Category Archives: Travel

Phog Walks Detroit

I have put out a Facebook invite for an incredible walk taking place in Detroit.
Bob Goldsmith of Detroit Tour Connections is hosting the two-hour tour.
The tour will be in the area of Cass Corridor…a richly interesting space, which will lead us to the Dally in the Alley festival.

Here’s the details of the walk, according to Bob:
“I think we should meet at the main branch of theDetroit Public Library. The address is 5201 Woodward. Let’s meet at the rear (west) entrance, which is on Cass. People can park on Cass, or on Kirby. “Midtown” is a pretty large area of Detroit that includes the Cass Corridor, Brush Park, the Detroit Medical Center, the large campus of WSU, and the Cultural Center area.

We’re mostly going to tour the Cultural Center area. Our two hour tour will include: Hecker mansion and other homes from the late 1800s; the DPL, DIA, Park-Shelton and Maccabees Bldgs from the 1920s; the Historical Museum; the Detroit Science Center; the Charles H. Wright Museum; the Scarab Club; the College for Creative Studies; and a few of the buildings on WSU’s campus.

The Dally has a website — http://www.dallyinthealley.com. It includes a map and directions … but the best bet is probably to mapquest 5201 Woodward if we are going to meet at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. People can take I-75 north to Warren, and then take Warren west to Woodward or to Cass,
or they can just take Woodward from downtown Detroit to the Cultural Center area.”

We will meet initially at Phog Lounge at 9:45am. We will leave by 10am on our way to the Detroit Public Library. If you want to come, you must e-mail me at phoglounge@gmail.com or message me on Facebook (Tom Lucier). If you can drive…good…if you can’t, we still have room in some cars heading over. And you need your Passport to attend.

THIS SATURDAY!!! We already have over 20 people coming, so there will be tons of opportunities to make friends from Windsor along with the endless opportunities to meet your American reflections during the walk. I think it’s going to be an important first step in creating a very important community that is almost non-existent…the cross-border cultural community.

Personally, I feel that this is a KEY and CRUCIAL event for community leaders to be a part of, in order to initialize, strengthen, and solidify our relationships and understanding of our American brethren.
If you find yourself to be a leader here in Windsor, I really think it’s a good time to start thinking about sharing your strengths with people across the way, who know little or nothing about this community of artists, musicians, and doers.

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Winter Biking

picture-3No, I don’t use my bicycle in the winter.
No way.

Why not? Well, I look at the dudes on their bikes, huffing and puffing on clear-road days, wearing a mixture of Mountain Equipment Co-op gear with a hodge-podge of knitted hats and scarves or balaclavas with mismatched gloves…and they look like they had to spend 20 minutes getting dressed for their ride. Also, some folks have these super-pants (all I can think to call them) with seemingly light jackets. They look like they’re going to freeze. But likely, their jacket is some sort of ultra dense polymer-mix weather-resistant beast that MUST’VE cost a fortune.

So I have to either look like a Value Village on two wheels or pay through the nose to justify riding my bike 20km every work day.

Well, I began feeling like both of these two options is totally worth it. Worth the money or worth the look.
Last night, reading some older issues of Spacing Magazine, I was dumbfounded by some of the statistics about cars. Not the pollution. Forget that for a second. Just the space these things need is silly. Parking where you live, parking where you shop, parking where you’re going, and almost for FREE.
The author of one of the article postulated that raising the cost for parking WAY UP would only serve to discourage car rides when walking or biking is a doable option. I kind of love this idea. A lot (pardon the pun – hahaha). If you live in Boston and you want to go downtown, you may pay $50 for a day of parking. I can already hear the conversations of people anticipating this cost, “Screw that! Let’s take the subway, or the bus.”

