The morning Michigan sun beat down warm and hard on spectators and dwarfs alike. It slowly rose through the trees and drew razor shadows up from the Michigan University campus. The opening ceremonies were about to begin and beads of sweat formed on dwarf foreheads like the dew on the perfect grass surrounding Ralph Young Field. I was sporting my newly acquired Fernie Fix press pass, moving slowly through the hordes of dwarf athletes taking photos at a machine gun rate. To say I was in awe would be an atrocious understatement. It's August 10, 2013, Lansing Michigan, the World Dwarf Games. Over 700 dwarf athletes from 17 countries are here including Team Canada. I am in Michigan for two weeks to capture dwarf athletes, Detroit decay and Michigan cuisine.
The journey began in Flint where we stopped in to start the photographic record of the adventure. Downtown Flint looks fairly well kept but it didn't take long to find burned out abandoned homes and businesses. We were quickly accosted by characters and fled several locations we were attempting to photograph. We ended up eating at a gangland roadside barbecue. I may have the record for the quickest consumption of a pork rib sandwich in Flint and although we never saw any heat we employed a zig and zag formation back to the rental car- random movements make it more difficult for characters to get a bead on you.
We spent the next several days in Lansing, photographing the World Dwarf Games. It was an awesome, humbling experience. Lansing is a beautiful town with a bunch of good restaurants and pubs. The University of Michigan campus is a labyrinth of forests, rivers and old buildings- a great place for a sporting event of this magnitude. The first World Dwarf Games were held in 1993 in Chicago. Held every four years the games have been hosted in England, Canada, France, Ireland and the US.
After the games we headed into the Zombie metropolis, Detroit. I thought research and films like Detropia would help me prepare for what I would experience. The level of poverty and infrastructure decline and decay would be impossible to capture in a film or a news article. The recent bankruptcy there is an indicator of how rough things are going in the Motorcity. There are equal parts good in Detroit however. Even in the crumbling ruins there is beauty and good people. There is a thriving downtown, great shopping and great restaurants. A movement of young families are setting up home.There is amazing architecture, forests, vines, overgrown wonder. I hope out of the decay the city will rise to it's next incarnation.
After a full day of exploration and dwarf sporting events one generally acquires a massive appetite. Luckily Michigan is chock full of great places to eat. Here's scratching the surface.
- Duke's Canoe Club Waterfront Grille, Portland Michigan- excellent Cajun cuisine. Have the gumbo, jambalaya with pie from the local bakery Cheeky Monkey.
- Fork in the Road Diner, Lansing - Artisan diner, locally sourced ingredients. Have soup of the day, meatloaf sandwich, mac and cheese.
- Georgio's Pizza,Lansing-Pizza by the slice. Have the pie like pizza pie and grab a weird one, there's a bunch.
- Roast, Detroit-Iron Chef Michael Symon's joint. Have everything especially the beef cheek pierogies. Incredible service.
- Louisiana Creole Gumbo, Detroit- Since 1970 Louisiana cuisine. Have the Gumbo Supreme, oh baby.
- Pizza Papalis, Detroit- Deep dish pizza. Deep dish Chicago style pie almost as good as Chicago.
The Gold Star on this journey goes to Millers Tavern in Deerborn. They have been cranking out their famous ground round hamburgers since 1941. This burger was insanely delicious. It's all about the meat. So good I went back for seconds and teared up when I left. Best burger ever. There, I said it.......
Take a trip to Michigan, check out it's beauty and it's decay, pay a homeless guy to guide you through the empty factory netherworld, by a revolver for 50 bucks, eat like a king and dance in dwarf covered emerald fields.