Note: I recently found this story buried in an old hard drive. I assume it was written some time in 2009 which is when the parking to which it refers was completed. I do remember the day it took place, but was surprised to read how deeply I seem to have been affected by the event. -TM
The strangest things will break your heart.
I’m walking south from the post office down Fifth Avenue toward the library. To my right, just after the bus station is the new parking lot where the old YMCA used to be. It’s a blank space in this town, a void. Once there was a tall building, an embassy for the homeless, a civic center for fitness, a ramshackle and quirky old place. Now there is a flat black parking lot where its footprint used to be.
I am always disturbed when I notice the absence of a building and can’t remember what had once been there. This was not the case with the YMCA. It was a slow process. The arrival of demolition equipment, the fencing off of its perimeter and the rescheduling of neighboring bus routes all heralded its demise. I am an almost daily patron of the downtown library across the street and would frequently walk by the old Y. I suppose many considered it an eyesore, but to me it seemed like part of the fabric of downtown Ann Arbor.
The new parking lot has appeared to be finished for weeks. The asphalt has been laid, the automated payment box has been installed. Only the curious orange cones at each entrance have prevented residents from enjoying prime downtown parking. I wonder what it’s like to be the first person to drive into a new city parking lot? Is there a small thrill to pull into a virgin space knowing you were the first in your city to do so? A kind of urban frontier that will never be conquered again?
On this day as I walk toward the library I notice a small open sign at the parking lot’s Fifth Avenue entrance. The cones are missing and there are three balloons tied to the top of the yellow entrance box. Like my mother’s hand on my shoulder or the appearance of a stray cat rubbing against my leg, my heart suddenly breaks into pieces. It’s a nice gentle break, though. A soft, dull and wistful hurt. Three balloons announcing the quiet arrival of a new parking lot.
I wonder who’s job it was to get the balloons and where you can still buy balloons downtown. Was it an afterthought to put them there? Were they a sincere gesture? I picture someone in a blue city-issued uniform asking for a few balloons, maybe from a florist or a dollar store. Just something to light up a drab corner where there once was something and now is nothing. Maybe as a tribute to the old YMCA, a brief memorial.
At that moment, all of the bad things I’ve felt and done are washed away and I remember that there is good in the everyday world and I’ve been blind not to see it. I make vows to be more observant and follow my heart and search for truth. I want to be more spontaneous and give money to people in the street. I want to leave gifts at strangers’ doors. I want to visit my parents and buy flowers for my girlfriend all because someone thought it would be nice to let people know they can finally park at the new lot on Fifth and announced it with some bright balloons.
I walk into the library and search for some recorded books to help ease my boredom while working at the violin shop. I linger too long and it drags me back down to the earth I’m more familiar with. The one filled with tasks and distractions. I leave the library and hardly glance at the balloons. It is Tuesday.
I made a considered effort to seek out as much new music in 2012 as I could. There were plenty of highly anticipated new releases by longtime favorite acts, some worthy and some disappointing. I read blogs, listened to Spotify, borrowed CD’s from the local library and looked for new releases by friends. I enjoyed trawling the depths of Bandcamp and Soundcloud for some low exposure gems occasionally discovering that they were made just 20 miles away from my home! When I really enjoyed something, I did my best to buy a physical copy from a local store or from the artist.
It’s an interesting time to be making and discovering music. There is just so much being released and so many ways to find it that it’s easy to become fatigued. The vistas are so broad in scope that it’s difficult to pin down trends which I don’t really mind. But I’m pleased that I made the effort and found quite a bit to be happy about.
Here are some of my favorite albums and tracks from a variety of genres that were released in the past year. As always, I enjoy reading others year end lists to discover all of the wonderful music I missed. Enjoy!
