Document Ypsi 2017 …next weekend

A few days ago, while walking aimlessly through downtown Ypsilanti, I found myself trying to remember what Pears, the men’s clothing store that used to be 100 West Michigan Avenue, in the space now occupied by Dalat, used to sell. All I can picture is a rack of very old, wide-collared “Playboy” brand pajamas, all packaged up in yellowing plastic, still waiting to be bought some 20 years after they’d first been shipped out for sale. I can’t remember anything else about the shop – just that one little, fleeting fragment of a memory – and there’s nothing at all available online, which I find odd, given that it held that space for about three decades. But it got me thinking about how poorly everyday life in our city is documented, and how, every day, things are being lost… especially the little things that make his place feel unique, and give it character. Sure, thanks to cell phone cameras, we might have a photo of a storefront, but what about the details of what goes on inside? What about the ice cream flavors being offed at Go Ice Cream, the happy hour drink menu at Haab’s, or the front window display at Black Stone Bookstore… the stuff behind the sign and the architecture, that lend context?

Maybe I’m thinking a lot about this right now because of our discussion concerning the evolution of Water Street. It bothers me that, for all the time I’ve spent on that property, I don’t really remember the industrial buildings that once stood there. I have a vague sense of them, and I’m sure I could find photos in the City files, but I can’t remember the little details, like how the lettering on the old cinderblock walls was chipping away, or the pieces of rusted metal that used to jut out of the ground everywhere on the site. Maybe it’s just because history interests me, but I feel like, as a community, we could probably do a better job of not just protecting what needs protecting, but also recording what we can, whether it be by way of photo, video, or audio recording. And that’s what I want to talk with you about today… a little experiment.

The weekend after this one coming up, I’m thinking of spending some time making my way around Ypsi with the kids, photographing stuff and uploading it to the tubes, where, if anyone wants to find it later, they can… And, maybe, to make things easier, I’m thinking that I’ll tag everything with something like #DocumentYpsi2017.

If you want to join me, I’d love to have your help. It’s going to be First Friday in Ypsilanti anyway, so I suspect that people will be out, and the weather should still be nice. So, I’m thinking that we could give it a shot… trying to document things about Ypsilanti that don’t normally get documented… the graffiti under the bridges, the fish being caught in the river, what the kids are wearing these days, how much things cost at the drugstore, etc. It would be like a little time capsule for future generations, showing them what our lives look like at this very moment in time.

If you do what to join me in doing this, just please do me a favor, and try, to the best of your ability, to respect people’s privacy. I’d hate to see people taking photos inside the windows of their neighbors, posted to the internet alongside captions like, “This is what Susan Smith and her family were eating for dinner in Ypsilanti on Friday, September 29, 2017.” But, I think any non-human thing in a public place should be fair game; garbage on the street, discarded mattresses, menus, bus stops, alleyways, your favorite shade trees, photos showing the condition of our bike lanes, anything at all. And, if you feel like sharing photos of yourself, doing whatever you’re doing this weekend, that would be awesome too. As I see it, the more, the better… And I’ll try to post some of the more interesting ones here.

As I said above, this is just the inkling of an idea. If you have any thoughts how to make it better, I’d love to hear them… Could we maybe get students involved in their schools? Could the downtown library, perhaps, offer to host the resulting images online? Might someone, if not this year, maybe next, figure out a way to fund and get disposable cameras into the hands of Ypsilanti citizens without access to smartphones? Might Riverside Arts Center agree to hold a exhibition of the work? Really, if folks are interested, the possibilities are endless… And what a cool way to get people involved in being a part of their city, right?

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28 Comments

  1. Gillian
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I had fantasies about starting a geotagging project for old and new photos– like oldnyc.org or oldsf.org. there are some free participatory mapping services where you can upload photos that i found when i was initially exploring writing a grant for this, but i can’t seem to find them now. ypsiwiki perhaps?

  2. Lynne
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    This sounds like a fun project. I cant wait to see the results.

  3. anonymous
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    A nice reminder that Trump does not control us, that life keeps right on going, and that community can get stronger.

  4. nick
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    http://ypsigleanings.aadl.org/

  5. Shane Davis
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’m in!

  6. Lynda Hummel
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I’m in…

  7. Sara Cederberg
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Me too! Love this idea.

  8. Anne M Evans
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Re: Water Street I remember the Shaw Carpet Dealer, an abandon liquor store(drive thru), the fish market, and my favorite – JJ’s hand carwash. Those guys did an excellent job keeping my Mustang lovely in the colder weather when I preferred to save my manicure.

    We think it’s a great idea and would like to participate.

  9. Kurt Anschuetz
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Great idea. I know there is at least one time capsule buried at prospect Park but making one digital is pretty cool.

