Sunday, April 10, 2011

Traveling at home: Where I live

I figured that my first excursion on this Traveling at home journey (here, here) should be an exploration of where I live, High St. in Ann Arbor.
Where I live
I am fortunate enough to live right by the Huron River, overlooking the Gandy dancer (which used to be the old Ann Arbor train station), within walking distance of the Farmers' Market and the historic Kerrytown Market. But I wanted to bring it closer, and wanted explore the immediate block around me. First, I wanted to explore one of the most beautiful structures in Ann Arbor - the St. Thomas The Apostle Church. This church was initially built in the mid 1800s, and there is a Catholic school that goes along with the church. It was evening, and the Church was locked, when a man called out,  "Sir! Would you like to go in?" Perfect. I met Mark, a man born in Ann Arbor in 1948, a man full of thoughts and stories. I didn't even have to ask him much. He just started talking. We talked just outside the main entrance of the church.
St. Thomas The Apostle
School next to the church
Part of St. Thomas school
Part of St. Thomas school
Where do you live?
"I live in Plymouth, MI, but I grew up just two blocks away, at 206 N. Thayer. It's an old home, Greek revivalist. There's an addition on the back. It was built in 1885, I think. There's a Victorian house right next to that, that was built in 1853. That modern apartment building next to it was built in the 1960s. They tore down Mr. Roby's Rug - they used to clean rugs and carpets there."
206 N. Thayer (I've actually been to a party here! Haha)
Where do you call home?
Before I even asked him this question he just said, "This is home. This church." Right then, we heard a train pull into the station. He said, "Did you hear that train? That is home. That station. When I was three years old, I remember going to bed to the sound of the steam engine. It made that chuck-a-chuck-a-chuck-a-chuck-a sound. That sound made me sleep. I didn't realise it, but over time, my sleep changed, and when I was a teenager, I figured out that the engines had changed to diesel engines. They had a sort of drone to them, totally different sound. My dad used to be a professor here, in the Mechanical Engineering Department, where the Math building is now. He helped people in the machine shop. A lot of the people that got their PhDs here thanked him in their dissertations."

What do you love about this place?
"Everything in the church is just close. You aren't far from the alter, or the crucifixes. When I was young, I just liked being able to get on campus. I realised I saw things that I didn't know that I liked at the time. This town is clean and safe. There's just so much diverse architecture here. And the trees. There are just so many kinds of people here. You just get to know people of different cultures, you know? You know this building? This used to be St. Joe's Hospital, I think. And that building that's now the lawyer's practice? I think that was St. Joe's property, too. Have you been to Plymouth? You have to come to the Ice Festival. The sculptures are just beautiful. They are so intricate. How do they have the time to do all of that? You know, the individual threads on the rope, and everything..."
Ferguson+Widmayer, an old St. Joe's property

How has Ann Arbor changed since when you were a boy?
"This place used to be very conservative, now it is very liberal. I guess the Vietnam War was that tipping point."

I am addicted. This was such a wonderful experience, meeting Mark, and getting to know where I live. I believe that an appreciation of place can help each one of us realise that where we live is constantly in flux, yet incredibly fragile. The Earth that supports us must be treated with kindness and care and respect and humility. I am traveling at home. I am here, and today is beautiful.

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