So Long, Ypsi Brownstone ?

An illustrated bear waves farewell as a dotted line of ants surrounds the entire periphery of his form.
Captain Bluebear and the Ant Pack Honey Travelers.

After some hedging and hem-hawing, I’ve decided I’m selling the Ypsi condo. Change happens, and it is time. It’s the place I’ve lived longest in this life, first as a renter from 2009-2012, then as an owner from 2014-2023. Some Gregorian calendar subtraction, carry the one, and the total is 12 years. But then you kind of sort of have to subtract the past five years because I’ve spent much of each year in Virginia since 2018. Seven-ish years at the condo, and then some. Memories and fix-ups. The fix-ups include painting most rooms, new hot water heater, air conditioner, insulation, cedar fence, new toilets, flooring, and so on. A lilac bush in front, sage and lavender in the side yard, and several hosta plants cousin-ed from the next door neighbor’s overgrowth a few seasons ago.

The prospective sale sets in motion several cascades for several people, including Ph., who has lived there for the past three years. Moving can be stressful, and yet, having stepped through quite a few of the care and consideration gestures for everyone affected by the change, onward song hums quietly toward emptying the place by the end of June, having a painter refresh everything in early-mid July, followed by robust cleaning, and finally, the listing. The realtor, too, was an easy selection because I simply went with the person who gained the confidence of my neighbors who’d sold their places in the past couple of years. I’ver never enjoyed the real estate hustle, but this time is different for being slower moving.

A few items of mixed value remain for the round trips I’ll be making to Michigan and back each of the next few months. Whew, is it a lot of driving, but the roads are usually easy, and the northern half of Ohio has in it an antiques and concrete yard decor place I will stop at to stretch my legs and browse the wares on one of the routes. On this most recent return, I carried along a gardening chest loaded with half gallon and quart Masons for fermentation experiments and other Wonder Hollow food storage. I also brought two cloth boxes of old basketball trophies, a yoga mat and ball, two shepherd’s hooks, a set of chimes, two small sponge balls Is. and I used to play catch with in the living room, a few old storage containers holding things like my mom’s cell phone from when she died in 1997, a small stuffed elephant I’m pretty sure belonged to my brother when he was a tot, a 7th grade report I wrote on black bears in agriculture class, a photocopy of the 1992-1993 Park College basketball individual/team statistics, a handheld space invaders game that kept me company on long bus rides around 1982 would be my guess, and a stack of books—a copy of Network Sense, a history of Park College, a few yearbooks, and of course a copy of Moers’ The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, which properly/rightly belongs to Ph., but which Is. said I should take to Virginia. I read it to her as goodnight tuck-ins for the better part of eight months or maybe longer, and so it lasts, an imprint enduring of another moment of major life changes and felt upheaval. It’s an illustrated but mostly textual sojourn, a wandering narrative, more about the paths and ways than about the destinations. Conjuring a multiverse/pluriverse episodist hodology more wandering adrift than a tightly bundled odyssey; how many directions can we go in more or less at once? Book means a lot to me. And to Is. And to Ph., as well. So once he is settled again in his new place, I’ll order him a copy to make sure he has it on the shelf for T., when she’s eight, ready at dusk for trailing nightzillion wonders sleepily and softly into dreamscapes.

Episodes 2

“The depth and complexity of human memory is staggeringly rich.”

Douglas Hofstadter, I Am A Strange Loop (2007), “Of Selves and Symbols,” p. 86

Picked back up again from Sunday, April 26, 2020.

Photo: A visit to @Bag, the plastic Kroger tree-snagged flotilla installation in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The time when I woke up refreshed and hopeful on the last June Sunday morning during Year One of pandemic. The time when…and then I read a FB post from an uncle lauding Trump, a badly re-shared (copied/pasted?) Twitter spitshot–aren’t they all?–about heritage and about second amendment and about slighting iffy Joe. The time when seeing that just so happened to coincide with Trump’s being in the news for retweeting a video of clashing seniors in Florida, golf cart-riding white folks shouting “white power” (fascists, maybe? certainly not anti-fascists), the President characterizing them as “good people,” and that this is not a deal-breaker for family members, ooh, balling a hard fist it’s telling. The time when the work of interacting at that site of worldviews splitting wide fork, taking notice of uncles-led sides-drawing, focusing again on what really counts among relational accountabilities.

