Friday, July 29, 2011

Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair 2011

Ever since I was a wee one scribbling with crayons, I have heard about the art fairs in Ann Arbor. My grandfather is an artist and photographer, and I remember quite distinctly my mother's old art box filled with smelly, messy tubes of cracked paint. We went to gallery openings that included my grandfather's work at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, and in high school I often accompanied my grandparents on the monthly Kalamazoo Art Hop. There was also the yearly art festival in Bronson Park the first Saturday in June with its jovial Do-Dah Parade. As a result of this upbringing, I have never found art boring. Most of my hobbies involve making things (writing, drawing, crocheting...) and I am eager to see what others create and appreciate their fine skills. 

Finally, after years of galleries, museums, and art shows, I was able to attend the mecca of all summer art fairs here in Ann Arbor. I was very impressed! Every artist's booth was top notch and absolutely delightful. I lost track of how many paintings and prints I wanted to buy for my apartment, and one lady was selling tempting tools for flower arranging, a field I hope to get into sometime soon.

After perusing the length of Main St, Kimmy and I stopped into Conor O'Neill's to get out of the heat, have a bite to eat, and fill up on water (and a hard cider and a rum and Coke that were on special). We ended up splitting an order of fantabulous fish and chips, then a slice of Bailey's cheesecake that was just as amazing as it sounds.

Bringing a cup of ice water with us, we set out to explore the artistic offering along Liberty while noting the clouds coming in from the west were turning a bit dark. We decided to check out Borders (may it rest in peace) and we hurried along because I was low on time and had to head into work at four. Along the way I found a pretty silver ring at a good price to replace the one that I lost last year, and a man willing to make us a special bag of kettle corn because I only had two dollars on me and not his asking price of six. (It was delicious.)

Just before we got to Borders, we found our favorite Ann Arbor feature, Violin Monster! ( recently posted an article and interview with Violin Monster that you may read here.) Kimmy and I are both huge fans, so we dug through our wallets for spare change and "fed the monster" (put it in his tip jar). He was playing an Irish jig, so I danced a little, and promptly lost my one remaining ear cuff. We scoured the ground, but could not find it. Sigh!

Inside Borders was very crowded. Apparently all Borders needed to do to save itself was put everything at 10% off. We looked around a bit, then decided to leave, when we discovered the sky had grown quite dark, and all the artists and merchants were battening down the hatches. As we wove our way down the sidewalk, it began to sprinkle. Then, about halfway to our car (a good many blocks from Borders), the clouds opened up and it poured.

Kimmy was delighted. This was the first time she had been caught in a summer rainstorm. For me, rain is more or less a staple of the summer art fair, and I have never seen rain as a deterrent to many adventures. We were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached the car, but were grateful for the storm as it finally broke the heat and the weather stayed more normal summer temperatures for the next few days.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I am Never Again Camping with Dogs

At the beginning of this miserable heatwave, I, along with many others, escaped to the North. Unfortunately, it really wasn't much of an escape. It was still outrageously hot, humid, and there was still no wind, unless I went to the shores of Lake Michigan, which we did once (and were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset!).

The first day was devoted to setting up our campsite, two tents and a mini-fridge that we put on a picnic table near the power outlets. The second day, my roomie Kimmy and I spent the day tootling around Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore region. We stopped in Empire (named for a sunken ship) for the root beer and a swim for me in the Lake.

Then on Sunday, Kimmy had to return home, and I stayed with the group. We swam in neighboring Duck Lake, played fetch with our dog Higgins in the water and generally relaxed... Until that evening.

The extreme heat was getting to everyone, including our dogs, who hate everything about camping. They kept begging to be let in to the tent, a veritable greenhouse, or the car, which I think they hoped would magically take them home. Baggins, our older dog, started acting even more unhappy than usual, so my mother and I decided to take the dogs for a ride in the car so that they could cool off with the air conditioning.

Higgins was grateful for the relief, but Baggins couldn't get comfortable and started hacking really hard and couldn't stop. We were getting worried, so I looked up emergency vets in Traverse City. Luckily, they had opened a 24 hour vet clinic last year on Front St called the Bay Area Pet Hospital

If you are in the Traverse City area, I highly recommend this group. Everyone there is friendly and obviously cares about all of their furry patients. They saw Baggins right away and he was diagnosed with probably bloat, which can kill a dog within hours. In fact, the internet claims that bloat is the second leading cause of death in dogs after cancer.

Mr. Baggins was made as comfortable as possible and checked into his air conditioned room for the night. We left our cell phone numbers and returned to the campsite for the night. The next day, after receiving a few updates on Baggins' condition (it was, indeed, bloat, and he would need surgery to untwist his stomach), we took our other dog Higgins down to the lake for another swim, and later paid Mr. Baggins a visit in the pet hospital. The surgery went perfectly, and Baggins perked up considerably when he saw us. The vet said that if he continued to progress so well, we could take him with us Wednesday, when we were scheduled to return home.

