Two days before Christmas ’14, braking to avoid a Chilean weiner dog while rolling down a potted hill threw me into a ditch where the landing fractured and dislocated my shoulder while bruising my brachial plexus. I found ways to practice without a right arm and within 6 months I was managing to do most everything I’d done before. But dexterity and strength were slow in coming. By February ’16 I was sufficiently frustrated with UofM’s therapists to seek help elsewhere, with crazy Mike Barwis, strength and conditioning coach for Rich Rodriguez’ Michigan football team. His shop in Plymouth – Barwis Methods – drew pro and amateur athletes from around to country for his rigorous and unorthodox programs. Civilians like me came too, manly “weekend warriors” nursing an injury or just seeking to up their game. I guess wrecking a shoulder biking counts as a sports injury. I knew they wouldn’t coddle me, and my trainers Mike and Sara didn’t. By August, my arm and hand were 90% as good as before the accident. I was pleased. Here’s the team that did it.
When young Mike began seeking advice about what he and his friends might like to do on an Ann Arbor visit, I gave him tidbits for a while then offered to write the advice down. When Mike found that a good idea, I set to work describing how I like to see Ann Arbor. From my 2020 perch, I can now say I’ve lived here all but 8 of the last 50 years. So I know what’s here and I know what parts of it I like. It goes kinda like this:
So, if your friends are insisting you come west to this leafy town of Commie eggheads, “Seven square miles surrounded by reality”, “Twee town”, you might want to know a few spots where someone like me would go for sustenance. What I’ve laid out here is less a tour than a collection of suggestions. For mundane info like streets and directions, this should help: (1)
Breakfast. The most important meal of your day, whether it comes on the fore end of your assault on a new town, or at the close of a night of debauchery. For the latter, see “Fleetwood” below. If you really do get to AA early enough for breakfast, there are 2 spots where you couldn’t go wrong. The Northside Grill, near me on Plymouth just past Maiden Lane on the north side of the street, is a busy place but they get everyone fed. They’ll serve you coffee outside as you wait for your table. Parking is available behind and aside the place, and around the abandoned structure next door. Order the “Kitchen Sink” with a couple eggs over easy on the side from your tattooed waiter with the ankle tether, and be sure to douse ‘em with lots of Clancy’s Fancy. If you’re not burning 5000 kCals/d in Barwis’ gym, you could consider sharing. Kathy and I always do. Or, there’s Angelo’s, down towards campus on the corner of Glen and Catherine. If you had a U of M parking pass, you could park kitty-corner north at the NIB lot, with the “naked family” sculpture right in front. Tell me that “dad” isn’t executing a Jerry Sandusky move on the held “boy”. They do drape portions of the sculpture during Homecoming week. My office is in NIB 7th floor, but hardly tourist worthy. Angelo’s has a little lot to the side. Otherwise, you’ll need to park at Palmer Commons and walk the several blocks up. Many academic deals are cut here. The pair sitting next to you may be an up-and-comer and his chief, the former’s career hanging on the latter’s granting of more lab space. Oh, and the food’s terrific. Some walk in and just order “the song” based on local talented but never-made-it-big singer Dick Siegal’s hit (2).
Parking. Driving is hard in AA with all the one way streets, and parking is worse. If you want to start your assault on AA by taking on the diag (my recommendation), there are 2 big lots. The first is under Power Center, big glass and steel theater building just off Jackson Road. According to the U-M Parking web page, this is no longer open to the public. Palmer Commons, round the North U. corner is.
Once situated, walk North U west. Check the Pumas out in front of the Natural History Museum. Inside there’s dinosaur skeletons, stuffed wolverines, everything (3). . If you take a right and walk over the bridge you’ll find yourself in the back yard of Stockwell Hall, famed “virgin vault” girls’ dorm that was home to Madonna during her one year here. Then walk over to Ingalls Mall, which runs from the steps of Rackham (grad school) to the Grad Library. Highlights there include the Bell Tower (Burton Tower) (which houses the Baird Carillon given to the U by the AD who had hired Fielding H. Yost) and the fountain “Sunday Morning in Deep Waters” (4). The Bell Tower was site of a famous dive, when troubled Regent Sarah Power tossed herself onto the ground below at 10 AM Tuesday 3/25/87, when crowds of students from nearby classrooms were scurrying through there on to their next classes, providing an ample audience for the spectacle. Regarding the fountain, at orientation students are asked to walk through the fountain on Ingalls Mall, they walk “towards” campus or the diag. Then after graduation, students are supposed to walk the other way through the fountain “away” from campus, but towards graduate school, representing the journey towards further learning and education. I haven’t heard that dipping a body part in it might confer extra intelligence on the dipper. And any body of running water gives me a certain urge, but my wife has always stopped me so I don’t know the consequences, other than a “come-and-see-us-again” invite from the AA police.
