Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grand Circus Park

Grand Circus Park is located in downtown Detroit.  Its semi-circle shape is surrounded by Comerica Park, the Detroit Opera House, the Detroit Athletic Club (for the city's elite), several apartment buildings and restaurants, with more to come (including a boutique hotel).  The region's most popular street, Woodward Avenue, runs through it.  And it's the unofficial marker that separates Illitch and Gilbert territory. 

Currently, Grand Circus Park doesn't have the activity of other green space like Campus Martius; however, events are hosted there and I expect more in the future.  On the east side of the park, tables and chairs have been set up for people to relax and a dog park recently opened.  While the park may lack the buzz of other areas it is culturally rich.  My favorite part of city life is being surrounded by history and culture, Grand Circus Park offers plenty of both.

The Russell Alger Memorial Fountain (1921) is one of my favorites in the city.  The statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the man who created the iconic Abraham Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial.

William C. Maybury (monument 1912) served two terms as mayor of Detroit at the turn of the last century.  In 1900, he organized a time capsule, the Detroit Century Box, that was opened in 2000. Included in the box was letters from citizens about what life was like and what they imagined it to be like 100 years in the future. My favorite quote references Canada. I didn't realize this as a child but we Americans can be pretty arrogant.  When I was younger I was entirely convinced Canada would become the 51st state and I'm not the only Michiganer who believed this: 

"I predict further that Sandwich, Windsor and Walkerville now in Canada will be part of the City of Detroit and that Ontario will be a state of the United States of America." 
- Orrin R. Baldwin.

Hazen S. Pingree (monument 1903) was a Republican mayor of Detroit (later governor of Michigan) who fought to end corruption in both the private and public sectors. During the economic depression of 1893 he expanded public welfare programs, used public development to stimulate the economy and encouraged people to use vacant city land to grow food.  My kind of Republican...

Another fun cultural find was the print of Robert S. Duncanson's Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine (1871).  The original is at the Detroit Institute of Art and this copy was made available about the Knight Foundation.  The Inside Out Program has set up several exhibits throughout the metro Detroit region in order to expand the museum's reach and accessibility.

"Notice how Robert S. Duncanson painted light - rays of sunlight reflect off the water near a bright stretch of sand.  Art critics of his time noticed, and considered this one of his best works.  He had a studio in Detroit but traveled often, becoming the first African American artist to earn international praise."

I didn't really intend a history lesson post but it turned out that way, so one last thing.  The fountain above is the Edison Memorial Fountain and commemorates the 50th anniversary of his invention of the electric lamp.  The man himself and President Herbert Hoover attended the dedication in October 1929.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


"Sometimes when I think he's the biggest jerk in the world and then he'll do something funny, and I'll laugh and I'll think to myself, 'Oh, that's why I married him.'"

That quote alone makes me want to see this documentary.  I think it's a perfect summary of marriage.  112 Weddings is the work of Doug Block, a filmmaker who has spent decades recording weddings. Weddings are idolized in society.  So much time and effort is put into a single day.  It's magical and fantastic but Block wondered what happens next?  When the excitement is over and life begins, what does the marriage look like? He decided to go back and talk to some of the couples whose wedding he filmed.  From the preview, it doesn't appear to be the 'Happily Ever After' people hope for.

It's an interesting concept and one people who are or have been married can understand.  I don't think I had unrealistic expectations when it came to marriage; however, I also didn't have any real-life examples of what marriage is and that is just as challenging.  Year one of marriage was harder than I thought it would be.  I naively assumed that since Danny and I lived together and shared finances not much would change.  I was wrong.  Thankfully year two has been much easier.  

That said, there is always room for improvement.  Marriage (and all relationships) are commitments that require attention and effort.  Sometimes I try hard, sometimes I'm lazy.  Watching this preview I was inspired to re-prioritize my efforts.  I picked up a notebook and created a list of questions for us to answer annually in order to address concerns but also track our marriage and see how it changes overtime.  

  1. What is the highlight moment of our marriage this year?
  2. What goals did we accomplish together?
  3. What challenge did we overcome?
  4. What things in our marriage make you sad?
  5. What things in our marriage make you happy?
  6. What do you see as the strength in our marriage?
  7. What do you see as the weakness in our marriage?
  8. Describe how our marriage has changed over the year.
  9. What were some things we used to do before we were married that you miss now?
  10. In what ways have you attempted to communicate love and appreciation to me?
  11. If you could see two things change about me what would they be?
  12. What are your biggest fears about our relationship?
  13. What concerns and interests of yours would you like me to support?
  14. What can I do that provides the greatest comfort and encouragement for you when you are hurt, fearful, anxious or worried?
  15. How can we improve our intimacy or take it to the next level?
  16. What are a few ways you desire to see our finances improve?
  17. What things do you see by my actions that I place first in my life?
  18. What do you enjoy doing with me?
  19. What’s your dream date night?
  20. What gift did I get you that you like?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taqo Detroit

There is a restaurant boom in Detroit: an endless stream of announcements and openings. It's nearly impossible to keep up.  This weekend we decided to check out Taqo, located downtown by Grand Circus Park.  Taqo opened last month and is the perfect place for the game day/event crowd.  The service was great and our food arrived quickly.  I must say that fast service doesn't translate to fast food.  Our meals were made with fresh ingredients and satisfying in the best way.

Before Danny and I left, we talked to the general manager Cesar Ochoa.  He was very nice and genuinely interested in marking sure we had a good experience.  We discussed the menu, specifically its authenticity.  Although Taqo's entrees may not appear to be traditional Mexican cuisine, Cesar explained that Mexican food is more diverse than we tend to experience in the United States and the menu reflects traditional and coastal dishes.

