Patti Smith

Patti Smith
"Special Education Teacher"
teacher of students with visual impairments; gardener; local-food enthusiast
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tottered on: 29 July 2008
Temperature: 75 F
Ceiling: sun sun sun
Ground: grassy field
Wind: ESE at 5 mph

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TT with HD: Patti Smith

Ann Arbor Buhr Park Teeter Totter
Totter 2.0 on location: Project Grow at Buhr Park

[Ed. note: Well, no, not that Patti Smith.]

HD: So, is this going to work?

PS: I think so.

HD: Are you all right?

PS: Yeah. I haven't teetered tottered in ages! Oh my god, you never forget, it's like riding a bike!

HD: Do you have a specific recollection of riding teeter totters in your youth?

PS: You know, those were the days, Dave, when they had none of this safe playground equipment. We had this old like rusty thing at my elementary school. We had the old tire swing, and it was just blacktop. If you fell off--and you did ...

HD: ... you got hurt.

PS: You got hurt. Yeah, I remember falling off that tire swing and I scraped up right underneath my nose. I remember my best friend running in screaming, and I'm crying, and it's like this big thing. Yeah, my mom was like, Oh my god! It was right before Halloween so it kind of fit with my costume.

HD: Which was?

PS: Alien.

HD: That was the year that the first Alien movie came out?

PS: No, no. [laugh] I don't even know what they were called--they had these costumes and you had this blow-up thing that you put on your head, and that was the attraction of the costume.

HD: Oh, right, because it did not obscure your vision, it did not lead to kids wandering out in front of traffic.

PS: Exactly.

HD: So 'alien' in the sense of some generic space alien, not that movie.

PS: Yeah. In the suburbs we weren't that creative, so.

HD: So you said that one of these [garden] plots is yours?

PS: Yes sir!

HD: From the way you described it, it's that one with the potatoes?

PS: Yes! Oh yeah, this was my first real garden ever. So it's kind of cool. I planted potatoes--which I'm going to have a lot of potatoes, I think.

HD: Have you harvested any yet?

PS: Yes, I did. I've put them in my beef stew that I made last night in a crockpot.

HD: So these are the little tiny baby potatoes?

PS: Fingerlings, yeah. And I also planted some Yukon Gold, which are not ready, yet. And then I planted onions--red and white onions. Some garlic, not too much. Beans--you can see my crazy bean poles, some of those I have harvested. Carrots ...

HD: ... actually, I can't see your crazy bean poles from here. Am I looking in the wrong direction?

PS: They have the tomato cages on them.

HD: Oh, okay so they are pole beans, but they don't have proper poles?

PS: They do, but they kind of weighted down the poles, so they got caged. And a bunch of tomatoes, and peppers. I did a bunch of greens, which have pretty much wilted by now. But they came out real good.

HD: I did just potatoes.

PS: How's it going?

HD: Well, I harvested one corner of the plot. The plants started to turn yellow and wilted ...

PS: ... uh huh, right.

HD: At first I was concerned, and then I remembered from Royer Held's potato class, that actually is the sign that they are fully formed or as formed as they are going to get underground.

PS: Yeah.

HD: I was thrown off a little bit, because it seemed way, way early. But I took a little peek, and dang, you know, they were ready!

PS: Awesome!

HD: Half of them were blue--this variety that is actually blue potatoes. I brought you some.

PS: Thank you! That is so cool.

HD: Well, I am out of the normal teeter totter swag, so I figured I gotta bring you something.

PS: I didn't know there was swag! [laugh]

HD: Yeah! I brought you some blue potatoes.

PS: Thank, you, I'll give you some banana peppers.

HD: Well, you already gave me the rhubarb ... ?

PS: ... brown sugar rhubarb cake.

HD: Brown sugar rhubarb. It's basically rhubarb with a bunch of brown sugar on it, right? [laugh]

PS: Basically, it's an excuse to eat brown sugar. [laugh]

HD: So the rhubarb here is really more like a brown-sugar delivery vehicle.

PS: Exactly!

HD: Which is all well and good, I think. I like that.

PS: Thank you.

HD: So, being on the Board of Project Grow, did that give you a special angle to get one of these plots?

PS: No, no. [laugh] I had to pay full price!

HD: But maybe there was a waiting list?

PS: This is brand new, actually.

HD: So they made exactly enough plots for the number of people that they had?

PS: Yeah, I think we started off with 7 and a half plots. And someone bought the last half plot, so we are full-up. All the garden space all over town is full-up this year. And I kind of wanted to be at a new plot, and plus it's not even a mile from my house, so. It has been great. Being on the Board, I know when things are full-up and all of that. With the food issues that are happening, I wasn't surprised that we filled up.

HD: Yeah, the local-food movement here locally really seems to be getting some traction.

PS: Yes. And I have been doing this kind of thinking for years, so I am kind of excited that finally the slow food thing is picking up.

HD: The nice thing is about a garden out here is that it gets full sun. I mean, you can't get better sun exposure than right here.

PS: Right.

HD: In the middle of this open field. For a lot of folks who might be inclined to garden on their own lot, they just can't because there's trees, or other considerations.

PS: That's me. Yeah, I tried for years. Bless his heart, my husband would dig up the lawn, and make it soil, and it just never worked, because for what you just said. There just wasn't enough sun. And what is surprising is that there is sometimes resistance to community gardens. That really surprised me.

HD: Yeah? Well, I know that this was not necessarily the first choice--although it doesn't seem like we have to choose the one place where we put in another community garden--but I know that one of the proposed locations was Virginia Park, which was very close to the community garden that they lost when Zion Lutheran Church expanded.

PS: Right, right.

HD: So the thought was that they wanted to try to find some additional space as near as possible to that. And there was a lot of resistance from--don't know from how many neighbors--but whatever resistance there was, it was deferred to.

PS: Uh huh, uh huh. And also the squeaky wheel gets the grease, too.

HD: Well, I don't know. Like I say, I don't know if it was a unanimous rising up of the entire Virginia Park neighborhood and not just one or two neighbors, I have no idea. But I guess the argument that won the day was: We don't want it here. So I dunno, I mean it seems to me that it is a fair question to ask, What kind of additional traffic might this bring to a neighborhood? It's a fair question. But I think the answer is, Well it's gardening folk!

