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Ann Arbor, MI: 08 Jul - 10 Aug 2019

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Interviewing for possible residence:

1. Lodgings: Stayed at an AirBnB at S. Revena and W. Huron. It started out well with our host making the last four of my wife's phone number the code to the keyless front door lock (how thoughtful). But it went downhill (fast) as soon as we opened the front door: filthy, smelly, and noisy, even the paint on the walls was discolored. I didn't give him a no-star review, as we are still in negotiations over a partial refund. It was a great location though, easy walking distance to downtown Ann Arbor.

-Binge-watched Mike Tyson Mysteries (just keep clicking) and Dead to Me.

-Filed for my $125 Equifax Data Breach Settlement Claim (and so should you).

-Listened to Optimus by Nail via our upstairs neighbor who played his music way too loud (and way too long).

-Met a wonderful neighbor Linda, a dancer, entrepreneur, and raconteur, who was married to a famous composer.

2. Restaurants:

-Zingerman's Deli: This place's prices make Whole Foods look like Aldi. Save up your shekels as you need to schlep your tuches down here, as it's the most famous eatery in Ann Arbor. In 1982, a goy and a jew wanted to recreate the NYC Jewish deli experience in A2 and quite frankly they did a pretty good job, especially the prices; a chicken sandwich for $18, oy veh! (though it was delicious). It ain't Russ & Daughters, but then what is?! Plays a prominent role in The Five Year Engagement (see below Misc 2.).

-Fritas Batidos: Excellent inspired cubano sandwiches, black bean cream soup, and batidos (a Latin American smoothie). Visit between 4:00 - 6:00 pm for $3 happy hour Cuba libres. While most get the fritas (a Cuban hamburger), I recommend the inspired Cuban combo (1/2 a cubano and black bean cream soup).

-Slurping Turtle: Solid ramen soup (they make their noodles in-house daily). It's not Shinjuku, but it's not bad at all. Please note though"I was never a fan of the name".

-The Last Word: The entire experience from the unmarked entrance (keeps out the riff-raff), the intimate well-appointed bar, the excellent live jazz (on Thursday), the knowledgeable bartender and the delicious nosh (deep fried chickpeas with curry and salt) makes this one of the best speakeasy bars I've ever visited (a $10 Old Fashioned didn't hurt either). If you are going to hit only one cocktail bar in Ann Arbor, then this is the place. Please trust me on this as a good cocktail is a subject that's not exactly unknown to me.

*Get there early (as they say in Chicago "drink early and drink often"), so you can get a seat at the bar and discuss with the bartender the finer points of how to create the perfect Old Fashioned.

3. Coffee: For a college town, Ann Arbor seems to be lacking a hipster coffee shop, the one with a barista with a handlebar mustache, the server with blue hair and crazy tats on her calf, serving espresso made from Malawian beans roasted in a "hot air - refractory lined" roaster. You know the place. That being said, I do recommend:

-Comet Coffee: personalized coffee, they make a cup just for you (so be patient). While you wait, check out the cool furniture: laminated wood, precision cut, and joined.

-Jefferson Market: a great west side option for coffee, nosh and/or breakfast.

4. Food:

-Aldi: the German austerity and efficiency slap you in the face like the back of an SS Officer's glove: small store, no shopping baskets, a 25 cent deposit on your shopping cart, bags cost 7¢, a Hobson's Choice for almost every product and oh yeah, ridiculously low prices ($2.99 for the best pound of guacamole ever made, also try the Wernesgrüner Pilsner for $6.99/six-pack).

5. Sights:

-Nickels Arcade: Is an arcade in both the architectural sense (a series of arches) and the shopping mall sense (a complex of stores). Built in 1915, in a way it is one of the original shopping malls. The concept was very popular in Europe (e.g. Saint-Hubert Royal Galleries in Brussels), but not as popular in the US. Check it out when you get a cup of coffee at Comet Coffee (see 3. above).

