Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Say Yes to M!ch!gan

30,000 feet above the American Southwest—Despite a more than hourlong delay at the Dallas Forth Worth International Airport on my way back to L.A., the Rocket Fever Michigan Survey has been an unqualified success. From the gritty Southeast, emerald-green Up North, comfortable and familiar Middle and glittering West Coast, Michigan and its inhabitants were capable and gracious hosts. Before I left, I thought I was going to learn some new things about my home state, but instead my trip only reinforced all the positive impressions I already had of the Mitten. If anything, I learned more about Southern California than I did about Michigan.

I’ll tell some stories throughout the week, but allow me to set down a collection of general thoughts:

  • During the past year, I’ve forgotten that this gigantic country is still dominated by wide-open spaces. At every stop during the Survey, I couldn’t help making the contrast with L.A. Every inch of Los Angeles is teeming with people — it’s what gives L.A. its vibrancy. But in Michigan, which isn’t exactly Wyoming, one can go whole city blocks (Detroit) or miles upon miles (Lake George; rural Greater Lansing) without seeing a soul. The expansive feeling this population difference gave me was exacerbated by Michigan’s long horizons and dark night skies. I could see for miles and miles horizontally during the day and vertically at night. Imagine the feeling of increased visual perception and expanded spatial possibilities you have after getting off a cramped cross-country flight. Now multiply that in time and space by a year and Los Angeles. That’s how I felt during the Michigan Survey.

  • Detroit is going through something special with the Tigers. I’ll go into more detail later in the week, but let me repeat what I’ve told countless Michiganders in the past week: Get thine ass to a Tigers game this year. Skip work, shirk responsibility, patronize scalpers. I don’t care what you have to do, but go to at least one game this year.

  • East Lansing’s Grand River Avenue continues its strong development pace. There’s a new building going up on Bailey, across the street from the Taco Hell (it’s another bland brick job, big surprise) that will repeat the residential/retail mix that seems to be working for America’s Favorite College Town. The most notable addition to the retail churn is the American Apparel store, but there are tons of new places, mostly of the chain fast-casual restaurant variety.

  • Entrepreneurialism still has its bright spots in Lansing’s East and North sides, despite the odds. I’ll be e-mailing a photo of Skylight Books to Randy at downtown Lansing’s Way Station bookstore just as soon as I can.

  • The Peanut Barrel is still the Peanut Barrel. It’s the North Star of pubs, the source code of neighborhood watering holes.


Don't forget to check Rocket Fever @ Flickr. I have tons of photos and will keep uploading them as time permits.


A belated Rocket Fever Huzzah to Jamie Cook, who's just begun a yearlong residency in Japan, where he'll be teaching English. Take lots of notes, J.C.

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