Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview: Vikram Bastian

Next Thursday, assuming I can keep the panic attacks at bay, I’ll be conducting live exit interviews in front of a raucous, beer-swilling crowd at Conor O’Neills, as part of Concentrate Media’s moderately-distinguished speaker series. (It’s free, and open to the public, but, if you’d like to attend, you need to register in advance.) Here, in preparation for the big event, is one more entry in the ever-swelling Exit Interview Archive. Tonight’s subject is Indian-born, Canadian expatriate Vikram Bastian. Vikram, who recently moved to Oakland, California, was kind enough to respond to all of my questions, save for one… the one that I most wanted answered. So, I have a favor to ask of those of you who are reading this in San Francisco Bay area. If you should happen to bump into Vikram, do me a favor – take out your flip camera, and get video of yourself asking him the following… “Which of the kids on Degrassi Street do you most identify with?” (It’s a question that I feel needs to be asked of all Canadians.) If you post video online, and send me a link, I’ll add it here, and send you $2 for your troubles… Now, here’s the interview. Enjoy!

MARK: I pride myself in being fairly good at spotting Canadians, but, in your case, I didn’t catch it… which makes me think that you consciously work to keep that side of yourself hidden? I am, of course, basing this “Canadian shame” theory of mine on just the two short face-to-face onversations that we’ve had… So, do you purposefully strive to hide your Canadianness? And, if so, why?

VIKRAM: “Canadian shame” has a nice ring to it, Mark. It think could have two meanings, though. One would refer to our shaming of Americans, as we love to make fun of the ridiculous notion of American exceptionalism. The other would refer to the Americans’ ridicule of Canadian exceptionalism. And, by that, I mean our exceptional socialism. I guess you’re talking aboot the latter, eh?

Michigan is pretty homogenous, and, being a Canadian, and an undocumented resident (I prefer not to refer to myself as “illegal”), it wasn’t something that I wanted to share publicly during those xenophobic Bush years. I was also bullied a lot after I moved to Canada. It’s hard enough being a brown geek, that I didn’t like being the butt of Canadian or “illegal immigrant” jokes. It became something of a habit then, to hide my Canadianness. Assimilation was survival in a sense.

Imagine the confusion too – a Canadian smuggles himself across the Detroit River in order to escape crushing social health-care, affordable education and affluence?

People don’t understand that Canada is lot more like the U.S. than it is different… minus the guns. At this point, I consider myself as much American, as I am Canadian, as I am Indian.

MARK: What brought you, at the age of 25, to Ann Arbor?

VIKRAM: I was a broke university dropout, living in my parents’ basement and working blue collar bank jobs. I was pretty miserable, and felt there was a veil over Canadians – hockey, new cars, new housing, flat screens, cell-phones, chain restaurants, and so on… I remember watching Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky and the Media in 2005, and half of the archival footage used was of Mississauga, Ontario, the premiere Canadian suburb. I left Canada on my 25th birthday after an argument with my parents over a haircut. I had $400 to my name, and moved in with my then girlfriend, who was studying at the University of Michigan. I was just trying to get as far away from conservative Indian Catholic values as I could, and that haircut changed my life. 4,239km seems about the right distance, even though we get along now.

MARK: I understand wanting to follow your girlfriend, and put some distance between you and your conservative parents, but I’m having a little more trouble with the Chomsky argument. Not many people come to America to escape the things that he speaks of in Manufactured Consent.

VIKRAM: I can’t say I’ve really thought through many of the big decisions in my life. I had this instinct that America was the heart of darkness, but also enlightenment. So, better than the devil that I knew in suburbia. I still think a lot of enlightened trends originate here, along with a lot of unenlightened ones.

I keep thinking back to this quote by Martin Luther King, about how “the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice.” In my view, Canadians are that affluent white moderate, and blind to their ways.

There is also just a larger and more legitimate activist and counterculture movement here, and that appealed to me. Oddly, I have a good friend who grew up in Ann Arbor and moved to Vancouver. I’m sure he is never coming back, and I wonder how he feels.

MARK: More importantly, does a photo of the haircut exist?


MARK: Well, can we see it? And, if not, can you at least describe it? I’m fascinated to know more about a hairstyle that has the ability to wreck a family.

VIKRAM: At that time, my parents had been drinking the Kool Aid like everyone else. They are still religiously conservative, but more progressive these days. I’d bucked all the Indian trends, and it was really taxing them. Admittedly, it took me a long time to realize how to cope with my own depression.

I was working at the same office as my Mom, and I got this faux-hawk on the day of my birthday. They were furious because of what my Mom’s bank coworkers would think, and we got into this terrible argument. I’m mostly a pacifist, but I inherited this terrible pride and temper from my Dad. I walked out, and was determined to prove them wrong.

