Saturday, May 31, 2008

She'll Be the Coolest Toddler on the Block

Oh my gosh, NO I DIDN'T.

Yes. I did.

Look at them!
My sweet niece's first pair of Converse.

(Oh, and P.S.? No jokes about how those shoes would fit me. I've tried. I need a few sizes up.)

Friday, May 30, 2008


Day-twa. That's how "Detroit" is pronounced in French. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

On Wednesday, my dad and I took an afternoon trip to Detroit. Ever since I discovered this blog, I was determined to uncover the hidden treasures of the city - or at least learn more about its history. I know that Detroit can be a very scary place to some, whether or not they've actually visited, and the negative implications of the 1960s riots hang over its skyscrapers like a fog, but Detroit has always been... different for me.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, I remember visiting my great-grandmother, Rose, at her home on the west side of the city. Abandoning the adults and their talk of the "old days," my brother and cousins and I would climb the hundred-year-old stairway to the attic and marvel in the pure ancientness of the space. Dust covered everything and hung in the air, seemingly suspended by rays of light filtering through the filthy windows. A mothball-infested wardrobe sat in an alcove, and as much as I always wanted to discover Narnia within, I was never brave enough to place more than a foot inside. (My male cousins always threatened to lock me in, so that might have been a deterrent as well.)

My great-grandmother lived on St. John street. A historically Polish neighborhood, the houses were slowly succumbing to age, and their inhabitants were leaving for the suburbs. The older generation held on, but no one new was moving in.

We didn't know much about the changing demographics of the city, and I don't know that it would have altered anything in our minds. We saw our great-grandmother as a powerful being - a woman who was born in a one-room home in Poland, and earned her way to America by working for three years as an indentured servant. She made the trip across the Atlantic and through Ellis Island with only her brother. Her parents could only afford passage for four of her six siblings, so she and her brother waited it out in Poland for three years. Really.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to want a new start for your family... to want it so much that you were forced to leave some of your children behind in order to make that dream a reality? Can you imagine the sacrifice and the feelings of guilt? When we visited Rose's house, those stories continually danced through my mind. How would I have reacted to that decision? How would I have reacted to that decision at age twenty, let alone at age ten? It is just incredible.

Rose's story is just one of thousands, and those stories built Detroit.

Detroit is not a burned-out city to me. It is a proud city. It is a place that jump-started the lives of immigrants and gave them new hope.

One of the reasons for this post is to defend Detroit - but I know that there is only so much a twenty-seven year old girl from the southern suburbs can say without sounding like a hypocrite, so I'll share pictures and history instead. (The entire album can be viewed here.)

My dad planned out our afternoon beginning with a stop at St. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church.

St. Anne's was established by in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. It is a gorgeous gothic revival building.

After St. Anne's, we drove to a place I have always wanted to visit: Michigan Central Station. Closed in 1988, and now exhibiting nothing more than a shell of its former grandeur, the Station has been overrun by vandals, graffiti, and nature. As a child, my dad once sat in the main hall with his aunt, waiting for the train to take them on a weekend trip to Chicago.

There has been much talk of refurbishing the station, but until then, the station awaits its fate and is slowly overtaken by the elements.

Our next stop was old Tiger Stadium. In an era when parks weren't named by the highest bidder, Tiger Stadium was one of the first ballparks in the country.

The stadium is located in Corktown, the oldest surviving neighborhood in the city. The Most Holy Trinity Church is located just a few blocks from there:

We parked in Greektown and had lunch at Pizza Papalis.

Yes, I took a picture of my lunch. And it was delicious. And no, I did not finish it.

We walked for the remainder of the day, starting with the Wayne County Building. When my dad was first practicing as an attorney, he would often come to this building to argue cases and to file motions.

We walked through the front doors, hoping to peek inside, but the guard set us up on an unofficial tour instead! The style and craftsmanship of the building, both outside and in, is a testament to the city and a view into the past:

Lex means "law" in latin. Thanks, dad!

Next, we crossed Jefferson Avenue to see Mariner's Church. Directly adjacent to the Detroit River, sailors worshiped here before leaving for the waters of the Great Lakes. Mentioned in Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," it is a small, humble church, but breathtaking at the same time.

Just down the road from Mariner's Church is Hart Plaza. Resembling a wingnut, Dodge Fountain is peculiar and striking. (I'm pretty sure that it lights up when spewing water around.) The Plaza was practically empty as workers prepared for the Red Bull Air Race the coming weekend.

The Fist of Joe Louis marks the entrance to Hart Plaza and the waterfront:

The Spirit of Detroit. In the past ten years, each time the Red Wings qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the statue dons a massive red and white jersey. This year? A bath was in order instead:

The Civil War Monument at Campus Martius:

Joe Louis Arena. Home to the DETROIT RED WINGS!

The Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament and home of the Archdiocese of Detroit:

My great-great grandparents' grave at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. The graves bear predominantly Polish surnames, and in the case of my relatives, no English:

(Apparently there was a mistake - my great-great grandparents were not Kwakas, they were Kwokas. Aren't you glad to have learned that?)

It was an exhausting, but fascinating afternoon. My dad is a wealth of knowledge, and I can't imagine learning about Detroit from anyone else.

. . .

I know why people spurn Detroit. It's old and entire areas are crumbling, it has a crooked mayor, and it has a checkered past. But it's also Motown. It's Hockeytown. It's the City of Champions. It's where many Michiganders can trace their roots, and it boasts some of the finest cultural attractions in the country.

I've climbed the spiral staircase at the Detroit Institute of Arts, I've watched a fourteen-inning baseball game with my grandpa at Tiger Stadium, I've eaten saganaki at Pegasus, and I've done research at the Detroit Public Library.

I'm not ignorant to believe that crime is nonexistent in Detroit. I know better than to drive there alone, especially with my innate ability to get lost in nanoseconds. There are areas of Washington, DC, that I would have never visited during the day, and that's true of Detroit as well.

It's a big city, and big cities have problems. Once you can get past that, you should be able to enjoy Detroit for what it is: a gem.

It's okay if people are scared of this city. I'm not. I am, and forever will be, in awe of Detroit.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Six Months and Counting

Six months ago today, I left Washington, D.C. in a U-haul truck and headed north. As I drove over the Potomac River, I didn't cry.

Six months later, I can honestly and happily say that I have no regrets.

I equated leaving DC with a break-up, and in the last six months, that analogy has only grown stronger. I have distance, I see everything clearly... and I have closure.

Of course I miss my friends, but I also realize how lucky I am to live in an era of cell phones, instant messaging, and well, blogs. I can talk to my friends whenever I want. I don't have to pre-plan phone calls and I'm not tethered to a phone stuck to a kitchen wall. I can send letters and cards, but because I want to, not because it is the only affordable means of communication.

My parents had been dating for a few years when my dad accepted a post-graduate scholarship at The University of Illinois. They wrote letters and they endured infrequent, expensive phone calls. When my mom was hired as an elementary school teacher, she called him excitedly, "I have a job! We can get married now!" Of course, my dad had already proposed, but the fact that they now had a source of income changed everything.

I'm sure that they still have the letters they exchanged between Michigan and Illinois, bittersweet reminders that absence might make the heart grow fonder, but it certainly isn't FUN.

Now? I am so, SO happy to be where I am - geographically, professionally, and especially personally. I feel that at this point in my life, I am exactly where I want to be. I am so lucky to have had the countless amazing opportunities that living in DC afforded me. The years I spent in DC were part of a wonderful phase of my life and my experiences there have made me the person I am today.

Walking alone this morning, along the Huron River, just cemented my feelings.

I'm home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Twenty Minutes

I've started running again. Well, sort of.

Since returning to Michigan, I still walk quite a bit - more than I did in DC, I think. It's a good two-mile walk to the museum. With Ann Arbor's rolling hills, it can end up being a pretty nice workout! Taking the stairs at the museum and then repeating those two miles at 5 p.m. round out my day nicely.

And yet? Maybe it's the fact that I'm pushing 28. Maybe it's the fact that I have a car again. Maybe it's the fact that I have discovered the joys of occasionally working from home. Or maybe my metabolism is finally starting to slow and I can't rely on my walking marathons to keep me in the shape I desire.

Whatever it is, it was time for a change.

The problem is, I need a schedule - something to keep me on track. I have attempted this "running" thing several times since that final high school track meet, all with less than positive results.

Attempt One: Freshman year of college. I was lucky enough to avoid the dreaded "freshman fifteen," but everyone else seemed to be running their asses all over campus, and hey! I ran track in high school! I could run - it was a great idea! I also thought that wearing impractical shoes around campus was a good idea, and I began my winter semester in a walking cast. Thank you, stress fracture! And goodbye, running.

Attempt Two: My first year in DC. I was BORED. I had no friends. Grad school was time-consuming, and I had yet to find a job. I used to run around my ridiculously-large block wearing a Michigan tee, in some pathetic attempt to make friends with some imaginary random Michigan alum who might spot me. It didn't happen. And after a few days, I gave up and retreated to my yoga mat and an old workout VHS tape.

Attempt Three: My last few months in DC. I was living on Capitol Hill, just behind the Supreme Court. I had met a very cute, very sweet, very in-shape man, and even though he lived in Michigan, I wanted to look my best each time I saw him. So I started running. Unfortunately, I had to wake up at 5:45 each morning, to both avoid the evil summer humidity and to be at work by 8. Stress caught up with me after a few weeks and I decided that sleep was more important.

