Way to slide into those notes, Flo!
Friday, October 31, 2008
What will you do tonight? I have no rundown of gay events, you're on your own. And I'm sure you'll do fine.
Me? I'll partake in my annual ritual of dressing up and tormenting trick-or-treaters at my friends' house in Grosse Pointe ("What you is?"), and then I'm heading over to MoCAD for the Believin' party. It's put on by their "New Wave" group, which is like the DIA's Founders Junior Council for hipsters (they hate it when I say that).
Admission is only $5 with a costume, $10 without. Cash bar. 8:30pm onward. Lots of DJs. Costume contests & "Thriller" dance-off. Bats. MoCAD.
It will be great! I mean, who doesn't love a "Thriller" dance-off? Plus I hear the emcee is a freak.
Whatever you do, I hope it involves a lot of hair and make-up! Have fun!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Had breakfast with a mover/shaker pal at Mercury Coffee Bar this morning, which I am continuing to love. We talked about how irritating all the marketing of Detroit stuff continues to be, and just how ass-backwards the thinking of the people holding the pursestrings is in this town.
On the one hand it is always nice to know folks who are on the ground running like my friend and who feel the same way about that stupid time-wasting. On the other hand, it doesn't change the fact that right this minute there could be some dude in pleated pants out there deciding it's a good idea to throw half a million bucks at another website to attract the creative class.
We segued into how genius it would be if the downstairs of Mercury stays non-smoking when they get their beer/wine license. Which they should do since they are all foodie and everything.
Left there to drive around and find a place to get some wi-fi and ended up in Hamtamck. On the way up here saw another closed up big old building half devoured by scrappers, what the fuck is this city gonna do about that? It's insane. I never cry a tear when I hear of one getting electrocuted, I will tell you that much. If that makes me a bad person then fine.
Angry, I drove through some of the Ham-town neighborhoods, drove down Jos. Campau, went by my brother's house from when he first got married, watched kids playing in schoolyards - that all calmed me down a lot and put me in a good mood again. And I saw this, which was awesome:
A sign of tough times.
But read the fine print.Ended up at Cafe 1923 to work. It's actually my first visit here - I've shied away in the past because they allow smoking, but mercifully there's no one smoking here now. They've really got their act together, and it's more coffee-housey than the Rowland Cafe. So here's another good coffee spot in Detroit (well, Hamtramck is technically inside Detroit). And oddly, the people I've seen here are mostly quite well-dressed. So if you are wondering where the nicely-dressed people in Detroit are, they are at Cafe 1923.
I do like Hamtramck a lot.
OK, another mover/shaker friend just walked in (dressed fabulously) so I gotta go.
Monday, October 27, 2008
It was all the right kinds of right - cool invite, gorgeous historic mansion, everyone in costume, lots of drag and lots of skin, a great housekeeper who screamed at you if you set your drink down on anything (that was hilarious once I got over the shock!), 400 gallons of booze, amazing music (seriously) and all for a good cause. And since it was also the Detroit Guerrilla Queer Bar event for October there is a whole photo gallery for your viewing pleasure! You will love it. My mom sure did!
Congrats to the party organizers because that was one fabulous mess of a party!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Will the real Meredith Monk please stand up?The internet has changed so much about life in the past fifteen years, sometimes in not so great ways (blogging comes to mind), but how in the world would I have found this otherwise?
Of course without the internet I probably wouldn't have been able to stay living in Michigan for this long and would be living the dream in New York or something, so I might have discovered it because I never lost my interest in going to weird arthouse films.
Who am I kidding, I definitely would have lost interest in that anyway. Thank God for the internet!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday after work a friend and I headed over to check it out. They were having a preview thing, and since I'd passed on all the Book-Cadillac opening excitement, I decided I wanted in on this.
It seems like we've been waiting forever for the Mercury Coffee Bar to open, although in reality the group now doing it hasn't been at it all that long. What is great is that you've got hardcore foodie types, hardcore design-y types and hardcore urbanist types working together to create something special for Corktown/downtown/SeMI/America/the world. You can read the basics on the place here.
The interior is great and kind of shocking! It's defnitely a new paradigm in coffee bar design. The colors and geometry really evoke the graphic design of the 80s, which is absolutely perfect for the hipster vibe of Corktown. You know I just cannot get enough of the hipster appropriation of the 80s! I am sure this assessment is making the architect's head spin - the colors were supposed be be inspired by the colors of a printer test page, but all I saw was the cover of Bronski Beat's "Age of Consent" album. You be the judge; here are some photos I took over the weekend.