Then, cross North U onto the Diag! Much has happened here over the years. Your only touchpoint should be the big brass M, gift of the class of ’53, in the very center of the diag. Legend has it that any Freshman who steps on the M before taking his first exam will fail that exam. One common sight on graduation day is seeing new grads in their robes jumping up and down on the M.
Are you getting thirsty? Go back around the back of the Grad Library and find the little walkway between The Clements Library and The President’s (Dr. Schlissel’s) house. I’ve been through 6 presidents at U of M and Dr. Schlissel is the best. Hey, he hired Jim Hackett and Jim Harbaugh, and so far he’s left me alone. You’re about to cross South U, site of some memorable street riots in ’69. As one witness famously described “They was fornifuckatin’ in the streets!”(5).
From lawlessness to William Cook’s famous law school quadrangle (6). Take a little right and go in through one of the small openings through to the inner courtyard. Many famous alums. My favorite: Ann Coulter (U of M JD ’88).
As you walk out of the law quad towards the B school, see the little house with the big porch across the way. That’s Dominick’s, beloved outdoor watering hole of generations of U-M students (not just lawyers)(7). The beer comes in old canning jars, but the selection is good. They also feature their own homemade sangria and something pink called “Constant Buzz”, which you can only buy in a 2 quart jar. Food’s not bad, either.
Why anyone would want to leave Dominick’s, I can’t understand. But if you must, you’ll want to walk back up to South U. The B-school is right there on the same street as Dominick’s, but there’s nothing to see there. On South U, corner of East U, right in front of Ulrich’s is the McDivitt-White Plaza, honoring U of M’s 2 Apollo astronauts, Jim McDivitt, who circled the moon in Apollo 8 and Ed White who suffocated with 2 others in the Apollo I fire while the capsule was still atop the unlit booster. Going east on South U a block or 2, you’ll run into Goodtime Charlies, a sprawling student bar with a nice outdoor area. I don’t go there myself, but youngsters seem to like it. Another block or 2 then right on Forest gets you to Ric’s Café Americain. You won’t find Bogie there, but I’m sure more than a few Bogie lines have been tossed by young men seeking hookups, for which Ric’s is the clear campus leader.
Time to head back to campus. If you walk back west on South U, you’ll cross State St. right over onto the steps of the Michigan Union. It was here at 2 in the morning on an October ’60 campaign stop that John F. Kennedy first laid out his vision for the Peace Corps. There’s a small plaque commemorating the event. The Union’s a cool old building. Until ’69, co-eds were not allowed to come up to the 2nd floor to use the pool tables, which are still there. Progress? They had the League (over by the fountain).
Now way south on State St is Schembechler hall and the football museum. I’ll mention that later among the “non-contiguous attractions”. Just north of the Union you’ll come to a little plaza framed by the Fleming Admin building, LS&A Bldg, Admissions Building. It’ll be easy to pick out the attraction: the cube, a black metal cube perched on a corner and spinnable. Go nuts. There are no cautionary tales for the cube like there are for the block M. Up this same little street for a few blocks and you’ll come to Hopcat. Not the original (which is in Grand Rapids) but pretty darn good just the same. Great deal on burgers and beers Monday happy hour. Burgers great any day, “crack fries” (now called “cosmic fries” out of deference to crackheads everywhere) outstanding. Now go back south a little and enter Nickels Arcade. Some oddball shops maybe your female fellow travelers would like, with Comet Coffee the star. In a town full of coffee houses, Comets’ the coolest. Individual pour-over’s the feature, and “drinkable chocolate”. Just on your left before exiting the Arcade is Van Boven’s, a men’s clothing shop that’s dressed the town‘s fuddy duddies for decades. Van Boven’s carries the exact same tie Jim Harbaugh wore at his first press conference at Michigan; a friend had secretly bought him that and another Van Boven‘s tie and shipped them to him in San Jose 2 weeks before the hire was announced. The tie is the one on the far left of a display of M ties in the back, navy blue with maize cross stripes and little M’s.