Now? It's serious. Cardio is important, and taking care of myself now can only be good for my future. Plus, it's going to be summer soon, and that cute, sweet, in-shape man has a condo pool.

So. Lovely Melissa created a running schedule for me, technically a way to prepare for a 5K, but really a way to get a lapsed runner back into shape. Here it is, in all of its glory:

Monday: Stretch/strength day
Tuesday: 20 minute run at desired pace. Walk if necessary
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 15 minute pace run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 20 minute run

Sunday: Run 10 minutes/walk 5, for a total of 30 minutes

Great! So how is it going so far?

Monday, May 19: Ballet class. Much stretching. I can almost do splits again!
Tuesday, May 20: Ran for twenty minutes.

Do you KNOW how long twenty minutes is, especially when you haven't run in years? I ran myself all over the Old West Side, crossing streets and tackling long and short blocks. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" blasted in my ears, followed by the Eels's "Fresh Feeling."

My side was cramping, my lungs were closing. I was practically tripping over my Mizuno-clad feet. I glanced at the time.

It had been FOUR minutes.

Lord, this is going to be fun.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let the Credits Roll

I've told as many people as possible of CSI: Miami's brilliance. And by "brilliance" I mean "ridiculousness." David Caruso is such an amazing over-actor that I tune in to watch the opening of each show to catch his retarded one-liners and I end up viewing the entire episode.

I found this linked on pajiba, and it made my morning. I love how Caruso's one-liners segway into the credits - it made me laugh every time. Whomever put this montage together deserves a medal:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


So on the morning after Letterman's hosted his stupid pet tricks, I have an appropriate story for you. (Except that I don't watch Letterman. I'm a Conan kind of girl. I like his hair. And that he used to date Liz Lemon.)

It starts with my neighbors' cats. There are two. I briefly mentioned the half-bobcat cat they have, but they also have a fluffy black and white feline that is either a complete moron in the animal world (like, dumber than a blind pigeon), or the mastermind behind the eventual cat takeover. I'm not entirely sure, because it does retarded things but then immediately redeems itself.

I don't know its name, so I'm calling it Fluffy. And I'm assigning him to the male gender. Just because. I don't have to explain myself.

Fluffy likes to get into trouble. For example, if I may, let me show you a picture I snapped just a few days ago:

Fluffy isn't in the crook of the giant tree.
No, he's on a random branch. Do you see him?

(Also, I've lived here for over five months and it has
yet to occur to the owners of that house that maybe
they should REMOVE THOSE STICKERS from the windows.)

Let's try a close-up:

The moron/genius cat at play. Or at work.

Fluffy is an incredible pill. If you see him sitting on your porch when you arrive home, don't assume that he WON'T dart inside your house as soon as you make the mistake of opening the door.

Fluffy hangs out wherever he damn well pleases, meows his little ass off, and generally annoys the general public.

So last night, I was finishing up dinner and ignoring the laundry that's been begging for some folding since oh, I don't know, LAST TUESDAY, and I heard a weird scratching/banging noise on the side of the house. And then the meowing began. It was SO LOUD.

You all know that it was Fluffy, so I'm not going to leave you in suspense.

I stared at the fluffy nutjob through the glass, and determined that one of two things was happening:

1. Fluffy was stuck on the side of the house, or

2. Fluffy was not stuck on the side of the house.

Because I live on the second floor of the house, I was originally a little concerned. But he managed to get his ass down from the random lofty branch, so I'm sure that he would have found his way down from the side of my house. But I was not about to listen to his incessant whining all night - especially when I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before due to my irritating cold.

I carefully opened the window and he, predictably, darted inside. It's like his freaking m.o., people: darting. I grabbed him, walked downstairs, and placed him outside on the porch.

He was smart enough to stay there, and I walked upstairs and resumed the staring match with my wrinkled clean clothes.

Not five minutes later, he was back on the side of the house. I ignored him this time, and he was gone soon after.

So... moron or genius, this cat?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Reason to Be Happy

Being waived through the gate instead of paying the parking fee.
At $1.10/hour, I would've owed almost seven bucks.

(Yes, the stub is from Friday. I'VE BEEN BUSY.)

Which Film?

From imdb's quote of the day:

"Survival kit contents check. In them you'll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Seriously, How Cute is This?

I found this birdie gel decal set at Acme Mercantile.
You know you want one.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Friday, May 02, 2008


You have to love it when a city earns the following sports headlines... all on the same day:

After crushing the Sixers and the Avalanche, respectively, not only will the Pistons and the Red Wings both advance to the next playoff round, but the Tigers swept the Yankees (for the first time in Yankee Stadium since 1966?!!?) too?

Yeah, it's a good day.