Friday, November 25, 2011

Victorian Opulence at District VII

Last Saturday, my boyfriend escorted me to District VII Detroit, host to Victorian Opulence, a night of art, performance, and Victorian/steampunk/goth garb (among others). The tickets were quite reasonable at only $10 in advance, and it gave me an excuse to wear my black and silver corset and vintage black lace skirt. (Sad that such occasions are so rare.)

Seconds after entering, we spotted two friends in splendid steampunk refinery, and after catching up, the four of us toured the room, admiring much of the art. Not the art I typically see at gallery openings, I was quite pleased with what I found. One artist seemed to delight in pairing the classic female nude with robotic parts, rendering poses that were disturbing while still being almost elegant. 

Scattered throughout the beautifully decorated and set-up room were what I will call photo-ops. Near the door was a set of wings, which my friends and I posed in front of to make it look as if we were wearing the wings. Not far off was a chair, almost throne-like in a simple sort of way, which we all also took turns posing with and snapping pictures. 

The DJ played all right music that I would expect from a decent club, but very, very few people were dancing, unfortunately. We apparently missed a fashion show of ceramic corsets, though the models were walking through the crowd so we still got to see the pieces in action, as it were. (They very much reminded me of samurai armor.) 

We did, however, catch the performance by Satori Circus, a performance artist who has performed around the country, but is currently based in Detroit. It was... confusing. As one friend put it when the performance ended, "Can someone please explain to me what it is we just watched?" If I had to delve into it, which I will do, I would say that it was a man sitting at a desk trying to think of something to draw or write, but having no inspiration. Meanwhile his muse, or inspiration, was sneaking up on him in the form of a woman who kept removing articles of clothing to make herself more visible in hopes of attracting his attention, none of which worked. Hey, it's performance art. You make of it what you want in most cases, and this is what worked for me. 

Libations were provided by the Detroit Tea Company, which I had never heard of before. I don't know which tea they were offering, but it was brewed to perfection! My boyfriend and I debated whether it was an earl grey (he insisted it was not; I was less certain) or a pekoe. Any which way, we firmly decided we needed to investigate this place, which is easier said than done as their website has a lovely picture on it, but as far as I can tell is blank beyond that. (Which is why I linked to their Facebook page above.) 

All-in-all, an enjoyable evening, and I do hope that they continue to host these events every few months as I was told is their intention. So if you are in the Detroit area, and are interested in steampunk or neo-Victorian garb, keep an eye out for future events. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Long Time Passing

When I was in fourth grade, the art teacher introduced us to an art form called stippling. I was intrigued by this idea and started out very well, but soon got bored and made the dots bigger and bigger. My chosen subject was something I often doodled at the time, a dolphin jumping out of the water, in this case, at sunset. I believe that is what I titled the piece: dolphin jumping out of the water at sunset. Or something like that.

Whatever my level of interest was in the project, the teacher was impressed with my sunset dolphin enough to enter it in an area competition, and it ended up in a regional show of children's artwork in St. Joseph, Michigan.  So one evening, my family and I took the roughly one hour trip to St. Joe from Portage and oohed and ahhed over my dolphin at sunset painting. I had never felt more proud (and amazed at how easily impressed adults are). 

That was my first and only trip to St. Joe until last weekend, roughly twenty years after that memorable night in the St. Joe library. I had one image of the city in my memory, still, like a postcard. And I saw it before my eyes again as my friend rounded a corner at the top of the bluff as we headed toward Silver Beach Pizza along Lake Michigan's shore.

I was told that Silver Beach Pizza is a staple of St. Joe. As soon as we approached the old train station that houses the pizzeria, I had a good feeling about the place, and once inside, I was not disappointed. We sat in the enclosed patio where we had an excellent view of Silver Beach, the indoor carousel across the way, and even watched a train go by. 

This may be an odd thing to note, but this is the restroom I have ever been in that had a foot pedal to open the door from the inside. Intriguing and also a decent idea. That way you don't have to touch the door handle, which I suppose is probably swimming with germs.

The pizza was as excellent as the view, so if you are in the St. Joe area, I highly suggest stopping by. We ordered a pizza margherita, one of my favorites, and I was not in the least disappointed. I also highly recommend the bread sticks. Though I did not order a drink, they had a good sized beer selection with a few names I recognized as beers that my beer-drinking friends enjoy. They also had a few good wines for the wine-lovers out there.

After our meal, my friends and I walked over to Silver Beach, often rated as one of the best beaches in America, let alone along Lake Michigan's shore, and I can see why. It's far more expansive than the beach I often went to in South Haven growing up, and is not the slightest rocky as a lot of beaches along the Lakes tend to be. I'm convinced that Silver Beach is must-stop for all serious beach-goers. 

For anyone who enjoys old architecture, driving along the bluffs is a treat. You get to see all the Old Chicago Money in action via gorgeous old homes overlooking the Lake. To this day, many people of Chicago still use St. Joseph as a summer resort town, and locals are often heard griping about the FIP (F***ing Illinois People), a term I have occasionally heard on this side of the Mitten, as well. (Though people around here are more likely to complain about visitors from Ohio than Indiana (Kalamazoo's favorite grievance) or Illinois.) 

Downtown St. Joe is also delightful with its old buildings and vintage storefronts. Much like Ann Arbor, St. Joe has coffee shops, ice cream shops, little stores to pop into, and even a Kilwin's to satisfy the fudge craving you didn't even know you had. 

