September 3 1998, Thursday
im and I got up very early (around 8am) and I went down to Fingerle Lumber to recover my Dodge Dart. Parking is difficult in the John Street area, and last night I'd had to put my car in a sketchy place occasionally subject to the ravages of evil tow trucks. The night had been a cool one and the car battery wasn't delivering much charge to my starter. I eventually got the car going, but then, when it stalled, it refused to get going again. I returned to Lisa's place and got Kim, and we used Lisa's car to jump start the Dart. After a set of old dumpster-dived jumper cables failed, we bummed a set from one of the Fingerle employees. An older guy in a necktie, (Mr. Fingerle himself?) noted my Virginia plates and asked "Whereabouts in Virginia?" (I could hear a familiar twang in his voice). It turned out he was from Covington, a town far more Appalachian than even my hometown of Staunton.
Why is Ypsilanti such a dreary town? It might have something to do with the fact that its main drag is a five lane street. No pedestrian intimacy, essential for so many rudiments of culture, is possible in such an environment.
Matt Rogers was looking like he should just stay in bed when we roused him at his mother's place in Ypsilanti. I gave him the keys and, jokingly playing up the "Matt Rogers as son" shtick, I told him a few basics and shortcomings of the car. He made us a little coffee, but it was far too weak for Kim. The dogs were having a great time smelling each others' asses.
I considered using Matt's toilet for something kind of major, but when I saw it was urine-stained and covered with a thick sprinkling of pubic hairs, I decided to just hold it. Matt's mother has been gone for awhile, and it seems housekeeping is being done in the fashion typical of slacker men.
As Kim and I headed back to Ann Arbor, I sadly, silently bade "good starts and sufficient lubrication" to my Dart, which I bought for $200 almost exactly two years ago to this day. This morning had been the first time it had failed me since March. I don't think it wanted to leave me.
and now a pictorial tribute to my Dodge Dartthanks for the idea, William O. Slone.
Kim and I stopped for stronger coffee (and bagels and Stoker® Bars) at yet another health food supermarket on the way back to Ann Arbor. Right now Kim is off buying a really nice wedding gift for her friend in Miami, Florida, the one whose wedding she won't be attending. Kim and I leave for St. Louis tomorrow in her Volvo.
n the early afternoon, Kim showed up after a number of errands (including a three hour wait in a line at North West Airlines getting a refund for her plane ticket to Miami, Florida). She had her mother with her and the plan was to take me and Mother to visit her maternal grandmother, the only Italian woman living at a Jewish retirement center northwest of Detroit.
The car was crammed full of things, mostly for our trip out to San Diego, so there wasn't much room for me in the back seat. Whoever designed the ultra-safe Volvo 240 didn't conceive of those strange louvered headrests with comfort in mind.
Mother was being especially difficult today. She picked at every subtle nuance of everything Kim did, from her driving to her packing of the car. In her opinion, nothing she did was efficient, correct, neat, proper, or above all, safe. It was precisely the sort of annoying commentary that I loathe, that drives me to such irritation that I ultimately explode in anger. Kim handled it all very well. The few times she expressed even the slightest irritation, Mother saw fit to correct her on her tone of voice, even suggesting that she take medication to control her hyperness.
On the way, we stopped at a Farmington Hills strip mall to pick up Middle Eastern food from a place called La Shish. We got a "half-feast" costing almost sixty dollars. It was far more food than any normal group of people could possibly eat, though much of it was for delivery to people not present in our three person contingent. While Mother handled most of the details of ordering the food, Kim and I took Sophie for a walk around the parking lot, mostly as escape from Mother's neurotic nit-picking. We ended up drinking some coffee at a nearby bagel place. Many of the shops in the strip mall catered to the cultural demands of the largely Jewish-populated housing developments in the surrounding former countryside.
Next stop was Aunt Bettie's place at the nearby gated community where she lives. There we feasted on a small fraction of the "feast," though it seemed we hardly dented it. Discussion during dinner focused mostly on unpleasant health problems, including such subjects as Grandmother's foot ulcers and various digestive problems amongst the miniature manufactured dog breeds they fancy. I couldn't help but think that these doggy health problems were just what should be expected when one toys so foolishly with the dog genome.
Mother even mentioned a personal health complaint. She said her doctor has ordered her to stay home from school teaching until December, because her lungs have been damaged from inhaling cleaning solvents associated with the fire cleanup. At this especially egregious profession of delicacy, what could Kim do but roll her eyes?
When we were done eating, Mother, Bettie and Kim repackaged it for Grandmother, Chuck, and other secondary beneficiaries. Meanwhile Alexa, Bettie's Miniature Schnauzer, moped on a fancy wicker chaise lounge suffering from kidney trouble.
e left Bettie behind and continued on to the Jewish Retirement Community to visit Grandmother. Along the way, Kim became somewhat lost driving, which wasn't at all surprising given Mother's relentless nit-picking and patronizing. Mother's banter built to a crescendo at this point, and, nearing explosion, Kim suddenly made a U-turn, right there on a big heavily-traveled five-lane road. Horns honked, Kim went up briefly on the curb; it wasn't exactly a picture of driving elegance or grace, but given the circumstances, it was completely expected.
