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I am not normally an over-the-top relationship person. I do not have my relationship status posted on Facebook. I would never dream of using a couple photo as my profile picture. Ever. I do not use baby talk. I don’t make out in public. I don’t ever say “we should make this a couples thing!” In fact, I am vocal in my hatred for couples.

And I do not send cutesy text messages back and forth all day long.

Today, however, I was feeling inspired, and sent Joe a text message that said “I love you.”

The response? “You’d better.”


Today after I picked Elliot up from school, he asked me: “Have you ever heard the story of King Midas?”

“Yeah, I have,” I said. “Did you hear it at school?”

“It’s in the reading corner.”

“Did you like the story?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he said.

“Did you get what the moral of the story was?”

He thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s the lesson that King Midas learned?”

“Oh! Yeah! Never listen to spirits when they ask you if you want to make a wish.”

“That’s a good one,” I said. “But what else?”

“Umm, don’t wish that you can turn things into gold!”

“That’s good, you’re getting there,” I said. “Why don’t you want to wish you could turn things into gold?”

“Oh! Yeah! That’s the lesson! Don’t hold your daughter’s hand when you’ve wished you could turn everything you touch into gold and it came true! Because then you’ll turn your daughter into gold!”

“What about don’t be greedy?” I asked.

“Huh,” he paused. “No, I don’t necessarily see that.”

Tonight, as I was cutting Elliot’s toenails, I discovered a tiny pebble that had been lodged under one of them. I flicked it into the sink.

“What if that was a magic pebble?” he asked.

“Do you think it was a magic pebble?”

“I think it was,” he said.

“So what do you think is going to happen?”

“The whole house is magic now.” He turned his head away from me and whispered, “House! I wish for sixty six tongues!”

This morning Elliot told me that he’d like to start taking karate again. I told him I thought that would be fine, but also that I think that we should get him into a team sport that he can play in school. Here is what he said:

“Maybe. But the thing is, my strengths are really more things like robots, technology, the body, math, albegra… alge… algebra. That kind of thing. I’m just not really interested in standing around in a field playing basketball. I’m not that kind of guy. I have better things to do with my strengths.”

The argument is pretty air-tight. Except for that basketball being played in a field part. We’ll have to set that one straight before some 5’11” second-grader does.

Me: Hey! Nice work, senor!

Elliot: Hmm… Spanish. Let’s try to talk in English, just for this morning, okay?


Me: We’re going to go to the seed store.

Elliot: Downtown Home and Garden? That’s the opposite of my jam.

Now that Christmas is over, I thought that I would share some memories of the holiday season as we in the Miller-Barrett-Lilienfeld clan experienced it (what’s really amazing is that, in a clan of three adults and one child, we have three different last names).

For me, this will be remembered as the Christmas that I received a dutch oven from my mom.

Christmas preparations at our house.

This was the first year that I bought a real Christmas tree. But our revolving LED tree was broken, so it was moving in a more elliptical manner than I thought was safe or attractive. Plus, I covered the tree in multiple layers of tinsel and a revolving LED star on the top, so it was still in the realm of our traditions.

After we decorated the tree, I turned off the lights so we could experience its full glory.

“What do you think?” I asked Elliot.

“Yeah!” He shouted. “Take that, other people’s Christmas trees!”

Christmas morning at our house.

Elliot was at his dad’s house, so Joe and I exchanged gifts Christmas Eve. In the morning I woke up and was suddenly filled with remorse over one of the gifts that I had given him; an item that I had previously been really excited about.

“I just realized,” I said, “as a guy, are flannel sheets with snowflakes on them kind of … gay?”

Christmas dinner at our house.

Christmas dinner was attended by Elliot, me, my mom, and our friends Davy and Josh D, who may as well be family at this point. Davy was a last minute addition, and came bearing gifts of food that had obviously come from gift baskets given to him by people he doesn’t really know. And yet, Elliot was still talking yesterday about the fact that Davy gave him chocolate-covered graham crackers for Christmas.

The biggest hit of Christmas dinner was a side dish that I like to refer to as “angry biscuits.” Angry biscuits are the result of kneading and rolling when you’re really pissed off at your family.

Angry biscuits.

The main topic of conversation was the fact that my mom had given me a dutch oven for Christmas.

Josh D: “Yes! Dutch oven!”

Davy: “Hahahahaha! Wait. I kind of forgot what a dutch oven was, but I knew it was something funny.”

Elliot: “What’s a dutch oven?”

Me: “It’s that pot that grandma gave me for Christmas.”

Josh D: “Your grandma gave your mom a dutch oven for Christmas.”


Josh D: “I explained to your mom what a dutch oven is. Both kinds.”

Me: “There’s another kind of dutch oven?”

Josh D: “It’s when someone’s going down on you and you fart.”

Me: “You said ‘going down on’ to my mom? Gross! You can’t say that!”

Josh D: “I didn’t. I said, ‘When someone’s kissing you in your special place.'”

Me: “Ack! That’s even worse!”

After dinner, Elliot went upstairs to watch Christmas movies with my mom, and Davy, Geoff and I had Geoff’s outsourced Indian personal assistant call our friends, wish them a “Happy Christmas,” ask them how their families were doing, and report back to us via email.

As a follow-up, here’s the email I received today from Mayor Hieft (note the form email that he was also sending out at the bottom, there info there as well.

