By Henry Morgenstein
Between the Bays Publishing
By Elizabeth Buzzelli
The Traverse City Chamber of Commerce should be handing out Henry
Morgensteins new book, TC, I Love Thee, to every tourist and
prospective resident. Real Estate agents should buy cases of the books to
give as gifts at closings. If you would like to join in a song to our
beautiful area, this is that song.
Henry Morgenstein came to the United States in 1948 when he was brought to
New York City from first Belgium, and then Havana, Cuba. In 1971 he moved
to Traverse City, teaching English at Northwestern Michigan College for
the next 30 years until his retirement in 2001.
This man loves Traverse City: unequivocally, unapologetically,
wholeheartedly. He loves the area, the people, the houses, downtown, the
lake. For years hes fought for a sensible future, argued for sustainable
growth, for using our resources to the best advantage, for preservation of
our buildings, and for holding on to the unique character of the town.
After he came to TC, he was soon writing letters to the editor of the
Record-Eagle, then eventually writing a column for the paper. After that
came talks on various radio stations, including WNMC, Northwestern
Michigan Colleges radio station. It is these letters, essays, radio
talks, and columns that are collected here, in this book. All with a
common theme: the city that he loves. In Traverse City is as close as I
can come to paradise on Earth (written in 1990) he recalls the dark
tunnels of New York City.
I lived in apartment 6C in New York City, he writes. A nice building
at the very uppermost tip of the island of Manhattan. When I left my
apartment to go anywhere I stepped outside my apartment, made sure the
door was locked, walked through a dreary tunnel (long hallway) to a dank
But here, in the city hes come to love, I bicycle down Washington
Street, State Street, Eighth Street. I bicycle all over town What
unbelievable peace and quiet reigns in this small town Traverse City, you
are close to my ideal city. How did I get so lucky?
Never a man to steer away from controversy, one of the most telling
exchanges in the book comes when the then-editor of the Record Eagle, Jim
Herman, left it up to the readership, whether Henry should be given a
regular column or not. Morgenstein, in his own defense, wrote I think I
am good at writing. I think I am good at clarifying an issue, at raising
the various points that need to be raised. I write to make all of us
aware of certain human issuespollution, overpopulationlocal
issuesschool busescity streets He included a coupon to vote yes or no
for him. Over 300 people voted and he got his column, until 1991, when he
was fired for opposing the first invasion of Iraq.
One of his essays, about saving the beautiful buildings of the old state
hospital, reads almost like prophecy. Although his dream of locating the
college at the hospital site never materialized, many of his other wishes
for the property have come true. At first, he envisioned the plan of the
Palais Royal in Paris, designed in 1790:
It included an exquisite theatre, a puppet show, a waxwork, and a theatre
in which child actors performed. There were auction rooms, concert rooms,
a salon for chess players, gambling clubs, purely social clubs, a Turkish
bath, apartments to rent, several small hotels, numerous cafes and eating
places. The upper floors were rented out.
So, maybe some of that is still to come but he did describe great
restaurants locating there . . . Some posh apartment buildings. A
building with specialty shops.
Not bad. He suggested that the site become Traverse Citys Central Park;
that the zoo be moved to the grounds; and that cars be banned in the area.
Some of that could still be in the future as the property defines itself.
It might yet be Traverse Citys Central Park, cars might still be confined
to the outer perimeters, and maybe the zoo animals we lost will wend their
BIKES & CARS
A bit of a renegade, Henry Morgenstein is definitely not a lover of
cars. In TC should walk into the future, he champions walking or
biking as the sanest means of transportation. In a not so prophetic
pronouncement, he says in this 1986 essay, Cars are not the wave of
the future. If he had his way, he would ban cars from almost all of
the city, compelling residents to ride a bike as he does. A common
sight in Traverse City was Henry on his bike, greeting neighbors and
visitors. A one-man welcoming committee for the city he loves.
Perhaps my favorite lines from this book of elegiac, contentious, and
thought provoking essays comes in Ban all cars inside Traverse City when
Ban all cars inside Traverse City. When you get to our city limit you
will please leave all guns, cars, and other mechanical noise-making
machines at our front door. Now you may enter our world of peace, quiet,
tranquility and childrens games.
Well, maybe not during Cherry Festival, or the Film Festival, but it is
something to think about.
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli will be talking about Dogs, Logs, and Dead Folks
at the Traverse City Library August 22, 7 pm. Her new mystery, Dead Dogs
and Englishmen, is in bookstores now.