Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Miss NYC

I used to live in New York several years ago. For the most part, I'm happy with life back home in Detroit - but there are moments when I miss New York.

For example, I really can't imagine anything like this happening on the streets of Detroit.

I guess I'll just have to get a bunch of creative folks together and make something like this happen in the D.


I've been inundated by robocalls from one politician after another for the past several weeks. It's one more reason why I will be glad when Tuesday is behind us.

Of course, the silver lining in this dark cloud comes from Obama Girl.

I love that video.

A Retraction, Of Sorts

I posted a few days ago about Access Detroit and how the folks at Detroit's version of Metromix managed to screw up what was quiet possibly the most idiot proof event of the year. Specifically, I chastised them for making the "big surprise" at the end of the evening be the D Brand logo that was projected onto the side of a building.

I have since received confirmation that this wasn't Metromix's idea. They had nothing to do with it. It was someone else. It was a group of people who are usually one of the best event producers in the country; who simply must have left their brains at home that day.

I'm afraid I've simply reached that point in my life and career where, if I see something go wrong and someone from Metromix is within 100 feet of it, I assume that they're responsible for it.

Usually, this trend serves me well. The kids at Metromix have a unique ability to screw up just about anything and they seem to go out of their way to do it.

But this one particular thing, the one that I chastised them about on my blog, wasn't their fault.

As such, I feel a need to retract those comments. I'm sorry Metromix.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Called It

I posted on Saturday about Metromix would inevitably resort to posting photos of random bar patrons because there weren't any people from their Access Detroit event at any of the bars other than Bookies. As of that time, the kids at Metromix hadn't posted those photos.

But now they have.

Please note the conspicuous absence of red lanyards, which got you the Access Detroit special, on any patrons at any of the bars other than the one (Bookies) that you could see from the block party. So much for getting people to explore downtown Detroit.

Oh, and I also got a kick out of how they "forgot" to make any references in their post-event coverage to their "special surprise" of the evening.

I also posted on Saturday about how I saw people scratching off, or otherwise obscuring, the Metromix swag that they got - essentially fixing their Metromix. With that in mind, please take a look at my "new" hip flask.

I picked this up at a previous Metromix event. It's been in a drawer for weeks. I've been too embarrassed to even take it out of the box it came in.

But not any more.

Election Predictions

Election Day is just a little more than a week away. This is when we as a nation will determine the answer to questions like, "how much longer will the entire world hate us?" and "will things ever get any better for us?".

I'm reasonably optimistic, which is why I predict that U.S. Senator Barack Obama will win with 326 electoral votes. My state by state breakdown gives all the details.

We'll see soon just how accurate I am.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recap of Access Detroit

I have to admit that I cringed when I first heard that the kids at Detroit's version of Metromix were involved in the block party that would kick off the re-opening of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. I've had experience with them a few times before. Everything they've ever done can fit into one of three categories:
  1. Lame;
  2. Mismanaged; or
  3. Both.
I took comfort, however, in the fact that this was the re-opening of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. This was the most idiot-proof event of the year. There were so many people looking forward to this that almost anything they did would be a guaranteed success.

In retrospect, as I think back to my previous description of this being an "idiot-proof" event, I am reminded of the words of Mark Twain who observed, "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. The kids from Metromix did manage to screw this one up. Without further ado, I give you my recap of the good, the bad and the random from the evening.

The Good
First, there's the fact that this happened at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. As far as I'm concerned, that counts for a couple of points in their favor right there.

More significantly, there's the fact that - by my unscientific eyeball estimate - there were approximately 600 people in attendance for this event. When one considers that this was almost entirely an outdoor event and that it was raining for the whole time, this is a significant accomplishment in and of itself.

Everyone who was involved with promoting this deserves a lot of credit. Kerry Doman and After 5 Detroit promoted it to their list; picking up 278 RSVPs through Facebook and God only knows how many through their main site and email list. The Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel plugged the event repeatedly on their listserv, which reached an additional 320 people.

I'm sure the kids at Metromix helped out in this regard, too. I'll give them credit for that.

