Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Tale of 536 Cities

I love Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. The first line is apropos to advocating for communities in Michigan: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..."

I'm often asked if it's hard to represent so many different communities in Michigan. They are all different, and that's what makes them great. Kalamazoo is completely different from Traverse City, and yet there are similarities that make all of our communities a family.

Last week I spent time in two of my favorite Michigan communities, and they could not be more different. I flew to Marquette on Thursday for a Friday presentation. I was in Marquette in January and was completely swept off my feet. I fell in love with its downtown, sweeping lakefront views and was even charmed by the winter cold. When I was asked to come back for a presentation I didn't even look at my calendar before saying yes.

This trip was a little different and a little less fast paced than January's. I once again stayed at the historic Landmark Inn downtown, and this time my room had a lake view AND a fireplace. I love the charm there. 

On Friday morning I slept in and then headed out for a long run. I was surprised to step out of the hotel and into blowing snow, yet somehow it was quite beautiful. I headed down the hill toward downtown and onto the lakefront trail (an 18 mile trail no less). The snow was stunning, and I was glad I'd grabbed my phone at the last minute (usually I run naked) to snap some photos.

The Ore Dock, snow and frozen lake

The run started off cloudy and snowy, and about a mile in the sun came out. It was a breathtakingly beautiful day along Lake Superior. The lake is still largely frozen after the brutally cold winter, and the result is a stunning view.

The sun peeks out over the frozen lake.
This view is spectacular.
After running I headed to Northern Michigan University to present as part of a panel. I also got to go to the NMU bookstore and get a t-shirt. I love college bookstores - it's some sort of weird obsession. As a result I have a plethora of running shirts and t-shirts from random colleges I've visited all over the country.

I met a friend for a Manhattan at Northland Pub in the Landmark Hotel (they have fantastic bartenders), and then I headed out to explore downtown. The weather was a little chilly, but the sun was shining. It was a beautiful afternoon to explore. There are so many unique and locally owned shops, and I spent several hours browsing. I also indulged in some frozen yogurt...because what mixes better post Manhattans than fro yo? 

Early Saturday morning I flew back to Detroit for a wedding we were attending there. Detroit is very different from Marquette. The City is much larger (both geographically and in population), it's 455 miles south of Marquette and has a completely different footprint. Yet like Marquette there is passion and promise. It has a great downtown that is redeveloping, entrepreneurs are flocking to Detroit from all over the world, and it's a vibrant, beautiful city. 

We stayed at the always fabulous Book Cadillac Hotel. With our life that is constantly on the go, it felt insanely indulgent to snuggle up in the comfortable bed and take a nap before the party. We had cocktails at the hotel bar before heading to Trinosophes for the party.

Cocktails at the Book Cadillac. I love an excuse for a sparkly dress.

It was the first ever wedding I've been to with a food truck and a Klezmer punk band, Golem. The combination of the band, good friends and Maker's Mark made it a really fun evening.

Sunday morning was less fun as I was dragging to Craft Work in West Village for brunch. I had never been to either Craft Work or West Village, and I loved both the neighborhood and the eggs benedict. It was a great cure for a bourbon hangover.

As I was driving home on Sunday afternoon I was thinking of how much I love both Marquette and Detroit and so many other communities in Michigan. The challenges each face may seem different, but they really are only different in their scale. In Marquette and 455 miles away in Detroit people get it - they get that people want to be in cities both large and small. People want walkable downtowns and places to shop and eat. People want transit options and other multimodal transportation options. And that, my friends, is why advocating for 536 cities, villages and urban townships is easy.       

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