their annual Downtown Detroit Weekend last Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon.
Three hotel rooms: $400.
Five drinks: $50.
Five hors d’oeuvres: $75.
Five small salads: $130!
The looks on the faces of the crowd waiting for
our elevator as they gawped at the young man with his pants around his ankles: Priceless!
The five of us have been friends for decades but
we no longer all get together at one time except for this annual midwinter getaway. We have more to talk about than we can possibly cram into 24 hours.
Nevertheless, we try.
We booked three rooms at the Marriott Hotel in
Detroit’s Renaissance Center (Ren Cen), located at the foot of Woodward Avenue right on the river, smack in the thick of the action. Our views were of the Detroit River and the city of Windsor, Ontario.
Last weekend, Detroit was bustling. Don’t believe pessimists who say Detroit is dead.
People jostled each other amiably on the sidewalks of Greektown. Music and conversation leaked from open doors. Crowds snaked up stairways and waited patiently at People Mover stations. They clogged the elevators in parking structures. Families shepherded children and toted shopping bags loaded with purchases. Young people ice skated in Campus Martius Park. The People Mover rumbled overhead, packed with swaying passengers. A good percentage of the crowd wore jackets, shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with the logos of Detroit sports teams.
The Red Wings were playing at Joe Louis Arena.
Autorama, an exhibition of custom cars, hot rods
and restored vehicles, was at Cobo Center.
The Michigan Pharmacists Association’s annual
convention and exposition was meeting at the Ren Cen.
The 17th annual Motor City Tattoo Expo was in Detroit for the weekend.
We planned a progressive dinner designed to give us a crack at new downtown restaurants. We met for drinks at dusk at the Coach Insignia on the 71st and 72nd floors of the Ren Cen, where we watched Windsor’s lights gradually blink on. We took the People Mover to Fountain Bistro, a small French-themed place at Campus Martius Park, for our first course: hors d’oeuvres. We walked to the Compuware building for a salad at Texas de Brazil. We planned to take our entrée at the Detroit Seafood Market, do a bit of gambling at Greektown Casino, then think about yet another restaurant for dessert.
As it turned out, we were too full for either the entrée or dessert. We played the slots and some video poker in the casino. Nobody struck it rich, but nobody lost much either. It’s hard to do either when you’re playing the 2-cent slots. We took the People Mover back to our hotel rooms, where we talked. And talked. And talked.
Sunday morning we rode the People Mover
to a hole-in-the-wall breakfast place called The Hudson Café. It’s on Woodward Avenue, across the street from the very spot where Detroit’s iconic J.L.
Hudson’s department store stood for 87 years. When we were growing up in Detroit in the 1940s and ’50s, Hudson’s was The Place to shop. This trendy little café across the street, named after the store, had excellent custom-made omelets, fresh-squeezed orange juice and steaming cups of black coffee as well as J.L. Hudson’s world-famous Maurice salad.
Now about the outrageous price of five salads.
And about our uh . . . encounter in the elevator.
When the check came for five small plates of salad from the salad bar, $130 seemed a bit over the top. We complained. “It’s our all-you-can-eat salad bar,” the waiter said. “One price. $25.”
We protested. We had no idea. We’d only been in the restaurant for a half hour, had one small salad each, and we were not given napkins, flatware or drinks. Nobody waited on us.
“Oh dear,” said the waiter. “Well, we do have a senior citizen rate.” He took our bill back and replaced it with another for $25.
Now, about the elevator. There we were -- five senior ladies standing in the back of the express elevator in our sensible shoes, leaning on our suitcases-on-wheels, hurtling downward from the 60th floor of the Ren Cen toward the lobby of the Marriott. A young man got on at the 40thfloor. He had two visible tattoos and a glittery pierced thing stuck in one nostril. He gave us a friendly nod.
One of our group (the boldest one) pointed to his tattoo and asked: “Does that hurt?”
“It hurts like hell,” he said. “Want to see my latest one?”
He turned toward us; his back toward the elevator door.“Don’t worry, I have running shorts underneath,” he assured us, as he untied the drawstring of his sweatpants.
His grey sweatpants settled around his ankles as he showed off an elaborate scene that had been freshly tattooed on his left thigh. It looked raw, red, and painful and it was tightly wrapped in something
that resembled Saran wrap.
We marveled. We clucked; tsk tsked.
“It really looks like it hurts,” The bold one said.
Our elevator shuddered and settled to the lobby
level. The door opened.
Two dozen people were waiting to ascend.
Their faces? Priceless.
The young man looked over his shoulder. “Oops,” he said, as he pulled up his sweatpants, tied the drawstring and glided off, disappearing into the crowded lobby.
We dragged our suitcases off the elevator and
doubled over, leaning against the walls, dissolving with laughter.
Detroit is alive and well. And fun, too.