a more perfect Union

Kathy and I took in the open house at the newly renovated Michigan Union today. Here are my impressions:

The Michigan Union is my favorite building on campus, more than the Law Quad or even Michigan Stadium.  Standing tall (‘though only 4 stories) at the base of south University on State, this 1919 structure of brick, stone, and stained glass resembles a small cathedral to secular scholarship, which it is.  My generation reveres it for being the platform for JFK’s first description of the Peace Corps at 2 A.M. when he came to Ann Arbor a month before being elected 35th president.  Nine years later they let co-eds come upstairs to the Union’s pool halls for the first time.  I’ve lounged, eaten, studied, slept and shopped in that building, proudly showing it off to out of towners.  Shopping at the now defunct University Cellars in the Union’s basement – distinguished from the town’s other local bookstores by being entirely student-run – I did well on deals for texts, course supplies, and $3.25 records.  I even worked there for a while my senior year.  Workers at the U Cellar were represented starting in 1979 (4 years after I’d gone) by Local 660 of the Industrial Workers of the World; at the time, the union local was the largest of the Wobblies, representing 10% of total union membership worldwide.  The place ceased operation in 1987. The Union was always worth a stop on a campus amble, particularly when it included the sublime pleasure understood only by men of relieving myself into the old all-the-way-to-the-floor urinals.

In July 2016, the Regents authorized $85.2 million to renovate the place.  Just today, enough work had been done to tear down the barriers and open the place up to the public.  Kathy and I stopped by to take a look.  Walking in, after we passed a crowd doing something rhythmic, we saw the first level is much more open.  The beautiful if unnamed “study room” to the right is unchanged, but to the left are two large lounging areas separated by a glass see-through fireplace (gas-fired, unlike the rest of the old Union’s fireplaces).  The airy courtyard, which used to be an outdoors space, is now under a glass dome.  The University Club is still closed, but a banner hanging from its arch advertises for workers at the Pantera’s that will exist there.  The second floor is a warren of meeting rooms, “IdeaSpaces”, 2 “Movement rooms”, ready for any physical activity that only requires a wooden floor and a mirror, and the untouched spaces of the Pendleton Room and renamed Rogel Ballroom, another consequence of the Rogel family’s $188.5 million gifts.  Some nice little touches are here, like surrounding the new drinking fountain/water bottle filling installations with Motawi tile.  My check into the men’s room found that the old urinals had unfortunately not been restored, but mine did sport a shiny new tampon dispenser.

The third floor houses the expanding student government bureaucracy: Center for Campus Involvement, Debate, Student Organization Accounts Service, Spectrum Center, Multi-Ethnic Affairs Center, Central Student Government, University Unions Administration, Conference & Events Services, and Student Life Administration.  By this level, the architects had given up on adding anything new, different, or interesting, so the young apparatchiks will not be distracted from their duties.

The fourth floor is given over to needs of mind and soul.  Counseling and Psychological Services is there, as well as Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness.  The open door of the Wellness Center beckons with  2 large massage chairs.  There’s a small chapel (I mean “Reflection Room”) whose four walls bear no trace of cross or star, but did include three Muslim women on their knees praying away when we looked in.  Open unmarked rooms abound, so emerging needs will have places to be addressed

Outside the Barnes and Noble in the basement, across from the soon-to-be open Taco Bell (which will join eateries Subway, Mama DeLuca,’s, MI Burger, Panda Express, and Blue Market down there), were the tables of PNC bank and the UoM Credit Union, offering goodies to would-be customers.  Kathy got us inside to get her specially priced wolverine squishy.  Looking past all the rather lame Michigan wear and other paraphernalia, we did finally find two tables of actual books, one containing Michigan sports books, including 14 titles that I do not yet own, and the other a collection of lefty self-help and biography titles.  Down the hall was the site of Computer Showcase, which through the years has offered great deals to faculty and staff.