Django Django - Django Django South South Million - Wind Hand Caught In the Door Father John Misty - Fear Fun The Futureheads - Rant A.C. Newman - Shut Down the Streets Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Here Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel… Bill Fay - Life Is People Men Without Hats - Love In the Age of War Shearwater - Animal Joy M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion Matt Jones and the Reconstruction - Half Poison, Half Pure Aaron Dilloway - Modern Jester Efterklang - Pirimada Alt J - An Awesome Wave Hot Chip - In Our Heads Emily Loizeau - Mothers and Tygers Ken Stringfellow - Danzig in the Moonlight Get Well Soon - The Scarlet Beast O’ Seven Heads
Super 700 - “21st Century Girl” Django Django - “Default” Matt Jones and the Reconstruction - “Special Forces” Stew and the Negro Problem - “Suzy Wong” A.C. Newman - “I’m Not Talking” Eugene McGuinness - “Thunderbolt” The Futureheads - “Beeswing” The Shins - “Simple Song” Choir of Young Believers - “Nye Nummer Et” Roberto Rodriguez - “Try (How Am I Supposed To)” Johnny Headband - “Hot Button Topic” Alt J - “Dissolve Me” Josh Malerman - “Pumpkinhead” Bruce Springsteen - “Death To My Hometown” Mika - “Origin of Love” Scissor Sisters - “Keep Your Shoes” Cate le Bon - “Fold the Cloth” Dry the River - “New Ceremony” Smoke Fairies - “Awake” Andrew Bird - “Danse Carribe” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - “Man on Fire” Ken Stringfellow - “History Buffs” Fun. - “Carry On” PreciseHero - “Caterpillar” Lord Huron - “The Man Who Lives Forever” The Beach Boys - “That’s Why God Made the Radio” Andy Prieboy - “All Hail the Corporation” The Darkness - “Love Is Not the Answer” Jake Bugg - “Lightning Bolt” Father John Misty - “Fun Times in Babylon” First Aid Kit - “Emmylou” M. Ward - “Primitive Girl” Shearwater - “An Animal Life” Santigold - “Disparate Youth” Beagles - “Naya and Cake”
While reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, I paused to look up some photos of the early Macintosh models.
The first kid on my block to get one of these little off-white boxes was my friend Hal Howell. I remember seeing it set up on a small desk in his family’s rec room and thinking how foreign it looked compared to the earlier Apple llC we had at home.
I was used to the blinking green cursors of our Apple model and found the Mac’s white desktop screen and all-in-one packaging intriguing. It would be about 25 years before I owned my first Mac, but it’s something that was in my consciousness from a young age.
While there is always great music being made and released, not every year yields a windfall of quality albums. The last year I recall being overly excited about new releases was 2008 and so far, the class of 2012 is looking nearly as solid. So rather than wait until the end of the year for a wrap-up, I thought I’d share a few of the albums that have impressed me most in the first five months of this year. These three selections glaringly show my Anglophile tendencies. Only one of these bands is American, though you could make the argument that they sound British.
At this point in the still young year, London-based quartet Django Django are the unlikely forerunner for making my favorite album of the year. Their percussive art pop with slide guitars, percolating synths and strong stacked vocals offers a nice mix of modern sounds and organic simplicity. The songwriting is clever and subtle, but the arrangements give the songs some muscle too. It’s the rare album that is both intelligent and exceedingly fun. I’ve played this debut probably more than any other album I’ve heard in the last six months.
This side project from Zoos of Berlin co-leaders Trevor Naud and Daniel I. Clark is an elegant pastiche of odd jazz and classical samples, gently fractured beats, shimmering guitar work and understated hushed vocals. Zoos of Berlin are one of my favorite bands in Detroit and this new project seems like a logical extension of the things I like about Zoos’ music. Some of the tracks roll by like ambient rambles laden with reverb, but many others are structured and lyrical songs formed over the odd samples. Cool in both tone and premise, this is a great chilled out summer record.
Known for their guitar-based angular new wave pop, U.K. group The Futureheads took a risk by making their fifth album entirely a capella. Adapting several tracks from their previous releases as well as a choice set of covers, they took what could have easily been a mere novelty record and actually made a solid release with a lot more gravity than you would think. Much of Rant’s charm is in its limitations. The band has always been strong on intricate vocals, but when stripped of their instruments you hear their flaws as well. Although many tracks are layered in vocal overdubs, the album has a very human and organic property to it which is appealing in this era of tiresome overly clean Glee type singing. It sounds to me like four well-rehearsed lads working hard to meet a challenge and usually succeeding. There are some complex arrangements here that are worthy of respect no matter how they approached and executed their craft. My total lack of Top 40 knowledge prevents me from recognizing what are apparently some well known modern songs (Kelis, Black Eyed Peas) and my enthusiasm for British folk music causes me to exalt in their traditional adaptations of “Sumer Is Icumen In”, “The Old Dun Cow” and “Hanging Johnny” as well as their excellent cover of Richard Thompson's “Beeswing”. Regardless of how it is received, I'm inspired to hear a band boldly trying to reinvent themselves.
