“Why should I move from New York to Ypsi instead of Ann Arbor?”

    Earlier today, a reader of this site – a Michigan expatriate living in New York – left the following comment in response to my exit interview with Terri and Meghan Eagen-Torkko. As he’s only received one response thus far, I thought that I’d bump it up here to the front page.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 4.21.00 PM

    And here’s the one response he’s received thus far. It comes from former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murphy.

    Scott — your concerns are familiar to me, from the half dozen couples I’ve tried to recruit to Ypsi and “lost” to Ann Arbor in the past couple years. “Come to Ypsi!” “But, schools.” End of conversation.

    Your set of concerns are valid, but some notes, particularly as somebody who will also have kiddos hitting kindergarten in 4 years:

    * Your kid has well-engaged and highly educated parents, and does not suffer from poverty. She’ll do fine in any school district. Really.

    * Ypsi schools seem to offer a lot of options–a lot of the schools are specialized in soemthign (the STEM elementary, the IB middle / high school, the Small Learning Communities schools.) I haven’t looked into most of ‘em; maybe current paretns can weigh in.

    * “Good” school district is no guarantee it’s a fit for your kid; part of our homebuying consideration was that “buying up” to A2 would guarantee we could never afford an alternative.

    * Never underestimate the power of highly motivated parents to do good for their kids (or wreak havoc on the classroom, depending on the persepctive) — I know of a bunch of under-1-year-olds whose parents we’ll be banding with as the time comes.

    * We were a 1-car household in Ypsi for 6 years, and for most of that time only really needed the car because C’s job required on-site work. (2nd car acquisition was because both of us ended up with high-Michigan-travel jobs.) With your job setup, you could definitely get away with 1 car, or even the no-car option, using rental (or carshare – we have Hertz 24/7).

    * Having a car is obviously more of an issue with kids, especially if you want to take your kid to a non-local school.

    * Coworking — the half hour bus ride to Workantile is a little bit of a bummer. I do know a number of people in town interested in coworking, though, so I anticipate Ypsi will end with a site at some point.

    So, yeah, none of these are “no problem!” answers. It’s just that, for any A2 house in your price range, a similar house in Ypsi will be about half the price. So there’s that. (And hopefully your math-fu is good enough to understand “tax rate” vs. “tax bill” and dismiss any arguments about taxes making up the difference.)

    And, for what they’re worth, here are my somewhat jumbled thoughts… When Linette and I moved back to Michigan from Los Angeles, we chose Ypsi because we felt at home here, and thought that our contributions would be appreciated. I was relatively young, had what I thought were a few good ideas, and wanted to work toward building something positive. And I felt that I had a better chance of doing that here, than in Ann Arbor, where there was more of an established hierarchy. I also liked the heart of Ypsi. I’d spent time here when I was a student at the University of Michigan. I met my wife here. And I connected with the people – many of them who had moved here from my home state of Kentucky during World War II to work in the factories – who used to gather on weekends at the Freighthouse in Depot Town. Most of those folks are gone now, and the Freighthouse is closed for the foreseeable future, but, at the time, it really made an impression on me. It’s hard to articulate, but there was a beauty in the place, and the people. And, when it came time to put down roots, and move closer to our families, we instinctively knew that Ypsi was the place. When I’ve talked about that decision since, I’ve focused on the fact that I perceived Ann Arbor to be calcified and rigid, which is true. In truth, though, it was more that Ypsi had a heart. I liked the feeling of the city. I liked the potential. I liked the sense that everyone was working together toward a goal, even if we didn’t all agree what that goal should be. And I honestly thought that I could live a somewhat purposeful life here. (It also didn’t hurt that it was close enough to Ann Arbor that I could get a job that I liked, and occasionally eat Indian food and see a movie.) I’d never try to convince anyone to move here, as I don’t think that I could take the guilt if they were to take my advice, relocate here, and not like it, but I can tell you that it was the right decision for me and my family. And, judging from the people that I’ve met here since, we’re not alone. A lot of young, interesting families are beginning to see Ypsilanti as a viable alternative. As for schools, I’m not qualified to talk, as my daughter, at least for the time being, goes to school in Ann Arbor. I can tell you, however, that I’ve taken tours of both the Washtenaw International High School and the Washtenaw Middle Academy (the relatively new International Baccalaureate programs in the neighborhood), and I’m very excited about the prospect of her going there when she’s of age. Sure, there are things to be concerned about, but, as Murph said, options exist. And, as for co-working space, I suspect we’ll have a solution for you in the not too distant future… Oh, and if you haven’t already, read my Ypsi Immigration Interview series. You’ll find plenty of people who made the choice to move here, and they’re much more articulate on the subject than I am.

