Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Food in Detroit

Looks like the East Coast elite media establishment have chosen October as their "Highlight Detroit's Food Scene" month. Hot off the heels of the New York Times story on Slows Bar-B-Q (which I highlighted a few weeks ago), the Atlantic has a story on local food in Detroit.

The article highlights Eastern Market (and mentions Slows), which I'm ashamed to say I've never visited, despite having had ample opportunities. Time for a Saturday morning trip!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

High Speed Rail Earmarks

This is coming a few years too late for Ben and Erika, but John Dingell just announced some big pork project - uh, I mean, $150 Million for high speed rail between Detroit and Kalamazoo. But if it improves the economy, why not?

Howard Learner, of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (based in Chicago) and a U of M Law Adjunct Professor, has also supported the bill. So maybe I'm being too cynical.

Michigan Law, getting ready for school

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Heart DTW

I've spent the last 10 days on a whirlwind tour of the US - San Francisco; a brief return to A2; Washington, DC: and finally New York City. Between the travel I've been juggling schoolwork, exam prep, and work for my journal, and I've been looking forward to a good eight hours of sleep in my own bed.

Landing in DTW last night I was just ready to get back to my apartment, but I was unhappily thwarted by my car not starting in the long-term parking lot. Stupid dead battery! I dialed AAA, set up a jump start from a towing company, and went to the entry gate of the parking company to let them know to expect a tow truck in 45 minutes.

"Or we could just give you a jump ourselves. Can you cancel AAA?"

I have to say, I was floored. I guess being cynical and spending my formative years in NYC has made me skeptical that anyone would do a stranger a solid, but the guy drove one of those big yellow buses over to my car, gave me a jump, and I was back home in A2 a lot earlier than I planned.

This isn't to say that people in SF or NYC or DC wouldn't have done the same. But when I had to leave a cab on Fifth Avenue not four hours earlier because the driver "forgot" to tell me that his credit card machine wasn't working or a subway operator yelled at me for trying to get my foot in the door, saying "This is why the trains are late!", it's easy to feel warm and fuzzy towards Midwestern Nice. And now I'll never park at another company's long-term lot again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking of bank robberies...

here's a piggy bank!
What, too soon?

I am so freaking poor right now, you guys. And guess what?! So is the state of Michigan! So today, and possibly in future posts, we’re going to address the issue of How to be Poor and Other Things Your Liberal Arts Education Didn’t Cover. Doh!

This is not to say that Ann Arbor hasn’t suffered during the recession, because everyone from The Holy Rich Rodriguez (sorry Josh) to 50 Cent (not to be confused with the rapper – this is a homeless man that consistently asks for 50 cents) can tell you that it has. This is Michigan we’re talking about, after all. But with the University of Michigan around as the city’s personal buffer, I can’t deny that there’s a reason I moved here after graduation instead of, say, Flint.

But not all of us are so graciously touched by the great UM. Honestly, as a small-town, northern Michigan gal, the relationship Ann Arborites have with the university is almost creepy. It’s sobering to live in a place where people worship, hate, depend on, work for and spend their weekends with something other than God (again, I’m from northern Michigan). So, as the Damn Arbor derelict (I’m never letting go of that, you guys), I plan on discussing money-saving ways to live in this college town as someone almost completely unrelated to it, at least in a direct way.But for now, goodnight and GO BLUE!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tonight: Rocky Horror Picture Show with Tickled Fancy Burlesque Co.

It's a Halloween tradition in Ann Arbor: a live performance during a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. This year, Ann Arbor's best (and only) burlesque company, Tickled Fancy will be preforming. To be honest, I don't really know how the whole thing works. (Don't tell anyone, but I've never seen the movie.) But heck, it's supposed to be a good time. So if you like good times, head on down to The State Theater tonight for a very special midnight show.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This can only end well.

 If you weigh fewer than 100 pounds, have I got the Halloween costume idea/business opportunity for you.

