I don’t even know if I believe the local alt-weekly’s latest report about how bad things have got with City Hall. But, if we take their “highly placed but unnamed source” — that’s got to be whoever it was was mayor of Lansing after David M C Hollister — at its word, then it turns out City Hall is not even any such thing. It’s actually three Town Halls standing on top of each other and wearing a construction tarp. I can hardly believe it either. You never think of stuff like that happening these days. Although if it did happen, it happened in the late 50s, when I’m not sure we had rules about building stuff to any particular code or guidelines or anything. Well, we’ll just see what appears in the corrections column. It will be an apology for the incorrect use of “it’s/its” in the official notices.
So it transpires that sometime last year the whole eastern wing of the sixth floor transcended ordinary existence and turned into beings of pure energy. Which sounds cool, sure. But then you try bringing any springs in and they suddenly compress as far as possible, soaking up all that potential energy? Hardly convenient. Or if you bring in that steel-balls-on-pendulums things that they put on the boss’s table in 1980s sitcoms, and the balls all fly up to the top of pendulum and wait? Yeah, that’s just inconvenient. And that’s before you even consider what happens when you take a mechanical watch in and let that soak up the potential energy that used to be the Office of Rental Inspections. I really hate to give up on a handsome enough building but I have to admit it’s sounding like City Hall just needs more work than we can expect to get out of it, at least not without a major source of energy and I just don’t see where … saaaaaaay! I have to go make some calls.
OK, I tried making calls. But you know that long spiral-cut rubber wire that connects the part of the phone you use to the part of the phone that falls off the table when you pick up the part of the phone you use? Yeah, that one. Well, it turned into this impossibly tight, energy-laden supercoil and that’s too hard for me to deal with. I’ll write them a letter, maybe. Meanwhile please everyone admire the correctness of my use of the word “transpire” to start this article. I’ll wait.
OK, so the news clarified matters some. It’s not technically a dragon that’s caught in that fifth-floor corridor. It’s instead some cuddly, well-meaning dragon-like creature who embodies the spirit of civic-mindedness or something like that. I’m having trouble following it exactly. Apparently it comes from this obscure series of children’s books from the early 60s that are all about kids who accidentally make things worse but then find out how they can make things better. It sounds a little twee, honestly, but I can’t argue with the sentiments and apparently its nose is this little valentine-heart shape, and I’m a sucker for cute soft 60s characters with that feature. Still looks like some kind of dragon is all.
So some more of the problems with Lansing City Hall have come to light. Apparently there’s a fairly important service hallway on the fifth floor that’s blocked by a dragon. Not a mean dragon, mind you. It’s actually pretty soft and cuddly by all descriptions. It’s just that since he settled in, he grew too large and now he can’t quite fit through the hallways and has been stuck in place a while. Says the last thing he remembers before getting stuck was reading the newspapers about the Penn Central bankruptcy. So it sounds like he’s a railroad fanatic or one of those people who would read even the boring articles in the newspaper. Fine enough. But he is blocking access to one of the larger supply closets as it is. I can’t imagine everyone else is waiting for those supplies since they’ve been blocked off like that since 1970. Still, think of the proceeds that could be raised from auctioning off genuine 1970-era NOS typewriter ribbons and manilla envelopes and stuff. I have to admit this whole replacing-City-Hall project is sounding more sensible.
Some more reports of problems at City Hall. So according to the local news today they’ve found a storage closet on the fourth floor that’s just chock full of German-speaking academic types saying “peculiar”. Nobody knows why there’s this collection. For my tastes, just the great way they pronounce that central syllable is justification enough. But I don’t see why the city needs so many of them. Or really any of them at all. You’d think it was something for the community college.
Also in a waiting room on the sixth floor the audio system is always playing Kid Creole and the Coconuts’s 1985 hit “Endicott”. Like, the song finishes and then it starts right back up. It’s a fun enough song, but this is a bit much, considering the room doesn’t have an audio system. The leading hypothesis is the room is haunted by a fan of New Wave/Disco music but who just isn’t that adventurous, or has maybe been locked out of their iTunes account. Part of renovations would include just signing the ghost up for a new account already, one they have a password manager for.
