Saturday, August 13, 2005
THE WEEK, THE ADVENTURE, THE CONCERT, THE PROBLEM (?) WITH PIZZA
The adventure: for my birthday, my kids got me 2 tickets to see Gordon Lightfoot at the historic Fox Theatre in Detroit. This was a terrific present. I have been a huge Lightfoot fan since I was fifteen, when a h.s. buddy and I snuck into this little folk club in New Center, next to the golden towered Fisher Bldg.. It also meant an excuse to fill that craving I've had for a genuine Detroit style pizza!
I hit the road for the 4 hour trip about 12:30. I figured this would give me plenty of time to pick up my friend and canoe partner Carol in Battle Creek, get to Motown, have dinner, and get to the 8pm concert. I decided to get pizza at the Cloverleaf in Eastpointe rather than Niki's in Greektown because a) I thought that the dinner and casino crowd might make parking problematic, b) It is a quick shot down Gratiot, across on Mack Ave., and down Woodward to the Fox, and c) A number of people sent me emails championing the Cloverleaf, telling me I was wrong that Niki's had the best pizza in the world (I wasn't). It was a decision that almost cost us the concert.
Dinner at the Cloverleaf was excellent, especially the appetizer bread basket. It featured freshly baked french bread, and these very unique bread sticks. They appeared to be the thick, Sicilian style pizza dough, baked and cut into sticks. These were then split in two, brushed with a combination of garlic butter and simple syrup, rolled in sesame seeds and baked on a sheet, split side down, until the bottom toasted nice and brown. They were awesome.
We left the Cloverleaf at 6:30, with plenty of time to make the 20 min drive and the 8 o'clock concert. Almost immediately, I sensed something was wrong!
Crossing from Eastpointe into Detroit proper is literally like crossing from night to day. You go from a sea of all white faces to a see of all black faces. It is voluntary segregation at its farthest extreme. I fully expected to be the only white occupied vehicle on Gratiot. And for six blocks or so I was. Then I started to notice there was an awful lot of traffic going INTO town for after work hours. And more and more of these cars were crammed full of white people. My worst fears were realized when I got to Mack Ave. Mack runs through one of the most burned out and abandoned areas of Detroit. It is usually pretty much abandoned after about 5:30. Not only was it busy, but there were an awful lot of SUV's full of white people, or black folks dressed like they were from suburbia. Then we turned on the radio and found out the bad news. In that one small 12 square block area at the foot of Woodward Ave., not only was there the Lightfoot concert, but home Tiger AND Lions games. About 100,000 people cramming into that small area all at once. It took us about an hour and a half to make that 20 minute drive. We got to our seats about 2 minutes before the show started. Had we taken our time and had a second beer at the Cloverleaf, our gooses would have been cooked for sure.
The concert: For a sixty something guy who just two year ago spent six months teetering on the brink of death after a stomach aneurysm burst, Gord looks marvelous! As spry and energetic as I have ever seen him! He still plays that 1948 vintage Martin as smooth and fluidly as anyone you'll ever see. As always, a great band backing him up, featuring bassist Rick Haynes, who has been with Lightfoot from the very beginning, some forty plus years ago. Gord's voice has gotten a little thin at the top, but he also sings with more emotion than he ever has, which actually takes advantage of the top range thinness. He did most of the old standards (minus Carefree Highway and Cattails and Pussywillows), a couple of songs off his new album, and several songs from the old "United Artist" days that I had never heard him do in a concert setting. Especially good was "Old Dan's Records", which I hope becomes a concert staple. Remarkably, given his age and medical history, he did two full 80 minute sets, and clearly enjoyed himself. He admittedly has a soft spot for the Detroit/Windsor area, where he got his start, and is still extremely popular. It was an extremely broad age range in attendance, everywhere from college age to advanced senior. Which, I guess, shows that well crafted melodies and poetic lyrics never really go out of style.
The Problem (?) With Pizza: Michigan has the distinction of being the most obese state in the Union. I am sure it is due to one factor. Michiganders, especially southeast Michiganders, are obsessed with pizza. Pizza is not a food item, it is a food group. We eat it in copious amounts, in every conceivable style and shape. Not just the signature Italian Bakery style of Buddy's, the Cloverleaf, Shields, and Niki's. Hand tossed, thin and crispy, stuffed Chicago style, double crust, we love it all. Detroit has spawned a plethora of pizza chains. Little Ceasars, Dominoes, Papa Romano's, Pizzapopolis, Dolly's, Jet's, Hungry Howies. And more Mom and Pop places than you can shake a stick at. We probably consume more pizza per capita than anyone in the world.
And while the medical establishment wrings it's hands at our passion for empty carbs loaded with fructose laden sauce and fatty meats, there is one advantage! THERE ARE NO SKINNY WOMEN IN DETROIT! Not that Detroit women are fat, but they look like real women. No waif like creatures here. Detroit women have real curves. And cleavage. And round, firm buttocks. If you see a skinny woman in Motown, call the authorities. They can follow her to the local meth lab and make a bust.
Which makes nights like last night very special. 90 degree heat, 80 % humidity, and 50,000 curvaceous women dressed for the weather. A veritable cleavage carnival. Sometimes, life is just too good!