The time when minutes after taking a Zyrtec generic pollenguarding allergy pill I could not remember whether I had taken one today or was that yesterday. Did I? The time when, upon visiting Michigan to return Is. to her mom’s, they were setting up for a garage sale and there was an enormous second edition Webster’s dictionary and all I had to do was look at it with bibliophilic eyes and ask where did that come from before everyone said “thought you’d want it.” The time when getting a new-old dictionary felt like antiquing except that this dictionary might really get some use. The time when upon reaching the condo, what converges are slightly different dispositions on housekeeping, mine being a preference for tidiness and simplicity, but knowing too that’s then my work, to make it so. Swept and wiped counters and, coarse-side sponge to poly shell, shined the tub and enclosure. The time when I didn’t really think twice about it but sent Ph. a text to let him know I was going to eat the snacks in the cupboard only for him to respond that he meant to but hadn’t gotten groceries, thinking I was being sarcastic maybe, and then I followed again to SMS no really, I owe you, because I’m truly eating these opened bags of chips and also that kind of melted to a giant, rock solid caramel cluster container of cashew and candies, a refrigerated glob that took some handiwork and possibly tools to get out of the jar and into a bowl. The time when it also clicked that yeah, I do tend to have issues with finishing food, always finishing, never wasting, that we’re all still five years-old sometimes and hearing synaptically echoed and haunting the charged scolds of parents, living that compounded static out for a good part of our lives. At least a few years, sometimes more.

The time when the president of the condo association that was megalomaniacal–also pricey!–in its legalistic onslaught emailed again with a personal swat about tone and courtesy, about how and why to be gentler with making requests about plants that were by our [unnamed] landscaping company weed-whipped beyond recognition, about how we really should be more generous with loyal hard-working companies we hire and pay to do good work, even when they do shitty work, oh, and you cannot have the name of the landscaping company so as to post a review, but they will plant a replacement hosta, only weeks later to find out that instead of planting it they just ding-dong-dashed that hosta, leaving it on the porch, never finding its way to the soil and now it’s gone, vanished-gone, never-seen gone. The time when by responding, no worries, we’re all good here, I was read back a finger-wag about how by saying I never saw the plant I was implicitly calling the landscaper (still unnamed) a liar and about how ghastly and gruesome was my position. The time when shew are people going through some stuff and handing off their snarls and with vitriol slashing through deep suspicions about others. The time when the only things left to work with are clearing, forgiveness, and compassion, let’s make a path for you to go forward along another day and that tempest in you, keep its fire, fine, but channel it where rage will not shred what endangered goodness still orbits. The time when the hosta taken down in late May was scarred but okay, finding sunshine and still trying its best in late June. The time when its growing back grew back.

Photo. Sideyard, Ypsilanti condo, brownstone with cedar fencing stained to match, mosses and plants, algae-glazed left-behinds for returning to whenever.

The time when sitting side-yard at the two-storey Michigan brownstone in Lakeview Estates, wobbly chair because the pavers were some years ago pulled up and reset by an amateur (who possibly had not filled out the proper modification forms, though to the amateur’s defense, what exactly was modified in the crooked reset?), their mossy grout restored now, their wabi sabi angles somehow a more honest accounting for time and resourcefulness than would’ve been any more groomed or polished magazine cover sideyardscape don’t trip. The time when the surrounds was still only missing a laughing Buddha statue because that one’s in Virginia and also because the local nursery didn’t order poured form figures this season due to the pandemic. The time when first it was requisite masks for the good of public health and then added to that were the concrete inconveniences of no poured form yard decor and between government and Coronavirus so many precious white-fingers-clutched liberties tottered, they cried. Jesus wept; Buddha laughed. The time when the plants were more than enough in the sideyard, a fenced, angular parcel becoming, three lavender plants thriving over there, three sage varieties thriving over in the V corner, plus a giant anise, another small lavender, a cluster of long grass, a recently transplanted greenstem forsythia, what PictureThis app quickly computes for me as a species of Easter tree, also known as Chinese gold bell, Greenish-flowered forsythia, dwarf cutleaf forsythia, golden bells, and whose botanical name is forsythia viridissima, can you imagine having that name?–a plant from neighbor K, and then there are ferns, double-escaped onions (one getaway from the market, another from the refrigerator), stonecrops (graveyard moss), a giant hosta whose leaves gulp for water and sunshine, and two spearmints–also a chipmunk, skiddish but not too skiddish to dig soil near the lavender plants–also a table and small storage bin covered with algal film and a little bit of bird shit, a lounge chair, a very modest and weathered patio set, a wagon tucked in here by Ph., I’m guessing, but room enough for coffee and a laptop in the shade where there’s birdsong and a power tool intermittently screaming change to straight lines and sawdust from across the street.

WIDE-EMU 2016

 customLogo.jpeg

We invite proposals for the 2016 WIDE-EMU Conference, a free, one-day event on October 15, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Please help us circulate the call widely. The complete call and details about the conference are online at https://sites.google.com/site/wideemu16/.

Phase 1–Propose–has just begun and continues through August 31. We are asking for proposals that will respond to the conference’s framing question: What does writing want?

