Tag Archives: Windsor

You can’t do that.

picture-41I just read something nice.
It simply proved something I thought true, but that I was told is impossible.
You see, being at Phog, it’s not uncommon to wax futuristic and wonder what the world might hold for us (or vice versa).
When the topic got to cars, and how we’re making vehicles in Windsor that few consumers want anymore, even the artists (lefties) at the bar were nagging, “Well, what the hell can they do to them? Huh? Nothing!”
“Well guys, what if Windsor was a city that decided they didn’t like the status quo. What if people ditched their cookie-cutter cars for older cars, the ones they used to make with steel…and had them retro-fit with eco-friendly parts, making them not only road-safe, but more environmental than ever…maybe even making them electrical? Imagine what the streets would LOOK like! You wouldn’t look out of a window and see what EVERY North American sees. You’d see something unique! And it would all be in part to the engineering and manufacturing prowess in this city!”
Bucky, a local enviro-guy, brilliant guy, was the actual person who hatched this idea some weeks and weeks earlier. I loved his idea. Preserving the past, but doing one better and making something new and refreshing to the eye while blowing a kiss to Mother Nature at the same time.
The people at the bar, most times I reintroduce Bucky’s idea for the sake of dreaming, almost always get out of sorts and try to think of all the ways this idea can’t work.
As a matter of habit, this is how my community OFTEN approaches new ideas and concepts about absolutely anything. They think of all the ways it can’t work before they think of all the ways it can. I can’t be sure, but I wonder if they are just talking themselves out of participating if it ever DOES happen.
This frustration has guided me to some new groups of folks who foster and develop new ideas. Thanks to you, you know who you are…

But back to this article I read at the beginning of this post.
HERE’S THE LINK TO IT.
Apparently, there is a company in the US who is way ahead of us, and WAY ahead of the naysayers I lock eyes and wits with almost every shift.

They take gas guzzlers, and make them more acceptable vehicles. Old, new, whatever.
The working class in Windsor could do this in their sleep. I wish the creative spirit drove someone to these lengths. I don’t feel it’s my obligation to “find” the right people and get them fired up to start a company doing this, because SO MANY people in this city could do this work. It would be wonderful if they’d just emerge on their own, and shock this motor city under their own volition, like the company currently doing so in the United States.

I really never listen to anyone who tells me, “You can’t do that,” anymore.

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Local food, local business, and how you can get mad.

picture-54It was a breath of fresh air to read Rino’s recent post about local support, and how frustrating it can be when it’s being used as a buzzword instead of a genuine way of doing business.

He also started a new blog for his business, Black Kettle Bistro, which he’s using as a soapbox for all things related to the business, and community in general. You should be checking it out anyway.

It’s tough a a business to do truly local business without some sort of infrastructure of locality being fostered by other business owners. Yes, there’s a paradox. Chicken or the egg.

Rino sounds like he’s more than willing to investigate where we can spend our money, as business owners, in the local economy, keeping our money here, avoiding the chains, rewarding our neighbours’ efforts to keep money within the community. We need more of this.

I encourage you to click on the link in the first sentence of this post to read Rino’s rant about local food, and the hypocrisy of myopic “buy local cars” sentiments by people who couldn’t find a local business in a phone book.

I know that the point is to be positive and move forward…but often, from the ground-level (the business-owner point of view) the awakening often begins from a spark of anger, feeling disrespected and forgotten. The concentration of that vitriol toward education of others, and varied business practice is the best we can do for now, without a strong, convenient local-business (food particularly) infrastructure.

Basketball downtown = Complaints

The day my roll-away rim fell through my car’s windshield, it had to go.

I got the rim for free using Freecycle.org
I could not believe my luck the day I saw the availability listed in my inbox “subject” line. I had recently moved, and I didn’t have a rim nearby. I will grow to be the size of a house if I don’t play a couple of times per week. It was a victorious moment getting this behemoth out of the lady’s driveway and into Phog Lounge’s truck. It was the most dangerous drive I’ve ever taken, as it wanted to tumble out of the truck bed at the slightest degree change in direction. Turning a corner was almost impossible. It was so traumatic, getting it to my house, I think I blocked out most of the trip.

