My husband meets Ann Arbor

09 +00002016-05-09T18:10:56+00:0031 2012 § 8 Comments


Ann Arbor is in Michigan, not so very far from Detroit, and currently at about the same point of spring as the Pennines of Yorkshire, with daffodils just beginning to decline from their best, the arrival of swallows and the fresh green of young leaves in sheltered places; a good deal of grass cutting was going on when we were there. The city is home to the main campus of Michigan University and the whole place was filled with graduating students, accompanied for some of the time by, it seemed, more than one generation of family supporters; a good deal of photography was also going on.

When I travelled with Christina to Amsterdam, you may recall that I provided a range of photographs to capture the spirit of that lovely city; she asked me to wander around Ann Arbor and take some pictures to add to the ones she took when she was last there, for she would not, this time, have the leisure to do so herself. (As you can tell, she has also asked me to do a blog post, as she is still very busy!) I didn’t take pictures of the grass cutting, but allowed myself one graduation moment. The rest of the pictures have no particular significance, but US readers of this blog may forgive my including things which to a Brit are strikingly different from back home. The school buses, for example, are perhaps as iconic to us in the UK as London red Routemaster double-decker buses are to the rest of the world (there seemed to be an awful lot of school buses in Ann Arbor, but I then discovered that their depot was just around the corner from our hotel!). Most people appeared to take taxis or drive themselves around town and there were very few pedestrians outside the downtown area; the campus itself, of course, was full of walkers, bikers, monocyclists and skateboarders. Nobody in the hotel could tell me where to catch a bus, but I hopped on and off a few to give my legs a rest (I’m still recuperating after surgery earlier this year.).  The houses were largely clapboard homes, the more modern of them part brick, and, apart from the student-rental homes (typically dilapidated and with piles of garbage on porch and in garden!) were immaculately tended, as were their gardens. Blossom time had arrived to set them off nicely!


One real surprise was that not much has been made of the beautiful River Huron, though I understand that there are places for kayaking now. I had to ask several people before I could find one who knew how to get down to the river; he seemed genuinely astonished that I wanted to go. Another place that I visited was Aunt Agatha’s Raven Award-winning (2014) crime bookshop, which Christina had heard about from one of the regular commenters on this blog, who I think lives not far out of town; she therefore asked me to go and browse, which I duly did, meeting Marty, the knowledgeable and long-serving bookseller there. He didn’t really want his picture taken, but, what the hell! I’m not surprised that the shop has such a reputation – its stock of used and new crime books is extensive. Sadly, I didn’t get to meet the owners, who were out of town. I enjoyed a Notting Hill moment there, by the way, as Marty, in the role of Hugh Grant, dealt with someone who wasn’t grasping too well (in spite of the window image below) that it was a crime and mystery store!


I enjoyed the wildlife, the most ubiquitous of which were American robins (not at all related to the English robin, but more thrush/blackbird in behaviour), the reddish-grey squirrels and Canada geese. In the shrubbery next to the flyover of Eisenhower Parkway, I was pleased to get a close personal view of the quite common northern cardinal, but he flew before I had chance to get the camera out.


I hope that you enjoy the pictures! The little boy in me loved the trucks!

Busy South Main Street

Busy South Main Street




Turbine made from retired canoes

Turbine made from retired canoes



Railroad passenger depot 1887, now a restaurant

Railroad passenger depot 1887, now a restaurant




Marty at Aunt Agatha's

Marty at Aunt Agatha’s


Nickels Arcade

Nickels Arcade








Through the university art gallery window

Through the university art gallery window



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§ 8 Responses to My husband meets Ann Arbor

  • It is so much fun to see our places through the eyes of a foreigner – you! School buses and big trucks! Not to excuse anybody but sometimes the students who are graduating do haul all of their stuff outside and leave it there. Maybe if there was a group graduating, that is what you were seeing. I hope it’s not usual because we are moving to Saline/Ann Arbor pretty soon and that will tick me off. Thanks for the post.

    • My husband noticed, because he remembered it as typical of the student quarter he lived in as an undergraduate. He enjoys wandering and looking, as you can probably tell, and had a good time in Ann Arbor. I was delighted to return, but work took up the weekdays. Thank you for visiting and commenting. You’re very welcome here, Vanessa. Good luck with your move.

  • jwelling says:

    I’m very sorry to have missed you two here in A2.

    The bus. Ah, the bus. I’ve mentioned that Michigan is an extremely corrupt place, no?

    Let me bring you up to speed. In the last eight years, I’ve seen the mayor of Detroit go to state and then federal jail. His chief of staff: state prison. A city councilwoman – who was married to the longest serving member of the US House of Representatives – federal prison for 37 months.

    This is how it goes here. Corruption is endemic. Be sure to follow the Flint City water crisis. Latest bit (well, today’s bit). City staff told the emergency manager the water was “fine.” An emergency manager is what you get in Michigan when your city goes broke – or nearly broke – because of the way the state hands out money to municipalities. When it gets too bad, the state steps in and you lose the right for local self-governance.

    The news yesterday? The current mayor is being sued in Federal court for directing relief agency payments to …her discretionary election fund. Can’t make this stuff up.