A recent posting to Ann Arbor's Craigslist advertised for a small person to hide in the poster's backpacker-costume backpack, occasionally bursting out to startle unsuspecting fellow party-goers. If you are claustrophobic or worried about muscle atropy, worry not: the poster is a "reasonable person" and will not make you stay in the pack for the entire night.

Kelty Redstart 1400 (Women's)

I wonder if I can lose 60 pounds by Halloween.

UPDATE: The Craigslist posting has been taken down since the time of writing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bank of America Robbery Update

Is suspect 2 wearing Pioneer High School shorts?

With the suspects at large, it remains to be seen whether the Ann Arbor Police will live up to their reputation of always catching their man. According to the most recent U of M emergency Alert, the suspects were last seen in the area between County Farm Park and Packard.

More coverage: This Just In or Robbing Banks: What's Up with That?, Holy crap! Duck!

This Just In or Robbing Banks: What's Up with That?

The Ann Arbor police are searching the area around the Eisenhower/Packard Bank of America for two gunmen who tried to rob the bank, firing several shots in their aborted attempt. According to the University of Michigan emergency alert system the suspects are still at large, armed, dangerous, etc.

This raises the question: who the hell robs banks anymore?

I understand the appeal. Believe me, I do. Bank robbers are as firmly rooted in the American cultural subconscious as Moms and Apple Pie. We can all of us recite how they go down. The perfectly executed entry into the bank. Taking control of the situation: disarm the guards, gather the customers and employees in a central area. One of your confederates manhandles the manager in front of the vault. "Open it!" your coconspirator shouts, spittle hitting the inside of the mask that hides his true identity. The manager's sweaty fingers fumble at the combination dial. A few false tries (from the nerves) and it's open. Then the cash, the greenbacks, the dough is in front of you, lined up like soldiers on parade. And it's yours. A car or horse chase, a risky maneuver, victory and freedom snatched from the jaws of certain capture and defeat.

Except it never happens like that. Butch and Sundance were gunned down in South America. Granted, modern day law enforcement has grown somewhat more humane than la policĂ­a Boliviana of the nineteenth century (although the would-be Robin Hoods in Ben Affleck's The Town fared little better than did Mr. Cassidy and the Kid). So why do people keep robbing banks?

Maybe this is why:

Holy crap! Duck!

My cell phone just told me that there was an ongoing armed robbery with SHOTS FIRED by Eisenhower and Packard.

I am hiding in the Michigan Journal of International Law office with the door locked.

More on this story as it develops.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slows Gets Fast

The NYTimes has an article on Slows Bar-B-Q in Detroit and how it may be a symbol of urban renewal. Do we need another one? Well, as a vegetarian, I've never been myself, so all I can say is: all restaurateurs should be former models.

Ann Arbor City Guide

Design Sponge has a new guide to the city by Michigan native Jaimi Gadaix. While the guide is generally spot on, it does miss some of our favorite watering holes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Damn Arbor on a Pure Michigan Adventure

Damn Arbor is on Bois Blanc Island taking in the fall colors. We are so glad we're not on Mackinac.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So, yeah, this is cool.

Open Spaces

One of my friends told me Tuesday night that the industrial space at First and Liberty was going to be a Trader Joe's soon. Which is kind of amazing if true, because they would definitely make a killing. There's no comprehensive grocery store downtown (I'm a Co-op member and I shop at Sparrow Market, but honestly they don't really count as supermarkets), and it would be great to have one. Fingers crossed!

(thanks to KT-W for the tip).

Dan Savage at Eastern; Andrew Shirvell Watch

Savage Love advice columnist Dan Savage was at EMU last night. We were not there, but apparently he rocked and guess what. Dan is mad at the Saline BOE too! It's starting to seem like Southeast Michigan is famous, but for all the wrong reasons. Speaking of things that are getting the greater Ann Arbor area in to the national spotlight, Assistant Attorney General and bigot Andrew Shirvell is asking the Honorable Nancy Francis to rescues herself from hearing Chris Armstrong's Personal Protection Order request against him. Why you ask? Oh, because her sister, State Representative Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Ypsilanti) said something negative about Shirvell. At this point though, I doubt it would be possible to find a Judge in the state who was not related to someone who has said something negative about Shirvell. If you are looking for more information on the story, make sure you check out Damn Arbor contributor Quinn Davis' piece in the Washtenaw Voice.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saline School Board decides it's still OK to descriminate against students based on sexual orientation