Yes, Windsor would need a respectable transit force before any of this was possible, but I like the idea of discouraging car use by intimidating the wallets of the users. Should NO ONE have cars? No. I don’t think that. In fact, the idea of car-sharing in Toronto and New York, and other cities is hugely intriguing too. The bummer of car sharing, and many of these forward thinking shifts in transportation ar that they have to start in MAJOR urban centres…unlike Windsor. We get to sit around and wait for these initiatives to get used, proven, popular, and then passed on…

Parking is such a stupid thing, when it’s examined in terms of space. I fully plan on mapping all the parking downtown on a Google Map. All of the dead, mostly unused or underused space. I always hear that there’s no parking downtown from people, especially in the Windsor Star Letters to the Editor, but what they mean is that there’s not enough FREE parking. Like at Devonshire Mall. They want downtown to be a mall. FREE!! Well, the mall wants you to drive from the moon and back to get their stuff. I think the goal of urban retail and entertainment spaces should be to expect fewer cars and less traffic in areas of retail. I mean, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it has been proven to improve business when traffic is significantly lowered in urban areas.

I digress. I wanted to look at something I seem to remember from when we first opened Phog Lounge. There was a discussion about paying for parking, as a business owner, for any parking space that we, the business, could not provide to the customer. If we didn’t have a huge lot attached to us, we would (supposedly) pay for enough spots, corresponding to our capacity. How in the hell is this making sense? The business owner is being penalized because of the HUGE space-gobbling vehicles that people drive to their business? And for me, I have tons of customers who WALK, drive scooters and bikes, and don’t USE parking spaces on the street, in the lot, or anywhere. I think this kind of gouging for the city to offset infrastructure costs is just dumb. If they want to discourage cars from overloading downtown or their BIA, don’t charge the small-business owner, charge the person who chooses to drive alone in a car designed to tow, pull, carry way more than it is ever used to do.

Which brings me back to the bike thing. I just keep realizing how dumb cars are, in the capacity that they are currently used. They don’t get to use their speed (congested traffic), space (single drivers are rampant), power (moving one person only and almost never transporting goods), and are becoming more and more silly. They are, obviously, way more of a status symbol and inhibitor of exercise and connecting to the environment around us.

Jane Jacobs has suggested that as people think trucks get in the way, it is in fact cars that are in the way of trucks. Trucks employ people, they move goods, and they are economic pluses. Cars are buzzing around, taking up WAY more space than needed (which is extraordinarily expensive), and they are not contributing financially the way trucks do. If trucks were the road owners, and loads of cars left the roads, it would actually improve environmental situations with fewer vehicles on the road (less congestion, less idling). Which would beg the question…if we were a city who thought progressively, and we raised prices for parking, reduced car use, implemented a solid transit system, and consolidated our interests in a less-sprawling nature, and trucks were the kings of the road (the few bits and pieces that would still be in use), where in the heck would the next bridge crossing go? What would be made of the DRIC/Greenlink stuff? Where would it make sense to put it then? Hmmmm….

As for biking…I am anticipating warm weather LIKE CRAZY so I can bike to work every day. But should I wait? How much will I have to pay to outfit myself with warm gear that will keep me dry? Where would I buy this stuff? Why isn’t there a bigger bicycle persona in this area? I know lots of cyclists who tell me about all these other HUGE cycling enthusiasts and bike shop owners, but they’re almost invisible when it comes to encouraging new riders, bike education (like what the hell to wear in the winter), etc. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to almost fall into this biking thing by watching Phog customers biking and praising it. Where are the leaders of Windsor’s bike movement hiding? They should be prominent, respected, and referred to when discussing city planning and other such important issues.

My wife and I are seriously considering getting rid of a car from this two-car, two-person household. Save money, get healthy, get connected to the environment. Anyone want to help? I just feel so stupid rolling around in a car these days.

Broken City Brilliance

picture-4
Broken City Lab is at it again.

They’ve got this great concept, at least, they’re borrowing it. Kind of like I do with every event I run.

From brokencitylab.org:

Katy Asher, a student in Portland’s MFA in Art and Social Practice program, along with Ariana Jacob and Amber Bell, have initiated a project that “aims to make a vending cart of maps made by people from Portland.”

I love the idea of collecting maps that people have DRAWN! As Broken City Lab posits, it makes for a great outlet to see how people exaggerate distances and sizes of things on a hand-drawn map. We all do it. We run out of room on a map we’re drawing for someone, or we leave a ton of room and find that things are much closer, and we don’t need the allotted space.

