Feb. 19–Mar. 20 Pisces Listen to the compliment that presents itself to you as a criticism; energies will make you better through jealousy and roadblocks. It could be that you realize it’s time for a change.
Mar. 21–Apr. 19 Aries There is something to celebrate that presents itself to you. To thank the universe for this opportunity or inspiration, donate to an organization a few times this month.
Apr. 20–May 20 Taurus Do not try to impress anyone who isn’t treating you well. Please agree with the vibration that you are perfect the way you are—and totally step back from the people who are taking advantage of your good nature.
May 21–June 20 Gemini It’s time to apologize for the things you have done to hurt people. If your ego won’t let you actually call them to apologize, write them a “spiritual” letter telling them you were unfair to them and that you are sorry.
June 21–July 22 Cancer “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The door to your future couldn’t open any wider. If you want the job, you can have it. If you want that relationship to go to the next level, you can have it.
July 23–Aug. 22 Leo People are about to prove to you how much they love you. March is when your gratitude toward people who are supporting you will make all the difference.
Aug. 23–Sept. 22 Virgo There are angels surrounding you. Pennies and feathers in your path are likely. This is a month of being aware of how things are lining up for you. Accept all invitations.
Sept. 23–Oct. 22 Libra Coincidence will be your best friend this month. It’s time to drop (old) ideas that you can’t have what you want…you totally can. Pay attention!
Oct. 23–Nov. 21 Scorpio Practice saying nice things about people. Do not take on the bad karma right now of backstabbing those who truly do not deserve it. Ask yourself: “Am I basing my opinion on someone else’s agenda?”
Nov. 22–Dec. 21 Sagittarius
You are the owner of this lifetime and acting as though you do have the power to change things will make all the difference this month. You will get a sign that you are on the right track.
Dec. 22–Jan. 19 Capricorn When you focus on one thing at a time, you are a genius. Avoid multitasking this month. Better to spend the time to make sure it’s done right the first time.
Jan. 20–Feb. 18 Aquarius Embrace the high energy of spinning lots of plates right now. You are the chef who has many pots simmering, and it’s time to admit that you like it this way. Thrive by making the magic happen with all the resources available to you.
I visited Jay Shafer’s meticulous American Gothic–style house in a sun-dappled Iowa City backyard shortly after we launched Natural Home magazine in 1999. The Dow had just surpassed 10,000, mortgage credit requirements were melting into oblivion, and America had a bad case of McMansion Mania. Shafer’s 130-square-foot home (yes, you read that right), built for $40,000, was a hard “no” to all that. It was also cozy and inviting, and Shafer described himself as a claustrophile (someone who loves closed-in spaces).
Shafer won the Philosophy and Innovation Award in our Natural Home of the Year contest because his adorable house embodied everything the magazine stood for, and he wasn’t afraid to say things. He said that we Americans like our homes like we like our food—big and cheap—and he was the first to figure out that putting a tiny house on wheels makes it an RV and therefore not subject to city and county minimum-size standards and codes. He wasn’t shy about his intention to make tiny homes a revolutionary alternative in a housing market headed for disaster.
“I am certainly not proposing that everyone should live in a house as small as mine,” Shafer wrote in the letter accompanying his contest entry. “Such minimalism would be excessive for most people. What I am saying is that the scale of our homes should be as varied as the spatial needs of their inhabitants, and that it is those needs rather than government regulations and conspicuous consumption that should determine house size.”
Shafer’s message was radical, and largely ignored, in the frenzy leading up to the 2008 crash. But his company, Tumbleweed Tiny Homes, built a following, and he built a name for himself as the godfather of a fledgling tiny house movement (one blogger called him “the George Washington of simple and sustainable living”). He wrote The Small House Book and was on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Then he lost the company in a business dispute and his house in a divorce, and he was homeless for a while, living in a pigpen inside a shed. Determined never to live that way again, Shafer designed a 50-square-foot home that cost $5,000 in Sebastopol, California. He gives master class workshops at tiny house festivals around the world (including the Tiny House Festival Australia in Bendigo, Victoria, March 21–22).
“The evolution of tiny houses has paralleled the digital revolution, since this whole tiny thing started at the turn of the century,” Shafer told foxnews.com in 2014. “Once it became possible to have a remote little phone instead of a landline and a wall-mounted flat screen instead of a 2-foot-by-1-foot chunk on the dresser, folks started seeing the potential for living in what basically amounts to a laptop with a roof.”
A Status Symbol for Humble Braggers
Though 82 percent of renters say they would like to buy a home someday, according to Fannie Mae, homeownership is at its lowest point since 1965. Ordinary people can’t afford the American Dream (median listing price: $310,000). In the Bay Area, homebuyers paid twice their annual income for a house in the 1960s; today, they shell out nine times their yearly salary. Only 13 percent of millennial renters in the United States will have enough cash to put 20 percent down on a house in the next five years, according to an Apartment List survey.
Tiny homes are much cheaper, with prices ranging from $10,000 to more than $200,000 (averaging about $65,000), and operating and maintaining them costs a lot less. When the International Code Commission made changes to its residential code to facilitate tiny house construction in 2018, it reported lifetime conditioning costs as low as 7 percent of conventional homes.
That reality is driving the spike in interest in tiny homes, which are getting a lot of attention as a solution to the affordable housing and homeless crises, with the added bonus of being kinder to the planet than a traditional three-bedroom/two-bath. Whether they live in tiny homes for financial reasons or not, climate-aware homebuyers get a status symbol that flaunts their honorable choice to reduce their footprint and live with less—no easy thing to do, even in this post-Kondo age.
It doesn’t hurt that tiny homes—generally defined as homes with less than 400 square feet—are now readily available in every style, from your basic shed to sleek Dwell-worthy models. You can buy plans and build a tiny house yourself or pick out one online and have it shipped to you. You can even order one on Amazon. Used tiny homes, along with inspirational stories and information, can be found at sites like tinyhousefor.us, tinyhousetalk.com, and tinyhouselistings.com. Tiny Home Nation: 10K Strong
More than half of Americans would consider a tiny home, according to a National Association of Home Builders survey. Potential buyers and just-dreamers flock to check out micro-houses, “schoolies” (converted school buses), and vans at tiny home festivals like the Florida Suncoast Tiny Home Festival in St. Petersburg (March 28–29) and the People’s Tiny House Festival in Golden, Colorado (June 6–7). But the reality is that only about 10,000 people in North America—the lucky ones who have managed to find parking spots—actually live in tiny homes.