In a split vote last night, the School Board of our venerable neighbor to the south decided not to include text in the district's non-discrimination policy that would have added "sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression" to the list of characteristics that cannot be used to deny students access to educational activities. Why? The 4 members that voted against changing the policy said they didn't believe it would address the underlying problem: a hostile environment at Saline High School and bullying of students perceived as lesbian, gay, and bi. This brave decision to stay firmly in the past allows employees of Saline Public Schools to deny access to educational activities to students based on sexual orientation. Wouldn't it be funny if they kicked all the straight kids out of theater? Maybe when people talk about Saline's "small town charm" it's really a code for "antiquated institutionalized bigotry."

More here and here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ragstock Opening

Ragstock, the popular Minneapolis-based purveyor of recycled and vintage clothing is opening its first Michigan store today in Ann Arbor. The store, located in the long vacant first floor of 337 E. Liberty, is part of the retail chain's recent expansion into many Midwestern college towns. Ragstock is a bit like American Apparel but with some Midwestern flair and minus creepy Dov Charney. It's a great place to find cheep clothes, pieces for a Halloween costume, or a holiday sweater. If you do decide to check out Ragstock, make sure to print out one of these handy 25% off coupons.

Photo via: humbletree

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Smoothie Operator

My mom has a bad habit of dumping lots of fruit on me whenever she comes to A2 - much more than I could ever eat before it goes bad. This past week was especially extreme - mangoes, pears, strawberries, blueberries, bananas... much too much. But I quickly figured out a low-intensity solution - smoothies!

I love yogurt, and I got a good four days of experimentation out of the fruit baskets. Interestingly, I don't think I like bananas in smoothies - it starts to make everything feel a little heavy, and I liked the lightness of just a yogurt base.

The last day was probably the apotheosis of my smoothie career - strawberries, blackberries, mango, pear, and yogurt. Erika, take note.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fighting for Paul Bunyan and Signs of Progress in Michigan Football

Anyone who has even read about sports in Michigan is familiar with the rivalry game slated for this weekend. It's not just about in-state bragging rights or the awesome, 4-ft, wooden Paul Bunyan trophy claimed by the winner. A year of bragging rights over rival school alum--often a neighbor, co-worker or spouse--is at stake. The white board in our lab, generally reserved for work announcements, is dominated by a chart displaying the allegiances of lab members; its split 50-50. That's the beauty of this rivalry game; all wins and losses count the same, but a victory over your in-state rival is just a little bit sweeter.

The intensity of the rivalry is clear in the outcomes of the games. Rules were changed so that referees kept official time on the field after the 2001 game in Lansing, where Michigan State upset Michigan on a play that happened after time should've expired. After that defeat, Michigan answered with 7 straight wins in the rivalry, most including last second heroics by Michigan or meltdowns by Michigan State, depending on your perspective. Michigan State has won the two previous meetings, including an OT win last year which derailed Michigan's promising start.

The game this year comes with national attention on both teams. Coming off promising starts, this is the first time since 2003 that both teams are ranked in the top 25 coming into the game. Michigan has the current Heisman Trophy front runner at the helm of the offense. Michigan State is coming off an impressive win against Wisconsin, a team expected to finish at or near the top of the Big Ten.

Neither team comes in looking unbeatable. Michigan's defense is extremely poor in passing offense and barely serviceable in passing defense, but they have been able to pull out enough stops to win games. The offense comes up against a much better defense than they faced in previous weeks. It will be interesting to see if they can put up the same kind of success as in previous games. Michigan State has not played a true road game this year, and have put up mediocre stats against a weak schedule. We'll see how they measure up to a better team on the road.