But then came Mother's response. "Pull over!" she demanded. "Fuck! Pull over. That was unbelievable! Are you on drugs? Before you go on any trip out west, I'm taking you to a doctor to get you checked out!" It deteriorated from there. Anything Kim said in response was itself attacked as being presented in an improper tone. It got to be so bad that I could feel anxiousness rising in me. I rehearsed in my head the process of asking to be let out so I could find my way home. If I did such a thing, I thought, it might bring Mother back to something resembling sanity. I decided instead to let it wait.
Bending to her hoarsely-delivered demands, Kim pulled over and let mother drive. Humourously, Mother's driving was at least as bad as the worst of Kim's. She almost slammed into a black BMW and then she made a premature left on green when she was supposed to yield to oncoming traffic. Yes, and the oncoming traffic honked in frustration.
As we pulled into the retirement community, Kim's mother repeatedly demonstrated what she doesn't like about Kim's driving, her "herky-jerkiness," by slamming on the brakes suddenly and exclaiming, "like that!" By now the bile was subsiding and being replaced with almost a comic energy. Said Kim, "I hope you're getting a sick enjoyment out of this because I know I am."
hat a clean, orderly retirement home Grandmother lived in! All the nice Jewish ladies around her had their hair and clothes just so. Everything was so clean there wasn't even the need to fill the air with deodourants and artificial cleaning fragrances.
Grandmother walked slowly with a walker. She was overweight and had a back hunched with age, but she had a certain dignity and charisma about her even before she spoke. She wore enormous over-the top ear rings and stray facial hairs asserted themselves prominently from a wholesomely handsome Italian face. She decided to pick (yet again, I had the feeling) at Kim's tattoo. "That's the style!" she said derisively several times. Then, as we all sat together on an arc of chairs, she introduced all her retirement home chums one by one to Kim. Several times she said, "We used to have so much fun and we used to dance; we couldn't wait for Kim's mother and father to leave!" and each time it wasn't stated simply as senile repetition; it was more meant to subtly drive home an insulting point to Mother. Indeed; the relationship between Mother and Grandmother reminded me in many ways of the abusive qualities clearly evident in the relationship between Kim and Mother.
Grandmother's charisma and manipulative social skills were evident in other ways as well; she had an elderly female friend named B who she ordered around like a virtual slave.
Grandmother was not at all pleased that Kim was leaving Michigan. "This is where your roots are!" she reminded Kim. But at least she said that I was a good-looking boyfriend.
"And I'm very proud of Kim. When she was sixteen, she was Miss Michigan!" Grandmother exaggerated.
n the ride back to Ann Arbor, Mother made peace with Kim in stages. The pickyness, patronizing attitude and neuroses were still there, but Mother wasn't as critical. She even praised Kim's driving at one point. The surest indication of detente came when Mother handed Kim several hundred dollars of completely unexpected money.
Of course, Kim expected all these events to unfold in precisely the way they had. Things had to get real bad so the "good" it would be at the end would feel especially good.
At Mother and Chuck's two-bedroom hotel suite we bade our final goodbyes. Then we headed back to Spunky Lisa's house, relieved to have survived our ordeal.
here was supposed to be a dinner party tonight here at Lisa's, but it was canceled, sort of. Matt Rogers came over, though, and what with the vodkatea and such, Kim, Matt and I got pretty drunk. Then there was vino being drunk by Lisa and Josh, and Matt and Kim partook in that as well. Kim is making mix tapes for the roadtrip, and lots of bad music has been played very loudly.
I have paper in my ears so I can concentrate on the task at hand, this entry of my musings. but no one here respects my need to get this entry done. I expect the music, but not the annoying comments, not people looking over my shoulder. I thought Lisa was looking over my shoulder at one point and freaked out and slammed the laptop shut, losing some of what I wrote in the process. I'm defensive, neurotic, and pissing off my friends with my attitude right now, and I hate being this way. But I when next I write, I want it to be about my travels, not Ann Arbor.
I finished writing and had a little water to make up for vodkatea-induced dehydration. Kim cornered me at a certain point and told me to quit being so antisocial and to start thinking about someone other than myself. I was about to say I was thinking about someone other than myself but then I realized I wasn't, not even slightly.
Before we went to bed, Kim and I said our goodbyes to Matt Rogers for the last time in what will probably be a fairly long time. Kim told me later she thought Matt looked kind of sad. We've been his principal social group for the last two months, so this it's no surprise. We've decided that Matt's recent run of bad luck is a message from God telling him that he needs to get the hell out of Michigan.
one year ago
back to the top
previous | next