I went to Windsor on Via rail on February 4th and returned on the 12th. It might not sound like the best time for a visit, but it was. The train cooperated and even the weather cooperated. My decision to go was partly based on the half-price train fare and a reasonably priced hotel room, but mostly it was a need that's been nagging me for quite some time.
When I walked down the main drag of my home town, I discovered that Lazare's furs has closed and Shanfields Meyers, home of every china pattern and tschotske known to mankind, is in the process of closing. Several bars and restaurants have died and left untidy remnants. Cheque cashing stores with tacky neon signs have proliferated. But, I know that Windsor has dealt with boom and bust cycles for decades. Although my first view was distressing, I soon discovered a lot of hopeful signals and hopeful people during my short stay.
I frequently asked people how the city was doing and everyone I spoke to had a positive attitude. Some were only slightly positive but still, feeling like that in February must mean something good.
I visited the Art Gallery twice, once to see the exhibitions and once to attend three presentations about migrants. It's a lovely space and has areas where you can sit and look out over the river when you need a break from taking in the art. And, right behind the gallery a new aquatic centre is being built.
The waterfront is a place to walk, even in the winter, if the weather is good. There are no condos or hotels on the water side of Riverside Drive. There is a long uninterrupted stretch of parkland. I could hear the chimes of the carillon on Belle Island.
The casino and its hotel are highly visible from all parts of the downtown and I was in and out of the place about four times. It was not as busy as I had expected it to be even on the day when Tony Bennett would perform in the evening. There are legal casinos in Michigan now and that change has caused more Americans to gamble, and probably gambol at home. Detroit's population has also dropped to about 750,000. I didn't make any bets or play any of the machines. That doesn't appeal to me but what people look like and do when they are betting interests me. Some folk assume some seriously weird position.
My dining experiences were quite varied. During my visit I was able to have lunch with my sister-in-law at Rino's Kitchen. It was good and not too expensive. I also tried the cafe at the casino and wouldn't recommend it. The Keg was much better and was part of the treat-myself deal. MacDonald's was next to the hotel. The Tunnel BBQ is still near the tunnel exit and the interior is exactly as it was. They really should fix the floor behind the cake counter.
I had to visit the main library and it is quite near the hotel. When I walked in I could see a strange machine in separate area at the front of the building. At first I thought the library had rented the space to a business but that was not the case. The Windsor Public Library has an Espresso book machine. Yes! The machine that prints and binds paperback books. No one is allowed to jump up and down and shout hooray in the library but I almost did.
My grandfather's letters (from The Great War) have been whispering to me from inside my piano bench. I explained my idea to the library staff in charge of the machine and she said it is exactly the kind of book they hope the machine will be used for. So now I have a non-fiction project. Maybe that also explains why my fiction brain has refused to cooperate no matter how I have tried. I need to do this first, and then see what happens.
Until the next time.