Friday, March 30, 2012

The Marche Du Nain Rouge 2012

If you live in or near Detroit, Michigan, you may be aware of the city's own harbinger of doom, the Nain Rouge, or "red dwarf." (Also "red gnome," but in my experience, the locals prefer the "dwarf" translation.) The creature is said to appear right before a great misfortune, such as the Battle of Bloody Run in 1763, the 1805 fire, and before the surrender of Detroit in the War of 1812. The Nain has been sighted as recently as 1996, though the witnesses admitted to being drunk.

Legend has it, way back when Detroit was being founded, the Nain Rouge plagued the early city by playing nasty tricks on the settlers and thwarting their efforts to make a living. Antoine Laumont de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac is sometimes said to have chased the Nain Rouge out of Detroit, banishing him - for a little while, at least. Other stories have it that a group of citizens came together to drive out the Nain before he could curse them as they had Cadillac. For one description of Cadillac's encounter with the Nain, click here

Every spring the citizens of young Detroit would stage a festival and parade banishing the Nain for another year called le Marche du Nain Rouge. People dressed up in goofy costumes to fool the Nain should he seek revenge upon them upon his return. AN effigy of the Nain was created and burned or drown in the river. For a complete description of the marche's history, click here.

Since 2010, a group of Detroiters has come together and revived Le Marche du Nain Rouge. People gather in goofy costumes every year on the Sunday closest to the Spring Equinox and march down the Cass Corridor in downtown Detroit. The parade begins by a man dressed as Cadillac addressing the crowd, saying that long we have been plagued by this Nain Rouge and we will take it no longer! This is followed by the appearance of the Nain Rouge himself who taunts the crowd. The parade begins when the Nain exits, and everyone is lead by Cadillac, the Nain, and La Bande du Nains, a small marching band dressed up for the occasion.

This was the marche's third year of rebirth and the second of my attendance. I learned of it from my now boyfriend Greg. Last year, I had just met Greg and it was one of our early dates. We dressed all steampunky (or as steampunk as I could get at the time) and had our pictures taken by a few people. This year, there seemed to be many more people in attendance. Greg and I dressed as members of the Motor City Jetpack Brigade (Greg's invention, I think), and had our picture taken dozens and dozens of times! There were definitely more photographers milling about this year because the cameras I saw were pretty high quality.

Last year, the Nain was dressed in a red suit with red boots, just as described in legend. This year he was attired in a nice suit with a red tie and claimed to be the new Emergency Manager, a post that the governor of Michigan has invented to destroy democracy in the state of Michigan. (This is a real thing. EMs were not made up for the parade.) Banishing the Nain took very little time as compared to last year, and the festivities took place inside the impressively large (the largest int he world) Masonic Temple. Greg and I didn't participate in this part as I was hungry and hot and needed water badly. The weather was much more pleasant than last year (which was chilly and windy), but I was not dressed for that kind of heat to be perfectly honest.

Metromix Detroit was out taking photos and compiled a slideshow on their website. Plenty of other photos are available if you a search for the marche, as well.

If you find yourself in the Detroit region next year around the beginning of Spring, come on down Le Marche. It's worth it just to see all the great costumes people come up with! And you'll be a part of history.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Oh My God, I Saw Henry Rollins!

I am probably not the typical Henry Rollins fan. I am not very familiar with Black Flag, though I have great appreciation for this shirt and desperately want one. He was leading Rollins Band by the time I knew of him, and the only dating advice I recall getting as a teen was from my older brother who played "Liar" for me when I was in middle school. I still have a softness for that song, and Henry Rollins dressed as a nun in the video was ridiculously hilarious to 12-year-old me. (Honestly, it still is. Also the super hero costume. Sexy, sexy spandex!)

My brother didn't just listen to Rollins' music, he also read his books and had CDs of his spoken words. This is how I was introduced to Rollins. I'm not sure how I ended up overhearing the spoken words since my brother and I didn't hang out a lot when he was in high school and I was in middle school, and we only had one year of high school together. 

I remember Henry Rollins' words having a strong effect on my brother. I really looked up to my brother, and I figured if he admired this Henry Rollins guy, then he was definitely worth my attention, too. Out of that respect, I developed a little girlhood crush on Henry. My other celebrity crushes at the time included Scott Weiland (of Stone Temple Pilots) and  Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden), who is still sexy as hell. (Look at this video! Damn, that man can sing. Be still, my beating heart.) I think I had damn good taste back then, considering who other girls my age in the early to mid-90s were crushing on (Luke Perry, the unfortunately named Rider Strong, etc).

