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September 23, 2004 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-23

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6B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Michigan Daily -Thun

CITY

OF

MANY CULTURES

ANN ARBOR OFFERS HAVEN FOR INTELLECTUALS, OUTCASTS AND P

ARTIERS ALIKE

Windy City. Big Apple. City of
Brotherly Love. Celery City
(that's Kalamazoo, in case you
didn't already know). Though the village
of Annarbour, as it was called at its incep-
tion in 1824, has rightfully escalated to
city status, it has yet (save vacuous "A
squared") to receive a public-sanctioned
nickname.
Why this nickname void? Surely Ann
Arbor possesses as much, if not more, char-
acter than Nail City (Wheeling, W.Va), or
Curtain Rod Capital of the World (Sturgis,
Mich.). The University's 1837 relocation
from Detroit, a steady influx of people (the
current population around 114,000), and a
huge growth of businesses has transformed
the 28.2 square miles of Ann Arbor from a
green, small village into a bustling, color-
ful city.
A nickname, though it may be one per-
son's concept, requires adoption by the
people to keep it alive. And while diver-
sity is possibly Ann Arbor's greatest asset,
it can function as a vice by preventing a
unanimous agreement on an image of the
city. A brief survey of Ann Arbor's night-
life reveals the polemical, capricious and
impossible task of pinning down "Ann
Arbor Culture."
The upstairs of Rendezvous Cafe (1110
S. University Ave.) on a Friday night is an
agreeable, laid-back place. At 9:00 there
are about 12 people on the warmly-lit sec-
ond level: A couple is smoking flavored
tobacco out of an ornate hookah; others are
reading, chatting and smoking.
Jad is sitting at a table with five other
men, four of whom are playing Tarneeb, an
Arabic card game. Recently earning a Mas-
ter's degree from Eastern Michigan Univer-
sity, Jad has lived in Ann Arbor for more
than three years and continually comes to
Rendezvous to relax and meet with friends.
"I feel comfortable here," says Jad, explain-
ing the interesting mix of people he finds at
the cafe: "... there's (people) from all over,
almost. (At other places,) you don't see
people from China; you don't see people
from India, from Brazil or Palestine. And,"
he adds, holding a Marlboro Light in-his
left hand and a Paulo Coelho book in his
right, "I can smoke here."
Jad, who speaks English, French and
Arabic, lived in Lebanon before coming
to Ann Arbor and is slightly baffled by the
University's party culture. "It's weird that
they say U of M is one of the best (schools)
in the country ... When I was in school, we
couldn't go out drinking very often. I won-
der how people are having good grades."
Jad's friend Ata, who hails from Istanbul,
Turkey, finds Ann Arbor slow and quiet.
Ata thinks Ann Arbor is safe and friendly,
but that "(University students') fun is very
limited: study all week, party Friday." He
also notices a lack of global awareness
among students: "I asked my (University)
friends, 'Can you give me three countries
surrounding Iraq?' They couldn't."
According to Jad, Ann Arbor, or its
image, thwarts students' natural behavior.

Thinking of the city not as a "real world"
town but rather as a "student town where
people coming from different places try
to act according to specific 'norms' that
belong to the town," Jad observes that stu-
dents' pretenses are sometimes overcome
by alcohol indulgence. "Even if people are
sometimes acting snobby, they will act nat-
urally, or sometimes worse, during parties.
In Lebanon, snobs are snobs all the time."
By 10:00, the upstairs has considerably
filled up with smoke, bodies, and conversa-
tion. Jad and Ata return to their conversa-
tion and the street below begins to liven up.
A couple blocks away from Rendezvous,
the sounds of a trumpet, noise machine
and polite applause reverberate in the sub-
terranean walls of East Quad's Halfway
Inn. Not quite Jad's "periodical snobs," the
crowd here is a mixture of undergrads who
are, at least ostensibly, interested in music
and community.
LSA junior Dave Armitage, a member of
the East Quad Music Co-Op (which books
and organizes the shows), remarks on the
uniqueness of these shows, which usually
draw between 50 and 150 people: "The
Half-Ass is different from places like the
Blind Pig in that we are a nonprofit venue,
so all the money we make a the show goes
back to the bands." Atmosphere, of course,
adds to the shows: "There are also plush
couches and mood lighting, making it a
perfect date destination for all the lovers."
Armitage suggests that the co-op is start-
ing, or reviving, a new culture: "The con-
certs in the dorm don't bring the culture,
child, but the culture is bringing the con-
certs to the dorm."
Down the street from East Quad, a
slightly swanky house party is underway.
A small crowd gathers on the apartment's
roof, which overlooks a very busy South
University Avenue. LSA junior Kellan
Cummings and RC freshman Natasha
Stagg are perched on a ledge. While Stagg
is excited about her move to Ann Arbor
- "There's a lot more diversity here ... I
like the overall feeling of it, compared to
Grand Rapids" - Cummings's thoughts
on the city lack any doses of romanticism.
"There's a lot of good restaurants here;
I must admit that," he offers. Then, after
a pause, he adds, "There's good record
stores, too. That's it."
Down below, Cummings's apathy is
completely contrasted as two enthusiastic
students, who are coming from a very dif-
ferent kind of party, share their thoughts
on the city. "My favorite thing about Ann
Arbor is the parties," says Dan Brown,
who goes to school in Port Huron. "The
frat parties," interjects LSA freshman Ron
Mantell. "You don't have to pay for shit;
it's awesome. You never have to pay for
anything."
Their tip to check out Sigma Alpha Epsi-
lon (apparently it's off the hook) was not
overooked. On the driveway of the loom-
ing house, two sorority hopefuls explain
their Greek desire. LSA freshman Jenny
5edney, who justifies.-i ushing with: 'Bsi-

