Milk and honey on the other side

The big day has come and gone. I had some early worries about the weather, since thunderstorms had been predicted, and part of my performance was to take place outdoors. In the end, the sun stayed shining on into the evening. The skies finally opened with a dramatic show of lightning, rain, and even a rainbow against a dark red sky. But by this time, everyone was safely situated in the Temple Bar with a beer and something to eat.
I was very pleased with how my two-part performance turned out, although I'm not sure if people knew quite what to make of it. The visual arts here appear to be dominated by the art object; in this context, it is perhaps a little difficult to place my own way of working: part theatre, part performance art, part artist's lecture. But I myself at least am satisfied with it, which is as important as what anyone else thinks of it. In due course, the edited video version will appear online.
The performance consisted of two parts, which took place in John K. King's book store and Cass Park respectively. To solve the logistical problem of moving people from one to the other in a reasonably short period of time, I had wanted to hire a bus and driver. Despite extensive efforts by KT to locate one at a reasonable price, this proved to be more difficult and expensive than expected - until finally we were able to secure the services of Jean Wilson and her blue biodiesel monster. Affordable, green, and much more fun!

After the performance, we set about feeding everyone in the Temple with hummus, rice, salad, chips, and various other delicious things. Jonas had turned the Temple into an exhibition space with an extensive collection of drawings and sculptures in his own inimitable style. A nice trick was the separate installations in the gents and ladies toilets - one show for the girls, and a different one for the boys. Afterwards Jonas, a.k.a. DJ Lonely, played a storming DJ set as always.

And so we are reaching the end of our time in Detroit. This week, with the pressures of the end show behind us, we have had time to do some things which need to be done before leaving: including, as we did yesterday, visiting Canada. It's only a bridge crossing away on the other side of the Detroit River, but in other respects it is a long way away. And this isn't Europe - there's a proper border crossing with guards, guns, and (probably) dogs.
We set off in bright sunshine across the Ambassador Bridge, an imposing structure towering over the Detroit River. Curiously, we did not need to present ourselves to US Customs on the way out, only to Canadian Customs on the way in. After a series of pointless questions about what we were doing in the US, why we were coming to Canada, and who's van we were driving, we were allowed to proceed.
At first glance, there are few great differences between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. The streets are cleaner, there are very few abandoned buildings, and everything just seems to be in a slightly better state of repair. There is also clearly much greater ethnic diversity - which displayed itself not least in the astounding variety of restaurants. It was quite a strange experience to stand on the waterfront and to stare across at downtown Detroit, which has become so familiar and which was now in another country.

In some respects, Canada is a little bit closer to home. Speed limits are in km/h, there's some British influence in the spelling (Honour vs. Honor), and Queen Elizabeth is still on the coins.
And, without too much America-bashing, the evidence is plain to see of the effects of a political system which places greater emphasis on social welfare and solidarity. The United States, if it is possible to talk of the country as one whole (which is questionable), has an almost dogmatic attachment to free market economics and the right and responsibility of every citizen to fend for themselves. This has lead to some startling economic success stories, but also to some horrific economic and social failures. One of these is Detroit.
That said, I want to reiterate the warm feelings that I have already expressed for this city. And after around four hours in Canada - neat, tidy, ever-so-polite - I was surprisingly happy to be back in the grimy old Motor City.

But not before the ordeal of re-entering the United States. In contrast to the superficial enquiries on the Canadian side, we were subjected to more in-depth questioning this time. We were also made to sit in a waiting room while a team of border guards dismantled the internal panels of our Dodge Ram conversion van with the aid of power tools, in the hope presumably of finding something incriminating.
Friendly they were not, but they at least put the van back together, and - more importantly - allowed us back into the country. In two days time, we will be leaving it for good.

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