beer-soaked and blog-goggled

Last nights Beer with Bloggers event went fairly well. I didnt take an official count, but Id say that there were probably 25 folks there at any given time. I tried to be more social than I am by nature, and make it around to talk with everyone, but I apparently missed a few folks, like Felix Maedhors and Jessica Breckenridge. I heard after the fact that they were there, but I must have somehow missed them. (I’m sorry.) I did, however, get to speak with a few readers, and meet some of the other folks who blog from this quirky and chronically ailing little town of ours.

Id like to be able to report that lots of progress was made on the local politics front, but Im afraid that wasnt the case. More than anything else, I got the sense that people just wanted to feel each other out (and make sure there weren’t any “fucking crazies“), so I didnt push the issue of setting goals, coordinating our activities, etc. I just drank a series of half-beers and talked with people. We discussed our day-jobs, our off-line hobbies, our obsessions and the various mental conditions that compel us to spend time blogging when others are out there living real, authentic lives. I should have probably taken notes, as my memory is already growing hazy, but here are a few things that I can still recall.

I spent a bit of time discussing local politics with the fellow behind the East Cross site. Id remembered him from the recent City Council primary race, in which he ran as a write-in candidate, but wed never had an opportunity to chat. I got the impression from him that he would have liked for the event to have evolved into a more focused discussion of the current state of our community and how we might be able to leverage these little sites of ours to accomplish change, but hopefully he had a good time anyway.

And then I sat down with Brian from the Nerdtech site for a half-hour or so. We talked about homebrewing, school bus figure-8 races, performance artists and local museum collections. We discovered that we had friends in common, and that we happen to have the same employer.

Then, I spent some time with Patrick from the Rust Boy site. After talking for a few minutes about Buckminster Fuller, he said that he could introduce me to the man who built the Dymaxion House (the only one existing on the Earth) now on display at the Henry Ford Museum. (This might possibly become a story in the upcoming issue of Crimewave.) He and I also sat at the bar for a while with a reader by the name of Brett Schutzman, a fellow who, until recently, worked as a reenactor in a living history project somewhere outside of Akron. He was, I believe, an 1848 abolitionist. As such, hed lead the program’s participants between houses on the underground railroad. It was completely fascinating. I believe he was also, on occasion, a slave-trader, who would have to inspect the participants/slaves and assess their worth. More recently, hes been selling rare books on Ebay. (There’s not much demand for either slave-traders or abolitionists in Ypsi these days.)

And, Leighton was there too. He and I only spoke briefly, about the fucked up retail politics his wife is encountering in Ann Arbor, as she prepares to open her new Henrietta Fahrenheit store. We also discussed upcoming shows at the Elbow Room, where he books bands. I remember that he and Brian from Nerdtech said that Id be an asshole if I didnt make it out to see Captured by Robots when they came through next time.

Cory from An Empire Wilderness was also there. He and I, and his wife, Sus, who will soon be selling her handbags on-line, talked about bus routes, parking, and other things of interest to them as Ypsi newcomers. And we talked about Corys student debt, and what motivated him to come here from Kansas to earn a PhD in education.

My friend Dirtgrain came late and surprised everyone by not being the paranoid, conspiracy theory-mumbling nut that theyd expected. He and I sat around for a while discussing an idea that Id had earlier in the day to make over-the-top pro-Bush bumper-stickers, saying things like, If God picked him, thats good enough for me, I dont care if every damn thing hes done is wrong, Ill support him till the end, and I intent to vote Bush. Unlike you, Im not afraid of the apocalypse.) My hope was that such statements might cause some Republicans to consider the company theyre keeping and change sides, but Dirtgrain was of the opinion that theyd just lap it up like creem from a saucer.

The only real bad thing about the evening is that our friends Steve and Hillary decided to make it public that they were planning to pull up stakes and move their ass-kicking political machine from Ypsi to Hamtramck. If youre interested in why theyre giving up on Ypsi, check out their sites, The Bunker (hers) and The Seat of Revolution (his), for details.

I think Ill save it for another post, but losing Steve and Hillary is a huge setback for this struggling little community of ours. While they werent always the most popular kids in town, due to the stances they’ve taken against the city government (i.e. on the Waterstreet boondoggle) and the police (on the illegal search of Dennis Bargers home), they were, at least in my eyes, invaluable assets. While most of us lacked the patience and the stamina to attend and sit through public meetings, we could always count on them for coverage (not just comprehensive notes but photos and video). While most of us didnt make the time to learn the issues, and follow the money trails, they did. They were our Woodward and Bernstein And, they were also the most fierce boosters of local business that you could imagine. They shopped locally for everything, and were, right up until recently, discussing the creation of a local shopping guide. I dont know how others saw them, but they inspired me to get more involved and that, I think, is a good thing. While I was previously focused almost exclusively on national issues, they helped me see that there really was more of an opportunity for a few motivated people to create positive change in their own backyard.

Anyway, Ive know for a little while now that they were thinking about moving on, but it became public knowledge last night, one more nail in the coffin of this town that so many of us had such high hopes for last year. Since then, so much has happened; Henrietta Fahrenheit, our retail beacon of hope, gave up on Ypsi after a few years of trying, to move closer to where the money was (Ann Arbor), Rubber Soul Records went belly up, and now Steve and Hillary, the two people most dedicated to seeing this town succeed not as a bedroom community of Ann Arbor, but as a thriving city of small, locally-owned businesses, are calling it quits.

So, where does that leave us? Clearly were losing momentum and people are getting discouraged, but I dont know that its all over yet. Im still convinced that this demographic that we bloggers represent has potential.

I will continue this thread later.

For now Id just like to once again thank all of you who came out last night, and, of course, Linda French, the proprietor of Frenchies.

Here, are a few photos from the event. I should have taken more, but I only got these three. For a bunch of bloggers, we were pretty ill-equipped to document the event.

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