PS: Exactly.

HD: You know, I think that as a demographic, probably gardening folk are pretty harmless kind of people, the kind of people you'd like to have 'intruding' as it were, into your neighborhood. But I don't know.

PS: At school I have a teacher's aide--they call 'em para-pros now--he's awesome, Mr. Peoples.

HD: Para-pros?

PS: Para-professional.

HD: Oh, okay.

PS: It's a fancy way of saying teachers aide. And they have the best teachers aid in the world, Mr. Peoples. And I told him that there was a controversy, and he lives in inner-city Detroit, ... [Ed. note: This thread about community gardens and resistance to them gets a bit lost for a while. But where it picks up later is in the context of the Greening of Detroit, where there is the opposite of resistance.]

HD: ... that's his name, Mr. Peoples?

PS: Yeah, we tried calling each other by first names, but it never really stuck. So it's Ms. Smith and Mr. Peoples.

HD: Is that for the benefit of the students who see you interacting? Or hear you interacting?

PS: You know, that's a really good question. Probably that, but his old teacher he was with, he always called her Ms. Barnes, I think her name was. And I tried calling him Glen a few times, and it just didn't really work, it was weird.

HD: So it felt awkward to you, or did it feel awkward to him?

PS: No, I don't know. Just for some reason, he's just Mr. Peoples.

HD: So the kids call him Mr. Peoples?

PS: Oh yeah.

HD: And do they call you Teacher Patti?

PS: No, they call me Ms. Smith.

HD: Oh okay, because that's the screen name you use online for commenting and in a variety of contexts. Reason I ask is that when I taught in China ...

PS: ... oh, I didn't know that, that's cool ...

HD: ... that was actually a constant battle to be fought, to keep people from calling me Teacher David. When you translate things from Chinese it comes out Teacher David. I wouldn't have cared if I was teaching English just for the sake of teaching English. But we were actually training medical professionals who were planning to go overseas to an English-speaking country to further their medical studies. And you know, nobody in an English-speaking country uses Teacher-plus-first-name as a formula of address. So it was constantly, No, no, no. And then I saw you using this Teacher Patti and I thought, Well, there's probably people in China, they're getting on the internet now, and they're looking at this and possibly seeing this come up, Oh yeah, Teacher David told us wrong.

PS: [laugh] They will be e-mailing you, Hey, wait a minute ...

HD: ... so the students that you teach are actually blind, or just vision-impaired, is that the--wow, it's really squeaking.

PS: Yeah, it is. Is that my fat butt? Or is that something else?

HD: No, I think it's probably a combination of the sun and the angle. We're sitting on this cant.

PS: Should we move it to the shade down there?

HD: No, I don't think it would have that fast an impact. Let's just pause it a little bit here. Because I don't think I will be able to transcribe over the noise.

PS: Okay.

HD: Now where were you? You're talking about ...

PS: ... I was saying, are they blind or are they low vision?

HD: Oh, so low vision is ...

PS: Yeah, well, either is fine. [squeaking again] Should we just sit?

HD: Yeah, we can just sort of sit and gently rock.

PS: The correct term, I guess, is 'students with visual impairments'. In 'teacher school' they say to always put the impairment after 'students'. Otherwise you're saying 'visually impaired students' and there is more to them than that.

HD: So it's 'students', then you modify that grammatically with something else that follows it.

PS: So students with hearing impairment, cognitive impairment, etcetera. And they are both, actually. I do have some totally blind students, some who are low vision. I have one girl in particular who is technically low vision, but Braille is her medium. So she can see really large print. When I do her math problems I take a black marker and I just write them really big and she can see them. But Braille will always be her medium. And then you know sometimes you have students who are just low vision. Maybe 20/400 or something where they can see large print and see to get around, they just need that extra support.

HD: So when you say 2400 that's a number on some scale?

PS: Yeah, the Snellen, S-N-E-L-L-E-N. I don't, because I have bad eyes, but if you have perfect vision then it's 20/20.

HD: Oh, okay so it's that scale.

PS: Yeah, exactly. And like me, my eyes are corrected with contacts and glasses. But if they weren't, I'd like 20/800, I think, or something. It's pretty bad. The difference between me and them is, I can thank god, or fate, or nature, or the sun, or whatever, that mine is correctable with glasses and contacts. Theirs isn't. There is something else in there that just isn't correctable. So that's one of the reasons--or the main reason--I picked the eye for my area. I don't want to say 'understand', but I can relate, I can empathize.

HD: So, is that your interest in Project Grow as well? Because when I think of Project Grow, I just think community gardens, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's only when I periodically visit the website and I see the Discovery Garden stuff that I am reminded that, Oh, yeah, the whole accessibility program is a big part of the Project Grow mission as well. So is that what appealed to you about it? I mean they do like low vision gardening, right?

PS: Yeah. It wasn't the main hook, but it was a big part of it, once I found out. Yeah, they have the accessible gardens. There are a fair number of folks who lose their vision as they get older--due to an accident, or age, or a degenerative disease, whatever. When you lose your sight--I mean, in school we had to take a class where we had to go under blindfold, and walk across Eastern's [EMU] campus. I was absolutely terrified.

HD: So you had to get from one side of the campus to the other?

PS: With a cane and with a blindfold. And my professor, was right there. And I was terrified.

HD: So somebody there to prevent actual injury?

PS: So that I didn't fall down the stairs, right.

HD: Or walk in front of a bus.

PS: Right, exactly. And I was scared. I can't imagine if your sight is gone forever and it's not coming back. So if you can do something that you used to do--gardening--it's not going to make it all better, but it's going to help.

HD: When I went out to harvest the potatoes actually, in anticipation of doing this ride with you, I thought, Okay, let me see if I can actually harvest a clump of potatoes with my eyes closed.

PS: Oh, wow, okay.

