From a genetic standpoint, every living organism is a composite of billions of combinations of activated and deactivated genes. And these genes, facilitated over millennia of evolution, is what leads you to be you and me to be me. In that sense, we are all just manifestations of the linkages between our individual, evolved genetic makeup. The key features that make us who we are are linked in some way, some connect-the-dot biology that manifests into a walking, living human. The same way that an individual’s particular traits interact with one another to build that individual, a city’s key features link together to build that city’s identity. It is this capacity for social linkage that makes Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love, that makes Columbus the mound of garbage that it is and that makes Ann Arbor the home of the Wolverines.
Most people see Ann Arbor as a scattered plot of bizarrely-angled intersections of one-way streets and four-lane throughways dotted with a blend of ancient and modern buildings with no real definite organization, but in reality, the city focuses around a very defined track. The most popular and well-known parts of Ann Arbor and the University can be found along a single, thought-out pathway, guiding one through the city’s most important features.
Through research, I have identified this pathway as taking the shape of the number three, starting at Zingerman’s in Kerrytown and ending at the Big House. By drawing the number three on a map of Ann Arbor, one can discover the mathematically-aligned key features of the city that make it the Ann Arbor we all know and love.
We start with the top left tip of the three at Zingerman’s in Kerrytown, home of the greatest sandwiches that Ann Arbor has to offer. Though not frequented quite as much by undergraduates, it is held near and dear to the hearts of alumni who now have the money to pay for its riches.
We move east from Kerrytown through Old Fourth Ward, and toe the lines of the University’s hospital forming the top curve of the number. The curve continues along Observatory, and cuts into the heart of central campus before reaching South U, forming the central apex of the three at The Diag. Surrounded by classrooms and auditoriums of grand performance, the Diag sits just adjacent from State Street, becoming the cross-section of almost everything Ann Arbor prides itself in: World-class teaching, good food, artistic appreciation and the acknowledgement of the University’s storied past, highlighted by the forbidden M of the class of 1953.
We circle back out under the engineering arch and clip the fringes of South U, just enough to hear the hum of Pinball Pete’s and shouting from Charley’s and Jug, voices of ghosts whose Saturday nights went on far too long. The bottom curve of the three stretches is through Ross, cutting diagonally across Packard, sharply hooking to the gates of the Big House. What better place to end the three than Michigan Stadium? It is the only place where one can truly see and feel the brevity and depth of Ann Arbor’s spiritual effect not only on students, alumni and our rivals, but also general fans of the University and our city.
In some strange way of social and geographical evolution, the most salient features of Ann Arbor that bring people here from around the world can be traced out using the number three, linking the city’s “genes” that make it the Ann Arbor we know and love. From Zingerman’s, to The Diag, through to the Big House, the number three outlines Ann Arbor’s places to be.