As you will see on the web site and proposal submission form, we’re asking for titles/ideas for three kinds of presentations:

  • Talk: much like a typical conference presentation, only short-form. Propose a brief paper, a roundtable discussion, a panel, etc. Individual talks should not exceed ten minutes.
  • Do: a demonstration or a workshop. Propose a session focused on the “how to” related to a software application or pedagogical approach.
  • Make: produce something (or the beginning of something). Propose a session in which participants will “make” a web site, a lesson plan, a manifesto, a syllabus, etc.

During Phase 2–Respond–we’ll be asking proposers to expand their proposed ideas with something online to share ahead of the face to face meeting on October 15. What exactly this “something online” looks like is highly flexible: a blog entry, a slidedeck, a podcast, a video, etc. You could also think of this as a teaser or a preview for your session and a few of its key provocations.

The face-to-face conference will be on October 15, 2016 at Eastern Michigan University. We will announce the featured plenary speaker/activity later this summer.

Please visit the site at https://sites.google.com/site/wideemu16/, submit a proposal, and plan to attend. If you have any questions about the proposal process or the conference itself, please reach out to Derek Mueller at derek.mueller@emich.edu. We hope to see many of you of this fall.

Michigan Beer Fest

Along with @stevendkrause, I attended the Michigan Beer Fest on Friday evening in Ypsi’s Riverside Park. Sold out venue opened at 5 p.m. The line looked like this from the bridge over the Huron River, near Depot Town.

Riverside Park Opening Line

For thirty-five bucks, you get a five ounce cup and a plastic baggy with fifteen tokens, each good for a three ounce sample. They provide a map, but it’s an ambling scene, more wandering than purposefully itinerant. The only factors affecting my thinking as we went in were 1) need to get some food, 2) want to stop by Original Gravity’s booth, 3) prefer IPAs, and 4) venue closes at 9 p.m. I’m not so excited about the wildest experimental brews, but I sought to intermix the stuff I thought I would like with the stuff that was funky and offbeat. Here’s the list:

  1. Rad 2 the Max from Pike 51 (top three of the night)
  2. Belgian Saison from Bob’s Brewery (came with bratwurst)
  3. Reclamation IPA from Ore Dock, only representative from UP (forgettable flavor)
  4. Root Down Ginger Beer from Original Gravity, Milan, MI
  5. Coconut Cream Ale, 51 North, Lake Orion (terrible; coconut cream pie and bud light, as if sipped from Hawaiian Tropics bottle)
  6. Sassafras Dark Day IPA from Olde peninsula in Kalamazoo (odd vanilla scent; sassafras note, pleasant)
  7. Cheboygan Brewing Co, Blood Orange Honey (too fruity for me; light and summery)
  8. Mistress Jades Hemp Ale, Sherwood (p good)
  9. Spiney Norman IPA, Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City, MI, (top three of the night; a good, hoppy IPA)
  10. Also tried Mangalista Pig Porter from Right Brain (bacon; brewed with pig heads; sip is plenty)
  11. Ol’ Dale, Mountain Town Brewery, Mt. Pleasant
  12. Twice Licked Kitty from Rupert’s Brew House
  13. 4C’z Slam IPA from Farmington Brewing Co. (never again)
  14. Low End Theory black IPA, Batch Brewing Company
  15. Barrelman English IPA from Shorts
  16. Hop in Yer Rye from Saugatuck Brewing Co. (top three of the night)
  17. Figpa IPA from Dark Horse variety station

Not much else to add, besides these photos:

Brewed in Mt. Pleasant

Hippie Drum-Bagpipe Band

Under Construction

Under Construction

Getting my hands dirty with Illustrator, sketching a fuzzy vision for a someday course on Rhetorico-geographical Positioning Systems (RPS). I never do this, but I’ve missed self-set deadline for proposing the course at least twice in 2011, which suggests the only felt urgency for such a creation is my own. Now–and publicly–setting a third deadline for real-izing this proposal by, oh, the 8th of Wheneveruary, 2012.

Ark

This Ypsinews.com story of The Ark reminded me of Brand’s How Buildings Learn: Huron-side tannery, disassembly, reassembly, blacksmith shop, furniture store, deterioration, pigeon training. Ypsilanti’s The Ark, its adrift, undecidable architecture fittingly named, an example of an early “portable.” Here’s an excerpt about its initial site:

The site was likely chosen on purpose. Tanneries were smelly places, where piles of cow skins were scraped of their remaining flesh and soaked in vats of chemicals in order to process them into leather. A location downstream from downtown meant that meat scraps and used-up chemicals could be drained into the river without creating a stench in the stretch of river traveling through town.

The lazy Sunday morning click with Brand’s book, however, (un)builds toward The Ark’s demise, which, as parallels go, blightfully suggests another end-variant true for so many buildings in aging cities: How Buildings Learn No More.

