TT with HD: The Boyds
[Ed. note: Several months ago a 'cold-call' letter arrived from the Boyds of Louisville, Colorado, exploring the possibility of a house-swap for sometime during the summer. While not in a position to take them up on the offer of a house-swap, HD figured these were folks who might enjoy a teeter totter ride, if they ever made it to Ann Arbor. And they did! HD was a little giddy with the excitement of the family-totter and neglected to get the recording equipment turned on at the start. What's missing from the beginning is the revelation that Louisville is pronounced /loo-iss-vill/. Also it's worth noting that when the Boyds stopped by to totter, they were on their way to talk to some neighbors the next street over about actually arranging a house-swap sometime in the future (as they've already made some rental arrangments for this year).]
JB: ... founded by Italians, but now it's a bedroom community to Boulder.
TB: You've got a perfect spiderweb, Dave, between these two trees!
JB: Oh, yeah!
TB: Yeah, there's a spider right smack in the middle. Isn't that perfect?
HD: Oh, wow, you don't see that often!
JB: No, it's never not rainy or windy enough for it to last.
TB: You never know what you can photograph in Dave's backyard: a urinal, a teeter totter, a spider, shoes in the tree. Do your shoes have a story? Are those the ones that you got to the top of K2 in or something?
HD: Oh, those are my Boy Scout hiking boots that I couldn't bear to throw away, but recognized that I needed to get out of my way. So I figured I'd make art out of them.
TB: Now, tell me more about Wireless Washtenaw!
HD: It's an initiative that's a collaboration between a lot of different entities, I think. The County, various City entities, the University, there's a lot of people involved, the private sector, too. The idea is to flood the entire county with wireless access that would be free.
TB: That's great.
HD: It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And if they pull it off, that would be fantastic.
TB: Well, there are several cities in the country that have done it.
JB: Several cities? I didn't know that.
HD: No, it's by no means a novel idea.
TB: Doesn't Boise, Idaho have it?
HD: They might, I don't know for sure.
JB: Is that your field, like computers and stuff?
HD: I guess if I were to have a field, I would say something computer-y.
TB: You do computer technology when you're not interviewing teeter totterers?
JB: Computer-y things.
HD: Yeah, right computer-y things. So Louisville is a bedroom community to ...
JB: ... Boulder. It's about 10 or 15 minutes outside of Boulder and about 20 minutes from Denver.
HD: Would it be fair to make the following analogy: Detroit is to Denver as Ann arbor is to Boulder, as Louisville is to Ypsilanti?
JB: Well, except for the last part, probably. It's not as big and it's not as close. It's totally separate, it's like a tiny little town, it's 15,000 ...
TB: ... Louisville is to Saline ...
JB: ... yeah, like Saline is to Ann Arbor, Louisville is to Boulder.
HD: In the community discourse here in Ann Arbor, Boulder has come up with some frequency recently, I don't know if you knew that. But basically in the context of a negative example, ...
TB: ... of open space?
HD: ... you've got this green belt, that has led to just ...
TB: ... high-priced housing.
HD: Yeah, just out-of-range housing for anybody but the ultra-wealthy inside that green ring?
JB: Yeah, that's why we live in Louisville, ...
TB: ... we can't afford Boulder.
JB: Well, we like Louisville now, but why people initially leave Boulder, too, is because nobody can afford it.
TB: But there's a lot of contracts now, one of their requirements now is that a certain percentage of what they build in Boulder has to be for lower income housing.
JB: Yeah, they are doing things, but this has happened in the last four or five years. But before that the prices were just astronomical. Louisville is about like Ann Arbor prices. I mean, the older homes are pretty expensive.
TB: I think it's more of a bitter-sweet example, because we do have the open space, which makes it a phenomenal place to live. But the downside of that is the high cost-of-living inside the city. But, I mean, you just can't match what they've done to preserve. They did a really smart thing back in the 50's or 60's--they call it the Blue Line--up along the flatirons and the foothills where no buildings can be built up above a certain altitude. So when you look up at the mountains, you don't see the lights from people's homes, so it's just pure ...
HD: ... so above the Blue Line you can't do any development?
JB: Plus, there are problems that have arisen from it, but at least maybe they can deal with those things. Whereas if they would have just let no-holds-barred building go, once you let that genie out of the bottle, you can't get that back.
TB: Have you been to Boulder?
HD: I've never been to Boulder.
JB: It's very beautiful, you know, beautiful people, beautiful ...
HD: ... just post-card beautiful?
