Saturday, June 28, 2008

hanging at the Wendsters

so I'm spending the weekend house sitting for Wendy. It's so weird being here without the rest of you - I walked into Lolita's yesterday half expecting you guys to just be there hanging out, but you weren't :(

Everywhere I've gone since being here just reminds me of our month here: I walked to the tigers game last night, went to the market this morning, had delicious food from the Louisiana soul food place for dinner tonight...

However the thing that made me miss our time here the most was who I ran into this morning at the market...JODI!!! It was so crazy and awesome to see her. I met her fiance and his parents, they were shopping for stuff for the wedding next weekend.

I wish I could put into words how much I wish you all were here - I fell in love with Detroit when we were here but I don't think I realized how much of that love for being here was also due to the community we had.

I hope you are all enjoying the adventures your summers are bringing! We have to have a reunion as soon as everyone is back in Ann Arbor. Miss you all!!

convivial places

Welcome someone.
Make a place for people to sit.
Direct actions to turn a corner into a gathering place.

More on block clubs and benches in Detroit soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


OK, I finally figured out how to do this with a little help from Nick. So Here's my poem in response to the wonderful haikus posted by Farrah. This is an acrostic poem created using the initial of everyone's first name.

To the Detroit Twelve

All praise to you who came full of
Ardor looking for flora between
Broken whiskey bottles and ragged fauna that
Cover the Park most times and other areas we
Crisscross daily in the D wondering how to
Escape the sad present and then you
Fell in full of vip and vim working your special
Juju, yeah, pointing us to the bright future right here
Jumping in full techno color beats
Knocking us off dead center zoned
Now we sense possibility
Something blowing in the wind

Sunday, June 22, 2008

a good well in the city: another kind of corner store

Whenever I can I stop by Goodwells on 422 W. Willis, just west of Cass Avenue. There, next to the Communist bookstore and a couple of doors from Avalon Bakery is a different sort of small neighborhood store--one that is part of building a healthy community through a thoughtful and well priced selection of wholesome foods. Started 2 years ago by Paul Willis (center in photo) and business partners James Wells and Gary Mixom, Goodwells is, as its name suggests, a good well in the city.
Appropriately situated next to Revolution Books, GoodWells is both a radical act and a great place to eat. Recognizing a need for access to better foods as well as role model for what a neighborhood business can be, GoodWells serves a small selection of excellent prepared foods (the Famous Pocket Sandwich at 3.95--a soy patty in a huge whole wheat pita pocket with sprouts, cucumber and a soy dressing--add avocado or cheese for an extra 50 cents is my favorite.) Good Wells also offers a comprehensive selection of dry grocery items in their compact space--you'll find hard to find items like coconut oil and Michigan Cherry Juice alongside dried beans--and a well-stocked small freezer with good fish and other staples. In the refrigerator are incredible juices made locally--Ginger Sun (ginger, honey and lemon) or the dark purple sorel (also with ginger and honey) fill out the West Indian fare and either make standard commercial juices seem thin and bland.
As noted in earlier posts, and plain to see from a wander in most Detroit neighborhoods, access to healthy food is a challenge. Besides corner stores, chain drugstores pop up with tax incentives since, theoretically, they sell grocery items.
Scratch the surface and you will find a selection geared towards processed cheese, high fructose drinks and chips. The legacy of poor nutrition, obesity and diabetes this food leads to has its counterpart in the pharmacy options of these same stores that offer medication to offset the effects of this diet.
Sit outside GoodWells at lunch or on a quiet Sunday and you'll see a broad cross section of the Cass Corridor neighborhood come in and out the welcoming screen door. The place and the staff are inviting, offering one of the greatest alternatives to suggest that small local businesses can provide services that depart from the patterns of high sodium/high sugar to whole grains, locally baked goods, organic produce and cheese. Plans are afoot to offer more and more opportunities for locally grown and produced foods.
If GoodWells can be the model for every neighborhood's corner store, we've got a good revolution cooking.

Monday, June 16, 2008

some background on food deserts

For Larry Gabriel's 2007 editorial in Detroit's Metro Times:

go to:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

corner store

The story Brother Jerry relayed is as follows:
In the late 1990's Brother Rick, a Capuchin Friar living and working on the east side of Detroit was heading out of his house to get groceries. He ran into a boy who lived nearby who, when informed of his errand, asked 'What gas station are you going to?' The gas station or the small corner store, like these two here, are the food options for many Detroiters. Recognizing the need for both a more complex range of food options while providing access and education about food to the neighborhood, Brother Rick established EarthWorks in 1998.
These corner stores, along with the gas stations are still present, the food options still limited, but the three gardens of EarthWorks supply fresh produce to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen while growing a visible and dynamic culture through garden and food access, seed and plant distribution, education, kids' and youth programs.

I wonder if the corner stores might somehow be a part of this--with a crate of local apples some time, a box of Meldrum Street grown berries, garlic, radishes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

food desert

Most neighborhoods in Detroit are food deserts. That is, access to produce and fresh food is severely limited, while access to food at all is a challenge, to say the least. I'll attach a link to the 2007 LaSalle Bank Study that supports this classification, but for now wanted to include these images. Using our project and EarthWorks as a center point, one can reach these stores within 20-30 minutes by bike, 45 minutes or so on foot, or through 2 city bus lines. Keep in mind that bus service is infrequent (hourly at best for these lines.)
Not served by any major grocery chain, Detroiters instead can buy food from corner stores such as these. Beer and liquor predominate the stock, packaged or processed food supplements the offerings, while cashiers sit behind bullet proof glass.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Haiku For You!

