Carefully I planned out my attire for this walk; red corduroys with matching top, my daughter’s pink poncho with hearts and peace signs all over it and a pink bow in my hair. I wanted to wear a sign on my back that said “Honk if you #LoveLansing” but Pat thought it was too much. The night before I had finished creating 24 Hershey Kiss rose buds. Today I planned to pass them out as I walked one of my final east side routes. I’d learned before that giving away things to people isn’t as easy as you’d think. A few months back I desperately tried to hand out 5 Biggby cards. People tend to be wary of a stranger walking around asking if you like coffee. I knew with this give away I would look the part and act the part; happy City Saunterer (it’s a noun now) dressed like a Valentine Card, handing out homemade treats. It mostly worked. I had a slow start as the streets I needed to walk were residential. As I worked my way closer to the busier streets I began to find more and more people to flower/candy bomb.
Here’s my route:
1. Lady walking her dog. The dog growled at me.
2. A man in a wheelchair on his front porch. He was feeding about 5 squirrels peanuts.
3. The mailman on Allen St.
4. I placed one on a set of delivered packages on a decorated home on Allen St.
5 & 6 I crossed the street where a man and woman whose disabled car left them abandoned in Lansing from out of town. I told them I couldn’t fix their car but I could try to cheer them up. It did.
7 A woman walking out of Ronald McDonald House.
8 & 9 Two girls walking down the street. Their response was ; “How sweet”.
10. A man walking on Kalamazoo St.
11 A young girl on Jones
12. A young guy on Holmes
13. Another guy on Pennsylvania
14 A girl walking down Pennsylvania with heart shaped balloons trailing behind her. She also had a package in her arms. When I gave her the flower she announced that it was also her birthday! What a treat!
15. Lady carrying packages into Rite Aid
16. & 17 Two girls getting on the bus on Michigan Ave.
18 A man hurrying across the street from Sparrow. He had a red coat on. I couldn’t resist.
19 Burcham Hill driver
20. A well dressed woman waiting outside Sparrow Professional Center
21 & 22 A couple also waiting outside the Sparrow Professional Center
23 & 24 A couple waiting for the bus down the road from Sparrow.
What a great day of giving!
Today I walked a “bad” neighborhood. The only problem is; it wasn’t. Yes, it was in one of the areas of town considered a bit rough and tumble but it didn’t seem that bad to me. Maybe it was because I was walking through this area on a very sunny, early December, Wednesday morning. I suppose living here might be different. Maybe there are stories that I could be told by residents. However, the more I continue on this walking project through Lansing the more I learn that there really isn’t a typical “Bad” neighborhood. Many times what I find is that there are a few “bad” houses that may or may not affect the area. On this walk, I passed residents and they smiled and said “hi” when I smiled and said “hi” to them. Yes, my pace might have been a bit quicker, I kept my camera discreetly hidden away and I perfected my nod and smile routine. I’ll admit that when I walked up a quaint dead end street that nestled up to the edge of the highway with only the one way in, I was a bit relieved by its isolation. But I also noticed some of the signature signs of a “safe” neighborhood: lawn ornaments, cars in good working order, cleanliness, flags, landscaping and nice people. These houses were just as ornate and positive as any “good” neighborhood. Despite all the negativity about Lansing, it seems that it doesn’t really have this heavy level of destitute and poverty that might be found in other hard hit recession Michigan cities. In fact, the more I walk the more I find quite the opposite. I find community centers that help provide services to the neighborhoods. I find non profits encouraging good and healthy behavior. I find neighborhood groups building urban gardens and promoting good habits. I also learn of family and friends buying houses in these “bad” neighborhoods and liking it there.
Now, I know it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. I did notice the abandoned belongings of homelessness under the overpasses. I know many people are without good paying jobs. I know drugs are a big issue on the streets. Maybe it is dangerous out there. Maybe my being out there is playing with fire. I was warned excessively when I first went public with this project that I was being too risky; walking in areas that are known for trouble. I trusted that I would be safe out there. I trusted that the crime issues wouldn’t really get me while I purposely walked from street to street without causing any trouble. So far Lansing hasn’t let me down. I don’t necessarily like walking in these rougher parts of town, but so far these nefarious parts haven’t lived up to their negative reputation. I hope it stays that way.