Tragically, my family’s conservative worldview shifted after my Mom was wrongly fired after 13 years of loyal service to this bank, 8 months shy of her retirement. They accused her of stealing $900, which she herself had reported missing. Truthfully, there were two young, haughty, ageist and racist managers who wanted to scare a small, old, brown woman. She took them to court, but, at the end of the day, there’s little justice for a woman of color against a national bank. That indelibly marked our family, and we grew a lot closer at a result…

If I might offer a PSA: Try out a credit union. I still bank with the UofM Credit Union. Big banks really are a terrible thing.

MARK: I’ve heard you describe yourself before as “that ubiquitous brown guy at shows,” and I’m wondering if you might have any thoughts on the inclusiveness, or lack thereof, of the local music scene.

VIKRAM: I use that term because that’s how most people remember me, even years later. It’s true though, I’ve often been the only person of color at a show, and I’m often up front, recording it, or dancing.

I don’t easily group identify – I’m not folk, rockabilly, a metalhead or a punk rocker, and, in that sense, there is an exclusivity in the local music scene. I’ve been invited a fair bit to play shows, though. I personally write and listen to whatever music feels good to me at the time as opposed to a specific genre… Here’s a link to a song about a lady rocker from the mitten that I fell for recently.

Generally, I’d say a lot of the circles I hung out in were very inclusive. Most of my friends were counterculture freaks and geeks, which is an identity I share with them. Brown is just one facet of myself that I identify with. Things seemed different a few years ago, more basement shows, Sunday potlucks, urban gardens and free school happenings. I started the Far House, an experiment in basement shows, dumpstering and chicken coops, so there was an easy inclusivity in the scene. I had wanted to live in an another art & music community, but was denied. I didn’t take that too well, so I started my own community. I’m utterly amazed that the house continues to showcase some of the best music talent around, in a tiny basement.

Inclusiveness in the political scene, well that’s a whole other story.

MARK: Tell me about Far House. How’d it come about? And what kinds of shows did you put together when you were booking? Also, I’m curious as to this other “art & music community” that denied you. Did they explain their reasoning?

VIKRAM: Far House is a small ranch style house in SE Ann Arbor, situated between a bunch of Libertarians and conspiracy nuts. Noise, bonfires and counterculture has never posed a problem, and I don’t think the cops have been called once in the 5 years and the 70+ shows.

The shows range from chiptune to psych rock, but the space certainly isn’t trying to be hip or appeal to anyone in particular. Eric and John do most of the booking and their intent is to mix the lineup. So you’d come to hear electro and get treated to punk rock after. It was meant to be inclusive and has seen a lot of acts, local and national. I remember going to Bitchpork in Chicago last summer, a subversive event that takes place the same time as the big, annual Pitchfork show. Far House had booked a lot of the same acts, and even some better ones.

I was denied residence at the Hotel Midwest initially, and their reasoning was justified. I was too bohemian, and they were looking for active members. I did end up moving in later, after a change of guard. Eventually the founders moved on and a bunch of young punks moved in. They were terrible tenants and got evicted. They had this final party and destroyed everything that my friends had worked hard to build. They torched this 6 foot seesaw, broke a glass greenhouse, and destroyed whatever else they could find. I heard about it a week later, and went by to see if I could salvage the wooden door sign, but they’d burned that too. I think they’d consider themselves anarchists, but I’d consider them asses.

MARK: When did you first venture into Ypsilanti from Ann Arbor, and what were the circumstances? Was it music-related?

VIKRAM: I moved to Ypsilanti in 2011. I was underemployed, and Ypsi offered the right combination of affordable housing, casual work and basement space for music. I prefer Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor in the same way I prefer the East Bay to San Francisco… far less pretense. I ended up back in Ann Arbor to start a job as a web developer – my Indian birthright. Ypsi feels ripe to offer some income tax break to the tech industry, I could see the Water Street Project becoming a tech park. The Ann Arbor politic and DDA seems more focused on the trickle down economy of high rises & underground parking structures.

MARK: Between Ypsi and Arbor, you lived here for 7 years. If you were to map those seven years out on a graph, with the X-axis being time, and the Y-axis being happiness, what would the resulting graph look like?

VIKRAM:I tend to just remember the good parts, but it’s been a roller coaster. I also grew up under an endless tropical sun, so gray winters take a lot out of my soul. California fits my temperament better.

Even though I eventually got above the poverty line, which is considered less than $30K and without benefits, I grew unhappy. Things hit an all time low last winter, and that’s when I committed to leaving the city. I felt it was only a matter of time before something truly regrettable happened.

I should have been really happy, working on Main Street, dating, mingling with young professionals, and going to the Blind Pig regularly. I was actually depressed, though, and self medicated a lot. My life and relationships were part hubris and part sadism, quintessentially American in it’s excess and hedonism. It was a very disturbing time in my life, but strangely normal by Ann Arbor standards.

I think that alcoholic salacious lifestyle stems from having a college and football binge culture at the heart of the City’s identity. I think you can draw the parallels given the recent Steubenville rape case… there’s a toxic masculinity associated with it. Combine that with a lack of opportunity, and you’ve got a great recipe for substance abuse, depression and lost souls. A lot of young men I’ve met struggle with it, few get help, others leave. There isn’t anything glamorous about alcoholism with young folks.