JB: Right, right. And it's nice, but there's a lot of people who really don't like it because of that. I like living in Louisville, being near it.
TB: People in Denver call it 'The People's Republic of Boulder'.
HD: Oh yeah? That's interesting, so we've got that in common.
JB: It's very, very liberal.
HD: So this house-swap that you're negotiating this morning, is that basically a done deal, or are you actually going to have to make a real pitch?
TB: [laugh] They haven't even seen our house. Well, they've seen the picture.
JB: It's more like just for in the future. Because after we already arranged something for this year, they called us or emailed us and said they might be interested. We said, Oh, we'll meet you here!
TB: They said they spend a good part of every year in Colorado. I still don't know where they go in Colorado.
JB: But they're probably going to come by and see our place, because we'll be back there by the time they come.
TB: I don't know, it hasn't unfolded, yet, but it's my view that it's a better deal for us, because it's like we're getting Ann Arbor and they're getting Saline. Do you know what I mean, because we don't live in Boulder?
HD [to TB]: Did you grow up in the mid-west?
TB: I grew up in Boulder. He grew up in Ann Arbor.
HD: Because what you just said sounds a bit like the kind of thing you hear at a mid-western garage sale where the price is five dollars and somebody comes along and says, Well, I'll give you four, and the seller instead of saying, How about four-fifty? will say, Okay, I'll give it to you for three.
TB: Yeah, I'm not a very shrewd negotiator at garage sales. I'm giving things away for the most part.
JB: Well, you were born in Ohio, so maybe that explains it?
TB [to LB]: How many can you find, buddy?
JB: How about you, where did you grow up?
HD: I grew up in southern Indiana, near Bloomington.
TB: Have you been a cyclist most of your life?
HD: Yeah, I'd say since high school, I've been really interested in riding the bike. One of my regrets is that I didn't go to Indiana University as an undergrad so that I could participate in the Little 500 spectacle. Or at least watch it. I'm not sure I would have had the athletic talent to do that, because those guys are really amazing.
TB: A cricket? Where's a cricket, buddy?
JB: Boy that, what's his name, Floyd ...
HD: ... Floyd Landis.
JB: Man, what he did was incredible, wasn't it, coming back from that? My brother-in-law likes to bicycle and he was telling us about that stage: he's eight minutes down, there's no way he's ever going to win the stage.
HD: Yeah, no one gave him a chance, I was like, Okay, well, the Tour's over for this year.
JB: Yeah, it's incredible, just incredible.
HD: So you have an arrangement for this year? Is it an actual house-swap arrangement?
JB: No, we rented our house out to a woman from Chicago, and then we've rented a place from some law students up on Tappan Street, an apartment.
TB: We were a block from the Art Fair yesterday!
HD: So is the Art Fair something you try to make it back for?
TB: He's an artist.
HD: Oh really, okay. So did you have a booth?!
JB: No, not in this one this year. There's Cherry Creek [Arts Festival] just near us. That's another huge one, and then this one, so I'm going to try in the next couple of years. Since the kids came along I've been doing less. I'm an art teacher, too.
HD: What kind of medium do you work in?
JB: Chalk pastel, kind of really wild whimsical figures of people and animals.
TB: Look at Ell!
HD: Whoah, that would be cool to get a picture of, walking across the totter! Walk across again, Ellory! So the Art Fair, at least, gives people in Ann Arbor a chance once a year to have the standard discussion on, What is art? Is the stuff at the art fair ...
TB: ... really art?
HD: Yeah, do you want to weigh in on that question?
JB: Well, at yesterday's, if it is art, then it's all art that I've seen before! Actually my work is pretty promotional and illustrative, too. It's not what somebody would consider 'fine art'. But you know, sure it is. I think it is. It's all art. It was two or three years ago we went last, when I started to see some more fun, folk art, some more interesting sculpture and found-object stuff. Didn't see it this year. It was like all the same, like a hundred color photographers, of really beautiful places in China, which are really beautiful, but ...
TB: I don't think so, buddy, you can't go that far.
LB: I go this way?
TB: I don't know. Daddy, can you grab him?
JB: Not with Ellory here. How about you come back, I got you!
TB: You did it, buddy!
JB: You goofballs!
TB: It's the teeter totter wrestle!
HD: So what age folks do you teach art to?
TB: Climb down, you've got Daddy in a pickle!
JB: Wait for a second.
EB: I'm going back!
JB: You guys are bouncers, man. So yeah, Tiff's a teacher, we're both elementary teachers.
