Friday was our rescheduled day to meet bunny_hugger's parents and go to the Ann Arbor Arts Fair. And with the day proving a little bit cooler than Thursday this was a pretty good plan on our parts.
We had to get up with what for us passed as early, but we met up at the rendezvous point --- the parking lot for the Outback Steakhouse her parents wanted to eat at later --- just about on time. I'd brought a box of salt water taffy, not from Seaside Heights but rather from the Silverball Museum, or at least that's where I bought it. The label suggests but does not state that it's made in Brick. Still, I thought candy would be a nice thing to bring, and while I fumbled the question of whether it was for bunny_hugger or for her parents, we brought it, and shared it among everyone, and it was very welcome. There may be a marketing opportunity in bringing salt water taffy to the mid-continent, if there were some method of reliably traversing the Appalachian Mountains, which there is not.
bunny_hugger tried to warn me that the Ann Arbor Arts Fair, despite its size and growth over the past half-century, might not live up to the street arts fairs New York City could put on. But the fact of it is the only New York City fairs I've wandered into were pretty much ones I found by accident when I was in the city for some other reason. I'd wandered through more in Singapore, but confess I looked through those mostly for the fried foods they offered and to wonder at why there were quite so many inflatable ``Grey'' space aliens for sale. I never found out.
I'm not perfectly clear on the history but apparently the Arts Fair reached that point where it started attracting so many people that they budded off a second arts fair for the same weekend, which encouraged more people to come, so they had to bud off a third fair for the same time, and then another, and so on, until now it's reached the point of over twenty juried and 38 unjuried arts fairs, plus another four or five streets full of exhibitions that just kind of appear and can't be explained.
It's a varied bunch of things to look at: jewelry, carvings, ceramics, paintings (a lot of paintings), photographs, in booth after booth and street after street. There are divisions between the multiple fairs, basically along geographic boundaries, although they're not particularly obvious to the casual walker.
Almost right away we found something of interest to bunny_hugger: a stand selling sea glass, jewelry made of shards of junk glass which were tumbled by sea and sand into art. The attendants, according to their biographies, were actors who started out doing sea glass jewelry just as a sideline on vacations, and found the hobby consuming more time and producing more revenue and now they've joined that class of nomads who travel the world from fair to fair. Though bunny_hugger saw several quite pretty items, she didn't think it wise to buy something right away at the first booth we saw, and we left with a note to most likely come back.
We paused for lunch at a Thai booth near the University of Michigan campus (in fact, what was either the student union or a former student union), and just in time since I got something in my eye. I don't know what, but I was seized with the urgent need to keep on blinking, and my eye turned into a swollen, brilliantly red object which passers-by mistook for a stop sign. bunny_hugger offered her eye drops, which might have worked if I had any ability to use eye droppers, and I just had to go into the bathroom and soak my eye in water a few times until it recovered. I never did figure out what got into it.
One of the minor goals bunny_hugger and I had was to find something which might be a suitable birthday present for skylerbunny. There were a lot of attractive things, and with his recently setting up his own apartment it should certainly seem like he could use something, but just what? That's the hard part. Stuff to put on the walls or stuff that might be used in the kitchens seemed like good candidates but we kept not quite finding something that really said him ... and that's when the rain got going.
There were thunderstorms threatened as possibilities for the day, as to be expected for hot and muggy days, and we'd accepted that risk. The rumor going through the crowd was that it was to last only about a half-hour or so, but where to wait that out? Here we noticed that we were close to one of Ann Arbor's local landmarks, one that bunny_hugger's parents were eager I should see while I could: Borders Number Zero, the (more or less) home of the doomed bookstore chain. [ The location is not the original Borders store, and is a renovation of the defunct Jacobson's department store. ] I had missed the store when last bunny_hugger and I visited, and by any reasonable next visit of mine Borders would be wholly gone. With the rain outside this would be the best chance to duck inside, stay dry, and maybe get a souvenir purchase.
