I've been in Ann Arbor for four months. My boyfriend and I spent the summer in a third-floor studio apartment with no air conditioning. There was a garbage Dumpster next door, and even with the windows closed, a thick oily stench seeped in and clung to the walls. The toilet was temperamental, and the smell of urine resisted my assaults with Lysol spray and air fresheners. The first time I took a shower I found a spider sac the size of a silver dollar in the tub.
Yet this shabby, pungent apartment felt like the most beautiful and appropriate place to be. A hot and cramped first home is a rite of passage for the liberal arts grad, isn't it? I loved our one room (with a kitchenette and bathroom--don't forget!) and clung to it as proof that I had completed college. It was my claim to the "real world" and my ticket into the Ann Arbor community--which, Atlantic ratings aside, I really do think is the best place to be.
My boyfriend, Michael, was born and raised here. He thinks that to be part of the Ann Arbor community, one has to complete a checklist of experiences: surviving the tumultuous highs and lows of football season, being on a first-name basis with a vendor at the Farmers Market, and having at least a basic knowledge of local politics. I sometimes call U-M's team the Wolves, I don't know the words to "Hail to the Victors," and I still get lost trying to find Kerrytown. But I did feel a surprising sense of pride at witnessing the completion of the Library Lane parking structure.