-Graffiti Alley: An alley covered in graffiti. I was lucky during my visit as an "artist" had just visited so the alley also smelled like graffiti. It is in the center of downtown, so you might as well stop by.

Graffiti Alley (tagger on left)

6. Ann Arbor is a company town, and the name of the company is the University of Michigan (U of M). Ann Arbor's population is 121,000, and the number of employees working at the university is > 40,000 (+ 44,718 students), you do the math.

-The University of Michigan Museum of Art: see my DIY Express Tour.

-Kelsey Museum of Archeology is a small gem packed with numerous fascinating exhibits:

*A reproduction (based on 1948 squeezes) of The Behistun Inscription ("the place of god"), which is a large rock relief depicting Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC) on the eponymous mountain in western Iran. It reminds me of Stone Mountain Park in Georgia, in that both are enormous reliefs carved in the side of a mountain that glorify traitors.

*The Villa of Mysteries is located in Pompeii, covered in ash in 79 AD and excavated from 1909 onwards. In 1925 Francis Kelsey commissioned a set of 4/5th scale reproductions of the seven frescos that were in a room (the triclinium) in the villa that depict the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Bacchus. The reproductions (done in watercolors) now hang in the museum. Not to be missed.

-Museum of Natural History: Small but well appointed, don't miss the:

*Mastodon vs. Mammoth: The atrium contains an impressive exhibit about the difference between mastodons and mammoths, and a skeleton of a mastodon found in Michigan. Note: I hear what you're saying "yeah, Mike I know they are both extinct proboscideans, but what's the difference?". Well, mammoths are more closely related to elephants, larger (than mastodons), and had ridged molars that allowed them to cut through vegetation (as opposed to crushing vegetation).

*Tree of Life: On the second floor there is a circular tree of life, that details how humans evolved from life some 4.54 billion years ago, how we split off from LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) about 4.2 billion years ago, and how we are related to all life on earth.

-The M Den: the place to buy U of M apparel and tchotchkes. Need a U of M Tommy Bahama polo shirt for $110, how about a signed photo of Devin Bush, Jr for $500, or a Swarovski Crystal Full Size Replica Football Helmet for $1000? Then this is the place to go. The Missus said after visiting "How can a polo shirt cost $110?!", to which I replied "It must be a $10 shirt with a $100 bill sowed into it"

-The Wave Field: Maya Lin (no relation to the artist Amy Lin) created sine waves using dirt and grass in a postage size plot of land on the University of Michigan North Campus. To be honest, kind of a letdown as I think time, weather, and uneven grass growth has dulled most of the sharpness. It should be given the go-by, except for fans of Lin or calculus.

-Michigan Stadium: the second largest stadium in the world (the largest is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium - bucket list?). As most of the stadium is below ground, the stadium wasn't so much built, as dug. The current holder of the NHL attendance record of 105,491 for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. Use this link to sign up for a 90-minute behind-the-scenes tour. Even though there were only two of us, the Missus negotiated for us to be agglomerated with a larger group for $20 pp (unless you're some kind of Blue and Maize zealot, it ain't worth a Grant).

7. Ann Arbor impressed with its friendliness, walkability, and economics - so it made the shortlist. Though we are concerned about what happens when the kids return to school in the fall.


1. Required Listening: Who else but Bob Seger? I know what you're thinking, Seger is Detroit. Well, dinosaur rock enthusiast, he may have been born in Detroit (May 06, 1945), but he spent his formative years (10-18) in Ann Arbor. May I recommend: "Even Now" and "You'll Accomp'ny Me"

2. Required Watching: The Five Year Engagement. This is a two-star movie co-written and starring Jason Segel (the big guy from How I Met Your Mother). Uneven at best, though with some truly funny moments. Could be worth watching if you are visiting Ann Arbor, otherwise don't bother . . . though it also stars Emily Blunt (and she's a very good actress).

The Big House (for a little Lady)

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