Hi Jordan!

Hope you are well. The extended hours proposal was changed last night so that nothing was done for now but the DDA will come back with more details. They really want the turnover of spaces that the extended hours would accomplish. That may not work for all of downtown but we will take up the subject again in March. I have included below the information I sent out yesterday to people who wrote with concerns.

In regard to parking for downtown workers we talked about how the DDA and get downtown program could do more to educate people on what is available. Currently a downtown restaurant worker or retail worker can park in a structure from 3 PM on for $30 per month. There are also very inexpensive dial-a-rides that run very late.  Someone who wrote me yesterday said what about crime in a parking structure late at night?  I understand that the perception is that it would be more dangerous but when this was studied a few years ago the structures were to be found to as safe as or even safer than anywhere else downtown. And then it is usually possible to find someone to walk with you if you ask. It may be in the end that nothing changes or it does. We need to wait for the data.

Thanks for writing and have a great holiday.

John Hieftje


The appearance of this issue on the agenda was a surprise to me even though it is something that has been talked about at the Downtown Development Authority for a few years.  I will not be voting for it.

Judging from casual conversations with a couple of council members I ran into over the weekend at a holiday party and at Caucus last night, you don’t need to worry about this passing. But, while I have you, please let me explain some of the background on this issue.

Parking meters first originated to promote turnover of street spaces and second, to generate revenue. As time went on revenue generation became prominent for cities but turnover remains an important consideration.  Ideally street spaces will serve the downtown patron who wants to dash in for an hour of shopping, enjoy lunch, coffee or a quick dinner. The parking structures and gated lots are intended to accommodate longer term parking. That’s a major reason why it costs more to park on the street.

The shortage of street parking downtown is one reason the DDA has discussed this issue with increased revenue to expand and maintain the parking system being the other. Every city in Michigan is struggling so the revenue side is easy to understand but turnover is needed too. In some parts of downtown there is more need for turnover of street spaces in the evening than during the day.

People often park at 6:00 and leave the car until 10:00, 11 or later. I’ve done this many times. From a parking expert’s point of view, the problem with this is that the space never turns over.  Kind of like sitting at a table in a restaurant for 4 hours.  Parking in a structure or gated surface lot means paying more but the street space might then be available for 3 or 4 shorter stops that night. That’s 3 or 4 more downtown customers served. But extending the meter times probably won’t work for all of downtown and of course we need to be fair to all.

Promoting turnover of street spaces may be the reason one of the four downtown business associations favors an extension of enforcement times but it could be a problem for Kerrytown where there is not an abundance of structures. As we can all see, this is not a simple issue. A one-size-fits-all policy may not work but then having different rules for different parts of downtown could create confusion. Not making changes is always an option too.

Our city’s lively downtown is truly a treasure and a major contributor to our award winning quality of life. For many of us it’s a major reason for living in Ann Arbor. It adds a lot to the city’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs. We need to carefully consider any changes and make sure we have a good understanding of the possible consequences before taking action.  I expect this to be a long term discussion and having this on the agenda has at least kicked off the conversation.

If you would ever like to discuss this or any other issue please call my office for an appointment during my weekly open office hours. Thanks for writing and please accept my best wishes for a happy holiday season.

John Hieftje

Here’s my response:

Hi John,

Thanks for writing back.

So it looks like this is an issue of public awareness more than anything.
I know this might sound self-aggrandizing, but I’m pretty well involved in the 25-40 townie set, and I think I could help.

If it’s true that the parking structures are safer, that information should be better publicized. Ditto for the $30 a month parking pass (I don’t know any downtown workers who know about this, and you certainly can’t leave it up to the owners, for the most part).

This story blew up entirely in the social media sphere. It was all over Facebook and Twitter. It was hardly even covered by

If you or someone in your office would send me a link to that study, or the study itself, as well as info about that parking pass, I’ll do my best to spread it across the social media sphere (that’s also what I do for a living :]).

Let me know what you think.

Jordan Miller

About an hour ago I received an e-mail from Kerrytown Market and Shops manager Karen Farmer, who said she had just returned from a meeting with Sandi Smith (D-1st ward), the person responsible for bringing the parking meter resolution to the city council (and also a member of the DDA).

Here’s what Karen, who seemed none too pleased, had to say:

None of the city council members, nor did members of the DDA, ever bring this to the Kerrytown District Association’s attention, and there is little or no time to prepare and respond. In addition, it is in the height of our local independent business holiday season and to come out to a council meeting on such a negative subject really isn’t fair, without proper notice and information.

We feel our district isn’t affected by downtown workers taking up all of the parking spots, and feel that our clientele coming to dine at eve, or take in a concert at the Kerrytown Concert House, or coming to pick up groceries from Sparrow or the Food Co-op (open until 10pm) will be directly affected; in addition, we only have metered parking spots – not the convenience of an attended structure or an attended surface lot, where you can go park and not think about it  until the end of the evening.

She brings up a point that hasn’t even been mentioned. And I wonder how often Kerrytown gets slighted in these sorts of decisions; they don’t have the political might (and I use this term loosely, we ARE talking about the small business politics of a small city) of Main Street or State Street.

I liked getting seeing the email subject: “Geoff Lilienfeld has accepted your meeting request.”

It made me feel like I had really accomplished something.

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