Like anything that disrupts the norm in a conformist capitalist culture, building a tiny home in a world of ticky-tacky boxes is not easy. The good news is that times are changing, as municipalities consider tiny home villages as a way to house the homeless and marginalized communities. Still, most states only allow tiny homes to be parked in rural areas (Massachusetts, California, Florida, and Oregon are somewhat more lenient). Because most zoning laws in the United States don’t have a classification for tiny houses, most owners have to follow Shafer’s lead and register them as RVs, trailers, or mobile homes.
In most places, zoning ordinances won’t allow you to buy land, park your tiny home/RV, and live happily ever after. You either have to rely on the kindness of family and friends with backyards or pay a monthly park fee to rent a space in one of the tiny home villages cropping up across the country. Park Delta Bay, an RV resort in Isleton, California, now has a row reserved for tiny homes. At Village Farm, an RV resort that’s turning into a tiny-home community in Austin, Texas, residents pay about $600 to $700 a month to park and use the services.
Slowly, city and state governments are responding to homebuyers’ demands for tiny home opportunities beyond RV resorts. Portland, Oregon, (but of course) has relaxed its ordinances to allow for everything from tiny house communities to tiny house hotels. In Rockledge, Florida, citizens demanded zoning changes allowing for a pocket neighborhood with homes ranging from 150 to 700 square feet. A tiny home community for low-income residents is under way on Detroit’s west side, and Vail, Arizona, built two dozen 300- to 400-square-foot houses for schoolteachers.
Advocacy groups have been paving the way for tiny homes since Shafer and a few friends founded the Small Home Society in 2002, and they’re seeing a resurgence. In 2017, a group of University of California-Berkeley students launched the Tiny House in My Backyard (THIMBY) project to promote research and development and raise awareness of tiny house communities. Operation Tiny Home is a national nonprofit that helps people “maintain a life of dignity” through high-quality tiny housing and empowerment training programs.
In Canada, activists calling themselves Tiny House Warriors are taking the revolution to the next level, placing “resistance-homes-on-wheels” along the pathway of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline. “We are asserting our inherent, God-given right to our lands,” says Kanahus Manuel, a leader of Tiny House Warrior. “We’re defending what’s ours, and tiny homes are how we’re doing it.”
Collaboration is a wonderful thing. When my friend Rosston Meyer told me a few years ago that he was planning a pop-up cannabis book, I thought it sounded like a great idea. I knew Meyer ran an independent publishing house designing pop-up books in collaboration with artists. Meyer is a designer with a passion for art and pop culture, so I imagined his books were a modern upgrade of the old-school pop-up books I played with as a child—3-D elements and foldouts, tabs to pull and wheels to spin—but with a modern aesthetic that appeals to adults. “A pop-up on pot would be cool to flip through and play with,” I remember thinking. “I hope he does it.”
A few years later, Meyer came around to show me a physical mock-up of his pot-themed pop-up, which he’d titled Dimensional Cannabis. What he showed me was a modern art form I wasn’t aware existed. Yes, the book featured 3-D elements and foldouts, with tabs to pull and wheels to spin, but what I had pictured was similar only in concept. These were intricate and elaborate kinetic paper sculptures that painted a picture and brought it to life. I was blown away. So, when he asked if I’d be interested in writing the words to go on the pages before me, I signed on immediately.
Altogether, Dimensional Cannabis took more than three years to complete, with a total of nine people contributing to the final product published by Poposition Press, Meyer’s independent publishing house. A small press, Poposition designs, publishes, and distributes limited-edition pop-up books that feature artists or subjects that Meyer finds of deep personal interest. He got started in the genre in 2013, when he started working on a collaboration with Jim Mahfood, a comic book creator known as Food One. The resulting Pop-Up Funk features Mahfood’s diverse designs transformed into interactive three-dimensional pop-ups. The limited-edition run of 100 copies were all constructed by hand.
Since then, Poposition has worked with a number of contemporary artists to publish titles like Triad by cute-culture artist Junko Mizuno and Necronomicon by macabre master Skinner.
Meyer has been fascinated by pop-up books since he was a kid, and in 2013, he began concentrating on paper engineering and book production. “After making a couple books focused on just artists, I thought that creating a pop-up book about cannabis would be a good idea,” he says. “There’s nothing else like it in the market, and there’s an audience for adult-themed pop-up books.”
For Dimensional Cannabis, Meyer collaborated with Mike Giant, a renowned American illustrator, graffiti writer, tattooer, and artist. Giant’s medium of choice is a Sharpie, and Giant’s detailed line work is instantly recognizable. An avid proponent of cannabis, Giant illustrated the entire Dimensional Cannabis book.
Giant and Meyer met at a weekly open studio Giant hosted in Boulder. “When the idea of doing a pop-up book about cannabis came up, he asked if I would illustrate it,” Giant says. “I’ve been an advocate for cannabis use for decades, so it didn’t take long for me to agree to work on the project.”
Meyer began by sending Giant reference materials to visualize. “I’d get it drawn out, hand it off, and get some more stuff to illustrate,” Giant says. “He’d send me previews of the finished pages as we went. It was really cool to see my line drawings colored and cut to shape. That process went on for months and months until everything for the book was accounted for.”
The process of making pop-up books is called “paper engineering.” I love obsessives, and the engineers who put this book together, make no mistake, are the ones who spend endless hours figuring out the tiniest details of the folds and materials necessary so that water pipe emerges every time you open the paraphernalia page.
“David Carter and I started talking about the idea a couple years prior to actually starting on the book,” Meyer says. “The initial concepts for each spread were figured out, and a different paper-engineer peer was asked to design each spread so that the book had variation throughout.”
Dimensional Cannabis is divided into six pages, or spreads, covering the cannabis plant’s biology, medical properties, cultivation, history, and influence on popular culture. The paraphernalia page features many items we associate with cannabis consumption over the years in America, from rolling papers and pipes to vaporizers, dabs, and concentrates—and that foot-long bong that miraculously appears as you turn the page.
One spread opens to the full plant, with information on its unique and fascinating properties. Another opens to a colorful, meditating figure with text about the healing properties of cannabis. One page is dedicated to its cultivation possibilities, basic genetics, and the differences between indoor and outdoor growing.
The history spread takes us back to the beginnings of the curious and long-standing connection between humans and cannabis. Engineer Simon Arizpe had worked with Meyer before and jumped at the chance to work on that one. “I wanted it to be Eurasian-centric as the viewer opens the page, showing the early uses of cannabis in ancient Vietnam and China,” Arizpe says. “As the viewer engages with the pop-up, cannabis’s use in the new world spreads across the page,” he adds. “We decided [to focus] on moments in time that were either politically relevant, like weed legalization, or culturally significant, like Reefer Madness.”