HD: And you think, well, dirt, potatoes, they should feel plenty different. But the soil out there is kind of clay, clumpy, and you know, after a while--basically if I spent a really long time, I might've been able to harvest most of the potatoes. But even looking for them, those things are hard to find sometimes. You've got to get a shovel and dig, and just when you think, Okay, they're all gone! you turn the shovel over and there's another one! But rooting around with my hands with my eyes closed, I was finding it very difficult to discern, Is that a clump of just hard clay, or is that a potato? So I don't think it would be trivial.

PS: I hate to feel sad for students--I try not to do that, because then you become like, Oh, you poor baby, and I don't play that way. But I had a student who is 14 and he lost his vision when he was 7 almost 8. He was healthy, quote-unquote normal, developing at grade level. He gets tuberculoma on the brain, a brain tumor, goes to his optic nerve, vision is gone forever. It's never coming back period--barring Moses coming down from the mountain, it's gone.

I mean this poor kid, he's 14 now, and he still basically 7 1/2 going on 8. Because he kind of got stuck. And it was a huge challenge to work with him, but it was also extremely rewarding, because there was just so much going on. He's going to high school now--and we just spent hours and hours and meeting after meeting trying to find a good placement for this kid. Mr. Peoples and I would spend our prep hours discussing this kid. I mean, what is he going to do in the future? What are some options for him?

He had talked about being in the ministry--and I guess he is Catholic--so a priest. And so we started online looking for seminaries, and they all required a four-year college degree. And I'm like, Oh my god, I don't know if he can do that. We just spent hours and hours trying to figure out a future for this kid. And it's heartbreaking. I can't imagine being almost 8 years old and your vision is just gone, it's gone forever. Losing your ability to walk, or hear, or cognitively, or anything--something like gardening is kind of the uniter, if you will. Because really most folks can do it. They may need help. I need help with it, so.

HD: Bringing your class, say, to this garden, just geographically it wouldn't make much sense to bring them to this community garden, because surely there are other community gardens closer to Detroit that you could take them to. Is that something that you do with your classes fieldtrip-wise?

PS: That's a great idea. I haven't, but that's a great idea. We have the Greening of Detroit. The Greening of Detroit has some awesome lessons and units on their website, that I liberally borrowed from. They are going into vacant lots and saying, Alright, let's put a garden in! And people from the neighborhood are coming out and saying, What are you doing? We're putting in a garden. Oh, how much is it? It's free, we'll grow the stuff, you just come and take what you need. I heard an interview on the NPR station, on the 101.9 station, and there was someone from the Greening of Detroit was interviewed, and they said, People were like on their knees crying saying all my god, thank you so much. I can't even imagine ...

HD: ... so, the lots are vacant, and so their bet is that whoever actually owns the land is not going to do anything with it in the time of the growing season?

PS: I think so. So that's a great field trip idea, though. I did a unit on food in the classroom. And I got funding from--it's called Donors Choose. It's a great teachers go on there and say basically, Here's my idea, here's the materials I need, and you can order them from blah blah blah place, here's the cost, here's why I want to do it, please help. And there are kind people out there with the money, and they find projects, and they fund it, and you get your stuff. I did that twice. And I don't know who the people were, but it was great, the kids wrote thank-you notes, we took pictures, it was fantastic. And I got a little greenhouse for the classroom, and we planted just some regular ...

HD: ... so this was sitting outside in the school courtyard, or?

PS: Nope. It's actually right in the classroom, I put it in the window. It's enclosed, and stuff did grow. I sent it home with some students. We grew mustard. And I actually took one of the plants, I put it in my garden, and it just flourished. Mustard leaves, after mustard leaves ...

HD: ... so you'll collect seeds and then keep it going in the classroom for the next year, or?

PS: That's the goal. Hopefully, it happens. Yes, so like they didn't know that mustard came from mustard. They thought it was a man-made thing, and it is to some extent ...

HD: ... it's mined.

PS: Pardon me?

HD: It's mined. It comes from underground. [laugh]

PS: [laugh] Exactly.

HD: I'm just curious, this Conference Bike [a multiple-rider, pedal-powered vehicle with people seated in a circular configuration facing each other], one of the things that people have written about it is that it would be ideal for people with low vision to ride, because they can maintain their group-ness right there, however many people--the one here in Ann Arbor seats like what 7 or 8?

PS: Something like that, yeah.

HD: And the person with sight can drive and everything's safe. Better than a tandem.

PS: I love that idea. I really want to incorporate that somehow in my field trips. Funding right now for field trips is questionable. But yeah, I love that idea.

HD: Have you ever ridden with a person with low vision on a tandem with them in the back seat?

PS: No. No, but this would be much, much better. Because based on my kid's vision and where they live, which for the most part is the inner city of Detroit, they don't get outside too much. One of my low vision kids has a bike and she has training wheels on it, so that she can ride it. But the reality is if she is out there by herself, who knows what will happen? So a lot of just kind of sitting around. We do have camps and stuff for them to go to, but that is a few weeks out of the summer.

HD: So saying 'tandems' reminded me that I wanted to ask you, on the Fourth of July, apparently you had an unpleasant encounter a tandem bicycle? You felt compelled to post an apology to the WBWC newsgroup?

PS: Yeah, I felt bad. I was being--can I say a bad word?

HD: Sure.

PS: I was being an ass.

HD: Are you sure that you were being an ass? [laugh] Because, I don't know, not having been there, it'd be hard for me to say ...

PS: ... [laugh]...

HD: ... but are you really sure that an apology was warranted? I mean, come on, how bad could it have been.

PS: I'd just like to keep harmony in all aspects of life, I don't know it's like a karma thing, I guess. I wanted to put that apology out there, so that if I was wrong, and that person will see it ...

HD: ... so did they actually run you guys down?

PS: Almost.

HD: So they were riding?

PS: They were on their tandem. What happened was ...

HD: ... which is kind of like the Hummer of bicycles.

PS: That's a great analogy.

HD: I mean, nobody commutes by tandem--well, there's probably like two people in the whole country who do--but typically you don't commute by tandem. It's not a utilitarian enterprise so much as pure recreation.

PS: Yeah, yeah, that's true. But yeah, I guess the street actually was closed for some run or something that morning. There was a 5K run or something.

HD: Tortoise and Hare does their Fourth of July run, yeah.

PS: Which I hadn't known, and they were riding, and the light for me was green.

