Ypsilanti on Labor Day

I’d wanted to write an epic post about the meaning of Labor Day, but then I read Paul Krugman’s piece in today’s New York Times, realized that he’d done a better job of it than I could ever hope to, and decided to spend my time instead wondering around Ypsilanti with my camera. What follows are a few of the snapshots that I took, followed by an excerpt from Friedman’s opinion piece, which I’d highly recommend that you read.


[Shed exoskeletons of cicadas clinging to the yarn-bombed branch of a tree on Washington Street.]


[A disarmingly beautiful little revolutionary crawling up onto one of the chairs at the unofficial Water Street Commons information booth in search of something to smash.]


[A sign in the woods to the south of Michigan Avenue, along the Huron River, asking for information concerning the whereabouts of a ferret that’s been “gone two weeks”.]


[A gaggle of what sounded to be frat brothers floating loudly down the Huron River, right beneath the footbridge separating Waterworks Park from Water Street.]


[A well-worn chair in front of a house on South Street.]


[Two delightful young women on Grove Street listening to their car radio while doing their hair.]


[A man fly fishing in the Huron River, right between Frog Island Park and Riverside Park.]

When it’s taken altogether, it’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it?

And I know I don’t really have the time for another project at the moment, but I was thinking, as I was walking around, talking with folks, and shooting photos, that it would be cool to have a city-wide photo project of some sort… The idea is still taking shape, but I’m thinking that we could choose a day and all go out with our cameras that morning, looking for interesting things to shoot and share. I’m imaging a whole page of photos accompanied by short write-ups, allowing each of us an opportunity to both share things about our lives, and look into segments of our community that we might not otherwise have an opportunity to. And, if we planned it right, I bet we could even get the schools onboard… What do you think? Wouldn’t that be cool?

Now here’s that excerpt from Paul Krugman’s op-ed piece that I promised:

It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.
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Here’s how it happened: In 1894 Pullman workers, facing wage cuts in the wake of a financial crisis, went on strike — and Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 soldiers to break the union. He succeeded, but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation’s workers.

It’s all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts — that’s going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy — look at who got bailed out, and who didn’t, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.

Consider, for example, how Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, marked Labor Day last year: with a Twitter post declaring “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yep, he saw Labor Day as an occasion to honor business owners…

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  1. anonymous
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Hair braiding and fly fishing happening simultaneously. Ypsilanti!

  2. Maria
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea of a city wide photo project. A long time ago, post WWII, I think Time Magazine did a similar thing (only it was in Germany). Someone went around and took pictures and interviewed the people in the pictures to get a feel for what had happened, and how the people were currently doing. It was very interesting.

  3. Dennis
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Was that fly fisherman placed there by QVC?

    What do you think those people on inner tubes would have sounded like if they weren’t frat brothers?

  4. River Rat
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I heard the same guys making their way down the river and I had a similar impression. I don’t have audio, but there was bro-speak a plenty. I suppose they could have been a performance art troupe, though.

  5. Steve
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The library could help publicize a local photography/storytelling project if you made posters.

  6. Elliott
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Those aren’t frat boys. It’s a flotilla. They’re refugees from Cuba, slowly winding their way into the nation’s heartland.

  7. Pig
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    They traveled over in the wake of Diana Nyad.

  8. Posted September 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    They sounded like frat guys. I’ll admit that I could be wrong, but all my experience led me to that conclusion. If you’d like, I can see if the I can get a forensics expert to check out the photo and look for signs either confirming or refuting my assessment. If I’m not mistaken, there’s an FBI office in Ann Arbor. Perhaps they’d be willing to help.

  9. Ben
    Posted September 30, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Can’t really speak for what the library WOULD do, but it would be so cool if there was a partnership for that / promotion for that. It could be a fun way to engage the community in a “new media” project and reach out to all different subcultures and cultures among the Ypsilanti community! :) Maybe ask Gillian what she thinks?

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