Arizpe feels like the entire project is an example of what can be done working with talented people outside the traditional publishing engine. “Rosston came up with an idea that has a big following and made it happen,” he says. “It is pretty exciting when people can do that out of nothing.”
For Meyer, who says he likes a good sativa when he’s working, the project was a labor of love that spans all his areas of interest. “Not only was this a great experience putting together such a unique book, but having different paper engineers work on each spread made this a real collaboration,” he says. “There have only been a couple pop-up books produced with a roster of engineers. Dimensional Cannabis is for cannabis lovers and pop-up book collectors alike.”
It’s Tuesday morning and Chef Max Hardy (a.k.a. Chef Max) is in his kitchen at COOP Caribbean Fusion in Detroit’s midtown. Around 10 a.m., his team of young cooks are allowed to play whatever music they want to boom through the speaker of the tight prep stations. While Chef Max enjoys gospel, the beat most of the time ends up on reggae. After all, they are cooking a Caribbean cuisine with just the right kick to satisfy the most opinionated Detroiter.
“Detroit hasn’t always been known as the food mecca of the world, but now that the city is growing in the food scene, it’s so important to train the next generation of chefs,” he says. “With such an influx of chefs coming to the city from all over, it can be challenging to try to make your mark with so many different influences. It would be great if every school in DPS [Detroit Public School] could have a culinary curriculum.”
The proud owner and operator of COOP, Chef Max knows how to cook a chicken, yet what he’s most proud of is that he’s taught his team how to cook the best fall-off-the-bone chicken—so much so that he’s known all over Detroit, across TV cooking competitions, and the world over for those exact culinary skills. COOP’s menu items hold titles like its infamous COOP Wings with just the right jerk, and the Midtown Crispy Chicken Fork Sandwich that would put any Popeyes chicken sandwich to shame. “We marinate our chicken for 18 to 24 hours so that it’s falling off the bone,” says the chef.
“Most of our spices and sauces aren’t found anywhere else in the city.” COOP Caribbean Fusion is just one selection of a collection of food vendors in the Detroit Shipping Company, set up like a food court with options that include Brujo Tacos & Tapas, Monty’s Beef Company, and Bangkok96. There are two bars with open-air seating and a coffee shop on the second floor. The Detroit Shipping Company is the brainchild of three native Michiganders whose mission was to develop an entertainment venue in the Cass Corridor area, complete with a garden, upscale street-food vendors, artists’ space, and start-up retail out of shipping containers.
“Detroit has always been segregated when it comes to food.” says Chef Max. “There was the Polish, then Mexican; we had our soul food; and in Dearborn, it was Middle Eastern. Detroit always had its different pockets; now so much more of the food growth is saturated in Midtown and Downtown.”
You may have heard of Detroit’s foodie scene. This out-of-nowhere growth has been slowly brewing for the past 10 years, evident with the number of restaurants that have popped up in Midtown and downtown.
With a population of roughly 800,000-plus, Detroit is still more than 80 percent black. The admittedly sophisticated—and still growing—restaurant scene you’ve heard about is flourishing because of black chefs. However, restaurant ownership is largely confined to the rapidly redeveloping core of the city that has spent more years resurrecting itself back alive.
Fame and Fusion
Chef Max has had his share of fame and defeat—from being called one of 16 black chefs changing food in America by the New York Times to securing a full culinary scholarship to Johnson and Wales University that helped kick-start his career. By the age of 21, Hardy was an executive chef responsible for multimillion-dollar food and beverage budgets in South Florida. He launched a private events company, but soon pivoted to focus more on his celebrity clients. “I do a lot of fusion, mixing different ingredients with different cuisines, but I’m known for my healthy meals,” he says.
His clients have included actors, professional athletes, and dignitaries like the Prince of Dubai and the prime minister of Turks and Caicos. However, he was able to really hone his craft in 2010 as the full-time personal chef to NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. After traveling the world, he appeared on the Food Network’s popular Chopped series as a finalist. “I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Detroit, and being with my grandmother in the kitchen cooking kept me focused,” says Chef Max. “It was important to me to bring home what I’ve learned traveling the world. Because of the time spent in the kitchen, I was able to get a scholarship to attend culinary school. Cooking saved my life. Those days that we would cook and bond with each other as a family back in the day are what made me want to become a chef.”
While in New York, Chef Max met Devita Davison, Detroit’s own FoodLab marketing and communications director. The two collaborated on the Made and Grown Series of private dinners on urban farms—and because he grew up around Meyers and Grand River and noticed that a lot had changed in Detroit since his early days growing up on the northwest side, Chef Max had his first thought that “maybe it’s time for me to come home.”
In 2017, Chef Max opened his flagship Caribbean-soul restaurant, River Bistro, in the city’s Grandmont Rosedale district. Yet after just two years, the resto had to close its doors. “The past two years operating River Bistro have been amazing and would not have been possible without the support from the Grandmont Rosedale community,” Hardy said in a 2018 statement. “Our neighbors welcomed us with open hearts, and for that, we will be forever grateful. It’s time to focus on the future. One of the reasons for me to move back home is to show that black chefs are here. And we are making a contribution.”
Running COOP is just one element to Hardy’s multilevel approach to making Detroit’s culinary scene better reflect Detroit itself—not only is he hoping to create opportunities for more black chefs, but he’s always been focused on training and education for the next generation, even traveling to other countries to do so. “You always think of mom-and-pop places or barbecue or soul food [in Detroit],” he says. “You don’t think of chef-driven restaurants here.”
Chef Max has been on a constant culinary journey—from an urban farm on the block where he grew up to another cookbook and line of Chef jackets and custom spices to culinary training programs in local schools to, eventually, he hopes, his own cooking school. He’s been back and forth to Dubai and Africa, learning and cooking at world food festivals, even adopting a primary school in Africa that he supplies with shoes and books while also working on the infrastructure for a kitchen. Hardy has already been successful in raising a great deal of awareness of the culinary arts in his city.
“In a city that’s like 85 percent black,” he says, “how is it that it’s not a black chef that’s the face of restaurants in Detroit?
As I write this letter, my family is already exhibiting signs of winter colds. In my case, it’s a runny nose, and since I’m writing at the kitchen table, I grab a paper towel instead of a soft tissue. But I take what’s available to me at the time. Similar to family. We don’t have much say in the matter. Some of us are born into families of privilege, while others get by on love alone. Here at Sensi, we’ve carved out our own family—a group of magazine journalists and editors who share the same goal of making the lives of the people we love a bit better.