You’re now on State street. You can see across from you several shops featuring M gear. Around the corner off North University is Moe’s, the oldest. In summer, especially just before Art Fair (when you’ll be there), they have clearance sales. Might even be bigger this year with the Adidas ->Nike shift. Also on State Street are Bivouac (outdoors stuff) and Urban Outfitters.
That should just about wrap up Campus. You could just go ahead and walk Liberty to Main. If you want to drive, there’s a parking structure at Washington, and some open lots off First. If you park on Washington St, you’ll spill out right onto Arbor Brewing, which has some nice tables out front, if somewhat mediocre beer. Just try to keep the girls out of the chocolate shop next door. If you’ve come on Liberty, you’ll see RoosRoast, best coffee source in town, cooler location is on Rosewood, south of town (8). Also on Liberty: Kilwin’s ice cream. Washington is one block north. For a break from food, drink and M-gear, check out Sam’s, on Liberty between 5th and 4th,across from the post office. When my hippie gear from college days goes all threadbare and shrunk, I know I can get faithful replacements at Sam’s. I’d love the place even if the former owner wasn’t a sometime patient of mine and his son the genius who designed and rebuilt my house 10 years ago. Onto Main, there are several good places: Pretzel Bell, right on corner of Main and Liberty, owned by a bunch of ex-UM footballers with the support of the Grizzly Peak folks (great collection of M memorabilia inside); Black Pearl, right next to the Ark, more of a cocktail place, Jolly Pumpkin, which has rooftop seating and original beers. There’s good eats to be had up and down Main, but the really good stuff is a few blocks westward, by Mark’s Carts, which is a rotating bunch of interesting food carts. And just south of Mark’s Carts, behind the Home and Garden store, is Bill’s Beer Garden. Wonderful place, good selection, but turns into a meet market for millennials in the evenings.
If you look across from Bill’s, you’re within eyeshot of the two most iconic eateries in Ann Arbor. That shiny metal diner is the Fleetwood, which has fed many the last meal of early morning generations of Ann Arbor carousers. Recommended: “hippie hash”, chili cheese fries. And just to the west, across First, is the new home of Crazy Jim’s Blimpyburger. Commander Cody’s Museum of Modern Art Award Winning video “Two triple cheese side order of fries” was inspired by Krazy Jim’s. I post it here to serve as sufficient intro to this place (9). Krazy Jim’s even got a visit from Guy Fieri and the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives crew (10). Other media have visitied, including Dine in the D from Detroit’s channel 4 (11). Some of us AA old timers are a little concerned for the fate of these icons, as the buildings housing them are among the acquisitions made by Dr. Reza Rahmani, of TV lasik surgery fame, who has been snatching up downtown AA real estate for the past 7 years (12).
With a new owner comes the need exists to bring the building up to code, which can be expensive, which can be handled by ejecting the “dirty” operation and replacing it with a simpler, cleaner one, like a cute little gift shop. So far, he’s chosen to keep the businesses intact.
And down from here is another ice cream place. New. Pretty good. Blank Slate Creamery, in a house corner of Liberty and First, was judged by TripAdvisor as the best of AA’s 21 ice cream shops (13). If you’re this far out on Liberty, you can walk out a few more blocks to check out the whole farm-to-table thing. If you can’t make Farmer’s Market (Wednesday and Saturday AMs), check out Argus Farm Stop (14). They also have a coffee shop and great pastries. Worth it just to catch the freakshow Ann Arborites and see how much they’ll pay for green stuff if it’s “special”. That said, we’re friends with the owners, a young couple who got their start selling RoosRoast coffee, and are happy for their success.
So, my wife says to hell with TripAdvisor and implores me to tell you of the Washtenaw Dairy (15). A little again south and west of town, probably too far for a walk. They do have 70 plus years on Blank Slate, and the loyalties of tens of thousands of Ann Arborites who have going there for special ice cream. Donuts are outstanding, too. They don’t make their own stuff anymore, but what they purvey is varied and good, and comes in ample portions.
