A few days ago, when I learned that local musician Annie Palmer had packed her bags and fled Ypsilanti, I decided to send her an email and ask why she’d gone. Following, with her permission, is our exchange. [And, yes, I start every conversation with, “What’s your name?”]
MARK: What’s your name?
ANNIE: Annie Palmer.
MARK: I didn’t know you moved until today. I saw on Facebook that you’d written something like, “I’ve made a horrible mistake leaving Ypsi.” Why did you move?
ANNIE: I was really needing to step up my game, adulthood-wise. I had the money and the opportunity to live alone in a nice little house for the first time in my life, so I jumped at the chance. All due respect to roommates past, but I was OVER doing other people’s dishes and accidentally eavesdropping on their sexual escapades.
MARK: How is it that I didn’t know that you’d left? Did you leave in secret, under cover of night?
ANNIE: I left one drizzly Saturday in August. I mean, I don’t know what to tell you, Mark. I posted it on Facebook.
MARK: Were you trying to escape something?
ANNIE: Do you know that guy Carlos with the super long George Clinton dreds? He lived across the street from me. Mostly him. Dude was mad creepy.
MARK: How long had you lived in Ypsi before leaving?
ANNIE: Going on six or seven years.
MARK: What brought you to Ypsi in the first place?
ANNIE: I discovered, like many before me, that it was the Oakland to Ann Arbor’s San Francisco. Before that I lived in Pittsfield township with my roommate Chris Palmer (no relation) and our two cats.
MARK: So, what is it that you’re missing about Ypsi, anyway?
ANNIE: The looseness of it. Nobody gives a fuck, in the best way possible. Everyone is who they are, whether screaming obscenities outside the bus station or hoarding goats in their backyard or getting busted by the cops every week for house show noise violations. That town has personality. Plus the co-op is top notch and the Ugly Mug was like my Cheers.
MARK: It’s interesting that you mentioned the Ugly Mug. A lot of people that I’ve talked to while conducting these exit interviews have mentioned the importance of the Ugly Mug. What is it about the place that you think people find so appealing?
ANNIE: I think it’s a divisive place, much like Ypsilanti itself. People either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. I walk in and about 75 percent of the time someone goes “ANNIE PALMER!!”. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.
MARK: And, where did you move to, if you can tell us?
ANNIE: Ann Arbor. I don’t know what I was thinking.
MARK: So, you just moved to Ann Arbor? I thought that maybe you’d run off to Portland with everyone else.
ANNIE: That might have been a better idea.
MARK: Whatever kind of deal you got in Ann Arbor, I suspect that you could have found something as cheap, if not cheaper, in Ypsi… Was there something else that you were looking for in Ann Arbor? What I mean to say is, it probably wasn’t just that you found an inexpensive place where you could live alone, right?
ANNIE: I found a place with heat included, which is kind of the holy grail of Michigan renting, and no neighbors. It is certainly more expensive than where I was living in Ypsilanti, but the upside is that I don’t have to listen to nearly as many dogs barking or couples fighting on the street outside. And the trees in my neighborhood are really quite pretty. There’s like thirty thousand more joggers, though.
MARK: I asked before what brought you to Ypsi, and you said because it was like Oakland to Ann Arbor’s San Francisco. You didn’t say, however, why you wanted to be in SE Michigan to begin with. Did you grow up around here? Did you move here for college? Or is this just where your car broke down while driving across country?
ANNIE: I grew up in Tennessee, and moved here for what was supposed to be a temporary apprenticeship on my way to take Chicago by storm. The apprenticeship turned into a job and then I got a boyfriend and then I got more jobs and different boyfriends and friends and pets and regular hangouts and now it’s 2011 and I still live here.
MARK: Let’s talk about the differences between Ann Arbor and Ypsi, now that you’ve experienced both. Is there anything unusual that you’ve noticed? Is it like that old Saturday Night Live bit where Eddie Murphy dresses up like a white guy, and discovers that, when black people aren’t around, we don’t pay for anything? Now that you’re an Annarbourite, do people treat you differently? Do you feel like a different person?
ANNIE: More joggers. Fewer black people. More dog walkers. More white people who jog while walking their dogs. I guess I feel a little more upscale, or something, in my little cottage surrounded by trees and a wooden fence with a clothesline and a swing in the back.
MARK: What didn’t you like about Ypsi? What could Ypsi do better?
ANNIE: Never change, baby. Stay just the way you are. Well, maybe stop stealing everyone’s bikes.
MARK: The other day, what was it that compelled you to say, “I’ve made a horrible mistake leaving Ypsi”?
ANNIE: Actually what I said was “I never should have left Ypsi”. And none of your business, Maynard.
MARK: Have you found yourself at all changed now that you’re in Ann Arbor? Are your songs happier? Have you started wearing yoga pants? Do you jog?
ANNIE: My songs continue to be sad. I walk alone at night sometimes, which I would not have been inclined to do in my old neighborhood. I’ll never jog. NEVER.
MARK: Do you know that you have the name of a Twin Peaks character?
ANNIE: I have the names of TWO Twin Peaks characters. I also have the name
of an infamous figure of Jamaican folklore. And a Johnny Cash song.
For those interested in knowing more about the new and improved, post-Ypsilanti Annie Palmer, I’d encourage you to check out the new blog she’s started with Amy Sumerton. It’s called Mom and Not Mom, and it’s quite good.
And, for those of you who would rather hear Annie sing, here’s video of her performing the song, “Won’t You Let Me” in Iowa City.