Stories indexed with the term ‘memoirs’

Book Fare: “Builder’s Apprentice”

Book cover for "Builder's Apprentice," published by Huron River Press.

It is both a luxury and a curse of modern life to be doing “all the right things” while fearing you’ve missed something vital along that road not taken. Andy Hoffman, a University of Michigan professor and author of “Builder’s Apprentice,” confronted that suspicion in the mid-1980s while mulling grad school offers from Harvard and Berkeley.

As he prepared to graduate with a bachelor’s degree (“grades thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen”) in chemical engineering, Hoffman writes, he “fumbled” through interviews with prospective employers: “I had assumed that recruiters would tell me what I was supposed to do for them. … I would be guided on to the next step in life.” He took a job with the Environmental Protection Agency, “generating paperwork” for two years, and assumed that the next step – and the cure for his aimlessness – would be graduate school in public policy.

But what he really wanted to do was build houses. [Full Story]

Column: Book Fare

Cover for Margaret Fuchs Singer's memoir.

When a member of my book group recommended Margaret Fuchs Singer’s recently published “Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning,” I assumed the longtime Ann Arbor resident’s contribution to the literature of America’s red-diaper babies would be another account of growing up with a parent who joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, became disillusioned but still refused to inform on former comrades – and suffered for it.

I got it wrong.

Singer’s father, Herbert Fuchs, cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee. He informed. He named names. He told the whole truth – about a profound commitment and a profound mistake – and suffered for it.

His family, of course, suffered for it, too. [Full Story]

Column: Remembering the Del Rio Bar

This snapshot of Del Rio's staff was taken in the early '70s. Ernie Harburg is in the back row, far right, wearing glasses: Ernie Harburg. Back row, middle, in red shirt: Torry Harburg.  Front row, far right: Sara Moulton. Just behind Sara, with moustache and glasses, is Rick Burgess.

This snapshot of Del Rio's staff was taken in the early '70s. Co-owner Ernie Harburg is in the back row, far right, wearing glasses. His wife, Torry Harburg, is in the middle of the back row, wearing a red shirt. In the front row, far right, is chef Sara Moulton. Just behind her, with a moustache and glasses, is co-owner Rick Burgess. (Photo courtesy of Larry Behnke.)

Some time in the mid-1970s, waiter Larry Behnke pinned a large sheet of paper to the bulletin board that hung in the kitchen of the Del Rio Bar. Behnke, also an artist, had written at the top in bold, psychedelic lettering: “What the Del Rio Means to Me.”

After a few days the sheet was filled with responses, ranging from the thoughtful to the droll to the pitiable – with some that were just plain wacky.

“A nice corner bar that suffers from delusions of grandeur.”

“A place where you get paid to have fun, where you can be crazy without being committed, and where customers and employees are more important than money.”

“It’s my substitute home where people are nice to me.”

“The Del Rio means a million things to me, which I refuse to limit to the narrowness of words and the confines of space.”

“The Del Rio is benevolent despotism.”

Probably a majority of Ann Arborites never walked through the door of the funky old saloon that used to sit at the northeast corner of Ashley and Washington. But for plenty of those who did, the Del Rio was more than just a bar. It was a state of mind, a way of life, a second home – a tiny world unto itself. [Full Story]