girls. They gave me the okay, so I turned around and found a spot.
When we approached the building, we noticed people standing out front. They were…standing.
We all looked in the side windows of the place when we noticed something that stopped us. Immediately. We weren’t going in. We were clearly not welcome. We couldn’t even get a look at all the shoes if we did go inside.
But the owner, I assume, appeared out of nowhere. “Come on in! You wanna come in? Come on!” He reminded me of how I chase down potential customers and regulars that pass by Phog. I always see unknowing people milling out front, looking at the show posters, wondering what’s inside. He clearly saw the same thing, and wanted us to go in, regardless of what was going on inside.
The following video shows what was happening inside.
I’m very happy we chose to go in, and not just because I scored a killer grey and navy pair of Air Force Ones.
For those of you wondering what the charm is about Detroit. This is part of it.
You can plan on buying shoes on a Sunday afternoon and walk in on an impromptu rap video being shot…and the DJ behind the turntables, that you never see in this video (off to the far left) has a fro-hawk that is BRIGHT RED. So slick.
Watching our City Council mulling over where (if at all) to put trees around the newly proposed Performance Stage/Festival Plaza located on the Detroit River, I’m thinking about where festivals should be held.
In our fine city, festivals are funneled to certain festival areas. The main one is in front of Caesar’s Windsor, on the riverfront, with a humongous slab of concrete playing host to all the foot traffic.
As most readers of this blog know, last year’s Phog Phest took place on the street, far away from the Festival Plaza (or other predetermined festival areas). With regard to our event, it made more sense to have the event smack dab in the middle of the street in front of the venue being celebrated.
I’ve been told, time and again, that Bluesfest originated on Victoria Avenue, which is the street perpendicular to University Avenue, where Phog Phest was held. In its heyday, it has moved to the downtown Festival Plaza, and became its own one-stop-shop event.
After our festival, we were asked over and over if we were going to do another one. A bigger one. Something perhaps at the Festival Plaza. Actually, before we even held our event, I spoke with an event organizer who seemed bewildered that I was hosting it on the street, away from the river.
If Phog Phest was at the river, the overflow of customers wouldn’t have flown into Milk Coffee Bar, Empire Lounge, California Sushi (who was nice enough to send us a sushi platter during the event!), Artcite and other neighbours. It felt good to share the event with them.
If I ever choose to host another event in Windsor, I will focus my energies on situating it in the streets. Every time.
When an event is held on the waterfront, or in a park, it feels like an escape. A disconnection. Which is the point I guess. But when there’s an event downtown, most of the contributors to the success of that event park their car, and walk directly to the Festival Plaza (as little distance as humanly possible). They then celebrate, walk back to their car, and disappear.
There’s little surprise that most festival-going Windsorites and Detroiters have no idea what the landscape of the business district looks like.
Of course, naysayers will comment on this post saying that there’s nothing to see/experience downtown in the business district. That’s an argument for a different day. Few Windsorites step outside of their comfort zone to actually experience the plethora of Windsor’s independent businesses ANYWHERE in Windsor…not just downtown. That aside, we’re ignorant to our own surroundings because we don’t stand in the spaces where these places call home 7 days a week.
New entrepreneurs potentially looking for places to put their businesses aren’t lured by the downtown area, if the only time they come downtown is to park, run to the river, dance, and run back to their car. Potential customers for these current downtown businesses are in the same boat. You can’t spend money with a locally owned business if you’ve never walked past it, recognized it, and located it with your own eyes.
In my humble opinion, the excitement of experiencing a familiar space is by changing it up once in a while. Experiencing the streets as a celebratory space is far more enticing to me than retreating to the riverfront, sequestered away from all the businesses, all the areas hungry for activity. I’d much rather see the reciprocal benefits to the surrounding downtown community by locating festivals within exploration distance of the average Windsorite. If someone wants a can of pop, an espresso, chicken wings, or sunglasses, it’d be nice if they could look within the streets of taxpaying business owners to find those things rather than the current option at Festival Plaza events.