Our cover story shares my personal struggle with balancing family and rest. The story doesn’t end wrapped up with a nice pretty bow, but it does acknowledge that life is a journey, and that sleep is just as important as work. As always, “The Scene” is filled with things for families to get out of the house and explore. So many of the products and personalities featured in this issue help us to connect. That’s important, because we can’t do this life thing alone. And in “The End,” the words of 94-year-old Detroiter Mildred C. Hooper put everything into perspective by remembering those who aren’t as fortunate.
This issue is filled with self-care and holiday cheer, because we understand that both are needed, especially in the month of December when many of us find ourselves isolated. The people who put these pages together go out of their way, in the cold, sleet, and snow, to bring a bit of sunshine to the lives of Detroiters. Sensi is proud to be a part of that family. If you’ll have us, we’ll have you. But as in any relationship, you have to participate. Let us know how we can make Sensi Detroit better as we move into 2020. And don’t forget to tell us what you love!
Our staff is a small dedicated group of storytellers who want to represent you, Detroit, because we know that this city is made up of a mesh of diversity from the edge of the water to the tip of 8 Mile Road.
Detroit native Lizzo was captured on video at a Lakers basketball game dancing to her own song Juice. The outpouring came mostly because she was wearing a thong revealing her naked rear end, all while twerking in rhythm to the beat.
Lizzo is known for her advocacy around body positivity through her lyrics and her social media posts. After the incident, this particular Facebook post came into my feed: “I hate when people don’t love themselves.” It came from someone who felt that anyone who criticized Lizzo didn’t love themselves and hated anyone who did love themselves. I thought, Wow, it must be great to really, really love yourself. I must admit, I’m not sure what that feels like. There’s always something I want to do to better myself; look better, be better, finish better.
In this month’s issue, we explore self-love. Represented in its fullness, self-love is a crucial element in our cover story on two individuals who are transitioning, one at the beginning and the other immersed in their proud transgender lifestyle. Detroiters understand that loving yourself isn’t a final resolution; it’s a daily journey—one that Sensi magazine is humbled to take with you.
This February 2020 issue of Sensi Detroit is gifted to the lover in all of us. Whether you love your mom, your job, your car, your significant other, or yourself—especially if you love yourself—this issue is for you.
The Sensi team always amazes me with the vibrancy exhibited on the pages of this magazine, incorporating quotes and numbers that are easily remembered and eye-catching. We hope you agree that love for information is really all you need. We hope you love this issue as much as we do, but if there’s something or someone or some business that you believe we ought to cover, don’t be shy. Send us an email, introduce yourself, and tell us what you’d love to read about in the magazine.
Two years ago, at the tender age of 17, librarian assistant Kynnie Rhodes was living in her aunt’s Las Vegas basement. He decided then and there that he was going to become the man he knew he was all along. Rhodes had had enough of the depression, the hiding, the isolation that he felt in his own body and in his own home. He told family that he was to be referred to as male, and that he was planning to find a way to change outside what he saw inside.
His mom took it the hardest. After all, she did give birth to and raise a child whom she always saw as a girl. Rhodes’s mother didn’t understand why her child never felt that he fit in with family or friends. She didn’t know why he quit going to school after the 9th grade. She didn’t know how to deal with her daughter, who knew inside that he was really her son.
This isn’t a story about transitioning. It’s a story about love.
Finally Fitting in
“For most of the time I was in high school, I was at home, hidden from the world,” says Rhodes. “I was always online doing research, learning about how to fit in because I didn’t. I didn’t fit in with my friends at school; I didn’t fit in at home; I didn’t fit in my own body.” According to the Williams Institute, part of the UCLA School of Law, approximately 0.06 percent of Americans—roughly 1.4 million individuals—identify as transgender in the US. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that this condition, known in the medical community as gender dysphoria, can result in “discomfort or distress caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex assigned at birth.”
“I came across these series of videos on YouTube that showed people going through transgender surgery, and it was really detailed, showing every step of the process,” says Rhodes. “I saw that there were other people out there like me and that they found a way to become themselves. I knew that I could do the same thing.”
The transitioning process is not only about changing the body’s physical appearance but also its societal and chemical makeup through medical treatments, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and choosing a new name and preferred pronoun. For Rhodes, this began with finding the right doctor to provide the right diagnosis.
In August 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration clarified that surgery and HRT for trans people would be covered under the state’s Medicaid program. Michigan made the change by adding three paragraphs to the state’s 2,060-page Medicaid Provider Manual, affirming that its Medicaid program could not discriminate when it came to “comprehensive health care, prescription drugs, and benefits inclusive of sex, gender identification, and sexual orientation.” Medical care for patients transitioning from one gender to another must be provided according to standards set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
Today, Rhodes self-injects daily hormones and schedules regular doctor visits. During the initial process of his surgery, he will continue to receive testosterone to promote more masculine characteristics such as a deeper voice, facial hair growth, muscle growth, and redistribution of body fat. Working at the Southfield Public Library, Rhodes has informed his superiors and coworkers of his new name and pronoun preferences.
“I feel excited. I’m really looking forward to seeing what I make out of my future,” says Rhodes. “I’ve noticed how much more confident I am out in public. I’m not as anxious as I was before I started my hormones. I’m no longer worried about whether I’m going to get misgendered anymore considering that I pass really well. I’m putting everything I got and have gathered about myself in the gym to achieve the body I’ve always wanted.”
Living My truth
Ahya Simone, 27, a songwriter, artist, and professional harpist, doesn’t particularly like the word “transition.” “It just doesn’t describe my narrative. It doesn’t accurately describe my story,” she says. “I’ve always been who I am. I just haven’t always been in a comfortable or safe environment to express it. I never describe myself or my situation as transitional.”
In 2015, the largest national survey on the subject concluded that an estimated 0.2 percent of metro Detroit’s population identifies as transgender, and an increasing number are undergoing gender-related medical and surgical procedures, even in their teenage years. “Little research has been done to accurately count the number of trans individuals living in and around the Detroit Metro Area,” says Mark Erwin-McCormick, director of development and advancement at the Ruth Ellis Center.
Born and raised in Detroit, Simone was drawn to the performing arts at an early age, singing in her church choir and learning to play the harp at Cass Technical High School. But it wasn’t until college that Simone decided it was time to examine her identity.
“I started living my truth when I was about 18,” she says. “It was in the second semester of my freshman year. I found myself depressed at times because I was presenting my true gender. I dealt with so much harassment, neglect, and sometimes even violence. But in the end, it was more gratifying to me to live my authentic self. It was worth it.”
