Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Toulouse in the City: Detroit’s Finest and Who Rescued Who?

Somerset Collection, Detroit
“Guess where we’re going next?” Nina said, glancing at me as she drove the freeway like a maniac. She gave me a sly grin and I shivered ever so slightly. I hate it when she does that while we’re zooming along the Interstate…When she grins like that I know I’m in for adventure, even if it’s only because she’s whizzed right past her exit like she did in Chicago... and Saint Louis… oh, and Kansas City…

We’d been driving all over the states on Nina’s book tour for her fiction writing book, The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! Nina talked to people at a bazillion schools, colleges and universities in Canada and the USA about her guidebook (well, it IS a cool book...I know; I helped her with the spelling… :-3 )

Before I had a chance to give her my own signature look, she added, “My publisher just set up a marketing meeting for us in Detroit…well, Utica, actually.”  Utica’s a nice suburb in the northern part of Detroit with some interesting restaurants and malls, like the upscale “Somerset Collection” mall in Troy,  an adjacent suburb of Metro Detroit. Developed, managed and co-owned by The Forbes Company, the center is anchored by department stores Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue and contains two centers, Somerset North and Somerset South. A 700-foot enclosed bridge with a moving sidewalk called a "Skywalk" joins the two malls over Big Beaver Road. The vast grand court with its full arched glass dome roof, designed by the Michigan based JPRA Architects, is one of the center’s unique architectural features.
North Gazebo of the mall

After Nina’s driving, I was ready for some R&R so I settled back and shut my eyes as Nina negotiated the Michigan freeways this way and that way into the dark of night. I just feigned sleep while she cursed in three different languages under her breath. I think we ended up doing one loop at least three times before finding our way to the right exit. By then I knew exactly where all the Rite Aid stores were for future reference… :-3

We found our hotel, near the conference centre, and made ourselves comfortable. The following evening, happy with her meeting that day, Nina drove us to the south mall of The Somerset Collection and we looked for a nice restaurant to celebrate. I spotted Brio, a classyTuscan grille. The place was packed but I charmed the Maitre d’ and we got a nice table in the back. We started with a house-made flatbread, spiced elegantly with rosemary, parmesan and flax seeds, and a lobster bisque with shrimp and a touch of sherry. Oolala… I really liked it! Nina then ordered from the grille, Artichoke Crusted Beef Medallion: beef tornadoes with an artichoke crust and mushroom marsala sauce, served with crispy potatoes and roasted vegetables. I ordered a Bistecca: Tournedos Di Manzo: filets served with romano crusted tomatoes, asparagus and Hollandaise. I even shared some with Nina, who kept eyeing my meal like a puppy.
With bloated and happy bellies we sauntered through the mall, which was about to close (the stores were already shut); personally, this was an ideal time to be there. The crowds had left and Nina had no chance to spend a bazillion dollars on clothes. We window-shopped and then Nina came to a screeching halt in front of the display at Ralph Lauren.

Toulouse gets some R&R near Louis Vuitton
“OMG!” She pointed at the window. “That jacket would look superb on me!”

I couldn’t stand it and scampered off out of earshot to investigate the avant-garde fountains by a Louis Vuitton store. After an inordinate amount of her ogling, I turned to see what was keeping her. She was gone! 
Panic seized me for five seconds. Mon Dieu! It’s usually me who does that to her!...

What’s a stuffed cat to do? It’s not like I could go into Louis Vuitton and buy a nice little suit while I waited for Nina to figure out that she’d left without me. Then I considered that the restaurants were still open and I could go back to Brio’s for an espresso. I was just heading back when she rushed toward me, panting, and snatched me in an exuberant embrace.

“Wow! I thought I’d lost you!”

Silly, I thought. I was here the whole time…
Toulouse chats with Detroit Police

When we returned to the car, she announced that we should find a liquor store (she usually looks for a liquor store after a “losing me” incident). I deftly pointed out several Rite Aids but they were closed by now. We’d stopped in a small mall parking lot, wondering if Detroit had any late night liquor stores, when Nina spotted several of Detroit’s finest just leaving a coffee shop and sashayed over to them. I tried to hide. I knew what she was going to do…

Grinning like a fool, she proceeded to tell them that she wasn’t from Detroit…in fact, she wasn’t from Michigan…in fact, she wasn’t from the United States. This really got their attention.

Randy Plante gets a copy of Darwin's Paradox
“So, where are you from, then?” Officer Plante asked her with a crooked smile. When she told him that she was from Canada, he grinned like an urchin and said, “That’s a state, isn’t it?”

I was just shrinking down under the car seat when Nina reached in and pulled me out to meet the officers, which included Officer Kurt Sharrow and his K-9 German Shepherd dog, Bear, who was far too interested in me and my pink-jewelled collar.

Randy Plante turned out to be a fan of science fiction so Nina
Kurt Sharrow and Bear
(ever the marketer) said she’d give him her book, “Darwin’s Paradox” if they could help us find a liquor store that was open. I guess they thought her harmless enough because after accepting the book, Officer Plante escorted us to the liquor store, which turned out to be just next door!