Tag Archives: Masonic Temple

FLINT: Farm Fresh………

16 Dec

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Each day signs and advertisements encourage us to “buy local” and “shop small” to support our community, city and state; the growing number of farmers; markets, maker fairs and small businesses are making it easier to do just that. Today we are in Flint MI visiting the new Farmers’ Market that opened downtown in June. The 32,000 sq ft, year-round, public market currently has about 50 vendors selling everything from fresh produce, meat and cheese to wine, Mexican groceries, coffee and baked goods. Housed in the former Flint Journal Printing Facility, businesses are open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; there’s a demonstration kitchen on the first floor and meeting rooms on the second level.

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Once downtown the market is easy to spot, large red letters rooftop act as a beacon to the building, the parking lot is busy with cars coming and going, an outdoor vendor is selling fresh evergreen wreaths, garlands and decorative pots. We find a space near the back, the side of an adjacent building is a cleverly painted mural of an overflow parking lot, vintage vehicles fill the few spaces, tail lights glow red, some even have real side-view mirrors, cool! We follow fellow shoppers inside, I immediately recognize the unique ‘market’ scent, that great mix of spices, food being cooked, coffee brewing, fresh fruit and vegetables, love it. To our left we find a Mexican and a Beirut market side by side, both sell grocery items and hot food, we pass through the atrium buzzing with activity and walk to the Art At The Market Gallery at the end of the hall. The space is long and narrow, framed photographs and paintings hang on the walls, clay pots, bowls and vases are handsomely displayed. Stained glass pieces glow under bright lights, metal art, furniture and jewelry are available in many different colors and designs.

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We head back to the main marketplace, rows and rows of food vendors tempt us with their offerings; cheese comes in full and half wheels, wedges and chunks, colors vary from white to yellow even green and blue. The milk comes from cows, goats and sheep. Piles of cabbage, hard squash and sweet potatoes fill a booth, Crust from Fenton is selling loaves of white, rye and challah bread along with onion rolls, cookies and brownies; I purchase a loaf of the Saskatoon Prairie Seed, it’s our favorite. Over at Charlies’ Smokin’ Bar-B-Q a line has formed, sure smells good….. Across the aisle fresh greens wait to be tossed into a salad, next to that you can buy gourmet popcorn, there’s handcrafted soaps, pasties, cheesecake, donuts and chicken salad. Mc Carrons Orchards has more than a dozen varieties of apples, at Bagels & Beans you can purchase a bagel as big as your head. At another produce stand brussel sprouts still cling to their stalks, grapefruit and oranges perfume the air.

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We browse the many aisles, weaving in and out, free samples abound, everywhere you look people are eating, ok, enough, time for lunch! There are many places to grab a snack or a meal, after walking around the whole place we choose Sweet Peaces; tucked into a tiny little spot, there is only room for 3 tables, you can also get food to go and eat in the large atrium area. The menu is completely plant-based and vegan. We order at the counter and are rewarded quickly with our lunch. The samosa is an Indian pastry filled with potatoes, peas and spices, it’s very good. The Mo-Mos are Nepalese steamed dumplings filled with cabbage, carrot, onion and spices, served with a sesame ginger sauce, very tasty. The special of the day is an Indian vegetable curry with butternut squash and pumpkin, really delicious, spicy but not too hot. Now we’re ready to shop again.

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Across the way is d’vine Wines, remember to look down at the cork floor. In addition to selling tons of Michigan wines they also sell varieties from Spain, France, Italy, Australia, South America and New Zealand; they also feature wine from California, Oregon and Washington, in addition to wine accessories like glasses, corkscrews and the like. The Local Grocer is a collaboration of businesses selling locally grown produce and grocery items such as flour from Westwind Milling Co, popcorn kernels from Bur Oaks and roasted soybean nuggets from Rabble Roasters; we pick up a few things for home. Time for coffee…… I saw a sign at Hot Cups for an Eggnog Latte, they even use eggnog from Calder Dairy, that I can’t resist. Kris gets an iced coffee, we have a seat in the atrium and relax as we drink out beverages, now that hits the spot!