Tuesday provided further complications. Our younger dog Higgins refused to get out of his tent, and even after I coaxed him out, he wouldn't drink any water, though he did wolf down his breakfast.He crawled underneath the picnic table and there he stayed to sulk because we wouldn't let him into the car.

We began to break down camp and get everything packed up because we'd gotten a hotel room in town to spend our final night in air conditioning and be closer to Baggins. Meanwhile, Higgins grew increasingly restless, and was shaking his head and pawing at his right ear. This is a dog who has never been sick and, though vocal, does not whine or cry. He began to yelp and roll around the ground as if he were in great pain.

Thus we hurried back to the pet hospital with our second dog curled in the back seat of the car while our wonderful, generous friends finished packing up our stuff for us to pick up later. Since Higgins been swimming and no one had cleaned out his ears, we figured he probably had an ear infection. (Labs are known for them.) Nearly the entirety of the day was spent in the vet's waiting room.

We met some very nice people. There was one older couple who had brought in their dog who had eaten carpet, not the first time she had done so. While the technicians did X-rays, my mother and the lady chatted and swapped stories. Unfortunately, the prognosis on the couple's dog was not good, and after being called to the back by the vet, the couple left looking upset. After a little while had passed, a technician came out and told my mother that the lady had called and wanted her to pass on a message thanking her for the good conversation, and to apologize for not saying goodbye.

Spending a day in a veterinarian's was fairly interesting. So many people and pets and a story for each. Even so, it was a great relief to get to the hotel, crank the air, and watch some TV. Higgins, who had the beginnings of an ear infection, was grateful to be indoors, as well. 

The next day we stopped back at the camp site to retrieve our things, and I learned that my innocent puppy is a big fat faker. He had been fine since leaving the vet the previous day, but as soon as his little brown paws hit dirt, he began whining and pawing at his ear again and crawling on the ground. 

Finally at two o'clock, we were allowed to pick up Mr. Baggins from the vet and drive the three hours home. Both dogs were ecstatic and perched in the back of the car with big, sloppy grins on their faces.

This is why I am never again camping with dogs.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heroes & Villains

One of my favorite things in the world is the comic shop. Consequently, whenever I find myself in downtown Ann Arbor, I must stop by the Vault of Midnight on Main St. The main floor is devoted to comics and all that geekery, while the basement level is packed with equally geeky board games (Arkham Horror, Settlers of Catan, Last Night on Earth, etc, etc). 

If I am downtown on a Monday night, I am always headed to Necto on Liberty for their goth/industrial night called Factory. Necto has two dance rooms, one upstairs where you first enter, the other downstairs, which took me a few visits to discover while looking for a bathroom, and a rotating theme. If you dress in theme, you get in for free. (Also Monday nights are $2 vodka nights. Just throwing that out there.) 

Why am I mentioning these two seemingly unrelated venues? Because last Monday night was Heroes VS Villains night, brought to us by the Vault of Midnight! My friend Robin showed her brilliance by suggesting I dress up as Harley Quinn from Batman, and Kimmy decided to reprise her Poison Ivy costume (but actually made a completely new one out of a dress we found at the Salvation Army, her new green corset, and gel pens from Michaels). 

I couldn't do the Harley Quinn costume that everyone remembers from the TV series that was on in the 90s, so I made my own version of Harley with red and black striped stockings, a short black skirt, red blouse, black corset, white and black face paint, and pigtails. Kimmy also found us some barrettes that said POW! in bright yellow at Hot Topic. Not only were we smokin' hot, but our costumes were both recognized and we had our pictures taken by strangers. (Just like the good old days at anime and comic conventions... Sigh.) 

Being the gentlemanly sort (usually), my boyfriend Greg chose to join in our theme and made himself a Riddler costume. We saw one other Riddler there dressed in the ensemble from the 1960s TV series, a Penguin, and one other Poison Ivy. My coworker J9 (who was dressed as a smashing Tank Girl) told me there were in total three Poison Ivies, but the other two that were not my roommate had store-bought costumes that were unoriginal and generic. Points to Kimmy for being unique!

Naturally, there were multiple comments about Harley stepping out with someone other than Mista J, but dagnabit, the Joker should be less self-absorbed and pay more attention to his loyal minions! At least, that is how I see it. 

I don't know what next Monday's theme is yet, but I won't be there to participate anyhow. I am once again headed north, this time for some legitimate camping in a tent, not just a teensy cabin that would fit easily into my living room given its minute size. It's been a long time since I've been camping, and I am really looking forward to it. Don't worry, though. I am sure there will be more Ann Arbor adventures for me to write about next Friday.


Friday, July 8, 2011

San Francisco 3am

[ I wrote this just after the 4th and thought it would be an appropriate piece to post here.]

