Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get LOST in Michigan and Buy Local

On Thanksgiving night, the family and I went for a hike in Muskegon State Park. We decided to go off-trail to a plateau overlooking Lake Michigan, and in the dark we ended up a bit lost. Not so lost that we needed to be rescued, but lost enough that we weren’t sure how to get back to a trail. So instead of backtracking or searching with flashlights, we headed straight for our constant, Lake Michigan. We hiked down “Sugar Bowl,” a huge series of sand dunes, in a fierce and freezing windstorm. The stars, the waves, the air - it was all amazing. When we got home my dad made hot cocoa.

The next morning, still digging sand out of our ears, we headed downtown for a slice of Brie from the Cheese Lady and a couple bottles of wine from Clay Avenue Cellars. The Cheese Lady has become a staple of my Muskegon shopping and dining experience, and Clay Avenue Cellars makes probably the most interesting wine in the entire state. Their new Pumpkin Patch wine is fantastic - a light white wine, with simple, almost indiscernible hints of pumpkin, clove, and cinnamon. If anyone is looking to buy me a Christmas gift, I’ll take a case of this stuff. Thank you.

Sadly, downtown Muskegon, even with its new face lift, was a ghost town on Black Friday. Some of the shops weren’t even open - tragic to see all that money go out of town - a self-inflicted wound. Well, I for one will not drink the Dharma beer or eat Dharma oats. I will catch my own fish (“Brie”), hunt my own boar (“wine”), and feast. I reject strip malls and Best Buys in favor local business.

I had initially intended to put together a huge list of local Michigan stores and products, but most every other blogger beat me to the punch. Instead, I offer just a few of my favorites and encourage you to support local businesses this holiday season. Further, I encourage everyone to buy me cases of wine. I promise to share.

For Michigan shirts, read my post, “Love Me Some Michigan Shirts,” with links to the merchants.

The Detroit Free Press just posted an article on the Buy Michigan Now campaign, “‘Buy Michigan Now’ Gives Boost to Businesses Across the State.”

There you have it, my Christmas wish list. And if you want to buy me a new truck, those are made in Michigan too. What’s your favorite local Michigan shop for the holiday season?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yoopers of Motown

Michigan landmarks and rockers are showcased in two new music videos. Dennis Coffey, a famous Motown studio guitarist, is promoting his new album with this cover of Cee-Lo’s “F*** You.” The Detroit locations in the video are cool - almost as cool as a soul and R&B musician who learned to play guitar in the Upper Peninsula.

And while Coffey took his Yooper chops to Motown, Detroit’s Kid Rock took Motown to the Upper Peninsula for a video shoot at Pictured Rocks. In typical Kid Rock fashion, “Born Free” is simple and inspiring, especially with these images of one of Michigan’s true natural gems.

For added fun, here’s Coffey’s Royaltones doing “Poor Boy.” Check out Dick Clark:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WMU’s Jaimy Gordon Wins National Book Award

Western Michigan University Professor Jaimy Gordon won the National Book Award for her novel, Lord of Misrule. Once again, Kalamazoo shines as Michigan’s literary hub, and a deserving Michigan author receives national acclaim. This award means a lot to me personally, as Jaimy was my mentor during my time as an undergraduate. Jaimy is a unique college professor in that she is completely dedicated to her students, perhaps at the expense of her own writing - I know this book has been nearly a decade in the making. I never, even in graduate school, found a teacher more passionate and interested in the work of her students. She provided guidance and support during my time at WMU and during my study in Prague, and she played no small part in helping me get accepted into an MFA program. I am forever in Jaimy’s debt, and I could not be happier for her. For aspiring writers, there is no better writing teacher. What a win for the Western Michigan University Creative Writing Program, and what a win for literature in Michigan.

Read more coverage of the National Book Award:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adrian College's 10 Best

To close out the fall semester with a light-hearted writing assignment, my students are writing a blog-style “best of” list for their hometown; an exercise in brevity and clarity. As practice we worked on highlights of Adrian College. So with a special thank you to my freshman experts, here is a must-see list for any Adrian College visitor who wants the full experience of the campus and surrounding area.

