October 14, 2021

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image above for the answer and more.

This week

My mother Bonny Maynard died six years ago this Sunday. She had a full, interesting life, leaving just two months shy of her 102nd birthday. We call the anniversary “Bonny Day,” and share memories and laughter (those who knew her will remember her quirky sense of humor). In the weeks after she died, I went for daily walks in Burns Park, where the trees were ablaze with vibrant color, as if they were bidding her farewell. 

This year, I’ve noticed that while many trees have turned golden, there do not seem to be as many vivid reds and oranges as in the past. Local 4 News meteorologist Paul Gross explains that our weather this year—a drought, alternating with deluges—has dampened those hues. If you have brightly colored trees, we’d love to see them. Send your photos to and we’ll feature some soon.

Micki Maynard, editor 

Ripening grasses at Matthaei Botanical Garden. Its outdoor spaces provided comfort last year; now the conservatory is also welcoming walk-in visitors. Photo: Micki Maynard

The News...Briefly

Firefighters outside U-M Hospital (Photo: AAFD)

Covid cases: On Wednesday the Washtenaw County Health Dept. reported 127 new cases of Covid-19, three hospitalizations, and one death in the past twenty-four hours. The CDC transmission rate is high, at 180 weekly cases per 100,000 county residents. The weekly positivity rate is 5 percent. Nine percent of cases are connected to U-M and EMU.

Meanwhile, Ann Arbor Public Schools are limiting spectators at indoor high school matches to only two spectators per student or staff member, due to high transmission rates in Washtenaw County. The limits apply to games played at Pioneer, Skyline, and Huron, MLive reports. According to AAPS’ Covid dashboard, there were 50 Covid cases among students and staff last week.

Downtown break ins: Ann Arbor police tell the Observer they have a person of interest in a string of weekend break ins at six downtown food businesses, reported by Fox2Detroit. AAPD spokeswoman Lt. Bonnie Thiel says surveillance video clearly shows the same person smashed windows and attempted to empty cash registers at Kanbu Asian Mart, the Cloverleaf, Afternoon Delight, Sottini’s Sub Shop, Shalimar Cuisine of India and Running Fit. Police believe the break in may be related to one that took place recently in Ypsilanti. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective John Gilbee at (734) 796-6930, ext. 49309. You also can call the anonymous tip line at (734) 794-6939 or email

Fire at U-M Hospital: On Tuesday, firefighters from seven area companies battled a three-alarm fire at U-M Hospital, according to a Facebook post from the Ann Arbor Fire Dept. The blaze took place on the third floor, which houses mechanical equipment, but no patients. Sprinklers were unable to extinguish the fire, so firefighters stretched 250 feet of high-rise hose line to put it out. Fire Chief Mike Kennedy said his crew had trained for high-rise fires the past 18 months “and today, all that effort paid off. Our firefighters performed effortlessly.” 

Go Blue Flu: Students at U-M are coming down with a dry cough and runny nose that has been nicknamed the “Go Blue Flu,” according to the Michigan Daily. There’s no evidence that it’s influenza, however; it’s most likely a virus unrelated to Covid-19, says epidemiologist Joseph Eisenberg. It’s possible quarantine and isolation have weakened some students’ immune systems, and they’re catching the virus now that they’re back in classrooms, dorms, and apartments. 

Pioneer football coach quits: Jimmy Williams quit Tuesday as Pioneer’s football coach, MLive reported. He spent less than a year in the job. Williams was placed on leave last week and did not coach in Friday’s game against Ypsilanti Lincoln.

Bright Sheng steps away: U-M music professor and composer Bright Sheng gave up teaching an undergraduate composition class last week, the Michigan Daily reported. He was criticized for showing Stuart Burge’s 1965 film adaptation of Othello, starring Laurence Olivier in blackface. Sheng, who apologized, will continue to teach other courses and retains his faculty position. Sheng received a MacArthur genius grant in 2001 and his works are performed widely in the classical music world.

A new job for Becky Blank. Rebecca Blank, the former dean of U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy, and a former acting Commerce Secretary, is leaving the University of Wisconsin system to become president of Northwestern. Blank’s name had been floated as a possible successor for Mark Schlissel, who will be leaving U-M a year early.

The A2Go shuttle is up and running. You might have noticed four Lexus RX crossovers, as well as a wheelchair-accessible Polaris GEM electric minibus navigating the city. They are a free autonomous shuttle service that runs from Kerrytown with stops downtown, on U-M’s central and south campuses, and the State St. corridor. Rides are available weekdays and must be booked on the May Mobility app. Find more details and a map here.

