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Onward to Michigan
updated: Oct 01, 2011, 8:45 AM
I see that some GOP Big Cheeses held a meeting on Mackinac Island this week.
Now I can happily say I've been there, and I can understand their choice, if not
their philosophies. But let's take it from the bottom (of Michigan).
The freeway from Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI circles the bottom of big and
beautiful Lake Michigan, landing you in perhaps the crown of Michigan, the
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor looks like a very fine, very
normal American by-gawd city, although it appears less ethnic than normal to a
Californian. Lots of Asians, like any other U.S. college town, but the prevailing
skin color is Ruddy Farm. You notice things like that when visiting from the
melting pot that is Southern California. It's an interesting change.
The gem on the crown is the University of Michigan, home of the famous
football Wolverines, some world-class marching bands and, with Wisconsin and
California, top-drawer academics in state-run schools.
It's easy to understand the football program's priorities. Professor Google tells
us that wolverines are "the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae
(weasels). It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a
small bear than other mustelids. The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and
strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many
times its size."
Be advised, Wisconsin Badgers.
UM is a beautiful, traditional campus of stone and brick. In the middle is a large
square of buildings that is divided diagonally by a broad walkway, and strolling
through is utterly pleasant (given fair weather, of course; there's the other
Michigan, the winter one). We bought some postcards and a blue and gold T-
shirt, and kept walking.
Our Peace Corps friend, Mike Hinken is a writing teacher there, and he took us
to a perfect dinner at Zingerman's Deli (It's much more than a deli and the owner
isn't named Zingerman). The joint was swamped with happy diners, probably still
in party mode following the previous day's defeat of Notre Dame in football.
One of my UCSB English professors (emeritus), Homer Swander, got his PhD
at U of M years ago and taught there for a time. He once said, "There's no place
like Ann Arbor on a football Saturday."
We toured the Real World Michigan on our way north. A middle-class city in
middle America, Midland, MI, mid-land, just east of the middle of the state. While
it's a light-industry city, thanks to the super-successful Dow family, it seems to be
surviving, probably thanks to Dow -- Dow Corning Corp./Dow Chemical Co, Dow
This and Dow That on every hand.
Spousie's Aunt Dolores, 92, Phi Beta Kappa in English at Dartmouth 70 years
ago, has lived in Midland her whole adult life, raising five children, all educated
and successful. Her husband was a chemical engineer for Dow for many years.
The Dow enterprise was founded in Midland in 1897, and has been good for the
town ever since.
We enjoyed the flavor and the feel, of a solidly American, old-fashioned, pleasant
and attractive town of 42,000, complete with ice cream shop, high school football
field, tree-lined streets, peace and quiet, and a stunning park, Dow Gardens. The
park is named, of course, after the homestead on the edge of town established
by the founding Dow family, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow.
There are more than 70 parks in Midland (true!), but this one may actually be in a
class by itself. It seems to have a bit of everything on its 110 acres, its sub-parks
descriptively named Estate Garden, Stream Walk, Color Garden, Pineside, and
the Exploration and Children's Garden. We loved it. How could we not?
Sculptures in the park can get quite elaborate, like these fake "fish" in a real pond.
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Midland's top-flight Dow Park is highlighted here, and near by sculptures like this flower.
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Onward, deeper into the heart and maybe mind of Middle America.
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