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Driving around downtown earlier we noticed a sign in front of the Masonic Temple for a holiday market by Flint Handmade, let’s go! We score a spot on the street right in front of the building, built in 1911 it’s a Flint landmark. Inside, the building is intriguing, the market is happening right here on the first floor in the auditorium, the shopping begins…. The room is simple, understated, what a cool place to hold an event like this; tables are arranged into wide aisles, successful shoppers are loaded down with bags, the holiday spirit is palpable. We meander past baskets filled with goofy felt characters, some have bright pink hair others sport multiple eyes, any child would love one. Hand-dyed scarves, bags, hats and gloves fill a table; they are lovely, Flint Handmade is selling t-shirts. There are several jewelry booths; wire-wrapped pendants hang on long chains, one artist sells nothing but rings. My favorite are the pieces made from old watch parts and scrap pieces; gears, hands and faces are reconfigured and made into stylish earrings and necklaces, they’re gorgeous in an industrial way. Some artists create unique, decorative objects from discarded items, they call it upcycling, I like it.

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Out in the lobby I ask if it’s possible to look around the building, we are given a tour and a chance to explore the place—- awesome. We ride the elevator up to the top floor (#3) and exit into rooms decorated in red, banquet tables are set up in one area, a wide white molding surrounds the stage, the Boardroom is stunning; heavy wood panels cover the walls, the fireplace is gorgeous, light fixtures throughout are simple stainless steel. The history of the local Masons is found in photographs, in cabinets filled with medals and cases loaded with memorabilia; it’s truly fascinating stuff. The next floor down decorated in blue, is home to the main auditorium. The room has almost a medieval feel to it; raked seating on each side gives everyone a clear view, free-standing columns flank the entryway, one is topped with an antique-looking globe, the architecture screams Masonic artistry. We encounter antique ornamental chairs, showcases with trophy’s and an elegant sword. Beautiful bookcases reside on the mezzanine level. 

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This building has housed lodges including Flint 23, Fellowship 490, Shriners, York Rite, Scottish Rite and other Masonic bodies that devote themselves to charitable works that benefit the Flint community. It is said the Free Masonary is likely the world’s oldest fraternity dating from medieval times. There’s some amazing history here! We’ve had a great day here in Flint, seems new things are popping up all the time; it’s good to see some of the old ones have stood the test of time.

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DETROIT: This Is How We Roll

21 Jul

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In 2005 a group of high-spirited, hard-working, competitive women joined forces to form The Detroit Derby Girls, a women’s flat-track roller derby league based in Detroit. Through the years the league has grown to include more than 120 skaters, 5 home teams and 3 travel teams that compete inter-league. This is not the old-fashioned banked-track derby of the 1970’s where hair-pulling, tripping, punching and chair-throwing was the norm. Today skaters have backgrounds in speed skating, hockey, even figure skating; they are very athletic. These women pay-to-play; they spend their hard-earned dollars buying equipment, practice time, massage therapy, band-aids and ice packs. They practice several times a week, pay for their own travel expenses and manage the league. Players come in all shapes and sizes; during the day they work as doctors, teachers, lawyers, mothers and shop-keepers. 2009 was an amazing year; Drew Barrymore arrived in Detroit to film “Whip It“, many of our local skaters took part in the film, how cool is that? That same year the DDG were ranked #2 in the North Central Division and made a trip to the Nationals. Home bouts are played at the magnificent Masonic Temple; ticket cost is minimal, bouts offer everything: hard-hitting action, speed, competitiveness, live music and lots of fun. The girls still use great names such as Black Eyed Skeez, Ghetto Barbie, Cool Whip, Fatal Femme, Racer McChaseHer and Zooma Thurman, keeping the kitsch part of derby alive. It’s a blast!

