Living in Haslett I drive from the east side of Lansing into town all the time. In my need to get to 127 south I’ve done the Saginaw, Oakland, Grand River criss-cross multiple times a week. I’ve watched in horror as some have tried the “wait at Frandor exit, cut across Saginaw to the Speedway to get over to Grand River” stunt. This is not a place for pedestrians. And yet these words somehow managed to escape my mouth as we sat finishing up our lunches from Lou and Harry’s; “I can walk from here”. Today being Thursday I had planned to partake in the Lunch with a Purpose group again. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except these facts remain true: our household only has one car; our twins get home at 11:50 am on Thursday; our oldest son needs us to drive him to LCC west campus by 1:00 pm and I want to be to Duckett Brothers Distributing by noon. When those words came out of my face it was 11:35 am. “It’s 11:35! You need to get home to get the twins, I can walk from here!” Not only was I walking from the edge of East Lansing to the center of town I also was carrying a jigsaw. Yes, a jig saw. The LWP project was cutting out life-sized figures drawn onto plywood. I now found myself removing my camera from my carrying bag and slipping in a jigsaw and a set of saw bits. It was heavy and a bit awkward but I was on a mission: reach Duckett Brothers Distributing by noon. So I set off across these crazy roads where pedestrians are very, very few. Of course there are no sidewalks and even some businesses had landscaped all the way to the edge of the road with rocks. I was never happier to see a sidewalk!
If you’ve never walked Saginaw St. you should. Once past the busyness of 127 and Frandor it was actually quite pleasant. The area that is sandwiched between Saginaw and Oakland is a haven for serene, well manicured two-story homes. Despite cars zipping past me on my right I greatly enjoyed the wind chimes and paved walk ways of these sophisticated houses. The north side of the road housed mostly commercial property; gas stations, grocers, the old Sugar Shack that had recently moved. There were doctor’s offices, churches, law offices and schools. I also passed one of my past employers, The Mid Michigan Red Cross. I was an After Hours worker there. I helped locate shelter for those that didn’t have a place to stay overnight. It was right about here in my walk that it started; the chimes. I’m not sure where they came from, probably a nearby church or two, but their gorgeous melody filled the air. It also meant that it was high noon.
I was going to be late. I really picked up my pace and quickly made it to the corner of Pennsylvania and Oakland, having passed Sieloff Glass and Screen (my uncle’s business) and Ahptic (a distinguished green building on the corner of a residential area). My destination was just off Larch. I had one more block to go. As I walked, the sidewalk diverged. The side I was on began to ascend the embankment that allowed Oakland to go under the train tracks. The other sidewalk, across a very busy street, stayed with the road. My sidewalk looked new and exciting but there was a non moving train sitting right across my path. I began going up, hoping the train would begin to move as I approached. From up here I could see the new north side police precinct. I could see the Sparrow Hospital new addition and I could see the Boji Tower. I was walking on a sidewalk next to an unfinished parking lot, up above most of the buildings and roads around me, waiting for a very slow train to move along.
When the train finished and the rail went up I noticed right away that the building in front of me was where I had been walking to; I had walked up the back way. I walked in and joined all the other volunteers already preparing cut outs and tracing shapes for the I Was Here campaign. After all that walking I was finally there.
There was a smell in the air as I walked along Michigan Ave. from Frandor westward. I wish it had been spring flowers. And despite being a sweet smell, it wasn’t all together pleasant. Much like stubborn spring growth bursting through lackluster surroundings, multiple businesses have erupted on this stretch of road. They all use different names and styles but their product is the same; medical marijuana. It was in front of these stores that the subtle, sweet aroma clung to the air. This eastern edge of Michigan Ave. seems to hold many possible solutions for those seeking healing and comfort. For some the relief is a herb, to others it might be the comfort of food and beverage. This 1.3 mile stretch of road has multiple locations to consume a trouble or two away. Some favorites are The Soup Spoon Café, Gone Wired Café, The Green Door, Emil’s and even El Oasis’ famous taco truck. For many, a good meal or drink goes a long way to healing the soul. For some the healing of the soul comes from a refuge in faith. Church of the Resurrection regally shadows over a large stretch of street. With a church, a school and teen center its ability to care and comfort are obvious. Not a block from Resurrection is another beacon of hope, The Ronald McDonald House of Mid Michigan. Built in 2000 and serving over 1500 families, The Ronald McDonald House with its bright colored play equipment reminds all who pass by that Lansing is great at giving and taking care of families. Finally the Goliath of care would have to be Sparrow Hospital. In the last few years it has expanded to become the region’s largest health system. There is no denying how many people have been helped with their pain and suffering with Sparrow’s presence in Lansing.
