It was Sunday evening at the Fishbowl and LSA sophomore Bethany Rockwall needed to use the bathroom.

Bathroom confessional: The sisterhood of the stall

Rockwall turned left from the computer lab toward the infamously unkempt women’s restroom in Mason Hall. Inside the restroom, she surveyed the rows of stalls, trying to find one that wasn’t a primordial disaster. Rockwall’s search took her to the end of the row, where she settled on a stall that was clean but impossible to lock.

There is where she found it – the “Go Blue Girly Confessions.” wall.

“Go Blue Girly Confessions.” is the name someone scrawled above a couple square feet of graffiti that features hundreds of confessions and responses written by a devout following of anonymous bathroom-goers. The wall, with its frequent updates of new secrets, acts as a sort of peer counseling system with what could be a faster response time than the University’s Counseling And Psychological Services.

The stall’s end-of-the-row position and door that stands ajar makes it an unlikely choice, except in the situation encountered by Rockwall, where every other stall is a war zone. But after women discover the stall, many will use no other.

“From now on I only use this stall!” reads one of many endorsements written on the wall. Rockwall, who admitted to spending a few extra minutes studying the wall’s contents, said she would show the stall special preference from now on. And since it’s at the end of the row and it doesn’t lock, “It’s probably going to remain the clean one,” she said.

The wall’s content, in a similar vein of PostSecret, ranges from admissions of guilty pleasures – “I’m having an existentialist crisis over a Coach bag” – to acknowledgement of inner-demons – “There is life after depression. I have found it.”

The vast majority of entries refer to incidents of unrequited or unfeasible love, some eliciting sympathetic responses and advice.

“He cheated on me twice and lied to me about it for a year but I’m still not over him,” one series of notes begins.

“You need to move on. Not worth your time. You’re better than that!!” one response reads.

“No. Take your time. You will heal when you’re ready,” another response counters.

Standing in contrast to the plethora of romantic angst is a darker set of guilty confessions written discreetly to the side in small, cramped letters.

“I miss bulimia,” reads the first note.

“I know! I miss anorexia but I hate what it did 2 me.”

“I miss cutting. Ahh – high school addictions.”

“Be strong, women!” the last note reads.

On another area of the wall, discussion takes a turn toward medical matters. A large square borders a survey that asks, “Have you gotten the HPV/cervical cancer vaccine?” Fourteen respondents have gotten the vaccine, 10 haven’t but intend to and 11 don’t plan to. Two others responded under the added category “Too expensive!”

Nearby, another contributor poses a question to her fellow women about the pros and cons of the after-the-fact birth control Plan B. “What do you think of Plan B? I just had it and it fucked up my cycle really bad.”

“What is Plan B?” a reader responded. “I like the pill.”

Throughout the wall’s contents, one reaction repeatedly appears. Note after note extols the wall’s existence, if not for therapeutic services provided, than at least for its entertainment value.

A note penciled in elegant cursive best sums up the communal sentiment: “Thank you all for writing on this – it leaves me much enjoyment reading people’s thoughts and smart-ass comments while I have to take a dump – you know – it does get sorta boring just sitting there.”


– Jessica Vosgerchian

Stadium mentality: Where the unacceptable is acceptable

Saturday at Michigan Stadium wasn’t one of those golden autumn afternoons that composers write fight songs about. The temperature was in the low-40s at kickoff and the drizzle was softly persistent, but the crowd in the student section was electric, especially closer to the field, where it’s mostly seniors who hadn’t seen a victory against Ohio State in their previous three years on campus. When star running back Mike Hart was announced, the cheering swelled to a crescendo. One might have felt proud to be part of a Michigan community that supports its members, a 110,000-person family that comes together eight autumn Saturdays a year to cheer on its team.

Floating above the crowd, though, were two inflatable objects that ruined the illusion of the camaraderie of sport. They were 4-foot penises, which the students buoyed above their heads like phallic crowd-surfers. And written on one of them was TRESSEL LIKES PENISES.