While feelings about “transitioning” may vary, the idea of living an authentic life does not. “I don’t think the word ‘transition’ is a bad thing,” says Rhodes. “What I’m doing is simply evolving, evolving into the version of me that I always knew I’d become. In 10 years, I see myself successful enough to enjoy the things I’ve always enjoyed, like travel, skateboarding, hitting the gym, and writing more manga. I’m happily married with one kid. [I’m] living my simple, happy life.”
A 2018 Kresge Fellow and a celebrity in her own right, Simone was a featured artist in the film Showing Up, Showing Out, celebrating Motown’s legacy, produced in collaboration with Carhartt and Dazed magazine. Her music was also included in Travel Michigan’s first-of-its-kind album, Sounds of Michigan, and she performed for the Kindred Music and Cultural Festival in August 2019.
“It is important for people to know that every transgender story is different,” she says. “Everyone’s relationship with their body and gender is different, and they all should be celebrated and valued. That’s what being visible is all about. It’s about humanizing trans people, but also it’s about celebrating them for living their truth at the same time.
Humans have used color to express ideas and emotion for thousands of years, according to color specialist and trend forecaster Leatrice Eisman. As executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, Eisman is the world’s leading authority on the topic of color, authoring many books on the subject. In The Complete Color Harmony, Eisman describes how even the most subtle nuances in color can result in shades that excite or calm, pacify or energize, and even suggest strength or vulnerability. “They can nurture you with their warmth, soothe you with their quiet coolness, and heighten your awareness of the world around you. Color enriches our universe and our perception of it,” she writes.
According to her research, we all respond to color at a very visceral level, associating specific hues with another time or place. “Color invariably conveys moods that attach themselves to human feelings or reactions,” she notes. “Part of our psychic development, color is tied to our emotions as well as our intellect. Every color has meaning that we either inherently sense or have learned by association and/or conditioning, which enables us to recognize the messages and meanings delivered.”
It’s with all this in mind that she and a team of experts choose the Pantone Color of the Year, which the institute has named annually for more than two decades, gaining more attention and having more impact with each passing declaration. So this year, expect to see a lot of blue. The 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is known as Classic Blue.
Describing the shade as “evocative of the nighttime sky,” Eisman explains the choice: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.”
She contends that Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious, expand our thinking, open the flow of communication. Her comments are rooted in color theory, which says that a good part of the emotions that colors evoke is tied to natural phenomena. Classic Blue is the color of outer space (look beyond), of the celestial sky (look beyond), of the deep ocean (open the flow).
One of the earliest formal explorations of color theory came from German poet and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His 1820 book Theory of Colours explored the psychological impact of colors on mood and emotion. Yellow, Goethe wrote, is the color nearest the light, yet when applied to dull, coarse surfaces, it is no longer filled with its signature energy. “By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy and aversion.”
Of red: “All that we have said of yellow is applicable here, in a higher degree.” Goethe’s theories continue to intrigue, possibly because of the lyrical prose rather than its scientific facts.
Today, it’s generally accepted that shades of blue are associated with steady dependability, calm, and serenity. Yellow evokes the color of the sun, associated with warmth and joy. Green connects with nature, health, and revival. White stands for simplicity; black for sophistication.
A 1970s study on the body’s physiological responses to colors revealed that warm hues (red, orange, yellow—the colors of the sun) aroused people troubled with depression and increased muscle tone or blood pressure in hypertensive folks. Cool colors (green, blue, violet) elicited the reverse, but the important finding was that all colors produced clinically tangible results.
It’s not woo-woo science; humans have been using color as medicine, a practice known as chromotherapy, since ancient Egypt. In fact, chromotherapy is as tested a practice as any other alternative medicine—Ayurveda, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology. While it is widely accepted that color affects one’s health—physically, mentally, emotionally—more studies are needed to determine the full scope of impact as well as its potential to help heal.
This isn’t a new theory, either. In the late 1800s, rays of color/light were shown to affect the blood stream. Later research found color to be “a complete therapeutic system for 123 major illnesses,” according to a critical analysis of chromotherapy published in 2005 by Oxford University Press. Today, bright white, full-spectrum light is being used in the treatment of cancers, seasonal affective disorder, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, jet lag, alcohol and drug addiction, and more. Blue light is used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. Red light helps with cancer and constipation. And that’s just the beginning.
On the Bright Side
When your physical landscape is devoid of bright, vibrant hues, your emotional one is affected as well. That’s where color therapy comes in. It has a deep effect on physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of our lives, and it comes in many forms: light sessions that include color wheels. Colored crystal lights. Breathing in colors through meditation. Infrared saunas with chromotherapy add-ons.
There are actually many ways of adjusting the color in your life, and not all of them require a trip to see a specialist. Unlike trying to self-administer acupuncture (don’t do that), techniques can be as simple as putting on colorful attire or getting some bright throw pillows or plants. You can never have too many plants. And you should eat more plants, too, filling your plate with healthful fruits, vegetables, and spices from every part of the spectrum.
If a lack of sunlight has you feeling a lack of joy, paint your home or office—warm, vibrant yellows and oranges showcase excitement and warmth; browns and neutrals decidedly do not. Choose wisely. Painting not an option? Consider temporary wallpaper or hanging large artworks. On a budget? Head to the thrift shop and repurpose an old canvas by painting it white and then adding whatever hues you are vibing with this winter. If it doesn’t turn out well, cover it up with more white paint and start again.
Have fun with it, consider it art therapy.
There are also an array of therapeutic options popping up as add-ons, as wellness studios, spas, and alternative medicine practices incorporate chromotherapy treatments into their offerings. Many infrared saunas are starting to offer chromotherapy benefits, and the combination of the full-light spectrum and the heat effectively tricks the brain into thinking it spent a full day basking in the sun, causing it to release those sweet endorphins that flood your body when the warm rays of spring hit your face when you step outside. It feels good and really, that is everything. Color is everything.
People don’t hide from winter in Detroit. The comedy shows, music concerts, and festivals don’t stop coming. And conferences and tours play on. Detroiters celebrate snowy season—because, let’s face it, we can’t stop the snow from falling or ice from forming. Each year, February is filled with events and activities for the entire family. Whether you’re looking for date ideas or a fun day with the kids this month, Detroit has a lot to offer.
