John King Books Is My Graceland

On Saturday, my sister and I took our first trip to John King Books in Detroit.

It was everything you want in a giant used bookstore housed in an old factory.

Full of charm and mystery.

And beautiful books.

I wanted to take all of these home with me. But I had given myself a budget. In a place like this, you kind of have to.

I brought home this book to read before, during, and after my upcoming trip to the Upper Peninsula.

I built my growing collection of fantastically lovely volumes of poetry printed in the 1800s.

I found Byron last year in a Lansing antique shop, and he is now joined by Burns and Longfellow.

I added yet another green-bound classic to my stacks (green, it seems, was the favorite color of these 1930s printings).

And I found a curiosity or two. This is a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written in shorthand.

I have a book that teaches you how to write shorthand from my grandmother’s library and this slim volume will go along with it (uh oh…I sense another collection coming into being).

The last book I found — the one that busted my budget and ended my shopping day — is something I’ll tell you about tomorrow…


What’s Left of Luxury

My favorite terrible place at the Silverdome was the ballroom/restaurant near the luxury boxes.

I wish I’d had more time in that space, but I did manage to get a few nice shots of the dregs at the bottom of the proverbial glass.

There was little left to focus on.

So few objects to hint at what once was.

So much had been sold off or stolen.

And only ghosts remained.

It’s a sobering reminder that all our best efforts to make a mark on this earth eventually come to naught.

Glass breaks.

Paint peels.

Carpet is eaten by moss.

The lights go out.

And the party ends.


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

~ Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

A Silver Opportunity: On the Set of Silverdome

This weekend I had the opportunity to take some of the last photos that will likely be taken in the Pontiac Silverdome, home of the Detroit Lions from 1975 to 2002.

A dear friend and talented writer, Ted Kluck, asked me to take stills of the production of his first feature-length film, Silverdome.

My husband and I were delighted to join him and his wife Kristin in Pontiac for a few hours. Ted and Kristin are our closest friends and they moved last year to Tennessee.

Silverdome is the last film project to get to shoot at the stadium before what remains of the structure is demolished to make way for new development.

The building that cost more than $55 million to build was finally auctioned off in 2009 for just $583,000. That’s 1% of its original value, for anyone counting.

I only ever saw part of one Lions game at the Silverdome. I remember little about it — just walking around the concourse with my father, seeing glimpses of the players in their Honolulu blue jerseys through the entrances to the seating areas, like passing a huge TV and then another huge TV and another, the sound of the game ebbing and flowing like the regular rhythm of tires over concrete seams on the highway.

I know others were there. My sister, perhaps. My uncle and my cousins.

Which makes me think it might have been Thanksgiving, because that’s when we went to Detroit to eat the holiday meal with family.

On second thought, maybe my sister wasn’t there. She’s never been allowed in the room when the Lions played on Thanksgiving because every time she came in, someone would fumble or there’d be a turnover or a field goal would be missed. Then everyone would yell at her to leave and not let up until she did. Poor Alison.

I don’t remember sitting in any of the 80,000+ seats the one day I was there.

I don’t remember walking into or out of the stadium.

All I remember is walking around the outside of the action, apart from the game, which the Lions were (predictably) losing — with or without my sister’s presence.

Being just outside the action is a frequent feeling for me. Lurking at the edges of the party. Loitering at the door of the gym. Looping around on the margins, rarely walking straight in.

I’ve lived in Lansing for eleven years and I have never been to a Michigan State football game. I can hear the muffled sound of the announcers and the roar of the crowd from my back yard. And it gives me a warm, pleased feeling.

But I never go.

Crowds make me vaguely uncomfortable.

I hate jostling for a place in line, hate trying to get in and out of busy parking lots, hate moving in a river of humanity from one place to the next.

I much prefer solitude.

Or perhaps the company of a few good friends.

But solitude in a place that was meant to be filled with crowds of people is a very specific kind of solitude.

Sad and nostalgic and mingled with regret.

It’s days you will never get back. Memories that become harder to hold onto.

In 2013, a particularly bad storm tore apart the deflated canvas roof of the Silverdome. Nature had begun the process that I think most of us knew had to happen eventually: deconstruction.

Plans for revamping were scrapped in favor of plans for a shovel-ready site that someone might actually want.

