Thursday, April 30, 2009

A day at the DIA

I spent the day at the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) today. It was a perfect day for being inside - rainy and grey - and I happily wandered the galleries alone, lingering, or not, as I pleased.
It was a privilege to be able to spend the whole day this way, even though so many hours on my feet were exhausting.  I found it necessary to sit on the benches and rest every so often - like the old  person I am becoming.

Here are some photos I took of Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" mural:

In this detail I'm wondering why the woman doesn't have a lunchbox. My mom always took one to her factory job.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The ghost depot

I was in Detroit yesterday and took a few photos of the Michigan Central train depot, the once-grand, decaying ghost that haunts the southwest side of the city.

The Detroit City Council has recently passed a resolution calling for the demolition of the station, which has been empty for more than 20 years. Normally I'd be against the demolition of such an historic building, especially one that's so iconic, and also one that figures in my personal history - I began a significant cross-country journey from this station in 1976. But it's horribly deteriorated, a huge eyesore, and beyond hope of ever being revitalized.

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press recently wrote that the station is "as good a symbol of post apocalyptic urban America as you can get." And I'd certainly have to agree with that. Looking at the station yesterday I couldn't think of anything I could compare it to. Being there feels like you've stepped onto the set of a movie meant to represent some time after the decline of humankind. And that's just the outside. The once grand, Beaux-arts inspired lobby is an indescribable vault of graffiti and decay.
You can see more pictures and video of the station at:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hurray! Jill Sobule's new CD arrived in the mail from Amazon today. This is the first CD I've bought in a long time (rather than downloading from itunes,) but had to have this one because I LOVE Jill Sobule and because this CD is so unique. It was funded entirely by Jill's fans.

She raised $75,000 in donations in order to produce the CD, with perks awarded for levels of giving. For ten bucks you got a digital download, for $200 free admission to her concerts for a year, $500 got your name in a song, for $2,500 you got to be listed as an executive producer, and for $10,000 one woman got to sing on the album.

I'm listening to the CD as I write this and it's such a treat - as always. I love Jill's funny, observational story songs, and her heartbreaking honesty.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Downriver reeds

When I moved to the Downriver area of Detroit last year I noticed a certain kind of wild reed that seemed to be growing everywhere. How nice, I thought. I was glad to see that this plant had been alowed to flurish alongside the roads. I thought it gave the area a nice naturalized look. But then I learned that the reeds are invasive.

Pharagmites australis (the common reed) is a noxious, invasive, aquatic plant that has degraded the coastal wetland ecosystem of the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie. It can grow to a height of more than ten feet and crowds out native aquatic plants that are important to wildlife.

In an effort to control the spread of these reeds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to conduct a burn at Humbug Marsh, a part of the Detroit River Wildlife Refuge, this month. The refuge conserves and restores habitat for waterfowl, fish, and 300 species of migratory birds.

It will be the first time a burn has been conducted in the refuge, which is just across the river from the island we live on. I'm wondering if we'll be able to see the fires - I imagine that would be an interesting sight.

Good luck to the marsh & Happy Earth Day to all

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BB hates berries

When I started this blog I promised myself that I wouldn't use it as a forum to rant, in spite of the fact that, or perhaps because of the fact that, there is so much I could rant about. But one of those rant-worthy topics I just can't hold back about any longer is my beloved's dislike of berries.

Yes, you read that correctly: BB does not like berries - the Earth's most delicious, most good-for-you food. She refuses to eat blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and has only recently begun to tolerate strawberries in small amounts. She also does not eat peaches, plums, or tomatoes. How crazy is that??

I could understand if she didn't like a few foods, like maybe broccoli or onion or lima beans. Everyone has two or three things they don't like (I don't care for cantaloupe, shrimp, or garlic,) but to eschew the whole of summer's sweet bounty? I just don't get that. It breaks my heart that she's missing out on the enjoyment of these most tasty and healthful delights. It also makes me sad that I can't share the enjoyment of these foods with her.

I assume she must have had some horrible childhood trauma that led to this dislike. What else could it possibly be?!

