Soggy Drive, Soggy Sneaks

The Trumbull-Plex presentation went well last night. Jhon showed up with a large platter of Middle Eastern food and began to set up for the show. Nicole Macdonald showed up with a digital projector and her movie “A City to Yourself.” We got things set up quickly, so I found some spray paint in the shop area and sprayed a stencil on Trumbull’s door. Instead of the usual red flags, I sprayed black flags in honor of their philosophical leanings.

We didn’t start on time since no one had showed up at 8pm and Jhon said that everyone felt that 9pm was always the start time at Trumbull-Plex. So the movie began around 8:40, with about 10 people in the comfortable chairs. Third generation Detroiter Nicole’s movie showed scenes of an empty Detroit as she spoke about what the mostly emptiness means to her. She showed fields of grass and flora with rotting houses in them. Some were painted orange by students, maybe in protest to the decay around them.

She showed the city tearing down buildings to make vacant lots for the Super Bowl a few years ago. Empty lots look better than ruins. She showed people talking to her, but didn’t play what they were saying. This made the people living in Detroit seem distant, and obviously unheard. As an outsider, I was glad to see her film, especially after riding around the city all day seeing similar scenes. All in all, it was a bleak angle on the city, but I think many Detroiters have a bleak outlook on things.

To tie in the film with my presentation, I introduced things by talking about urban space a bit. What exactly does urban space mean around the world? How does graffiti and stencil art tie into one’s city surroundings? Many of the buildings in “A City to Yourself” had graffiti on them. And many of the buildings are open, with tons of graffiti on the interior walls.

After the presentation, I spoke to KT, who lived in San Francisco for a while. She’s super busy in Detroit, working in several gardens for the Yes Farm, teaching children how to grow veggies and milk goats. Her landlord works twice as hard as she does and has started many garden-based programs around Detroit. They’re located mostly in the hoods that don’t have names and are slowly being taken over by nature.

KT had just spoken to a neighbor who told her not to waste her time trying to be hopeful about the children that help her in the gardens. I gave KT a hug and told her that I remembered my first grade teacher, and how nice and supportive she was to me. Some of them will remmber KT and they’re learning to grow veggies. They take the veggies home with instructions on how to cook them. KT got it right when she said that the children that help her are teaching their parents to be hopeful and eat healthy.

I found out that the US Social Forum will be in Detroit next summer. Jhon was a bit put off by the idea, since everyone in the city is struggling to just get by. Thousands of people will come to Detroit and the organizers are already expecting the radical scene to support these people. They can barely support themselves, and their communities, so Jhon  said Detroiters asked the Social Forum organizers to help build a social center.

Jhon would be happy if they left anything behind, rather than fly into the city, theorize and discuss issues, use and abuse the weak infrastructure, and leave things worse off than they were. I asked if they’d left anything behind after the Social Forum in Atlanta. I was told that they only left behind pissed off locals!

Didn’t sell too many books, but did get donations and sold a piece of art. Very kind of Trumbull to give me the donations. And host me. And feed me. I hope to come back next year for the Allied Media Conference, which is a week before the Social Forum. I also want to leave something behind beyond a stencil and presentation. Maybe a garden or a mural or a social center.

Woke up this morning to rain. Lots of rain. Jack from Trumbull was excited because this meant that they wouldn’t have to water their veggies. He was keeping an eye on a rain gauge, and was going to calculate the next watering based upon the amount of rain today. I don’t know how long that time was going to be, because it was still raining when I left Detroit three hours later.

Trumbull’s roof started leaking, and cans were set up on the first floor to catch the drips clear through the second floor. They own two buildings as a nonprofit entity and all residents pay into the mortgage (Jhon owns a house, and a few other people from the community own too). I slept in the library, which had holes in the ceiling where they’d opened things up for repairs. I didn’t go into the house next door to where I stayed, but its exterior looked a bit run down. They’d pulled plaster off of a section and had exposed rusted metal and old bricks and mortar. Like Jhon said, lots of work to be done without worrying about thousands of visitors.

Instead of going on a bike ride, I caught up online. A resident had just gotten back from Kentucky and had a gallon bottle of Amish honey to share. He also mixed up some biscuits with his son, and we all enjoyed blobbing the honey on the yummy baked treats. Other residents whiled away the washed out day by cleaning up and doing dishes. One resident read a soaking wet Detroit paper for a while. The headlines were about the new Crysler deal with Fiat.

I had planned on seeing the Heidelberg Project, a series of decorated houses in the McDougall-Hunt hood. Somebody told me that the area was becoming a bit gentrified due to the the popularity of the project. I also found out that it almost got destroyed but was saved. Guess I could’ve driven there in the car,  but that wouldn’t be as fun as biking. So I packed up the car and left Detroit an hour early, hoping that driving north to Port Huron’s border crossing would get me out of the rain.

Glad I left early, because it rained the whole drive to Toronto. After three hours nonstop, I drove into Kitchener, home of “Cerebus” creator Dave Sim. I’d mailed letters to him over the years and always knew that he wrote/drew the 300 issue comic epic in Kitchener. Had a late lunch there and didn’t find any stencils on the walls. Hit traffic in the rain the rest of the drive into Toronto, but both eased up once I got on the QEW and exited off onto Spadina Avenue to meet up with Martin Heath and Janet Attard at Cine Cycle.

Found things no problem (I’ve become a map-reading expert from all this touring) and found Martin up in his film booth, working on reels for the Short Film Fest. Janet got up from a nap and we all hopped in my car to drive it up near College St., where it will stay parked for the rest of the visit. we walked over to This Ain’t the Rosedale Library and met the super nice folks there. We then walked over to the place where I’m staying and dropped off my things. Back down to Cine Cycle to meet up with Martin, eat some Middle Eastern food, grab the one-gear bike that Martin made for me, and walk back to my crash in Chinatown.

All this walking got my socks soaking wet. I have a worn out pair of Vans that I wear, and the holes in the soles let the rain in! Guess I’m looking for new shoes in Kensington Market tomorrow!  Hope that the rain stops tonight and that tomorrow is a sunny day. I saw stencils everywhere today, so need to go to the alley where my car is and take some flicks. Same goes for Kensington Market, which is covered with graffiti. Hell, all of downtown Toronto is covered in graff. Tomorrow will be fun!