Anyway, back to Rollins. I remember sometime in college I found a soundbite of a spoken word he did somewhere that included his opinion of homophobia. I was both impressed and touched. I'd never heard someone speak so plainly and firmly before. It was wonderful! I've also widely spread a video clip in which he talks about his perfect woman. It always gave me hope that I'd find a man who truly wanted me for my mind and would respect me for being clever.

And now, over ten years later, I had the chance to see Henry Rollins live thanks to me incredibly amazing boyfriend who knows me well enough to get me a black rose for Valentine's Day and two tickets to see Rollins at the gorgeous Michigan Theater when he came through Ann Arbor. Best Valentine ever. I was bummed my brother missed out on the opportunity, but I understand why. He and his fiancee are expecting their son to be born any day now, and he didn't want to miss out on that happening, no matter how awesome Henry Rollins is.

My friend in California who saw Rollins live in San Francisco last year told me to wait around after the show because he does a meet and greet with the fans. (She got a hug, too.) We hung around the front of the theater for a while after the show drinking coffee, but we didn't see him, so we returned to the parking garage where we saw a swarm of people. There he was! I got more and more nervous as the line before us shrank.

This picture is terrible, but
I'm showing it to you anyway.
It goes without saying, I think, that Henry Rollins is a very cool guy. I asked him to sign both of the tickets so I could give one to my brother and told him why he wasn't there. I also mentioned that my brother lives in Kalamazoo (close enough) where Rollins did a show the previous night. He said that Kalamazoo makes him a little sad because there are so many closed shops downtown, but that he really likes Kalamazoo and hopes to return in the next year or so.

Henry: "When the economy's down, the Midwest always gets hit the hardest, and I think Kalamazoo shows that."

It's true. It was sort of rewarding to hear him speak of my hometown in words that I not only agree with but have uttered in some capacity myself over the years. Downtown Kzoo depresses me, too. Hardly any of the stores I grew up going to are there. In fact, most of them didn't even survive me growing up. Almost every time I went down there, some new one had sprung up to take the place of one recently closed. My favorite Chinese place closed while I was out in California, and a really great independent bookstore that often hosted artists for the monthly Art Hop locked its doors for the last time when I was in college. 

Henry was right, though, the people of Kalamazoo are trying like hell to revitalize their town. My favorite store Terrapin is still there, and the best pub in town Olde Peninsula, but almost everything else is new to me. There are a lot of bistros and trendy restaurants where I could probably never afford to dine. I'll bet they attract the philanthropically inclined, though, which is probably a better contribution than I can make right now. I can't imagine downtown Kzoo ever being close to Ann Arbor caliber, but I do hope it returns to the kind of place people go to to spend an afternoon or an evening.

What I think I like best about Henry Rollins isn't his intelligence, or even his sharp wit, but his insistence on satisfying his own curiosity and when he once said that anger can be productive. I was told by my parents that they always thought of me as an angry person, which I find funny because at most of my jobs I was known as "the nice one" and I don't think any of my friends would have described me as angry. (I can think of one who might say that now.) 

I never used to see myself as angry, but I have always been impatient and driven. If I see something that I don't think is right, it upsets me and I am driven to do what I can to change it. I guess I used to see anger as less a driving force and more of a useless emotion, probably because that is what I have always been told by authority figures. But now I can say, yes, I can be an angry person because I am not content to sit and do nothing when there is a wrong being committed, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is a saying, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention." I wholeheartedly believe this is true.

As for being curious, I am definitely that. I want to know everything and am constantly educating myself on some new tidbit. I collect books of every color and often get lost for hours following links in Wikipedia. What I regret most about being poor right now is that I can't travel and learn more things first hand. I want to go to China! I want to visit India! I need to see Japan again!

I am so delighted that I now have a boyfriend who loves me and buys me wonderful presents like the opportunity to see Henry Rollins. And I am also happy that he came with me to the show and we could enjoy it together. I am on such a high right now, I have no idea how I am going to fall asleep! It's a good thing I requested a closing shift at work tomorrow. Now I think I need to go read up on Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who has seen this tour will understand why.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Free Day in Fremont (Seattle)

If you want to see Seattle, but don't have a lot of money, I suggest spending an afternoon in the Fremont district. Fremont is home to many of the quirky things in Seattle, like the Fremont Troll, a giant sculpture of a troll that resides under the extremely tall Aurora Bridge that will take you from Fremont to downtown. Fittingly enough, the Troll is located at the top of Troll Ave where it intersects N 36th St. (The street was actually renamed to Troll Ave in 2005, making the monument easier to find, no doubt.) 