Jim Tressel is the sweater-vested coach of Ohio State who is rumored – at least according to the kind of T-shirts sold on football Saturdays whose idea of humor is switching the F in fuck with the B in Buckeyes – to do things like wear Ugg boots and drink wine coolers. There is no evidence that he is gay. He is married to a woman named Ellen, and together they have four children: Zak, Carlee, Eric and Whitney.

The veracity of the inflatable penises’ claim, though, isn’t the dilemma. And neither is the students’ dislike for their archrivals’ leader, whose record against Michigan’s Lloyd Carr stood at 5-1 before the game and 6-1 afterward. Such competitiveness is healthy and expected.

What is interesting is how the student section chose to express that dislike. Chanting “You suck” after the opposing team fails to convert on third down is one thing. Using homophobic symbols is another.

Is there any other place at this supposedly progressive school where it is so acceptable to use such blatantly prejudiced speech? And is there any other cultural group that is so easy to openly smear without reprocussions than gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people? What if the penises had had racist language? Would the student in row 19 of section 31 have been more hesitant to thrust it into the face of the Ohio State fan in front of him again and again?

And why is it that we give up all our values and beliefs at this university when it comes to sports?

Things did not get much better as the game went on. Michigan took a 3-0 lead before falling behind 7-3 in the second quarter. A 62-yard touchdown run early in the second half by Chris Wells put the Buckeyes up by 11.

In the fourth quarter, when quarterback Chad Henne fumbled the snap on third down, one student could not hold in his anger any longer.

“You’re a faggot, Henne,” he screamed.

The final score was 14-3. The fans shuffled out of the stadium, wet and disappointed for the wrong reason.

– Karl Stampfl

Ann Arbor’s Ron Paul House: Hanging out with fans of the GOP’s kookiest candidate

You’re probably seen the Ron Paul House. It’s the old building on North Main Street on the way to the highway with a big “Ron Paul Revolution” flag. Aside from flag, the exterior looks more like a house in small-town New England, possibly along a rural highway in independent-minded Vermont.

But stepping into the worn-down building transports you to a scene that almost feels as if you’re back in the radical, politically active 1960s – the sort of scene that’s been long dead in Ann Arbor. Graffiti covers the walls, the room is littered with political posters and pamphlets, Bob Marley is playing and there are two of the most comfortable looking couches you have ever seen.

Before this reverie can fully take over, however, you’ll probably notice the new-looking metallic water cooler/refrigerator unit in the middle of the room, or at least the computer station right next to the front door. You’re still in 2007.

When you walk in, you’ll likely be greeted by University alum Adam de Angeli, the technology coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign in the state of Michigan. De Angeli will prove a sort of a bearded guide for your journey through the world of Ron Paul.

De Angeli, who coordinates most efforts to elect Ron Paul in Washtenaw County, is one of the leaseholders for the Ron Paul House, also dubbed “The Shop.” He shares the space with a small music studio and a T-shirt printing shop. The Shop used to be The Planet, a T-shirt shop run by de Angeli, but he converted the space into an unofficial headquarters for Ron Paul supporters in Washtenaw County.

De Angeli said members of the University chapter of Students for Ron Paul and other Ron Paul activists occasionally come to hang out and read Ron Paul-related literature. Last night, Eastern Michigan University sophomore and Ron Paul supporter Adam Spaude rolled up to the hangout on his skateboard to chat with de Angeli.

The converted store’s counter is now covered with campaign literature attempting to appeal to every type of voter. There are leaflets – which de Angeli calls “Slim Jims” – touting Paul’s anti-gun control rhetoric that de Angeli said he was sending to a gun show in Novi this weekend. There are the sheets detailing Paul’s platform of not taxing tips for wait staff at restaurants, which de Angeli said he handed out at Bennigan’s.

There’s even a DVD, titled “A Man for All Seasons,” for which de Angeli designed the sleeve and other artwork.

