October 21, 2021

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

This week

Our area is awash in anniversaries this fall. The Power Center for the Performing Arts and Bivouac each turned 50 this year, and HighScope marked the 50th anniversary of its ground-breaking pre-school program in Ypsilanti. 

Another milestone took place in Ypsi last weekend: Jessica Webster marked her thirtieth year in public broadcasting. I’m a regular listener of her WEMU-FM show, The In Crowd, which airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. It reflects Webster’s life-long love of jazz that started at a very young age. I asked her why it has so much appeal.

“There is so much history, creativity and beauty in jazz, and with more than 100 years (and counting) of recorded jazz, there is always something new -- or old -- to discover,” she says. “I often think about how we used jazz to showcase American culture during the Cold War, sending Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong on State Department tours around the world. Jazz has always been one of America's best innovations.”

Her favorite classic jazz artists are singer Carmen MacRae and drummer Art Blakey. “Both were brilliant musicians who had unique styles that are still emulated to this day, and both were very kind to me when I was a teenager,” Webster says. “Right now, I am crazy about an incredible younger saxophonist named Lakecia Benjamin.”

In her day job, Webster is associate director of marketing and communications at U-M’s School of Information. They - and WEMU - are lucky to have her. Happy anniversary!

Micki Maynard, editor 

We asked readers to submit photos of colorful trees, and Soon Han from Dexter replied with his sassafras tree. "I live off Huron River Dr. next the Dexter-Huron Metro park and have also noticed the color hasn't been what it's been in the past. But my sassafras couldn't be held back!"


The News...Briefly

Fireball in the night sky. Late owls early Wednesday looked up to see a rare sight: a slow-moving fireball that traversed the Lower Peninsula. The American Meteor Society says it was visible in at least seven states, as you can see from its map, with the most sightings in Michigan, according to WXYZ-TV. In a Facebook post, NASA said the fireball wasn’t a meteor, though - what turned heads was  the “reentry and fragmentation of a satellite.” 

Covid cases trend younger: On Wednesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported fifty-one new Covid-19 cases, seven hospitalizations, and two deaths. Though the Delta variant is ripping through the rest of the state - Mlive reports that cases are running at triple last fall’s level - county infections are nearly unchanged from a year ago, spokeswoman Susan Ringler-Cerniglia tells the Observer. But while “a year ago, college students were driving local numbers,” this year, “K-12 students are a much larger factor.” While college students are almost all vaccinated, she notes,“a significant proportion of this population cannot be vaccinated yet...So the fact that cases are similar says a lot about the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Ringler-Cerniglia says.

Fire at Mulberry Row: On Monday, the Ann Arbor Fire Department. fought a two-alarm blaze in a section of the apartment complex on Packard. Six area companies took part; one person was transported to hospital with smoke inhalation, and one cat was rescued.

School bus driver shortage continues: About 20 percent of Ann Arbor’s school bus routes are running late, due largely to a shortage of drivers, AAPS superintendent Jeanice Swift said in a newsletter last week. While the district hires and trains more drivers, it is combining routes to cover the shortage - but these routes are running about thirty minutes late.

No more robot delivery: Refraction AI has pulled its robot delivery fleet from Ann Arbor to send the little guys down to Texas, Mlive reports. The REV-1s have become a familiar sight the past few years, bringing food from places such as Side Biscuit, Zingerman’s Deli, Miss Kim and Produce Station. But, Austin - population nearly 1 million - is a far bigger market, and REV-1 robots have already started delivering pizza there, Texas Monthly reports.

Domino’s CEO wants more immigrants: “We need immigration in our industry to continue to have enough team members,” Ritch Allison told CNBC’s Jim Cramer. “Folks who want to work hard, want to stay with the business for a long period of time, can end up being owners and entrepreneurs.”

Depot Town warming center: The freight house in Ypsi’s Depot Town will become a winter warming center for unhoused and other vulnerable residents, Mlive reports. The historic building normally hosts events and community gatherings, but city manager Frances McMullan says it’s needed because churches and other gathering places are unavailable due to pandemic restrictions. Operated in partnership with the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, the warming center will operate four days a week starting November 1. 

BLM Mural restored: Last Sunday, Ypsilanti community members repainted the Black Lives Matter street mural at Riverside Park, the Michigan Daily reports. The mural was defaced with white paint in September by a hate group called the Patriot Front. The mural, which stretches across the park’s entry driveway, was created by designer Barney Judge in June.