HD: So the green light, that's in your favor ...

PS: ... and I went.

HD: And the fact that they are riding a tandem is not in their favor ...

PS: And Jeff, my husband and I, rode through. And I mean it was real close ...

HD: ... so you guys were on your bikes, too?

PS: Right, we were on our bikes, yeah. And I said something, ...

HD: ... in your apology you said that you said something 'snarky'. Do you remember exactly what you said?

PS: I think I said something like, I don't know if you know your colors, but the light was red for you! It was really not necessary for me is to say anything, I should have let it go.

HD: So you were a little sarcastic. [laugh]

PS: I can be. [laugh] And they were like, All the lights are red! and I'm like, Our light was green!

HD: So, they responded?!

PS: Yeah. I shouldn't have said anything, I should've let it go. It was one of those issues where I just should have let it go.

HD: Oh, okay, so their assumption was, Okay, because everything is shut down, we have a red light--but surely all of the lights are red, so the way is clear, so we're just going.

PS: Right.

HD: Huh!

PS: Unbeknownst to them, not all of the lights were red. Our light was green. And there was no way of really telling, we didn't really know that the street was shut down. So it was one of those things where I should have just kept my mouth shut. And there was no reason to say anything. Because there was no harm no foul.

HD: Well, I don't know. Maybe a well-placed, Dude!

PS: Yeah, exactly!

HD: I mean, I had to brake hard in order to avoid a collision with another cyclist the other day. I was pedaling with the trailer heading west on Liberty Street coming into the intersection of 7th and Liberty Street.

PS: Okay.

HD: And I had green. And it had been green for a good while. There was a cyclist who was coming north, so from my left, and he just disregarded what surely must have been a red light. I can't say for sure, because I couldn't see his light. But mine was green, and it had been green, so it wasn't like he was pushing the yellow. There weren't any cars around, and I kind of feel like he assessed the intersection and said, No motor vehicles so I'm just going to blow this light. And he was like a middle-aged guy, wearing a helmet, otherwise looking like a responsible cyclist, and toodling along, and the fact that I had to brake made me say, Dude!

PS: Did he respond?

HD: No, he just sort of went on his way down the hill. And I was like, Okay whatever. Maybe some gesture, like ...

PS: ... sorry ...

HD: ... yeah, an acknowledgment of some kind, like, Yeah, I blew that, that would've been nice. But I didn't chase him down and verbally berate him.

PS: Good call, good call. Well, it's just like I try to be really good on my bike--for my safety, of course--and because you know anytime you do anything obnoxious, you know people in the car are like, Goddamn bicyclists! You know what I mean?

HD: Right, it accrues to the general ledger that people keep in their heads about various categories of people. And I think probably most people do keep ledgers like that whether they are aware of it or not. They say, Yep, that's another asshole on a bike.

PS: Absolutely. So I mean safety, obviously, is the first thing. But like I said, I mean, to be honest when I am driving a car and someone does something, I think to myself, Wow, I can't believe you did that.

HD: Riding over here today, and also it was a couple weeks ago I was hauling somebody's--what was I hauling, a toilet I think--I was hauling somebody's toilet to the Drop-off Station, and today riding along Packard right through the guts of the Third Ward, almost no signs for either Kunselman or Taylor. I mean, you're Third Ward, right?

PS: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

HD: So what's going on with the Third Ward? It's completely dead pants in the Third Ward as far as the city council race. As far as I can tell, judged by yard signs.

PS: Yeah. Now, I have seen some. There is a little island--I think Lower Burns Park is Fourth Ward. There is a little island there that is Fourth Ward.

HD: Have either of those two guys been knocking on your door?

PS: Yep, Taylor did. And I felt really bad. This is my fault, I have to put up a sign that says, Use Other Door. Because my house has a front door and a side door in the kitchen. And I re-arranged the furniture and I put the couch right against the front door. And it's impossible to open. I just haven't gotten that Please Use Other Door sign. I felt bad. The poor guy is out there knocking, and my dog is like barking and jumping all over the place, Oh my god someone's here!! And I'm trying to get the door open and I'm like, Just give me your stuff, and so my little hand comes out. So I felt really bad. But yeah, he has been around.

HD: Oh, so you didn't actually have a conversation, you just had him pass his literature through the tiny slot?!

PS: He's probably thinking, That's the crazy lady's house with the crazy lady's dog, but yeah.

HD: So if he were to read this conversation, he'll think, Ah, that one--I didn't need her vote anyway!

PS: Exactly! She's the kind that probably won't even leave the house to vote! No, I will be voting August 5. It's in the calendar, it's in my brain. I used to teach government and I used to give extra credit, it was at Washtenaw Community College ...

HD: ... extra credit for voting??

PS: Yes. Five extra credit points.

HD: Is that even legal?

PS: Oh god, I hope I don't get retroactively ...

HD: ... no, no, no it just occurred to me, that might not be--there was some guy who actually tried to auction off his vote on eBay, I think, recently. No one bid on it, but apparently even offering your vote for sale, I think, counts as some kind of violation of federal law. So people were following up on it. But rewarding people for voting at all, I don't know how how that stands. Kind of sad that you have to reward people to vote.

PS: I agree. But it was like 18- and 19-year-olds basically and I loved those students. I miss them, I love them, they were awesome. And a lot of them, it was the first time that they could vote. I also had older students who consistently didn't vote. And I was like, You know what, even if you just know one race, just go up there and just vote. So they would get their little I-Voted stickers, and they would bring them back and they would get extra credit. And it was real cute, because a couple of times the polling places ran out of stickers, and they would tell the person, My teacher said I'll get extra credit if you write a little thing saying I voted.

And then there were some kids who were not from this country and could not legally vote. So in their case I gave them an alternate assignment and that was just to like look at a website or something and tell me what you think about the candidates or whatever. Just to make it fair. But it is sad that you have to reward people, but at least it got them thinking about it and you've got them involved and hopefully they'll remember that in the future.

HD: So where is your polling place?

PS: It used to be here, and we were in Scio Township at Cobblestone Farm, and then they annexed us into Ann Arbor. And now it's over at Scarlett Middle School. So over on Lorraine.