The upstairs service area and a cute owner.
If I'm wrong tell me whyyyyyy.
The food we tried that night was amazing - I had this peach chutney and goat cheese sandwich - and the espresso I had after dinner was one of the best I've had in Detroit, and I am not exaggerating! The downstairs dining area has a really different vibe than upstairs - more brick/wood/concrete with nice modern touches. The bar area downstairs will eventually have ten beers on tap and ten different wines. That will be an extra special touch, n'est-ce pas? And the bathroom down there is seriously fab! Designed by king of the hipsters Phil Cooley, the word on the street is that the architect had an aneurysm when he saw it. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but if you want a sneak preview, check it out here.
The almost-finished staircase to the lower level dining room.After Mercury we went to the Book-Cadillac, so I finally got to check that out. There are some really nice things about it, it's very contemporary overall. There are some missed opportunities too, but what a great thing to have. And by great thing I mean finally a nice hotel lobby bar.
Saturday night was the Kathy Griffin show at the Fox Theater, and that was great fun. She is a freak, and even though I am not as up on popular culture and television viewing as I needed to be to get everything she was talking about, it was a fab show. More significantly, it was a theater packed with 5000 people and the vast majority of them were gay guys. It was the most gay people in one spot I've ever seen, at least in Michigan.
Sunday morning the Detroit Free Press Marathon occurred, and I ran the whole thing in record time! OK seriously, I drank mimosas and cheered on runners and walkers as they passed my friends' house in Corktown. It was the perfect fall morning, I saw many of my fellow Detroit gays out there running their little hearts out. We did some cheerleading cheers to keep their spirits up as they approached mile 12, and to distract them from the fact that the loudspeakers over on 14th Street were blaring "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins ... "gonna take you right into the danger zone." Suburbanites, really, it's not that bad.
"H-O-T-T-O-G-O! You are ... hot to go!"After the marathon we walked up for a second visit to Mercury. They still weren't technically open yet, but it's all about who you know, you know? The place has a really different feel in daylight and it was crawling with sexy hipsters, boys and girls. But, like, really sexy boy hipsters. A lot of them.
Having a coffee at the little upstairs coffee standing bar is tres european, especially with the train station ruins right outside. I would like to point out that Mercury has that cone-drip coffee that is so good and is all the rage among serious coffee fans around the country. I went to one place in Hayes Valley in SF that had it and someone told me people wait like a half an hour to get that coffee. Crazy. And now we can have that here! Hopefully without the wait.
This is a fierce look that I was not expecting in Corktown. Those shoes!I then left to go do some work and chill, being exhausted from all that cheering and an unusually early Sunday morning. Plus I had to see how this photo turned out.
I tried not to objectify this hipster worker boy but, once again, I failed..
For a full report that is only slightly edited from what I'd post in my own blog, read here.
And as for what I left out of the Model D piece, take a gander at this:
You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls ... or so I thought.
I was actually not even planning on attending the conference until the week before when they announced some additional programming, and among that programming was a breakout session on "Community Vitality: The Role of Artists, Gays, Lesbians & Immigrants." The panel member scheduled to represent the GLBT community was Kate Runyon, the Interim Executive Director of the Triangle Foundation.
I wrote a brief summary of the breakout experience for this week's Model D, so you should check it out here. Plus then I don't have to bog things down here with the content of the panel.
The first great thing about the panel was that I ran into an old friend from Ann Arbor whom I hadn't seen in over three years, so there was some dishy catch-up chatting to do. Isn't that the funnest part of these things?
A quick survey of the room revealed a smattering of our gay urban intelligensia, clearly all in attendance to see just how the whole topic was handled. Surprisingly *not* in attendance was speaker Kate Runyon. Say what?? I know the Triangle Foundation Annual Dinner was the night before, so maybe it was just a scheduling mix-up, or mollifying big donors is more exhausing than she anticipated ... whatever the story, it was a bit shocking.
Fortunately, the panel moderator was able to enlist William Colburn, founder of Preservation Wayne and renowned local homosexualist, out of the audience. William was part of the drive to get the National Trust of Historic Preservation to acknowledge the contributions of the gay and lesbian community in preservation. In one of those quirky twists of fate, he is probably a better-qualified speaker on the role of the GLBT community than Kate, whose areas of expertise are more policy-oriented.