Jean King dies: Nationally known feminist and Ann Arbor attorney Jean King died last weekend. King’s 1970 lawsuit against U-M is seen as a ground-breaking case in opportunities and salary equity for women, and her other efforts helped win recognition for female athletes. U-M softball coach Carol Hutchins, former congresswoman Lynn Rivers, and former state lawmaker Alma Wheeler Smith shared memories of her with Michigan Radio.

More than 200 readers clicked on last week's image of this clue from Jeopardy (only to land on the Observer's home page. Sorry!) None of the show's contestants, including then-champion Matt Amodio, knew the correct response, "What is Ann Arbor?" But, in a rarity for Jeopardy, the clue was slightly incorrect, which inspired our extra-point challenge.

Savvy readers know that Rumsey's wife was actually named Mary Ann, but the misapprehension goes way back. In 1924, this centennial plaque on Huron St. perpetuated a legend that the town got its name from a grape arbor where the women knitted and sewed. It was actually named long before Ann Allen arrived, while "arbor" referenced the site's woodland openings. Plaque photo: John Hilton.

Ask a2view

Q.  Ann Arbor is currently carpeted with black walnuts (as you can see in our banner). What’s going on?

A.  When conditions are good, black walnut trees produce larger quantities of nuts every other year. A tree mostly allocates resources to flower production the first good year, and the following year turns the flowers into nuts.

Particularly productive “mast years” occur every few years, and this appears to be a mast year. These longer cycles are strategic: the occasional extravagant production guarantees that squirrels won’t consume all of the nuts, so that some nuts will produce trees.

Conditions vary yard-to-yard and so the more productive years are not necessarily shared by all trees in an area. However, scientists suspect that trees have a yet-to-be-identified means of synchronizing their mast years, probably with an exchange of chemicals through the air, soil, or shared fungi. This synchronization can extend hundreds of miles.

—Tim Athan

Marketplace Changes

The Grange Kitchen has closed. Ann Arbor has lost its second downtown farm-to-table restaurant since the pandemic began. The Grange, which operated for twelve years, shut down for good this week, owner-chef Brandon Johns announced in an eloquent Instagram post. The closing comes on the heels of Logan’s departure last year (its space has been taken by Frita Batidos). More in the November Observer.

Manchester gets a 17,000-square-foot gourmet market with big ambitions. Manchester Market, owned by Justin Dalenberg and Ken Heers, includes a meat counter, bakery, non-profit farmer’s market and cafe, sundries section, and an outpost of Iorio Gelato. The market’s grand opening is Saturday. 

Donnie’s a star. The new swag from Knight’s includes what may be the best Ann Arbor restaurant T-shirt ever. It reads, “I know Donnie,” meaning Don Knight, the front man among his siblings at the family’s food operations. The shirt is already a hot ticket online: I reserved one by email and sped over to Knight's new Southside Market to pick one up.

Things to Do

By Ella Bourland

14 Thursday: Hear U-M Bentley Historical Library archivists Brian Williams and Greg Kinney describe the making of “Michigan Football Game Films, 1930-1986: Digitalizing Game-Day History.” The work included adding annotations with time codes for scoring and other significant plays, links to team rosters, box scores, and Michigan Daily game stories to enhance viewers' experience in watching the mostly silent films,. 7 p.m., for URL preregister here. Free. 

15 Friday: Ballroom dance to prerecorded music (every Friday) No partner or experience necessary. Preceded from 8-8:30 p.m. by an optional lesson. Drinks & snacks. 8:30-10:30 p.m., 1918 Whittaker Rd., Ypsilanti. $15 (Fri.)., 369-9700.

16 Saturday: Head to the Michigan Theater for a screening of Dick Sharman's 1975 cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, about a fresh-scrubbed pair who find themselves the guests of a transsexual transvestite Transylvanian. No rice, confetti, water guns, candles or lighters—flashlights are fine—toilet paper rolls, hot dogs, or prunes allowed. 10 p.m., Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty. Tickets $10.50 (children under 12, students, seniors age 65 & older, & U.S. veterans, $8:50; MTF members, $8) in advance online (recommended) & at the door. Proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test within past 72 hours) required for all patrons over the age of 12; masks required when not seated in theater. 

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events. 

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