As far as music goes, the bands were awesome.

The Killer Flamingos were rocking hard when I got back to the party after dinner. They mostly played cover songs, but were really good at it.

I was inside of Roast when Trick Trick was supposed to have taken the stage. I missed his entire performance, but I heard he was good as well.

I loved the Paxahau DJ Spinoff. The DJs were really, really good. I never caught the names of any of them, but they were really good.

I could have listened to them all night, that is if it weren't for things like needing to use the bathroom and stuff like that. (More on that below.)

The other thing about the event that was really good was that I finally got to go inside of Michael Symon's new restaurant, Roast. They weren't officially open, but they served drinks and provided the only bathroom at this event. (Again, more on that below.)

Since I didn't get a chance to sample any of his food, there's really only so much I can say about his place. I can say this, though. I loved the decor.

"Homey" isn't quite the right word that I would use to describe the place. It's more like "what I wish my home was like." It was very upscale, but still quite comfortable.

I was also impressed by the staff at Roast. They were very friendly and knowledgeable. Most surprisingly, I thought, was how well they functioned as a team. I expected a lot more opening day kinks then I actually saw considering that they still weren't officially open.

The fact that there were break dancers on Washington Blvd. was also a nice touch, in my opinion. It added to the block party feel of this event.

I also liked the fact that they gave away maps and People Mover tokens to provide people with at least some encouragement to explore downtown Detroit after the main event.

Finally, since this was a Metromix event there was lots of free stuff. The kids at Metromix are famous for their motto of "FREE! FREE! FREE!" This was pretty much to be expected.

Someone handed me a Bank of America collapsible Frisbee without asking if I wanted one. It went in the trash before I could take another 3 steps.

Cintron was hand as well. They had free cans of their new energy drink. I'm not a huge fan of "energy" drinks. I've never really gotten much energy out of drinking them and I've had so many that taste terrible that I've lost all interest in ever trying another one. Regardless, everyone that I talked to who tried it enjoyed it.

It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round.

Those were the good parts of the evening. Let's talk about the rest.

The Bad
The whole event was organized to "celebrate the completion of The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel and Residences," according to their web site. Doesn't it seem rather inappropriate then that no one was allowed to go into the Book Cadillac Hotel?

You know, the building whose completion we were there to celebrate?

This especially odd since, for the past two weeks, one has been able to walk right into the place and look around.

I know their focus was on the block party and they wanted to keep things focused on that. Still, it would have made a lot of sense to have at least a portion of the hotel open for folks to look at for at least a portion of the event.

This screw-up, of course, had another repercussion. Closing access to the hotel meant that access was closed to all of the toilets, save the one that was located in Roast. They didn't even have the foresight to get a couple of Porta-Johns for this "no bathroom" event of theirs.

Here's the problem that no one at Metromix ever saw coming: 600 people, with lots of drinks in their system + Only 1 toilet = Huge Problem.

If this thing was planned by people who actually knew what they were doing, they would have at least made the bathrooms accessible to the public. Even if they were determined to keep people from looking around inside of the hotel, they could have cordoned off most of the hotel and just have left access to the bathrooms.

Another problem that was related to this was the fact that the only bathroom, and most of the alcohol, was inside. The music and break dancers were outside. This left many party goers with the dilemma of which thing to they pursue. Alcohol and bathroom? Or music and dancers?

It would have been so much better if we could have done both - or at least moved between the two more efficiently. That could have been done, if the whole thing was planned better.

The epitome of lameness, though, came at 10:30 last night.

In all of the promotions, Metromix promised a "Surprise" at 10:30.

Do you want to know what this "surprise" was?

We got to see the Detroit Metro Visitors & Convention Bureau's logo projected onto the side of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

No, I'm not kidding. Their "surprise" really and truly was a logo.

I'm not making this up. And it wasn't even a new logo. It was the same logo that they've been using for a couple of years.

