086:365 The BIG Smokestack

086:365 The BIG Smokestack

When I was in pre-school, a time most people probably don’t remember, there are few things I remember. One of them was that I loved when the carpool/volunteer-for-the-day-at-the-co-op-nursery would drive by the BIG smokestack instead of going through campus.

It used to be that the bottom of the smokestack for the U-M physical plant used to be exposed. It produces hot-water, some electricity, and heat for the university to keep it somewhat isolated from the “grid” and whatever else a “Physical Plant” for a university should do. The details are fuzzy.

Today we went around to various places in Ann Arbor to take pictures of various improvements and disimprovements before the trees get leaves. We could see a wider swath of downtown from the park at the top of Sunset, and we took some pictures to share with our out-of-town acquaintances who remember the A2 of my childhood at newest, but don’t know how many more buildings have taken root on the skyline.

The BIG smokestack was the one sign that Ann Arbor was a big city when I was a kid. I remember walking there past the Power Center (where I scraped my knees) to see the base of the smokestack. We could actually walk up and touch it. Though it was a little too far for my 4 year-old self, and I remember after the time I scraped my knees, we didn’t do it again. It has been covered for a long time, but now, instead of a simple shanty at its base, there is an enormous building, and they built a commons.

So much has changed that sometimes, perhaps because of my long absences from Ann Arbor, I can’t remember what was where the Taubman Biomedical Chemistry Building, or the Potato-Chip in townie speak, is. It was nothing that fancy, though there was a building there.

Change can be good, and I think that much of the space in downtown and on campus is being used to a much livelier degree. Ann Arbor feels alive now. Maybe it always did, and I’ve finally been away long enough to feel like it is a great place.

On a day like today, which Angelinos would take in full winter get-ups, Ann Arborites were running in short-shorts. There is something to be said for seasons. The human body can take hot and cold. Change is good. Spring is here!

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