Literature vs Traffic – October 23, 2018

A few weeks ago, I saw this event pop up on my Facebook page.

10,000 books to fill a block in Ann Arbor?

Presented by the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities and Luzinterruptus, the block-long display would be held on October 23, 2018 from 5-11PM.

When books and Ann Arbor are players in an event, my curiosity is piqued.

At Luzinterruptus‘ website I learned that they are an anonymous group of artists who intervene in urban public spaces, illuminating their installations with light.  The temporary exhibit provides light that people take home with them.

This project is a commentary on the celebration of the written word, community, and…well, this young woman explains it best:

I wondered what ten-thousand books spread out on a city block would look like and its meaning.  The camera and I made the trip.

I arrived around four o’clock.  I was a little disturbed, at first.  It seemed like a blasphemous treatment of books.  I walked around it, snapping photos of whatever caught my attention in the mass of pages.

Standing there in the late afternoon, a breeze whipped down the street, fluttering the pages. A ripple of waves on a paper sea, whispering the words and ideas of their authors.

A pond, ten-thousand
worlds deep, deeper than a sea.
Unfathomable.

As the afternoon waned, the blocked street attracted more foot traffic.

As the ink of nightfall dribbled across the sky, their lights emerged.

 

Night falls, the books cast their glow.

I did not stay when the book-taking began.  However, as I prepared to leave, I noticed something that I needed to capture.  In the background of this pond of pages is the building that once held the flagship location of Borders Book Store.

The installation held a contemplative atmosphere.  I thought about how libraries and book stores shelve books together by category, for convenience, yet in the street, the lines are blurred and intertwined.  A mystery novel could lay next to a math text book; a contemporary social science study next to a nautical history from a century ago.  Beacons of community.  At night’s end, all will have found a home.

 

 

Finding Michigan Independent Book Stores With a Tote as a Map.

(The statement above adorns the outside of Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI.  It’s one of hundreds of messages left on the community typewriter in the lower level of the store, since its opening in the spring of 2013.)

Find The Book Stores – The Call to Adventure

On October 3, 2017, I was to visit a couple of clients in the Kalamazoo County Jail.  I arrived at the jail during lunch break, so to kill time I sought out an independent book store I discovered during the summer when I attended a Detroit City FC match.

A title caught my eye, so I approached the bookseller to purchase it.  As we talked, the topic came up that I was in town on business, that my job had recently increased my travel around the state, and that I liked visiting the independent book stores in the area if I had time.  She put her finger up, asked me to wait, then stepped out from behind the counter and walked to a display.  She returned with a book bag.  “You may need one of these.”

The “Greetings from Michigan Booksellers” tote displays a map of Michigan on one side, with dots identifying the location of the independent book stores listed on the back.  Each store has a box next to it.  All I needed to do was visit and make a purchase at a book store listed on the bag to receive a 10% discount and a check-mark in the box next to the store’s name.

The book-tote idea was presented to members of the Great Lakes Independent Book Sellers Association (GLIBSA) by Sue Boucher, owner of Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor.  Fourteen book stores joined this promotion and the totes were available for sale in the fall of 2017.

Spending $15.95 for a book bag was not usually my thing.  I told her I’d think about it, as I was going to have lunch at a pub in the plaza.  During lunch, I did the math, and were I to spend around $12 a book store, it would pay for itself.  But my concern was whether I would cover this much ground in the state, especially to the stores in the Upper Peninsula and on Mackinac Island where I have never ventured to before.

Oh, what the heck.  Between the courts and prisons and Detroit City FC travel, I was bound to hit most, if not all of them.

I went back into Book Bug, purchased the tote and the book, and the adventure began.

On the Road

There were four easy targets on the bag – book stores nearby that I frequent.  Six days later, a visit to one of them – Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor – landed me my second check-mark.

On October 27th, I had to visit a client at a prison in Ionia.  With Lansing being on the drive back, I stopped at Schuler Books.

In presenting the bag with my purchase, the bookseller told me that if I took the bag to the Grand Rapids store, I could get another 10%-off purchase, and the other half of the X in the box.

