My Town

Buttercup

Thanks to a life-sized, black-spotted fiberglass cow in their southeast-side front yard, sisters Terry and Sandy Karnatz have a daily reminder of their mother, Velma, and a special Christmas morning twenty-two years...

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A Place To Lay Their Heads

For the fourth time I picked up the ringing phone, praying this time the connection would work. “Sebastian?” I said loudly, knowing that if a connection failed this many times in a row, my son had to be calling from...

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Joybox Express

Mark Braun’s nearly 2,000-mile bicycle ride along the Mississippi River almost didn’t happen. Ann Arborites have long known Mr. B for his boogie-woogie, blues, and jazz piano concerts, including, for the past...

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Reading, Writing, and Politics

Except for the spring of 1991, I have never attended an ice cream social. That year I went to thirteen, without ever tasting ice cream. I was running for the Ann Arbor Board of Education, and it was part of the job.So were the...

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Return of the Sidewalk Surfer

I was introduced to skateboarding–then called “sidewalk surfing”–on a family visit to California in 1963. I got my first skateboard in 1965 from Beaver’s Bike and Hobby on Church St. So I’ve...

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Keeping Peace

Lots of colleagues vow to keep in touch when they move on, but one group of former co-workers at Peace Neighborhood Center has actually followed through, holding annual reunions for thirty years now. Even as they’ve...

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Easy Livin’

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.”—That setting: Catfish Row in Charleston. Mine: Zukey Lake in Lakeland.My maternal grandparents, who lived in Ann Arbor, had a log cabin on a knoll overlooking Zukey...

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Aviary Avocation

In weather fair and foul, Noel Roach’s feathered friends find sanctuary in the growing number of birdhouses–sixty-six in June–that decorate the lawn, fences, and flowerbeds of his modest home on Central Ave....

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Obit for the O Team

On my bike rides this spring, I pedaled past Mitchell Field and Riverside Park. At Mitchell, four of the six softball fields I played on for years with the Observer’s O Team have been plowed under. At Riverside, where I...

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Baseball Dreams

On a cool weekday afternoon in April, the U-M baseball team is about to play Bowling Green at Ray Fisher Stadium. And, as usual, Debbie Bourque, Don Eaton, and Ted Maezes are in the stands. These Ann Arbor parents have been...

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Lost in Lakewood

When I was a wee lad back in the early sixties, I was convinced that Beaver Cleaver, of the TV show Leave It To Beaver, lived in our neighborhood, the Lakewood subdivision on the west side of Ann Arbor. I asked my mother to...

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Life at Panera

I’m sitting at my usual table by the window at the Panera on Washtenaw, sipping tea and revising my manuscript. There is a homeless man in a chair in the corner, his belongings stuffed in a ratty duffle bag next to him....

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Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

I tucked our little boy, Nathan, into bed and went back to the kitchen to button things up for the night. Five minutes later I heard the sobs. I went back upstairs, pulled him into my lap, and asked, “Is it about...

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What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

“Just paint ‘sucker’ across my forehead,” I told my husband. I had just agreed to be the fifty-fifth president of the Ann Arbor City Club.It’s going to be a lot of work, for no pay, for twelve...

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Nerdy Flirty

Upstairs at the Vault of Midnight, customers peruse comic books, toys, and other pop culture knickknacks. Downstairs, past a smattering of superhero posters, past shelves of indie comics, past a room full of board games and back...

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Fandom and Family

When a theatergoing friend and I finally made it to a production of Detroit’s celebrated Mosaic Youth Theatre, I had an ulterior motive: I hoped we might run into Rick Sperling, Mosaic’s founder and director. I...

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DIY Lumberjack

“Do you need any tree trimming?”I had just pulled into my driveway when he hailed me: a young man in work clothes and a knapsack, coming up the walk. He handed me a badly Xeroxed leaflet and explained that he was a...

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Ralph W. Hammett, Monuments Man

I have long been curious about the late Ralph W. Hammett. A U-M architecture professor, he designed many local buildings, including an addition to the Ann Arbor (then Women’s) City Club on Washtenaw, the Congregational...

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Polar Vortex

It’s not like I’m crazy. I would have stayed inside like everyone else.It was the second day after the “polar vortex” hit us. The wind chill was something like forty degrees below zero, and the police...

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Take Back the Toledo Strip!

When Ohio stole part of Michigan in the 1830s, it was a battle between a state and a territory. We are a state now, and it is past time to reexamine this whole sordid affair.In 1787, the Second Continental Congress enacted the...

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