Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye to 2017 and this Blog. Hello to 2018 and less Negativity.

A view from the Sleeping Bear Dunes
When I started this blog a little more than four years ago, I was living in Virginia and yearning to return home. A year later, I was happy to be back in Michigan, and I have spent the last three years exploring more of our state than I ever had before. There is so much natural beauty to behold here and many good people to meet. With Michigan's distilleries, breweries, and restaurants, my taste buds were never bored, and my stomach was rarely empty. Our cities and towns are filled with architectural wonders and world-class museums. Our history includes Native Americans, French fur traders, the Underground Railroad, British forts, and the Arsenal of Democracy. There is much to be proud of and to love about our Great Lakes State.

However, there is a dark side to our society, both in Michigan and throughout our nation. And that dark side breeds on the internet in comments sections and social media. Twitter has become unreadable to me. It's just a place for people to shout over each other. The cacophony has made us both angry and deaf. For someone who likes to read thoughtful and informative prose, seeing arguments reduced to ignorant memes and name calling is disheartening. Seeing violent acts committed as a result of Twitter fights and hateful propaganda is heartbreaking.

In this climate, writing positive posts has become too difficult for me. I've also made some other changes in my life that frankly leave me with less time to write. I'd rather spend my free time with my wife, Allison, and two daughters than trying to come up with new things to write. I will continue to travel throughout our great state, and I'll talk to people more. This is my last blog post, but my blog will be up for some time for anyone who wants to read old posts. I'm shutting down my Twitter and Facebook pages in a few days. A conversation can tell me a lot more about a person's character than 280 characters ever will.

With that said, here's to a wonderful 2018 and beyond. Thank you to the very few loyal readers I've had for your comments and support. Thanks to the few guest writers I've had. You added different voices to this blog that I appreciated. And most of all, thanks to Allison for being my editor and biggest supporter.

I'll leave whatever readers I have left with some of my favorite moments and things from Michigan in 2017 that I didn't get around to writing about:

The Guardian Building Tour

I finally went on Pure Detroit's Guardian Building Tour a few weeks ago. I highly recommend this tour. Our guide was a history student at Wayne State, and he gave a great tour that included the history of the building and the city, and background about the architect and the materials used to construct the building. It's a gorgeous building with great views of the city. One last thing: Don't forget to tip your tour guide.

A view of a freighter from the Guardian Building

Noel Night


Unfortunately, this event ended when a couple of idiots with guns ruined the fun for everyone. It was sad seeing the ignorant comments from people saying, "This is why I never go to Detroit," when people are shot in the suburban shopping malls, schools, churches, and homes throughout this country every day. [Sadly, as I type this, the national news is reporting a shooting in a Denver suburb with several wounded and at least one deputy dead.]

The Detroit Public Library lit up for the holidays
Anyway, until the shooting happened, this event was everything I love about Detroit. The Midtown museums were open to the public, and people of diverse backgrounds happily wandered the streets. The highlight was seeing the Mosaic Youth Theatre perform at the Charles Wright Museum. The kids in this theater group were incredibly entertaining. My five-year-old daughter was on the edge of her seat, smiling and clapping at everything these young performers did. I hope to see them again soon.

Detroit Urban Craft Fair

Before Noel Night, my family and I visited the Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Masonic Temple. I am not a craft person, but there was a lot of really cool art depicting Detroit. I didn't buy anything, but Allison did. It was heartening to be in a crowded space full of artistic people who are proud of Detroit.

Kerrytown Bookfest

I visited Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Bookfest for the first time this year. It is a great event for readers of all ages. Several Michigan authors were present to sign books and give readings. There were tons of kids' books features, which our daughters loved. There were a couple of letterpress companies giving demonstrations, and one even allowed our daughters to use the small press. We also got to make paper.

My daughters making paper
Kuzzo's Chicken and Waffles

Detroit's Kuzzo's Chicken and Waffles is damn good. I of course had to try chicken and waffles, and they were outstanding. I've only been once, but I definitely will return, because I love southern comfort food, and Kuzzo's serves some of the best.

Breweries

I was able to try a few new breweries this year, and all were satisfying.