Frequently when I’m reading a book I will stop to copy down a quote or passage that seems intriguing or is especially well written. The same goes for words and terms I don’t recognize and I try to make a point in looking up their meaning. Often, I end up using those words later in my song lyrics. Below are some quotes and definitions I’ve copied down over the last couple of years.
"Friendship is provisional. You have to keep earning it." - Howard Norman (What Is Left the Daughter)
"I swear, if she didn’t exist, she would have to be invented." - Sebastién Japrisot (One Deadly Summer)
"A guitar is like a warm little room." - Haruki Murakami
”Everything that succeeds creates the conditions for its own demise.” - Tom Drury (The Driftless Area)
"Later he eschewed the blaze of improvisation for the steady warmth of patient toil." - Steven Millhauser (Edwin Mullhouse)
"I used to be a swirl in the devil’s fingerprint." - Eric Puchner (Model Home)
"He excavated a boot print she left on the snowy step outside his apartment and preserved it in his freezer. To be in love was to be dazed twenty times a morning." - Anthony Doerr (About Grace)
"In those halcyon times, when rivers ran with strong ale and the supply of spirits was inexhaustable…" - Edmund Crispin (The Moving Toyshop)
- “… and Una, so raven-like and quarrelsome. A rib of Manhattan torn out to make a woman.” - Jonathan Lethem (Chronic City)
A mnemonic for learning the names of the planets in our solar system: Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using No Peanuts - Kevin Brockmeier (View From the Seventh Layer)
WORDS & TERMS:
Son et Lumiére - a technique of presenting a historical spectacle esp. at night before a monument, etc. using special lighting effects and live or recorded music or narration
Voluptuary - a person devoted to luxurious living and sensual pleasures
Palimpsest - a parchment, tablet, etc. that has been written upon or inscribed two or three times, the previous text having been imperfectly erased and remaining, therefore, still party visible
Tatterdemalion - a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe. Wore secreting chemical agent on hands which could dissolve paper. Dressed as a tramp.
I also should give a special nod to Bjork’s Biophelia project. Although I haven’t really absorbed the songs yet, the whole scope of the project was very impressive. The app for the iPad was especially enchanting.
A few newer artists came to my attention through gigs, Bandcamp or were suggested by friends. I really enjoyed these records as well.
One of the things I like about this time of year is reading other people’s wrap-ups and “best of” lists. I usually get exposed to a ton of great music that I missed and spend January catching up.
I couldn’t seem to find the time for as much reading as I would have liked. I did listen to quite a few audio books while driving or doing certain projects at work and I also started listening to podcasts this year. But of the books I did read and listen to, here are my favorites.
There were quite a few small businesses I supported this year, most of them in the food world. These are some of my favorites.
Roos Roast - Free Speech Coffee / Ann Arbor, MI Best coffee in Southern Michigan. Biercamp - Artisan Meats / Ann Arbor, MI Amazing handmade bratwurst, chorizo and other meats. Blissfield Antique Mall / Blissfield, MI A giant and well-curated mall. My favorite antiquing spot in Southern Michigan. Original Gravity Brewery / Milan, MI Still my favorite brewpub in the area. Woodruff’s Bar / Ypsilanti, MI It’s hard to believe Woodruff’s is only 1 year old. Opened just in time to host last year’s Mittenfest, Andy Garris’s new bar quickly became the epicenter for good indie music, friends, craft shows and other odd events. It feels like home. The Bar at 327 Braun Court / Ann Arbor, MI My friend Eric Farrel opened this classy new bar in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district just over a month ago. Check it out!
These were my preferred beers of the year. After our trip to the U.K. I started seeking out hand pulled and English style ales. That being said, I’m still not above a nice cold 40oz or Budweiser.
It was a big year for rum drinks at our house and the Dark and Stormy was our favorite. We also brought home a special bottle of Islay Scotch from Scotland. Here are my favorite non-beer drinks of the year.
For the first time in a very long time, I was fortunate enough to be able to make a few upgrades to my studio as well as some personal acquisitions. Most importantly, I finally took the plunge and bought a MacBook Pro. Like my old used cars, I’d always been waiting for the next thing to break on my two old PC’s and I was tired of the unreliability. I’m so glad I did… this thing is a workhorse! It was well worth the debt. Here are my favorite and most important acquisitions of the year.