We took one last trek up to the main floor, seeing again the long line of students stretching out to enter the “study room”.  The guide from the Events Staff showed us what was going on.  Wolverine Press, which publishes academic material, had set up a small but genuine printing press . Its output today was a lovely line drawing of the Union.  To claim one’s own copy, each student had to select one of three colors blank stock and present it to the pressman, then claiming the finished product.  It was heartening to see the young so enthralled by such old fashioned technology, perhaps fitting in that they were drinking up the special atmosphere of this very old fashioned building that was now theirs in which to roam.

So back down the stairs we went, noting the new wheelchair ramp that had been worked in, exiting north and lower, on to the drive that passes by the Admin building and West Quad’s Chicago House (where I’d lived my first 2 years).  Set we were to venture up Maynard, past the backsides of LS&A, Barbour, Kelsey Museum and the stone Congregational Church where Kathy and I were married in October ’86.  Hopcat was our destination, but our hearts leapt much before that when we saw that the 2 chain link fences which had engulfed the Cube in the summer during the LS&A and Union renovations had been torn down and the Cube was free again.  We took our turns spinning, of course.  Our hearts were light as we traipsed on to Hopcat.

Hail to the Victors!

the other Detroit restaurant, day after Christmas 2019

my foodie friend Tim found the email I’d sent him with impressions of Albena, a tiny, exquisite and unique place hidden in downtown Detroit

Have you and Kathy been to Albena in Detroit?  Kathy and I just had a seven course tasting dinner there last night that was absolutely fantastic.  Very minimalist Norwegian/Japanese.  The place, named after chef Lipar’s grandmother, is tucked in the back of the Siren Hotel on Broadway just across from the Detroit Opera House.  Almost a speakeasy route to even get there. The small room features an 8 seat bar (where they seek to sit only 4) behind which chef and his two assistants work their magic before your eyes.  A supreme experience well worth your while. 


my wife and I have been to 2 of the finest restaurants in Detroit over the past few weeks. Here’s what I wrote to a foodie friend about one of them after a January 2 outing. I’ll post the other if Tim can find it on his server.

Hey Tim.  Happy New Year to you and Kathy.  Have you been to Republic Tavern in Detroit?  Kathy and I enjoyed another delightful 6-course tasting dinner with pairings there yesterday, a treat before Cirque de Soleil.  The restaurant – they’ve mostly dropped the “Tavern” part – is located on Grand River just off 75 41 minutes from our house in the imposing stone 1897 Grand Army of the Republic castle, taking up the first floor with a large open space featuring wood, brick, an old tin ceiling repurposed as a wall, exposed ductwork, big windows showing the Christmas lights of Beacon Park to the front and Cass & Adams with the backsides of Woodward’s Foxtown buildings to the back, with unisex bathrooms  decorated with postcards of old Detroit.  The food surpasses the architecture.  The chef follows the farm-to-table ethos, and the ingredients are cooked and sauced to unique exquisitiveness.  I’ve attached last night’s menu so you can see what we were sampling.  We started going there at Julia Welch’s recommendation, whose niece Sarah was executive chef when the restaurant won Eater Detroit’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year.  Sarah was fired 2 years later, went independent for a while, then opened up Marrow, a fun meaty place on Kercheval (also worth a trip) that the Freep called 2nd best new restaurant in Detroit last year.   Frankly, Republic hasn’t missed a beat in her absence.  Compared to Albena, this place is more traditional, warm and fulsome.  But you and Kathy would enjoy either place, just emerging a little more full from Republic.

Trying to load in the pdf of the menu I scanned in from this particular night failed, but you can look at a typical Republic menu at https://www.republictaverndetroit.com/menu/. The carrots never change. The link no longer works as the restaurant is tragically defunct, victim of COVID. Here’s a representative menu from its heyday.