Wonder how many of those century-old pigeons are out there homing on this missing place?

Ark.jpg

Writing Ypsilanti

RePresentations of Ypsilanti are fraught (does it matter whether these are “representations” or “presentations”? I don’t think so). By “fraught,” I mean they are piled high, brimming even, with hints of foreboding about crime and poverty endemic to the city and the nearby township, both of which bear the name Ypsilanti. That this is so turns out not to be an insight worth bothering to share with anyone who has lived on the east side of Washtenaw County for more than a few months.

Nevertheless, I am thinking about this locale because I am developing a course for now conceived as a rhetorico-geographic study of EMU’s surrounds. Yes, of course, it will be writing focused, as it will attend to questions of routes, distances, and enframings with a particular investment in producing variations: re-composing the local. I aim to have the proposal submitted by the end of the semester. Right now I am gathering ideas, storing them in such a way that they will, in time, assume the shape of a provisional syllabus and schedule.

And this means I am taking stock of local coverage of local events, conditions, or problems, as the case may be. For example, a series of articles have appeared in Annarbor.com about Ypsilanti Mobile Village, an abandoned mobile home park on Michigan Ave. just east of the intersection with Prospect. In late December came news that the owner filed bankruptcy. By early January, there was a story about the owner expressing his intentions to clean up the site, and on Friday, word that a judge ordered the cleanup to proceed. I don’t want to suggest that this series of stories is particularly representative of Annarbor.com’s coverage of Ypsilanti, and certainly there is much water under the bridge, so to speak, about how Annarbor.com depicts Ypsilanti, how the “paper” writes Ypsilanti, that is. The series on Ypsilanti Mobile Village is simply an example–perhaps an example I am all the more interested in because I have driven by the park a couple of times, because it is as close to campus (to the west) as it is to where I live (to the north). To give you some sense of the mobile home park’s condition, an employee provided this video footage to Annarbor.com with the first report:

That the initial complaint is reprinted in full in each of the follow-up stories strikes me as introducing a curious but distinctive echo: “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” Reading it over yet again, the image becomes more deeply seated. It cements an impression that these grim conditions are permanent, that they are woven into the landscape in such a way that no bureaucratic or legalistic action will change any time soon.

Rail

I’ve heard speculation about adjustments to local rail options off and on since we moved to Ypsilanti late summer, 2009. But this article from Crain’s Detroit Business, “Word on Detroit-Ann Arbor Commuter Rail Expected Next Week,” pretty much gives the impression that a rail Detroit-AA rail loop is taking shape. I say “pretty much” because it is a curiously hazy report, one with details that could be interpreted as going either way: rail is impending, or rail is wholly dependent on funds yet to be committed. Right away, there’s a big “if” tied to federal funding. Hold off on blowing the horn, Dinah.

Organizers of a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail project expect to learn next week if $200 million in federal capital funding will be approved.

But elsewhere, with references to environmental assessment, fleet refurbishment, and even the colors of the cars, it sounds like the project is well underway.

Work is under way on the federally required environmental assessment.

Three locomotives and nine passenger cars have been leased from Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is owned by Farmington Hills-based Federated Capital Corp., and are in the process of being refurbished and painted, Palombo said.

The lease and refurbishment work is about $2 million. The livery will be green, yellow and blue, and trains will be a locomotive with two cars.

I will continue to watch how this plays out, fingers-crossed that we will within the next year or so have commuter rail running between AA and Detroit, notably with stops through Ypsilanti and the Detroit Metro Airport.

Bike Routes

Biked a few miles through a dense July pudding for lunch with a colleague at Beezy’s. Nice place, Beezy’s: a zesty tapenade on the Mediterranean Veggie, the only sandwich I’ve ordered there in, oh I don’t know, the last three visits. Biked because D. and Is. have been in Mt. Pleasant area driving around in the Element for the better part of the week–returning in a couple of hours. And biking because we have not yet purchased a second vehicle this summer, though we have promised the loan guarantors at the credit union that we will get to that next week.

No-drip Curb

I secured the bike to this telephone pole behind the restaurant, making sure it was beyond the steady drops falling from a window air conditioner above. One look at it made think that the unit was in badly in need of austinductcleaning.us. While I was inside, it rained–a five minute sprinkle that had evaporated again by the time I was on my way home again. I could not determine whether the bike had gotten wet from the rain, but the AC run-off hadn’t touched it.

CardioTrainer

While biking I set my new smartphone’s CardioTrainer app to ping a satellite every so often so I could quantify how far and how slowly I’d traveled. My Tracks and CardioTrainer seem like good options, as the free apps go. Open GPS is okay, too. And I have downloaded RunKeeper, which is apparently calibrated for a few more activity types than any of the others, just in case I want to take my phone skating, downhill skiing, or swimming.