MacBook Pro iPhone Electro Voice EV7A stereo speakers from the late 1960’s Yamaha HS50M studio monitors Dagger Zydeco kayak An old beat up Regal parlor guitar
2011 had a very strange rhythm to it. Looking back, I realize that there are several very distinct sections or phases that made up my year.
The front half of my year was driven by two different solitary endeavors: running and preparing my solo album for release. My weeks were a constant pattern of logging training miles for the Edinburgh Marathon, building websites, writing content, gathering artwork and photos, strategizing, setting up a label and trying to locate funding for the album. I didn’t travel or play very many shows and my two passions began to merge into a kind of meditative force that kept me focused and carried me through the winter. There were disruptions and various entertainments, but overall that period felt to me like a great wave of concentrated effort.
When spring arrived it was with a flourish of activity. In addition to my final long training runs, I managed to find funding for my album through the generous donations of fans and friends via a Kickstarter campaign. I launched a new website along with this blog, did a tour in the U.P. and booked a release show and summer tour dates. Then before I knew it, it was mid-May and we were on a plane to the U.K.
I’ve had trouble being able to write about our trip to England and Scotland. Part of it is the lack of spare time, but my first trip overseas was very important in my life and I’ve had trouble trying to explain what it meant to me. I’m still working it out in my head, but I will say that the Western Highlands of Scotland left a very big impression on me. It may be some deep-rooted Scottish ancestral yearning on my part, but travelling through that region was the closest I’ve ever come to being in the “perfect place”. The marathon itself in Edinburgh was an important personal feat, but strangely, after all of those months of work it seemed to take a backseat to the beauty and joy of the rest of our trip. I ran pretty well, but it was a tough slog through some ridiculous winds and I was honestly relieved when it was over and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the trip.
As soon as we arrived back in Michigan our dog Sequoia passed away. He’d been hanging on for a while, but he was an old guy and just quietly slipped away at the beginning of June. We knew it was coming, but Kristie and I were devastated just the same. He was such an impressive and wonderful animal and his absence left a great hole in our lives. It was during the first real heat of summer and it set such a strange tone for the rest of the season. We were grasping at first, but slowly we just got busy with life and from mid-June through October we made a pretty good time of it.
I released my album, played a ton of shows, did some tours, mailed out promos and worked it as hard as I could. We started taking trips in our vintage camper Danforth. We went swimming, had cookouts, made some new friends, saw old friends. I bought a kayak and Kristie bought a paddleboard. We took multiple trips up to the Leelanau and spent a week in the U.P. for Nora & Jared’s wedding. We had friends out for bonfires at the farm and even screened movies on the barn wall. In the fall I did some festival shows and got to play in NYC and Philadelphia with a new version of the band. We had a big party at my parents’ house in Brighton in mid-October and then I played a big show at The Ark in Ann Arbor the following week. Through all of this, the Tigers made a great run at the playoffs just missing another trip to the World Series. It was a whirlwind… the complete opposite of the first four months of the year.
Then just as suddenly, things got have gotten very quiet again over the last two months. I’ve spent a lot of time reorganizing my studio, doing house chores, repairs and other tasks that had been neglected over the past year. I’ve felt unable to get into a creative state of mind and attribute it to a sort of creative hangover from a very intense year. I’ve been helping Kristie with her new company Tourist Park. She has had her own big year of creative pursuits building a product line of beautiful vintage-inspired sewn goods. In terms of concentration and intensity, her last few months of sewing, creating, setting up a website and making her debut at two premier indie craft shows have been a virtual mirror to my efforts in the beginning of the year. I’m so glad to live with such an inspiring and interesting person.
I’ve recently begun practicing and recording with Great Lakes Myth Society again. Our year and half long hiatus has come to a close and we’re ready to resume work on our third album. I just told my brother how much I was looking forward to having a weekly band practice night again and working together on a project. It’s led me to think that I may be seeking more collaborations in 2012. I do plan on recording more solo work in the near future, but I’m ready to try and forge some new creative relationships so I think it will be a much different experience and result than last time around. I also think I may run another marathon. I must be insane.
Unconscious Trending in Album Cover Artist Name Placement
Upon the release of my second solo album earlier this year, I decided to assemble my discography over the last twelve years. On a whim, I lined up the six main CD’s from my career on the floor of my studio and noticed a curious visual trend.