As October closed, three of the fourteen boxes had been marked.

During the first two weeks of November, six more boxes were marked.

On November 2nd, I had to file a motion with the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court and visit my client in the jail.  Roughly 30 miles south is Three Rivers, where Lowry’s Books is located.  I wished I had had more time there, because it had thousands of used and new books to browse.  Then, on the trip back home on I-94 West, I exited at Jackson Road to stop at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  The bookseller at Nicola’s placed a smile in their box.

Four days later, I was scheduled for a hearing in the Crawford County Circuit Court in Grayling.  I checked into my hotel on the 5th, but not before traveling up to Gaylord to visit Saturn Books, then Petoskey, to visit McLean & Eakin.

The hearing went well for my client, as the judge ruled in favor of our Motion for Resentencing.

On November 12th, I spent time in Detroit’s Cass Park where twice a month a group of people have been bringing food and clothes to the forgotten workers.  Then, it was a short drive up Cass to Source Booksellers.

Two days later, on my birthday, I had to visit a client in the Kent County Jail in Grand Rapids.  This provided me the opportunity to have lunch with a high school friend at Schuler Books, and of course, earn another checkmark.

When I presented the tote and said that the bookseller in Lansing said that I could earn another slash here, the bookseller not only affirmed, but she admired how many I had already visited, and told me that I could earn a third line in the box if I went to their Okemos store.  Really?  You’re going to tell me I can visit another bookstore and get 10% off?  Happy Birthday to me!

On my birthday, it had been a month-and-a-half since I purchased the tote, and I was already past the halfway point of completing the adventure.  For the shoppers out there, I had also earned a savings $25.77, the tote more than paying for itself.

But then, things got a little tougher.  Winter in Michigan and the miles to travel became an impediment.

Delayed by Distance

On December 7th, I found my way to another Detroit book store – Pages Bookshop.  The next day, I had to file a motion again at Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.  Fifty miles west of Kalamazoo is the city of St. Joseph, on the banks of Lake Michigan.  I took the opportunity to stop at Forever Books.

Three long, cold months passed before I was able to continue the journey.  The remaining locations were on the fringes of Michigan (with the exception of the Schuler Books store in the palm of the mitten in Okemos), and nowhere along my travel lines.

Finally, I was scheduled for a hearing in Wexford County Circuit Court on March 12th.  Located in Cadillac, a city in northwestern Michigan, I had to stay overnight.  I drove up on Sunday, but veered further northwest for a stop at Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor.

Winter faded into sping, then summer emerged before the next check-mark was earned.  It took some thinking outside of the box.

One of Detroit City FC’s opponents in 2018 was the Milwaukee Torrent.  In the previous season, the road match in Milwaukee was on a Sunday afternoon, and the Northern Guard Supporters chartered a bus to get our supporters there.  In 2018, our match in Milwaukee was on a Friday night.  Not an easy trip for supporters.

The standard route from Detroit to Milwaukee would be west to Chicago, then north to Milwaukee.  But there is another route, a much longer route, but one that would give me the opportunity to hit two of the book stores on the book tote – Snowbound Books in Marquette and Island Bookstore.  The latter had two locations; one on Mackinac Island, and the other in Mackinaw City.  To get to the Island, you have to take a ferry over.  But Mackinaw City is still in the Lower Peninsula.  The plan was to drive north from Detroit to Mackinaw City, stop at Island Bookstore, then cross the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula and drive west to Marquette to shop at Snowbound Books.  I’d stay the night in Marquette, then drive south into Wisconsin and on to Milwaukee.

 

Map2

It was a great plan.  But a couple weeks before the trip I learned that the Island Bookstore in Mackinaw City had closed in April.  To earn that check-mark, I would have to go out to the Island, and there wasn’t time for that in the itinerary.

The Michigan Black Bear book was not purchased at Snowbound, but at Oswald’s Bear Ranch.  Had to do a little touristy thing while in the U.P.