Sometimes, though, it is simple nostalgia that warms the heart, erodes any pain and puts a smile on your face. It was around the back side of Sparrow walking down Jerome St. that I found mine. I hadn’t been to Eastern High School much since I graduated from there many years ago. And I hadn’t seen it since the old Pattengill part of it had been removed. Despite losing an appendage the recovery surgery had gone quite well. If a stranger looked over the new site there would be no reason to ever believe another school had sat there. Yet, places from my past were still present. The courtyard, where my now husband and I courted and later broke up, only to meet again in college, was still there. There was also the band door. It led directly to the third floor band room. It was exclusively ours to enter and exit, for sectionals, practice, games and parades. It was the door to my home for four years. To the east of the parking lot was the band practice field. It now is home to a large Sparrow building and parking area; no sign that I marched on it multiple hours a week. As I walked away from my reverie back toward my car I noticed someone outside this back side of Sparrow. As I walked closer I yelled her name; “Setiva”! It was her. She was one of my best friends growing up in the north side of Lansing. Since she was part of the flags in high school she also marched with me on the field that no longer existed. We hugged and laughed and talked about marching that field. It was really nice to see her. Sometimes walking through Lansing is like walking through time. Sometimes, that is a healing not like anything you can get anywhere else.
Here I was on a very cold, not ready to embrace spring, March day. I sat all alone outside a not yet open ice cream shop eating a free chili dog at a picnic table on the edge of Old Town. Let me explain how I got here. If this was a CSI episode, words would come up at the bottom of the screen saying “30 minutes earlier”. The series of events that got me to that picnic table went like this. Our family has only one drivable car at the moment. We have a van but due to a clerical error in Virginia, where we bought it, we are not able to register it in Michigan until the right amount of red tape, hurdles, miscommunications and swearing happens. So for now our family of 6 creatively makes due with a 5 seat Cavalier. Today’s schedule consisted of our twins coming home at 11:50 from school, me needing to be in Old Town at noon and our oldest son needing to be at LCC west campus by 1pm. The return trip would include stopping back into Old Town to pick me up. How to solve this problem? My first thought was to just cancel my volunteer time with Lunch with a Purpose. I didn’t really want to miss it, especially since my friend Erin Slayter was going to be there and I needed to talk to her about volunteering for Earth Day Lansing event; Old Town Spring Scrub. My next thought was to leave now and get dropped off at some walking point so I could do one of my walks. There was a set of streets off Grand River that I walked when I was hunting down Angel Hill. I pulled out my map and found the place I could get dropped off at; Clark & Grand River. There’s an odd momentum change when you go from driving to walking. I’ve noticed it before but for some reason this one seemed especially noticeable. Maybe it was having my husband drop me off on a street corner and drive away, leaving me there exposed to the cold, wind, passing cars and other folks out on the street. I wrapped my camera into my coat and began walking. There were not many out in this neighborhood with most of the store fronts empty and many houses as well. This is an economically hard hit neighborhood. Although the few people I came into contact with were not hostile towards me, I sensed a subtle feeling that I shouldn’t linger too long. I quickly continued my walking. Then I came to Chicago Deli (801 E. Grand River; 367-7697). If the bright orange color hadn’t stopped me the size of the deli, roughly the size of my kitchen and dining room, made me take a second glance. When I did, I noticed the open sign and a customer enjoying his lunch. This was the exact kind of place I created City Saunter for! So I went in. I introduced myself and handed out my cards talking to the owner, Henry. I explained my project and that I wanted to take some photos of his little restaurant. He was so thankful for the attention I might be able to give him he offered me a free chili dog. After being urged by the other customer to try a dog, I agreed. I continued to ask Henry questions as he put together my food. He was running the place with his wife and niece on a part time basis. He offered up the chili dogs but was really showcasing the Chicago Style Italian Beef sandwich, announcing that it’s his biggest seller. He pointed to a large poster with a delicious herbed meat sub on the wall of the counter and I secretly committed to buying one of those babies in the near future. He walked me outside so I could take photos of his sign, rejecting the offer to go stand under it. He shook my hand and I thanked him again for the hotdog. Since I was trying to get to Old Town I took it with me to go. My walk then took me past the old Alamo building which is still a wonder to behold. It operates as a church now. I passed Pruess Pets, another wonder. I photographed the gorgeous waterfall and continued on my way.
