My Town

Poetic Advice

The party guests talked about climate change, fracking, Syria, and Iran. “I called my representative and senator to thank them for voting against Keystone,” a woman told me–then asked me how many more...

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Jimmy Smith, 1952-2016

One November afternoon in 2014, I ran into Jimmy Smith at the Stadium branch of Bank of Ann Arbor. He was kidding around with the tellers, putting some kind of gizmo on the counter, pressing a button so that it suddenly barked....

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The Lustron Life

It’s the first thing visitors ask: “What’s it like during a thunderstorm? The lightning! Will you get fried in here?””Here” is my all-steel Lustron home. There’s not an ounce of the...

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Eggs Over Easy

Eggs over easy, plate of hash brownsTake my hand momma, we’re goin’ to townOh what a wonderful thing to doEggs over easy, hash browns, and youIt was the late Seventies, a spring day. I was free, happy, and hungry. I...

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Santa’s Helper

Every holiday season, for at least a few hours, I volunteer to ring the bell for one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles.I do so because just before Thanksgiving in 1987, I was part of an FBI SWAT team called to Atlanta to...

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The Perfect Tree

Early on Black Friday morning, my family embarks on our annual pilgrimage to the woods, not the malls. Dressed in our oldest cold-weather clothes and boots, we wedge ourselves into the car with our kids, our dog, my parents, and...

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The Whistle-Pig Conundrum

Whistle-pigs seem like such unassuming, innocuous animals to threaten my environmental bona fides. My husband noticed the pair of groundhogs, each about a foot-and-a-half long by half-a-foot wide, as they ambled across our...

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My Killjoy Liver

Ann Arbor is where I started and stopped drinking. Well, OK, there was a pleasant but junior varsity introduction to the alcoholic arts in college in the early Eighties before I got here, but, once I got situated within its...

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Growing Up with Ballet

Ours is a transient town. Students come and graduate; leases are signed and shredded. I imagine we could all write a love letter to one address or another. Not only for the person once inside but to the walls and floor and the...

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I Was the Dope

Shortly after I became the arts and entertainment editor of the Ann Arbor News in September 1983, Brian Malone, then the paper’s editor, came to me and said, “Of course, you’ll continue to do Dump the...

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Ghosts of East Ann Arbor

On Platt Rd. south of Packard, a two-bay cinderblock garage stands forlorn and abandoned, with a “SWISHER REALTY: For Lease” sign plastered on its front. “No one looking at it now would know that it was once an...

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Chasing Butterflies

In the summer of 1975, my wife, Nancy, and I enrolled in a U-M adult education course, “The Natural History of Butterflies.” I had just begun my academic career as an assistant professor of surgery, and the class...

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On Green Slime Pond

On my penultimate morning in Ann Arbor, I visited my favorite spot, the Green Slime Pond.The emerald algae-covered watery depression in Eberwhite Woods was my Thinking Place during my first dozen or so years here, a...

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The Circus in the 1930s

Gaily painted circus wagons carrying huge tents and others bearing the menagerie of all types of wild animals travelled through the city streets this morning between the Michigan Central railroad and the Packard St. showgrounds...

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Squeezing Tomatoes

I learned a bit about shopping for produce from my mother, a housewife of Italian descent. I also was lucky to live in Italy for almost two years, where my neighbor Franca taught me how to shop at the market. In Italy, shopping...

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Bus Story

It’s the same at any bus stop or a shelter. Morning, noon, or night, we all turn our bodies in the same direction, eyes scanning the horizon for our bus.Number 7 to downtown leaves from WCC. I get on at Glencoe Hills,...

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John Sinclair at the Hash Bash

“I gave the first speech about marijuana fifty years ago,” John Sinclair says. But at the Hash Bash in April, Sinclair, seventy-three, left the speeches to comedian Tommy Chong and others. Instead, Michigan’s...

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The Collector

“There is someone you need to meet,” Bill Martin says. On a cold Sunday morning, the developer and former U-M athletic director ushers me into his Lincoln SUV at the downtown Sweetwaters. We head out Newport and pull...

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Treasury Department

The telephone rang on a Thursday morning. It wasn’t the usual time for calls asking for a donation to this or that charity, so, without too much thought, I picked up the receiver and said hello. The man at the other end...

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Habitat Chips In

It seems my appliances and my two cats have grown old along with me. When I moved into my north-side cottage in 1992, the previous owner bequeathed me a new roof, fridge, stove, water heater, and middle-aged furnace.While...

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