On June 29th, Detroit City FC played in Grand Rapids.  It had been a rugged summer and I was fighting some sort of flu or heat exhaustion.  But I wasn’t going to miss this crucial match.  I checked into a hotel (that lacked WiFi, which sucked) and went to game.

Forty miles west of Grand Rapids is Grand Haven.  The next morning, I checked out of the hotel, pointed the car west, and stopped at The Bookman.

Then, it was time to turn the car around, point it east, and take me back home.  But halfway along the three-hour trip home was Okemos.  There, I took the almost complete bag into the store, found a book, then went to check out.  When I inquired about the third 10% discount, the bookseller took my tote to the store’s manager, then returned, confirming my discount.  She also asked if she could take a photo of it because they had never seen one this complete.  I naturally obliged.

And so, the Schuler Books box has three lines; one for each store.  I was fortunate to have stopped at the Lansing store before it had to close in the spring of 2018 to gain all three.

The Final Leg

Friday, July 27, 2018.  After spending the night in a cheap motel in Gaylord, I drove the hour north to Mackinaw City to catch the ferry to Mackinac Island.

The Mackinac Bridge opened on November 1, 1957 to traffic between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.  It spans 26,372 feet, separating Lake Michigan on its west and Lake Huron to its east.

The Grand Hotel was built in 1887, and has been the filming location for two movies; “This Time For Keeps” (1947) which starred Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante and “Somewhere in Time” (1979) starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

In 1898, automobiles were banned from the island, making travel by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, and foot the means of transportation.

It was for none of those tourist reasons that I ventured out to Mackinac Island for the first time in my life.  My purpose was to shop at a bookstore.

Not far from the port where the ferry had docked was my destination.

After browsing the shelves, it was time to check out.

 


(photo by Mary Jane Barnwell)

It took 299 days to complete this mission, and an abundance of miles logged during this journey.  Each independent bookstore has its own personality and charm, which is refreshing in this age of corporate franchises.

So what’s next?  Buy another tote and do it again?  That’s something worth considering, but having completed this journey, if a new tote was released with some new locations, I’d definitely be in for that adventure.

I think the more difficult quest is to read all the books accumulated during this experience.  I’m sure that will take a lot longer than ten months as there is so much on my to-read list.  Below is a list of the books purchased and the current read/unread status.  I will keep this updated as I learn and experience from these books.  To quote Christopher Morley from his novella, Parnassus on Wheels, “When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.”

READ (in order of having read)

The Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge

TO READ (in order of purchase)

The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits by Tiya Myles.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami.
Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America by Peter Edelman.
All That Is Man by David Szalay.
The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook by Aaron Foley.
Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners by James Braxton Peterson.
Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies.
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.
They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery.
The Book: An Homage by Burkhard Spinnen
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman.
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel.
Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica by Roger Bennett and Michael Davies.
What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha.
Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America by Michael A. McDonnell.
Poison on Tap (A Bridge Magazine Analysis): How Government Failed Flint and the Heroes Who Fought Back by the staff of Bridge Magazine.


(the purchases pre-Mackinac Island)

 

 

 

 

August 30, 2018: Typing Assignment #19

It’s time for typing assignment #19 of Joe Van Cleave’s YouTube series.  This assignment is to write a one-page typewritten piece inspired by something you saw or felt while out and about.

At first, this was a difficult assignment.  I thought about how I would always go to Borders Book Stores when I needed to find guidance when experiencing challenges or seeking inspiration, but I couldn’t recall any specific lightning strikes of enlightenment.  However, something occurred in my life this week that I went about my usual process – though not at Borders but another book store, of course – and low and behold, there was an inspiring shift in the way I viewed the incident.  Hopefully this fits the theme.

This was typed on my 1938 Corona Silent 2S series.

 

For more typewritten pages, click HERE

August 5, 2018: Type-In at Literati Bookstore

While in Ann Arbor in late June, I stopped at Literati Bookstore to browse, where a flyer caught my eye.