HD: So do they have a little basket of treats for you, like candy and stuff? Little tiny plastic toys?

PS: No. Noooo.

HD: At our precinct, the polling workers--or at least every time I have voted there--there has been like a basket of little treats.

PS: Oh, man! No, they have doughnuts for themselves, which I always covet because I am standing in line. They had Krispy Kreme's one time.

HD: Wow, that's like the opposite of a reward!

PS: You can't have it! So if anyone is reading this from that polling place, put out some treats, man!

HD: I'm sure that they save those paper ballot sheets. I wonder if they can say, Ahhhh, this batch came from that precinct, because there is doughnut icing on all of these. Because, I mean, they do have to play around with the typical ballot. I don't know, obviously it's simple and anybody can do it, but I never manage to get it into the slot--there's this whole sleeve and you have to stick it in, and typically I require assistance from a poll worker.

PS: Me, too. I stand there looking pitiful until someone comes over. [laugh]

HD: So the poll workers, if they have been eating doughnuts, I've got to believe that--it might not be visible to the naked eye, you might have to do a CSI thing on it--maybe that's what Larry Kestenbaum should spend his time doing, analyzing paper ballots for doughnut icing.

PS: Absolutely. He doesn't have enough to do, I think he would like an extra job.

HD: So, listen, you doing anything for the rest of the day? Or for the rest of the summer? You have anything fun coming up?

PS: We are finishing up our summer school program. We have this awesome summer school program through Detroit Public Schools. We got the kids jobs--the kids with low vision, we didn't have any totally blind. They got jobs--some people are at schools, some are at a hospital, I think Henry Ford Hospital, some are at offices, Gleaners Good Bank had some folks. And so the kids get paid, they get work experience. And on Fridays we have been having field trips and such. We have a field trip to the Science Center this Friday, and to Joe Dumars Fieldhouse on the 8th. And so I'm going to help out with those.

HD: So when does summer school conclude and regular school start again? Sometime in September?

PS: Yeah, technically summer school ended last week. But our program goes till August 15th. And we report back August 25th, the teachers do, for three days. And then everyone comes back September 2nd, the day after Labor Day. So we'll be back at it.

HD: [Ed. note: a kid on an electric scooter resembling a skateboard with a vertical handle ride past.] It's that electric? Seems to be. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

PS: That seems kind of cool.

HD: I'm sorry, I am easily distracted.

PS: Me too! [laugh] So yeah it will be cool. I am actually looking forward to getting back. I had a whole other quote-unquote career before I started teaching, and you didn't get much time off, so it's kind of always a treat get time off.

HD: So this other career was in law?

PS: Yeah.

HD: What kind of lawyer were you?

PS: I was a legal aid lawyer. Which means I worked with folks who were low-income, elderly, and/or disabled.

HD: So this was people who had typically been accused of something, or people who just basically were in some kind of fix within a bureaucratic system, and they need somebody to weigh in for them and say, Look if you don't do XYZ, we're going to have to sue you?

PS: I didn't ever do criminal. It was like folks who were facing bankruptcy, divorce. Big number one issue in low-income, poverty law is divorce. And custody and paternity.

HD: Really, divorce?

PS: Yeah, yeah yeah. That's all family law issues. And the problem is you know, a lawyer has got to make a living, and I understand that, but retainers for divorces can be anywhere from $1000-$5000 and on up. And that's just your retainer. For most folks that's like, Oh my god! I forget the statistics, but I think for every one person there's like 30 or 40 some lawyers, but for low-income folks who need a free lawyer it's like one to several hundred. There's like one lawyer for several hundred folks who need them. Because the funding is not there. So people hear, Oh my god, you were a lawyer, you were rich! It's like, anyone who reads this was thinking of law school, you need to know those lawyers don't make a lot of money. Public school teachers in Michigan actually make more money than some lawyers--if you are looking at it from a financial standpoint.

But yeah, I mean it was hard, because you had folks who were just desperate--in abusive situations, or just destitute, or had their kids taken from them by the other parent, or just very sad situations. And there was only so much that we could do. That's what I did for about seven years in Detroit, and on a legal aid hotline, and briefly in Ann Arbor at the Legal Resource Center--which I think is still around, I hope. It's a great, great idea. It basically helps folks do their own legal cases. So that's what I did for about seven years.

HD: Obviously if you're teaching in Detroit your mental horizon is going to include Detroit--but also Ypsilanti. So when you think of, where is the rest of the world? your eyes turn east, and not west towards Ann Arbor?

PS: I'm not really sure what you mean.

HD: I mean, when you think of where you are in the world geographically, the closest place to go, do you think Corner Brewery, or do you think Old Town?

PS: [laugh] Oh, wow, that's a great question. Okay. You know, it really depends on the thing. I love living in Ann Arbor. It ticks me off sometimes, and I like to bitch about it--I think we all do--some things about it irritate me. But if I have to live in Michigan this is where I want to live. And it depends. Like yeah Corner Brewery is my hang out place.

Jeff and I are in the Mug Club so we have our own personalized mugs. The staff there is wonderful.

HD: So does your mug say Patti or ... ?

PS: ... it does, and it has a happy face! One of the bartenders said it looks like the Kool-Aid guy.

HD: So how does that work? You basically say I'm Patti that's my mug?

PS: It's a number. I'm 784 is my number. And they know us.

HD: ... so I couldn't walk in and just say, Yeeaah, I'm Jeff and I'm 785, so fill me up.

PS: Yeah, I mean, if they don't know us, but most people ...

HD: ... yeah, but if it was a new bartender then maybe, right? I mean it's not like you have to produce a photo ID.

PS: No, no.

HD: So you say, I'm number whatever, and then they fill it up with beer, and then they give it to you?

PS: Yep.

HD: And it's free?

PS: Oh, no, no, no. Oh god, that would be awesome! Hey, that's a great idea--Hey Greffs!

HD: I thought that was the whole point. You pay the money up front, right? And then the payback on the investment is free beer?

PS: Well, no, we were not in that group. Those were folks who put serious money upfront, god bless 'em. We are just in the Mug Club, which was $100. $25 of that is your mug. And it gets you happy hour prices all day Sunday and all day Wednesday, which other folks don't get. And the best part in my mind ...

