Ann Arbor, June 2021
June 20, 2021
The train to Ann Arbor left on time, but was delayed immediately south of the station. Between that, speed limitations, and whatnot, the Wolverine was at least a half hour late. Could have been worse.
On the train, a man sitting behind me offered to heft my suitcase onto the overhead rack. I feel like this means I’ve graduated from “not cute enough to help” to “too old and decrepit not to help.” I said, “Sure,” but by the time he’d gotten up on his hind legs, I’d managed to heave it over the railing. I flexed my right bicep and said, “Have to stay in shape!” I’m not sure he was amused.
The trip was uneventful. In some ways I miss the possibility of having an interesting companion. When I arrived in Ann Arbor, the temperature was in the mid-80s, and the setting sun was beating into my eyes. At first it didn’t look like I’d be able to get a Lyft, but just as I’d resigned myself to walking (uphill), one became available. Whew.
I sat on my balcony for awhile as it got darker, gradually becoming aware the railing was dripping wet. I moved indoors, maybe because it felt a little cooler. Also at some point my phone exploded with weather alerts. The radar showed lots of thunderstorms moving toward both Chicago and Ann Arbor. Lots of thunderstorms with lots of red at their cores.
Awhile later the downpour came, which sounded great on the skylights (two in the living area, one in the kitchen area, one in the bathroom). When I looked out the back toward the neighbors’ yard, it looked like the downpour was rising as a bright mist. It would have been a great visual effect in a movie.
Next came the lightning through the skylights, then thunder. At one moment, they were nearly simultaneous. I felt very cozy, even when I woke up during the wee hours and there were a few flashes of half-hearted lightning.
June 21, 2021
The weather looked iffy all day, with lots of cloud cover, even if it didn’t do much of anything after all. I felt lazy, too, and my right Achilles tendon is continuing to bother me. In the mid-afternoon I ordered from Zingerman’s — a “Tard’s Tenacious Tenure” sandwich (turkey, avocado, muenster, Russian dressing, etc.), two kinds of pickles, BBQ chips, potato salad, key lime pie, and a Spindrift raspberry lime drink (water?). Enough for two meals. That’s one way to avoid the Zingerman’s line.
Every time I thought about going for a walk somewhere, a look at the sky and a twinge from my legs and Achilles tendon deterred me. This couldn’t go on for a week.
Maybe it was on this day I noticed the birds. From the balcony I’ll see a male cardinal once in a while, plus the usual European house sparrows and starlings. I might also hear the occasional coo of a mourning dove. This time I saw not only a female cardinal (on the fence) but I noticed most of the birds flying back and forth and landing in the trees and on the roof above me were house finches (they seemed less colorful than purple finches). I spotted a chipmunk running around between the neighbors’ yard and the B&B’s parking area and fence (under the “Park Not Here” signs).
Given the recent news I’ve tried to avoid about birds dying from a mystery illness, I was surprised by the number of birds and greater diversity. I wondered if someone nearby had put out a feeder (not recommended at this time), but their focus was on the trees and the roof above me.
June 22, 2021
Finally I ventured out, to Sava’s, where I ordered sweetie fries and a pasta entree, plus shoestring fries and a different pasta entree to take with me. And “A Lonesome Dove,” a really, really good cocktail. I don’t know why I didn’t have two.
Normally, I would have sat outdoors to watch the world go by, but the new arrangement has larger tables outside. i would have felt odd. Indoors, it was more like watching who was and wasn’t taking COVID-19 precautions. The three women at the front were mask-less; the server wasn’t. Does that mean they are vaccinated and he isn’t? Or that he is, but he’s extra cautious for personal reasons or because he has closer exposure to patrons?
(For the record, I’m fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and I generally stay masked in public indoors as much as possible. The precaution is not a big deal.)
Afterward I stopped at CVS, where I got some dental stuff I needed and candy I didn’t. I wandered back through the park with the benches, which I finally realized is not so much a park as a green space between two University of Michigan buildings. That was the extent of my adventures for the day . WEAK!
June 23, 2021
I wanted to see if I could handle the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown and get in stops at Cafe Verde (now the People’s Food Co-op Cafe) and the Motte & Bailey used bookstore. I figured out how to use the bus system — after a fashion. You pay the fare online, activate your day pass just before boarding, and show it on your phone to the driver. Schedules and status are online. That much was simple. What proved to be challenging was getting to where I thought I was going — the Hands-On Museum, which is close enough to Kerrytown for me to walk. What I didn’t know was that Huron Street is under construction in that direction, so the bus detoured to the transportation center south of the post office. My nerves, joints, and Achilles tendon were going to get a workout whether they liked it or not (they didn’t).
I made it to Kerrytown, where I saw the People’s Food Co-op (always Cafe Verde to me) was closed, how temporarily I couldn’t tell. That had been my second choice for lunch. My first, The Lunch Room, where I’d had such a good salad two years ago, had been closed permanently in 2020. Sigh. I went over to Kerrytown Market & Shops, where Spun has taken over the space formerly occupied by Hollander’s.
Then I remembered I wanted to get something at Sweetwaters, which turned out to be a sandwich, coffee, and a huge piece of chocolate cake. Hey, I was on vacation. After a long sojourn there and a second biology break on the second floor, I stopped and bought these at Ann Arbor Spice Merchants — something I’d never heard of.
By the time I was done, the farmers market participants were packing up, and if I remember right the sky may have been dripping. It was odd to see no one sitting outside the People’s Food Co-op, where I noticed greenery taking over between the pavers — perhaps a sign of much-reduced foot traffic? No one had been sitting around earlier, even before the sky started spitting.
