Ann Arbor & Detroit

In Ann Arbor, we were staying with one of my dad’s friends from college, Dave Jacobi, his wife, Liz Anderson, and their son Ben (Rachel was away at camp). We had an uneventful drive there from Chicago, and stopped in to see Liz and Ben before heading downtown to the Ann Arbor Art Festival. We got to see a bit of the University of Michigan campus as we drove in. It was really hot outside, so we started our visit to the festival by buying lemonade.


We wandered the festival streets, looking at the paintings, carvings, prints, jewelry, and more being shown and sold by hundreds of artists. I especially liked some of the photos, paintings, and carvings of birds and other animals. After wandering for a while, we decided to get some more lemonade and check out the University of Michigan law school quad and library, which are beautiful. The library has a beautiful reading room, with huge windows with the crests of other universities, both in the US and internationally. Harvard and Cambridge are of course both featured, along with many others. We also saw a heavy cube sculpture that you can spin if you apply enough force.




After exploring the art festival, we went out for a delicious Ethiopian dinner with Dave, Liz, and Ben. It was my first time at an Ethiopian restaurant, and they had a delicious vegetarian sampler that was essentially a served buffet. I also enjoyed eating with bread, rather than with utensils.

Afterwards, we walked with Dave back through the art festival to our car, and we went down the street where all the non-profits set up. We saw several religious groups there, along with booths for all sorts of causes and issues. Dave said one of his favorite things to do is just wander this street chatting with people about their interest.

We then headed to another section of Ann Arbor to hit up a cafe for some desserts and to see a fairy door. Ann Arbor businesses decided several years ago to beginning installing fairy doors as a fun way to attract and entertain children. They’re tiny little doors that may also have a little house or some information about the fairies who live there. Here’s the one that we got to see at our cafe:

While it may not be obvious, everything in this pictures is only a few inches tall.

The next day, July 21st, we headed in to Detroit. This was the one place on our trip that many people were curious why we were going to see it. Mostly, it’s because of the awesome Chrysler super bowl ad. And because it’s a city that while no longer at its peak, has been hugely important as a symbol of the United States economy that made us the world superpower of the 20th century. And because it’s the large city that is most directly confronting the challenge of how to downsize a city as the jobs move elsewhere.

So, we started off downtown, in the area with many of Detroit’s memorials and statues. We saw the Spirit of Detroit, and Joe Louis’s arm. We also saw a neat statue commemorating the role Detroit played in the underground railroad. It was one of the big entry points to Canada, and across the river in Canada, another similar statue stands. But the coolest one we saw was the monument to the labor movement:

The unfinished arch represents the arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice. There is a circular path leading to the center of the arch, that highlights some of the successes of the labor movement, like weekends and health benefits. There are also stones along the path with images of important industries in the labor movement. And in the middle of the circular path, there is a stone carved with many of the most inspirational quotes of the labor movement:

While downtown, we also had good views of the huge General Motors corporate headquarters:

Afterwards, we headed out to Dearborn, on the outskirts of Detroit, to have lunch and go to the Henry Ford. This is a gigantic complex that hosts the Ford museum, and a historical re-enactment village. However, due to time constraints, we opted to skip both of those and instead buy tickets to tour the Ford Rouge Factory. This factory was the crowning achievement of Henry Ford in the early 1900s, and there is still a working factory there today. We watched a movie about the history of the plant and of Ford, we enjoyed a somewhat over-the-top experience where you watch a Ford F-150 being made on giant screens, while the floor of the theater shakes, hot air blows out of vents in the ground, and water squirts down on you to allow you to feel like you are in fact an F-150 under construction. After that, we headed over to actually see them being made. Sadly, you aren’t allowed to take pictures of the plant, but we really enjoyed seeing so many parts of the car assembled. The windshield is put on by a laser-guided robot, humans put in airbags, put doors together, attach the steering wheel, and more. We were surprised by how spacious and calm the whole thing seemed, and by the number of women working in the production line. We were also surprised to learn that all of the trucks made there are made to order – a dealer has already requested that specific truck model, color, etc. While the whole thing was really cool, it actually made me a bit nervous, because it looked too easy to assemble these cars. We finished our visit by looking at some old Ford cars, including this Model A, the 20 millionth Ford vehicle ever produced:

And by going up to the observation deck to see the layout of the factory and to see the world’s largest living roof, on top of the F-150 plant we had just toured:

After finishing our tour, we headed to the Arab-American museum in Dearborn. The town has one of the largest percentages of Arab-Americans in the US, and has a neat little museum highlighting the stories of Arab immigrants to the US. The museum gave a bit of history about Arab immigration, from Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and more, and had lots of stories about individuals who came to the US looking for a better life, and found it here.

After the museum, we met up with the Jacobis for dinner again, and had wonderful conversation over dinner and back at their house. We talked about John Rawls, Harry Potter, physics, education, and more.

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