In the Model D piece I didn't really have space to detail the points made by each speaker. If you want to know what the others had to say then e-mail me. William did a fantastic impromptu job, however, and made some great points that the non-gay creative community probably needed to hear. In particular, I was so pleased that he pointed out that creativity needs freedom, and social policy that allows gay & lesbian freedom is essential to gaining the contributions of this community. He suggested that a place like Michigan might be too late to the table, since there are so many other places that are more welcoming.
Take that, creative policy makers.
He said a lot of other great stuff that is probably not news to any of you gays with an eye on urban development, but I hope was a bit of a wake-up call to the policymakers who think the key is to just invite the gay community to move in and their cool city problems will be solved.
Which, it turns out, the audience here was full of. Apparently white late-middle-aged women get put on diversity patrol. There were two women there from different parts of the country who asked how they could attract the arts, immigrant and GLBT communities to their cities. Cuz, you know, they called them but no one would call back (I'm serious!).
The answer of course pleased me, and it was that this kind of community development is never top down. Which is something that Detroit, unfortunately, may never wrap its head around (I'm talking to you, Harmonie Park/Paradise Valley). Organic is the way to go, as I think Southwest Detroit and its strong Mexican community demonstrates. Just help it along by not hating.
The only other point I think bears repeating is that the most successful cities don't necessarily follow the "melting pot" analogy, where everyone blends together, but instead follows a "mosaic" or "tapestry" paradigm, where each culture or group maintains its identity but coexists in harmony. Tolerance, what a concept!
Long before this conference I'd emailed a contact at Triangle, and talked to a friend who works with the planners of the conference, about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the agenda at the conference. I don't think for one second that my queries resulted in the inclusion of this panel at the conference, but I just get worried that, at least locally, the gay community is completely not in the picture. And that's not entirely the fault of policymakers and planners - the gay community itself doesn't seem to be that interested in joining the discussion. And that's really what concerns me the most. I mean, hi, Triangle, I love you. LOVE YOU. But, like, call and cancel next time, ok?
The kicker is that gay people I know in the city are doing great stuff. From restoring historic homes to opening businesses to planning community-building nights out on the town to throwing better parties than anyone else - they're in the trenches. Now that people are starting to give credit, I want to see our people getting the acknowledgement they deserve.
What a beautifully restored gay-owned home in Islandview Village!
Mezzanine is owned by a big mary, and I hear it's quite lovely.
Talk about community development! Guerrilla Queer Bar is our favorite gay bar!
I'm not allowed to tell you anything about this party because I am barely invited myself.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
He talked for like two more minutes and I was out of there. I had to go paint the Mona Lisa by checking my email.
Wanna borrow my notes?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The site may have stacked the deck just a tad by soliciting its readers to vote — not that there there's anything wrong with campaigning — but the site is still a total hoot, even for the hetero among us. Self-described as "documenting one upwardly mobile, 30-something man's fight to find the kind of gay life every good homo deserves. In Detroit," Supergay totally rocks. (And we're bettin' Sarah Palin would not approve!)
Stacked the deck indeed! What, I should sit around and wait for good things to happen? No! We are not like the rest of Michigan here at SupergayDetroit - we actually go out and work for our success! But the otherwise kind words are greatly appeciated!
And I do rock! Richard Florida even wrote that when he signed my copy of Who's Your City yesterday at the Creative Cities Summit!
So for all of you first-time visitors - and especially for returning readers - here is a little video to give you an idea of what SGD is all about: pop-culture, humor, wasting time, drag and good production values. Oh, and the occasional NSFW (delicate ears may be offended).
Baby Got Front!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I got there when our very own Governatrix Jennifer Granholm was speaking. You have to hand it to her, she really is enthused about the whole Cool Cities thing. I'm going to leave discussions of policy out of this (since I have done exactly zero research on it) but she's a great motivator on this stuff. And really, in a town where leadership is less than visionary it's nice to hear an elected official talk about things like, I dunno, the future. I do wish she'd worn an outfit that was a little more visionary, however. That ill-fitting red jacket did no one any favors.
Now I may be messing up the order but the next thing I remember was being surrounded by the Martin Luther King High School Marching band. I approved of this mucho. If it's good enough for China's Olympics then it is good enough for the Detroit Creative Cities Summit. Those kids are so effin cute, and of course anything involving sequins and choreography has got me from the word go.
