Ann Arbor News column, March 17, 2001

Ann Arbor is much nicer than Louisville

Dear Joanne,

Hope you don’t mind the informality. You’re from New York City. I’m from New York City.
So we have a lot in common.

But we could have a lot more in common. Namely Ann Arbor.

Your husband, Rick Pitino, is contemplating a move to Louisville, Ky. He’s being wooed by a bunch of University VIPs and businessmen in fancy suits.

 But I know who holds the power in your family when it comes to settling down.

Couldn’t help noticing that your husband’s rejection of UNLV came shortly after you toured the strip and other Las Vegas wonders. And I remember how much you said you hated Kentucky, even though you’ve apparently determined that Louisville is OK. Now, Rick says he’ll make his decision this weekend after consulting with you and the kids.

Here’s my pitch.

You’ll love Tree Town.

Sure, it’s a little goofy in this burg of 110,000 – what with the City Council passing resolutions calling for the debts of Third World nations to be wiped out and folks occasionally doing massive Contra dances on Main Street. And don’t get me started about the Naked Mile.

But let’s be honest – Louisville? They’ve got baseball bats, cigarettes and horse tracks.

We’ve got bookstores, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Shakey Jake.

Ann Arbor is not just any college town.

You’re a mother of a 10-year-old and 8-year-old. Where would you want them to be a few years from now as teenagers: Hanging out at Churchill Downs? Or slamming some poetry at the Neutral Zone?


Are you a soccer mom yet? The kids could get their kicks playing in one of the country’s largest youth programs. And don’t worry about Ryan and Jaclyn getting teased in school. Your wandering husband, after all, has never been a Spartan or a Buckeye.

OK, so you miss the Big Apple. So do I sometimes. That’s when I go to Zingerman’s Delicatessen for a chopped liver sandwich, a half-sour pickle and some matzo ball soup. How about a slice of gooey pizza dripping with some authentic street-corner grease? Get your fix by strolling over to the appropriately named New York Pizza Depot.

Nostalgic for a little Big Apple rudeness? Try standing in the line at the main post office. And there’’s no better simulation of a crowded subway train than cramming into the Big House on a football Saturday.

I can’t imagine Louisville has one Ethiopian restaurant. We’ve go three.

A little bird told me that you’re fond of opera. The University Musical Society has brought Marilyn Horne, Renee Fleming and David Daniels to Ann Arbor in just the last few years. Ann Arbor also has Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, whose latest song cycle premiered Friday at the Library of Congress. And just a limousine ride away to Detroit is the Michigan Opera Theatre. You might have heard of some heavyset guys named the Three Tenors. They did a benefit for the MOT at Tiger Stadium two summers ago.

No Broadway theaters here. But you can find genuine celebrity Jeff Daniels and his Purple Rose Theatre in nearby Chelsea.

Other cultural opportunities? Let’s talk about the art fairs.

On second thought, let’s not.

According to various studies over the years, we’re the best place in the country to raise a family, be a woman and make money (Pretty important that last one, considering the truckloads of cash that U-M athletic director Bill Martin will probably deposit at your door).

You can buy a house with a huge lawn off Arlington Boulevard. Or some riverfront property in Barton Hills, where your neighbors will be nearly as rich as you are.

Come visit us here. Tom Monaghan might not be your guide, in the way that Papa John’s pizza magnate John Schnatter took your husband through Louisville. But I can probably hook you up with Ingrid Sheldon, an incredibly energetic lady who used to serve as mayor when she wasn’t marrying people in City Hall. She’ll tell you how to navigate all those crazy one-way streets near the Diag, when to go to free summer movies at Top of the Park and where to take your friends sledding in the winter time. (Veteran’s Memorial Park, if you can slog through the snow)

And she’ll be happy to tell you how wonderful your future home will be. Especially if your husband can turn Michigan’s basketball program around quicker than a 360-degree dunk.

Oh and by the way.

From nearby Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Northwest Airlines operates 38 nonstop flights a day to New York City.

See you soon,