Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reality Challenged

A colleague at work describes Ann Arbor as 16 square miles surrounded by reality. I believe my buddy is referring to the politics of the city, which is quite liberal, but it's a good lead-in to an Ann Arbor adventure the missus and I had this past week.

We've been wanting to take some long walks to get us in shape for our upcoming vacation, so we decided to hike "The Arb", an expanse of forest and field in the middle of Ann Arbor, owned by the University of Michigan. First time for us.

So we parked our car on a side street and hit the trail. Passed by the trail brochures since "I don't need no stinking map." Not a good idea it turned out.

We passed lots of folks at first, joggers, couples and the like. Not so many later. Then I went off the trail a bit to climb a railroad grade to see if a train was coming. While up there, some young man emerged out of the heavy brush on the other side, carrying a well worn paper bag and mumbling loudly to himself.

So I headed back to join Wendy, this guy right behind me. He continued past us, but stopped, stared at us wildly, kept talking gibberish, then swung his head back and laughed out loud. Finally, he turned and walked the other way. Wow. Nothing like meeting one of the local mentally disturbed homeless folk during a leisurely jaunt in the woods.

It spooked Wendy. Everytime she heard a noise afterwards, she froze. I'd have to put my arm around her, then point into the trees. "See, it's just a squirrel. And over there, the guy with the hockey mask is Jason. And if you look over there, you can see Freddy Kruger lurking behind a tree. Nothing to worry about."

Anxious to rejoin civilization, we ended up taking the first paved road we saw, which just took us farther away from where we had parked. And we were in big yard-big house country. Which meant lots of big dogs. Unleashed and extremely territorial. There was a private road we could have walked which would have shaved four blocks from our hike back. But one of those dang big dogs came charging across an expansive front yard to cut us off.

Eventually, we HAD to ask for directions from a local walker. I volunteered to run ahead and bring back the car, though Wendy described it differently. "I begged him to run ahead and bring back the car."

I didn't think our adventure so bad. And we got to meet one of the truly reality-challenged denizens of Ann Arbor. How cool is that!


Anonymous Squirrel said...

Just like a man, not needing a map. And I thought you were different Dave!
Good thing Wendy had you there to protect her!

12:53 PM  
Blogger vicki said...

The problem with the Arb is that beyond the boundaries there are more big spaces that take you further and further afield- the railroad tracks, the meadows behind, the peony gardens and lots of University and hospital owned land that will, no doubt, be built on any second. And then there are thse really big yards down by the river...It's one of the nicer green spaces around and a good strenuous hike with all the ups and downs. Also close at hand (one block beyond on the Geddes road entrance) is a little known Frank Lloyd Wright house- the Palmer home. We used to go "traying" in the Arb in the winter time: take meal trays from the dorms and use them as sleds on that first scary big hill at the top entrance. A few too many skull fractures and they've cracked down on that.

This post triggers a couple of negative feelings/thoughts I have had about Ann Arbor after 35 years as a (now former) resident. One is that, for such a top notch upper crust place there are altogether too many homeless and ambulatory mentaly ill. The divide between the haves and have nots is great and growing in a town with essentially no affordable housing and a small but real pocket of way below the mean, income-wise. Add to that a sort of "we speak liberal but we don't necessarily act it" mentality and you get some problems.

If nothing else I am happy to now be living a life where I don't take up quite such a big footprint as I did in Ann Arbor. Although our house started out, when it was built in the 50s, as a modest 2100 sf Cape Cod on a large rambling, beautifully wooded lot, by the time we sold this past summer it was one of those prize parcels that are out of reach for most people. And the attitude of the neighborhood was absolutely "not in my backyard" when it came to housing and caring for society's weaker links.

So, hey! How about those Tigers? They redeemed themselves a bit last night against the Sox, much to my delight. And Dave- next time at least glance at the map- just to get the lay of the land. :-)

Finally (do you have a limit on your comment space, sorry...) you do realize that Bonnie is going to be insufferable if things don't go our way on the 7th? She's already memorizing all ten verses of the moo palace fight song...

1:57 PM  
Anonymous jan said...

This brought back memories of living in Ann Arbor in the seventies while getting our graduate degrees. There were plenty of really weird denizens then. We called them hippies. Most were harmless, though somewhat drug challenged at the time.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Very funny, Dave! My query is this: Why are men so "map-ophobic" when most likely, men predominate the map-making industry? They're just pages with nicely drawn lines that help you get where you need to go, which are most likely drawn by your fellow men to begin with. I do have one male coworker who admittingly CAN'T read a map...could this be what all the fuss is about?

...My husband is taking me camping with him for the first time this weekend (no, I've never been), up in the Adirondacks. To "state land", with no bathrooms. No lights, and probably no people, either. Except for, maybe, some nut like the one that you ran into, or even Sasquatch. Or more likely--a nice, fat, brown bear. You can bet your booty that I'm bringing a map! I might need to make a quick escape. And this should really be a fun experience since I'm right in the middle of a treatment with herbal "colon-cleanse" for the next week...but I'm bringing my notebook, and I'm sure I'll have an interesting post on my blog by Monday. Unless the bear decides to have me over for porridge and I'm detained.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, you are just like my husband. He hates to ask for directions.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, do you think it's time for us males to come clean on the map thing?... No...Ok then, (I can't read 'em either.)

9:19 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Hold up, Dave. Are you seriously trying to tell us that there are some Ann Arborites who are NOT reality-challenged denizens?

Reality is going to bite big time, come October 7. GO SPARTANS!

11:00 PM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

Things like that happen to me when I go for a walk in the woods. I have no sense of direction, and always end up far from the car.

I never have run into anyone like the gent you described. It would have scared me too.

Have a great weekend!

4:42 AM  
Anonymous enforcer said...

it was wendy that ask for directions, right!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to know things like that doesn't happen just to me. Scary.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous East Lansings Finest said...

"reality-challenged denizen"? Exactly what do you call yourself then?

Aren't you the one who constantly looks for change and is on a first name basis with our local village bum?

1:51 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

Dear Big Dave...thanks for the serotonin lift. I am still laughing out loud...

Living with you has to be a howl and a half. Hats off to Wendy for howling along with you!

Ciao for now...

5:49 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Dear Dave, I thought that all men had "iron boogers" in their foreheads that gave them their fantastic sense of direction. Me? If you spin me around three times in my back yard --- I am lost.
About our homeless denizens --- Most of our homeless are victims of mental disease (the biggest percentage caused by untreated syphillis) and unfortunately the mental hospitals were closed many years ago. The sad part is that they prefer to be on their own and live freely in the woods, than to be sheltered and confined indoors by authorities. Florida has homeless by the thousands, because of the milder weather. When a city is going to have a festival or public scrutiny, they ship their homeless further out into the scrub lands. I met a woman in a Ft. Myers E.R. whom I would call homeless, but she proudly announced that she lived in the woods across the street from Wal-Mart and had a really great tent with all the comforts you would want. However, her boyfriend would have sex with her, beat her up and steal her welfare check twice a month. So, she would get drunk and go to the E.R. on important days (like Christmas Eve) and they would send her to the rehab of her choice. Life gets curiouser and curiouser!

11:21 AM  
Anonymous schnoodlepooh said...

and you were getting in great shape for your upcoming vacation!

10:51 AM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

My problem has always been that if I did happen to stop and ask for directions, I was usually more confused after the conversation! ~ jb///

11:06 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

An adventure, for sure. I'm not so sure I'd use a map either. As long as I have my cell phone with GPS on it - I'm set!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Oh it to you. You just might want to take a compass next time you try this OR a St. Bernard.....complete with the keg.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:46 AM  

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