As I drive through Lansing, zipping past houses and businesses, I realize it’s completely impossible to stop and focus on any specifics of the city. Part of my goal for City Saunter was to get out of the car, out of the parks, off the river trail and really change my point of view while in the city. When I walk I am able to see much better the true make-up of Lansing. I pass by thousands of store fronts and porches and see how they focus their attention on their environment. Yet there is still another element of familiarity missing by just walking by. Recently I intensified my focus and journeyed into two establishments on my walk. The first was Decker’s Coffee and the second was Kelly’s Downtown. The reason for venturing deeper into two of Lansing’s popular watering holes was an invite from Michael McCallum of Rebel Pictures. Now Michael has the kind of charisma that when he asks if you want to meet up to talk about an activity he’s involved with your answer is when and where. Michael is our local film producer, successfully using the Lansing area to create award winning films. When I last caught up with him he was on location at Arties Filling Station shooting his feature length film Buffalo, now in post production. On today’s outing not only did I enjoy a smooth coffee from Decker’s but I also was given the opportunity to screen two of Michael’s short films; “Momento Mori” and “Small Town Fireworks”.
Michael and I strolled from our slightly chilly patio seat at Decker’s to seek out a quiet location (and an electrical outlet) to begin the viewing. Kelly’s Downtown was the perfect spot, not just for the use of power but also because Kelly’s was one of the locations Mike used to shoot “Small Town Fireworks”. Inside Kelly’s I met Jeff Kelley, the owner. Despite not wanting his photo taken by me he was willing to portray a believable bartender in one of Michael’s short films. This is one of Michael’s secret weapons; pulling talented friends and family from the community to bring believability into his scripts. As the first movie started it was hard not to smile at the noticeable Lansing landmarks; the Silver Bells street ornament, Michigan Ave., The River Trail, even Decker’s Coffee. It makes me feel like I somehow have a bit of ownership in these creations. The actor, Cody Masalkoski who stars in “Memento Mori”, is someone I have run into around town quite a few times. Sitting at the bar with a drink in his hand, is Michael looking very much like the actor whose portrayal of “Allen” in “Small Town Fireworks” made me laugh, feel compassion for and finally, at the end, well I guess you should find out for yourself.
On Sunday, yes Sunday, 7:00 p.m. June 24, 2012 at our very own Kelley’s Downtown, Michael McCallum will be hosting a Short Film Premiere party featuring both “Small Town Fireworks” and “Memento Mori”. It’s a great opportunity to check out these locally produced films. To top it off Sam Corbin, who portrays a memorable musician in one of the films, will be providing live music for all those who attend. This is a great chance to support quite a few local talents as the proceeds will help get these films into numerous film festivals.
More Dragonboat photos here
I was late. The meeting started at 9:00 a.m. and it was now 8:30 a.m. By car it would normally take me only 15 minutes to get into town. However this day I decided to ride my bike for my Dragon Boat meeting. I raced from Haslett, through East Lansing, into Lansing and finally, only ten minutes late, my destination; Cooley Stadium. Since joining the Dragon Boat committee I’ve participated in a handful of meetings. I will be the site coordinator during the event and I am also helping put together “Land Cruises”; meetings held at public locations where our volunteers, teams and location patrons can actually grab a paddle and practice. We hope to also bring in the dragon boats so folks can check them out. We hope these events will help inform the public about forming teams (by June 15) and the actual event during Labor Day Weekend. I am also a committee member for Ignite Lansing.
I am helping organize the volunteers for this event. It’s really extraordinary watching these great events come into existence. I love participating with these groups. I enjoy the brainstorming for the next great location, theme or way to publicize the event. Both of these events were inspired by a person or a couple of people who decided they wanted their specific event here in Lansing. They trusted that our city, full of creative and generous people and businesses, would be able to pull it off. I’ve participated in festivals like Capital City Film Festival that operated at a level equal to other well established festivals its first year.
This year I will be photographing Dirty Feat.
It’s another festival put together by a handful of energized people. Last year in Old Town I ran into two of the organizers riding around on their bikes putting together stopping points for their race; two guys, on a bike. At today’s meeting it was the City Saunterer on a bike, a Lansing Center Events Manager, a Lugnut manager, a retired police detective and a dragon boat leader standing in a circle on the stadium grounds. We talked about where we could park the dragon boat, how many reserved spots we would need to fit it (7). We talked about how we’ve all talked to people who seem a bit confused by the boat part of it. I’ve had people ask how they put the boats together or that they couldn’t do it because they don’t have room to store a 20 person boat. We’ve decided that just offering up detailed information will help people understand that the boats are being rented from the American Dragon Boat Association. Essentially if you can find 25 people who would like to participate then we will supply the boats, life jackets, training and steering person. You can download an application here. And learn more here!
So the race is on! The race to create fantastic festivals, the race to keep Lansing vibrant and exciting and the race to get this summer of festivals going!
Where I walked
Here are a few more festivals and summer fun:
Festival of the Sun
Festival of the Moon
Turner Street Outdoor Theater
Michigan Mosaic Music Festival
Ignite Lansing 5.0
Tagged Ariniko Artistry, Capital City Dragon Boat Races, city film festival, City Saunter, Downtown, dragon boats, festivals, Lansing, River, travel, vacation
Here is a year in pictures for 2011! I hope you enjoy.
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.