On a leisurely bicycle ride this past Sunday, I passed under the railroad tracks on West Vernor Highway next to Detroit’s Historic Michigan Central Station, as I have many times. As I pedaled up the incline approaching Roosevelt Park in front of the station, I couldn’t believe what I saw in front of me. There was a giant mechanical contraption fashioned in the form of a dragon. The monster wasn’t a sculpture placed in the park, but a sculpture of sorts, constructed and mounted on the frame of a truck. It was positioned in the middle of the park!
The unusual creation, named Gon KiRin or “Light Dragon”, is a one-year creation of Ryan Doyle and Teddy Lo. Built on the frame of a 1963 Dodge truck, the mammoth, mobile dragon has its roots in California where it was hand-built for the Annual Burning Man Festival held in the desert of Nevada. From what co-owner Doyle told me in a brief conversation, it was shipped here to Detroit over the past winter and is currently stored in a large, unassuming warehouse sized studio near the Russell Industrial Center where it is maintained and updated.
The creative invention seats about 20-people on various levels of the vehicle, including two couches mounted to the sides and one on the back of the rolling sculpture. Two can also sit up front in the fire-breathing, hydraulic movable head. For entertainment needs, there’s even a DJ booth built into the framework. The kinetic sculpture on wheels was fashioned from discarded scraps of steel, cast off furniture, worn out tires and other unidentifiable found objects. This thing is a true, recycled machine.
Unfortunately when I came across this unusual monster truck in the park, only two of the legs were attached, the upper vertebrae and the waving spike tail were not. I couldn’t imagine what this fully assembled dragon on four-wheels must look like in real life, when all the elements are in place. Based on this YouTube video of Gon KiRin in action, I can probably guess.
So what’s next for this unusual mechanical marvel? Well, according to Doyle, it will be shipped to New York and once there, it will be driven in a variety of upcoming festivals. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the fire-breathing, mechanical dragon. It may come creeping by when least expected.
“Timbuktu” by Paul Auster
Timbuktu is a small, powerful, well-written story that tackles many issues facing us. Those issues include homelessness in America, companionship, human cruelties, loneliness and how a major loss, such as death, can have devastating effects on us and others around us. It’s an interesting story told through the eyes and mind of a dog by the name of Mr. Bones. The dog is a sidekick and sole-mate to Willy G. Christmas. He’s a brilliant schizophrenic, homeless man from Brooklyn who spent most of his life wandering the streets, writing reams of stories, poetry, and essays that he stashed in a bus station locker. Willy is dying, and he and Mr. Bones travel from Brooklyn to Baltimore in search of his former high school English teacher who encouraged him as a young writer. Willy hopes to find a home for both his manuscripts and more importantly, Mr. Bones.
Once in Baltimore, Willy dies and Mr. Bones must now fend for himself to survive the tough streets of Baltimore and beyond. Because of his trusting nature, things quickly go from bad to worse as Mr. Bones is presented with a series of rejections, disappointments and betrayals as he struggles to find food and shelter, something always provided to him by Willy. In his sad, lonely travels for survival, there is some hope, infrequent kindness and occasional comforts. However, constant unsettledness haunts Mr. Bones as he envisions being reunited with Willy in Timbuktu, their make-believe heaven, even while living comfortably with a well-to-do family.
I found Timbuktu to be a thought-provoking story. Auster’s writing style and his insight into the mind of the dog was realistic and never lost. Reading this little gem of a story, I could clearly visualize what both Willy and Mr. Bones saw and experienced in their homeless travels. The crisp, minimalist writing style allowed me to virtually feel their thoughts and understand the bewilderment of their unsettled lives. This was especially true with the dog, as the author vividly described how the animal clearly understood what the people were saying and doing around him, yet could not communicate what was on his mind. A perfect metaphor, I believe, for the homeless population of the world who are basically voiceless and ignored.
I didn’t see this enjoyable story as being a dog book or an adventure story. I read it as a remarkable story of togetherness, companionship and happiness that quickly fades to prejudice, cruelty, sorrow and loneliness, not to mention the difficulties of being homeless.