Outside Hatcher Library, a guy decked out completely in black and dark gray – from his patent leather dress shoes, to his overcoat, to his fedora, to a black knit face covering – stood silently, paging every once in a while through a USA Today newspaper. It was the day after Black Friday, and The Chronicle was beginning an afternoon walk from the UM Diag westward along the Liberty Street corridor.
Outdoor performance was the common thread of the walk. The theme started with that apparent performance art piece, continued to a standard bell-ringing number at a Salvation Army kettle, was punctuated by the “Michael Jackson guy” in the alley adjacent to the Michigan Theater, and finished with news of an appearance next Saturday at Downtown Home & Garden by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The apparent performance art outside Hatcher Library was interrupted first by what appeared to be a tourist couple, who used him the way tourist couples use the Eiffel Tower – as a photographic backdrop. She sidled up right next to the newspaper reader for the shot. That seemed to embolden Angeline Hazime to approach him as well. She was recruiting walkers and collecting signatures of support for the Take the Walk campaign, which is an AIDS fundraiser sponsored nationally by the band The Hansons.
She reported the result of her interaction with the newspaper reader: he’s not Taylor Hanson; it’s not an experiment; he’s not a mime. But he was cold, and disappeared inside Hatcher.
Across from the Diag in front of Nickels Arcade, we watched a bell ringer for a good 15 minutes worth of uninterrupted bell ringing. But Melissa Cole, of Manchester, did pause the bell for a quick chat with The Chronicle.
She said she’d started at 11:30 that morning and was scheduled until 8 p.m. So she was almost halfway through with her bell-ringing day. This is her first year as a bell ringer for Salvation Army after responding to an ad she saw in The Ann Arbor News, and she’ll be ringing every day except Sundays through Dec. 25.
She conceded that the first night after a day of ringing, she heard the bell in her head as she went to sleep, but she’s used to it now.
Cole said that in her experience so far, mall and grocery store locations generate the most donations, but folks outside Nickels were being generous. People who had the means were being extra generous this year, she guessed, because they knew that there were a lot of people out there who needed help.
Around the corner and down the street a bit, the echoes of Billie Jean meant that The Chronicle was in for a treat from Brian Woolridge, who many readers will recognize more easily as “the Michael Jackson guy.”
He was set up in his customary location in the alley adjacent to the Michigan Theater, dancing to Jackson tunes from his boom box.
During a break, he said that he’d lost his job at the end of September and was applying for positions in grocery retail, but that things looked pretty grim on the hiring front. He said he’d try to come back tomorrow (Sunday, Nov. 30), but wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it.
Don’t count on him deviating from Michael Jackson’s body of work just for the holidays. But on reflection, Woolridge said he might pop a Jackson Five Christmas CD in the box.
On the way out of downtown, we spotted Christmas trees for sale at Downtown Home & Garden, which we took as a sign that Mark Hodesh was winning the war against the sparrows.
Hodesh wasn’t around but Charlie Slick was, and he gave us a heads up that he’d be playing Santa Claus from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the store on Dec. 6. Asked if he’d ever played Santa Claus before, he conceded that he hadn’t, but assured us he was a natural performer. And perhaps more importantly, he said, “I love Christmas!!”