Feb. 5–9 Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi marvac.org More than 350 RVs, including folding campers, motorhomes, travel trailers, toy haulers, fifth wheel travel trailers, and a park model, ranging from $6,995 to $400,000, all come together for this annual event. The show has more than 75 booth exhibitors featuring parts and accessories, campground information, on-site RV financing, and RV rentals, making this the complete RV show experience. Admission includes educational seminars.
Quicken Loans Winter Blast Weekend
Feb. 7–9 Campus Martius Park, Detroit winterblast.com Enjoy ice skating, professional skating demonstrations, ice sculptures, eats, zip-lining, giant slides, kids’ activities, and more than 50 live music acts.
Feb. 15, 12–3 p.m. Tech Town, Detroit detroitexperiencefactory.org Participants will have time to sample and buy, as well as hear from some of the shop owners. Stops include Good Cakes and Bakes, For the Love of Sugar, and BonBonBon.
Wayne State University Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Feb. 15, 11:30 a.m. Saint Andrews Hall, Detroit wsuathletics.com The class of 2020 includes 10-time national champion swimmer Carol Azambuja, national champion diver Paige Kortman, seven-time national champion swimmer Kayla Scott, men’s basketball standout Bryan Smothers, three-time All-GLIAC linebacker Ed Viverette, and three-time All-Region softball outfielder Logan White.
Feb. 27–29 Downtown Hamtramck 2020.hamtramckmusicfest.com The festival will fill 21 venues with more than 160 bands. There will be free shuttles running throughout the night.
Motor City Tattoo Expo
Feb. 28–March 1 The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center themotorcitytattooexpo.com For more than two decades, the Motor City Tattoo Expo has attracted enthusiasts from around the world. All under one roof, you’ll find 170 booths and more than 300 artists tattooing in various styles.
Growing up in a house filled with the scent of flowers, surrounded by the most vibrant fragrances of yellow daisies, daffodils, marigolds, and lilies, must be heavenly. Those who experience this type of upbringing as kids surely grow to become florists. But what becomes of a florist when the floral industry and its transactions have moved online? They reinvent themselves in creative ways to get blooms into people’s hands. In 1956, Bernie Allemon’s parents, Paul and Marion, opened Allemon Florist & Garden Center on East Warren in Detroit. Bernie, along with his four brothers and sisters ran the flower shop until it closed in 2004.
“Growing up, I was really into anything that came from the ground. I just dug flowers and plants. When I graduated from high school, I went to floral design school and studied how to style weddings and funerals,” Bernie says. “A lot of the floral shops have gone by the wayside because people can get their flowers online. I’ve had to adjust and change the ways I do things.” Taking individual floral accounts that are as diverse as the variety of flowers is just one way to stay afloat as a Detroit florist. “I have clients [ranging from] restaurants like the Woodbridge Pub to grocery stores like Albertsons to luxury hair salons like Alta Moda Salon in downtown Detroit,” Bernie says. “I design all of their floral arrangements every week, and I make their establishments beautiful and smelling good.”
Creating corporate arrangements by day isn’t all that Bernie does to continue growing and nurturing Detroit with flowers. He also sells single roses in night clubs in the wee hours. Standing four foot two, Bernie uses his pint-size stature to his advantage while searching for potential buyers. “I’m a little person, a dwarf,” he says. “I’m known as the little flower guy in the night scene downtown and in St. Clair Shores. I’ve even been in a few movies. I use every advantage that I have to continue selling flowers. It’s all I know. The sweetest smell is the pink rose, a rose I call the attaché rose because it has the best fragrance. Who wouldn’t want to be around that every day?”
Bernie’s not the only inventive Detroit florist. Before permanently closing in March 2019, Pot + Box, a floral shop formerly housed in the Fisher Building, created a mobile flower truck that traveled throughout Detroit neighborhoods bringing florals right to the doors of residents in Corktown and West Village. Pot + Box owner Lisa Waud also created the flower house tour art installation in an effort to shine a light on Detroit’s broken down buildings and family homes. One Wyandotte florist involved his high school students in the flower business, operating his company, Teddy’s Flower Shop, out of Roosevelt High School on Eureka Road where more than 20 students hold part-time jobs while learning the art of floral design. With the spring months ahead, success in the Detroit flower business depends largely on reinvention.
Loneliness is a killer, more dangerous than obesity and smoking. Studies have found it leads to heart disease, stroke, and immune system problems, and it could even impair cancer recovery. A researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark found loneliness a strong predictor of premature death, declining mental health, and lower quality of life in cardiovascular patients, and a Brigham Young University professor’s meta-analysis of studies from around the world found that socially isolated adults have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from any cause than people who have community.
That’s sobering, especially when you consider that 40 percent of American adults suffer from loneliness, according to an AARP study. And it’s one reason coliving—a new form of housing in which residents with similar interests, values, or intentions share living space, costs, and amenities—is exploding.
Coliving situations run a spectrum, from the resident-driven model to small homes with a half-dozen or so people to massive corporate complexes like The Collective tower with 550 beds in London. Residents, who stay anywhere from a few days to several years and usually don’t have to sign a lease or pay a security deposit, sleep in their own small private rooms (sometimes with bathrooms) and share common spaces such as large kitchens and dining areas, gardens, and work areas. They’re encouraged to interact with one another, often through organized happy hours and brunches. Ollie, which operates coliving spaces in New York and other cities, advertises that “friends are included.”
“Coliving is different than just having roommates, who may be people you found on Craigslist and just happen to share [your] living space. It’s done with more intention,” says Christine McDannell, who lived in unincorporated coliving houses for years before she launched Kindred Quarters, a coliving operator with homes in San Diego and Los Angeles, in 2017.
Author of The Coliving Code: How to Find Your Tribe, Share Resources, and Design Your Life, McDannell also runs Kndrd, a software company for coliving managers and residents, and she hosts the weekly Coliving Code Show every Wednesday on YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud, and coliving.tv. She has watched—and helped—the industry grow up, and she’s amazed at how few, if any, horror stories she hears. That’s largely because millennials—by far the largest demographic among colivers—are accustomed to sharing and being held accountable through online reviews, she adds.
“You just don’t hear the crazy stories about roommating with strangers in an unfamiliar city,” she says. “When people write bad reviews, it’s usually about the Wi-Fi.”
As companies fat with funding expand into cities across the globe, coliving is newly corporatized—but it’s hardly a novel concept. Boarding houses provided rooms and shared meals for single men and women in the 19th and early 20th centuries; one of the most famous, the Barbizon Hotel in New York, was a “club residence for professional women” from 1927 until the 1980s.
