As you enter Ypsilanti via Washtenaw Avenue, you are greeted by one of the more phallic water towers of the world. Nadia even told me it was known throughout Germany! We started off at the Ugly Mug, a cool coffee shoppe within walking distance of Eastern's campus, close to the historic Depot Town.
There, I met Linda, who was sitting at the bar. She got a BFA in photography, and loves doing creative things. She manages a gallery and art store in Ann Arbor, actually, the one right across the street from Conor O'Neills. Our conversation focused on Southeast Michigan, which is where she's spent her life so far...
Where do you live and where do you call home?
"I was born in Plymouth-Canton, and moved to Ypsilanti when I was eighteen to come to school. I actually lived right across the street from here, on Adams, when I was in Ypsilanti. My boyfriend is still active in local theatre here. Now I live in Whitmore Lake. I consider Whitmore Lake home. I moved there in 2006 because the schools are a better fit for my son. It is a quieter and safer place. My sister is out there, too." Whitmore Lake is a small community just a few miles north of Ann Arbor; it is a wonderful bike ride away.
What do you love about where you call home?
"I love how you can move between the city, the suburbs and the country in a short time. I also love the people here. There's a great mixture of people, some I get along with, and some I don't. There are people of all social and economic statuses, a lot of unexpected people. Like you. I never expected to be talking to a stranger today."
How has this area changed, culturally and environmentally, over time?
"The area has become a lot more liberal over time. There's a lot more art and music, not just in Ann Arbor or Detroit. There isn't a big gap anymore. Maybe it is the technology, maybe the people...There is definitely a lot less of the environment visible today. When I was growing up, between Plymouth-Canton and Ypsilanti, there were only dirt roads and farms. Now there are subdivisions and car dealerships and box stores everywhere. I am not a huge fan of sprawl. There are definitely fewer farms and woods. I feel like in that sense, this place has lost its character. Canton just sort of blends in now, and has lost its uniqueness. Ypsilanti, though, seems to have held together pretty tightly. There's not a lot of corporate stuff in this town."
What is unique about this place? What should I definitely check out? What should I observe there?
"The river. And the park area...Riverside and Frog Island. Not a lot of places have a river running through the middle of them. There is a bridge under a bridge. Anywhere on that bridge, just stand there. There's also an outdoor amphitheatre in Frog Island that should be used more...Definitely go to La Fiesta Familia, the Mexican restaurant just up the road. I've been going there for years and have gotten to know the family very well. I always order the same thing every time..."
Tim and I walked over to the bridge under the bridge. I had never noticed it! Nor have I seen anything else like it. It is beautiful; the river is flanked by Depot Town and a beautiful old women's dorm on either side. The river was gushing with rains on the watershed. We saw the amphitheatre, too.
Tim and I also walked into Depot Town. It definitely seems like history stares you more in the face in Ypsilanti than in Ann Arbor. Both Tim and I felt that we were kind of walking back through time in Ypsilanti. They've done a wonderful job at creating little spaces, and there are signs and plaques everywhere talking about the history of the town. There are little nooks hidden in the peace of the town. I know that most students that pass through Ann Arbor never make it out to Ypsilanti, which is just ten minutes away. Tim and I had a wonderful afternoon there.