Beginning with our 1999 release “The Legende of Jeb Minor”, the band (or artist) name is positioned slightly higher in the design of each subsequent album cover. Some of the designs I had a major hand in and others I merely approved drafts from a hired designer so it would be difficult to make the case that there was a subconscious intention at work here. Still, I thought I’d go back and take a brief look at each release and see if there was anything to it.
The Legende of Jeb MinorbyThe Original Brothers and Sisters of Love (1999) This was the first legitimate release by anyone in the band. After the teenage and college years of weird weekend bands, 4-track cassette releases and odd gigs, this was the first time any of us had worked hard enough to create something worthy of considering a “release”. We were a new band intent on working our way up. The original 1999 release on Planet Ant Records didn’t even have the band name on the cover. It was added to the lower right corner after we were picked up by The Telegraph Company in 2000.
H.O.M.E.S. Volume OnebyThe Original Brothers and Sisters of Love (2001) Jeb Minor gave us some clout locally and led to a record deal with The Telegraph Company in Brooklyn, NY. With the addition of Fido Kennington on drums, the lineup was solidified and we moved to a new studio and started working on better equipment. Our confidence was building, but the classic “Calithumpian Band” photo was the hero of this album cover and our name had to settle just below it. Summer Cherry GhostsbyTimothy Monger (2004) After three years of work and a lifetime of thinking about it, I released my first solo album. I admit that by the time we got to the artwork, I was crippled with debt and completely stressed out. Although I love the birdhouse photo session I did with Doug Coombe, I’ll admit to having had greater intentions for this album cover. I worked with a designer I met through a mutual friend and it was done very quickly. She did an excellent job with what I gave her, but I remember mere days before going to press choosing this version of the cover out of a line-up of four. In the year leading up to the release, I had imagined my name in a classic illustrated 60’s-style banner across the top, but in the panic to get it all done, it never materialized. The named climbed up a notch from the last release but it wasn’t ready for prime time, I guess.
Great Lakes Myth SocietybyGreat Lakes Myth Society (2005) Technically this album was recorded as “H.O.M.E.S. Volume Two” by The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love and we had another bizarre 100 year old Northern Michigan clown band photo already chosen for the cover which would mirror our previous release. After three years of recording we presented the finished album to our label just as they were going bankrupt. Depressed and disenchanted, we actually disbanded for a few months before reforming as Great Lake Myth Society in early 2004. We began reworking our new live show and image and the album eventually fell into the hands of Boston label Stop, Pop and Roll who released it in 2005. We called on our friend Dan Shepelavy who had done our previous cover to construct something classy and moody. His simple and understated photo of the dark water surface aptly fit our new black-suited image and our name could be nowhere except front and center.
Compass Rose BouquetbyGreat Lakes Myth Society (2007) Newly signed to Ann Arbor’s Quack Media label, we recorded this album more quickly than we had ever done before. We had a great batch of songs, a willing label and were back in the comfortable confines of our favorite studio Big Sky Recording. We knew we wanted to commission a piece of art for the cover and hired Brooklyn illustrator Rachel Salomon. Her lovely painting of the high-wire tower dictated that our name would should rise into the air above it, but we were ready to move up anyway.
The New Britton SoundbyTimothy Monger (2011) The cover photo of my newest solo album was chosen long before the record was finished. It’s a crop of a gorgeous panoramic photo taken by my girlfriend Kristie Brablec. It was shot about a half mile from our farm on nearby Centennial Road. Once again, I hired designer Dan Shepelavy and he came up with the classic lock-up text for the album cover. In an early draft, he had place my name even higher in the image but I asked him to bring it down a bit. I have to leave a little headroom for future releases.
Conclusion: It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.
As I slowly assemble and refine my humble little home recording studio, I find I’m constantly drawn to and inspired by the workspaces of other artists. My friend Chad brought to my attention a recent article about one of my favorite painters Jamie Wyeth. In this Preservation Magazine feature, he discusses his own home studio on Southern Island, Maine as well as his father’s and grandfather’s studios back in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.
During my first year as a college dropout I lived with my parents and commuted into Ann Arbor to work at a record store. Schoolkids’ Records was deep into jazz and I spent many of my afternoons there stocking shelves, listening to promos and looking up artists I didn’t know in the All Music Guide to Jazz book. Stan Getz and Strings became a favorite on those late October days when the wind would blow stray leaves, rain and the occasional customer through the door rustling the magazine rack and concert posters on the wall.