People lived communally throughout most of history until industrialization facilitated privatization of family life and housing throughout the 20th century—with a few disruptions. In Israel, people have been living in communal villages called kibbutzim for more than 100 years. In the US, hippies attempted to create communes in the 1960s, but they were destroyed by free love, drugs, and egos (which did a lot to discourage coliving, even today).
At the same time in Denmark, however, cohousing (an earlier iteration of coliving) was emerging as a way to share childcare. Today, more than 700 communities thrive in Denmark. In Sweden, the government provides cohousing facilities.
A handful of cohousing communities following the Danish model have been established in the US, and hacker houses are common in tech capitals like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, but the concept has been slow to catch on until recently.
As it becomes increasingly impossible for mere mortals to afford skyrocketing rents in desirable cities, Americans are coming around to coliving and finding creative solutions to all sorts of social issues. Older women are shacking up together following the Golden Girls model. Coabode.org matches single moms who want to raise kids together. At Hope Meadows in Chicago, retirees live with foster kids.
The opportunity to pay lower rent (in many but not all cases) and share expenses makes all the difference in places like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. When New York–based coliving operator Common opened a development with 24 furnished spaces in Los Angeles for between $1,300 and $1,800 a month, more than 9,000 people applied.
McDannell says coliving is exploding because it solves important challenges that plague modern society. “People are signing away their paychecks on rent and feeling increasingly isolated,” she wrote in “Why We’re Building a CoLiving Community Ecosystem” on LinkedIn. “It is due time that HaaS (Housing as a Service) disrupts the antiquated industry of property management and real estate.”
How will you celebrate Valentine’s with your honey? Maybe an indulgent dessert for two or scribing arcs on ice.
Valentine’s Day comes but once a year—so if you struggle to come up with romantic ideas for the big night, we have you covered for Valentine’s Day 2020. Check out our fun list of four exciting places to go on your lovers’ date.
The Katherine McGregor Dessert Parlor at The Whitney The Katherine McGregor Dessert Parlor offers a wide selection of sweet endings to perfect nights, situated in a pretty and intimate space inside The Whitney, an 1894 mansion-turned-restaurant. The Dessert Parlor gives you a night out, a luxurious dessert, and a beautiful setting for less than half the cost of dinner at The Whitney.
Ice Skating at Campus Martius Park The Frankenmuth Rink at Campus Martius Park is downtown’s favorite (temporary) outdoor skating rink. Scene to the city’s annual tree lighting, the rink is open to skaters from mid-November through the beginning of March, making it a perfect place for a romantic skate on February 14.
Live Jazz at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge Billed as “the world’s oldest jazz club,” Baker’s offers live music and soul food on the northwest side of the city.
Couples Massage and a Hot Tub Southfield Family Sauna & Tub in Southfield offers a $150 couples massage experience that can be followed up with a dip in the hot rocks sauna or hot tub (rented by the hour).
Books and More
This midtown bookseller offers stacks of nonfiction, sage sticks, author talks, and tai chi.
Source Booksellers is an independent bookstore in Detroit’s Midtown district on Cass Avenue. It offers a unique niche of nonfiction books as well as unusual sideline items like sage sticks and burners, world maps, shea butter soups, and raw snacks. Most of the shop’s books are on the subject matter of history and culture, health and well-being, metaphysics and spirituality—with many books either written by or celebrating women. The store also curates a series of author talks with local and national authors, providing in-depth conversations about the culture of book publishing and storytelling of subjects currently relevant to the Cass corridor and Detroit’s community at large. Events on the calendar include mind, body, and spirit classes: tai chi, yoga, qigong, and belly dancing. sourcebooksellers.com
Party Like It’s 1999
Old school becomes new again.
With the nostalgia of the ’90s revival including the comeback of scrunchies, old school hip-hop parties, cartoon reboots, grunge fashion, army pants, vinyl records, and the Friends craze ever present, why not celebrate like it’s Y2K?
The ’90s were the era when grunge was born; punk rock got a resurgence; indie music fests took off; personal style was nonconformist; music was insanely good, angsty, dance-worthy, and impactful (Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Tupac, N.W.A., Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, and so many more); and the teens and twentysomethings finally felt like their voices were being heard.
By Stephanie Wilson, Editor in Chief
1. Primary Focus A New Hampshire law requires the Granite State to be the first presidential primary in the nation. This election cycle, that goes down on February 11, after which my home state becomes irrelevant for another four years.
2. Leap of Faith While the calendar year is 365 days, it takes the Earth 365.24 days to orbit the sun. Every four years, we add an extra day to the month of February because without it, the calendar would be misaligned with the seasons by 25 days after just 100 years.
3. Born This Way The odds of being a “leapling”—a person born on a leap day—is 1 in 1,461.
4. Right On On February 29, some places celebrate Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—both a nod to the old Irish tradition that gave women the right to propose marriage to a man on leap day. If he declined, he was required by law to pay a penalty, often in the form of gloves so she could hide the shame of her bare ring finger.
5. Modern Love Since we’re not all Irish, but we are all feminists (because we all believe in the equality of the sexes, of course), any of us can propose to whomever our heart desires whenever we want. Except Valentine’s Day. There’s no law prohibiting it but, sweetie, pay-as-you-go forced romance is anything but romantic.
6. PETA Violation The origins of the canned-love holiday are as cruel as a red rose delivery in February is clichéd. According to NPR, V-day traces back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a brutal fete during which naked men sacrificed dogs and goats—and whipped women with the animal hides. Stop, in the name of love.
Here’s a look at new releases.
With the awards season in full gear, it’s also a time for some fun new releases in film and TV. On the big screen, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn gives new meaning to female prowess with Birds of Prey: The Emancipation of Harley Quinn opening February 7. This long-awaited female-led film will throw you into a seductive, violent tailspin that will feed your need for a strong badass movie, welcoming you back into the DC Comics universe. Releasing that same day is a dark and bloody indie horror flick starring Elijah Wood called Come to Daddy. In the vein of reviving the past, the film Fantasy Island (inspired by the 1970s TV show) will release on Valentine’s Day, and it’s anything but campy. Guests are invited to the most seemingly perfect island to live out their fantasies, but what they’ve asked for is dark and twisted and will push them to their limits. Keep your eyes peeled for the long-awaited remake of The Invisible Man, written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Opening February 28, the film stars Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Netflix releases Locke and Key on February 7, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You on February 12, and Season 2 of Narcos: Mexico on February 13. Hulu releases the premiere of High Fidelity on February 14, Starz releases the long-awaited Season 5 of Outlander on February 16, and AMC releases Season 5 of Better Call Saul on February 23.