It’s a new way of investigating the “psychogeographic” influences that driving a car has on the way we draw a map. Or, conversely, how walking or biking influences the drawing of a map.

I LOVE the idea of a possible mixture of Google Maps and simple hand-drawn maps, much like the recent walk that we held at Phog Lounge. I envision an art show consisting of hand drawn maps overlapped with ACTUAL maps of the area from, Google maybe. And maybe commentary with the person who drew the map to discuss the inconsistencies and reasons for them.

It’s yet another great tool to investigate what works in our (your) city and what doesn’t.

Awesome.
Justin, I absolutely love everything your group is doing! Dammit!
I feel inspired now. Thanks you.

Coincidence

picture-43Not many weeks ago, with the Big Walk, I became aware of a guy from Windsor named Shawn Micallef. You see, I knew he existed beforehand, because I saw him regularly at Phog with some of my current patrons/friends.

What I did not know was that he was heavily involved in some amazing projects, including pshycogeography, Spacing Magazine (Associate Editor), and Murmur. Murmur being the most outstandingly wonderful story-telling concept I heard about when I was 20 or 21.

But Spacing magazine was something being tossed at me (conceptually) by several people. Some knew Shawn was involved, and others had no idea who Shawn was, but they knew Spacing Magazine. I was being referred to this magazine, because surely if I was interested in taking a crazy-long walk, I was a fan of the things this magazine stood for. Here’s what their website says:

“Public space is at the heart of democracy. It’s where people interact, teach, learn, participate, and protest.

But environmental degradation, commercial self-interest, and infrastructure neglect have come to dominate our cities’ streets. Fortunately, imaginative and passionate city-dwellers worldwide — and in Toronto in particular — appreciate the endless possibilities that cities can offer. They are resisting the co-option of their communities through random acts of beauty and intellect.

Inspired by these actions, we launched Spacing in December 2003 to cover the numerous political, cultural, and social issues affecting our lives in the public realm. We want the magazine to be an integral, independent, and unique voice that brings to life the joys and obstacles surrounding Toronto’s public spaces.

This city is a special place — we’re excited by its people and its neighbourhoods, its sidewalks and its graffiti. Spacing is here to help our readers understand and take ownership of Toronto’s urban landscape.”

Fast forward a bit, to when Chris Holt tells me that he has a pile of these magazines at his house.

“I can bring ’em to you if you want ’em,” he said. So I was totally revved about finally seeing this magazine, and secondarily, putting it out for my customers to consume at Phog. Maybe we get a little leakage from the pages of this magazine about CARING about your city and DOING things rather than harping, bitching, and whining. We’ll see in due time.

So I began reading the mags, but damn-near every article is fascinating, and I know it will take a while to get through these babies. I did, however find an article less than 6 hours after writing the blog post about the Downtown Mission and the possibility of them having their own organic garden on municipal land. (By the way, I got a ton of comments on this post form people who are musicians etc., who I know for their music primarily, but who are doing this VERY thing in other parts of the county…teaching food education through hands-on participation, an THEN donating food to food banks! Getting the word out there is amazing. The results of outreach can really open your eyes.)

The article I found in Spacing read like a question and answer, with the first question and answer giving me all the convincing I needed to decide whether it’s possible for The Downtown Mission to do this kind of project. Interview by Matthew Hague.

Nick Saul is the Executive Director of The Stop Community Food Centre, an organization in the Davenport West neighbourhood whose range of services include a food bank, workshops, and community kitchens…

Spacing: What are the opportunities that exist within the city to produce more locally grown, nutritious food?

Saul: I am a big believer that we should take every green space we have and turn it into food production. I think we should be growing food in our backyards, in our front yards, on our balconies. The Stop has an 8000-square-foot garden at Earlscourt Park where we grow about 3000 pounds of organic produce that comes back into our many programs, and it’s an exciting example of what you can do with green space in the city. Parks aren’t simply there to walk in and smell the flowers; you can actually turn some of that land into food production, and support our communities with healthy food.

Well holy crap.

Need I print more?


