What should we do on a lovely autumn evening after dinner? This question often leads us to interesting encounters at the Diag. Students are always out recruiting participation in various causes with tables and chalk and amplified speakers. Although we see ourselves as outsiders, we feel welcome. Choosing a seat on an empty stone bench, we watch the stories unfold in front of us like movies on a very wide screen. Two anecdotes are worth sharing.
One evening we encountered a peaceful protest, and we happened to sit between two students who were similarly intrigued. On my right was a young man from China, and on Norm’s left was a young man from Pakistan. They sought a relaxed conversation, in English, with Americans who were not part of the University. Although we engaged in separate conversations, neither of us talked about politics or academics. We encouraged them to grab every opportunity during their time in Ann Arbor. Eventually, we left the Diag and walked home, feeling good about our casual conversations.
On another evening, we walked over to the Diag to see who and what were on display. We stopped at a table promoting the Michigan and State theaters, curious about why they were there. The volunteers hoped to engage with students and encourage attendance at our beloved historic theaters. They even offered free popcorn. What caught my eye, though, was their t-shirts. I loved the new design with both theaters rendered architecturally and advertising features “coming soon” to both theaters. I took their picture, and asked how I could get one of these t-shirts. It would take a special request, but they said I could pick one up at the member service counter inside the Michigan Theater. Later I posted this photo on Facebook.
The story continues. I posted the Diag photo on Facebook to share the encounter. I am “friends” with Zach Evans, son of David Evans, my former partner and founder of Quinn Evans Architects, who was instrumental in restoring the Michigan Theater almost 40 years ago. Zach had grown up in Ann Arbor and he knew this theater intimately. He graduated from the UM Film Department and has pursued a film career in Los Angeles. Zach never lost contact with the theater, and unbeknownst to me, he had accumulated a vast collection of Michigan Theater memorabilia. My photo on Facebook resulted in an inquiry about this newest item that he coveted for his collection. Tout suite, the Michigan Theater staff popped one in the mail to Zach.
When I wear my t-shirt, I savor my memories about the Michigan and State theaters. I associate it with yet another serendipitous experience on the Diag, and hope for many more such experiences in the future.