cally, right now, I'm going through the pro-
cess till I find it annoying," is impressed
with the town and "knickknack stores"
around Ann Arbor.
Her friend, Jessica Delaney, also an LSA
freshman, looks forward to the structured
sociality of sorority life: "I love having
something to do constantly. I love, like,
say on this day there's gonna be this party,
or on this day there's gonna be this party
- I love that; I think that's so fun."
Though the women plan on becoming
part of the Greek culture, they are still
sensitive to those who don't rush. "I have
a group of friends in my hall that some of
them are like, 'I wanna be in a sorority,'
and some of them aren't, but we still can
hang out," Sedney says.
The last stop of the night is Mitch's on
the corner of South Forest and South Uni-
versity avenues. The crowd at Mitch's is
older, calmer and more clothed. Dana Con-
gbon goes to Wayne State University, but
frequently visits Ann Arbor. She likes the
Ann Arbor bar culture, especially Mitch's,
"because you don't have to be a whore to
get in." Congbon and her friends get a kick
out of the uber-mini-skirts that have been
seizing the thighs of undergrads this sea-
son and are relieved that Ann Arbor offers
alternatives to frats. "Have a beer, sing
some karaoke," Congbon says of the bars,
"you don't need to hooch out."
It's clear from Friday night's south-side
expeditions that there are, in fact, many sub-
cultures that lie beneath a somewhat elusive
"Ann Arbor Culture." What's noteworthy,
though, and a facet of the city's culture, is
that these subcultures are actually represent-
ed. On Saturday night, one of Ann Arbor's
subcultures was celebrated with festivities in
Kerrytown.
"Like a Prayer" blasts outside Vaugh
Court, and a swarm of people is dancing
at OutFest, a festival kicking off National
Coming Out Day (Oct. 11). Jeremy Merk-
linger is the president of WRAP (Washtenaw
Rainbow Action Project), which organizes
this 10-year-old event.
"This would never happen in Howell, or
Grass Lake, or even Jackson," Merklinger
declares. "Ann Arbor is so open-minded and
liberal - it's just acceptable here to be gay."
He points out that the facts that WRAP has
a working relationship with the Ann Arbor
police department and that the mayor came
to OutFest speaks greatly of the city's toler-
ance.
No cultures, or subcultures, are ideal. "The
(LGBT) community is very, very divided,"
Merklinger says. "People start to clump
together with people that they understand."
Of course, Merklinger's comment can be
applied to many communities, including
many of those in Ann Arbor. The depth and
breadth of sub-cultures in Ann Arbor show-
cases the diversity and community that the
residents possess. Isolating a single culture to
exploit, or tout as an image, seems futile and
unnecessary. Perhaps the population could
be appeased by this nickname: Ann Arbor
- The City of Cultures.

DAVID TUMAN/Daily

Patrons in front of Rendezvous Cafe on
South University Avenue exemplify Ann
Arbor's quasi-Bohemian lifestyle while
enjoying flavored tobacco from a hookah.

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Ann Arborites sip a
few drinks on a balmy
September evening
in front of The Brown
Jug, also on on South
University Avenue.

Students purchase snacks at the Halfway Inn (also known as the Half-Ass), a venu

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