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Today the DDG is having a FREE bout outdoors at Eastern Market, using the parking lot behind Shed 3. It’s one of those days when the weather changes every five minutes; we are flip-flopping between pouring rain and sunshine. When we arrive it’s pouring, spectators and skaters are gathered inside the shed waiting for the rain to stop. Today a mix of skaters from all home teams will make up the Motown Wreckers vs the Motor City Dis-assembly Line; dressed in blue and yellow jerseys they are ready to roll. The sun comes out, refs and skaters alike make short work of sweeping the puddles off the asphalt; the temperature hovers in the 80’s so it dries quickly. The track area is laid out with spray paint lines, rocks and debris are cleared and the pack lines up. One blow of the whistle and the jam begins; blockers, pivots and jammers whirl around the track, to say it’s a little tricky skating in a parking lot is an understatement, but the teams rise to the challenge. Spectators who planned ahead are sitting comfortably in lawn chairs, the crowd grows with passers-by checking out the action. Kris makes his way to the top of the parking structure to get a great overall view and take pictures, others are there just to watch. Rows of white folding chairs make up the team benches, the skyline of the city peeks out above the roof of Shed 2, the sky cannot make up it’s mind if it will rain again. It’s inevitable that skaters will fall, one good hip-check or shoulder is all it takes,  the parking lot surface is unforgiving; instead of sliding the surface grabs hold of both clothing and skin…ouch! Taking it in stride the two teams battle it out, the crowd loves it! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming bouts and events, the regular season usually begins in November.

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We are having lunch at Topsoil, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant located inside MOCAD on Woodward.  We enter the museum and hang a right down a short hallway to the restaurant/performance space; rectangular tables are pulled together creating long community tables, sunlight pours in through the glass roll-up door in an otherwise dim space. I walk to the counter to check out the menu and place our order. It’s really hot outside so we’re looking for something cold, something light; the cold sesame udon, blk seed, sea salt, carrot salad  and the kale, Farro, lemon and evoo salad fit the bill. Everybody who eats here tells us we have to try the hot dogs, well, Tofu dogs, so I ask the gent behind the counter which one he likes best, ‘Zombie’ is his reply, Zombie it is. I join Kris at the table while our food is being prepared in the open kitchen, before I know it a tray is placed on the counter and my name is called. I am sure to grab silverware and plenty of napkins, we’re sharing everything. The first thing we dive into, of course, is the Zombie, a tofu dog tucked into a bun topped with house-made peanut butter and house-made vegan kimchi………..it is soooo good! The dog tastes like a regular hot dog, no funny texture or anything like that, the combination of flavors is excellent! Both salads are generous portions and quite tasty; when all the food is gone, Kris says, we should have gotten 2 hot dogs!

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The museum is still open, so we have a look around. MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) is a non-collecting institution, its purpose is to explore emerging ideas in the contemporary arts. The 22,000 sq. ft. building is a former auto dealership; the huge open spaces are perfect for art exhibitions. In addition MOCAD hosts lectures, musical performances, films, literary readings and educational activities for children in the historic space. Today the main exhibit is a show called La Bella Crisis by Jose Lerma, a Puerto Rican artist. The gallery is transformed into an art fair; Lerma created a ‘booth’ a day for 30 days, now complete, the floor is covered in a silver tarp, canvasses hang at different levels, each space is unique. Detroit Native Steve Locke has an exhibit in one of the smaller galleries; “There is no one left to blame” is a series of male portraits on canvas. Midwestern Voices and Visions showcases the work of highly talented artists of color in Midwestern residency programs. Along the back wall is Dana Friedman’s video installation “Projecting”. We like that the museum is ever-changing, there’s always something new to see anytime we pop in. If you’d like to check it out you don’t have much time, the museum and restaurant will be closed from July 28 through September 11 for renovations, so get there soon!

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DETROIT: Firing up the Christmas Spirit

22 Dec

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It was the first weekend in December, the grass was still green and the temperatures mild, how is one to get into the holiday spirit? How about the 40th annual Noel Night in downtown Detroit? Yep, that’ll do it! We began our quest with a trip to the Masonic Temple, Handmade Detroit was hosting their seventh annual Detroit Urban Craft Fair. We secured a parking spot on Temple and quickly noticed numerous shoppers both coming and going from the entrance. Inside we boarded the elevator and pressed the button for 3M, we stepped off the elevator and walked over to the drill hall; we’re not used to being in this space without seeing the Detroit Derby Girls whipping around and flying through the air, but this edgy holiday craft show fit the space well.

