Lucy Ament

Lucy Ament
Grosse Pointe South choir alum
Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Tottered on: 16 November 2007
Temperature: 36 F
Ceiling: overcast
Ground: recently raked
Wind: WNW at 10 mph

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TT with HD: Lucy Ament

HD: Welcome to the teeter totter!

LA: Thank you! I'm going to put my hat on.

HD: Okay. Alright, now, let's actually get some teeter tottering motion--is this going to work for you?

LA: Yeah! I'm going to just toss these [sunglasses] there. I saw a picture of Lindsay Lohan in a magazine wearing my exact same sunglasses.

HD: Really? What kind are they?

LA: They're Gucci, I think. There is this fabulous store in Washington D.C. called Filene's Basement, kind of like Loehmann's--do they have that here?

HD: Loehmann's?

LA: It's like of very, very upscale T.J. Max, so everything is discount, probably flawed but you can find fabulous clothes there. I used to work on K Street, the power corridor, in Washington D.C. right on Connecticut, and invariably every day at lunch I would walk the two blocks to Filene's Basement, do a complete circuit, and then come back to work. I honestly think I may have gone there every day for five years, but those were like 8 dollars! Which makes me wonder if they really were Gucci, but I like to think they were. But if Lindsay Lohan wore them, then maybe bad things come to those who were that particular ...

HD: ... yeah well, if they only cost 8 dollars.

LA: I bought three of them.

HD: Oh!

LA: I bought three pairs. I wore one pair for three years, and slammed it accidentally in the door of my dry cleaners, and it cracked. When I got the second pair out, I actually felt anxiety, thinking that I only had two more of these until I never had them again. So this is the second one, I've got one more. I'm crossing my fingers that nothing happens to them. [laugh]

HD: [laugh] Did you have any trouble getting here?

LA: No. Other than--as I called, the construction on [I-]94, which I knew was going to be there. Thank god it wasn't down to one lane, which I think they do sometimes on the weekends.

HD: What exactly are they doing? Is this regular maintenance?

LA: It can't be regular maintenance, it's got to be something pretty ambitious. Because [I-]94 is literally down to one lane on the weekend sometimes. In fact, a couple of weekends ago, I went for a class assignment to the Pioneer Building, which is a building in Detroit. It's an old factory that's been turned into artists' studios. And I went for an open house--all of the artists were letting people into their work spaces.

HD: Oh, wait, is this the guy who has the space that Norman Rockwell signed?

LA: No. That's the Scarab Club. This is just an old factory building that's been converted into these huge studios for artists. So it was just a mad-house. I mean, all the artists opened up their spaces. But I bring this up, because the traffic was so bad on [I-]94 that day--it was all one lane--that I literally got off, took back roads to the Pioneer Building, and saw portions of Detroit that I had always heard about but had never seen.

HD: Like what, for example?

LA: Oh, if a brown field is an abandoned industrial space, I don't know what you call an abandoned urban space. I mean, it was just miles upon miles of nothing, just utter wasteland. It was really heartbreaking. And then you would drive through these little pockets of life, of just a really beautiful building, or office space, then again nothing. And it was very creepy, it was almost like being in some kind of like post-nuclear holocaust world--where you were the only person alive for miles and miles and miles. It was really strange. I grew up in Grosse Pointe, left the city at 18, and didn't ever live in Detroit until this February when I moved back. So I really feel like I'm discovering Detroit for the first time, like I don't even know Detroit.

HD: So, growing up in Grosse Pointe, did you have occasion to come into Ann Arbor on any kind of the regular basis?

LA: We would come occasionally. My father was the Chair of the Greek and Latin department at Wayne State University for years and years and years. And he would occasionally use the resources at U of M--the library or something--and I would come along with him. The first Borders bookstore, I think, was in Ann Arbor. And my father loved that. So I remember, when I was young, coming into Ann Arbor. I'm 31, so I don't know how long ago that first Borders opened up. But I do remember it as a girl. My father loved it, it was like a Mecca for us, it was like, Oh, we're going to Borders! Everyone, get in the car, we're going to Ann Arbor! But I don't remember much about Ann Arbor.

HD: So, today besides riding the teeter totter, you are going to make a day's outing out of it in Ann Arbor?

LA: I think I will. I told you I got here early, earlier this morning than I thought I would get here, and I didn't want to bother you, so I just went down to--is it Main Street? What is it, where there's like ... ?

HD: ... the north-south street that you came in on? That's Main Street.

