“Toulouse lost? EEK!” you say. What happened? Some of you might also recall that this isn't the first time I "lost" Toulouse. There was the other liquor store incident in Louisville, Kentucky... Oh, and when I lost him in New York only to find him in the safe hands--er, parked comfortably on the gun holster of Officer Montalvo. Well, as some of you know I am on the road again, marketing my fiction writing guide The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! to schools, colleges and universities (know of one that could use my book?) across North America. My travels took me through several universities like Guelph University, York University, University of Toronto, University of Chicago, Purdue University, Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin, to name a few. Then Toulouse and I drove to Detroit for a high-brow marketing meeting that my publisher set up for us.
We parked ourselves in Utica, a nice suburb in the northern part of Detroit where we checked out the local restaurants and malls, one of which was the upscale “Somerset Collection” in Troy, an adjacent suburb of Metro Detroit. Developed, managed and co-owned by The Forbes Company, the center is anchored by department stores Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue and contains two centers, Somerset North and Somerset South, joined by a bridge.
The mall started out in 1967 as a Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1969 Louis G. Redstone Associates designed the upscale “Somerset Mall” around the existing Saks. Then in 1991-1992 the center was renamed Somerset Collection, a second level was added, and Neiman Marcus opened a store. In 1992, Tiffany's was added. Co-owners Forbes/Cohen Properties and Frankel Associates expanded the mall across Big Beaver Road in 1996 using the Michigan based JPRA Architects and called Somerset North. Michigan's first Nordstrom and a Hudson's (now Macy's) anchored the new three-story expansion. A 700-foot enclosed bridge with a moving sidewalk called a "Skywalk" joins the two malls over Big Beaver Road. The vast grand court with its full arched glass dome roof, designed by the Michigan based JPRA Architects, is one of the center’s unique architectural features.
Happy with our meeting, Toulouse and I wandered through the south mall, looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate and Toulouse spotted Brio, a Tuscan grille. The place was packed but Toulouse charmed the Maitre d’ and we got a nice table in the back. We started with a house-made flatbread, spiced elegantly with rosemary, parmesan and flax seeds, and a lobster bisque with shrimp and a touch of sherry. Oolala… Toulouse really liked it! The scamp has great taste. I then ordered from the grille, Artichoke Crusted Beef Medallion: beef tornadoes with an artichoke crust and mushroom marsala sauce, served with crispy potatoes and roasted vegetables. Toulouse insisted on ordering his own meal so I relented (I could always take back a doggy—er—catty bag). He ordered a Bistecca: Tournedos Di Manzo: filets served with romano crusted tomatoes, asparagus and Hollandaise. He even let me try some. It was fabulous!
We then sauntered through the mall, which was closing. After I oogled a gorgeous jacket at Ralph Lauren (that would look superb on me!), I left the mall toward the car parked outside to find a liquor store to celebrate some more. That’s when I realized that Toulouse wasn’t with me. I’d last seen him frolicking at the fountains inside the mall. I rushed back but the mall was shut. Would he get sucked down the drain before I had a chance to find him?
Luckily for me, I spotted several of Detroit’s finest in the coffee and donut shop next door and sashayed over to them…. I grinned like a fool and proceeded to tell them that I wasn’t from Detroit…in fact, I wasn’t from Michigan…in fact, I wasn’t from the United States. This really got their attention. “So, where are you from, then?” Officer Plante asked me with an amused crooked smile. When I told him that I was from Canada, he grinned and teased, “That’s a state, isn’t it?”
Randy Plante turned out to be a real fan of science fiction so I said I’d give him my book, “Darwin’s Paradox” if they could help me find Toulouse, my trusted—though unruly—companion--and the liquor store! They got really serious then and found a way inside the mall. Officer Kurt Sharrow (a writer himself—see “After I Graduate”) even brought out Bear, their K-9, who sniffed a ruffled Toulouse out from under a bench by the fountains. Toulouse did not appreciate Bear’s friendly lick.
My new friends then escorted us to the liquor store where Toulouse (ever the connoiseur of good spirits) picked out a delightful Pinot Noir to celebrate our successful adventure.
Detroit was never the same; neither was Toulouse...
For more adventures with Toulouse, check out his very own blog: Toulouse LeTrek, the COOL Travel Cat!
1. Officer Randy Plante, Utica Police Department
2. The Somerset Collection, Somerset South Front Lobby
3. The Somerset Collection, Somerset South
4. The Somerset Collection, outside Brio
5. Toulouse by the Fountains
6. Officer Kurt W. Sharrow, Utica Police Department
7. Officers of the Utica Police Department
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.