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The room seemed so much larger; gone were the spectator chairs and tape lines marking off the track, the hardwood floor was now covered with row after row of tables, the lights were softer and the aisles were crowded with folks  hunting for holiday gifts. We walked to the far end and began to wander;  jewelry was prevalent, made from birch bark, glass, wrought iron nails and other interesting materials. Christmas trees decorated with hand crafted ornaments could be found on tables along with other home decor pieces, the mood was light and festive. Why is it when I’m shopping for other people I always find things for myself? There were unique objects like skate boards decked out in racing stripes and custom paint, original stuffed animal characters, and funky posters; no shortage of clever tongue in cheek items here…  T-shirts with original phrases and artwork were fun to look at, we saw beautiful hand dyed scarves, homemade jams, chocolates and greeting cards. Up and down the corridors we went, derby championship banners hanging from the ceiling, shoppers arms heavy with packages, so much more fun than shopping at a mall! The Masonic truly is one of the coolest venues in the city.

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The only hope for getting an easy parking spot on Noel Night is to get there early, so we did. With an upfront space outside Cass Cafe we stepped in for our traditional cocktail to kick off Noel Night. With two open seats at the bar we quickly procured them, ordered our drinks and checked over the evenings schedule. The event seems to grow each year, this year boasting over 200 performances in the Midtown district; all of it taking place in only 4 1/2 hours…impossible to do it all! By the time we had finished our drinks the line to get in had extended out the door; word was out, Noel Night is a blast.

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We began at the DIA, both of us being music lovers we decided to concentrate on the musical performances of the evening. Paul King and the Rhythm Society Orchestra were playing in Rivera Court and this year we got a seat! The atmosphere is magical, the music a delightful selection of old standards and Christmas tunes. I think I counted 15 musicians; they played beautifully as Paul King sang the lyrics, a couple of swing dancers entertained the audience from the side. When the set was finished we headed downstairs to the ever charming Kresge Court to hear a violin ensemble. A group of students dressed in black stood upon a stage playing their violins, the room was dimly lit, miniature white lights decorated the room, spectators watched and listened as the skillful musicians filled the air with holiday songs. 

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We proceeded outside and over to the International Institute on Kirby, they were featuring Holidays Around The World with international dance and song. As we arrived a group of elementary school aged girls took the stage; dressed in elegant white dresses they began to dance to traditional holiday music from Mexico. They danced carefree, a joyful smile upon their faces, parents and relatives gleamed in the audience. When they were finished the audience showed their appreciation with loud applause. Time was ticking and there was still so much to see.

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 Outside people were boarding horse-drawn carriages to take a ride through the city. Further up, the Park Shelton stands gracefully on the corner of Kirby and Woodward; the ground floor is now bursting with new businesses and all were open. We passed through Rodin, a new French inspired restaurant and wine bar recently opened by the same woman who owns Good Girls Go To Paris, loved the Eiffel tower in the entry way,I can’t wait to give it a try. A few doors down is Emerald, the place was packed! The furnishings came from the old Hudson’s and Crowley’s department stores from back in the 20’s and 30’s, the chandelier is from an old movie theatre in Wayne, gorgeous. They have a bit of everything from home goods and personal accessories to candy and paper products. You’re going to have to keep up with me now…..

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Across Woodward the St Paul Lutheran Church Bell Choir was playing on the Detroit Historical Museum‘s newly renovated plaza, inside the museum we listened to a few songs by the Deep River Choir; by now we were fully immersed in the spirit of the holiday. Every way we turned there were people out having a good time; some wore Santa hats, one woman was dressed from head to toe as a Christmas tree, she even had working lights. Walking south on Woodward we could hear laughing coming from the patio of The Whitney, so we went to see what it was about. We found an outdoor fire and folks sitting around it roasting marshmallows that would become the filling for smores, these Noel Night people think of everything.