For dinner tonight I'm making a salad with spring greens, roasted chicken, Gorgonzola cheese, and.... strawberries. It sounds delicious to me, but I'm wondering what BB will think?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eostre Fest

Every year on Easter Sunday I think about what a shame it is that the celebration of the arrival of spring was stolen from the pagans and distorted into a religious holiday. What a shame it is that both the winter solstice and vernal equinox have been mixed up with, and overshadowed by, Christian myths.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could celebrate the rebirth and revitalization of the land we live upon without religion? Just imagine...

All schools and businesses would close on the day of the spring equinox, called Easter after the ancient Saxon goddess Eostre, and the German fertility goddess Ostare. (Not that I'm suggesting we worship pagan deities, just that we shouldn't forget how Easter got its name.)

There would, of-course, be baskets of colorful eggs, flowers, and rabbits as symbols, but there would also be rituals to do with the Earth - maybe something like greeting the dawn, or planting seeds. There would be songs, outdoor games, and in the evening a bonfire. It would be a happy holiday that everyone could celebrate, completely devoid of dogma.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Frozen River

I just watched Frozen River. Wow. What a great film. I liked it a lot, but I'm not completely sure I enjoyed it. It took me to a place and a culture I didn't know, I was absorbed in the story, fascinated with the characters, appreciative of the realistic details, and captivated by the fine performances, but I could hardly stand the tension! You spend most of this movie expecting something very bad to happen, and bad things do happen, just not necessarily what you were expecting.

Frozen River was the 2008 Grand Jury prize winner at Sundance, and the lead actress, Melissa Leo, was nominated for an Academy Award. All very deserving. I won't give anything away if you haven't seen it, but I will say that I was very relieved at the end. The end made all the tension worth it. Not that it's necessarily happy, but it is hopeful. I especially enjoyed the performance of the kid who plays the 15 year old son, and also the woman who plays the Mohawk smuggler.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A tour of the island

It was so bright and "warm" today I just had to get out and take a walk in our neighborhood. I still needed a sweater, but it was nice to see blue skies and trees in bud.

I decided to do a little picture tour of our end of the island. Here's the gas station and auto repair shop. They still have a hose that dings when you drive over it. I can hear the hose ding from my home office when the windows are open:

There was only a half-day of school today, so these punks were hanging out on the street in front of the bakery:

I stepped inside the bakery to take this photo of locals having coffee. One guy wanted to know what in the hell I was taking their picture for. I told him, just for fun, but he didn't seem amused:

Here are photos of the hardware store and the B&B about a block from our house:

"It looks so charming and quaint," you say? You wonder why I'd be anxious to leave? Well... living on the island of Grosse Ile means: a long damn drive to get anywhere, no culture, not a soul I relate to, lots of spiders, and ugly industrial neighborhoods into which the island's bridges lead.

On the other hand I'll miss the deer,the birds,the sounds of freighters going by, and the sense of being completely safe and secure.

Here's a video I shot from the end of the road today. The view is of the Detroit River looking east toward Canada.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mitch Cope

I just discovered the web site of Mitch Cope: He's the artist who has gotten a lot of press recently about buying houses for nearly nothing in the worst part of Detroit and encouraging others to do the same. His photos of Detroit are amazing, and I love what he says about living in the city:

"...Detroit is a particular kind of place that demands utmost respect and attention, sort of like lion taming: it is not for everyone and it is not easy. Detroit is a beautiful, strong and passionate city, but it is also unpredictable and aggressive and therefore must be handled with the proper tools and caution. ... you will love Detroit, but you will also hate it, it's only natural."

I certainly have a love/hate relationship with the place. I mostly hate it, but also love it like you would a family member or old friend who's fallen on hard times. No matter how much I try to deny it, Detroit is a part of me. In spite of the fact that I originally ended up here by a cruel twist of fate, and returned here by another odd turn, Detroit is significant in my history, my memory, and my creative inspiration.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

circle in the sky

Since we live near the airport I'm accustomed to seeing vapor trails in the sky, but this circle, hanging above the local Meijers grocery several days ago, was kind of strange.