HD: ... so, expanded happy hour prices, and?

PS: In my mind, the best part is they have beer release parties every so often. And it's free food and free beer, pretty much all you can drink with your mug. And I wanted to support the business. They're friendly, it's a great place. But we were going there once a week, so we were like, Heck, let's join the Club. So that's that place. Otherwise, I think most of the stuff that I do is in Ann Arbor. Like the Farmers Market, I can bike up to the Farmer's Market. Obviously, the library system. I'm still looking for like a coffee house. John Roos needs to open a coffee house. That's like a consensus. Because I don't have a regular coffee house, and that's what I'm looking for.

HD: You can get his coffee at Ambrosia, right?

PS: Oh yeah, that's true!

HD: I mean, if that's the fix that you need.

PS: It's more the atmosphere. You know, like laid back, hang out, don't everybody be on an iPod and laptop kind of thing, you know. Maybe it's out there and I just haven't discovered it, I don't know. So yeah, I do most of my shopping in Ann Arbor. And Detroit, I mean honestly with gas prices as they are, I pretty much go to work and back and that's it. If gas were not an issue, definitely, I mean there is so much to do. But with gas prices being as they are, it's not as possible to drive all the way there.

HD: So you got anything else coming up?

PS: Let me think. Oh, yeah. On September 14th, I'm doing what's called a Walk Out of the Darkness. And that is for the AFSP which is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I actually wanted to bring this up, because I did a little Homeless Dave search and I didn't see that this issue had been brought up, and it's important to bring this up. I have suffered from depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation probably pretty much my whole life.

HD: Suicidal ideation??

PS: You know, thinking about suicide.

HD: So that's the actual term that were using nowadays?

PS: Yeah, I think so. It's a funky term. Instead of suicidal 'tendencies'.

HD: So parallel with what you said earlier about vision-impaired students, we need to say 'people with suicidal ideation'. Or something.

PS: Exactly, there you go. I'm kind of outing myself--because I think most people who know me would never guess that. Which is good, that's a testament to wonderful medication. And the problem with depression and suicide and all of that is that it has a stigma--I think that's an understatement. For most folks, including myself, it's a chemical imbalance. And the best analogy I can make is, think of diabetes. Like my husband is a Type 1 diabetic. He's been that way for 25 years. His chemicals are imbalanced--his pancreas doesn't spit out insulin so he needs to take insulin. Similarly people with suicidal ideation tendencies or what have you, it's just different chemicals, not firing right.

HD: But diabetics, they do on a daily or some kind of regular basis, they monitor their blood sugar levels, right? Is there some sort of blood level that you are monitoring with like an at-home test kit?

PS: That would be awesome. There's not, though. It's kind of just how you feel. Medication only does so much, you also have to modify behavior and so on and so forth. But it's an issue that is in the closet very much. Not many people want to talk about it.

HD: But when you say it's 'how you feel', isn't that one of the dangers, that people say Gosh, you know, I feel great, I don't think I need this medication anymore!

PS: I've done that!

HD: Have you really?

PS: Yeah. I don't recommend that. You're exactly right. Personally I went through a huge denial thing, when I figured out what it was. When I was properly diagnosed and I was like, Well, I'll take your little medication, but whatever! And then I went off it. And sure enough, there was a--I don't want to use the word 'suicide attempt', because that is probably too strong--but there was some ideation toward that, I guess. And I was like, Oh, god! And god bless my husband for being there for me.

But I was like, I think I better go back to my doctor and get back on something. And I went back to her, and I told her what I had done. And she properly chastised me--as she should have. She was pretty much like, You're probably going to have to be on this for the rest of your life. There is such a stigma. I'm the first person with depression that a lot of people have met. And I get a lot of questions when people find out. And that's fine, I would rather people ask. It's like, my background is Jewish, so sometimes I'm the first Jew for people ...

HD: ... now when you say your 'background is Jewish', I mean, another way to say that is, 'I am Jewish'.

PS: Yeah, I'm really nothing, I guess. But I am looking at converting, because I have been living Jewish, so I figure I might as well just go for it.

HD: So your husband is Jewish?

PS: No, he was raised Catholic. But he's pretty much--well, I will tell the story, I hope he doesn't mind. His grandma passed five years ago, hadn't gone to a church. I mean she had been in the parish or whatever, but she hadn't actually gone. She hadn't given--it's not called tithing but whatever the donation basket is called--and no one would bury her from the Catholic Church. They would not send anyone out to bury her.

HD: Because?

PS: Because she hadn't gone to church, hadn't actually physically gone.

HD: They keep attendance?

PS: Apparently. Yeah, I know, there's somebody there? And that kind of turned him off religion, and I can't blame him. They ended up sending a deacon, but they would not send a priest. It was just a mess. I mean this was a good woman, Catholic her whole life ...

HD: ... so basically they just needed somebody to administer last rites, or?

PS: Oh, no, to do the service.

HD: Oh, so basically somebody to conduct the funeral, a burial, to say this was whoever she was, she led a good life, now she's with the Lord, etcetera.

PS: Yeah. So that kind of turned off the lights for him, which I can't blame him. But yeah, I have been the first person with depression for people, too. And it's fine, I would rather that people ask questions than make assumptions. You know, you're not all the time thinking about shooting yourself, it's just that ...

HD: ... so wait up, you're thinking about converting to Judaism?

Patti: Yeah. Temple Beth Emeth.

HD: And where are they located geographically?

PS: Just go up Packard, and you'll see on the right-hand side. The cross street is Jewett, and it's the Episcopalian Church and then Temple Beth Emeth. It's Genesis, I think, that runs them.

HD: Genesis?

PS: It's called Genesis of Ann Arbor--I don't really know what their role is, I shouldn't say or speak to that. But it's basically shared space between an Episcopalian Church--I think it's Episcopalian--and then the synagogue.

HD: So you go to services every Saturday?

PS: Friday night, yeah. Friday evening I've been going. Yep. That has actually kind of helped me. Even though I am on medication, I have had some 'depressive episodes', let's say, and that has actually helped me. I never thought I would use religion like that, but I have, and it has actually helped, so that is kind of cool. So I'm doing my Out of the Darkness Walk. That's on September 14th, and it's nice because there's just no shame ... [Ed. note: a woman who turns out to be a gardener happens along.]