I had seen other type-ins publicized around the state and country, but nowhere near me.  I was both excited and confused.  What do you do at a type-in?  After enlisting the advice of others who have attended them, I decided that I’d like to test-drive as many of the machines that were there.

The flyer said to bring my own, if I wanted.  Hmm.  Which one?  I decided to share my favorite portable – a 1954 Olivetti Lettera 22.  So I packed it up, and set out for Ann Arbor through a maze of weekend road closures due to construction.

Literati Bookstore is the ideal location for a type-in.  Co-owner Michael Gustafson’s grandfather’s 1930’s Smith Corona was the inspiration for the store’s logo.  When the doors opened in 2013, Mike placed a typewriter – an Olivetti Lettera 32 – in the lower level of the store, for the public to use.  A collection of some of the notes left on that public forum was published in Notes from a Public Typewriter (Grand Central Publishing, 2018).

Hosted by Charly’s Typewriter Collection and Repair, I met Charly as she and her assistants were setting up.  I added my Lettera to the long table, and soon others joined in.  Before long, the sound of clacking filled the cafe area.

There were over a dozen typewriters in the space, and I shot photos of most of them.  Included was Michael Gustafson’s grandfather’s 1930’s Smith Corona…

…a Neckermann Brilliant Junior, made in Communist East Germany in the mid-1950’s (note that the Y key and Z key are switched, and other German letter keys on the right hand side.)…

…a 1923 Underwood 3-bank, which has a cap-shift to capitalize the letters, and a figure-shift if you want to type the number or punctuation mark above the letter…

…and a 1963 Olympia SM9 with a cursive font.

Here are some of the other cool machines…

A few observations:
-A predominantly young crowd was embracing and/or sampling this analog technology.
-A young lady spent a lot of time at my Lettera.  I thought she may have been working on a novel, but instead she was typing from an old Stuart Typing Manual that was on hand.
-Everyone was engaged in what they were typing, and enjoying the camaraderie.

On my small sheet of paper, I did a little sampling, as I hoped.

I had a great time, and from the looks of it, so did everyone else.

Thank you Charly’s Typewriter Collection & Repair, and Literati Bookstore for holding this fun event.

(Other Typewritten Pages HERE)

May 24, 2018: Typing Assignment #17

Typing Assignment #17 from Joe Van Cleave’s YouTube channel “is to write a story inspired by a found photographic print.”

Instead of using any of my photos, I went out to find a photo to use for this assignment.  With Detroit City FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament, I drove down to Cincinnati, stopping in Findlay, Ohio at Jeffrey’s Antiques to see what I could find.  Well I found something.  Two somethings.

There were a handful of vendors with old photographs.  Pretty much all of them were portraits of individuals or family photos.  Of the many I sorted through, this one caught my eye, and became the subject of the story for the assignment.

The other thing I found was, of course, a typewriter.  This cute, 1956 Smith-Corona Skyriter was looking up at me, the pouch of its case containing the original owners manual, a book on learning how to touch type, a card with touch typing hints, and another owners manual for an unidentified portable electric typewriter.  I wasn’t in the market for a new typewriter, but its cute compactness was calling to me.  I left it behind, completed my drive to Cincinnati, took in the match and stayed overnight.  Just couldn’t get that little typer out of my head, on the way home I stopped back in and added it to my growing pack of rescued typewriters.

So, it seems only natural that I type this found photo-based assignment on the found typewriter I discovered in the process.

Other Typewritten Pages are HERE.

April 15, 2018: Typing Assignment #16

Joe Van Cleave’s Sixteenth Typing Assignment was a fun one.  “Write about a personal artifact in your possession. Fiction, nonfiction – use the object in your piece however you wish.”

It didn’t take me long to decide which personal artifact to write about.  I’ve had it for close to forty years, and its history prior to my possession makes for a neat contrast.

This was typed on my 1954 Smith-Corona Silent Super (not the one mentioned in the piece – my mom got rid of her typewriter which I used as a kid a few years ago, without inquiring if I had an interest in it).

The desk in the apartment, circa 2008-2013.

Other typing assignments can be found HERE.