Mar 13, 2009

Wandering Around Ann Arbor

Left: William L. Clements Library

(Ann Arbor, MI) Ostensibly my trip to Ann Arbor today involved visiting the William L. Clements Library, which is pictured on your left. I hoped to research some manuscripts for my dissertation, but I neglected to take into consideration the reading room hours, and I found myself with time on my hands in the middle of the campus of the University of Michigan.

Interestingly, though I have spent over 90 percent of my life within a short drive of Ann Arbor, I know little about the city. My trips have always revolved around football games, concerts, or academic pursuits, and all have been of the "get-in-and-get-out" variety.

Thus, the idea of strolling around Ann Arbor on a sunny spring day appealed to me.

Left: activists protesting human trafficking

I always enjoy the experience of walking on the campus of a major metropolitan university, seeing the thousands of people from all over the world who go about the business of higher education. I encountered a group of students in the center of campus leading a small rally against human trafficking and modern slavery. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I signed their petition; after all, only a sociopath could be "for" the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings, and truth be told, I felt a little of my world-weary cynicism fade for a moment.

Sure, these may be hopelessly idealistic college students, but perhaps they actually can make a difference in the plight of the 27 million human beings working in such nefarious settings as child brothels or industrial debt bondage. At worst, the NSA will steal their email list and put me on the ever-expanding terror watch list as a suspected subversive.

That's a joke, I think.

Left: The Law Quadrangle at the University of Michigan

I spent some time exploring the beautiful architecture of the campus, like the Law Quadrangle pictured on your left. I took this image from the South University Drive side, with the sun slightly behind the tower. The Gothic Revival style appeals to the traditionalist that lurks within me, and I always prefer Gothic churches over those modern pulpit-in-the-round houses of worship.

I suppose that people who live and work near such magnificent buildings eventually become habituated to them, but I stood in silent awe at the majestic spires that reached toward the heavens and the intricate stone detail on the doorways of the buildings.

Preoccupied students walked past me with heads in books or chatting on their cell phones, seemingly oblivious to the splendor, but perhaps puzzled at the tall stranger wandering in circles and taking photographs of the complex.

Or maybe people walking in circles and talking to themselves is more common in Ann Arbor than I thought. My own fascination with my springtime surroundings may have diminished my "raving psychotic" radar.

Brightly-colored mosaic

Yet of all the sights I encountered today, I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a dumpster enclosure outside a building on East Washington. Only in a city like Ann Arbor would people even be concerned about aesthetics for dumpsters, as most cities are fine with simple wooden fences, or those chain-link fences with colored slats.

This enclosure had glazed ceramic tiles on its exterior, with somewhat muted colors like vermilion and forest green. As I contemplated the workmanship that went into this tiled wall, I tried to discern patterns in the placing of the tiles. Along the vertical and horizontal axes, no color is repeated more than twice, but there are as many as eight consecutive diagonal tiles. Still, I failed to see an overall pattern, and I think it is much harder to recreate the appearance of randomness than it is to follow a predetermined pattern.

My wanderings around Ann Arbor had no purpose beside simple time-killing, and I think I especially enjoyed the purposeful rejection of time constraints for an afternoon. Yes, I have three dozen emails to answer, and a half-dozen phone messages, but the "real" world was still there when I pulled into my driveway after an afternoon of meandering.

I endeavor to meander more often.


Anonymous said...

nice pics, mike.

Mad Jack said...

Yes, I liked the pix as well. I haven't been to Ann Arbor in a very long time. I used to play hooky from school and go up to Ann Arbor, have lunch and spin the cube. It was right lively back then, with the Black Panther movement, the White Panthers, the Weather Underground and a host of others.

I have never become habituated to Gothic style architecture, and automatically become an obstruction to traffic whenever I'm in the vicinity of a Gothic edifice.

Molly said...

I have so many great memories of Ann Arbor. In our 20s, we used to head up there all the time, apparently to escape the stifling bourgeoisie atmosphere of Bowling Green. ha! This was a fun post, thanks. I'm smiling at some of the things we did back then. Ah,the glory of youth.

microdot said...

Yeah, well, I spent a few months in 1967-68 living there...

I vaguely remember hanging out with Vincent Furnier and Jimmy Osterberg there at the time, but I'm not sure if the statute of limitations has expired so .....
I had a few friends who worked ar A2 records and I was big fan of the Rationals and Segar, Teagarden and Vanwinkle....
There was a great Jazz club where I would go to see Larry Coryell, Sun Ra, Pharoah Saunders, Mose Allison...what a scene!

I have very good memories of Ann Arbor. The John Sinclair Freedom Concert with Stevie Wonder and John Lennon and many others...
Seeing Bonnie Raitt with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.

I just posted a clip from the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival from 1971 with one of personal heroes...
Hound Dog Taylor...all six fingers on his left hand, crappy Tiesco Japanese Electric slide guitar...
brilliance bordering on incoherence!

Morbi Ceramic tiles said...

The dumpster site can be such vividly colourfull!. Really Ann Arbor's culture is magnificent. The glazed mosaic tiles looks beautiful.