But that isn't the only thing unique about Fremont. And in this tour, I am going to let you in on a few secrets, all of them completely free. All you need is a little cash for souvenirs, if you like, food, and, since this is Seattle, a cup of coffee to keep you going.

For an easy print out of your own, click here. This is the one I used as a guide, though we didn't end up following it very well, and there were many additions and subtractions. For starters, don't park where it tells you to park. Everything you're going to be looking at is on the north side of the bridge, and parking on the south side is a little difficult and confusing. The streets are also a lot busier there. We didn't have any luck, so wen ended up parking just down from the Troll near a Japanese 80s bar. Sadly, we did not go inside.

Greg and I ended up not even starting with Rapunzel. In our quest to find parking, we ended up tracing the path of the walking tour with the car and seeing everything from the sculpture Waiting for the Interurban (which is usually whimsically dressed up by locals in an array of colorful hats, shirts, and necklaces) to the directional marker. We actually saw the statue of Lenin (yes, that Lenin) while driving from our friend's apartment. It's quite large and very difficult to miss. 

A few of the places on the tour are closed, like Frank and Dunya, but there are plenty of other fun shops to stop at along the way. I ended up buying a fabulous pair of earrings and a leather bracelet from a Turkish store on the way to the History House on 34th street. The store is marked by a tallish camel statue out front that Greg's brother told us gets dressed up in different outfits for various occasions (which I think is adorable if it is true). The lady that runs the store is very friendly and talented! She makes the adorable crocheted hats and scarves for sale herself. The shop also promises Turkish coffee, so if that is your thing, do stop in.

The History House turned out to be quite small, but educational. We learned that Seattle averages 226 cloudy a year, and the lowest recorded temperature is 0 degrees F and the highest is 100 degrees F. There are also a bunch of pictures of the Waiting for the Interurban in different outfits. They also sell gnome doors! The only other place I have seen gnome doors is in Frankenmuth, MI. I told the guy behind the counter about Ann Arbor's fairy doors, and he said he'd never seen fairy doors, but thought the whole idea was pretty neat.

It was actually on our way to all of these things rather than after that we stopped at Dusty Strings on Fremont Ave, a very cool music shop that specializes in acoustic instruments. They had a banjo shaped like a fish and rattles for a babies shaped like a human skull. The walls are covered in ukuleles, banjos, guitars, violins, and these are far from the only instruments they sell. They also encourage you to try out the instruments, which I would have done had I any knowledge of how to play any of them. 

Fremont's famous directional marker which declares Fremont as the center of the universe and point to various other locations all around the globe, including the North Pole as well as the other famous Fremont landmarks, like Lenin and the rocket. 

Also along Fremont Ave is the really cool and rather large Vintage Mall where I bought an aviator cap for an upcoming costume for the Marche du Nain Rouge in Detroit. Other vintage stores in the area that we stopped at are Vintage Angel, which has awesome boots, and Deluxe Junk, which has a goofy statue out front when it's open. Deluxe Junk is where we found a Civil War era prosthetic leg. Pretty cool, eh? 

We were lucky to be wandering Fremont on the first Friday of the month. It turns out that day is set aside as an Art Walk. I grew up with something quite similar in Kalamazoo, MI called Art Hop. It's even the same day! If you live in Seattle, the Fremont Art Walk is a great way to get to know the neighborhood beyond the well-known touristy stuff. I overheard some people say that other neighborhoods also do Art Walks on different nights of the week. You could tour the whole city this way! 

If you aren't familiar with this kind of event, it's basically a bunch of businesses (usually stores and galleries) who get together and decide that they are going to open their doors to local artists and showcase their work. There are usually modest refreshments and snacks, and the public can meet the artists and often purchase some of their work. In Kalamazoo, the Art Hop is when the various galleries around town open new showings, as well as the aforementioned stores showing off a local artist's work. I love Art Walks and Hops and whatever they are called! Galleries that may normally charge admission are free and feed you. What's not to love about that?

One artist who totally caught our eyes is Ben Chamberlain who had a lot of black and white comic art for show. I came very, very close to buying one of his prints. 