Even by Metromix standards, that was incredibly stupid and unforgivably lame. In fact, I would like to count the number of reasons why this was a really, really stupid idea.
  1. Looking at a static logo is boring. I can't make it any simpler than that. It's boring. No one really had any interest in it. They kept looking, expecting it to do something - but it didn't.
  2. Associating your brand or logo with something that's boring is bad. From a marketing stand point, the idea is to associate your logo and/or brand with something positive. Since no one gets excited about being bored, this was simply a bad idea. After all, there's a reason why Nike doesn't sponsor laundry folding competitions.
  3. It's anti-climatic. Towards the end of the event, it was time to focus everyone's attention on exploring all of the different bars around downtown. (Remember? The reason why folks got those maps and People Mover tokens?) In the entire history of marketing, no one has ever been persuaded to go check something out by nothing more than looking at a logo - even a logo that's projected onto the side of a building.
  4. It was possible to do so much more. This event targeted young adults. It would have been simple to round up a few celebrities that they would recognize. They could have made a video of those celebrities recounting their favorite thing about downtown Detroit. They could have shown clips from either of the Hollywood films that were shot inside of the Book Cadillac Hotel. Heck, they could've even shown any of their Visit Detroit commercials or that video contest winner from two summers ago.
  5. Did I mention that showing the logo was boring, anti-climatic and a detriment to Detroit's brand? Oh, yeah. I did. But it deserves repeating.
There was also the fact that, when it came time for folks to explore all that downtown Detroit has to offer, all they got was the aforementioned map and People Mover tokens as well as a list of bars that had specials. If you were a seasoned Detroiter, that's fine.

However, imagine if you will, you're new to downtown Detroit and someone simply handed you a list of 13 bars in the area. Wouldn't you such a list a tad intimidating?

I suppose that's why the overwhelming majority of visitors went to Bookies, which was the only bar on the list that one can actually see from the Book Cadillac Hotel. The majority of them, by the way, seemed to have stayed there all night.

So much for encouraging people to explore downtown Detroit.

It could have been so much better. They could've organized optional tours for small groups. They could've had volunteers who would answer questions or point people in the right direction. They could've set up information kiosks.

In short, they could have done a lot to encourage people to explore more bars and other sites. All that was needed was a team in place that knew what they were doing and was capable of executing. Instead, they had Metromix - the people who thought that staring at a wall was a really exciting way to spend a Friday evening.

On a related note, the Metromix kids will post photos from the event on their web site soon. They sent their "street team" around to all of the bars that were offering specials, passed out Metromix swag and snapped lots of photos that are supposed to end up on their site.

Those photos aren't up there as of this moment. When they are, please take a look at them and count how many people you see in those photos with red lanyards on.

Those lanyards distinguished people from that event from everyday bar patrons. I'd be willing to bet that, with the exception of Bookies, almost all of the people that were photographed didn't have a red lanyard on.

This, of course, means that instead of photographing someone who was a part of this Access Detroit event, they photographed a random bar patron who was in that particular bar on that particular evening anyway. They did this because not enough of the Access Detroit visitors ever made it to any of the other bars.

I shouldn't be too hard on them. This is Metromix that we're talking about. I suppose I should just be grateful that none of the bars on this list of theirs was in Albuquerque.

This is Metromix that we're talking about. They're always finding new ways to screw up.

I just wish they would stick with the Wild Woodies Ring Girl or WRIF Rock Girl contests. At least when they screw those things up, it doesn't make an entire city look bad in front of people who've never been here before.

The Random
I was in a couple of the bars when the Metromix "street team" came in to photograph "participants" of their event. After they snapped the photo and passed out their swag - shot glasses or beer cozies - I saw seven different people attempt to scratch the Metromix logo off the item or permanently cover it up with a sticker of some sort. Several others simply tossed it in the nearest trash can.

Each of them, of course, did it without any prompting from me or anyone else.

I can't help but feel a certain amount of self-satisfaction knowing that I'm not the only one in town who is getting irritated with these perpetual screw-ups.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sad Anniversary. Bizarre Coincidence

Today is the 10th Anniversary of the demolition of the former J.L. Hudson's Department Store in downtown Detroit. It was built in 12 separate stages, from 1891 through 1946. After all of that history, the building came down after 28 seconds of blasting.