HD: ... hi, how are you?

J: Hi, how are you?

HD: We are just enjoying a teeter totter ride.

J: Beautiful. Where did it come from?

HD: We come from Ann Arbor!

J: No, I mean the teeter totter.

HD: Oh, where did it come from. I built it. And hauled it here with the trailer.

J: Oh, wow.

PS: Isn't it awesome?

HD: I can hook you up with a ride sometime.

J: What?

HD: I can hook you up with a ride sometime.

J: With a ride? On the trailer?

HD: No, on the teeter totter.

J: On the teeter totter would be great.

PS: You should do it, Janine. Seriously.

J: I should?

PS: Yeah.

HD: Oh, you guys know each other?

J: Yeah, we're gardeners here!

PS: She is one of our gardeners.

HD: Oh really! Which one is your plot?

J: Over on the other side. I have a third of a plot next to the fence, the second one in.

HD: So do you know the other two people ...

J: ... oh yes!

HD: So it's three people with one-third apiece?

J: Yes.

HD: Okay. So you went into it together, you weren't just like assigned together?

J: No. We went into it together. And actually whole bunch of us went into this together.

PS: And Janine knows what she's doing, so she has been helping us out.

J: Sort of I know what I'm doing, but everybody has a piece that they know what they're doing. And so it's really nice to share it all.

HD: So what would you consider to be your specialty? Like my specialty is potatoes, I grow nothing but potatoes.

J: I don't know if I have a particular specialty, but I like to experiment with things. So I have amaranth, and quinoa, and lentils, that I have never grown before.

PS: Oh, cool!

J: But we'll see how this does.

HD: So, lentils? Basically you make soup out of lentils, right?

J: Right. I eat lentils about three or four times a week.

HD: Oh, do you really?

PS: Oh, wow!

J: I would love to have a local source of lentils.

HD: I would think that you would have to grow up a lot acreage-wise in order to have enough.

J: Just like sunflowers, you need to grow a lot, and then you have to have a way to shell them.

HD: The great thing about potatoes is you can actually grow a lot of potatoes that would feed a lot of people in a very small space.

J: Right. The problem for me is that potatoes don't digest very well.

HD: Oh, okay.

J: And they don't have very much nutrition in them.

HD: Oh, you mean like vitamin-wise?

J: Right.

HD: They've got calories, though.

J: Right, they have calories. But my doctor said not to eat them so I don't eat them.

HD: I might have to redact that part out of the conversation, people doggin on potatoes.

J: It works for a lot of people it doesn't work for others.

HD: Doggin on potatoes? We can't have this! [laugh]

PS: [laugh]

J: That's why I say, we all have our own different things, so.

PS: I got lentils from Westwind Milling Company, which is about--oh, I don't know, 40 minutes north of here, up US-23. It's Argentine, Michigan, is the city, which I had never heard of until--sometimes my slow food friends and I will take turns going up there. It's a mill, it's a flour mill, and they had lentils, and I got a big bag of lentils.

J: Really?

PS: Yeah. They had beans, I got. Mostly flour, but yeah.

J: Wow, that's interesting. Well, if they had blue lentils, the small ones?

PS: They were orange.

J: Oh! You mean like to make Dal Soup with?

PS: Yeah.

J: Really? And they're locally grown or something?

PS: All Michigan farmers, yeah.

J: Because I eat those red lentils all the time, about two or three times a week! So can we ...

PS: ... let's get in touch over e-mail.

J: Some way could we link up to get them, because I would love to get them locally.

PS: Absolutely.

J: Oh, great. That's very exciting. Thank you.

PS: You're welcome.

J: Thank you so much. That's great, well you are right in the middle of something.
... ...

HD: No kidding, I can hook you up with a teeter totter ride sometime.

PS: I'll send you the link. You should do it do it.

J: Do you build stuff like this, is that what you do?

HD: I built this one, but it's not something I would ever actually want to have to do again for other people.

J: I saw one at a stop along the expressway. That was one that you stand on. And so kids can just stand on it and I think there was a little thing you could hang on to, it was really neat. Because then you didn't have ...

HD: ... so this was like a rest stop or something?

J: It was like a rest stop and there was this little play yard.

HD: Wow.

J: And somewhere I sketched it out so that I had the design of it. But it was about twice as wide as that, and a little spot to stand on, and then something to hang on to.

HD: And definitely a teeter totter?

J: Definitely a teeter totter. It had the whole pivot right there in the middle like that.

HD: I would be very interested in touching base with you about where that is. I would like to track it down and document it, because here in Ann Arbor you know, they've yanked all the teeter totters out of the school playgrounds and also the parks.

J: I know. Teeter totters and merry-go-round and slides ...

PS: ... anything that was fun.

HD: Anything that is dangerous. Anything that you could get hurt on.

J: And all the swings are put 2 1/2 feet high so little kids can't get on them by themselves.

HD: Oh, is that the reason?

J: Yes.

HD: Huh. I did not know that.

J: Because they don't want kids on them without being attended, but what 2 1/2 year old is in a park without being attended?

HD: Maybe really audacious ones.

PS: Independent and precocious ones.

J: We can't just take away everything. If we want to take away people getting killed, take away cars. That's one of the highest rates of death is by cars. But we just take that for granted, and don't even think about it. And yet were pulling out all this equipment.

PS: We talked about that, how back when I was in school, I was in elementary school in the late 70's and the early 80's, we had that old-fashioned tire swing on the chain--oh, there were some good times--you know, the monkey bars that are just like the metal and there's none of this bouncy stuff, it was just blacktop. And if you fell, man, you were going down. And we're fine. You know, I'm fine.

J: It's part of what makes character.

PS: Exactly! [laugh]

J: I mean, you have to have safety within certain parameters, but beyond that, it's interference.

HD: There's actually an analogy to plants, right? If you grow plants just in the greenhouse, where they're not exposed to wind and the stresses of wind, then they end up growing not as strong? I think their stalks end up being not as resilient. I think that's true, I could just be making that up.