2012 in particular beat the Canadian naiveté right out of me. It impacted me sufficiently that I’ve dropped most of my vices since. I consider 5 beers a lot now, probably since I’d left most of my liver in Ann Arbor. I rarely drink during the week, and I order more sodas. I’ve hung out with a few Washtenaw expats, ones you’ve interviewed before. We seem to have this relative sobriety in common, except maybe when we get together.

Ann Arbor is probably the lushest city I’ve lived in, and I don’t mean the outdoor kind… or maybe I do… never mind.

Still, I’d regrouped enough before leaving, with the love of friends, to make my last summer in Michigan memorable. Shows in Detroit, midwest lakes, bike rides, outdoor fests, friends and such. One Love!

MARK: You mention being an undocumented worker. I assume that makes life challenging. Could you perhaps speak a bit about how your life might be different from other readers of this site as a result of that, and what resources exist for people like you that are walking the line of legality. (I’m curious, for instance, if people in similar situations find one another, share information, etc.) And is legal residency something that you’d consider?

VIKRAM: Psychologically, it’s unnerving. You have to be careful and aware. You’re forced to live in the here and now. There were a few close calls where I thought I’d never see my friends or lovers again. I’d also missed out of on both of my nieces early childhood because I couldn’t leave the US, worried that I might not get back in.

I think that the media has done a great job ‘othering’ undocumented workers. The term ‘illegal’ itself dehumanizes people, when they are just regular folks working minimum wage jobs. The IRS has a tax number for undocumented workers. I’d paid taxes on my cash earnings. It’s been a very successful tax initiative. People are paying sales taxes and income taxes like everyone else, yet they have no voice, no land rights, no legal status in a country that they live and work in. I think they call that feudalism, and it works to the benefit of corporations and bigots.

I’ve been more fortunate than most. I’m charismatic, well spoken and smart, so I carefully maneuvered around an antiquated immigration system. A few years ago I was ready to call it quits and head back to Canada, but love intervened, and one thing led to another.

I am now a documented resident.

There are a bunch of immigration forums. I spent days worrying and researching. That’s mostly how I learned how to play the game. My experiences taught me how to maneuver rules and manipulate people in power, which I think is a really good skill to have in the corporate world. The biggest irony is that I was a Canadian Customs Officer at Pearson Airport in Toronto for a number of summers.

MARK: Where did you live during the 7 years that you were here, in Michigan?

VIKRAM: Largely Ann Arbor and almost entirely in collectives. Chronologically, The Far House, Hotel Midwest, The Found House and Casa Jezebel. Some of my fondest memories are from The Far House and Hotel Midwest. Collective living, home cooking, music, beer and bicycles. I’ll be chasing that dream for a long time.

Times change, people move in and out, and we all eventually face the crisis of capitalism. It meant a lot of collective artist-friendly places stopped existing in the county. I think things are on the rise again in Ann Arbor and Ypsi, though, and I’m excited to see where the next gang takes it.

MARK: Does anyone have a house anymore that’s not named?

VIKRAM: I think that was much more of a thing back then. I’ve been to a lot more one-off shows in Kerrytown, and the student ghetto in Ann Arbor, and I’ve found that houses that are studenty and transient usually don’t give themselves a name.

MARK: I asked the following question to Thom Elliott, who is also undergoing an Exit Interview, and, it’s such a good question, that I thought that I’d give it to you as well… In the time that you’ve spent in Ypsilanti, you’ve no doubt seen changes. If you were to distill those changes into six words, what would those six words be?

VIKRAM: Facing Capitalism Crisis by Urban Planning. This is contrary to Ann Arbor, which, until recently, seemed stuck in the edifice complex of “look how big mine is”.

MARK: In our earlier email exchange, in which you outed yourself as Canadian, you mentioned that you’d met some “amazing people” while in Michigan. I’m curious to know who you found amazing?

VIKRAM:There are so many social entrepreneurs and artists that I’d met that continue to inspire me. My intention here, besides plugging my friends, is to recognize all the home grown Michigan talent has.

Katherine Scott (Simple CV, Arbor Vitae), Logan Schaedig (Head Brewer at ABC), Michelle Winkfield (These Curls Vintage), Jef Porkins (Arbco Records & Third Deathstar), Adrienne Berry (Ann Arbor Free School & Far House), Eric Stephenson (Far House), Evan Bicker Williams (Carpenter and Hotel Midwest Founder), Sasha Kimel (Photographer & Social Psychologist), Anthony Meza Wilson (Educator and Hotel Midwest), Kiran Nigam (Organizer and Hotel Midwest), Patrick Elkins (Friend, Vegan and Puppeteer), Ian Fulcher (Arbor Vitae), Steffanie Stauffer (Nightshade Army Industries and Social Entrepreneur), Kayj (Ugly Mug Organizer and Masseuse), Sumangala Kailasapathy (Ann Arbor City Council and Accountant), Davy Rothbart (Found Magazine), Raphael Brim (Musician and Show Organizer), Forest Jay and Erin Brockavitch (Hott Lava), Shelly Salant (Wazoo and Show Organizer), Fred Thomas (Musician), Joseph Bollinger and Michael Firn (SIC Transit Cycles), John Roos (Roos Roast) and many many others.

