We spent five nights in Michigan, four at Mark’s parents in the southeastern corner of the state and one up in Ann Arbor where Mark went to school and where his brother and sister-in-law recently moved. Now, we’ve spent a lot of time in La Salle over the years but we still managed to pack in a fair amount of touristy kinds of things. Top of the list was a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts, truly a great museum. It’s most famous for Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals – 27 panels depicting work at Ford painted in 1932 and 1933 – which he considered among his finest works. While I was out wandering somewhat more aimlessly Mark had a docent explain what the whole thing meant; since I wasn’t there, though, all I can add is that it makes working seem noble. As a retiree I’m somewhat skeptical.
Needless to say, there’s a lot more to the collection (estimated to be worth over $8 billion) than that. Lots and lots of American artists, lots of Olde Europe and Impressionism, plenty of modern art. In all a great way to spend a couple of hours. And then to top off our little spree into Detroit we went into Greektown and had – this will surprise you – a great Greek lunch.
But the DIA wasn’t our only cultural excursion. The next day we drove south into Toledo to see the Toledo Museum of Art. Nothing on the scale of the DIA, of course, but still some great pieces with good descriptions and explanations of why they were important. One in particular – Childe Hassam’s Rainy Day in Boston – made me almost homesick. Watching all the kids going through on school tours reminded me that as far as I can remember we never did that when I was a kid; I don’t remember a single art museum tour from childhood. Not surprising, perhaps, given the distance we would have been from any reputable museum, and I undoubtedly would have been bored out of my mind if I had gone, but still sad to think how many kids who would enjoy it don’t get the chance. And it makes me appreciate the work that our friend Laura is doing at the National Gallery in DC, training to be a docent specializing in giving tours to kids. It wasn’t the case with me, but there is no question that for a number of kids art is what inspires and motivates them, if given a chance. Of course after a museum visit we needed lunch so this time we stopped at a Lebanese restaurant on the way home. The amusing thing about our stop was that we ordered a mixed plate for two to share among the four of us and we still had a lot of leftovers to take home. We just shake our heads at the portion sizes in American restaurants!
Besides the art museums a lot of time in Michigan is spent preparing for and consuming meals. The “preparing” part, of course, is Mark’s parents while the “consuming” part is more about Mark and me. Smoked pork chops, great salads, big breakfasts, and, in what is becoming a tradition, steak tartare.
After our four-day visit in La Salle, then, we went up to Ann Arbor for a night with Pat & Jenny, Mark’s brother and sister-in-law. They moved up there a year ago from Monroe largely because that cut Jenny’s commute from something over an hour each way to maybe a 25-minute walk, a pretty good change. But beyond that Ann Arbor is just a very cool college town. We stopped for a drink at Ann Arbor’s oldest gay bar (it was kind of boring in the early evening) and then went to a great chop-house for some major steaks. The next morning it was off to the airport for a morning flight to Minneapolis where we were to pick up a car and drive to Duluth.