When I arrived at Center St. in Old Town I realized I was ten minutes early for Lunch with a Purpose. At the corner sits an ice cream shop. It was closed down for the winter but had three metal picnic tables out front. I decided to take a minute for myself. I sat down gazing down Grand River into Old Town and pulled out my first City Saunter freebie; a chili dog from Chicago Deli. Refreshed from my lunch it was now my turn to give a little. I walked north on Center St. to the Big Brothers Big Sisters office and joined the other Lunch with a Purpose volunteers cutting out bowling pins that BBBS would sell to raise funds for their charity work; a true chain of giving.
Lansing throughout the year hosts multiple festivals. I counted once that Old Town alone had eleven festivals planned for the year. There are multiple activities happening in Washington Square yearly. And two of my favorite festivals happen at Fenner Nature Center. The one in the fall is the Apple Butter Festival and the one in the winter/spring is the Maple Festival. The park is located at the corner of Mt. Hope Ave. and Aurelius and sprawls over fields, ponds and woods. There is walking trails and a quaint two-story visitor/learning center. During the festivals local artisans bring their crafts there to sell. Two years ago at the Apple Butter Festival the author of The Pout Pout Fish, one of my kids’ favorite books, was there signing books and reading to a group of kids. I like this festival because there is no cover charge and it’s relatively laid back. You walk around to the things you want to see and you can leave whenever you like. The presentations are always fun for the kids as well. They stir the apple butter cooking over a pit fire. Today they were able to watch the process of taping a maple tree and even tasting the sugar water coming out. My favorite part will be eating my pancakes with Michigan made maple syrup tomorrow morning!
As I walk my walks for Lansing, deep down inside I’ve been aware that all this walking might have a positive effect on my health as well. How could it not? Walking 410 miles is bound to tighten something! Today I had a doctor’s appointment in town. I’m a numbers girl and I like having some to work with. At home I measure weight and body fat. I’ve been known to take my temperature even if I don’t have a fever. At this appointment I was able to add BMI and blood pressure. All my numbers are ok. Not great, but ok. There is definitely room for improvement. Since having the twins five years ago I have had a hard time getting back into shape. I’ve always been an active person. I was a swimmer in junior high school. I marched in the band (yes it IS a sport) for four years and I ran long distance track my sophomore year. I like to stay active. I ski and swim during the appropriate times of year. I bought a kettlebell too. I really like that but I seem to do too much and need a long recovery time. Then I get distracted and realize it’s been a month since my last workout. I think that’s why I like this walking around Lansing idea even more. I’ve noticed most of my walks take about an hour and I walk roughly three miles. Today’s walk was no different. After my doctor’s appointment I set out on the streets adjacent to the office. The neighborhood is bordered by the busy Cedar St., Mt. Hope Ave., Washington Ave. and Greenlawn. Once onto the inner streets the bustle of fast, loud cars was muffled almost completely. The homes were quaint, tidy rows one after the other. I liked this neighborhood. It was a good place for a walk. As I walked out of the neighborhood onto one of the border streets there was usually some type of business. As I walked to the end of my first street I ended up at Washington Ave looking at the expanse of Washington Park. Next to that is where Capital City Film Festival has set up shop. South on Washington Ave. and Greenlawn is all hospitals and clinics, including Ingham Regional Medical Center, where my twins were born. Circling back through the inner streets again I ended up on Mt. Hope looking towards the downtown skyline. The corner of Mt. Hope and Washington Ave. was full of activity; bus stops, store fronts, auto shops, restaurants. When I finally made my way back to Greenlawn and Cedar St., I had walked over an hour and completed over three miles of walking. At this rate I will be done with this project in about 30 months. With a completion goal of one year I think it’s time to pick up the pace.
One of the main reasons I started this project was to share with residents and others the many great things going on in Lansing. Today I didn’t actually walk anywhere but I wanted to share my experience. Today is Thursday and here in Lansing we have a fantastic group of people who don’t eat lunch on Thursdays. Instead they meet up at predetermined locations to do an act of charity for a predetermined group. This project is called Lunch With a Purpose and it is one of the many ingenious ideas that flows from Justin Caine. Justin is a wonder to behold. At a very young age he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and had surgery to remove the tumor. The surgery left him with a physical and cognitive disability that impaired his ability to find jobs and respect in his field of experience. He was able to achieve both by starting his own business, Good Fruit, which has an amazing presence in the Lansing area. Lunch With a Purpose has been in existence for just over a year now with their first lunch hour spent making lunches for Ronald McDonald House of Mid Michigan. Today’s lunch hour was spent at Duckett Brothers Distributing formerly known as Tico Duckett Distributing. The Duckett brothers are not shy about volunteering either, as both are active in another one of Justin’s volunteer extravaganzas; Battlefield Brawl. Today they hosted Tiffany Kennon and her nonprofit Shining Light. For those of us willing to volunteer an hour at lunch time our job was to tag sandals. These sandals, piled high on the table and wrapped in plastic, were hand created by women in Tanzania. Tiffany’s sister, Jennifer, is living in Tanzania and helping the women there learn this craft so they can improve their standard of living and care for their children. Today I was humbled to be part of a group of extraordinary volunteers putting the final touches on these gorgeous sandals.