Michigan 84 Purdue 76 (2 OT)

I wrote this to share with a few friends late Thursday

Nice win by our Wolverines in a pretty thrilling double overtime contest against the Boilermakers of Purdue tonight.  Their big guy #50 Trevion Williams (from Henry Ford Academy in Detroit!), who replaced the very tall skinny but injured Haarms was a beast in the post, much more than our big guy Teske could handle.  He scored more points tonight than his whole team could muster against the Illini in their last game. But we really took it to ’em in the second OT.  Our foul shooting and some refs’ calls made it tighter than it should have been.  My old friend and mentor Chicago’s (and Illini) Bill Arnold says it was a character builder.  For those in the audience it’s an excuse to stay up late and continue drinking in an attempt to unwind from the tension of the game.  Go Blue!

For those of you who weren’t at Crisler, you also missed the hype video they play there before every game.  Here’s how we’re feeling about Michigan basketball these days:


 This is Michigan Basketball – YouTube youtu.be Hype Video played before each Michigan Basketball game at Crisler Center. Features Moritz Wagner, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Tim Hardaway Jr.

This was supposed to be the first post

Just learning this site. I wrote this when I first was presented with this space last night. But I don’t see it either side of “Goodbye Sam” . which is the first time I saw . page with a “Publish” button.

Just what the world needs: another boomer blogging from his Lay-Z-Boy. But here it comes, all the mundane stuff my email friends have already had too much of. Maybe if spread over a larger audience, the impact will be more tolerable. Thanks to the welcome advice of my dear recently departed friend Sam Rogers, there will be no politics here, or anything very serious at all for that matter. We are all in this life bumping into all sorts of things that annoy and amuse. Me too, and what those things do to me I promise to share with you. I retired as a doctor last June, and I know that the patient can often feel remarkably better after just telling his story to the doctor. Likewise, I see this whole blogging thing as therapeutic, unloading my tales of the day to gain the clarity that comes with telling them, and hoping someone out there might hear them. I’m very much looking forward to the enterprise, not just because I now have a URL to put on my new business cards.

Goodbye Sam

I wrote this last Wednesday and sent it to a few mutual friends.

My friend Sam died Thursday.  We’d both gone to little Vicksburg High and big Michigan, he a year ahead of me, but we didn’t interact much beyond teams and organizations, until a few years back when we connected on Facebook.  We enjoyed each others’ posts enough to arrange a lunch in Santa Fe – Sam lived in nearby Los Alamos working at the National Lab – as Kathy and I passed through to see her brother Bob 3 Decembers ago en route to my sabbatical in San Diego.  We later saw Sam and his wife June at their nearby home then and twice again more: next spring at their new retirement home in the Rockies and finally in Santa Fe again last August.  Of course we kept up electronically, and from June’s text 2 weeks ago I learned Sam had been sick since September and was in ICU.  Monday June texted his doctors said there was no more they could do and she was putting him in hospice.  He died 3 days later at 5:30 in the morning, mountain time.   In pulling some pictures off Facebook to add to something I would distribute to mutual friends, I came across a 3 day old post from his best friend Gary, who spelled out that Sam had an auto-immune disease that had affected several of his organs, leaving him too sick to receive the liver transplant he needed.  So the bastard had one of my diseases!  And a rare one at that, based on my guess at his diagnosis.  Sam was always unique.  I had so looked forward to being his friend in these leisure years.  We complemented each other.  He was the smart, funny, collegial guy I’d always hoped to become, and I was the egghead classmate who’d made it in academia, a little, at our old alma mater.   I pray for his wife June, a strong funny woman in her own right, who was childless by Sam and now won’t get to dote on him in his old age like Kathy does with me.  There’s a big crowd out there shocked by Sam’s passing and missing him terribly, and I’m sure right there with them.  If you begin to notice my posts and writings are a little goofier and more mundane, that’s Sam whispering in my ear to lay off the serious stuff and write what people might actually care about and find entertaining.  Thanks Sam.  It was too damn short but I’ll never forget you.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

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