Blog: Andrew Clock

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. - Betty Reese
Water Street Trail Project founder Andrew Clock, volunteer coordinator of the Michigan Roots Jamboree and barfly philanthropist, offers the pick-me-ups to prove that no one is ever a speck on the wall.

Post 2: Long Live Ypsi!

I am from Ypsilanti, and I'm proud to say that. It took me a long time to realize all of the great things this community has to offer, and it never ceases to amaze me. I guess, to some degree, I had to wait for the city to become more of what I was looking for. Or maybe I just had to grow up a little. Either way, no matter how many times I tried to move on, Ypsi drew me back.

Like a lot of people here, I'm not originally from Ypsilanti. I wound up here by accident. I moved here from Monroe, not because of school or a job, but because my (much older) roommate and I both worked for the same company outside of Detroit, and Ann Arbor seemed like a better place to hang out between commutes. And so, we moved to one of those faceless apartment complexes along Washtenaw Avenue and settled in. We had an Ann Arbor address. We were clearly moving up in the world.

I didn't know much about Ypsilanti. I remembered seeing a big, brick water tower, and I knew EMU was there because that's where my friend James went to school. That was it. But the more people I met, the more I found myself drawn in. I left the old roommate and Ann Arbor address behind and moved into an apartment off EMU's campus. I'm not going to lie; it was a lot of late nights, parties, and doing things that I probably shouldn't have. It was also a whole lot of fun. The friends I made in those misspent days have lasted well past our wild youth. The things I experienced shaped the rest of my life.

Somewhere in there, I got tired of Ypsilanti. I was in my early 20s, it was a new century, and I, and a lot of my friends, felt stuck. There were only so many 40s you could drink, only so many shows you could attend, or classes you could take. So I struck out to see what else I could do, and to try out some new places. I spent a couple years living aboard a boat in Lake Erie. I met a girl, fell in love and got married. I took a "great" job that moved me to Iowa. I still kept touching base back in Ypsilanti, but I was headed out of Michigan and I was never coming back.

That's not exactly how it turned out. Iowa was miserable, the job not so great, and the marriage on life support. We limped back to Michigan to try and salvage things, but it was too late. I tried living in Detroit, tried going back to Monroe, but nothing really worked out, especially on the job front. Once again, Ypsilanti pulled me in. I still had friends here. They propped me up, gave me places to stay, were patient while I found work, and helped me put the pieces together again. Maybe most importantly, my friends brought me back into the art, music, and social scene, and urged me to get involved. It probably seemed like a good way to get me to stop moping around on their couches.

Getting involved was easy; Ypsilanti was still the same small town I left, and everyone knew everyone, or had at least had had a drink with them before. The music scene was as strong as ever, and now there was art and artists everywhere. It seemed there was an art opening every week, on any available wall in any gallery, coffee shop, or bar you could find. I performed and booked music, and helped to produce art shows at a local bar with my roommate. It seemed like everyone had a band or project. Our neighbors wrote a zine, made "Ypsi Panties" and had just created a new DIY art festival called Shadow Art Fair at the Corner Brewery. Another old friend, just back from living in California for the last 10 years, told me about the music festival he wanted to produce in the park the next summer, and asked me to help. I was hooked in, and this time, I wanted to stick around a while.

There are a lot of reasons I've made Ypsilanti my home. Of course there is the art, music, and creative energy that has become a part of the community, the great places to hang out, the parks, the central location. But a lot of cities can claim those things. It's the people of Ypsilanti that give it its character, and most of them love this town, too. They may not all agree on what's best, but they will fight like hell for what they think is right, and I like that, even when I'm on the other side of the debate. And more often than not, the person who you couldn't stand listening to at that city council meeting, or had a 20-comment long argument with on is right next to you volunteering for P.R.I.D.E. Day or a summer festival. This town has been through a lot, had a lot of ups and downs, promises and disappointments, and we just keep rolling with the punches. Maybe that's why we're willing to take a chance on things that may seem a little crazy to people from outside our community.

Where else would the candidates for mayor agree to a public debate hosted by a marionette? What other city would shut down its two major parks for a weekend music festival with camping? Where can you find entrepreneurs turning commercial kitchens into a printing empire, an office building into an artist community? That ship sailed from our neighbor to the west a long time ago. In Ypsilanti you can afford a decent place to live, to go out and have dinner or drinks, or to be a little less "responsible" and a little more creative without the help of a trust fund.

Michigan is changing, and it will never again be the place it was when we were young. We can't expect the kinds of jobs, the kinds of lives that our parents, and their parents, did. But we still have the same grit, the same work ethic, and the same determination that's always been part of Michigan. Out of the remnants of our industrial past new ideas and new ways to build communities are taking root. In Ypsilanti, we're embracing that change. We're ready to reshape our community for the future. And I'm proud to be a part of it.