I think these folks have done a tremendous amount for the community, and I hope we support them rather than subscribe to outdated ideas of a trickle down economy.

Two more special mentions… One for all the folks that I oddly admire who continue living their outrageous lives. (Only in America!) Another to John Rowland, who is equally understated as he is talented. I think John did a tremendous amount to add to the longevity of the Far House, the Ann Arbor Free School, Punk Week… He didn’t do it alone, but you wouldn’t know he was a Doctorate, musician and organizer just by looking at him, unkempt and all.

MARK: At what point did you know that it was time to go?

VIKRAM: On my way out of town, I’d managed to offend a bunch of folks, and I owe friends and lovers an apology for that. I’m sorry for my ego. Moreover, I dreamed that the kind of lifestyle, work and woman that I wanted existed elsewhere, which I seem to have manifested.

I scraped together a ticket with my air miles and sold or gifted everything I’d amassed over 7 years in about two weeks. I sold my Diesel Mercedes 12 hours before boarding a plane. My brother and his family had just moved to San Francisco so it was a no-brainer. I’ve settled into a good life in the Bay Area. There are better opportunities here than Michigan could offer me at this time.

MARK: When did you first stumble across this blog?

VIKRAM: I’d caught bits of pieces since 2009 but it wasn’t until 2011 that I followed your blog regularly. I think I friended you on Facebook after you reported on the burning Jambo Man. I haven’t felt safe admitting this until my relocation, but I’d never witnessed a burning mascot spill his beans before… Jambo Man was literally packed with black beans… maybe it was pinto beans.

MARK: Have you ever left comments on this blog?

VIKRAM: No, but I might have to defend my views in this interview. I hope the readers keep in mind that I’m not an academic, just a story teller.

MARK: Speaking of defending yourself, I understand that you made some enemies while you were in Ann Arbor… something about a City Council race, and a campaign to stop the construction of a new downtown library. What happened?

VIKRAM: I met Sumi Kailasapathy in 2010, while bringing my groceries home. She introduced herself and her mission, and I was looking for a good cause to support. She was from Sri Lanka and I’m Tamil, so we had this shared heritage. She was also a true activist, mother and professional, and became something of a role model for me.

She lost her first campaign, but made a second attempt last year. I joined her campaign team and helped her with messaging and design. She won, and is now seated on Ann Arbor’s City Council as the first woman of color to hold a seat there. She won by a narrow 4%, surprising considering her contender, Eric Sturgis, was a documented fraud. That was my first indication that the City was more white and moderate than progressive.

I must point out, that the following views are solely my own and do not in any way reflect Sumi’s views… I met her campaign manager Kathy during that time, and developed an interest in the “Our New Library” proposal. As a socialist, and former educator, I wasn’t entirely convinced at first that I should be opposed to a new library.

I ended up joining the “Protect Our Library” campaign against the new library even though I wouldn’t find out the election results until after I’d left Michigan. I was also deeply hurt from a relationship with a narcissist, so I’d brought a lot of pride and fight to that campaign.

I thought it was going to be an easy victory. The Library Board wanted to demolish a well functioning library and take out a $65 million bond, that would end up taxing homeowners a $100+ million after interest, all during a bad recession. At best, it seemed shortsighted. At worst, it was corrupt. Yet many folks I knew were blindly in support of it. Certainly, the academia and a lot of notable Ann Arborites were in full support.

Frustrated, I got really vocal about the issue. Most of my friends tuned in, but some started approaching me as moderates trying to understand my side of the argument. Well, I’d burst some bubbles in a pretty frank, and probably offensive, ways.

The truth was the library was a follow-up bid after a failed conference center bid, to direct tax money to private coffers, namely banks, developers and construction companies. It has been happening across medium sized cities in America… everyone wants a conference center, a cardiac center and a monorail, and your tax dollars pave the way.

It’s called the edifice complex and resembles the behavior of Rome in it’s final days. Austin and Seattle were building new waterfront libraries that were going over budget and over schedule. Yet proponents of the library were citing those city library as reasons for Ann Arbor to stay vital. I’m not sure any of them read the articles, because they were pretty condemning of new libraries, or their bubble was just so big that it didn’t matter.

A lot of what I was saying on and offline went against the myth of Ann Arbor as a progressive future-looking city. Future or not, you can’t tax all homeowners in Ann Arbor and the neighboring counties, when 25% of the families that live there qualify for free lunch programs, and then say it’s for the good of the children.

