Tag Archives: ann arbor

There’s no place like home

My mother always shunned the idea of having a home. “Home is where your stuff is,” she would often say when mocking my childish want to be rooted somewhere. I’ve internalized this idea throughout life, trying to not get too attached to one place. For this reason, I’ve always despised the question “Where are you from?” because it implies a sense of home or having had a home at one point. But after a few years of consciously peeling off all the warped layers of perception from my upbringing, I’m getting a little more comfortable answering this question. If there was a place I’d call “home” irrelevant of the presence of any personal belongings, it would be Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor.

I’m here now, and I am content. Happy, even.

A2Upon arriving in Detroit today, I was picked up from the airport by an old college friend and promptly whisked to Ann Arbor. Matt lived across the hall from me in the dorm freshman year and burned me a Postal Service CD the first week of school. I took him to lunch to thank him before he dropped me at my residence for the next few weeks. I suggested Zingerman’s, the deli that townies are tempted to describe as “overrated” but never do because it really is that good.

While in the grocery part of the deli, I was overrun with the impulse to acquire local honey. It’s something my health-conscious friends in Brooklyn would always suggest, as I am prone to allergies and local honey is rumored to soothe them. But I never went out of my way to get it. It’s not just that I was skeptical about the medicinal claim, but the thought of consuming a biological biproduct of New York City bees made me frown. New York, I love you, but you’re pretty gross sometimes.

Being back amidst the rolling green hills of Ann Arbor felt like a bear hug, but I wanted more. I wanted it in my veins, internalized. So I bought a $15 jar of local honey, provided by the bees of Petoskey wild flower fields. Matt delivered me to my residence for the next two weeks, a townhouse of literary solitude belonging to a dear family friend who so generously offered this haven to me out of the blue. After 10 minutes of sitting and just staring out the window into the yard, watching the little sparrow that landed on the railing of the back stairs, I went into the kitchen and scooped a huge spoonful of local honey.

It hit my mouth like a silver-screen flashback:

MichiganWildFlowers

I was 4 years old, outside during recess at Perry Nursery School, reaching my little arms through a chain-link fence, reaching as far as I could toward the periphery of the sprawling wildflower field on the other side, trying to grasp all the purple flowers I could. There were Queen Ann’s Lace stalks and Black-Eyed Susans too, but they were prevalent on my side of the fence as well. I needed those purple ones to complete my collection, if I could only reach a little further… It was so vivid a memory for an event that occurred 22 years ago. The taste became the intoxicating smell of being there in that moment of childlike determination, totally free.

Being here in this place is exactly what I need right now. Stability, solitude, comfort before I slingshot myself around the globe. Everything is quaint. There is a vegetable garden and a footbridge over a creek in the back yard. Everything inside the house is set up for all the things I might want to do. There’s an exercise ball, and a glass desk with a touch-sensitive lamp; half a bottle of wine, and a robe hanging in the closet with a bird embroidered into the back. Every cleaning product smells of “soothing lavender” and on the bathroom counter is a towel folded and laid out just for me.

I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the fact that this loveliness is my present life, but I am so, so grateful to be here. It feels like home.

R.I.P. Zanzibar

I am in serious mourning right now. Earlier tonight, one of my best friends from college (you might call him my partner in crime) sent me a g-talk message to deliver “urgent, terrible news.” It is with great sadness and regret I must announce, that Zanzibar, the pan South American bistro in Ann Arbor that hosts my absolute, #1, hands-down FAVORITE happy hour in the entire world is CLOSING — for EVER!!!!!

TO which I responded,

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

You will always be open for happy hour in my heart, Zanzibar.

You will always be open for happy hour in my heart, Zanzibar.

You see, Zanzibar is where I developed my refined palate for fine cocktails. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00 after my Philosophy of Science course, I would walk from down State Street, my mind spiraling with thoughts on demarcation criteria and evidence and predictive power, and I would collapse into my favorite booth, ready for one hour of beverage bliss. Never fail, my partner in crime would saunter in five minutes later with an expression of bored pretension and sit down across from me, ready to gossip about the dramatics of being editors at our college newspaper.

And then Julie would walk up and smile at me. She was tall and sultry with a no-nonsense attitude, and she took every one of my classic cocktail v-cards. She was my first gin martini, up, with blue cheese olives; my first side car with finely-ground cane sugar on the rim, of which I would lick every particle while my friend grimaced and told me I needed to get laid; my first Caipirinha, Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge and Smoky Martini – which will kick your ass and make you feel like you could breath fire if you had a match. And best of all, Julie made me dozens of the most amazing mojitos in the world. They were swampy with mint, pieces of which I would carefully extract with two straws as if they were chopsticks and eat. No bartender in New York City has ever even come close to replicating Julie’s mojito to my liking but I present an open challange if any would like to try ;)

But the most amazing thing about Zanzibar’s happy hour was that ALL of the drinks on the menu were half off. It was none of this $15 a cocktail bullshit. They were $4 a piece, max. I can honestly say that if it was not for Zanzibar, I would probably still be drinking Vodka Redbull and Sex on the Beach.

After happy hour, my friend would stumble off to his 5:30 English course to critique documentaries and I would head to Edit Board and deliver choice opinionated remarks that would eventually be transformed into “The voice of the Daily”. Zanzibar was a place that transformed inspiration into influence. We always planned to go back there when we were in our ’30s and reminisce, but now we never will.

So you see what a true tragedy this is.

Rest in peace, Zanzibar. Every time I think of you, it will be happy hour in my heart.