In recent years I’ve become quite good at not over indulging during what I call the “Candy Holidays”. In general if there is candy sold in specific colors to coordinate with the holiday, then it’s a Candy Holiday. Walking into the stores to an aisle of a specific color I have warning signals instantly going off and I maintain a perimeter shopping schedule until the color disappears. To my great surprise there was still a very specific “pants too tight” time of year. As I became wise to the grand holidays, overzealous, push to be fat campaign, I let my guard down to simpler attacks; Valentine’s Day, my wedding anniversary and Fat Tuesday. My trick with Valentines Day is easy because I can do chocolate covered strawberries. This snack is always luscious and always satisfying. My anniversary can be a win or lose diet wise just based on how things are. This year the splurge was free Alaska salmon from my brother-in-law. No problem there! So that leaves the devious, overly sneaky paczkis sold for Fat Tuesday. We normally get our paczkis from L&L, which unfortunately went out of business back in January. I normally am not a huge fan of these fruit or crème filled doughnuts. The filling is usually a big clump in the very center and the dough part usually seems dry to me. But, I make the buy every year for the kids. This year I decided to try a different route. Using my adventures in walking, I checked my portable Lansing map and found my perfect destination for this year’s paczkis; Roma Bakery. Why have I never thought to try this out before is beyond me. I think I usually put the purchase off until we’re walking out of Meijer or L&L and the boys insist on grabbing a prepackaged, variety pack as we walk out the door. This time I had a different plan. I parked at the Lansing City Market just a block from my destination. My idea was that I would try the Market for a set of paczkis, walk down to Roma for some and then stop at Quality Dairy for a set of theirs and do a taste comparison. Unfortunately the Market didn’t have any vendors selling them. We then walked to Roma. We could see customers from a block away going in and out, most in cars, some on foot like us. I had never been to Roma’s before, despite knowing about it and their reputation as being a very good bakery. We entered with a crowd of 5 others; two moms trying to usher five kids through two doors, all anticipating greatness within. At the front there were pre ordered packs and packages of assorted varieties for purchase. But I followed the crowd to the back counter. Here they had large, clear containers filled with all the flavors and an employee waiting to arrange them into a to-go box. Our picks were raspberry, strawberry, cherry, chocolate crème, chocolate and Bavarian Crème. We paid our $5.25 and walked out of the store with a smile on our faces.
We then walked to Quality Dairy to check out their stash. They also had signs about their paczki surplus. Despite the workers being very friendly, they were not bonnet and apron wearing motherly European women. Also, these paczkis were self serve. There was a bit more selection and some were even glazed. At $4.69 for 6 it’s a tad cheaper too. As for taste, the QD ones had more filling than I remember and I do like the glaze, although I’m not sure that’s a typical paczki style. However the doughnut part was the normal drier type. The Roma set had a very soft doughnut and the fillings were amazing, despite the fruit flavors having a bit of a fake flavoring thing going on. The chocolate crème was the best paczki I’ve ever had! Next year will I succumb to the power of the paczki? Probably.
I thought this might finally be THAT neighborhood. This neighborhood had average sized houses, and average sized yards, with aged American cars sitting in paved driveways. All the sidewalks were shoveled. There was a quiet elementary school nestled in the middle. There were quite a few houses for sale, but that is normal as well. Except for the sheer luck of getting hit on by the FedX driver at the beginning of my walk, there was nothing that made this neighborhood stand out. This was going to be my first boring neighborhood. Then on the last street that would take me back to my car I found it. The street I was walking dead-ended right into Theo Fulton Park. This park wasn’t even on my map. I walked through the metal gates into an open field. The still lingering snow provided evidence of human travel with a few canine companions. There was a playground. It wasn’t extraordinary but it was there. What was unique about this park was that it meandered along the Grand River’s edge. Cutting across the field I came to an outlook area. It provided a perfect place to view the river and what a view it was. Down a snow covered set of stairs I was able to walk out onto a little dock. The map at the front of the park has a symbol for fishing. I could easily imagine sitting on the dock, soaking up the sunshine, bare feet swinging inches above the water. It was a perfect get away, nestled in the backyard of the residents of Seaway Dr.