First Nation Group layoffs: Sixteen employees at First Nation Group in Saline were laid off earlier this month, the Saline Post reported. The news was disclosed in a notification to the state. The Florida-based pharmaceutical company, which also plans to close a facility in Detroit, blames an “unprecedented” recall at one key customer, a change in orders from the group’s main vendor, and Covid-19 related supply chain issue at its primary manufacturing partner.

John Mendler dies: Sad news for customers of Mallek’s Service, at the triangle where Huron St. splits into Dexter Rd. and Jackson Ave. John Mendler, who owned the station since 1976, has died. Mendler’s aristocratic presence, genial manner, and customer service made him a favorite with people who preferred to have their cars gassed and repaired by familiar faces. I saw Mendler last Friday, when I took my Prius in for an oil change and tire repair. Mendler’s wife Janet, a long-time U-M staff member and area journalist, died in April. Read about Mendler and Mallek’s in San Slomovits’s 2013 Observer story.


Ask A2 View

Q: Several readers ask, "Why has NeoPapalis been closed for so long?"

A: The fast-casual pizza place on the ground floor of the Z West Apartments on E. William was damaged by a fire in June. Owner Joe Sheena emails that the repairs turned out be more extensive than originally thought. “Wish I could give you good news, but we are trying to get started on the reconstruction, and the city keeps asking for more information from my architect, who is already swamped,” Sheena writes. There’s no date yet for re-opening. 

Marketplace Changes

Popping the question at a pop up:
Ann Arbor dining entrepreneurs Jordan Balduf of Side Biscuit and John Moors of the Mexican pop up Lucha Puerco teamed up at York last Sunday to serve pungent sauces made from peppers grown by Tammie Guilfoyle of Dexter’s Tamchop Farm. Along with wings, tacos, and a hot pepper eating contest, customers also were treated to a marriage proposal: Rahul Ginwala stunned his girlfriend Akila Agatheeswaran by popping the question. Ginwala spent the past month conspiring with York to set the scene. (Mike Marquette, partner of Observer graphic artist LR Nuñez, won the pepper eating contest.)

Farewell, Old Siam: The Old Siam by Siam Kitchen, Ann Arbor’s original Thai restaurant, announced that it will close Saturday. “Thank you for all your support through these rough times,” the restaurant said on Facebook. Run by the Dhitirojana family since 1981, the Old Siam focused on Thai home cooking. 

Bakehouse 46 arrives: The bakery and sandwich shop, a joint venture between the Cupcake Station and Blake Farms, opens Friday in the former Cupcake Station on E. Liberty downtown. Blake Farms began in Armada in 1946, so to mark its arrival, the first forty-six customers in the first forty-six days will get a free donut and coffee. 

The Observer’s October Cover is up for auction: Artist Laura Strowe is donating her original pastel painting,“Argo Cascades,” to benefit the Observer and the Ann Arbor Art Center. At press time, the bid was $851; the auction closes at 11:45 p.m. Monday.


Things to Do

By Ella Bourland

21 Thursday: Listen to a livestream reading by Douglas Kearney, an award-winning poet, performer, and librettist who uses a blend of black vernacular lyric, dance, and other performance modes to explore politics, African American culture, masks, the trickster figure, and contemporary music. 5:30–7 p.m., for URL see U-M Zell Visiting Writers Series. Free.

22 Friday: Walk along a Halloween-themed trail at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s “Monster Petting Farm” (October 22, 23, 29 & 30). The  path around Domino's Petting Farm stops at designated areas to watch spooky original theatrical scenes, with some surprises in between. Candy ($5 per bag). 7–11 p.m., Domino's Farms Petting Farm, 3001 Earhart Rd. Tickets $20 (age 3 & under, free) in advance only at

23 Saturday: Attend Chelsea District Library’s 4th Annual “Song Fest.” The daylong festival is highlighted by a performance by Marshall Crenshaw (7–9 p.m., Chelsea First Congregational Church, 121 E. Middle St.), a Detroit native who got his first break playing John Lennon on a touring version of Beatlemania! in the late 70s and went on to write some astonishingly good tunes of his own. Also, virtual reality dance competition for kids in grades 6–12 (1–2 p.m.), a behind-the-scenes look at what happens after a book is donated to the library (noon–3 p.m.; preregistration recommended), pumpkin painting and other activities for young kids (1–3 p.m.), a songwriting workshop (1–3 p.m.), and more. For complete schedule, see here. Noon–9 p.m., CDL (except as noted), 221 S. Main, Chelsea. Free; preregistration required for various workshops. 475-8732.

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

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