HD: My recollection of art in elementary school was: we had our classroom and then the art teacher would, every once in a while, wheel the art cart in and you would have some thing to make in the space of like 45 minutes. Is that still the standard template for art instruction nowadays?
JB: Um, no.
TB: He's the anti-thesis of all our bad memories of elementary art!
JB: I have my own room with two sinks, beautiful view of the mountains, ...
HD: ... now, you're just braggin!
JB: That's right, that's right. We do art history, we do all the major artists of the 20th Century. I do the Renaissance with them ...
HD: ... so when you say 'do' them ...?
JB: We do lessons on all that stuff.
HD: So they are actually making something?
JB: Oh yeah. Then at the end of the year, we do a show, where every inch of the school is covered in art. Like two to three thousand pieces of art work.
TB [to EB or LB]: It's a spider web! I think it's just leaves and stuff stuck in there.
HD: And this is the accumulation of everything they've done the entire year?
JB: Yeah, I keep everything in files so that they have it. They probably do maybe 10 major projects a year and they vary in all sorts of media. We do stuff that's--careful, buddy--clay, printmaking, drawing, painting. It's pretty varied. Kids are really talented, they can do some amazing things. That's why it's kind of fun for me in my own artwork to get inspired by them. My own artwork is really immature, too.
JB: So what brought you here to Ann Arbor?
HD: My wife's job. I was in grad school in Rochester, New York, and I had finished pretty much everything I needed to do there that would require me to be physically on the campus. Rochester was not--we didn't find it to be, I should say--a place we wanted to spend much more time. So we were looking to get out of there and so she went ahead an applied around to various places and got a job here in Ann Arbor.
JB: So you like it here?
HD: Oh yeah. We were able to decide fairly quickly that we wanted to make a go of it here, you know, until we died.
TB: How long have you guys lived here?
HD: We rented for the first year and a half two years, so I think we passed our eight-year anniversary this May in this house. And yeah, when we were able to get this house, we said, Alright we gotta figure out how to make this work until we just die here.
TB: And what did you go to grad school in?
HD: In linguistics. And now I'm kind of riding a teeter totter for a living, so that's a testament to linguistics as a field of study.
JB: So are you involved in politics here?
HD: I would not say, 'involved'. I've talked to some politicians on the teeter totter, but that's the extent of my involvement.
TB: Do you do some study of linguistic anthropology?
HD: Not really. My focus was theoretical phonology. And I find that that background is somewhat relevant to this, because transcribing a natural conversation verbatim taps some knowledge I might have accumulated. And I've got a decent ear.
TB [to JB]: Okay, I say that we switch and that you come to the sunny side.
HD: Are you starting to bake?
JB: Or maybe just standing? This thing is pretty ... you know, it's wood, it's hard!
HD: Yeah, there's a numbness factor that starts to creep in.
TB: Does that start affecting people's answers?
HD: Well, I tell you, it's a built in limiter on the length of the interview. Because if you have somebody just sitting across the desk from you in a room, some of these folks, I'm sure they could go on for five or six hours, which is great from the point of view of raw material. It's no trouble getting them to talk, but the teeter totter is a way of enforcing some length on the interview. So sometimes when I'll venture that my butt is getting sore, they'll immediately fess up that, oh yeah, theirs is sore, too.
TB: So you're purposely not installing any pads?
HD: Uh, I'm thinking for the second edition of the teeter totter, when it comes time to renovate, I might think of some accommodation.
TB: The interviews might get too long, though!
HD: Well, there's that. And also the I-Beam is just a regular 2 x 4 underneath it. And I thought that was over-engineering it. But I've seen some people on the teeter totter, who are by no means huge, and when I look at the board, I think that's got a bit more flex to it than I would have imagined. So I want to get like a steel I-Beam. There's a place in town where they'll do custom stuff like that, I think.
TB: Teeter Totters R Us?
HD: [laugh] Because I'd really like to be able to have a 300-pound lineman on, ...
TB: ... you'd like to or you have had?
HD: I'd like to. Right now, I can't call up Lloyd Carr and say, I need one of your linemen, because they would break the totter, I'm sure.
JB: What is this like a 2 x 10? You'd think it'd be enough, but when you add in the weight from both sides ...
HD: ... no, it's long enough that I think the leverage ... I thought honestly just the board would be enough, but I thought I'll go the extra mile with the reinforcement, and I'm really glad I did.
HD: I want to thank you for coming over to the teeter totter!
TB: You bet, thanks for having us!