The Ballad of Ypsilanti

Maybe it’s my own insecurities about where I went to college, some mediocre state school in rural Wisconsin, just down the interstate from thee University of Wisconsin, knowing damn-well I could’ve gotten into that school (and in fact did get into that school), but still opted for the more affordable option to receive my bullshit degree, but there was something about “College Towns” that drove me batshit. I couldn’t quite place it. Was it the constant traffic to allow pretentious kids to cross the road wherever they damn well felt? Or sensing an “otherness” among these kids who were going to flagship schools that would actually matter on resumes? Even among my own friends, there were often jokes and jabs about how I just went to Whitewater. Who did I even think I was? To have the nerve to associate with such a higher class of being that were paying three times as much money to receive a comparable degree just so that they could say that they went to thee University of Wisconsin. The same one that Cory Matthews applied to. The same one that they used to shoot a Rodney Dangerfield film in the 80s. The same one that MTV filmed a short-lived reality series at. That’s what mattered.

You would’ve thought that nearly four years after graduating from my bullshit college I wouldn’t give a shit anymore. College kids mean nothing to me. They are just a bunch of brainwashed disciples of a false promise of an American dream, raised to believe by parents without degrees that college matters. I shouldn’t be plagued by them. But yet, finding myself with time to kill in Ann Arbor, I have discovered I am overrun with irritation for these same kids. And here I am, sitting in a coffee shop (and brewery?) in Ypsilanti, damn happy to be here. To my surprise, Ypsilanti also has a major university. And after spending an hour driving around Ann Arbor last night trying to find a brewery to go to, I ended up annoyed with the crowds and the college kids and drove the four miles down the road to Ypsilanti. I did not expect to find a college there, but yet, I did. EMU. No, not “emu” as I first said out loud when I saw the first sign trying to figure out if they had a wild emu problem. But Eastern Michigan University.

Initially, this irritated the shit out of me. Another fucking college town? With more stuckup pricks from the coasts struggling through the chilly evening and seeking comfort at the bottom of an already inherently pretentious drink? Well, fuck me. But I powered through and decided to go to the Ypsilanti Corner Brewery location of Arbor Brewing Co. (Which also has a location in Ann Arbor), and guess what? There was no pretention to be found there. It was trivia night, filled to the brim with nerds, my kind of nerds, flexing their pop culture knowledge about mid-80s comedies (What do you mean you didn’t know Robert Downey Jr was in Back to School? Are you a dumbass?!) and 90s R&B (I am positive this is Color Me Bad, and if you fight me I will knife you).

Since I’m linking this through my post about this particular brewery, I won’t bore y’all with the details of the beer a second time. But I will briefly discuss my bartender Brian, who kept serving me bigger beers than I ordered and charging me the lesser price, which is kind (and also looking back at my bill from last night I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t even charged for all my beers), but he was missing the point that I was trying to drink as many different kinds of beer, not just as much beer as possible. But besides that, Brian took time out of his night to tell me all the interesting things he knew about “Ypsi” as the locals call it. And with no effort, that man nailed every single one of my base interests. There was a serial killer that took out a bunch of people. This was the home of one of America’s last remaining “insane asylums” and when Reagan moved to de-fund the establishments and de-institutionalize people in the 80s, Ypsi suddenly found itself with a profound homeless problem with thousands of people just turned out onto the streets with no help or support. Y’all know I love me a good shittalk fest about Reagan era politics and policies. We touched on the “War on Drugs” and then he told me all about how Ypsilanti got it’s name.

I love local color. And sure shit, this is the local color that I am always looking for.

But I also considered, oh, maybe I’m drunk. Maybe that’s why I care.

But then today, I found myself in the same predicament I found myself in yesterday, only this time I was looking for a place to get coffee. I dropped Nicole off at her interview and while waiting for her to text me that she was okay, I looked into local coffee shops. Everything I found on Google seemed to be straight up on the UM campus. Or MU campus? I honestly don’t know if it’s Michigan University or University of Michigan that’s located in Ann Arbor. I just know it’s one people give a shit about. But I digress.

First I thought about sticking somewhere nearby and navigated to an Einstein Bros. becuase I also needed to eat and I figured I could get my usual caramel high rise drink and a nova lox bagel. But when I “arrived” at the Einstein Bros., I found it to be inside the university hospital. So I said “fuck that” and pulled over and found another coffee shop on State Street to go to, and when I got there it was filled to the brim with kids in beanies on laptops trying to look studious. I hate that. So I tried to go to another one a little further from campus, but that’s when I discovered there is no “further from campus.” Campus is everywhere. The only thing in fucking Ann Arbor is the university and things that are adjacent to the unvieristy. Campus is split into different sections, connected by campus buses that seem immune to traffic laws (unlike the Hop which is bound by the laws of traffic and is also essentially a bus if a bus didn’t go anywhere). So no matter where I went, save for Starbucks which I made the choice to not go to, there were just beanie-headed academics all over the goddamn place.

So guess what I did? I drove my ass down to Ypsilanti. Last night the town felt sketchy and rundown, but in the light of a snowy day, it is quaint and old and forgotten. Maybe I have a soft spot for Ypsi because their students seem… broke. Grateful? Happy to just be in fucking college? Or maybe I’m projecting. But I, based on my feelings towards cities like Pittsburgh, I think I also have a soft spot for down on their luck small industry cities. Historic downtown Ypsilanti is gorgeous. The Depot District is inspiring. And with the soft and light snow falling, the entire town looks like a goddamn Hallmark movie. I love it here.

I found myself a little coffee shop in the Depot filled with passionate people who should have real jobs, but instead are doing fake things on their computers like editing photos and pictures and two guys are going through a Powerpoint together. And I can’t even mock them because I don’t have even have a fake job and I also have the privilege of being at a coffee shop at 10am on a Thursday musing about some little midwestern town an hour outside of Detroit and twenty minutes from Ann Arbor.

As Brian the Bartender said yesterday, “Ann Arbor is pretentious, but Ypsi? Ypsi’s just weird man.” And I love it.