I do remember the woman who gave it to me, when she said, “We have to get rid of it, it fell and almost went through my neighbour’s kitchen window. There was a wind storm.”

Fast forward to the decision to bring this basketball hoop to Phog. It had to leave my house. Dreaming of having it somewhere close to (attached to) Phog was something I thought unfathomable. Why?
Frank.
photo-361
But, when I dragged it downtown (literally dragging it out the back of my minivan, scraping the road at every minor dip) Frank really didn’t say a thing. It was a bit of a miracle. I always hoped I would catch him shooting hoops when driving downtown one day, but it never happened.
Getting the rim to Phog was harder than getting it to my house. I had to stop twice, as it was falling out of the back of my van. These things are shaped like very tall esses. Like the letter “s” only thin and tall. No matter how you place it, it stays virtually the same shape. It was hell. I had to drive with one hand on the wheel, and one hand pulling ceaselessly on the hoop.
Unloading it was like finishing a major home renovation. I was making something new!

Customers could shoot a few hoops, joining my love for the game with their love for beer and music. People would play before we opened, while we were open, and after we closed. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before from the music community.

“Hey, wanna go shoot some hoops? Yeah? Hey Tom, can we get the ball?” became something I was beginning to hear more and more. I enjoyed hearing it more and more often. Even better was hearing the basketball (extremely faint) bouncing in the alley that I had swept clean for the first time in five years of business. The grit, the garbage, the homeless disjectamenta, bottle-caps from proprietors passed were all push-broomed out of sight, all for the sake of the game.

I played every chance I got. When I wasn’t biking to work, AND when I was, I would arrive and shoot baskets alone, until inevitably, a passerby would stop and say, “Can I get a shot?”

Of course, I gave them a shot, which turned into 20 shots. Yes, there were some people who actually could play, and there were screwballs wanting to show off for their young sons. There were shirtless weasels and weasels of another kind…lawyers heading to their parked cars. Normally, this trek consisted of a slight realization that they were standing next to the Capitol Theatre. Especially before Dave Kant added his giant artwork to the south end of the alley-wall of Phog. Now there was a reason to engage someone they had never met.

The dry cleaner across the street is a Chinese man. Metro Dry Cleaners. I’ve never said a word to him. Never needed to. I don’t dry clean anything. But when he saw me shooting one day, he meandered over University Avenue and nodded at me. We simply exclaimed how great it was to have the rim out there. Did I bring it from home? Yes, I told him. Great idea, he said. He took a shot. Just one. I invited him to shoot any time he wanted.

My main worry was that it would get torn down by local assholes out on Friday or Saturday night. I fully expected it to be vandalized, like many other good things downtown can be. Surprisingly, it is one of the only pieces of property that isn’t festooned with a god damn Denial sticker. Sorry Dan, but give me a break already.

Local and touring bands have found energy-inducing fun with this rim’s short life. You Say Party, We Say Die! and members of Winter Gloves had a two-on-two battle with myself included.
Here’s some video evidence.

Andrew MacLeod and I had an epic one-on-one game, after he had played on a Saturday evening and was liberally lubricated to the point that I could actually win the game. We played in what we had on. I in my Chuck Taylors, and he in his sandals. Jeans and corduroys were our uniforms. George Manury, a southpaw, shot baskets with me one afternoon after he planned to do so. It was a chance to talk to him without the usual social distractions I face when talking with him during business hours. It was great.
photo-38

If you want to understand downtown Windsor on a weekend, imagine Mardi Gras. There might be more American kids between 19 and 21 than there are on Bourbon Street. It is a throng of alcohol-fueled hormonal outbursts, speckled with violence, drowned in stupidity. Imagine the sound of that. Imagine how loud, how overtly raucous this would be every weekend. Got it? Okay, I’ll continue.

