Blog: Daniel Hogan

Daniel Hogan, 27, is a writer, aspiring drummer and all around lovable geek.  He hails from Detroit. But after studying film at Grand Valley State University, he found a job in Lansing working in media production.

He is the author of the fantasy-comedy-adventure Young Adult novel, “The Magic of Eyri,” which he self-published in 2007.  Since then, Daniel has been working on other novels and short stories.

Daniel has always enjoyed writing and being creative. His award-winning animated short, “Lunch Date,” has been featured in several film festivals and was one of only four American shorts chosen for the 2005 Nontzeflash Animation Festival. Later in 2005, Daniel represented Grand Valley State University at the Kalamazoo Animation Festival International as captain of the university’s Cartoon Challenge team.

This week, Daniel will blog about the challenges that go along with finding one’s niche in a new city, the joys of buying local during the holiday season, and Downtown projects that could draw in the younger crowd.

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All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

Daniel Hogan - Most Recent Posts:

Post No. 3

When I moved to Lansing back in 2005, I toyed with the idea of moving Downtown to be closer to work. The obvious benefit would be that I could walk to work and not only save on gas but the monthly fee I have to pay to park for work, which is something I hate.

Being fresh out of college and not accustomed to living in an urban setting, I instead chose an apartment complex on Lansing’s Westside. Whenever my lease comes up for renewal, I think about relocating. I try to decide if I should move Downtown—and when gas hit over $4 a gallon this summer, I seriously considered it.

Downtown has its fun draws: Thirsty Thursdays at Lugnuts' games, the City Market and all of the tasty restaurants to name a few. However, I wish there was more than that.

When I visit other cities, such as Royal Oak, Ferndale or (gasp) Ann Arbor, I think to myself, “If only downtown Lansing was like this.” All of the happening night spots, the stores and the scores of people.

Not that Downtown doesn’t have people aroundduring the summer there are some great events like Common Ground, and I’m a big fan of Blues on the Square. However, I wish there were more to bring folks Downtown on a regular basis.

I do like that groups and companies are investing in Downtown. A great example is the Stadium District. I think this is a great idea, because drawing young people Downtown to live in these apartments is an excellent way to encourage more interest in Downtown living. My only complaint of the Stadium District apartments is that they are rather pricey, at least for someone with my salary.

I originally thought they would have a hard time leasing these apartments, but after a quick visit to their Web site it appears as if most of the units are rented. That’s encouraging. The only units available are the condos on the fourth floor, according to the Web site.

The Stadium District apartments are a good starting point, but what else can be done? 

Jobs that would draw young Michiganders to the city would be a good start. I recall hearing about a possible movie studio being built in or near downtown that would take advantage of Michigan’s new film incentives. As someone who studied film in college, I know how great this would be for Downtown. If this actually happens, a studio like that would draw lots of creative minds here for work. With all of these creative types around, I’m sure more businesses would start popping up.

I’d love to see Downtown Lansing comparable to a Royal Oak, especially for those in my age range. East Lansing is fun and all, but I’d like something closer and hanging out in college bars ain’t always my thing. Old Town is a step in the right direction with regard to what Downtown Lansing could be like—in Old Town you have a great mix of the arts and dining.

I’d love Downtown Lansing to have some kind of art house movie theater, or even more types of shops in Washington Square and not so many restaurants. I like the variety of dining (the Knight Cap is a favorite), but it really hit me how few shops there are in Washington Square when I was Christmas shopping last month.

I really miss the Way Station used bookstore Downtown. I’d spend my lunch hour looking through the old novels, hoping to find a lost gem—and I usually did. Quirky shops such as this are a great draw to Downtown and make it unique. 

Or instead of an art house theater, how about a “brew and view” place? Somewhere you can watch films and have drinks? And I’d prefer seeing old movies at a place like this, not new releases. Watching Escape from New York over beers with friends? Yes, please.

It will take a lot of effort to make Downtown Lansing comparable to a Royal Oak or an Ann Arbor, but I believe that the community is taking steps in the right direction.

Post No. 2

Christmas, for me, is a sort of bittersweet holiday. I enjoy the family aspects of the holiday and giving gifts to my loved ones. But on the other end of the spectrum, I hate the actual buying of said gifts. I hate the crowds.  And I hate buying someone yet another DVD or gift card.

So this past Christmas season, I tried to do things just a little bit differently. I decided to avoid the big box stores and only shop at local Lansing businesses.

Easier said than done. But, always up for a challenge and a way to make Christmas shopping more interesting, I decided to go for it, and I was happy I did. I came up with a mental list of places I wanted to check out, mainly shops in downtown Lansing that I could visit during my lunch break.

