Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bacon Day at Sawyer’s

At first I thought it was a joke. Then after seeing the posts come up more and more I knew it must be true. The “do all things generous and fun” Lansing Ninjas had checked their throwing stars and waved their lucky nunchakus to create Lansing’s first Bacon Day. How does one celebrate bacon day? By eating bacon of course! However, waking up this Wednesday morning it felt like Halloween without a costume or Christmas without a tree; I had not a slice of bacon in the house. I quickly came up with a game plan. I would drive my son to his LCC class and then walk my way over to Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House and order myself something with bacon. And that’s exactly what I did. I quickly located my destination on my travel map after finding a place to park my car. After walking straight up Pine St. I immediately saw the restaurant’s sign and the quaint brick building with a smoker grill just off the corner at Saginaw. Despite this corner having a bit of an edge to it I found this building, with warm cooking smells wafting through the air, very inviting. Inside I was directed to pick my seat from the open seating area. I arrived around 10:30am and quite a few diners were still enjoying breakfast and to my surprise a steady stream of customers continued to enter throughout my stay. Upon sitting a wonderfully polite woman with playful pony tails brought me a menu and asked for my drink order. When she returned with my drink I explained my City Saunter project and my desire to eat bacon. She recommended an omelet that indeed had bacon in it. It was the BBQ Chicken Omelete served with bbq pulled chicken, onions, cheddar cheese and bacon. This option also gave me the chance to try the namesake pancakes too.

Despite the chicken being a tad dry, the homemade bbq sauce with a bit of zing and sweetness completely made the omelet one of a kind. The three pancakes that came with the order (there are other choices) were perfectly fluffy and served with homemade maple syrup. I had planned to only eat half and bring the rest home to Pat to enjoy but I was unable to stop eating the meal. It was that good. I am also sure the low, peppy music and walls adorned with local artists’ creations helped produce an environment that promoted relaxation and meal consumption.
I am glad I finally walked my way to Sawyer’s. And I am thinking I might have a new favorite holiday.

Walkability Study Walk

The package arrived UPS. At the time I could not think of anything I had ordered and was a bit eager to see what was hiding inside the large, sturdy envelope. The return address was local and there was no business like NewEgg or Amazon on the postage which is usually what is delivered to our house via UPS, confusing me more. As I walked back into the house I had already torn the adhesive edge open and was looking for a place to dump out the contents. At the table I pulled out a clip board and two very large clipped bundles of duplicate forms, an AARP pen and a measuring tape. When someone sends you a clip board and a rubber edged tape measure you know some serious business is about to commence. My business was volunteering to assist Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council and AARP Michigan as they teamed up to complete a Walkability Study (Audit) for the city of Lansing. I found out about the study from Rory Neuner, who thought I could take what I do for City Saunter and apply it towards the Walkability Audit. I agreed and took the next step to join the volunteer roster and signing up for section 62. Despite both of these projects walking the streets of Lansing to gather information, I found that there were enormous differences with how they wanted their data collected and how I collect my “data”; i.e. photographs and jottings in a small notebook. For City Saunter I don’t need to pay much attention to street light type (historic, coach, acorn globe, or cobra head) unless it somehow is interesting enough to photograph. But for the walkability audit I need to make sure I notice which type is on each street and mark it on the two-sided form. I also don’t pay much attention to the ramps at the end of the sidewalks. Although there was the one time I noticed there was a handicap ramp going out into the street but no sidewalk attached to it in any direction; interesting and photo worthy. On this audit I have to record what ramp is at each crossing, where it is on the street, how long it is and whether there are domes on it (those help keep wheel chairs from rolling into the road). When I’m out walking I usually only walk one side of the road. While doing the audit I am required to walk both sides of the street and observe what kind of condition the sidewalks are in. I also need to inspect, draw and do measuring at each intersection. I need to check for streets signs with numbers, bus stops, crossing signals and parking availability. I also mark if there is a bike lane or a mid street crossing. I think my favorite section of the form is when I walk down the sidewalk and use code to distinguish disrupted sections of the walk; P=patched with asphalt, B=blocked, H=heaved no tree, HT=heaved with tree, S=sloped, and O=other. I think the funniest question is whether the air is polluted. All I smelled was dryer sheet, does that count?
Today’s walk was less than a mile but it took me two hours. Normally I can walk three miles in an hour, including stopping to take photos. I think the extra time will ultimately be the most dramatic difference between the two projects but I think it will be well worth it.