When the site was demolished, it was promised that this would open the doors to unprecedented development in downtown Detroit. The years later, all that stand on the site are the support columns for an office tower that was never built. In many ways, they serve as tombstones for a portion of Detroit's past.

The Hudson's site has been targeted as one of the possible sites for Rock Financial's new headquarters. However, if you believe any of the speculation on the various blogs such as D-Tales or the Detroitist, that might never happen.

The bizarre coincidence comes into play when one remembers that shortly after the Hudson's demolition, then Mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer announced that he was targeting the former Book-Cadillac Hotel for demolition. The historic preservationists who fought the Hudson's demolition then turned their attention to the Book-Cadillac and did so in a much more organized fashion.

Heck, along the way, they even inspired one truly awesome (at least in my opinion) documentary on the hotel.

Anyway, big public celebration of the new Westin Book Cadillac Hotel is this evening. Today is the 10th anniversary of the demolition of the Hudson's Building, which is an event that motivated activists to become much better organized in their efforts to save the Book Cadillac.

I don't know if it was planned to work out this way, but sometimes life reveals itself in the most interesting of coincidences.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh, What A Week

This past week has been insane for me. There have been so many things that I really meant to blog about, but I simply haven't had a chance to sit down and recount them all.

I mean, I did manage to find a chance to blog about the $5 million bra, but come on. I'm a guy. How could I not blog about that?

Anyway, before my schedule blows up on my again, here is a recap of the past week.

Thursday, October 16
The interesting portion of my day started at 10:30 a.m. That was when I arrived at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel for an interview with Detroit Today on WDET. It was another chance for me to talk about how much I love that hotel and how I think it will be the catalyst for great things in downtown Detroit.

This, of course, was the third time that I had been on Detroit Today in the past year. Strangely enough, this was also the year that they won "Best Local Radio Talk Show" in the Metro Times Readers' Poll.

Is this purely a coincidence?

Well, of course it is.

But I've seen too many episodes of The Colbert Report to allow this opportunity to pass by. Therefore, in the spirit of Stephen Colbert himself, I will officially proclaim that Craig Fahle and the crew at WDET are simply riding my coat tails

When the interview was over, I got a chance to meet Michael Symon of Iron Chef fame and to take a look at his new menu for his restaurant in the Book Cadillac, Roast. One of the things that I noticed about his menu was that he avoids flowery, overly descriptive names for his dishes. He simply calls them things like "rib eye".

His emphasis, of course, is on the quality and artistry of his cooking; not the novelty of a name. Meeting him made me hungry.

Since his restaurant wasn't open yet, I left the hotel and headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe. Their food, of course, isn't even close to being on par with anything that Mr. Symon would produce.

However, Hard Rock does have one thing that no other place around has - Katrina the Kick Ass Bartender. In my book, there's alcohol and then there's alcohol that's served by Katrina the Kick Ass Bartender.

But I digress.

Anyway, after that, it was back to the office to discover that my check from Nike arrived. I did a shoot for them a couple of weeks ago and it's always a good day in Freelancer World when a check shows up.

After that, the rest of my day was spent with spreadsheets until it was time to go the Infrastructure meeting that the Michigan Production Alliance hosted at Stage 3 in Warren.

Friday, October 17
My day started with a meeting at 8 a.m. and didn't stop until close to 9 p.m. Lots and lots of meetings in between.

Saturday, October 18
My morning was spent with spreadsheets.

In the afternoon, I went to the World Famous Detoberfest on Belle Isle. A large group of people are given a simple mission: to bring a beer that no one has ever heard of before. Lots and lots of sampling and sharing occurred. I still have empty beer bottles rattling around in my trunk.

I don't remember what happened after that.

Sunday, October 19
I probably should have gone to church and then done some blogging after that. However, I did neither. Instead, I spent most of the day on my couch.