Getz’s signature hushed tenor sax paired with the weepy strings created a heady atmosphere that completely enchanted my hungry 19 year old mind. While it wasn’t my first jazz record, it was an accessible one for a pop music fan. Every time I hear his classic track “Autumn Leaves” I’m instantly transported back to a specific rainy Saturday walking with my black umbrella to my first real job while everyone else my age went back to school.
Last night I dreamed that I had inherited or somehow become the caretaker of my grandfather’s old house in Dexter, Michigan. Although Granddad (as we referred to him) has long since passed, the situation seemed urgent and I arrived hastily by night to find that my brother had already prepped the house for me. The autumn leaves were all blown to the sides of the driveway creating sort of blacktop canyon bordered by dead brown leaves.
Apparently Granddad owned a large chestnut colored horse who lived in the back yard. I have limited experience with horses and was nervous that I wouldn’t know how to take care of it. I needn’t have worried. I opened the back door to the garage and the horse was right there standing among the tools, workbench and lawnmower. The horse informed me that he usually received gin in the mornings and even had the gall to ask for top shelf gin as opposed the the Arrow brand he’d been accustomed to. I’m not sure how we communicated, but he made his demands easily known.
I mixed up a batch of gin and tonic in his trough and then looked for something to feed him. On a top shelf among oil cans and boxes of nails were a bunch of Mason jars filled with oddly shaped dried corncobs. The dark yellow corn was clustered in strange golf ball-sized shapes on thin brown stalks. I held one out to the horse which he quickly ate.
At this point, my memory of that portion of the dream dissolves. I do recall emerging from a dark alley later in the dream and seeing my friend Nora standing with a group of people under some type of carnival concessions tent. I was so excited that I ran over and head-butted her in the stomach knocking her over. Laying on the ground, I looked up to see her husband Jared standing next to a popcorn machine and I was delighted to see them both.
I was at a streetside demo for the iPad and my friend Scott DeRoche was playing with a new version that had a lot of buttons all over it. He was manually scrolling with the arrow keys installed onto the top border and I realized that his was a PC version and many of the controls were not touch screen based. I pulled out my 1st generation Mac platform iPad and someone exclaimed “Oh, I like that one so much better!”
I walked on down the street and suddenly it was nighttime and I was in Detroit. I ran in to GLMS drummer Fido Kennington who had our old band van “Jeffine" parked against the curb. Jeffine was about 14 feet long and parked in several feet of dirty snow. As I began to shovel them out a digitally rendered, very pixelated U.F.O. in the bright rainbow colors of the 1980’s Apple logo flew over our heads.
Fido and I instantly knew that Scott DeRoche was inside with Mike Pinder from The Moody Blues and they had just started a band together. I’d been so proud of my Mac iPad, but now I felt like I’d missed a great opportunity to hook up with Mike Pinder and was sad I hadn’t stayed at the demo a while longer.
Fido said “Whoa, is that Mike Pinder? What does he need a spaceship for?”
Today is th 91st birthday of writer Ray Bradbury, a longtime hero of mine. His books and short stories have been a great influence on me and my songwriting since I discovered them at age 13. Especially this time of year, when the first cold snaps chill the air each morning and night, I’m filled with the great autumnal enchantment that lives in so many of his books. From his birthday today until October 31st… this is the season to be reading Bradbury.
If you’ve never read his first collection of short stories The October Country, find a chilly evening when the leaves begin to change and get lost in this classic.
Here are a couple of articles published today in celebration of Bradbury:
Following a typically amazing plate of tacos at Lupitas in Detroit’s Mexican Town, we headed over to Roosevelt Park at the Southern edge of Corktown for R. Park Fest ‘11. The allure of 30 craft beers on tap, some great Detroit bands and temporary halfpipe/skatepark was enough to get us there, although I generally like any chance I get to head to Detroit.
In the end, we were only there for about an hour as the impending rain put festivities on hold just after the excellent set by Scott Masson’s new project Glossies. But during that hour, we had a couple of fine Michigan beers, talked shit with some of our skater friends and met recent Detroit transplant Bryan Christopher Baker who has just set up his new letterpress studio Stukenborg just down the street in Corktown. It turns out Bryan was responsible for the great R. Park Fest poster I kept seeing in everyone’s hands.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty more from him as he gets acclimated into the Detroit arts and print scene.