PEACE walk

Normally when I decide to go out on a walk I venture to my location, get my supplies, lock up the car and head out. There usually isn’t anything that would draw much attention to the fact that I am slowly making my way through all the streets in Lansing, Michigan. Today’s walk however, was not like any walk I’ve done so far. Today’s walk had police and fire truck escorts. There was a crowd of about 150 fellow walkers including the mayor and his wife. Some were using megaphones to shout out to the crowd. There were a few media folks flitting through the walkers taking photos and doing interviews. My walk today was with the Lansing Stop the Silence/ Walk for P.E.A.C.E. march. The group started at Wainwright Elementary School and marched through the streets to Wexford Montessori Magnet School. Many of them held hands as we walked. Some needed to be consoled at times since a large part of the group were relatives of a victim of violence. Through their heartbreak they united to promote the stop of the violence.

I never really set out on this project to stop violence. However there were two things that happened the summer before I earnestly and ultimately began City Saunter. The first was the gruesome murder of a young woman in a mostly quiet neighborhood. Last summer in July a nineteen year old woman was dragged out of her home, thrown into a trunk and shot with semi automatic guns. Her screams, at first not noticeable, eventually became so urgent that people came to witness her shooting and also the perpetrators who ran away, leaving her to die in the trunk.
The second was much less dramatic but really was the impetus for City Saunter. A wonderful couple that I have the great pleasure of being friends with had a home in Lansing. They were having measurable trouble with loud neighbors, vandalism, and theft. During a chat I told them that I wish I could just walk up and down their street to stave off the unwanted behavior. From there the idea continued to grow and seek out its own destination until I became the City Saunterer, walking all the streets of Lansing. I wanted to make Lansing better by showing people how great Lansing really is. I wanted to show the good things that are there. I wanted to change any misperceptions that Lansing is a violent, unsafe city. I have been through many neighborhoods in my 112 miles of walking. A very large percentage of those are well established, well maintained and visibly loved. Some are not. There is still crimes being committed, but what I’ve found is the struggling neighborhoods have a strong community of people working deep within to bring hope and resources to those in need. Just like those that partook of today’s walk, there are groups just like them all over Lansing. Together we can truly make a difference.

“The whole gang gathered,
Feeling glorious and proud,
And they swam in a circle
As they sang out loud;
‘The ocean is wide,
And the ocean is deep,
But friends help friends-
That’s a promise we keep.’
We are bigger, Yes, BIGGER, Always big. BIG. BIGGER Than the dark!”
The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark
By Deborah Diesen

Recently I was made aware of a campaign to recognize a global day of ceasefire and violence. It is called Peace One Day. The hope is to get word out and on this September 21 start a 365 day count down to the first global Peace One Day celebration. I will be putting some type of walking event together soon to participate in this year’s Peace One Day. Please keep in touch with my Facebook page as I solidify my plans. If you would like to hold your own Peace One Day celebration I would love to hear about what you have planned.

Check out all my photos from this walk on my City Saunter Facebook Page.

Rebuilding Lansing

While driving through and walking around Lansing one thing is apparent; Lansing is ever-changing. Sometimes the changes are simple, like a new paint color on a building or redrawing the lanes on the road to add a biking lane. Sometimes the changes happen quickly like raising the speed limit on the freeways from 55 to 70. Then there are the changes that start in a fit then fizzle and then drag on and on. On my walk today I ran into one of those. I started my walk at the wonderful Rizzi Design’s Old Town Manor on the edge of Old Town. It and the newly established Neighborhood Empowerment Center sit as beacons of hope for the many discarded buildings of the former Michigan School for the Blind campus. From there I walked south, slowly making my way onto streets I hadn’t walked before. Since the twins are now expert two-wheel bike riders, they rode along with me. I cautioned them as we grew closer to the four-lane speedway known as Oakland Ave. However when I reached that intersection of Walnut and Oakland I was shocked at what I saw. There was barely anything moving. The road was blocked a half block east of where I came out. Looking west the road was littered with construction materials, some looking like they hadn’t been moved all summer. None of the construction vehicles were occupied. Some of the homes were boarded up and abandoned. One or two cars slowly made their way along dirt trails from cross streets. I thought it looked like a war zone, do you?