I don’t know how closely you’re following the public debate about Lansing’s municipal infrastructure. I admit having suspicions. Anyway the biggest debate, as measured by height above street level, is about the David M Hollister City Hall. They named City Hall for Mayor Hollister last year. Mayor Hollister was mayor back a couple decades so he’s in the sweet spot right now. Nobody remembers what the heck his big scandal was, but they do remember he’s alive. That latter one puts him up over the guy who succeeded Hollister, whom Wikipedia tells me was Mayor … Mayor M Lansingmayor…son?.
They’re talking about moving to a new City Hall. This seems like a dis on Hollister, but nah, he’s fine with it. He never liked the building to start with, which makes naming the place after him seem like an even bigger dis. I’m starting to wonder if somebody does remember whatever the heck his scandal was and is playing headgames. But the major talk about moving is that the current City Hall was last maintained in any form in 1973. This was when they painted over the sign reading “Court of Oyer and Teminer” after learning Michigan has never had one of those.
The alt-weekly had a piece last week about how bad the building is. The building’s from 1958, so it’s got that swinging mid-century modernist style like a setting for one of those Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons. And it’s great for regrouping after heavy rains destroy a parade. But I have to admit some of these problems seem dire. For example:
Stalagmites. There’s those steady water leaks through the cement causing trouble all over. Last month somebody voting in an absentee ballot came back to the basement garage and found a limestone iceberg had completely enveloped his 2017 Buick Verano and also a wooly mammoth. And the vote was on whether to extend participation in the regional 9-1-1 service agreement. The vote passed but was it really worth the loss of his car and mammoth? Oh, probably. Regionalization is good for this kind of thing.
The Eighth-Floor Bathroom. It’s got faded orange walls. It’s also got that thing with a cloth towel looped into some kind of metal dispenser that’s been rusted in place since 1959. It’s like, it’s supposed to turn so you aren’t wiping your hands on the filthiest piece of fabric known to humanity, but it doesn’t? Also there’s a four-by-five-foot hole in the floor that looks over a hole in the floor below that’s the same size. Also the floor below that, and so on, down to the second storey. Yes, yes, on that second storey there is a trampoline. The city isn’t reckless. Oh, but also when you enter, some phone navigator voice calls out, “Please continue on the current route”. No one has any explanation for this phenomenon.
David Hollister’s Middle Initial Is ‘C’. I know, that hardly seems to make sense, does it? It would flow so poetically if his middle name started ‘M’. But he insists on ‘C’ and there’s no arguing him out of this. They are saying if they move to a new city hall it’ll be the David C Hollister City Hall and I guess we’ll swallow our tears over the ‘M’.
Climate Control. The building’s original, dials-and-levers, steam-based control system hasn’t worked in decades. Instead management has to use a set of signal flags, based on a code book used by the Royal Navy at the Battle of Ushant 1778. I know, you’re giggling thinking about how well that worked out for the British, right? It causes so much confusion. People on the maintenance floors have to keep stepping away from their big, rusty blocks of metal that makes alarming banging noises to clarify things. “Do you really want us to send the sixth-rate frigates to lee?” “No, no, we just need the property tax appeals to be about three degrees cooler.” It’s a lot of trouble.
The Upper Floors. Between the strong, hypnotic horizontal rows of alternating blue and black windows, and the regular vertical aluminum linings, there’s definitely a Saul Bass credit sequence forming. This isn’t by itself a problem. But it does need someone to extract the credits. Zoo officials recommend placing it at the start of a tight 95-minute thriller about a man who saw a book about the Byzantine Empire in the wrong section of the library, checked it out on a whim, and found himself on a wild transcontinental race for the secrets of an atomic supermarket that were hidden on a folded sheet of paper on between pages 383 and 384. Movie goof: you can’t fit a sheet between pages 383 and 384! The book is only 352 pages long.
The Lobby Escalator. When the state put up a spite office building right infront of City Hall the town had to wall off the escalator. The partitions are still there. Two years ago the courts ruled that the city had to open enough of a hole in the drywall to let the people trapped on the escalator free. “We don’t know how this happened,” said the assistant city manager. “We would have sworn the escalator was too far from the courtroom for any judge to hear them.”
There’s more, but it gets into some weird territory. But now I understand more why they figure they need a new building. They’re not figuring to demolish the current City Hall, though. They figure they can turn it into a hotel. That sounds like it’ll be a much more interesting place than the last Red Roof Inn I stayed in. They barely even had any weird candy in the vending machine.