    Posted in Ann Arbor, Education, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

    How is that I’ve never heard about Native American remains having been found on Water Street?

    The following clipping was just sent to me by a fellow named Matt Siegfried. According to him, it’s from a local paper printed June 11, 1914. The area indicated in the article, he says, is somewhere near the back of the property we new refer to as Water Street. One wonders if the photos referenced in the article still exist in the EMU archives, and whether there may be historically significant artifacts yet to be found on the site.


    update: OK, according to this source, that wasn’t the only discovery in the area. There was also another significant find made 15 years previously. Here’s that story.

    Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 10.40.29 PM

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the archeology business, but, given the presence of a silver cross and crown, as well as all of the other metal items noted in the second article, I’m not quite sure that it sounds like a Native American site. I know, of course, that trade did occur between Europeans and Native Americans, but, based on the content of this second article alone, I’d be more inclined to say that these could have been the remains of an early European settlement.

    update: I started searching for references to a Professor Jefferson at Normal College around 1914, and discovered an article by local historian James Mann. Here’s a clip.

    …The storage room of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum may lack the splendor of King Tut’s Tomb, but therein are to be found wonderful things. Recently, as boxes of glass plate negatives were being cataloged, a collection of images originally belonging to Mark Jefferson came to light. This is an important find, as Jefferson is a major figure in the history of Eastern Michigan University and the city of Ypsilanti. His influence as a teacher is still being felt today.

    Mark Jefferson was born March 1, 1863, in Melrose, Massachusetts, and at the age of seventeen entered Boston University. After three years of study he accepted a position as assistant astronomer at the National Observatory of the Republic of Argentine. Later he was sub-manager to a sugar estate, a position he accepted because of eye fatigue.

    In 1901 he was appointed Head of the Department of Geography at the Michigan State Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University. He held this position until his retirement in 1939. Because of Jefferson, Michigan State Normal College became known as “The Nursery of American Geographers.”

    Mark Jefferson accompanied President Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference that followed the First World War as chief cartographer. There he personally supervised the making of over 1,200 maps. The American delegation, it was noted, had the finest, most complete and accurate maps of any at the conference.

    Returning to the United States after the conference, Jefferson resumed teaching at Ypsilanti, and over the years personally taught 62 different courses and some 15,000 students. He died in 1949. Jefferson once wrote “Truth is God”…

    Mann goes on to discuss the fact that Jefferson was an avid photographer. So the pieces certainly fit… Looks like a trip to the Ypsilanti Historical Museum might be in order.

    Posted in History, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

      Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interview: Terri and Meghan Eagen-Torkko

      Continuing our Ypsi-Arbor expat interview series, today we’re talking with Terri and Meghan Eagen-Torkko, who recently made the decision to leave Ypsilanti for Seattle.


      MARK: Before we get started, could each of you please state your full name, country of origin, and favorite childhood television program?

      TERRI: Terri Eagen-Torkko, Wisconsin, Saturday Night Live from the time I was about five. Knowing that explains a lot about me.

      MEGHAN: Meghan Eagen-Torkko, born in Seattle, favorite TV show was Scooby-Doo, tied closely with Masters of the Universe.

      MARK: And what brought each of you to Ypsi?

      MEGHAN: I took a midwifery job.

      MARK: And where had you been living prior to that?

      MEGHAN: I was living in Seattle.

      MARK: Were you specifically looking for something in Michigan, or was it just happenstance that you found a position as a midwife here?

      MEGHAN: I interviewed at several practices and was offered two jobs. The Michigan job was very appealing, and the cost of living was very low.

      MARK: And how about you, Terri? What brought you to Ypsi?

