The first weekend in October may be my absolute favorite time of year. It’s the time that Golden Delicious apples are ripe for u–pick.

My wife and I took a brief apple picking detour in my light speed trip back to Ann Arbor Friday to meet with a dissertation committee member and miss lunch with a friend (damned time zones).

I’ve been apple picking every fall since about the age of five…except last year, when we didn’t have a car, much money, much time, and no proximity to Michigan apples. In the Ann Arbor area, my first fall at Michigan I went to Wiard’s. I would recommend it for families and maybe teens who were interested in an interesting evening of agri-tainment, but not for people who just want apples. It’s more of a theme park with apples (they charge you to park!) and, while the apples were good, I don’t care about corn field mazes or tractor rides.

Since then I have been going to Wasem’s, which is the bare bones operation I like. It’s on the small side — they’ve got a few acres of 8 or 10 varieties, along with pumpkins and a few other types of produce. There’s a gravel parking lot and an unattractive pole barn building where they sell cider and make and sell donuts, along with jam (and maybe honey) — just about every marker of a u-pick orchard from your childhood. Don’t know what I’m going to do next fall when I will probably be done with my dissertation. 11 months to figure it out.

Leopolds’ Out

AAiO had the scoop.

Todd Leopold has just announced that he and Leopold Brothers are leaving A2 for Denver. Writes Todd:

“Our lease expires in the summer, and shockingly (note heavy sarcasm), our landlords asked for an obscene amount per month in rent, so we’re done. This move has zero to do with the economy, or sales levels, as we are coming off of our strongest year of sales at the pub since we’ve been open. We moved here in 1998, and since that time our rent has tripled, and our new landlords want even more….because, of course, that’s what the market will bear.”

I hope to run into you all before we leave, and I wish Ann Arbor the best. The business climate isn’t one that we can survive, however.

I love Leopolds and miss going out there with the Madison House crew. You’ll recall their building sold in the summer of 2006 for $1.8 million.

Theater Tip

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind performed by the Neo-Futurists. One of my wife’s colleagues invited us to see the best of 2006 show last year, with some seriously funny plays performed in an Andersonville black box theater.

With a friend in town, we saw the best of 2007 show last night featuring some more great plays. All around an interesting experience, from the labrynthine second floor where the theater is to the roll-of-the-die entrance fee to the plays themselves: think David Ives if he only had a few days to write and rehearse each play before production. But don’t take my word for it.

The Fly-to People

Adam Nagourney, in writing about Des Moines and how it is no longer a stereotypical Midwestern town, reveals why Midwesterners think New Yorkers are superficial idiots. His travel writing is as bad as his political writing.

But the other night in Des Moines, I had dinner with a colleague and the Iowa state director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign at a vibrant restaurant, Lucca, in the heart of a gentrified neighborhood called the East Village. The restaurant had more panache and better food than many places I’ve eaten in Washington, D.C. The East Village streets, spread out under the State Capitol, were aglow with lights — lavender, icy blue and, of course, red and green — strung out for Christmas. They were bustling with boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops, culinary stores and Smash, an edgy T-shirt shop where the proprietors were listening to Band of Horses while making slightly off-color T-shirts celebrating the Iowa caucuses.

I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that Des Moines has become a vacation destination. But it has most certainly become cool. More than that, if you have any desire to witness presidential candidates in the most close-up and intimate of settings, there is arguably no place better to go than Des Moines. If the city itself was once a reason not to come, it has now in fact become an added draw.

Des Moines is now officially a place I don’t care to go to. “This whole thing in the East Village, which didn’t exist 10 years ago: that area, it was a classic grimy neighborhood, with a couple of lofts and gay bars. And now it’s wonderful and funky,” says David Yepsen. Wrong. It was funky 10 years ago. Now it’s bobo. I certainly don’t begrudge Des Moines economic development, but Nagourney’s enthusiasm only addresses one limited segment of an urban economy, that of an urban theme park.

Cat the Anchor, Jeb Minor’s Coming Home!