Taqo's other culinary objective is to reach a wide audience and accommodate people with food sensitivities, particularly those with gluten intolerance.  Currently, the corn tortillas and fries are gluten-free but Cesar is working with his supplier to develop a gluten-free soft taco to expand menu options for customers with restrictive diets.  This was fabulous news for me because I'm always looking for restaurants my sister can eat at.

As previously noted the service at Taqo was fantastic.  Our server, William was very friendly and graciously agreed to answer my usual Detroit questions.

Do you live in Detroit?
Yes. Westside.

What do you like about living/working in the city?
The downtown people.  There is always something going on. It may not always be crowded but even if there is not a game there is always something to do.

What do you dislike about living/working in the city?
Because I'm a server and a bartender, I leave at night and I have so much cash on me I go straight to the bank. I'm not saying all parts of Detroit are bad but I've lived here long enough to know that you'd rather be safe than sorry.

What change are you waiting for?
I want more people from the suburbs to come down.  They still have this thing in their head that Detroit is too dangerous and stay away unless there are Tiger games.  There are a lot of people you won't see at all if there is not a game. I'm not saying I'm mad about it but it's a great clientele of people and they should understand Detroit more and spend more time here than they usually do.

What's your favorite item on the menu?
I'm obsessed with the Asada Waffle Fries.  It's nachos except with waffle fries.

As usual I ordered the recommended item and I was NOT disappointed.  The fries are deliciously seasoned and the toppings are perfect.  I'll be back for them alone and I can't wait to take B because I think she will enjoy the combination of her two favorite gluten-free menu items.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy Friday!

What a week. I think I'm having writer's withdrawal or remorse.  I spent every waking hour writing for 3 weeks and now that it's over I don't know what to do with myself.  Fortunately, I get the best pick me up in the world tonight.  After a Gwenless month we finally get our favorite girlie for a sleepover.  I'm so excited and I hope she still fits in to her new clothes.

Weekend agenda. If the weather holds, I would really like to go to the park and have a picnic. I'm hoping I can convince Danny that it will be well worth it in exchange for a round of Arkham Horror tonight.  Tomorrow, toddler activities (which I imagine will include many assisted walks up and down the stairs) and a BSG game night with Brett and Lindsey.  Sunday I want to spend some time downtown and otherwise relax.

Inevitably, I will also be spending a lot of time checking my phone to find out what's going on at ComicCon in San Diego.  As much as I wish it weren't the case I can't help but want to hear what the actors of Once Upon A Time have to say about the show.

P.S. This is pretty Wicked

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The 3-1-3

Today is a big day in Detroit.  It's the city's 313th birthday (founding day?)!  Why is 313 a significant year?  It's the city's area code.  Campus Martius was abuzz with activity to celebrate.  A special concert, a butterfly tribute and McDonald's hosted a tent where you could shoot hoops.  Fun stuff but honestly not that different from the everyday and that's the special part.  This crowd you see isn't here because it's a special celebration, this is what Cadillac Square looks like every weekend that doesn't have bad weather.  

“Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus”
“We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes”
That's Detroit's motto.  It dates to the 1805 fire that destroyed the city but it's maintained its significance over the years.  Right now the city is rising and it's exciting to watch it happen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pig & Whiskey

Our dating adventure for the weekend took us out to Pig &Whiskey in Ferndale.  Ferndale borders Detroit and is where all the cool kids live who want affordable car insurance rates.  The summer festival showcases BBQ, whiskey (and beer) and live music.  It was our first year at the event and we had a really good time.  Danny ate some candied bacon from The W.A.B., we each got a taco from a newly discovered Detroit taco joint Alley Taco, and shared Pigs Gone Wild (creme brulee ice cream with bacon and raspberry sauce) from Treat Dreams.  I was the DD so Danny had a couple drinks.  He had the only available beer option from his favorite brewery that he hadn't tried and a shot of Rittenhouse Rye which he loved.

Delicious food + great environment = perfect Saturday afternoon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Extra! Extra!

It appears the Illitches are looking to show up Dan Gilbert.  For decades, the Illitch family (owners of Little Caesar's Pizza, Olympia Entertainment, Detroit Tigers and Red Wings) were the talk of the town and praised for their commitment to Detroit.  Five years ago, Gilbert moved to Detroit and dedicated his resources to reviving the city.  His swift, dramatic and public action outshone the Illitches and left many questioning the accolades given to pizza czars.  Turns out they have had big plans of their own.

The plans for a new stadium for the Red Wings has been slightly controversial.  Joe Louis is honestly a dump but it's historic and means a lot to a very dedicated hockey fandom.  Consequently, there is a contingent of people who don't want to see the Wings move.  The bigger controversy has been the decision to use millions of dollars in public funds to finance the construction of a stadium that would not formally be returned to the city.  The plan's defenders claim the development spurred by construction would increase the tax base (via new business and residents) and, therefore, benefit Detroit; however, promises of development as a result of a new stadium is old news.  The same story was sold when Comerica Park (2000) and Ford Field (2002) were built but the reality is that not much changed.

This time things might be different. Yesterday the Illitches revealed a dramatic and ambitious plan to develop 5 neighborhoods in the Downtown/Midtown area in the next 3 years.  Touted as one of the largest construction project in the country, it will undoubtedly change the landscape of Detroit.  Between the Illitches development north of Grand Circus Park and Gilbert's development south of it, my favorite buzz word is even being thrown out - Target!

It's incredible how much the city has changed in five years and I feel like the city's core will be completely unrecognizable in another five years.  This latest development project is really exciting and hopefully a sign of continued progress for Detroit.

(Source: Crain's Detroit Business)