LA: Yeah, yeah, yeah! That's it! I love Main Street. So, I just went and got some coffee. I'm just going to go and explore that area, because that looks really neat.

HD: So, where did you park?

LA: I always find parking space. I was driving down Main Street, and I said, that's the coffee house I want to go into, there will be a parking space, and lo-and-behold there was!

HD: Right out in front of it??

LA: Just about 25 feet to to the side.

HD: So which coffee house was it? Espresso Royale, I think is along there.

LA: No, I think it was--maybe it was! The inside of it is very, very narrow, and there's the refrigerator glass windows. You walk in and there's the coffee bar and all their food and sandwiches, and then it goes back into a larger, ...

HD: ... sounds like it could be Espresso Royale.

LA: It might be that. Or something like 'Cafe Latte'? I don't know. But it was good.

HD: At any rate, you didn't have any trouble finding a parking space, right there on the street?!

LA: I believe in the power of attraction! I really do. You know, all this New Age thinking that and they are talking about? I'm very conservative in some ways, devout Roman Catholic--is that Mary? Maybe not.

HD: Oh, the statue? Yeah, there's a back story to that ...

LA: ... Our Lady of Hibiscus? ...

HD: ... that doesn't involve Roman Catholicism!

LA: But at any rate, I think that New Age thinking is compatible with anything you believe. It's just about the notion that you can attract really anything into your life, just by focusing on it. So one of the things that I have started doing is just assuming that there will be in a parking spot wherever I go.

HD: But see, as a general strategy, I'm trying to think if you pitch this idea to the Downtown Development Authority, which is in charge of parking downtown, and if you said, Well, you know, we just need a public education campaign to get people to think positively about finding up parking space ...

LA: ... you know, it's funny, I pitched myself to them as a consultant, and they weren't interested.

HD: No? I am not surprised, somehow.

LA: Can you believe that?! I know, I was like, look what you are turning away!

HD: So, you came into Ann Arbor from the exit of--is that M-14?

LA: I took M-14 in.

HD: So, you get on Main Street, if you think back to just like an hour ago as you were driving down Main Street, is there any place in particular that you could point to, where you thought, Okay, now I know I am really in Ann Arbor?

LA: Yeah. Yes.

HD: Where would that have been?

LA: It was probably like two or three streets before West Washington. In fact, when I first drove in, I knew it couldn't be downtown Ann Arbor, because I know Ann Arbor is a college town with tons of stuff to do. But I was almost like, God, is this going to be Main Street?! Like, Am I going to have to get a cup of coffee at a gas station while I wait? But then I remember feeling like the downtown area blossomed very fast. It wasn't like there was a gradual increase in the number of nice buildings. It was just like Boom! All of a sudden, like in Pleasantville when everything goes from black-and-white to color?

HD: Pleasantville?

LA: It's a movie. It's got Reese Witherspoon, and it takes place in the 1950's. These two kids go back through their television in time, and they're all jaded, and they're from modern-day, and they're bratty, spoiled, promiscuous kids. Reese Witherspoon is a particularly vampish character.

HD: This must have been one of her early movies?

LA: It might have been. But the whole film is shot in black-and-white, and then as these young kids enter the lives of the kids they meet in the past, and they kind of scandalize them and they open up their horizons, the color starts to come into the film. And I always think about that. Like when you go from Detroit into Grosse Pointe, it's like you hit Alter [Road], and it's like Pleasantville--the world goes from black-and-white to color.

HD: And you said, you hit 'alter'??

LA: When you're driving from Detroit, and you pass Alter into Grosse Pointe.

HD: Alter is a place name?

LA: Alter is a street name.

HD: Oh, okay.

LA: It's the last street in Detroit, before you hit Grosse Pointe. And you hit these great islands full of grass and flowers. It's like the world has gone from black-and-white to color, right as you cross the street.

HD: Well, you know, speaking of movies, the only thing I know about Grosse Pointe, I've learned from the John Cusak movie, Grosse Pointe Blank.

LA: Which, I think, 98 percent of it was filmed on a sound studio in L.A.

HD: Right, right, right. I think maybe the opening sequence may have been shot on location?

LA: I know the closing one was. I think there is a scene where he is driving along the lake and it's like an aerial view. That was filmed in Grosse Pointe. They actually wanted to film the big hit man scene in my high school. But when the high school found out what exactly was going to be taking place in that section of the film, they declined.

HD: Really?!

LA: Mmm hmm.

