Trustees, faculty members, proud parents, family and friends. Graduating class of 2012, I’m honored and grateful that you’ve invited me to be a part of such an important moment in your lives. I stand here today before you, the graduating classes of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan, congratulating you on the culmination of four to six years of hard work. You’ve done it. You’re through. You crossed those I’s and dotted those T’s and your ready to enter the workforce or, more likely, continue your schooling somewhere else with vague career goals in mind.
One thing is certain – you’ll never be an undergraduate again. Being an undergrad carries with it a cloak of forgiveness. You’re supposed to be kind of dumb. You’re supposed to make mistakes. You’re supposed to explore and do fun things and choose a night out and three hours of sleep over on-demand episodes of Hardcore Pawn. You’ll have plenty of days and nights to be old, but you’ve only got a few more days to cram as much Washtenaw County down your gullet as you can before you return to your hometowns, start polishing those cover letters and try to avoid your retired father who wants you to cut the lawn every two days because it’s been raining a lot lately.
For the graduates and their hangers-on, I present this cross-city list of must-sees and must-dos before you officially end your undergraduate college careers and become as boring as the rest of us. I encourage graduates from Eastern Michigan to explore the big city of Ann Arbor as much as I encourage the cloistered Wolverines of Ann Arbor to make a trip to Ypsilanti and explore a city with a lot to offer.
- • Get the raisin toast at Angelo’s in Ann Arbor. It’s usually pretty busy and the parking situation is a nightmare, but book an early-morning breakfast at Angelo’s. It’s worth it.
- • Tour Highland and St. John’s Cemeteries in Ypsilanti. Two beautiful cemeteries can be found on North River with the much larger and cooler Highland Cemetery being home to the Starweather Memorial Chapel. It’s a beautiful afternoon walk if the zombie apocalypse hasn’t happened.
- • Get yelled at in Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor. Some people call this the greatest burger in Michigan. I go for the abuse. Be sure to follow proper protocol when ordering or you’ll get yelled at. But I guess that’s half the fun.
- • Drink shooters like it’s 1979 at Good Time Charley’s in Ann Arbor. Their shooter list is as long as a giraffe’s neck, including concoctions called the Tennessee River Monster, Hairy Gorilla Fart and Piss Behind the Urinal. Uh, yum, am I right?
- • Spend an evening at Arthur’s in Ypsilanti. Any night at Arthur’s is an experience, from the clientele to the staff to the jello shooters. Bring cash. And maybe don’t wear your nicest clothes. An Ypsi original.
- • Buy anything local in Ann Arbor or Ypsi. You’ve got tons of local clothiers and specialty shops in Ann Arbor and Ypsi selling shirts and bags and shoes and magnets. Buy something. Then buy something for your loved ones.
- • Catch a Michigan softball game. I’m not kidding. Michigan softball games are a lot of fun. Cheap tickets (when you can get them), a cool atmosphere and the games move fast. Bring your glove and sit in the outfield.
- • Drink the boot at the Heidelberg in Ann Arbor. Whether in the basement Rathskeller or on the main floor, order a boot of beer at the Heidelberg. You can fill it with domestic beer or go native and top it off with a German brew. Then buy the boot and keep it on your mantle as a souvenir.
- • Go to Goth Night at Necto in Ann Arbor. Every Monday is Goth Night at Necto, and there’s no collection of more earnest, committed individuals on any other themed night of the week. Wear something black to kind of blend in and stomp, stomp, stomp. It’s a lot of fun.
- • See a puppet show at the Dreamland Theater in Ypsi. We can all agree that puppets are creepy, but support local art and theater by attending a puppet show at Dreamland. They often stage famous children’s tales with a creepy twist. Nightmares for years.
- • Fish the Huron River. There are actually fish in there – trust me. Rent or borrow a rod from someone, buy some nightcrawlers and drop a line into the Huron and see what happens.
- • Mariachi music at Los Amigos in Ypsi. Every Sunday a mariachi band works its way through the booths and tables at Los Amigos playing music romantica as you eat your burritos and tamales. Stuff a $5 bill into the big man’s guitarron and he might not hit on your significant other.
- • Eat like your grandparents at Haab’s in Ypsi. It’s the kind of place your parents would have taken you after some big event when you were in fourth grade. Order outdated drinks (a Harvey Wallbanger perhaps) and enjoy chicken in a basket or ribs. Dress up, too. You’re worth it.
- • Drink beer and play darts at the 8 Ball Saloon in Ann Arbor. You may have seen a show at the Blind Pig and used the bathrooms in the basement. That’s the 8 Ball. Dirty, dingy and since the restaurant/bar smoking ban in Michigan, it smells like stale beer and puke now instead of Spirit cigarettes. Doesn’t matter. Slide into the cracked vinyl booths, order an obscenely cheap pitcher of beer and play darts.