Technology, Creative Culture, and the Gap in Between

I spend my working nights around people who have ideas.

They’re always running their mouths about politics, art, music, religion, and regularly reaching an audience of one. Or two or three. Maximum.

“Why don’t you blog this or post this kind of information somewhere?” is what I respond with, pleading. But I know it will not happen, not unless I install computer terminals in the bar, at my cost, and eventually take these brilliant people over to the device, create accounts for them, and maybe even toss their hands at the keyboard. Like trying to start a motor-boat, it might take a couple of tries.

I, for the life of me, can not understand why, in Windsor, there is such a huge disconnect between the creative class and technology. Is it this way in other places?

I’ll give you another example of where I have been faced with hurdles of disbelief when trying to communicate in tech terms.

Bands rumble through Phog Lounge, where I work and book bands. There’s a disproportionate amount of Mac computers accompanying them on their journeys. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a PC brought in by anyone except my business partner Frank. And if he heard I was Twittering, he’d make a pee-joke.

I came to learn that a major reason they have Macs is because they have some fairly fantastic musical applications, allowing bands to do all sorts of things they could not do otherwise. It wasn’t as if they were doing any open source programming, or anything (which I have never and will never do myself). I just assumed that because they had a superior product, they’d be a little more forward thinking technologically, and maybe even be keeping tabs on the web applications being designed monthly to make their lives easier.

When I started reading about Twitter, Pownce (now dead), Digg, Skype, Google Reader, YouTube, Blip.tv, Seesmic, WordPress,  (the list is unending) I clearly saw how those tools could help my business, and possibly even my freelance writing/radio career (whenever that comes). Where did I hear about these tools? My friends and family primarily told me, as they saw the same usage I did. Dan Misener (good friend) has told me about tons of new programs, and my brothers Rodd and Todd have dumped LOADS of web apps on me in the past year alone.

Without discussing the usefulness of these apps, or how quickly they become obsolete, moved out by better apps, there is really no excuse for musicians and promoters, artists, and designers to be so clueless. Aside from Facebook, Myspace, and Flickr, there’s an incredible self-handicapping happening locally on the web and about the knowledge of the web.

“Twitter? What the hell is that?” I have heard countless times, or at least they make crooked, pained faces of confusion.

“Well, let’s put it this way…you sign up under the name of the band, and you then get people you know (that love your band) to join and FOLLOW YOU, much in the same way they do on Facebook and Myspace…and when you send a micro-blog (140 characters or less) everyone who cares…can see it. Soooooo, if you have a show starting, you can let people know that you’re going onstage in 25 minutes. Forgetful fans can make a snap decision and run out to your show. Or you could use it to inform people that you just finished writing a new song, or that you’ve just posted live footage from that concert you played last month in Montreal. It’s another way to connect. You know your Facebook status? Yeah? Well, you can set up your Twitter account to update your Facebook status WITH your Twitter posts so ALL of those people are getting the crucial updates you feel worthy of sharing.”

This is usually followed by a body-posture that tells me this is WAY too much work to engage fans. And within a week of this chat, they will be back in front of me, bitching that the turnout for their show was less-than-desired. I just say, “Twitter? No? Oh.”

I’m no tech-freak either. I just use the stuff that’s useful. And with my arcane knowledge, I remember telling musicians about Flickr a couple of years ago, WAY after it was a regularly used web app, and these wonderfully gifted photographers were looking at me like I had two noses. How does the arts community live in a vacuum related to tech? Shouldn’t they be pioneers? Early adopters? Shouldn’t they be gentrifying these programs like they do with low-rent, start-up communities? Aren’t the creative class a grassroots movement, known for doing things BEFORE everyone else? Aren’t the creative classes of other cities kicking our technologically-atrophied asses!

I would think that connectivity would be the rule, THE RULE, for someone trying to share their talents, gifts, and ideas for change. I mean…Obama’s people were on Twitter before my underground-ers. And it isn’t like it’s a secret that Obama’s web presence was a huge factor in reaching undecided (independent) voters. But then again, if my customers aren’t hearing about Twitter, I have a feeling they aren’t hearing about (or tuning out) when the news shares info of Obama’s tech prowess.