HD: Now, that seems like a shame. I'm trying to think, this is the scene where John Cusak stabs the guy in the neck with a ballpoint pen?

LA: It's been a while. I'm going to take your word for it. [laugh]

HD: Yeah, I think it was some guy he met at the high school reunion, and he was passing out these promotional ballpoint pens, and later he used that exact same pen to stab some other guy in the neck.

LA: [laugh] They kind of took that thread, and did a good job with it.

HD: So right now you are helping to organize, or maybe you are even the main organizer of a reunion of sorts? For the choir?

LA: Yes! For the last twenty years, Grosse Pointe South High School's choir has been directed by a woman named Ellen Bowen. Ellen Bowen has been in the news in the last year or two because she was involved in a road rage incident with a former student, a South student. Was charged with assault, and found guilty.

HD: The student or the choir director?

LA: The choir director.

HD: Huh.

LA: So the choir director was involved in a road rage incident with a student, the student ...

HD: ... pressed charges ...

LA: ... pressed charges for assault, there was a trial, and Ellen Bowen was found guilty.

HD: So, this is the same woman who directed your choir when you were there?

LA: For twenty years.

HD: Well-liked, and well-loved, I assume?

LA: She is adored by some, and reviled by others. She is an extremely controversial figure within the Grosse Pointe community. There has been an extremely robust choir program under her direction.

HD: I got that sense, just from the fact that there is a reunion being organized for just the choir.

LA: Yes. The choir has been has gotten increasing attention nation-wide for its show choir performances--they have a professional choreographer come in every year to do the concerts and musicals. It's just a very, very robust program with a lot of support from the community. There is a huge booster organization that does a lot of fund-raising for them.

HD: So, it's fair to say that the Grosse Pointe community takes a lot of pride in the choir as a community--people will point to that and say, Hey, we've got this choir, man.

LA: There's no question. But there are many who say, At what price? We have a thriving choir program, but a figure who is leading the choir program who is kind of a lightning rod--and who many people say is the best thing that has ever happened to the students, and who other people say has caused a lot of the emotional distress for students, ...

HD: ... is she going to be there at the reunion?

LA: She will be, and in fact, the only reason I bring up Ellen is because what this reunion is going to do is celebrate the last twenty years of the Grosse Pointe South choir program. Now, those are the twenty years that she has led the program.

HD: So, in a way, it's very much like a celebration of her legacy?

LA: There's no question. No question. But how it will be received by the community in light of the fact that she has just been convicted of assault will be very interesting to see. And in fact, while the Grosse Pointe School Board has already sanctioned her by making her take, I think, one month off, unpaid, there is some question as to what the State Board of Education is going to do to her. We already know that they won't revoke her teaching certification, but she may be required to take a certain leave of absence--who knows. So, what this reunion will do is bring back all of the Grosse Pointe South Choir alumni for the last twenty years.

HD: Is there going to be a program?

LA: Absolutely.

HD: So you guys are going to sing something?

LA: Absolutely. There's going to be a big opening number with all the alumni and then a big closing number with all the alumni. And then any alumni who might want to do solos or group performances can do that in the middle section of the show.

HD: So, you just sign up and there's no limit?

LA: There will be a vetting process, for sure. We're bringing in a professional choreographer, and he is going to go over the proposals that the individual alumni make, and he'll ...

HD: ... so you actually have to submit like a recording of what you're planning to sing?

LA: Yeah. It's going to be at the Detroit Opera House.

HD: Oh, wow!

LA: There's going to be a dinner at the Detroit Athletic Club for people who want to go. Then there will be the actual performance at the Detroit Opera House and then there will be an Afterglow. It's just going to be a great opportunity for South choir alums to see each other after all these years--it will be a class reunion of sorts.

HD: So this will be a performance that just anybody can attend?

LA: Yes. It will be pricey, I think. And to be honest with you, even though I'm on the planning committee, I'm not sure what the final decision was about the cost of tickets. The DAC dinner will be expensive. The overall goal in addition to bringing together alumns is to raise one hundred thousand dollars for the choir program.

HD: Off this one event??!

LA: Yeah.

HD: Are you kidding me? A hundred thousand bucks??

LA: [laugh]

HD: Holy crap!

LA: This is the caliber of choir program that Grosse Pointe South has!

HD: So this is something you have to try out for when you are in high school? You don't sort of just like check the box, I'd like to be in the choir ...