On our way out, we stopped to watch some of the skaters on the weird collapsible halfpipe trailer which was provided by Modern Skate. With the old train station in the background, it was a pretty stunning scene.
Just before we left, I took a few shots of Michigan Central Station across from Roosevelt Park. I never tire of this downtrodden abandoned monolith looming over Corktown. I hope they can save this beautiful building which has stood empty for so long. Detroiters are well aware of the importance and relevance of their history, but sometimes these old giants do fall. I was reminded of this as we drove home down Michigan Avenue past Tiger Stadium where all that remains is a fence and a weedy diamond. And what do you know? There was a pick-up game in progress! Beautiful.
Ealier this month, we spent about a week and a half up North camping, swimming and helping our friends Nora and Jared stage an elaborate and beautiful wedding in the woods outside of Big Bay near Marquette.
I’m always drawn to classic vintage signs from bygone eras. Below is a trio of beauties I saw on our trip to the U.P. Two of them harken to the golden age of American roadside tourism and although they were taken on two different peninsulas, both are of “Indian Villages”.
Our truck broke down in West Branch off of I-75N and we were stranded at a public RV park for a night. This above Indian Village Adventure Golf course was just across the street from us and next door to the auto dealer who would repair the truck the following Monday. There was a large cement teepee which appears to have originally housed the office, but was now a tool/junk shed. We had to go into the sad, dark bowling alley behind the course to get our clubs and score sheet. When we asked if there was any place in town where we could get a decent meal, the nice young guy at the alley enthusiastically recommended Ponderosa Steakhouse.
On the back end of our trip after many nights of camping, we stopped to spend the night on the North side of the bridge in St. Ignace where we could sleep in a proper hotel bed . We walked down the main drag for some underwhelming fried Whitefish at the Driftwood Sportsbar and then poked around the knick-knacks at Indian Village. Like most of these Northern tourist shops, it’s either horrible or awe-inspiring depending on your point of view. Airbrushed wolf sweatshirts that would look at home on a Brooklyn hipster or an Escanaba mom, overpriced moccasins, the typical Mackinac Bridge shot glasses and mugs… when I’m in the mood, I kind of love these places. After leaving there we went across the street to the Museum of Ojibwe Culture and watched a captivating video on how to make a birch canoe by hand. It was actually quite beautiful.
On the morning of the wedding while Nora and Kristie were getting their hair done, I took a walk around Marquette. I visited some of my favorite little shops like Snowbound Books and Views of the Past and then checked out the busy Saturday farmer’s market. On my way out of the market I passed by Remie’s Tavern where I once watched the thrilling conclusion of a Tigers playoff game in 2006 after a mid-October GLMS show just down the street. The bar is decent, but the sign is a total neon classic.
This is a nice story worthy of a blog called Britton Nonfiction. It’s not often that our town comes up in the news.
On our way to Tuesday night’s Detroit Tigers game against the A’s at Comerica Park, we got a call from Kristie’s dad telling us that 25 year old Britton native Duane Below would be making his MLB debut with the club on Wednesday night as the starting pitcher. Although I’ve never met Below, our town is very small and I’ve certainly heard about him over the past few years. There is an article about his being drafted into the Tigers farm system posted on the wall of Britton’s lone restaurant The Whistle Stop which I’ve read a few times over drinks and dinner. I’m a die hard Tiger fan and while I do follow the minor league system to a degree, I hadn’t realized that Below was playing AAA ball and putting up some nice numbers for Toledo this year. Suddenly, with the Tigers decision to rest Justin Verlander for an extra game a hole in the rotation opened up and they decided to take a chance with our local rookie.
I’m sure that every television in Britton will be tuned in to the game and The Whistle Stop will be doing a brisk gametime business on Wednesday. I’ll be working at the Ann Arbor Skate Park booth at the Art Fair until 7pm, but you can bet I’ll be watching Below’s debut immediately afterward. It’s rare these days for a native ballplayer to work his way up the MLB farm system of his own local big league team and it’s an especially unique treat for the 700 or so residents of our little town to witness a true Cinderella sports story like this one.
Best of luck to Duane Below as he toes the slab in Detroit’s fabled ballpark for the first time. I can’t imagine what an honor that would be. It takes so much dedication and many sacrifices to get to the big leagues and a lot of promising players never even get a cup of coffee in the Bigs. Well done, Duane.