Khalid

A secret book store in Lansing

by Eat Pomegranate Photography

by Eat Pomegranate Photography

A few years ago we faced store closing signs in the windows of many of our favorite book stores. I was really sad to see the East Lansing Barnes and Noble close it’s doors. As a student I used to spend a lot of time there. Walking down those aisles was one of my favorite ways of discovering new books.

I had given up on those book discovery experiences until last week; me and two of my closest friends went thrift shopping at World Mission on South Cedar. We were perusing antique furniture as I wandered into the store’s book section. It was hard to believe I was in a Lansing thrift store; nearly 25% of the building was dedicated to perfectly organizes shelves of books. These weren’t all tween fiction or romance novels either. There were incredibly diverse sections ranging from WWII history to architecture and photography books. There was a big children’s book section and great harder to find fiction books. I was impressed at the quality of these books and it was hard to believe these were all donations.

Cynthia, the manager at World Mission was hired in two years ago and her dedication to the book section is obvious. As we start to loose out on the book-store experience in Lansing, and as many of us declare our love for e-readers, I am humbled to see that Cynthia has kept this book section alive. When Cynthia was hired in, she inherited 20 gaylord boxes (yes, a new word for me too) of donated books. Most of the shelving units where already there but the books were in total disarray.  With the help of a dedicated staff (Joe, Rick, and Anna) and hundreds of hours of work, she has created this mini book haven right here in Lansing. Cynthia points out that  Joe, Rick, and Anna “have been the backbone of our bookstore” and without their dedication the store wouldn’t be where it is.

It is obvious how much heart has been put into organizing these books. If you have kids (or if you are a kid at heart), I urge you to check out the  children’s section. If you are a history buff, I guarantee, you will spend several hours in the history section. If you like fiction, it is very likely that your fill find your favorite titles for a fraction of the cost. Cynthia and her team have also set up really cool end of isle book displays with interesting books they find. I urge you to get lost in these isles. I am probably starting to sound like a late night infomercial, but I can’t express in words how nice this mini book store is. Check it out.

by Eat Pomegranate Photography

by Eat Pomegranate Photography

Cynthia wanted me to add that the World Mission always welcomes book donations and they always need new shelves in their book department. They also have a truck and are able to pick up books. Additionally, there are donation bins around the community for clothing and books.

Shannon

Vaginas (and vagina supporters!) are taking over the Capitol!

Let’s just start with the word vagina.

Vagina.

It sounds like an infection at best.

Maybe a medical instrument.

“hurry, nurse, bring me the vagina.”

Vagina.

Vagina.

-excerpt from “Introduction”, The Vagina Monologues

For those of you that know me in person (or IRL in internet speak!) you know how much Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues has impacted my life. I have been an outspoken advocate for the V-Day movement and this play since high school, even taking the plunge to become an actress in the MSU production for three years of my college career, then directing upon my return to Lansing in 2007.  Continue reading

Ken

Starfarm: A Lansing Staple for a Decade

In most of life’s venues, dressing up in solid-color Adidas jump suits, donning a pair of cheesy sunglasses and rocking out to 80s music is completely unacceptable behavior. Unless, of course, you’re actually in the 80s.

But you’re not.

You’re in the 10s… or something like that.

Starfarm at their most serious.

If you’re in central Michigan, however, there is one caveat to the rule. You could just be enjoying one of the region’s most popular tickets, Starfarm. Decked out in fabulously hideous clothing from a period in style most would rather be forgotten, the musical group performs the hits that won’t ever be. I myself have been known to hit the dance floor while screaming the chorus of many a Journey song expertly rendered by the local group.

For more than a decade, the core group of instrumentalists has built quite the following in mid-Michigan. Dana Mirate (drums), Sean Mirate (keyboards), Ryan Tarrant (bass) and “Slammin’ Danny” (guitar) have been together since 2001. And though the role of lead singer has had its instabilities, the group has hit solid ground through the vibrant vocals of Whitney Spotts for the past three years.

Having been members of the Lansing community for so long – all currently live in the greater Lansing area and most have been residents for more than 10 years – Starfarm has seen many changes in the city throughout the years.

If you ask Dana Mirate about the changes in the music scene specifically, he’ll quickly launch into a comparison of the past decade to the early 90s when he first arrived in East Lansing. As a music major at MSU, Dana was involved in the music scene from the word go.

“Everywhere you went, there were a lot of bars and clubs where you could play,” he recalls. “More people were writing original music and you could actually play that at bars. You could be an all-original band and play just one cover.”

Dana from Starfarm, who was gracious enough to sit and chat before a show at The Green Door.

Ryan Tarrant, though, is quick to point out that most all of Starfarm’s members still work on original music on the side, writing and recording songs. They just lament the loss of many quality establishments willing to push original bands.