      TERRI: I’d been living in Ann Arbor when I happened to wander over to Ypsi for a massage. I loved the neighborhood, and the house across the street from where I got my massage was for sale, so I bought it.

      MARK: How long had you been living in Ann Arbor at that point, and what were you doing for a living at that time?

      TERRI: I was working at the University of Michigan as the event manager at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. I’d been in town about 12 years when I hopped over to Ypsi, something I wish I’d done years earlier… But I bought into the b.s. of how superior Ann Arbor was… for a bit.

      MARK: Care to elaborate on the b.s.?

      TERRI: Oh, it’s all the stuff you hear: Ypsi is violent, Ypsi is poor, Ann Arbor has The Best Schools In The Everywhere, Ann Arbor has better food, Ypsi is dangerous, blah blah blah. I just didn’t bother to check things out for myself sooner.

      MARK: And how’d you come to be with one another?

      MEGHAN: Ter and I had known each other online for awhile. We were on the same hippie parenting boards, and I started following her blog.

      MARK: So you fell in love online, before meeting?

      MEGHAN: No, not really. I was interviewing for jobs and one of the interviews was in Michigan, so we met.

      TERRI: But, when we did meet, I knew she was the one. I resisted for a while, told her I couldn’t jump into anything, suggested that we not move in together… but it didn’t stick.

      MARK: And you both already had kids?

      MEGHAN: The kids were born during my first marriage, so we sort of came as a package deal.

      TERRI: When I was about 8, I have a very clear memory of standing in our kitchen and telling my mom that I was NEVER going to have a husband, and I was NEVER going to be pregnant and have babies, but that I WOULD be a mom. She wondered how I thought that would happen, and I told her they’d sort of show up on my porch someday. And that’s pretty much what happened.

      MARK: So, where is it that you abandoned us for?

      TERRI: We left Ypsi for Seattle.

      MEGHAN: We went back to my hometown, which, conveniently, had just passed marriage equality legislation the year before. I remember watching the live vote online. I was crying like a big baby when the votes were called. So, at some point, I was able to convince Ter that she should give up the awesome Midwestern weather and come back with me.

      MARK: Why would anyone in their right mind leave Michigan?

      MEGHAN: It was a hard decision. We have a lot of people we love in Michigan. I actually love the weather, except for the summers, which I hate. Our house in Ypsi was gorgeous, and our neighbors were great. I’m still a doctoral student at Michigan, and it was certainly easier to work on my dissertation there than here, in Seattle. But there were so many bills that kept being introduced that really targeted our family. The one about benefits for same-sex families was particularly mean-spirited, and it was significant for us because we were covered through U-M. I also worked in family planning, and the funding for that kept being threatened. And, my family is all in Washington, and I’d lived there until I was 33. I missed home. But there was never a strong feeling that I had to move back until Washington finally passed marriage equality. At that point, it was hard to come up with enough reasons to stay in Michigan. I don’t feel that we left so much as we were pushed out. We never vacationed in Michigan outside Washtenaw County, never traveled much in West Michigan, because it never felt safe for our family. I’d never lived anywhere that I had to feel so much on-guard. We had to have paperwork with us all the time, in case we were in a car accident, and had to make medical decisions for one another, or even see each other in the hospital. It was like we were in this little happy Ypsi-Arbor bubble, and everywhere outside of that felt potentially hostile or risky.

      seattleBTERRI: It was a complicated decision to leave. I’m a born and raised Midwesterner… I’d never lived anywhere other than the Midwest… The cold, the snow, BigTen (11, 12) sports, the accent, the sensibilities, the whole thing. I have an enormous extended family, nearly all of whom are in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Growing up, the idea of marrying a woman wasn’t on the table at all. Hell, until a handful of years ago, it wasn’t a possibility… Mountains, orcas and marriage benefits. I just couldn’t say no to Washington.