Which leaves us with “non-contiguous attractions”
Keeps the student riff-raff down that you have to drive to Wolverine State Brewing (16). Liberty to Stadium. South on Stadium, look for the sign on the right calling you to pull in in front of what used to be Ace Hardware (maybe a bicycle shop now). If you’ve gone to Pauline, you’ve gone too far. Best beer around, good food too. The outdoor seating is just some metal tables on the edge of a parking lot, but everyone still seems to be having a good time.
Finally, it’s time to trod on hallowed ground. You can’t get inside Michigan Stadium (corner of Main and Stadium) without a ticket any more, but you can walk the perimeter and see the tops of the scoreboards. Up over to State and almost to Hoover, there’s Schembechler Hall, nerve center for M Football, home of Jim Harbaugh’s office. A renegade athletic department built the place in the 80s without consulting the University architecture advisors. To them the resultant building, which featured walls angling out from the entrance that looked like the most welcoming pair of spread legs you’d care to see, was beneath University standards. You have to wonder how many a recruit was subliminally seduced by the image. “Renovations” over the past 2-3 years have covered up this unique characteristic. But out front stands a statue of Bo and just inside is the Football Museum http://www.mgoblue.com/fanzone/towsley-museum.html. Open 9-4 M , Th, F and on game days.
If you really want to go all “hallowed ground”, you can haul yourself over to the cemetery corner of Observatory and Geddes, by Stockwell. There, right in a walkable row, are the graves of Bo, Fielding H. Yost and Bob Ufer (former U-M track star and hyperenthusiastic Michigan football broadcaster ’45 –‘81). Since the early 90s, a local fan has convened the “grave walk” the Tuesday before the Ohio State game. We start at Burton tower and walk over the bridge to the cemetery. I went on my first one last year, which was pretty memorable as Harbaugh and dad joined us while Jim cracked a buckeye on Bo’s headstone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz9oSk82hmU.
Where can you go from there? Well, you could stop at XXXX Harbal for good beer and music, a smokin’ babe (for 57) plus the best view in the city. You’re welcome anytime (734-XXX-XXXX or XXXX@umich.edu).
UM BS ‘74
UM MS ‘75
UM postdoc fellow ’83-5
UM faculty ’85 – ????
Barwis Method victim 2/16 – present
- M facilities and operations. LOGISTICS, TRANSORTATION & PARKING. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. Maps. https://ltp.umich.edu/maps/
2. Dick Siegal. Angelo’s. wmv. YouTube 1/31/12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb1ZbFCjWHQ
3. M. MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. https://lsa.umich.edu/ummnh
4. Old School: Ingalls Mall fountain sculpture. University Record 3/24/14. Old School: Ingalls Mall fountain sculpture
5. Glenn A:. The Battle of Ann Arbor June16-20, 1969. Ann Arbor Chronicle 6/16/09. https://annarborchronicle.com/2009/06/16/the-battle-of-ann-arbor-june-16-20-1969/index.html
6. M. MICHIGAN LAW. Michigan Law Architecture. The Timeless Law Quadrangle. https://michigan.law.umich.edu/quick-links/about-michigan-law/michigan-law-architecture.
7. Facebook. Dominick’s. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dominicks/117498354935062
8. RoosRoast Coffee. https://roosroast.com.
9. Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries – Commander Cody. YouTube 5/2/13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1Cvg5VCpT4
10. Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger | Food Network. YouTube 5/27/09. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCr8WX61FAc
11. Dine in the D: Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger. YouTube 11/8/19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PtZbPtkvK8
12. Dunn P. Eye doctor’s growing Ann Arbor holdings raise concerns. Detroit News 6/1/15. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/real-estate/2015/06/01/eye-doctors-growing-ann-arbor-holdings-raise-concerns/28338177/
13. Tripadvisor. Blank Slate Creamery. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g29556-d7110233-Reviews-Blank_Slate_Creamery-Ann_Arbor_Michigan.html
14. Argus Farm Stop. Our future is local. https://www.argusfarmstop.com/
15. Washtenaw Dairy. https://washtenawdairy.com/
16. Wolverine State Brewing Company. https://www.wolverinebeer.com/
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