Monday, December 27, 2010

Michigan Bucket List 2011

I’ve been around the block in Michigan, and yet there’s still so much I want to see and do in my state. Instead of just one new year’s resolution, I’ve resolved to fill 10 knowledge gaps and achieve my 2011 list of Great Lakes goals:

1. Visit two islands: Belle Isle for a picnic and Beaver Island for camping.

2. Catch a ball at Comerica Park, foul or home run.

3. Attend a Gourmet Underground event in Detroit.

4. Visit three breweries: Keweenaw Brewing, Short’s Brewing, and Brewery Vivant.

5. Publish articles in Hour Detroit and Traverse Magazine.

6. Get “tooned” by Natalie Sitto at

7. Kite surf either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

8. Get a Michigan tattoo: Map of the state, Old English D, or a collage/hybrid.

9. Build a wooden boat with my dad. Float said boat on Muskegon Lake.

10. Kayak the Lake Superior coast at Pictured Rocks.

As a side note: In the coming year I’m going to swear off any beer or wine that isn’t produced in our great state, and I’ll make every effort to do the same with food. I’d also like to buy a house in Detroit or somewhere on a Michigan river and throw a pig roast-kegger with all my new neighbors.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jaimy Gordon Reads From Lord of Misrule

National Book Award-winning author and Western Michigan University professor Jaimy Gordon reads from her novel, Lord of Misrule, at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Only Jaimy could write about horse racing with such precision and eloquence. Fascinating introduction and question and answer session. In five sections:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pelada at the Michigan Theater: UPDATED

Do you enjoy world travel? Are you looking for a way to support the Ann Arbor economy? Are you into documentaries? Do you love the Michigan Theater? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I recommend that you take 90 minutes out of your day [Updated: February 26th] to go see Pelada.

Pelada is a documentary following Luke and Gwendolyn, two former college soccer stars who didn’t quite make it to the pros. Not ready for it to be over, they take off, chasing the game. From prisoners in Bolivia to moonshiners in Kenya, from free-stylers in China to women who play in hijab in Iran, Pelada is the story of the people who play. Pelada is a great film whether you're a soccer fan or not (I'm not and I enjoyed it immensely).

Added bonus: For any of you Notre Dame alumni, Gwendolyn and Luke are ND grads. Gwendolyn was a classmate of mine in the MFA program. They are both exceptional athletes and incredible people. I promise the trip to the theater will be worth it.

Buy Tickets

Michigan Authors, Manly Fiction

As part of my gig with BULL: Fiction for Thinking Men I co-authored a blog post for Art of Manliness, Nine Writers Carrying the Torch for Men’s Fiction. I can’t keep my love for Michigan out of any of my writing interests, and two deserving Michigan authors made their way onto the list, Adam Schuitema and Bonnie Jo Campbell (a lady doing it better than most of the guys). Here are their excerpts from the post:
Adam Schuitema’s debut story collection, Freshwater Boys, brings the classic coming-of-age model to the beach towns of the Lake Michigan coast. Schuitema is a throw-back storyteller, conjuring voices that crackle with enough spirit you’d think you’re sitting round a campfire. His forthcoming novel, Haymaker, is set farther north in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, and rumor has it he’s cloistered himself in a Lake Superior cabin to finish. Prepare for a dust jacket head-shot with grizzled beard and plenty of flannel.
A good man can recognize when a woman does it better, and for gritty mid-western color, violence, and working-class realism, very few do it better than Bonnie Jo Campbell.  Her American Salvage, for which she was a National Book Award finalist, is a spot-on testimony of life in these dour economic times. When jobs and stability are gone, Campbell shows us the backbone, or lack thereof, inside people scrounging to survive.
To read the full post, and for general greatness on the state of manhood, visit Art of Manliness. First Jaimy Gordon wins the National Book Award, now Adam and Bonnie Jo end up in one of my blog posts. What’s next for Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University writers?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NOID Avoided

I challenge anyone to purchase a new Dominos pizza online and not become immediately addicted... to the pizza, sure, but to the ordering experience - "meats" and "unmeats," real-time pizza tracker, fun graphics - just can't beat it. The NOID has been avoided, repeatedly. 

Michigan Sports Memorabilia & Meaning

The Big Chill at the Big House set a world record for live hockey and added another historic event to our state’s rich sports resume. I was fortunate enough to tailgate with a good number of these 100,000 lunatics and to land a last-minute ticket from a group of Canadians who, like me, were at the game purely for the spectacle.