      MARK: It’s something that comes up a lot when I do these exit interviews… how politics factors into our decisions as to where we live. And it isn’t just a marriage equality thing. I know a straight family leaving Ann Arbor right now, and the wife recently mentioned to me that the so-called rape insurance legislation passed by Michigan Republicans played a role in their decision. I believe, in their case, they were going to go anyway, but this woman noted that she didn’t want to raise her daughter in a state where such a thing was possible. My hope is that, if the conservatives in our state can’t be made to respect women and members of the GLBTQ community, maybe they’ll at least come to appreciate that there are real financial consequences for their actions… I just find it amazing that, on one hand, our Governor is trying to pass legislation making it easier for foreign nationals to move to Michigan, to increase our tax base, while, on the other, he’s forcing out hard-working Michiganders like yourselves. It’s counterintuitive. And it’s short-sighted in the extreme. Anyone paying attention knows that gay marriage is here to stay, and choosing to fight it at this point is a colossal waste of time and energy. But, that’s apparently how our elected officials want to spend their time instead of fixing our roads, schools, etc. And, as a result, we’re losing people like yourselves.

      MEGHAN: I worked for a family planning clinic, so we were always having our funding threatened, and there was always legislation that was being passed that hurt my patients. That’s why the LGBT issues were the last straw – there were so many other things that happened first.

      MARK: Do I understand that, together, you still have two homes in Ypsi? Do you intend to vacation here, or is the plan to either rent or sell them?

      MEGHAN: Right now, we rent both houses. We’ll eventually sell them. The plan is never to vacation in Michigan. I come back every once in awhile to meet with my dissertation committee, but that’s it.

      MARK: And how’d you come to own two homes? Did you buy one upon moving to town, Meghan, before moving in with Terri?

      MEGHAN: I bought my house in Ypsi when I first moved to town. We looked at 15 houses over a weekend, and it was the last one we saw. Ter bought her house several years earlier, and we have great renters in it. I want to sell my house, but not enough to take a crazy-low offer.

      MARK: If I told you that it was your job to find two people in Seattle and send them to live in Ypsi to replace you, or else suffer terrible consequences, how would you go about identifying people who might fit in here, and how would you convince/trick them to leave Washington for Michigan?

      TERRI: Honestly, our part of Seattle and Ypsi have a lot in common. I imagine I could sell most anyone nearby on living in Ypsi. Great food. Fantastic music scene. Excellent people. There’s a whole lot to love there.

      MEGHAN: I love Ypsi. It’s a really, really great town, and the water tower alone is worth the move. It’s hard to sell a move from a place with incredibly low unemployment, but housing is so cheap in Ypsi that people might see that as a selling point. I’m not sure we’re ever going to be able to buy a home in Seattle, and, if we do, it’s not going to be remotely close to our Ypsi house. So that’s a huge thing. Ypsi is a warm community. It’s friendly, and interesting, and low-key, and I think that would be attractive to a lot of people. But the bottom line is that I would never encourage any of my gay friends to move to Michigan. Maybe things will be different in ten years. But not now.

      MARK: Fill in the blank… “The worst part about living in Ypsilanti was ________”

      MEGHAN: The things people from Ann Arbor said about Ypsi. A lot of them have this image of the world ending at Carpenter, and beyond that is just — I don’t know, empty? dangerous? It got tiresome to always explain the fantastic things about Ypsi.

      TERRI: Listening to people from other places attempt to pronounce or spell Ypsilanti.

      MARK: Any parting words for the people of Ypsi?

      MEGHAN: We love Ypsi! Eat at Dom’s every chance you get!

      TERRI: And pay very close attention to your water bills.


      [Curious as to why your friends and neighbors are leaving? Check out our archive of Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interviews.]

      Posted in Ann Arbor, Civil Liberties, Michigan, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

      Netflix Roulette: Kelsey Grammar on a sub edition


      Don’t ruin it for me. I’m only up to the part where the crew shrinks the uniform of Lt. Lake, the Diving Officer on the USS Stingray, so that it can barely contain her distractingly-large breasts.

      Posted in Art and Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

      Geocentrism, anti-Semitism, and the role of Kate Mulgrew in helping Robert Sungenis to roll back the Enlightenment

      Kate Mulgrew is a terrible person.

      Not only did she attempt to ruin my favorite television show, by willingly participating in the excerable 1979 mystery series Mrs. Columbo, but she’s now lending her voice to a “documentary” project putting forward the preposterous notion that the sun and planets rotate around the earth. Here with more is a clip from RawStory.com.