I contributed to the campaign in any way I could – messaging, designs, even public TV. And then I left town and wasn’t sure we’d defeat the proposition. Well, I was sitting by the pool in Palm Springs, California, reading Harper’s Magazine (not Harper’s Bazaar), and I open to this article, “In the Writers Room: Spiraling Downward at the Central Library.” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Seattle’s new glorious library was proving unsustainable after a few years. A week later I was making out with a cute masseuse at a bar in San Francisco moments after Obama had won and the bid for a new library had failed.

MARK: How are you liking your new home?

VIKRAM: I work in San Francisco and live in Oakland at the moment. I appreciate the diversity out here but both cities have their own set of problems. San Francisco seems flush with startup capital and the finance bros that accompany it. (Money is no substitute for taste.) On the other side of the bridge, Oakland has a lot of mental health issues, poverty and gun violence.

Still, the weather is amazing, the restaurants are delicious, the dating pool is bigger, and the average salary here is about $55k. Oddly, most of my friends here are from the mitten, even the new ones… it’s uncanny.

MARK: How would you like to be remembered by those who you knew in Michigan?

VIKRAM: As a handsome flaneur with a sultry voice.

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  1. jcp2
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    As a fellow transplanted Canadian, I would disagree that Canada and the US are similar, except for guns. Canada is what the US could have become if there had been no Tea Party, and I am referring to the original one in Boston.

  2. Edward
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Anxiously awaiting comments from people who are pissed to learn that one of the more vocal “new library” critics was a guy on his way out of town.

  3. Peter Baker
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    While it does piss me off that Vikram was working so hard to prevent a new library building in a town he was anxiously wanting to leave, what pisses me off the most is that he’s still pushing (and seemingly believing) the bullshit about the library having any desire whatsoever to run a convention center out of the library.

  4. anonymous
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    More interviews with undocumented workers, please. I think that would make a great new series, along with the exit interview, and immigration interviews.

    And best of luck with your new life, Vikram. It sounds like your well on your way toward figuring things out.

    As for the library, I’m sympathetic to the people who liked the vision of the new building, but I also see the logic on the other side. The current library is awesome, and tearing it down to build another seems excessive. Fortunately, I did not need to vote on the issue.

  5. anon
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    yo peter, instead of throwing money at an unneeded new library, how about you neolibs divert some of it to something a2 really does sorely need. like an AACV (affluent asshole collection vehicle).

  6. double anonymous
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Canadian Shame sounds like it could be a real thing. I’m tempted to Google it.

    Best of luck in your new adventures, Vikram.

  7. Eel
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Video of Mark sniffing out Canadians.


  8. koosh
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    there was much hype surrounding this haircut. i, for one, was let down to find out it was just a faux-hawk. I was hoping it might be something Skrillex would have.

  9. rather not
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I love Vikram, but…… Does anyone else see the irony here, when he bemoans the fact that punks burned his seesaw, and, then, just a little later, talks of burning Jambo Man, the mascot of a rival hipster gang in Ypsi?

  10. GladHe'sGone
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    B. Tuck should have punched this guy when he had the chance. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  11. Redleg
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Hipster gangs? In Ypsilanti? Now I want to leave town..

  12. Jack Eaton
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    In the article, Vikram Bastian describes Sumi Kailasapathy “as the first woman of color to hold a seat there.” Sumi is wonderful in many ways, but she is not the first woman of color to serve on the City Council. In the recent past, Wendy Woods, an African-American woman, served on Council from the Fifth Ward. She is now a member of the Planning Commission.

    See: http://arborwiki.org/Wendy_Ann_Woods

    Best of luck to Vikram in this new chapter of his life.

  13. anonymous
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The Jamboree gang didn’t consist of hipsters. They were more flannel-wearing stoner dudes with baseball caps. The hipsters were the other guys, who sacrificed poor Jambo. Thankfully, our city is no longer beset by gangs, as the Jambo worshipers grew up and got real jobs, and the hipsters drifted to the winds. I have no doubt, however, that a new crop will soon arise to take their places, and our streets once again will know terror.

  14. Elliott
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t know Vikram, so I can’t speak to what he’s like one way or the other, but I tend not to like people who talk of their “lovers”. Am I unusual in that regard? Maybe I’m just jealous.

  15. Annie Palmer
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe how much fucking serious mileage that Jamboman thing has gotten.

  16. Rick Cronn
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I’m sad that young people don’t seem to have figured out that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

    You’re wasting your abundant energy chasing the ephemeral. You lose the energy you put into a place when you leave. You will never get it back. You can’t take it with you to the new place. It’s lost forever.

    You will never have a critical mass of people or be able to harness their combined and amplified energy to build the community and your own new institutions unless you stay around long enough to do those things.

    You have to pay your dues with your time, energy and sacrifice. Make the place where you are the best it can be. Show your friends that it can be done.

    Stop running away. You won’t find anything different there.

  17. Alice Krum
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    More people probably followed the Jambo kidnapping here than attended the festival.