    Let’s just say that the fiduciary instincts of the public management of funds in Michigan has been due a generous skepticism for a long time. Part of that extends tot he efficiency with which services are delivered. Thus, the bus. It’s hardly the sterling model of efficient public service here in A2.

    Part of the problem is the bus system. Part of it is a HUGE road repair effort that has strangled a main artery of travel in this part of Michigan and dumped a great deal of unwanted traffic onto A2’s delicate streets. Those trucks? Part of M-14 being closed for months causing real access problems and kill a “bypass.”

    I couldn’t make the buses run on time with a shotgun and a $100 bill right now.

    Hey, did you see the $750K water sculpture in front of city hall? Installed in 2011. Doesn’t work. That’s right. $750K and it doesn’t work.

    Locally, it is known as the Hurinal (Huron River …get it?) . It’s an apt depiction of the public management of the little burg down the road from me.

    I’m in an idyllic little place just west. I can bribe my government with a round of beers. Works out well that way.

    Hammett wrote about Poisonville in _Red Harvest_. I’ve got my own little stories right here.

    Check out Charlie LeDuff’s _Detroit: An American Autopsy_ for the latest in regional news. Charlie is a great guy.

    Great snaps. Grad weekend here is a bear. Student ghetto’s are alike the world over but the nice parts of Michigan are indeed unspeakably nice.

    So sorry to have missed you both. You probably sent me an email and I didn’t check the account. Nothing out on submission right now so …poor about looking at the mail.

    So sorry you missed Robin at Aunt Agatha’s. Super nice people. Super nice.

    Let me know next time. I know where the bodies are buried. I put guys in office around here. It’s a hobby. Makes for fun stories, though. Fun stories.

    • Hello, Jack! Thank you so much for such a detailed and interesting comment! Sorry to have missed you, too, but it was a hectic visit, full of work for me, at least. We did have a day in Detroit and I think the fountain you refer to is by that circular sculpture looking across the river to Canada; it was certainly not working and we commented on the fact that it was odd, considering the location and the Stars and Stripes impact of the place. My impression of the city was that it was very quiet, with little traffic, though it was the weekend, I suppose. The airport gives a good impression of regeneration, but the city itself has a long way to go. I’ll follow up on your references here. Best wishes to you and, if you visit Aunt Agatha’s, let Marty know my husband did the post. 🙂

      • jwelling says:

        Ah, if the $750K was spent on a monument fountain in Detroit welcoming Canadian visitors … Alas, it was not. It’s a 17 foot high piece of steel in front of the Ann Arbor’s own city hall and is still …not working.

        There is a lot of facade in Ann Arbor. Fitting. Mayors take out the trash, flush the toilets, put out fires, keep order, keep traffic moving. Anything else is icing …afterwards. Mayors who forget these basics tend to become “former mayors” when constituents finally have enough. It can take decades for some populations. For communists, it can take longer.

        Posturing over substance: the eternal battle of public administration through elected forms of government. The Romans didn’t solve it. Little hope for us.

        Detroit. When the public schools fell under an emergency manager five years ago, they had a “pick-up your paycheck in person” day because … a number of individuals were on the payroll with “no show” jobs. They were receiving full wages for jobs they did not even report to …

        Principals in High Schools had maintenance staff they’d never knew were employed.

        Of course, in March of this year 14 current and former DPS principals were indited on federal conspiracy and bribery charges over false requisitions and kickbacks from the purchase of supplies. Only around $3M in DPS funds were involved so it didn’t rank too high on the news list.

        ” On this spot in 1917, a water commissioner refused a bribe.” There’s a historical plaque we ought to go see next time you’re here. Loren Estleman has that line in one of his Amos Walker stories so I ought to give him full credit. Probably true, though.

        Detroit is working hard and the fact real estate is a bargain is fueling some encouraging rebirth. Unfortunately, schools remain a reason “flight” is still an issue as raising your family in Detroit proper is unattractive to many. Home buying decisions over here usually revolve around schools and school districts.

        Police did find a live 400 pound hog in the basement of an abandoned Detroit house last fall. The police spokesman said it “probably” had not been eating victims of violent crimes. “Probably.”

      • Ah, Jack, you do cynicism as an art form! However, it’s fascinating to see below the surface and your comments are, as always, entertaining! Every so often, we experience the outing of corrupt officials – local councils in England seem to breed them! ‘You couldn’t make this stuff up!’ is what people say, but, as you know, I do! Nothing like a real story, however, for providing the stimulus for a fictional one. I’ll turn to you if I’m ever stuck for ideas – I have the feeling you might represent more than a trickle of them.
        Very good wishes to you, Jack, and thanks, as always for your take on things here.

  • vallypee says:

    I think ‘Mr James’ stands in very well. I enjoyed his take on Ann Arbor and also the different perspective and view the boy toys were great fun as well!

    • He’s preening himself on account of your compliment, Valerie. I can safely say that you wouldn’t have had trucks from me! I was interested to hear from Jack Welling that they are flooding through the city because of the highway closure, which one of my American colleagues had mentioned in another context. Sorry to have been so absent. It is proving to be a big work year, this one. Must get DI Yates five finished! 🙂

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