I visited Grand River Brewery in Jackson with Allison after running a nearby half marathon. Disclosure: The owner of this brewery is a cousin of mine, but I wouldn't let that influence my opinion (if I didn't like it, I wouldn't write about it). The brewery has a pretty big menu, but I could smell meat on the smoker when we walked up to the restaurant. I had to try the beef brisket, and it did not disappoint. I also had an excellent flight of beer.

A beer flight at Grand River Brewery
I also enjoyed my visits to Royal Oak's ROAK Brewing, Black Lotus in Clawson, and Fillmore 13 in Pontiac (I also love seeing some of the revitalization efforts in Pontiac. It has so many beautiful buildings.). They all poured good beer and served tasty food.

Michigan Writing

I've compiled a few Michigan reading lists over the years. Since last summer's list, I've read a few more books by Michigan writers that I found noteworthy. The top of the list is The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, by Thomas Lynch. Lynch's book explores questions of life and death, but often with an irreverence and humor that make these questions more palatable.

I finally read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides after seeing the movie a few times. The movie is pretty true to the book, but I enjoyed the book more. It gives more of a feel of what living in Grosse Pointe and Metro Detroit was like back in the 1970s.

I've heard a lot of good things about Bonnie Jo Campbell, so I read her novel Once Upon a River. The novel is set in western Michigan and follows a young woman's journey to find herself after experiencing several family tragedies and traumas. It's an intense book, and some of the traumatic parts were hard to read, but only due to the high quality of Campbell's writing.

Last, but not least, is Adam Schuitema's The Things We Do That Make No Sense. This Michigan writer's collection of short stories presents quick, but real, snapshots of life that I found relatable and engaging.

Leland

Leland is one of those towns that I always wanted to visit. We made a quick detour there on the way home from Traverse City this past summer. Unfortunately, it was a rainy and cool day, so we didn't explore as much as we would have liked, but we did enjoy walking around the old fishing village and visiting a couple bookshops. I would like to visit again, but with more cooperative weather.

Leland
The Thumb

Unlike me, Allison is an actual, professional writer. She had an assignment to write about things to do and see in the Thumb. I tagged along and was thinking about writing something, but it wouldn't have compared to her article, which you can read here. Except for the cold and rainy weather, we had a lot of fun.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Confession: Despite growing up in Michigan, I visited the dunes for the first time ever over Memorial Day weekend. Having run the Bayshore Marathon two days before, my legs were aching from 26.2 miles of pounding on asphalt.

The dunes deceived me because every time I reached the "top," I realized there was another top in the distance. The first "top" gives a majestic view inland of Glen Lake, but I wanted to see Lake Michigan, so I punished my aching legs and continued on, trying to keep up with my daughters sprinting up the sand.

I don't know how many peaks I reached only to see another one taunting me. It must have been two or three, but each view was worth the climb. My sore legs slowed me down, but they forced me to spend more time enjoying the views and the cool spring air blowing in from Lake Michigan.

When we finally reached the bluff that gave us a view of Lake Michigan, I was overcome by dunes' and lake's imposing grandeur. I felt humbled and grateful to live in a state with so many natural wonders, and I still do.

Thank you again for reading. Godspeed!

Lake Michigan from the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Quick Visit to Grand Rapids

Downtown Market
Despite being born and raised in the Detroit area, I somehow never visited Grand Rapids before. I didn't have anything against Grand Rapids. Instead, I found it too easy to keep visiting the places in Michigan that I already knew.

I have been wanting to visit for some time, and my work luckily took me to Grand Rapids on Monday. Since I had a meeting at 1 p.m. downtown, I left my home early enough so I could have two meals and see as much of the city as possible during my visit.

Argos Book Shop
Besides tasting a new city's food and beer, I always try to visit its independent bookstores, so my first stop was Argos Book Shop in the Eastown neighborhood. Argos specializes in used books, and it has a comic book section that looked impressive to this non-collector. The store has two rooms full of used books covering many genres. I could have spent more than an hour searching the shelves, but I had to eat lunch before my meeting.