  18. Knox
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Rick, you can work your ass off in Michigan from birth to death, and its not going to make the sun shine one minute more. While I ascribe in general to what you’ve put forward, I think you have to accept that there are legitimate reasons why people might want to leave.

  19. karen
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    All this bashing of Jamboman makes me feel sorry for Andy Ypsilanti. Andy put his heart and soul into the Jamboree. I’m glad at least to see he’s been able to bring the Jamboree back to the Heritage Festival.

  20. Rick Cronn
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I readily accept that people leave for all kinds of reasons. Even good ones that will help them. That’s not my point.

    Time is compressed more than ever these days. It seems that almost everything moves at an accelerating rate. The windows of opportunity are fewer and don’t stay open very long.

    Thinking that you have to taste everything before you decide where you want to be, what you want to do and how you are going to accomplish those things cuts into the time and energy to accomplish those things. Your new institutions and communities will take much time, energy and sacrifice to build.

    The longer you put it off, no matter what you want to do, the less chance you have for success. You’ll only be successful if you stick it out and convince others to do the same. Critical mass will never be achieved if the cast is constantly changing. They move on, take thri energy with them. Your common goals are set back.

    My time is past and yours is not in the future. It’s right now. The longer you procrastinate, the more you let time pass you by without taking a stand somewhere, the less chance you’ll have to make anything and call it yours.

    Time has become increasingly compressed. At times it seems uncontrollable. Things change so quickly that there could easily come a time, after all the checking it out, wandering about, thinking that you have to taste everything and not coming to a decision that you can live with, you may find yourself wondering, what have I accomplished? Where is the community I yearn for? Where are my friends? Where are MY generations institutions? Maybe you’ll say to yourself, what was I doing all those years wandering about, tasting everything when I could have helped lay the foundations , stuck around and maybe reap the rewards.

    What I accomplished in my 40’s, 50’s to get to where I’m happy with my life, you, my young friends will have to accomplish in your 20’s and 30’s to try to get to your own fulfilling life.

    Stop wasting your time chasing the ephemeral. Still your minds and bodies. stay in one place long enough to make a difference. Then build on that. Pay your dues with your abundant energy, sacrifice and the little time you have. You can make the place you are better, but only if you stay long enough to do it.

  21. XXX
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone planning to get video of Vikram being asked about DeGrassi? I’m picturing cars full of markmaynard.com readers circling around Oakland, as the net begins to close around him. Please tell me that’s the case. Please tell me that someone is on his trail and closing in.

  22. Hmmm
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    You know who else was Canadian?

  23. Vikram
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    A few responses to your readers Mark.

    Peter, on the library issue, I stand corrected, I meant another auditorium in a city with a few already. For the record, the people against the library felt that the existing tax allotments to the district library were wise. We were in support of smaller improvements to the Library system within or just outside of their budget.

    Rather not, I was only a witness and wasn’t familiar at all with the story, by the time I arrived Jamboman was already doused in BBQ starter ready for immolation.

    Jack Eaton, I stand corrected, I errantly filed it under POC when I mean first Asian on City Council.

    GladHe’sGone, I’d asked B Tuck to punch me, I felt I deserved that at least.

    Elliot, I’m pretty monogamous, I was referring to different ones at different times. Perhaps I should have used a patriarchal possessive tone, like my women.

    To everyone else, I paid my dues in the city, I have as much right as anyone to get involved in an unjust library campaign. I also have as much right to decided how and where I’d to live and work. I don’t think my participation in the Michigan economy is over, its just on serious pause.

    Also, sorry if I forgot to mention a few folks, there were some other big hitters in town that I really admire, namely James Beaumont. He was my consigliere and if it weren’t for him, I might not have turned things around.

  24. Meta
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    You can be the next Vikram. Far House is looking for people.


  25. mm.com FACTCHECK
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    @Karen, there is no reason to feel sorry for Andy Ypsilanti over Jambo Man. The satirical abduction was not directed at him (it was directed at Don Sicheneder in response to the incredibly unprofessional and insulting way he dealt with volunteer artists at the festival) and Andy just decided to immediately be disproportionately outraged about it for the next 3 years while saying lots of very insulting things:

    The stuffed animal was returned about 3 days after the festival and promptly stolen by somebody else and apparently changed hands some more times before unknown individuals decided to burn it with the apparent motive that it would be funny to film and post online. Jambo is clearly a potent psychic symbol in the community that will long outlast the failed roots music festival that spawned him.

  26. Peter Baker
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    No Vikram, you didn’t mean “another auditorium in a city with a few already,” you meant a convention center, like was said in your campaign over and over again. You don’t get to push all the batshit conspiracies, then, when you get called on them, try to act like all you’ve ever had were reasonable points of debate.

  27. Peter Baker
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    And I’m still curious, as a socialist and former educator, what made you so suspicious of the motivation of public librarians, whose largest clientele are people of lesser means looking for education and advancement. Bitch all you want about the affluent of Ann Arbor, but it was not they who would benefit most from a more robust public library.

