Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brand Detroit

I drove straight through from Rhinebeck, New York, Sunday night so I could be back in time for an underground dinner in Detroit. Don't think I don't know the risks I take. The show was no blockbuster. I was lucky to do as well as I did. Well it really isn't luck, I don't sit down. I speak to everybody and thank them for their interest. I tell them I'm from Detroit. It's not easy explaining why a 1930's photo of a dead baby in the woods is incredibly beautiful and important to share, how a medical model of a brain is an interesting thing to find in an art collection and why a set of cast iron branches from Detroit's train station are worth every penny, so fragile is our hold on this once magnificent building, on this still proud city. I can be thick-skinned, most of them will walk away and take nothing, it's cool. I'm a nighttime driver, I take naps when I get tired. I was 6 miles outside of Toledo at 7:30 am. Plenty of time to get home, sleep more, pick Wyatt up from school, throw a football, get dressed for dinner, head to an undisclosed abandoned building somewhere....The turnpike comes to a dead halt. Not a good sign, I saddle over to the closest trucker, bum a cigarette (another lousy thing that keeps you awake) get the news...Tanker caught fire, caught a second one on fire, it's gonna be an hour atleast. Oh good, I've just had breakfast, coffee and a cigarette. Sorry slave followers, you get it all, I hop the fence and head to the cornfield. I climb back over the fence, 36 hours of selling, 3 1/2 hour workout loading it all back into the truck, 10 hours on the road, 1 hour nap, makeshift cornfield facilities: figure that into the cost of goods. I'm fortunate to have prodigious energy, a low give-a-shit factor. It's not"salvage princess." I'm in bed by 10:30am.

It's worth all the hassle me getting to here, as we grab our map and find the mystery building where dinner will be served by top chefs in our city. It's a defunct automotive service center and showroom from the 20's. Still solid and cared for mostly, but windows broken or boarded up. I'm taken by windows lately, driving through our city, all the varying degrees of brokenness in windows, like lace, tattered lace, stained and torn and still beautiful but no one really wants to wear it. The sun is setting through the lace, we park inside and walk the spiral ramp up to the roof. People! all dressed for dinner and glasses of champagne. I can't stop taking pictures to say hello to the people I know, let alone speak to my guests. The sun is setting, the concertina wire sparkling, we are cradling this tattered city with sharp barbs like the most delicate fabric, that cuts you holding it gently in your bloodied hands, and the rest of the world is marvelling at our tenacity and our ability to love something so tattered and worn and harsh. They lead us down a now candlit spiral ramp...carefully across a rough surface in the dim light to some stairs, more candles. I feel like I'm descending into the catacombs. The showroom of peeling paint, long tables with white tablecloths and napkins, more candles. We can barely see each other. There is no power for lights, the chefs are cooking in a garage by generator with makeshift portable equipment. They are happy to be together, not missing their fancy kitchens too terribly. Dave Mancini, Supinos; Mark Djozlija, Wolf Gang Puck (and wearing the beautiful detroit begins with you t-shirt I gave to him); David Seals, Due Venti; Andy Hollyday, Roast; each comes out to introduce their dish, a wine pairing, a live musical accompaniment (Steve Jarosz, Clem Fortuna, Skeeter Shelton, Frank Pahl) A giant American flag flanks the corner. I am like a bee, hovering over the tasty morsels, catching up with my husband and friends, then over to my neighbor Chet and his partner Kyle (who made the view out my shop window special when they renovated old Billings), a film maker from New York is introduced to me, Heidi Ewing. John Arnold walks in late with his beautiful friend Julie Taubman. His shirt says "Defend Detroit." She is obsessively photographing every inch of the city, putting her resources behind a book she's publishing, a message she can put real authority behind. He kicks my ass saying you have to find beauty where you live or you are just lazy. We are all brand Detroit, as singular as your fingerprint, and New York wants it and Hollywood wants it and by God I say sell them a ticket! In fact, I'll even drive it there and sell it to them personally.


stylethread said...

Love it! Would have loved it more had I been invited ;) I was just eyeballing that building the other day, imagining its history and what could possibly be done with it... What a great way to enjoy an otherwise overlooked, decaying remnant of Detroit.

I'm curious -- did you sell any of the baby prints?

Benscoti said...

Sounds like a great evening Marissa!! Where do you get the t-shirt Detroit begins with you? I absolutely love reading your blogs!!