Karen Gagnon, one of the CCS2 co-producers spoke next, and I think there were two significant things in her talk. First was the entreaty to try and leave this conference with one concrete thing you can do. This was music to the ears of anyone (me) who thinks this whole creative class thing has devolved into a lot of talk.
Secondly - and more tellingly - was the ending of her brief speech where she quoted the movie Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! So live! Live! Live!" While this line makes me wince every time I watch that movie, it is certainly an appropriate line with which to end a speech to a creative group, and Karen delivered it with the requisite gusto. What gave me pause was the wave of unrecognition that swept over the audience as she said it. The line fell flat, with only a few chuckles, and I could not help but think the majority of these people had no clue what she was talking about. Not a good sign.
Even though I was an English major in college I don't alway have an enjoyable time with poetry, particularly the spoken variety. So I was a little apprehensive with the next speaker, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, the Poet Laureat of the City of Toronto. It was a relief, then, when it was announced he would not be reading poetry but rather speaking poetically. It was actually great, and he was the first person (of many, it turns out) to speak of the real individual contributions people make in the journey toward a creative world. It was heartening, and my first real indication that we were going to get some great outside perspectives at this conference.
He concluded, and the crowd prepared for the shift to the opening keynote address. Creative attendees, while short of being worked into a frenzy, are feeling very summity at this point it seems, so kudos to the conference for getting the ball rolling with inspiration, brevity, and a little local flair.
And now a few non-sequitur notes that really don't fit anyplace else:
A production note: the big screens on either side showing the speaker are great, especially for someone who broke his glasses, but shooting non-actors wearing no makeup from a slightly elevated angle in hi-def might not be the best way to go. Lots of foreheads and bottom front teeth on display. And there were Brits on display, so think about that.
A practical note: the conference rooms at the Ren Cen have no wi-fi. WTF???
Monday, October 13, 2008
First of all, all the people responsible for bringing you the Cool Cities concept will be there. "Creative Economy," "Creative Cities" and "Creative Class" will all be there. If someone nukes the Ren Cen today the entire concept will implode.
I also know that there will be a session on the role of Gays & Lesbians (and artists and immigrants) in economic development and the revitalization of cities.
And I know that I got to go free because I am Web 2.0 media. Hello media credentials!
But there are many questions ... like how much talk is too much talk? And (as an astute reader wrote in and suggested earlier this summer) is the drive to keep young people here really just a ploy by middle-aged parents to keep their kids near home? And is the creative economy really just a big circle-jerk like the Academy Awards?
Well, let's find out.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Well that all kind of came to a crashing end last night. I was lured out to Honest? John's for the third anniversary gathering for HotFudgeDetroit, a snarky ill-tempered local web forum for people who no longer see living in Detroit through rose-tinted glasses but love it (mostly) anyway. And more significantly, HFD is the birthplace of Supergay Detroit and the Detroit Gay Bar Blight Tour.
[Note: If I've never explained the origins of the name Supergay it's because I was probably embarrassed. I created Supergay when HFD started up as an identity to parody the postings of a local blogger and forum participant. I don't know what's more appalling, the utter lack of maturity or the overwhelming geekiness of it all. Do I feel bad about it all now? Sure, if it makes me seem like a better person. Let's just thank God things evolved for Supergay. Well, a little bit.]
Anyway, the internet forum meetup was fun and it was great to see the gang in person, they are an excellent bunch. But I got caught up in the spirit of the evening and I didn't say no to shots of Kessler when I should have, and then there is kind of this blur of talking to people, and the next thing I know someone is shouting "OK we're going to Bouzouki!"
Regular readers may recall last year's visit to Bouzouki II ("the deuce") a dive of a strip joint in Capitol Park (now called Lolita's). Well this trip was to the original Bouzouki in Greektown. It's bigger and more popular, and I consented to tag along provided someone paid my cover and bought me a beer.
It turns out this Bouzouki is more "formatted" as a strip club, but it's still a shitty shithole! So much for downtown's premiere live female entertainment! The place is worn down in that "dump" kind of way. We were seated at a table by a hostess (apparently it's customary to tip them!?) and then I had to clear off a half-full beer bottle, a full ashtray and dirty tablecloths just so I could be seated. Ew. There were spots on the walls where drywall had been patched but not repainted. The bathroom had a plastic bag over one of the urinals and some guy there I guess was the attendant, although he kind of just looked like a homeless Mexican dude.
