Sunday, July 27, 2003

one fine weekend in southwestern ontario and southeastern michigan (1)

Brought a carload of friends back to my hometown this weekend, a chance to get out of the city for a few days. Covered a lot of ground, which will take a few entries to tell.

FRIDAY
Had an easy drive out of the city. Stopped in Woodstock at Dairy Queen, where we sat in the parking lot with the local teenage population. Drove through London, past several sketchy strip joints ("sketchy" was a term thrown around often during the weekend) and into a livelier-than-I-remember downtown London. Maybe the place is now dead by day, alive by night, like Windsor. Arrived in A'burg around midnight, watched an episode of the Muppet Show, then collapsed for the night.

SATURDAY
Things got off to a good start at the border, where the guard joked around with us, asking if the girls were dragging the guys along for shopping. More proof the guards are friendlier at Detroit than along the Niagara River. Once across, we swung around the Hotel Yorba, then grabbed lunch at Armando's. Dee's chicken enchilladas were the hit of the meal.

After stuffing our faces, we drove by the ruins of the Michigan Central Station and Tiger Stadium (the latter site now being pursued by Wal-Mart - NOOOOOOOO!!! Don't let that be the fate of a chunk of land that provided many happy childhood memories!). Went across Lafayette, then parked south of Greektown to head over for a spin on the People Mover.

For the next hour, endless mentions of the monorail episode of the Simpsons were made.

The others were struck by the lack of people walking around. Definitely not downtown Toronto. Eerie, post-apocalyptic...these were the words being tossed around. If only they could drive around downtown Detroit on a foggy day with the sewer grates on full-steam, a sight that's pure Robocop/Blade Runner. Finally ran into other intelligent forms of life in Greektown, just in time for a group bathroom break.

I figured there'd be one in the Greektown Casino building (formerly Trapper's Alley, which used to house a store that sold only purple-coloured items and where I saw my first live sex act on a railing). The only survivors from the pre-casino days were tow places Dad and I used to eat at, the Pegasus and the Olympia. None appeared to be outside the casino, so we went in. Discovered casinos creep me out - felt very uncomfortable amidst the dull drone of slot machines, stale smoke and sad-looking characters. Also saw the largest mullet any of us had seen in years. One of the floor staff marked us as Canadians (was it the accents? the dazed wandering around?) We all tested the slots after Mark won back a dollar he threw in. Jess won $5 and stopped while she was ahead. BTW, I apologize to the others if I seemed too eager to leave...but it really did a number on me. Going to love to see my reactions to Las Vegas next week (though there will be other distractions at the gilded palaces of sin there).

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Three people in search of an elevated train
Here's the gang standing on the platform at the Greektown People Mover station. Detroit's rail system (we debated the merits of calling it a monorail) is short, cheap and a great way to see the city's ruins. Usually it runs in a loop, but the reconstruction of the Renaissance Center has forced to go in a back-and-forth pattern. We waited...and waited...and waited...and sang the monorail song a few more times...and waited...and stared at the shoe somebody lost...and waited. Once on, the others liked the art in the stations and the designs on the Guardian Building. Rather than go back around, we got off at the Millender Centre and walked through more people-free areas, such as this building on Congress.
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continued in Episode 2...

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