It was at this point last year that Michigan collapsed under the pressure of a top 25 ranking and the change of pace in Big Ten play. Can they progress beyond last year? Is the offense ready to take on a defense at the next level. Can the Michigan defense hold up against a potent MSU running game and good passing game? We'll find out at 3:30 tomorrow. GO BLUE!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ann Arbor, M.D., Ph.D., D.D., HSDIP


A recent study found that Ann Arbor is the second most educated city in the country, with 72.9% of its residents holding degrees.

The hallmark of a civic culture that sure loves its book-learnin' or the product of complete, hegemonic gentrification? You decide.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Damn Arbor gets lost in the Chelsea Corn Maze

Children of the Corn

Lets just get this out in the open: corn mazes are a lot trickier than they seem. Damn Arbor and company decided to check out the Chelsea Corn Maze to take in some fall flavor and because it had the worst website of the all the local corn mazes. (Editor's note: really really, that was our main criterion.) The maze is ten acres, which didn't seem that big. After two hours walking in circles through the maze, though, it seemed a lot bigger.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our Eastern Neighbor

Though the six of us currently live in A2, we're actually from all over the state; I myself grew up in the Detroit suburbs. While an commentary on that experience would probably be lengthy, dull, and inconclusive, one of my former employers, HOUR Detroit, has an article on local Detroit blogs that might provide a better picture of the City of Detroit than any I could provide. Here are the blogs they highlight (some of which are currently in the sidebar):
(h/t to AJM for the initial HOUR story)

Establishing a New Tradition in Michigan Football

I grew up watching traditional, smash-mouth, run-it-up the gut Michigan football. Even in the lean years, ending the season outside of the top 25 was hardly considered a possibility. The offensive tactics were not the most exciting, but kept us competitive for the better part of four decades. A tradition established by Bo Schembechler and carried on by his hand-picked successors, both long-time coordinators while he was head coach. In the mid-2000s a couple of rough, underwhelming seasons, and an abysmal record against a revamped Ohio State seemed to force the last of Bo's proteges into retirement. Rich Rodriguez, a well known coach who developed one of the more radical forms of the spread offense at West Virginia, was hired to take his place in 2008.

There was immediate backlash. Many fans were angry that the new head coach was not a product of the old guard, which had been successful for so long. His offense was so much different than Michigan offenses of the past. He had a greater emphasis on agility in his players than size. Even along the offensive line, mobility came at a premium over mass. Michigan used to move the ball by overpowering you, Rodriguez wanted to give his athletes space to run around you.

The misdirection in his offense required a level of execution that he couldn't achieve in the short period of time he had to work with players who never played in his system before. If it wasn't a failure in play execution, the offense just looked slow due to lack of experience in the new system and a paucity of athletes designed for it. The spread offense we had seen at West Virginia was a long ways off. Many were calling for the coach to be fired after the 3-9 season, saying his system just couldn't work in the Big Ten.

His second season began with promise. He won the first 4 games on the schedule, including a high profile win over rival Notre Dame. The offense had improved from the year before. Everyone seemed more comfortable in the system. There were young, developing recruits who had the kind of athleticism that makes his offense work. Many of them showed flashes that year, however, the team was still young. Injuries and inconsistent play from the offense and a horrific defense kept Michigan out of a bowl game. Improvement was clear, but the results left more people wanting a new head coach.

Good things come to those who wait. We saw glimpses of it in his first two years, but now see what a Rich Rodriguez offense looks like with all the pieces in place. We have, arguably, the most exciting player in the country in Denard Robinson running one of the best offenses. It's a different sort of euphoria than watching the good teams of the past. Wins are not expected based on a tradition already in place. We are watching a coach try and establish a new winning tradition. We never know what to expect. The uncertainty brings an added level of excitement to every game. Can this offense work against the toughest teams in the conference? Do we have a coach who can get us back to the top?

The season is far from over. The toughest games remain on the schedule, but it is becoming clear why we hired this guy. The image of what Michigan could be when we hired Rich Rodriguez is, at least on the offensive side of the ball, the reality. However, last season Michigan started out with an identical record. It was a loss to Michigan State that started the collapse. I guess we will see this weekend just how far this team has come. I have never been more excited to go to the Big House Saturday. Go Blue!