Great Lakes Myth Society
Originally uploaded by Ryan Mahoney

Great Lakes Myth Society. Chicago. Schuba’s. October 14th. I’ve missed nearly the last 1000 GLMS shows and I am not going to make the same mistake with this one. Family, friends: don’t get into any accidents or discover you have terminal illnesses, because I am not going to be able to comfort you that night.

Damn, I can’t wait for this show. Chicago: you’ve been notified. Just make sure I get in the door before you cram the place to the gills.

Detroit Sold For Scrap

Remember this Onion article from a year ago? Ha, ha, we all morbidly chuckled at the nation’s finest news source taking a dig at our fair city.

Detroit, a former industrial metropolis in southeastern Michigan with a population of just under 1 million, was sold at auction Tuesday to bulk scrap dealers and smelting foundries across the United States.

“This is what’s best for Detroit,” Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick said. “We must act now, while we can still get a little something for it.”

Once dismantled and processed, Detroit is expected to yield nearly 14 million tons of steel, 2.85 million tons of aluminum, and approximately 837,000 tons of copper.

It’s not such a joke after all. Tiger Stadium parts to be auctioned off. Detroit City Council votes in favor of dismantling ballpark.

The long-debated issue of what to do with Tiger Stadium might finally be close to a resolution. On Friday, the Detroit City Council voted in favor of a proposal to grant authority to dismantle part or most of the ballpark and auction off its parts.

The matter, which passed by a 5-4 vote, is the first step in Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s plan to redevelop the property into a combination retail-residential complex. The hope is to preserve Tiger Staidum’s playing field for recreational and youth sports while possibly maintaining part of the stadium as a memorial.

The vote authorizes the city to auction off seats and other potential memorabilia, the proceeds of which could help pay for the demolition. From there, the city would be free to find developers. However, the council reportedly voted against transferring control of the stadium over to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a partnership of business, civic, labor and community leaders that has been a part of other development plans on the city.

Was He Just Lost in the Flood?

Having come back from a trip to New Orleans a week ago, I find the hurricane’s impact upon the city particularly poignant. (The trip partially explains this blog’s inactivity). What a city. First off, they have two functioning streetcar lines — Canal Street, running north from the Mississippi riverfront (which runs East-West at that point) and St. Charles Avenue, running a looooong east west perpendicular (and connecting) to Canal. These streetcars, limited as they may be, are integral to the city’s identity. “A Streetcar Named Desire” was named for a line that ran on Desire Street, but doesn’t any more. As in the film starring Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh, the name of the line shows above the car’s front window.

These aren’t merely tourist attractions, however. They serve a real need — particularly connecting the garden district, which is largely residential, to the French Quarter, where even locals go to party. St. Charles was an incredibly smooth ride, if loud. Operated by electricity supplied by an overhead cable, the trolleys have conductors who literally make the thing speed up and slow down by opening and closing a circuit with a hand lever.

The group I went with took a swamp tour by airboat (think big fan on the back of the boat). The swamps were ecological marvels, a kind of place you may not want to be around, but are really grateful that they exist (and are preserved). We travelled a bit on the intercoastal waterway, a channel for barge traffic along the gulf coast and continuing up the eastern seaboard, then tooled about the swamps. The guides had an interesting relationship to the local natural resources. For one, they were long-time locals who were immersed in swamp-related activities and particularly hunted, fished, and trapped animals like muskrats and alligators. They didn’t have much of a conservation ethic, however — and I mean conservation in the sense of taking steps to make sure that current activities could be prolonged into the distant future. There wasn’t much remorse or thought about the ongoing degradation of the swamplands and what might be contributing to it, except an anecdote about the arrival of the nutria rat at the hands of the McIlhenny family (of Tabasco fame). The nutria eats the root system of some type(s) of swamp vegetation, which allows the soil to wash away down the river, a serious problem in the Mississippi delta.

Anyway, much of the area in the city is underwater due to a breach of the levee system though the French Quarter itself, wisely built upon a hill, fared well. Though a LOT of the residential areas were run down, they had a special character, and throughout the city one found 2nd story verandas and balconies, a particular favorite form of mine. Lets hope the trolleys, for which replacement parts must be custom machined these days, get back up and running soon.

UPDATE: That doesn’t look too promising. The whole city may henceforth be a memory.