On the Road, Days 2 & 3 -- Ann Arbor, Chicago, and ?

It snowed on the drive from Pittsburgh to Ann Arbor, a town that is exceptionally difficult to navigate. Take a look at Google Maps if you don’t believe me. The streets wind around, appear in different places, and change names without warning. Huron! Geddes! These names appear so often as to disorient even the confident driver, who feels as though he must be cruising around in circles, those he isn’t.

Our hosts were lovely people — a doctor and his wife, their kids all grown up and moved out of the house. He is a new Alan Jacobs fan thanks to being shown the Text Patterns post on readability. She is a reluctant Facebook member, a conversationalist, and a loyal Ann Arbor News reader. She laments the paper’s impending demise, especially the loss of a letters page that serves as a community forum. I’ll have more to say on that subject — and on interviews that I conducted with Ann Arbor News staffers and the owner of a start-up news venture in that town — in an upcoming piece for a lucky publication that doesn’t yet know they’re going to buy it from me.

Our host also noted in passing that the local synagogue is beset by anti-Israel protestors every Saturday. Is this a common phenomenon in America or peculiar to Ann Arbor? Either way, I sure hope it ends.

Another question: is any state as zealous about patrolling its highways as Michigan? I counted 9 unmarked patrol cars, 11 tickets, and a few other marked cars besides on the drive from Ann Arbor to ABCDEFGHI-stopped-keeping-track-at Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo.

Onward to Chicago, untouched by the law. My friend J. is an attorney for a big firm there. She is the rare member of her profession who appreciates how absurd it is that newly minted law school graduates are paid upwards of $150,000 per year. It’s astonishing how many proceed to spend lavishly, postpone taking care of their student debt, and earnestly lament the utter impossibility of doing the kind of law they’d do — that they really yearn to do — if only one could survive on a mere $70,000 or $80,000 per year. The happiest lawyer I know, a New Yorker who represents low income clients in housing court, makes even less. I suspect when J. shifts into her chosen field, a plan already in the works, she’ll become the second fulfilled young lawyer I know.

Of course, I may be biased since J. also happens to be the fantastical dream of every old media editor: a young professional who prefers her content on paper, who subscribes to a newspaper and several exceptional magazines, and who regularly patronizes the Web advertisers of her favorite publications as an intentional gambit to prop up Internet ad rates! And her fiance is an actual magazine subscriber too!! We ate Indian food, stuck around talking later than we should have, drove out of town sometime after midnight, and pulled off the Interstate a couple hours later at a Comfort Inn located in a town whose name I cannot remember. They offered free Wi-Fi, like every budget motel these days, and unlike every luxury hotel. When higher-end accommodations cease their $12.95 per-night access fees I’ll know that corporate America is really changing.