Monday, October 20
114 emails sent or received. 31 phone calls. 2 meetings. 1 head that felt like it was going to explode.

I followed this up with a board meeting for my neighborhood association in the evening. (Yeah, me.)

Tuesday, October 21
More emails and phone calls that I really want to count. I spent enough time with spread sheets that I'm actually starting to dream about Microsoft Excel. Finding that reference to a $5 million bra was the social highlight of my day.

Welcome to my life. It's a sad and scary place at times.

Wednesday, October 22
I got break from emails, phone calls and spreadsheets. Sort of.

Wednesday was the day of meetings. The highlight of my day consisted of bumping into my county commissioner at Qdoba Mexican Grille when I stopped in for a quick lunch.

Thursday, October 23
Phone calls, emails and spreadsheets. I got a "break" from all of that when I went to see my doctor around 11.

It's sad, though, when a doctor's appointment constitutes a "break".

After all of that, it was a Steering Team meeting with the crew from Detroit Synergy. This, of course, was followed by another visit to Hard Rock.

They had some band playing that was okay when they did covers of other bands. Not so thrilling when they played "original" material. The good news, though, is that they still had Katrina the Kick Ass Bartender.

And now the entire world knows why I haven't blogged much in the past week. Welcome to my life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The $5 Million Bra

The geniuses at Victoria's Secret have come up with the perfect way to spend a fortune - and then some. It's a $5 million bra.

The Black Diamond Fantasy Miracle bra contains: 3,575 black diamonds, 117 certified 1 carat round diamonds, 34 rubies and - for the ultimate piece de resistance - 2 black diamond drops that total 100 carats.

Of course, being the guy that I am, I can't help but wonder about one thing. If a guy were to buy this for the woman in his life, would she still complain about the toilet seat being left up?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the Radio. Again

I wanted to let everyone know that I will be on WDET-FM tomorrow morning at approximately 10 a.m. - live from the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

Yes, I love my life.

I Love Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment last night about the McCain/Palin campaign was so spot on that I think it should be required viewing for all voters.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Night. One Pass

The Westin Book Cadillac in once again open for business. It's the culmination of a 24 year long saga.

And what does one do after a saga with more twists and turns that all of Cedar Pointe?

Throw one hell of a party, that's what.

It kicks off on Friday, October 24 at 8:30 p.m. with a huge block party on Washington Blvd., between Michigan Avenue and State Street. Because this is just that awesome of an event, it will include free concerts by the Killer Flamingos, Trick Trick and Paxahau DJs.

Add in a few street performers and a respectable amount of alcohol (Cintron is one of their sponsors - 'nuf said) and you have what promises to be the coolest party of the season. The whole thing is presented by Bank of America, which makes me feel a tiny bit better about that service charge they hit me with the other day.

But I digress.

Needless to say, I will be there. An RSVP for the event is encouraged by clicking here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dating Advice

My blog is still one of the highest ranked ones around when you Google "Dating in Your 30s". (Number 9 out of 1,640,000, thank you very much.)

I always felt that means that I should occasionally chime in with some advice for my fellow bachelors. Luckily, there really isn't any need for me to do so.

2007 Playmate of the Year Sara Jean Underwood already beat me to it with this handy video.

And let's face it, I'm sure most bachelors would rather listen to her than me anyway.

In a related note, I'm happy to report that I've never done any of the things that Ms. Underwood advised bachelors to avoid. I've always found completely unique ways to make a fool out of myself.

Since I know of at least two of my ex-girlfriends who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, I'm sure there's going to be some interesting remarks left in the comments section.

Dow 0

A week or so ago, I mused to a friend of mine that the Dow Jones Industrial Average very well might be at 8,000 by the time Election Day rolls around. Since then, we've 7 straight days of decline in the stock market including today's record loss, which brought the index all the way down to 8,579.

Quite frankly, I'm starting to think that I might have been too optimistic in my off-hand, alcohol-inspired prediction.