It seemed so strange that such a direct route cutting straight across Lansing could languish in this state this long. As I continued my walk I did notice a lot had been accomplished as there were many new sidewalks and even new side roads in place. Hopefully, sometime in the future, a long time after the construction has been completed and the roads all reopen, we will only think about how great it looks. These are the three stages of change: a place or building that sits vacant, deteriorating yet hopefully waiting for some resources to come in a recreate its glory.

Then there’s the stage when a vision is shared and the funding comes in and then there’s the unseemly chaos of construction. Finally, the ultimate goal, to have the land clean and renewed, the buildings constructed or renovated and someone there to enjoy its renewal.

Check out all the photos from this walk on my Facebook Page!

Sidewalk to Heaven

The home I now reside in out in Haslett has many things my house on Cooper Ave. in Lansing did not. It offers a couple more bedrooms, which has been very helpful with the addition of our twins to the two teenage boys we already had. We also are thankful for the larger yard size and multiple fruit trees we get to forage each season. Our house sits a bit off the road and the yard has a heavy tree line on all sides, making for a very peaceful residence. However there has been one commodity our Cooper house had that we all sorely miss; sidewalks. We miss stepping off our front porch and entering onto a cemented pedestrian freeway. These trails would lead us unobstructed and safely around the neighborhood, around the block, to Quality Dairy, Mancino’s or another convenient stop. If we were feeling ambitious or really warm in less than a miles walk we could be at grandma’s house.  With the convenience of sidewalks children learn to ride their bikes, exercise is safely commenced, and neighborhood children exuberantly flitter from one house to the next like flocks of birds. It was a privilege we had while we lived in town and at times desperately miss while living outside of it. The twins have recently learned to ride their little bikes without their training wheels. And despite riding their bikes every day since learning to do so, our driveway only provides a small circle for them to go around in; possibly a figure eight if they can maneuver the small part of the driveway. They were ready for a true bike ride. A few years ago my brother-in-law, his wife and their two children purchased their first home in the Groesbeck area. It’s located just outside the Lansing City limits, within a Lansing township pizza shaped wedge in the center of the area. So I guess technically they don’t live in Lansing either. But they have sidewalks! We loaded up the kids’ bikes into the trunk of our car and we headed west into town.  Within seconds of arriving the twins had their bikes out and were zipping up and down the sidewalk like they’d done it their whole lives. The shape, size and even distribution of sidewalk blocks just yell out, “Traverse me!” With two five years olds on 2-wheelers, a 4-year-old on a trike and a two-year old with a toy lawn mower we began our journey. The four adults casually talked and walked; each taking a turn running ahead to rescue a rider from an uncooperative bike, behind this parade for a good one and a half miles. Our path took us past a school and a playground. It took us past gardens and landscaped flower plots. It took us past neighbors and other children out enjoying the cement pathway. Most importantly it took us safely back to our starting point; a home, where a choice was apparent. Should we continue on our journey or head inside? As we stood outside with the wind blowing perfectly and the sun setting we packed up the bikes and headed inside where kids continued to play and the grown-ups enjoyed a game of Euchre.

Promise Land

Lansing has really seen some hard times in the last few years and this walk made me realize that more than any other. I started my walk at The Lansing State Journal. The LSJ has been Lansing’s centerpiece of news media for decades. In recent years they’ve been hit extremely hard by new technology causing reduction in subscribers. Being owned by a much larger parent company has afforded them the luxury of only reducing staff by half instead of folding all together. The Boarshead Theater, sitting on the opposite corner, was much less fortunate. In spring of 2010 the only Mid Michigan professional resident theater closed their doors after 44 years. A block south of this intersection sits the very large, vacant field that once housed the Deluxe Inn. In the summer of 2010 this vacant motel, before being demolished, was the canvass for a multitude of graffiti artists. For a few weeks a structure once known for its high crime activity, became a project for expression, art and reclamation.

Now, the art has been redesigned throughout REO Town and the carnage of the Deluxe Inn Motel has been removed. The green grass sprouted and a new sign was put up. In networking groups I hear phrases like “promise”, “possibility”, and “potential” in regard to this field. I think those phrases are used often in these times.

There’s the promise of housing. There’s the possibility of a well paying job. And once there are enough of those first two things there will be the potential to bring Lansing into an era of prosperity and hope.