First on my list was Michigania, a shop that specializes in Michigan products. I visited the wine section of the store and ended up grabbing a few bottles of blueberry wine. It was something different and unique—another of my goals with this endeavor. Trolling through the food section, I also bought some cherry salsa and chai tea. As I checked out, I told the clerk that I was trying to shop local for Christmas, and he thanked me.

Next, I hit up Clem’s Collectibles to look for games. I noticed a card game which I remembered playing somewhere and enjoying. Taking a chance, I bought it. As before, I informed the clerk of what I was trying to do and was once again thanked.

After work, I made a couple more stops on Lansing’s Westside, near the Lansing Mall. Needing another game for my sister and brother-in-law, I stopped by Evolution Games, which had a great selection. Finding a game to my liking, I finished and paid a visit next door to Pages in Time, a scrapbooking shop. Knowing next to nothing about scrap booking, I asked an employee for suggestions and mentioned a gadget my mom owned. I bought one of the accessories the employee suggested along with some holiday stickers.

A few days later, and still needing gifts for my girlfriend, I went back to Downtown Lansing. I wanted to get her a bracelet of some kind, so I visited the Lansing Art Gallery first. Not having any luck there, I went back to Michigania where I found her a nice bracelet made with Lake Superior beach glass. I also got her a copy of the book, Weird Michigan (which was on her list). 

Days before Christmas, I visited Legends Sports & Games in the Lansing Mall and picked up a Red Wings photo for my dad. After that, I visited Horrocks Farm Market for chocolates, a jar of pickled eggs and more Michigan wine.

My final purchases were made at the Everybody Reads Bookstore, where I found some Michigan apple salsa and a bag of chocolate covered cherries. Afterwards, I enjoyed a nice lunch at Gone Wired Café next door.

I told every one ahead of time I was trying to shop localand to keep that in mind when they opened their gifts.  Thankfully, all of my gifts were a success and everyone appreciated my efforts to support local businesses.

What I took away from this exercise was that it is possible to shop locally for gifts and avoid the crowds at the big box stores.

The adventure in commerce also led to me enjoy Christmas shopping for the first time ever. Part of my enjoyment came from knowing that I was helping support local small businesses own by Lansing residents, instead of nationwide big box stores.  

Post No. 1

I’m not a Lansing native. I’m originally from the Detroit area and attended college near Grand Rapids. After graduating, I found a job in Lansing. Being on my own in a new city was equal parts scary and interesting.

The problem I faced after moving here was finding people my own age to spend time with. I was too old for the Michigan State University (MSU) crowd and too young for my married-with-children co-workers.

Being a bit of an introvert, I have difficulty striking up conversations with strangers or even just approaching them.

However, there is a bit of irony here: I have no problem speaking in public or addressing large groups. I was a part of live, improv comedy shows in college, and I’ve been a guest panelist at several sci-fi and fantasy fan conventions around the state.

Impersonating a seasick pirate during an improv game in a packed coffee house? Easy. Talking to a roomful of people about horror writers from the 1920’s? Cake.

Approaching strangers and striking up a conversation? ERROR. DOES NOT COMPUTE.

I needed to find an easy way to meet others. I scoured the newspapers for ideas and eventually found a young professionals networking group. I had heard of these before and thought I would give it a chance, hoping that my social phobias didn’t get in the way too much.

The events I attended were fun and I did end up meeting quite a few people. The group was a decent size, big enough to not have to talk to the same few people but not overwhelming. I quickly became a regular at the events, making connections and friends.

Over the months I attended meetings, the attendance swelled from around 30 or so to more than 100. Meetings became increasingly cramped, crowded and overwhelming. The larger crowds were the main reason I stopped going.

The main goal of the group was to network, in order to help you career-wise. No problems there; I’m a firm believer in that networking is a good thing. Sadly, as the group grew, I was approached more and more by folks who were only interested in me buying their products or services.

I will say that I benefited more from the smaller meetings than the larger ones. With too many people crammed into one spot, it can be difficult to talk and hear each other (especially at events in bars).

I would recommend that a new transplant find smaller group events—perhaps a book club or at least something where you don’t have to yell over a crowd—to meet people. But, larger groups do offer more of a variety when it comes to meeting people, so trying a little of both is a good idea.

Another way to find friends is to go to events dealing with your interests. Say you like films. Go to a film festival or find a film discussion group. I attended such group once, and we discussed the film The Third Man.

Fear not, my fellow transplants, there are ways to meet people outside of work. Check the newspapers or even Web sites like Craigslist and Facebook to find groups to meet people. Some of my closest friends in Lansing are those I met through these kinds of groups.

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