Great Seats

As both a die-hard Detroit sports fan and a Notre Dame fan, I like to think my dissonance in fandom gives me a unique insider-outsider perspective on sports in Michigan. If not, well, I still had a great time at the game. Here’s a blog post I wrote on June 29th, Michigan Sports Sermon, that celebrates the unique meaning sports have in our great state. And my own small memorabilia collection – pictured from left to right: a piece of Tiger Stadium, a section of hardwood from the 2009 Final Four, and the hottest (coldest) ticket in town:


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hudson’s On My Mind

This past weekend I had full-on downtown Detroit adventure - stayed at the Book Cadillac, partied at the Whitney, and made appearances at the Park Bar, Cliff Bell’s, and Lafayette Coney Island. Detroit is a city I’ve come to love, but until recently it was an obscure idea. I grew up in west Michigan and ventured to Detroit on but a handful of occasions, and then only for Tigers games. Now I know my way around the city relatively well, and I’ve hit a lot of the hot spots. But there’s still something missing for me, and that something is an intrinsic sense of Detroit’s history. I don’t really know the city, can’t feel its ghosts the way I do in coastal Lake Michigan towns. I’m trying to fix this Michigan blind spot by gobbling up all the Detroit history I can get my hands on. This holiday season, I thank a few of my favorite blogs for their recent history lessons: Absolute Michigan: Remembering Hudson’s in Detroit, Michigan in Pictures: Holiday Shopping at J.L. Hudson’s in Detroit, and the Night Train: a Defunct Detroit Thanksgiving Tradition. Finally, here’s a recent blog post at Fermentation Nation: the Park Bar – Craft Beer and Detroit Soul. Good stuff.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Michigan Boot Fashion: the Good, the Bad, and the Uggly

Snow has arrived in Michigan, and with it comes winter boots. We Michiganders seem to have the mitten part down, but we’re sorely lacking when it comes to the footwear fashion. Being stylish in the snow isn’t difficult; it just takes a little effort, some individualism, and a dose of leather care. Let’s start with the ladies:

If there’s one thing that irks me about my marriage it’s that my wife owns a pair of Uggs. These boots look like dirty lunch bags stuffed with wet hamster chips, and they transform the female form and strut into something akin to that of a drunk circus clown walking on the moon. Spend time on a college campus in Michigan and you’ll be terrified to find that nearly every female on campus is decked out in Uggs, and worse, they match the boots with black tights. Skinny undergraduate legs exaggerate the size of the boot until Ann Arbor in January is like a ballerina-hippie-Eskimo nightmare.

Just Don't

Ladies, Uggs make you look like you don’t shave your armpits, it’s disgusting. And don’t pretend like they’re comfortable; if you cared about comfort you’d be wearing actual hiking boots that stay on and have traction in deep snow, like these North Face Chilkat Boots (almost like my name, see). You’re dressing up for other girls; it’s fashion at it’s most idiotic level. For the city, high heels still work.

Women's High Heel Boots

Sure, snow limits fashion choices, but that’s no need to embarrass yourself with Uggs. Instead, go with a more form-fitting boot, with a knee-high, or even cowboy boots if the ground is dry. All will get you through the snow, and you won’t look like you smell of fish.

Women's Cowboy Boots

Way Better than Uggs

Fortunately for the men, we have it a bit easier. A pair of Red Wing Irish Setters will get you through any situation, whether you’re shoveling, sledding, hunting, or out for a night on the town - perhaps the most versatile footwear known to man. If you’re working or sledding, tuck your pant legs into the boot. For more formal occasions, pair with jeans or khakis and wear the pant leg over the boot.

Stomp Stuff

For an added touch, I suggest matching the Irish Setter with a Donegal cap, can’t beat this look.

Old Country

Cowboy boots are enough to keep your feet warm in the city, but they can be slick if the sidewalks are wet, and the elements do these boots no favors. My ostrich leg boots require even more attention.

Ostrich Men's Boots

I recommend these rubbers to protect during low snow, and they provide some traction. Ann Arbor gets relatively little snow, so I get away with cowboy boots with some leather treatment and covers. But for heavy snow days and trips north or west, back to the Red Wings.


Leather Treatment

Finally, a small endorsement for these ice gripping walkers. If an ice storm hits, or if you’re venturing onto a frozen lake, these will keep you upright and agile.


Always keep this advice in mind: Stay warm, stay dry, stay upright, look sharp. If I know one thing about fashion, it’s that I know nothing about fashion; I just know how I feel, and I feel like I’m going to puke when I see Uggs. Stop it, ladies, just stop it.