That said, I wonder what some of the readers of this blog would say would be exciting non-pre-determined festival spaces. Any ideas?
One of my ideas, shaped by my experience with the last festival, is Indian Road in west Windsor (Sandwich).
Here’s a quick vid produced by Broken City Lab showing this derelict space –
The reason I thought of going there for a festival was the favourable distance between Indian Road and the very vocal minority of residents in downtown who believe that the streets should be a mausoleum. As the DWBIA knows well, residents put up a fuss because of the noise created by 2009’s new series of road closures for the freedom to mosey in the downtown enjoying food, faces, and music without fear of car traffic. They will likely have their hands full defending the reprisal of these events which breathed new life into the downtown in the summer of 2009.
I’ve imagined a life-bringing event, existing on Indian Road, with students, food, music, akin to the Dally In The Alley held in Detroit.
Residents would likely welcome the attention, the activity, the appreciation of their space. It could only serve to bring more attention to their plight for a solution to the blight they’re experiencing.
Best of all, residents would likely take to the street, to the smiling faces and action, to experience their street in a way that they never thought possible since their woes began.
Anyone want to help me plan something over there?
In closing, I’d like to say that I think that the newly proposed riverfront festival space is perfect for some events. It’d be nice if we lured in a 3-day jazz fest or something that would encourage outsiders to come to town for a long weekend and experience Windsor for the first time. Theatrical events outdoors would be cool too. I think that newcomers to Windsor are more apt to explore if they’re lured here by a big-time ticketed festival experience. They’re here because they’re curious. My hope is to encourage our own residents to do more than to avoid downtown for a carnival or festival, only to leave the core with no more awareness of the space than when they left the house.
But my choice, when scheduling festivities, will be in the streets.
On Tuesday, September 22nd we held an event at Phog.
It was organized by Stephen Pender of the University of Windsor Humanities Research Group. The event, Philosophy And The City, was designed to bring people together to discuss the way the city works, doesn’t work, and how we envision our future together.
Jeff Noonan (Philosophy, The University of Windsor), Justin Langlois (Broken City Lab), Melinda Munro (City of Windsor), and myself were “panelists” in the very open forum discussion taking place. In fact, I was holding my post behind the bar, tending to the needs of the customer, and hopefully adding an answer here and there to help move the discussion.
Of course, I live streamed the event.
And I also archived it online.
So if you want to take the time to listen to the discussion (the parts that are audible), please do so below.
We were told that we’d be going on a nice little trail.
Natalie said it would be gorgeous.
Without even getting our foot out the door, we saw a moose, striding across the street like it was no big deal.
There are TONS of moose in Newfoundland, and they’re a growing nuisance to the ecosystem. In fact, there’s no clear idea of how to get this population in control, as a cull has not yet been approved.
See the first video below to see the moose footage.
Onward and upward…literally UPward.
We parked next to the Tablelands to access the Green Garden Trail.
The Tablelands are a geological hot spot.
This orange rock that you see in the videos below is actually the colour of corrosion of the heavy metals found within the rocks. It is essentially, mantle rock, which is from as far below one’s feet as one can imagine. This entire range of flat-topped mountains (hence the Tablelands name) is virtually barren. The only living vegetation is dwarfed due to the lack of nutrition in the soil. Bonsai-looking trees that grow upon this terrain look as if they are baby trees, but when looked at closer, they are HUNDREDS of years old!
It was a special treat to visit this key geological terrain responsible for giving Gros Morne National Park the UNESCO Heritage sight rating. A high achievement for a national park, by the way…
The best thing about this Green Garden Trail walk that we embarked on is that it changes terrain and scenery DRASTICALLY almost every kilometer. The Green Garden Trail is an 18-kilometer trail, but many people walk portions of the trail and go back where they came. Others even camp out within the park near the trail.
Most of the scenery in these videos is a bit shaky, as we kept a feverish pace, in order to get where we had to go and get back before sundown. But, if you’re patient with the shake, you’ll see just how varied the landscape is in Newfoundland.
I will post more videos from this trail in the next post.