Winter Vacation – Part II

We each got a couple of hours nap Friday afternoon, but both our sleep schedules were F..ouled up.  Son wants to hit the hay at 11 PM – I still want to read a newspaper and do a crossword.  Can’t do that in the room, so I take my stuff and go over to sit in the lobby, only to find it locked.  I eventually located a second vending machine room with only an ice machine…and a nice little bench, ta-da!

Afternoon clerk Stephanie was white. Now I get to meet and speak with Miss Annie, an impressive, older Negro lady.  Even older than me, she’s 72.  The clerk at the Taylor motel has been there 27 years.  Miss Annie has been here over 30, and finally plans to retire near the end of this year.  Nice lady, but she don’t take no shit.  I also met and talked with Mark, the armed Negro security guard.  Tough neighborhood, remember?

While we were conversating, a young man walked in, and said, “I want a room for the night.”  I’m sorry sir, we’re all full.  But I have a reservation.  What’s your name sir?  Xxx Yyy!  I’m sorry sir; I can’t find a reservation in that name.  He pulled out a tiny scrap of paper, and said, “Here’s my confirmation number.”  Well, ya coulda led off with that, and your name, instead of just asking for a room.

I print the entire page and present it to the clerks, because it gives every last iota of needed information.  I’m sorry sir; I can’t find a reservation here under that number; are you sure it’s correct?  I’m very sure; check again.  She tapped away for a few seconds, and finally told him, Yes sir, you do have a reservation – at the Plymouth Red Roof, 25 miles from here.  And he was sober – maybe just a brain freeze.

I spent a few dollars extra to get a room with a microwave and fridge.  After boring myself sleepy, I returned to the room – and bed, only to find that the fridge has a loud annoying buzz when it runs.  Woke us up two or three times during the night.  The second night I unplugged it, and we both slept much better.

Up at 8, we both had toast and juice, and I made myself a hot chocolate to take with me in a thermos, to the show.  I went over to the office to add some of their coffee, to make a mocha, and met Aletha, another young Negro gal.  Never met a stranger.  The only clerk we missed was Brian, because he doesn’t work weekends.

I-696 to the show venue ran right behind the motel.  Getting on was almost as easy as falling out of the parking lot.  I remembered to take the camera.  Signs on the front doors insisted, “No outside food or drink!”  I slipped the hot chocolate into my inside jacket pocket, and didn’t sip till I was way back at the back, where no officials could see.

I was irked by the fact that every second vendor had a Dunkin Donuts coffee, or Starbucks, or hotel coffee in a thermos.  I saw one guy making a roast beef and cheese sandwich, but I can’t bring in food or drink?  The WTF factor is going up.

Last year I could access my blog from computers in the entryway, but this year they were locked out, to access only the Center’s site.  After paying, and entering the display hall, I was faced with a sign that said, “No cameras allowed without the permission of the show manager.”  I left mine in my shirt pocket.

Halfway around, I met a woman waving her cell phone camera.  Some of the dealers threw a little impromptu birthday party for a compatriot, and everybody got a picture taken.  I just got the sign….and rising blood pressure again.

One of the knife dealers explained that the anti-gun nuts come to shows and take photos of the plethora of firearms and publish them as “proof” that we’re all going to die in a gigantic shoot-out.  If I had asked the show manager, I would probably have been allowed to take pics, although some gun vendors have table signs which insist, “No Photos!”

There were even fewer hand-made knives, and more “rusty jackknives.”  I took photos of all the interesting knife collections last year, so I didn’t use the camera.  I think we’ve had it with this show.  Unless we can find a show in Zanesville or Cincinnati, I think the wife and I will wait for good weather and just go to Detroit for shopping and a getaway.

It snowed on the way to the venue, and while we were there.  As we were leaving, it was changing to freezing rain.  I’m maybe a bit better at driving in that shit, but the 25 mile trip back was interesting.  One guy just fell off the road and tangled with an overpass support, ripping off his rear bumper, and throwing the back wheel across the freeway.

Since we didn’t want any of the over-priced, captive-audience, crap food at the venue, we stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home.  My bill ended in 43 cents – and I still had that 42 cents left from yesterday.  I picked a penny up off the counter that the previous customer didn’t take, and my pocket was now completely empty.

And then I leaned down and picked a penny off the floor – and went back to the motel and sat on the bed, and picked up a penny beside the other bed.  Later that night, when I went for another walk, I was telling Mark, in the vending room, about keeping my eyes open, and picked a dime off the floor.

The next day, at a Meijer’s store I found a quarter and a penny on a self-checkout bagging platform, and later used my knife to pry a nickel out of a 25 cent gumball machine.  The reason it was there may have been because it was Canadian, but the pocket’s getting heavy again.  Somewhere I picked up a brass game token.  I wonder if the son remembers where.  I don’t.

After another nap, we decided to go out for supper.  While we didn’t want to eat there, the wife had requested a blooming onion from Outback, so we started there.  I had researched online maps, and driving instructions, including Google Street-view.  Son fed the address into Miss GPS and got, “Accessing satellites….accessing satellites…. cannot access satellites.”  Oh, yeah.  Snow/rain storm.  We found it the old-fashioned way, by looking.

Tomorrow we’re going to, not one, but two, Trade Centers.  Anybody want to come along?  I’ll buy a hot pretzel, with mustard.

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.