  28. Vikram
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey Peter, I’ll tell you what made me suspicious about a new library. First it was the experience of other new libraries, and their inability to cope with increased maintenance costs of steel, glass, etc. Second was the narrow assessment of the library by contractors. Third, was the fact that there were librarians I heard from, who were against the new library but were instructed by whomever, not to publicly air their criticisms. Fourth, were grumblings that “Friends of the Library,” gave 25% of their operating budget (in the $1000s) to the “Our New Library” campaign without putting it to a general vote.

    Peter, you don’t get to push $120 million around with your rich friends and then call out critical thinking voices as conspiracists. You should know, there are informed affluent people also against a new Library but whatever helps you sleep at night.

    Have you followed any of the auditing that Sumi has done recently with regards to AADL, the parking structure, and what would have surely been a Library debacle. I’ll catch up with you in two years when you and you’re Friends of the Library give another go at a new Library. You know, sometimes glossy campaigns and clever wording, just don’t beat common sense.

  29. Peter Baker
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Me and my rich friends, jesus.

  30. Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m from here, but I identified with Caitlyn and I found Snake adorable. I couldn’t stand that one skank friend of Spike’s…the one who made the twin feel bad when she had an abortion. And Wheels man…that was some sad shit.

  31. Josh
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Vikram, you give yourself and your shitty design faaaaaar too much credit here in any bond defeat. I hope to god I dont have to look at more hysterical signs like that again. My own minimal interaction with you didn’t give me much sense you valued dialouge or independent thought that didn’t line up with your own theories.

    How do you feel about Dahlman Properties, the out of state “marketing” company and the substantial money and in-kind resources those “rich friends” of your campaign funneled into the “anti” library campaign in order to avoid a tax hike?

  32. Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I guess Vikram was right when he told me that things would likely get tense here in the comments section. As I had my hands full in Ypsi during the last election, I didn’t really have an opportunity to follow the library campaign in Ann Arbor all that closely. I discussed it with a few friends on either side of the issue, but I didn’t even attempt to figure out where I stood on the issue. And, fortunately, as I don’t vote in Ann Arbor, I didn’t have to. I’m beginning to appreciate, however, just how contentious it was.

  33. Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    And I totally saw myself as a slightly less troubled Wheels.

  34. Dan Richardson
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    At least I learned what a flaneur is.

  35. karen
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link Factcheck. After reading that I can see that Andy really is a douche.

  36. Vikram
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Hey Josh and Peter,
    Thanks for having a civil discussion with me on my artistic merit and completely evading the question.

    So here is Protect Our Libraries Campaign Records, you’ll notice that most of the contributions comes in the form of kind and from an individual donor.

    Now lets look at the $70,000 of Our New Library campaign finances, notice Comcast-Philly,PA, MLive-Detroit, Friends of Library-$25K, Dykema Gosset-Detroit Law Firm, Zingermans, AnnArbor.com, Ed Surovell and a bunch of private donations…

    So how do you feel, standing in front of a well fueled out of City and State corporate campaign preaching on Urban Development, Library Sciences and Youth Development. You both give your altruism far too much credit.

    Sure, I’ve got some bad designs and didn’t do all that much but at least I don’t claim to be a techno savior.

    Peter, Josh, WWJD?

  37. Peter Baker
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Hey, I never attacked your designs (they worked), and I think it was you who was evading my question.

    I have always conceded there were plenty of reasons for people to question the bond; the cost of the new building, the merit of continued investment in libraries, debate over the future of libraries in general. Those are all reasonable points of debate, and you brought those up when I pushed back on the convention center conspiracy.

    What actually pisses me off is the dishonesty that came from the Protect Our Library / Save Our Library campaign (even the names were pushing credulity). Here’s just a sample of some of the things we were hearing that people were being told by those campaigns:

    “They’re going to take away all the books.” A person who was out canvassing for Obama on election day said this to me when he saw my Vote Yes button. He had been told that the new library would have no space for books, and everything would be replaced by meeting space and dvds. Shit you not.

    “Zingerman’s is going to run their catering kitchen out of the library.” Hence the conspiracy of their donation being a handshake deal to have taxpayers finance a new kitchen for Zingerman’s, nevermind the fact that Zingerman’s just built themselves a new one, and nevermind the fact that it didn’t make any damn sense.

    “The new library is just city council’s way of getting their convention center.” This was the big one, and brings up the issue of how your campaign was financed. The library has it’s own elected governing board, which answers only to voters, and has no overlap with city council. They have no control over the parking lot next door, nor do they have any interest in hosting traveling business men in their auditorium (something that many many libraries in Michigan have, for speakers events, even when there are other venues in town). The convention center canard was both a scare tactic, and a real concern behind some of the owners of similar space in town (see Josh’s comment above).

    So sure, there were plenty of reasons to disagree, but that’s not what we spent two months talking about. It was all the conspiratorial horseshit we had to continually refute.

