Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Greetings from Ann Arbor

From Ann Arbor MI-
Art Fair has taken over downtown Ann Arbor as it does this time every summer. A chance to take class at U of Mich brought me here, as it has before during Art Fair.

 Earlier in the week, it was fun seeing the logistics involved in making an already walkable downtown into a two-layer town – there’s gotta be a thousand booths for artists and vendors lining the streets in front of the restaurants and store fronts. The not-for-profit row provides political, religious, charity and other groups a chance to have hundreds and hundreds of people at least walk by. For some of the fringy-ier groups, it’s got to be the only chance they have of this kind of exposure.

The vendors range from interesting clothes and food stuffs to those selling objects d’art and bric-a-brac. You can tell the artists. They’re the ones with just a few pieces with no prices, some of which leaves one saying ‘huh?’ which is better than just ‘I don’t get it.’

One can do worse than spend 30 minutes or so in a beer tent enjoying a local brew and watching the crowd go by.

On the east side of campus is the Nichols Arboretum, a slice of nature in the city, a chance to leave the hustle-bustle behind (you can still hear it, though) and appreciate what 120+ acres of nature in the form of forested hills and restored natural Huron River waterfront has to offer. The formal garden part of the Arb is immediately adjacent to the med center. I hope some of the families members with loved ones in tough health straits have a chance to be restored by the gardens and natural setting of the Arb. I couldn’t help but imagine naturalists of previous generations, including Ed Voss, walking the trails of this jewel in the urban landscape.

This morning I finally found a funky old diner to get some pancakes. I like scones and bagels but was hungry for pancakes. Franks, just off campus, fit the bill. A potential customer came in looking for bagels. The waitress said ‘we don’t have bagels, the place next door does.’ The customer said ‘but the place next door doesn’t have fried eggs.’ ‘Well they got bagels but no eggs, we got eggs but no bagels.’

It’s probably just because I’m an academic and obviously have a long, pleasant association with college campuses but I do like college campuses and this one is special in its own big, important, well-known University-with-a-long-history sort of way. Walking thru the archway onto the old campus quad is special. The old buildings recall a time when big public buildings said something about how the people who built them felt about what went on in them and not just the most utilitarian construction. The open spaces, the architecture, the activities all make for special places. When you’re walking thru the quad or sitting on a bench taking in all that positive energy, you don’t need to think of any professional rivalries that may be going on inside the buildings or the mountain of debt the students are accumulating.  

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