At the rate things are starting to go, we'll be getting close to zero by November 4th.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Opening of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel

After having been dormant for 24 years, the historic Book-Cadillac Hotel re-opened its doors earlier this week as the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. As someone who spent a couple of years working a documentary about this hotel and the efforts to bring it back - and who (pardon me for tooting my own horn) got nominated for two awards for this aforementioned film - there's no way I could possibly miss this one.

I got to be one of the very first people to walk through its doors when they opened at 11 a.m. on Monday.

I have to say that, all things considered, this was worth the wait. A few things got moved around inside of the hotel. The Italian Garden lost its sky light (a shame, but understandable in the grand scheme of things).

The important thing is that the Book-Cadillac is back.

I've heard one person after another over the past several years say that there was absolutely no way in which it would ever re-open; that it was destined to meet the wrecking ball.

And now here it is.

The hotel rooms are top-notch; on par with, or better than, any others in the market. Spacious. Clean. Well-designed. Complete with every amenity that one could reasonably ask for.

The bar and restaurant still each a kink or two to work out. The wait staff seemed a bit overwhelmed, like there were far more customers there than thought they would have. They also had trouble processing a credit card transaction.

However, the bar and restaurant show a tremendous amount of potential. Their menus for both cocktails and meals are sophisticated without being intimidating. The staff seems like they have all of the pieces in place; it's just a matter of working through the inevitable kinks and first day jitters.

I highly recommend the grilled cheese panni at the Motor Bar, which is on the second floor of the Westin Book Cadillac. It's Gouda cheese and wild mushrooms, served on toasted Panni bread. Add a glass of wine and the general experience of being inside one of America's most famous hotels and you have the most amazing lunch one could ask for.

While I was having lunch with a couple of friends at the bar, I bumped into a couple of people that proved to be almost as memorable as the hotel itself. I shook hands with an attorney named Ron who had the honor of being the very first person to order a drink at the Book-Cadillac in decades. (I envy him for that.) I also met a grown man who was so overwhelmed that the Book-Cadillac was re-opened, he actually broke down and cried.

Of course, he recovered enough to eventually buy a beer for every person who came near the bar that afternoon and to share a few stories with anyone who wanted to listen.

The birth of the Westin Book Cadillac was in effect a wedding, a birthday and a baptism all rolled into one. There was a celebration of the hotel's rich history, the joy of a new beginning and the promise of great things to come.

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press wrote a piece about the hotel that one can read here. I have 55 photos from that afternoon over on Flickr. However, there really is no substitute for simply walking through this place. I cannot recommend doing so strongly enough.

After lunch, of course, my friends all had to get back to their respective jobs because it was a weekday. I found myself simply walking the halls for awhile.

My Dad passed away back in July of 2004 after a long battle with pneumonia that was made worse by asbestosis. He loved historic buildings and loved talking about every job he ever worked on as a carpenter. As I walked the halls of the Westin Book Cadillac that afternoon, I couldn't help but think of the conversations that we would have if he were still with us.

When I finally left the Westin Book Cadillac and headed home, I couldn't help but feel that I was floating. I know that sounds hooky, but it's true.

Anyway, I hereby recommend that everyone leave their respective computers and go check out the reborn Westin Book Cadillac.

And, where ever you are Dad, this beer from the Motor Bar is for you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dreaming of Monday

I'm a bit like Garfield the Cat in that Mondays have never really been my favorite day of the week. Today, however, I find myself dreaming of this coming Monday.

At long last, the historic Book-Cadillac Hotel will have a "soft" re-opening this coming Monday. There won't be any great fanfare. They're still working on the place. However, ordinary folks like me will be able to walk through the place once again.

I have been looking forward to this day for more than 5 years now. I was too young to understand its significance when the hotel closed in 1984. However, when I started doing a documentary on the place in 2003, I inadvertently embarked on a journey that has made me much of what I am today.

I look forward to walking into the hotel and just looking around. It's all the sense of closure that I've wanted for a couple of years now.

My only regret is that my Dad is no longer with us. He would have loved to walk through that place with me. In a way, though, I'm sure he's already there waiting for me.