The rehab of 209 Pearl is finally getting underway

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As it’s been a while, I thought that I should give you an update on the renovation of 209 Pearl Street.

Since my last post, things have changed a bit. Most notably, we’ve chosen not to have a loft apartment on the second floor, and instead build-out more offices for Landline Creative Labs. It wasn’t an easy decision, as we really wanted to have an apartment on the second floor, which we could one day convert to a rental, allowing us to experiment with residencies and the like, but the demand from creative professionals for high quality, affordable, downtown space was just too significant to ignore. Without even really marketing the space, we had more interest than we could accommodate under our initial plan, so we decided to incorporate more offices. What you see here is our most recent plan for the space. You’ll notice that, in addition to now having 10 office spaces and three bathrooms on the second floor, we also have a large conference room, a reception area, and a wheelchair lift, which we were able to afford once we decided not to pursue the apartment.

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As we don’t yet have signed leases with our prospective tenants, I probably shouldn’t mention them all by name. I will say, however, that the three companies I told you about in that first post announcing our plans – the graphic design firm [Invisible Engines], the video production company [7 Cylinders], and the photography studio [CS Photo] – are all still onboard. And, in addition to them, we’ll also likely have an illustrator, a motivational training firm, another film production group, another graphic design company, a clothing design cooperative, and someone who does podcasts on the subject of sustainability. And, it’s probably worth noting, these aren’t all just local people. A few will be commuting to Ypsi from Ann Arbor, and one just recently moved to the area from Vermont. And, if things work out, we might even have someone joining us from Canton… And I think that’s the really cool thing about this. We won’t just be pulling people into downtown from their home offices in Ypsi, but we’ll actually be bringing commuters into Ypsi to work, shop at our local restaurants and stores, and hopefully even create more jobs here as they grow.

As for where we are relative to construction, things are just beginning to heat up. After two months of demolition, during which we ripped out everything that we don’t need, we’re finally starting to focus on construction and repair. We’ve got finalized plans from our architect, our electrician, and our plumber. We’ve signed a contract with an elevator company. And our carpenter is ready to start work as soon as we get our permits. And, with the blessing of the Historic District Commission, we’ve just started on the renovation of our 90 year old windows… Oh, and we also just secured a grant to help us complete the build-out the offices, but I can’t get into any specifics about that for another week or so.

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The above photo was taken as both Jesse and I worked on the scaffold, pulling down long strips of cement-covered wire mesh from the ceiling. For what it’s worth, when long strips of cement-covered wire mesh start to come down, they come down fast. Once you get the first few nails pulled, gravity just takes over, and, before you know it, razor sharp strips of the stuff are swinging through the air at an incredible velocity, as the weight of the stuff starts pulling away from the nails that once secured it to the beams overhead. Just moments after the above photo was taken, I nearly severed my right thumb, as a six-foot long segment of the stuff sliced through my hand, causing my blood to spray all over the scaffold, mixing with Jesse’s from a days previous, when the same cement-covered wire mesh nearly tore his hand from wrist. The good news is, it’s all gone now, and it looks great.

Not only did we pull out all of the old stuff covering the rafters, but we brought in a crew to dry ice blast the wood that we’re planning to keep exposed. So 90 years of dust, crumbling insulation, dead wires, and bird droppings are now gone… Sadly, I don’t have a “before” photo, but here’s what our 1926 rafters and joists look like now, after a few days of dry ice blasting. This shot was taken in what will be the Landline lobby.

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Oh, and we scraped up what we could of the old carpet, padding and glue, exposing the original pine floors, which we’re hoping to refinish in some of the spaces.

There’s still a ton that needs to be done, and, given our budget, it’ll be tight, but we’re confident that we can pull it off. Stay tuned for more timely updates over the coming weeks, as plumbers, electricians and carpenters begin their work, and the place starts taking shape.

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Posted in 209 Pearl, Architecture, Art and Culture, Landline Creative Labs, Local Business, Locally Owned Business, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Father’s Day 2016

This was my Father’s Day highlight… working with an inconsolable Arlo to build a device capable of retrieving his “laser” from the toilet.

