What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Part One

I don’t ever want to be thought of as, “That kindly old Coot.”  Rather, I want people thinking, “WTF is he up to now.”  With that thought in mind, I took the sorcerer’s apprentice son on a weekend trip to Detroit, to practice my craft.

The son works a midnight shift, and had been up since 7 PM Thursday.  I barely suppressed the adrenalin enough to get to sleep at my usual 4 AM, and was back up to open the door as he got home, shortly after 7 Friday morning.  While he had a bit of midnight snack, a shower, and a change of clothes, I packed bags and boxes, and put them in the car.

Finally ready to leave, we kissed the wife/mother goodbye, and were on the road by nine.  After a quick stop to fill the gas tank, we were soon rolling down Highway 401 towards the border.  Since we planned to stay in Warren, MI, north of Detroit, Miss GPS suggested that I cross over at Sarnia/Port Huron.  I insisted on taking the “usual route” through Windsor.  Recalculating, and you’re still an asshole.

The drive to the border took almost exactly three hours.  We took the tunnel since we were headed north, and there was almost no-one crossing.  I pulled into the shortest line, one car.  It got released just as the dash clock clicked 12:00 – and shift-change/lunch relief happened.

A different guy walked out, and I sat there for eleven long minutes, with the engine running and my foot on the brake, while these two shot the shit.  It was only the thought of cavity searches that kept me from rolling down the window and suggesting they continue their bromance on their own time.

I took down 14 quarters, 6 dimes, 4 nickels, and 12 pennies, for a total of $4.42.  At par for a while, the Canadian dollar has slipped below 90 cents/US, meaning I gained 50 cents theoretical buying power.  I was determined to get rid of as much change as I could, quickly.  A lump in my pocket bigger than a golf ball, considering the neighborhood we were in, I shoulda poured it in the toe of a sock, and kept it handy as a cosh.

We checked into the motel, and Kentucky-born, little black Connie was just so bright and helpful.  We put our stuff in a room where the maid had set the thermostat to 82 F, and walked two doors up the street to have lunch at a place called Crash Landing.  Lots of pictures and model of planes, but I think the place got its name from the barflies falling off the stools.  One o’clock on a weekday afternoon, if you guys don’t have jobs to go to, how can you afford to sit there and drink??

I added 8 quarters to a twenty, to pay for lunch, and put six more, and four dimes and two nickels beside the tab for a tip.  Suddenly the pocket is much less full.  Across the street is an Iranian convenience store, serving the trailer park behind it.  Nice doublewide units on concrete pads – but, a trailer park!  All weekend I kept listening for the tornado.

Later in the afternoon, the son went to the office for some tea, and asked Stephanie, the 3/11 clerk, where to get decent pizza for supper.  She suggested Loui’s, just above Nine-Mile Road.  He thought she said Eight-Mile, and we missed it.  I turned left on Eight-Mile, to turn around in a McDonalds to head back up….and there, right across the street, was Papa Pizza.

The white rapper Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, gets his street cred by saying he was raised in a tough Negro area, and titled one of his albums Eight Mile.  I’m in his back yard!  This is not White Breadville – we felt conspicuously Caucasian, but, we’re here.  Papa Pizza is the end anchor to a small strip plaza.  They have three reserved parking spaces.  I take one, and we go in to order.

The service area is ¾ inch thick Plexiglas, from counter to ceiling, capable of stopping or deflecting most handgun bullets.  Pizzas are placed on a rotating plexi turntable and turned so that you can remove it from your side.  They must do a landslide delivery business.  The tiny, empty, eat-in area only had 12 spots, but there were 22 guys behind the glass, making pizzas.

Later, we went shopping.  The wife’s niece asked if I would pick her up some supplements from a health-food store.  A check at the GNC website showed a store in the same strip-mall as a Kroger’s we planned to visit.  When we got there, I found that the stores in the Kroger’s strip were numbered by tens, 370, 380, 390 – PetCo is number 400.  The next building starts at 500.  GNC’s site claims their address is 406, strange, very strange.

Little Miss GPS is both helpful and frustrating in this new area.  She shows how to get to a Meijer’s plaza, a couple of miles away, but as we get close, “In 65 meters, turn left on Progressive Drive.”  I’m not from around here!  Where in Hell is Progressive Drive – in the dark??!  Recalculating.  Oh, right, back there!  Now we do the Michigan Shuffle.

At many intersections they won’t let you turn left.  You must go a hundred yards past, pull over to the center and make a U-turn at special lanes.  Some have traffic lights, giving you the right-of-way, eventually.  Most don’t.  You just pray (optional for atheists), force your way into a hole in traffic, and hope you can get over to the curb lane in time to pull in.

If you don’t, you get to play the game again from the other direction.  Tomorrow, when my blood-pressure recedes, the saga continues.  I’ll take you to the knife show.  Remember to wear sensible shoes.