Upon landing in Detroit, we drove to Ann Arbor, and I posed in front of the largest stadium on a college campus in the nation in my yellow pants (not maize).
Then? Brunch at Angelo‘s, where I quite possibly had the best omelet I’ve ever had (and this kid eats a lot of omelets, let me tell you). Then we headed west to the Hankerd Inn for the Camp Stitchalot event where my bride would be sewing instructing for the next several days. I met some of the other instructors and leaders; we had dinner, and then I headed back to Ann Arbor to meet Doug French at Wolverine State Brewing Company, where the beer was prevalent, but the sideburned mutants were decidedly (and disappointingly) absent.
The next day, I drove to Detroit. Specifically, to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. I was just in time for a public tour that had one other participant, making it a private tour. I loved it–great paintings, sculptures, and exhibits from all over the world, including works from Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Rembrandt, etc. Plus, an Egyptian mummy! We spent the greatest percentage of time during the tour with this mural by Diego Rivera (and for good reason):
photo from DIA website here
Next, I drove by the abandoned Michigan Central Station and explored Belle Island, where I could smile at Canada, just south of me. I tried to visit the nearly antebellum yacht club but was immediately asked to leave.
It was after 5, so I figured it was time to visit one of the bars listed in Esquire’s article, the Grand Trunk Pub. The place was packed, but I found one empty chair at the bar and plopped down. A few minutes later, a guy sat to my right. He also seemed to be alone and was, unlike me, not starting at an iphone. So, having just read a blog post about how making small talk with strangers makes one happier, I decided to do just that. We were the same age (until midnight), and he was there for work from London; his name was Adrian.
For the next 12 hours, Adrian and I talked to locals, listened to music, and explored the Detroit night life until it became the morning of my 39th birthday. He introduced us as, “Hello. I’m Adrian from southern London; this is Michael from southern America” which was a lot funnier when he delivered it repeatedly to strangers than it appears in typeface.
We attended an exclusive rooftop party by sneaking in a side door when the bouncer was distracted by an inquisitive police officer.
We learned about the record-breaking 96” of snow this winter from a security guard at the MGM Grand Casino.
We watched young folks dance until 4am while a DJ mixed tunes I’d call “techno.”
Adrian was ready for yet another after hours club when I bid him farewell so that I could drive over an hour back to the bed and breakfast where I was to sleep; I arrived just after 6am. The sun was up. My bride was not impressed.
The next morning after a 4-hour nap and breakfast brought to me in bed, I visited the arboretum at U. of Michigan and relaxed with nature. Then, I went to the Jolly Pumpkin and relaxed with beer. A beer or two later, Doug joined me there and proceeded to lead me on a walking (and eating/drinking) tour of Ann Arbor for about 9 hours.
It was great. I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve gotten to spend with Doug at blogging conferences over the past 5+ years, but since he’s often running these conferences, I rarely get to have extended conversations with him. Getting to explore his city on foot for several hours was a treat.
This is inside the U. of Michigan law school, where a good friend from high school and undergrad went for her J.D. (and is where Doug often goes to write when he has a deadline). We both thought it looked like Hogwarts.
After exploring a bookstore, 100-year-old theater, art gallery, and multiple restaurants/bars/pubs, we concluded the night at the Ravens Club, where the quality of bourbons available was excellent. I got back to the B&B at 2:30am, very satisfied that I’d made the best of my birthday out of town.
On the way to the airport, I had a sandwich from the famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen, and it was everything I’d heard it could be.
Since having to separate from the Air Force Reserves last spring, I haven’t traveled alone; I haven’t explored any new cities, been forced to talk to strangers, or take a new acquaintance’s suggestion for where to go for dinner. I’ve missed it. As much as I love traveling with my wife and even with our young children, the restless spirit inside that craves the adventure being surrounded by the unknown can give absolutely loves going into a new city and seeing what I’ll find and whom I’ll meet. I’ll forever be grateful for Doug’s hospitality and generosity in Ann Arbor and for Adrian’s companionship in Detroit. I loved what I saw of Michigan. I hope it invites me back.
My last year as a 30-something has begun. And it has begun well.