After a show, one Saturday night, a couple of the customers want to shoot some hoops while I’m closing the bar. They take the ball and shoot around. When I finish my duties, I exit the building to get the ball, but I take a few shots first. I think I remember Ryan Fields making a shot from the street (!) which is almost 40 feet away. Nice! I also remember seeing the flashing lights of an ambulance down the alley toward the North. Not unusual. Someone pummeled someone else for looking at them the wrong way. So macho. People are screaming and yelling at each other as the bars empty.
“Hey bitch! Where you goin’?”
“Fuck you, dude!”
“AAAAHHHHHHHH, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“Wait up!!”
“Stop!! Cabbie!! Stop! Fuck!”

This is the language and tone of the streets of Windsor on the weekend. Living downtown would be awful for this reason. Alas, if you choose to live downtown, you’re kind of up shit’s creek without a paddle because you chose to live in the city-centre where activity is encouraged. I suppose if I didn’t want to experience this I would live on the outskirts of downtown, rather than on ground zero.

As we are playing, a police car approaches.
“Shut it down fellas. We got a noise complaint.”
We looked at each other, frozen, wondering how anyone could actually complain about a bouncing ball with the most ridiculous noise happening steadily for the previous 10 years, let alone the previous 20 minutes.
We stopped.
We went home.

A couple of weeks later, an un-uniformed police officer comes into Phog. Nice guy. He tells me that if we get another complaint about the basketball, it will be bad. Very bad. Very costly. Someone in the Victoria Park Place apartments has complained. I asked if it was possible for someone else to complain, without just cause, was I still culpable and punishable?
“Just don’t play anymore,” he said.
“Like, I can still play during the day, right, the noise bylaw is after 11pm, right?”
“Nope,” he said, pulling out an official piece of paper, “your license says that you have to abide by the noise bylaw 24 hours a day.”
I remember shaking my head a little, like a cartoon character shaking away the cobwebs after a fall.
“Okay,” I said reluctantly.

Since then, it got cold, then it snowed. No b-ball.
But when it warms up, I might just have to draft a letter to the residents of that building.
I might have to inform them of our willingness to play only before a certain time of night.
They need to know what petty complaints are going to do to a small community. A community of people began engaging one another in a way that was absent before the installation of the hoop. That engagement will dissolve.
And yes, I have a problem with someone sitting in their castle balcony, making phone calls about noise (in a place where noise is environmentally apt) adversely affecting a community-at-large.

This is a classic Windsor thing, where someone makes noise complaints on a night when there is such a din, you can’t tell one sound from another.
It’s like choosing to live at the end of an airport runway, and then calling to file a noise complaint, to ground all future flights. Consider your surroundings before you decide to move in and reign supreme over your dominion.
There is more at stake than you can see from your perch.

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.

Green Shift in Detroit?

picture-5I listen to Detroit Today (on WDET 101.9FM) most mornings. It’s right in my wheelhouse between my writing hour and my Phog band-booking hour.
Today, from the time I turned on the stereo, Quinn Klinefelter was interviewing Rick Bowers. The City of Detroit has created its first office of Energy and Sustainability. Rick Bowers is the new chief of that project.

I was audibly laughing in my living room (even being stuffed-up) because they were talking about bringing green collar jobs to Detroit, and how incredibly attractive the City of Detroit is to people wanting to make these changes. I laughed because their conversation consisted of precisely the bits I was able to cram into my little Windsor Star article the other day.