1. Spotted Cow: For college students away from home, the Spotted Cow serves comfort food in large portions at cheap prices. They have everything deep-fried, including cookie dough and pickles, and the Ultimate Cow, an 18-scoop ice cream eating challenge. Spotted Cow makes an effort to support the students financially, often collaborating on fundraisers.

2. Arrington Ice Arena: Visit the home-ice of college hockey’s new darlings. Only three years old, Bulldog hockey boasts three straight MCHA Harris Cup championships, and this past spring advanced to their first NCAA Division III tournament. Student tickets are free, $5 general admissions, lunatic fans. Here’s a YouTube clip of Mitch Albom celebrating Adrian Hockey just a few years back: Adrian College Hockey Gets National Attention on ESPN.

3. The Mound: Adrian’s graduating class of 1869 intended to build a statue of Asa Mahan, the college’s first president, as a gift to the school. They built the mound but, due to the Civil War, ran out of money before they could build the statue. The mound remains, and the class gift tradition continues.

4. Downs Hall: Downs is the last standing original building on campus. Built in 1860, Downs was part of the Underground Railroad and is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts. Learn more about Downs Hall and other campus landmarks at Adrian College’s Landmarks, Legends and Lore.

5. Theta Chi House: According to my students, the Theta Chi fraternity house is the oldest house (of all houses) in the city of Adrian, and was itself a station on the Underground Railroad.

6. Bruiser the Bulldog: Adrian’s new real life mascot slobbers around campus by day, and cheers on sports teams between naps.

7. Scrappies Super Subs: Located in the Morning Fresh Bakery, Scrappies is said to have the best late night food in town.

8. Caine Student Center: Caine is the student union, but it was the old basketball gymnasium - the scoreboard still hangs in the rafters. Now home to Quiznos, a salon, the mailroom, bookstore, and hard-working students.

9. Shipman Library: Shipman Library was my choice for the best of Adrian College. The space is small and cozy, with a beautiful wood ceiling - perfect for quiet hours of studying. There’s a cool old grandfather clock in the back corner that was recently restored. The clock’s gongs can apparently be a disturbance, but it adds character to the stacks.

10. The Chapel: Adrian’s on-campus chapel features stained glass windows that tell the history of the Methodist Church and of the college. There’s also a 2,100 pipe organ. Weekly services.

Honorable mention to LA CafĂ©  (aka “Caf-nasty”) for college night dancing and marshmallow eating contests, a roadside stand off highway 223 that sells bags of llama wool for $5, the Sheperd’s Crook (see legends and lore), and Wesco’s $20 special on full garbage bags of popcorn. And here’s a campus video with more reasons to visit Adrian:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wolverine Beer at Michigan Microbrews

Wolverine State Brewing Co., Ann Arbor’s new microbrewery, opened the doors to its taproom on November 5th. After selling bottles of Wolverine Premium Lager in stores for three years, the west side microbrewery’s grand opening introduced seven beers on tap, including the lager, reasonable prices, a mug club, and an ambiance of Michigan beer drinking joy. 

To read my take on a few of the beers, check out my guest post at Michigan Microbrews, “Wolverine State Brewing Co. Opens Ann Arbor Taproom.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Great Lakes Guru Endorses Justice Davis for Michigan Supreme Court

My dog and I encourage Michigan voters to check their ballot for Justice Alton Thomas Davis (Tom) for Michigan Supreme Court. Why such a specific candidate in such a specific race, you ask? Justice Davis is my father-in-law, so in many ways my future Christmas mornings depend on your vote. Tom grew up on a farm in northern Michigan. He is dedicated to his family, he applies reason and intellect to his job (with no agenda), and he makes really good soup. He takes me fly fishing.

Drooling for Justice Davis

I’m privileged to know Tom, and proud to call him my father-in-law. Visit his website, Facebook, and Twitter for more information, and enjoy this video of Tom hamming it up for the camera. Notice the sticker on the truck in the video? Yeah, that’s Original Gravity Brewing Company. Isn’t it time you had a Supreme Court Justice that you’d actually like to get a beer with?

Finally, if you’re voting straight party ticket, a.) I hate you, get a brain, and b.) be sure to flip the ballot over and vote in the non-partisan Supreme Court election. Let’s do this, Michigan.