Beyond football legends like Barry Sanders and basketball legends like Isaiah Thomas (the Pistons played in the Silverdome before The Palace of Auburn Hills was built), acts such as Pete Townsend, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Michael Jackson, graced stages erected in the stadium. I even work with a woman who saw Elvis there on New Year’s Eve of 1975.

It’s hard to imagine, let alone estimate, how many people over the past forty years have walked through these doors and sat in these seats.

And now, these are the only people left.

The last men standing.

Merry-Go-Round…and Round…and Round…and Round…

I know some of you are already gridlocked in holiday traffic (I-75 North, I’m looking at you) so you’ll enjoy distracting yourself from the utter contempt and frustration you are currently feeling for your fellow man by scrolling through colorful pictures of carousels. At least those painted animals are going somewhere, eh?

The Detroit Zoo has a great carousel full of awesome animals to ride…

But I prefer the wetland creatures and cool tones of the Detroit Riverwalk carousel…


Now, strictly speaking, I have never seen a sea serpent or mermaid in the Great Lakes…

But then, I haven’t seen everything there is to see…

I thought for sure this was an old carousel because it just had a been-here-since-1915 feel to it, but the Cullen Family Carousel was actually handcrafted in this century. Read all about it here.

And enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, taking some time out to remember and be thankful for the fallen soldiers throughout the history of this nation who sacrificed their own lives that liberty might live.

Amazing Apes (and Drills and Macaques)


One of the downsides of a big zoo with large exhibits is that you can often walk by and see absolutely nothing but grass, rocks, and trees. It’s great for the animals, who have lots of room to roam and easy ways of getting away from people, but it can be frustrating for zoo visitors. Beyond a glimpse of a far-off polar bear and a sleeping black bear, we saw no bears, despite there being four exhibits featuring bears. We also saw very little of the napping tiger and napping lions, though we have lions and tigers at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, so that’s no big deal.

What we don’t have is gorillas.

The last time I was at the Detroit Zoo, the gorillas were nowhere to be seen. This time around, we got a great view of two gorillas, a drill, and two species of macaques.

We also saw some very active chimpanzees, though from further away and while we were en route to the polar bear exhibit, which we were rather exited about, so we didn’t linger long and I took no pictures.

While Zach and I were dog tired by the end of the day, the boy loved the zoo (despite the fact that there were no snow leopards, his favorite animal). And one of his favorite parts is coming up next…

Detroit Zoo Land Lubbers

We spent nearly six hours at the Detroit Zoo and saw most of the animals. Here are a few quadrupeds we especially enjoyed watching (and a couple bipedal marsupials thrown in for good measure).

To really do the zoo justice, get there right when it opens and plan for a long day and tired feet at the end. More pictures to come tomorrow!

Under the Blue at the Detroit Zoo

Two of the biggest draws of the Detroit Zoo are the polar bear/seal exhibit and the new Polk Penguin Center, both of which feature underwater views of exhibit residents.

We were a bit bummed that the polar bears weren’t swimming while we were there, but we got some great views of the silly seals and swift penguins.

A One-Man Border Patrol

Better watch out, Canada.

Actually, those killer moves aren’t directed at you.

I believe the boy was controlling the fountain, using both mind and fist.

And anyway, he’s a very nice boy.

More pictures of our awesome three-day trip to Detroit in the coming days.

Detroit Riverwalk

These were taken on the Detroit Riverwalk just outside of the Renaissance Center, where we stayed on the 53rd floor.

Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI


Once in a Great City

Click below for a lovely little interview with David Maraniss about his book, Once in a Great City. It touches on several of the themes (and even a couple events) found in my novel, The Bone Garden, which will be going out on submission later this month. Though it’s not my hometown, I love Detroit. It’s my parents’ hometown, my extended family’s hometown, a city that looms large in my imagination and to which I feel an intrinsic connection. I can’t wait to read Maraniss’s book.


Vacation Season Is Coming…and Michigan Is Open for Business

Look friends, winter’s over, the trees are leafing out, the flowers are blooming, and Michigan’s cities and coastlines are calling. If you live here, you already know how amazing it is. If you don’t, take a couple minutes and watch this:

And then head on over to my page of Michigan links and start clicking and planning a vacation here.

Michigan is more than Detroit (although, Detroit’s pretty freaking amazing, even for a city in crisis) and it has something for everyone. Here are some of the beautiful places I like to frequent.

Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, bike, hiking shoes, ATV, fishing pole, camera, nature guides, water skis, appetite, and penchant for fun and relaxation.