And for some reason, I doubt that Quinn Klinefelter will get the responses I got on the Windsor Star website such as:

We need to abolish the WTO and NAFTA. Then we can start a green industry. The way China keeps its regulations illegally low compared to us makes it so all manufacturing goes there. E-waste goes there, so why wouldn’t “green collar” jobs? We are overlooking the structural problems in our country and think that environmentalism will solve it all when it has nothing to do with it. The bankers control everything with their fractional reserve banking.

or

To Tom: Manufacturing will never stay here because labor can be done cheaper in China. What we need is to setup recycling plants here to recycle e-waste, but right now that stuff goes to China. We have to take care of the financial structural imbalances (China’s keeping their currency/labor/enviro laws lower than ours) before we dream of setting up a green industry. Wake up Tom. We do not buy your humanist agenda to depopulate the city of Windsor thru scaling down.

or

Global warming is a fraud. Tens of thousands of scientists signed the oregon declaration to prove it. The earth goes thru cold and hot spells and this is normal. Water vapor is more of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is, but you know why they chose carbon? Because you breathe it! Eventually they will tax life itself if we get a carbon tax. Don’t be an extremist, please.

or

The green concept is based on putting the economy first, like to building a park to save it (instead of just letting it be.) By that (foolish) definition, that won’t work after the “big 3” leave. Ironically though, the air will be cleaner, and the poor will still be poor.

I mean, these comments are completely welcomed, as they get conversations started, but I have an extremely hard time getting into the mind-space of these people. I mean, when you hear about people wanting to bring green collar jobs to Windsor or Detroit, how can you think of China? Green industry jobs (installing solar panels, cleaning up toxic spills, landscaping/urban gardening, organic farmers, tidal/wind/solar energy farm technicians, etc.) are grassroots in design. Green thought is local thought. If a green energy push is made, China is the last place people are looking to go IF (big if) they have an infrastructure and a willing local government to implement these kinds of objectives.

Sure they make TONS of solar panels in China. No one here has made enough of a push to lure in these companies. Bitterfeld Germany certainly has, and look at them!

I think people find an issue they have a feeling about, and then they try to connect any given topic or story to their agenda, and then they harp on it at every chance. They have a pre-formed view of anything “green” and when they see it pop up, they go into their mantra about NAFTA, China, or what-have-you. You can’t please everyone, I get it, but to go off on a tangent about the WTO and NAFTA, when what I’ve written is clearly about is self-sustainability using local people to create LOCAL solutions…People are so funny!

I thought it was funny that this discussion was happening on WDET, which for some Star readers, might be a “more legitimate source” than some kid on The Scene page. I just wish that more Windsorites were dialed-in to this movement, which is not as hidden and unknown as it once was in the past. What can I do to make this clearer? Deliver the New York Times to every house in the city for free for a week so they can see how many of these positive changes are happening…written by the most reputable news source I can think of?
Who knows?

To hear more about this idea of greening the crappier parts of the country…the hurting urban spaces…see Majora Carter’s TED Talk here

But beware naysayers!!! There are NEW IDEAS on this website! Aaaaahhhhhhhhh!
By the way, this is one of the best websites I have ever visited.

More Spacing walk vids

Here are some more videos from the walk with Shawn Micallef.

I’ll begin by posting Scaledown.ca video that Chris Holt edited and posted on Youtube. It’s Shawn Micallef discussing what we are about to set out and accomplish on the walk, along with his experience walking in Windsor and Toronto, and forming the Toronto Psychogeographic Society. Take notice that this bar is full of people, and almost no one is talking. Just eager listeners. More people who care about Windsor.

This first vid from the walk contains the flags and “torch” for the City of Windsor on Riverside Drive in front of The Hilton and Radisson Hotels. I never really noticed these flags…and I certainly didn’t notice the embarrassing fake paper-fire in the “torch”. Thanks Ryan Fields for pointing it out. This was recorded moments after being “barked” at by someone in the passenger seat of a car using a megaphone. Thanks Windsor.

Below, you can watch the play-by-play of the holiday display in the St. Clair Centre for the Arts. Also, there is a mirror mounted on the stop sign so that drivers leaving the St. Clair Centre for the Arts can see traffic racing up the street behind them. It acts as a rear-view mirror. But it was completely swiveled in the wrong direction, offering little or no help until we moved it back into position. It’s kind of off-putting to see a traffic aid so easily accessed and subject to tampering.