The bar at the Green Well
For lunch, I chose The Green Well Gastropub in the East Hills neighborhood. The neighborhood was quiet because it was 11 on Monday morning, but I'm guessing it is bustling later in the day since it features several shops and restaurants, and one of Grand Rapids' many breweries, Brewery Vivant.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 Michigan Summer Reading List

A good book plus a lake equals Michigan summer
Summertime in Michigan should include relaxing with a good book on the beach, in the backyard hammock, or in the park. Last year, I shared a list of Five Michigan Books for Summer. This year, the list is longer, with a more diverse group of writers, genres, and forms of literature. Each work has a relationship with Michigan: Either the writer is a Michigander or the work is set in Michigan. It was a pleasure to read each of these works, and I hope others find something valuable through reading them.

The Many Faces of Motherhood

Former Detroit Free Press writer Desiree Cooper’s Know the Mother is a powerful collection of 31 very short stories (most are 750 words or less). The stories examine themes of womanhood, motherhood, and race. I cannot name a favorite story because each one emits emotions that put me squarely into the main characters' shoes. 

Know the Mother’s stories embody loneliness, fear, hope, love, shame, and sorrow. Cooper creates complex and real characters with few words because her writing is splendid, moving, and true. 

Finding a New Universe on Earth

In Detroit author Jack Cheng’s novel See in You in the Cosmos, Alex Petroski is an eleven-year-old boy infatuated with space exploration. The story is told through Alex’s recordings on his golden iPod, which he dreams of launching into space for intelligent alien life to discover. Alex leaves his troubled mom at home to attend a rocket-launching festival in New Mexico. Along the way, he discovers a complicated, but beautiful, new universe right here on earth. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Relaxing Weekend in Traverse City

A view of Grand Traverse Bay from the Shores
My family and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Traverse City because I had the crazy idea to run the Bayshore Marathon. We rented a great condo at the Shores condominiums in Acme, on the east side of East Grand Traverse Bay. The Shores's beach has a beautiful view of the bay and Old Mission Peninsula.

We stayed in on Friday night, since I had to wake up early for the marathon. On Saturday afternoon, after a few hours of post-marathon recovery, we drove up the eastern shore of the Old Mission Peninsula, so I could show my wife and kids the views I saw while running.

Driving the Old Mission Peninsula
The drive was so relaxing that we ended up driving to the northern tip of the peninsula and visited the Mission Point Lighthouse and beach. The tip of the Old Mission Peninsula is on the 45th parallel, meaning we were standing halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We would have explored the lighthouse and beach more, but there were a lot of bugs out, and my four-year-old daughter was not happy that bugs kept landing on her. I also was exhausted and wanted to eat, so we just took a few photos of the lighthouse and the beach. 


Mission Point Lighthouse
We drove back down the western shore of the peninsula toward downtown Traverse City. We went to Apache Trout Grill for dinner because several people recommended it. There was supposed to be an hour wait, but fortune intervened and a table in the bar area opened up after only about 5 minutes.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Snapshot of Traverse City's Bayshore Marathon

A view of East Grand Traverse Bay from the marathon course
Yesterday, I ran my fourth marathon, the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City. I have run two Marine Corps Marathons in DC and the Capital City River Run in Lansing. The Bayshore is by far my favorite, and not just because I set a PR (more on that later).

From the volunteers to the spectators to the Moomers ice cream at the finish, everything was well run. But the highlight is the course itself. For almost the entire 26.2 miles, the course follows the roads along the eastern shore of the Old Mission Peninsula. The route gives runners sweeping views of the blue waters of East Grand Traverse Bay.

Cherry blossoms along the course
My description of the views cannot do them justice. My family and I drove along the course several hours after the race so I could show them what I saw, and so I could take a few photos.

If you have to run 26.2 miles, might as well enjoy the view.
The course is mostly flat, but there were a few small hills here and there (the only ones I really noticed were in the last 5 miles, when I was struggling to keep my legs moving). Many of the residents along the route sat in their front yards and cheered the runners on, and some even offered water (or beer. . . I passed on the beer). Olympic marathoner Desi Linden, one of the fastest women in the world, even stood on the sidelines encouraging people who run the marathon hours slower than her.