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Linette was in Florida this past weekend, and I just hung out with the kids. We ran around the sprinkler, hung out at the local pool, cooked out with neighbors, and stayed up late watching science fiction movies and eating nachos. I know, as a father, I’m supposed to say that the best Father’s Day present would be just a little peace and quiet, but I genuinely enjoyed the chaos these past few days with the kids, even with the inevitable sweaty melt-downs that come along with the first 90-degree temperatures of the year.

The photo above took place earlier this morning, as I was waiting patiently for the kids to remember that it was Father’s Day. [As it turns out, they wouldn’t remember until almost noon, when someone on the street wished me a “Happy Father’s Day,” at which point they assured me that they’d intended to make me a card or something.] I’m not sure what Arlo had been doing with his little blue LED light, which he calls his “laser,” in the toilet, but apparently he dropped it in. After a few minutes of screaming, we went outside to walk around the block, calm down, and devise a plan. We ultimately decided to tie some twigs together with twine, creating a kind of tiny basket, which we then lowered into the toilet to retrieve the laser. It wasn’t as much fun as taking Clementine and her 6th grade friends out for ice cream after their last day of school, like I got to do on Friday evening, but it was kind of lovely in its own way, working together to find a way to get something out of the toilet without using our hands, and then dousing it with rubbing alcohol to kill the “poop germs.”

Posted in Mark's Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The balls on Iggy Pop’s father

As we haven’t shared any good Iggy Pop stories in a while, I thought that I’d share this little anecdote that I picked up on Reddit a little while back.

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Speaking of Iggy, I meant what I said a few months ago when I was talking with The Patti Smith Group’s Ivan Král on the radio… I really would like to shoot a short documentary film of Iggy just driving around Ypsi and Ann Arbor, telling stories about having grown up in these parts. I think it would yield some fascinating, historically significant stuff.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, History, Special Projects, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Three ways to turn a local kid on to reading and change the world for the better

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of books lately. First it was the conversation I had with New York Times bestselling author Shaka Senghor about his discovery of literature in prison and how transformative that was for him. Then, a little bit after that, I heard local historian Matt Siegfried, standing in front of the new African American history mural in downtown Ypsilanti, telling the crowd about how women escaping slavery would meet at homes on South Adams Street to teach one another how to read. Then, just this past Friday, at the memorial service for Xavier Small, the eighth grader who recently fell to his death from the roof of Clementine’s school, I had the opportunity to sit and listen as speaker after speaker took the stage and noted what a voracious reader this remarkable young man was, and how his love of anime in particular, had opened up new worlds and ideas to him… It just seems like, around every turn lately, I’m reminded of the incredibly influential, sometimes subversive, occasionally transformative power of books, especially when put into the hands of young people.

Well, as luck would have it, it’s just come to my attention that there are three things we can do as community members this week to ensure that more of our young people keep reading over the summer, and into the future.

1. We can tell everyone we know about the Ypsilanti District Library’s Summer Reading Program Starting this Friday at 3:00 PM outside the downtown library with a presentation by storyteller LaRon Williams, and a talk by Jazmin Truesdale, the creator of the comic e-book “The Keepers: Origins,” about ethnic and gender diversity in her superheroes, the Summer Reading Program incentivizes local kids to keep reading over the course of the summer with the promise of delicious free ice cream and prizes. Programs like this worked on me when I was a kid, and apparently they still work on kids today. So, if you have access to young people, bring them out on Friday, sign them up for the program, and get them reading.

2. We can help start the Xavier Small Anime Collection at the Ypsilanti Public Library… As I mentioned above, Xavier loved anime, and, after his death, his mother apparently decided that a fitting way to remember him would be through the creation of an anime collection at the Ypsilanti Public Library. I’m not aware of an online fundraising drive yet, but donations, as I understand it, are being accepted by Washtenaw International High School in care of Kelley Bezrutch, 510 Emetic Street, Ypsilanti, MI, 48198. [The program at Xavier’s memorial, by the way, was laid out like a comic book. The title was, “The Life and Times of Xavier Kierdan Dean Small: A memoir of a precocious teenager, est. March 1, 2002.” And it was absolutely heartbreaking.]