LA: ... no, anybody. It's definitely an elective that anybody can take. Choir is something that any student can be involved in, just by signing up. However, within the choir there are some select groups. So, there is, I think, the highest group in the choir is called the Pointe Singers--mostly for juniors and seniors. And that, you definitely have to audition for, and be selected for. But there is a place for everyone.

HD: So, were you in the Pointe Singers?

LA: I was! I was in the Pointe Singers my junior year. And my senior year, actually, I was not in the choir because there was a conflict with my sports.

HD: What sport in particular?

LA: Well, I lettered in basketball.

HD: Oh yeah?

LA: Yeah. I played softball for a season. It was a disaster because I was afraid the ball would knock my teeth out. I had had braces for two and half years and I'd just could not fathom doing all that work for nothing! And you know, for someone who was afraid of the ball, they made me shortstop!

HD: [laugh]

LA: There were so many line drives to my head that season, I can't even conceive how I got myself in that position. And then I did volleyball, which I loved, but I'd just wasn't tall enough, and at 5-5, you have to be able to play every position, and I just couldn't. So basketball, I was just so scrappy. I had a good shot, and ...

HD: ... did they have has 3-point line back in your day?

LA: They sure did! I had a pretty keen 3-point shot--if I do say so.

HD: So what was your career shooting percentage? Do you have that statistic on the tip of your tongue?

LA: That is not one that is emblazoned on my brain. [laugh] I do know that I think I was the leading assist-maker. Is that a word? Assist-maker? I led in assists.

HD: You can 'lead the team in assists', that I know.

LA: I led in assists. Because I was scrappy, and I was always stealing the ball. But I knew myself well enough to know that I was not the fastest and didn't have great ball-handling skills, so I would immediately toss the ball to someone who I knew was going to take it to the hoop.

HD: Well, if you were scrappy, then I have of feeling that you were also called for a lot of fouls?

LA: [laugh] That was middle school!

HD: You ever foul out of a game?

LA: I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times I fouled out of a game.

HD: Oh, really!

LA: Oh my god, it was terrible! In middle school it was a problem, and in high school I kind of got that under control. Never got a technical foul, though.

HD: Yeah, that was going to be my follow-up question, any technical fouls?

LA: No, very respectful on the court.

HD: Now let me make sure I don't forget to ask this question: Why do you hate the Michigan Wolverines?

LA: I do not. I grew up in household, where everything that was Irish Catholic ...

HD: ... was revered?

LA: Was revered.

HD: Oh, so it's not so much that you hate the University of Michigan football team, it's that you were really supposed to like the Irish or Notre Dame.

LA: My father loves Notre Dame.

HD: Yeah, it's not a good season to be him this year.

LA: [laugh] The other day I said, Hey, Dad, is Notre Dame playing this afternoon? And he said, If you could call it that.

HD: Oh, man. It's a brutal year for them, I have to say. It's fun to watch, though.

LA: Well, the other thing, too, is that because my father was on the faculty at Wayne State University, I think it was always a sore point for him that Wayne was always kind of the little red-haired step child in the state school system. I mean, that's an overstatement, but the fact is that U of M is this exalted state school, got tons of money, and then Michigan State just by sheer numbers it was always Number Two. So I think when you talk to Wayne faculty about U of M, it kind of gets their blood up, ...

HD: ... I mean, to be honest, I really have to think consciously about the fact that Wayne State University is a part of the state university system. Even though the word 'state' is in the name. The fact that Wayne is in the name makes me think, Oh, it's a person and so it's a private university.

LA: Right.

HD: So, I dunno.

LA: Yeah, I think if it had ever gotten a name like Michigan State University-Wayne County or something, then people would think of it differently. But you're right. I come from a big Wayne family--my mother worked in admissions, my sister works in advising there--and I think that Wayne has not been as selective in the students that it admits as the U of M has been. The more selective a school, the better its reputation. I think there's some type of correlation there.

HD: So, are you going to be watching the game tomorrow?

LA: No.

HD: No interest?

LA: No, none, not at all, zero, zip. The only sports I like are live sports. With the possible exception of basketball, and maybe hockey when the Wings are playing. But how people can watch golf on television, I'll never know.

HD: Hmmm, but see, that's the only way to watch golf is on television. I mean, if you're going to watch golf, then you want to watch it on television.

LA: [laugh]

HD: You don't want to go and ...

LA: ... watch that one hole

HD: ... watch it live, I wouldn't think. I've never watched golf live. So what kind of sports do you watch live?

LA: Really, anything I can get invited to. I went to St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Billikens are kind of St. Louis' surrogate team because they don't have a professional team. So I would watch those games live. St. Louis University had a really ...