    As for the financing of the campaigns, I’d gladly take 150+ public donations, both big and small, individual and corporate (but all out in the open), versus one big hidden shadow donation.

    Vikram, we have a lot of common friends. I would count everyone you listed as inspirations in my own list of local inspirations. In another world, we’d be cool. But you’re right, you burned a lot of bridges through the way things were waged (posting videos on facebook of a bunch of old white hippy ladies dancing and labeling it a meeting of the Our New Library campaign was particularly classless), so good luck in the Bay Area, and next time you’re in town, beers on me (but only one, I’m still bitter).

  38. Peter Baker
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Also, you listed Comcast, MLive and AnnArbor.com in our list of contributors. Those were advertisement purchases (outgoing money), not donations (incoming money). Nice try though.

  39. Rick Cronn
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    So the old guy wanders off talking to himself…

    Here’s what killed the Library.

    Lots of voters didn’t like the way the City Hall addition (the Rog Mahal) and the 5th ave underground parking were rammed down their throats.

    They hated the long term debt from the bond issues and thought there were other more important priorities like safety services and infrastructure repair.

    They saw through the underhanded game playing, lip service and back room deals from politicians and the DDA.

    All those things left a bad taste in a lot of voters mouths. Coupled with the misinformation and noise presented by the anti Library faction, they voted the Library down. It’s not that people thought that the Library issue was really bad (tho some made it look that way), they had enough of the bs that went on for the previous decade.

  40. Vikram
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Peter, all valid points. Sure there were a lot of far left conspiracies at our meetings that we came up with a list of talking points which excluded a lot of things. You can fault me on the Conference Center, but I still hold it is an apt comparison. The end players would have been the same. The rest of the conspiracy talk, I don’t support. Equally however, to go forward with a infrastructure plan without concrete plans, it leaves a lot of room for imaginative minds.

    And I still hold that the Caribou video is a great visual for city politic. A bunch of clueless elite drinking their cool aid until the disenfranchised step back in the scene. It was actually aimed at Friends of the Library, who was described by another old white lady, as a group of old white ladies that had nothing better to do with their time and money but write of $25K of their budget to another cause. The reader should watch the video and decide.

    Sorry, but as a young person and a person of color, I don’t mind calling out elitism when I see it, and find it classy. Remember, $130,000,000 shoved down peoples throats over a few counties, not just A2, to replace a function library downtown.

    Peter if we grab a beer, then I’d like to go for a dance as well.

  41. Vikram
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Lastly, since we have so many experts on Urban Development in A2, there is a lot of emerging literature that says we are facing an infrastructural maintenance time-bomb. Essentially, in the coming decades, we will barely be able to maintain our existing infrastructure, let alone, maintaing and pay of new infrastructure projects.

    New Growth Provides the ILLUSION of Prosperity, and I can’t jive with that.


  42. Peter Baker
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Even that phrase, “clueless elites”, belies a willful misunderstanding of who was in support of this thing. Our committee was mostly made up of teachers, librarians and very small business people. There were a few big fish, absolutely, but if the biggest gripe you’ve got d that a few rich people were trying to hike their taxes in order to increase access to free information, then sure, keep fighting the dumb fights, while the real corporate-ification of Ann Arbor continues unabated.

    But what do you care? You don’t want to live here anyways.

  43. Posted March 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I can see you being Wheels, Mark. Just don’t get drunk and kill anyone please :)
    At least none of us is Claude (or however you spell it). I hated that kid.

  44. Vikram
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Rick, while I think most of what you said is well intentioned, its also a little patronizing and misinformed.

    Not directed at you specifically, but there is this generational view that points to younger generations saying, when I was your age…

    The truth is, folks our age have inherited a largely dysfunctional society, one lacking in community values, work opportunity, social safety nets… from the generations before us who haven’t left anything sustainable for us.

    I don’t think the grass is greener and most people my age see that there isn’t much grass left for us. The generations before us were sure to have overused the resources with little thought for the future.

    So, in that sense, I no longer think the old rules reply, nor do I take much stock in the wisdom of the old guard. The damned future will be far more artificial than what we know, artificial foods, virtual communities, instant information…

    There is loss of momentum when people move but the sum game doesn’t change. I tapped into friends, scenes and movements here linked to old ones. Things are just in constant flux. Really, I don’t see that I have the luxury of a pastoral life, old friends, strong communities, a steady job and an assured pension. Just going to have to work with what is.

  45. Posted April 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Dear Vikram,
    As the last long term member of The Hotel Midwest I submit to you for evidence we did not burn everything…GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT and stop whining all the time. It’s unbecoming!

  46. Posted April 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink


  47. 313
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I saw a lone brown man in a crowd of hipsters last night. Sure enough, it was Vikram.

  48. C. Alice
    Posted June 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    So, apparently, if you search the interwebs for “haircuts to destroy my family” you will find find something. Sadly, no photos or instructional videos, though.

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