3. We can give to the Student Advocacy Center’s Summer Brain Boost program and put books in the hands of some of our most at-risk young people… According to research, the simple act of giving books over the summer is profound. Among other things, studies have show that giving as few as three books to a young person over the course of the summer has the potential to stop the decline in reading achievement generally seen from spring to fall, and that small boost can mean a world of difference, especially to elementary school students struggling with the likes of foster care, homelessness, mental illness, and disciplinary issues. And, with our help, the Student Advocacy Center can give hundreds of free books to students in Washtenaw, Wayne and Jackson counties. Last year, I’m told, they were able to purchase 30 books for teens in a local facility, and the impact, from what I’ve heard, was profound. And, this year, building on that success, they’d like to distribute even more to our young people in the foster care system.

Posted in Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Running out of things to say about mass shootings… well, almost

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I tried to write something last night about the Orlando shooting that just left 50 people dead, but I gave up an hour or so into it. I’d sliced my hand open earlier in the day while working on the renovation of 209 Pearl Street, which made it difficult to type. [My right thumb was wrapped up in a bloody rag.] The bigger issue, however, was that I didn’t have anything even remotely new or insightful to say. Everything I wanted to say, I’d already said before.

Had I been smarter, I would have withheld some of the outrage I expressed in the wake of the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings. I should have known that we’d have another, even bigger mass shooting just around the corner. But I gave you everything I had back then. I tore into the right for blaming such acts on the erosion of religion in American life. I railed against the NRA for suggesting that the answer was to put more guns in our schools. And I praised President Obama for his incremental moves to bring sanity back to the conversation by actually talking openly about the societal costs associated with gun violence and suggesting that we do the unthinkable and lift the federal ban on related research. So, when I sat down to write about yesterday morning’s attack on the nightclub in Orlando, our nation’s most deadly mass shooting in 34 years, it just seemed like I was rehashing the same old stuff.

After taking a moment to mourn the dead, I jumped right into my practiced talking points. I started writing about about the need for better mental health care, and how imperative it is that we close loopholes and expand funding so that we can actually enforce the gun-related laws that we already have on the books. Essentially I started repeating the popular liberal position, assuring any Republicans that might be in the audience that we don’t want to take their weapons, and asking respectfully that they engage in common sense reforms intended to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of terrorists, and those who would use them to do harm… But then it dawned on me, as I was sitting there typing, that I really didn’t wan to post yet another article assuring the gun-loving right we’d never dream of coming for their beloved guns. I’m tired of being respectful toward the far right on gun control, I thought, telling them that they don’t have anything to worry about, and that we don’t care how many assault rifles they have, just so long as they allow us to conduct even the most rudimentary background checks, so that we can keep guns from domestic abusers and known criminals. No, it occurred to me, we were probably beyond the point of being deferential.

Speaking of this reasoned approach to gun control, Obama had a masterful response to an older man during a public appearance on PBS a week or so ago who stood up and essentially asked him why he was coming for the guns of law-abiding Americans. Here, in case you missed it, is the President’s response.

First of all, the notion that I or Hillary or Democrats, or whoever you want to choose, are hell-bent on taking away folks’ guns is just not true — and I don’t care how many times the NRA says it. I’m about to leave office. There have been more guns sold since I’ve been President than just about any time in U.S. history. There are enough guns for every man, woman and child in this country. And at no point have I ever proposed confiscating guns from responsible gun owners. So it’s just not true.

What I have said is precisely what you suggested, which is why don’t we treat this like every other thing that we use? We used to have really bad auto fatality rates. The auto fatality rate has actually dropped precipitously, drastically, since I was a kid. Why is that? We decided we had seatbelt laws. We decided to have manufacturers put airbags in place. We decided to crack down on drunk driving and texting. We decided to redesign roads so that they were less likely to have a car bank. We studied what is causing these fatalities using science and data and evidence, and then we slowly treated it like the public health problem it was, and it got reduced.

We are not allowed to do any of that when it comes to guns because people — if you propose anything, it is suggested that we’re trying to wipe away gun rights and impose tyranny and martial law. Do you know that Congress will not allow the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence? They’re not allowed to study it because the notion is, is that by studying it, the same way we do with traffic accidents, somehow that’s going to lead to everybody’s gun being confiscated.