It's odd being back in lovely Lapeer. But since I'm moving again, this time to an even smaller town, I thought I'd fulfill my promise to Jessica and post the haikus I made about each of us, with the help of Sarah (of course) and Jessica. They are pretty much good-natured nonsense, so no, this is not my ultimate opinion of you as a person, just as much personality that could fit in 17 syllables :). So here we go...

Allison is short
Good things come in small presents
She can strut her stuff.

Andrea is pimp
I want to be just like her
She sings opera.

Erik rode his bike
"I was sobbing the whole time"
Sunscreen in his eyes

Janell is badass
Her snort is very funny
But not too funny

Caitlin is right here
And she has a nice smile
Harry calls her "Boo"

Sarah is so tall
It is fun to look at her
She should model too

Nick is "Who's the Boss"
He needs all of our receipts
Mastermind of cob

Becca eats a lot
It fuels her deep-thinking skills
And she writes well, too.

Christine plays the uke
She and Deborah are buds
Coolest kids in school

Jessica is Mom
She lays down the law for us
With no-nonsense face

Katie likes to walk
Coffee is her favorite
A good Laroucher

Farrah writes haikus
She reads before you can blink
Farrah's face has fans

And one last poem that I think sums up our time at Earthworks nicely (courtesy of Christine)

Repetition is
the key to adult learning.
To adult learning.

I hope to see you guys soon and if you're in Mayville, don't hesitate to call!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

City Potato Farm

This from the inspiring Aaron Timlin, who a group of us got to meet at CAID (Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.) Aaron has a vision for a neighborhood grown cafe, and, perhaps more importantly for growing a neighborhood through a remarkable and genuine open attitude to what it means to be a neighbor.

For growing potatoes in vertical spaces like cities:
Fill one tire with dirt. Plant a potato.
When it sprouts, add a tire to the stack, add dirt, let sprout.
Repeat, fastening/binding each tire.
Harvest by lifting the tire stack and letting the vertical crop tumble.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Community; building...

"Insects tatooing my skin." When the surroundings morph into who you are today and who you deeply want to become, that's community. "Father holding my hand." Children reach out their hands, instinctively, knowing that it makes little sense to walk unaccompanied. Children reach out their hands, confident that they will be grasped and held, because that's what you do when you love. That's community.

I find that many of us seeking community are yearning for answers to unfilled childhood hands outstretched; outstretched in the earnest honesty that 5-year-olds have, that 15-year-olds smirk at, that 20- or 25- or 30-year-olds look back on with longing.

There are places where our surroundings become infused and confused with our souls, and that's community. When our sense of modesty is supplanted by the courage to reach out our hands, daring to believe that someone will grasp on and hold.

But community isn't forced. It's isn't created because you read the recipe in a book and it isn't maintained because you followed the rules. Community grows on collective vulnerability, reinforced by the presence of others taking that same plunge of faith.

So where's community? It probably starts with the children, because they don't yet know that being exactly who they are is something to be ashamed of. It grows when spirit is accessed, through song or common interest, through faith or common strife, through journeying or reckless abandon. Community is found when you stop trying and start letting, when you stop thinking and start feeling, and when it comes, you'll know. So if it's the gospel choir that lifts your soul, let it. Or if it's a sunny spring morning planting cabbage behind gleaners, let it. If it's exploring the city by getting lost on purpose, let it. Community sneaks into vibrant existence when you least expect it-- after 10 hours of stomping cob, for instance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Creative Cities

Perhaps reverence is what we need to arrive at sustainable cities; reverence for the environment, reverence for each other, reverence for the work of city building. Maybe the "sacred" is what has been lost, thinking as we do that it is a word better suited to divinities than to the mysteries that reflect the divine. maybe we have lost the knack of seeing each other as partners in the revelation of creation. Little wonder we act as though the enterprise were strictly our own.
(from Paul Woodruff)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It starts with a dream...

During creative writing with Lolita we were given the following prompt from Farrah:
"Whatever you can do or dream you can,
Begin it,
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

I was reminded of a conversation I had previously with a man in the soup kitchen at lunch. This prompt sparked this memory because he spoke of the ways he wanted to improve society and he had developed such an elaborate plan on how he was going to achieve these hopes--Yet he never acted...

"I am going to give back to society going around to schools and talking about life and how to make a difference" he said. "I would mentor because the youth today are the future." The best intentions are noting without action. What holds us back? Why do so many of us wait for the scenarios to change? Wait until the odds are in our favor? What does it take for us to move-- bringing life to the dreams and intentions our mind provides us? Why does the death of others often stimulate our progression and make us sprint through life in order to achieve our predetermined goals? He has a dream but a dream is nothing without a plan, and a plan is nothing without action, and action is nothing without hope for change. Who will instill this hope in the man who needs to take action on a plan to conquer a dream that he has....Should I?