Anyone have ideas of how I could be helping these bands increase their profile, even if it’s just to connect to its current fans, without trying to become “the next thing”?

I see so much opportunity for the unique, clever, useful, and brilliant ideas, art, and concepts to get into the masses, but I am having the toughest time bending anyone’s ear toward tech.

Should I have a technology night at Phog? Should I get a presenter for each of these ultra-useful web apps to come in and walk people through registration, use, and upkeep on the projection screen? Would people come to get informed? Maybe they would. Then they could weed out all of the superfluous apps they have no current need for, and go home and get going on the ones they could actually use!

Yes.

This is going to happen.

Stay tuned for dates.

Broken City Lab on NIMBY

picture-41In what will likely be one of many posts about Broken City Lab, I will simply leave you with the content I have collected.

What is Broken City Lab? Well…

A collection of artists/activists who see a broken city in front of them, and use their creativity to interact with the people, groups, bureaucracy, items, places, and mediums necessary to make things less broken. It’s art-through-action. When speaking to Justin Langlois, the guy who decided to get this group together, I was astounded, amazed, proud, and appreciative of the concept and eventual action this group represents. Langlois said something like, “I began to realize that my art could be this…this action…this sharing of concepts to make things better instead of making paintings…” I’m paraphrasing. But if you watch the videos below and listen to his interview on this week’s installment of Not In My Backyard (Tuesdays at noon on CJAM 91.5FM in Windsor/Detroit), you will hear him communicate this clearer.

Here’s the CJAM interview on Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)!

And as usual, there is a TON of extra content on the videos where Justin is able to talk about some of the other projects Broken City Lab is looking at starting.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1565756&dest=-1]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1566332&dest=-1]

To find out more, go to brokencitylab.org where there is a regularly updated blog with awesome info.

As a further added bonus, check out the blog post that Justin made after taking part in the Big Walk.

Walking Big, more recounting and video

One of the best things about that Big Walk was getting into spaces we don’t normally go.

In the video clip, Joan (retiree from Leamington and amazing walker) and I are storming through a park on the corner of Huron Church Road between University Avenue and Riverside Drive (before it becomes Sandwich Street) right beside the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.

There’s an ocean of yellow foliage on the ground, heard heavily in the dragging footsteps of the group. We’re marching toward Assumption Church. It’s on the other side of the park(ette). I have seen this swath of grass before, but never got to be terrestrial in that block of land. And I was extremely “present” during the crossing of that park, which prompted me to take out my camera and film a bit of it.

Not enough is said about the feeling and sensory joy that can come from walking through a field of leaves. Some may think this is wishy-washy, but it’s so fulfilling.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1510094&dest=-1]

The other part of the walk that I enjoyed thoroughly was seeing parts of the city that are supposedly “dangerous”. Being in this neighbourhood near the University of Windsor, during the day, was wonderful. It was obviously devoid of any other human activity however, as it seemed we were the only ones out on our feet. As a whole, it seemed that during that whole day, we were the lone wolves using out two feet as a means of travel. In fact, I saw fewer bikes in use than I ever see. Perhaps it was our route that diverted us away from seeing other eco-travelers.

Another notable observation I wanted to share involves cars. While plotting out the course, I drove the route with my Mom. She was nice enough to donate the time and gas to drive the route while I made snap decisions to turn or u-turn, all in the hopes of helping my Big Walk go well. While we were driving, we were often closed in or stopped dead in our tracks from continuing onward. Why? Dead ends. You can’t drive the Ganatchio Trail where it begins on Wyandotte East and snakes behind homes, etc. You cannot get to College from Indian Road now that it’s closed off. On foot, this is all accessible. You can simply cross over a burm of grass, but in a car, you’re stuck, backtracking, wasting time and gas.

Walking through spaces that are designed to keep out motor vehicles has a special exclusivity feeling to it. Like I’m able to do something that MANY are not permitted to do. Loved that!

Here’s the video of the west-end neighbourhood that was picturesque, and not at all what I was expecting. Of course, I’m being sarcastic in the video.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1510148&dest=-1]