Picture of Bo Schembechler from
Picture of Rich Rodriguez with Denard Robinson from the Detroit News

Back in the Kitchen: Buttercup Squash and Sage Orzo

Quinn has been anticipating the arrival of buttercup squash in our Sunseed Farm share for weeks. She says it's because buttercup squash is so hard to come by. It's always spaghetti squash, she says, or, even worse, the tantalizingly similar butternut squash. But never buttercup squash.

Or so Quinn says.

(I suspect the excitement centered around the eponym of the vegetable, Buttercup, an oversized, yellow, stuffed hippo, beloved by our college friends. Pictured above.)

The most amazing thing about cooking at my house is that I chop up a few apples, wash some broccoli, convert fresh sage measurements to apply to the dry sage we have available in our kitchen (roughly two to one), and all of a sudden there will be a delicious dish that keeps me fed through mid-week.

That's what happened here. Quinn and I were in the kitchen cutting vegetables on a rainy Saturday evening, Garrison Keillor was crooning sweetly on the radio, and then, magically, there was a mustard-colored (misleading cue, as it did not taste like mustard) stew-like meal.

Best eaten as leftovers on Monday after a morning in court. Sit on the kitchen floor, pour yourself a nice glass of grape juice, and chat with Quinn, who is wearing a red-and-black flannel hat with earflaps.

What I learned: sage conversions. And that you can eat the stem and leaves of broccoli.

Here are the ingredients Quinn used:

buttercup squash
white wine
chicken broth (soup base)

Monday, October 4, 2010

U of M 5th Most Gay Friendly College

Despite recent actions by a certain assistant attorney general, the University of Michigan came in 5th in Gawker's list of top colleges for gay students. The article cites the excellent musical theater program and the numerous athletes who may, at some point question their sexual orientation. Gawker is pretty harsh on Ann Arbor though, saying "Do you know how cold it gets in Michigan? Also, there's not much to do in town off-campus, but with a campus this large, it shouldn't matter." I might have to disagree with Gawker on that one.

Photo via

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Secret Keepers

Ben's recent post on Ann Arbor bars scared me a little, because I was afraid he was going to reveal my favorite Ann Arbor bar* and allow it to get overrun by people that are irritating (that is to say, most people). And of course, he did, because Ben is a gentleman of good taste and he knows the good spots.

Entering my third year living in A2 I've gotten very territorial about the places I like, because it seems like they go through a rapid cycle of pleasant obscurity, actively popular spot, and overcrowded jerk magnet. That's an oversimplification, of course, and "jerk magnet" is kind of a vague term. I guess I don't like it when people are attracted to venues, businesses, or parties because they have some "underground" mystique. If you're going somewhere because it's supposed to be a hidden spot, you're making it less lame.

I myself have been guilty of popularizing one of my favorite places in A2 - but that's mostly because I wanted their business to go up so they stay in business. So I have to keep reminding myself that businesses and parties don't exist solely for my benefit - they need to make money too, and if more traffic means better business, that just keeps things going a little while longer. As businesses close around A2 that I dearly love and miss, keeping local alive is more important than keeping me happy.

In conclusion: "Hi, I go by GH, and I'm a snobby elitist."

* Of course I'm not going to tell you what bar it is, because I don't want to see you there. Sure, I want the bar to stay in good business, but I can just easily do that on my own without having it overrun by coeds with fake IDs.

David Byrne Bikes in Detroit or the Rise and Fall of the Motor City

David Byrne's recently released Bicycle Diaries contains a section on biking in Detroit, which Mr. Byrne summarizes in a recent post to his journal describing a recent trip the the Motor City. The entry is an insightful and sensitive examination of the decline of what was once a vibrant metropolis that was laid low by a multitude of complex economic trends and social tragedies. The post is extensive; I recommend it.