Everyone in Ann Arbor had the same idea. So as the store groaned under the depressing presence of EVERYTHING MUST GO signs, a mob of over 250,000 visitors squeezed in and produced a checkout line of Christmas-season proportions. In looking around we found some things that might be interesting, but nothing worth going through that line for. So my almost certainly final Borders buying experience was one of browsing, briefly.
We did, after the storm, find things to send skylerbunny which felt right and which he might use. And, better, things we could send in the mail with reasonable confidence in their safe arrival, if we packaged them well enough. More on what those are anon.
bunny_hugger wore her ``Squirrels For Sanity'' T-shirt, an offshoot of the Rally To Restore Sanity which we attended back in October. Every time she wears this, she says, she gets asked about what it means, and she has to consider whether she wants to explain it all that often. This day, she got asked about it six times, although there was a curious peak of queries before noon and another in the last couple hours, with nothing in the middle of the day, to the point we noticed nobody had asked in a while. The first question, it probably wouldn't surprise you, was from a woman soliciting signatures for a recall of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and for a referendum against the ``emergency management'' law under which municipalities insufficiently enslaved to corporate overlords can have their government stripped from power; I'd have been glad to sign too but, alas, they didn't have anything for those hoping to restore responsible government to New Jersey.
Since the Arts Fair is more or less around the university campus we to walk through the Diag and soak in that wonderful campus atmosphere that's somehow unique to each school yet universal. (Actually, there were patches which made me think of the National Mall.) My favorite was noting how somebody had scattered undergraduates all over the lawn, in-between the squirrels. We also ducked into one of the engineering buildings in the vain hope of finding air conditioning, and the better hope of finding bathrooms (although if there were women's rooms there, they were well-hidden).
We walked a lot. bunny_hugger's father estimated that we saw about 95 percent of the booths, which when you consider there were aleph-nought booths, is quite a bit of walking. We did manage to look at just about everything and were delighted very often, but we did come to feel that we should wrap things up, find the car again if we could, and go to dinner, particularly so her parents could get home in time to care for their dogs. The most important thing we had to do was find the sea glass vendor so bunny_hugger could pick up something to complement her already formidable beauty.
Of course we could't find it. We found the car, and were pretty sure we knew just where we had started, and the booth just wasn't there. bunny_hugger's father thought he remembered the booth number (I'm going to say it was B656, but it doesn't matter), but we weren't finding 656 and weren't doing well on 'B' either. We found an information booth and using the card with their names on it were able to find in the index that ... there wasn't anybody by that name at the Fair. We tried other sections of the index, and the other name attached to the booth, and found it was indeed B656. You've probably had days like this too.
But with the help of the booth number and maps we got guidance to about where the booth should be, and found it! The vendors were happy to see that after promising to ``come back later'' we really had, although Ann Arbor is apparently the sort of fair where when people say they'll come back later they actually do. bunny_hugger found several lovely pieces, and learned that some sea glass has actually been harvested from the shores of the Great Lakes. This neatly blends her enthusiasm for attractive things and for local pride.
Despite bunny_hugger's father's belief he could back out of the church yard used (with their permission and a modest payment) as a parking lot, we got out of the church yard used as a parking lot, and returned to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner. Also despite eating at the Outback Steakhouse we found tolerably vegetarian options, although I'd be misleading if I didn't admit a major part of this vegetarian meal was a blooming onion.
To close the day together I fumbled the question of whether the salt water taffy was for bunny_hugger or her parents, and if I'd been thinking straight I'd have got two boxes to start with. We divided the remaining taffy, and I know bunny_hugger and I were nibbling on it through to Sunday at least. I don't know how long her parents spent eating it.
Trivia: Front-wheel steering on the Apollo 15 Lunar Rover did not work; David Scott had to ster using only the rear wheel. Source: A Man On The Moon, Andrew Chaikin.
Currently Reading: The Seed, Dan Thomas.