I'm pleased to welcome Rick Bailey to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Rick, please tell us a little about yourself.
Rick: I grew up in Freeland, Michigan, on the banks of the Tittabawassee River. Small agricultural town, Midwestern values. I played little league, fished for carp in the river, delivered the Midland Daily News, got ringworm from the dog. In college I studied English language and literature. Once I was degreed, I moved to Detroit and taught writing for 38 years at Henry Ford College. Part of my teaching practice consisted of writing with my students, a work habit which eventually led to Tittabawassee Road, a blog largely made up of essays on family, food, travel, and current events and reading that jiggles memory.
A Midwesterner long married to an Italian immigrant, I’ve learned the language and food of Italy, traveled around the country. In the process, I have been (partly) made over–italianizato. In retirement my wife and I divide our time between Michigan and the Republic of San Marino.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your book.
Rick: My book, American English, Italian Chocolate, published by University of Nebraska Press, is a memoir in forty short essays. Forty shorties. It’s roughly organized in chronological order.
Why do some memories stick with us for so long? What do those memories have to do with who we are now and what’s going on in our lives? I didn’t really set out to write the story of my life in any linear way. I wanted to explore those memories and bring them back to life in narrative form. There’s an essay about donuts, ducks, horses, car crashes, outhouses, EKG’s, feet, frogs, levitation, wisdom teeth, and Nutella; traveling all night from Michigan to New Jersey to attend the funeral of a college friend dead of AIDS; climbing in flipflops across the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa; pausing in a trattoria in the hills above the Adriatic to reflect on Thoreau, Pythagoras, and beans.
Think David Sedaris, only Midwest not South, Italy not France.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Rick: Right now my wife and I are spending quite a bit time in Italy. On my blog I’m writing about eating in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It’s kind of an under-discovered region. Tuscany has hogged all the attention over the past few years, thanks to Under the Tuscan Sun. That’s a fun book about a great place--amazing history, good food, terrific wine--but it’s not the only great place in Italy. It would be fun to write a book about some great little towns in Emilia-Romagna, each with a restaurant that shows off the amazing local cuisine, to help people get to know the region and its riches. I’ve got a photographer friend in Rimini. We’re talking.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Rick: Bloomfield Township Library, Tuesday, July 11, 7:30-9:00. Book launch, signing, reading.
Horizon Books, Traverse City, MI, Saturday, July 22, 11-1. Book signing.
Horizon Books, Cadillac, MI, Saturday, July 22, 2-4. Book signing.
Franklin Farmhouse, Franklin, MI, Sunday, July 23. Reading.
Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Saturday, August 5, 2-4. Book signing and reading.
McLean and Eakins, Petoskey, MI. Friday, August 11, 2-4. Book signing.
Bookmamas, Indianapolis, IN. Friday, September 8, 5:30-7:30. Book signing and reading.
Three Sisters Books and Gifts, Shelbyville, IN. Saturday, September 9, 11-1. Book signing and reading.
Wild Geese Bookshop, Franklin, IN. Saturday, September 9, 2-4. Booking signing and reading.
Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI., Sept 29, 7:00 p.m. Reading.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Rick: I’ll tell you the bookstores I miss. Metro Books at Bloomfield Plaza and the amazing Barnes and Noble across from it on Telegraph Road that closed a few years ago. And the BN and Borders on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield. And the Borders on Southfield and 13 Mile. And down in Dearborn the Borders and the Little Professor. I still go to the 13 Mile store, now called Books-A-million. The Bloomfield Township Library is an oasis, everything I would want a library to be.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Rick: I never get tired of the views at Sleeping Bear Dunes. At the edge of the dunes, with Lake Michigan in front of you, look to the north--unspoiled coastline; look the the south--same. Public policy, so frequently benighted, got things right in this beautiful spot.
The river runs through you when you grow up living on one. The old bridge is gone now, with the catwalk we rode our bikes across, the metal railing we froze our tongues to in winters is no longer there, but the Tittabawassee River lives in my memory, and I never miss a chance to look north and south from the new and improved and altogether soul-less bridge whenever I’m in Freeland.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Rick: Summer and fall means Eastern Market in Detroit. I can’t think of a place where there is more diversity and more joy and hope. I’m always happy to be a Detroiter when I’m there.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Rick: Mark Adler, a creative director at Doner Advertising, is currently acting up to address wage differentials in men and women working in that industry. He’s won a Clio and been shortlisted twice at the Cannes Lions Festival. Andrew Laurich, a Michigander transplanted in LA, where he heads up ContagiousLA, recently won an award for his short film “A Reasonable Request.” His new short film is “A Study in Tyranny.” Stephanie Levy will start post-doc work at Yale this fall, fresh from her PhD in biological anthropology at Northwestern. She’s one of my favorite Michiganders. Her area of expertise: brown adipose tissue activity and metabolic disease risk. Ken and Geraldine Grunow, people of conscience who quietly put their values to work in social activism, have run the Detroit chapter of Amnesty International for 20 years.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Rick: The green. A few years ago we had family and friends from Italy over for lunch on the back porch. It was August. It was hot. All the Italians said, I just can’t believe how green it is. Our kids and our friends’ kids move out of state and then move back. Or don’t move back. They come to visit. Anyone who’s been out of state remarks, upon return, that the green in Michigan is beyond belief.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Rick: See above (in the Eastern Market answer).
Debbie: Rick, we'll add you to the Detroiter column! Thanks so much for joining us today!