Metro meditations

Oct 18, 2006 at 12:00 am

Try contemplating anything but leaving while staring at the black-and-white checkerboard floor of a greasy spoon. And a white-walled coffeehouse (oops – see-and-be-seen bistro) with couches of fur in blobs of black and white is not restful.

But Amsterdam Espresso is a North Cass basement place, new this year. Are its blue floors conducive to contemplation? Can ambient techno off the satellite radio quiet the minds of wireless users and gabbing friends? Such seemed to be the case some late summer Sunday afternoons. And the rich blue floors and the waves of music work well at setting a mood.

The cafés at Borders Books set the physical ambience pretty well. Wooden rails and windows line many of their locations. It’s too busy, even in a bookstore, to drift off, but Borders’ environment rewards coffee dawdlers.

Riverside Park, at the beginning of West Grand Boulevard at the Detroit River, is another rest stop. It’s a quarter-mile of waterfront before grassy space with a few trees. Views of river freighters and the nearby Ambassador Bridge compete with the at-hand excitement of fishermen and women out for a morning catch. The Sea Grant Michigan Web site notes that a multi-year renovation of the park is under way. A pedestrian promenade, dedicated fishing areas and improvements are planned so the park can host special events. Let’s hope the character of Riverside Park is not “improved” until it vanishes.

Many spots on Belle Isle can move one to a reflective mood. Between the driving range and Lake Muskoday (yes, Belle Isle’s ponds are named) is sloping land where a small Coleman stove can be set on a picnic table. Early October is good steak-and-vegetables-in-foil time. Autumn leaves and reeds, and a stubborn gent fishing Lake Muskoday dry add to the drowsy afternoon scene.

The zone of contemplation might be hard to attain while driving through the distractions of the city. Less-encumbered forms of travel promote a better-paced mind. A Farmington Hills man of 60 tries to work off some girth by taking 5-10 mile walks. He finds that he thinks better about personal or financial problems when he’s walking. His scenic suburban route along Grand River and Shiawassee Road has peaceful trees and parks. He claims after exercise to hit a “Zen zone,” with a rise in healthful endorphins.

Infinitely sad, but sweet, is the Christmas night SMART bus ride home to the city, with bus driver as unwilling chauffeur of a solitary passenger lugging a garbage bag full of gifts.

Our last destination to a calm and timeless state may, because of ongoing renovation of the Detroit Institute of Arts, be only nostalgia. The Asian arts rooms have been located in the DIA basement. Indian goddess statues, fat Buddhas, Krishnas and Vishnus in copper and pewter surround the viewer. This is as otherworldly as one can get sitting on vinyl cushions in Detroit!

Dennis Shea is a writer and proofreader for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]