With a last wistful glance at Cafe Verde, I made my final stop at Motte & Bailey, which never disappoints. That’s where I found a book on the Pennsylvania Wilds in the front window display worthy after returning from a visit there. This time I was excited to see a history of Niagara Falls. If only I could carry more back. And had more time to read (starting with The Pennsylvania Wilds).
At this point it didn’t look like I was going to be able to get a Lyft, and I hadn’t fully figured out the transit system’s detours (I called customer service, and two representatives were as confused as I was). I walked the relatively short distance back — maybe seven-tenths of a mile — slowly and painfully. I have to get past this.
June 24, 2021
The weather was as good as it was going to get, and I was running out of days, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to make my long-desired visit to Parker Mill County Park. Two years ago, even pre-COVID-19, I’d been afraid of being stranded there.
The building under construction in 2019 is open now, with the name All Seasons Ann Arbor. It turns out it’s a senior living community. Now I wish I’d taken a photo of it from the Parker Mill parking lot. I wasn’t keen on such a big development so close to the park, but finished of course it’s more attractive than a construction site. It’s sprawling. It looks like independent living only, and you’d have to call for costs. No doubt out of my league.
I didn’t know all that when I arrived, just that it was done and was fronted by a monument sign. I was there for its neighbor.
I’d have preferred a sunnier day, but as long as it didn’t rain life was good. After a pit stop I walked down the slope and found not much had changed. A couple of families with loud, active children overseen by what looked like grandparents (residents of next door?) were playing by the pump and rocks, so after a look around I headed for the other side, which seems to be less visited. While I was there I saw only a few adult walkers plus a handful of cyclists whizzing by on the bordering paved bike path.
I didn’t find the mushroom patch from 2019, but the creek still burbles along, and the pavilion still sports a rooftop of plants and trees. This time I noticed many of the rough-hewn log benches are rotting away, which I don’t recall two years ago — two years of weather.
In the mid-afternoon the woods were quiet except for the drone of traffic on Geddes. I know birds have their active and quiet times, but I wonder if even mid-afternoons were not so quiet before DDT, climate change, and Nile virus. In the 1960s, my dad wondered where all the robins of his youth had gone. My childhood norm, which he was pointing out, was different from his, and my nieces’ norm was different from mine no doubt — but they may not know that. I wonder.
I could go only so far in the one direction, while the other seems to lead away from the creek. I didn’t want to spend my limited energy finding out. Behind the pavilion is a fence, so I walked back to the pump area..
I looked for ebony jewel wings, but they weren’t as plentiful with the sun hidden under the clouds. I had found some on the other side of the bridge on some rocks, but they were in shade and too far away for the iPhone camera to capture. No crayfish. Not even a butterfly that I remember. Not the right conditions, apparently.
Looking at the park map, I found an accessible trail (boardwalk) past the pioneer cabin and went as far as the beginning of it before I realized I was both hungry and out of steam (or spoons). Reluctantly I headed back to the parking area and finally requested a Lyft. To my surprise, there was one not that far away. On the ride back, I noted The Ride bus stop near Parker Mill County Park. Just in case.
June 25, 2021
When it wasn’t pouring, it was raining. When it wasn’t raining, it was drizzling. I curled up with a book and writing, maybe TV, but I really wanted at least one visit to Nickels Arcade and Comet Coffee. Finally, around 4:30, I left umbrella in hand, well, over head. I walked past Ye Gods and Little Fishes, but it was too wet to risk the iPhone for photos or videos. And the lighting could not have been drearier. Late fall in late June.
I got to Comet Coffee in a relatively dry condition, ordered coffee, a cookie, and a couple of high-end chocolate bars for later. The particular coffee I got was expensive but divine. If it were available here nearby, I’d be reallocating my pay.
My intention had been to stay as long as they were open (another hour) and as long as no one wanted a table. Soon I realized I am way too heavy for the delicate cafe chairs in the arcade. I expected to go splat with an embarrassing crash at any moment. More incentive, if I need any, to lose weight. I stayed as long as it took to drink the large divine coffee and eat the large cookie (part of the weight loss plan, right?). I didn’t mind the occasional drip from the arcade’s glass roof — not as bad as a 1990s CTA bus.
By the time I was done, I didn’t have it in me to check out some of the stores I like, so I headed back. My timing was perfect. Not too long after, the sky exploded. I made it to a tent on campus set up for some occasion, which had a warning sign about not sitting there during bad weather. A handful of us risked it, although I didn’t stay long — too heavy for the folding chairs . . . I shouldn’t have had that cookie. Of course I fled just as the deluge was at its worst. By the time I got to my room, my sleeves were wet, my pant legs were wet, my socks were wet. When I left on Sunday, the shirt sleeves were still damp. This was first time in Ann Arbor the weather was more uncooperative than not. But I’d never done so little walking, either.
June 26, 2021
I had lunch with friends at Conor O’Neil’s, which was busier than I’d seen during previous visits. I usually go during the week, though, and this was Saturday with a soccer game on the many tellies.
During the week, I saw some people wearing masks while others didn’t. I assume some, like me, are vaccinated, maybe many or even most. I tend not to wear one in the uncrowded outdoors, but do mask up indoors. Not everyone does. It’s easy to get a sense everyone is tired of being cooped up, constrained, masked, and lonely. The world’s dominated by extroverts for whom Zoom is no substitute for a social Guinness and a world soccer game.
I wonder what next year’s visit will be like. If there is one. (A visit, not a next year. Don’t get me started.)
“Late fall in late June”: I like that phrase, though I wouldn’t have liked the weather. Boo to rain for travelers.
But that sandwich!