I was particularly struck by Byrne's take on the Mies Van der Rohe townhouses in Lafayette Park and the dual nature of the neighborhood that seems to have characterized Detroit throughout its development and decline. Lafayette Park, which I've written on before, has some of the most beautiful, retro-modern residences in the city. But it also has its apartment tower, Lafayette Towers, a glass-steel monster that garishly dominates that city quarter's skyline. I have some friends who live there; it offers beautiful views of the city - from its interior.

File:Mies van der Rohe Residential District.jpg

Like Detroit, Lafayette Park is split between beauty and attempted utility. Townhouses and tower, and what Byrne dubs a "proto strip mall."

The same can be said of the wide avenues and parkways of Detroit that its planners, politicians, and automotive oligarchs opted for in lieu of public transportation and downtown density. The automobile was king and the city's face was shaped according to its whims.

Now many of these sometimes nine-lane roads remain largely empty, even during the day. Things can get a little hairy come rush hour depending on where you are, but for the most part the veins of the city are wide open spaces.

This emptiness and freedom from the cars that were once the city's lifeblood have been a boon to bikers. Detroit hosts its own regular Critical Mass events and other writers have covered the burgeoning cycling culture of the city. One of my law professors bikes from Ann Arbor to Detroit once a week by way of one of the still-beautiful parkways. The trip takes just over two hours.

David Byrne touches on some of this in his post. However, there is another Byrne-on-a-bike story that I like even more. I quote it at length:

“You drank too much and fell off your bike” could be the title of a drawing by David Shrigley. But in this case, it actually happened to me after meeting Shrigley for dinner and drinks. While riding home, C and I were briefly separated. Upon reuniting, my tire slipped on the cobblestones of West 14th St., and I remember lying in the street, looking at oncoming headlights and rolling towards the curb so they wouldn’t run me over. Two cops approached and looked down at me. “Have you been drinking?” they asked. Probably a typical question in that neighborhood at that time of night. “Yes, I’ve had a few drinks,” I replied. “But I’m hurt.” I managed to get up by myself and retrieve my bike (no help from the NYPD, though one of them asked if I was David Byrne) and it wasn’t until later, when I was in bed, that the pain made itself truly known. I wondered how I would ever even get out of bed. The next day I went to the hospital and x-rays revealed two broken ribs — numbers 3 and 5, way up high. They're healing now, little by little, and I was told that in 3 weeks I should be OK.
Brilliant. The first chapter of Bicycle Diaries is available for free download.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guide to Ann Arbor: bars that don't suck

Introducing a new feature (a feature): Damn Arbor's guide to Ann Arbor. With this feature we will attempt to provide a useful guide for the discerning graduate student/20-something living in this fine city.

Today's feature: bars that don't suck.

Old Town: classic and understated, with a full bar, a good selection of beer and above average food. Whether you are going for a drink or making an evening out of it, it's hard to go wrong with Old Town

ABC: Arbor Brewing Company for the uninformed. ABC makes some great beers and pours tall pints. The food is delicious and predominantly local. Make sure to try the monthly specials (both brewed and cooked). Monday's "happy hour" all day is a steal.

The 8 Ball: if you want cheap beer, free popcorn and an edgy vibe, this is your place. It makes a great stop for a night cap if you are walking home to the West Side. The 8-Ball has everything you would expect from an establishment that refers to its self as a "saloon."

The Circus: $1 PBR on Wednesday's Bluegrass Night draws a hip(ster) crowd. WARNING: The Circus/Cavern Club may have the worst webpage in existence--click at your own risk.

Jolly Pumpkin: specializing in avant-garde beer and classy food, JP draws a slightly older crowd, but it makes for a nice change of pace if you have been going to The 8-Ball all week.

Dominick's: Main Street prices in the South U. neighborhood. Dominick's offers a good selection of Michigan Beers and its back garden cannot be beat for outdoor drinking on a perfect summer night.

Ashley's: most extensive beer selection in town. Unfortunately, they don't sell pitchers.

Photo of beer sampler at Jolly Pumpkin via: Bernt Rostad