      A new documentary film, narrated by a former Star Trek actress, promotes the long-ago disproven idea that the sun revolves around the Earth.

      “Everything we think we know about our universe is wrong,” says actress Kate Mulgrew as she narrates the trailer for “The Principle.”

      The film, which is set to be released sometime this spring, was bankrolled in part by the ultra-conservative and anti-Semitic Robert Sungenis, who maintains the blog “Galileo Was Wrong.”

      In addition to Mulgrew, who played Capt. Kathryn Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Nemeis,” the film features several scientists, including Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss, and Max Tegmart.

      In the trailer, the scientists discuss how the Earth’s unique characteristics make it well-suited for life, in comparison to other planets.

      But Sungenis himself offers the only real bombshell in the two-minute, 20-second trailer.

      “You can go on some websites of NASA to see that they’ve started to take down stuff that might hint to a geocentric universe,” Sungenis says.

      About one in four Americans believe in geocentrism, which places the Earth at the center of the universe and the sun, planets, and stars revolving around it…

      Sungenis, by the way, is perhaps best known for his work to disprove the “myth” that 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust. He’s also written extensively about our government’s faking of the moon landing, and the fact that NASA is responsible for the world’s crop circles. (“It gets everybody talking about UFOs,” he says. But really, all they are doing is getting our minds off the Bible and Christ by making it look like neither are true.”) Oh, and he also believes that the Jews are responsible for 9-11.

      Here’s the trailer for his film, The Principle.

      I know I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we know that so-called Young Earth Creationists are out there, spreading the belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old. And we know that there are people who actually believe that humans coexisted with dinosaurs, and that evolution doesn’t exist. So why should it be any surprise to learn that there are people out there who believe that God created the earth at the center of the universe? I suppose we should just be thankful that we haven’t yet regressed to the point where a majority of us once again believe that the earth is flat, and that the sun is a golden chariot driven across the heavens by a god.

      As for Mulgrew, I realize that she probably just did this for the money, without looking into the men behind it, but, at some point, I feel as though you have to take responsibility for your actions as an adult. And I’m not inclined to give her a pass for this just because she wanted the paycheck. The anti-science movement taking root in America is very real threat to the future of humanity, and we need to do whatever we can to stop it, even if it means calling out actresses like Mulgrew who we might otherwise respect. I can forgive a celebrity who does an ad for something stupid because he or she wants to make an extra million bucks, but I think you cross a line when you start helping ultra-conservative religious fanatics roll back the Enlightenment.

      One last thing, don’t be surprised if there are strange notes left in the comments section that don’t quite made sense. You see, I have a weird history when it comes to Mulgrew, and I expect, by bringing her up today, I may reopen some old wounds.

      It all started about six months ago, when I made an offhand comment about her on Facebook. It’s a long story, but let’s just say that some people got the impression that I was calling her ugly, when, in fact, I was just noting my dislike of the short-lived 1979 mystery series in which she starred. (According to my friend Peter Falk, the program was produced by the network against his wishes in order to squeeze a little more revenue from the Columbo franchise during a time when he’d left television to work in film.) Anyway, a photo of Murgrew, in character as the woman she portrays in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, popped up in my newsfeed one day, and I reposted it with a comment about how no one could ever convince me that my favorite television detective would have married her. And this in turn led to a lot of people accusing me of being superficial, etc. I tried to explain myself, and say that the image had nothing to do with my comment, and I would have said the same thing even if she’d been younger, etc., but it was too late. No one wanted to hear what I had to say. I’d shown myself, in their eyes, to be a man who can’t appreciate the beauty of a mature woman, or whatever, and that was that. (In truth, I’m just an obsessive Columbo fan who believes somewhat strongly that, despite all of his comments to the contrary, he never had a wife at all.) So, if you see a weird mix of comments, some from geocentrists and some from women defending Mulgrew’s beauty, that’s what’s going on.


      [Teach the controversy. Buy the shirt.]

      update: Mulgrew apparently released a comment on Facebook today. “I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism,” the actress said. “More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused.”

      Posted in Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments


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