It takes longer than two years to really get to know a city. At the end of my first year lease, my remaining roommate Sherelle met me in the middle of the night in front of my place of work and together we lugged empty boxes back to our townhome apartment. Along the way a young guy looking lost by the train station fell into step with us. Since we were headed in the same direction, he said he felt bad not helping, so we all took turns sometimes dragging, sometimes hefting upon sore shoulders our bounty of empty boxes flattened and stuffed inside two other boxes.

When we all three arrived at my and Sherelle's apartment, we invited the guy in for a beer to thank him for helping. Sherelle mixed some margaritas for her and myself and the guy mostly drank beer as we sat in a triangle in the middle of our empty living room with the hideously stained carpet. To thank us for the beer, he offered us weed. He knew he had some on him somewhere, he just had to. Sherelle and I didn't smoke, but that never matters with people who do, so the guy took an empty beer can and made a pipe out of it. He only had a dark, stale nub, but he insisted and we let him smoke. Maybe we each took a hit to be polite, or just to be able to say “I've smoked pot out of a beer can.” We were probably too drunk and too pissed off about our other roommates skipping out without paying the last month's rent to care any which way. $1000 gone, God damn it.

I remember the guy didn't have a place to sleep because he'd been locked out of his friend's apartment, and maybe his cell phone had died. We said he could crash on our floor, so he curled up using his backpack as a pillow while Sherelle and I headed upstairs to our own junk-filled rooms. In the morning he was gone, but he'd left a scribbled note on a scrap of paper he'd scrounged from God knows where thanking us for letting him stay and leaving us his number. We never called him.

That was San Francisco.

This time last year I was in the back seat of a car stuck in a traffic jam while the driver looked for a place to park so we could all go see the 4th of July fireworks set off from ships anchored out on the Bay. The indie radio station played a new song called “I Heart California.” It also played “I Want What's Bad For Me.”

We finally found a place to park, but we missed the fireworks over the Bay and ran to the corner just as the Grand Finale was going off over Ghirardelli Square. We didn't really see much because the Fog had rolled in and was hovering just high enough that we could see the roofs of buildings, but the fireworks all but disappeared into a thick whiteness that was invisible until the fire lit it up.

On our way home, we pulled off at a beach where the wind was cold and loud and found a group of strangers shivering in thick coats, gloves, and scarves setting off their own fireworks at the top of the cliff. We asked if we could watch, and they said yes. We huddled together and made small talk over the roar of the waves invisible beneath us. Everyone was cheerful and friendly.

That was San Francisco.

Some days I feel like I'm still there and everything since has been one long foggy dream, and I wonder when the hell I'm going to wake up. Maybe San Francisco is a state of mind and I really have never left. And maybe what we call life is just one long string of dream after dream and we never wake up.

One time, I dreamed of New Orleans and it smelled like jasmine. On the streets of San Francisco, I smelled pot, churros, urine, the ocean, the bay, and the Fog.

To me, that is San Francisco.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gotta Keep the Wheels Turning

Welcome to my new blog! (The other one is found here: Adventures in Food and Word.) Why do I have two blogs? Simple. I have a lot to say. Or type. You see, my head is constantly filled with words, and if I don't let some spill out on a regular basis, my brain explodes.

The point of this new blog is two-fold. 1) To entertain with my musings as I explore my new home of Ann Arbor, Michigan. 2) To highlight how cool Michigan really can be. Having been back for less than a year after living in the Bay Area, California for nearly three years, I think I am in a pretty good spot to judge this. 

So let's get to know my new city!

I used to visit Ann Arbor a few times a year when I was attending Western Michigan University in my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan (approximately an hour and twenty to forty minutes west on I-94 from A2). A small group of us would hit up Trader Joe's on Stadium, drive to Wizzywigs when it was still on Liberty downtown, then hop across the street to the Borders flagship store. (TRIVIA: Borders was started in 1971 by the Borders brothers right here in Ann Arbor, Michigan on State St.) Depending on the group, we would also head across U of M's campus to Pinball Pete's for some DDR and other arcade action.

Ann Arbor is to Michigan as Berkeley is to California, and it was often that I toyed with moving to Ann Arbor after graduation. Unfortunately, Ann Arbor is about as expensive as Berkeley, and at the time I was looking at spending $900 a month on renting even a room in a co-op! So I moved to San Francisco instead. (Wait, what??)

Naturally, moving back to Michigan from California, even to its probably most expensive city (and liberal; let's not forget liberal), I delighted in paying only $665 for a one bedroom apartment with all but electricity included in the rent. I had to pay to flush my toilet in California! I have since upgraded to a two bedroom apartment in the same complex for $855 a month, which I split with my roommate Kimmy, who is from Los Angeles and also laughs at these lower prices. Even our internet is included in the rent here. Unheard of!

So that is my history with Ann Arbor, intellectual and hippy hub of the Mitten. Next time, my first explorations of A2 as my new home.