PS: No, I think that makes sense

J: When I buy plants early on, they have to get hardened to the outside influences, and some of them don't make it. And then another thing that is just a little side of that, is that plants that are grown organically so that they get attacked by insects, develop ways to deal with it. It's a chemical, actually, that they produce, that in humans is an anti-oxidant.

So by eating plants that are organically grown, that have had insect attacks, we take in antioxidants that are cancer-fighting elements in our bodies. And so there is this whole network, this whole web of life that we don't understand, and has gotten interfered with by what we do. And so we are not taking in the kinds of things that actually help us build our defenses. I've read that in several different places and it's pretty well documented. I don't think it's just ...

HD: ... so you're not just making it up.

J: No.

PS: That's awesome. I told you, she knows what she's talking about. Oh!!

J: That was grasshopper!

PS: Was it?

J: Yes.

PS: Oh my gosh!

HD: Oh, it landed right over there.

J: Well, I'll let you keep on ...

HD: ... thanks for stopping by.

J: Did somebody mow around the edges here? That's interesting.

PS: Oh, I don't know.

J: Because I just did the section out by mine, because I think the seeds were dropping into the garden.

HD: I think someone cut these things down with blue flowers on them. I think that might be Dame's Rocket ?

J: No, it's chicory.

HD: It's chicory? Okay.

J: Dame's Rocket is a little taller, and the stems all come up from the base, and it's generally not around places like this.

HD: But it looks similar, right? No?

J: It blooms earlier, I believe. Usually at the edge of the woods.

HD: Okay.

J: This is chicory.

HD: I was just trying to show off.

PS: You are still 10 steps ahead of me, I'm just like, look at the pretty blue flowers!

HD: It [Dame's Rocket] does have blue flowers, though, right?

J: It does.

HD: Okay, that's the part I got right. Linda Diane Feldt did teach me something.

J: I would love to hear more about your trailer sometime. You built it I suppose?

HD: No, but there's a whole story that goes with that to.

J: So technically it's an SUB.

HD: An SUB, yes. [laugh] Let's see, now I'm trying to think what use an SUV what does that actually stand for?

PS: Sports utility vehicle.

HD: So sports utility bike.

J: Yeah. It's a sports utility bike. They actually make parts now that you can use to make your bike into a sports utility bike. And it spreads out the back, so that you can get a lot of weight on the back wheel without throwing your balance off.

HD: Huh.

J: Anyway. Thank you.

PS: I will e-mail you the website.

J: Thank you so much. Okay, Patti, bye.

HD: So, Walking Out of the Darkness--what's the name of it again?

PS: It's the American Society for Suicide Prevention

HD: And the name of the event is ...

PS: ... Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Yep. Last year they had bead necklaces, and you took a blue one if you had lost a parent to suicide, or different colors for spouse. And it kind of runs in my family--you could take a color for that. There's a color for yourself. It was just cool.

HD: And what is the route?

PS: Let's see, last year we started at Pioneer [High School]. I can't remember--it wasn't like a 5K or anything, I think it was only a couple of miles--and it routed downtown. I remember walking around coming up Packard. I think maybe we went up Ann Arbor Saline, Main, I forget how we got over. But I remember coming up Packard, up to Stadium, back up Pioneer. And I didn't realize this at the time--I was by myself--and so I was just walking really fast, you know, to walk. And I actually came in second!

HD: So this was a race??

PS: No, it really isn't. It really isn't supposed to be!

HD: But you said you came in second, come on, you're bragging about it!

PS: I came in second! No, it wasn't that, it was that everybody else had groups of people, and they were just kind of walking, and talking. I was by myself. And I didn't expect anything, I didn't know there were prizes, and I got back and they were like, You came in second! And I got a sweatshirt, and I got some coffee, and it was really cool.

HD: So was it RoosRoast coffee?

PS: No. It was from Morgan and York, I think it was Big House, or Big Ten or something. It was really good. But RoosRoast, see, he should sponsor that.

HD: So the idea is that it's typically a group of people who do the walk together?

PS: Right, you raise money.

HD: So it's not like you mass together, and do it like as one huge herd of people.

PS: Nope. It's kind of like the diabetes walks or the cancer walks.

HD: You get people to pledge per mile, or?

PS: Exactly. You can take pledges. They have teams in honor of folks who have died from suicide. And like I said, I kind of signed up the day before it went, so I just donated money. But I'm trying going to try to get pledges this year, and do my little walk. It's a great organization. I mean it tries to prevent it from happening.

HD: Did you see the piece in the New York Times--I think it was two weeks ago in the New York Times Magazine, I think this is where I saw it--about the fact that even among suicide prevention professionals, people who work in the field, this classic example of Great Britain getting rid of gas stoves is unfamiliar to them. Basically the principle that illustrates--I forget the details--but if you create physical barriers to suicide, to actually executing a suicide, that that is the thing that has the most dramatic impact on preventing suicide.

PS: That makes sense, yeah.

HD: This magazine article discussed the case of the two bridges, and one was a really popular suicide bridge and people said, Well, you know it doesn't really matter if we put like a guardrail, or a railing, or how high is, because people will step over it or climb over it. But the idea is that actually just having to do the extra maneuver of climbing over and easily climbable barrier is enough--are you okay?

PS: Yeah, I got something on my foot.

HD: You got a bug?

PS: Somebody is crawling, yeah! There we go, okay, he's back in the wild, there we go.

HD: So the idea is that really minor barriers can be very effective in suicide prevention.

PS: Yeah, no, I agree. Sometimes, having somebody to talk to--it's kind of like one of those things that if you are going to do it you're going to find a way--but there's that percentage of people--and I'm sure I'm included in that--if there's something like a barrier, yeah, it's going to give you enough time to kind of regroup. I'll have to look that up, that's interesting.

HD: Wow, that breeze feels good.

PS: Isn't that nice?

HD: Yeah, I think cool breezes like that, that's probably the last one for today.

PS: Enjoy it!

HD: Yeah, it's supposed to get really hot. Yeah, I think I'm ging to head home and figure out how to keep cool for the rest the day.

PS: Thank you so much, Dave, this was awesome.