HD: ... wait a second, you said they don't have a professional team, but the Blues is the hockey team, right?

LA: But not basketball.

HD: Not basketball, okay.

LA: So, the St. Louis University Billikens are kind of St. Louis' basketball team by default. So they get really excited about them. I would go to see Billikens games. St. Louis University also had an excellent, nationally-ranked soccer team, so I would go to the soccer games. And then when I moved to Washington D.C., sometimes I would go to the D.C. United games, because soccer live is really very exciting. Very exciting. The distances that these players run is really incredible.

HD: I think I read somewhere, this was a long time ago, they did a study analyzing videotape and discovered that the average distance run in the course of a game by a striker--that's a position on a soccer team, isn't it? Or a forward? One of the people whose job it is to attack--they would typically run around six miles.

LA: Can you imagine?

HD: Well, I can imagine running six miles, like just from point A to point B, running six miles. But the idea that all of it is going to be sprinted--I mean with pauses in between to be sure, but man. Yeah, the idea of that constant sprinting I would find annoying.

LA: I actually read that soccer players have the best abdominal muscles of any athlete--which I would probably want to see in a second source, but. It's not exactly intuitive, but that's kind of nice to think about.

HD: Why do we have to see it in a second source? Let's just take it at face value, and say it's true!

LA: Because I can't tell you the name of the first source! Which makes me nervous. [laugh] I have a quick question. Why do my feet leave the ground, but yours don't?

HD: Because I'm taller than you are. I guess, I don't know.

LA: Okay.

HD: Yeah, so I started to explore this with you earlier, but we got sidetracked. You are making a day of it today here in Ann Arbor?

LA: Yes.

HD: So, I know so far you had coffee somewhere ...

LA: ... I had coffee somewhere ...

HD: ... possibly at an Espresso Royale, but we don't know that for sure. So, after the teeter totter ride ...

LA: ... am I allowed to submit for the record the actual name of the coffee shop? Should I find out what it is later?

HD: Yeah, um, sure. [laugh]

LA: Well, the other thing that I would really like to do here is find an art gallery or two, because I'm taking two classes at Macomb in the evenings. I'm taking a beginning design class and a beginning drawing class. And for my beginning drawing class, I have a paper due Tuesday. I have to go find a piece of contemporary art and critique it.

HD: So does this piece of contemporary art have to be a drawing?

LA: No. It could be! Or it can be a painting, or a sculpture, or a photograph, but it has to have been done after 1960, and it has to be something that I can document. I guess I'll just have to take a picture of it with my phone. But I love the fact that I am off the beaten path and will probably be in a gallery that none of the other students would visit. So, do you know of any?

HD: Yes, as a matter fact I was going to suggest that you visit one in particular. It's called the Washington Street Gallery, which name is misleading because it's not on Washington Street. It's on the next street over, which is Liberty. But if you head down Liberty into town, it's past Main Street on the right side of the street--Washington Street Gallery. I know one of the partners in the gallery, his name is Alvey Jones.

LA: Al?

HD: Alvey Jones. And I think he actually has an exhibit still up featuring his work. He does assemblage, actually it's a combination of outright assemblage--taking objects and arranging them--and classical painting. So, he'll do things like take an old motherboard off a computer and then just do over the top of it a traditional oil painting. And then put that inside a box with other bizarre elements. Actually, I have one of his works, I can show it to you, after we're done teeter tottering. But that would be absolutely worth a visit, the Washington Street gallery.

LA: I am there! I'm there. I will definitely check that out right after this.

HD: Well, listen, is there anything else you want to make sure you get on the record on the teeter totter, before we dismount?

LA: It doesn't have to be on the record on the teeter totter but I am wondering why you have a toilet bowl with in plant coming out of it, immediately to your left.

HD: Someone was giving it away--you know how people will set stuff out on the curb and say, Free! And we figured that we would just grab it and make a planter out of it in the backyard and we thought it would be just the coolest thing ever.

LA: A little stab at Dadaism.

HD: I dunno, the reaction that we generally get from people is kind of a roll of the eyes, like, Yeah, I've seen them before. It doesn't turn out to be such an original idea.

LA: Where have they been hanging out?

HD: Well, I don't know. But I think it's like a lot of things--you think you've done something really edgy, you know, really controversial, and then somebody comes along and says, Oh, yeah, I've seen that.

LA: Alright.

HD: Alright, so, shall we dismount? Thanks for the ride.

LA: Thank you!