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Black History month in the second month of the year? Carter G. Woodson, a historian, scholar, and educator known as the “father of black history” spent his life advocating for research, study, and the publication of books and scholarly reports about the Black experience. Back in 1926, in celebration of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in February, Woodson labeled the second week of February as Negro History Week. “If a race has no history,” Woodson once wrote, “if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
This week of public celebration initially led many city mayors and college campuses to recognize it. Through the years, an abundance of worldwide support allowed the occasion to stretch throughout the entire month. However, it was the late President Gerald Ford who, in 1976, officially proclaimed February as Black History Month, urging everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
“When I was growing up in Mississippi, family was all we had,” says Mildred C. Hooper, mother of eight children, 10 grandchildren, and four great grandchildren who are all Detroit residents. “Most of us worked together, played together, cooked, and learned about life together. It just made sense that we’d take care of each other.
“I was married at 16, and when my husband moved us here to Detroit from down South, his twin brother helped him get a job at General Motors, Cadillac. My sister-in-law helped us get settled. We built a life here and our family grew and grew.
“My kids have gone all over the world, done all kinds of things. I’ve seen many Christmases, weddings, feuds, and new members of the family come and go. My kids ask me if I ever want to go back home to Mississippi. I say ‘No.’ Detroit is my home because it’s where my family resides. From the time I was a youngin’ till I’m dead in my grave, family is all I know, it’s all I’ve ever known, and that’s all right with me.”
My eyes flicker open, and a moment later I feel a tiny tingle in my toes. Excitement. Waking after a good, restful sleep is a simple joy. I bounce out of bed, looking forward to the day. Then suddenly, I’m standing, motionless, gazing out the window in wonder. I’m looking forward to my day! I’m looking forward to my day? Detroit, What up Doe?
I refuse to be contained. I gyrate my hips, Bluetooth speaker on Rihanna’s “work, work, work, work, work” and arms in sync, dancing around my bedroom, wondering whether my 10-year-old will walk in. I don’t care. This is what a woman looks like who finally had a good night’s sleep. But how?
Don’t sleep on sleep
Sleep is something some people take for granted. Like oxygen. Or blood running through our veins. Or the sunrise. But it’s not that way for everyone. When people tell me they’re tired, I resist the temptation to give them my life story. Or, at least, my night-time story of the past decade.
It began when I was expecting Nya, my one and only child. “At-risk pregnancy,” my primary doctor told me repeatedly, “is common with a woman your age and your size.” The discomfort of added stress on expecting with no job, no home, and no baby’s father added pressure.
I experienced anxiety, depression, and a feeling of unworthiness every day of my pregnancy. But at night, I would easily drop off to sleep, exhausted from my thoughts. But then suddenly and completely, I’d wake up assuming it was morning. It wasn’t. It was 12:30 a.m.
I wasn’t uncomfortable. Didn’t need to pee. I was simply wide-awake and alert, my brain playing vivid images of my life in front of me as a mother. I had to produce more, be more, have more money, make life better for her. Ping! 3 a.m. 5:30 a.m. 6 a.m.
It was a pattern that continued after Nya was born—and for 10 more years. Only now I was getting up through the night to investigate, watch, clean, and fuss over her; it was all part of the sleeplessness cocktail. There was no going back to sleep for several hours or, more often, the rest of the night. It was a vicious maddening cycle.
“With wellness, we always look at it from a dual point of view, nutrition and activity, but that’s wrong,” says Safwan Badr, MD, endowed professor of medicine and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. “We need to look at wellness as a three-legged stool of nutrition, activity, and sleep.”
Spending his days seeing patients, teaching, researching, and serving the community, Badr has much love for Detroit. In 2013, Badr was appointed the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Back then he understood the importance of sleep, so he focused his work on the future of sleep medicine.
“Poor sleep contributes to obesity, heart disease, airway disease, and depression and is a leading cause of car accidents and subsequent deaths,” he says. “We must start to prioritize sleep. Turn off the streaming videos, turn off the cell phone notifications, and sleep.”
Statistics haven’t been collected specifically on sleep deprivation in Detroit, but medical scientists believe that if you find obesity, it’s likely that insufficient sleep will follow, according to Badr.
Michigan has higher rates of obesity and more inactive adults than the national average. It also has higher poverty rates, which have long been tied to poor health, according to a 2018 study by the United Health Foundation.
“Most of the patients I see say they’re too busy to sleep,” says Badr. “The fact is that the clinical work that’s being done is suggesting that with high rates of obesity, it’s likely that sleep problems will occur. Chronic disease in Detroit is one of the nation’s highest so there are a lot of patients getting an insufficient amount of sleep.”
That’s me. It was all starting to make sense. The heavier I was, the less sleep I was getting. The more active my work and personal life, the more my mind raced, preventing me from sound sleep. The more accessible I was to my family, friends, and social circles, the more I was preventing myself from getting sleep.
First things first. Prioritize sleep.
“Women over 50 have a more difficult time getting their rest, which makes it even more important to prioritize sleep. Good sleep helps improve concentration, memory, immunity—all things that become more important with age,” says Erin Berman, brand strategist at Resident Mattress. “When women are within the years of menopause, they might be experiencing shifts in their normal sleeping habits due to physiological changes. However, as people reach middle age, aches and pains can make sleeping difficult, so creating the best sleep environment possible can make a big impact.”
For me it started with the right mattress. “You want to look for a mattress that will support you. Not all mattresses are created equal,” says Berman. “The beauty of a hybrid mattress is that it combines the best latex and traditional coils. The coils help evenly distribute weight and reduce motion transfer for undisturbed rest, while the latex gives just a touch of bounce.”
Once I was equipped with my hybrid mattress, I set out for a good night’s sleep, which meant that, gasp, I had to shut down my devices. All of them, even the notification cameras that alert me when there’s motion at my front and back doors. It was easy to cut off my phone but hard to shut off the lights that glowed in my smart house. Yet I prioritized this thing that eluded me night after night. I took a hot soapy bath and then wrapped myself in a soft comforter in a nest of warm pillows.
I lay down to sleep. Not to save the world. Not to win another award. Not to start another business. But to sleep with as much passion and vigor as I could muster.
I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter.
On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back.
I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God).
Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.”
On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like #soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.”
Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”
I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.
In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.
Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.
Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”
A Little Bit Addicted?
“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”
Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?”
Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.comthat being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.
Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.
Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.
I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.
At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted.
It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.
Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”
Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first.
Consumption and consumerism
Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn.
And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.
If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new.
With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)
This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”)
Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.
“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”
Some like it haute
With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”
Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.”
“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.
To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.”