By the computer – which is available to interested newcomers to read up on Paul – de Angeli keeps a Paul-autographed copy of the annotated U.S. Constitution as well as a bound collection of the Constitution, all amendments and all case law affecting the Constitution. A map of the state identifying the other Paul support groups hangs on the wall next to the book.

De Angeli said he is particularly proud of the outfit’s online content, an especially important medium for Paul, who broke fundraising records for a money raised in a single day through a website called De Angeli made his own 13-minute video about the successful fight to allow Ron Paul at the Republican debates in Michigan. He showed off the video last night, occasionally chiming in with a “Wait until you see what happens” or a “This part is great.”

If you’ve exhausted all the online content and read all the campaign fliers, you can move on to the wall of books. With titles like “Hoax” and “Junk Politics,” de Angeli sells books on a range of issues he said Paul supporters might be interested in: foreign policy, tax law, the CIA and a wide array of little-known political literature.

He said he allows people stopping by the hangout to peruse the literature and said that sometimes people just come in and read.

For de Angeli, it’s all part of fighting the Ron Paul fight. He said it’s always a struggle, because Paul isn’t an “establishment” candidate, and candidates like Rudy Giuliani, who he said was Paul supporters’ “arch enemy,” get the premiere coverage at debates and other campaign stops.

But on the news feed on his website, de Angeli expressed his optimism about the unlikely candidate from Texas.

Accompanying a link to a YouTube video, his message reads, “The tide is definitely turning now!”

– David Mekelburg

In the garden: The Arb’s best loved, least known art installation

There’s a particularly picturesque spot in the Huron River where it runs through Nichol’s Arboretum. There are a few big oak trees and a couple benches, but most remarkable, there’s a row of large rocks that stretches across the width of the river. It’s especially popular, said Jeff Plakke, a graduate student and botanical specialist at the Arb, for wedding photos.

But what the happy couples probably don’t realize as they pose on the riverbank is that the rocks aren’t the remnant of some kind of glacial formation – they’re there by design.

A man named Mike Kelly has carefully arranged them into two arches, the same way he has for more than a decade, into a formation the Arb staff says he calls “the heart of Jesus.”

While it’s safe to say most Arb-goers don’t recognize the arches as the top of a heart, they’ll readily see the spirituality in what’s rumored to be Kelly’s other mark on the Arb – the word “pray” spray-painted onto the bridge a little downstream from the rock formation. The continually fresh letters suggest he updates it regularly.

Early in September, I e-mailed April Pickrel, visitor services and administration coordinator for the Arb, about contacting Kelly (the staff had no contact information, and I never actually managed to find him), she sent me back a cheery e-mail with a vaguely ominous final paragraph. Despite his religious and reflective tendencies, she said, Kelly had a confrontational streak.

“If you have a buddy you can take with you,” she wrote, “that might be a good idea. I think generally he’s fine, but sometimes he’s taken to shouting at some of our staff.”

Jeff Plakke, a graduate student and botanical specialist at the Arb, said Kelly has reported drunk students in the Arb and has taken to forcefully stamping out invasive plants like buckthorn and honeysuckle.

The Arb has had more than one report of a tall, bespectacled, wild-looking old man “gleefully destroying” foliage, as one concerned student wrote in an e-mail to the Arb staff. He’s also shown up unannounced at the student caretaker’s cottage on the grounds after hours, said Bob Grese, director of the Arb and the Matthei Botanical Gardens. When the students asked him to leave, though, he respectfully complied and didn’t come back to the house.

He’s also known to have an altruistic side – Grese remembered a time when he caught and rescued a goose that had a potentially deadly ice buildup attached to the scientific tracking tag around its neck.

The rocks themselves have probably widened the river a few feet, Plakke said, as well as diverted the courses of fish and insects. But the Heart of Jesus likely poses the greatest threat to boaters.

One morning, Arb employees noticed a kayak overturned on the rocks. Thinking there might be someone trapped underneath, they called DPS, who quickly arrived on arrived on jet skis.

It turned out that the kayak was empty and that a kayaker, thwarted by the rocks, had just given up and walked away.

– Anne Vandermey

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