But if you are looking for some original acts, they suggest checking out Mac’s Bar on East Michigan Avenue. They also identify The Green Door, Rick’s American Café, Lou & Harry’s Sports Bar, Dublin Square, Harper’s and The Exchange as decent places to catch live music in the area. Both agree that none of those, however, have a good house sound system or a good sound technician that really knows the space and how to make a band sounds good.

Which is why Dana makes me promise to mention Starfarm’s sound guy, John Miller, who is, “worth his weight in gold.”

For them, it’s something that Lansing is still in need of, even though they see a lot of positive changes happening downtown.

“The downtown has gone through a lot of changes,” says Ryan. “There didn’t used to be anything down there just six or seven years ago. When the Capital closed down, when the state workers weren’t there, they just rolled up the sidewalks and every single thing was closed. But now you can go down there and there are cool places to eat, there’s a lot of different bars to go to and you can get a lot of different vibes. “

Ryan of Starfarm fame, who was also nice enough to sit and chat before a show. And also nice enough to get me a beer.

“I like it,” adds Dana.

Take, for example, the outdoor Octoberfest music festival that downtown bars banded together to put on last Fall. Starfarm was ready to rock out Washington Street in a giant block party, if only Mother Nature had cooperated. The skies would not stop pouring rain and the temperatures dropped, making it unlikely to pull off the show.

“It was a shame,” says Dana. “It could have been very cool.”

One event that they did manage to pull off this year, however, was a rocking 80s party fundraiser for REACH Art Studio Center, put on by the Capital Area Women’s Lifestyle Magazine. You may remember hearing about it from our own Anika Fassia, who attended with some friends who came to town from Chicago to see what Lansing was all about.

“They go all-out decorating it,” Dana says, noting that it was the second time Starfarm had played the fundraiser and that they already had been booked for next year. “It’s top notch. I’d recommend it. It includes food, all these great party favors, candy from the 80s. You mingle with some pretty important people and, I think it’s cool.”

“And it’s fun,” chimes in Ryan, repeating the mantra of this very blog. “There’s a lot of really cool people, a lot of young professionals, who want to come out and have a good time for a charity.”

After talking to the pair for some time, it becomes obvious that, yes, Lansing has a long way to go. It’s tough to make a living as a musician in the area, getting paid little to nothing for years of tuition, practice and investments into equipment. Working a day job while being gone every single weekend performing is difficult, especially for those in the band with kids.

But there is still plenty to celebrate and use as a springboard into the future.

Starfarm at their finest.

“There’s some great stuff that you can see for free even sometimes like at the Wharton Center,” agrees Ryan.

“I remember once when Branford Marsalis was at the Creole Gallery down here and they just went out and did a show,” continues Ryan. “One of the top jazz musicians in the entire country just kind of on the down-low went in and did a show. You’re just walking down the street and you’re like, ‘Is that Marsalis playing here? That’s pretty cool’”

“Rodney Whitaker teaches jazz at MSU and is one of the most sought after bass players for jazz,” says Dana, chiming in. “And he brings in these cats. He brings in Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis. And that’s here. You won’t see that in Iowa. You’ll see it in Chicago, but you’ll pay a lot of money.

“I’ll tell you right now, every city you go to sucks to the people who are there all the time. There’s a level of suckiness in every single city; but it’s what you make of it. It’s about the community and the effort you put into it.”

Jess

Cool City, Cool Business: A Chat with Annabelle’s Pet Station

I asked “What’s your favorite community-engaged business?” and Angela Brown of @coolcitydogs answered. The ensuing conversation made me laugh and, more importantly, educated me about Annabelle’s Pet Station, a Lansing gem I knew little about.

My dogs show more love every day than most people muster in a lifetime.  I was moved by the passion exhibited by these pet lovers, who make their mission to create a better life in Lansing for pets and owners alike. Don’t have a pet? Get one. Then read this.

1. Who are you? No, really who are you? Business-wise, personally… how do you see yourself in relation to the #lovelansing movement?

Business-wise and personally, we are, at our core, dog-lovers. Ann Andrews and I are both lawyers, with full time jobs outside of AnnaBelle’s, who started this business three years ago because we saw something missing in Downtown Lansing – dogs.

As busy lawyers who worked in downtown Lansing, we both wanted a place downtown to take our own dogs and, at the same time, we just wanted to see more people with dogs in the Downtown area.  To us, that is a sign of vibrancy and life that every city needs.  And, that is how the plan for AnnaBelle’s began to take shape in early 2007.

Continue reading

Ken

Rachael Zlomak Parker: Keeping Lansing’s Toes Tapping

If you’re ever out dancing the night away at Tavern on the Square – one of the premier night spots in downtown Lansing – and you feel like you’re being watched, don’t worry. You’re not being paranoid.

You really are being watched.

At first, you might not even notice Rachael Zlomak Parker taking her typical wallflower role in the corner of the room. But if you find yourself amazed that your favorite song is on the radio once again on a another Saturday night out on the town, or if you find yourself smiling and tapping your toes to the beats being seamlessly integrated into your evening, then she’s already had a profound impact on your evening even though you never even noticed her. Continue reading