I realize this wasn't a totally logical step-by-step of Fremont. It's a small area with a lot of stuff packed tightly together. One can easily spend a day wandering around, checking out all the outdoor funky art, tasty little places to eat, and unique shops. The best part of all, most of these activities don't even cost any money. If you are artsy or the least bit kooky, Fremont should definitely be on your list of places to check out in Seattle.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pike Place Market & the Seattle Art Museum

Opened in 1907, Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA is the oldest continuously running public market in the United States. And after breakfast as Beth's Cafe, this is where Greg and I started our Pacific Northwest vacation. 

Downtown is the one place in Seattle that we had trouble finding parking. Eventually, with the help of my GPS, we found a parking garage that wasn't full and hoofed it over to the market, which was bustling even in the middle of the week. There were tons of interesting shops with lots of things that I wanted to buy, but since this was my first day in town and I was stubborn to stick to a modest budget, I ended up only buying a magnet for my fridge to add to my collection (I have magnets from all over the world; it's a fun collection). 

I also bought Kimmy a signed copy of Market Ghost Stories by Mercedes Yaeger to use for her blog American Haunts. It turns out that Pike Place Market is hella haunted. (Big surprise.) I did't notice anything unusual during my time there, but in addition to the corridors we walked down, the restaurant where we later dined, Pan Africa, which was delicious, and the theater behind the disgusting and smelly Gum Wall in Post Alley where we went to see my first improv show put on by Unexpected Productions are both famously haunted. The theater is allegedly the abode of five spirits, though my friend Amanda, who was with us and even won free tickets to a future show for one of her improv suggestions, said she only saw four. (I didn't ask her to clarify. Perhaps I should have.)

One place that may or may not be haunted by ghosts, but is certainly swamped by the living is the original Starbucks, store #1, right there in the market. Though the line was just out the door when we decided to stop, it moved quickly. These folks are efficient! They are also friendly and cheerful, and this is the only coffee shop that has asked to be certain they were getting my name correctly, spelling and all, on the cup (which is why I don't usually give my real name - it irritates me when they get it wrong). I kept the coffee sleeve as a fun and re-usable souvenir.

It is thanks to the friendly folks at Starbucks that Greg and I learned that day was free at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) just up the road. In fact, the first Thursday of every month is free admission, so if you are in Seattle the first week of the month, consider dropping by. It's hard to miss with a giant statue of a man hammering out front. (It kind of freaked me out.) We saw some fantastic Australian aboriginal art as well as some native Pacific Northwest pieces, and even some ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts.

SAM isn't the largest art museum I have been to, so it should only take you a few hours to get through it (especially if you largely skip the modern art as I did). I believe this is because Seattle, like San Francisco, has many art museums spread across the city rather than having it largely in one place, like Detroit. Maybe on my next trip to Seattle, I will be able to see more of the art museums, like the one devoted to Asian Art, which is apparently also free  the second Thursday of every month.

As far as I know, none of the museums are haunted. If you hear otherwise, please let me know!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Since as of this posting I will be on vacation in Seattle, I thought I'd write it early and have it post on Friday. 

Over a week ago I sprained my left thumb and had to take a mandatory vacation until the doctor said I could work again. I wasn't supposed to lift anything above 2 lbs even at home, which didn't really happen, though I tried my best and it isn't like there is a lot of heavy things to lift around my apartment. And I had a brace covering my left forearm, so that helped. The first day I spent going through old junk mail and dividing it into shreddables, recyclables, and trash. I also cleaned up the kitchen and bathroom a little bit.

I hadn't had that much time off in a long time! Not to mention unplanned. I watched more television than I had in a long time, too. Kimmy and I powered through season two of Glee via the DVDs that I got out of the library, and I got a good chunk of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman's second season under my belt, too, sprinkled with some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I certainly had plenty of time to pack for Seattle! And I am proud to say that I packed a week's worth of stuff into my carry-on suitcase, plus a couple things in my backpack. Books are ready to go, and since we'll have the time of the plane, I can work on my character for Wraith, the next RP our game group is doing.

I've never been to the Pacific Northwest, despite many plans with various people to visit Portland and/or Seattle while living in San Francisco. This will also be my first trip with a boyfriend, so I'm pretty excited about that, too, as well as seeing a new city and a cool friend I haven't seen since she moved out there last year.

We're all planning on taking a day trip to Portland, too, so I get to see the two cities I've been wanting to in one trip! I'd go for another day trip to Vancouver, but I think that's a trip all on its own.

I will be back on the 7th, so my next update will probably be all about Seattle and Portland. Maybe I will come back with some more ghostly tales. Kimmy has demanded them for American Haunts, and it sounds like there are plenty of stories out there! Among them, a haunted pizza parlor. (I guess you really can order anything with pizza.)