When we talked about background checks — if you buy a car, if you want to get a license, first of all, you got to get a license. You have to take a test. People have to know that you know how to drive. You don’t have to do any of that with respect to buying a gun. And we talked about doing effective background checks. It was resisted because the notion was we were going to take your guns away.

I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I’ve got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.

So, sir, I just have to say respectfully that there is a way for us to have common-sense gun laws. There is a way for us to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners like yourself are able to use it for sporting, hunting, and protecting yourself. But the only way we’re going to do that is if we don’t have a situation in which anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the Second Amendment. And that’s how the issue too often gets framed…

And, for what it’s worth, Obama was absolutely right in what he said. If we ever want to see reform in this country, this is the way we’re going to get there. It just pisses me off that no one in power can tell the complete truth, which is that there’s no place in civilized society for weapons intended to kill one another, especially ones designed to take the lives of dozens of human beings in quick succession.

Yes, I understand that the Constitution says you have a right to be armed as part of a well-regulated militia, but… let’s be honest… the world we live in has changed quite a bit over the past 240-some years. We no longer live in a world where individuals armed with muskets can fight back physically against the government. That horse, as they say, has left the barn. And no matter how may AK47s you might have, you’re not going to fend off a government with surveillance drones, armored assault vehicles, and bombs designed to wipe out hardened subterranean bunkers. If you think I’m wrong, ask the folks in Waco.

I’m not saying that I’d like to eliminate every weapon in America. I just don’t see why it’s not even on the table as an option. It bothers me that it’s just taken for granted that no one in elected office can say, “What if we got rid of every assault rifle in America?” Again, I’m not saying that I’d necessarily suggest this course of action. It just bothers me that, when we’re assessing potential paths forward, it’s not even an option. It’s like if you were a 800-pound man, suffering from diabetes, and approaching certain death, and your doctor couldn’t even say, “Well, you might want to consider giving up pop,” because everyone knows you love the fuck out of your pop, and you’d start screaming your fucking ahead off if anyone even suggested that you cut down to a single six pack a day.

Again, I have no idea what the answer is… I just think that we should try to get beyond politics for a minute and put everything on the table, from arming every kindergartener, to melting down every gun ever made.

One more thing. If I’d written this yesterday, I likely would have mentioned that it had been reported that the killer, Omar Mateen, was a radical Muslim who once flew into a rage having seen two men kissing. Well, according to reports coming out today, Mateen’s feelings concerning homosexuality may have been a bit more complicated. The LA Times is reporting that the 29 year old Mateen was a user the gay chat and dating app Jack’d, and had spent time at this very Orlando LGBT nightclub prior to yesterday’s attack.

One wonders how many men are driven into fundamentalism because they live in cultures where they can’t be themselves. I don’t want to make excuses for Mateen, but it’s not difficult to see how a young gay man growing up in a fundamentalist household might be more inclined to gravitate toward jihad rather than face the reality that he’s gay.

OK, remember how I said that yesterday I didn’t have any new ideas? Well, that was yesterday… And now I’ve got two new thoughts on how we make this planet of ours a better place.

1. We radically change America. We institute a minimum income for everyone, we offer free healthcare, and we get the money out of politics, so that the government actually works for the people. All we ask in return is that you not be a douche, and give up your weapons. And, if you don’t like that, we pay for you to move to a new country that we’ve established in the former state of Texas, which has huge walls all the way around it, and operates under the libertarian principles of Ayn Rand.

2. We create a tropical paradise for anyone who feels like he or she needs to escape fundamentalism and be themselves, and we market the hell out of it globally. We make sure that everyone knows that all they need to do is call a toll-free number anywhere in the world, and we’ll whisk them away in the dead of night and give them an opportunity to start over again. And, yes, I know that all jihadists aren’t closeted gay men who would have jumped at a chance to live on a fabulous island away from their fundamentalist neighbors, but how cool would it be if we could deter 10% of jihadists just by turning GITMO into a giant, sunny “no judgment” zone where people could feel as though their best option on any given day isn’t mass murder to glorify a god they think hates them, but a peach daiquiri and a sunset dolphin watching tour?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Ideas, Other, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

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