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And so it went, everywhere we turned there was something to see, hear or do; we were in and out of churches, galleries and cultural institutions, and then, we were tired, and hungry. We made our way back to Cass, but instead of getting in the Jeep, we walked further, all the way to the Auburn Building. The Auburn is a brand new apartment building with retail space on the ground floor. New shops Hugh and Nora were a big hit with the crowd. Upstairs apartments were open to tour as was the large open terrace. With the great location and excellent view it’s easy to see why the units are renting out so quickly.

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With tens of thousands of pedestrians on the midtown city streets we thought it best to eat outside the activity zone. We can always count on Sala Thai in the Eastern Market district for a delicious meal. Fortunately there was an open booth when we arrived; we ordered the N-4 with tofu and sushi, it was on the table before we knew it. It felt good to sit down, relax and enjoy our meal. Detroit is on the move, it’s wonderful to watch the transformation back into a vibrant city; it’s even better to watch people discover it themselves.

Derby returns to Masonic Temple !

11 Oct

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Summer has come to a close, the kids are back in school, and a new sports season has begun. People are flocking to football games at colleges and NFL cities, the NHL is set to begin while the MLB is in the process of crowning their champions. Also ready to kick off a new season are the Detroit Derby Girls, of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, that’s Roller Derby to you and me!

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Yes folks, Detroit has its own Roller Derby league, and they play downtown at the Masonic Temple. Though it bears similarities, this is not the same roller derby you may remember from years ago. Gone are the knock-down-head-slamming fights of the past; hair pulling, tripping, and punches are not allowed. What remains are women bearing campy names like Maim West, Ghetto Barbie, Tara To Pieces and Fatal Femme, skating on 8 wheels around an oval track trying to score more points than their opponent; It’s a blast!

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Like any worthwhile sport they hold an annual draft, and the public is invited. The Draft Party gives the fans a sneak peek of the upcoming season, the class of 2011 looks promising. I can’t think of a cooler venue anywhere than the Masonic Temple. Made of Indiana limestone and resembling a Medieval castle, the Masonic Temple opened in 1926 on Thanksgiving Day. The main lobby is fashioned after a castle in Sicily, it is Gothic in style and absolutely magnificent in person. The derby is played on the third floor mezzanine, before you head up in the elevator take some time to notice the details; The brass floor plaque is 5 feet in diameter and features symbols of Truth, Strength, and Charity. The specially designed chandelier is impressive, as are the brass elevator doors; symbols of the Craft are carried out through the entire building. The  derby takes place in the Drill Hall; 17,500 square feet of open floor space. The drill hall is equipped with one of three “floating” floors in the US. The wooden floor is laid out on felt cushions, allowing the floor more ‘give’, it was meant to relieve the feet of the marchers who practiced here, today it helps make the landings of wayward skaters a little less brutal.

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The action had ended at the Masonic, now it was time for dinner. There’s a great little pub on Trumbull across from the Wayne State athletic field called Woodbridge Pub, it takes its name from the historic neighborhood  where it resides. The facade is brick with large windows overlooking Trumbull, the interior is vintage with the majority of it rescued from old buildings and re-purposed. The tin ceiling and rich wood give it just the right amount of charm. The menu varies season to season, they say the majority of their ingredients come from within a 5-mile radius, talk about local! This is not your typical bar food, as a matter of fact I don’t think there is even one item on the menu that is fried. Meat-eaters and vegetarians will be equally impressed with the quality and selection.  We were really hungry, so we ordered the Queso Fundido appetizer; pork chorizo, cheese, and bell pepper blended smooth and served piping hot with corn chips. Next up the Cherry Chicken Salad with the homemade cherry vinaigrette, delicious, and one of our go-to menu items. Finally, the Stever McFever; a black bean burger topped with grilled onions, tomato, avocado creme, and a balsamic glaze, scrumptious. The pub has a great neighborhood feel, and has been a great addition to the area.