And then the viewing began. The "girls" were really not all that fantastic, although I will say to their credit most of them had not resorted to surgical breast augmentation, which typically makes me uncomfortable. But most of them had that really bad fried looking blonde hair and they all wore those ridiculous stripper platform heels with the clear base - like it was a uniform or something. And there were several dancers who were downright chubby! The whole vibe of the girls was super Macomb County, which upon reflection was also the vibe of the customers. And Greektown in general, really. So maybe the guys there just like to see girls who look like their girlfriends.
I fucking hate these cheap-ass shoes.
If I were straight I'd lose my bonaire right away.
The stage here had four dance poles and four girls dancing at all times. At Bouzouki II I was really fascinated with the extensive pole acrobatics, but here at the "nicer" club there were hardly any stunts at all! Really only one or two girls were working the pole in a way I found satisfying.
The most frustrating aspect, aside from the horrendous music, the constant solicitations for private dances and the guys I was with continually disappearing to who-knows-what DNA encrusted banquettes, was that I could not get out of my head the desire to see the four women dancing on the stage coordinate their moves somehow. It would have been so incredible if the were all dancing separately and then suddenly they were all in synch for a few moves, right? I mean, a little choreography goes a long way! I'd tip for that.
The problem when I go to titty bars is that I really want it to be Showgirls, but it's always more Law & Order Special Victims Unit. I suppose I should have thought about that before going into another titty bar in the first place.
God made me gay for a lot of reasons, and I believe one of them was so I could avoid disasters like Bouzouki. I am going to say a prayer of thanks right now. And re-embrace moderation!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Not to distract from the issue at hand, but how cute is this Richard Sparks guy?
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
As we have seen, all real progress in terms of gay and lesbian civil rights in Michigan happens on the local level. Ann Arbor and East Lansing were, along with San Francisco, the first cities in the country to pass gay rights ordinances back in 1972. Detroit added protection for gays and lesbians in the 1974 City Charter. That was a pretty good start.
A gay rights march in the 70s. Admire the solidarity, not the hair.
But then there were the Reagan 80's and AIDS and the rise of the culture wars and things kind of stagnated, and really in Michigan regressed. In the last ten years we've seen fights over gay rights-related ballot initiatives in Traverse City, Kalamazoo, Huntington Woods, Ypsilanti, Royal Oak, Ferndale, and Lansing (among others). Ypsilanti had an impressive victory on their inititative, a result of a ton of hard work. Ferndale took, what, three tries? And Royal Oak was never able to get one passed. The completely not-impressive list of cities in Michigan with ordinances protecting gays and lesbians can be found here.
Of course then the anti-gay marriage amendment came up for a vote and we were served up a heapin' helpin' of homophobia by the good voters of Michigan, and then Attorney General Mike Cox twisted the knife culminating in the Michigan Supreme Court decision completely prohibiting (and removing) any partnership benefits for gay employees of public institutions. So now U of M gets to try and recruit to academic talent to a backwater.
Now this is just a little overview. But basically, most of Michigan's population views us as less than wholly human. The truth is ugly.
So we are back to fighting at the local level, which brings me to the point of this post. Hamtramck, our own little hip melting pot city-in-a-city, has a Human Rights Ordinance on the ballot this November.
Freep.com offers the following summary: "The Hamtramck City Council passed the ordinance in June, but opponents gathered enough signatures to place it on the Nov. 4 ballot in hopes of appealing it. The ordinance prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and city contracting for several groups, but its inclusion of gays and transgendered people has stirred up controversy."
So now the ordinance is on the ballot and you've got vocal opponents like the priests at Hamtramck's three Catholic churches taking the "no special rights" stance against this "dangerous threat" to the community. (Um, hi priests ... ?)
But you've also got groups like Hamtramck United Against Discrimination fighting for passage of the ordinance. And sure, while people still reserve the street parking spot in front of their houses with chairs (and woe to anyone who might disregard that placeholder) this is a city with a crazy amount of ethnic diversity AND an openly gay City Council member, so it seems like the population might be ready to say, ok, fair is fair.
Every little bit helps, and for the time being it seems all we are going to have are these grassroots victories. But baby steps will still get us where we are going, so do what you can to get the gay rights Baby Huey up and tottering around in Michigan. Today Hamtramck, tomorrow the whole friggin' state.