This video shows the CCTV camera mounted on The Windsor Star. There’s a need for a garbage can in this area, clearly. Michelle uses the audio recorder to get some sounds of garbage.

Stephen captures my excitement while looking at a “dressed up” ashtray on the street near The Windsor Star. Also, a stream of newspapers from other cities is available here, and I feel somewhat embarrassed for having not recognized these here before. There’s a city parking lot that I thought belonged to The Windsor Star exclusively, but is apparently for anyone. We encounter some broken glass (light bulb), more street garbage, a suitcase handle (I decided to spike – mimicking the traveler who broke their bag, and it was so cold, it shattered – oops), a dessert fork, and more. Most of this stuff was around the new bus station. Stephen also takes a closer look at Rogues gallery and the signs around it.

Behind Sir Cedric’s Fish and Chips, and the LCBO, there is a massive air conditioning unit…we think…and it seems a little big for anything in the area to be using. Anyone know what this is?

We find a hydro substation, not having known what it was…thinking it was a house of some kind. Ryan Fields recognized it though. Also, a beautiful house that I have never (ever) looked at, even though it is one of the nicest houses I’ve seen downtown. I also realized where the offices for Windsor Business Magazine are located. We also encounter some fliers that peak our interest. I then get ornery about the broken planters and public space defilement. swear a little too much, but it gets increasingly annoying to see these things being broken and then ignored. The costs associated with fixing these things is clearly irrelevant, or an afterthought for the people doing this damage.

The last video for today’s post is more discussion about the damage being done by snow plows in the parking lots downtown, specifically near the Art Gallery of Windsor. The broken public planters, placed strategically to block an old driveway, mixed with busted concrete makes for a sad image of these areas. Just a bit of a downer. If these objects don’t belong here, which ones do? I wonder.

Recap of Spacing Walk

Could I have predicted the turnout? No. Did I hope for it and expect it? Yes.

The who’s who of the walk was beautiful. There were lots of strangers to Phog, and lots of well-known community figures prepared to spend an hour in the cold.

Shawn Micallef spoke briefly from the stage to a full building. No one spoke. No one whispered or interrupted. It was magnificent. He talked about his experience with walking in Toronto and what people could do during their walk to make it as enjoyable as possible.

My group consisted of a few random folks who were not yet in a group of their own. Ryan Fields, Stephen Hargreaves, Marissa Nowlan, and Michelle Wybenga.

We started out by heading west, and our random-walk-algorithm took us in a repeating spiral around the northwestern portion of downtown Windsor.

The best part of the walking event, for me, was actually prior to and after the walk. Seeing the faces of people who care was unparalleled for me. I got a few comments sent to me that evening and the next day telling me that it was the best night that some people had EVER experienced as a part of a Phog event. Matt Baker and Christine Arkell-Rideout were particularly pleased, which evokes a sense of pride for our creative-class community.

Elaine Weeks (Walkerville Publishing, Walkerville Times) was on-hand and eager, and she brought along Heather from a group called Windsor Essex Walks. Yet another joining of active city-loving Windsorites. Chris Holt brought his video camera to capture awesomeness, and Michael Johnson (google map man) came fresh off his successful Big Walk performance to participate in this great night by collecting audio and other stories.

The video below is of our first steps west out of Phog Lounge. Our algorithm was to travel west for three blocks, turn right, travel two blocks, turn right, travel one block, turn right…repeat. This is the beginning.

The video below this follows our group reading some clever graffiti (although terribly ugly), and then hearing Glen Campbell music being played through the outdoor speakers at the new bus station.

This video is of our group cutting through the Hilton/Radisson hotels because our algorithm had us getting stuck at these buildings. Stephen Hargreaves was gracious enough to tape everything, but he was very fond of zooming in…which means some blurriness until he decides to zoom back out. The first bit of the group getting into the building is a little shaky. After that, you see a defunct mall with 1980s and early 90s themed stores until we make our way back out onto Riverside Drive.