It struck me Saturday morning as I was driving the final hour into Royal Oak, Michigan that it was only about 10 miles from downtown Detroit. Unfortunately, I had a slight queasy moment in my stomach thinking what am I doing here. Detroit is known for a mass exodus of people that has been going on for years, and the stark contrast of the city against the skyline wasn't doing my thoughts of this place any favors.
Signs of decay are littered around Interstate 75 as it winds through the central core, and the broken homes and dreams that line the interstate are harsh reminders of a city that was once a jewel of this mid-western city. But, there is a strange beauty in this stark reminder of a city that once mass produced most of the automobiles used around the world and set the foundation of how we live in this country.
There are several magnificent churches standing tall amongst the broken homes and bombed-out looking building along my path. Few lights can be seen from the freeway, and it appears that most of these structures are abandoned.
As I round through the city and leave Wayne County and enter Oakland county the change is almost instantaneous. The Interstate is missing the constant thumping sound that started when I hit the Detroit city limits and trash is missing from alongside the road (there's a terrible amount of paper trash all along through Detroit). Instantly, I consciously think that I'm going to like this place. I turn west onto Interstate 696 west and head to the first exit to turn into Royal Oak. Right at my turn is Cariobou Coffee on South Main street...Ah, life can now continue!
I stop for some Java and head the two blocks west to the art show and my booth space. It's right on the corner of East Fourth and Washington streets. The neighborhood has obviously been going through improvements over a number of years and most of the storefronts have operating businesses in them. Even at 6:30AM there are other people other than us artists walking around. Everyone is amazingly friendly and happy - I wonder what they put into the water around here?
The policeman has me back right up to my booth to unload...Am I in Kansas I think to myself (somewhere I have to reference The Wizard of Oz in all this). Then I head down to the show to check in. They give me two special passes because I have a dual wheel truck and trailer which allows me to park about 10 feet from my booth instead of the three blocks they have reserved for the other artists - it pays to have one one ton dual wheel truck with a 16 foot long trailer!
10:00 AM rolls on and people start milling in to the show. There's a glass blowing exhibit across the way, and my other neighbor is creates really cool sculptures from a high fire stoneware. He creates these small dragons that are hatching from eggs, giraffes, and has one cool cowboy on a horse (www.ericevanssculpture.com), and he's a great neighbor. The show had consistent sales until we closed at 7:00PM and then I headed out for some dinner.
BD's Mongolian grill was around the corner and I settled in for a few beers and some grub. I like these type of restaurants. I can get fresh chicken and vegetables cooked to order and relax for awhile. It's a great way to wind down the day. I'm heading off to the motel to crash, and the streets are packed with people. Restaurants are full and I can barely walk across the street from all the traffic. This is obviously the place to be on Friday night. However, I needed sleep and not entertainment.
I of course headed to Caribou Coffee for my morning fix and get my thoughts written. In about another hour there's an artist award's breakfast, and we'll see if I'm one of the lucky ones or just get fed. I'll be happy either way.
This is my last mid-west show and then I'm back to Florida tonight. Thursday, I'm heading to Vancouver, Washington, but I have an insane amount of work to get completed before I head west. It's going to be a busy summer.