  10. M
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of making it ann annual event… like a year book, where anyone can participate and add whatever they like. Maybe, in the future, there could even been a booth were people could talk about life in Ypsi right now.

  11. Leah
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering how best to share the photos. I don’t have twitter, for example, and I like to keep my Facebook private. Could you create a public folder on google drive or elsewhere where we can upload them?

    Also, I definitely remember a chop suey shop on Water Street. I always pictured people secretly making chop suey in that tiny condemned building with boarded up windows, hoping the cops wouldn’t notice.

  12. Jean Henry
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    This color (!) film footage of everyday life in Ann Arbor in 1940 is one of my favorite things on the internet:
    https://youtu.be/fzzC3FMbB7E

  13. Elviscostello
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Growing up here, the Water Street Property was Arlans, with Gilbert Park behind running to the River. Spent many days and nights at Gilbert Park playing Little League Baseball (Ypsilanti National League) under the lights. Last time I looked the lights (at least the poles) were still up. We’d run out and put pennies on the track so the train that crawled through could flatten them. The state police post was at the corner of Park and Michigan, and you can still see the bullet holes from the shootout that killed Ofc. Downing across the street in the façade of the building. His killer was Howard Hughes III. I delivered the Ypsilanti Press in 1971-1974, and would go to the Press building on Michigan just west of River, to pay for the papers I was given.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’ll be in Ypsi Friday night for the Boylesque Drag Queen bingo fundraiser for Suicide Prevention at the Tap Room, starting at 7pm. I will document the goings on. It’s a great event for a good cause and I encourage others to attend, but, forewarned, due to my mis-spent childhood, my multi-card bingo skills are top notch. Competition will be stiff…

  15. Lisa Bashert
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    There was a cool building on Water Street that had a curved show window on the corner. I think it was an old car dealership at one time. I also remember the Ironworks. And about Pears, I remember them having a huge line of overalls, kind of like Sam’s in Ann Arbor. I bought a pair and I still have them, although they are super tattered by this time! They were still open when I first got hired at The Corner Health Center in 1988.

  16. Iron Lung
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    UBI is the only solution to keeping those pajamas in Ypsi.

  17. wobblie
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I remember Pears as the best dresser downtown. Always wore a fedora, sports coat and tie. A walking bill board for his store. I had forgotten the Yspi Press building (must have been one of the first knocked down when the city acquired the property). And of course there was Stewards auto parts on Water St, and the towing impoundment lot.

  18. Demetrius
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    When I first moved to Ypsilanti, there was a Mexican restaurant called “The Mean Bean,” at the corner of East Cross and Rice St., in the space that Babo recently occupied. With every order, diners received “Mean Bean Pesos” which could be exchanged for discounts on future items. I still have a few “pesos” stashed in a shoe-box somewhere, just in case the Bean ever makes a comeback …

    I also remember Saturday mornings, early afternoons, in the “cafe” at the south end of the Farmer’s Market – where they would keep a fire going in an old wood-stove, and serve cider and donuts. There was often a have a live band playing music … I remember a group called “Gypsy Cab” that was very good …

  19. Lynne
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Lisa Bashert, I used to really admire that building. One of my great regrets is that I never got a picture of it. I dont think I ever really appreciated it until it was gone.

    Iron Lung is right. A UBI very well might increase the demand for pajamas

  20. Lynne Settles
    Posted September 25, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I like the ideal, going to share it with the students.

  21. Posted September 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    OK, it’s been pointed out to me that I screwed up. I said in the post that we should do it this weekend, taking advantage of First Fridays. Well, this weekend isn’t First Fridays. It’s the one after. So I’ve changed the image accordingly. Sorry for any confusion… The good news is, this gives us a little time to plan.

  22. Yen Azzaro
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Love this idea! It’d be fun to eventually archive a collection of images tagged with date, location, all the things our computers/phones already creepily capture, but in an organized method others could enjoy in a handheld book.

  23. site admin
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Everything within city limits is fair game. Bonus points for things one one has seen before.

  24. Marty
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    For those interested in reliving Water Street’s ruins, Detroit’s most famous urban spelunker, nailhed, visited in 2010 and took nice photos. http://www.nailhed.com/2015/01/the-ypsilanti-metal-scene.html?m=1

  25. Heather Steenrod
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Love this idea. Maybe I made missed it, but how would you like to receive submissions? A simple hashtag?

  26. cswilba
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Nice! I’ll be #DocumentYpsi2017 via my Instagram account.

  27. Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mark!
    Katie Doyle here at Ozone has ordered us disposable cameras to hand out to our young people for next weekend. We’ll share what we get and I’m sure we can figure out a way to host images online. Thanks for inviting all of us.
    Colleen for the Drop-In Center

  28. Pamela
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    This is a great idea, and I’d love to participate too. But I don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account. Is there another way I could get photos to you, Mark?

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