So not only did I enjoy my time with friends that I do not see nearly enough, but I was very happy to finally get to give a real visit to St. Joseph, a city that is an often overlooked jewel, at least in its home state. It is with confidence that I recommend St. Joe as a summer destination, or even as a winter destination. I've seen some killer pictures of the St. Joe lighthouse covered in ice.

(Seriously, image-search it. It's awesome.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I've Got Skeletons on My Sidewalks

Halloween is such a big, important holiday (in my life) that it gets two entries in my blog. And it was such a busy day that I felt it was only fair to divide it up.

While my friends and I were driving to the cider mill in Northville, we noticed some odd sights throughout downtown. The sidewalks were crawling with skeletons! They were skateboarding, playing checkers, playing guitar, fishing, re-enacting movie scenes... On our way back from the cider mill, we had  top stop and check this out. 

One of the things I really like about downtown Northville is the free parking structures. The short blocks with stores is also adorable, quaint, and thriving with fun shops to explore, but seriously: free parking! Anyway. We quickly found a number of dressed up skeletons, each with a sign asking to please not touch them and with a Begonia Brothers tag. 

A later search on the internet informed me that there were twenty skeletons in total, and they all seemed to be set up along a few blocks of Center St and the strip that is E Main St. My friends and I had fun running around snapping pictures, and were delighted by some of the scenes we found. A particularly clever one, we thought, was the re-enactment of the clock tower scene from Back to the Future, which I will link to here because there is not enough room on this blog to show the proper detail. 

I realize it is most likely too late in the season to go check these guys out for yourselves, but it is certainly something to keep an eye out for next year (at least, I hope they return!), and makes me wonder what shenanigans downtown Northville will get into for the Winter season. 

While we were wandering around delightedly gawking at skeletons, we also came across a number of fairy doors that we didn't remember seeing during the Victorian Festival. The really neat thing about the fairy doors in Northville is that they are highly decorative and often tailored to the businesses to which they are attached.

It's sort of like a complete fairy village on a human scale. The high prevalence and decorativeness of the fairy doors of Northville give them a very different vibe than the fairy doors of Ann Arbor, which are made to look like real, functioning doors, albeit of a diminutive stature (about 7 inches tall). The Northville fairy doors are less than half the size, but still fun and very colorful and creative. They also seem to be evolving and getting more detailed. The differences between the two regions certainly send my writer wheels turning in my head. 

One day I will have to assemble an entire webpage devoted to all the fairy doors that Kimmy and I discover in our travels. At the very least, I think a Flickr account is in order. 

Unlike for Ann Arbor, there is no check list that I am aware of for Northville's fairy doors, and you must go there and find them for yourself. I have also yet to find a website other than my own that mentions them. They don't even get a blip on the Wikipedia page for Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor!  

So if you enjoy fairies, or have never been to downtown Northville, I highly suggest a visit. These folks obviously love their town and imbue it with a sense of fun and exploration. I can't imagine an afternoon in downtown Northville could ever be ill-spent. 

Happy hunting!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Essentials

Last year I missed out on two absolute must-do autumn activities, jack-o-lanterns and cider mills. So this year when the pumpkin carving contest was announced at work, I was easily persuaded to join. 

The pumpkins were free and I was told there would be a prize of some kind, but for me, the free pumpkin was a prize all its own. I selected a nice round one and decided on the geekiest thing that I hadn't yet seen done online, making a cyberman from Doctor Who. I selected the "Tomb of the Cybermen" (1967) era to model my pumpkin after. And so the cyberkin was born!! What surprised me most was that it was recognized almost as soon as I brought him into the store.

Geeky Coworker: Cyberman?
Me: Yes.
Geeky Coworker: Second generation?
Me: Why, yes, he is. ((Holy crow! WTF!))

Kimmy had never been to a pumpkin patch before in her life (I am continuously surprised by the deprived upbringing she had), so after dropping off the cyberkin, she and I went south on M-23 in search of a pumpkin  patch where we could seek out more pumpkins for carving at Game Night. Kimmy had decided on doing an owl, so looked for a tall, skinny pumpkin suitable for the task. I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I just found the biggest pumpkin I could carry that had a good carveable surface. 

After much deliberation and sketches, I decided to do a cat outlined by the moon (with clouds for stability). Kimmy's owl also ended up silhouetted by the moon (but no clouds). Greg's jack-o-lantern was just a face, though it did have a color changing light inside it which was pretty snazzy. 
On the actual day of Halloween, the three of us finally made it to a cider mill. Being in Ann Arbor, everyone insisted to me that I had to go to the Dexter Cider Mill, "the oldest continuously operating Cider Mill in Michigan." I checked the website for hours and address and we headed out, only to discover once we got there that it was closed. I did a search on my GPS for nearby cider mills and the next closest was Parmenter's in Northville. So off we went to Northville!

Their cider turned out to be sweet with not a hint of sourness, and the donuts were fresh and delicious. They also had a free wine tasting, so naturally we had to partake of Northville's other libations. The Niagara really did taste like white grape juice, as advertised, and I found the Blue Note to have a very refreshing blueberry aftertaste. We ended up purchasing a bottle of the Pink Moon, their cherry riesling, which is not their best seller for nothing! I liked it better than the Grand Traverse cherry riesling, which is still very good, but more tart than the Pink Moon. 

I realize now that I have two cherry rieslings in my fridge. Greg had brought me a bottle by Traverse Bay a little while ago that I'd quite forgotten about! I guess I really need to work on my wine drinking. That's it, every social interaction that occurs at my apartment from here on out must include wine! Done.